Monday, March 12, 2018

Lamps are going out all over the natural world, and no one will ever see them lit again ... by gimleteye

"Lamps are going out all over the natural world, and no one will ever see them lit again", is how Guardian OPED writer Jeff Sparrow laments the relentless march of climate change (reprinted below).

The acceleration of climate change is extraordinary, as this data map of declining winter sea ice in the Arctic demonstrates:

In Miami, as elsewhere, we are going about business -- talking about climate "resiliency" in the kind of optimistic frame to avoid the perception of running with hair on fire. In fact, "resiliency" is the acceptable solvent to the political gridlock by the GOP on climate change. (cf. Gov. Rick Scott and Senator Marco Rubio).

Meanwhile, powerful corporations like Florida Power and Light are pushing back hard; determined that corporate obligation to shareholders (and key executives' compensation packages) guides everything that exceeds the time horizon of annual reports.

It's not enough, and it is not enough for many reasons even if you don't care whether snakes, crocodiles, rats, cockroaches and a vastly reduced human population will be what's left when climate change disrupts civilization. When we speak of losing biodiversity -- the web of God's creation -- THAT is what is at stake: human suffering through intense competition for depleted food resources. (If you think AR-15's will protect you from that, think again.)

"A new study, published on Tuesday in the journal Agronomy, contains a dire warning for anyone in the United States who eats: By the end of the century, climate change could wreak havoc on California’s major crops, prompting a sharp downturn in the state’s ability to produce things like almonds, wheat, and corn." (From "Climate Change Could Decimate California's Major Crops, And That Should Worry Everyone")

The report says "could", but one doesn't need to travel further than Homestead -- a key food supplier of winter crops a few miles from Miami -- to see food supply disruption in progress. Last winter, I wrote about one farmer reporting multiple blooms, because of extraordinarily warm temperatures, on his Florida fruit crops. This is not an isolated moment in time. Based on scientific data, these phenomena are the leading edge of world-wide food supply shortages. That's already happening in marginal, drought-stricken nations where millions of climate change refugees are on the march.

We aren't we demanding that our elected's, respond? Not deny or wring hands. Take concrete steps to reverse carbon emissions causing global warming.

The Miami Herald, over the weekend, noted that a new billboard campaign by the Miami Climate Alliance, "When will Miami's polluters pay their fair share?" The billboard campaign aims at FPL, the region's monopolistic supplier of electricity.
FPL spokesman Mark Bubriski said activists (had) picked the wrong target.

Although FPL is the third largest utility in the country with almost five million customers, it’s not as reliant on oil and gas as its national peers, he said.

The majority of FPL’s power is generated with natural gas, which emits about half as much carbon as coal, and nuclear power, which has zero emissions. About 1 percent — on par with the national average — comes from the utility company’s 14 solar plants, eight of which were added this year. FPL plans to build 20 more solar plants in coming years. Bubriski said that would put the company on track to generate more power from solar than coal and oil combined by 2020 or sooner.
What the Herald reporter could ask; why didn't FPL and its parent, NextEra Energy, respond proactively to a shareholder proposal two years ago, asking that the corporation report to shareholders on the risk to climate change to its markets and infrastructure. The shareholder proposal pointed out that FPL's plan for new $20 billion nuclear reactors at Turkey Point blew off the chance of sea level rise becoming problematic. Its plans, submitted to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Agency, only forecast one foot of sea level rise; a ridiculous estimation even by the assessment of the world's largest insurance companies.

The point, ably described by Guardian writer Sparrow, is that our response to climate change is not only inadequate, it resembles in key respects how nations stumble into catastrophic wars despite all the evidence and imperative to avoid catastrophe.

Climate change is, in fact, just as Sir Nicholas Stern described, "the biggest story in the history of civilization". The GOP ridiculed Democratic candidate Al Gore for saying so, during his 2000 presidential campaign. Every year that passes, without the United States taking firm action to reverse fossil fuel combustion is a nail in humanity's coffin.

Hopefully US voters are not too distracted to pay attention.

Climate change is a disaster foretold, just like the first world war | Jeff Sparrow

UK Guardian 12 Mar 2018 01.02 GMT

The warnings about an unfolding climate catastrophe are getting more desperate, yet the march to destruction continues

‘The extraordinary – almost absurd – contrast between what we should be doing and what’s actually taking place fosters low-level climate denialism’ Photograph: Guido Dingemans/Alamy Stock Photo
“The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.”

