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The climate-inspired detente on the Colorado

For the first time in history, low water levels on the Colorado River have forced Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico to cut back the amount of water they use. It’s the latest example of climate change affecting daily life, but also an encouraging sign that people can handle a world with less: These orderly cutbacks are only happening because seven U.S. states and Mexico had agreed to abide by conservation rules when flows subside, rather than fight for the last drops.

“It is a new era of limits,” said Kevin Moran, who directs the Environmental Defense Fund’s Colorado River efforts.

The Colorado River is a vital source of water for the American West, sustaining some 40 million people and 5.5 million acres of farmland. And it’s been under enormous stress. Since 2000, the watershed has been, to put it mildly, dry. The region is suffering the worst 20-year drought in modern times.

A Bureau of Reclamation study of Colorado River levels, released Thursday, triggered the cutbacks. The Rocky Mountains finally turned white with heavy snow last winter, but despite a galloping spring runoff, drought persists and bathtub-ringed reservoirs in the Grand Canyon are low. In its study, the Bureau highlighted the unique circumstances: “This 20-year period is also one of the driest in the 1,200-year paleo record.”

Rising temperatures brought on by rising carbon emissions are partly to blame. “Approximately one‐third of the [Colorado River] flow loss is due to high temperatures now common in the basin, a result of human caused climate change,” wrote scientists Brad Udall and Jonathan Overpeck in a study published in 2017 that anticipated water will only become scarcer in the future.

But these water-use reductions are also an example of people binding themselves to rules to deal with scarce resources, rather than going to court, or war. The cutbacks come from an agreement hammered out by the Southwestern states and Mexico to impose limits on themselves.

“It’s not necessarily well known or talked about, but this collaboration between the states and Mexico is one of the most successful cross-border water management stories in the world,” Moran said.

Over the long course of history, the various parties have fought each other over water, but found that cooperation simply works better, Moran said. By working together, they’ve already managed to reduce the amount of water drawn for the last five years from the lower Colorado River Basin. In fact, they’ve cut back more in each of those years more than required by their agreement in 2020, said John Fleck, the director of the University of New Mexico Water Resources Program, who wrote the book Water is for Fighting Over, on the history of conflicts over the Colorado River.

“It puts the lie to the idea that water use is just going up and up and up: It’s been on a downward trend for a decade and a half at a time when population is increasing and agriculture is as productive as ever,” Fleck said. “We’re beyond the Malthusian math that suggests we’re going to run out of water and die.”

The region will need to go further to keep up with climate change and refill reservoirs, Fleck said. But the progress so far leaves him hopeful that people can resolve conflicts over scarce resources in this new era of limits.

“The key, I think, is for the water users to realize that you can have healthy, successful communities with declining water,” Fleck said. That opens up the space for collaboration, and allow them to get beyond the old myth that water is for fighting over.”

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The climate-inspired detente on the Colorado

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Rescuing Riley, Saving Myself – Zachary Anderegg & Pete Nelson


Rescuing Riley, Saving Myself

A Man and His Dog’s Struggle to Find Salvation

Zachary Anderegg & Pete Nelson

Genre: Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: November 1, 2013

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Seller: OpenRoad Integrated Media, LLC

Two broken souls forge a healing bond in this “extraordinary story not only of love, but of strength, perseverance, and above all, courage” (Kay Pfaltz, author of Flash’s Song: How One Small Dog Turned Into One Big Miracle ).   While hiking on a solo vacation in a remote region of Arizona, Zachary Anderegg happened upon Riley, an emaciated puppy clinging to life, at the bottom of a 350-foot canyon. In a daring act of humanity, Zak single-handedly orchestrated a delicate rescue.    But Zak and Riley’s destinies were intertwined long before they improbably found each other. For much of Zak’s childhood, he was at the bottom of his own canyon—a dark canyon created by a painful childhood of relentless bullies and parents who weren’t capable of love.   When Zak came upon Riley, the puppy’s condition told a story of horrible abuse—three shotgun pellets embedded beneath his skin, teeth turned permanently black from malnutrition. The meeting was one of a man and a dog singularly suited to save each other.   Rescuing Riley, Saving Myself  is a touching story of overcoming fear, pain, and the regrets of the past with the help of a much-needed friend, in which “Anderegg served as an angel to Riley and, in turn, Riley did what dogs do best . . . Help us to heal” (Big Dogs Huge Paws, Inc.).  

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Rescuing Riley, Saving Myself – Zachary Anderegg & Pete Nelson

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Former oil lobbyist David Bernhardt confirmed as Interior secretary. Yay?

