The IPCC Challenge: Parisian Contradictions: An Odd Source of Hope

         

Parisian Cafe Smoking      Parisian Building         Coal Plant Smoking

I had dismissed as routine touristic gushing that oft heard claim, “Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world!” However, just a few strolls down Parisian avenues, especially along the Seine River, educated me. The long, low elegant silhouettes of Parisian buildings, elaborated with intricate carvings and a seemingly endless variety of wrought iron designs, and usually standing 6 or fewer stories in height, revealed a vast Paris sky and the effect on my awareness was calming.  Paris was “beautiful”!  I gave myself over to the enjoyment of strolling in pleasurable contemplation.

My calm contemplation was all too soon disturbed by confrontation with the omnipresent second hand smoke in the inviting spaces of Parisian outdoor cafés. My strategy of selecting a table far from puffing customers was but a vain hope, for some adjacent empty table would soon fill with new customers who would, all too soon, light up their strong Galois cigarettes.  Smokers were of all ages, but I found watching young people chain smoking especially unnerving.  Encountering this smoking in café’s wherever I went in Paris finally inspired an internet search about the impact of smoking on the health of the French. Indeed, studies had found significant links between French smoking and cancer rates. In fact, the French government had undertaken policies to reduce smoking, but, as my café experience indicated, cultural acceptance of the habit persisted

As I considered these sorry facts supported by a harmful culture, I suddenly felt an odd note of hope for fighting negative attitudes towards climate change policies in the U.S. The reason was that I had experienced the pervasiveness of smoking, the culture of its acceptance and glorification, and the long but eventually effective fight to reduce smoking in the United States.

As a child and well into adulthood, I accepted the second hand smoke of parents, other adults, colleagues and friends as if it were the paint on the walls. Although a movie showing a tar encrusted black lung had convinced me not to smoke, I accepted the smoking around me as inevitable and assumed that people could not quit.  When the arguments against smoking slowly started to pervade the culture, I watched the resistance and the fierce anger of those who began to experience being asked not to smoke. I also remember my astonishment when people, even my chain smoking parents, began giving up smoking.  It was apparently not impossible after all! And I watched with surprise as smoking began to disappear in new movies and as spaces, from airplanes to restaurants, became smoke free.

The most recent and very alarming  report from the IPCC, the International Panel on Climate Change, has assessed the implication of studies gathered from both  around the world and “above the world” from the climate data gathered by NASA(National Aeronautics and Space Administration)  satellites as they traverse the  global skies. The news is even more sobering that the studies of French smoking and cancer.  We have but 12 years to make changes that will avoid devastating harm to the human habitat. And, as in the case of smoking, we need to alter both our personal habits and policies by more powerful decision makers in order to reduce our burning of the fossil fuels which are at this very moment changing the climate. Fortunately, the many climate change campaigns already underway are, like the anti-smoking campaigns, broad and many pronged, including research, awareness raising and urging of individuals and policy makers to “quit smoking carbon and its equivalents.”

I know that smoking is still a problem in the U.S., but I have experienced significant changes in belief systems and the personal habits and official policies that helped reduce smoking. Thus I drew hope from the contemplation of the contradiction between the clear skies above the beautiful buildings of Paris and the cloudy, toxic atmosphere in front of their ubiquitous, lively cafes.  We must persist and indeed increase our pursuit of our complex, many fronted battles against practices that aggravate climate change and take heart from our experience with smoking as evidence that seemingly impossible change can occur.  This is an implicit call for activism, and I have provided electronic pathways to means of learning more and becoming active below.

LINKS TO LEARNING AND ACTIVISM  

Climate Change Report Sources

Most recent Climate Change Report: IPCC , International Panel on Climate Change. October 2018. Global Warming of 1.5 Degrees. http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/

 Insights into NASA (National Aeronautic and Space Adminstration )data:

NASA .IPCC Projections of Temperature and Precipitation in the 21st Century

https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/11376z

`             NASA climate Change web page: https://climate.nasa.gov/

Newspaper Articles Summarizing the report

Davenport, Carol. 10/7/2018. Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/07/climate/ipcc-climate-report-2040.html

Watts, Jonathan Mon 8 Oct 2018 . We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN        https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report

At John Jay College of Criminal Justice

For students

Environmental Justice Minor Academic Program: http://www.jjay.cuny.edu/sustainability-and-environmental-justice-minor

Join the  Environmental Club:President: Melanie.Dominguez1@jjay.cuny.edu
Vice-President:  Lauren.Solomon@jjay.cuny.edu Treasure:Selina.li@jjay.cuny.edu
Secretary:Clara-meere-weigel@jjay.cuny.edu

For Faculty Union members:

PSCEJWG: Professional Staff Congress Environmental Justice Working Group: The meet monthly, usually at 6pm at  Union Headquarters at 61 Broadway. Their goal is to promote environmental justice activism in general and at CUNY.The current chair is Eileen Moran at psc-env-justice-working-group@googlegroups.com

For All

Sustainability and Environmental Justice Program web page   http://sustainabilityjjay.org/

Sustainabilty Council Web page https://www.jjay.cuny.edu/Sustainability_Council

Joining Sustainablity Council: email of director Lindsey Kayman lkayman@jjay.cuny.edu

Citizen Activism

General: 350.0rg    https://350.org/get-involved/

350 uses online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions to oppose new coal,oil and gas projects, take money out of the companies that are heating up the planet, and build 100% clean energy solutions that work for all. 350’s network extends to 188 countries.

