Saturday, July 7, 2018

Carbon Fee & Dividend: Variations On A Theme


Everyone has an opinion on climate change.  Opinions range from "the climate is not changing" to "the sky is falling and we're all gonna die".  Outside of opinions there's scientific fact, which, to be sure, changes as new data become available.  And while data points have margins of error, 97% of climate scientists are convinced by the data that the climate is changing due to human activity.  If the climate continues to warm (and, by the way, the rate of change is increasing) we are absolutely all gonna die!  The Earth, in time, will become a hothouse like Venus with surface temperatures high enough to melt lead.

But what can we do about it?  Well, it stands to reason that if humans can cause climate change, we ought to be able to stop it.  Citizens' Climate Lobby believes that we can stop the climate from changing before our planet becomes uninhabitable.  One way to do this is by implementing a policy called Carbon Fee & Dividend.  There are several takes on this plan promoted and supported by various organizations and luminaries.  Most of the proposals depend on bipartisan support in Congress, and these, frankly, are the only ones with a prayer of passing.

First off there is the Schultz-Baker plan, devised by the Climate Leadership Council.  This plan has Four Pillars:
1.     A gradually increasing tax on carbon dioxide emissions imposed at the point where fossil fuels enter the economy: the mine, well, or port.  This fee would start at $40 per ton and rise $5 per ton each year. 
2.     Carbon dividends for all Americans would be generated by the tax.  Initially a family of four could expect $2,000 in payments the first year.
3.     Border carbon adjustments would be made on the carbon content of imports. Imports from countries without a carbon tax would be taxed and those revenues also distributed to all Americans.
4.     Significant regulatory rollback would result since most regulations would no longer be necessary.  This would mean the phasing out of most of the EPA's regulations of carbon dioxide emissions and the repeal of the Clean Power Act.


Another idea put forth by former Senate leaders, Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) and John Breaux (D-Louisiana) manifests itself in the newly-formed PAC called Americans For Carbon Dividends (AFCD).  Lott and Breaux contend that,  due to their new approach to the problem, climate change is an opportunity for both parties to see eye-to-eye and come up with a bipartisan victory. 
1.     Pass legislation that puts a "meaningful" fee on carbon-dioxide emissions, say $40 per ton at the start.  This differs only slightly from the Schultz-Baker plan.  Whereas Schultz-Baker called for the fee increasing by $5 a year, Lott-Breaux leaves the increase, if any, nebulous.
2.     Return the monies collected to the American people. 
3.     Repeal existing carbon emission laws.  This is also in accordance with Schultz-Baker.
4.     But Lott-Breaux goes one step further.  Energy companies become immune to climate-based lawsuits.  This one is a head-scratcher until you realize that it was a carrot to get large energy corporations like Exxon Mobil, Shell, and BP to sign on.  You see, as a result of the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill explosion, BP faced more than 390,000 lawsuits. 

Still, something like this may outline what it takes to get Republicans and business interests to team up with Democrats and environmentalists in order to take real steps toward combating climate change.


Finally there is CCL's own Carbon Fee & Dividend (CFD) plan.  The Citizens' Climate Lobby was founded in 2007 with the mission to lobby for legislation that would end subsidies for the fossil fuel industry by taxing carbon when it comes out of the ground.  The group has grown since its inception with surges in growth recently as more and more citizens are directly affected by the consequences of a changing climate.

CF&D, as it's known, calls for the following:
1.     Place a steadily rising fee on fossil fuels, starting at $15/metric ton, increasing by $10/metric ton/year, imposed "upstream" at the mine, well, or port of entry.
2.     Give the money collected, minus administrative costs, back to American households monthly.  It is projected that at least 2/3 of households will break even or get more back than they pay out in increased prices of carbon-based energy.
3.     Use a border adjustment to stop business relocation, by placing import fees on products from countries without a carbon fee, and by giving rebates to US industries exporting to those countries.

