The premise may be true - that US taxpayers are 1) paying via taxes for disasters at unprecedented rates and 2) insurance companies are increasingly pulling out of vulnerable coastal and agricultural areas. These are wicked problems. They need to be addressed. But the solution proffered is utterly false.
To make the leap that both of these complex problems will stop - that lives will be saved if only Obama cuts emissions by x amount - is scientifically inaccurate (even manipulative).
What is it about human psychology that makes meteor strikes and volcanoes so compelling, while global warming languishes as a political afterthought?
The answer has many strands, but I’ll focus on three, beginning with The Hollywood Test. According to The Hollywood Test, the content of our culture’s films reflects our most vivid fears. Over the past several decades, Hollywood producers have funded dozens of big-budget disaster films. In descending order of frequency, those films depicted alien invasions (approximately 100), epidemic and pandemic outbreaks, tsunamis and destructive waves, earthquakes, volcanoes, and meteor, asteroid and comet strikes. Absent from the list is a scintillating portrayal of global warming, though two films,The Day After Tomorrow and Lost City Raiders, described global warming as the catalyst for floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and a protracted Ice Age.
Al Gore’s important documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, is perhaps the only film that focuses squarely on global warming, and then it’s long on information, and short on Hollywood stars and scenes of graphic devastation.
And that sums up the first major problem with global warming: its precise consequences aren’t vivid enough. Humans are better at focusing on the moderate, specific, localized devastation of a major earthquake than on the great but murky devastation that global warming will bring in the middle part of the 21st century.
One of the best illustrations of this difficulty comes from research in a different domain: on our willingness to contribute to charitable causes. (Image of Hurricane Sandy via)
The Beverage Marketing Corporation, which tracks sales and consumption of beverages, is reporting that sales of bottled water grew nearly 7 percent between 2011 and 2012, with consumption reaching a staggering 30.8 gallons per person.
Despite having one of the best municipal tap water systems in the world, American consumers are flocking to commercial bottled water, which costs thousands of times more per gallon. Why? Four reasons:
First, we have been bombarded with advertisements that claim that our tap water is unsafe, or that bottled water is safer, healthier, and more hip, often with celebrity endorsements. (Thanks a lot, Jennifer.)
Second, public drinking water fountains have become increasingly hard to find. And the ones that exist are not being adequately maintained by our communities.
Third, people are increasingly fearful of our tap water, hearing stories about contamination, new chemicals that our treatment systems aren’t designed to remove, or occasional failures of infrastructure that isn’t being adequately maintained or improved.
Fourth, some people don’t like the taste of their tap water, or think they don’t.
Some people, including the bottled water industry, argue that drinking bottled water is better than drinking soft drinks. I agree. But that’s not what’s happening. The vast increase in bottled water sales have largely come at the expense of tap water, not soft drinks. And even if we pushed (as we should) to replace carbonated soft drinks with water, it should be tap water, not expensive bottled water.
This industry has very successfully turned a public resource into a private commodity.
djgagnon asked: Experimental Lakes Area - even independent scientists to be banned. Costs net $300K to keep it open for them. For your review. Scorched earth. link is theglobeandmailDOTcom/news/politics/closing-of-experimental-lakes-area-called-a-travesty-as-feds-move-to-dismantle-buildings/article9846568/
As dismantling begins, shuttering of research station called a ‘travesty’
The federal government says it is still trying to find a buyer for the world-renowned freshwater research station in Northern Ontario that it is closing at the end of this month, but it has already sent in a crew to start taking down buildings.
The news of the work came as a shock to scientists who rely on the decades of data that have been obtained at the ELA, the one-of-a-kind outdoor laboratory that has informed the world about the effects of contaminants such as mercury, acid rain and phosphorus.
Canadian government is aggressively shutting down science programs at all levels. Arguments to restore and recreate these programs in the future will be very difficult for Canadians to make, even if they elect a better political spectrum.
Thursday’s report by dozens of scientists from five different federal agencies looked into why forecasters didn’t see the drought coming. The researchers concluded that it was so unusual and unpredictable that it couldn’t have been forecast.
“This is one of those events that comes along once every couple hundreds of years,” said lead author Martin Hoerling, a research meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Climate change was not a significant part, if any, of the event.”
Every major oil company has a climate change division. Most have active climate change plans aimed at reducing emissions, managing environmental risks, and experimenting with alternatives to reduce climate impacts. Importantly, these are voluntary efforts.They chose to manage and discuss climate risk.
Here are links to the biggest oil and gas companies’ climate pages:
Our species still hunts elephants, rhinos, tigers, and other large animals. Now these animals are gunned down for body parts sold on the black market rather than for food.
People still kill these Pleistocene remnants, even as others among us try to protect the animals (a kind of inter-species benevolence never seen before in the history of life on Earth).
But even with our best intentions, we are altering the planet on a scale and with a speed that stretch the imagination.
Climate change at the end of the Pleistocene was a natural process that had been cycling back and forth for the previous 2 million years. Now we, not natural geological cycles, drive the climate, and the planet is abruptly on its way to a greenhouse world that hasn’t been seen in 55 million years.
We have already seen what happens when hunting and climate change create a deadly synergy. The question is, how long are we going to ignore this lesson, passed down to us in bone by long-lost mammoths and other vanished species?