Legal: NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council)  NRDC https://www.nrdc.org/get-involved  The NRDC combines the power of more than three million members and online activists with the expertise of some 600 scientists, lawyers, and policy advocates across the globe to ensure the rights of all people to the air, the water, and the wild.

 

French smoking: health impacts and cultural barriers

Cao B1Hill C2Bonaldi C3León ME4Menvielle G5Arwidson P3Bray F1Soerjomataram I1Cancers attributable to tobacco smoking in France in 2015. Eur J Public Health. 2018 Aug 1;28(4):707-doi: 10.1093/eurpub/cky077. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29741657

NPR.org. For French Teens Smoking Still Has More Allure Than Stigma.https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2016/08/15/480128005/for-french-teens-smoking-still-has-more-allure-than-stigma

 

 

Posted in Opinion Tagged with: , ,

The Need for Nuanced Conversations: About Wildfires.For Instance . by Joan Hoffman

Tree Dance/Nature

The advisability of a harmonious relationship with nature  is often an implicit or explicit recommendation in the sustainability movement. However, nature, which did give birth to us, includes in its very structure characteristics which can obliterate humans in their path. Examples include earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, fierce storms and natural wildfires. The continents, the tectonic plates of the earth are engaged in a constant process of slipping away from under our feet and slamming into one another. Hence, when we are discussing cause and effects in our explorations of the environment, we must take the presence of  these forces into account, as did the climate scientists who, knowing that the earth had carbon cycles, took care to measure just what kind of carbon was increasing so fast, and discovered that it had the structure of fossil fuels. (Cullen 2010)

For all of upcoming and increasingly difficult discussions which we shall be needing to have about climate change and how we address it, we need to be open to the influence of a multiplicity of causes and effects. We have a need for nuanced conversations that bring in all perspectives, for each perspective offers a different array of information.  When we at first disagree with someone, we should say, “That is interesting. Why do you think so.”  Of course, eventually probabilities will be assessed, weights will be assigned and decisions will be made. And, so will mistakes, but hopefully fewer with open minds and respect for the experience and knowledge of others.   Wildfires offer an examples.

A BBC radio program was reporting on the claims that wildfires around the world were actually decreasing and that far too much was being made of them.  This announcement and the ensuing discussion sent me on a wildfire exploration which proved yet again, the value of nuanced conversations. The factors which must be considered in this exploration are many. There is a data stream which shows a long term reduction in wildfires, but the data before 1990 is not considered reliable. Criteria and techniques have changed since then. Also, in fact area burned by wildfires have been on the rise. However, one reason for this is that because humans  did not understand that nature used “spontaneous” wildfire as a natural tool, for instance for breaking open some seeds, humans had suppressed wildfires, producing an abundance of kindling, resulting in ever larger wildfires. Additionally, while global warming does produce conditions favorable to wildfires, most wildfires are started by humans, both intentionally and unintentionally.  And the list of factors to consider goes on.

The three articles listed below can be a start to those who wish to explore the topic in more depth.  However, the main lesson here is that we need to investigate all sources of information for its value, insights, and limitations.  And with climate change, we shall be dealing with not only environmental factors but also the social and legal forces at work as people are pressured to move from areas that can no longer support them.  These will be very difficult nuanced conversations, and we cannot expect them to be easy, but we shall learn more if we keep open minds.

Some Wildfire Discussion  Sources

Gabbert, Bill. January 24, 2018. Visualizing California fires over the last 18 years

https://wildfiretoday.com/tag/statistics/

 

National Interagency Fire Center

https://www.nifc.gov/fireInfo/fireInfo_statistics.html

 

Environmental protection Agency : Climate Indicators

https://www.epa.gov/climate-indicators/climate-change-indicators-wildfires

 

Weather

Cullen H. 2010. The Weather of the Future.New York: Harper

Posted in Opinion Tagged with: , ,

Join Sept 6 NYC Climate March: Meeting place

Are you planning on being around for the next half-century? Then you must act to foster the kind of world you can be around in!

You don’t have to look fifty years ahead to see the writing on the wall—or to see the unprecedented, seemingly endless, wildfires in the western states, Canadian provinces, Scandinavia, Portugal, Spain, Greece, and Australia.

Nor do you have to look fifty years into the future to see higher food prices because heat and drought are causing crop failures, or to see suffering, death, and destruction from heat-energized superstorms.

And you don’t have to wait to see hotter and hotter years—you just have to look at the last four years, which were the hottest on record.

Runaway global heating and climatic and environmental instability are incompatible with civilization. On Thursday September 6 at 5:30 at Battery Park you can take a stand for your future by joining a mass rally called “Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice” to show that people care about the climate, the environment, and their lives.

We are a group of active and retired faculty members of the City University who care about our students and former students, and want them to have an environmentally healthy world to live in and thrive in. Join us and the People’s Climate Movement of New York (PCMNY.org) Thursday September 6 to make a statement to policymakers and the public that the environment matters!

 

#        #        #        #

 

(August 21, 2018)

Posted in Events

9/22 7:30pm Flipping the Script on Climate Change  (17 John Street)

SEPTEMBER 22, 2018  7:30-9:30  17 John Street, Manhattan

Charles Eisenstein: Flipping the Script on Climate Change   https://www.garrisoninstitute.org/event/charles-eisenstein-flipping-the-script-on-climate-change/

Please Note: This event takes place at https://www.theassemblage.com/

 in Manhattan. 
How can we reimagine the framing, tactics, and goals we employ in our journey to heal from ecological destruction?
Join renowned author and philosopher, Charles Eisenstein, who will discuss his new book, Climate: A New Story, in which he advocates for expanding our exclusive focus on carbon emissions to see the broader picture of climate change beyond our short-sighted and incomplete approach.

