It’s aliiiiive! Well, sort of…

And by “it” I mean this blog and my interest in the climate change issue. Since it’s been quite some time since my last post, roughly 250 days, let me take a minute or three to explain where my head is at with respect to said Big, Ugly, and Urgent Topic, as well as where I plan to go with this site.

First, the bad news.

I have very grudgingly, as in “it took me over a freaking decade to get there”, come to the conclusion that there simply is no hope that humanity will take anywhere near the steps needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change until we actually start to feel those effects. We are, collectively, the obstinate child who simply will not believe adults who tell him or her that a glowing red stove is hot until it is touched. Clearly, there are many of us who get it, who understand at varying degrees of sophistication and therefore with varying degrees of urgency just how awful this brewing shit storm will be. But we are so out numbered by the deniers and those who simply choose not to think of the monster under our bed that there’s nothing we can do. All the concentrations of power, mostly in the form of politicians and executives at large corporations, have exactly the wrong incentives to deal with a problem like climate change. All they see is a problem that requires them to incur pain now for gain after they’re out of office or dead. So they do far too little, or, in the case of fossil fuel companies, do things that make this colossal mess far worse. They are literally getting rich(er) by selling out future generations.

How can the rich and power be so callous, one might ask? I think you need not look any further than their perception that their wealth and power and status will let them and their loved ones escape the impacts of climate change. So they have no personal incentive to do anything about it, and in many cases, they can further enrich themselves and thereby distance their loved ones from pain by selling or burning more fossil fuels, getting paid handsomely to lie to public — again, I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to read “Merchants of Doubt” — or, in the US, becoming willing mouthpieces for various industries in the incessant fight for political campaign donations.

To say that we’re outgunned would be howlingly funny if we weren’t racing toward one hell of a cliff at breakneck speed, at night, with our headlights off.

My conclusion about how the impacts will play out hasn’t really changed. I said for years online that the primary vector for climate change’s impacts on human being will be water: Most obviously and painfully floods, droughts, rising sea levels, coastal storms. This is one of the fundamental flaws in how we’ve communicated about climate change with a mass audience: There’s far too much emphasis on what seems to lay people like a trivial change in temperature and not nearly enough emphasis on the knock-on effects of that “little change”, mostly to the hydrological cycle and how that translates into floods, droughts, etc.

So, where does this leave me?

For now, meaning from today until we have our mass, pain-induced epiphany, the best individuals can do is minimize their own carbon footprints. Sign up for 100% electricity, if you have the option, drive an electric car, if that works for you (and in combination with the green electron thing can make a big difference), put solar panels on your house, if that’s an option, and generally modify your consumption patterns to “reduce, reuse, and recycle”, etc. You know the drill.

I sincerely hope I’m wrong about how utterly blockheaded we are, but I doubt it. Given the nature of CO2 emissions — “love is fleeting, but CO2 is forever”, as I’ve said numerous times online — the sooner we have our mass epiphany, the better it is for us. Sooner translates to more pain that can be avoided, at less cost, and by employing less drastic measures in terms of adaptation, mitigation, and geoengineering[1]. So I find myself looking at the Arctic sea ice extent map and actually hoping for a big plunge this summer, hoping that it will accelerate our awakening, even though it would be very bad news for the overall climate change situation.[2] It’s probably a sign of laughable naivete for anyone to think that an Arctic melt-out will be more than a 30-second tidbit on the nightly news, or just one more link online competing with singing dogs, people hurting themselves in stupid and highly kinetic ways, and the usual flow of celebrity idiocy. Again: I go back to the most fundamental view of human nature and economics: People will not lead our elected leaders in the right direction, and our “leaders” have all the wrong incentives, so nothing significant will happen to combat climate change until enough people feel enough pain that it forces the hands of lawmakers.

But I digress.

What’s ahead

I do want to stay involved with this topic, but I’m through trying to fight the Big Fight of pushing people toward that mass epiphany about climate change. You can try to push that boulder up a muddy hill only so long before you realize you’re wasting your time, and I’ve had that particular personal epiphany.

So, I will likely post here from time to time on one of the areas where we could see very significant savings in terms of reducing our carbon footprint: Electric vehicles.[3] EVs are an exciting field, and one that’s more than a little reminiscent of the early days of the PC, for reasons I’ll expound on in future posts. I drive an EV, a Nissan Leaf, which I’ve leased for almost exactly two years, and my wife and I both love it. I plan to lease another one this summer, highly likely for two years, before I buy a Leaf 2.0 in the summer of 2017.[4]

Administrative stuff

The name and address of this blog will stay the same, even with the shift in focus, as it’s close enough for now.

I don’t yet know how much of the infrastructure of this site I will replace (links in sidebars, etc.); last summer I stripped the site down to the bare studs with an eye toward killing it off altogether. But since it will/might live on with the new mission, I will play it by ear.

[1] Adaptation is responding to climate change, e.g. moving coastal communities farther inland to escape rising sea levels. Mitigation is reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Geoengineering is exactly what it sounds like — using things like aerosols or orbiting mirrors to slightly reduce sunlight hitting the ground, or using biological or chemical means to pull CO2 out of the air and then sequester it.

[2] When we see a “Blue Arctic Event”, meaning a nearly complete melt-out of Arctic sea ice, even if for only a few days in late summer, it will be a major milestone in humanity’s relationship with the environment, and not merely a symbolic one. The loss of such an immense reflector, even briefly, means considerable additional warming takes place in the Arctic simply because snow and ice reflect much more sunlight than does open water. This effect, variously call Arctic amplification or albedo flip, is a major feedback that amplifies warming, and that’s without considering the additional carbon up there, about 1.7 trillion tons, that gets liberated as CO2 and methane when permafrost melts and microbes feast on the previously sequestered biological material. (Plus, there’s offshore methane hydrates to worry about. Can’t forget that float in our parade of awfulness.)

[3] The big three areas for improvement: LED lighting, renewables, and electrification of transportation. There synergies here, to be sure — convert lights from incandescent or even CFLs to LEDs and you greatly reduce the demand for electricity for lighting. As you clean up your electricity supply, something that needs to be done regardless of how we make light, LEDs mean less green generation is needed. And electric cars have the potential to deliver huge reductions in CO2 emissions, especially as we make our electrons greener.

[4] Yes, I’m already counting down the months. My wife, as you might expect, is thrilled beyond words with this state of affairs.

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