2019 Was the Second-Hottest Year Ever, Closing Out the Warmest Decade – The New York Times

“Last year was the second-hottest on record, government researchers confirmed on Wednesday in analyses of temperature data from thousands of observing stations around the world. They said that 2019 was only slightly cooler than 2016 and the end of what was the warmest decade yet.”

David Lindsay,  NYT Comment:

Thank you for this report, and yuck. It is time to panic, breath, and take action, as if your house was on fire, because our earth is in serious trouble. It is time to throw all the climate change deniers and footdraggers out of congress and the white house

The future of the tens of thousands of species, including humans, depends on us turning around our economies and reduse our green house gas emmissions in the next ten years, say the 2000 or so top scientist, who volunteer their time to the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, under the auspices of the United Nations.

 

BlackRock C.E.O. Larry Fink: Climate Crisis Will Reshape Finance – By Andrew Ross Sorkin – The New York Times

“Laurence D. Fink, the founder and chief executive of BlackRock, announced Tuesday that his firm would make investment decisions with environmental sustainability as a core goal.

BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager with nearly $7 trillion in investments, and this move will fundamentally shift its investing policy — and could reshape how corporate America does business and put pressure on other large money managers to follow suit.

Mr. Fink’s annual letter to the chief executives of the world’s largest companies is closely watched, and in the 2020 edition he said BlackRock would begin to exit certain investments that “present a high sustainability-related risk,” such as those in coal producers. His intent is to encourage every company, not just energy firms, to rethink their carbon footprints.

“Awareness is rapidly changing, and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance,” Mr. Fink wrote in the letter, which was obtained by The New York Times. “The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance.” “

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:

An open letter to the NYT. This piece about Blackrock moving sustainability to central to its investing decisions is significant and exciting, but I would like the Times to do a major story on whether or not those investors with stock in fossil fuel companies such as Exxon Mobil should divest or remain as shareholders, if they want such companies to change direction and move rapidly away from fossil fuel extraction.

Many of my environmental friends think divestment is the only solution. I do not. I feel like environmentalists have more influence as an insiders and complainers and voters for change. I would love to hear what famous economists and financial experts think on this difficult subject.

Sincerely,
David Lindsay
Hamden CT.

Who Controls Trump’s Environmental Policy? – By Lisa Friedman and Claire O’Neill – The New York Times

“A small number of people at a few federal agencies have vast power over the protection of American air and water.

Under the Trump administration, the people appointed to those positions overwhelmingly used to work in the fossil fuel, chemical and agriculture industries. During their time in government they have been responsible for loosening or undoing nearly 100 environmental protections from pollution and pesticides, as well as weakening preservations of natural resources and efforts to curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

Of 20 key officials across several agencies, 15 came from careers in the oil, gas, coal, chemical or agriculture industries, while another three hail from state governments that have spent years resisting environmental regulations. At least four have direct ties to organizations led by the Koch brothers, who have spent millions of dollars to defeat climate change and clean energy measures.

Gretchen Goldman, research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, noted that many Republican administrations had brought in people from regulated industries. “There’s nothing inherently wrong with hiring people from the private sector. But we need to make sure they are making decisions in the public interest,” she said.”

Opinion | Australia Shows Us the Road to Hell – By Paul Krugman- The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

“In a rational world, the burning of Australia would be a historical turning point. After all, it’s exactly the kind of catastrophe climate scientists long warned us to expect if we didn’t take action to limit greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, a 2008 report commissioned by the Australian government predicted that global warming would cause the nation’s fire seasons to begin earlier, end later, and be more intense — starting around 2020.

Furthermore, though it may seem callous to say it, this disaster is unusually photogenic. You don’t need to pore over charts and statistical tables; this is a horror story told by walls of fire and terrified refugees huddled on beaches.

So this should be the moment when governments finally began urgent efforts to stave off climate catastrophe.

But the world isn’t rational. In fact, Australia’s anti-environmentalist government seems utterly unmoved as the nightmares of environmentalists become reality. And the anti-environmentalist media, the Murdoch empire in particular, has gone all-out on disinformation, trying to place the blame on arsonists and “greenies” who won’t let fire services get rid of enough trees.

These political reactions are more terrifying than the fires themselves.”

“. . . . .  The answer, pretty clearly, is that scientific persuasion is running into sharply diminishing returns. Very few of the people still denying the reality of climate change or at least opposing doing anything about it will be moved by further accumulation of evidence, or even by a proliferation of new disasters. Any action that does take place will have to do so in the face of intractable right-wing opposition.