Eisenstein details how the quantification of the natural world leads to a lack of integration and our “fight” mentality. The rivers, forests, and creatures of the natural and material world are sacred and valuable in their own right, not simply for carbon credits or preventing the extinction of one species versus another.

Posted in Events

Alt-Right Reaction to Accepting Climate Change

What Happens When the Alt-Right Believes in Climate Change

A group of migrants approach a US Navy ship in the Mediterranean Sea in July 2016. Photo: US Navy

Report

LAST SEPTEMBER, as record-breaking hurricanes thrashed the Caribbean and southeastern US, the white nationalist magazineAmerican Renaissance asked its readers a question: “What does it mean for whites if climate change is real?”

In its bombastic response, the magazine bucked two decades of conservative dogma to offer an ethno-nationalist take on planetary warning. Conceding that scientists might be right about climate change, it worried that shifting weather patterns could drive more black and brown people to the Global North, where whites will face a choice: stem the migrant tide, or die.

“The population explosion in the global south combined with climate change and liberal attitudes towards migration are the single greatest external threat to Western civilization,” AmRen wrote. “[It’s] more serious than Islamic terrorism or Hispanic illegal immigration.”

The magazine’s editor-in-chief, influential white nationalist Jared Taylor, doubled down on AmRen’s position in an email to Jewish Currents. “If continued global change makes the poor, non-white parts of the world even more unpleasant to live in than they are now, it will certainly drive more non-whites north,” Taylor said. “I make no apology for… urging white nations to muster the will to guard their borders and maintain white majorities.”

These are fringe views. But they’re becoming less so. Hyper-conservative immigration policies have drifted from the populist periphery to the White House in a few short years, and conservatives, from racist reactionaries to Rockefeller Republicans, are starting to talk openly about how planetary warming might affect their agendas. In a world where doubting climate science remains something of an 11th commandment for the American right, this shift is significant. Climate change gets a little harder to deny every day, and it’s only a matter of time before mainstream conservatives are forced, by a growing incongruence between their words and the weather, to abandon hard-core denialism.

Right now, a handful of Congressional Republicans, some libertarian think tanks, and a few on the alt-right are the only ones on the right taking climate change seriously, giving them a head start in shaping conservative climate policy in the coming decades.

Liberal lawmakers, meanwhile, seem ill-prepared to go toe-to-toe with conservatives on climate policy. For two decades, denialism has been climate enemy number one. The Democrats’ strategy has mostly involved trying to convince people that planetary warming is real, pillorying deniers as fools, cynics, and oil company shills. Perhaps this made sense in the mid-2000s, when “merchants of doubt” were seeding skepticism about climate science to protect fossil fuel interests and stave off liberal reforms. It probably still makes sense as part of a broader climate agenda on the left. After all, it’s a huge problem when top lawmakers refuse to acknowledge the existence of the potentially civilization-ending catastrophe sweeping across the planet.

But it’s not the only problem, and a singular focus on combating denialism has left Democrats and their liberal backers unprepared to do battle with a conservative movement armed with real and dangerous policy proposals on climate change.

THE ALT-RIGHT is a contested category, and groups typically arrayed under its banner—fascists, white nationalists, right-wing populists, etc.—lack a unified position on climate change: its existence, causes, and effects. Some self-described members of the alt-right accept that industrial capitalism is largely responsible for spiking greenhouse gas emissions. Others blame growing populations in the Global South for rising global emissions, even though there’s little evidence to support this view. Others still continue to question the science of climate change, or downplay its significance.

What far-right climate realists seem to agree on is this: rising global temperatures and changing regional weather patterns threaten to release a flood of migrants from increasingly inhospitable parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East to the US and Europe, causing what AmRendescribes as a “climate-driven demographic catastrophe.”

“If you believe in global warming, the obvious implications are that global migration must be shut down,” one commenter recently postedon a Reddit forum devoted to discussing the alt-right’s position on climate change. “All the quickly growing populations must be quarantined or ‘encouraged’ to stop having children.”

Taylor put it (only a little) more delicately. “If human activity causes undesirable climate change, we should not promote global population growth,” he told Jewish Currents, arguing that lawmakers should “promote intensive family planning in the south, especially in Africa, because an exploding African population will… drive more Africans north in search of a better life.”

Nothing scares ethno-nationalists more than “demographic change”—the probability that, in a few decades, more Americans will be black and brown than white. They hyperbolize this shift as “white genocide” (a term with a bloody history), and lament what they see as the loss of white structural power. It’s not surprising, then, that climate change—which indeed affects the poor, marginalized, and dispossessed more severely than most white Americans—inspires racists to fear white decline, and to seek control over the bodies and movements of non-white people.

CLIMATE CHANGE IS HERE, and it’s bad. Fossil fuel emissions hit an all-time high last year, which is unfortunate because countless studies have shown that burning fossil fuels spews heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, causing average global temperatures to rise. Indeed, average temperatures have already jumped about one degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and we’re on track to exceed 1.5 degrees of warming by 2040, according to a leaked report from the The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. So far, planetary warming has weakened Antarctica’s ice sheetsworsened flooding in coastal cities like Miami, contributed to deadly heat waves in India, and upped the odds of Sandy-like superstorms smashing major urban centers.Study after study shows such catastrophes worsening and happening faster than previously thought, and they’re mostly hurting people who lack wealth and political power.

