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Endgame

This is my first blog post. I am a Canadian senior citizen concerned about climate change. Although as a senior I can insist it is still “global warming” just renamed so some senator cannot make hay by bringing snowballs into work with him on an unseasonably cold day – mistaking weather for climate.

After years of personal research and observation I realize that there are some alarming disconnects globally, locally and individually about the reality of climate change. Specifically, the illusion that this is an issue that will possibly impact our grandchildren somewhat, probably around the year 2100 – not an imminent and species extinction threatening catastrophe.

I get this. Personally I am an optimist at heart and always look for the upside of things. But I am also inclined to examine all evidence and arguments so that I can feel comfortable (not sure this is the appropriate word here!) in my conclusions and reasonably confident about what actions follow from those conclusions.

I worked for a long time in construction. My area of expertise was energy efficiency – primarily how to build or retrofit homes to reduce usage of energy – I even designed and built a passive solar home for our family in a cold Canadian climate in the 80’s.

Thinking this was a “no brainer” I marketed my skills emphasizing the economic advantages of such construction long term – even though there was a slight increase in initial cost for better than code insulation, air sealing and mechanical systems. Again this was a result of my conclusions, based on examination of evidence, fueled by my expectation (and apparently optimism) that rational, logical customers would see the obvious advantages. “Lalalalala”.

In this blog I hope I can get some people to pull their fingers out of their ears and listen, at whatever level of skepticism or denial, as I retrace my personal journey to recognize, accept, fight against and ultimately resign myself  to the reality of a world warming beyond control. I remain an optimist but my practical side has lead me to explore options with which some will empathize, some may totally reject and perhaps a few will embrace.

A few points are clear:

First, there are too many entrenched, powerful interests – read: scumsucking corporate asshole greedheads (SCAG) – for whom the interests of the very (very) few outweigh the needs of the rest of the planet.

Second verse (same as the first), the SCAG have waged a disinformation campaign to very successfully sow seeds of doubt about legitimate research using the same tactics, and in some cases the same “experts”, as used by Big Tobacco to obscure the truth about their products.

Third, politicians – who are largely beholden to the SCAG because they help finance their election – are reluctant to do anything but kiss the hand that feeds them.

Fourth, the scientists themselves, often reliant on SCAG for research dollars, have been ultra cautious about attributing cause which might reflect poorly on their benefactors. And as a group these already tend to be among the most cautious – especially when it comes to extrapolating the possible future their empirical data suggests. As one would expect, their consensus synthesis of global research is about as conservative as you could get…and still is pretty terrifying.

Surprisingly, even among the vast majority who recognize and accept all the foregoing, there continues to be a fingers in the ears “lalalala, I don’t want to hear this” response to information or evidence which does not coincide with the “business-as-usual-hey -I’m-doing-my-bit-by-using-compact-fluorescents” mindset.

Don’t tell me you are out there protesting pipelines – been there done that (releasing ballons at the site of Darlington, exposing radioactive discharges from uranium mines, marching in New York) – all worthwhile stuff we are still permitted to do (more or less -within guidelines) by the “authorities.”

I’m going to continue writing so, whether or not you are along for the ride, at least I will be telling my story, presenting my evidence, explaining my conclusions,  making my case and describing the path I am following. Stay tuned.

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let me digress

I thought I might just take a breath, figuratively speaking,  to explain a bit about who I am and where I come from. At least some context.

I am living within an hour of where my grandparents on both sides were born and raised. Where my parents were born and raised and where I was born and raised. My two brothers live here, our sister lives less than two hours away. On my father’s side, out of 17 cousins 13 still live in this area. My parents seldom ventured any further than Toronto – about two hours away to the west – or the family cottage, about 2 – 1/2 hours north of here. One brother went away to university in Nova Scotia, spent a couple of years in Toronto, but then came back here. Neither my youngest brother or sister has ever spent much time more than an hour from home (until she relocated with her husband.)

