The World Bank Commissions the Potsdam Institute Climate Change Report, “TURN DOWN THE HEAT — Why a 4 Degrees Celsius World Must Be Avoided”

Potsdam Institute report synopsis (and art, “The Revelations of Eve and Adam,”) by Kevin

Miller Eve & Adam 2003 20 x 24

“Recent research suggests that large-scale loss of biodiversity is likely to occur in a 4 degrees Celsius world, with climate change and high CO2 concentration driving a transition of Earth’s ecosystems into a state unknown in human experience. Ecosystem damage would be expected to dramatically reduce the provision of services on which society depends…”

    –  from the Potsdam Institute Climate Change Report for the World Bank, Nov 19, 2012

The World Bank commissioned the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analysis to produce a global climate change report. It was published on Nov 19, 2012, entitled “Turn Down the Heat – Why a 4 Degrees Celsius World Must Be Avoided.” A team of 15 renowned scientists headed by Hans Joachim Schellnhuber wrote the report which was peer-reviewed by 13 highly respected scientists. The report’s analysis of prospects for the world’s climate, ecosystems, continuing life on Earth, and for the future of the human race is solid, scientific and profoundly sobering. However the report asserts that humanity can still reverse course and save ourselves and many other life forms and ecosystems with urgent cooperative international action soon.

Jim Yong Kim is President of the World Bank, and a physician, anthropologist, and former president of Dartmouth College. He has demonstrated an active commitment to educating the world about the apocalyptic dangers of global climate change and to committing the resources of the World Bank to aggressive advocacy for cooperative international action to avert the tragic destruction of the climate, the world’s land and sea ecosystems, and life on Planet Earth. He has said:

“Lack of action on climate change threatens to make the world our children inherit a completely different world than we are living in today. Climate change is one of the single biggest challenges facing development, and we need to assume moral responsibility to take action on behalf of future generations, especially the poorest.”

President Kim’s foreword boldly defines his motives for commissioning the report:

“It is my hope that this report shocks us into action. Even for those of us already committed to fighting climate change, I hope it causes us to work with much more urgency…”

“It is clear that we already know a great deal about the threat before us. The science is unequivocal that humans are the cause of global warming, and major changes are already being observed…”

“The World Bank is a leading advocate for ambitious action on climate change, not only because it is a moral imperative, but because it makes good economic sense.”

“Our work on inclusive green growth has shown that – through more efficiency and smarter use of energy and natural resources – many opportunities exist to drastically reduce the climate impact of development, without slowing down poverty alleviation and economic growth.”

     – from “Turn Down the Heat” foreword by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim

“TURN DOWN THE HEAT – Why a 4 Degrees C Warmer World Must Be Avoided”

(a synopsis of the executive summary)

Opening Statements from the Executive Summary of “TURN DOWN THE HEAT:”

“A 4 degrees Celsius world would be one of unprecedented heat waves, severe drought, and major floods in many regions, with severe impacts on ecosystems and associated services. But with action, a 4 degrees C world can be avoided and we can likely hold warming below 2 degrees C. Without further commitments and action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions the world is likely to warm by more than 3 degrees C above the pre-industrial climate. Even with current mitigation commitments and pledges fully implemented, there is roughly a 20% likelihood of exceeding 4 degrees Celsius by 2100. If they are not met, a warming of 4 degrees C could occur by as early as the 2060s.”

“Small island developing states and least developed countries have identified global warming of 1.5 degrees C as warming above which there would be serious threats to their own development, and in some cases survival… The sum total of current policies – in place and pledged – will very likely lead to warming far in excess of these levels. Indeed, present emission trends put the world plausibly on a path toward 4 degrees C warming within the century.”

“A world in which warming reaches 4 degrees C above pre-industrial levels… would be one of unprecedented heat waves, severe drought, and major floods in many regions, with serious impacts on human systems, ecosystems, and associated services.”

“Warming of 4 degrees C can still be avoided: numerous studies show that there are technically and economically feasible emissions pathways to hold warming likely below 2 degrees C. Thus the level of impacts that developing countries and the rest of the world experience will be a result of government, private sector, and civil society decisions and choices, including, unfortunately, inaction.”  (Kevin’s note: U.N. climate talks set a goal of 2 degrees C maximum rise. We are on track for a 2 degree rise by 2028, and many scientists assert that there will be dire consequences even at that level of warming. Many destructive extreme weather effects have already been experienced around the world.)