Among conservatives, climate realism is still a minority view. Republicans are largely deniers, doubters, or cynical backers of the fossil fuel industry. Only 28 percent of white Christians, who overwhelming voted for Trump in 2016, believe in anthropogenic warming, according to a Pew Research Center poll. Trump himself, who once called climate change a “hoax,” not only continues to deny the existence of global warming, but has also pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement, opened huge tracts of ocean to oil and gas exploration, and stuffed his administration with climate deniers and champions of the fossil fuel industry.

Doubting climate change remains a constitutive part of right-wing identity, like pandering to the gun lobby or opposing abortion rights. It telegraphs distrust of the “administrative state”—scientists, bureaucrats and “liberal elites” who tell people what cars to drive and how much soda to drink—and preemptively opposes decarbonization policies that would threaten fossil fuel and related industries, which conservative lawmakers often rely on for campaign contributions. Indeed, the billionaire donors Robert and Rebekah Mercer, known for bankrolling the Trump campaign and sinking millions into Breitbart and other far-right websites, continue to finance climate denial. Maybe this makes business sense: as political theorist and activist Naomi Klein has observed, cutting carbon emissions enough to keep planetary warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius (the more ambitious goal set by the Paris Climate Agreement) would probably require abandoning neoliberal capitalism. This is not something Republicans are likely to do.

But climate change is now, like gravity, indisputable. The most pragmatic conservative institutions, like the Defense Department, have long accepted the reality of climate change, appreciated its seriousness, and begun preparing. Capital, too, understands there’s more money to be made planning for climate change than ignoring it. Insurance companies are “adapting in order to profit from climate risk,” according to a 2017Harvard Business Review analysis, for instance, by charging more to insure houses located in low-lying areas vulnerable to sea-level rise. Tellingly, Exxon Mobil Corp., which conducted some of the earliest studies on the greenhouse effect, has publicly backed the Paris Agreement and called for a carbon tax.

Some Republican lawmakers are starting to flip, too. Congressional Republicans are stacking the House Climate Solutions Caucus (though critics say they’re just “greenwashing” their resumes ahead of the midterms), and The Atlantic reported last year that a group of Republican House members led by Congressman Bob Inglis is promoting free-market responses to greenhouse gas emissions. Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo, who represents a South Florida district that could see sea levels rise between 10 and 30 feet by the century’s close, unveiled a carbon tax bill in July. These members of the “eco-right” argue, contrary to Klein’s hypothesis, that tackling climate change is perfectly compatible with capitalism. They support scrapping emissions regulations in favor of a carbon pricing system—an idea that’s popular with some libertarian groups, like the Niskanen Center.

If denialism is on the way out, can the alt-right influence the nascent conservative climate agenda? It certainly seems possible. Right-wing populists like Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon, who rub right up against the ethno-nationalist fringes, have had incredible success smuggling nativist immigration policies from the vanishing edges of conservatism to the Oval Office. Xenophobic populism has taken evenfirmer hold in Europe, where populist governments and vigilantes have met growing numbers of migrants from Africa and the Middle East with tightened immigration controls, harassment and death. If their influence persists, it does not require a great imaginative effort to picture far-right views on climate change leaching into the federal climate agenda.

While the Trump administration has been transforming its “America First” immigration platform from white populist pipe dream to federal policy, shameless racists have been winning airtime and influence. Ethnonationalist influence on the Trump White House is contested, and of course not all Trump supporters are out-and-out white nationalists. But the two groups overlap on immigration, and Trump’s own rhetoric is often a brackish mixture of dog-whistle nativism and more overt forms of racist hate (Trump once retweeted an account called “white genocide,” for example).

It seems plausible, then, that ethno-nationalist climate proposals could go mainstream. While the Congressional “eco-right” is taking on mitigation, pushing for a free-market approach to emissions cuts, alt-right thinkers are some of the only right-wing voices discussing the ways America will adapt to a changing climate. And they’re doing so by framing climate change as an immigration issue, a strategy that’s likely to play well with Trump and his base.

The latter point is crucial. Immigration and climate change were once seen by conservatives as something like conceptual opposites. The idea was that fretting about rising temperatures was either a liberal conspiracy to swell the size of government or pointless hand-wringing by tree-hugging snowflakes, a distraction that obscured truly pressing threats like illegal immigration and Islamic terrorism. Summing up conservative priorities in 2015, Mike Huckabee declared that “a beheading is a far greater threat to an American than a sunburn.” But if conservatives start to believe (wrongly, obviously) that sunburns will lead to more beheadings—or more immigrants taking American jobs—it’s not hard to imagine the right not only ditching denialism, but also using the fact of climate change to whip up support for more draconian immigration measures.

The populist right, in the US and elsewhere, seems primed to accept this kind of thinking. The migrant crisis in Europe, sparked by conflicts in the Middle East and Northern Africa (conflicts rooted in histories of European colonialism, extractive capitalism, and Western military intervention), has been met with a vicious and sometimes deadly xenophobic backlash. There have been good faith efforts to link the Syrian war to climate change. But it’s easy to picture this work getting co-opted by nationalists looking for excuses to halt immigration. Similarly, North Africa from Morocco to Nigeria has been called an “arc of tension”—a band of earth so battered by drought, famine, desertification, internal conflict, and centuries of colonial and neo-imperialist violence that it’s ready to snap, pushing more people north. I doubt it would take much for climatic shifts in North Africa, a region already seen as dangerously other and tarred by the right as a terrorist“breeding ground,” to serve as pretexts for far-right efforts to close borders and boot migrants seeking shelter from the global storm.

