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Open letter from a distressed climate scientist

Javier Hernández, Director of the Climate Research Center, Sonoma State University

I am addressing this open letter to the Sonoma County government government officials, the California governor, and to all policymakers in the world, especially to those in areas where climate change-related phenomena (extreme heat, droughts, wildfires, heavy rainfall, floods, hurricanes, sea-level rise, storm surge, tornadoes) and other geophysical processes exacerbated by climate change like earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, etc. are already causing ample biophysical, social and economic devastation.

More recently, scientists like myself, are confirming that climate change-related processes are happening much earlier than expected and that urgent and massive emergency action must be undertaken.

Climate change accentuated phenomena are impacting us now and their frequency and intensity are set to increase even if all anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions are stopped today. For this reason, even though stopping anthropogenic GHG emissions and drawing down existing carbon in the atmosphere at maximum speed is still very important to mitigate climate change, it is paramount to deploy deep climate adaptation strategies in order to better cope with our present and future climate reality. Deep climate adaptation means to undertake all the necessary economic, structural, organizational, societal, etc., transformations to minimize the impact of climate change vulnerabilities particular to each region.

This open letter is not intended to convince anyone on whether climate change is happening or not, or whether is occurring because of natural forces, mostly human activities or a combination of both factors. The aim of this open letter is to discuss the most important problem related to climate change, the issue of living in a world where climate change enhanced phenomena are impacting us now and will become the norm in our very near future.

I’m a very distressed climate scientist that has done research on extreme weather and its relations to climate variability and change. I’ve experienced firsthand the devastating impacts of climate change accentuated phenomena, with more powerful Hurricanes impacting my homeland of Puerto Rico and more frequent and larger wildfires in California where I currently live. I am in the front lines of the climate change apocalypse.

The Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC) Report of October 2018 presented a dire state of the climate which, in reality, understated the true, even more disastrous, state of the climate. The Report claimed that with global CO2 emissions reductions of 45% below 2010 levels by 2030 and zero emissions by 2050, the average global temperature increase above pre-industrial times would likely stay below 1.5º C. The exclusion of the self-reinforcing climate change amplifying feedbacks (f.i. ice sheet disintegration, loss of albedo effect, heat storage by the oceans and release of methane from melting permafrost) in their climate change models, makes those suggestions irrelevant and misleading. The Report suggests that there is still a “carbon budget” that safely allows for more GHG emissions, which is not supported by the more realistic models that include the amplifying feedbacks, and by the now almost constant extreme and usually “unprecedented” climate change-related events happening around the world. There is no safe carbon budget left.

Because of those amplifying feedbacks alone, the increase of 1.5ºC is going to be surpassed significantly sooner than 2030, even if all anthropogenic GHG emissions are stopped immediately. The current global average temperature increase is close to 1.2º C and many areas of the Earth are already beyond a 1.5º C increase. For instance, Canada is at about 2 times the global average temperature increase and the Arctic Region (including Northern Canada) is at about 3 times the average.

The already major activation of the self-reinforcing climate change amplifying feedbacks, as a consequence of anthropogenic GHG emissions, makes the existing climate change mostly irreversible and leaves a short, but difficult to quantify, time for humans to mitigate further climate change aggravation by stopping all GHG emissions and removing GHG from the atmosphere, before a runaway climate change gets established.

As a scientist and as a being of this world I argue that we must stop debating whether we act or not on climate change. My position on the issue is clear, we must take bold climate action to prepare our societies for a more extreme world at the brink of societal collapse. We must embrace the fact that more devastating climate change effects will occur in the near future, so we must quickly begin our deep adaptation process to live in this new more climate extreme world.

If we don’t want to witness the end of organized civilization as we know it, we must act now. For that reason, I urge local, state and federal/national policymakers to accept the scientific consensus and the empirical reality that climate change is impacting us now and that it will continue to impact us in the immediate and long term future. After acknowledging our climate reality, I ask policymakers at all levels to issue official climate disaster state of emergency executive orders to make all resources available to deal with the climate change crisis which, ultimately, has the potential for the extinction of humanity.

I urge our governments to develop emergency measures that would allow us to prepare all of the infrastructure (roads, dams, buildings, parks, bridges, emergency-response infrastructure) and essential sustaining systems like farming, water supply, and health care, in our communities to the impacts of climate change. If we take bold action now, we can employ every able person in our communities in the 100% renewable energy transformation, infrastructure resiliency efforts and environmental restoration measures that would allow us to be better prepared to cope with climate change impacts now and in the very near future.

The impacts of climate change will not stop in the near future, even if we dropped all of our GHG emissions to zero. For that reason, I urge policymakers to focus on developing a more just and resilient local, national and global society that would allow all of its members to have a dignified life under our current and future climate reality.

