Climate Change, Corporations AND Us

I was reading my news feed this morning and hit upon this article about zero-waste which highlights the efforts of people and businesses to pre-cycle. Which is to say, eliminate trash via the re-use of containers for shopping. Excellent. That’s exactly what we need to be doing. But that’s actually not the point of the post.

Early in the article I hit upon this and it struck a nerve:

In response to these bleak realities, we’re often told that it’s all our fault. Because you didn’t bring your reusable tote bag to Trader Joe’s, that polar bear is now dead. This is a lie, of course — the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a damning report that revealed just 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of global climate emissions, most of them oil and gas companies like ExxonMobil, Shell, and BP. But it would also be a lie to claim that online shopping isn’t terrible for the environment — in 2016, transportation overtook power plants as the top producer of carbon dioxide emissions in the US, with a quarter of that coming from medium- and heavy-duty delivery trucks.

Are just 100 companies responsible for 71% of global climate emissions? Well, for fuck’s sake, no. One hundred companies might be the source but we are also responsible because those companies are selling their product to us. However you want to break this down, ultimately, the chicken comes home to roost on our porch. We drive. We purchase products that are sourced, manufactured, packaged and shipped to us. Then we throw away the packaging (or try to recycle it). Then we use it and throw it away (or try to recycle it).

Every aspect of our lives is currently based on fossil fuels. So, those 100 companies are no more or less responsible than we are. We’re all a part of this process. Headline and story writers should be more careful of writing text that helps readers absolve themselves of their participation in the cycle.

Climate Change Gloom

(Note: This was originally written to an extended family Apple Messages thread as I shared the video there. Once I started writing what was meant to be a couple sentences I just kept going. Seems shareable here too.)

Upon reading my news feed this morning I came upon this is an excellent video. Beautiful but sad. That said, I don’t think they hit on the title as hard as they should have. It get’s mentioned once but it should be more prominent in the story.

The point about adaption is that at this point, going forward, the carbon in the atmosphere cannot be removed. Even if we stopped all fossil fuel burning now (which we obviously won’t) the carbon in the atmosphere will remain for decades. So, the melting we see happening now will continue for decades. So, the effects of climate change that we see now will continue and become more intense for decades. Droughts, wildfires, melting, changes in food production capacity, flooding… basically, more intensity, less predictability, less stable. With the carbon already in the atmosphere we’ve committed.

The scenario, as dark as it is, turns much darker when you then consider: We’ve made no progress towards decreasing our carbon output. It’s growing not reversing and is likely to do so for the next few years. Best-case scenario (which is not likely given current politics) is we slow and reverse carbon output within 15 years. The reality is that our current output will remain steady and grow slightly for the next 15 or more years. Then consider, the human population is currently at 7.4 billion and growing. Projected to hit 8 billion by 2023.

Back to the title of that video… “The only thing we can do is adapt”. The sad truth is that every new release of information that comes out now always says the same thing, “This is all happening faster than we thought it was.” It used to be 150 out. Then 100. Then 50. What’s now being talked about is that it’s not 50 or 25. It’s happening around us. But most people just say, oh, it still snowed, it’s still cold here in the winter. Everything’s okay. See, look, brrr, so cold. But the truth is most people confuse weather and climate. Most people aren’t doing the science and most people aren’t seeing the changes with their eyes yet.

So, to the younger of you, sorry. We will all have to adapt. But you will have to adapt more. I feel very guilty. The only thing that softens it is that I know you too will continue to do the things we did. You’ll make the problem worse for yourselves and for your kids. So, in the end, though you’ll suffer more, you’ll likely end up being as guilty as the previous generations.

Of course, this was written as an American for Americans (see note above). The truth is that many others around the planet will suffer far more as a result of developed nations’ lifestyles. As I get older I realize that there is no actual justice in our world. Sure, we can have social and ecological justice as a goal but too few do and looking out toward the horizon I see no sign of that changing, certainly not in the U.S.

Much, much more to say but for now this will do.

More Quickly

More quickly than predicted. Over the past 20 years that has become a common statement in every serious article discussing climate change research. Here’s the latest and as usual, it is alarming. But, it’s to be expected and more of the same will continue to come.