I spent about 4 years away at school myself (mostly in Toronto) but in between there somewhere I took a year off, worked to save some money and then backpacked around Europe for 3 months. After graduating I spent a couple of years in hippie heaven – cheap land, homegrown, lots of music and frivolity. Then 3 years in Revelstoke, B.C. “working” on the railroad, learning to ski, with homegrown, lots of music and more frivolity. Along the way I have been a truck driver, taxi driver, flooring installer, signals apprentice, actor, musician and general ne’er-do-well.

I don’t know what Jennifer saw in a long haired, bearded guitar player but somehow I convinced her to marry me (40 years ago next month) and I built us a comfy passive solar home (not far from the family cottage) and we raised our two amazing  home birthed kids there. While Jennifer started a very successful natural foods store I became a builder specializing in energy efficient homes and, eventually, a project manager, home inspector and energy advisor.

Coming full circle, we now live about 30 minutes from my old hometown and about the same distance from our son (and wife and 2 grandkids) and about 10 minutes away from our daughter and her partner. So…life is good!

You know what they say…too good to last.

I hate to be the guy bearing the calamitous news that not just our grandchildren, but our children…yes, even we old codgers…will likely be witness to the final stanza of the epic poem that was the human anomaly here on earth.

I know what you are thinking – “he keeps saying he’s an optimist so what’s with this fatalistic bullshit?” – or words to that effect. Truth is, the fact that I have a two year plan and am thinking about how I might persuade our children to join us in it somehow is perhaps the ultimate optimism. My love of more than 40 years is not totally persuaded. If it comes down to choosing, I believe she would rather starve with our kids here if they can not make this leap. And it is a huge leap of faith…for it is my considered opinion that there may only be some slim chance of any humans surviving what is now an irreversible and precipitous process of disintegration.

Yet, from my point of view, if we pull up stakes here…home to generations of family… and move thousands of miles away and then, somehow, the disaster does not  happen – well, is that not just part of the human experience? Our ancestors have crossed oceans, fled southward from ice ages, carved out homes in frequently inhospitable climes (southern Ontario being far from the worst!) and not only survived but thrived. My fear is that with noone putting on the brakes, the train of civilization is going over the cliff and taking all possibility of avoiding extinction with it. My hope is that survival may be possible where there is great diversity of flora and fauna and a culture that has endured by recognizing and accepting what that environment offers. Not to mention fairly stable, reasonably warm climate.

I think learning Spanish will be the least of the hurdles.

 

Where in the world? And why?

So the world as we know it is ending, not with a bang but probably a prolonged, gut wrenching whimper (unless some stupid, mindless  orangutan…oh wait a minute…) . And yet, being hopelessly optimistic, I cannot just accept this as, well, hopeless.

For several years – being semi-retired and with the privilege imbued upon us by virtue of living in a semi-socialist state and having a wee bit of pension income – we have begun taking increasingly long vacations in warmer climates during the winter. First a couple of weeks then a month and  then 90 days and most recently 6 months. We enjoyed Mexico  (Zihuatenejo) for several years then Merida in the Yucatan and last few years in Ecuador.

Zihua was getting severely Americanized (and somewhat dangerous) when we discovered Merida – the White City. Whereas Zihua was a relatively small fishing and tourist place Merida had the Mayan history and culture and about a half million population. At about 4 hours away from the glitz and amenities of Cancun, it felt like an oasis removed from the usual touristy beach environment. We loved our visits there. And the Mexican peso was at a low ebb, making our Canadian pesos feel almost worth something. Unfortunately it was rapidly getting to be much more expensive as gringo expats were discovering it and buying up quaint old colonial homes in the historic centro section of the city, upgrading and flipping and air bnbing until it was no longer in our particular snack bracket.

Besides the fact that the Yucatan has virtually no surface water (underground “cenotes” providing all drinking water) it is pretty much as flat as a pancake. For those who see future sea level rise as a reality – coupled with the occasional hurricane washing across this peninsula – this does not seem the ideal place to escape. The people are incredibly friendly and it is arguably the safest area of Mexico…just not quite what we were looking for.

