Midterm Climate Report: Partly Cloudy

Nov 09, 2018 · 133 comments
Colin McKerlie (Sydney)
Sorry guys, the world is going to burn. I'm 60, hope to make 80, don't care too much if I don't make 90, but I am content that I will only live to see the start of what the human race has done to the planet and itself. There is no way humanity is going to avoid an exponential catastrophe that will spill out into world wars and horrors unimaginable as technological change marches on - all controlled by an elite with zero concern for the great majority of their fellows. We face the incarnation of our collective incapacity to impose reasonable behaviour on large groups of people - you see him and his ridiculous hairdo on your screens every day. If we are living in a world in which the United States can elect Donald Trump as president and nobody in the country is able or willing to do anything effective to bring his presidency to an end, how can you possibly believe that humanity is going to work together to reverse global warming? It is patently ridiculous. Hitler was the last great warning to humanity of it's collective capacity for self-destruction. Trump is showing us that nothing has changed, we have learned nothing, we don't want to learn anything, we are selfish and self-indulgent grubs who can't even understand what is necessary for our survival, let alone make it happen. The important numbers here are simply national populations. Western governments control about 20% of the population and the rest all want their own car. Forget it. It's over. Greed and stupidity won.
Phil (Las Vegas)
"the fossil fuel fraternity dumped... $30 million into Washington State to crush... the first taxes... on carbon" Climate Scientist: "My research shows worsening drought in the US West and a huge increase in acreage burned each year in that half of the country" Fossils-funded climate denier: "Oh, he's just in it for the Money!"
james jordan (Falls church, Va)
I believe oil, coal, and natural gas and manufacturing industries that use these fossil fuels DID get the memo. They know fossil combustion emissions are harming the health of humans and cause global warming, BUT, they also know that to cease production of the energy from fossil fuels and global manufactures like autos, aircraft, home heating, cooling and millions of other products that depend on internal combustion and electricity made from fossil fuel combustion would be a disruptive economic event. Billions would lose their jobs and civilization would break down. Making the shift from fossil fuels to a non-fossil alternative energy source will be extremely difficult in every social dimension of human civilization. Just think about it. The global challenge, which must be met, will require an international commitment to develop a source of energy that will meet the requirement for a steadily improving world standard of living. A carbon tax in a State in our nation won't begin to address the scale and enormity of the challenge. In his book, Spaceship Earth, Dr. James Powell, has proposed a system for providing very cheap electricity worldwide and then allow the market to do its work. Very cheap electricity will trigger new electric Superconducting Maglev networks for hauling freight trucks and vans, and people and their cars. see www.magneticglide.com Cheap electricity will power carbon dioxide scrubbers to help reduce the current level of [email protected] in the atmosphere. .
Phyliss Dalmatian (Wichita, Kansas)
California is Burning, again. What can you do, besides Voting for ONLY for those that believe in Science and Climate Change ??? The greatest contribution any individual or couple can make is to NOT Breed. Or, at least limit your reproduction. I shake my head at those that still pop out 4 or 5 kids, or even more. And there are plenty of those around here. We are NOT farm animals, and the Planet isn’t expanding. For the record, the Husband and I had/have ONE Child. That’s enough. Seriously.
Kenneth Brady (Staten Island)
The two strongest actions Americans can take individually to reduce the climate change problem: 1) Reproduce much more judiciously - that means 0 or 1 child; 2) Stop driving automobiles. Instead, walk, ride a bicycle, and/or use any available public options. If you "simply can't do this", then relocate closer to your place of employment. I expect most folks in this readership are unwilling to take either action, yet still want to consider themselves good stewards of the planet. If the changes in our climate are caused by human activity, then the only real way to address the problem is to change how humans act.
John Doe (Johnstown)
Perhaps if unemployed people were not allowed to vote, a campaign based on “save the planet, full speed ahead”, as opposed to one of “jobs, jobs, jobs”, might stand more of a chance. Ankle bracelet monitoring has far greater application beyond just ordinary criminals.
David Ward ( New Zealand)
The problem will never be solved by cutting back on CO2 emissions. It is far too late for such a gradual process to make a difference. The only option is " ... “direct air capture” – extracting carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere using giant industrial plants. At the moment, this is technically possible, but is an inefficient, costly and energy-intensive process." This statement appears in an article in the current Economist by Tom Standage | October 29th 2018 : "Worried about climate change? Hope is in the air" Let's stop wringing our hands and start building these giant plants. The government ought to do it but in the meantime, any billionaires like to step up and save the planet? David
Cate (New Mexico)
As with any vital issue facing us Americans, the first step is to inform oneself about the circumstances, needed actions, and probable outcomes of various solutions. I highly recommend "Years of Living Dangerously," seasons 1 & 2 (available on DVD & on YouTube) for comprehensive information about global warming and climate change. Each program leaves one with a feeling that something is being done to give us hope and strength! The "Years of Living Dangerously" Season 2 (Distributed by National Geographic) DVD liner notes are quoted here: "In this groundbreaking event series, celebrity correspondents bring us stories of those affected by, and seeking solutions to, climate change--from locations shockingly close to home. Covering issues like severe hurricanes, droughts, and the increasing extinction rate of wildlife, the series offers a gritty look at not only how we have impacted our planet, but also how we can save it for future generations." Select correspondents include: Jack Black, Thomas Friedman, America Ferrera, David Letterman, Sigourney Weaver, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Joshua Jackson, Nikki Reed, Ian Somerhalder, Cecily Strong, and Bradley Whitford. We must start immediately to inform ourselves about this incredibly important isue so that we can't be manipulated away from action. With our being better informed we are prepared to shift the political dialog toward meaningful solutions, some of which can be put forth beginning in the new 2019 Congressional session.
[email protected] (Joshua Tree)
there are basically 3 possibilities: those oposed to recognizing and taking action against the climate crisis : 1. know it's real but are motivated to say it isn't. 2. don't know it's real and aren't interested in knowing more. 3. believe it isn't real and deny any evidence to the contrary.
runaway (somewhere in the desert)
Obviously, it is a good thing that sane people now control one house nationally, and several state legislatures. The problem is that the control is not based on the need to address climate change but on other issues such as health care and the putrid stench emmenating from the White House. Until the American people can dig their way through the lies being propogated by the right wing media and the unpatriotic republican party to realize that global climate change is not just an important issue, but the primary issue facing us, progress will be sporadic at best. Inconvenient, but the truth.
ebmem (Memphis, TN)
@runaway There will not be any advancement until the left gets over their anger at being in the minority and stops asserting that Republicans are the enemy. Like it or not, if you do not engage in civil discourse with political opponents, you will be wandering in the desert forever. We have common cause. Politicians of both parties lie, exaggerate, misuse statistics. That doesn't mean that that either side is evil when they make different policy decisions. Racial division, illegal immigration, water pollution from NYC increased, the problem of drinking water lead contamination in blue cities was revealed, along with lead paint contamination in blue cities during the Obama administration and no proposed solutions were advanced by Obama. Think about it. BLM was created under Obama as a result of alleged police brutality in blue cities that had been governed by Democrats for decades. Income inequality grew. Since the election of Trump, the non-Republican Republican disdained by the establishment of both parties, more has been accomplished to restore the rule of law than occurred during the Obama administration. Democrats in the House can either spend the next two years attempting to depose the sitting president and resisting, or they can find areas of common cause, negotiate, and compromise. Or they will be swept out of office in 2020.
kay (new york)
We have 12 years to get off fossil fuels, change our farming and the way we eat, get off gas vehicles to slow the devastation ahead. What the republicans are doing by ignoring this and letting fossil fuel corps run amok is nothing short of homicidal. How many people need to die and lose their homes to massive fires, massive storms and floods before this country wakes up? Stop voting for republicans, libertarians, conservatives and the like if you want your kids to have a chance at surviving.
Alan (Columbus OH)
@kay You make a very good point - diet is a huge part of the problem, and it is absurd that the government is supporting animal-based agriculture. This fact, however, is a useful signal that our diets are something that the people will likely be on their own to remedy.
ebmem (Memphis, TN)
@kay Please explain why NYC dumps one million gallons per year of raw sewage into the waters of America in addition to thousands of gallons of partially treated sewage plant effluent. The behavior of municipal officials has been illegal since the 1970's, the technology exists to clean up their system, the city collects sufficient user fees to pay for their sins [but diverts the funds to other purposes]. Why hasn't the state DNR or the EPA enforced the law? Fifty percent of NYC schools pay to supply bottled drinking water to students and employees because the drinking water is contaminated with lead. The public housing authority didn't check for lead paint, mold and other substandard housing conditions and/or suppressed the evidence. The Obama Justice Department would be all over a private business that followed the practices of the bloated, corrupt, Democrat politician governed housing authority or any red state that misused federal, state and municipal funds as NYC has done. California is spending billions on a high speed train to nowhere and subsidies to Tesla instead of investing in antifire activities like creating fire breaks and removing dead trees near residential areas, or investing in water infrastructure. Those of us in flyover country have no desire to live under the rule of Democrats who are indifferent to the needs of the people to the advantage of wealthy dark money. The money that flooded the election did not come from rank and file Democrats.
