We Could Have Stopped Climate Chaos But We Were Too Damned Cheap

What a beautiful Friday morning in my part of the world. The sky is blue and clear on a minus 16 degree C March 1st day.  I’m watching two pileated woodpeckers enjoy the suet in the bird feeder just outside the window. They certainly are impressive birds, especially close up! I took this picture earlier in the year:

pileated woodpeckers

Meanwhile, this week in climate news, thirty eight leading U.S. national security experts released a letter urging action on international climate change initiatives. Their press release reads:

Today, Partnership for a Secure America (PSA) launched their newest open letter, signed by 38 Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, on the national security threats of climate change at a bipartisan panel event on Capitol Hill.

In the midst of sequestration’s looming budget cuts and White House promises of Executive Action on climate change, should Congress fail to act, the letter’s signatories stress the urgent need for action to prevent disastrous impacts on U.S. national security interests. Mobilizing public and private support for international mitigation and adaptation projects in vulnerable communities must be a priority, the letter states.

R. James Woolsey, former Director of Central Intelligence, and Wayne Gilchrest, former Congressman (R-MD) and Co-founder of the Congressional Climate Change Caucus, spoke at the event to highlight the critical threats that climate change presents.

“If we have difficulty figuring out how to deal with immigration today, look at the prospects for the glacial retreats in the Andes. The glaciers are not doing well… If that starts to go away, we will have millions upon millions of southern neighbors hungry, thirsty, with crops failing and looking for some place in the world they can go,” Woolsey said.

Gilchrest said, “As we saw the military in Sandy, we saw the military in Katrina… we’ll see them in Pakistan – one of those countries that may be more hard-hit by climate change than almost any other country in the immediate term.”

The signatories to PSA’s letter join the State Department, Defense Department, National Intelligence Council, and many other security voices in emphasizing the serious national security implications of climate change.

Signatories including seventeen former Senators and Congress members, nine retired generals and admirals, both the Chair and Vice Chair of the 9/11 Commission, and Cabinet and Cabinet-level officials from the Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush (41), Clinton, and Bush (43) administrations.

This initiative builds upon PSA’s 2009 statement “Climate Change Threatens All Americans” ( www.psaonline.org/climate ), which served to publicly identify climate change as an issue of bipartisan concern among national security experts.

According to their website:

PSA is a nonprofit founded by former U.S. Representative Lee Hamilton (D-IN) and former U.S. Senator Warren Rudman (R-NH) to advance bipartisanship on today’s critical national security and foreign policy challenges. Leveraging the leadership of its distinguished  Advisory Board , PSA has unique credibility and access to forge common ground and fashion thoughtful, fact-based policy that promotes America’s national interests

Click here to read the full letter, The Cost of Inaction.


This week as well, the Climate Reality Project released a catchy video about the price we are all paying for carbon pollution:



In other climate news, a report was released that was written by NERA for the U.S. National Association of Manufacturers. It purports to provide “a quantitative estimate of how much [the Boxer/Sanders] scheme would hurt the U.S. economy.” However, like many papers from free-market ideologues and think tanks, the report ignores the costs of climate change as well as the benefits of clean energy, and thus leads to the wrong conclusion. Interestingly, a previous report written by NERA admits that a carbon tax could be efficient in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

As a fellow Citizen Climate Lobby volunteer wrote in response to the NAM report:

A comparison of the costs of damages from emissions in a continued fossil fuel economy versus the cost of ramping up clean energy, efficiency and conservation to create a clean energy economy was done by DARA Climate Vulnerability Monitor, finding that “Economic losses dwarf the modest costs of tackling climate change.”

In addition to the $1.2 trillion loss in forgone prosperity by our failure to act on climate change, there is also the risk of unimaginable catastrophe.

A recent report for the World Bank details the costs and risks of continuing climate disruption.  The carbon fuel economy is propelling us toward : “shock to agricultural production…and pressure on water resources which would cascade into effects on economic development by reducing a population’s work capacity …and risk crossing critical social system thresholds..[where] adaptation actions would likely become much less effective or even collapse.”

Even though I’ve been immersed in the climate conversation for years, it is still hard for me to comprehend that the current reality is that some individuals and groups argue (and apparently believe) that climate inaction is an option because we are worried about how taking action on climate change might impact the economy. That’s pure insanity! To rephrase the great American author Kurt Vonnegut (I  know, it’s pretty nervy of me), who was referring to saving the earth,  “We could have stopped climate chaos but we were too damned cheap.”



