Delay, Deflection, and Doomerism Divide Us

The silver lining in the really gloomy cloud of COVID-19 is the wealth of material and meetings available online — many of which we could never attend before.

Sonoma County’s Climate Center
Sonoma County’s Climate Center will hold a 3 hour Community Energy Resilience Policy Summit.

The Climate Center’s Webinar series is great

Sonoma County’s Climate Center held a Town Hall on Climate Justice July 17th with a special focus on the Central Valley. On August 5th, there’ll be a three-hour Community Energy Resilience Policy Summit. www.resiliencesummit.net.

Join Janae Scott, California Energy Commission; Genevieve Shiroma, California Public Utilities Commission; Carmen Ramirez, Mayor of Oxnard; and Ellie Cohen, The Climate Center for a discussion about policies to support Community Energy Resilience.
Join Janae Scott, California Energy Commission; Genevieve Shiroma, California Public Utilities Commission; Carmen Ramirez, Mayor of Oxnard; and Ellie Cohen, The Climate Center for a discussion about policies to support Community Energy Resilience.

A chance to hear Michael Mann again

I generally try to focus on local events, but on July 13th, thanks to Zoom, I was able to hear an interview from San Diego’s North County Climate Change Alliance with Dr. Michael E. Mann, whom I’d been privileged to meet and hear speak at the Rising Seas Summit in Boston in 2015. Dr. Mann kindly gave me permission to quote him.

Who is Michael Mann?

The original northern hemisphere hockey stick graph of Mann, Bradley & Hughes 1999, showing a sharp rise in global temperatures beginning in the 1900s.Image: Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
The original northern hemisphere hockey stick graph of Mann, Bradley & Hughes 1999, showing a sharp rise in global temperatures beginning in the 1900s.Image: Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

A climatologist, and the director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, he’s perhaps best known for the “hockey stick” graph showing a sharp rise in global temperatures beginning in the 1900s. The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars (2013), and the forthcoming The New Climate War: the Fight to Take Back Our Planet are among his many books.

The 4 “D’s we need to deal with:

Denialism

Mann’s been at the forefront of combatting Climate Change Denialism; he’s been pummeled in the press and even had his life and his family threatened by climate deniers.

Delay and Deflection.

He says these tactics have been adopted as Denialism became more untenable in the face of the visible threats to our climate.

We all know Delay—continually putting off making necessary real changes, with a thousand reasons why we need to wait.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=13&v=j7OHG7tHrNM&feature=emb_logo

The Crying Indian - full commercial - Keep America Beautiful

He mentioned a classic example of Deflection— the 1970s ad showing a crying Indian looking at pollution. This famous ad was actually funded by leading beverage and packaging corporations. By putting the onus for pollution on individual actions, it deflected people from the role of those producers, helping to “kill bottle bills,” which provided for refunds for recycling. This attitude greatly contributed to our massive amounts of plastic pollution today.

Doomerism

Perhaps the worst threat, doomerism overwhelms us, leading to an attitude of “why bother —it’s too late anyway.” We don’t need to exaggerate the threat, it’s real; however, doom spreaders use news such as the recent fires in Siberia and the Arctic melting to misstate the science and present a more apocalyptic scenario than is real.

Delay, Deflection, and Doomerism Divide Us.

Asking what’s the line where we reach the real dangers of climate change, Dr. Mann said, “In California, Australia, Puerto Rico, Houston—[the line] has arrived.” The weather extremes we’ve seen show that “we are already committed to bad stuff. The real conversation needs to be ‘how bad are we willing to let it get?’” It’s not too late, but we have to “Act Now.”

He explained that while we can tolerate any individual year crossing the line of 1.5° C rise above pre-industrial levels set down by the Paris Climate Accord, we “don’t want the trend to cross it” on a regular basis. “We are one to two decades away” from that happening; to prevent it “we need to bring °C ( degrees Centigrade) down more than 5% per year.” (Recently the UN said we need to cut emissions by 7.6% every year for the next decade to stay below 1.5°C.)

The COVID-19 lockdown is likely to reduce global emissions by as much as 8% this year, but greenhouse gases stay in the atmosphere for decades, so temperatures could very well increase this year. This 8% reduction comes largely from individual behavior changes, but it’s clear we can’t do this every year for the next decade.

Structural change is needed…

Our experience this last several months has made it clear that behavioral change alone can’t make the changes we desperately need.

Personal behavior changes in the face of threats to the climate are NOT enough, “we need structural change” to really make a difference.

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This continuation of the print version of “For the Planet” is primarily a resource list.

I apologize for all the web links, but I am trying to make it easy for everyone to take action. All the links take you to the mentioned website; I’ve checked all of them to make sure they do so.

As mentioned earlier, there are a number of webinars available on aspects of the Climate Crisis.

Besides the Climate Center’s August 5th Resilience Policy Summit, resiliencesummit.net, you can also access recordings of previous events at https://theclimatecenter.org/webinars/#past.