The mournful remark supposedly made by foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey at dusk on 3 August 1914 referred to Britain’s imminent entry into the first world war. But the sentiment captures something of our own moment, in the midst of an intensifying campaign against nature.

According to the World Wildlife Fund’s 2016 Living Planet Report, over the last four decades the international animal population was reduced by nearly 60%. More than a billion fewer birds inhabit North America today compared to 40 years ago. In Britain, certain iconic species (grey partridges, tree sparrows, etc) have fallen by 90%. In Germany, flying insects have declined by 76% over the past 27 years. Almost half of Borneo’s orangutans died or were removed between 1999 and 2015. Elephant numbers have dropped by 62% in a decade, with on average one adult killed by poachers every 15 minutes.

We inherited a planet of beauty and wonders – and we’re saying goodbye to all that.

The cultural historian Paul Fussell once identified the catastrophe of the first world war with the distinctive sensibility of modernity, noting how 20th century history had “domesticate[d] the fantastic and normalize[d] the unspeakable.”

Consider, then, the work of climate change.

In February, for instance, scientists recorded temperatures 35 degrees above the historical average in Siberia, a phenomenon that apparently corresponded with the unprecedented cold snap across Europe.

As concentrated CO2 intensifies extreme events, a new and diabolical weather will, we’re told, become the norm for a generation already accustomising itself to such everyday atrocities as about eight million tons of plastics are washed into the ocean each year.

It may seem impossible to imagine, that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we’re now in the process of doing.”

This passage from the New Yorker’s Elizabeth Kolbert concluded a piece on global warming, which was published way back in 2005. Over the 13 years since, the warnings from scientists have grown both more specific and desperate – and yet the march to destruction has only redoubled its pace.

The extraordinary – almost absurd – contrast between what we should be doing and what’s actually taking place fosters low-level climate denialism. Coral experts might publicise, again and again and again, the dire state of the Great Barrier Reef but the ongoing political inaction inevitably blunts their message.

It can’t be so bad, we think: if a natural wonder were truly under threat, our politicians wouldn’t simply stand aside and watch.

The first world war killed 20 million people and maimed 21 million others. It shattered the economy of Europe, displaced entire populations, and set in train events that culminated, scarcely two decades later, with another, even more apocalyptic slaughter

And it, too, was a disaster foretold, a widely-anticipated cataclysm that proceeded more-on-less schedule despite regular warnings about what was to come.

As early as 1898, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia initiated a conference to discuss international arbitration and limit the arms race taking place in Europe. At its opening session at The Hague, he noted that the competition between nations, in which each country was building up its forces to defend against its neighbours, had “transform[ed] the armed peace into a crushing burden that weighs on all nations and, if prolonged, will lead to the very cataclysm that it seeks to avert.”

Over the next years, the rivalries intensified, leading to further militarisation and a complex series of (often secret) treaties, as, between 1908 and 1913, the military spending of the major powers increased by 50%.

In 1912, the international socialist movement had staged an emergency meeting in Basel in Switzerland in which representatives from almost every nation spoke out for peace.

“The great European peoples are constantly on the point of being driven against one another,” the congress resolved, “although these attempts are against humanity and reason cannot be justified by even the slightest pretext of being in the interest of the people.”

Yet in early 1914, Winston Churchill noted that “the world is arming as it has never armed before”. The eventual declaration of war in August that year was still a shock – but only in the sense that those attending a patient expiring from a long illness might be startled by the death rattle.

The appeals to humanity and reason did not move states jostling for trade and commercial advantages. For the people of Europe, the arms race was disastrous; for specific governments, it made perfect sense, for those who did not compete risked falling behind.

The same might be said today.

From a global perspective, the necessity to abandon fossil fuels cannot be denied. But for individual economies, change risks undermining comparative advantages.

If we don’t sell coal, says Malcolm Turnbull, our competitors will – which was, of course precisely the logic of the British fleet expansion in 1908.

The devastation of the first world war eventually engendered a wave of revolt from a populace appalled at the carnage their politicians had wrought.

Climate change has not yet spurred an equivalent of the mutinies in France or the revolution in Petrograd or the uprising in Berlin.

Yet Labor’s appalling equivocation over the Adani mine – a piece of environmental vandalism for which there can be no justification – illustrates the urgency with which we need a new and different type of politics.

The stakes could not be higher. Lamps are going out all over the natural world … and no one will ever see them lit again.

• Jeff Sparrow is a Guardian Australia columnist

1 comment:

Geniusofdespair said...

Horn of Africa experiencing worst drought in 2,000 years. In Northwestern Kenya 7 miles to get water. New York Times today.