Thursday, September 7, 2017

We all got Eclipse Glasses, Why not a Carbon Tax and Climate Plan?

Most everybody got eclipse glasses, right? Scientific modeling said it would pass over the Salem area and that totality would occur a little after 10:15.

The immediacy of totality in Salem - via Twitter
It arrived on-time, as predicted.

Astronomy has a longer track record, it's true, but scientific modeling also predicts increasing levels of carbon dioxide and consequent climate disruption.

Here's a citation from 1896, and a trade publication clip from 1912.

The Influence of Carbonic Acid
in the Air upon Temperature

by Svante Arrhenius in 1896

CO2 effects known in 1912
"we've been talking about climate change for a long time"
More recently - but still two full generations ago! - in a 1969 memo Daniel Moynihan, working for Richard Nixon, wrote about the "carbon dioxide problem."  He warns that increasing CO2 could "raise the level of the sea by 10 feet. Goodbye New York. Goodbye Washington, for that matter."

So far the modeling's predictions have been arriving mainly as predicted, in broad outline and within a margin of error. It's not as precise or as dramatic as the predictions for the eclipse. And the psychology is totally different. Instead of something direct, a discrete and immediately visible event that arrives to the minute, we suffer indirect consequences that unfold over days, months, or years: The intensification and greater frequency of hurricanes, drier summers and more wildfires, the recession of glaciers and mountain meadows. But though they aren't as immediate, you go down the list and the predictions have been generally reliable and true.

And yet none of us basically had any direct sensory experience to make us think the eclipse would happen. We had to trust the observations and math of scientists. It might as well have been magic.

By contrast, we do have personal experience of hotter, drier summers and of decreasing snowpack levels in the mountains. We can also see pictures of catastrophic flooding. We have available to use more direct evidence of climate disruption than we do of a future eclipse. Going by a kind of crude, personal empiricism, claims for climate disruption should be more trust-worthy than claims for a future eclipse.

Alas, we take climate science and its predictions far less seriously than we did astronomy and its predictions for eclipse. And if pre-modern societies were mistaken when they thought eclipse presaged apocalypse, our modern sensibility makes the opposite mistake, discounting climate disruption's severity in no small part because it seems too distant or vast.

We need to change all that.

The local chapter of is hosting a forum on "Climate Action Plans."
Kitty Piercy, Former Mayor of Eugene
Linda Lovett, Corvallis Climate Action Task Force

Cities and towns across the county have adopted Climate Action Plans to focus their efforts and set goals to create greener and healthier cities, increase transportation options and reduce carbon and other air pollution.

We are honored to present Kitty Piercy and Linda Lovett who have been instrumental in shaping climate action plans in Eugene and Corvallis respectively. Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett will introduce Ms. Piercy. Salem Ward 2 Councilor Tom Andersen will give an update on climate action progress at the Salem City Council.
It'll be downstairs in the Anderson Rooms at the Library on Saturday the 9th at 2pm.

If our Electeds and public servants thought it prudent to buy eclipse glasses based on the assurances of scientists, they should think even more about a carbon tax and a local plan to minimize future emissions and to adapt to what we've already set in motion.


Walker said...

Very well said. Absolutely true and important.

Politicians like to refer to themselves as leaders, but they rarely qualify to claim the honor, because leadership is about (as Truman said) getting to realize they have to do things they don't want to do. On the climate crisis, leadership is sorely absent, and the main tactic of the politicians has been to bob and weave and hope that "they" will "come up with something" that makes the exercise of actual leadership optional. Republicans are a shade worse than Democrats but not all that much when you get past rhetoric and look at what policies they're actually willing to back.

Keep pushing, the graph you used is key -- it's the most important graph in the world.

Laurie Dougherty said...

Thanks for the good word about our Forum on a Climate Action Plan for Salem, SBOB. Laurie Dougherty, Communucations Facilitator 350 Salem OR (and a bike rider)

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

It's hard to say how realistic this is, as it seems like this story gets written every year, but the Portland Tribune is reporting "Democrats see path to 'cap and invest' in 2018."

"SALEM – Democratic lawmakers say they may finally have enough momentum to enact a "cap and invest" carbon dioxide-reduction program in 2018.

Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, and Rep. Ken Helm, D-Beaverton, are convening work groups Sept. 21 to help refine a proposal that has evolved over the past few years.

"I think there is a path to get this done in 2018," Dembrow said. "The sooner we do it, the sooner we can do the work and get the investment going."