In a Sunday ritual at the Pinecrest Gardens green market I buy a smoothie from LNB Groves (passion and dragon fruit mix, no added sugar from Florida). This Sunday, it melted in record time. Sunday was also the hottest day for the date in Miami.
A few days earlier I had taken my friend, UM geologist Hal Wanless, on a favorite walk along a path near Matheson Hammock Park in Coral Gables. The path was cleared to trace the mangrove shoreline. Hal is one of our thousand points of light in the science community, leading by example in speaking on the imminent, profound impacts of climate change. I wanted to show Hal where mangrove seedlings are migrating quickly upland as sea levels are rising: exactly as scientists predicted.
These observable markers -- melted smoothies, advancing mangroves -- are like imaginary birds clattering out of trees before an earthquake. On the Sunday NY Times OPED page, Laurent Fabius has in view the climate change misery unfolding among populations moving in desperation -- from Yemen, Syria, and Egypt -- homelands made more lawless and desperate by drought.
"Another source of insecurity is the massive displacement of people. By making certain areas uninhabitable, droughts and rising water levels uproot entire populations. They often find refuge in regions that are already overpopulated, creating or exacerbating tensions among countries or groups."
This week at the Vatican, climate change and policy experts are meeting to discuss the global warming crisis in advance of a papal encyclical anticipated later this year. The U.S. anti-global warming faction -- lead by the Koch Brothers and a favorite think-tank, Jeb Bush-friendly Heartland Institute -- are also represented, expecting to dissuade the pope from becoming involved in an "ideological" battle where "nothing is settled".
Nothing is settled for corporate interests until existing profit models are protected, even codified, into law. Never mind that existing profit models -- for industries tied to fossil fuels -- will squeeze the life out of civilization. Pope Francis ought to read the recent peer-reviewed paper, "Managing the Anthropocene marine transgression to the year 2100 and beyond in the State of Florida U.S.A., by Randall W. Parkinson, Peter W. Harlem, John F. Meeder", Climate Change Journal, 2015)
Increasing carbon dioxide from fossil fuel emissions is now the main cause of changes in the Earth’s atmospheric composition and thus future climate (Solomon et al. 2009). A doubling of pre-Industrial Revolution (IR) levels (i.e., 280 ppm) is now likely within the next 20 years and concentrations may pass 1000 ppm by the end of this century (IPCC 2013). Even under a zero emissions scenario, the adverse and irreversible climate changes triggered by elevated anthro- pogenic atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are not expected to be completely neutralized for several millennia (Archer 2005; Solomon et al. 2009; Armour and Roe 2011).As a moral matter, the notion that our generations are imposing thousands of years of hideous costs on future generations is repelling. It is disgusting and in opposition to the most basic tenets of Christianity, Christ's teachings of compassion and the healing power of faith.
Climate change has that power and more.
Federal protections are needed because the states are being torn apart by a war between legislators who want more for corporate benefactors and insiders who want even more. Take the Florida legislature as just one example. There is no possibility of protecting the public through state laws. With a clear mandate from voters last November to do one thing -- implement Amendment 1 to purchase environmentally important lands to protect the drinking water supply of seven million South Floridians -- the legislature is doing exactly the reverse: protecting its biggest suppliers of campaign cash: Big Agriculture. Another example: "early cost recovery" for electric utilities is allowing the state's major supplier of electricity, Florida Power and Light, to impose on ratepayers a plan to build the nation's largest nuclear plant in sea level: $24 billion in new reactors at FPL's Turkey Point facility. At the very same time, FPL has taken steps to hobble consumer adoption of solar energy in the Sunshine State.
For Grist Magazine, "Why Earth Day Doesn't Matter Anymore", Katie Herzog wrote that "It’s terrifying: Big business may be the perpetrator of much of the world’s pollution, but it could also be the solution." Not likely. Industry is only interested in maximizing profits through grid-scale efficiencies where past performance is the best and highest indicator of future shareholder gains.
For industry, embracing federal regulations to phase out fossil fuels quickly jeopardizes next quarter's profits. That is how key executives and top shareholders are compensated. Those are the birds clattering from the Koch Brother's tree. So the Koch Brothers and their allied apparatus are strongly organized to not just hobble Congress but also make sure that any laws that are passed by the states are friendly, first and foremost, to the principle that whatever government does, business can do better. Whatever do-good'ers think might save the planet can't possibly work compared to the will of man when his profit is at stake.
This reductionist ideology is melting even faster than my Sunday smoothie: that if you want to protect something, give it a value and sell it. It is a horrendous experiment to harness human nature, and one that only very, very cynical people could adopt.
Bloomberg News published this animated graphic last week, "Global Temperature Records Just Got Crushed Again: This has been the hottest year on record", and showing rising temperatures over time. The rise in global temperatures corresponds to the consolidation of corporate power, the rise of the national security state, and the corrosion of meaning in faith.
