Thursday, September 21, 2017

An appeal to climate change deniers, the choice really is yours ... by gimleteye

In the Tampa Bay Times, Susan Glickman compares climate change deniers to football die-hards who will not abandon their team under any circumstances (see below). There is truth to the point. Here is an appeal to the other team.

I'm a consumer, just like you. My carbon footprint is much larger than it should be. I don't like to be made feel guilty, and this perception holds back some climate change deniers from switching sides. Whether you are guilty or not, my carbon footprint could be smaller and so could yours.

The difference between "should" and "could" is vast. "Should" implies moral approbation: if we were only better people we would all be driving a Prius, Volt, or Tesla.

No one likes being lectured or hectored unless it is a place of worship where our souls are at stake. Another way of saying: people don't like their values to be questioned unless it is from within the tent. They don't like "outsiders" telling them how they should behave. The funders of climate change denialism prey on this the same way pro-tobacco forces waved away scientific evidence and promoted cigarette consumption as the "cool" choice.

The "could" part is different.

You "could", theoretically, get from point A to point B by train, efficient bus or bicycle. The "could" part of it is practical and political. Because we do have agency over our polluting choices, polluters tip the scales in their direction.

In the United States, our choice is to be "free" to pollute to whatever extent government incentivizes consumption. I do drive a gas combustion car. I do take airline flights to see my children. I have used many plastic bags in a lifetime of grocery shopping. But as a taxpayer in the first world, I also recognize that my use of gasoline, electricity and other consumer products is shaped by government.

For example, mileage standards in autos. Another example, Florida Power and Light; a monopolistic energy supplier to my home; the regulated public corporation that controls governmental regulatory processes in Florida. I love being able to turn the lights and air conditioning on, at a flick of the switch. It's not only reliable, it's also "affordable" as FPL drumbeats into consumers' heads at every opportunity.

This critical point is embraced by the marketers of climate change denial: even if climate change is real -- even if we are responsible "to some extent", the murmur now being heard in denial circles -- adapting energy consumption away from polluting fossil fuels is "too expensive". It would cost jobs and wreck the economy.

You hear this all the time from the right-wing message machine, but hear it for what it is.

This idea that climate change adaptation is not "affordable" appeals to the innate sense that freedom and liberty -- distinctly American values -- should never be dictated, even though it is provable that the global hidden subsidies of fossil-fuel consumption are in excess of five trillion dollar per year.

Government shapes consumer preferences to pollute in many ways. At Eye On Miami, we have been arguing local county government should halt an effort by developers to move the Urban Development Boundary because, among other problems, it reinforces the sprawling development pattern that forces more people into cars onto congested highways and streets. It is no longer possible to be willfully ignorant, when you are stuck on mind-bending traffic on US 95 or SR 826.

We could have a carbon tax or a gasoline tax: we don't.

Another example how government turns value judgments by polluters into a limited set of choices for consumers is the dismantling of campaign finance rules (Citizens United); a legal and political battle initiated by the nation's fossil fuel supply chain in the name of freedom of speech. This "conservative" bedrock principle -- that government must harnessed to protect Constitutional rights --  has no influence on climate change.

Some conservatives shrug and wave climate change away for precisely this reason: they say, there is nothing we can do about it. This hopelessness leads in only one direction: fortified bunkers where no one is safe. That is what the US military says. Just last week, the commander of the US National Guard was asked how climate change has affected his preparations for natural disasters. Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel broke with Trump on climate change, like Secretary of Defense James L. Mattis. Lengyel said climate change highlights the need to have a robust Guard presence in each state.

Strict constitutionalists often link arm-in-arm with those who are convinced that if climate change isn't fully accounted for in scripture, adaptation has no place in our lives.

President Trump's likely, imminent withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord and surrendering regulatory agencies like the U.S. EPA to lobbyists and lawyers who represented polluting industries a few hours ago are further examples of hurling consumers toward forced choices and an un-American form of hopelessness.

American voters could do better and would have in 2016, if elections were secure and districts drawn fairly. In a recent letter to the editor of the New York Times, US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse observed succinctly:
The answer to why Congress doesn’t act on climate change is simple political hydraulics.

The Supreme Court let unlimited money into politics. The fossil fuel industry has unlimited money and, according to the International Monetary Fund, a multi-hundred-billion-dollar subsidy to protect. The fossil fuel industry used its unlimited money (and related threats) to capture the Republican Party. Climate change then became “partisan” and untouchable.

It’s actually not that complicated.

The Supreme Court’s Republican appointees got in the habit of doing what they were told by the forces that appointed them (which include the fossil fuel industry, which asked for the Citizens United decision), and in a fateful combination of obedience and political ignorance, they wrecked our politics.

Before Citizens United there were multiple bipartisan climate bills every year; afterward, none.
Recent studies of public attitudes show that anxiety about climate change is burning through populations who understand that unpredictable shifts in food production, massive wildfires in the American West and climate-change fueled Category 5 hurricanes are a preview of what's to come. In an August 2017 Pew Research Center review of public attitudes in 38 countries, in public perceptions of the threat to security, climate change was second just behind ISIS. (In Latin America and Africa, climate change was viewed as the number one threat.)

How has temperature changed in each country over the last century? Here is a data visualisation showing temperature anomaly –the departure from the long-term average – by country from 1900-2016. Visualisation by Antti Lipponen (@anttilip) of the Finnish Meteorological Institute based on GISTEMP data (CC BY 2.0).

