WTF Climate Change News

Katheryne Helendale

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Well, I'm conflicted. I understand we need to act now to substantially reduce our CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. But it's just not something that can be done abruptly. First, our infrastructure just doesn't support it, and second, it's going to drive a lot of people away from even trying.

A couple of years ago, California's then-governor Brown enacted a gas tax increase, the purpose of which was to pay for fixing and improving the state's crumbling and over-stressed road and highway system. Some people protested, so the matter was put to a vote last year, which passed. Although it meant modest increases in our gas prices, already among the highest in the nation, I voted for it. I live in an area where the roads are in bad shape, and have been seeing improvements thanks to the already approved gas tax funds.

Running along the eastern side of the San Joaquin Valley is State Route 99, a major north-south freeway connecting Los Angeles with Sacramento, and serves every major town in the valley. It carries heavy volumes of car and truck traffic - even more than Interstate 5, which runs along the western side of the valley. Substantial stretches of the 99 are only four lanes - two in each direction, which is woefully inadequate for the traffic it is carrying, and frequent accidents - many deadly - are the norm. California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) has been widening the highway to six lanes little by little, in phases. Much of the funding for these improvements are coming from the gas tax increase.

Governor Gavin Newsom just signed an executive order that shifts much of this gas tax money away from roads and diverts it to trains and "other projects". Great. We need trains, and that would certainly help reduce air pollution and CO2 emissions if they get used. The problem is, much of the state is not well served by a train system. To build such a system would cost hundreds of billions of dollars and take decades to complete. Meanwhile, people are dying on our highways. And, when it comes down to it, that's not the purpose for which California voters approved the tax.

So I guess the question is, just how quickly can we cut CO2 emissions without significantly disrupting vital services and jeopardizing public safety? Should we tax the hell out of private vehicle use to fund mass transportation projects? How much is too much?

Story here:
It turns out the story gets grimmer. Not only have all highway safety improvements for the 99 been canceled, another ongoing highway safety improvement project has been canceled: The widening of State Route 46.

Highway 46 is a major east-west highway connecting California's Central Valley to the central coast. It has been undergoing incremental widening projects moving eastward from Paso Robles because of the heavy traffic on that highway. Part of the highway stretching from north of Bakersfield to Paso Robles, near the "Y" (the junction between Highways 46 and 41, another major highway) nicknamed "Blood Alley", was slated for widening as part of the overall project. That has been canceled. The dubious nickname is well-earned: This stretch of highway sees the most fatal accidents of any roadway in the state - three times more than the next highest. It was on this highway where James Dean died.

Again, I'm all for well thought-out efforts to combat climate change. But I don't think it should come at the cost of public safety. Not like this.
 
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Beebo Brink

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So I guess the question is, just how quickly can we cut CO2 emissions without significantly disrupting vital services and jeopardizing public safety?
In order to meet the modest (and possibly inadequate) IPCC standards, we need to cut emissions drastically and soon. There is no way to do this quickly without creating painfully disruption, but not necessarily in the way in which you have discussed. I'd be curious how much CO2 is generated by the construction of a mass transit system as opposed to fixing the existing roads or doing nothing at all and letting the status quo persist. Concrete production is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and construction requires massive transportation usage, so creating a mass-transit system may be more damaging than helpful in the short term. Would the long-term savings in CO2 emissions from automobiles offset the construction emissions? Can we afford to push up CO2 now at such a critical junction in climate dynamics? Is anyone even thinking of it this way?

There are many thoughtful, creative innovations that can transition us away from a lifestyle that generate CO2 without a loss of quality of life. Daniel has posted dozens of those throughout this very thread. It's clear that ideas and solutions have never been the worst challenge. The problem is time. All of these projects take time, lots of time, to plan and integrate into our current infrastructure to mitigate disruption.

Meanwhile, the disruptions from climate change continue to escalate.
 

Archer

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Back in the 70's during the gas crisis, I seem to recall the Federal Government instituting some rather strict fuel economy regulations for new car makers. Those have mostly stayed intact since, and have driven a rather good inventory of higher mileage cars over the years. The same thing needs to be done with electric cars. Requiring manufacturers to provide clean cars will drive them to innovate and keep costs lower than they are now. At the same time, governments need to seriously curtail the proliferation of large SUVs and trucks. Make them a need-only item with regulations on what constitutes need, and you'll see fewer sitting in the school drop off lanes every day. Those types of laws do work, and although it takes years to be truly effective, it really has to be done.
 

Beebo Brink

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That ticking sound you hear is our time running out.


 
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Brenda Archer

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I feel like we live in different worlds, maybe even different dimensions.

