Sunday, September 15, 2019

Global Climate Strike Friday!

Do you know about the climate strike?  Starting this Friday, eight days of actions including school and job walkouts are scheduled.  Not only that; in October, more actions including civil disobedience are planned.

Why?  Why would people do that?  And isn't it irresponsible (not to mention risky) to walk away from one's responsibilities and maybe even engage in illegal activity?  It depends, and of course you have to decide for yourself.  But for those becoming increasingly aware that climate change is now a climate crisis, perhaps desperate times call for desperate measures.

For this reason, I am posting some resources for those willing to educate themselves about the science and the issues.  By collecting these links for you, I want to help lower the threshold for citizens to become more knowledgable and more involved.  Most of us have a lot of catching up to do before we reach the level of awareness of the author of this L.A. Times article.

There is a rally scheduled for noon Friday in Hartford in front of the capitol building.  Attending may or may not be possible for you.  And rallies may or may not be your cup of tea.  There will be events Friday at Wesleyan University, including a noontime rally and a public lecture at 4:30 followed by a march.  I will post details as they are firmed up.

I hope you will conclude, as I have, that climate change is an inescapable, imminent, existential threat.  The meaning of "inescapable" should be obvious.  The use of the term "imminent" can be disputed, but after accounting for physical, social, economic, and political inertia, the parameters of the dispute narrow significantly.  And "existential" is an overused term that actually is appropriate in this instance.  Strike or not, this is an opportunity to raise your voice in support of action on climate change.  The longer we neglect it, the harder it gets.


Here is a compendium of popular articles, many of them by climate scientists.  The "start here" tab leads to a large number of resources for self-education.   You will also find links to thoughtful discussion of misconceptions and common contrarian talking points. The wikipedia page on Global Warming is a useful summary with many links.  Its dense, four-paragraph introduction is one of the briefest introductions to the subject I am aware of.   The British Royal Society has recently published an update that is lengthy but which answers many questions with the best available data.

There are numerous popular compilations of the evidence that climate change is caused by humans.  Nine Ways We Know Humans Triggered Climate Change has a historical perspective and some nice links to evidence.

A recent Washington Post article points out that warming well above two degrees Celsius has already occurred in many places, especially the Arctic.  The headline animation is stunning.


The Union of Concerned Scientists has compiled a list of impacts that have already occurred.  And last October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report asserting that greenhouse gas emissions must decline significantly by 2030 if there is to be any chance of mitigating the worst of the anticipated impacts of climate change.

A few years ago, the New York Times published an article entitled "Greenland is Melting Away".  It has a video everyone should see.  Given that human migration has already reached politically disruptive levels, I wrote an article this summer entitled "The New Trail of Tears" that documents the ways in which climate change will force the migration of many species, including our own.

And, alas, the disruption of the climate is but one of the ways a large human population with an enormous energy and material consumption is wreaking havoc on the world, as this article on the decline of insect life documents.


The Paris Climate Accord was the culmination of decades of negotiation; it is a non-binding agreement that, by itself, can limit warming to perhaps three Celsius degrees (nearly six degrees Fahrenheit).  At the time of its adoption, the New York Times published a nice graphical demonstration of how the pledges add up.

Unfortunately, three degrees is probably enough to trigger nasty feedbacks that will lock in further warming, with catastrophic consequences.  It is difficult to emphasize strongly enough what a disaster elf-sustaining warming would be; the correct analogy is the lighting of a fire, which is also an apt metaphor for the result.

The non-binding pledges of the Paris Agreement mostly terminate by 2030 and so need to be revisited periodically.  But the U.S. has said it will withdraw from the agreement, joining Syria and Nicaragua as the only non-signatories.  That certainly doesn't help matters.  The U.S. has also rolled back many Obama-era regulations designed to address CO2 emissions.  Enacted by executive fiat in an environment of legislative inaction, they were vulnerable in ways legislation would not have been.  The Clean Power Plan was a conspicuous victim of this process, as were increased fuel efficiency standards.

In February, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced legislation called the "Green New Deal".  Designed as a framework for a response that is proportionate to the threat while also attempting to address the needs of those who would lose if energy costs rise, as they almost certainly would in any scenario seriously attempting to tackle the climate crisis.  The Green New Deal has generated much discussion, and the attention has resulted in many supporters and detractors.  Separating climate issues from social issues is politically appealing and would make it easier to build coalitions.  But if we learned anything from the yellow vest protests in France last spring, climate action absent considerations of social justice cannot get very far.


Also not helping has been the near-moratorium on climate change coverage in the media.  Groups such as (a cosponsor of the strike), with its indefatigable Bill McKibben, have worked to keep the issue in the public eye for years, but they have been no match for the reticence of journalists and politicians.  Precious time has elapsed, and all the while climate damage has accumulated, until finally it is hard to ignore.

Into this vacuum, several popular movements have recently arisen.  Friday climate strikes by schoolchildren and college students have become increasingly common.  The young generation understands the severity of impacts likely to occur within their lifetimes and is appalled by the inaction of the grownups.  Their efforts have generated media attention in a way the science has not.

The most visible of these young people is sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg, who has lectured the powerful at the World Economic Forum and at the U.N.  Her speeches such as the one at Davos are well worth watching.  She is now in the U.S. for the U.N. Youth Climate Summit in New York next Saturday, 21 September, last week she appeared on the Daily Show, and yesterday she joined a youth rally outside the White House.

You may have also heard of Extinction Rebellion, a flash mob of activists aiming to use civil disobedience and even disruption to direct attention to the climate issue.  They shut down parts of London for a number of days in April and are planning actions for this October.  A BBC interview with co-founder Roger Hallam is interesting and challenging to watch.

Of course, the demands of youthful and not-so-youthful protesters are not so simple to satisfy, as detractors are are quick to point out.  OK, so where are the more realistic counterproposals?  Where is the action?  In my own opinion, those who take the trouble to "debunk" and then ignore are clearly not serious about the problem.  It's time to get serious; I am, and I think you should get serious too.  Getting serious is the point of the strike.

1 comment:

Jon said...

Looks like there's a Middletown Strike at 10am at the South Green.