Tagged: climate change

Catholic leaders ask GOP to join pope on climate, income inequality


AP/Charlie Neibergall

Bishop Martin Amos of the Diocese of Davenport, speaks during a news conference in Ankeny, Iowa. Roman Catholic leaders in Iowa are calling for presidential candidates to focus on the environment and income inequality in 2016.

Roman Catholic leaders in the early voting state of Iowa implored candidates for president Thursday to take up Pope Francis’ call for “profound political courage” by focusing their campaigns as much on improving the environment and income inequality as they have on opposing gay marriage and abortion in past elections.

The vocal pivot from such traditional social issues marks the first time U.S. Catholic bishops have publicly asked those seeking the White House to heed the admonitions of Francis’ June encyclical, said Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines.

In Francis’ major teaching document, the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics called for a “sweeping revolution” to correct a “structurally perverse” economic system that allows the rich to exploit the poor and has turned the Earth into an “immense pile of filth.”

“These are going to be difficult decisions that have to be made,” said the Rev. Bud Grant of Davenport, joined at a news conference by bishops from central and eastern Iowa. “Politicians have to have the courage to do the right thing, and not necessarily the politically expedient thing.”

The push from bishops threatens to disrupt the historically reliable alliance of evangelical Christians and conservative Roman Catholic voters, putting pressure on Republicans who have leaned on their religious faith to guide them on social issues.

It will also focus attention on how the six Roman Catholics seeking the 2016 Republican presidential nomination will wrestle with a pope’s teachings on economics and climate change that clash with traditional Republican ideology.

While Francis has condemned abortion and upheld marriage as the union of a man and a woman, he has not done so with anything approaching the frequency of his two predecessors. Instead, Francis has urged church leaders to talk less about such social issues and more about mercy and compassion, so that wayward Catholics would feel welcome to return to the church.

Should be fun when Pope Francis addresses the papier mache politicians in Congress. I wonder if any of the Tea Party idjits will shout out “you lie”?

Setting aside my reflexive wryness, the Roman Catholic church remains the only significant world religion with unified – even codified – administration and leadership. As much as some of the fundamentalist sects of Protestantism in the United States work at convincing themselves they are the only true voice of their deity, any socially, politically, reasonable leader of any of these has to respect the strength of a global religious body.

The Roman Catholic church may share all of the same fears of modern times; but, the latest pope seems to have learned something about not appearing like a complete idiot in the face of reality. The question remains – will our fundamentalists learn the same lesson? Will they then rap the knuckles of their pet political party and suggest a jot of progress is more sustaining than lockstep obedience to anachronistic dogma?

What’s Really Warming the World? NASA data provides proof

what's warming the world
Click through to a dynamic set of infographics

NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies has done a knockout series of infographics based on decades of data and study. They deserve all the credit in the world for maintaining real science in the face of superstition, myth and the new American disease – self-deception.

Doctors/Public Health prescription for healthier planet

Some top international doctors and public health experts have issued an urgent prescription for a feverish planet Earth: Get off coal as soon as possible.

Substituting cleaner energy worldwide for coal will reduce air pollution and give Earth a better chance at avoiding dangerous climate change, recommended a global health commission organized by the prestigious British medical journal Lancet. The panel said hundreds of thousands of lives each year are at stake and global warming “threatens to undermine the last half century of gains in development and global health.”

It’s like a cigarette smoker with lung problems: Doctors can treat the disease, but the first thing that has to be done is to get the patient to stop smoking, or in this case get off coal in the next five years, commission officials said in interviews…

Dr. Anthony Costello…called it a “medical emergency” that could eventually dwarf the deadly toll of HIV in the 1980s. He and others said burning coal does more than warm the Earth, but causes even more deaths from other types of air pollution that hurt people’s breathing and hearts…

Virtually everything that you want to do to tackle climate change has health benefits,” Costello said. “We’re going to cut heart attacks, strokes, diabetes.”…

In a companion posting in Lancet, World Health Organization director general Margaret Chan also compares fighting climate change to fighting smoking and saving lives. Both Chan and the Lancet commission quote WHO studies that say by 2030 climate change would “be likely to cause about 250,000 additional deaths per year” around the world.

Overdue.

