Category Archives: Global warming

SF Chron Perspective: Facing the coming flood with a sense of optimism

Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle

Facing the coming flood with sense of optimism

By Caille Millner, Oct. 19, 2018 2:12 p.m.
The 2017 Russian River flood in Guerneville. A new U.N. climate report says we have about 12 years to do something huge on climate change. Photo: Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle 2017

After I read the United Nations’ new apocalyptic climate change report, I looked to see when my house was going to be underwater.

For this grim task, I set out to model different possibilities with an online sea level rise tool from Cal-Adapt, a public database for research from California scientists and researchers. (Isn’t the internet amazing? It provides those of us who believe in climate change with all the tools we need to find out when it’s going to swallow us whole, and those of us who aren’t willing to be convinced with all the conspiracy theories we need for political arguments.)

I zoomed in to my street and tried the tool’s first option, “no rise.”

My neighborhood remained gray and dry, untouched by the neon blues of inundation.

Comforted, I tried half a meter. That’s about 1.6 feet, which sounded like a lot until I remembered that the California Coastal Commission has told cities to be prepared for more than 10 feet of ocean rise by 2100.

My house wasn’t underwater yet, but suddenly I could no longer get downtown. Nearly 10 feet of water had inundated the area just north of Mission Bay. San Francisco had lost an Interstate 280 exit, and it’s pretty much assured that all of my Muni buses were getting re-routed as well.

I switched to 1 meter (about 3.3 feet).

My house was still OK, but the water was approaching fast.

Many buildings in the surrounding neighborhoods, including Mission Bay and the Dogpatch, were underwater at least some of the time. The Bayview and Hunters Point neighborhoods were receding into marshland. San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors just approved the construction of a new community in India Basin this week that’s going to be soggy as soon as it’s built.

At 1.41 meters (4.6 feet), Hunters Point was half as large as it should have been, South Beach was surrounded by water on all sides, and Interstate 280 was swamped heading out of Potrero Hill.

Ten feet of ocean rise by 2100. I imagined myself standing on my roof and waving a white T-shirt for rescue. In fact, I should start practicing right now — according to that new U.N. climate report, the party starts in just 12 years. Given the level of anxiety I feel about all of this, it’s going to take me at least six years just to loosen up my spine.

Bad joke, I know. And the truth of the matter is that cynical humor — which is quite frankly the most natural human reaction to the news that the world is about to be flooded and there’s nothing you personally can do to stop it — is not going to get us out of this mess.

So what kind of attitude will get us out of this?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot, partially because I’m so terrified by all of the political inaction and partially because I’ve noticed so many otherwise indomitable people responding to the news on climate change with a sense of helplessness.

Like cynical humor, helplessness is a natural reaction. But it won’t work, and neither will telling other people to give up the benefits of modernity to save the Earth. (Everyone I meet in Berkeley is eager to tell me how climate change will evaporate if we all just stop flying on planes, eating meat and having children, but I have yet to see any of them take their own advice.)

What might work?

Optimism.

It’s hard to find optimism anywhere in America in October 2018, but I’m finding it in the lawsuit brought by 21 young people against the U.S. government for failing to tackle climate change.

Levi Draheim, 10 (center), and other youth activists suing the Trump administration over climate change in San Francisco on Dec. 11. Photo: Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle 2017

It’s scheduled to go to trial on Oct. 29, and while the Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to block it from happening, something about their action feels … antediluvian. A lot of that has to do with the fact that the children are unshaken by the size of the fight they’ve taken on.

“I believe that the momentum is on our side,” said one of the plaintiffs, then-17-year-old Nathan Baring, when the kids were presenting their lawsuit before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in December.

The youngest plaintiff, 11-year-old Levi Draheim of Florida, has said that if he doesn’t do this, he may not have a home when he’s older.

It’s the simplest reason to take on this fight, and it’s also the most inspiring one. It smacks of can-do spirit, a trait that used to be associated with American values. I think it’s time we brought it back again.

Why not make fighting climate change our next national challenge, like putting a man on the moon once was? Why not at least believe we can do that, and behave accordingly?

I can tell you this much: Optimistic action sounds like a lot more fun than clicking for your personal flood zone.

