climate change

Fighting for Our Health, Lives, and Climate

Today, 200 countries including the United States agreed to implement the Paris climate accord. What does this mean? See the latest from BBC News!

Also today in the news, a U.S. District Court judge in Texas ruled that the Affordable Care Act is illegal.

In my opinion, fighting for our health care and the climate directly affects the lives of humans and all life on Earth.

Mining coal can cause black lung disease. Burning coal can cause air pollution. Air pollution causes asthma and other illnesses. Illnesses will be covered by the Affordable Care Act rather than having insurance companies say people cannot get health insurance. Obtaining health insurance is currently difficult to afford due to the lack of competition, cuts in the program, and greed by many in the system.

The same can be said for drilling and burning other fossil fuels that contribute greenhouse gases that are causing global temperatures to rise, altering our weather patterns, making storms more severe, melting glaciers, raising sea level, and affecting all life on the Planet.

So we must keep working for our survival and challenge those you are in denial!

The Environmental Legacy of the 41st President

Today, the nation celebrated the life of President George Herbert Walker Bush with a state funeral at the National Cathedral.

My friend Dave, who works for the U.S. Geological Survey as a Research Hydrologist in Helena, Montana, sent me an article of a 1989 speech by the 41st President at the Montana capitol. Beyond the Clean Air Act Amendments mentioned in my previous blog, I had forgotten that President George H.W. Bush spoke out strongly for the U.S. to lead the world to defend the environment, promote conservation, plant trees, and combat global warming (climate change). He directed EPA to provide training to Peace Corps volunteers.

Here is an excerpt from the speech:

“The single most significant word today in the language of all environmentalists is interdependence. That’s a fact all Montanans should find it easy to appreciate. Not so many miles from where we stand is a spot called the Triple Divide, where the waters begin their separate journeys to the Pacific, to the Gulf of Mexico, to the Hudson Bay and the Arctic beyond — the Earth’s own geography lesson in global interdependence. The plain fact is this: Pollution can’t be contained by lines drawn on a map.

The actions we take can have consequences felt the world over. The destruction of the rain forests in Brazil. The ravages of acid rain that threaten not just our country, but our neighbors to the north and not just the east but the lakes and forests of the west as well. The millions of tons of airborne pollutants carried across the continents and the threat of global warming. We know now that protecting the environment is a global issue. The nations of the world must make common cause in defense of our environment. And I promise you this: This nation, the United States of America, will take the lead internationally. (Applause.)

Here in this great state, you’re already taking the lead with your commitment to the environment, led by every schoolchild in this state who’s planted a Ponderosa Pine to commemorate 100 years of history. In just a few minutes I’ll be planting a tree of my own, and let me say from the heart, there’s no finer symbol of the love each one of us feels for this land than a tree growing up in Montana’s good earth. We’re working hard to clean up America, but we can’t stop there. We’ve got to work with the rest of the world to preserve the planet.

We’re already taking action. To preserve the ozone layer, we’re going to ban all release of CFCs into the atmosphere by the year 2000. To prevent pollution of the world’s oceans we’re going to end virtually all ocean dumping of sewage and industrial wastes by 1991. (Applause.) And after that, anyone who continues to pollute is going to pay for it with stiff fines. And we’re going to join forces with other nations.

In February, the United States will host the plenary meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In July when I visited Poland and Hungary, I pledged America’s help in tackling the increasingly serious pollution problems those two nations face. At the Paris economic summit, we helped the environment achieve the status that it deserves at the top of the agenda for the seven major industrial democracies. And I mean to keep it right there at the top of the agenda. (Applause.)

America spends more than any other nation in the world on environmental research, and we’re going to continue this pioneering effort to protect the environment and put that environmental expertise to work in the developing world as well. We cannot pollute today and postpone the cleanup until tomorrow. We have got to make pollution prevention our aim. And sharing our expertise with the world is one way to do exactly that. Today, I want to announce a new environmental initiative — one that will bring the Environmental Protection Agency and the Peace Corps together in a joint venture in the service of the global environment.

