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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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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.