S.E.H. (Seattle )
A side note: The metaphoric title of this Editorial is obviously appealing and sounds clever but sadly, I fear, perpetuates the old confusion between CLIMATE and WEATHER. "Cloudy" of course pertains to weather, not the climate. The CLIMATE is what you EXPECT, the weather is what your GET (sunny, cloudy). The unlearned talk about the weather, the learned talk about the climate, too. By mixing up these two, the Times' editorial board (through ignorance or oversight?) plays precisely into the hands of those who use the weather/climate obfuscation to prevent us from seriously talking about climate change (remember how Sen. Imhofe used the snowball to disprove climate change to the unread, unlearned, unschooled?)
Steve O (Reno, Nevada)
A tax on Carbon levied in one State will have no impact on total atmospheric Carbon, the voters in Washington know this. The 2016 Paris agreement allowed most nations to continue to increase their Carbon emissions through 2030, it required first world economies (the US and the EU) to provide $ billions to third world countries with a track record of corruption with no firm requirement for them to reduce their Carbon emissions. Finally the agreement required that reductions in Carbon emissions were only a small part of the agenda, social justice for people living in poor countries, impacts on women and minorities and other non-Carbon reducing issues were at the forefront. Of course Washington voters said no, they said no to an ever increasing tax that would not have measurably reduced atmospheric Carbon. If a Carbon tax was levied nation wide and the proceeds could only be used to reduce the debt of the Federal and State governments, not for new programs, I could get behind the tax. But government would only spend more money on programs that get them elected rather than programs that effectively reduce Carbon. Better yet, if half the proceeds was spent on the commercial development of fusion energy (a 50 year project) a possible solution would be in the works.
Robert (Out West)
Sigh. Let me point out that yes indeedy, reducing Washington state’s carbon output would help with global emissions, and that nosirreebob, that is not what the Paris Accords say.
ak bronisas (west indies)
@Steve O........you dont have to wait 50 years for "fusion energy".....the sun provides enough FREE,potential, energy....FROM SUNLIGHT falling on one half of the earth every day....to provide for the earths ENTIRE annual demand! First you have to convince the OPEC MONOPOLY CARTEL....that by selling the remaining fossil fuels from their"underground bank accounts"......they will be destroying themselves .....as well as large areas of human habitation on earth. But as we humans, composing only 0.01% ,by weight,on earth.......have killed of 83% of the wild life and 50% of the wild plants........... in 50 years we may have ONLY the suns fusion left ,anyway !!!
ebmem (Memphis, TN)
@Robert Sigh. You did not pay attention to the Paris Accords details. Yes. China alone [the largest contributor to greenhouse gases and also the primary contributor to fugitive Freon releases] has agreed to double its CO2 output between 2015 and 2030. It will add more CO2 to the atmosphere than mankind has added since the inception of the industrial revolution. You cannot point to a single item in Steve O's comment that is not factually correct.
Rudy Hopkins (Austin Texas)
Something novel happened this morning while reading this article and sipping my coffee: I had a moment of hope and sense of shared pride. The determination not to abandon future generations must be priority #1 in cities, suburbs and rural farmlands all together. Let's hope, pray and work for a revival of an American "can do" spirit to rise!
Ralphie (CT)
So where does the Times get the energy to print the paper? How does it deliver the paper to progressives across the country? In what kind of houses do prominent writers and editors live? Do they use electricity from coal powered plants. Do they drive cars? Why not, as a matter of solidarity with the climate alarmist community go strictly on-line as a start? Gov action isn't required for people to reduce their carbon foot print. Climate zealots should note two points: 1) US is 5% of the world's population and shrinking -- right now our total CO2 emissions are even with 1990, but total global emissions have increased by over 60%. since then. We're the n # 2 emitter (way) behind China and as emerging economies grow, we'll contribute a shrinking portion of total emissions. So our domestic efforts are almost negligible. 2) The temp data that climate scientists point to to show we've undergone abnormal warming since 1880 is a mess. It is based on estimates and adjustments. Outside the US, there were only a handful of stations on most continents, all near the coasts: None at the poles or close. The US has had and still has the most complete temp data collection network and it does not show warming -- even Hansen lamented that problem in 2000. Look at the official US data below and tell me you'd by a stock based on the same pattern. https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cag/national/time-series/110/tmax/12/12/1895-2016?base_prd=true&firstbaseyear=1901&lastbaseyear=2000
Max Davies (Newport Coast, CA)
Mr. Hansen was rightly puzzled in 2000 by the mismatch between indisputably rising levels of CO2 (indisputably a greenhouse gas) and the low level of response as seen in temperature measurements. But he is puzzled no more, and nor is anyone else who pays attention to the science as it develops. What we now know is happening is this: 1. Much of the extra energy generated by outbound radiation trapped by CO2 has found its way into the oceans, the temperatures of which have increased dramatically since serious measurements began about 20 years ago. https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/oceans-heat-temperatures-2017-hottest-ever-recorded-by-far-institute-of-atmospheric-physics-a8181861.html 2. We also now know that trapped radiation heats the atmosphere unevenly and not, as previously thought, in a pattern evenly distributed over the globe. We now know, for example, that the Arctic region is particularly affected, There cannot be any doubt about the effects of global warming in the Arctic – they show themselves in the clearest possible way: shipping routes that were hitherto seasonally or permanently closed are now open all year round. These changes reflect science at its best – always questioning and always refining. Let's contrast that methodology with the utterly static, utterly unchanging tropes of the climate-change deniers who have not budged an inch even as data refuting everything they claim has poured into the debate.
Eli (RI)
@Ralphie what happened to your American can do spirit? Why throw in the towel when the Brits that we fought against to get our freedom are vastly outperforming us? Visit the link and read renewable energy capacity surpasses fossil fuels for first time in the UK: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/06/uk-renewable-energy-capacity-surpasses-fossil-fuels-for-first-time It is not global climate "zealots" as you call them, it is people who love their kids that support clean non-disease causing renewables. Dirty fossil fuels in addition to global climate change cause retardation and autism due to mercury emissions, childhood asthma, bronchitis, and cancer. I read a headline in the Financial Times of two days ago that "New wind and solar generation costs fall below existing coal plants" I ask you why would anyone want to pay MORE for electricity that harms their children? It really does not make any sense.
ebmem (Memphis, TN)
@Max Davies Whether or not changes in the amount of heat retained by the earth is manmade or the result of the end of the ice age is an interesting but useless question. Ralphie' comment asserted that the surface temperature history does not conform to the models, and points out that the land surface temperature data from 1880 on is spotty and unreliable. Your response is amusing. Something like three quarters of the globe is covered with water. We have even less reliable temperature data for the surface of the water, much less the temperature profile of the oceans, with 99% of the water below the surface and in constant motion. Limited data has been collected for 20 years. You consider the statement that 2017 is the highest temperature in recorded history [20 years of history] is fabulous science upon which public policy should be based. Anyone who doesn't agree with you on policy is ignorant and anti-science. Put this in your pipe and smoke it. In 2011, China admitted that it was understating its CO2 emissions by 20-30% because state owned coal mines that it had closed had continued to be operated by poachers in the underground economy. So the brilliant computer modelers were using deflated CO2 levels and still overpredicting global warming. When the empirical data didn't match the models, they created a theory that the oceans were absorbing the heat, rather than speculating that CO2 at high elevations reflects heat.
Frank (Brooklyn)
so when all these new chairs take over their committees and report out all sorts of well meaning legislation,what does the editorial board think will happen in the newly fortified Republican Senate? even a lowly commentator like myself can answer that one: nothing.we are going to have to wait until the next election cycle for any real change to occur. let's hope the Democrats don't blow it.
Ann O. Dyne (Unglaciated Indiana)
"American voters, don't believe that person in the white coat. You can have 2 marshmallows now, and 2 marshmallows later." -fossil-fuel oligarchs
Eli (RI)
@Ann O. Dyne American voters are not stupid. In the last election 7% more voted for Democrats than Republicans.
ak bronisas (west indies)
Americas climate report ,depends on the politics of the "weathermen"....in this case big oil,wall street,and the entire,"oily",leadership of the Republican party...led by Don the Con.....POTUS and the "me first movement". So ,its not surprising that the populist ,conspicuous, truths are that most Americans....care more about maintaining their "accustomed" life style, "love" their "high power" cars, and care more about the price and easy availability of gas and diesel..........than global warming and the destructive effects of climate change. These culturally determined values,only change,when the catastrophic effects of climate change ......become too close for comfort !
ebmem (Memphis, TN)
@ak bronisas Follow the money. On one side, you have industries that provide 80% of the energy consumed by Americans who have the most affordable energy and resulting affordable goods and services. On the other side, you have government paid scientists; owners of coal assets purchased at a discount [Soros, selling coal to eastern Europe an Germany]; anti-growth rich people who claim to be environmentalists; people like the CEO of GE, Immelt, who benefited from premature retirements of coal plants requiring GE turbines to be used in wind farms [note: GE lost 2/3rds of its market value and spot on the Dow listing after Trump was elected]; Warren Buffett, who built wind farms, admitting they didn't make financial sense absent the billions in taxpayer and ratepayer costs; and the godfather of global warming who made hundreds of millions proselytizing his new religion and "consulting", gained the admiration and acclaim of the beautiful people in the entertainment industry, a Noble Peace Prize. Al Gore has a carbon footprint at least ten times that of an ordinary American family, and bought a waterfront home, despite the inevitability of rising seas. I'll go with the guys who have allowed more people to rise out of poverty than all governments in history, over the self serving Democrat cronies.
