Tag Archives: global warming

Naomi Klein says the New York Times blew its massive story about the decade in which we frittered away our chance to halt climate change

9 Aug

Naomi Klein, Capitalism Killed Our Climate Momentum, Not “Human Nature”, The Intercept.

According to Rich, between the years of 1979 and 1989, the basic science of climate change was understood and accepted, the partisan divide over the issue had yet to cleave, the fossil fuel companies hadn’t started their misinformation campaign in earnest, and there was a great deal of global political momentum toward a bold and binding international emissions-reduction agreement. Writing of the key period at the end of the 1980s, Rich says, “The conditions for success could not have been more favorable.”

And yet we blew it — “we” being humans, who apparently are just too shortsighted to safeguard our future. Just in case we missed the point of who and what is to blame for the fact that we are now “losing earth,” Rich’s answer is presented in a full-page callout: “All the facts were known, and nothing stood in our way. Nothing, that is, except ourselves.”

Yep, you and me. Not, according to Rich, the fossil fuel companies who sat in on every major policy meeting described in the piece. (Imagine tobacco executives being repeatedly invited by the U.S. government to come up with policies to ban smoking. When those meetings failed to yield anything substantive, would we conclude that the reason is that humans just want to die? Might we perhaps determine instead that the political system is corrupt and busted?)

This misreading has been pointed out by many climate scientists and historians since the online version of the piece dropped on Wednesday. Others have remarked on the maddening invocations of “human nature” and the use of the royal “we” to describe a screamingly homogenous group of U.S. power players. Throughout Rich’s accounting, we hear nothing from those political leaders in the Global South who were demanding binding action in this key period and after, somehow able to care about future generations despite being human. The voices of women, meanwhile, are almost as rare in Rich’s text as sightings of the endangered ivory-billed woodpecker — and when we ladies do appear, it is mainly as long-suffering wives of tragically heroic men.

All of these flaws have been well covered, so I won’t rehash them here. My focus is the central premise of the piece: that the end of the 1980s presented conditions that “could not have been more favorable” to bold climate action. On the contrary, one could scarcely imagine a more inopportune moment in human evolution for our species to come face to face with the hard truth that the conveniences of modern consumer capitalism were steadily eroding the habitability of the planet. Why? Because the late ’80s was the absolute zenith of the neoliberal crusade, a moment of peak ideological ascendency for the economic and social project that deliberately set out to vilify collective action in the name of liberating “free markets” in every aspect of life. Yet Rich makes no mention of this parallel upheaval in economic and political thought.

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2014 Was Hottest Year on Record, Surpassing 2010 – NYTimes.com

16 Jan

The New York Times:

Last year was the hottest in earth’s recorded history, scientists reported on Friday, underscoring scientific warnings about the risks of runaway emissions and undermining claims by climate-change contrarians that global warming had somehow stopped.

Extreme heat blanketed Alaska and much of the western United States last year. Several European countries set temperature records. And the ocean surface was unusually warm virtually everywhere except around Antarctica, the scientists said, providing the energy that fueled damaging Pacific storms.

via 2014 Was Hottest Year on Record, Surpassing 2010 – NYTimes.com.

This Legendary Accounting Firm Just Ran the Numbers on Climate Change | Mother Jones

10 Sep

Surprise! Surprise!

With every year that passes, we’re getting further away from averting a human-caused climate disaster. That’s the key message in this year’s “Low Carbon Economy Index,” a report released by the accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The report highlights an “unmistakable trend”: The world’s major economies are increasingly failing to do what’s needed to to limit global warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels. That was the target agreed to by countries attending the United Nations’ 2009 climate summit; it represents an effort to avoid some of the most disastrous consequences of runaway warming, including food security threats, coastal inundation, extreme weather events, ecosystem shifts, and widespread species extinction.

via This Legendary Accounting Firm Just Ran the Numbers on Climate Change | Mother Jones.

New seasons with new names – Roger Ebert’s Journal

20 Mar

Reget Ebert has seen lots of documentaries about global warming, and he’s scared.

Sally Potter’s new film centers on two teenage British girls (Elle Fanning and Alice Englert ) who get involved in the Ban the Bomb movement at the time of the Cuban missile crisis. I remember that time. On a weekday afternoon, Soviet warships bearing missiles were approaching a line drawn in the sea by President Kennedy. If they crossed it, JFK had vowed retaliation. Would our missiles take flight? Would the Soviet bloc Would there be war? We felt so powerless. Craning my neck to see over the heads of the crowd, I was jammed into the front lounge of the University YMCA. At a time like that you do not–you cannot–want to be alone.

This time the line has not been drawn on a map. This time the enemy, if we can use the word in this context, is an American lobbyist group. They seem focused on maximizing profits and shareholder benefits, at the cost of any environmental conscience. It seems possible that their policies will lead to a different kind of seasonal calendar. Instead of Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall, this new generation will know Blizzard, Flood, Heat and Fire. Month follows month as the seasons tear themselves apart.

via New seasons with new names – Roger Ebert’s Journal.