The liberal left isn’t prepared for any of this. Emphasizing climate denial has, paradoxically, been a way to depoliticize climate change, framing it as an empirical problem instead of a contest over competing visions of the future. But the odd fantasy, widespread among the #resistance, that getting everyone to acknowledge the existence of climate change would also get them to support the right kinds of climate action has always been just that: fantasy. It reflects a stubborn faith in both the wisdom of technocrats and the tired liberal belief that knowing better leads to doing better.

It rarely does.

The left, from liberals to Leninists, now have an opportunity to look past deniers and skeptics, and study the ideas and actions of climate realists across the conservative spectrum. Some are doing this, of course. Several scholars have flagged “eco-apartheid” as a likely consequence of climate change in a staggeringly unequal world. Naomi Klein, though understandably concerned about climate denial, has argued that capital is agnostic about rhetoric so long as it can turn socio-environmental crises to its advantage. And the climate justice movement, powerfully articulated by activists and intellectuals from Bangladesh to Standing Rock, has emphasized the unevenness of climate impacts and the need to prepare equitable responses to their many horrors.

Progressive cities, states and environmental organizations are basically ignoring conservatives and pushing aggressive mitigation and adaptation measures, while eco-socialist thinkers like Kate Aronoff and John Bellamy Foster are suggesting ways of folding climate action into broader efforts to redistribute wealth and re-democratize the political system. If Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the only American politicians to back plans to keep warming under 1.5 degrees, wins a Congressional seat in November (which she is almost guaranteed to do), proposals for ambitious and equitable climate policy will head to Congress.

In five short years, right-wing populists have marched hardline immigration policies from the periphery of mainstream US conservatism to the Oval Office. Now they’re talking about climate change. If their influence persists, it is not hard to picture rank xenophobia—in the form of stricter immigration quotas, more militarized borders, and tighter restrictions on women’s fertility—taking over the federal climate agenda. The results would be nightmarish. If the left thinks a just response to climate change is still possible, it should take notice of these nativist believers, and prepare to push back.

Casey Williams is a writer based in Durham, North Carolina. His work covers environmental politics and culture, and has appeared in The New York TimesHuffPostThe Nation, and other national and local outlets.

 

Posted in In the News, Opinion Tagged with: ,

Two victories in fight against toxic pesticides; EPA must enforce ban

a jury ruled that Monsanto’s weed killer round up caused cancer and order the company to pay the victim $289 in damages.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-6049007/Roundup-cancerous-jury-declares.html

Chlorpyrfios, an insecticide which damages children’s brains, must again be banned by the EPA, which had stopped the ban under Secretary Scott Pruitt, by order of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

https://www.ecowatch.com/chlorpyrifos-epa-ban-2594491287.html?xrs=RebelMouse_fb&ts=1533906777

 

 

Posted in In the News Tagged with: , , ,

Climate Crisis: The Disturbing Facts; The Cause Debate Informs Policy Debates

 

 

The climate crisis brought on by our use of fossil fuels which is threatening the human habitat was the topic of the entire August 6th 2018 New York Times magazine. The article  presents previously unknown information on how early scientists and government officials and politicians understood the threat to the human habitat and how opportunities to avoid the threat were missed.  Startling aerial images record how much damage has already occurred. Educational resources accompany the article.

There has already been considerable debate about the assignment of cause by the author Nathaniel Rich in the article because it focuses on human nature in general, although, the article itself describes the scientists, activists and others who were trying to promote policies to prevent and diminish the crises.  Also, the article does not discuss how political economic structures contributed to an ignoring of the facts and promotion of policies that in fact exacerbated the crisis.

Posted below are links to the article and its educational resources, to two critical discussions of the focus of the article on human nature in general as the underlying cause and to one 3 minute video discussing how the discuss the crisis realistically.  We must find ways to move forward effectively. It will require investigation, discussion, cooperation, collaboration and patient and insistent persistence.

New York time article:    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/08/01/magazine/climate-change-losing-earth.html?

educational resources for the article: http://pulitzercenter.org/nytclimate

http://www.pulitzercenter.org/blog/education-resources-new-york-times-magazines-losing-earth

critiques of the human nature in general as the cause of absence of realistic policies: 

From the Atlantic by Robinson Meyer 

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/08/nyt-mag-nathaniel-rich-climate-change/566525/

From the Intercept by  Naomi Kline: 

https://portside.org/2018-08-04/capitalism-killed-our-climate-momentum-not-human-nature

From The Guardian by Dana Nuccitelli

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent

Video (3 min) on how to discuss the crisis effectively by Bill McKibben

https://www.sandersinstitute.com/blog/how-we-talk-about-climate-change

 

Posted in In the News, Opinion Tagged with: , , , , ,

Trade Unions & Energy Democracy (TUED) : Progress Report

Bulletin 76 — 30 July 2018


This report is intended to update TUED’s participating unions, allies and supporters regarding the project’s considerable progress so far this year.

The first part of the report covers organizational developments. The second part addresses our research and analysis, highlighting how major reports from both the International Energy Agency (IEA) and BP have corroborated the main conclusions of recent TUED working papers. We believe this is a very significant development that confirms both the legitimacy and the importance of TUED’s approach.

If your union is interested in being part of TUED, you can find more information here.