Half of the people on my block are renting their living space from absentee slum landlords. Many of these tenants are addicts, all are poor, and it's all we can do to get the landlords to cut down weeds or throw out the very worst of their tenants (like the child molesters and drug dealers). Putting solar panels on their roof is not exactly a high priority. They'll get to that after they fix the rotting porch boards and replace the sagging gutters, so maybe sometime in 2057.

The rest of the block has mostly poor homeowners, people living on SSI or barely getting by as it is. Our next door neighbor periodically goes on the delinquent taxes list and it takes him awhile to scrape together money to pay those off. He's disabled and going in and out of the hospital, and each time he returns he has one less body part. We paid a contractor to fix his gutters because the water was flooding his basement and ours, and he couldn't afford to fix it. He hasn't even replaced the attic window that's been broken for over 5 years. So no, he's not going to be putting solar panels on his roof.

Of all the people on the block, I'm probably the only one who can afford solar panels if I'm willing to sink part of my retirement fund into a house that I may be leaving in a few years. Sale price of my house would never cover that cost because of the overall neighborhood quality; I'll be lucky to get back what I paid for it (which wasn't much). Despite that drawback, my wife and I actually explored the possibility of solar, but quickly found that we're the very first people to ever ask the city planner about getting permission for that change to the house, much less coordinate with the electric company. He had no clue whether it would even be allowed; West Virginia is a coal state and actively legislates against solar. We would have kept pushing only we couldn't find any solar installation firms that would travel out to where we live. The closest companies were in other states (because, again, West Virginia) and they were booked solid for years; they didn't need to travel to another state to get all the work they could handle.

The top 20% income earners in America -- who live in states less corrupted than mine -- can easily afford hybrid cars and solar panels. I hope we come up with ways to urge them to transition. But those people are less than 20% of the population. But there are many many more people who can't bleed any more than they're bleeding now. They can't install solar panels, they can't afford a hybrid car. The money simply isn't there.

America may be the richest country in the world, but the PEOPLE of America are not rich, only a small segment are harvesting that wealth. We're teetering on the edge of becoming a 3rd-world country, with crumbling infrastructure, widespread homelessness and people just barely getting by because the cost of living here is so high and the wages are so low.
This ^^^^^

I'm lucky to be on SSDI (disability payment for people who have been working) and not SSI (disability for people who were not working - usually because they couldn't) which is about 730 a month as I recall, more or less, and does not include in itself any medical care or housing.

SSDI is still pretty small - retirement is also often small - so increasingly, the homeless are disabled and elderly. A shelter system built around addicts doesn't accommodate those who aren't able bodied or able minded.

I'm technically still homeless because I'm in a HUD funded home for disabled. Most of the people here are Severe Mental Illness and since the management provides no supervision or care, the calls to the ambulance or police are frequent. It's sometimes even dangerous and I hate it. Still, I stay here because the alternative would be trying to live in my car. I'm too sick for that.

My point is not that I'm special but that I'm common. The growing poverty in the U.S. seems to be invisible in the media, but not on the ground.

Employees in at-will states and the large mass of temp, gig and contract workers are always on the edge of joining the homeless.

People say we should fight for our rights, with who? The federal government is in the grip of oligarchs. I'm not going to be fighting a high tech police force with a cane. I can't go back to the land because someone else owns it (it's stolen land anyway). It infuriates me when privileged people tell me I don't care and yet I'm always doing something for activism whenever I catch a break with my health. But I'm not in a position to march in the streets and/or get arrested. That's not the only path.
 

Beebo Brink

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The growing poverty in the U.S. seems to be invisible in the media, but not on the ground.
It's difficult enough for resident Americans to resist the Hollywood glamor images of how we supposedly live, or should be able to live. I suspect most Europeans are even more swayed by that mythology. Most depictions of a standard middle-class apartment or house are wildly out of line with what people can really afford. To match that vision, millions of Americans are deeply in debt, but it's difficult to opt out.

Housing is one of the biggest pressures. Government and the real estate industry have pushed the ideal of everyone owning their own home and have systematically dismantled other types of housing arrangements that favored the poor. Most communities outlaw rooming houses, for instance. But almost all new home construction is priced for the high/professional end of the middle-class. In my area you can't buy a new house for under $400,000, and we're waaaay outside of the DC metro area.

Since my wife and I are both allergic to being in debt, we bought what WE, not the bank, felt we could afford comfortably, leaving us buffer for repairs and emergencies. There was about $100,000 difference in that calculation. The downside of that decision is that we bought an old house (1890s) in a marginal neighborhood -- which became increasingly MORE marginal after the recession Bush kicked off. Year by year the solid working class families have aged out of the homes, which have been bought up on the cheap by absentee landlords who invest as little as possible and rent to an increasingly destitute but seemingly endless pool of tenants.