Basically I had a few criteria I was looking for:

-Southern hemisphere (probably less immediate fallout from nuclear catastrophes)

–Low crime rates

–progressive/socialist government

-acceptably warm climate with year round growing season

When I asked Guy Mcpherson where one might find greatest chance of surviving (however temporarily) his forecast of human extinction he mentioned two places – New Zealand and Chile. While New Zealand seems attractive it also has stricter immigration requirements, housing is fairly expensive and most of the country has a definite heating season – maybe not quite Canadian cold, but occasional snow and frosty nights.

Chile…I don’t know….still recovering from years of neo-liberalism under Pinochet and having massive fires in the dry northern section while the warming oceans and El Nino have played havoc on the seafood  industry all along the coast…and Chile seems to be ALL coast.

One country seemed to touch all the bases – Ecuador. A very small country straddling the equator and with separate and distinct geographical regions to suit all tastes – all reachable within mere hours of each other: endless beautiful beaches and lowlands; the majestic, spectacular Andes with many lush, cozy valleys; Amazonia – the headwaters of the Amazon river; and of course the iconic Galapagos Islands. And reachable in under 9 hours from Canada!

On our first reconnaissance mission – 90 days in 2015 – we bused all around the country with backpacks and just lingered wherever felt good. Thus we spent a few weeks village hopping up the coast, soaking up the sun and frolicking (well, wading anyway, we are seniors after all) in the surf of countless magnificent beaches – all claiming to be the best surf towns on the planet. And they all could make that claim, since to my amateur eye they all seemed equally awe inspiring when viewed from a boogie board!

Then we ascended, over the course of a week, to the capitol, Quito, at about 9500 feet above sea level. We did experience some minor discomforts adjusting to the elevation but it was the surprisingly chilly evenings that put us off – while we were in the country (but not in the city at the time, thankfully)  we saw photos of hailstorms that created drifts in the streets there! Quito is a massive, sprawling city with both very old, impressive colonial architecture alongside new high rise edifices. Of course, as with most large cities, there are stories of criminal elements – primarily opportunistic theft and pickpocketing – which overall seem tame compared to what one sees on the evening news in almost any major city in North America. We were advised strongly and often not to venture out after dark.

We actually stayed in Cotacachi, a small town a couple hours north of Quito, near Otavalo, for a couple of weeks – it was on our list primarily because of glowing reports on International Living. It is known locally as “the leather town” – although by now it is probably better known for the influx of gringos (possibly due to the exposure in IL). A very pleasant and beautiful town but a bit cooler and a bit too “gentrified” for our liking. The two volcanoes defining the valley are both thought to be extinct – or probably!

Nearby is the much larger city of Ibarra, which we visited for a few days, that had much more going for it in terms of city amenities – despite being regarded mostly disparagingly by the expats in Cotacachi. Still at a pretty high elevation and the closest large city to the Columbian border in the northeast part of the country…whenever something bad happens anywhere in northern Ecuador it seems to be blamed on Columbians.

We did a 5 day, 4 night excursion into Amazonia – down the Cuyabeno river in motorized canoes – while in that northern part of the country. That was pretty amazing, although the prevalence of poisonous spiders, snakes and other pesky biting critters was discouraging.

Banos de Agua Sante (literally “baths of the holy water”) was a lovely, very multicultural town in a tiny valley with many waterfalls, tourist attractions, a vibrant core with lots of hotels, restaurants and, of course, the famous hot springs. It was attractive enough that we spent a couple of weeks there and we loved it. The very much not extinct volcano, Tungurahua, looms, smoking, over the town however, and there are evacuation arrows painted on the streets showing which way to flee when (not if) it decides to start belching in earnest. Last major eruption was less than 20 years ago.