Zenster (Manhattan)
every politician who "bars the use of the word climate change" has a grandchild who one day ask "why did you make my life a living hell?"
Stephen Maniloff (Greenwich Village)
The more Carbon Dioxide is emitted or the greater the amount of fossil fuels a country uses, the more prosperous said country is. It is the wealthy nation that can afford to mitigate Anything Mother Nature ‘throws at us’...as far as freaking out about something happening in The next Century ...Don’t..can’t do anything about it.........Mankind decidedly Does Not have some kind of Planetary Thermostat.
Eli (RI)
@Stephen Maniloff Simply not true! - Kenya aims to generate 2,036 MW by 2030. - Costa Rica is inching towards 100% clean renewable electricity. - Turkey just opened tender for four wind energy power plants of 1000 MW! Why? Because they cannot afford dirty fossil fuels. I read in the Financial Times "New wind and solar generation costs fall below existing coal plants" https://www.ft.com/content/af6915c8-e2eb-11e8-a6e5-792428919cee If the US does not accelerate away from disease causing fossil fuels we will go the way of Trump's casinos, universities, Plaza Hotel in New York, filing for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, only the world economy does not have a Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for countries going belly up. "It is the wealthy nation that can afford to mitigate Anything Mother Nature ‘throws at us’" sounds like Trumpian lie.
Eli (RI)
@Stephen Maniloff More hard facts to see Mr. Maniloff the magnitude of your misstatements: 1) 10/26/2013 Africa’s biggest wind farm began production in Ethiopia, to help the country become a major regional exporter of energy. 10/22/2018 Danish wind energy co-op with Ethiopia extended to 2020. 2) 11/10/2018 The priority projects under China Pakistan Economic Corridor would help Pakistan reduce dependence on expensive sources of energy such as Gas and Residual Fuel Oil. Contribution of wind and solar energy in the country's total energy would increase from 5% in 2013 to 10% in 2022. 3) 11/8/2018 Enel To Build 220 MW Solar Plant in Mexico. The solar plant is expected to begin operating by 2019. At full capacity will generate 600,000 MWh of electricity per year. 4) 3/9/2018 ASEAN member states have already their own targets for renewable energy: Malaysia 4 GW by 2030; Indonesia 23% by 2025; Philippines 15 GW by 2030. The price of dirty fossil fuels in all these countries is MUCH HIGHER than it is in the US. They are shielding themselves from getting gouged from fossil fuels vampires. Also medical costs from toxic air pollution causing childhood asthma due to ozone, bronchitis from NOx and SO2, cancer from Volatile Organic Compounds, heart disease from particulates, and fetus damage from mercury resulting in retardation and autism; are not ONLY economic costs they are human suffering costs. Who would ever want to pay more for energy at the cost of their children's health?
J Clark (Toledo Ohio)
The republican will never admit to climate change even as they raise their respirators to say so.
bradleykmartin (Nagano)
I was sorry to see no mention of nuclear power, which needs to be at the center of any successful policy to combat climate change. The Times Editorial Board should not take its cues from Green ideologues on nuclear. See the Bill Gates TED talk "Innovating to Zero" on YouTube.
Ryan (NY)
We should produce a list of the most damming persons who have contributed the destabilization of our climate. This list should be widely circulated so all the people in the country and all the people in the world know like its their family. By advertising the list of these names, then in the future when people hear their names they will automatically associate it to their hidden agenda and the effort of the climate deniers will be neutralized at the very least. Produce the climate enemies list. Start with the biggest shareholder names of Big Oil companies and the Koch brothers. This could be done by a citizens group. Limit the number to about 10-20, so people can memorize them.
ebmem (Memphis, TN)
@Ryan When your argument lacks logic, demonize you opponents. That always leads to a civil conversation. How are you going to identify people who have a hidden agenda?
JM (San Francisco, CA)
Buckle Up America. If one mass shooting every single day doesn't kill us, we can look forward to slowly suffering from climate-related health issues, bad air, and polluted drinking waters while fighting for healthcare coverage that Trump and his GOP vow to repeal. Trump, disabling America one executive order at a time.
Mogwai (CT)
Whatever, NYT. The mindless do not equate guns with murder, so why would the mindless equate carbon emissions with the earth turning into Venus? When your culture is stupid on purpose...expect fascism and other evils.
Janet Michael (Silver Spring Maryland)
The Trump administration is such an unmitigated disaster that it literally sucks all the oxygen from the air when it comes to solving problems.I am convinced that in a normal political climate people would be more concerned about the challenges climate change presents.Big oil will always be a problem but it can be defeated just as the cigarette industry was defeated by the shear number of deaths caused.When the death toll this year is tallied from floods, hurricanes and wildfires it will be gruesome.People are beginning to realize that they are not immune- that they may be the victim of the next climate disaster.
Newell McCarty (Oklahoma)
WHO, The World Health Organization, states that 7 million people a year die from air pollution. No one knows how many millions will die due to CO2 inducing climate change. Please boycott those that funded 30 million to defeat a ballot initiative in Washington State, that would have taxed carbon: BP, Valero, Phillips 66, and the Koch brothers. Thirty million dollars from a few vested interests is not democracy. Carbon taxes and government funding of sustainables is the only way forward.
Eli (RI)
@Newell McCarty thanks Newell Here are a list of companies and industries in which the Koch brothers own a stake: Paper Products: Angelsoft, Brawny, Dixie, Mardi Gras, Quilted Northern, Soft n Gentle, Sparkle, Vanity Fair Wood: Georgia-Pacific (largest plywood manufacturer in US – also owns most of the paper companies above). Textiles & Plastics: Polarguard, Stainmaster, Dacron, Lycra, CoolMax/SolarMax, Thermolite.
ebmem (Memphis, TN)
@Newell McCarty Only fascists believe that there is only one way forward, their way. How many of those 7 million people that WHO says will die from air pollution live in the US? How many of them live on the west coast of the US where air pollution is the consequence of wildfires that are the result of poor government policy? I am OK with carbon taxes as long as they are exclusively used to reduce federal debt. No fair raising taxes and energy costs and donating them to cronies to advance their agenda.
Nan Socolow (West Palm Beach, FL)
Re your "Midterm Climate Report: Partly Cloudy" -- tragic, but no surprise that climate-change is ravaging our planet while Trump's Republicans and anti-diluvians call it a hoax. Camp Fire and other out of control massive wildfires in Southern California are raging as the worst fires in California history. We are no longer safe in our homes. Planet Earth's history -- before Sapiens -- is repeating itself. Orange skies, drought, floods, the "new normal" isn't abnormal, just a reminder that "The Ends of the Worlds" (h/t Peter Brannen) -- environmental changes -- are recurring on Earth.
Rick Beck (Dekalb IL)
We have been warned that the environment of the planet that sustains all life on it is literally in peril, yet it seems to be just a minor distraction in the total scope of things. Are we really so shallow that we have no ability to live or reason for anything beyond today? The really sad and ironic thing here is that once it is too late and the ugliness of survival instincts kick in those responsible for deceptively creating doubt in order to sustain their greed will deny their fault and point at those who tried very hard for a very long time to warn us of the looming global chaos. None of the pointing will matter at that point because it will be too late to do avoid the consequences of environmental procrastination.
Bill Brown (California)
@Rick Beck I'm not a part of the energy lobby. But we & (the world) will continue to use fossil fuels for the foreseeable future no matter what happens. Maybe less but still in massive amounts. It's baked into our energy grid. It can't & won't be eliminated overnight. That will take decades at best. Even though our governments now subsidize clean-power sources, efficient cars, buildings, etc... we continue to rip as much oil, coal & gas out of the ground as possible. And if our own green policies mean there isn't a market for these fuels at home, then no matter: they will be exported instead. The US is extracting carbon & flowing it into the global energy system faster than ever before. For years we've tried to simultaneously reduce demand for fossil fuels while doing everything possible to increase the supply. More efficient engines enable more people to drive more cars over greater distances, triggering more road building, more trade & indeed more big suburban houses that take more energy to heat. Can we bring ourselves to prioritize renewables over cheap fuels, power, convenient goods & services? We all know the answer is no. The science on climate change is settled, but the politics isn't. The GOP is disingenuous when they deny the science, but lets be honest the Democrats are even more disingenuous when they deny the cost. Cap & trade, carbon taxes etc are politically dead in the water. American voters simply don't want to pay more for energy.