Multiply this pattern by the millions across the country.
 

Bartholomew Gallacher

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It's difficult enough for resident Americans to resist the Hollywood glamor images of how we supposedly live, or should be able to live. I suspect most Europeans are even more swayed by that mythology. Most depictions of a standard middle-class apartment or house are wildly out of line with what people can really afford. To match that vision, millions of Americans are deeply in debt, but it's difficult to opt out.
Well let's just say during my first stay in NYC back in April 2001 I saw the tiny and dirty backyards around the railway tracks from Long Island to Grand Central Station. I saw the streets of Manhattan, Jamaica station, the holes in the streets, and the garbage bags everywhere. I enjoyed that legendary unsung trademark smell of NYC, and the comment of a native "Oh it's your first time being around here? Well, enjoy the view of the dust bags, they are so American" or so.

I saw also some middle class suburban homes back then, but I've experienced the run down areas myself.

I guess if in doubt Street View gives some good indications nowadays. Or Michael Moore, where in one of his older movies he talked about never seen the impact modern warfare has on towns before, showed some pictures out of Bosnia and Herzegovina first. Then he told something like "damn, why is that looking so familar" - and he showed some pictures of run down neighborhoods in Flint, Michigan, continuing "because Flint does almost look the same without suffering a war." Though I do not remember the name of the flick any longer, it must have been one of his older works.
 
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Katheryne Helendale

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In order to meet the modest (and possibly inadequate) IPCC standards, we need to cut emissions drastically and soon. There is no way to do this quickly without creating painfully disruption, but not necessarily in the way in which you have discussed. I'd be curious how much CO2 is generated by the construction of a mass transit system as opposed to fixing the existing roads or doing nothing at all and letting the status quo persist. Concrete production is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and construction requires massive transportation usage, so creating a mass-transit system may be more damaging than helpful in the short term. Would the long-term savings in CO2 emissions from automobiles offset the construction emissions? Can we afford to push up CO2 now at such a critical junction in climate dynamics? Is anyone even thinking of it this way?
That's a very thought-provoking way of looking at the situation. I think so many people are so focused on the finished product, they're not considering how to get there, and the cost to our environment.

Although the Bay Area has BART, and most of the larger cities in California have at least a comprehensive bus system, California as a whole does not have a mass transit system to speak of. The only way to get from one town to another is by road. To build a suitable mass transit system that would serve all of California would be overwhelmingly costly, environmentally damaging, and would take decades to complete. Meanwhile, people are dying on our substandard roads and highways.
 

Brenda Archer

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Well let's just say during my first stay in NYC back in April 2001 I saw the tiny and dirty backyards around the railway tracks from Long Island to Grand Central Station. I saw the streets of Manhattan, Jamaica station, the holes in the streets, and the garbage bags everywhere. I enjoyed that legendary unsung trademark smell of NYC, and the comment of a native "Oh it's your first time being around here? Well, enjoy the view of the dust bags, they are so American" or so.

I saw also some middle class suburban homes back then, but I've experienced the run down areas myself.

I guess if in doubt Street View gives some good indications nowadays. Or Michael Moore, where in one of his older movies he talked about never seen the impact modern warfare has on towns before, showed some pictures out of Bosnia and Herzegovina first. Then he told something like "damn, why is that looking so familar" - and he showed some pictures of run down neighborhoods in Flint, Michigan, continuing "because Flint does almost look the same without suffering a war." Though I do not remember the name of the flick any longer, it must have been one of his older works.
Somewhere between the Flints and the wealthy Connecticut suburbs of NYC, there are a lot of places that look okay but mask growing poverty. To a degree, the destitute are mixed among the struggling. It’s not hard to get there. All it takes is being laid off from a good job and being forced to take one that is temporary or doesn’t pay a living wage.

Even people who are careful and avoid consumer debt can still wind up in medical debt because of inadequate insurance. Since employers decide on many people’s insurance, it’s really out of their hands. This is just one example of what the decline in employee rights is doing to people.

I haven’t met many people who live like the folks on TV, and the few who did, were all successful, wealthy businessmen and high paid professionals. Most of the people who held professional positions did not live so expensively, and no one else could even try it.

Over the years, a lot of shopping malls have closed, and some are ruins. The excuse for this is that shopping has gone online, but a large part of the problem is that consumers have been losing spending power. Retailers are very aware of this. While anchor stores close, cheap importers like Walmart are thriving.