I’m going to unplug from the computer now, and spend some time outside on this gorgeous March day. I also plan to find some to read Food Not Lawns by Heather Jo Flores, which arrived in my mailbox yesterday. Hope you enjoy your Friday, too – let’s not let the crazies stop the rest of us from enjoying this amazing world we’re so privileged to be a part of!

graphic: 350.org
graphic: 350.org

If You Wait Until You’re Dead Certain About Grave Danger, You’re Already Dead

It’s TED Talk Tuesday on 350orbust, and here’s a great presentation by Rear Admiral David Titley from the U.S. Navy on why he changed from being a climate skeptic to being very very concerned about climate change, and what America can do to respond to this crisis.



admiral titley quote

Dramatic Increase In Arctic Methane Release Requires Dramatic Increase In Political Will To Address Climate Crisis

admiral titley quote*

All eyes in the climate change community are going to be on President Obama tonight as he delivers his State of the Union address, which outlines his administration’s vision for the next four years. The clip below,  from AP, discusses the urgent need for Obama to address climate change (although one wonders why they chose Bill Gates to weigh in on the connection between the current extreme weather and climate change).



As Obama prepares his speech, Mother Nature isn’t waiting for humans to act on climate change. I’m hoping to be reassured in the State of the Union speech that we humans aren’t completely suicidal and lazy, but I’m not sure. The latest news on methane release is very alarming:

January 2013 has seen vast amounts of methane rising from the Arctic Ocean. CH4 molecule is 256 times more powerful in trapping sun’s energy than CO2. If summer time phytoplankton devour CO2 and these are then eaten by methane-belching zooplankton as their exhalation product, a very dangerous positive feedback loop is established between photosynthesizing plankton in summer and methanogenic zooplankton that devour them in the winter darkness, effectively setting a course where CO2 is being converted into CH4 by the ocean microbes. It could also be a result of open oceans in winter darkness leaking out as a result of reduction in methane consuming plankton and bacteria in seas. This would allow more deep water methane to escape without being consumed to CO2.

global methane emergency

The Eaarth will put up with only so much abuse, and she is starting to send us louder and louder signals that we need to dramatically change the way we treat her – like our lives depend upon it! Looking for ideas to respond?  There’s so many great people and organizations doing amazing work out there.  Here’s a few of my favourites:

Citizens Climate Lobby

Transition Network

Post Carbon Institute

“We’re Not Doomed, We’re Just In Big Trouble” – Gwynne Dyer On Global Instability And Climate Change

“Recent scientific evidence has…given us a picture of the physical impacts on our world that we can expect as our climate changes. And those impacts go far beyond the environmental. Their consequences reach to the very heart of the security agenda.”

Margaret Beckett, former British foreign secretary

This is the quote that opens Gwynne Dyer’s book, Climate Wars. Mr Dyer is a London-based independent Canadian journalist, syndicated columnist and military historian. In 2010 he received the Order of Canada. His website summarizes his career this way:

Born in Newfoundland, he received degrees from Canadian, American and British universities, finishing with a Ph.D. in Military and Middle Eastern History from the University of London. He served in three navies and held academic appointments at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and Oxford University before launching his twice-weekly column on international affairs, which is published by over 175 papers in some 45 countries.
His first television series, the 7-part documentary ‘War’, was aired in 45 countries in the mid-80s. One episode, ‘The Profession of Arms’, was nominated for an Academy Award.  His more recent television work includes the 1994 series ‘The Human Race’, and ‘Protection Force’, a three-part series on peacekeepers in Bosnia, both of which won Gemini awards.  His award-winning radio documentaries include ‘The Gorbachev Revolution’, a seven-part series based on Dyer’s experiences in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union in 1987-90, and ‘Millenium’, a six-hour series on the
emerging global culture.

So, what does Climate Wars have to say about the challenges the world faces in the coming decades, thanks to the grossly inadequate response of most governments to the threat that it poses? Some of the expected consequences of runaway climate change in the decades ahead are dwindling resources, massive population shifts, natural disasters, spreading epidemics, drought, rising sea levels, plummeting agricultural yields, devastated economies, and political extremism. Any one of these could tip the world towards conflict. Mr. Dyer points out that the military forces of both the United States and Britain have taken this threat seriously for years, although under George W. Bush’s presidency,  it was dangerous to one’s career to be seen treating climate change as a real and serious phenomenon. Despite that, the Pentagon hired the CNA Corporation to study the geopolitics of climate change. The resulting report, produced by the CNA Corporation in collaboration with eleven retired three- and four-star generals, was issued in April 2007 and is titled National Security and Climate. In that report, General Anthony C. Zinni, former commander-in-chief, U.S. Central Command, wrote:

You already have great tension over water [in the Middle East]. These are cultures often built around a single source of water. So any stresses on the rivers and aquifers can be a source of conflict. If you consider land loss, the Nile Delta region is the most fertile ground in Egypt. Any losses there [from a storm surge] could cause a real problem, again because the region is so fragile.

