The week in climate change

12/19— 12/25


White House officials in a conference call with reporters said previous “indefinite withdrawals” remain in place and voiced confidence that Mr. Obama’s decision will stand.

Advocacy groups were already warning that they were prepared to file suit to protect the ban during future administrations.


I can’t recommend this interview with James Hansen enough. Good points on the Paris agreement, a carbon fee and why Al Gore is too optimistic:

We’re close to that point of no return. Whether we’ve passed it or not, I don’t know…. We’ve passed it in the sense that some climate impacts are going to occur and some sea-level rise is going to occur, but we have not necessarily hit the disastrous level, which would knock down global economies and leave us with an ungovernable planet.

The dramatic melting of Arctic ice is already driving extreme weather that affects hundreds of millions of people across North America, Europe and Asia.

Even after adjusting for uncertainty, he writes, there is “virtually no chance” that nations will prevent the world from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), the upper bound for avoiding cascading catastrophes. With revisions to methods and data in the model, he estimates that the price associated with each ton of carbon dioxide emitted should be about 50 percent higher than the previous version of DICE.


What I witnessed is that a shift is underway the likes of which we have not experienced since the time of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP) and the American Indian Movement (AIM), when the oppressed peoples from all over the world are uniting in a common cause: to end the harmful exploitation of our peoples and planet, and caring for our world and peoples in such a way that ten generations from now our descendants will inherit a healthy and vibrant world to share…

When we arrived at the camp we were asked to set these feelings aside and to pray for the police, the army, the militias, and the mercenaries suppressing the people at Standing Rock. This was difficult for me, as it was for many others, too. Then I heard a report about one of the leaders of theInternational Indigenous Youth Council, speaking directly to how the people interact with the police during a prayer ceremony;

“It is our duty not to dehumanize others, as we seek to establish our own humanity.”

What I learned from this is that I am no better if I create the same trauma that I am seeking to overcome. I cannot become my enemy and still expect to overcome the oppression I suffer from my enemy. The means must be consistent with the ends, if the ends are to be just.

“I think the most pressing issue is our inability as a species to get along, our inability to work together, our sort of amplification of religious ideas and our continued propagation of certain socioeconomic and geopolitical divides, and nationalism,” he says. Such deeply rooted socioeconomic and historical divisions cannot simply be wished away nor solved with art. And fighting to transcend these issues in the face of entrenched economic interests rooted in the fossil fuel industry — members of which are slated to occupy key positions in the Trump administration — is a growing rather than receding challenge for climate change activists.

While climate change advocates often frame their message as a warning about the future of the planet, it might be more effective to speak about restoring the environment to its former glory. “Activists can use this research to more effectively market climate change science. We know that scientific evidence alone is often not an effective way to convince people,” says Baldwin. “Taking care to understand the audience and tailor the message to fit the audience is as important in science as it is in any other marketing domain.”

Climate change, like a lot of things, is scary. But if mental health professionals a tip for coping, it seems to be this: Talk about it. Share your feelings. And remember that we are all in this together.

Piers Sellers, 1955–2016

Leonardo DiCaprio interviews Dr. Piers Sellers. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Rebecca Roth

“Very quickly, I found out that I had no desire to jostle with wealthy tourists on Mount Everest, or fight for some yardage on a beautiful and exclusive beach, or all those other things one toys with on a boring January afternoon. Instead, I concluded that all I really wanted to do was spend more time with the people I know and love, and get back to my office as quickly as possible.” *


What should the rest of us do? Two things come to mind. First, we should brace for change. It is inevitable. It will appear in changes to the climate and to the way we generate and use energy. Second, we should be prepared to absorb these with appropriate sang-froid. Some will be difficult to deal with, like rising seas, but many others could be positive. New technologies have a way of bettering our lives in ways we cannot anticipate. There is no convincing, demonstrated reason to believe that our evolving future will be worse than our present, assuming careful management of the challenges and risks. History is replete with examples of us humans getting out of tight spots. The winners tended to be realistic, pragmatic and flexible; the losers were often in denial of the threat.


In Colorado it’s born out through diminished snowpack in the mountains, drought and heat-induced wildfires and pine beetles and now spruce beetles devastating our forests. Although 2016 was a great year in the state for precipitation, the EPA says April snowpack has declined by 23 percent over the past 61 years in the West in part due to warming temperatures.

Even more startling are changes at the top and bottom of the world. In the Arctic, water temperatures are as much as 9 degrees warmer than the 30-year average, and sea ice late in the year has been at a record minimum. In the Antarctic, glacial melting is happening at a startling rate, threatening unprecedented seal level rise.

The city of Las Vegas is now drawing 100 percent of its power from renewable energy sources, a goal officials have been working toward for the better part of a decade.

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