Rick Beck (Dekalb IL)
@Bill Brown So in other words we should literally just lie down and die. I simply don't find that an acceptable approach. As for denying the cost well if we continue to avoid the cost the final cost will mean an end to life as we know it. And yes if the world is allowed to be faced with the inevitable soon to be dire consequences of prioritizing money over planet we can maybe avoid some of the devastation. In other words our government, all governments, need to stress the reality that is happening right in front of our eyes.
Edgar Numrich (Portland, Oregon)
A Nation in love with its guns, fossil fuels, Donald Trump, and consequences thereto is just being consistent. While also of risk and peril, oblivious to the maxim of the late economist and government adviser, Herbert Stein: "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop."
Diego (NYC)
The champions of the free market threaten that moving away from coal, oil and so on will destroy the economy. In other words, the brilliant, creative, flexible and ingenious capitalist system doesn't work without fossil fuels. I thought the magic of the marketplace could do anything.
Miner49er (Glenview IL)
Climate change is a false premise for regulating or taxing carbon dioxide emissions. Political or business leaders who advocate unwarranted taxes and regulations on fossil fuels will be seen as fools or knaves. Climate change is NOT caused by human fossil fuels use. There is no empirical evidence that fossil fuels use affects climate. Earth naturally recycles all carbon dioxide. Fossil fuels emit only 3% of total CO2 emissions. All the ambient CO2 in the atmosphere is promptly converted in the oceans to calcite (limestone) and other carbonates, mostly through biological paths. CO2 + CaO => CaCO3. 99.84% of all carbon on earth is already sequestered as sediments in earth's crust. The lithosphere is a massive hungry carbon sink that converts ambient CO2 to carbonate almost as soon as it is emitted. The Paris Treaty is now estimated to cost up to to $100 trillion -- $13,333 per human being. Nearly two-thirds of humanity's cumulative savings over history. And will not affect climate at all. A modern coal power plant emits few air effluents except water vapor and carbon dioxide. Coal remains the lowest cost and most reliable source of electric energy, along with natural gas. Coal & gas dominate electric energy generation because they are cheap and reliable. Without the CO2-driven global-warming boogeyman, wind and solar power will be relegated to the niches they deserve. Using renewable energy is like paying first-class airfare to fly standby.
Fran Adams (Boston)
So the ONLY criteria is money? How will your children enjoy their financial inheritance when the planet they inhabit has been devastated and they are choking on polluted air and fleeing flooded homes? Surely Americans can summon a nobler ambition (like solutions that foster health, for example) than the profit margin? Is there NO END TO THE GREED?
Eli (RI)
@Miner49er antiscience rants will not change reality, that sooner of later you too will have to face it.
mancuroc (rochester)
@Miner49er "There is no empirical evidence that fossil fuels use affects climate. Earth naturally recycles all carbon dioxide......The lithosphere is a massive hungry carbon sink that converts ambient CO2 to carbonate almost as soon as it is emitted." Yes, there is CO2 sink called the ocean, which is absorbing some the CO2 and getting more acid in the process. It's also a heat sink, pulling in heat and melting polar ice. We have 400+ ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere now, compared with a steady state of <300 ppm in the whole history of humanity before the industrial revolution. So how's your carbon sink doing? Clearly, not working almost instantly the way you assert. Over geological time, the earth will adapt to anything we can do to it, though our civilization will likely not survive that long.
John Grillo (Edgewater,MD)
Thank you Editorial Board for an informative and hope-inducing writing. This bought and paid for “dirty” Adminisration is clearly on the wrong side of history. With the existential clock ticking down, the challenges both political and scientific to save this planet are great but possible. The #1 goal for Americans now is to recapture the Senate and the Presidency in two years from the destructive, corrupt, and reckless Trump Republican Party to give all of us a fighting chance for a future, literally.
Bella (The City Different)
Unfortunately most people are not listening to the canaries in the coal mines. As smart as humans are supposed to be, they only react to first hand experiences that help them understand how vulnerable each one of us is. When times are good, it is difficult to throw a wrench in the works and disasters are always fascinating when they are happening to someone else. Climate change is not just about a changing climate, it is also about the breakdown of civilization and how quickly normalcy can spiral out of control. We are starting to see caravans of immigrants approaching our borders because of lawlessness in their own countries while we have weekly mass shooting becoming commonplace in our own society that we find impossible to control. Get the picture? Everything is interconnected and once it starts to unravel, it is impossible to contain. Whether Americans like it or not, we are a part of this planet and what happens thousands of miles away will affect us eventually.
Brian (New York, NY)
In reading some editorials on Cuomo's progressive "To Do List" I barely see a climate agenda mentioned - it's mostly about various social issues or voting reforms. But now is the time to get environmental issues out there. How about starting with (relatively) simple projects like the plastic bag ban/fee? Before it was obstructed by Republicans; that's no longer an issue. And congestion pricing is another area that should be touted for its environmental benefits, as well as raising needed money for the transit system. It's time to press the Democrats on the environment. This is our only planet, after all.
Roland Berger (Magog, Québec, Canada)
I still wonder what people who defend the use of fossil sources think about the environment their grand-children will live in. Are they mentally sick?
Alan Richards (Santa Cruz, CA)
@Roland Berger: Good question. I think that they believe that they will be insulated from harm, because of their wealth and privilege, a kind of "gated community model." By the time they (or their descendants) realize that they are wrong, that there can be no insulation, it will be too late.
kay (new york)
@Roland Berger yes, they are sick. They are not facing reality. They are willfully causing the death of millions everyday they stay in their fantasy land. It is time for good people to relinquish their power as they are doing great harm to the world.
Can’t Beat Em (VT)
@billsett Front row seats to an apocalypse. Not quite what the evangelicals had in mind, me thinks.
Lake Woebegoner (MN)
Anyone ever wonder where that electricity for those electric cars came from? Next time you're enjoying a cold one in the backyard with your non-Green neighbors, try to pass on igniting the wood piled into your fire pit. Here's why:Two reasons, maybe three: it doesn't really warm you on a cold, fall evening; it's smoke gets in your eyes; it sends the wrong signal to those who control climate change. Like you.
Eli (RI)
@Lake Woebegoner "Anyone ever wonder where that electricity for those electric cars came from?" Yes! I know the answer to this one. From beautiful wind turbines leaping like graceful ballerinas in the sky.
loveman0 (sf)
Before the War, our isolationists were actually aiding the Nazis, some like the Watsons for Anti-Semitic reasons. Our present (Nazi) white nationalists are showing the same ignorance, and the fossil fuel industry is financing them. Instead of sword dances, dismemberment exercises, Trumpian attacks on science and $40 per barrel hikes in oil prices, all that money needs to be spent switching out of fossil fuels quickly--the sooner the better. Besides sustainability, renewables are actually cheaper. Cheaper electricity to buy and way way cheaper when the externals of burning fossil fuels are figured in--just think fires and floods in the U.S. We know our aging Senators and Supreme Court justices are ignorant of the Science--never been taught it. It's not any harder to understand than a TV weather report, but they are paid to look the other way. The IPCC reports should be mandatory reading for all our elected officials. They should actually be quizzed to prove they have read and understand it. Like isolationism of the 1930s, willful ignorance is a road to disaster. The Environmental Species Act passed almost unanimously. The same needs to happen for a Carbon Tax, every dollar repurposed to switch to solar/wind/hydro. The U.S. needs to lead, including in the planting of trees and protecting forests. Whether one's bias is Science or Religion, protecting the atmosphere and biodiversity of Earth should be a first necessity for everyone.
Amy Vail (Ann Arbor)
Global scientific consensus just doesn't seem to penetrate the reptilian brain of many voters. Is it too Machiavellian to somehow leverage the fear-mongering re: immigration to trigger some matching fear re: climate change? I can imagine the ads: "Hate the idea of more and more refugees 'invading' our great nation? If carbon emissions aren't reduced, we will see a global refugee crises the likes of which the world has never seen.... Vote carbon tax!"
RjW (Chicago)
Here’s a pie chart showing global ghg sources. It’s informative that deforestation and land use change are about equal in emissions as all of transport. . In the US., transportation has a much larger footprint, about 28% of all ghg emissions generated here. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-05/global_emissions_sector_2015.png
Miss Anne Thrope (Utah)
As usual with articles on our self-created, imminent climate change disaster, commenters point blaming fingers at Exxon, GOPers, China, Gov't - anybody, everybody - but "me". The oil companies are merely pimps, the (R)egressive politicians merely enablers. We, fellow citizens - you and I - are the fossil-fuel addicts. "We" (here in The Land of The Free) consume 5 times our share of the planet's resources. "We" WASTE more than half of the energy we consume, more than half of the food we produce. "We" live in over-heated/cooled McMansions; drive here, there, everywhere in our urban 4wd SUVs; fly to Mexico for a long weekend. It's not new info that we're swirling down the climate change toilet bowl. Those pointy-headed scientists have been warning us for decades of the coming disaster. Our response? Meh! The planet's poorest are too focused on food/water to worry about climate change, the (R)egressives deny it, while we Progressives wring our hands and recycle when convenient, yet very few of us actually make meaningful change in the way we consume and/or reproduce. Forward into the dystopian void…
Joel (California)
@Miss Anne Thrope You are correctly pointing out that as energy users, we are making choices and could choose not to fly to Mexico for example. Individual choices are only going so far. Do you choose how your electricity is produced ? Most people do not have that choice. So there is a place for collective action in demanding more greener choices being available as well as regulations promoting the emergence of new greener products. Solar panels and electric cars gain traction in the market place only because of collective investment in the form of tax rebates. More meaningful CO2 (carbon) tax would make greener alternatives more competitive for a broad array of services and products, enabling new products to be developed and brought to market. Displacing large scale polluting but established technologies is very hard, CO2 pricing signals would help moving away from business as usual. Working on developing less GHG intensive plastics, I can tell you that it takes billions of dollars in investment and decades to have an impact by building production capacity. Electric cars, wind power and solar panels are a example of good how long and how much support it takes to create economically competitive alternatives to legacy technologies. Now is a good time to promote pricing CO2 emissions.
