Category Archives: Climate Change/Science

What Wisdom and Values Will We Need in a Challenging Future?

Tsunami of Love by artist Anne Mimi Sammis

What Will the Future Need from Us?

This weekend I was invited to be part of an elder circle where a group of very impressive “seniors,” with an imposing array of experiences under their belts, was asked to reflect on the question:

What lived experiences, wisdom [and values] do you feel need to be part of what may be a very difficult birthing of an emerging global reality? “

I was so intrigued by this question that I brought a version of it to the core team of my Transition group (where everyone in the room that evening happened to be over 50). We had a rich conversation. See the values and the life experience we believe older folks can bring forward to meet the challenges ahead.

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Kitchen Remodel & Energy Efficiency: Electricity

I admit it — I’m a design junkie. I watch all the kitchen design shows, follow Houzz, Kitchn and TinyHouse, and regularly attend the Minneapolis/St. Paul Home Tour. I have a Pinterest page where I collect images of kitchen efficiency and kitchen remodeling.

Function and aesthetics are the two most common reasons that propel people into the formidable undertaking of a kitchen remodel. But energy is at the center of a kitchen’s function, not counter tops or traffic flow. Few and far between are the videos and articles in the design arena that look at energy efficiency and nothing I found gave any consideration to our energy future.

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Talking About Climate on This American Life

Last week while running errands I tuned into the NPR program “This American Life.” I caught the first act of “Hot in My Backyard,” the story of how climate change is impacting Colorado and how Colorado’s State Climatologist, Nolan Doesken talks about it — or doesn’t.

It was an interesting story that left me thoughtful and sad. The reporter had interviewed three other scientists (not Doesken), none of whom will tell the public what they know about climate change. They are making plans to take care of themselves in the difficult future ahead, but they weren’t telling others how to prepare. And who can say that isn’t wise. In four states, climatologists have lost their jobs because they talked about climate change.

The state climatologist who was the focus of this story, Nolan Doesken, seems like a very earnest and honest person. He’s a conservative whom farmers and ranchers have turned to for years for the information they rely on. And he’s so fearful of talking that he’s avoided saying anything for years. When he does finally say something – and the reporter is there to hear it – it’s so little that people don’t even recognize the import of what he’s said.

It’s disheartening that someone who has the trust and respect of the community – someone just like them – can’t find a way to communicate the truth of this dire situation we all face. A person like myself could never reach those people. But when a person in their sphere cannot or fails to communicate the message, how can we hope for the situation to change?

Of course, I can say that because I believe the situation can – and must – change. He may not believe that. Bubbling up throughout the interview I heard what may be the underlying reason for this failure to communicate: a belief that there is nothing anyone can do. That would make sense. After all, why damage relationships, why make people mad, why risk one’s career if there is nothing anyone can do?

He may believe that – lots of people do – and that’s what makes me sad. We really don’t know what we could do if we threw ourselves at this challenge the way we did the space race or the fight for victory in WWII. However, if we succumb to the belief that there is nothing we can do, it ensures there is nothing we will do.

Researchers Question Enbridge Oil Spill Risk Assessment Methods

Today is the last day to submit a rebuttal comment to Enbridge’s request before the PUC to increase the carrying capacity of one of its pipelines across northern Minnesota.

Yesterday the Vancouver Sun carried an interesting article about Enbridge’s faulty risk assessment methodology. It says that Enbridge does not use the standard risk assessment tool — the U.S. Oil Spill Risk Analysis model – and it appears to have drastically underestimated risks associated with its pipelines and oil transport project across British Columbia.

Researchers at Simon Fraser University issued a report after examining the risk assessment of the Northern Gateway megaproject, which includes a lengthy pipeline, a marine terminal and tankers.

In addition to its failure to use the standard risk assessment model, it was found that the model Enbridge does use had 28 deficiencies. The database it used to create its assessment significantly under-reports tanker incidents — by 38 to 96%. And researchers say Enbridge made no attempts to correct for under-reporting.

Enbridge assessed the risk of a marine tanker oil spill at 18%; the researchers concluded that the chance of a spill was between 93 and 99% (over the 30 to 50-year operating life of the project).

Enbridge estimated one oil spill every two years along its 1,160 kilometer pipeline, According to the study’s lead author, Dr. Tom Gunton, director of the School of Resource and Environmental Management at SFU, the researchers estimated up to 15 oil spills per year, based on Enbridge’s own pipeline spill records from 2002 to 2010.

Based on this news, I think it would be reasonable to say that for the safety of our communities and our water supply, the MN PUC – and any other governmental body making decisions on Enbridge projects – should conduct its own risk assessment or hire an independent firm to do so.

Bill Could Allow Energy Companies to Substitute Dirty Biomass for Electricity Savings

Alan Muller, with Neighbors Against the Burner, posted an interesting notice in a Transition discussion group about House File 780 and Senate File 642. This is important information that was new to me so I asked for his permission to edit his post (for length) and repost it here.

An unwise bill would allow dirty biomass heating to substitute for electricity savings.
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This Blog is a Denial-Free Zone

I’ve been hit by a lot of spam since my last post (could be a coincidence …). One post actually did relate to the contents of this blog. For that person’s benefit I am going to repeat what I’ve posted before. This is a denial-free zone on the topic of climate change. I’m not going to argue with you about climate science, neither am I going to allow you to post climate-denial claims. I believe what 98% of the climate scientists in the world are telling us. That does not make me an extremist – it makes me mainstream.