President Obama’s plea this morning to avert the $85 billion sequester before March 1 was instantly ridiculed by Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, as a “campaign event.” That’s presumably because the president spoke in front of a group of emergency responders whose livelihoods are threatened by the indiscriminate spending cuts, just as he often used middle-class Americans as backdrops on the campaign trail.
Fine, the emergency workers were props, just like the people who have filled the first lady’s box at State of the Union speeches for decades. But there’s nothing wrong with the president using federal employees as illustrations, since workers are going to bear the brunt of the sequester’s pain. He could just as easily have lined up a group of federal meat inspectors since they will be going on furlough in a few weeks, resulting in grocery shortages. Or a group of air traffic controllers. Or cancer researchers. Or Head Start teachers. Or prison guards.
All of them will be working less in the coming months if Congress does not avert the sequester, producing backups in their specific fields that will be felt by all Americans, as well as a slowdown in spending and financial activity that will have an asteroid-like impact on the economy. The president is driving Republicans a little crazy by holding these illuminated events, because they vividly undermine the basic Republican tenet that vastly reduced spending is good for society — getting government out of the face of Americans who hate it — and good for the economy.
Cancer researchers are American government, and if Republicans don’t think their work should be supported by taxpayers, they are free to make their case publicly. But they won’t do that, because the various government functions facing cuts are both necessary and popular. Instead they talk in dire but abstract terms about the debt threat, pretending there is no need to ever raise taxes, and hoping that voters won’t remember what their dollars actually pay for.
“This is not an abstraction — people will lose their jobs,” Mr. Obama said today. “The unemployment rate might tick up again.”
Not my normal style to post political opinion, but this one is indisputable. I worry for my friends at FEMA, EPA, NOAA, NSF, and even universities conducting important research in climate and disaster management. Their jobs are at stake, and the safety of Americans are, as well. Why?
To many politicians, teachers and firefighters are targets NOT because these cuts actually save money. No. It’s because these are the cuts that the public can “see.”
It is insane to me that obsolete, wasteful projects like the Joint Strike Fighter (2,500 jets for $250 billion? A quarter trillion dollars for a plane that doesn’t work?) or buying new nuclear submarines (more billions) are exempted from sequestration, while things like weather satellites and even smokejumpers are on the chopping block.
Whale oil to fuel whaling ships is a gruesome and surreal proposition
An Icelandic whaler, Kristján Loftsson, is powering his whaling ships using “biofuel” composed of 80% diesel – and 20% whale oil. Loftsson claims the oil is additionally friendly to the environment as it is rendered out of whale blubber using heat from Iceland’s volcanic vents.
The story might seem a bizarre development even in the Alice in Wonderland world of modern whaling, where Japanese whaling fleets claim to be conducting “scientific research” and the US, while striking a vehemently anti-whaling stance, nonetheless supports aboriginal hunting of bowhead whales that might otherwise live as long as 200 years.
Whenever I see things like these, I cannot help but think, “My fellow enviros and I are responsible for this.” There are very, very few actual scientists in congress, for example. And very, very few environmentalists volunteer on their local community’s boards. Without science minded people in politics, we get the above result.
It’s Climate Science Communications Week at Climate Adaptation! For the entire week of Feb. 18 - 23, I’ll cover how climate change is discussed by the media, scientists, researchers, academics, and politicians. If you have sources or ideas on communicating climate change, send to: http://climateadaptation.tumblr.com/submit
Despite these achievements, the system by which Fair Trade USA hopes to achieve its ends is seriously flawed, limiting both its market potential and the benefits it provides growers and workers. Among the concerns are that the premiums paid by consumers are not going directly to farmers, the quality of Fair Trade coffee is uneven, and the model is technologically outdated. This article will examine why, over the past 20 years, Fair Trade coffee has evolved from an economic and social justice movement to largely a marketing model for ethical consumerism—and why the model persists regardless of its limitations.
Adam Greenfield tactically eviscerates the “Smart Cities” fad. As he shows in the opening, Smart Cities is not only undefinable, no one agrees on what it is exactly. Indeed, check out IBM’s Smarter Cities page and try to formulate a definition. I certainly can’t define Smart Cities, despite my planning and law background.
It seems “Smart Cities” is a repackaging of existing software offered by IBM, Cisco, Siemens, and a few other gigantic tech companies. They’ve taken off-the-shelf, ready made software and reshaped and rebranded it as a miracle product for progressive cities.
Greenfield says we can do better. And we can. Everyone agrees that city governments need to run more efficiently. That information should be easily accessible, and the rules for business, real estate, and land development be as clear and consistent as possible.
Anyone who has interacted with their local or county governments will tell you that cities are in dire need of more efficient processes.
And that’s just navigating a standard calendar of routine government business. Imagine what it’s like to get permission to build an addition to a home, or start a new business, or (god-forbid), plop solar panels onto your roof.
IBM and others make the promise that these issues can be resolved with their software and specialized consultants. But there is something about this approach to “Smart Cities” that smacks of a used-car salesman’s slimy sales pitch. The car-buying experience is bewildering - no one is happy going through the process, truth is obscured by need, and promises are buried under further, more far-reaching promises. The difference between IBM et al’s approach and the car salesman is that the salesman is aware of the deception…
A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.
I'm a climate change consultant specializing in climate adaptation, environmental law, and urban planning based in the U.S. In addition to traveling and hiking, I research, publish, and lecture on how cities can adapt to climate change.
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