The Senate confirmed David Bernhardt, a former oil lobbyist, as Interior secretary on Thursday afternoon in a 56-41 vote. Three Democrats — West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, New Mexico’s Martin Heinrich, and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema — crossed party lines to vote in Bernhardt’s favor, along with Angus King, an Independent from Maine.

“I believe Mr. Bernhardt is clearly qualified to serve as secretary,” Manchin, the top Democrat of the Senate committee that oversees the Interior, said during a floor speech. “He knows the Interior Department inside and out and he is well versed on all the issues that come before it.”

The reason Bernhardt knows the department so well? He’s been serving as acting Interior secretary since January when Ryan Zinke, the department’s former head, resigned amid ethics investigations.

Bernhardt’s work as a longtime lobbyist for the oil and gas industry has led to concerns about conflicts of interest. To keep track of all of his recusals for former clients, he carries with him a card listing all of their names, the Washington Post reports. The Interior is entrusted with some 700 million acres of public lands and 1.7 billion acres off the country’s shores, and as the head of the department, there is a high chance that Bernhardt will oversee businesses he once lobbied for.

While Republicans rejoiced the moment, Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, was outraged. “Donald Trump campaigns on cleaning up the swamp and he does exactly the opposite when in office. An oil and gas lobbyist as head of the Department of Interior? My God,” Schumer said during floor remarks on Wednesday. “That’s an example of the swampiness of Washington if there ever was one.”

Speaking of swamps, environmental activists are not having it. Remember the viral video of the “swamp creature” seated behind Bernhardt during one of his confirmation hearings? That was Greenpeace activist Irene Kim, who put on the mask in protest as Bernhardt fielded questions from senators about his previous lobbying.

“David Bernhardt’s ties to Big Oil — the very industry he is tasked w/ regulating — are as deep as an oil well,” Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts and cosponsor of the Green New Deal, wrote in a tweet. “Those ties should be disqualifying for anyone nominated to head the Interior. We must stop the pollution of our democracy by Big Oil interests.”

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Former oil lobbyist David Bernhardt confirmed as Interior secretary. Yay?

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Trump’s ‘Budget for a better America’ means worse climate change

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It’s budget day, and, well, oy vey. President Trump unveiled his “Budget for a Better America” Monday — and it’s giving everyone a serious case of déjà vu.

To the surprise of no one, Trump’s proposed budget would take an ax to many domestic programs — $650 million in programs and activities compared to current funding levels — including several environmental and energy-related activities. The total cost of programs that would be slashed is in the billions, but much of it is countered by a major boost to national security spending.

After Congress told Trump he couldn’t have for $5.7 billion to build his wall, he’s gone and asked for $8.6 billion for a barricade on the U.S.-Mexico border. (The art of the deal, folks!)

Here’s just some of what’s outlined in Trump’s proposal:

A 31 percent reduction in spending at the Environmental Protection Agency. Slashing the agency’s budget keeps his promises on the campaign trail to cut back on enforcement actions that hurt the bottom line of the fossil fuel industry.
The Department of Energy would see an 11 percent decrease from current funding, to $31.7 billion. That smaller budget would mean cuts to the DOE’s well-known innovation arm, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E, which is instrumental in developing world-class energy technology needed to help curb climate change.
The Interior Department — now under the helm of newly-minted director (and oil lobbyist) David Bernhardt — would see a 14 percent cut, to $12.5 billion.
A repeal of the tax credit for electric vehicles
Selling off the Washington Aqueduct, which provides water to the metro D.C. area.
Privatizing federally owned transmission lines

On the plus side, lawmakers have declined to enact most of Trump’s previous funding requests. Now that Democrats are in the majority in the House, it’s even more likely this budget is going nowhere.

“This budget is the Republican approach to governing in a nutshell: Cut taxes for the super-rich and then, when it’s time to fund national priorities, lecture us about tightening our belts,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona, in a statement. “If you think environment conservation is an unaffordable luxury, you’ll love this plan. This isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, it’s dead on arrival in Congress, and printing it was a waste of time.”


Trump’s ‘Budget for a better America’ means worse climate change

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Republican Representative Paul Gosar suggests that photosynthesis discredits climate change

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Representative Paul Gosar had a packed schedule on Wednesday. First, the Republican from Arizona called Michael Cohen a “liar, liar pants on fire,” at Cohen’s Congressional hearing, then chaired a forum full of climate deniers talking about the Green New Deal, and later suggested that photosynthesis discredits global warming at a press conference.