 “Observed Impacts and Changes to the Climate System”

1. CO2 Increase — CO2 has increased from a pre-industrial level of 278 parts per million to over 391 ppm in September of 2012. The rate of CO2 increase is currently at 1.8 ppm per year.

2. CO2 Record — Current CO2 levels are higher than at any time in the past 15 million years.

3. CO2 Emissions — Current CO2 emissions are at 35,000 million metric tons per year, rising to 41,000 million metric tons per year of CO2 emissions expected in the year 2020.

4. Global Warming — Current temperature rise above the pre-industrial level is .8 degree C, causing observed impacts, including approximately 15 to 20 cm sea level rise. (Kevin’s note: reputable scientists tell us that there is another .8 degree C of inertial rise built into the system, even if all emissions were to cease today, for a total of 1.6 degrees C temperature rise, virtually guaranteed now.)

5. Extreme Heat — There is now a ten-fold increase in surface areas experiencing extreme heat since the 1950s. The 2010 heat wave in Russia left 55,000 people dead, a 25% crop failure, and one million hectares burned.

6. 2012 U.S. Drought — The 2012 U.S. drought impacted 80% of agricultural land – the most severe drought since the 1950s.

7. A Hot Future — Projected climate change impacts in a 4 degrees C world would include extreme heat waves, death, fires, and crop losses as seen in Russia in 2010.

“Projected Climate Change Impacts in a 4 Degrees C World”

8. “Rising CO2 Concentration and Ocean Acidification” – CO2 dissolves in and acidifies the oceans. In a 4 degrees C world, there would be 800 ppm CO2 in the sea – a 150% acidity increase, unparalleled in Earth’s history, and distinctly adverse to marine life. By 2060, if current warming trends are not arrested, the world’s coral reefs will start to dissolve. Coral reefs are the planet’s marine life nurseries, and they provide tidal protection for coastal populations.

9. “Rising Sea Levels, Coastal Inundation and Loss” – Sea levels are expected to rise up to one meter or more with several more meters rise in coming centuries. “Even if global warming can be limited to 2 degrees C, global mean sea level could continue to rise… between 1.5 and 4 meters above present-day levels by the year 2300. Sea-level rise would likely be limited to below 2 meters only if warming were kept well below 1.5 degree C.” (Kevin’s note: current warming is .8 degree C + .8 degree C inertial warming built into the system = 1.6 degrees C of virtually guaranteed warming now confirmed by reputable climatologists.)

10. “Risks to Human Support Systems: Food, Water, Ecosystems and Human Health” – “This report identifies a number of extremely severe risks for vital human support systems.” They include water scarcity, flooding, drought, wildfires, transformed ecosystems, forest dieback, and “large-scale loss of biodiversity,” (extinction of many plant and animal species.)

11. Fire-induced ecosystem transformation — “In Amazonia forest fires could as much as double by 2050 with warming of approximately 1.5 degrees C to 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. Changes would be expected to be even more severe in a 4 degrees C world, with climate change and high CO2 concentration driving a transition of Earth’s ecosystems into a state unknown in human experience. Ecosystem damage would be expected to dramatically reduce the provision of services on which society depends…”

12. Reduced food production – in a 4 degrees C world, food security would be undermined by extremely high temperatures, drought, floods, invading insects, diseases, and sea-level rise in low-lying delta areas (Bangladesh, Egypt, Vietnam, and Africa, for example.) Agricultural disruption would lead to nutritional deficits.

13. Health – Aside from injuries and deaths directly caused by extreme weather events, epidemic diseases and allergies can be expected, as well as respiratory, heart and blood disorders cause by heat-amplified smog levels.

14. Risks of Disruptions and Displacements in a 4 Degree C World” – In a 4 degrees C world there would be large-scale population displacement with adverse consequences to human security, and economic and trade systems.

15. Sudden Changes – Sudden disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet, for example, would lead to rapid sea level rise. Large-scale Amazon forest dieback would have drastic effects on ecosystems, rivers, agricultural, energy availability, and livelihoods. Unpredictable abrupt changes like these can be expected in a 4 degrees C world.

16. Cascade Effects – Cascading series of disastrous events and conditions would likely be triggered at national and regional levels by key failures such as seaport breakdowns.

