RENewsletter | October 1, 2017

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The Free environmental newsletter from RochesterEnvironment.com

“Our Environment is changing: Keep up with the Change.”

 

*Note: Henceforth 'environment' means ‘our life support system.’

 

[9/24/2017 – 10/01/2017]

 

Adapting to and mitigating Climate Change in a way that sustains all life while striving to do so equitably is the defining issue of our time.  How we comport ourselves during this historic trial by fire will reveal our true nature. Frank J. Regan

 

Opening Salvo | NewsLinks | Daily Updates | Events | Take Action

 

* Having trouble reading this newsletter? Read it online here.

 

Opening Salvo: “How will Climate Change impact Rochester, NY and what do we plan to do about it?

 

Local impacts of Climate Change

 

One of the ways a community gathers information about how Climate Change will impact them and how they will address the consequences is through a Climate Action Plan (CAP). It takes years of data gathering and collaboration to produce a CAP that diverse groups can sign on to. But it’s all worth it.

 

The disaster occurring now in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria highlights why Climate Action Plans are critical. In major extreme weather disasters, public health, insurance issues, infrastructure (transportation, water, wastewater, telecommunications) all reach a tipping point if communities are not ready for the worse. You really understand the vital connections between our infrastructures and Climate Change when you consider Puerto Rico’s power grid plight. 

 

Why Puerto Rico faces a monumental recovery effort Almost a week after Hurricane Maria pounded its way across Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 155 mph, the outlook for anything but a long and arduous recovery is bleak. FEMA reported Tuesday that only 11 of 69 hospitals had power, and Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said only about 5% of the island's power grid was operational. Less than half the population had potable water. Cell service was out in 95% of the territory, FEMA said. More than 11,000 people remained in shelters. President Trump will wait until next week to visit, saying he didn't want to disrupt the efforts of first-responders still saving lives on the storm-battered island. "The island was hit as hard as you could hit," Trump said. "The island is devastated." Several factors are slowing the recovery effort. Here are some of them: (September 27, 2017) USA Today

 

The City’s CAP explains that the following local impacts of Climate Change are coming: increasing temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, impacts to the Great Lakes, reduced winter recreation, impacts to agriculture, and impacts to human health and equity. (Page 4, CAP). Each category has its own section in the CAP, but the following description of the public health issue gives a sense of how complex each impact can be. 

 

Climate change will have a variety of public health consequences, including heat-related illnesses, allergies, asthma, water and food borne illnesses, cardiovascular disease, and others. While climate change will affect the health of the entire community, some groups will be disproportionately more affected than others. For instance, low-income populations and the elderly may lack access to cooled spaces during hot weather--and those with respiratory illness may be more vulnerable to air pollution.

 

Not all Climate Change impacts are dire, immediate threats, like those in Hurricane Alley. Most impacts in our region are subtle but involve profound changes that alter our environment from one that was relatively stable for 10, 000 years to one whose trajectory is a threat to our future. These seemingly slow-moving threats are no less urgent because addressing them in time to matter usually means getting started years or decades before they become noticeable. For example, it’s the dickens trying to restore a complex ecosystem after it has crashed.

 

Through my own readings of climate studies that include impacts to our region,  the following are already occurring: annual temperatures increases, increase in intensive precipitation events, bird population shifts, reduced snowpack and earlier ice break up, increases in lake effect snowfall, increased plant frost damage, changes to plant growth and decomposition rates, species migration, streamflow changes, amphibians responding to Climate Change, invasive species thriving, wildlife affected by Climate Change, declining lake ice cover, increases in heat-related illnesses, increased incidents of ground-level ozone, livestock heat stress, changes to timing of seasons, northeast US extreme weather increases, which drives up liability claims, NYS coastal sea level rising, Climate Change causing plants to shift, and forest pests increasing. (For a fuller description of each item and resources, go here.)

 

The most immediate problems with Climate Change in our region are sewer overflows that threaten our water quality; toxic blue-green algae blooms that are increasingly showing up in our lakes, and our shoreline flooding. These issues are not covered by the Rochester’s CAP because they are outside of the City’s jurisdiction, not to mention Climate Change is a bigger problem than any one community can address.

 

What does Climate Change mean?

 

Many environmental, transportation, anti-poverty, and public health groups are making important inroads towards addressing Climate Change in our area, but often not under the name of Climate Change. It matters that we view our future as one that is warming because it will be impossible to manage our environment if we only do so by looking backwards. Over the years I’ve become philosophical about this crisis in the sense that our world has changed from a stable climate to one that may someday spiral beyond our ability to adapt. We must find out if Climate Change is truly an existential threat, one that will end our time on this planet. Despite the increasing clarity brought to this issue by science, it is more muddled than ever in the public’s mind by our politics.