Heading southward we  spent another couple of weeks in Cuenca, the third largest city in Ecuador (after Guayaquil and Quito) at around 600,000 people. At 8400 feet elevation its climate is billed as “springlike year round”. It is, indeed, much like spring in Ontario. Although it never gets much warmer than the high 70’s, because of its proximity to the sun any cloudless day requires attention to the sunscreen because it can get intense. Sunny days are T-shirt weather, but everyone seems to have umbrellas with them because there are often brief (and sometimes not so brief) showers. Once the sun sets (which it does every day all year at about 6:30) it gets cool enough to need a sweater or light jacket. Even on a partly cloudy day. That being said there is no need for either air conditioning or furnaces. A lot of places have fireplaces, but they are generally not well designed – probably because they are hardly ever used.

The city is a magnificent world heritage site with old Spanish colonial buildings – including upward of 30 cathedrals – that is gradually entering the 20th century. They are a few years behind schedule in constructing a tram system (should possibly, maybe, but not definitely be ready by 2018…or 19…almost certainly, they hope by 2020) and are hoping that will help to eliminate some of the diesel spewing buses which foul the air and are a great source of noise pollution.  The city has more restaurants, cafes and nightspots per foot than you could imagine. Museums, theatres, galleries, open air stages, live music, karaoke…this place has it all. In other words it’s happening!!

We descended even further down the mountains as far as Vilcabamba, at around 5000 feet nestled in what they call the valley of longevity. Notable apparently at one time for the number of really old codgers found there, it is now most notable for the percentage of the gringo population – many of the tin foil hat persuasion. In other words you could not swing a cat in this tiny town without hitting someone wearing a tie dyed dashiki. I should state for full disclosure that we are old hippies of the “back to the land, communal living” variety ourselves…so this was a real flashback!

The ratio of gringos to Ecuadorians is a bit unfortunate in that this valley is amazingly beautiful but has become a place where you feel like you have a target on your back. Still, we spent two lovely weeks there and returned again last year with our daughter (who fell in love with it right away!)

Ecuador is a socialist country with all the things people love and hate about socialist countries. As an oil exporting country (the smallest member of OPEC) it has spent its petro money building infrastructure – roads, schools, hospitals, bridges – and raising the wages and increasing the rights of the most disadvantaged. They have taxed the wealthy and the corporations. In other words, the exact opposite of herr Dumbo’s latest budget. Of course the elite of Ecuador have not liked this and have been waging a media war to convince the hoi poloi that it is in their own best interest to turf these scoundrels. Their banker candidate only lost the election in May by 2% so obviously they are all pissy about that. Still, another 4 years to resist the neoliberal tide!!

I guess you can tell where this is going…we love this country and its amazingly friendly, generous and resilient people. The climate is more or less whatever you want – just move a little higher or lower until you hit your sweet spot. As a place to possibly avoid (or delay) the worst impacts of impending climate driven catastrophe it is looking very attractive.

Next up: No, but what do you really think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you believe in magic?

Some people believe in the strangest things…corporations are people; magic is real; religion…even though there is no supportive evidence – often the exact opposite.

On the other hand there are those who refuse to believe things that are manifestly self evident or based on strong science: raising the minimum wage is good for the economy; reducing inequality benefits society; taking steps to reduce the impact of climate change could save the human race…..

Personally, I have finally conceded that as a race we tend to believe more in magical, wishful thinking.

As evidence mounts overwhelmingly that by our own short sighted greed and disrespect for our shared environment we are literally creating hell on earth the collective response seems to be a shrug. And “democratically” elected governments – like that of the idiot  who must not be named – perpetuate the lie that what is good for corporations necessarily overrides the common good – and common sense.

The truth is that the Paris Accord was a watered down, non-binding, “set your own targets and hope for the best” sham. Historic only in that virtually all countries agreed something should be done….while accepting targets guaranteeing a degree or so of global warming beyond the stated goal of 2 degrees celsius maximum increase.

Reality sets in now that the bloviating ignoramus has made his pronouncement. While individuals, cities, states and entire countries continue to affirm their intentions to continue the good fight it is obvious that without the support of the federal government of one of the worst carbon polluting nations on earth – in fact facing steadfast resistance  – even the sham targets may not be achievable.