Caille Millner is an editorial writer and Datebook columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. She has worked at the paper since 2006. On the editorial board, she covers a wide range of topics including business, finance, technology, education and local politics. For Datebook, she writes a weekly column on culture.She is the recipient of the Scripps-Howard Foundation’s Walker Stone Award in Editorial Writing and the Society of Professional Journalists’ Editorial Writing Award.

    Trump White House: global catastrophe inevitable, we might as well pollute

    Repost from The Rolling Stone
    [Editor: thanks to Marilyn Bardet for alerting us to this deep and shocking analysis of Trump’s latest disaster.  – R.S.]

    Why Aren’t We Talking More About Trump’s Nihilism?

    The White House now says we might as well pollute because global catastrophe is inevitable

    By MATT TAIBBI, OCTOBER 1, 2018 12:28PM ET

    President Donald Trump pauses while speaking at a campaign rally at WesBanco Arena, in Wheeling, West Virginia. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP/Shutterstock

    While America was consumed with the Brett Kavanaugh drama last week, the Washington Post unearthed a crazy tidbit in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) latest environmental impact statement.

    The study predicts a rise in global temperatures of about four degrees Celsius, or seven degrees Fahrenheit, by the year 2100. Worse, it asserts global warming is such an inevitable reality, there’s no point in reducing auto emissions, as we’re screwed anyway.

    “The emissions reductions necessary to keep global emissions within this carbon budget could not be achieved solely with drastic reductions in emissions from the U.S. passenger car and light truck vehicle fleet,” is how the report put it.

    To make a real difference, it adds we’d have to “move away from the use of fossil fuels,” which is “not currently technologically feasible or economically practicable.”

    There’s been just a flutter of media attention about this, mostly focusing on the hypocrisy. Trump, as is his wont, has at one point or another occupied basically every inch of territory on the spectrum of global warming opinions.

    He went from urging President Obama to act to prevent “catastrophic and irreversible consequences… for our planet” (2009), to calling global warming a Chinese conspiracy (2012), to calling it an “expensive hoax” (2013), and “bullshit” (2014), to switching up again during the election to concede the existence of “naturally occurring” (i.e., not man-made) climate change.

    Now comes this Linda Blair-style head turn. The NHTSA report deftly leaps past standard wing-nut climate denial and lands on a new nihilistic construct, in which action is useless precisely because climate change exists and is caused by fossil fuels.

    The more you read of this impact statement, the weirder it seems. After the document lays out its argument for doing nothing, it runs a series of bar graphs comparing the impact of various action plans with scenarios in which the entire world did nothing (labeled the “no action” alternative).

    These absurd illustrations make Thomas Friedman’s time-traveling efforts to graph the future seem like the work of a Nobel laureate.

    “A textbook example of how to lie with statistics,” is how MIT professor John Sterman described it to the Post.

    There’s obviously a danger at overinterpreting this paper, which mostly seems like a desperate bureaucratic attempt to square science with Trump’s determination to roll back environmental policies for his business pals.

    But even as accidental symbolism, it’s powerful stuff. A policy that not only recognizes but embraces inevitable global catastrophe is the ultimate expression of Trump’s somehow under-reported nihilism.

    While the press has focused in the past two years either on the president’s daily lunacies or his various scandals, the really dangerous work of Trump’s administration has gone on behind the scenes, in his systematic wreckage of the state.

    Implicit in this campaign of bureaucratic dismantling has been the message that pandemonium is a price Trump is very willing to pay, in service of breaking the “disaster” of government. Many of his top appointees have been distinguished by their screw-it-all mentality.

    Remember, he appointed Mick Mulvaney, a man who had once inspired a downgrade of America’s credit rating by threatening to default on the debt, to be his budget director.

    He later put Mulvaney in charge of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where he fired his own 25-person advisory board — after requesting a budget of $0 and promising to fulfill the bureau’s mission “no further.”

    Trump’s original EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, was best known for having used his time as Oklahoma’s attorney general to sue the EPA repeatedly and zero out the environmental-enforcement budget. Trump made a robotization enthusiast his choice for labor secretary, chose a hockey-team owner to run the Army (he withdrew, thankfully), and so on.

    There are still hundreds of top federal jobs left unmanned, and some of the non-appointments seem like Nero-level acts of madness. Trump asked for 25 percent cuts to the whole State Department on the grounds that they were “prioritizing the efficient use of taxpayer resources.” But what country goes without ambassadors for years? Trump fired dozens upon inauguration and to this day still has 34 vacancies. We have no ambassador in South Africa, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, even Mexico. We’re a ghost state with nukes.

