Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Rotary Club: The Four-Way Test of Climate Change

Using the Rotary Club Four-way test to create a narrative about the climate.

Rotary Club: The Four-Way Test of the things we think, say or do:
1 Is it the truth?
2 Is it fair to all concerned?
3 Will it build good will and better friendships?
4 Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
1. Yes, greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are changing climate over time as measured by increasing variations from long-term averages for temperature, precipitation, storm strength, CO2 concentration in the atmosphere and many other measurements of wildlife, plants and water.  Solutions include building renewable energy and shutting down fossil fuel energy industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Policy solutions include placing a price on carbon.  in the future, new technology will Improve processes to take greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere as a viable way to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

2. No, the consequences of the greenhouse effect are not fair to all concerned.  The poor and those living in developing countries now suffer the consequences of the CO2 emissions by North America and Europe, and a growing China.  Refugee camps in Africa, the Middle East and other locations have millions of people and get more people daily. The migration of climate refugees will continue to increase into the hundreds of millions.  The people who have not benefited from the energy produced by burning fossil fuels will suffer the worst consequences.

3. Yes, implementing solutions as a collective action will build good will and we are better together.  Bonding, communicating, explaining and inspiring each other works to increase action to deal with the consequences and to act on solutions.  Working together we build goodwill and better friendships.

American climate refugees will migrate from California and SW States into the NW States. Americans will be “snow birds” migrating north into NW and Eastern Canada during the summer.  Prior to 2020, the richest and those with jobs will relocate. Then a surprise American event will motivate the poorest and neediest to travel and become climate refugees.

4.  Yes, the global economy and the American economy will benefit.  Action will create jobs and improve living standards.  Converting the economy from fossil fuels to use electricity to power everything will improve health, wealth and income.

Not the Way Forward to The Future

Not The Way Forward

Conservatives believe in a way forward based on free markets, fiscal rectitude, sound money, constitutional liberty, non-intervention abroad, minimalist government at home and decentralized political rule.  However, given a clear and present danger, and the actual outbreak of hostilities, a majority will agree to mobilize the economy to fight a common enemy.

The Future

By 2019, the Sustainable Energy Transformation (SET) plans broke free of the climate denial concept. That year's plan stipulated that the SET Board should be established as early as practicable when an emergency was envisioned. No longer would economic mobilization for war be tied to the actual outbreak of hostilities. The policy change tacitly recognized the increasingly hostile national and international environment, and the long lead-times necessary to produce the increasingly sophisticated tools of Sustainable Energy Transformation.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Narratives About Climate


The Stefan–Boltzmann law states that the total energy radiated per unit surface area of a black body across all wavelengths per unit time, j*, is directly proportional to the fourth power of the black body's thermodynamic temperature T: 
After sunlight warms the top layer of land and oceans, Methane and Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere absorb energy radiated from the earth’s surface. We measure the heat energy in the atmosphere as temperature.  The more CO2 and Methane in the atmosphere, the more heat energy is absorbed and the higher the temperature of the atmosphere.  This is called the Greenhouse Effect.  The temperature of the atmosphere would be many times higher except the oceans absorb CO2 and heat from the atmosphere.
A graph of the history of the average temperature of the atmosphere looks like a hockey stick.  The handle represents the average temperature over 22,000 years.  The blade at the end represents the modern day rate of change in the average temperature of the atmosphere.

The consequences of the atmosphere and ocean temperatures increasing rapidly over decades results in changes to our weather in the short term.  Natural variations in weather become more extreme with prolonged drought, record high temperatures, flooding, sea level rise, crop failures and many other consequences.  These extreme weather events deprive people of water, food and shelter, and result in mass migrations.  Governments unprepared to deal with the chaos of climate refugees, will collapse and civil wars break out.

This story begins with physics and follows the cause and effect relationships through the earth’s systems when the root cause is increasing CO2 and Methane in the atmosphere creating the greenhouse effect.


The first public narrative about the earth’s climate began with Dr. James Hansen testifying before Congress in 1988 about the greenhouse effect.  In order to maintain profits and growth, the fossil fuel industry created a narrative to counter the story of scientists like Dr. Hansen.  As an industry PR project, this included scientists, politicians and the media. Internal fossil fuel industry memos reveal decades of disinformation—a deliberate campaign to deceive the public that continues even today.

As early as 1977, representatives from major fossil fuel companies attended dozens of congressional hearings where the contribution of carbon emissions to the greenhouse effect was discussed.  A newly discovered email (2015) from a former Exxon employee revealed that the company was already factoring climate change into decisions about new fossil fuel extraction as early as 1981.

At risk were government subsidies, executive salaries and stock prices.  The fossil fuel industry is still fighting in 2016 against the idea that the climate is changing.