The North County Climate Alliance (San Diego County), which sponsored the interview with Dr. Michael Mann I wrote about in the print edition, is presenting Dr. Mark Z. Jacobson, Director, Atmosphere/Energy Program Stanford University, on Aug. 13th at 5:30 P.M., speaking on “100% Clean, Renewable Energy and Storage for Everything.” Register at https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEsf-Gsqj8uHN3VK3Lw-H1T3KqTerQFdfry. You can also access prior speakers at their website, https://ncccalliance.org. For a number of webinars on the Roadmap to COP26, check out http://www.climateaction.org/webinars. All of the above are free.

Recently Dr. Mann wrote an opinion piece for the Guardian, as part of their “100 Days to Save the Planet,” which they began 100 days before the US is scheduled to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, on November 4th. (I highly recommend following this series daily.)

In it, he reiterated something I keep saying, that while individual behavioral changes can and do make a difference, we are now at the point where that is simply not enough. We need structural changes, on a massive scale, and we can’t get that without leadership—at all levels, but especially at the top.

Since the last election in 2016, the current federal administration has been filled “with polluters and lobbyists who took the regulatory reins off their pals in the oil and gas industry,…slowly but steadily dismantling a half century of environmental progress," Mann said.

Recently the House Democrats released a report on the climate crisis—one they are ready to turn into action. The Biden campaign “just released a robust new climate platform that, if enacted, would put us on solid footing to win the climate fight. Though it may not be perfect, it’s the strongest climate call ever put forward by a Democratic party nominee for president,” he continued. It would “quite literally mean a world of difference” compared to the current administration’s agenda. (The current administration has rolled back nearly 70 important environmental regulations, and is on target to cut another 30 of them. For full details go to the July 15th edition of the New York Times. Spoiler alert—you will be shocked!) (EDITOR’S NOTE - I tried to find it but can't - if you have a link - please email ti to: editor@sonomacountygazette.com THANK YOU!)

At all levels of government, there are opportunities to influence legislation to benefit the environment—For the Planet!

So, what do we do! The most important thing we can do individually is VOTE and make sure that voting is safe and fair for EVERYONE.

First, make sure you are registered to vote. Even if you have registered already, check your registration status at https://voterstatus.sos.ca.gov/. Even in California, people have been inadvertently dropped from the rolls. All registered California voters will receive a mail-in ballot this year. Be sure to return it as soon as you can. Ballots in California must be accepted up to 17 days after Election Day, if postmarked by Nov. 3rd. However, election officials can begin counting them 7 days before Election Day. The more ballots that are already counted on Nov. 3rd, the quicker we can have results and thus head off possible challenges to the election.

While all ballots in California will have pre-paid postage, you can also return them to any polling place or several central locations—these are not yet finalized; check http://sonomacounty.ca.gov/CRA/Registrar-of-Voters/Elections/November-3-2020-Presidential-Election/ for updates.

Also, register at: https://california.ballottrax.net/voter/ to track your ballot. Be sure to follow ALL directions so that your ballot doesn’t get disqualified.

So now, how do we make sure everyone else votes, and can do so safely and fairly? Well, besides the obvious—talking with all your family and friends, you might want to get involved in a number of non-partisan campaigns to help get the vote out, especially in states with a history of voter suppression. So here are a number of sites you can go to to volunteer to write letters or postcards, text, or phone. I’ve been writing postcards as a volunteer for the NAACP to people in Mississippi who may have been dropped from the rolls, giving them information on how to check their status. It’s felt good to be able to do something concrete, even while I am sheltering-in-place.

The following organizations focus on reaching environmental voters—people who express a strong commitment to the environment, but unfortunately don’t vote in large numbers; some of them are more informational, the first three clearly offer volunteer opportunities:

https://www.eldersclimateaction.org/promotethevote/

https://eldersaction.org/fair-elections/ Click on TAKE ACTION

https://www.sierraclubindependentaction.org

https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/climate2020/

https://www.environmentalvoter.org

https://voteclimatepac.org

Help make voting safe and fair for everyone; volunteer at:

https://nationalvotercorps.org Click on “Reclaim the Vote.” This is whom I’ve been volunteering for. Also check out the list of National Organizations on the Home Page

https://www.rockthevote.org/get-involved/help-register-voters/

https://www.whenweallvote.org/takeaction/

https://www.lwv.org

And of course, there are partisan groups which you can check out—some are local.

Locally a campaign to OPPOSE NEW GAS STATIONS in Sonoma County, especially in areas where there are already plenty of them and/or places that are environmentally sensitive, has been quite successful in helping to block new stations, but there are currently two in play here in Santa Rosa. Their next Zoom meeting is on August 5th, contact them at congas.contact@gmail.com for the link and other ways you can help.

© Tish Levee, 2020

For The Planet
Tish Levee

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