Meanwhile every new report of actual observed data somehow is worse than what was expected – everything from rate of glacier decline to extent of ice in both arctic and antarctic oceans. Warmth of the oceans; dying of coral; extinction of species…surprise! All worse than anticipated. At least by scientists with media credibility. Although there have been notable exceptions.

One such exception is professor emeritus Guy Mcpherson, a former tenured professor at the University of Arizona who realized that climate change was not only real but happening at a pace far faster than most scientists were willing to admit in public. I was frankly alarmed when I stumbled across some of his projections. When I first came upon some of his material a few years ago he was advising that we are facing extinction of the human race within a few decades.

He was embarked at that time on a tour to wherever anyone would pay for his travel and put him up for a day or two and feed him so he could spread his message. My wife and I went to see him in a small room in Perth, Ontario. His presentation was decidedly low key, considering the implications. His basic premise is that a growing number of feedback loops are not being given the weight they should by the IPCC and most climate modelling. Feedback loops are self reinforcing processes that cause acceleration of global warming. For example: arctic ice is melting, shrinking in extent. This leaves areas of dark open water to absorb heat from solar radiation that would previously have been reflected by the ice. This warmed water then increases the melting and shrinking.

Likewise, warmer arctic temperatures begin to thaw areas of permafrost. Methane, a greenhouse gas that can have even more rapid effect on warming than carbon dioxide, that is trapped in the permafrost, then is released, accelerating warming – which leads to more thawing of permafrost. Etc., etc.

Dr. Mcpherson has been keeping an updated list of such feedbacks and projecting their impact for several years. You can check out his blog “Nature Bats Last” to get his most recent info. His conclusion is that it is these multiple feedback loops which are causing the “surprises” we continue to hear about. And he further concludes that each of these adds to the exponential growth of global warming. His argument at that meeting in Perth was that – in the face of governmental inaction, corporate obfuscation and scientific conservatism – we as a species will find our planet uninhabitable within a few decades at most. Not the picture that had been painted for me by the media, our governments or even activists like David Suzuki, the sierra club, 350.org and others.

The obvious question then of course was “well what do we do?” His reply was that there is nothing to be done at this point. He himself had gone through the stages of grief upon making the connections in his research: denial, anger, bargaining and eventually acceptance. His advice was essentially to follow your dreams, do what you love, be with those you love and strive for excellence.

I’ve seen more recent videos of him on You tube. He still seems to be remarkably mellow, although I note that he spends less time now detailing the data and more time talking about his love of teaching. Some of this might be in response to the increasing criticism he has received – portraying him as a shoddy scientist and a cassandra. It may also have something to do with his current projection of our timeline as a species …He now insists that we may have even less time – as little as 10 years.

This has made him even more of a target, of course. He justifies this in particular by asserting that the arctic could be ice free as early as this September – and certainly within a couple of years. Besides being a huge tipping point (remember the feedback loops?) he believes the warmer water will lead to release of massive quantities of methane from the shallow seabeds off Russia which  alone could dramatically alter the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere very significantly and abruptly.

As he stated when we saw him in person (it was a chilly night in April) we had just come in from a cold evening into a warm room with no ill effects. But his field of study specifically centred on botanical ecology – how plants respond to changes in climate. His contention is that the severe droughts, floods and extreme weather events – tornadoes, super storms, cyclones, hurricanes – will cause severe food shortages. These will lead to civil disruptions including mass migrations and ultimately breakdown of the society to which we have become accustomed.

Among the dire consequences of societal breakdown he mentions one particular problem…the northern hemisphere is currently home to over 400 nuclear reactors, which require constant and meticulous maintenance to prevent episodes like Chernobyl or Fukushima. Decommissioning a nuclear facility safely could take decades. Time that will not be available if society becomes truly unstable.