Gosar isn’t the only one going nuts. The progressive fervor over the Green New Deal has flipped some kind of switch for some climate-denying members of the House. Not in a “wow, maybe we should do something about climate change” kind of way, more like “let’s double down on ignoring evidence!”

That’s right, folks, the looming threat of actual climate action has caused a meltdown the likes of which we haven’t seen since former Senator Jim Inhofe brandished a snowball on the Senate floor as proof that global warming isn’t real.

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The Western Caucus, a conservative group, hosted a press conference on the Capitol steps to take a stand against the Green New Deal. Gosar took a question from a young man in the crowd.

“My generation is the one that’s going to deal with this catastrophe that’s impending. What is it that you are doing to prevent carbon dioxide emissions?” he asked the Arizona Republican.

“Unfortunately you haven’t been taught about photosynthesis,” Gosar replied. “Photosynthesis is where plants take carbon dioxide to produce oxygen. That’s a problem in today’s world. We haven’t taught kids exactly what’s going on in America and in science.”

The problem, of course, is that we’re putting more CO2 into the atmosphere than plants can handle.

At that same event, Representative Rob Bishop from Utah unwrapped and consumed a hamburger in protest of the progressive plan to slash CO2 and methane emissions. Apparently, he thinks the sponsors of the Green New Deal are plotting to ban cows.

“Before they take it away from me,” Bishop said, before biting into his burger. Relax, Rob, your hamburgers are safe … for now.

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Republican Representative Paul Gosar suggests that photosynthesis discredits climate change

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For a warming world, a new strategy for protecting watersheds

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This story was originally published by Yale Environment 360 and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Long before an aspen tree fell on a power line in New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains in June 2011, triggering the biggest wildfire in the state’s history, fire managers knew that New Mexico’s forests were vulnerable. Climate change-induced drought and higher temperatures had dried out the trees and soil. And after more than a century of fire suppression, areas that supported 40 trees per acre in the pre-European era now were blanketed with up to a hundred times as many. This profusion of trees — as many as one per square yard — weakened all of them, and rendered them defenseless against megafires.

Even so, the fire managers weren’t prepared for the astonishing power of the 2011 conflagration, known as the Las Conchas Fire. During its first 14 hours, it sent walls of flame hundreds of feet high as it consumed nearly an acre of forest per second and threatened the city of Los Alamos. By the time it was extinguished five weeks later, it had burned an area nearly three times as big as the state’s largest fire before it, and left behind nearly 100 square miles so severely burned that even seeds to regenerate the forest were destroyed.

But the fire’s full impact didn’t register until nearly two months later, when a thunderstorm in the Jemez Mountains washed tons of ash and debris into the Rio Grande River, the water source for half of New Mexico’s population and for a major agricultural area. Only an inch of rain fell, but the debris flows the storm generated turned the river black and dumped ash, sediment, and tree and shrub remnants into a major reservoir⁠, requiring a costly cleanup.

To ward off damage to equipment, water treatment plants in Albuquerque and Santa Fe closed for 40 days and 20 days respectively while they drew down precious stores of groundwater. Farmers found that the polluted water clogged the nozzles of their drip irrigation systems, rendering them useless. Even worse, the most severely burned portions of the watershed continued discharging debris and sediment into water channels long afterward; a heavy rainstorm two years later generated enough sediment to entirely plug the Rio Grande.

Ash blankets the forest floor immediately following the Las Conchas fire in 2011.

What has unfolded in New Mexico is far from unique. In the last two decades, megafires in similarly dry and overgrown watersheds have ended up contaminating downstream water supplies in numerous areas throughout the western United States, including Phoenix; Denver; Flagstaff, Arizona; and Fort Collins, Colorado. Downstream water managers serving millions of urban residents have learned that the security of their water supplies is tied to the health of upland watersheds that may be hundreds of miles away.

“There’s been a real change in consciousness among urban water providers and water utilities,” said Gregg Garfin, director of the University of Arizona’s Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center. “They’ve come to realize that management of watersheds and fire ecology issues is just as important as the direct impacts of drought on water availability.”

This development is part of a broader nationwide shift in forest management over the last generation, as degraded forests in watersheds and the resulting rise of megafires and pest infestation have helped generate a shift away from focusing on forests chiefly as sources of commercial timber and instead toward “ecosystem-based management,” in which forests’ natural processes are reinforced to reap benefits like clean water. Indeed, in some areas forest restoration has been shown to increase the amount of water flowing into reservoirs. The shift toward ecosystem management has occurred even in such regions as the U.S. Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, where wildfires are uncommon, but where other watershed menaces, including development and toxic agricultural runoff, have led to contamination of downstream water bodies such as the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, and the Hudson River.