Main Developments

  • TUED continues to grow. Unions representing 560,000 members have joined so far this year, with others actively deliberating. Today the project consists of 64 union bodies from 24 countries.
  • Regional and national expressions of TUED are taking shape in the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, South Africa and Latin America.
  • TUED’s research and analysis continues to have an impact on trade union debates and policy. Earlier this year, TUED’s Working Paper #11, Trade Unions and Just Transition: The Search for a Transformative Politics, became available in English and will soon be available in Spanish.
  • Partnerships and collaborations with policy allies and movement-based NGOs are moving forward. TUED is playing an increasingly significant role in building a global energy democracy movement.

A Growing Network: 64 Union Bodies Representing Workers in 24 Countries

The TUED network has grown to 64 trade union bodies from both the global North and South, including four Global Union Federations, three regional bodies, and eight national centers representing workers in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, Italy, Nepal and the Philippines. TUED also has movement allies in the progressive policy community, worker education and advocacy. A complete list of participating unions and allies is here.

The first half of 2018 saw three important additions to the TUED network, with the British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU), the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU; US and Canada) and the Nordic Transport Workers Federation (NTF; headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden). Together these unions represent 560,000 workers.

TUED International Conference on “Just Transition”

On May 29, more than fifty trade union representatives and close allies from more than a dozen countries came together in New York City for TUED’s international conference, Towards a Just Transition: International Labor Perspectives on Energy, Climate and Economy.

Participants came from both North and South, representing 31 unions as well as 15 environmental, community-based, research and policy allies from Australia, Canada, Brazil, India, Italy, Nepal, Philippines, South Korea, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States (including Puerto Rico) and Vietnam. The conference was addressed by Zwelinzima Vavi, Secretary General of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), Angel Jaramillo, President of Puerto Rico’s main power union, UTIER, Dr. Anastasia Romanou of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and many others. The full conference program is available here, and a report is available here.

The conference was hosted at 1199SEIU’s Cherkasky/Davis Conference Center. Many of the international participants also joined TUED’s two-day strategic retreat, which took place immediately following the conference.

Key Regional and National Developments

Asia-Pacific: Laying the Groundwork


The struggle for energy democracy in the Asia-Pacific region is critically important, given that fossil fuel use and pollution levels in the region are rising at an alarming pace.

Led by Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA, the TUED group in the Asia-Pacific region is now well established. Web-based calls take place every three months, and unions in Australia, India, Nepal, New Zealand, Philippines and South Korea regularly participate.

Workshops on energy democracy, organized by APHEDA, have been held in the Philippines and Vietnam. TUED has generated country-specific reports for these workshops.

In late 2017, representatives of TUED and APHEDA visited unions in India and Nepal, and the effort to engage these unions continues.

In South Korea, the KPTU is taking advantage of the current political opening to urge the new government to chart a new energy course for the country. Currently South Korea is dependent on imported coal and gas, as well as domestic nuclear power.

UK: The Labour Party and TUC Commitments to Reclaim Energy

The prospects for a decisive shift in energy policy in the UK have improved dramatically with the Labour Party’s 2017 Manifesto commitment to reclaim the country’s energy system back to public, democratic control.

TUED has convened two major discussions of unions and allies on the Labour Party’s current energy vision, providing space to hear and further develop trade union perspectives in the light of the pro-public shift in both Labour Party and TUC policy.

In mid-February, all of the UK’s major unions attended a TUED meeting hosted by UNISON in London. Unions from several European countries as well as left parties (Germany’s Die Linke and Podemos in Spain) sent representatives.

In late June, TUED convened a two-day meeting titled Reclaiming the UK Power Sector to Public Ownership: Developing a Program of Action. The meeting took place June 28-29 at historic Wortley Hall near Sheffield, England, and brought together representatives from key UK unions—GMB, UNISON, Unite the Union, PCS, TSSA, BFAWU, NEU, and the TUC—as well as policy and movement allies. Unions from Norway and Greece also attended, as did energy democracy advocates from Barcelona, Brussels, and Berlin.

The meeting was also addressed by Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour Party Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and by Costas Lapavitsas, Professor of Economics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and former member of the Greek Parliament for Syriza.

Discussions addressed questions around the future fuel mix for power generation, special challenges facing the decarbonization of domestic heating and the transport sector, and jobs implications. A number of questions were identified that warrant further investigation and discussion. A report on the meeting is available here.

For additional background on TUED’s work in the UK and Europe, please see here.

South Africa: Towards a Democratic And Socially Owned Energy System

Struggles around energy have grown in intensity in South Africa. The coal-dependent public power utility, Eskom, is engaged in a public battle with private renewable energy interests or “Independent Power Producers” (IPPs). Eskom has threatened to close coal-fired power stations leaving tens of thousands of union members without employment.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA; Africa’s largest union) and the recently launched South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) have crafted a clear response, calling for the radical restructuring of Eskom and social ownership of the renewables sector. Referencing TUED, NUMSA’s Deputy General Secretary Karl Cloete authored an OpEd published by South Africa’s Daily Maverick, laying out the case for the union’s firm opposition to “capitalist capture of renewable energy,” and its support for a “socially owned and democratic alternative.” The March 2018 piece takes forward a position NUMSA has been advocating since at least 2011, and which was also described in TUED Bulletin #66: Should Unions Strike for a Just Transition?

In the coming months TUED, working together with the Transnational Institute (TNI) and the Alternative Information and Development Center (AIDC), will be actively engaged in developing a clear energy vision for South Africa that is consistent with NUMSA’s and SAFTU’s programmatic commitments.

