The US and climate

I did not want to have to write this post.


I listened with dismay to DT’s Rose Garden address yesterday, astonished at the level of misunderstanding of climate science, domestic and international economics, and the Paris climate agreement in evidence.


While the president made it seem that the United States is immediately leaving the Paris accord, that is not the case. There is a three year period starting in November, 2016 during which no signatory may exit the agreement. The one-year period in which the separation would occur can’t start until then, so the earliest date that the United States could officially leave would be Nov. 4, 2020, the day after our next presidential election. A lot can happen in three and a half years and my hope is that the United States will never officially withdraw from the Paris agreement.


Even without the federal government’s leadership, many of the states, cities, companies, and individuals in the US will be continuing reductions in carbon emissions and promotion of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Over sixty mayors of large cities declared their intention to follow the climate agreement. The governors of New York, California, and Washington have started an initiative for states to continue working on their clean energy goals. Many companies, large and small, are committed to renewable energy sources for their operations. Many families, like mine, are weatherizing their homes, using energy efficient appliances and lighting, buying solar panels, and driving hybrid or all-electric vehicles like our Chevy Bolt.


The majority of the people of the United States believe in the Paris accord and will continue to work alongside the nations of the world to combat climate change. I hope we will soon return to official federal-level participation. It would not be the first time that the administration has had to backpedal after an unwise decision.


