NADINE ACHOUI-LESAGE and FRANK JORDANS Associated Press July 9 2020

GENEVA (AP) — The world could see annual global temperatures pass a key threshold for the first time in the coming five years, the U.N. weather agency said Thursday.

The World Meteorological Organization said forecasts suggest there’s a 20% chance that global temperatures will be 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) higher than the pre-industrial average in at least one year between 2020 and 2024.

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See also:

New climate predictions assess global temperatures in coming five years

The World Meteorological Organization website post.

Shannon Kelleher

A growing body of research suggests relocating some tree populations may help them adapt to future climates

Douglas-fir trees of the Pacific Northwest are no shrinking violets. While quaint, domesticated variations make decorative Christmas trees that fit in the living room, wild Douglas-firs induce awe. Towering in the Cascades and coastal mountains at heights sometimes exceeding 300 feet, these are thick-barked giants capable of withstanding forest fires and surviving for a millennium. The species occupies an enormous range, growing alongside agave in Oaxaca, Mexico, and spanning northward to the temperate rainforest of southeast Alaska. The Douglas-fir’s biggest historical problem was claiming a name for itself—botanists waffled for years, calling it a pine, a spruce, a hemlock, and a true fir. In 1867, they finally threw in the towel and gave the tree its own genus, Psuedotsuga, or “false hemlock.”

But in recent years, the Pacific Northwest has begun heating up and drying out. It isn’t a big problem for Douglas-firs yet, with temperatures still hovering within their suitable climatic range. However, projections for coming decades suggest that native stands will soon be maladapted to local climates.

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Guest Column by Tim Palmer, Sunday July 5th, Medford Mail Tribune.

Douglas firs form the backbone of the timber industry, make homes for wildlife, protect watersheds and fish dependent on them, and grow taller than any other living thing in the Northwest. This conifer also happens to be the state tree of Oregon and the one that’s proudly displayed on our license plates.

But global overheating is projected to eliminate a lot of those trees and slow the growth of virtually all. In Climate Change Resource Center, (fs.usda.gov/ccrc/climate-projects/stories/helping-forests-keep-pace-climate-change) the USDA reported that if projected climate change occurs, Douglas-firs “will shift inland from the coast and will become less productive.”

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The Following Article appeared in Counterbound Volume 1 Issue 1 p 26 – 32, June 2020
Available on subscription from www.counterbound.org. Follow them on @counterbound.
Reproduced here by permission of the publishers.

 

 

 

Alan Journet, Co-Facilitator, Southern Oregon Climate Action Now (SOCAN)
alan@socan.eco; 541-301-4107

 

 

The COVID-19 crisis teaches us two things: how to deal with crises, and how we recover.

Science Denial in a Crisis:

Data are non-partisan; months ago, they indicated a pandemic was brewing. But it takes a human mind to interpret the data and an informed mind to draw appropriate conclusions. We then have to accept informed understanding.

As the COVID-19 crisis swept the nation, so did leaderships’ refusal to accept science. It is clear science denial is alive and well in the body politic of the nation. Early in the federal response, it was reported that, in the absence of either a fully tested and approved treatment to minimize disease severity, or a vaccine conferring immunity, the only defense was to adopt behaviors to contain the disease and reduce its spread: wearing a mask in public to prevent spreading the virus in case  if one were asymptomatic but infected, maintaining a discreet physical distance from others, and avoiding public encounters as much as possible. Medical science experts were consistent in articulating this consensus.

Yet, from the White House, through Congress and state legislatures, Republicans consistently rejected medical science and insisted on promoting ‘Happy Talk’, that coronavirus was just like the flu, and there was no need to encourage or require the recommended behaviors.  Absurdly, political leaders who recommended or required sane behavior promoting the common good were accused of tyranny.  Tesla’s Elon Musk, the techy wunderkind supposed to be leading a transportation revolution, equated a stay-at-home order with fascism.

Meanwhile, Jackson County Commissioner Colleen Roberts thanked the Lord rather than Southern Oregonian behavior for the low incidence of the disease in this county. Roberts also claimed the stay-at-home recommendations saving Oregonian lives turned Oregon into a police state.

Data across the nation and the world reveal locations accepting self-quarantine exhibit lower incidence of COVID-19 than those rejecting such measures. So why not endorse the science?

Vocal critics still reject scientific recommendations regarding how best to re-open the economy safely, even as the rates of infection increase in prematurely opened regions.  One would think the number of deaths in this country is sufficient to urge caution.  Now that re-opening has caused infection surges in many states, caution is doubly indicated.