TUED Latin America: Making Steady Progress

In Latin America, the struggle for energy democracy is a priority for the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA). This commitment was expressed in TUCA’s “Development Platform for the Americas” (PLADA) which was revised and re-adopted at its Third Hemispheric Congress in 2016 held in Sao Paulo.

TUED has maintained close ties with the Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT), the main trade union body in Brazil, during the attacks on former presidents Lula and Dilma Rousseff. Working with TUED, the Federal University of ABC is also offering a course on energy democracy in Brazil and intends to create a space for trade unions, social movements and universities to advance a pro-public and democratic energy vision.

In partnership with TUCA, CUT and others, TUED seeks to build the project’s capacity across the region. TUED is currently in discussions with unions in Colombia, Mexico, and Peru.

TUCA is also organizing a major gathering of unions and allies in Costa Rica in October 2018 to further develop the program on energy democracy and just transition in the region.

United States: Resisting “Energy Dominance”

For the first half of 2018, TUED’s work in the US has focused on two issues, namely the complete destruction of the power grid in Puerto Rico, and the White House’s promotion of its “energy dominance” agenda and the need for the US to continue to extract and export coal, oil and gas.

In terms of Puerto Rico, TUED has organized several meetings involving UTIER, the Puerto Rican power-sector union, and has helped build international support for UTIER’s fight against the plan to privatize the island’s public utility, PREPA. TUED continues to monitor the situation, and to look for opportunities to support UTIER’s efforts to connect with allies in New York and beyond.

Regarding building resistance and alternatives to the U.S. government’s “Energy Dominance” agenda, in late January TUED convened a meeting of New York area unions, advocacy and policy organizations, pension fund trustees and public officials for a one-day strategy discussion, Divest from Fossil Fuels, Yes. Reinvest in Renewable Energy, How? Hosted by 32BJ SEIU, the meeting was organized in the wake of New York State’s decision to divest pension funds from fossil fuels, and focused on how to move from divestment to getting the reinvestment in renewable energy sources that is needed. Governor Cuomo’s administration has announced relatively ambitious renewable energy targets (50% by 2030, but with existing hydropower currently meeting almost half of that 50% requirement). The discussion was also shaped by TUED’s most recent work on energy and emissions trends and investment patterns (see below).

On Target: TUED’s Energy Research and Political Analysis

Energy and Emissions Trends: The Danger of False Optimism


TUED’s ongoing research and analysis of energy trends and their political implications can be found in the project’s Working Papers. Since the launch of the project in 2012, TUED has argued that, far from being “inevitable” and “already underway”—as is too frequently claimed or implied by mainstream voices—the transition to a sustainable energy system based on renewable sources is not happening, and will not happen without a radical change of course. This need should be a central message of international trade union policy. As a movement, we need a programmatic shift—one that asserts a pro-public and needs-based approach to meeting the climate crisis and achieving a “just transition,” and that can challenge “business as usual.”


Key aspects of TUED’s analysis have recently been corroborated by at least two major news stories. For instance, when BP released its latest annual report of energy trends in June 2018, the company acknowledged that coal’s share in the global power sector for 2017 was the same as it had been 20 years earlier, in 1998—38%—and that the share of non-fossil fuel in the mix is actually down over that same period. In the words of the company’s Group Chief Economist, Spencer Dale, “I hadn’t realised that so little progress had been made until I looked at these data.” Just one year earlier Dale had declared, “The fortunes of coal appear to have taken a decisive break from the past,” which he attributed to “structural, long-term factors.” In fact, TUED had drawn attention to such deeply misplaced optimism about coal, and about fossil fuels more generally, in its Working Paper #9, Energy Transition: Are We Winning?, published in January 2017—six months prior to Dale’s now-debunked positive assessment, and fully eighteen months before his recent epiphany.

Similarly, the International Energy Agency (IEA) acknowledged in its own latest report on world energy investment (July 2018) that combined investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency—both crucial factors to achieve the Paris climate targets—fell by 3% in 2017, and is “failing to keep up with energy security and sustainability goals.” Especially telling is the report’s acknowledgment that investment in the power sector overwhelmingly relies on government guarantees and incentives, rather than on revenues  from market-driven prices. TUED’s previous Working Paper #10, Preparing a Public Pathway: Confronting the Investment Crisis in Renewable Energy, raised these same concerns nearly a year before the IEA’s report.

Just Transition: Beyond “Social Dialogue”

TUED’s political analysis continues to be framed by its founding “Resist, Reclaim, Restructure” (RRR) approach, which emerged from growing dissatisfaction with the neoliberal “green growth” narrative promoted by the major policy institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF, and many large corporations.

Released in early 2018, TUED’s latest Working Paper #11, Trade Unions and Just Transition: The Search for a Trans-formative Politics explains how and why “Just Transition” has increasingly been taken up by a wide range of voices, from frontline, indigenous and grassroots communities to major international institutions like the ILO, and has been acknowledged by the UN in its Sustainable Development Goals.

The paper argues that momentum around “Just Transition” provides an opportunity for unions to broaden the perspective beyond “social dialogue.” It shows how a growing number of unions recognize that the struggle for energy democracy has a crucial role to play in the struggle for civilizational survival, and argues that a truly sustainable energy system could provide a platform for more systemic change, and a transition based on meeting human needs and respecting natural limits—informed by a vision that integrates worker-focused concerns into a broad program for broad social and economic transformation.

