David Wallace-Wells | Progressives Should Rally Around a Clean Energy Construction Boom – The New York Times

Opinion Writer

You’re reading the David Wallace-Wells newsletter, for Times subscribers only.  The best-selling science writer and essayist explores climate change, technology, the future of the planet and how we live on it.

“The alliance that pushed the Inflation Reduction Act into law in August was always a somewhat fragile and ramshackle one: Green New Dealers and the coal-state senator Joe Manchin, carbon-capture geeks and environmental justice warriors, all herded together in the sort of big-tent play you get with a 50-50 Senate and one party functionally indifferent on climate.

One conspicuous cost of the compromise reached was a promise made by Senator Chuck Schumer to Manchin on what was vaguely called permitting reform: a catchall phrase referring to a whole host of efforts to cut red tape and ease the rollout of energy infrastructure. After weeks of speculation and intracoalitional debate, the text of the compromise was released on Sept. 21. By Sept. 27, the coalition had fallen apart, with Manchin somewhat abruptly pulling what had become known as the side deal from a must-pass budget resolution.

This was seemingly a victory for the progressive caucus, activists and environmental justice groups, which opposed the agreement as a fossil fuel handout, and another mark of a growing climate rift on the left in the aftermath of what was widely hailed as the most significant decarbonization bill passed into American law. (Nothing breaks a partnership like success, I guess.) But it also suggests an obvious next step for the left side of the now fractured climate coalition: its own alternative permitting reform bill, focused on building more electric transmission lines and streamlining regulatory approval for clean energy projects (without allowing for more fossil fuel infrastructure or the stampeding of frontline communities).

David Wallace-Wells | Bill Gates: ‘We’re in a Worse Place Than I Expected’ – The New York Times

Opinion Writer

“There are not many more contested abstractions in the contemporary world than progress. Are things getting better? Fast enough? For whom?

Those questions are, in a somewhat singular way, tied symbolically to Bill Gates. By objective standards among the most generous philanthropists the world has ever known, Gates is seen more and more by critics, in a time of intensifying income inequality, as a creature of the Pollyannaish plutocracy — with the billions given each year by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation perhaps more significant as a symptom of the world’s problems than a potential solution. Even a partial one.

In 2015 the United Nations established 17 sustainable development goals — measurable benchmarks of human progress that might guide a path “to end poverty, fight inequality and stop climate change by 2030.” Every year since 2017, the Gates Foundation has released a sort of progress report tracking key data points: poverty, malnutrition, maternal mortality and 15 more.”

This year, at the halfway point, how do things look? “Seven years in, the world is on track to achieve almost none of the goals,” Gates and his ex-wife, the foundation’s co-founder Melinda French Gates, write in the introduction to the latest report. On poverty, the goal was to eradicate extreme poverty, and since 2015, the percentage of the world living on less than $1.90 a day has fallen only to about 8 percent from just above 10 percent; on malnutrition, the prevalence of growth stunting in children under 5 is still above 20 percent; maternal mortality is more than twice as high as the standard set by the 2015 goals. “As it stands now, we’d need to speed up the pace of our progress five times faster to meet most of our goals — and even that might be an underestimate, because some of the projections don’t yet account for the impact of the pandemic, let alone the war in Ukraine or the food crisis it kicked off in Africa,” the introduction reads.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Is Bill Gates, who I admire so much, really ignorant of the importance of overpopulation to the climate crisis, or does the questioning of David Wallace-Wells just make Gates look impervious and out of touch with the elephant in the room, overpopulation. Probably the former, Gates is in denial about overpopulation. In his magnificent book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, he ignores family planning and population control. These words do not exist in the index.
David Lindsay Jr blogs at InconvenientNews.net

David Wallace-Wells | It’s Been a ‘Summer of Disasters,’ and It’s Only Half Over – The New York Times

    Opinion Writer

” “We’re naming summer ‘Danger Season’ in the U.S.,” wrote Kristy Dahl, the principal climate scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists, in early June. A couple of days later, at Axios, the climate reporter Andrew Freedman echoed that warning: “America is staring down a summer of disasters.”