If there is catastrophic societal breakdown and industries stop spewing their particulate matter into the atmosphere things actually get much worse very quickly. Those particles create a phenomenon known as global dimming – which actually works to help keep the planet a little cooler. A major reduction in that dimming could see a dramatic increase in temperatures. Talk about damned if you do….

Ultimately Guy Mcpherson  believes we will see temperature rise well beyond 3 degrees celsius within at most ten years (not the 80 or so years the Paris Accord – if successful – would lead to) a temperature that has not been reached on our planet while humans have existed on the earth. While that temperature alone would not likely kill everyone it would decimate agriculture. Without agriculture modern civilization would break down and industry would cease…leading to loss of global dimming, aaand…you get the picture.

So, okay, I find the evidence and the projections compelling. I also read all the objections (easy to find…just google that shit). There are some who argue that there are feedback loops that work to cool as well as to heat. There are those who argue that methane from the seabeds will not be released , or not in significant quantities or will be absorbed in the water. Several critics just don’t like him very much and attack him personally. They accuse him of “cherry picking ” data that support his theory. In the end though I tend to find him credible. I don’t think he is getting filthy rich by speaking to small crowds like the one in Perth, Ontario (although he did recently go to New Zealand on a speaking tour.) His message is definitely not one many people want to hear.

I can’t say that he changed my life. I still hold out some hope (“hopium” he calls it) and even before hearing him talk I was looking for options to escape what I can see will be a problematic future – as well as getting away from Canadian winters!

As I write this Lake Ontario is at a never before recorded level, flooding large areas along shores and possibly even affecting ship traffic in the St. Lawrence seaway. Meteorologists are saying waters are still rising and might not abate for months. Not to pin this on climate change specifically, but highly coincidental. Also the wettest May on record here…and still frickin’ cold into June!! This is having serious impact on farmers as well since there are many fields in this agricultural area that they still can’t get on to start planting – just too wet. Signs of the times my friends!

We started looking for other places to escape to several years ago and have focused on one place in particular last couple of years. Next time I’ll talk about that process and our (well, my!) two year plan.

 

 

Fighting the good fight

Those who have decided that climate change is real have mostly tried to do something about it. That can take many forms. Some just click on the “support a cause” links that inundate our emails and facebook pages once we become visible…THEY know who you are! Some even decide to support the worthwhile efforts of some of these groups – Friends of the Earth, Rocky Mountain Institute, David Suzuki Foundation, 350.org, Council of Canadians, Post Carbon Institute, Stop Line 9, Sierra Club (and on and on and on) by volunteering, with actual dollars or both.

It is worth noting that since the new ignoramus in chief of the US was sworn in a lot of these groups have become recipients of renewed interest (and even money) as it becomes more and more apparent that he really is a stupid, ignorant man who thinks other rich folks like himself – especially wall street types and fossil fuel execs – are exactly the sort of folks who know how to save the _______________ (fill in the blanks – economy, education, military entanglements, foreign relations…and, oh yes,  the environment.) No need to even think about climate change because Breitbart News and Alex Jones think it is all a made up conspiracy designed to somehow deprive all Americans of the right to bear arms!

You would think that a man as self-centred and property proud as this idiot would at least be aware that his waterfront property in Florida might just be at risk. Apparently never crosses (what passes for) his mind.

When we were much younger my wife and I were members of the Ontario Non nuclear Network and actively protested about the dangers inherent in generating power by splitting the atom…as Amory Lovins would say “like using a chainsaw to cut butter.” Lovins was a hero to us – not just because he also saw the dangers, but because he had solutions that made better economic sense. He advocated that it would be cheaper – and obviously safer – for Ontario Hydro to help their customers reduce consumption (by assisting in retrofitting inefficient homes, producing more efficient motors and even giving them insulated blankets for their water heaters) rather than spend money on one more nuclear plant.