CCL's CF&D leaves out any mention of repealing laws or granting immunity.  But when you think about it, the plan should see existing laws automatically complied with.  And if companies are, for financial and profit reasons, moving away from fossil fuels, lawsuits like BP suffered should automatically become much rarer.  So where do we go from here?  And how do we come together? 

Tony Sirna, the new Data and Strategy Coordinator for CCL, looks on the bright side.  Recently public awareness of, and congressional interest in. carbon pricing as a means to reduce CO2 emissions portends movement toward a national policy.

This momentum reveals itself in the number of new groups forming to address the issue.  There is the Climate Leadership Council (CLC), Students for Carbon Dividends, and now a new well-funded PAC, Americans For Carbon Dividends (AFCD). And some major corporations have signed on like GM, Pepsico, and Unilever, besides oil giants like BP, Total and Exxon Mobil.  Add to the list a few bipartisan political luminaries like George Schultz, James Baker, Trent Lott, and John Breaux.

Can we trust the giant corporations, though?  Maybe we can.  After all, we are all in this together.  Oil giants' CEOs have grandchildren too, and 97% of climate scientists, the "jury", have returned their verdict: Climate change is real, happening fast, and is caused by humans dumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.  People are generally good, democracy generally works, and everyone is a potential ally.

As you see, there are some incompatibilities among these plans, and not everyone is going to agree on all points.  But the fact that there is a bipartisan consensus on the reality of global warming is a bright ray of hope.  Neither party is likely to score a filibuster-proof majority anytime soon, so compromise is imperative.  And compromise and cooperation are showing themselves to be possible in the House Climate Solutions Caucus which now boosts 42 Republicans and 42 Democrats working together to find ways to slow, stop, and even reverse, climate change.
We can do this!  Together!


References upon which this article is based:





There are many, many more cogent articles.  Just google "carbon fee and dividend" and pick your favorite source.


Monday, June 4, 2018

Health effects of climate change


"Global warming is spreading insect-borne diseases."  This was the headline of the May 12 Citizens' Climate Lobby Blog Post.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently released a report that found diseases spread by ticks, mosquitoes, and fleas more than tripled in the U.S. from 2004 to 2016, due largely to the Zika virus outbreak in 2015.  In analyzing this report we learn that:

·        Mosquitoes and ticks thrive in hotter temperatures caused by global warming.
·        Warmer temperatures tend to make mosquitoes get infected faster and be more infectious.
·        Higher temperatures allow ticks to spread into new areas farther north.
·        When the tick season is longer, people are exposed over longer periods.

A story from Newsweek on April 10 (Allergy Season 2018: Starting Earlier, Lasting Longer), citing a report by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, claims that "as the climate changes and temperatures rise, the amount of pollen in the air and the length of time it stays there increase. This combination means worsening allergy seasons to come for many."

These are only a couple of the impacts on human health that climate change causes.  Believe it or not, there is still a government website that hasn't been taken down yet, that addresses these impacts: The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment. The Introduction begins:

Climate change is a significant threat to the health of the American people. The impacts of human-induced climate change are increasing nationwide. Rising greenhouse gas concentrations result in increases in temperature, changes in precipitation, increases in the frequency and intensity of some extreme weather events, and rising sea levels. These climate change impacts endanger our health by affecting our food and water sources, the air we breathe, the weather we experience, and our interactions with the built and natural environments. As the climate continues to change, the risks to human health continue to grow.

Chapter 1 spells out how Climate Drivers produce Exposure Pathways giving adverse Health Outcomes.

Figure 1

Chapter 2 discusses Temperature-Related Death and Illness.  Chapter 3 addresses Air Quality Impacts.  The following chapters cover: 4-Extreme Events; 5-Vector-Borne Diseases; 6-Water-Related Illness; 7-Food Safety, Nutrition, and Distribution; 8-Mental Health and Well-Being; and 9-Populations of Concern.