Miss Anne Thrope (Utah)
@Joel - Total agreement, Joel. Ultimately, however, even if our government was to suddenly implement progressive, climate-friendly programs, the success of those programs would be dependent on citizen's participation. Laws only work if people follow the laws. Collective action occurs one actor at a time. One of the daunting aspects of our environmental problem is that you and I can substantially reduce our energy consumption but it would have negligible effect on the global problem. Large numbers of the planet's 7.5 billion citizens must each make substantive change in order to reverse our course - much more likely if spurred by national programs, as you point out. However, given the limited prospects of adequate government action and the imminence of climate disaster, the onus remains on us to take individual action and it's not that complicated. Given that we WASTE half the energy we consume, we don't need to install solar panels (beneficial as that would be). All we have to do is turn off the damn lights when we leave the room, etc.
W.A. Spitzer (Faywood, NM)
@Joel.... "Do you choose how your electricity is produced ? Most people do not have that choice.".....Ever hear of solar panels?
Richard Miner (NJ)
I find it strange that those who are lackadaisical about the coming climate change chaos are often the same people most vocal about caravans of illegals invading our country. They seem unable to see the connection between the coming worldwide deprivations that climate change will bring and the mass dislocation those deprivations will cause. You think immigration is a problem now, well just wait until starvation and other forms of climate panic hit worldwide.
Carolyn (Maine)
Hello - are there any media executives reading this? Considering the impact movies and television shows have on the population's belief systems, it could be a very positive thing to put shows on Netflix, Amazon, etc. which address climate change. "Water World," the Kevin Costner movie, attempted to do this many years ago but had little impact. Perhaps focusing on how cool electric cars and solar panels are, and how dirty and disgusting the villainous fossil fuel industry is, would be a better tactic. Make it cool to be green. Make it cool to fight agains the oil companies. Human beings respond better to a story where they can imagine themselves as heroes than they do to dry science.
oldBassGuy (mass)
Let us focus on the main issue, and less on the kaleidoscopic array of side effects. The facts demand that we take action, although it is likely already too late. Population explosion: At 7.6 billion, increasing by 80 million annually. This drives everything. This alone swamps out any and all attempts at 'damage control'. And we are not going to do anything about it. The population of this planet more than doubled in my lifetime. It's all over folks. Climate change is simply one of many looming disasters. The Keeling curve currently at 411 ppm CO2 and rising drives the rise in sea level, temperature, and acidity. This is already baked in, and will continue for many decades to come no matter what mitigating attempts are made. We have already passed a number of tipping points. I'm not going to enumerate these any more. It is an exercise in futility. I will support any person or entity that will do the right things, even though it is utterly pointless at this point. It no longer matters what any person, entity, country believes or how it acts. ps. Need following disclaimer: I'm well aware that the US represents 6% of world's population, and generates 25% of the CO2. It is completely disgusting, it embarrasses me to be identified as an American citizen on this point.
Joe McInerney (Denver, CO)
@oldBassGuy Commenters to environmental articles continuously understand how central overpopulation and over-consumption are to a future living world. It is as simple as it is true. Journalists must start talking about it. Its basic ecological science, we are in overshoot and are spending down the principal natural capital, not living on the interest.
jabarry (maryland)
Since the onset of the Industrial Age generations of humans - mostly the Western World - benefited socially and economically from burning fossil fuels. Heating homes, driving cars, fueling factories, spewing pollutants into the atmosphere without a care, without a cost, without a thought. The current generation of humanity has recently taken notice, observed environmental costs, discerned threats to humanity itself. Respectable scientists are unanimous in concluding that man's contribution to polluting our world is changing the climate on earth. But you don't have to be a scientist to observe on your own that seasonal norms are less normal, rising tides are causing frequent flooding, changes in weather are causing both droughts and deluges which destroy crops, habitation and force migration. Only the ignorant deny the science, deny what is before their eyes, remain perplexed that 500 year storms are occurring every other year with increasing fury. Only the greedy observe what is happening but don't care so long as they profit from burning fossil fuels. Only the parasites sell out their constituents and their own families to do the bidding of fossil fuel lobbyists and donors to their political power. They intentionally condemn mankind to secure their 15 minutes on the stage, wielding their power to benefit their brief moment of ego. Future generations will struggle to combat what our generation is doing and failing to do. The life changes and costs will be born by them.
Sister Meg Funk (Beech Grove Indiana)
Indiana voted mostly red. Conversations still guns and religious freedom. As a nun it is confusing to see how it would be right to deny Mother Earth the right to life. How much stuff is enough?
RjW (Chicago)
With President Chaos at the helm, all a citizen can do is take the wheel of an electric car or rig a solar collector on the roof or in the yard. Advocating against deforestation still ranks at the top of list, imho.
RickyDick (Montreal)
In one of my favorite scenes from Get Smart, the Chief and Larabee are locked in a bank vault that cannot be opened for 24 hours; unfortunately, they only have 12 hours of air. Larabee starts doing exercise. The chief, alarmed, tells Larabee they will die if he doesn’t stop. Larabee says: Look, Chief, you use your air your way, I’ll use my air my way. If only climate deniers could have their climate and environment and thinking people could have their own climate and environment. But like the air in the safe, it doesn’t work that way. With plenty of money to be made by environmental rape, it’s a race to the bottom to see who can plunder first while the federal government is in dereliction of its duty In terms of the environment. Trump and his GOP enablers have simply got to go. The planet depends on it.
Barbarra (Los Angeles)
Fact check - fuel prices have risen under Trump. He and his Saudi buddies plan to cash in on increased sales to sell to countries that bought Iranian oil. Trump is waging war against the US and the world. His supporters have no interest in the damage he is doing. His manic statements that have no shred of truth are frightening. The photoshopped video released by Sanders Huckabee (daughter of the minister Huckabee), and Kelly Ann Conway’s silence in the shaming of her husband shows the depths of deceit of the White House itself. Shame on them!
Christy (WA)
I am appalled that voters in my state did not pass the clean air ballot initiative. I for one do not want to breathe particulates, no matter how many jobs big oil brings to my state, and I feel sorry for those who believed the toxic blandishments of BP, Valero, Phillips 66 and the Koch brothers. They deserve what they get. I don't.
Neville Jones (Liverpool UK)
Some good contributions here, the truth is that we have very little time. When we have a President and other influential politicians who do not even recognise climate change in the most powerful country in the world, I despair. Unfortunately, money and the pursuit of profit comes first in the USA and the world, not its people. So, I share much of the pessimism on this like many of your contributors. This should be the no. 1 on everybody’s agenda. Is it possible to take on the oil companies and the oil interests on a national and global scale? Unfortunately, the signs aren’t good and it might take a few “Paradise” type events to change thinking. Nature does not recognise artificial inventions such as profits or balance sheets. It is to be hoped that not only Trump loses in 2020 but we get a President that is brave enough to take the measures necessary to do something about this issue. As US citizens you have such an influential role in deciding the future of the world, yes it is that important. I am not so naieve as to think that this issue can win the election for the Democrats but it should be on the agenda and they should have a candidate who will push this if or when they win.
Brian Stewart (Middletown, CT)
1972 - "Limits to Growth" points out the unsustainability of the growing human impact on Earth, including CO2 emissions. It seems a shame to "waste" resources we could easily tap. Antagonists seize on parts of the report in an attempt to discredit the whole. 1992 - Rio Earth Summit results in global acknowledgement of need to limit CO2 emissions and commits nations to a variety of actions. Fossil fuel consumption has risen sharply since 1972 as a human "relief rally" follows the oil shocks of the 1970s and 1980s. 2009 - Copenhagen Accord declares that a global temperature rise beyond two Celsius degrees must be avoided. Nations never rally around this accord, and fossil fuel consumption continues to rise. 2018 - Wildfires and superstorms rage with increasing intensity. Droughts have caused extreme hardship, sometimes indirectly prompting human migration. The U.S. has declared its intent to withdraw from the 2015 Paris Accord and doubled down on fossil fuel production. The midterm elections result in the election of some candidates dedicated to reversing the new trend, but in other jurisdictions ballot initiatives fail and climate deniers are elected. Voters worry about possible economic costs of action. 2030 - Climate consequences have hit with sufficient force and frequency to require new settlement patterns. Economic consequences of inaction are now evident to most, but the resulting hardship makes it hard to voluntarily accept further hardship. 2100 - ?