In the western U.S., watershed restoration chiefly consists of two steps: thinning of trees and shrubs, and prescribed burns. In the eastern U.S., it involves a bigger set of tools, including planting native trees, reducing the area of impervious surfaces, and slowing the speed of stormwater so that more water percolates into soil and aquifers. All these measures are designed to improve water quality.

Both the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Forest Service have supported the shift, providing programs and funding for watershed restoration in much of the nation. But forest restoration is expensive: It costs anywhere from $600 ⁠to $1,500 per acre, depending on the degree of steepness of the terrain (sometimes helicopters are required to remove logs in mountainous areas) and the harvested logs’ commercial value (usually low to zero). Budget constraints exacerbated by the soaring cost of fighting rapidly proliferating wildfires have meant that government agencies can fund restoration of only a tiny fraction of the nation’s roughly 150 million acres of forest that need it. The result is that while numerous pilot projects have shown the efficacy of restoration, agencies rarely have enough money to treat entire watersheds.

Today, 108,000 acres of burned forest in central and northern New Mexico have been restored through strategic thinning and prescribed burns.

Faced with this dilemma after the Las Conchas fire, residents in the Rio Grande watershed pioneered a path forward. Guided by The Nature Conservancy, the most active U.S. environmental organization in watershed restoration, in 2014 they launched a public-private partnership, the Rio Grande Water Fund, whose 73 contributing members⁠ include government agencies at all levels, foundations and other NGOs, local water utilities, and local businesses and residents. Together they raised enough money for a 20-year program to restore 600,000 forest acres — enough to support the resilience of the entire central and northern New Mexico portion of the Rio Grande watershed. They have already restored 108,000 acres, and are racing to complete the job before another megafire occurs.

The Rio Grande Water Fund’s public-private partnership model has become official federal policy. Last August, the U.S. Forest Service published a landmark report called “Toward Shared Stewardship Across Landscapes” that outlined the agency’s intention to convene watershed stakeholders of all kinds to plan and fund watershed restoration. “Because fire crosses back and forth across land ownership boundaries, the risk is shared,” the report said. “Accordingly, land managers cannot achieve the fire-related outcomes people want … without shared stewardship of the wildland fire environment.”

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The benefits of watershed restoration extend far beyond water security. Most obviously, healthy forests deter megafires. Laura McCarthy, the Rio Grande Water Fund’s executive director, says that in three instances since restoration work began in New Mexico, wildfires that ran up against restored zones immediately died down. Healthy forests can tolerate low-intensity fires: They possess diverse understories of grasses, sedges, and forbs, and rich, microbe-laden soil, all of which supports wildlife, from insects to mammals. Watershed restoration can double the amount of carbon stored in the soil, which means that it’s a vital tool in fighting climate change. And watershed restoration creates jobs: In the case of the Rio Grande Water Fund, many of those jobs go to youths in traditional Hispanic and Native American communities where unemployment rates are 30 percent or higher.

In some regions, forest restoration even increases water supplies. Roger Bales, a hydrologist at the University of California, Merced, has shown that because watershed restoration requires the removal of vast numbers of young trees, loss of water into the atmosphere through evapotranspiration in those trees is eliminated. The water instead flows downward, into the soil, often on its way to the watershed’s rivers and reservoirs. Bales’ experiments in California’s Sierra Nevada show that restoration can increase water supplies in downstream reservoirs by 9 to 16 percent. That makes restoration a more cost effective (and vastly less destructive) water supply method in California than building dams. Restoration is also cheaper than fighting the megafires that are otherwise inevitable in the overgrown forests: Last year’s Camp Fire in Northern California alone caused $11 billion to $13 billion in damage.

Thinning of trees and shrubs is a labor-intensive (and, therefore, job-creating) process that may result in the removal of half or more of a degraded forest’s biomass in an effort to return the area to something like its pre-European ratio of trees to acreage. But unless it is followed by prescribed burns, undesirable trees and shrubs grow back. In that case, said Don Falk, a leading fire researcher at the University of Arizona, “You’re either committed to a perpetual Sisyphean cycle of thinning,” every 10 or 15 years, “or you’ve got to let fire back into the system.” Fire is an integral part of the functioning of many ecosystems: Blazes of less-than-megafire scale germinate seeds, keep native species in balance while warding off invasive species, and stimulate microbial activity that produces soil nutrients.

Prescribed burns are designed to do the job that naturally ignited fires once did, but they face certain obstacles. The seasonal window of opportunity for controlled burns is limited to a few months of the year, and conditions must be just right: high humidity, dry but not desiccated fuels, and some wind to disperse smoke high into the atmosphere, but not enough to risk losing control of the fire.