The season is now only half over, and the worst months for California fires, which typically provide the most harrowing images of the summer, still lie ahead. But the calendar has already been stuffed with climate disruption, so much so that one disaster often seemed layered over the last, with newspaper front pages almost identical across the Northern Hemisphere. In July, Carbon Brief’s Simon Evans began compiling them on Twitter, running out of steam when he got past 100. Climate segments of newscasts cut quickly from one part of the world to another, telling almost identical stories, day after day.

And yet the mood of those newscasts — in which warming is shown clearly to be blanketing the world, country by country — has mixed horror with a reluctant acceptance. Climate change is here, you think, your mind perhaps drifting past what can be done to limit future warming and toward what can be done to manage living in that future. The disruptions are large already, and arriving as prophesied — indeed, often earlier than predicted. They’ve also been normalized enough that, alongside the shock, they raise practical questions.

The term for this is “adaptation,” and the wallpaper texture of the climate news cycle this summer — with once-horrifying impacts now seeming commonplace — suggests that efforts to acclimate to new realities are following quite quickly on the footsteps of alarm.”

Philip Cafaro
Fort Collins, CO Aug. 3

“Adaptation isn’t a cure all,” even for people. And let’s not forget, it does nothing for the millions of other species we are taking down with us.

1 Reply224 Recommended

 
Frish commented August 3

Frish
Los AngelesAug. 3

I’m an anthropologist and I’ve been studying this for 50 years. We’ve already disrupted the biosphere’s ability to continue supporting human life, we just haven’t seen the full effects yet. Because of the speed with which we’ve included CO2 in the atmosphere many species will not be able to cope with the resulting outcomes. The last mass extinction took 60,000 years to develop. We’ve made our increases in the last 200 years and more so since 1950. Few things can adapt evolutionarily to that dramatic increase and speed of a change. The jet stream is already meandering. when the jet stream goes chaotic there won’t be a planting season hence no agriculture but there won’t be any seasons at all hence millions of species will be going extinct. Children always come with a death sentence but now a newborn faces extinction as a future. The only moral choice is to not have children. Besides that’s the best thing an individual can do to reduce one’s impact on the environment. I continue to be amazed that no media is suggesting that anyone stop having children but there will come a time in the not too distant future when the realization that we have no future will be more commonplace.

10 Replies216 Recommended

 
Erik Frederiksen commented August 3

Erik Frederiksen
Asheville, NCAug. 3

The carbon cycle for the last 2 million years was doing 180-280ppm atmospheric CO2 over 10,000 years and we’ve done more change than that in 100 years. The last time CO2 went from 180-280ppm global temperature increased by around 4 degrees C and sea level rose 130 meters. (graph of the last 400,000 years of global temperature, CO2 and sea level http://www.ces.fau.edu/nasa/images/impacts/slr-co2-temp-400000yrs.jpg ) One amplifying feedback alone out of dozens, loss of albedo or heat reflectivity from Arctic summer sea ice melt, over the last several decades has been equivalent to 25 percent of the climate forcing of anthropogenic CO2. And that will continue to increase as that ice disappears by mid century. The Titanic sank because by the time the lookout called the warning the ship had too much momentum to turn. The Earth has a lot more momentum, e.g. we’ve already likely locked in at least 6 meters of sea level rise from the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets and decade to decade warming in the near term is also virtually locked in. That momentum is building and the higher we let global temperatures rise the greater the risk of them going really high as amplifying feedbacks strengthen.

6 Replies145 Recommended

Opinion | Endemic Covid-19 Looks Pretty Brutal – The New York Times

Opinion Writer

“It may surprise you to learn, given the mood of the country — and indeed the world — about the pandemic that probably half of all Covid infections have happened this calendar year — and it’s only July. By December, the figure could be 80 percent or more. The gap between cases and severe outcomes is bigger than it has ever been, with the fraction of infections one-tenth that of the pandemic’s early stages. But simply in terms of infection, this year towers over each of the previous two.”