The reality of temperature-related deaths was demonstrated recently in Karachi, Pakistan.  See May 29 New York Times story, Looking for a Bit of Shade as Intense Heat Wave Hits Karachi.  Karachi is accustomed to heat waves this time of year, but this year in mid-May temperatures soared above 43°C (more than 110° F)!  The heat radiated from roads and cement buildings well into the night.  The heat spiked on May 18, just days after the beginning of Ramadan, when Muslims are required to abstain from food and water from sunrise to sunset.  The death toll reached 65 that day. 

It's been worse.  In June of 2015, more than a thousand people died in the span of 2 weeks in Karachi.

Regarding food nutrition, a New York Times article from May 24, How More Carbon Dioxide Can Make Food Less Nutritious, reports that researchers in a new study find that increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is affecting the chemical composition of crops.  Not only do rising temperatures and frequent droughts damage harvests, but the extra carbon dioxide that humanity is pumping into the atmosphere is making some of our most important crops less nutritious by diluting their vitamins and minerals.  This latest study builds on an earlier one published in Nature in 2014, which found that elevated levels of carbon dioxide reduced the amount of zinc and iron found in wheat, rice, field peas and soybeans.

Beyond all this is the toll exacted on the mental health of the victims of extreme weather events.  There is the anxiety, despair, grief, and death that accompany hurricanes, floods, blizzards, and wildfires.  Who can count the tears witnessed on news reports of the October wildfires here in Northern California.  "We've lost everything!" is a lament repeated over and over.  Hurricane Harvey flooded square miles of the Houston area and caused the land to sink several centimeters.  Hurricane Maria killed over 4000 people in Puerto Rico during its rampage and aftermath.  Force 4 tornadoes rampage through the midwest causing death, destruction, and displacement.  Then winter comes with bomb cyclones, polar vortexes, arctic blasts, and more.  These extreme cold assaults are in fact a direct result of global warming, contrary to unscientific popular belief.  See Scientific American Earthtalk story: Why Global Warming Can Mean Harsher Winter Weather.  The devastation on ice-covered highways is only one source of loss and grief.

While it's true that earthquakes, volcanoes, and war (all of which can be indirectly caused by climate change) terrify, displace, and kill people, there is much less we as citizens can do about those.  But the disasters caused by climate change are within our power to mitigate.  We humans started the planet warming unnaturally, and we humans can stop it.

As was pointed out in the lead reference for this article, "people don’t often realize that climate change is already impacting us in adverse ways.  As a result, we tend to underestimate the urgency of the problem and consider it a low priority."  If you drop a frog into a pot of hot water, he will hop right out.  But if the water is cool and gradually heated to boiling, the frog will sit there, complacent, until he's cooked. 

Let's not sit here on this planet doing nothing until we're cooked!

Additional references:



Climate change and human health: Risks and responses
http://www.who.int/globalchange/publications/climchange.pdf

The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment
https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-06/documents/crimmons_climate_health_presentation062916.pdf


Monday, April 30, 2018

John F Nelson III, 1947-2018, My Oldest Best Friend


One thing about living on this planet as a human, that it takes a while to realize, is that it isn't forever.  I met John sometime over 60 years ago, I think.  When you've known someone for that long, it's hard to remember the details of your meeting.  I believe either Dave Buskness or John Ranney introduced me to John when we were 8 or 9 years old.  And I believe it was at Seventh Avenue Baptist Church here in Council Bluffs.  But I can't swear to it.

Anyway.  When most people are 8 or 9, they have little or no concept of death, especially personal death.  John and Dave and John Ranney who was a year younger than us, and Wink Longnecker, who was a year older, hung out together through high school.  It was in high school that John and I grew close.  We became like brothers… so close that we even fought like brothers sometimes.  

Wink graduated first and wound up flying helicopters in Vietnam.  When John and I graduated, I went on to college and John joined the Navy.  After college, I joined the Air Force and eventually found myself also in Vietnam.  It may have been around that time that we first began believing in death. 

