Thank You Tesla Owners!

Last week Tesla Model S owners reached a significant milestone: they have cumulatively driven a total of one billion miles in their vehicles.

That’s equivalent to:

  • 4,186 trips to the Moon
  • 2,000 years of highway travel

Together they have prevented a total of 570,000 tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere compared to if those miles had been driven with gasoline-powered vehicles.

Some day news like this will be no big deal. But for now while we’re living through the slow and painful transition from fossil fuels toward renewable sources of energy, this is a significant achievement.

Well done, Tesla owners!

We Need Hummingbirds Now More Than Ever

“Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven’t done a thing. You are just talking.”
Wangari Maathai

This particular video has been very popular on my blog over the years so I’m going to repost it. It’s a great inspirational segment promoting “Dirt! The Movie.” In it, Wangari Maathai (who unfortunately died in 2011) explains how we can all help make a difference, no matter how small the effort, with a beautiful analogy involving a hummingbird. I think its message is getting more important as each year goes by: we all need to do our part. We need hummingbirds now, more than ever.

Please enjoy these two precious minutes.

The Maldistribution of Wealth

“It is neither wealth nor splendour; but tranquility and occupation which give you happiness.”
—Thomas Jefferson

I love this video. And given that it’s been one of my post popular posts, it’s worth posting again. It explains the major discrepancy of wealth that exists in the U.S., and makes good points arguing that things need to change, arguments that are hard to contradict in my mind. Spend a few minutes watching this, and then I’ll point out what its significance is to fighting climate change.

Some of you may be surprised to learn that despite the fact that I support this video’s message, I have traditionally voted conservative. I believe that hard work deserves its rewards. But I also believe that being conservative means I want to conserve things. Things like the environment. And I definitely don’t think that being conservative is the same thing as being selfish. Something that too many conservatives in North America seem to have forgotten lately.

So what does this have to do with combatting global warming and climate change? Everything, really. One of the solutions we need to fix a broken planet is to rethink the way our economy works, because it will be much harder to care for the environment if the economy continues unchecked. The system of communism didn’t work in the Soviet Union and ended up being revamped. Why not unbridled capitalism here in the western world?

Think of all of the protests that have taken place because people are unhappy with the unequal distribution of wealth with 40 percent of U.S. dollars held by the top one percent of people. Occupy Wall Street is a prime example. And it’s not about handouts for lazy people. As the video aptly questions, does the CEO of a company really work 380 times harder than the average employee in that company? Does one hour really earn that CEO what it takes more than one month for his or her average employee to earn?

The bottom line is this: the current economy encourages the top earners to value selfish motives over what is best for society as a whole. Thus, Exxon-Mobil and the Koch brothers do their best to keep making money, fighting anything that might alter that arrangement every step of the way, regardless of the associated harm to any externalities such as the environment. Not every top earner falls into this category, but the evidence supports that most do. So these people won’t make major efforts to preserve the environment and tackle global warming.

And the bottom earners are just barely eking out a living. They don’t have the funds to invest in the environment or climate change. Every penny they have goes to basic survival.

And that leaves the middle class, the group best equipped to fight the fight. And they’re disappearing as the video makes clear. Unless this group can be resurrected, we may well be doomed to fail in our efforts to make the changes necessary to stave off a real climate crisis.

I think I’m right of centre on the political spectrum. But if this sounds like left-wing thinking, it’s only because I’m certainly left of the top one percent.

But that’s only because they are so far right that they’re off the scale.

In more ways than one.

And the Records Keep on Breaking

The latest monthly report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association just came out and it’s not looking good. Global temperatures continue to confirm that 2015 is extremely likely to be the hottest year we’ve ever recorded. Here are some of the highlights from the report:

  • May 2015 was the hottest May ever recorded in the 136-year period of accurate records at 0.87 degrees Celsius (1.57 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th century average. This beat the previous record set in May 2014 by a whopping 0.08 degrees Celsius (0.14 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • This was the hottest spring (March–May) ever recorded at 0.85 degrees Celsius (1.53 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th century average beating the previous record from March–May 2010 by 0.04 degrees Celsius (0.07 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • This was the hottest first five months of a calendar year (January-May) ever recorded by a long shot at a whopping 0.85 degrees Celsius (1.53 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th century average. This beat the previous 2010 record by 0.09 degrees Celsius (0.16 degrees Fahrenheit).

2015 has beaten every temperature record you could come up with so far, so the old argument that 1998 was the year that global warming ended sadly isn’t the case. In addition to gradually warming global temperatures, we have an El Niño added to the mix which helps explain why temperatures are moving so dramatically. (An El Niño year helped explain why 1998 was such an outlier compared to the overall trend back then.) It’s estimated that we might see global temperatures broken by as much as 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit which is significant for an entire planet.

You can bet that deniers won’t be acknowledging that global warming is real about this. They’ll be remarkably quiet. But as soon as this El Niño is over and we fall back to the overall trend but with a cooler year than 2015, be prepared for the claim “Global Warming is Over” to rear its ugly head once again.

The Pope Has Spoken…

“Based on what I have seen of the science in the encyclical, most climate experts would find little to disagree with.”
—Anthony Broccoli, professor of environmental sciences at Rutgers University

Before yesterday, I’m not sure I could have told you what an encyclical was. The official definition is that it is a letter sent by the Pope to all the bishops of the Roman Catholic church. The one Pope Francis just released is being considered one of the most important statements on climate change the Catholic Church has ever released. Despite this, you can be guaranteed that every conservative who despises anyone who talks about global warming and climate change will belittle this effort, as if the Pope and the Catholic church are only allowed to talk about “morality.” (This despite the fact that most politicians making these criticisms don’t have a degree in science like Pope Francis does.)

Pope Francis’s encyclical is entitled “Laudato Si,” the translation of which is “Praised Be.” And despite such criticisms of conservatives who argue morality is all he should talk about, he does focus on the moral reasons why we should act on climate change. But to be clear, he also bases it all on the science of climate change.

Pope Francis summarizes the true perspective on climate change quite well: Continue reading