I am going to take this opportunity to respond to your assertion that people who accept personal responsibility for their impact on the environment by acting to reduce their carbon footprint are anti-science, anti-technology and anti-trade.
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ALEC at Work in MN Senate to Support Pipeline?

While tens of thousands go to Washington to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, PRWatch, from the Center for Media and Democracy, tells us that legislation has been introduced in four states to support the pipeline. This includes the Minnesota Senate.

SF479 urges the President and the US Department of State to approve the Presidential permit application allowing the construction and operation of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline between the United States and Canada.

The bill was introduced by Senators Bill Ingebrigtsen (R) District 08, Julie A. Rosen (R) District 23, Bill Weber (R) District 22, Karin Housley (R) District 39, and John C. Pederson (R) District 14.

Resolutions proposed in Mississippi, Minnesota, and Michigan are identical to each other and can be traced directly to a TransCanada Corporation media backgrounder. For example, talking points for this resolutions say that the pipeline will REDUCE greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 19 million tons by replacing the need for 200 ocean tankers to transport oil. Of course, this utterly fails to note that the oil being transported will, when burned, generate hundreds of tons of greenhouse gases, leading to runaway climate change.

Minnesota’s resolution differs slightly from language approved by ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), an organization of corporations and politicians that drafts corporate-friendly legislation that is then introduced in state legislatures. (To learn more about what ALEC is up to, see ALEC Exposed.)

The Minnesota Senate resolution is now with the Environment and Energy Committee.

400 Reasons to Fight – 400 Reasons to Care

Record floods, record storms, record heatwaves, record droughts. 2012 was a year for the record books, but one that didn’t get nearly as much attention as it deserved occurred in June. That’s when 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide was recorded in the atmosphere in the Arctic. It’s important to know this because rising CO2 is a factor in all of those other unfortunate records.

It’s important to know this because if we want to have a chance at heading off permanent, deadly climate change, we need to reduce CO2 to 350 parts per million. We’re not even close and we’re heading in the wrong direction.

It’s important to know this because every day you, your family, your business, make choices that can increase or decrease the amount of CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) you put into the atmosphere.  And every day you have a chance to make a different choice.

400 Parts Per Million – 400 Reasons to Fight

Why should you take action today to curb your carbon footprint? That’s what MN350 is asking people in its “400 Reasons to Fight” project.

  • Who and what do you love?
  • What makes life worth living?
  • What do you not want to lose?

When you find yourself wondering if anything you are doing will make a difference, pull out your list or the photos of your kids or the dog or your favorite camping place and remind yourself that THIS is why you are making the effort. THESE are your reasons to fight.

Make your reasons visible every day. And if you feel like it, share your reasons with MN350.

Find Funding to Start Something

I’ve been doing research on foundation and government money available for urban agriculture, climate action and sustainability. I was pleased to learn that the McKnight Foundation and 3M Foundation are putting significant resources into climate action (though not through open grantmaking). McKnight committed $100 million to fight climate change, working with other foundation funders in a network called ClimateWorks.

I thought I’d share a few of the resources I found to raise money for youth and community projects. I’ll revisit this theme in future.

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How Will Climate Change Affect Minnesota?

It’s easy to find predictions of the global impact of climate change coming from the scientific community — temperature extremes, drought and flooding, giant storm systems. In fact, we’re already seeing the effects because the climate has ALREADY CHANGED. What has been a bit harder to find is information about how climate change has affected Minnesota and how it is expected to impact us in the future.

Last night I attended Policy & A Pint at the Varsity Theater. The main speaker was MPR News’ chief meteorologist Paul Huttner. Special guests were The Theater of Public Policy, an improv group that uses comedy to bring serious issues to life. I learned a few things about climate change — and the reporting of climate change — that I didn’t know.

The U.S. states experiencing the greatest change in climate are Arizona (1) followed by the upper midwest states — Minnesota (3), Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan (4). The Minnesota Climatology Working Group reports that Minnesota has seen a significant increase in the rate of warming since 1980. We are warming faster – in some areas of the state (central and southeast) much faster — than the previous 100 years.

We’ve seen some pretty warm summers recently, including 2011 when Moorhead and Madison, MN, hit a record dewpoint of 88 degrees and Minneapolis/St. Paul also had its highest dewpoint of 82 to 84 degrees. Combine dewpoint – which is a measure of humidity – and temperature and you get a heat index rating (Who holds the record? Appleton,Wisconsin. In 1995, it had a dewpoint of 90 degrees and an air temp of 101, giving it an extraordinarily dangerous heat index reading of 148.)

But the real change has been in overnight lows not being as low, and in warmer winter temperatures.

The temperature of the water in Lake Superior hasn’t been measured for all that long – only since the early 80s. Climatologists, who study trends over long periods of time, appear uncomfortable making definitive statements about lake warming over that short a time period, but the measured temperature rise in the past 25 years has exceeded 4 degrees.

Huttner told the audience of primarily University students that no one born after February 1985 has experienced a colder than average winter.

If You Can’t Predict the Weather, How Can You Predict the Climate? 

The surprise statement of the evening was on the role that meteorologists have played in informing the public about climate change — or rather, the role they have NOT played.

Huttner said, in his experience, most meteorologists are climate change deniers. When asked how much of that denial is due to pressure from news directors — news stations routinely refuse to cover climate change because it is “too political” — he said he believes that perhaps as many as half are pressured into denial.

Unfortunately, meteorologists are the people most accessible to the general public, which is why it is critically important that they not contribute to the distortion of information in the news. Forecast the Facts is a grassroots organization that seeks to hold broadcast meteorologists and the news media accountable for misinformation and false balance.