 

We not only need sound data, like that provided by New York Climate Change Science Clearinghouse (NYCCSC), we need to view Climate Change as an extraordinary crisis for humanity. I see Climate Change as a moral, physical, and existential problem. We are entering a tumultuous time when the accumulated effects of past environmental damages are mixing with the consequences of a quickly warming planet filled with 7 billion people and their infrastructures (which are now an integral part of our collective existence). This means there may not be any ‘solutions’ to Climate Change. Instead, we must learn to manage the myriad consequences of Climate Change so we can make our life support systems sustainable for us. To manage all this, we must constantly be aware of the climate indicators that will give us objective feedback on whether we are actually moving in the right direction.

 

Too often, too many are relying on opinions, stances, and ideology for answers to a scientific/biological problem and coming up with delusional solutions. During this extraordinary time, when the consequences of Climate Change are exploding, we are losing our respect for science. (Indeed, when I marched with tens of thousands to support science in the March for Science in Washington, DC in April, it was an out-of-anything-remotely-normal experience.) Living in a time when science itself needs to be restored is beyond sad. Without science baked into Climate Change communications, everyone’s arguments, even the most specious, are considered equally, which fuels doubt, inaction, and communication blockage.

 

City’s solutions for Climate Change

 

The City of Rochester views Climate Change solutions in terms of targets. Emission Reduction Targets (Page 32, CAP):

 

1. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% from 2010 levels by 2020, and

2. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 2010 levels by 2030.

 

While these targets may be attainable politically, science is telling us we need to stop putting any more greenhouse gases into our atmosphere and waters right now. In fact, as the name describes, the organization 350.org suggests we reset our carbon dioxide concentration back to a time where our species thrived. CO2 concentration is now over 400ppm and likely not to go below that in any of our lifetimes. 

 

City’s Climate Change solutions are inherently limited.

 

Many communities (like Portland, Oregon) have long since passed and pro-actively set their CAP in motion—where one of the benefits is to have established benchmarks so that present efforts can be measured against past data. As I have long encouraged the adoption of a Rochester CAP, I don’t want to downplay the efforts put towards Rochester’s achievement that made it happen—or the quality of insights and solutions.  Rochester’s CAP is aware of the scope of the problem and is trying to work with local groups, businesses, Monroe County, New York State, and the federal government to address Climate Change.

 

But Rochester is late to the game. And, outside the CAP document itself, Rochester still has a ‘no regrets’ attitude towards Climate Change. Our leaders probably believe in the science behind Climate Change and believe that their policies will help make our infrastructures (like our transportation systems) more resilient to weather extremes and fair to all who need to get around. But our political leaders are not so willing to step up and publicly announce that they are trying to adapt to and mitigate Climate Change. Our leaders probably see this as the role of climate activists. The problem with that strategy is it encourages the notion in the public and our media that Climate Change is still a special interest for just a few.

 

The City’s Climate Change solutions (discussed in depth in “Chapter 4: How Do We Get There?” -- page 43) are detailed but aspirational and limited. Even if wildly successful, Rochester is only one community among hundreds of thousands around the world.   

 

The CAP talks about various infrastructures and the need to protect them. But even with water, gas, communications, and other conduits passing through it, the City can only do so much. Each infrastructure crosses many judications, properties, and enforcement. Take bus transportation, for example: The City sits on the board of Rochester Transit System (RTS) but cannot even force RTS to keep bus stops cleared of snow so folks with wheelchairs can use this system in the winter—which makes living on their own a great challenge.

 

Rochester can advise on how to treat local wildlife, but the authority to help wildlife adapt to Climate Change is not part of its purview. Rochester can help develop codes for how much greenhouse gases its own municipality can put into our air, but our air covers the entire planet. Our water comes, in part, from Lake Ontario, whose control is under the jurisdiction of several states and Canada.

 

In other words, there are many climate indicators missing in the CAP because of the inherent limitation of the City’s physical and legal influence. We can and are building partnerships locally, with other cities, states, and even nations. But there’s not much about ecosystem health, about addressing industrial agriculture (though the City can and is incorporating urban agriculture into its plan), and sequestering CO2 in our soil.

 

Rochester can and is encouraging renewable electricity, and that will have ripple-effects through the private and public sectors. But, like with buildings’ energy efficiency, trying to solve even local stuff is incredibly thorny as the City authority is trumped by our major utilities and the government dare not get too pushy with private property owners, landlords, and tenants. 