John and I lost track of each other then for about a decade.  We both survived our military stints -- so did Wink -- so the thought of death visiting us personally faded from our consciousness.

When we reconnected, John and I were still drinking and smoking.  We did a lot of those over the next few years.  We were both living in Iowa back then.  We both married.  In John's case a couple of times.  :-)

I never met John's first wife, Ruth (until today) but I loaned John $125.00 to buy her a ring.  There were a couple more wives, Wanda and Julie, and finally Penny.  John was passionate about all his wives, but Penny was the only one who stuck with him through thick and think.  What love!

John got sober 33 years ago.  He was sober when he met Penny.  That may have something to do with their longevity.  I quit smoking 12 years ago, so I was a non-smoker when I met Sally.  And that definitely played a role in our getting together.  

John met Penny through my first wife, Vicki.  Penny and Vicki were friends in school and had stayed in touch.  Penny married John on December 31, 1989, and that marriage lasted.  He finally got it right.

My marriage to Vicki ended less than 2 years after their marriage began, and John stayed with me.  I was single for the next 19 years, but John always assured me that "she's out there."  John describes Penny as his best friend.  And, true to John's prediction, I finally met Sally 8 years ago.  That's when I finally got it right.  Sally has become my best friend.

John and I lived in different parts of the country for the last 30 years or so, but a couple of decades ago, we started hooking up around Presidents Day.  Which often was about half-way between our birthdays: John's in late January and mine in late February.  It was mostly just John and me.  We did this to celebrate the anniversary of our 50th birthdays.  When we got together, I would drink and John would smoke.  We knew each other well enough that it didn't jeopardize his sobriety or my smokefreeness.

We have rendezvoused in Vegas, Reno, Albuquerque, New Orleans, and various other places.  In 2000 we went to Belize.  John brought Penny and his son Roy.  I was single then, so I got to room with Roy.  Then in 07 we went to Australia, with Penny and my then girlfriend Judy.  She had taught school Down Under about the same time I was stationed in Vietnam in 1972.  She showed us around her old stomping grounds.  That's where this shirt I'm wearing came from.  It was the 10th anniversary of our 50th birthdays.


We had planned on getting together for our 20th, but John ran into a problem with his arteries, and we had to postpone.  Then, eventually, we had to cancel.

I did get to see him for our 21st anniversary, at his home in Colorado.  We went to Gunther Toody's.  That's the last time I saw him alive.  But I got to talk with him, laugh with him, touch him.  We'll resume our get togethers someday.

I now firmly believe in death.  But only as a gateway to a new life.

Rest in peace, John, my oldest best friend.



Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Roots Hold Me Close, Wings Set Me Free


At my church during the Sunday services we have a time of silence.  During these few minutes congregants are encouraged to pray, meditate, reflect, or simply blank the mind.  It begins with the ritual ringing of the bell, and ends with singing "Spirit Of Life".

There are a few key words in that song that are deeply meaningful to me: "Roots hold me close, wings set me free!"  Think about that for a minute.  On the surface, this seems to be a dissonance.  How can one be held close and set free at the same time?

I have roots in the midwest: "family values", morality, work ethic.  And my wings have set my heart, my mind, and my soul free.  The incongruity of these two is resolved only by awakenings.  The theme for last Sunday's service was "Gradual Awakening".  The week before it was "Sudden Awakening".

I've had flashes of insight, epiphanies, numinous experiences.  For example, in 2002 I suddenly realized that anger is caused by fear.  This came after an incident of road rage on the freeway commuting to work.  It was several minutes before my kidneys could remove all the adrenaline that had flooded into my bloodstream.  But fortunately there was no physical damage that resulted to either of us angry drivers, and I had time to reflect on the incident later at my desk at work. 

The truth that dawned on me and has stuck tight for more than a decade now, was that my sudden, hot anger had actually arisen from fear.  But what the heck was I afraid of?  That I might be late to work?  That somebody would make better time on the freeway than I.  That I might not be the best, most skillful, most efficient driver who ever took to the freeways of Northern California?  I realized that to address and treat my anger, I had to address and treat my fear.