Threats to peace and security will increase in both number and intensity if the rise in temperatures exceeds 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) — and this rise will happen if we fail to act or take insufficient action. A climate-disrupted planet would be an unstable one. There is nothing abstract about these risks.Indeed, not. Climate change is here now, and so is the global warming revanchism through which democracy will further deform to the will of the Kochs, and the peculiar emergence of an American oligarchy out of the shards of a nominal democracy. Note to the U.S. military: include this point among the "threat multipliers" of global warming.
Watch for these signs because they are the real consequences of climate change: not towards adaptation as reasonable, logical experts may appeal, but towards an inhuman future as ordinary citizens and a pope in Rome can now observe.
The Opinion Pages | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
Laurent Fabius: Our Climate Imperatives
By LAURENT FABIUS APRIL 24, 2015
PARIS — Toward the end of this year, France will host the 21st United Nations climate conference. The aim? To reach a universal agreement that will limit the rise in average global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius, compared to the pre-industrial period, by the end of the century. There is real hope for success, but it is an enormous task.
As the president of the conference, known as COP21, my role will be to facilitate an ambitious compromise between 195 states (196 parties when we include the European Union). In the negotiations, the differences among countries that are at distinct stages of development necessitate differences of approach. Yet strong common interests unite us. One example is the impact of climate change on our shared security.
The climate has always posed threats to security. Climate disruption upsets the full range of economic and social equilibrium — and it therefore threatens countries’ internal security.
In France, for example, historians have shown that disastrous weather in 1788 caused the food crisis that contributed to the outbreak of the French Revolution. More recently, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc that led to disturbances in civil order and the deployment of the army on American soil.
Beyond borders, climate change can stoke international conflict over the control of vital and increasingly scarce resources — particularly water. Examples of this include the tensions among Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over the Nile and its tributaries, between Israel and its neighbors over the Jordan River basin, and among Turkey, Syria and Iraq over the Euphrates.
Another source of insecurity is the massive displacement of people. By making certain areas uninhabitable, droughts and rising water levels uproot entire populations. They often find refuge in regions that are already overpopulated, creating or exacerbating tensions among countries or groups.
When uprooted, such populations can fall prey to radical movements. This is what happened in the Sahel in the late 1970s, when extreme droughts contributed to the exodus of many Tuaregs toward Libya, many of whom then enrolled in Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s Islamic Legion. A trace of this was found in the destabilization of northern Mali that led to France’s military intervention in 2013.
Threats to peace and security will increase in both number and intensity if the rise in temperatures exceeds 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) — and this rise will happen if we fail to act or take insufficient action. A climate-disrupted planet would be an unstable one.
There is nothing abstract about these risks. In Egypt, an increase of 50 centimeters, or almost 20 inches, in the sea level would cause millions of people to flee the Nile Delta, with security consequences for the entire region. Increased desertification of unstable areas, such as the Sahel, would foster the growth of criminal networks and armed terrorist groups, which are already thriving there.
Similarly, climate disruption would exacerbate the threats that are currently concentrated in regions from Niger to the Persian Gulf. This “arc of crisis” is also an “arc of drought.”
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These facts should lead us to two conclusions. First, it is essential to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius. Second, we need to reduce the exposure of people to the damage caused by climate disruption — in particular, by protecting coastlines from rising water levels and by organizing more effective management of water in dry areas. In the language of international negotiations, this is called adaptation, a topic that has not always received the attention it deserves. Adaptation must be a central focus of the agreement that is to be reached at the end of 2015.
The massive use of fossil fuels — coal, oil, gas — has accelerated conflicts ever since they have been central to our economies. Fossil fuel deposits are very unevenly distributed, leading to dependency, jealousy and often violent competition. It should not be forgotten that control of coal resources on both sides of the Rhine was a core issue in the conflicts between France and Germany. It is thanks to the European Coal and Steel Community and to the reduced dependence on coal that these rivalries have disappeared.
Today, at the very gates of Europe, control of natural gas supply routes is also at the center of conflicts that threaten to destabilize our Continent, as demonstrated by the “gas war” between Russia and Ukraine in 2009. In Asia, exploitation of the hydrocarbon-rich seabed and the securing of supply routes for these resources contribute much to the tensions between China and Japan.
We need a “global clean energy community” to free us from dependence on fossil fuels and the related risks of conflict. Reducing carbon intensity improves security — energy security and security in general — as it equalizes access to energy. A country that develops its own solar- or wind-energy production takes nothing from anyone: The light and wind that it uses are not only renewable; they belong to all. We should not underestimate the major contribution this could make to peace and security.
It follows that it is essential for COP21 to provide — first and foremost to developing countries — the practical means to increase access to energy, while reducing the carbon intensity of economies. This would decrease considerably the risk of fossil fuels becoming a cause of conflict in the coming decades.
Helping countries reduce their exposure to climate damage, and democratizing energy access while reducing carbon intensity are two imperatives for our fundamental security needs. Aligning all of our interests around them should allow us to reach a universal agreement. If we want to achieve this objective — and doing so is essential for humanity — we will need everyone to contribute.
Laurent Fabius is France’s minister of foreign affairs and international development and the president of the United Nations conference on climate change scheduled for later this year.