Monarch Migration Plunges to Lowest Level in Decades – NYTimes.com

14 Mar

The number of monarch butterflies that completed an annual migration to their winter home in a Mexican forest sank this year to its lowest level in at least two decades, due mostly to extreme weather and changed farming practices in North America, the Mexican government and a conservation alliance reported on Wednesday.

via Monarch Migration Plunges to Lowest Level in Decades – NYTimes.com.

Global Temperatures Highest in 4,000 Years, Study Says – NYTimes.com

8 Mar

Warm enough for you?

Global temperatures are warmer than at any time in at least 4,000 years, scientists reported Thursday, and over the coming decades are likely to surpass levels not seen on the planet since before the last ice age.

Previous research had extended back roughly 1,500 years, and suggested that the rapid temperature spike of the past century, believed to be a consequence of human activity, exceeded any warming episode during those years. The new work confirms that result while suggesting the modern warming is unique over a longer period.

via Global Temperatures Highest in 4,000 Years, Study Says – NYTimes.com.

After Hurricane Sandy, Debating Costly Sea Barriers in New York Area – NYTimes.com

8 Nov

In the past few years proposals have been floated to protect the NYC area from flodding by putting large gates into New York Bay. The gates would lie in the seafloor most of the time but would be raised into place during a major storm, such as Sandy.

He said that if gates had been placed in strategic spots like the Arthur Kill, between Staten Island and New Jersey, they would have protected some of the areas that were swamped by floodwaters, including the edges of Lower Manhattan, low-lying areas of Brooklyn and Queens and the western part of Staten Island, as well as Jersey City and Hoboken, N.J.

“The idea is that you raise these barriers, and anywhere inside of that you’re basically protected,” Dr. Colle said, adding, “With a solid barrier, we basically can have business as usual in Lower Manhattan.”

But vexing questions remain. Would industries tolerate immense disruption from the construction of barriers in the city’s busy waterways? Would residents object to the marring of vistas? With climate change advancing, can scientists accurately predict the size of hurricanes that the sea gates would one day have to withstand?

And where would the $10 billion-plus in construction money come from? Even a study — taking into account the complexity of New York waterways, projections in the rise in sea levels and other factors — would take years and millions of dollars.

The scientists and engineers who have worked on conceptual designs for the city say a comprehensive study is needed on what would be the most effective locations and the most practical type of barriers — whether they swing close like a driveway gate or pivot up from the ocean floor, for example.

A feasibility study by the Army Corps of Engineers, which would have jurisdiction, would require authorization from Congress.

“A lot of things need to be taken into consideration before we throw up a giant wall,” said Chris Gardner, a spokesman for the corps.

What strikes me as that time to do the preliminary study and then the actual construction is on the order of significant climate change due to global warming. Thus one can imagine that the climate is changing fast enough that such gates would be obsolete by the time they’re built. These gates make sense ONLY if we take major steps to stop pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. Otherwise it’s just more wishful techno-dreaming.

via After Hurricane Sandy, Debating Costly Sea Barriers in New York Area – NYTimes.com.

Deciding Where Future Disasters Will Strike – NYTimes.com

4 Nov

By now it is commonplace to point out that climate change is unfair, that it tends to leave the big “emitter countries” in good shape — think Russia or Canada or, until recently, America — while preying on the low-emitting, the poor, the weak, the African, the tropical. But more grossly unfair is the notion that, in lieu of serious carbon cuts, we will all simply adapt to climate change. Manhattan can and increasingly will. Rotterdam can and has. Dhaka or Chittagong or Breezy Point patently cannot. If a system of sea walls is built around New York, its estimated $10 billion price tag would be five times what rich countries have given in aid to help poorer countries prepare for a warmer world.

Whether climate change caused Sandy’s destruction is a question for scientists — and in many ways it’s a stupid question, akin to asking whether gravity is the reason an old house collapsed when it did. The global temperature can rise another 10 degrees, and the answer will always be: sorta. By deciding to adapt to climate change — a decision that has already been partly made, because significant warming is already baked into the system — we have decided to embrace a world of walls.

via Deciding Where Future Disasters Will Strike – NYTimes.com.

Feel the Burn: Making the 2012 Heat Wave Matter | The Nation

30 Jul

There is still time to trigger the reaction that would make the 2012 heat wave a landmark event, but the impetus will have to come from mobilized citizens. Activists with the End Fossil Fuel Subsidies campaign are planning to bird-dog Congressional candidates in swing districts. They’ll ask them if they support the End Polluter Welfare Act, which seeks to end the $11 billion subsidy that taxpayers give the richest industry in history every year. Greenpeace and the Alaska Wilderness League are spearheading opposition to Shell’s drilling in the Arctic. The newly formed group Climate Parents hopes to give voice to the most underorganized constituency on this issue—parents—by arguing that protecting one’s child from climate change is now as much a part of a parent’s job as providing proper food, clothing and shelter (disclosure: I’m a co-founder). It’s time to make things as hot and uncomfortable for the planet-wreckers as they’ve made summer 2012 for all of us.

via Feel the Burn: Making the 2012 Heat Wave Matter | The Nation.

The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic – NYTimes.com

29 Jul

CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.

These findings are stronger than those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group that defines the scientific and diplomatic consensus on global warming.

via The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic – NYTimes.com.