That was a sudden awakening.  But a lot of the time sudden awakenings, conversion experiences, "getting religion" don't last.  Hence another of my favorite sayings, "Nothing good happens fast."  That's where gradual awakenings come in.

My roots, that is being grounded in the beliefs and values of my upbringing, hold me close.  And sudden realizations stick only when they conform to the basic structure of my being.  Yet wings: thinking outside the box, learning new things about the world, science, technology, or finding new experiences with people from other backgrounds, other cultures, other religions -- set me free to explore the Universe, both within and outside my own mind.

This is why I can claim that I am still adhering to the guiding principles I was taught growing up in a conservative Baptist church, while I embrace the wide, intellectually stimulating world of Unitarian Universalism.  I am, indeed, a follower of Christ.  And I'm no longer a fundamentalist.  I still believe that Jehovah is real, but that "Jehovah" is only a name I've given "him".  He could be The Almighty, She could be The Goddess, It could be the Universe.  It doesn't matter.  What matters is there is a Spirit that loves, that is benevolent, that is forgiving…. that is unafraid and therefore, never angry.  He, She, It is not vindictive, not jealous, never impatient.  In other words, something I want to be.

This, of course, requires me to reject the inerrancy of the Bible.  Narrower, more timid minds, those without the assurance that God loves them unconditionally and will never abandon them regardless of their "heresies", find this concept akin to "building a house upon the sand".  But in fact, it is the opposite.  The sands of Biblical interpretation, exegesis, and historical research shift with time and culture.  But "building a house upon a rock" requires something deeper than a superficial trust in a human-produced document with internal contradictions and clear fabrications, viz, inconsistencies among the Gospels, and the Old Testament reference to unicorns.

The faith that was planted, has grown, and is maturing in me sustains me through every delay, detour, and dead-end I encounter on my path.  I fear neither disappointment, disaster, nor death when I'm at my best.  I'm not always at my best, but even then I don't despair. 

"Like it says in the Bible, 'It came to pass…'  See, it didn't come to stay; it came to pass."

My roots will always and forever hold me close, while my wings set me free!!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Talking vs. Yelling


What a treasure of letters to the editor in the Thursday, March 22 issue of the Press Democrat!  Discussions of foreign policy, abortion, housing and climate change, plus assessments of the competence of the PD staff and of the president.  I know what side I'm on in each case, and I feel the urge to yell about the abysmal stupidity of those who disagree with me.

But the bottom line is, no one agrees completely with anyone else.  We are, deny it or not, a very diverse population, and current trends in violence, climate, a growing housing shortage, and religious crusades will destroy us if we don't cooperate.

Talk about what you believe. Allow others to believe otherwise and talk about their beliefs. Defend your beliefs without attacking others’ beliefs. Listen when others defend their beliefs. This works best when both parties adhere to these guidelines. When it doesn't work at all, don't argue; merely say, "Well, you believe that."

But then hopefully find some common or nearly common ground, shake hands and work together, each in their own fervently altruistic way, to help all of us build a better world… and maybe even thrive.

 



Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Kids and Schools and Climate Change

"Climate change is a children's issue!"  This has become a rallying cry throughout the country.Children who are 3 years old now, as my granddaughter is, will only be 85 in 2100.

According to a recent article in National Geographic (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/sea-level-rise/), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we can expect the oceans to rise between 11 and 38 inches by 2100.  More dire estimates place sea level rise at 23 feet!  Children who are 3 years old now, as my granddaughter is, will only be 85 in 2100.