The blind rejection of medical science is discouraging, yet unsurprising; it emulates the pattern of climate denial.  Unsurprisingly, many of the same individuals and political leaders who reject medical science also reject the consensus  among climate scientists. Those of us urging state or federal programs to address the underlying cause of global warming often argue that when a major catastrophe strikes the nation, science deniers will surely wake up.  Regrettably, every time calamity strikes (major hurricanes or wildfires, for example), opponents refuse to acknowledge global warming as a major contributor.  Rather, they grasp at explanatory straws allowing them to continue science denial; either it’s a natural phenomenon or it’s caused by some other factor, they argue.

Trump’s rejection of medical science has, as the recent Columbia study suggested, resulted in tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths. Meanwhile, an even more recent Berkeley study of six countries following medical advice on reducing coronavirus spread indicated that recommended measures prevented 500 million infections.

Rejecting climate science does not result in the same immediate cause and effect as rejecting medical science because it climate change occurs over decades rather than weeks. Yet the lessons are the same. Ignoring immediate, early action will further suffering not just for those most vulnerable in our global community but for all life on the planet.

Additionally, we know persuading those who reject medical science that they should accept climate science will be difficult; their concerns obviously focus elsewhere. Fortunately, the Yale University Program on Climate Change Communications indicates that this vocal and loud group dismissing the science comprises less than 10% of the population.

Recovering from the Crisis

Another message we can carry over from the COVID crisis relates to our individual behavior.  On a personal note, I can see that the behavioral change required by COVID-19 has altered our family’s direct reliance on fossil fuels – clearly a positive. The early study reporting that globally there was a daily 17% drop in air pollution in early April was likely a function of many others responding as did we. Not only do we make fewer personal trips, but also SOCAN’s committee and general meetings are now held via ZOOM and Facebook livestream so we don’t travel to meetings. As a result, we recently discovered ourselves buying a tank of gas for the first time in two months. The authors of the above study are careful to point out, however, that this reduction in pollution is not a total blessing; the accompanying economic downturn constitutes a warning that reducing emissions the wrong way could bring economic calamity.

Meanwhile, adding a further cautionary note, NOAA reports that as of June, atmospheric carbon dioxide has reached a new high of 417 parts per million. We should not, therefore, imagine that these small improvements in personal energy usage are sufficient to achieve the kind of fossil fuel reductions and emissions reductions we need. Adjusting our personal consumption choices is important, but is not enough to address the scale of the climate crisis.

We must emphasize the need for a complete transition in the energy economy from reliance on fossil fuels to renewables combined with a reduction in our excessive consumption. These are long overdue and should be seen as preventative measures. since the cost of failure will be far greater than the cost of the remedy. To those who challenge this assertion, I ask: what will be the cost (if even measurable) should agriculture, forestry, and fisheries across the globe be devastated?

Considerable thought is therefore being given across the globe to how we stimulate recovery from the coronavirus crisis.  The message here is that this moment provides an opportunity for us to ask how we should promote economic recovery: should we, for example, continue to subsidize fossil fuels, or should we subsidize renewable energy?  Should we continue social injustice or emphasize correcting historic injustice?

Economic stimulus is necessary to recover from the devastation wrought by a mismanaged COVID response. This moment provides an opportunity for us to ask how we should promote economic recovery: should we, for example, continue to subsidize fossil fuels, or should we subsidize renewable energy?  Should we continue promoting burgeoning extractive industries and overexploitation of our natural resources amid obscene social injustice, or, perhaps emphasize an economy built on sustainability and the principles of justice?

While some naysayers have used the economic setback accompanying the pandemic to argue against emissions reductions, we must reject the conclusion that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will cause economic disaster.  Rather, the message is that, just as with increased use of internet communications discussed above, the route to our recovery and achievement of an ongoing and sustainable economy is through reduced consumption, a transition to renewable energy, increased energy conservation and energy use efficiency, the judicious use of energy efficient technology.  But this must be undertaken through the lens of social justice.

Techno fixes alone are insufficient. As the architects of the Green New Deal persuasively argue, the path to reduced greenhouse gas emissions requires a just transition to an economy that works for all.  This means well-paying jobs, workers’ rights, and breaking the stranglehold of an economy addicted to fossil fuel.

Economic collapse is not a necessary outcome of addressing our greenhouse gas emissions problem, but it is an inevitable outcome of failing to address it. We must also wake up collectively to the reality that we live on a finite planet, with finite resources and a finite capacity to process our waste. Unfortunately, we live in an economy that functions on the myth of unrestricted and infinite economic growth based on the illusion of infinite planetary resources. This must be rejected in favor of a sane and realistic economic model.