At a recent Yale Climate Conference, actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio said:
“These facts (on climate change impacts) have been presented to the world time-and-time again for decades. Quite simply, we are knowingly doing this to ourselves, to our planet and to our future, and the cost of our inaction is becoming clearer... Yet with all of this evidence – the independent scientific warnings, and the mounting economic price tag – there is still an astounding level of willful ignorance and inaction from the people who should be doing the most to protect us, and every other living thing on this planet.”
Some conservatives deride the idea that a Hollywood star should mess with politics. The same criticism was leveled against Pope Francis in 2015 when he issued his encyclical, "Laudato, Si: The World On Fire".
Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity. As the bishops of Southern Africa have stated: “Everyone’s talents and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation”.  All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.
At the time, some American conservatives clucked that Pope Francis should stick to religion, but climate change is not a matter to be cherry-picked like sermon topics. It is real. It is happening now. And most troubling of all, there is nothing in the trend lines showing climate change impacts have plateau'ed. In fact, we are cooking our children's future right quick.

The best way forward is to vote in 2018 for incumbents and candidates who will act in taxpayers' and voters' best interests on climate change and against politicians rooted in denialism and falsehoods spread by polluting industries.

That choice is unconditionally yours. 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

Column: Now is exactly the time to have that discussion about climate change
By Susan Glickman, special to the Tampa Bay Times

Thursday, September 14, 2017 4:57pm

As a native Floridian, I chose to ride out Hurricane Irma in my hometown of Tampa — just a few miles north of where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play football. Like millions of other Floridians who evacuated low-lying beach communities for higher ground, I had the obvious safety concerns and worries about whether I would even have a home to return to. But as a public interest advocate who has worked on climate and energy issues every day for almost two decades, I also have intense concerns about the growing climate change/hurricane nexus.

So when EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says it's insensitive to Floridians and Texans to talk about climate change during hurricane emergencies, I say he missed the boat as to what's truly insensitive.

What's insensitive is not talking about the links between warmer surface water temperatures and more intense weather events. What's insensitive is dismantling the Clean Power Plan that was put in place to reduce climate-changing carbon pollution. What's insensitive is unraveling the environmental protections we all rely on so allies in the oil and gas industry can continue to pollute for free and have consumers pick up the tab.

Plain and simple, we are altering the climate of our planet for all living beings just so that a few people can make money selling, trading and producing fuels and products that emit greenhouse gas emissions. It's not okay and it's got to stop.

Increased greenhouse gas emissions are fueling more extreme weather events. It's just that simple. The warmer ocean temperatures in the Atlantic and the gulf are contributing to more intense hurricanes. Climate change is causing sea level rise that adds to the threat of coastal flooding.

We have needed to act to reduce emissions for a long time, but now we are at a true crossroads. The Arctic is melting, and the permafrost is thawing. As goes the Arctic, so goes Florida. We must take serious action now to both adapt to the climate change impacts that are inevitable from carbon pollution already in the pipeline and to reduce our emissions and future impacts by transforming to a low-carbon economy.

Make no mistake, we've known about the problem for a long time. In 1965, three weeks after his inauguration, President Lyndon Johnson said: "This generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through radioactive materials and a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels." Johnson was responding to the first official governmental report on the possible challenges posed from increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) to dangerous levels.

Even before that, physicist Roger Revelle testified before Congress in 1956 about the relationship between fossil fuel combustion, rising CO2 in the atmosphere, and potentially increased hurricane risk in the Atlantic. So the potential impacts of climate change on hurricanes were known 60 years ago. This is not new news.

So why do so many people today still deny the causes of climate change despite the overwhelming evidence? Since I'm from the Sunshine State, I liken it to the intense rivalry between the University of Florida Gators and the Florida State Seminoles. You pick a team and stick with them through thick and thin. Football allegiances are powerful in Florida. There's no in between once you take sides.

Similarly, for climate deniers to embrace the largely accepted science they have to renounce their world view and their peers. And while it is difficult to stray from one's world view, more and more people now see reality staring them in the face.

So without pointing fingers or recrimination, I say that this is the moment we must all confront the realities of a changing climate and acknowledge there are solutions at hand. There is no shortage of data on climate science and, thankfully, there seems to be no shortage of technologies to achieve a low-carbon economy. Transitioning to a clean energy economy will be better for all of us all in the long run, creating jobs, saving money and protecting our natural environment.

Being in a hurricane — or in any crisis situation — does have a certain surreal quality to it. Across the globe we've been pummeled with so many recent cataclysmic events — earthquakes in Mexico, fires in the West, mudslides in Sierra Leone — and now the nearby devastation from Hurricane Harvey is fresh on our minds. Every day it's like we're watching a movie — an intriguing thriller — except this one is real. Climate change is happening and we're seeing it play out before our eyes. It would be insensitive to continue to ignore the signs and fail to take action.

Susan Glickman is the Florida director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Column: Now is exactly the time to have that discussion about climate change 09/14/17 [Last modified: Thursday, September 14, 2017 2:48pm]
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The fight AGAINST climate change has already been lost. The reality of climate change isn't up for debate. However,the degree of influence attributable to man certainly is. Trying to prevent climate change is like swimming up a waterfall. We need real solutions which plan for the effects of climate change, not preventative measures which amount to trying to drop an ice cube in boiling water. IMO you should advocate for smart planning to help people, not more restrictions on people trying to un-ring a bell. Please wake up, build more and safer lifeboats, don't try to make the titanic run on solar!