This means, in turn, that climate action will have to offer immediate benefits to large numbers of voters, because policies that seem to require widespread sacrifice — such as policies that rely mainly on carbon taxes — would be viable only with the kind of political consensus we clearly aren’t going to get.

What might an effective political strategy look like? I’ve been rereading a 2014 speech by the eminent political scientist Robert Keohane, who suggested that one way to get past the political impasse on climate might be via “an emphasis on huge infrastructural projects that created jobs” — in other words, a Green New Deal. Such a strategy could give birth to a “large climate-industrial complex,” which would actually be a good thing in terms of political sustainability.”

Opinion | My Journey to Radical Environmentalism – By Charles M. Blow – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Drew Angerer/Getty Images

“I can’t quite remember the moment when I became radicalized about protecting the environment and the planet, but it happened last year. That’s late in life, I know. At 49 years old, it is very possible and even likely that I have more years behind me than in front of me, but that is when it happened.

Before that, I didn’t do more than was required by law.

I have lived in New York City since 1994. Mandatory recycling was phased in citywide by 1997. So, I recycled what was required.

Five years ago, when my last two children went away to college, I got rid of my car, but not for environmental reasons. I just didn’t need it anymore, and it was expensive to maintain.

But something happened to me last year.

Maybe it was Greta Thunberg’s advocacy, and hearing her impassioned United Nations speech in which she blasted world leaders, saying:

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying; entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” “

David Lindsay: I read this piece with delight. I wrote a comment that started: Welcome Charles Blow, welcome.

Here are the two most liked comments I approved:

Daniel Smith
Leverett, MA
Times Pick

I’m very glad to see that Charles Blow, someone I respect a great deal, has discovered the environment. But the environmentalism he describes is in no way radical. It is not radical in the popular sense of embracing major change and it is not radical in the classical sense of going to the roots of a problem. (On both of those counts, a good example of radical environmentalism would be the Green New Deal, which is notably absent here.) We are not going to be saved by changing individual consumption or by proselytizing–this has been the mantra for decades and it has failed miserably–but only by organized and massive political activism that changes the way our society as a whole governs itself. The problem is systemic and social, and the solution must occur at that level also. This is certainly Greta Thunberg’s message, and also the message of virtually every expert you can find on social change and social movements. So I hope Charles will keep us posted (and soon!) on how his environmentalism evolves in a truly radical dimension.

7 Replies380 Recommended

John Williams commented January 8

John Williams
Petrolia, CA

“I think that the only way to prevent the radical alteration of our planet is to commit to a radical alteration of our own behavior.” Yup, that’s what the Green New Deal is about. As an old man who learned the basic physics of global warming i 1970, and who watched economic inequality grow obscenely over the second half of his life, I say it is about time.

5 Replies331 Recommended

Some of Australia’s Smallest Species Could Be Lost to Wildfires – By Helen Sullivan – The New York Times

By 

“SYDNEY, Australia — When Tanya Latty, an entomologist at the University of Sydney, started studying a species of velvet worm 18 months ago, she thought it was just a side project.

“It’s an adorable, adorable animal,” she said, speaking on the phone from her home in Sydney. The worms — which comprise the phylum Onychophora, are cousins of arthropods and somewhat resemble caterpillars — have a “beautiful blue velvety texture” and “cute little stubby antenna,” Dr. Latty said. The worms sleep together in a pile, she noted, and for that reason she and her colleagues have been trying to popularize the phrase “a cuddle of velvet worms” as a collective noun.

Velvet worms are predators; they have pairs of clawed legs down the length of their bodies, and they catch prey using glue shot from nozzles on their heads. Often, a single worm will catch the prey and others will then join the feast. Velvet worms are incredibly social; studying them provides clues to the evolution of social behavior in arthropods. And they give birth to live young, which remain with their parents for a period before shuffling off.

They also happen to live in one of the national parks in the Australian Capital Territory, an area badly affected by the recent wildfires. So far the fires have destroyed more than 40,000 square miles, threatening entire species, costing 26 human lives and exacting billions of dollars in damage. Dr. Latty would not reveal the worms’ exact location; people tend to poach them to sell or keep as pets. But she worried that the rotting logs they inhabit had not protected them from the blazes.”

Opinion | Australia Is Burning – By Cormac Farrell – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Farrell is an environmental scientist and a certified bush-fire planning and design practitioner.

Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

“CANBERRA, Australia — Every state in Australia has been touched by fire since the season started in September. The fires have burned over 12 million acres, an area larger than Maryland. Four hundred and eighty million animals are estimated to be killed or badly injured. Thousands of people have been evacuated. At least 24 have died.

This is just the midpoint of our normal fire season, which used to run from October to March but now is almost year round.

As I write this, my parents are living without power in an evacuation center in Narooma, a town of 2,600 people on the east coast of New South Wales. I am over a hundred miles away, unable to reach them by phone.

In the middle of this destruction, many Australian commentators in the mainstream and social media peddle a simplistic view: that the fires were caused by excess plant growth and mismanagement of public land.

Opinion | The Tragedy of Germany’s Energy Experiment – By Jochen Bittner – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Ronald Wittek/EPA, via Shutterstock

“HAMBURG, Germany — Are the Germans irrational? Steven Pinker seems to think so. Professor Pinker, a Harvard psychologist, told the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel recently that if mankind wanted to stop climate change without stopping economic growth too, the world needed more nuclear energy, not less. Germany’s decision to step out of nuclear, he agreed, was “paranoid.”

My country has embarked on a unique experiment indeed. The Merkel government has decided to phase out both nuclear power and coal plants. The last German reactor is scheduled to shut down by the end of 2022, the last coal-fired plant by 2038. At the same time, the government has encouraged the purchase of climate-friendly electric cars — increasing the demand for electrical power. And despite efforts to save energy in the past decades, Germany’s power consumption has grown by 10 percent since 1990.

Skeptics fear that the country is on a risky path. Sufficient renewable energy sources might not be available in time to compensate for the loss of fossil and nuclear power. Though renewables account for around 40 percent of Germany’s electricity supply, there are limits to further expansion, for reasons that are political rather than technological.

In some rural parts of Germany, people are fed up with ever growing “wind parks”; more citizens are protesting new — and often taller — wind turbines in their neighborhoods. And there is growing resistance to the new paths needed to transport electricity from coasts to industrial centers. According to official calculations, close to 3,700 miles of new power lines are required to make Germany’s “Energiewende,” or energy revolution, work. By the end of 2018, only 93 miles had been built.”

Opinion | Australia Is Committing Climate Suicide – By Richard Flanagan – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Flanagan is a novelist.

Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

“BRUNY ISLAND, Australia — Australia today is ground zero for the climate catastrophe. Its glorious Great Barrier Reef is dying, its world-heritage rain forests are burning, its giant kelp forests have largely vanished, numerous towns have run out of water or are about to, and now the vast continent is burning on a scale never before seen.

The images of the fires are a cross between “Mad Max” and “On the Beach”: thousands driven onto beaches in a dull orange haze, crowded tableaux of people and animals almost medieval in their strange muteness — half-Bruegel, half-Bosch, ringed by fire, survivors’ faces hidden behind masks and swimming goggles. Day turns to night as smoke extinguishes all light in the horrifying minutes before the red glow announces the imminence of the inferno. Flames leaping 200 feet into the air. Fire tornadoes. Terrified children at the helm of dinghies, piloting away from the flames, refugees in their own country.

The fires have already burned about 14.5 million acres — an area almost as large as West Virginia, more than triple the area destroyed by the 2018 fires in California and six times the size of the 2019 fires in Amazonia. Canberra’s air on New Year’s Day was the most polluted in the world partly because of a plume of fire smoke as wide as Europe.

Scientists estimate that close to half a billion native animals have been killed and fear that some species of animals and plants may have been wiped out completely. Surviving animals are abandoning their young in what is described as mass “starvation events.” At least 18 people are dead and grave fears are held about many more.”

See Where Australia’s Deadly Wildfires Are Burning – The New York Times

Days into the New Year, deadly wildfires, fueled by wind and scorching summer heat, continued to rage across Australia’s southeast.

Fire detections in the last 24 hours

Fire detections since November 2019

Source: NASA Fire Information for Resource Management System. Data as of January 3.

“Thousands of tourists and residents have been forced to evacuate from areas along the southeast coast so far, and tens of thousands more are fleeing to safer ground ahead of the weekend, with forecasters predicting a new round of dangerous fire conditions.

High winds and temperatures reaching close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 38 Celsius, are expected starting Friday.

Australia’s 2019 fire season started early and has been exceptionally brutal, experts say, even for a country used to regular burning.

Wildfires have scorched millions of acres of land across the country since October, destroying more than a thousand homes and killing at least 19 people, including three volunteer firefighters.

The most-affected state, New South Wales, which includes Sydney, Australia’s largest city, is having its worst fire season in 20 years.”