17. Coral Reefs – Coral reef destruction and concomitant loss of marine life production due to rising temperatures and ocean acidification would have a large-scale impact on human settlements and infrastructure, especially in low-lying coastal zones, where sea levels will rise one meter or more this century. The coral reefs will not be there to provide tidal protection.

Concluding Quotes from the Potsdam Institute Report, “Turn Down the Heat:”

“With pressures increasing as warming progresses toward 4 degrees C and combining with non-climate-related social, economic, and population stresses, the risk of crossing critical social system thresholds will grow. At such thresholds existing institutions that would have supported adaptation actions would likely become much less effective or even collapse.”

“There is no certainty that adaptation to a 4 degrees C world is possible… The projected 4 degrees C warming simply must not be allowed to occur – the heat must be turned down. Only early cooperative international actions can make that happen.”

 

CLIMATE CLIFF

By Paul

I wish I could take credit for the term “Climate Cliff,” but I cannot.  I first saw it referenced by an organization called “RootsAction,” which describes itself as an “on line initiative dedicated to galvanizing Americans who are committed to economic fairness, equal rights, civil liberties, environmental protection – and defunding endless wars.”  All of which, by the way, I happen to agree with.  If you’re interested in looking into them further, their web address is www.rootsaction.org.

But it was this expression, “Climate Cliff,” that most caught my attention.  There has been so much talk, so much air-time, so much energy spent of late on endless discussions of and worry about the so-called Fiscal Cliff that I have frankly become almost desensitized to it all.  I mean, how much can you worry about whether members of Congress will eventually stop warring with each other and, instead, actually sit down and DO something to help the people who voted them in?  I’m sick of it.  And, yes, I mostly blame the rigid, recalcitrant, and doctrinaire Republicans who seemingly will not budge on the one issue that everyone knows most Americans already agree on, namely, raising taxes on the super-rich.  How many times do we have to listen to Speaker Boehner and his colleagues say that this is nothing but a “jobs killing” measure?  Come on!  It’s clear to everyone that they are simply pandering to the richest of the rich, who put them where they are in the first place. 

But, you see, I’m already getting off track again.  Of course what happens with the economy is vital to all of us, because it means that it affects our livelihood and our ability to take care of ourselves and of those we love.  So, yes, it is important.  But in the larger picture, it’s frankly small potatoes.  In comparison with the looming Climate Cliff, which almost no one in Washington seems to be thinking much about, it’s the most myopic of short-term stuff indeed.  Note what even President Obama recently said on the subject:  “I don’t know what either Democrats or Republicans are prepared to do at this point.  I think the American people right now have been so focused and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth that, you know, if the message is somehow we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don’t think anybody’s going to go for that.”  Really?  “Simply to address climate change”?   As if that were a simple, or an inconsequential issue, or one that wasn’t in the end going to wind up devastating the planet.

The whole thing reminds me of something I once head a Catholic priest say many years ago, something which appalled me almost beyond words at the time, and which I still find hard to believe that anyone could have said.  Speaking about birth control or, more to the point, speaking against birth control, he reflected that we really didn’t have to worry about overpopulating the planet anyway, because God in his wisdom sent wars and plagues and mass communicable diseases to keep the population within bounds.  What a lovely concept, I thought! God says you can’t use condoms because – well to be honest I’m not exactly quite sure why – but on the other hand it was apparently OK for him wipe out millions of people, who already happened to have been born, but who lacked the money to defend themselves against one infectious disease or another.  Such was the reasoning of the Catholic Church at the time (this was in the late 1960’s), but I’m not sure if it has changed all that much since. 

Although it may be a bit of a stretch, worrying about the economy right now, as important as it may be to most of us, seems a little bit like that to me.  At least it does in terms of concerning ourselves with things that do not address the overriding issue.  In regard to birth control, the important issue really is that people have too many children, and not that we should (God forbid!) actually rely on wars, disease, and natural disasters to cull the population. And in terms of the future of the planet, we do need to be worried, very worried, about global climate change.  But what is so concerning is that I fear Pres. Obama may actually be quite correct in his assessment of things.  It probably is true that most Americans are totally focused on the economy, on jobs, and on growth, and the whole idea of what will be happening to the planet in the coming years and decades is so far on the back burner that it’s getting no attention at all.      