Leroy Added Jun 5, 2017 - 7:08am
The Paris "Accord" is dead, as far as the US is concerned.  It is a treaty by any other name.  As such, it was never approved by the Senate.  It has no means of enforcement.  People are suing to challenge the decision.  Hopefully, the Supreme Court puts the final nail in the coffin.
People and states were already moving towards "green" energy.  Nothing has changed other than the transfer of wealth to poorer nations.
Thomas Sutrina Added Jun 5, 2017 - 8:44am
The Paris "Accord" has never been an agreement on 'climate change' but if you actually look at what it physically does is redistribute wealth by putting higher burdens on the countries of Europe and North America.  So China and India will have a market advantage, thus wealth will be redistributed favoring the products they produce.  The reason the Paris "Accord" is not an agreement about climate is that this skewed balance means coal the worst source of carbon dioxide will increase more then if the accord never existed.   
Do you liberal get this.  The Paris "Accord" actually increases the pollution you think is causing climate change, or is it the 1980's global cooling, or the 1990 global warming or today since the facts do not support cooing or warming "global climate change". 
The simple fact is that the climate was changing trillion years ago and will be changing until the sun goes supernova and consumes the earth.  And guess what man has only been around in minute portion of the earth's existence.  But climate change has never stopped from happening.  Ice ages have occurred and receded before man existed or was more then a stone tool using mammal.
I would like to see just one of the climate change scientist first define the range of  climate change naturally occurred before the industrial age.  So let me get you started.
Scientists have estimated that the Greenland ice sheet is between 400,000 and 800,000 years old. This means that the island today is unlikely to have been markedly different when Europeans settled there. However, there is evidence that the settled areas were warmer than today, with large birch woodlands providing both timber and fuel. This warmth coincided with the period known as the Medieval Climatic Anomaly, also known as the Medieval Warm Period,  During the Medieval Climatic Anomaly, some areas, most notably in the North Atlantic and parts of Europe, were at least as warm as today, if not warmer. However, other areas were colder, and overall evidence suggests that global temperatures during this period were similar to those at the beginning or middle of the 20th century, and colder than today.
Early 1800s, the situation was in diametric contradiction with everybody being worried about a global cooling that seemed to come out of nowhere.
It all peaked in 1816, when in most places of the world there was actually no summer at all ! That year’s chill was blamed by climatologists on the eruption of the Indonesian volcano called Tambora, but why the few years before 1816 were also way colder than usually remained a mystery. However, newly uncovered evidence from the ice of Antarctica and Greenland suggests that another volcanic eruption was probably responsible for it.   There is a good graph in the article.
Tamara Wilhite Added Jun 6, 2017 - 4:02pm
The trillion dollars in money that might not affect climate change could solve the lack of clean water for the bottom billion who lack it, lack of contraception, lack of vitamins, lack of power, lack of basic safe housing that doesn't collapse in an earthquake, lack of latrines and K-8 education. And deworming, basic foodstuffs and school uniforms for two billion.
We can either give the bottom 2 billion what they need and solve these problems - and create a society better able to adapt to ANYTHING. Or we can impoverish the top billion, fail to help the truly poorest among us, and feel moral for thinking we might or might not make a difference on the planet that was warmer 1000 years ago than today.
Joanne Corey Added Jun 14, 2017 - 5:47am
(I apologize for not being able to reply previously; my family has been dealing with several health issues.)
I wanted to share this link which has one of the best explanations of climate change/global warming I have ever read, compiled by knowledgeable scientists. 
In terms of social responsibility, I truly appreciate the visions and insights of Pope Francis. In his encyclical Laudato Si', he describes an integral ecology, which includes both care for creation (the environment) and care for people, especially those most vulnerable. One of the advantages of renewable energy is that it is often produced locally, eliminating the need for long-range distribution grids and powering other development needs.
A real-world example is a project in conjunction with my county's community college and a remote village in Haiti. Solar panels with battery storage power a pump for a community water well for safe drinking water and a modern bathroom near the church and school. The community has started a garden to grow staple crops to feed the schoolchildren. Solar ovens are allowing the cooks to bake extra goods for sale to people in the village. LED lighting, which does not need much electricity to operate, allows the children to gather at the church and school to do homework in the evenings. Adults and children are able to use computers. Communication can be accomplished with cellular networks rather than by hardwire. 
Climate change impacts are felt most acutely by those who are most vulnerable economically. Drought; collapse of native crops, fisheries, and wildlife; coastal, river, and flash flooding; and other climate and severe weather related problems disproportionately affect populations least able to defend against them. We are already seeing conflicts arise over water and other resources. Access to water and/or fossil fuels underlies many of the conflicts in the Middle East and in Africa. Natural gas transport is the subtext for the Russian land grab in Ukraine. The problems in Venezuela are connected to economic dependence on oil.
My personal viewpoint is that the United States, as one of the largest current greenhouse gas producers and historically the largest total greenhouse gas producer, should help people at home and abroad to deal with the effects of climate change as a moral responsibility. Doing so would not impoverish the wealthy or our country. We can re-prioritize our spending, especially in taking some of our current military budget and putting it toward human needs. Our military leaders have been speaking out for some time about the dangers that climate change poses to world stability and have been big advocates for using renewable energy as much as possible when they are in action. It makes sense to redirect some of the military budget to helping population around the world deal with climate change, hunger, water scarcity, pollution, sea level rise, and other problems, both because it is the just and moral course and because it will reduce causes of military conflict.   
Thomas Sutrina Added Jun 14, 2017 - 9:11am
Joanne, do you really have an opinion about climate change or are you mirroring the lowest voices of the people you generally listen to?  What do you actually know about the subject beyond what they tell you?  
How anyone can come to the conclusion that man is that powerful is beyond understanding.  Consider that Krakatoa volcano has a "rating of 6 on the Volcanic Explosion Index and is estimated to have had the explosive force of 200 megatons of TNT. (For purposes of comparison, the bomb that devastated Hiroshima had a force of 20 kilotons. The Mount St. Helens explosion of 1980 had a VEI of 5.) ... explosions hurled an estimated 11 cubic miles (45 cubic km) of debris into the atmosphere darkening skies up to 275 miles (442 km) from the volcano. In the immediate vicinity, the dawn did not return for three days. Barographs around the globe documented that the shock waves in the atmosphere circled the planet at least seven times. Within 13 days, a layer of sulfur dioxide and other gases began to filter the amount of sunlight able to reach Earth. The atmospheric effects made for spectacular sunsets all over Europe and the United States. Average global temperatures were up to 1.2 degrees cooler for the next five years.""
So Joanne the climate recovered.  All that material and gas were handled by the planet.  And this is but a small event in the history of the planet.  Consider that two extinction events have occurred that killed more then half the plants and animals on the planet.  And again the planet recovered.  Those same plants and animals if put on the planet today would not know a difference.    The planet recovered from a flip in the magnetic poles and the motion of the continents.  We Joanne are insignificant actors on this stage.