Laura McCarthy of the Rio Grande Water Fund points to a hillside near a Santa Fe, New Mexico reservoir where forest density has been reduced to fire-safe levels.

And even if conditions are perfect, firefighters trained in prescribed burn techniques may not be available. That’s because the lengthening of the fire season due to climate change has forced firefighters to spend more time away from home, trying to extinguish megafires throughout the West. To solve this problem, the Rio Grande Water Fund created a mobile team of prescribed-burn professionals who stay in the Rio Grande watershed.

When an unplanned fire occurs, fire managers must decide quickly whether an outbreak is modestly sized and unthreatening, in which case it should be allowed to burn as part of the desired reintroduction of fire into the watershed, or whether it’s a budding megafire, which must quickly be suppressed. A fire manager who lets a fire burn can face lawsuits or job loss if it goes out of control; for this reason, managers typically err on the side of fire suppression, sometimes setting back the cause of restoration.

As climate change intensifies, degraded watersheds will become more and more vulnerable to megafires, likely setting in motion a disastrous positive feedback loop: Megafires substantially increase greenhouse gas emissions, which heat the atmosphere and spawn more megafires. For this reason alone, watershed restoration is as urgent as any other kind of climate change remediation. Falk, the University of Arizona fire researcher, estimates that to have a chance of breaking this cycle, the area of watershed being restored in the U.S. must quickly increase by at least 10 times.

“Just as it’s imperative for us to begin addressing the underlying drivers of climate change at a much higher pace than we’ve been doing until now, in the same way we have to accelerate the work of restoring ecosystems,” he said. “These aren’t decisions we can sit around and ponder in an armchair for decades. We have to start acting now.”

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For a warming world, a new strategy for protecting watersheds

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Keeping The Bees – Laurence Packer


Keeping The Bees

Why All Bees Are at Risk and What We Can Do to Save Them

Laurence Packer

Genre: Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: September 21, 2010

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers


A world without bees would be much less colourful, with fewer plants and flowers. But that's not all — food would be in much shorter supply, and available in much less variety. While the media focuses on colony-collapse disorder and the threats to honey bees specifically, the real danger is much greater: all bees are at risk. And because of the integral role these insects play in the ecology of our planet, we may be at risk as well. The life of Laurence Packer, a melittologist at Toronto's York University, revolves around bees, whether he's searching for them under leaves in a South American jungle or identifying new species in the desert heat of Arizona. Packer often finds himself in exotic and even dangerous locales, risking snake bites, sunstroke, and even the ire of other scientists. Everywhere he travels, he discovers the same unsettling trend: bees are disappearing. And since bees are responsible for up to one-third of our food supply, the consequences are frightening.

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Keeping The Bees – Laurence Packer

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The science of self-care: How climate researchers are coping with the U.N. report

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The phrase “point of no return” may sound hyperbolic. But one month after the IPCC’s blockbuster report awakened the world to the urgency of climate change, the mood among top climate scientists has become increasingly restless.

I spoke with more than a dozen scientists about how their lives have changed since the release of the report in October. That report, assembled with input from thousands of scientists and signed off by representatives of every nation on Earth, reached a stark conclusion: We have to cut emissions in half by 2030 or risk a Mad Max-esque planet.

Their responses reflect the same internal tensions many of us have felt: relief that the true stakes of climate change are finally out there, grief and fear over our lack of action, impatience with leaders who continue to shirk their responsibilities, and excitement to get to work on a problem that affects us all.

Take Georgia Tech’s Kim Cobb, a climate scientist who studies corals near small island states. The IPCC report found that without a radical shift, those nations could disappear beneath the waves in our lifetimes. Cobb sees the findings putting into stark terms how much we need to step up: “Isn’t it so wonderful that science isn’t giving us a pass?”

Earlier this year, she pledged to sharply reduce her air travel. Cobb bikes to work in all kinds of weather, and recently trekked to Atlanta City Hall to advocate for bike and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure. Before the midterm elections, she spent a weekend campaigning for environmentally friendly politicians. Cobb is a testament to what she calls an “all-of-the-above” approach to bring about radical change.

Climate scientists like Cobb live in a world that’s still caught between where we are and where we need to be. Watching how they’re responding to the IPCC report is a good barometer for how thinking, feeling people with full knowledge of our society’s existential problem are coping with being alive at a moment when we’ve got 12 years to remake everything.