Beginning in 1990, as part of their standard preparation for duty, Peace Corps volunteers will be trained by the EPA to deal with the full range of environmental challenges water pollution, prevention, waste disposal, reforestation, pesticide management. Armed with greater knowledge about our environment, our Peace Corps volunteers are going to help spread the word in the developing world. They’ll work to stop pollution before it starts and ensure that economic development and environmental stewardship go hand in hand. And Montanans know more than most how much that means, how vital it is for us to accept our responsibilities, our stewardship — the environment in Montana, across America, and around the world. We hold this land in trust for the generations that come after. The air and the Earth are riches we simply cannot squander.”

Momentous Climatic Events Last Week

The day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday for shopping deals, heavy rain along coastal California finally ended the tragic fires that spread north and south. The Camp Fire near Chico killed about 88 people, injured dozens, displacing 1000’s of people out of their homes, and impacted millions of people from significant air pollution. That same day the U.S. Government released the fourth national climate assessment that shows burning carbon is causing climate change and impacting our health, environment, and economy. See how these factors are interrelated in chapter 17.

On Monday, November 26, 2018 NASA successfully landed a probe on Mars!  Scientists and engineers beat the odds learning from previous missions for InSight to drill down to see what lies beneath the surface of Mars.

Exploring Mars captures international attention while NASA scientists continue to make important contributions to understanding our Earth. So how does NASA know climate change is occurring due to carbon pollution? See the overwhelming factual evidence for climate change!

On Friday, November 30, President George H.W. Bush passed away at age 94. His dedicated career of public service included environmental accomplishments with the passage of the Clean Air Amendments Act in 1990.  I worked with a colleague in Washington who helped as a Senate staffer and said the original Clean Air Act legislation had many challenges to get through Congress and they needed to show photographs of air pollution affecting national parks like the Smoky Mountains. The amendments had bipartisan support to improve air quality, reduce acid rain, save the protective ozone layer with more bans on CFC’s, and prevent an estimated 230,00 premature deaths and for “Better air quality, better health protection, better economy.”




Observations traveling to Washington D.C.

Last week I traveled to Washington D.C. and have several observations to share:

  • The first carbon neutral airport in the U.S., where I connected flights, is at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) that purchases wind power, runs buses on natural gas, operates advanced cooling systems, and employs many more innovations.
  • Since 2010, Washington D.C. charges five cents for one plastic shopping bag to reduce use of plastic and benefit watershed projects called "Skip the Bag, Save the River."
  • Riding the Metro or driving from the suburbs to work downtown you might feel like being packed into a sardine can during peak hours. Ridesharing is very popular through traditional carpools and casual free rides called Slugging
  • The weather in D.C. was unusually cool and wet for June and we heard about recent heavy rains and floods. The Eastern U.S. is experiencing the opposite of the extreme drought conditions in the Western U.S.
  • News broke this week that the Antarctic Ice Sheet is melting three times faster than a decade ago! Here is the abstract from the journal Nature:

"The Antarctic Ice Sheet is an important indicator of climate change and driver of sea-level rise. Here we combine satellite observations of its changing volume, flow and gravitational attraction with modelling of its surface mass balance to show that it lost 2,720 ± 1,390 billion tonnes of ice between 1992 and 2017, which corresponds to an increase in mean sea level of 7.6 ± 3.9 millimetres (errors are one standard deviation). Over this period, ocean-driven melting has caused rates of ice loss from West Antarctica to increase from 53 ± 29 billion to 159 ± 26 billion tonnes per year; ice-shelf collapse has increased the rate of ice loss from the Antarctic Peninsula from 7 ± 13 billion to 33 ± 16 billion tonnes per year. We find large variations in and among model estimates of surface mass balance and glacial isostatic adjustment for East Antarctica, with its average rate of mass gain over the period 1992–2017 (5 ± 46 billion tonnes per year) being the least certain."