So, what I am suggesting is that we begin substituting the phrase “Climate Cliff” in our thinking, in place of “Fiscal Cliff,” in hopes that all of us, you and I and Pres. Obama and Wall Street and American corporations and political parties and civic organizations and religious groups and governmental and inter-governmental bodies of all stripes, will eventually begin to feel some of the same sense of urgency about global warming as we currently do about our collective wallets.  Not to put too fine a point on it, in the end money won’t amount to a hill of beans, if we’re all swimming in a sea of noxious gases, or literally in overflowing oceans, or we are unable to feed ourselves and our families because the ecosystem simply can no longer sustain itself in a healthy way. 

I used to think, or at least hope, that we would somehow come to our senses about all this because we wanted to preserve the beautiful planet we call home, because it is the right thing to do not to destroy magnificent forests and kill off whole species of animals who have done nothing to contribute to the warming of the globe.  But I have come to the conclusion that most of us most of the time are so engrossed in our own little lives that the majority of people cannot get out of the ego-cocoon that we live in.  Well, so be it.  Let us then worry about climate change for our own benefit. 

In the end, it does not matter much exactly why we concern ourselves with the issue; the only thing that matters is that we do something about it.  We are, indeed, headed toward a Climate Cliff, and no amount of worry about short-term fiscal matters is really going to make much of a difference.

LET’S GET ON WITH THE BUSINESS OF GOVERNING, AND OF SAVING THE PLANET

By Paul

Now that election 2012 is over, and the results are so promising, it’s time to get on with the business of exactly why we elect people in the first place, namely, to govern. 

Not so much governing has taken place for quite some time in this interminable run up to November 6th.   It seems as though that run up by itself has lasted for at least a couple of years.  So, it’s definitely time to get back in the saddle again.  It’s obvious that the first order of business has to be the so-called Fiscal Cliff, those automatic spending cuts and tax hikes which will go into effect in January of 2013.  In my view, it would be a complete disaster if they happen, as it would probably trigger at least a “mild recession,” according to any number of economists.   But even a mild recession, in the wake of the Major Recession we have just gone through, could be devastating.  In fact, it brings to mind the latest nor’easter to hit New York and New Jersey on the heels of Hurricane Sandy.  Ask the folks there, who were without power and literally under water, and who are again going through a similar ordeal, if another blow is an easy thing to take.  I think you’ll get an earful.  It would be the same thing if the President and Congress are unable to work out some sort of compromise to prevent us from heading over this fiscal precipice.

But that’s just the beginning.  There is a whole host of things on everybody’s plate that needs to be attended to.  It’s almost as if things have been on hold for two years, and now finally it’s time to get a move on.  The President has already said that Immigration Reform will be high on his list, and that is surely a good thing.  This country has actually always had a love-hate relationship with its immigrants, in spite of the comforting old myth of the melting pot.  Very few of the established Anglos wanted those damned Irish, or the Italians either for that matter, back at the end of the nineteenth century, just as many don’t want the Mexicans, or other Latinos, today.  And just as with the Europeans, so too with Hispanics, epithets such as “lazy” and “free loaders” are thrown around with nothing to back them up.  We won’t get to a truly fair and comprehensive immigration reform package, I believe, until we come to terms with how we really want to perceive, and therefore how we treat, new arrivals to this country.

Another major problem that has to be fixed is the economic one.  I am nothing if not a liberal, and I hope a progressive, but I do agree with conservatives that something has to be done about balancing the fiscal books.  We cannot go on spending so much more than we take in, and we most definitely cannot go on simply borrowing money from China and elsewhere in order to cover the gap between spending and income.  Toward that end, we have to be upfront and transparent about how we spend the money we do have.  One of the most despicable things about the administration of George W. Bush was how they hid the cost of two wars.  These military incursions were utterly unfunded; they never even made it to the budget talks.  And this is aside from the fact that, in my view anyway, they were both totally unnecessary in the first place.  But that’s another question entirely.

The only way to balance the books is some combination of reasonable spending cuts and equally reasonable tax hikes.  It also assumes that we will come up with a way to handle so-called entitlements, although personally I hate that word.  It always comes off to my ear as sounding as though people are getting something for nothing, something they don’t really deserve.  That is not the case in regard to Social Security, which those of us who receive it (myself included) have paid into for upwards of forty years, or however long a person has worked.  The same is true for Medicare, although in regard to medical costs in general the country has also got to have a very serious conversation about what is actually appropriate, and in the end, what we can afford.  This will not be an easy discussion, inasmuch as it concerns both ourselves and the lives of those whom we love, and just how much care is enough care.  But the topic has to be on the table.  These are things that adults talk about, and that we need to talk about.