NYC is still an expensive area. You’d have to drive a while to see the more depressed average areas. It wouldn’t even be obvious from the outside. But the contrast between average and the TV is substantial.
 

danielravennest

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Over the years, a lot of shopping malls have closed, and some are ruins. The excuse for this is that shopping has gone online, but a large part of the problem is that consumers have been losing spending power. Retailers are very aware of this. While anchor stores close, cheap importers like Walmart are thriving.
The traditional enclosed mall with anchor stores one town over from me was closed, bulldozed, and replaced by warehouses and a movie studio. This is a metaphor for the changes in our country. People shop online or at Walmart because when both parents work, nobody has the hours to wander aimlessly in a mall. They order online and it gets delivered, or they shop at a super-center where things are cheap, and they can get everything they need at one stop. Also, they are open all the time, so you can go there despite odd work shifts.

Meanwhile, lots of people spend their time watching a screen to escape from their shitty real life. It's either reality TV, which makes them feel better because someone else's life is more fucked up than theirs, or just escapism.
 

Bartholomew Gallacher

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The traditional enclosed mall with anchor stores one town over from me was closed, bulldozed, and replaced by warehouses and a movie studio. This is a metaphor for the changes in our country. People shop online or at Walmart because when both parents work, nobody has the hours to wander aimlessly in a mall. They order online and it gets delivered, or they shop at a super-center where things are cheap, and they can get everything they need at one stop. Also, they are open all the time, so you can go there despite odd work shifts.
Which also results in another problem: many towns and settlements in the USA don't have an urban centre like e.g. London or Paris have, but a central business district instead.

So in many neighbourhoods malls took over parts of that function. With malls closing everywhere those towns are loosing that important center of social everyday life.
 
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Brenda Archer

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Which also results in another problem: many towns and settlements in the USA don't have an urban centre like e.g. London or Paris have, but a central business district instead.

So in many neighbourhoods malls took over parts of that function. With malls closing everywhere those towns are loosing that important center of social everyday life.
Yup. In the worst cases, the mall killed the downtown, then the Walmart killed the mall - or the mall died or diminished with little left at all.

Sometimes the old downtowns get revitalized by tiny local merchants, if the town has the will to do it. The town I’m in seems to have done it. But most of the real shopping is still in places like Walmart and Target, etc.

The worst case scenario is a little town with almost no retail left and housing that’s turning into a poverty zone in an out of the way place. Then people are driving to another town to do the shopping they once did near home.

It’s all related ultimately to the end of good jobs and union protections. People are often living on less than half of what they used to. Wages have not been keeping track with inflation and there’s no end in sight.
 

Innula Zenovka

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The Bank of England has said up to $20tn (£16tn) of assets could be wiped out if the climate emergency is not addressed effectively. But Carney also said great fortunes could be made by those working to end greenhouse gas emissions with a big potential upside for the UK economy in particular.

In an interview with the Guardian, Carney said disclosure by companies of the risks posed by climate change to their business was key to a smooth transition to a zero-carbon world as it enabled investors to back winners.

“There will be industries, sectors and firms that do very well during this process because they will be part of the solution,” he said. “But there will also be ones that lag behind and they will be punished.”

Carney said in July: “Companies that don’t adapt will go bankrupt without question.”

US coal companies had already lost 90% of their value, he noted, but banks were also at risk. “Just like in any other major structural change, those banks overexposed to the sunset sectors will suffer accordingly,” he told the Guardian.

The central bank governor said transition to net zero carbon emissions would change the value of every asset, raising the risk of shocks to the financial system.

“Some [assets] will go up, many will go down. The question is whether the transition is smooth or is it something that is delayed and then happens very abruptly. That is an open question,” he said. “The longer the adjustment is delayed in the real economy, the greater the risk that there is a sharp adjustment.”
The article also references this one, from earlier this week: Corporations told to draw up climate rules or have them imposed.

To my mind, the fact that central banks are taking the climate crisis seriously has a good deal more significance than have the activities of most climate change activists or, indeed, those US politicians, though, of course, the climate change activists still have an important role to play in keeping the issue in the forefront of people's -- including investors' -- awareness:
US coal companies had already lost 90% of their value, he [Carney] noted, but banks were also at risk. “Just like in any other major structural change, those banks overexposed to the sunset sectors will suffer accordingly,” he told the Guardian.
and, as one US politician in particular should know, when the banks are no longer willing to lend you money because your business is a seen as a poor credit risk, you're in trouble and had better do something about it.

Laundering money for the Russian mob isn't generally seen as a good long-term strategy in those circumstances, because, errm, reasons.

ETA:

 
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