In order for all of this to happen, policymakers need to accept one very important fact, we cannot continue with our current unsustainable economic activities that view the Earth as merely a collection of resources to be exploited in eternity for the sake of never-ending economic growth and wealth accumulation. Our voracious economic growth since the industrial revolution, almost exclusively dependent on fossil fuels, is what brought us here and it needs to stop if we want to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

If we want to avoid the worst of the very likely climate apocalypse in our horizon, we must act now and work together to build a more just and resilient world for us, our children and all of humanity. It is impossible to put a brake on all of the climate change impacts that will threaten us now and in the very near future, but we can still mitigate Climate Change, build more resilient communities, restore key ecosystems and relinquish old unsustainable practices that would allow us to live a dignified life in a more climate extreme world.

Sincerely,

José Javier Hernández Ayala, PhD
Assistant Professor and Director
Climate Research Center
Geography, Environment and Planning Dept.
Sonoma State University
jose.hernandezayala@sonoma.edu

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , ,

Sonoma County high school students organize to demand action on climate change

Nashelly Chavez & Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

High school students from across Sonoma County walked out of classes Friday and converged in Petaluma, Sebastopol and Santa Rosa to join youth-led demonstrations worldwide demanding action in what activists call a global climate crisis.

Tens of thousands of students across the country are expected to participate in the coordinated March 15, grassroots rallies, NPR reported.

In Santa Rosa, about 150 students from across the North Bay and supporters waived homemade signs during a noon march from Old Courthouse Square to City Hall. An open mic session preceded the short, chant-filled walk, where organizers and others skipping school sang songs, read poems and gave environmentally-charged speeches to encourage protecting the earth and accepting the science behind climate change.

“It’s ridiculous, we’ve got to face the facts,” said Lea Fabian-Davies, 17, a senior at Petaluma High School. “We need to save the bees. We need clean oceans. Every small step counts.”

Four local teens, all part of a fellowship program run by the Bay Area chapter of 350, a global environmental group that supports reducing carbon dioxide emissions and investing in clean energy, organized Sebastopol’s rally planned for the town’s Central Park at 12:30 p.m., said Eleanor Jaffe, 17, one of the organizers.

“We need to act fast and have huge action to ensure a future for generations to come,” said Jaffe, a senior at Analy High School. “I think Sebastopol has long been a hub for environmental change and people in our community are excited and engaged about what’s happening environmentally.”

Momentum for today’s protests began last summer with Swedish teen Greta Thunberg, who during a speech at the United Nations climate change summit in December told a group of world leaders that they were not doing enough to stop climate change.

Another driver of the youth rallies in the United States is garnering support for the New Green Deal, legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, in February that aims to combat climate change by transitioning to sustainable energy.

Source: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9394979-181/sonoma-county-high-school-students?sba=AAS

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Op-Ed: A year later, still no true accounting for County’s greenhouse gas emissions

Jerry Bernhaut, SONOMA VALLEY SUN

In July of 2017 ruling on a lawsuit filed by River Watch and attorney Jerry Bernhaut, a judge rejected Sonoma County Climate Action Plan (CAP) for reducing greenhouse gases. Here’s his update.

The primary basis for the lawsuit was that the accounting method used in the CAP grossly under counted greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from road, air and sea travel beyond county borders and nearby regional destinations generated in the course of the global export of wine and other local products, and travel to and from local tourist venues. This means millions of metric tons of GHG emissions, which would not have occurred but for the issuing of permits for hotels, event centers, vineyards and wineries, were simply not counted.

Since the judge issued her ruling, the Regional Climate Protection Authority and the County have completely disregarded her findings. They have repeatedly referred to the lawsuit as “unproductive” and have never responded in a substantive manner to the grounds for the judge’s ruling.

shutterstock_234239257-1-2-390x285The County has recently proposed a resolution, adopted by the Supervisors, which updates the County’s GHG Inventory and recommits the RCPA to policy goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The stated intent of the resolution is to “achieve the same policy impetus behind climate action as would have the Climate Action 2020 Plan, notwithstanding the setback from the lawsuit.”

But he RCPA once again refuses to include emissions from trans-boundary travel. This is a fiction which can only be maintained by excluding the thousands of tons of GHG emissions from 7.5 million tourists per year and billions of dollars in wine exports.

Each local community must take responsibility for its decisions that permit and enable activity that results in emissions that contribute to global warming. Each community must account for the environmental costs of its land use decisions. So far, Sonoma County elected officials have showed no inclination to take that responsibility, despite the decision of an experienced, highly respected superior court judge overturning the CAP.