Beyond these things, education looms high on the list, too.  For far too long we have been putting off decisions about comprehensive funding that will get our children – all of our children – ready for the highly competitive world of the 21st century.  It will have to be a discussion that takes place at the national, the state, and the local levels, since funding for education and decisions regarding how kids are educated happen at all three levels.  But when a baseball player (nothing against baseball, as much as I find it one of the most boring sports on the planet), or a football player, or a movie actor, or a CEO of a company that rapes the planet, earns millions of dollars, and educators are paid a pittance, it seems to me that there is something seriously wrong with our value system as a society.  And remember that politicians are really only reflections of ourselves.  We hire political leaders in the first place by voting them into office, and by keeping them in office (or not) once we’ve seen how they perform.  So, if we continue to elect people who do not value the things we say we value, then in the end we have to examine ourselves, and we have no one to blame but ourselves. 

 I could go on with a long list of things that have to be dealt with, and no doubt anyone who reads this could add others, equally as important.  Clearly, the economy and jobs go hand in hand, and you do not fix one without the other.  And this includes jobs for everyone, including people who have been traditionally shunted out of the good life of the American middle class, people of color in particular who have suffered more profoundly than anyone else during the years of the Great Recession.  Other things come to mind, as well, things like the infrastructure of the country, which is crumbling, care for the sick and the indigent and those who cannot care for themselves, always a bell weather in terms of what a society considers important, and so-called energy independence, a silly pipe dream in itself unless and until we wean ourselves off of fossil fuels.  Which leads me to the final point that is on my mind in regard to the new administration, and the Republicans in Congress as well, because the latter can block almost anything they want with the majority they have in the House of Representatives.  And that topic is the eighteen thousand pound gorilla in the room, namely, climate change. 

Now here is a topic for the ages!  And not many more ages, in fact, if we do not somehow come to grips with its disastrous implications.  I have to say that I was appalled at both candidates during the presidential campaign that the words climate change or global warming almost never passed their lips.  It is, though, a topic that in the final analysis trumps all others.  And I do mean all.  Because we can do whatever we want to fix the economy, to create wonderful jobs for people, to educate our children, to care for those who cannot care for themselves, to grant equal rights to minorities, pay down the debt, and on and on, but if the planet rebels – in ways that I think we have only begun to see – then none of these other things matter.  If we do not have a hospitable planet on which to live and to raise our children, and even, God help us, to play baseball on, then everything else is for naught.

The old Republican adage of “drill, baby, drill” sounds almost like a hateful curse to my ears.  It is at very least the cry, and maybe the last cry, of the utterly deluded.  There are surely things that all of us can, and must, do in order to help play our part.  We can and should conserve and not be wasteful, find alternate sources of energy, recycle, and we absolutely have got to stop having so many children. At seven billion people and counting, the world already has far too great of a population for the planet to sustain.  And we must find a way to satisfy our need for power that does not, as a byproduct, pollute the air, the water, and the earth itself.       

All of this is necessary, and some of it can be done on the personal and the local level.  Even so, that will not be enough.  Governments, and whole associations of governments, absolutely must take this on as a priority – no, as THE major priority – because the ravages of catastrophic global climate change will not respect race or ethnicity, wealth or poverty, one economic system over another, or anyone’s arbitrarily drawn political boundaries.  It will get us all, if we do not take steps now to make a difference. 

So, I admire and appreciate President Barack Obama very much.  I also feel for him, and hope and pray that he will have the strength and the wisdom and the determination to take on these problems we are all faced with.  If we do not assist him in this task, then we are all to blame.  It is time now to act and to stop playing politics.  And if we do not, there is no doubt in my mind that we will all suffer the most dire of consequences.

Mother Nature Sends Sandy to Make Climate Change a Conservative Issue

by Kevin

The light yet shines. It is time for people of all socio-economic-political stripes to speak with one voice and demand that governments and fossil fuel companies switch as quickly as possible to clean renewable energy to save Mother Nature and leave a habitable planet for future generations. (Political cartoon by Kevin, 2012.)