Ryan Jacobson

The scientists I talked to are doing more biking, meditating, wine drinking, and worrying about their children’s futures. They’ve tuned out the news, they’ve tweeted, and they’ve campaigned. They’ve purchased electric cars and talked from the heart about the stakes our civilization finds itself in. In short, they’re handling this new reality a lot like the rest of us.

Here are some of the (lightly edited and condensed) email responses I got:

Diana Liverman, University of Arizona (and a co-author of the IPCC report)

I’m still in full IPCC outreach mode, giving talks locally and in Europe as well. Things won’t wind down until Thanksgiving. I am refining my message and getting better at talking about the report and making its findings relevant for where I live.

Teaching my large undergrad class (160 students) is helpful at keeping things positive as they seem engaged and interested. I feel the need to give them hope.

Kate Marvel, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

I don’t think we should give in to despair. There’s no scientific support for the notion that we’re inevitably doomed and should just give up. There’s a lot of bad news, but look at the good news, too: new congresspeople who take climate change seriously, a very engaged and well-informed youth, new ways to talk about climate that link it to other issues people care deeply about.

I’m not saying this to minimize the terrifying reality. I miss California like I miss a person, and it’s devastating to see my beloved home burning.

Andrea Dutton, University of Florida

It is easier to ignore the problem than to take on the emotional burden of accepting something that seems quite scary at times.

The fundamental message has remained the same. The reason why it sounded so much more urgent this time is three-fold: (1) We are now several years further along, and each year makes a significant difference in calculating how much we would need to decrease our emissions to reach any target; (2) the 1.5 C target is lower than 2 C, so obviously trying to reach it means even more rapid and deep cuts to our emissions; and (3) the backwards progress on policies to address this in the U.S. makes the outlook even worse now.

So, what has changed for me? If anything I am working even more frantically than before. I devote even more time to public engagement on this issue.

I hope that we (meaning both scientists and journalists) can encourage others not to get stuck in despair, but to use their concern over climate change as fuel to take us to the next step on this journey to adapt, mitigate, and create a more sustainable and resilient society.

Kerry Emanuel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

When things started going downhill a few years ago, I started planning for a temporary escape from the U.S. and am now happily in Paris for the fall. One cannot, of course, escape from all the bad news so easily, and it is hard to develop a positive outlook when almost nothing is actually happening to combat all the problems we face, including especially climate change.

Devaraju Narayanappa, Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin (France)

I certainly think the report is shouting out loud across the Earth; more and more people are getting alerted. I hope the transformations, discussed in the IPCC report, might at least start to happen in some part of the world. Personally I’m trying my best to be eco-friendly and balancing the time for research, exercise, and for the family and friends.

Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, University of New South Wales (Australia)

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The stakes are very different for me. I’m expecting my second daughter in three short months and the latest report is sobering about the future my children will have. I find myself constantly thinking about what the planet will look like in 50 or 100 years’ time when we haven’t curbed our emissions, at least enough to limit global warming to 1.5-2 C. And I don’t like what I see. However, I cannot (and will not) give up hope that changes will be made, at least in my lifetime, and if not that of my children. I’d be drinking (more) wine too if I could, but that’s not advised at 28 weeks pregnant 😉

Jeremy Shakun, Boston College

Everything climate is a long-term story, so I tend/try not to get too worked up/down by any particular moment. I increasingly think the public isn’t going to push for much action, at least on the scale needed, until they see a bunch more climate disruption/impacts. It’s just too theoretical otherwise and can’t compete with other issues.

I haven’t had much hope for 1.5 or 2 C for a while. I tend to think of this in 3 vs 6 C terms. So, bad news in some ways is good news, as it perhaps helps move public perception forward and increase chances of less than 3 C. I’ve been struck by how many people in my everyday life have been commenting this year on how bizarre the weather is. They don’t necessarily connect it to climate change yet, but I think it’s an important step.

Adam Sobel, Columbia University

At this point, I am most terrified by the failure of the United States’ system of democratic government. Of course that is not an entirely separate issue from global warming and the various other environmental catastrophes.

Since the 2016 election, I have had to limit my intake of news to a lower level than before.

Deke Arndt, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information

I’m trying to talk with as many people as I can about climate. The solutions lay in the people who haven’t yet acted.

Abigail Swann, University of Washington

The Brazilian election has left a much more unexpected pit in my stomach because it wasn’t really on my radar until this fall. I’d also add to your list of difficult-to-stomach news the ongoing revelations about various academic and STEM #MeToo incidents, and some extremely disappointing responses to them.