Cathy (Hopewell junction ny)
It is fascinating that the loudest deniers of climate change live in places that will be crippled by climate or by pollution. Florida is a sand bar, yet Floridians have no concept of what a three foot change sea level would do with a state that sits about 6 feet above the sea. Arizonan's defeated clean energy measures, despite the fact that they are best suited for solar energy - large expanses of the state have lots of sun, no cloud cover and no snow as well as places with more wind than people. And drilling effects water quality in places that are already facing desertification as we drill more and more water out of aquifers, the greatest being the Ogalala. Yet many of those places have plenty of wind and sun. This nation has slipped into terminal short term thinking - pillage now, worry about the impact later. And usually the people who profit from pillage don't have to pay for the consequences. But voters? They will be left holding the bag. Why do they keep letting profiteers bamboozle them?
Mike Perry (Glastonbury, CT)
One important result that should be noted here was California’s Proposition 6, where the voters rejected the repeal of a 12-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax that was enacted last year. How often does a tax survive a popular vote?
Cone (Maryland)
The culprits are BP, Valero, Phillips 66, and the Koch brothers for starters and then come the state governments that refuse to encourage sun and wind. The voters with common sense and understanding know what to do. Force the issue. The greed of the wealthy should not be allowed to win this fight.
Alan (Columbus OH)
There is an excellent chance that the best news for the climate was the defeat of a carbon tax. I say this because a carbon tax is likely a terrible idea. Fighting climate change is a marathon, not a sprint. A carbon tax, if enacted, would always be a target for politicians. Voters in a few places might keep it forever, but it will be unlikely to stick in most states. Since global warming is a global problem, shifting the pollution to states without a carbon tax may undo most of the benefit. The easiest way to make climate policy durable is to sink costs up front rather than to rely on consumers and voters to opt in to a tax or a "renewable percentage" every year. The easiest way to do this is to build nuclear capacity with public subsidies and buy out coal and older gas plants when the new nuclear plants come online. We do not need to "punish" coal plant operators or make them "pay a fair share", we just need them to shut down. Wind and solar energy are great, but are not likely to be able to scale fast enough, a problem that will be made worse as more vehicles switch to electric motors. A new round of nuclear plants will give us a half a century or more to make progress in these technologies and in energy storage, so they can replace some or all of the new nuclear plants when the time comes.
betty durso (philly area)
@Alan More nuclear plants is definitely not the answer to climate change. Instead of polluting the atmosphere, they pollute the planet far into the future with deadly waste. The waste stored on site in so many pools and casks is an accident waiting to happen. Three Mile Island was bad, but look at Fukushima. No, we have enough nuclear waste to "handle." And we keep extending the life of old and deteriorating reactors. Take the money being spent on new nuclear technology and build solar all over the south, wind wherever applicable, the same with hydro and biomass and geothermal. We have alternatives to dirty fossil fuel and risky nuclear.
Alan (Columbus OH)
@betty durso The risks associated with climate change far, far outweigh the risks from operating nuclear plants and storing nuclear waste. I do not think that in the short run, we have the luxury of making the perfect the enemy of the good. We can always build up our capacity in non-nuclear renewable sources over the next few decades to eventually replace nuclear energy. Building a new nuclear plant is not a commitment to use nuclear energy in perpetuity.
betty durso (philly area)
@Alan More nuclear plants "over the next few decades" equates to more waste (to be handled?) for hundreds of years into the future.
Mike1968 (Tampa)
There are credible scientists such as Peter Wadhams at Cambridge who believe the IPCC Report, although dire, continues to underestimate what is coming and how fast. Following release of the IPCC report, scientists published an article in the hardly radical journal Nature demonstrating that ocean warming is occurring much more quickly than originally thought. The upshot of that article is that the 12 year window is probably closer to 8-10. Carbon taxes and other market incentives for R&D etc could have been effective had they been slowly introduced 20 years ago. Now, because of the criminal obfuscations of fossil fuel companies and related businesses as well as their corrupt minions in Congress, various State Houses and the Whitehouse, we are at a point where we need far more draconian sacrifices by the public and a Manhatten Project effort to combat what could be a rapid slide into chaos. Even more daunting, and something seemingly ignored by the editors and most other commentators here, this Manhatten Project has to have an international component - we have to develope a plan embraced by the EU, Canada, Australia, England ,Japan , Korea, India and China . Given political realities everywhere now, the glacial speed of electoral politics and the lack of a Martin Luther King or Gandhi for the climate, I am not optimistic. That said, this paper and other media need to make the climate the main story every day - it might wake the public up and that has not happened to date.
RjW (Chicago)
@Mike1968- However- a global effort to increase forest cover and to halt deforestation would, in addition to the renewable energy sources already in the pipeline may save us from the worst effects a warmer, wetter, high CO2 atmosphere has in store for us.
RLG (Norwood)
@RjW Wishful thinking but, given the accelerated ocean warming a lot of warming is already in the pipeline. Mike is right. We need to slam on the brakes right now because the bridge is out and the river is a long way down. Folks have been warning us of this for decades but now it is upon us. All we can do now is adapt, mitigation is a dream. Population will swamp any mitigation plan until millions die in various climate disasters. There is no exit from planet earth.
Rick Beck (Dekalb IL)
@RLG Certainly dire, but oh so true. There simply is no more important matter that exists in this world today. When push comes to shove survival instincts will kick in and those in need will take by whatever means possible. Money will no longer matter because it has no nutritional value.
RjW (Chicago)
An article comparing a carbon tax to a cap and trade system would be very helpful. Republicans initiated a cap and trade model very successfully for the regulation of ozone depleting pollutants. While cap and trade is vulnerable to some cheating if not well regulated, a carbon tax does give all the tax proceeds to government, which then has to execute on disbursing it evenly to the public or using it to fund programs. Only public knowledge and discussion can lead to the better program and its implementation.
billsett (Mount Pleasant, SC)
It can't be done. Human behavior and our species' focus on the short term self interest is preventing humanity from taking the collective action needed to avoid future catastrophe. As I tell friends, "it's a great time to be old." I get to watch the beginning of the end and then check out before human civilization is wiped out by fire, flood and famine. It doesn't get any better than this!
cherrylog754 (Atlanta, GA)
Partly cloudy, yes. But there is another trend, the reduction of CO2 emissions that is a big positive, and is driven for economic reasons. In 2008 coal fired plants produced about 50% of the electrical generation in the country, today it's about 30%. Well over 500 coal plants were retired in that time period. Gas, and renewable energy are just more economical. And coal plants are the most costly to build and maintain. It’s sad to read though about states like Washington lose the carbon tax initiative, but the proponents will live to fight another day, hopefully 2020. This midterm election cycle was a big win for climate change initiatives, we might well only be partly cloudy, but just think if the Republicans had won the House and increased their state governorship's. We’d be headed to the dark ages, literally. Next up, the 2020 elections.
RjW (Chicago)
If , as humans, we can’t even agree on regulations that minimize leaking at fracking sites or pipelines, for example, then we’ll get what we deserve. A methane boosted climate warming that will occur faster and more out of control than it would have with just basic common sense practices. If we can’t even manage the easy stuff, what will be our future when the going gets tough?
GBrown (Rochester Hills, MI)
Good news folks! You don't have to wait for government to pass laws or raise taxes to reduce greenhouse gases and pollution. Since animal agriculture emits more greenhouse gases than transportation, is the major driver of deforestation, pollutes the water, requires 70% of agricultural land, YOU already have the power to reduce your footprint 3 times a day by simply choosing a plant based diet. Stop waiting for the government to force you to reduce your footprint. Take responsibility for the effect your personal decisions have on the planet. Start now.
Blackmamba (Il)
Climate change is science. Climate change is due to biology, chemistry and physics leading to dynamic evolving air, land and sea aka ecology Science provides the best natural explanation for observed natural phenomena based upon the best natural data. The scientific method uses double- blind experimental controlled tests with limited variables and unknowns to provide predictable and repeatable results. Science is always provisional and refutable by better theories and data. There are no social sciences aka politics nor economics. Because there are too many variables and unknowns. Science has no politics nor economics nor religion. Science has no media nor election cycle. There have been five major mass extinctions. And losers and winners in all had no science nor intended impact on any of the events. If we are in the midst of the sixth extinction the question is are we human primate apes as evolutionary fit as birds?
Can’t Beat Em (VT)
@ Blackmamba Those little buggers are fascinating to observe. Maybe evolution with consciousness as a result is the ultimate dead end.