 

These are the major venues through which Climate solutions are recommended by the CAP: (from Page 34, Overview, CAP)

 

·         Energy and Supply includes stationary energy uses such as residential electricity and natural gas consumption. Strategies include increasing energy efficiency, implementing renewable energy, and fuel switching.

·         Transportation includes all on-road transportation such as residents’ motor vehicles, commercial vehicles, and mass transit. Strategies include, promoting multimodal travel and adopting alternative fuel vehicles.

·         Waste/Materials Management includes emissions from the breakdown of organic material in solid waste. Strategies include solid waste reduction and diversion.

·         Clean Water includes all emissions associated with potable water production and delivery, as well as those associated with wastewater treatment and disposal.

·         Land Use includes the emissions and sequestration ability associated with changing land use patterns. The CAP does not include specific mitigation strategies for this focus area because direct land use related GHG emissions were not measured as part of the CAP baseline inventory. However, the Land Use focus area includes actions intended to improve the community’s ability to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Rochester cannot address Climate Change alone

 

We in Rochester cannot address Climate Change without understanding the full implications of this crisis and working with the world community. To do that we need a local media that continually informs the public about Climate Change with reference to the CAP.

 

One of the more hopeful signs is that a now major organization, the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition (RPCC) with over 125-member organizations, is adopting the solutions strategies from the CAP.  The RPCC, a voluntary group, has even stepped up to the plate as one of the work groups for solutions. 

 

Finally, while “Monroe County and the City of Rochester have been proactive in addressing flooding problems.” (PEER-TO-PEER CASE STUDY: MONROE COUNTY, NEW YORK Designing Green Infrastructure Standards For Retrofits) they are not doing so under the rubric of Climate Change. For our region to play an important role in addressing Climate Change locally, we need all of Monroe County on board.

 

Rochester is now a part of the worldwide solution to Climate Change but we can only be effective if we’re part of a concerted effort involving every community.

 

Time passes.

 

FrankRegan@RochesterEnvironment.com  (Click on my email for feedback)

 

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* Got news? | Go to my blog: Environmental Thoughts - Rochester, NY or Tweet me @ http://twitter.com/#!/FrankRrrr   On Twitter and Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/RochesterEnvironment  and Examiner/RochesterEnvironment, Also: If you wish me to include your event or news in this newsletter, which gets sent out on Sunday morning, please send the blurb to me by Friday evening: FrankRegan@RochesterEnvironment.com

 

I post local environmental events, news, and commentary as soon as it happens. The ability of this newsletter to inform and get the public focused on our local environment is dependent on reaching a lot of folks. If you think this newsletter, which continually informs our community on our local environmental news, events, actions, is worthwhile, please encourage others to sign up.  We who care about our environment and future need to ‘Occupy’ the Rochester media to change how the public views environmental news. One way to do that is to join this Google+ Group. “Become The MediaBTW: This newsletter looks and works great on your tablet device.

 

The great conundrum of our times is that in a time of rapidly occurring Climate Change and a rapid disintegration of the environment that we need to thrive and survive, mainstream media still marginalizes environmental concerns. [Check often for this continually updated list on the possible consequences of Climate Change in our region--supported by facts.] If there isn’t a quick and substantial change in how environmental concerns are reported, edited, and chosen in mainstream media, the public will continue to believe that environmental concerns are merely special interest matters, issues they can avoid if they choose.  How can we inform the public and monitor our environment without abridging our Freedoms--in enough time to save ourselves?

 

“Anything else you're interested in is not going to happen if you can't breathe the air and drink the water. Don't sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolutely critical moment in the history of our planet.” -- Carl Sagan

 

My companion book to RochesterEnvironment.com written in 2005 still holds true. Now, “We Don’t Get It!” is an E-Book on Amazon.com and Kindle Amazon.com: We Don't Get It! eBook: Frank Regan: Books

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NewsLinks Environmental NewsLinks – [Highlights of major environmental stories concerning our area from the past week]

 

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Updates Daily Updates – [Connecting the dots on Rochester’s environment. Find out what’s going on environmentally in our area—and why you should care? Clicking on -DISCUSSION – will take you to my blog “Environmental Thoughts, NY, where you can add your comments. Text in BOLD are my comments.]

 

 

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Events Rochester Environmental Events Calendar – [The most complete listing of all environmental events around the Rochester, New York area.]  If you don’t see your event, or know of a local environmental event, please send me the info: FrankRegan@RochesterEnvironment.com with (EV event) in the subject line. Also, be sure to check other calendars and environmental series for multi-day events.

 

October 2017

 

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Action Take Action - Often, I receive request to pass on alerts, petitions, Public Comments on local developments, and environmental items needing action by the Rochester Community and around the world. I’ll keep Actions posted until their due date. 

 

 

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