Monday, January 04, 2016

The Climate of 2016

As 2016 begins, has there been a change of climate on the climate crisis?  Scientific American makes a case that there has. "...several activists, scientists and environmental lawyers agree the world is shifting from one doused in denial to one that might take big steps in the right direction."

Increasingly irrefutable science on the subject backed by the obvious changes in weather--both extreme events and longer term heating--are probable reasons: "people are now seeing the impacts that likely arise from climate change in their own backyards. It is no longer a threat relegated to the future and faraway places."

A change in attitude is also prompted by increased confidence in ways of addressing the causes, especially through clean energy:"Not only is the public beginning to accept climate change as a real danger, they’re realizing that fighting it is a viable option.... Cleaner energy sources are surging so much that 2014 marked the first time in 40 years that global carbon dioxide emissions stalled, and even dropped during a time of economic growth. With the tie between economic growth and lower carbon emissions severed, the public has begun to see renewable energy as a viable alternative."

Viable alternatives also suggest that doubting the veracity of fossil fuel mega-corporations or even holding them responsible is not suicidal, and therefore unthinkable.  This article notes the increased support for legal means of holding these companies liable.

The public may also be ready to hear what some have said for decades, now being reported and quantified in more detail: these companies believed the climate crisis was happening, and while protecting themselves, they simultaneously financed most of the denialism that remade the Republican party into their servants.

An investigative report in the Los Angeles Times found:

"As many of the world’s major oil companies — including Exxon, Mobil and Shell — joined a multimillion-dollar industry effort to stave off new regulations to address climate change, they were quietly safeguarding billion-dollar infrastructure projects from rising sea levels, warming temperatures and increasing storm severity."

Funding denialism through coal industry initiated and oil industry supported campaign of lobbying, lies and financial support for politicians who repeated these lies and voted down any attempts to address the climate crisis, warped our political system as it wasted this planet:

"Two recent papers published in the journal Nature Climate Change and in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggest that the coalition effort helped polarize public discourse on climate change.

“The ramifications of this multiyear effort by these funders are immensely important,” said Justin Farrell, a sociologist at Yale University and author of the studies, which looked at how the industry’s messaging affected the public debate. Their influence explains, he added, why the issue went from being bipartisan to polarizing."

The evidence is now pretty strong that the tide has turned against denialists.  The SA piece cites the Pew survey of 40 nations that showed 78% support for efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions.  But global support was even more clearly shown by the unanimous declaration of the recent Paris climate summit.

Though congressional Republicans and presidential candidates did their best to scuttle U.S. leadership in Paris, Reuters reports that in a poll taken after the Paris accords: "A majority of U.S. Republicans who had heard of the international climate deal in Paris said they support working with other countries to curb global warming and were willing to take steps to do so...More than half, or 58 percent, of Republicans surveyed said they approved of U.S. efforts to work with other nations to limit global warming..."

But the historic Paris agreement is only a first step.  Sierra Club elder Carl Pope wrote an intriguing prescription for what the US needs to do next in 2016 to implement the intent of Paris, some of which President Obama can do himself or at least begin, in his last year in office.  Pope also agrees with the articles previously cited that holding the fossil fuel corps responsible and accelerating clean energy are important strategies for the coming year.

Addressing the causes of the climate crisis is half the agenda.  The other is addressing the effects.  It's been noted here that a leader in both accepting the realities of the climate crisis and adopting clean energy has been the US military.  Now the US Navy has taken the next step in a new ship, designed to respond to climate crisis-caused emergencies around the world:

 " A modified version of a commercial oil tanker, the base ship boasts vast storage capacity for hauling emergency supplies, a huge flight deck for launching and landing helicopters and other aircraft, and plenty of internal space for people and medical facilities."

The US military already has experience in large-scale disaster operations, and foresees greater need in the future.“As climate change affects the availability of food and water, human migration and competition for natural resources, the [Defense] Department’s unique capability to provide logistical, material and security assistance on a massive scale or in rapid fashion may be called upon with increasing frequency,” then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wrote in a 2014 briefing.

This Reuters article concludes: "Despite politically motivated skepticism among many Americans regarding climate change, the military knows that the planet is getting warmer and more dangerous. It knows it will be spending more time and resources dealing with disasters that climate change has made more frequent and severe."

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