Eli (RI)
@Blackmamba but the science-denying Republicans get F in science. I wonder if you are a Republican because your question "If we are in the midst of the sixth extinction the question is are we human primate apes as evolutionary fit as birds?" betrays lack of understanding how natural selection works. It is a hallucination that there is enough time in terms of thousands of generation required for the "human primate apes" to adjust to a new ecosystem. Species are not "evolutionary fit" apriori. There is no question all apes including humans will be goners if we do not stop the global climate catastrophe by stopping using coal, oil, and fossil gas ASAP. Our cars, stoves, factories, HVAC, light bulbs can run on clean renewable electricity, thank you very much.
louis v. lombardo (Bethesda, MD)
Thanks for this Editorial. Please continue to focus on this issue because more people need to understand it is an existential issue. Two related existential threats face us: Climate Change and Inequality. We need to recognize that the solutions to both are related. Carbon taxes are needed to put people to work saving our lives by making our lives better. Change our laws in a way that changes our lives - both for the better. I have documented 50 Years of "legal" landmarks on how we missed the opportunities to prevent pollution at https://www.legalreader.com/50-years-of-legal-climate-change/ As for Inequality, that too dates back 50 years. See the graph at https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2015/02/11/384988128/the-fall-and-ris... As for who is mostly responsible for the detrimental policies producing these two related existential threats see https://www.legalreader.com/republican-racketeers-violent-policies/ As for the plan that produced our two existential threats since Nixon. See the Lewis Powell Memo at https://www.careforcrashvictims.com/1970s-polution-control-efforts/
RickyDick (Montreal)
@louis v. lombardo Excellent legalreader articles. I particularly like the Trump Death Clock idea. I would suggest, in the same vein, an NRA Death Clock displaying a running count (yes, running, not walking) of gun deaths, with the counter reset every year for a fresh start. Would Americans be alarmed to see the counter tick off somewhere around 3,000 deaths per month? Trump supporters, probably not; thinking people, perhaps.
Eli (RI)
@louis v. lombardo Actually Climate Change and inequality have a common cause: the carbon economy. Let me explain. Gargantuan concentrations of the capital are critical for exploring, drilling, refining, and distributing globally and daily massive amounts of petroleum, coal, and fossil gas. Many megatons of investment is not a choice or an aberration but a absolute necessity for the daily fossil fuels economy to function. The replacement of disease causing fossil fuels will not only have immense positive impact on the environment and human health from elimination of toxic pollution, but will result in decentralizing the clean local energy. The decentralization of energy will result in decentralization of the economy. Decentralizing the economy will result in democratizing global politics. So there you have it, a trifecta of benefits for our planet and for our species. Fortunately the fossil fuel economy is being dismantled with the 1) pull of economic gains that that clean renewables have scored recently forcing oil companies to divest of the dirty fossil fuel holdings (STAT Oil, DONG that turned into Ormsted) and the 2) push of government regulation setting limits on how much harm toxic air pollution can inflict on humans and how much harm green house gases can inflict on .. well everything.
louis v. lombardo (Bethesda, MD)
@Eli Thank you very much!
old lady (Baltimore)
A massive public education is the key to change our course on climate change. We are all in the same boat named "Titanic." If we do not change the course, catastrophic events are going to happen, and we have already started seeing lesser disasters. However, too many people are still too comfortable and busy with minuscule things of their daily lives. Only education of the public can make them resist to relentless fearmongering and be willing to sacrifice some personal gains for the survival of our species, or all living things on this planet. In an ideal world, the government should take an initiative for educating the public, but we cannot expect this from the current administration. Therefore, the media at all levels, beginning with NYT as a leading voice, need to take this role. Please publish and repeat this presently most critical issue everyday.
michjas (Phoenix )
An Arizona ballot proposition called for an ambitious goal for utilizing renewable energy. There was a lot of money spent in opposition to the proposition. But that’s not the whole story. There was also little evidence that the stated goal was achievable. It isn’t enough to call for aggressive action against climate change. Advocates of ambitious goals need to lay out the anticipated costs in a manner that makes it clear they have done their homework. You can’t just say you’re opposed to climate change and expect the public to sign on. The public expects hard numbers before they commit to expensive undertakings.
SMK NC (Charlotte, NC)
@michjas - Point well made. However, it cuts both ways. Regardless of one’s position, each and every proposal should include its goals, actions, investment requirements, and risk mitigation considerations. This is as true for efforts like you referred to regarding alternative energy as it is for a business process improvement project in any company. As a management consultant, I’d never be given responsibility to undertake a change related project without submitting those analyses. So neither new administrations nor entrenched business interests should be allowed to make decisions without requisite due diligence and financial sensitivity assessments. Good catch and valid reminder for every interested and affected constituency.
john (arlington, va)
@michjas Yes, there needs to be concrete environmental proposals but the beauty of a carbon tax is that it incentivizes consumer and producer behaviors in ways that cannot be easily quantified. Higher gasoline prices will induce consumers to buy hybrid and electric cars; drive fewer miles; carpool to work; ride public buses; move closer to work, etc. Economists have long studied consumer behavior with so-called price elasticity of demand, and know that higher energy prices will reduce demand for carbon.
Miss Anne Thrope (Utah)
@michjas - "The public expects hard numbers before they commit to expensive undertakings." Nah, the "public" nods off when presented with "hard numbers". There have been volumes of "hard numbers" available from a host of sources for over 40 years telling us we're on the Environmental Road to Ruin, and the response from the "public" has been to build bigger, poorly insulated houses, drive bigger 4wd urban SUVs, increase frivolous "fun" airplane travel blah, blah, yada, yada. The "public" wastes (wastes!) more than half of the fossil-fueled energy consumed here in The Land of The Free (old white men). "hard numbers" makes the "public's" eyes cloud over so they run to the mall to buy something, anything…
Jake Wagner (Los Angeles)
Of course, we need to push for more solar energy. But if it is true that Republicans including Trump tend to deny the role that man plays in climate change, Democrats are in denial about the impact of population growth. If you cut down emissions by 50% per individual and the population doubles, the emissions remain the same. And population growth contributes to a host of other problems. Why don't Democrats admit that part of Trump's message is essential? We need to stop illegal immigration to control population growth in the US. This would appeal to America's poor who worry about losing jobs and benefits to an unending influx of foreigners. Of course, we need to act with some humanity in controlling our borders. A step in this direction would be to help third world countries control their population growth by encouraging use of family planning and giving access to abortion. Without such policies, the third world will face disaster in the next few decades. For example, the population of Africa is projected to double by 2050, and many nations in Africa are already running short of resources. We need a new form of morality in an overpopulated world. Nobody, whether in the developed or undeveloped parts of the world, has a right to more than two children. That's hard to accept because it runs against the instincts we needed to survive for tens of thousands of years. But we need to limit our numbers to stand any hope of warding off global warming.
Ann (California)
@Jake Wagner-Trump and every Republican president has cut family planning funds domestically and similar aid to countries abroad. How stupid, short-sighted and cruel is that?
Douglas McNeill (Chesapeake, VA)
@Jake Wagner Choking off immigration would reduce population growth in the US but it would not make these people evaporate, even though conservatives might yearn for this to happen. They will still inhabit the WORLD and their carbon footprint would reflect their worldly existence. Admittedly, carbon use in developing nations is less than in the carbon-fueled United States but the developing nations all seek "development" and a move up the ladder of carbon utilization (cf. India). Climate change is not a problem just for the US--it's a problem for the world of which we are a part.
Sera (The Village)
There's an old axiom: No one makes money when the patient is well...or slim...or sane. Doctors, nutritionists, shrinks, all depend on damaging pathologies to survive. Or, as Lenny Bruce put it all those years ago, if society had no problems. he'd be on the unemployment line...right behind Jonas Salk and J. Edgar Hoover. It's in the interest of business to see to it that the patient, in this case, the planet, continues to be on life support, because they supply the support, while nature tries to provide the life. Big Oil got the memo. The Koch Brothers got the memo. The memo says: We're rich, and getting richer, all the time.
Don Blume (West Hartford, CT)
Increasing the tax on motor fuel used for transportation is long overdue and is a great way to help us transition to electric vehicles. Forbes took a look at this last February. Other countries are already providing the necessary policies, goals, and rates of taxation that are leading to increasing demand in their markets and thus they are getting better positioned each and every day than we are to reap the economic rewards of producing the new cars and associated technologies. Here's a fact: Europe's year-over-year market growth for plug-in electric vehicles was 42% for the first half of 2018. The transition to electric vehicles is speeding up. Over there. Thanks to Trump and the Republicans, the US is throwing a political and economic tantrum at the worst possible time. We can still stop the worst (things like the collapse of the US domestic auto industry) from happening, but Trump needs to go before the stopping can begin.
Hamid Varzi (Tehran)
The title should have been changed from 'Partly Cloudy' to 'Climate Doomsday'. There is little evidence that the few elected representatives with a climate conscience will actually manage to trigger sufficient change to reverse environmental destruction by the U.S.. Measures adopted decades ago by other nations, especially northern Europe, are far superior to those of the U.S. as evidenced by the charts below: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/12/germany-recycles-more-than-any-other-country/ And apart from waste dumping, the recent Trump drilling 'initiatives' are threatening U.S. shores with even greater pollution and potential environmental disasters than those we have already witnessed. Why is the rest of the world more successful at protecting the environment? Largely because those nations are not at the mercy of what you describe as "... the Koch brothers and other members of the fossil fuel fraternity." When 'Money Talks' the world suffers.