The fact that climate change primarily affects young people gained national awareness when a group of youthful plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in US District Court of Oregon in 2015.  On November 10, 2016, a motion to dismiss filed by the fossil fuel industry was denied.  In June and July of 2017, the case moved forward and a trial date of February 5, 2018, was set by US Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin.  Oral arguments were held before a 3-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on December 11.  The Trump administration argued that the case be dismissed and employed such drastic tactics to silence the voices of youth and keep science out of the courtroom that the trial will not begin on February 5th! 
But it is going to be very hard to silence the voices of our youth and keep science out of the courtroom.  Check out: https://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/.

In early January, 2018, a group of evangelical Christian youths calling themselves Young Evangelicals for Climate Action posted the following on their website (http://www.yecaction.org/):  "EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt recently announced a plan to roll back the Clean Power Plan – our nation’s most comprehensive plan to date for tackling carbon emissions from power plants – with few concrete details for a plan that will replace it. Meanwhile, climate change continues to fuel more severe and destructive extreme weather events that threaten God’s creation, our loved ones, and our neighbors down the street and across the globe. This is absolutely unacceptable." (Emphasis is theirs not mine!)

Closer to home, on December 4, 2017, the Sebastopol Unified School District unanimously passed a resolution that states unequivocally that "climate change is a children's issue".  This started a chain reaction among school boards, city councils and county boards of supervisors.

On January 21, 2018, at the CCL NorCal Conference, Schools for Climate Action presented a slide show that spelled out steps to be taken by school stakeholders, elected leaders, and institutions.  They gave as examples the Climate Change Resolution by the Sebastopol Unified School District, the Carbon Fee and Dividend Endorsement by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, and the interest taken by the West Sonoma County School Board.  (See: https://schoolsforclimateaction.weebly.com/.)

On January 25, the Ross Valley School District in Marin Co also passed a climate action resolution unanimously.  Then on Monday, January 29 it was announced that a climate change resolution is on the agenda of the Santa Rosa City Council.

The wave of awareness and the need to take action to address these issues continues.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

At Least Climate Change Doesn't Cause Earthquakes... Right?


Climate change doesn't cause hurricanes, but it can increase the frequency and ferocity of them.  Climate change doesn't cause droughts, but it can increase the severity and persistence of them.  Climate change doesn't cause earthquakes, either.
Or does it?
A geophysicist, Chris Milliner of NASA's JPL at CalTech, noted that when 53 inches of rain fell on Huston during hurricane Harvey, the town sank by 2 cm. Those 53" represented 33 trillion gallons of water.  Water weighs 8.34 lbs per gallon.  Do the math.  That's 137 billion, 610 million tons.  No wonder Houston sank.[1]
Okay, and then when the water receded, Houston rose back up again.  That's a good thing, right?  Well, it depends on how fault-ridden the bedrock under Houston is.  Turns out Houston is not a seismically active region, so there were no significant earthquakes detected.
A book by Bill McGuire titled Waking the Giant discusses the effects of climate change on the Earth's crust. [2] At the end of the last ice age, 20,000 years ago, kilometers thick sheets of ice covered much of North America and Europe, sea levels were 425 feet lower, and the average global temperature was 11°F cooler.  Then the rapid melting of ice caps and filling of ocean basins shifted the distribution of enormous weight on the crust of the Earth.  This caused earthquakes, volcanoes, underwater landslides, and tsunamis.  But not all of the glaciers melted and the global temperature stabilized.  Until humans discovered coal and the Industrial Age began.  We are now on track, with human-caused rapid global warming, to see these things resume.
California is a different story than Houston.  According to Warren Cornwall of Reuters, shifting water weight can trigger small earthquakes in California.[3]  During the driest time of year, late summer and early fall, the weight of water in California is minimal.  Then come the rains.  Reservoirs begin to fill.  Ground water is replenished.  And the weight of water on California's network of criss-crossing geologic faults increases.  This causes a pattern of increased frequency of earthquakes during certain times of year.
As the climate changes, oceans warm, storms pick up more water and become much more violent, and unprecedented volumes of water weigh down on California's faults.  Earthquakes are going to be the result.
As if that isn't a dire enough prediction, we may even see some new volcanoes![4]