We will pay for this one way or another. We will pay to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions today, and we’ll have to take an economic hit of some kind. Or we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives. There will be a human toll. There is no way out of this that does not have real costs attached to it.

For more of Gwynne Dyer on climate change, check out these videos or go to CBC’s website to listen to Climate Wars.



U.S. Military: Climate Change Is A Threat Multiplier

Here is another video from the Climate Change And Global Security symposium held last week at the Museum of Natural History. A group of academic and military experts representing both the U.S. and Britain gathered to examine the reasons why any discussion about global warming should include a broader look at the implications for long-term global security.

In this clip, Dennis V. McGinn, retired Vice Admiral of the U.S. Navy and member of the Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board, discusses how climate change is a global threat multiplier, and its destabilizing impact on societies around the world:


More links:

To listen to the podcast of “Climate Change and Global Security” click here

National Security and the Threat of Climate Change

Powering America’s Defense: Energy and the Risks to National Security

Navigating Climate Change: An Agenda for U.S.-Chinese Cooperation , a report by the EastWest Institute

American Military On Climate Change: If We Wait for 100% Certainty, Something Bad Is Going To Happen

Last week, a group of academic and military experts representing both the U.S. and Britain gathered at a symposium at the Museum of Natural History. The symposium, Climate Change And Global Security, examined the reasons why any discussion about global warming should include a broader look at the implications for long-term global security. The moderator, Andrew Nagorski of the EastWest Institute, stated:

“What often does not come across in the discussions of climate change…is that the militaries of the U.S., the U.K., and other countries have for a long time operated on the assumption that climate change is something that you have to deal with. Whatever the causes, the consequences [of climate change], you have to factor it into your planning.”

Dennis V. McGinn, retired Vice Admiral of the U.S. Navy and member of the Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board, does a good job of summing up how climate change poses a national security threat, and how it could destabilize societies around the world:

“From a military and national security expertise perspective we question ourselves, what are we doing taking about climate science, we’re collectively 400 years of time in uniform at peace and at war. Our chairman of the military advisory board General Gordon Sullivan, former Chief of Staff of the Army put it best. He said we never have 100 % certainty. If you wait for 100% certainty on the battlefield, something bad is going to happen. We never have it. So, from that conclusion about how we should approach this from a risk management proposition, what can we do to prevent, to mitigate what we can’t prevent and to adapt what we can neither prevent or mitigate, the effects of climate change. That is the challenge for us across the globe. Certainly, as a global leader that the US is we bear a special responsibility for rising to meet that challenge and to turn it into the opportunity that can make us more secure nationally and internationally and more prosperous in the future.”


Here is another video of the retired Vice Admiral speaking at a “Re-energize America” town hall meeting on the impact of America’s oil dependence on the national and economic security of the country.


If the British, U.S., and other militaries are taking the threat of climate change seriously, isn’t it time our politicians did, too?

More links:

In Canada, remind our politicians to support Bill C311, The Climate Accountability Act

To listen to the podcast of “Climate Change and Global Security” click here

National Security and the Threat of Climate Change

Powering America’s Defense: Energy and the Risks to National Security

Navigating Climate Change: An Agenda for U.S.-Chinese Cooperation , a report by the EastWest Institute

Unprecedented April Rain in Arctic, Big Oil’s Big Mess in Ocean, & Military Leaders Say Climate Change A National Security Issue

From CBC News, unprecedented rain in the High Arctic this past week:

Spring showers are next to non-existent in the High Arctic, so Environment Canada’s senior climatologist says he’s baffled to hear that it rained near the North Pole this week.

A group of British scientists working off Ellef Ringnes Island, near the North Pole, reported being hit with a three-minute rain shower over the weekend. The group reported the rain on Tuesday.

Rain in the High Arctic in April is nothing short of bizarre, said David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada.

“My business is weird, wild and wacky weather, and this is up there among fish falling from the sky or Niagara Falls running dry,” Phillips told CBC News in an interview that aired Thursday. Click here to read full story on CBC.ca.

