Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Houston Food Bank

Some readers may want to know how to help those most affected by Hurricane Harvey.  There are many good organizations.  My choice is the Houston Food Bank because: 1) It was rated high by www.businessinsider.com and 2) It was recommended by www.charitynavigator.org which noted "please consider Houston Food Bank [ . . . ] located in the most-affected areas and [ . . .] providing support to individuals and animals."  I understand flood waters are hurting operations there, but their Facebook page noted "When it is safe to travel to our Portwall location, we will need volunteers and donations." The page also noted "The Houston Food Bank has a strong track record of supporting the community during floods, hurricanes and other emergencies, and we want you to know that we are committed to providing food, water and other help to the people who need it most."

I saw CBS News updated today "The storm was generating an amount of rain that would normally be seen only once in more than 1,000 years, said Edmond Russo, a deputy district engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers."  The video at the top of the page has a good overview of the situation.  This once-rare kind of storm, leaving an estimated 30,000 homeless, complements the recent worst storm to hit New Zealand in 500 years,  and 700,000 recently homeless in Peru from floods. It was reported "millions of people are being affected" from floods in Bangladesh where multiple sources note "one third of the country is underwater."

The physics are simple. James Hansen made the links to climate change clear.

Other scientists noted as the oceans warm, the extra energy adds power and moisture to storms. This problem has affected many, and will affect many more.  Another CBS News report noted, "While scientists are quick to say climate change didn't cause Harvey [to form] and that they haven't determined yet whether the storm was made worse by global warming, they do note that warmer air and water mean wetter and possibly more intense hurricanes in the future. [ . . . . ] When Harvey moved toward Texas, water in the Gulf of Mexico was nearly 2 degrees warmer than normal, said Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters. Hurricanes need at least 79 degrees F as fuel, and water at least that warm ran more than 300 feet deep in the Gulf, according to University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy."

This global situation reminds me of a quote by Martin Niemöller (1892–1984), a Protestant pastor who spent seven years in Nazi concentration camps:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

This is not to say Mother Nature is a Nazi.  Instead, it is to say get involved while you can.  I will offer a Hurricane Harvey Benefit Poetry Workshop Sunday, September 3, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at PB Yoga in Pacific Beach, California with all proceeds going to Houston Food Bank.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Venus II or Eden II?

Venus II or Eden II"What can we do about climate change?" someone asked me again yesterday. Start here.

The Atlantic posted a July 10, 2017 rebuttal to Wallis-Wells' nymag.com article above I linked as "Venus II."  The U. S. Geological Survey and the University of Rochester noted in a recent study the Arctic-methane issue may not be as dire as some scientists imagined. However, what I like about Wallis-Wells' article is how it rightly notes difficulty in implementing catastrophe-avoiding social change planet-wide on the ever-shorter time scale required. It's like a huge boat trying to avoid hitting smaller boats in the fog (in this case "smaller boats" are island nations and low-lying areas). Regarding the contrast between scientists' and publics' perceptions, Wallis-Wells noted "the most credentialed and tenured in the field, few of them inclined to alarmism and many advisers to the IPCC who nevertheless criticize its conservatism — have quietly reached an apocalyptic conclusion, too: No plausible program of emissions reductions alone can prevent climate disaster."  Wallis-Wells' article continues, "Most people talk as if Miami and Bangladesh still have a chance of surviving; most of the scientists I spoke with assume we’ll lose them within the century, even if we stop burning fossil fuel in the next decade." The Atlantic didn't respond to this important argument. Additionally, I was amused by The Atlantic's rebuttal "Carbon-dioxide levels only get high enough to seriously depress brain function in indoor spaces, though he implies it will become a global problem."  With already locked-in temperature increases, are we all supposed to forever work outdoors?  
The Atlantic piece cites Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist and professor of political science at Texas Tech University. “The NYMag article is the climate equivalent of being told that everyone in the world’s life will end in the most grisly, worst-case possible scenario if we keep on smoking.” My response was to read it again. Wallis-Wells' article noted, "In between scientific reticence and science fiction is science itself. This article is the result of dozens of interviews and exchanges with climatologists and researchers in related fields and reflects hundreds of scientific papers on the subject of climate change. What follows is not a series of predictions of what will happen — that will be determined in large part by the much-less-certain science of human response. Instead, it is a portrait of our best understanding of where the planet is heading absent aggressive action. It is unlikely that all of these warming scenarios will be fully realized, largely because the devastation along the way will shake our complacency. But those scenarios, and not the present climate, are the baseline. In fact, they are our schedule." In short, instead of Wallis-Wells' article being like "the most grisly, worst-case possible scenario if we keep on smoking," it is more like a detailed account of a smoker on life support with the legal right to ask for and receive more cigarettes on his deathbed.

On the plus side, Professor Hayhoe has an excellent article, "I was an Exxon-funded climate scientist."

I may be a simple Oregon fisherman but I think The Atlantic has some explaining to do. 

Susan Matthews, Slate's science editor, has one of the most honest responses to Wallis-Wells' nymag.com article.