The Two-Ton Gorilla in the Livingroom

For many years the very mention of climate change has been taboo for TV reporters and commentators. It was never discussed. Mother Nature has been trying to focus our attention on this issue, because it is killing Her. She broke off chunks of Greenland the size of Manhattan and we barely noticed as they floated away. She virtually destroyed New Orleans, but President W and “Brownie” and the rich and powerful paid no attention, because the masses that suffered and the thousand who died were mostly poor people of color. So Katrina did not work. Mother Nature deprived much of the country of a real winter last year, and everyone just said “thank you.” Finally, She decided to go really big with her attention grabbing statements, and last summer She burned up all the Midwest crops in a disastrous drought, reduced the mighty Mississippi River to a trickle, and charred huge swaths of the West with massive wildfires. There was still virtually no mention of climate change! What does a damsel in distress have to do to get saved these days?
 
“It’s Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature!”
 
Last week everything changed. Mother Nature really got her panties all up in a bunch because the presidential campaign was almost over and climate change had never been mentioned in the debates or stump speeches or lists of voter concerns. So Her hand was forced. She had no choice. Mother Nature sent Hurricane Sandy to Wall Street, the financial capital of the world, to wake up the rich and powerful. Wall Street and much of New York City were under water. Lower Manhattan was cold and dark for five days. Staten Island and Hoboken are still in deep distress at this writing. The New Jersey coast was destroyed. The storm was 1,000 miles wide! Mother Nature delivered Her unmistakable message loud and clear to Wall Street’s rich and powerful: “You will lose New York City and your Jersey Shore playground unless you come to my rescue and do something about climate change immediately!” 
 
Mother Nature has finally succeeded in focusing some attention on Her own dire plight. Suddenly almost every TV news reporter and commentator cannot stop talking about climate change. There are featured stories and discussions about it on cable news. New York’s Governor Cuomo made it clear in public statements that the Hurricane Sandy disaster was caused by climate change. New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg belatedly and abruptly endorsed President Obama, indicating that the president was more likely than Romney to do something about climate change. Then Bloomberg was forced by public outrage to cancel the New York Marathon because everyone demanded that those resources be allocated to disaster relief.
 
Speaking Truth to Power and Money
 
Mother Nature has come to the sad realization that She has to take her plight directly to the doorstep of power and money if She is to be heard. Hurricane Sandy has made climate change a conservative issue. It may take a few more hits like this one where the rich and powerful live, work and play, on Wall Street and the Jersey Shore, and other bastions of wealth, power, luxury and privilege, but Mother Nature will eventually force conservatives to begin pushing for a halt and reversal of climate change.
 
Why Climate Change Is a Conservative Issue
 
1. Loss of Property — Nobody likes to lose their hard-earned, cherished property. New York City and the Jersey Shore comprise one hell of a piece of property to lose. Did you see the photos of all those yachts and luxury cars piled up on the Jersey Shore?… and all those destroyed weekend homes and resorts and vacation areas? Wall Street was under water and shut down for two days. This kind of sudden loss is a real shock to anyone who is attached to material possessions, and who is not? People are going to want to be assured that their property will be protected, especially when insurance is priced out of sight. They’ll talk about massive sea walls and gigantic ocean gates and fortress engineering for a while, but eventually it will become clear that Mother Nature will take what She wants if we do not stop killing Her by altering the chemistry of Her atmosphere and oceans and soil with carbon and greenhouse gas pollution from fossil fuels.
 
2. Extinction is Bad for Profits — The sad economics of ignoring escalating global climate change and ecological destruction, add up to a lose/lose/lose/lose scenario for A. Business/ B. Wall Street Investors/ C. Governments/ and D. The Electorate. The people who comprise all four of these elements of civilization will die off when Earth becomes a boiling, burning sci-fi planet, and there will be nobody left to play the game of capitalism. In order for commerce to work, we must have at least sellers and buyers. Without either one of those there are no profits and nobody to collect the profits. Then the game is over.
 
3. Cost of Preparedness and Disaster Response — Five days after landfall, on MSNBC’s must-watch weekend round table, “Up with Chris Hayes,” Klaus Jacob of Columbia said that in about 85 years the sea level in Manhattan on a calm sunny day will be the same as it was at the height of Sandy’s storm surge. Two years ago he wrote a study predicting every detail of what happened in Manhattan this past week, right down to the specific flooded tunnels and subway lines. Now he asserts that investing in preparedness engineering will cost 10 times less than relying only on disaster clean-up, but either way it’s going to be extremely expensive. The clean-up for Katrina was way over $100 billion. Losses from Sandy are estimated at $50 billion. Who knows how much the clean up and replacement bill will be? It seems only logical that conservatives will eventually ask how we can treat this problem at its root so that we can stop throwing obscene amounts of money at preparing for or cleaning up after the symptoms.
 