In a related story, Accuweather.com reports a dramatic flip from severe, even record-setting, cold to unusual warmth has happened over that part of western Asia centered upon the west of Siberian Russia.

From Huffington Post, news that BP aggressively fought new safety regulations proposed last year by a federal agency that oversees offshore drilling — which were prompted by a study that found many accidents in the industry:

As families mourn the 11 workers thrown overboard in the worst oil rig disaster in decades and as the resulting spill continues to spread through the Gulf of Mexico, new questions are being raised about the training of the drill operators and about the oil company’s commitment to safety.

Deepwater Horizon, the giant technically-advanced rig which exploded on April 20 and sank two days later, is leaking an estimated 42,000 gallons per day through a pipe about 5,000 feet below the surface. The spill has spread across 1,800 square miles — an area larger than Rhode Island — according to satellite images, oozing its way toward the Louisiana coast and posing a threat to wildlife, including a sperm whale spotted in the oil sheen.

The massive $600 million rig, which holds the record for boring the deepest oil and gas well in the world — at 35,050 feet – had passed three recent federal inspections, the most recent on April 1, since it moved to its current location in January. The cause of the explosion has not been determined.

The article goes on to say that the Oil Industry has been lobbying vigorously against newer, more stringent safety rules, writing over 100 letters to object to them, including a PowerPoint presentation that asked, in bold letters:

“What Do HURRICANES and New Rules Have in Common?” against a backdrop of hurricane activity in the Gulf of Mexico. On the next page, the answer appears: “Both are disruptive to Operations And are costly to Recover From”.

Click here to read the full story on The Huffington Post.

And, via Climate Progress, news that senior American military leaders have publicly announced their support for the U.S. climate bill currently making its torturous and uncertain way to becoming law:

Today an unprecedented 33 retired US military generals and admirals announced that they support comprehensive climate and energy legislation in a letter to Senators Reid and McConnell as well as a full page ad (click to enlarge).  The news release points out:

It was the largest such announcement of support ever, reflecting the consensus of the national security community that climate change and oil dependence post a threat to American security.

To read the full story on Climate Progress, including the text of the letter the admirals and generals sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, click here.

U.S. Department of Defense Report: Climate Change Threatens U.S. National Security

U.S. security agencies are starting to make it clear that their country’s dependence on foreign oil is a serious problem, and that America’s future is best secured by pursuing alternative energy strategies that will loosen the stranglehold oil has on the economy.  Currently, the United States sends one billion dollars a day out of the country to pay for this oil addiction. Government organizations have taken a number of measures to address these security concerns. For example, the CIA has created a center on climate change, the U.S. Marines have committed to reducing their carbon pollution by 30 percent by 2025, the Navy is committed to reducing their carbon pollution by 50 percent by 2020. As well, many U.S. bases have implemented smart grid technology and renewable energy sources and the Pentagon building was weatherized and rehabbed to become LEED certified  (consequently, their energy bill went down from 2.9 million to 2.2 million a month).

Last month, the Pentagon released the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). In the review, Pentagon officials conclude that climate change will act as an “accelerant of instability and conflict,” ultimately placing a burden on civilian institutions and militaries around the world. The report states that military services have already invested in non-carbon power sources, such as solar wind, geothermal, and biomass at domestic installations, as well as alternative vehicle fuels, including hybrid, electric, hydrogen and compressed national gas.

Operation Free is an coalition of U.S. veterans against using foreign oil.  They  have been traveling across the country, spreading the message that U. S. dependence on foreign oil is making America vulnerable and funding her enemies, and causing destabilizing climate change.

Operation Free has just produced a video.  Here are some excerpts from the video, which can be viewed at the bottom of the page.

Before I retired, I saw up close what our dependence on oil has cost our country.  I think our country can do a lot better than we are currently doing. We’re wasting precious, precious resources that we should be investing in our own country.” Roger Koopman, Retired Air Force Officer, Raleigh, North Carolina

We have slashed federal investments in renewable technologies by 86%, and we have doubled our imports of oil from the Middle East. I refuse, and you should refuse, to be part of the first generation Americans in history to say ‘it’s too hard’.” U.S. Congressman Steve Israel

“This is about our national security. This is about the future of our nation. So we cannot miss this opportunity to invest in alternative energies that are going to make our country stronger.” Iraq veteran and U.S. Congressman John Boccieri


More links:


Center for Naval Analysis: National Security and Climate Change

The Greening of the Pentagon’s Master Strategy Review”

Center for New American Security

Quadrennial Defense Review Report