Let’s Make Climate Solutions CUTE :-)
So, what wackadoodle stuff happened last week? Let’s see . . .
> Well, I accidentally voted for a climate denier.
> A pretty dire climate report came out from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).
> And Donald Trump claimed he would be arrested, and called on his supporters to “protest.” (I assume he meant the ones who aren’t already in jail themselves.)
Which do you think got all the press?
Definitely not the first one, which is why I walked over to my town hall after the polls opened on Tuesday and cast a vote for three people running unopposed: The mayor, a Democrat who was running for re-election, and who I really like. A good friend of mine, a moderate running for re-election as a village trustee, and who has helped me with everything from burst pipes in the basement to getting to urgent care after a dog bit me. And a third guy who I’ve met once or twice, newly running for one of the other trustee positions. I knew he was a Republican, which is not my party, but in little villages like this, positions like village trustee aren’t particularly party-oriented.
I was back home about half an hour later when I got a text from a friend a few doors down:
Hi Deb! (I’ll paraphrase the rest of her text.) Vote for the first two candidates, even though they’re unopposed, but DON’T vote for the third guy, who’s an ultra-right-wing Trumper. Instead vote for the write-in candidate who’s been added to the ballot by some concerned villagers.
Wait, what write-in candidate?
My two neighbors across the street from me knew about this, in addition to another tidbit about the guy on the ballot: that he’s a climate denier and, according to the neighbor, anti-environment. I’m not sure what the latter means, but I was very upset that I’d voted for him. Especially given that really small numbers of people tend to show up for these hyper-local elections, which means that when they say every vote counts, it’s legit real here. So I forwarded the text to a handful of other friends in my village, and waited to hear the results.
# # #
Meanwhile, I checked out the new IPCC Climate Report released on Monday. I didn’t do very well reading the previous report, released in three parts over the last year, but since this one is a “Synthesis Report” (a summary of all three parts — i.e., shorter), I have more confidence in myself this time.
I actually started with the New York Times e-newsletter from that morning, whose opening story was a strong suggestion —practically a demand — that these reports (and the media who cover them) should include the temperatures in Fahrenheit in addition to Celsius, since no one in the U.S. gets how much hotter a few degrees Celsius really is. Because . . . well, why would we? I can barely figure out what I went all the way upstairs for. And Celsius-to-Fahrenheit math does not pop into my mind when I go back down to the kitchen, like my forgotten lip balm does.
Next I perused an article on the Times website, which, sadly, did NOT translate Celsius into Fahrenheit. I know it’s a big newspaper, but I guess the editor didn’t get the memo that morning?
And finally I opened the website for the Report itself, and clicked on “Press Release” to ease my way in. I like the opener . . .
Urgent climate action can secure a livable future for all.
INTERLAKEN, Switzerland, March 20, 2023 – There are multiple, feasible and effective options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to human-caused climate change, and they are available now, said scientists in the latest IPCC report released today . . .
Well, that sounds like pretty good news. Right?
I guess they wanted to suck us in with a positive message at the top, because the rest of the press release is kind of a horror show. Think language like “current plans are insufficient to tackle climate change” and “burning fossil fuels . . . has [already] led to global warming of 1.1°C” and “Every increment of warming results in rapidly escalating hazards” and . . . okay, I’ll stop.
(You can read the release yourself here if you dare.) (Actually, you should read the press release; it’s simply written and very informative.)
And I believe it was during the press conference that the U.N. Secretary-General (and Trekkie?) said this:
We must move into warp speed climate action now.—António Guterres
Humanity is on thin ice, baby. Pun intended. And the new report wasn’t even able to take into consideration Biden’s approval the week earlier of the “Willow” oil-drilling project in Alaska, which could produce up to 180,000 barrels of crude oil each day. EACH. DAY. It’s estimated that the project will add more than 250 million metric tons of CO2 to the atmosphere over the next 30 years.
“Willow.” That’s cute. And yeah, I still don’t know exactly what a metric ton of CO2 looks like, but I do know 250 million of anything is a LOT.
And the solutions to this teetering game of climate Jenga really are all about energy production. How we produce what it takes to run everything we need and want — from keeping our houses warm in the winter to fueling our cars for spring adventures; from making our big-screen TVs to our tiny, supposedly “recyclable” Keurig pods. (I myself refrain from the last two things, but DAMN, my heating oil bill is ridiculous. Had I known, I could have easily covered the cost of installing an energy-efficient heat pump system by now — even as a renter!)
And I’ll explain what’s up with those sneaky little Keurig pods in the Waste chapter of my book, which is coming along.
Later that day, I checked on our village election. No results yet. I did come across a video that takes viewers through the new Synthesis Report at a nice pace. Paul Beckwith is a “climate systems” guy in Canada. He’s not Wikipedia level, but he made easy work of reading the report, going quickly through each point it makes.
Here are a few entertaining comments from Beckwith on some of the language in the report; his comments are in italics:
On still trying to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius: “Yeah, good luck with THAT.”