4. Public and Political Pressure Mount — Governments and political entities do, in fact, respond when the force of public opinion becomes insurmountable. Witness Mayor Bloomberg’s cancellation of the New York Marathon this week. He really did NOT want to do that. But the public outcry was overwhelming, and the mayor heard from virtually every significant city power center that he had no choice but to shut it down and reallocate those resources to disaster relief. So he did. As extreme weather disasters increase in size and frequency, and the media are inundated with images and stories of unbelievable suffering all across the socio-economic-political spectrum, the masses, including wealthy and powerful hard-hit conservatives, will demand a response, and they will get it.
 
5. Everyone Cares about the Survival and Happiness of Their Kids and Grandkids — It won’t matter whether people are conservative, liberal or moderate… When it dawns on everyone that their kids and grandkids may not be able to survive in the future we are setting up for them, everyone will pause. We will all have to ask ourselves why we are working, creating and procreating if there is no future — no civilization to build — no place or time for our children to live and carry on our legacy. We will all realize that it is time to stop and turn this thing around, if only for the sake of future generations.
 
Conservation is a Conservative Value
 
Aside from these five points, conserving the planet really ought to be a natural conservative issue. It seems like leaving our children a planet, climate, oceans, soil and atmosphere at least as healthy as the system we inherited from our ancestors is a smart, conservative thing to do. It’s sort of like investing money for our future financial security. Or maybe a better analogy would be doing due diligence on the maintenance of our house so that we can protect and sustain the investment we have in our home. Earth is the only home we have. The conservative approach would be to maintain our home for the security and wellbeing of future generations. It’s just the common sense responsible thing to do.
 
What’s Next?
 
What’s next? Conservatives, liberals and moderates will join forces and demand with one voice that governments and fossil fuel companies switch as fast as possible from extracting and burning fossil fuels to developing and supporting renewable clean energy sources and lifestyles. Last year Exxon-Mobile made more profit than any company in the history of money, and our government gave them your tax dollars and mine to subsidize that historic windfall, which is killing Mother Nature. Is that okay with you? Of course it’s not. Mother Nature will no longer allow escalating fatal climate change to be a polarizing political issue. This is a matter of life and death for Her, for us, and for our children. It’s time to join hands with our political foes and opposites and force governments and fossil fuel companies to switch to clean renewable energy. Talk it up. Make noise. Write letters to editors. Make art about it. Demonstrate on the streets. 
 
Three Big Things We Can All Do Right Now
 
First: Organize — Join 350.org and Bill McKibben’s efforts to stop climate change, or another group like Citizen’s Climate Lobby, or start your own local organization  to combat climate change in your own region.
 
Second: Boycott — Don’t buy any fossil fuels on Fridays — “Fossil Fuel Free Fridays.”
 
Third: Divest — Remove all your investments from fossil fuel companies, and demand that your churches and colleges and universities and other institutions do the same.
 
Buck up Binky… It’s time to exhibit some courage — It is tempting to feel overwhelmed in the face of humanity’s greatest survival challenge in all of history. “Eco-Anxiety,” denial and avoidance are natural human responses. But we are out of time. There is no time left to pretend that this will just go away. Extreme weather-related disasters, caused by climate change, are increasing rapidly in size and frequency. Many of the actions listed above are easy to do. We can all do them even if we are scared, depressed and overwhelmed. The good news is that governments and companies will be forced to respond even if only 10 — 20% of us join forces and demand change. It is NOT too late. We can do this together — conservatives, liberals and moderates. All together now… SCREAM BLOODY MURDER! Demand an end to the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, and a switch to clean renewable energy sources.

CAUGHT IN THE TAR SANDS QUAGMIRE

By Paul

I’m not claiming to be highly schooled in such things, but doesn’t it seem maybe a little too obvious that Pres. Obama was photographed not just once, but repeatedly, in front of stacks of ground-ready oil pipes in Cushing, Oklahoma  this past week?  The message was clear, even before he said his first word:  we are with you in your need and your desire for oil.  Oh, and of course let’s not forget that we’ve got to have people to lay those pipes too, which translates into jobs, jobs, jobs! 