Lee Harrison (Albany / Kew Gardens)
There is some good news from the states on the coasts -- there's a good chance that a power-cooperative on the west coast will develop that will improve regional production of wind and solar, and there's a good chance that RGGI (Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative) will expand, taking in at least NJ and possibly several more states. And then there are the facts on the ground -- solar and wind keep getting cheaper, quite quickly. The major issue where federal help is needed is transmission; that will need to wait for Democratic control.
Mor (California)
In addition to a carbon tax, let’s hope that Democrats in state houses and especially in Washington insist on increased funding for science and technology to fight climate change. I am thinking of geo-engineering and genetic engineering, to help develop more resistant eco-systems. Unfortunately for that they’ll have to fight the anti-scientific bias not only of Republicans but of their own base as well. Many liberals in California, despite the state’s science-friendly ethos, are opposed to GMOs. They also refuse to accept the fact that living “in nature” contributes to sprawl and consequent carbon emissions, not to mention horrible forest fires. High-density urban living, public transportation, electric cars and GMOs to prevent famines and create resilient eco-systems in the wild will be necessary to cope with climate change. Carbon tax alone is not sufficient.
betty durso (philly area)
@Mor I'm sure you have our best interests at heart. But I can't agree on genetic engineering. Since we live in a capitalist society much of genetic engineering is driven by profits, not what's best for us humans. With Roundup (glyphosate) Monsanto sold many soybean seeds to unaware and now beholden farmers. It is poison and still being sold. This kind of cynical corporate behavior must not go unpunished by our legislature and judiciary. How to rein in big polluters and greedy scientists before they wreck our world? Hopefully our new House of Representatives has the smarts and spine to avoid their hush money.
Joe McInerney (Denver, CO)
@Mor Geoengineering and GMO organisms are incredibly risky mechanisms to avoid the actual problem. Humans are going to redesign all of nature, when we couldn't learn to follow basic rules of ecology? Yeah, right. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/14/business/dealbook/another-too-big-to-fail-system-in-gmos.html
Mor (California)
@betty durso So capitalists are not human? OK, what alternative system do you propose in order to take care of the planet? Would you like to visit the ecological wastelands left behind by the demise of socialism in Eastern Europe? And “greedy scientists”? Next time when you are tempted to get a flu shot or to type something on your computer, please refrain from adding to the profits of those scientific leeches. The issue of Roundup is contentious but you have to know that without GMOs, people in Africa would be starving to death at ten times the present rate. Of course, geo-engineering is not without its risks. But there is no alternative: changing our life-style won’t happen soon enough to avert a climate catastrophe. And I’d rather place my faith in rational scientists than in dangerous ideologues and utopian dreamers.
It is futile for politicians to treat environmental protection as an afterthought (if that) next to other priorities, because if we don't protect our one planet, we have no future.
Bill Brown (California)
Big Oil & the GOP aren't the problem when it comes to enacting climate change legislation. American voters don't want to pay more for energy. Every poll backs this up. The GOP is simply reflecting the desires of their constituents. The point of cap & trade was always to increase the price of 85 percent of the energy we use in America. That is the goal. For it to “work,” cap and trade needs to increase the price of oil, coal, and natural gas to force consumers to use more expensive forms of energy. President Obama’s former OMB director, Peter Orszag, told Congress that “price increases would be essential to the success of a cap and trade program. The majority of U.S. voters will never go for this. Period. The overall reality in that climate change legislation is hard to pass even in good times. It's a real killer in an economic downturn where citizens & business fear higher costs, even slightly higher costs, & may see no concrete benefits. The US is extracting carbon & flowing it into the global energy system faster than ever before. We're trying simultaneously to reduce demand for fossil fuels while doing everything possible to increase the supply. Mind you this started when Obama was President. Can we bring ourselves to prioritize renewables over cheap fuels? Are we willing to vote against our own self interests & approve higher taxes on fossil fuels? Can we muster the restraint needed to leave assets worth trillions in the ground? Absolutely not. It's never going to happen.
catherp (Minneapolis)
@Bill Brown I'm generally in agreement with you that "people" will never accept higher energy prices or a lower standard of living as the cost of...their grandchildrens' survival? That's why we urgently need political leaders willing to stand up to Big Oil -- and that too will never happen even when the tides reach Wall Street and Texas becomes uninhabitable from the heat.
Can’t Beat Em (VT)
@ Bill Brown Pessimism is indeed called for but never underestimate the urgency of the actions of rats deserting a sinking ship.
betty durso (philly area)
@Bill Brown Again I'm reminded of the Nordic countries who freely accept higher taxes in order to live a better life. What if we were all aware of the truth about climate change? How many would opt for short-term gain over impending doom for their grandchildren? It's time we overcome our caveman genes and become fully human. Humans are capable of altruism, even the heads of corporations. We can postpone satisfaction, even profits, for the sake of others.
Mike Roddy (Alameda, Ca)
It's time we faced the fact that fossil fuel corporations are criminal organizations, who prefer to watch millions of people die rather than sacrifice any part of their quarterly earnings. This horrifying pattern is made possible by media failure and susceptibility to bribery by most members of Congress. The disgrace is that fossil fuel companies' share of our GDP is a measly 2.6%. Several sectors could eat them for breakfast, but guess what? Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Apple feign climate consciousness while refusing to alienate any advertisers. Meanwhile, Exxon and friends post endless ads on social media, while already having captured Congress and our big media companies. Even Rachel never talks about climate change. IPCC says we have 12 years to abruptly changing our ways before runaway climate change- and massive extinction- becomes inevitable. Someone needs to step up: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#search/nob+hill+roddy+climate?projector=1 If we fail in the next 12 years, humans will have proved that we are much too early a stage of evolution to have been handed the keys to life on earth. In today's world, those keys are likely to unleash death at a scale and speed exceeding all mass extinctions. We need a miracle- including waking up, wising up, and acting.
Blackmamba (Il)
@Mike Roddy What fuel runs your auto, stove, furnace, HVAC, freezer, bulbs?
Al in Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA)
@Mike Roddy No mention of population pressure as a prelude to mass extintion? Use of fossil fuels in support of one or two billion people, (the global number when I first learned it many years ago), just might meet the Paris goals.
Jana Hesser (Providence, RI)
@Blackmamba What is the meaning of your question? Auto, stove, and furnace can run on clean renewable, non-disease causing electricity. HVAC, freezer, and bulbs are already running on electricity. Are you joking? or are you really that uninformed?
bl (rochester)
The Times needs to invest space and time to explaining how a carbon tax can be correctly structured to help modify behavior and not penalize the middle class' budget woes. The fact that the Washington ballot initiative fell victim to well funded opposition is not at all surprising. It is simply part of the political landscape. What is very unfortunate is that the tax was apparently either not explained adequately or it didn't convince the middle class that the word tax was not going to apply to them. As a result, fear of the unknown, fear of hidden unannounced charges, whatever, was able to overcome what should have been a popular response expressing a collective resistance to collective suicide by carbon combustion. This latent fear was easily exploited by those too cynical to not wallow in the lucrative opportunities provided by business as usual. I don't know how much public outreach and education there was as part of the initiative's promotion. Nor do I know if in fact the initiative was structured to respond to the economic insecurities that must be addressed upfront if there is to be any significant uptake of this idea. Perhaps those in Washington can clarify this for us. But media such as NYT have an important role to play in clarifying how a well structured carbon tax would work, and how it can minimize the justifiable economic concerns and insecurities of the middle class. This needs attending to. Otherwise this idea will never fly.
Suzi Johns (Spokane, Wa. 99224)
@bl I am a 75 yr old, resident of Spokane WA. Washington State's second largest city. Having lived in this city for 68 years and therefore having, also, watched many an election come and go, NEVER...and let me repeat, never, has my rural mailbox received as many anti-carbon tax large, glossy fancy flyers, or been held captive to the hundreds of TV campaign commercials against this bill as experienced in this last election. Having studied, then supported via doorbelling and finally, voted for this carbon tax, yes, it was quite disappointing but not surprising that it failed to pass. Who could match 30 million? Well, I suppose the Gates Foundation over in Seattle. But realistically no one! And so the general public I met while doorbelling, sadly, thought this was a tax they would have to bear. They were right in that 'bearing part' because they will bear the consequences ...as will their/my children and our grand and great grand children.
Blackmamba (Il)
@bl Ask 3rd Lady Trump to offer her deep knowledge on how to get the carbon tax to fly? Or perhaps ask Scheme Mr. and Mrs. Jared Kushner?
Chris Gray (Chicago)
@bl The Washington carbon tax was regressive and would have hit middle and working-class families alike with a $440 annual tax, a tax that would increase over time as the state fell short of climate goals. It was all stick and no carrot for most families, although it would've created jobs and helped their descendants have a healthier state. That's too indirect of a benefit in a state that's already expensive for working-class people to live, with high housing costs and a state govt funded by regressive sales and business taxes (no income tax.)
See also