In 2016, the question of whether the fossil fuel divestment campaign will succeed as a purely economic tool might be secondary to Bill McKibben’s ability to motive a new generation to take positions – and take action – in the climate debate. (Only 46% of Millennials eligible to vote, actually voted in 2012).

Economists point out that the direct economic instrument of divestment was not what ended Apartheid, but the combined social and economic pressures that mounted and prevailed, as the global community identified and rejected a moral wrong.


“A World at War” by McKibben uses “War” as both a metaphor and as a real catastrophe that is happening in the present.  The divestment narrative is based on money.  McKibben’s latest narrative is based on “war.”

Two quotes stand out:

“The question is not, are we in a world war? The question is, will we fight back? And if we do, can we actually defeat an enemy as powerful and inexorable as the laws of physics?”

“In this war that we’re in—the war that physics is fighting hard, and that we aren’t—winning slowly is exactly the same as losing.”

In 1938, Neville Chamberlain came home from signing the Munich Agreement to cheering crowds: “We regard the agreement signed last night, and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again.”  Of course Hitler was following his own set of rules.

In 2015, the COP21 agreement will not stop the war. The COP21 agreement is the same type of useless peace agreement that Neville Chamberlain negotiated in 1935 and 1938.

That is why Margaret Klein Salamon started —to support mobilizing America like we did for WWII.  Salamon introduced to the climate movement the concept of “emergency mode”: how individuals and groups function optimally during an existential or moral crisis.  Groups often achieve great feats through intensely focused motivation. Salamon argues that the goal of the climate movement must be to lead the public out of “normal” mode and into emergency mode.

In 2016, Bernie Sanders began speaking out with the same message as Salamon.  Then in the summer of 2016, the Democrat’s platform had statements included that support mobilization.  On August 15, 2016, McKibben published his article “A World at War.”


From 1988, when we heard the narrative was about physics and the greenhouse effect, through the money narrative of profits and divesture, the first person to begin weaving multiple narratives together was Pope Francis.

On May 24, 2015, Pope Francis published “On Care For Our Common Home.”  This Encyclical Letter, while addressing the environment directly, the document’s scope is broader in many ways looking at man’s effect on the environment, and the many philosophical, theological, and cultural causes that threaten the relationships of man to nature and man to each other in various circumstances.

The Pope’s primary message is that what we all need is an ‘ecological conversion.’ There is a moral wrong, an existential crisis, and we all need to leave behind our old values and beliefs.  To encourage an ecological conversion the Organization of American States has created “A Platform for Inter-religious and Inter-cultural Dialogue” based on the Encyclical Letter.  A group from OAS met with the Pope in September 2016 in Rome.

The Native American blockade of the Dakota Pipeline is a narrative based on their established religious beliefs.  The bottom line for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is: “….protecting our lands, people, water, and sacred sites from the devastation of this pipeline.”  The situation in North Dakota has rekindled the debate about the rights and sovereignty of first nations in the United States, consistent breaches of treaties and guarantees.

The One Narrative

These separate narratives—physics, money, war and religion—need to be aligned and integrated into one narrative.   These will be intertwined with other major societal, economic and environmental challenges such as an aging population, resource depletion, soaring inequality, technological unemployment due to automation, with the consequences of climate change.

We need a narrative that describes a disruption of our entire system, such that the public gets out of “normal” mode and into emergency mode, to initiate a fundamental restructuring.  A world wide restructuring on the scale of the mobilization for WWII.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Danger and Opportunity

The youngest Baby Boomer (born 1943 - 1960) turns 60 in 2020 and joins the rest of their cohort already in Elder status.  Boomers will preside over a time of extreme danger and historic opportunity.  Old institutions in place after WWII will crumble under the siege of multiply crises and collapsing governments.  NATO, the EU, treaties and trade agreements, the UN, and many financial standards will crumble.

Boomers will be in positions of power and influence to guide the nation, and the world across several painful thresholds (1).  These include:
  • Unsustainable entitlements that would destroy the Millennial Generation
  • Insufficient investment for decaying infrastructure
  • Delayed response to Climate Change until too late for hundreds of millions
  • Revolutions and civil wars
  • Nuclear proliferation
  • Shutdown of coal industry and coal plants
  • Unsustainable burning of oil and gas
  • Automation of transportation, production and services causing unemployment
  • Growth in high-demand, high-wage, high-skill occupations without sufficient applicants

By 2020, America will have 56 million people over the age of 65 representing 16.8% of the total population. This is more than any other country in the world. In 2020, over 75% of the over 65 population will be non-hispanic, white Elders.  The life expectancy at 65, in 2020 for Boomer Elders, is expected to be more than 20 years.

(1) Strauss, William, and Neil Howe. Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069. New York: Morrow, 1991, Page 407.