The everyday of being a professor is hard, but also involves a lot of busy tasks with deadlines this time of year, so some of my coping is just to keep making sure that I don’t let other people down. I also have a toddler. The mundane sometimes feels like a respite, but with both students and family, it also feels really important, and therefore restorative (at least most of the time when dinner doesn’t get thrown all over the room).

Maskot / Getty Images

Valerie Trouet, University of Arizona

I admit that in the context of what we know, at times I find it hard to keep motivated to do my job. I focus more and more on aspects that seem more achievable and that I feel have a bigger chance of getting solved, such as diversity and equality in STEM fields and in academia.

I make more time to meditate, and make sure that I exercise and spend time with the people that I love. I also find that trying to find ways to further reduce my footprint, even in little ways, helps to give me a feeling of being in control.

Sara Vicca, University of Antwerp (Belgium)

Moments like these, when we are strongly reminded that a turbulent future may be ahead of us, do upset me and make me angry. When I put my kids in bed at night, I often catch myself thinking: “Oh dear, what will their life be like when they are adults?” (They are 6 and 9 now.)

On the other hand, news like this also stimulates me to contribute (more) to the solutions where I can. I think it’s really important not to lose hope and to keep on doing all we can to move to a sustainable future in a still friendly climate.

Mark Eakin, NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch

The years 2014-2017 have all been among the warmest years on record, and along with the high temperatures came the longest, most widespread global coral bleaching event on record. At NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch, we’re right at the center of these events and received frequent reports from scientists and resource managers all over the world who reported coral bleaching as it was happening. There were many days I’d just walk away from the computer and look out the window when an especially devastating report of reef damage came in. I think it led to more self-medication as the bad news would literally drive me to drink (fortunately, not too much).

Terry Hughes, James Cook University (Australia)

The IPCC report singled out coral reefs as a vulnerable ecosystem. My worst fear is the growing likelihood of another extreme summer in Australia early next year that could damage the Reef again. Yet, Australian governments still promote the expansion of coal and gas. My personal response – publish our data as quickly as we can, to inform the voting public.

Eric Rignot, University of California-Irvine

Sea-level rise and flooding is one thing, people get wet, immigrate, and create huge problems. Loss of biodiversity means the human species as a whole is threatened to disappear. No joke. This is not discussed enough in the media. My uttermost concern goes to biodiversity more than ice sheets.

Now a lot of countries are pointing the finger at the U.S. but we are doing more in California than in any other country that signed the Paris agreement. I see an increasing concern from the public to do the right thing, so I am more hopeful now than 10 years ago when only visionary people cared and the rest did not.

skynesher / Getty Images

Richard Alley, Pennsylvania State University

Next week, if the rains hold off, I should hit 2,500 miles for the year on my bicycle. A lot of those miles have been down the Spring Creek Canyon, watching the eagles and osprey and mink as the seasons turn, enjoying the beauty that still surrounds us.

In my public presentations, I now generally start with cellphones. Many of our fellow citizens do accuse scientists of not knowing what we’re doing. But, they do so by using cellphones, which are just a little sand, a little oil, and the right rocks, plus science and engineering, design and marketing. The cellphones rely on relativity and quantum mechanics. I think most of our fellow citizens really do know that they couldn’t build a cellphone from the sand, oil, and rocks, and that scientists really do have useful insights, including discovering medicines and medical procedures and devices that save lives and ease suffering. And that knowledge really does mean that there are ways back to using our knowledge more broadly to help us.

If we use our knowledge on energy and environment more efficiently, we will get a larger economy with more jobs, improved health, and greater national security in a cleaner environment more consistent with the Golden Rule.

Not a bad goal, is it?

Excerpt from: 

The science of self-care: How climate researchers are coping with the U.N. report

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If Jeff Flake has taken up your cause, your cause is in danger

This weekend, someone — specifically, George Stephanopoulos — saw fit to ask Arizona Senator Jeff Flake what he thought of the Republican party’s position on climate change. Senator Flake, an active member of the party controlling our nation’s legislative branch (as well as its executive and judicial branches), said that he thinks the government should do more to combat warming.

You can always count on Flake to say something vaguely ethical and then do whatever will most directly undermine it. Most recently, you may remember him for giving an impassioned soundbite in support of Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of assault, … and then immediately voting to confirm Kavanaugh to the court. You may also recall him speaking out against the Republican tax reform effort last December … and then immediately voting to make it law.