Thomas Sutrina Added Jun 14, 2017 - 9:17am
Joanne consider that " Mount Tambora on April 10, 1815 ...  is the only eruption in modern history to rate a VEI of 7. Global temperatures were an average of five degrees cooler because of this eruption; even in the United States, 1816 was known as the “year without a summer.”    The eruption of Krakatoa occurred August 1883.  And the planet recovered just fine.  ibid
Joanne Corey Added Jun 14, 2017 - 6:53pm
Although it was not my major field of study, I do have some university level education in geology, environmental science, meteorology, and climatology, as well as having several members of my family who are scientists, so I do have an understanding of the impacts of greenhouse gases on our atmospheric system and climate. The effects of volcanic eruptions are short-lived because much of those effects are due to ash and particulates. There is a dramatic impact on temperature, but it dissipates quickly.
The natural climate system plays out in geologic time, which is to say very, very slowly with changes over hundreds of thousands of years. What humans have done by unearthing and burning so many fossil fuels is to add carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases to the atmospheric system in a way that has upset the natural earth system and vastly accelerated global warming. I think that the link in my previous comment does a good job at explaining the science. So, yes, there may be another mass extinction event in the offing and the planet will survive. The question is will humanity survive it, will it remain a dominant species, or will it be supplanted by other species?
Leroy Added Jun 14, 2017 - 7:50pm
"One of the advantages of renewable energy is that it is often produced locally, eliminating the need for long-range distribution grids and powering other development needs."
Not true.  Sure, what you project entails is small scale and it may be local.  It can deal with interruptions and days without sunshine.  It may make sense on a single home, with enough subsidies.  On an industrial scale, it just doesn't work that way.  Take Germany, for example.  Heavy industry is located in the south.  The best wind is in the north.  The power has to be transmitted over vast distances.  New power lines often have to be run.  At peak times, there can be too much power available and it has to sell it at negative rates to other countries.  Foreign countries don't like this gift because they have to throttle back their fossil-fueled power plants, making them less efficient.  In the US, wind farms are nearly always located far away from the demand.
"Climate change impacts are felt most acutely by those who are most vulnerable economically."
Are you saying that nature discriminates against peoples of color?  I don't believe nature is a racist.  The true damage is forcing these countries to use expensive "green" energy when they could use cheap fossil fuel.  Cheap energy will help them more than anything else to become a more developed country.
"My personal viewpoint is that the United States, as one of the largest current greenhouse gas producers and historically the largest total greenhouse gas producer, should help people at home and abroad to deal with the effects of climate change as a moral responsibility."
What you are really saying is that the US has the deepest pockets and, therefore, should give its money to support the less fortunate because the income disparity is unfair.
Joanne Corey Added Jun 15, 2017 - 5:37am
1) The context of this comment is power sourcing in areas that do not already have power infrastructure in place, such as the village in Haiti that I wrote about. A microgrid makes much more sense in those contexts when the choice is between producing and using local renewable energy and laying miles upon miles of lines to reach a centralized power source.
In developed areas, the sense of distance for power transmission is relative. From the north to the south of Germany is not that far in those terms. Solutions to the current problems of balancing supply and demand are under development, including better storage batteries, molten salt, and compressed air underground pump storage. In the US, it makes sense to go to smaller regional grids, especially when employing a mix of renewable energy sources. For example, in the NY/NJ area, once offshore wind farms come online, studies show that over 90% of regional power needs can be met with the combination of wind and solar; hydro power can help with baseline and peak needs. In the US West, where transmission distances are longer, some distribution lines may use DC to cut transmission losses. In many markets, wind power is already cheaper than any fossil-fuel-based power. Even in Texas, which has lots of locally produced methane, wind power is the cheapest electricity source.
2) Of course nature is not racist, but, globally, people who are living in poverty tend to live in areas that are more vulnerable to natural disasters, such as low-lying river deltas. They are more likely to rely on subsistence farming, so a drought can easily lead to famine. They are more likely to be exposed to toxins. (Rich neighborhoods don't often have industrial facilities, mines, oil/gas wells, etc.) They are less likely to have a reliable source of clean drinking water and modern sanitation facilities. They are more vulnerable to disease, especially water- or insect-borne. The low-lying island nations who advocated so strongly for a 1.5 degree C. goal in Paris have largely indigenous populations who would literally lose their countries if sea levels rise several meters.
Nature doesn't discriminate, but human societies do. 
3) My personal viewpoint on this comes from my own grounding in Catholic social justice doctrine and environmental justice. It is essentially a moral argument and a recognition that the wealthy in the US and other countries have consumed and continue to consume a much higher proportion of available resources and produce a much higher proportion of pollution and waste, and, therefore, have a moral obligation to help those who have been injured by their actions.
 That is what I am saying. Your words are your own.
Thomas Sutrina Added Jun 15, 2017 - 8:35am
Joanne then you should also know that these major volcanoes put as much carbon dioxide in the air in a day as man has done in history.   And a volcano keeps that up.  Also other gases like sulfur dioxide. It seems that more then one volcano erupts every year.
The strike of a meteor does not play out in years but in minutes.  We know the two extinction events were from these events.  The first extinction meteor they believe is under the ice I think Canada and the other Mexico.   So Joanne the advocates of humans causing significant climate change like Dr. Locklove of NASA (another article on WB mentioned him) that are in the range of these natural events even over a century just fall apart.
A human nuclear war is the only human caused event that would be sufficient.  The testing above ground of  the USA and USSR in the 50's were more significant then the slow drip drip of combustion of fuel.  The ocean and plants are the balancing elements and they show by the response time to volcanoes that they can easily balance out us humans.   So I want to see one just one analysis that takes into account the base line of natural events that add green house elements to the air.  I want to see them put in the numbers for similar time periods of natural vs human.   Do you have one?
Joanne Corey Added Jun 15, 2017 - 5:07pm
Sorry, Thomas, but your volcano info is totally bogus. Here is a scientific explanation of why. 
There have actually been five major extinctions, which have been caused by combination of factors. Mass extinctions are not short events either, sometimes unfolding over millions of years. This link discusses some of the major causes and has links to each of the five major extinctions and what is thought to have contributed to each. Here is another article on mass extinctions and the possible reasons for them. It's not just asteroids.
The original comment link that I posted has a lot of charts and links with data showing the atmospheric effects of fossil fuel extraction and burning as you can see the abrupt effects of the Industrial Era. It is not only the atmosphere which has been affected. For example, the oceans have been acidifying and glaciers and ice sheets have been melting.