Caveat and Hope

Social science theory indicates that humans have only a finite capacity to worry. The fear is, if Americans are consumed by Covid worries, we may not have any ‘worry’ left to invest in the climate crisis.  Fortunately, a recent Yale Program on Climate Change Communication report indicates that as of April, a record 73% of Americans think global warming is happening while 62% understand that it’s mostly human-caused and 66% are at least somewhat worried. The lasting and optimistic message is that COVID seems neither to have undermined American concerns about the climate issue nor our commitment to address it.

 

It’s impossible to live sustainably without tackling inequality, activists say.

Somini Sengupta, New York Times, June 3, 2020

This week, with the country convulsed by protests over the killing of a black man named George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, we decided we’d talk to leading black climate activists about the connections between racism and climate change.

A clear theme emerged from those discussions: Racial and economic inequities need to be tackled as this country seeks to recalibrate its economic and social compass in the weeks and months to come. Racism, in short, makes it impossible to live sustainably.

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Sarah Leeson,  Innovation Hub, June 05, 2020

We’re all ready for some good news, so headlines about smog dissipating in China, skies clearing in LA, and jellyfish appearing in canals in Venice were very welcome amidst the pandemic. However, while these paint a rosy picture of a potential silver lining to the global shutdown, the truth is much more complicated. Shannon Osaka, a reporter for Grist focusing on climate change and science, says the way we’ve slowed our lives this year has had a positive impact on our planet but it’s not enough to make a real dent in climate change.

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Wall Street investment funds took control of Oregon’s private forests. Now, wealthy timber corporations reap the benefits of tax cuts that have cost rural counties billions.

Tony Schick and Rob Davis, The Oregonian; Lylla Younes, ProPublica

A few hundred feet past the Oregon timber town of Falls City, a curtain of Douglas fir trees opens to an expanse of skinny stumps.

The hillside has been clear-cut, with thousands of trees leveled at once. Around the bend is another clear-cut nearly twice its size, then another, patches of desert brown carved into the forest for miles.

Logging is booming around Falls City, a town of about 1,000 residents in the Oregon Coast Range. More trees are cut in the county today than decades ago when a sawmill hummed on Main Street and timber workers and their families filled the now-closed cafes, grocery stores and shops selling home appliances, sporting goods and feed for livestock.

But the jobs and services have dried up, and the town is going broke. The library closed two years ago. And as many as half of the families in Falls City live on weekly food deliveries from the Mountain Gospel Fellowship.

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The SOCAN Board approved the following statement:

The Board of Southern Oregon Climate Action Now wish to express solidarity with the Black Community of Minneapolis and the nation, and indeed, with all justice-loving Americans across the United States, in our abhorrence at the obscene murder of an unarmed Black American on the streets of Minneapolis by four police officers.
We care because we know that racism is a deeply entrenched systemic injustice visited upon minorities and peoples of color across the nation and the planet in relation to almost all environmental issues and climate change as well.   In terms of the series of crises we face as a nation that include coronavirus, climate, and racism, we recognize the fundamental principle that our success depends on how well we address these issues for the most vulnerable among us:  we are all in this together.  As we work to address the problem of global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions and the climate change that it induces, SOCAN acknowledges and commits to countering and addressing social injustice.

Alan Journet was the guest of Wes Brain on the Brain Labor Report on Wednesday May 27th. Alan discussed the Oregon Governor’s Executive Order 20-04 establishing an Oregon Climate Action Plan.  The recording can be accessed here: https://www.kskq.org/kskqweb/index.php/127-brain-labor-report/5136-brain-labor-report-5-27-2020-alan-journet-socan

Sharon Zhang Truthout < may 25th 2020

A study published in Nature Climate Change recently found that, in early April, daily global carbon dioxide emissions decreased by 17 percent compared to the 2019 mean levels. Because of shelter-in-place rules and businesses being closed, people have been driving and flying less, leading to lower emissions.

Shortly after emissions started dropping in March, the climate community was careful to apply nuance to the emissions reduction discussion: Less carbon dioxide emissions, while good, should not be celebrated when caused by a global pandemic. In other words, while this time may show us the extent that people can come together in action, the ends don’t justify the means — the means here being a global financial crisis and hundreds of thousands of people dead. As climate scientist Carl-Friedrich Schleussner said in Carbon Brief, “The narrative that the economic catastrophe caused by the coronavirus is ‘good’ for the climate is dangerously misleading and could undermine support for climate action.”

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