David Wallace-Wells | What’s Worse: Climate Denial or Climate Hypocrisy? – The New York Times

Opinion Writer

“In early 2020, Larry Fink — the chief executive of BlackRock, a financial firm whose $10 trillion in assets under management are roughly equivalent to the aggregate wealth of Latin America, and about twice that of Africa — did his best to stake his claim as the face of an environmentally responsible business future. “Climate change has become a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects,” Fink wrote in his annual letter to C.E.O.s that year. He called global warming the most serious threat to the financial system in his 40 years of experience and promised a drastic response from his firm: making sustainability “integral to portfolio construction and risk management”; ditching investments that contribute to the problem; and pursuing not just sustainability but transparency, too, so we all could see what impacts the company was having.

Not long before, captains of industry like Fink could have gotten away with climate indifference, and many with outright denial. But something had changed — with the Paris agreement and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, with Greta Thunberg’s school strikes and the arrival, in the global North, of obvious climate disasters long sequestered in the global South. And finance seemed to take the hint, creating a new wave of purportedly virtuous “environmental, social and governance” (E.S.G.) investing.

But in his annual letter this January, just two years later, Fink struck a radically different tone, rejecting “woke” capitalism and elevating the principle that investors should center only on profits. In the spring, the firm announced it would support fewer shareholder resolutions on climate change, “as we do not consider them to be consistent with our clients’ long-term financial interests.” Just months before, BlackRock closed a $15.5 billion investment in Saudi pipelines.”

David Lindsay.  Amen. Bravo. Here is one of many good comments:

Nomind     Nowhere3h ago

Quarterly profits; that’s what drives this. Something that happens 20, 30, or 100 years in the future doesn’t affect my bottom line right now. Like any animal, human beings are wired to maximize immediate gain. Although we have the cognitive capacity to plan for the future, collectively, we don’t. Time and again, I return to E.O. Wilson’s famous quote: “The real problem of humanity is the following: we have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions and godlike technology. And it is terrifically dangerous, and it is now approaching a point of crisis overall.”

2 Replies40 Recommended
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David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Thank you David Wallace-Wells. I really thought we had turned a major corner, because of the leadership of Larry Fink at BlackRock. Well, I was wrong again. Edward O Wilson wrote of extinction and date ranges, that included the following paraphrase, we are on track to lose 80% of the species on the planet in the next 80 years. If we lose 50% of the world’s species, humans will probably not make it.
David blogs at InconvenientNews.net

David Wallace-Wells | What Vaccine Apartheid Portends for the Climate Future – The New York Times

“. . . .  Last week Michael Bloomberg committed $242 million to accelerate the adoption of clean energy in 10 countries across the developing world. (The pledge was on top of his commitment of $500 million to buy and close American coal plants.) Mark Carney — a former head of the Bank of Canada and the Bank of England who has taken to describing a 25 percent cut to global G.D.P. as his “base case” expectation for warming — has mobilized companies managing $130 trillion in a corporate alliance for net-zero emissions. The Glasgow agreement urged countries to double their commitments to financing adaptation in the developing world by 2025.

This isn’t nothing. But while philanthropy and finance’s move toward climate action is not an illusion, forensic accounting tells a more nuanced story: Even the headline pledges (which include a fair amount of greenwashed money alongside directed real climate investment) amount to less than a third of the spending necessary to meet the Paris goals, according to the International Energy Agency (and, being largely profit-minded investment, almost entirely neglect the financial needs of those devastated by climate impacts today). This new ambition is real, in other words, and worth celebrating, to greater or lesser degrees.

But as with so much of the climate crisis, finally moving in the right direction, in fits and starts toward only a certain set of opportunities, is not the same as solving the problem whole or giving the world a path to anything we might want to call success. A doubling of adaptation finance, even if fulfilled, could mean as much as $60 billion annually, for instance; the U.N. Environmental Program estimates needs of as much as $300 billion.” . . . .

David Lindsay: Good essay, thank you. Sorry the comments section closed after just 79 comments. I have a fantasy of working as a stand up comic, and saying to the audience, The only problem with the  pandemic is that it didn’t kill nearly enough human beings. The ugly truth behind such gallows humor, is that scientists think the correct carrying capacity of humans on earth is probably about 4 billion, if we are going to not cause the sixth great extinction of species. Somehow,  Wallace-Wells missed the opportunity to connect these dots. Failures to save human lives is never a completely bad thing, when worring about the horrid effects on other species, or human overpopulation and all their garbage and pollution.