Earth has its warmest May and warmest YTD on record

May 2015 was Earth’s warmest May since global record keeping began in 1880, said NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information…NASA rated May 2015 as the 2nd warmest May on record. May 2015’s warmth makes the year-to-date period (January – May) the warmest such period on record, according to both NOAA and NASA, and it is likely that 2015 will be Earth’s second consecutive warmest year on record. Five of the ten warmest months in recorded history have occurred in the past six months, according to NOAA:

NOAA’s top ten warmest global monthly departures from average
1) 0.89°C, Mar 2015
1) 0.89°C, Feb 2015

3) 0.88°C, Jan 2007
4) 0.87°C, May 2015
4) 0.87°C, Feb 1998
6) 0.84°C, Dec 2014
6) 0.84°C, Mar 2010
8) 0.83°C, Nov 2013
9) 0.82°C, Apr 2010
10) 0.81°C, Jan 2015

Global ocean temperatures during May 2015 were the warmest on record, and global land temperatures were tied for warmest on record. Global satellite-measured temperatures in May 2015 for the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere were the 5th or 4th warmest in the 37-year record, according to the University of Alabama Huntsville and Remote Sensing Systems, respectively.


Click to enlargeImage credit: National Centers for Environmental Information

Departure of temperature from average for May 2015, the warmest May for the globe since record keeping began in 1880. Record warmth occurred across most of Alaska, parts of tropical South America, much of southern Africa and The Middle East, and parts of northwestern Siberia. Only part of the central United States, far west central Australia, Iceland, and part of Far East Russia observed temperatures characterized as “cooler than average” for May.

Please RTFA for lots more detail. Visiting here and reading the sources I try to reference for information on climate change puts you a couple of lightyears ahead of the papier mache, let’s-pretend-to-be-skeptics that populate the sites of conservative know-nothings who most of all fear diminishing margins for fossil fuel profiteers.

Check over on the blogroll sidebar of sites I recommend and try realclimate and 350.org.

Laudato Si, conservative know-nothings!


Looking pretty good in GREEN

Pope Francis has called on the world’s rich nations to begin paying their “grave social debt” to the poor and take concrete steps on climate change, saying failure to do so presents an undeniable risk to a “common home” that is beginning to resemble a “pile of filth”.

The pope’s 180-page encyclical on the environment, released on Thursday, is at its core a moral call for action on phasing out the use of fossil fuels.

But it is also a document infused with an activist anger and concern for the poor, casting blame on the indifference of the powerful in the face of certain evidence that humanity is at risk following 200 years of misuse of resources.

Up to now, he says, the world has accepted a “cheerful recklessness” in its approach to the issue, lacking the will to change habits for the good of the Earth.

“Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods,” the papal statement says. “It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”

The encyclical, which can now be considered the church’s official position on the environment, includes practical guidance. Pope Francis rejects “simple solutions” to climate change such as cap and trade systems, which he says give rise to harmful speculation. He also dismisses any suggestion that population increases harm to the environment and should therefore be controlled, and resists making any judgment on genetically modified foods.

The essay was released following months of intense speculation about how far the pontiff would delve into a scientific realm that is still considered controversial in some countries such as the US, where views on climate change are divided along political lines.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, the pope’s top official on social and justice issues, flatly rejected arguments by some conservative politicians in the US that the pope ought to stay out of science.

“Saying that a pope shouldn’t deal with science sounds strange since science is a public domain. It is a subject matter that anyone can get in to,” Turkson said at a press conference on Thursday.

In an apparent reference to comments by Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush, who said he did not take economic advice from the pope, Turkson said that politicians had the right to disregard Francis’s statement, but said it was wrong to do so based on the fact that the pope was not a scientist.

The Republican Party has become the party of filth. Filthy ideology, advocates for bigotry and racism are welcome. Filthy practices, the worst practices of extractive industry, careless environmental standards, all are chickens that roost in the diseased chicken coop of conservative politics in the age of Reagan, Rove, Bush and Cheney.

You can read the Pope’s encyclical in the Vatican translation in several languages over here.

Crap ideologues from Jeb Bush to Ted Cruz spend about as much time reading bona fide science as the average jihadist. Often to the same effect on the lives of ordinary citizens of this planet. Death and destruction are part of their profit-and-loss statement.