 I kept wondering what the president could have been thinking as he stood  there talking about ordering the expedited construction of the southern portion of the XL pipeline down to the Gulf.  I hate to say this because I’m a great fan of Pres. Obama, but my fear is that he was thinking: how many votes will this get me come the fall?  

To be fair, let’s posit that the trip to Cushing was not about grandstanding, or at least not solely, and instead that it was part of the president’s “all of the above” strategy, which is itself inherently flawed.  In case you’re unfamiliar with that strategy, what it references is the notion that we need to use all possible energy sources, clean or not, in order to power our country. 

I suppose that for many people this approach has a certain immediate, almost intuitive appeal to it.  I mean, what’s wrong with saying that we cannot expect to power our houses or our factories, to say nothing of our cars, solely by clean energy in anything like the immediate future, and so in the meantime we’ve got to use all sources of fuel at our disposal, or risk ruining our country economically and falling farther behind competitors like China and India?   

But I believe that this is a false dichotomy; it’s not an either-or proposition.  Of course there is no doubt that we will continue to rely on oil for the foreseeable future.  We may not like it; I may not like it, but it’s the case.  However, it doesn’t follow from this that we have to continue on with a proposition like the XL pipeline, or with drilling in the tar sands of northern Canada.

Claiming that the oil that comes from these tar sands would remain in the US, or that the price of gasoline in the country would come down as a result of drilling in Canada, are both inaccurate and misleading statements.  The selling of oil takes place on the world market, and the price reflects that market.  No amount of drilling in Canada is going to substantially change either its availability to US buyers, or lower its cost to them. 

If we take a closer look at how the price of world oil is set, we see that it reflects and is ultimately determined by its perceived future availability.  That availability in turn fluctuates wildly due to political circumstances.  Markets are notoriously spooked first and foremost by anything that can be conceived of as instability.  Will Israel attack Iran?  Will Iran retaliate? Will Iran attempt to close the Straits of Hormuz?  If so, what will the US do? What will happen in Syria?  Will its current unrest and the atrocities inflicted upon its population by the Assad regime turn into a full-blown civil war, and will the chaos that ensues then spill over into the rest of the Middle East?  All this, along with the other side of the equation, namely demand, are the things that are making a difference in the price of gasoline at the pump, not whether or not Pres. Obama gives the green light to the expedited construction of a pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico. 

The Republican candidates all know this.  And if they do not, they ought to get out of the race immediately, as they pose an even graver danger to the political and economic well-being of the United States than I currently dare believe.  But it’s politically expedient for them to blame Pres. Obama for “the rise in the cost of oil,” even when they fully understand that he has virtually no control over either its cost or its availability.  Just as none of them would, if they were to become president.  And on top of that, the healthier the US economy gets, the greater the demand for oil. 

But even in discussing these details, I have to think I’m wandering too far from the main point that I began with.  It might even appear that I am buying into the hype that more and more gasoline is needed.  No! What is needed is an energy policy that phases out gasoline, and indeed all bio-fuels, as quickly as possible.  We currently give enormous tax breaks to huge multinational oil companies, which already make profits that register in the billions of dollars every quarter, but by comparison almost nothing is given to those companies, few as they may be, that labor to bring about clean energy usage.  Does that make good sense – or, dare I say, good policy – at a time when the results of global climate change are becoming more and more obvious, and more ominous, every day? 

So, I get it that Pres. Obama has to work in order to be reelected.  And that’s a good thing.  God help us if he is not!  But I have to really hope that, given a second term, he will redouble and even triple his efforts to decrease our dependence on bio-fuels of all kinds.  It’s not just about saving the incalculable beauty of the northern Canadian landscape from the predations of dirty oil drilling in the tar sands there, although that itself is a laudable goal.  But what is much more vital – and I don’t believe this to be too overblown a statement to make – is that we need an energy policy that will ultimately save the planet.  Or to put it another way, as the planet will no doubt go on one way or another in spite of all that humans can do to ruin it, in the end we need a policy that will save the life forms on the planet.  This includes you and me, and your daughters and your sons. 

President Obama’s words last week notwithstanding, producing more oil and gas won’t help with this.  What will help is a plan that gets us off a dependency on oil and gas, and gets us onto a track that promotes a healthy and sustainable future for all of us.