Now, all these things eventually came to pass…but not before another massive boondoggle was perpetrated on the province in the form of another brand spanking load of debt that citizens of this province are still paying off lo these decades later. “Energy too cheap to measure” my ass! Along the way communities became irradiated at every stage of supply and construction – but some were even give free iodine tablets… don’t bother to thank us folks!

You might think that we would have given up at that point. Obviously those making these big decisions do not think our input on such matters is of any consequence. (As a matter of fact the current gov’t here wants to extend the licence for the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station for another 10 years – which will, of course involve not only extra cost but extra risk.  So it would seem that further investments in conservation still are not high on their radar.) Nevertheless we have persisted. It seemed that the massive climate march we attended in New York city almost two years ago now – which was mirrored in similar huge protests around the world – might have been a catalyst for waking people up both on the streets and in government. Instead we get the orange climate denier in chief and his thugs promoting an agenda of denial and fossil fuel expansion.

We’ve spoken out against pipeline conversions and expansions and participated in protests  while seeing our new federal government – which proclaims itself as being much more environmentally concerned – proceeding with all the projects and climate targets of their conservative predecessors. I have been active with the Post Carbon Institute, which promotes awareness of energy use – making the case that every form of energy has its drawbacks – and recommending reducing energy consumption instead of assuming that society’s energy usage can continue to grow without limits.

And, finally, in the face of runaway climate change and mostly stalled (or even regressing) government efforts, I must admit defeat. And, as I said before, I am at heart an optimist.

Next up…what has changed my mind.

What, me worry?

Deny, deny, deny! Deny the science. Deny the evidence. Deny the causes. Deny the feedback loops. When denial doesn’t work pretend there is great doubt. When a scientist expresses any reservation amplify that into scandal, confusion and even more doubt. Above all, deny.

Deny, deny, deny! Deny the science. Deny the evidence. Deny the causes. Deny the feedback loops. When denial doesn’t work pretend there is great doubt. When a scientist expresses any reservation amplify that into scandal, confusion and even more doubt. Above all, deny.

Of all the insanity surrounding climate change it is this culture of denial that upsets, disappoints and puzzles me the most. We know that the fossil fuel industry has invested billions sowing the seeds of doubt, paying for the usual suspect “scientists” to spew their corporate line. We also know that the very process of real science requires questioning and testing of hypotheses – which, to those unfamiliar with that process, only seems to be a circular argument without end. Even gravity is still a theory…though by this point a very refined, well shaped and polished one. Climate change has only been examined for less than a century, so only 97% of scientists agree:

a) the planet is warming unusually and exponentially  and

b) it is largely human activity – primarily the products of industrial activity (burning of fossil fuels) that is causing this warming.

One would think that such near unanimity – and the dire forecasts the evidence has lead them to eventually come to describe through the IPCC – would have found similar consensus among world governments. And I mean more than the foot-dragging-we-need-business-as-usual-but-hey-we-signed-a-deal-in-paris-so-everything-is-just-fine kind of consensus. (Our prime minister is a perfect example of this. Sign on to the Paris accord but approve new pipelines so we can continue to profit from the sale of arguably the dirtiest oil on earth.)

Why there has been such resistance practically from the get go is inexplicable to me. I can see some back and forth over details and lack of clarity among those who do not differentiate between weather and climate (hey, it’s snowing so the planet can’t be warming) but when it comes right down to it a substantial minority (and I am convinced it is a minority) just do not seem to accept the science. When the idiot in chief of the most powerful country on the planet proclaims that climate change is a Chinese hoax he obviously has a constituency that is receptive.

I read not only the majority scientific reports but also those of the deniers, (obfuscators, nitpickers, pawns IMHO). What I hear from the latter are cherry picked data, out of context quotes and mostly bogus statistics. This is not to say that at the other end of the spectrum there are not those alarmists who are guilty of the same sort of manipulation, but in their defense I would offer this: if they are wrong, and we choose to act to reduce carbon pollution as a result, what is the harm? Whereas if the deniers are wrong and we do nothing as a result of their arguments we could be well and truly fucked.