Ice loss from Antarctica has sextupled since the 1970s, new research finds

Antarctic glaciers have been melting at an accelerating pace over the past four decades thanks to an influx of warm ocean water — a startling new finding that researchers say could mean sea levels are poised to rise more quickly than predicted in coming decades.

The Antarctic lost 40 billion tons of melting ice to the ocean each year from 1979 to 1989. That figure rose to 252 billion tons lost per year beginning in 2009, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That means the region is losing six times as much ice as it was four decades ago, an unprecedented pace in the era of modern measurements. (It takes about 360 billion tons of ice to produce one millimeter of global sea-level rise.)

The Beauty of Science

Came upon this article this morning: Swarm of mysterious radio bursts seen coming from deep space

Reading this article and thought I’d share for two reasons. First, it includes a very cool video that explains electromagnetism. It’s something I think everyone should have at least a basic understanding of given that it is one of the four fundamental forces of the Universe but also, it’s something we use everyday. It’s a very well done video.

Even if the actual topic of the article is not of great interest to some, it includes a very interesting discussion of the workings of science. In this case, it’s just a highlight of the process of data collection followed by an attempt to understand and interpret the data, then looking for more data and better quality data to further test the current ideas and so on. I think it’s great to see humans working together, collaborating in an attempt to understand one of the mysteries of nature. It’s the kind of example we can look to in times like these when we’re surrounded by political arguments and heightened social fractures of many kinds. It is possible for humans to play well together and, in the process, become more knowledgeable about the world around them.

This quote sums up the process and the attitude very well:

“There is a lot of fun in the not knowing,” he says. “You keep adding more information, but as in all sciences, whenever you solve one mystery, it always opens up three more.”

We’re visiting a distant world on January 1, 2019

On January 1, 2019 humans will pass and make the most distant observation of a world in our solar system. On this date just days away the New Horizons will pass Object 2014 MU69 in the Kuiper Belt. See the tweet thread by Alex Parker is fantastic as it illustrates a bit about how this observation has been made possible.

Alex Parker:

In just a few hours I will depart for Maryland for New Horizons’ New Years flyby of the Kuiper Belt Object (486958) 2014 MU69. Before I go, I thought I would re-tell some of the stories about how we came to know about this little world. pic.twitter.com/iE7f0KeFVK

More at his article here.

Tasting Climate Change

James Temple writing for the MIT Technology Review:

In early November, gale-force winds whipped a brush fire into an inferno that nearly consumed the town of Paradise, California, and killed at least 86 people.

By the second morning, I could smell the fire from one foot outside my door in Berkeley, some 130 miles from the flames. Within a week, my eyes and throat stung even when I was indoors.

Air quality maps warned that the soot-filled air blanketing the Bay Area had reached “very unhealthy” levels. For days, nearly everyone wore masks as they walked their dogs, rode the train, and carried out errands. Most of those thin-paper respirators were of dubious value. Stores quickly ran out of the good ones—the “N-95s” that block 95% of fine particles—and sold out of air purifiers, too.

I’ve long understood that the dangers of global warming are real and rising. I’ve seen its power firsthand in the form of receding glaciers, dried lake beds, and Sierra tree stands taken down by bark beetles.

This is the first time, though, that I smelled and tasted it in my home.

There will be much more of this to come. This is, obviously, just the beginning.

Denny

December 19, 2018

Sometimes you go for a walk and forget your hat so you use your fanny pack. Yes, I have a fanny pack. 🤓

Denny

December 19, 2018

Not the best photo in terms of quality due to cropping but I love it because, well, Snow Goose! Just one. So pretty.  Side note: Trying out some image processing with Darkroom on iPad and it’s pretty fantastic.

Big Bang in 2D

This video at Big Think is an excellent description of the Big Bang. As much as I’ve read about it I’ve yet to come across a description this good and easy to understand. I’m trying it out on my family. Michelle Thaller does a fantastic job describing it. I’d previously heard it likened to a cinnamon roll expanding in an oven and I love cinnamon rolls so :nerd_face: But that description stops short of emphasizing, as she does in the video, the 2-D aspect, of only paying attention to the surface. New to my thinking.