Other Research, Analysis and Policy Work

TUED is also producing a series of country “mapping” analyses for Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA for key countries in the Asia-Pacific region, looking at factors relevant to a transition to renewable energy in each national context: current energy system (technical, administrative), renewable energy potential, political and economic factors, etc. To date, reports have been produced on Philippines and Vietnam, and another on Indonesia is now in process. Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA are using these reports to inform a series of strategy workshops with trade unions and allies in each country, as part of a wider effort to move the energy transition forward strategy in the region.

Also during the first half of 2018, the TUED research team has produced a major policy document for the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), to inform deliberations at the ITF’s upcoming World Congress in October 2018, where the federation’s policy priorities for the next four years will be set.

The next TUED Working Paper will take the analysis of the transport sector further, in order to place the struggle for sustainable public transport firmly within the energy democracy frame, and clarify key interdependencies between the transport and power sectors.

The Climate Leadership Immersion: Building Capacity, Linking Allies

On March 7-8, TUED held its fifth installment of the “Climate Leadership Immersion for Union Officers and Staff,” part of the International Program for Labor, Climate and Environment (IPLCE), which is based at the new CUNY School for Labor and Urban Studies (CUNY SLU). SLU is the successor institution to the Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies; the change became official July 1, 2018. For more information about the Climate Leadership Immersion, contact Irene Irene Shen at ireneTUED@gmail.com.

Acknowledging Stefanie Ehmsen and Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—New York Office

TUED is sustained and supported by unions from around the world, and by the newly formed CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studiesat the City University of New York.

However, the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—New York Office(RLS) and its dedicated team has provided invaluable support since TUED began in late 2012. Special thanks go to now-former co-director, Stefanie Ehmsen, who, along with co-director Albert Scharenberg, has now relocated to Berlin. We would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate and welcome the office’s new director, Andreas Günther, and look forward to continuing the productive partnership in the coming years.

About getting involved
For unions considering being formally involved in TUED, most of the information you need is here.

There’s also more information on why it’s important for unions to support TUED here.

Need more information about energy democracy?  Take a look at our working papers series (y también en español)

Videos: Including This is What Energy Democracy Looks Like! in English, French and Spanish

 

Posted in In the News Tagged with: , , ,

Sept 6 NYC Climate March: plan now to join others!

Rise for Climate, Jobs & Justice– next big climate march:  Thursday, Sept. 6, 5:30 pm, Battery Park, rally till 6:30 and then march up Broadway to Federal Plaza. 

This is part of a global set of actions in response to the San Francisco-based Global Climate Action Summit on Sept. 12-13.  Dozens of actions across the globe, but particularly in the US, are demanding that local leaders–in our case, DeBlasio and Cuomo, step up their climate policy as our federal government will not.

This is a march for our grandchildren’s future and will feature lots of young people who are core to the organizing.  Note:  the rest of the world is demonstrating on Sept. 8 but in NYC we cannot do that–long story of labor, religion and elections–so we are going to be the clarion call for the rest of the world.  Now it is our responsibility to be big, beautiful and effective

 

Posted in Events

Surprising History of Climate Change Information

Image result for ostrich head in sand denying climate change

The July 20, 2018 edition of WNYC’s “On the Media” program( www.WNYC.org ) which discussed the history, psychology, and sociology of climate change was summarized by Alfred Friedland of the  CUNYPSC Environmental Justice Working Group. He covers the highlights, especially the information about how far back recognition of the problem goes:

It starts with a report to the Senate in the summer of 1988, saying 1988 so far is so much warmer than 1987 that barring a remarkable and improbable cooling, 1988 will be the warmest year on record . . . the greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now. The New York Times had a first-page headline about that report to the Senate in the summer of 1988 saying “global warming has begun, expert tells Senate.” Just below that, another story is entitled “drought raising food prices.” That’s because the country was under a month-long drought and heat wave that summer and officials estimate that between 5,000 and 10,000 people in the country died from the high temperatures. A news report of the time said “the summer of 1988 was a scorcher, but not a fluke–the 1980s have brought us the four hottest years in the last one hundred.”

A New York Times environmental reporter wrote a cover story for “Discover” magazine in October 1988 entitled “Endless Summer: Living with the Greenhouse Effect.” That writer has another article in this month’s “National Geographic” magazine.

Unlike certain kinds of pollution that have been mitigated, carbon dioxide just builds up cumulatively in the atmosphere. It may be sequestered in a tree for a hundred years, but it is eventually returned to the environment. In 1988 the concentration of carbon dioxide was 350 parts per million–350 molecules of carbon dioxide per million molecules of air. Now it’s up to 410 parts per million.

A CBS news report from 1980, when the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was only 339 parts per million, explained the heat-trapping characteristics of carbon dioxide. It said burning fossil fuels produces carbon dioxide in the air. It said coal is the worst culprit; oil and natural gas are somewhat less dangerous. The report also talked about how the melting of polar ice would lead to sea-level rise, and mentioned a number of cities that would be under water from heightened ocean levels. (This was back in 1980.)

I thought the most startling thing they said was that a “Popular Science” article in 1912 warned that we’re burning billions of tons of coal; it’s going to warm the climate; it’s going to cause changes that will endure for centuries [italics are mine]. 1912!

Later they talked about the psychology of imperviousness to change despite facts, and they also discussed some sociological implications. They also had a recording of NBC news anchor John Chancellor saying, in the hot summer of 1988, that energy is expensive, but look at this week’s cost of having a hotter planet. In the long run, he said, clean energy is cheaper. He said if we don’t do anything, this heat will only get worse. And they also mentioned that in 2011, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 391 parts per million.

There was more, but this is a précis of the parts I thought were most interesting and/or most surprising.

Posted in In the News

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