I’ve enjoyed great debates with religious folks about the basics of understanding reality, the material world. While we marched side-by-side on our nation’s capitol in Washington, DC. I’ve had truly enjoyable discussions about Jesus Christ as an Essene radical – sharing a cell with a Catholic priest who always wore a fedora hat to demonstrations because he figured it made him look more like Bing Crosby, less likely to be clubbed by a racist cop. Disagreements about philosophy, science, material reality don’t prevent us from fighting for the common good.

Oh, and by the way, Jeb. The Pope has a degree in chemistry. How much science did you study at UT?

NASA satellite data show the world running out of water

More than half of Earth’s 37 largest aquifers are being depleted, according to gravitational data from the GRACE satellite system.

The world’s largest underground aquifers – a source of fresh water for hundreds of millions of people — are being depleted at alarming rates, according to new NASA satellite data that provides the most detailed picture yet of vital water reserves hidden under the Earth’s surface.

Twenty-one of the world’s 37 largest aquifers — in locations from India and China to the United States and France — have passed their sustainability tipping points, meaning more water was removed than replaced during the decade-long study period, researchers announced Tuesday. Thirteen aquifers declined at rates that put them into the most troubled category. The researchers said this indicated a long-term problem that’s likely to worsen as reliance on aquifers grows.

Scientists had long suspected that humans were taxing the world’s underground water supply, but the NASA data was the first detailed assessment to demonstrate that major aquifers were indeed struggling to keep pace with demands from agriculture, growing populations, and industries such as mining…

The researchers used NASA’s GRACE satellites to take precise measurements of the world’s groundwater aquifers. The satellites detected subtle changes in the Earth’s gravitational pull, noting where the heavier weight of water exerted a greater pull on the orbiting spacecraft. Slight changes in aquifer water levels were charted over a decade, from 2003 to 2013…

But the NASA satellites could not measure the total capacity of the aquifers. The size of these tucked-away water supplies remains something of a mystery. Still, the satellite data indicated that some aquifers may be much smaller than previously believed, and most estimates of aquifer reserves have “uncertainty ranges across orders of magnitude,” according to the research.

Aquifers can take thousands of years to fill up and only slowly recharge with water from snowmelt and rains. Now, as drilling for water has taken off across the globe, the hidden water reservoirs are being stressed…

California’s Central Valley Aquifer was the most troubled in the United States. It is being drained to irrigate farm fields, where drought has led to an explosion in the number of water wells being drilled. California only last year passed its first extensive groundwater regulations. But the new law could take two decades to take full effect…

Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said problems with groundwater are exacerbated by global warming, which has caused the regions closest to the equator to get drier and more extreme latitudes to experience wetter and heavier rains. A self-reinforcing cycle begins. People living in mid-range latitudes not only pump more water from aquifers to contend with drier conditions, but that water — once removed from the ground — also then evaporates and gets recirculated to areas far north and south.

Human beings are great at short-term solutions. In environmental time, very short-term solutions.

Doesn’t mean we’re smart enough to save our collective buns.

Climate change is making Mexico City unbearable and unbreathable


Lovely view of Iztaccihuatl Mountain

MEXICO CITY — On a sweaty May morning in this sprawling mountain capital, residents heard a painfully familiar warning on the radio and TV.

Air pollution was at dangerous levels, environmental authorities said. People were advised to stay indoors as much as possible and avoid exercise. Asthma sufferers should take particular care.

On the city streets, this pollution could be seen in dirty clouds hanging amid grid-locked traffic.

The “environmental pre-contingency” on May 9 was the fourth so far this year, compared to three in all of 2014. The warnings are a reminder of the long uphill battle against dirty air in North America’s largest city — which has been a laboratory for pollution in megacities around the planet.

This rise comes after years in which Mexico City air has been getting cleaner, thanks to concerted campaigns. But while some problems have been resolved, others appear.

One issue is that Mexico is getting steadily hotter, apparently due to global warming. Last year was the hottest in Mexico since records began, with average temperatures of 71.78 degrees Fahrenheit.

Higher temperatures mean that pollutants release faster into the air…

By 2010, when Mexico City hosted a UN climate change conference, it was hailed as a poster child for anti-pollution measures. Lead in the air had dropped by 90 percent over two decades, environmental authorities reported.

Yet despite the giant steps, pollution persists and is exacerbated by new problems, including the rising temperatures…

While cars have gotten cleaner they have also gotten more numerous. There are now 275 cars per 1,000 people in Mexico, according to the World Bank. In the Mexico City urban sprawl with 20 million residents, this would mean about 5.5 million automobiles.