Conflict-resolution theory, according to Kim Kardashian West’s makeup artist, dictates that when you are disappointed in someone’s behavior, you should mention some of their good qualities so that it’s clear you are viewing them in a balanced way. Here we go: Jeff Flake has very nice teeth. On Sunday, Flake showed off his excellent chompers while giving the following vacuous reaction to the recent, upsetting U.N. climate change report to Stephanopoulos on ABC’s The Week:

“There’s been more recognition [of the need for climate action] among Republicans, but the administration hasn’t taken the view of some of us that this is something we really need to deal with along with the rest of the world and address this. It’s going to be challenging — obviously, that report that came out was pretty dire. But I think there’s things we can do and should do, and Republicans need to be at the forefront if we want to keep our place and keep our seats.”

It is true that Republican officials have not been particularly proactive on the matter of climate change, to say the least. Just this weekend, in the aftermath of the “dire” IPCC report, President Trump’s economic advisor Larry Kudlow stopped just short of calling the assessment a “scare tactic.” And Flake’s colleague Marco Rubio, who represents Florida, where Hurricane Michael made its devastating landfall this past week, said he did not want to “destroy our economy” to combat climate change.

As a U.S. senator in a majority party, Jeff Flake is one of the one hundredth of one percent of humans in the world who can have a real, direct, tangible influence on slowing climate change. While he’s not seeking re-election this year, here is what he’s done with that position of power: He voted to confirm Rex Tillerson, Rick Perry, and Ryan Zinke to Trump’s cabinet. He voted against restricting methane pollution, incentivizing energy-efficient homes through the mortgage market, and banning fossil fuel drilling in the Arctic Refuge. He has a 8 percent pro-environmental voting record, according to the League of Conservation Voters.

Now that he’s made public comments about the need to take on climate change, I look forward to Jeff Flake’s upcoming vote to build more coal plants on top of whales.

Taken from:

If Jeff Flake has taken up your cause, your cause is in danger

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The Koch brothers hate public transit. But they can’t always stop projects in their tracks.

The infamous Koch brothers have bankrolled climate deniers, propped up polluting industries, and even tried to turn the black community pro-fossil fuel. But, as a recent New York Times story shows, the billionaire conservatives have been steadily exerting pressure against public transit as well.

Americans for Prosperity, a conservative lobbying group funded by the Koch family, has rallied against public transit works across the country. With a mix of political ads and door-to-door campaigning, the organization managed to get a transit tax increase shot down in Little Rock in 2016. Koch-linked groups have successfully watered down legislation in Indianapolis and blocked efforts in Florida.

This spring, the organization financed conservative activists in Nashville, Tennessee, to oppose a mass transit referendum. The plan would have increased the city’s sales tax in order to fund a light rail system, eight new bus lines, and 19 transit centers in the city. The anti-transit campaigners knocked on 6,000 doors and made 42,000 phone calls, all while repeating the anti-tax party line. The referendum, once a sure bet, failed, with almost 64 percent of voters rejecting it. Public transit experts were disappointed, but unsurprised.

Yonah Freemark, a transport researcher and doctoral student at MIT, says that the Koch effort has been around for years. “They have been focusing on regions without a strong transit constituency [or] historical support for transit investment,” he says. That’s perhaps why Americans for Prosperity has not focused as much on Seattle, San Francisco, or Los Angeles — but has targeted relatively conservative cities.

While it might seem puzzling that any group would be stridently opposed to public transit, the Kochs have both financial and ideological reasons to reject transit spending. The New York Times cited their extensive financial interest in the automotive industry, combined with a libertarian and anti-tax ideology.

“It’s part of their overall agenda of conservatism, and part of an ideology tied up with cities and transit being bad, and suburbs as good,” says Jeff Wood, a transit consultant and blogger based in San Francisco.

Luckily for transit enthusiasts, the Kochs have not always been successful, even in sprawling cities with a sizable Republican base. Phoenix, Arizona, successfully expanded its light rail system in the face of opposition from the organization’s state branch.

And the Nashville plan had other, compounding factors. Mayor Megan Barry, who introduced the referendum in October 2017, became embroiled in a sex scandal with her head of security and eventually resigned in March. Her resignation further ignited the already bitter conflict between pro- and anti-transit activists.

So transportation experts are still hopeful that the Koch brothers will not derail many more projects. “Despite the fact that we have these people going out and running smear campaigns against public services, the large majority of such referenda have passed,” says Freemark. In 2016, large transit plans were passed in Atlanta, Seattle, Raleigh, and Los Angeles. “Americans are not universally buying into these tactics,” he concludes.

Wood is similarly optimistic, and believes that the Nashville failure can inform future efforts. “I think we are going to see other places learn from this,” he says. “I don’t think this ideology can win forever.”

Original link:

The Koch brothers hate public transit. But they can’t always stop projects in their tracks.

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