Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"Good" News on the Climate Crisis

Well, the bad news on the climate crisis is piling up, along with the snow across America.  So it's past time to pass on some of the "good news" on the topic.

After much agitation, at least some folks believe the Warsaw climate meetings finally did work, to put the nations of the world on track to a meaningful treaty at the big meetings in 2015.  These appear to be procedural victories, which participants say are important.

And in the wake of disappointing news on actual deforestation, a multi-nation agreement also forged at the Warsaw talks is aimed at slowing future deforestation:

According to Paul Bledsoe, an energy research fellow at the German Marshall Fund, who is attending the talks, it is a significant step. "The ministers have been working for almost 10 years to finalise the rules which will allow donors to invest in forest management practices in the developing world and get a way to verify the emissions reductions," he said."I think this agreement allowing for investments in forests in developing countries is probably the signature achievement of these talks."

International agreements or almost agreements may or may not significantly change things in the future (because it's not clear they have so far) but as usual the actual action is being taken on the regional, state and local level.  California's cap and trade system has been in effect for a year and seems to be working well, causing no noticeable catastrophes for us Californians.  Recently CA joined with other western states and a contiguous province of Canada in coordinating climate crisis efforts:

Saying that the West Coast must lead the way in battling climate change, the governors of California, Oregon and Washington, along with a representative of the premier of British Columbia, signed an agreement Monday committing the Canadian province and the three states to coordinate global-warming policies.

Each state and the Canadian province promised to take roughly a dozen actions, including streamlining permits for solar and wind projects, better integrating the electric power grid, supporting more research on ocean acidification and expanding government purchases of electric vehicles."

 Meanwhile the governors of eight U.S. states (California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Oregon, Maryland, Rhode Island, New York and Vermont) signed a pledge to get 3.3 million electric cars on the highways (presumably to replace carbon-spewing cars) by 2025.

More broadly, Benjamin Barber is out with a new book entitled If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities.  That pretty much states his thesis, as he sees cities as the polities that will govern the future.  This is not only because mayors are closer to specific problems and find pragmatic and collaborative ways to address them, but because cities form alliances across national borders to address common problems.

Cities (especially coastal cities) are in the forefront of studying likely future problems caused by the climate crisis, which in the near term means includes anticipating and preparing for disasters as well as doing what can be done to prevent the disasters from the climate change already inevitable.

To help with this process, President Obama signed an executive order to urge along disaster preparations:

The executive order establishes a task force of state and local officials to advise the administration on how to respond to severe storms, wildfires, droughts and other potential impacts of climate change. The task force includes governors of seven states — all Democrats — and the Republican governor of Guam, a U.S. territory. Fourteen mayors and two other local leaders also will serve on the task force. All but three are Democrats.

The task force will look at federal money spent on roads, bridges, flood control and other projects. It ultimately will recommend how structures can be made more resilient to the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels and warming temperatures.

(Reference to party affiliation is telling--not because Republican governors and mayors weren't asked, but because their ideology apparently forbids them from protecting their citizens and infrastructure.  Another point--it's being called the "task force on resiliency"--"resiliency" being probably the least offensive and most expressive buzz word currently being used by those concerned with the climate crisis.)

This was an executive order not requiring congressional approval.  There could be more coming, with Tuesday's news that John Podesta is joining the Obama White House for a year to work on climate and energy matters (maybe healthcare too--depending on the story.)  As White House Chief of Staff in the final Clinton years, he knows his way around executive action, and is on record advocating that President Obama do more of it.

Disaster prediction is a growing science, says this New Yorker piece, although prediction alone doesn't do much.  People have to read the reports and do something about them.  The writer also believes that if people took predictions seriously, they'd move.  In most cases I wouldn't say that's the point.  The point is read the damn report and do something about it, and don't ever, ever say "Nobody could have predicted..." especially when somebody did.

The Fifty Year Handshake

As retro rightists convulse over President Obama shaking hands--gasp!--with Raul Castro in South Africa,  I return to a late November theme...the difference that the assassination of President Kennedy made and continues to make.  Or in this case, the difference not traveled.

Both the two books I cited in my post here (and review in more detail here) confirm that in 1963 President Kennedy and Fidel Castro were in touch through intermediaries, looking for ways to return to a more normal nation-to-nation relationship.  Apparently a key element in Castro's receptiveness was JFK acknowledging that the Batista presidency was garbage and the Cuban revolution understandable.  JFK wanted a pledge that Cuba would stop trying to export revolution to other countries and some movement towards less dependence on Moscow.  Castro was himself interested in that last proposition.

The two leaders probably would have met after the 1964 election, had JFK been reelected, which he almost certainly would have been had he lived.  And this current idiocy would be fifty years quaint.

Maybe this is a reason the rabid right is so rabidly against evolution.  They can't evolve.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Always Impossible--Until It Is Done

At the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in South Africa, "There was only one speaker who made everybody stop and listen."

Monday, December 09, 2013

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

“The only effect I ardently long to produce by my writings is that those who read them should be better able to imagine and to feel the pains and joys of those who differ from themselves in everything but the broad fact of being struggling erring humans.”
George Eliot