Saturday, December 24, 2016

What Might Have Been



The Bach/Gounod Ave Maria is a paean to the Virgin Mary, beseeching forgiveness for sins committed unto death. The sins against people, and against life on earth. That which we could have forestalled, in grace as put forth in Laudato Si, to protect and care for our home.

Hail, Mary, full of grace
the lord is with thee,
blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus
pray for us sinners, now, and at
the hour of our death.

Not that the effort wasn't made in the USA. The Bernie Sanders program and policy on Climate Change issues, incorporated into the DNC platform in July of this year was to drastically cut carbon pollution, create a clean energy workforce, and impose a carbon tax. The Democratic platform ultimately called for a WWII-Scale Mobilization to solve the climate crisis, which involved the leadership of Bill McKibben in framing the platform.

Yet that was not to be. So, on Dec. 13, 2016 about 400 scientists and environmental activists gathered at Jessie Square Outside Moscone Center in San Francisco to stand up to Trump's position on climate change:

Science is under attack. President-elect Donald Trump is packing his cabinet with unapologetic climate change deniers with close ties to the fossil fuel industry. Last week, Trump falsely claimed that “nobody really knows” if climate change is happening, and then a member of his transition team actually compared modern climate science to the Flat-earth theory.  He has also made it clear that he wants to hand over our public lands and waters to the fossil fuel industry.

And in an unprecedented move, the Trump transition team sent out a questionnaire seeking the names of federal employees who helped implement President Obama’s climate change goals -- a move some called a witch hunt. Meanwhile, climate scientists are furiously working to archive public data because of the concern that it all could be erased under the incoming Trump administration.

Scientists aren’t usually ones to rally in the streets. As Naomi Oreskes, Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University, said at the rally, "We don't want to be here...we want to be in our labs, we want to be in the field, doing the work that we were trained and educated to do...We are at a moment in time, a moment in history, where we have to do something else as well. And that's stand up and be counted."


So we stand on the edge of a tragic precipice, from which we don't seem to have the ability to engage our vision or embrace our humanity.

Updates 12/26/16:

An open letter to President-Elect Trump and the 115th Congress was sent by more than 2,300 scientists, Nov. 30, 2016

In the aftermath of the election results, a group of 500 women in the sciences has banded together to speak out, Nov. 17, 2016

376 members of the National Academy of Sciences published an open letter to draw attention to the serious risks of climate change, Sept. 20, 2016

Update 12/29/16: Are Climate Scientists Ready for Trump? Maybe not.

Update 12/31/16: Scientists at the plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Vatican on Nov 29, 2016


Sunday, December 18, 2016

An Eighth Year - Some Rain


We've had a recent winter rainstorm now, they're very infrequent in Southern California these days. Finally a series of cool days but not like there used to be. The winters are definitely changing, and this is creating issues around the globe. There's a dialogue emerging in Britain because climate change threatens ability of insurers to manage risk. Earlier this month, ClimateWise, a global network of 29 insurance industry organisations which is convened by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, has warned of the urgent need to address the growing $100 billion annual climate risk 'protection gap' in two new reports; Investing for Resilience and the ClimateWise Principles Independent Review 2016.

Bank of England chief Mark Carney is very clear that he has warned that the fight against climate change will be jeopardized unless companies with big carbon footprints come clean about their exposure to global warming risks.Carney, writing jointly with the former New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, said citizens, consumers, businesses, governments and international organizations were all taking action in response to extreme weather events. Bloomberg’s Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures has published its recommendations for a voluntary disclosure code. It will cover four areas considered by Carney and Bloomberg to be vital to how businesses operate – governance, strategy, risk management and metrics:

The FSB Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) will develop voluntary, consistent climate-related financial risk disclosures for use by companies in providing information to investors, lenders, insurers, and other stakeholders.

The Task Force will consider the physical, liability and transition risks associated with climate change and what constitutes effective financial disclosures across industries.

The work and recommendations of the Task Force will help companies understand what financial markets want from disclosure in order to measure and respond to climate change risks, and encourage firms to align their disclosures with investors’ needs.


Financial disclosure is essential to a market-based solution to climate change. A properly functioning market will price in the risks associated with climate change and reward firms that mitigate them. As its impact becomes more commonplace and public policy responses more active, climate change has become a material risk that isn’t properly disclosed. The areas America could abandon first is discussed by Bloomberg with respect to a managed withdrawal from disaster-prone areas that require frequent financial assistance from FEMA. It's becoming necessary even for the Federal government to limit its exposure to climate change events.