Read more at http://sonomasun.com/2018/09/06/a-year-later-still-no-true-accounting-for-countys-greenhouse-gas-emissions/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Local OrganizationsTags ,

North Bay groups team up for climate mobilization

SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
climate-march
Stressing the need for action at the international Climate Change Talks COP21 this December in Paris, three North Bay environmental organizations have teamed up to encourage Sonoma County residents to join in a national climate mobilization campaign. 350 Sonoma County, Sonoma County Conservation Action and the Redwood Chapter of the Sierra Club are pooling their resources to provide bus transportation to the NorCal Climate Mobilization march and rally in Oakland November 21.
In addition, 350 Sonoma County is inviting residents to participate in the  “Redwood Revolution Community Climate Art Project” which will produce a ”forest” of redwood shaped recycled cardboard signs to deliver messages of hope and action at the Oakland rally.
The Paris Climate talks offer the greatest opportunity in years for new international government action to address climate change. New Obama Administration climate policies, China’s willingness to begin new climate programs, the incredible moral force of Pope Francis, as well as increasing occurrences of climate disruption set the stage for real action in Paris.
Without massive citizen action however, governments will not go nearly as far as necessary  in signing  serious binding  commitments to  curb global warming. The  November 21 Climate Mobilization and similar events around the country and world will tell our leaders that significant action is needed now.
Local Mobilization to Attend
The three North Bay groups have teamed up to rent buses that will leave from the Federal Building in downtown Santa Rosa and Sonoma State University. Buses will leave from the Santa Rosa Federal Building at 9am and return at 4pm on Saturday, November 21st. Roundtrip bus tickets are $20.  In addition, the Sierra Club is sponsoring a special bus for Santa Rosa Junior College and Sonoma State University students at a reduced rate of $5. The bus will pick up and return students to the Santa Rosa Federal Building and the SSU campus.
To purchase bus tickets go to http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2414149
Go to: 350SonomaCounty.org, sierraclub.org/redwood/sonoma, or conservationaction.org for information about organizing for the rally and other local climate organizing and activism opportunities.
Source: North Bay Groups Team Up for Climate Mobilization

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , , Leave a comment on China-U.S. climate accord goals achievable; policies are already in place

China-U.S. climate accord goals achievable; policies are already in place

Henry Fountain and John Schwartznov, THE NEW YORK TIMES
For all the pronouncements about the United States and China reaching a historic climate pact, the agreement they announced Wednesday does not signal a seismic shift in policies by either nation, experts said.
The United States and China should both be able to meet the stated goals by aggressively pursuing policies that are largely in place, these analysts said. For the United States, those include the Obama administration’s proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants, which would go into effect in 2017. Experts said that in practice it should be possible to wring more emissions cuts from that and other climate-related measures without adding to costs.
“We think that the tools are there to meet this target,” said David Doniger, director of the climate program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Politics, of course, may get in the way — Republicans in Congress vowed to fight the power plant proposal even before it was introduced in June, and some, including Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is set to become the majority leader next year, have already sharply criticized the China pact.
Policy analysts said a changing energy mix for China, including a buildup of renewable energy sources and nuclear power, had been in the works for some time. “What China is pledging to do here is not a lot different from what China’s policies are on a track to deliver,” said David G. Victor, who studies climate policy at the University of California at San Diego.
Wang Yi, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, said experts in China had reached a consensus that the 2030 date was achievable for its targets, and that 2025 would be a more ambitious goal.
The agreement, announced during President Obama’s visit with President Xi Jinping in Beijing, calls for the United States to reduce carbon emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. That represents a significant acceleration in the rate of reduction from the president’s earlier pledge to cut emissions 17 percent by 2020.
Read more and see infographics via Climate Accord Relies on Environmental Policies Now in Place – NYTimes.com.

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, TransportationTags , Leave a comment on San Diego greenhouse gas plan rejected by court as inadequate

San Diego greenhouse gas plan rejected by court as inadequate

Don Bauder, SAN DIEGO READER
In April of 2013, Superior Court judge Timothy Taylor, agreeing with the Sierra Club, ruled that San Diego County’s climate action plan violated state law by not taking climate pollution sufficiently into account in its long-term transportation plan. Today (October 29), the Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, upheld Taylor’s decision.
Said the appeals court, “The Sierra Club alleged that instead of preparing a climate change action plan that included comprehensive and enforceable [greenhouse gas] emission reduction measures that would achieve [greenhouse gas] reductions by 2020, the County prepared a climate action plan as a plan-level document that expressly ‘does not ensure reductions.'”
Judge Taylor ruled that the climate action plan did not contain enforceable greenhouse-gas reduction measures that would achieve the specified emissions reductions. Many environmentalists have long complained that the county relies excessively on highway traffic.
The county appealed, claiming the statute of limitations bars the claim that the mitigation measures are not enforceable, a supplemental environmental impact report was not required, and the county’s plan met legal requirements. Today, the appellate court agreed with Judge Taylor’s decision.
via Greenhouse gas plan inadequate | San Diego Reader.