“Air is very democratic,” Jose Agustin Garcia of Mexico’s Center for Atmosphere Science says. “The same air goes into rich and poor neighborhoods alike.”

Of course, scumbags like the Koch Bros and their Mexican equivalents can afford to live anywhere. They can manage their polluted empires from a resort or their favorite palacio in another country altogether.

People are one of the cheapest component of their corporate profits.

Europe’s biggest energy companies say ditch coal, tax carbon


America’s corporate view of prosperity

The bosses of Europe’s six largest energy companies, including BP and Shell, have said gas should play a vital role in plans to tackle global warming, in a rare public intervention aimed at influencing UN talks.

In a letter to the Financial Times, the energy companies also called for “widespread and effective” carbon pricing to be part of the solution that emerges from crucial climate talks in Paris taking place at the end of the year.

The letter is signed by Ben van Beurden, the chief executive of Shell, Bob Dudley, the chief executive of BP, as well as their counterparts at BG Group, Eni, Statoil and Total…

Noticeable by their absence are any US firms. ExxonMobil and Chevron, the US’s two largest oil companies, last week ruled out joining any corporate alliance on climate.

The letter from the European energy companies is an unusual departure for the big energy firms, which usually prefer to work behind closed doors. The six energy bosses said they have written to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the body that convenes the international talks between 196 nations.

No, they’re not adding solar panels to their corporate palaces, they’re not stacking wind turbines atop their gas drilling rigs. But, by the same token, they face an organized environmental movement on their home turf that actually has meaningful Green Parties that contest elections at every level. They force incumbent parties to rethink subservience to out-of-date politics and policies.

Until we build independent political action in the United States, creeps like ExxonMobil and Chevron will remain in charge. Their pimps in government will continue to do their bidding.

Yes — another Antarctic ice mass is becoming destabilized


Click to enlarge — Hope Bay glacier now shedding ice

The troubling news continues this week for the Antarctic peninsula region, which juts out from the icy continent.

Last week, scientists documented threats to the Larsen C and the remainder of the Larsen B ice shelf (most of which collapsed in 2002). The remnant of Larsen B, NASA researchers said, may not last past 2020. And as for Larsen C, the Scotland-sized ice shelf could also be at potentially “imminent risk” due to a rift across its mass that is growing in size…

And the staccato of May melt news isn’t over, it seems…Researchers from the University of Bristol in Britain, along with researchers from Germany, France and the Netherlands, reported on the retreat of a suite of glaciers farther south from Larsen B and C along the Bellingshausen Sea, in a region known as the Southern Antarctic Peninsula…

Using satellite based and gravity measurements, the research team found that “a major portion of the region has, since 2009, destabilized” and accounts for “a major fraction of Antarctica’s contribution to rising sea level.”

The likely cause of the change, they say, is warmer waters reaching the base of mostly submerged ice shelves that hold back larger glaciers — melting them from below.

This has been a common theme in Antarctica recently — a similar mechanism has been postulated for melting of ice shelves in nearby West Antarctica (which contains vastly more ice, and more potential sea level rise, than does the Antarctic peninsula)…

Indeed, the paper suggests these southern Antarctic peninsula glaciers may have only begun their retreat. The glaciers may now be unstable, says the paper, because some of their ice shelves currently rest on bedrock that is not only below sea level, but slopes further downhill as one moves inland…

The greater Antarctic worry remains the ice shelves and glaciers in other regions, West Antarctica and East Antarctica, whose potential contribution to sea level rise is measured in feet or meters, not centimeters or inches. Still, the broad picture is that we’re now seeing consistent — and worrying — changes in many different regions on the fringes of the vast frozen continent.

The know-nothings carry on consistently. They seek out a lone skeptic, legitimate or otherwise, whose writings match their unwillingness to accept responsibility. It doesn’t really matter what the event may be, the process inexorably trudging towards future ills and dim loss. Whether a futile war, corrupt economic policies, destruction of our planetary environment – papier mache politicians accept neither responsibility nor the charge to lead the way from disaster.

Anti-science is only part of their anti-reality. Passing the buck to the next generation’s taxpayers is perfectly acceptable to creeps who define wars as unfunded mandates.