[Note from the Editor (that’s me): Temps have already gone up 1.1°C (1.9°F) since the Industrial Revolution, and they ain’t goin’ down. At least not until the next Ice Age, which wasn’t scheduled for another 100,000 years, given the Earth’s slightly varying orbit, and now it’s running an additional 50,000 to 100,000 years late, due to our playing fast & loose with fossil fuels.]
[Oh, and did anyone else but me just get that the 1.5°C (2.7°F) limit we need to pull off is compared to temperatures in the 1800s?? I thought the baseline was now! That means we have less than half a degree Celsius to go until we start to lose some really awesome islands.]
On the “hopeful outcomes” in the report (pictured below left), Beckwith muttered: “These are already becoming fantasies at this point.”
On the fact that fossil fuels have very high energy density: “We based our whole society on it. The only thing that has higher energy density, and by far, is NUCLEAR. Perhaps if we went to nuclear power full bore—built nuclear power plants everywhere. Um . . . [brief pause for thoughts of Chernobyl?] Is it possible to replace our whole baseline with solar and wind? Although solar and wind are increasing, fossil fuels—coal, oil and natural gas—are increasing more and more.” (See the aforementioned Willow Project.)
Here’s a helpful hint Beckwith shared: A barrel of crude oil contains 1700 kW hours of energy. A human, doing manual labor, can generate a mere 0.6 kW hours in a given workday. So one barrel of oil is equivalent to 11 years of human labor. I don’t know if that’s based on a 40-hour work week, or if we’re talking feudal system here. I don’t think serfs got many coffee breaks. Also, I did not do the math myself, but I think we’ve got a LOT more renewables to create.
Nearing the end of the report: “You don’t need to go to a horror movie. You can just read this report.” (Pretty sure that’s a comparison I mentioned above.)
Wrapping it up: “There’s no one solution. All of these things can kind of work at the pie, but we’re just not doing it at the moment. Could we change? I dunno. It is what it is.”
IT IS WHAT IT IS?!?
I’m sleeeeepyyyyy . . . I just want to crawl into bed and check out the Zoe Lister-Jones movie from last year, How It Ends.
So . . . maybe we should colonize Mars after all?
A friend of mine out in Silicon Valley had a conversation recently with a tech bro, who told her that the “tech community” thinks the only way we’ll survive at this point is to find another planet. So that’s what he and his startup are working on. And word has it they’re not the only ones.
These Other-Earthers* kill me. As if it would be EASIER to travel 100+ million miles and turn a lifeless planet into something habitable than just STOPPING the burning of fossil fuels on THIS ONE. Knowing that the tech bros embrace this plan makes it clear to me that they’re also racist (or at least otherist) a-holes, because who else but the rich and privileged could get there?? It makes my blood boil.
*(My term; feel free to make up your own)
The Mars-like photo above is actually a rocky crater in Southern Israel, part of a study with six astronauts to simulate a month of living on the red planet. Why don’t we send the tech bros to live there? Regarding Mars itself, space scientists (a very technical term, obviously) have learned from our cute little Martian rover** that landed (courtesy of NASA) in the dry, wind-scoured patch of Martian rock known as the Jezero crater was once a lake fed by an ancient river. But ultimately the lake and river dried out, due to . . . ? Anyone . . . ? Climate change. So why do these tech dumballs think we should start building condos there, instead of preventing the same thing from happening here on Earth? Have at it, bros.
**(Our $2.7 billion rover, named Perseverance)
(Yep, “billion” with a “b.” Again, I ask, how many climate bombs could that have deactivated?)
How ’bout, instead of moving to Mars, we just learn from it? Because here’s another fun fact . . .
Some geological detective work was done by scientists who noticed large boulders — shaped by water — in the upper layers of the Jezero crater’s cliffs. Check this out: They suspect the boulders were deposited during massive flash flooding powerful enough to transform the Martian watershed. Intense rainfall, rapid snowmelt, or melting glacier ice could have all sent floodwaters raging.
We have melting glaciers here on Earth. But it took millions of years for the ones on Mars to melt and then evaporate. Here they’re melting within our lifetimes.
(BTW, the paper, published in the journal Science, says it like this: “The uppermost fan strata are composed of boulder conglomerates, which imply deposition by episodic high-energy floods. This sedimentary succession indicates a transition from sustained hydrologic activity in a persistent lake environment to highly energetic short-duration fluvial flows.” Some cocktail party banter for ya.)
Oh, shoot, I forgot, humans aren’t causing our planet to warm, right? And Michelangelo’s David is porno. (Although I don’t think David would be cast in today’s films, if you get my continental drift.)
OH, and I got the election results! OMG!! We did it! The write-in candidate won!!! The climate denier LOST! Okay, that gives me a wee ray of hope.
And FYI, it was 55 votes to 127 write-in votes. This is what I’m saying.
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I’m off to my little village cinema for a double feature . . . or to a county meeting of “concerned citizens” who are fighting a solar farm development. I haven’t decided which yet. Stay tuned . . .
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