A broader discussion comes from an article published last year in the Financial Times about what's needed to tackle climate change. In his book Why Are We Waiting?, Nicholas Stern, author of the Stern Review on the economics of climate change, lays out the challenges and opportunities with clarity and passion. Again, it's about the cost of not facing this most devastating issue of our time.

Update 12/18/16:  Why Doesn't It Snow in L.A. Anymore?

Update 12/31/16: Projected Sea Level rise in Los Angeles 2100

Update 1/1/2017:  Miami, as we know it today, is not going to exist




Friday, December 2, 2016

It Comes into Force



The Christian season of Advent countenances expectation, hope, joy and purity in the lighting of candles, culminating in a moment of reverence on Christmas Day. The hopes and expectations of the future during this century are now focused on the climate crisis of our time. The Paris climate change deal became international law on November 4, 2016. This milestone comes to pass as we are already approaching the 1.5C limit, and forests across the world are now burning. Glaciers are disappearing along with the water supply for many land-bound countries, and the polar caps are now collapsing and melting at unprecedented rates.

COP22 in Marrakech concluded in early December with a remarkable resolve by many nations to act on climate change issues, particularly fossil fuel emissions. Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Patricia Espinosa, summed up the central outcomes of the UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, along with outlining the next steps for international, national and local climate action. The Marrakech talks may not have tackled the actual gap between global climate goals and fossil fuel production, but individual governments don’t need to wait to show leadership.This means that it's incumbent upon countries, cities and states to do all they possibly can as soon as possible to reach zero emissions. It brings a focus to local governments to act on this policy.

California has been experiencing severe environmental impacts as a result of climate change that exacerbates the drought and reduces water supplies. It has been struggling to maintain water supplies throughout the state. The way water distribution works in California is that the water is pumped from the Bay area via several main aqueducts into the dry metropolitan areas in Southern California. Water allocations from the State Water Project go from there to the southern portion of the state. In addition there's the Colorado River Aqueduct from Lake Mead near Las Vegas, Arizona and also the City of Los Angeles which takes its water from the Owens Valley aqueduct. The allocations for this water are adjudicated by Department of Water Resources in Sacramento among the various water agencies. Their approach has shifted to significant conservation strategies.

Working to make water conservation a way of life, state agencies have released a draft plan for achieving long-term efficient water use and meeting drought preparedness goals that reflect California’s diverse climate, landscape, and demographic conditions. Here's a graphic record of our reservoir levels that are used by many agencies and individuals to track our water reserves. This year, the heavy rains in Northern California helped fill the reservoirs up north, but also allowed the water agencies to start filling the reservoirs in Southern California with a reserve supply via the aqueducts because it's not getting much rain. This system keeps the large coastal cities alive: San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, although they are all now looking at severely restricted water supplies.

Another serious impact has been the health of our forests. The drought and climate change has had a devastating effect on California's forests. After 70 million tree deaths, the worst is "still to come" (as of August 2015). In November 2016, an astounding 102 million trees are now dead in California. There are no easy answers for what to do with them, or how to preserve what's left. And also, what's to become of the giant sequoias? Forest ecologists talk about the unprecedented die-off: "In more than 30 years of studying these trees Stephenson had only seen two die on their feet. Five years into the current drought, he’s now seen dozens of standing dead." Looking to the future of these forests, X-ray technology reveals that California's forests are in for a radical transformation, as well as a future of more forest fires which contribute large quantities of carbon and soot.

Because of these horrible conditions, we come to a reality check: California is about to find out what a truly radical climate policy looks like, as a result of the impact of climate change on the state. SB-32 is a new state law which will now mandate an additional 40 percent cut in emissions by 2030, the most restrictive emissions law in the country. So California, with the sixth largest economy on the planet, out of necessity will be providing leadership to the US and also the other developed countries of the world. And it's just the beginning.

Update 12/2/16:  California climate leadership at COP 22 Marrakech

Update 12/3/16:  Trump campaign is a direct threat to California citizens

Update 12/4/16:  Trump victory is a threat to California's natural resources

Update 12/13/16:   Bill Gates/University of California joint announcement about the start of a billion-dollar fund to invest in transformative energy research and development to reduce the emissions that cause climate change.

Update 12/14/16: California forest dieoff is turning tree-cutters into millionaires

Update 12/15/16: A Tale of two droughts in California

Update 12/15/16:  The last five years were the driest ever documented in downtown L.A. since official records started 140 years ago.

Update 12/20/16: New California Law Recognizes Meadows, Streams As “Green Infrastructure”, Eligible For Public Works Funding

Update 1/20/17: The Great Exception - California and the Trump Administration