    All of this is part and parcel of Trump’s doomsday message. He’s been a textbook example of Richard Hofstadter’s famed theory of paranoid politics. See if any of this (especially the line about “barricades”) sounds familiar:

    The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms — he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization… Like religious millennialists, he expresses the anxiety of those who are living through the last days…

    From Day One of Trump’s campaign, pundits have reached for traditional political explanations to describe both his behavior and his appeal. Because we’re trained to talk in terms of left and right, progress and reaction, we tried to understand him in those terms.

    But Trump sold something more primal. His core message was relentless, hounding negativity, lambasting audiences with images of death and disaster.

    His first campaign speech was basically a non-denominational end-times sermon, in which America was either kaput or close to it, surrounded on all sides by bloodthirsty enemies. “They kill us,” he preached. “They beat us all the time… We have nothing…”

    He ranted about a system befouled by false prophets. “Politicians are all talk, no action,” he howled. “They will not bring us— believe me — to the promised land.”

    The “What have you got to lose?” line he pulled out later was supposedly just a pitch to African-American voters, but all of Trump’s audiences picked up on the “it just doesn’t matter” theme. (If you want to be wigged out, check out the similarities between Trump speeches and the famed Bill Murray speech from Meatballs. Just substitute “China” for “Mohawk.”)

    Obese and rotting, close enough to the physical end himself (and long ago spiritually dead), Trump essentially told his frustrated, pessimistic crowds that America was doomed anyway, so we might as well stop worrying and floor it to the end.

    If that meant a trade war, environmental catastrophe, broken alliances, so be it. “Let’s just get this shit over with,” is how Trump’s unofficial campaign slogan was described in the show Horace and Pete, one of the few outlets to pick up on Trump’s Freudian death-wish rhetoric.

    Trump made lots of loony promises to bring us back to the joyous Fifties (literally to Happy Days, if you go by his choice of Scott Baio as a convention speaker). But even his audiences didn’t seem to believe this fable.

    The more credible promise of his campaign was a teardown of the international order, which he’s actually begun as president. Trade deals, environmental accords, the EU, NATO, he’s undercut all of them, while ripping government in half like a phone book.

    He keeps inviting destruction like it’s a desirable outcome. He even pushed through legislation for “low-yield” nuclear weapons, whose only purpose is to be more theoretically usable than the other kind (although he’s wrong about this, too).

    His fans even cheered when he played nuclear chicken with Kim Jong-un, tweeting that his “nuclear button” was “bigger & more powerful” than Kim’s (and “my Button works!”).

    It’s easy to understand the nationalist sentiment behind reversing trade deals or backing Brexit. But what’s the populist angle on burning the planet, or nuclear war? How does hating elites explain cheering a guy on for turning nuclear diplomacy into a penis-measuring contest?

    On a policy level, this apocalypse politics is pure corporate cynicism, with Trump’s big-business buddies showing a willingness to kill us all for a few dollars now.

    The broader electoral pitch is just an evil version of every nuclear-age dance tune ever, “99 Luftballoons” or “1999.” The world is ending, so fuck it, let’s party. As crazy as it is, it’s a seductive message for a country steeped in hate and pessimism. Democrats still don’t understand it. Trump’s turning America into a death cult, with us as involuntary members.

      National Day of Action for Climate Justice Sept. 8

      Repost from People’s Climate Movement

      September 8: Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice

      People's Climate MovementThe weekend before San Francisco’s Global Climate Action Summit, the Peoples Climate Movement will lead a national mobilization for climate, jobs, and justice.

      September 8th will be a moving demonstration of the breadth and depth of the climate movement. Across the country, tens of thousands of people will show our power by hitting the streets, holding community forums, and educating voters about the issues – all to ensure that elected and private sector leaders make action on climate a priority.

      From Seattle to Miami – and everywhere in-between – activists and non-activists alike will come together to demonstrate to the world that on this day, and every day, climate matters. Like the National Day of Action in 2015, September 8th is about more than just numbers; it’s about telling the story of climate, jobs, and justice; it’s about showing that to change everything, it takes everyone – including you; and it’s about committing to make climate action a part of the national dialogue in November, in the months that follow, and well into 2019 and 2020.