As I write these words Lake Ontario is reaching record levels (a month before usual) and projections are for another 6 inches yet to come…not business as usual by any means…yet I see no commentary on the news saying this is one more indication that this might be the start of a new “normal” and that it might be related to global phenomena.

For me this has just helped confirm my conclusions about the reality of climate change…while I am sure there are those who will choose to keep their heads firmly in the sand.

Next time….how extreme and imminent is this?

An inconvenient truth…a snowball’s chance.

When I first saw Al Gore’s documentary, “An inconvenient truth”, it resonated with me. In spite of the title, which felt pretty tame/lame, the message was dire.

Of course it probably could have made more of an impact if someone else – let’s face it, almost anyone else – had been presenting the information. Samuel Jackson comes to mind…”the mfin’ planet is in a mfin’ death spiral” !!

But the content, the science, the reality of the crisis certainly hit home. Not just for me, obviously, but millions of people.

I have a pretty mathematical mind. What struck me was the exponential element to what is happening. I remember as a kid reading a Scrooge McDuck comic which illustrated the concept beautifully. As I recall, it revolved around Donald’s nephews agreeing to work for their (Scumsucking Corporate Asshole Greedhead) uncle for a penny…if he would agree to double their salary every day. Without realizing the exponential forces at work, he agreed – 1 cent  becomes 2, 2 becomes 4, 4 becomes 8…it takes 8 days to get up over $1. but 4 days later it is over $20. 3 days later it is over $100. You get the picture. On a graph it looks kind of like a hockey stick.

This was the image that caught my attention in An Inconvenient Truth. The concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere – and similarly global temperatures are not just gradually, linearly rising. They are rising exponentially. In fact, looking at almost every graphic representation of key climactic markers – from ocean warming  to loss of sea ice to rate of glacier melt and species extinction – you will see this characteristic exponentiality.

I’m sure that the scientists like James Hansen – who had been warning about this for decades – were thrilled that at last their message was out there in the headlines. Now for sure the whole world would wake up and start dealing with the most critical issue of our time.

Of course, officially, governments had been responding to scientists’ concerns for years. The Kyoto Protocol was signed on to by virtually every country in the world in 1997 (after a convoluted process started more than 5 years earlier) and went into effect a mere 8 years later – the year before Gore’s doc. It must be pointed out that the US never ratified it and Canada backed out in 2012, but technically it is in its second phase and still in effect.

See, this is the problem. The science is as clear as it can be, the politicians show concern – even if it unfolds in slow motion – the  world wakes up when they see it on a big screen (there are even worldwide protests coordinated around the world), and yet more pipelines are still being built, tar sands still pumping out the sludge and the idiot in chief of the US wants to bring back coal, erase the EPA and withdraw from the Paris Accord.

We as global citizens are ultimately to blame for this. Sure, Exxon and their SCAG friends have done their best to delay and obfuscate and deny – fostering doubts and deceit – but we are the ones complacently going along for the ride. We haven’t held governments and corporations accountable and we have bought in to or ignored the global neoliberalism that insists on growth of economies at the expense of the environment.

Media has its share of the blame – not surprising when most is owned by the very same SCAG usual suspects. Still, this should be biggest story on the planet – front page every day. If the devastation forecast  by experts, scientists – even the pentagon – were attributed to an approaching asteroid you can bet there would be universal cooperation to attempt to avoid or minimize the damage and there would be a countdown clock every night on the evening news.

As part of the largest single mass march for climate awareness , demanding action to deal with this threat, it was frustrating to see it flash like a blip  on the news and then on to something fresh like it was coverage of a kennel show!

It was about that time that I realized (like I said I am inherently optimistic) that we can not expect anything to change. Not the SCAG, not the media, not the politicians. Not even most of our fellow citizens.

And that exponential degradation has now passed the point where – even if all the above actors were to suddenly have an epiphany and actually DO something about this accelerating catastrophe I now believe it to be too late.

If you are interested in why I believe this and what the implications are stay tuned.