Young climate protesters are rattling the DNC

BuzzFeed News reports:

The young protesters who have increasingly become the face of an urgent new movement to combat the climate crisis rattled the Democratic Party’s central institution this week, camping out on the steps of its headquarters and sending jitters through its senior staff ranks.

About a dozen protesters in black T-shirts stood vigil Tuesday and Wednesday night outside the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters, and more than a hundred watched the debate on a screen outside the locked Washington institution.

“We need to show people we’re willing to sacrifice our time, to sleep on brick floors for this cause,” said Juliana Rossi de Camargo, a 25-year-old fellow with the Sunrise Movement. “This is an emergency.”

In Miami, where the DNC’s senior staff gathered for the first Democratic debate, party staff sent an urgent email to campaigns warning them against their supporters disrupting the debate itself. The email was aimed, a Democratic source said, at Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who had invited young climate activists to attend the debate as his guests. [Continue reading…]

‘Climate apartheid’: UN expert says human rights may not survive

The Guardian reports:

The world is increasingly at risk of “climate apartheid”, where the rich pay to escape heat and hunger caused by the escalating climate crisis while the rest of the world suffers, a report from a UN human rights expert has said.

Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said the impacts of global heating are likely to undermine not only basic rights to life, water, food, and housing for hundreds of millions of people, but also democracy and the rule of law.

Alston is critical of the “patently inadequate” steps taken by the UN itself, countries, NGOs and businesses, saying they are “entirely disproportionate to the urgency and magnitude of the threat”. His report to the UN human rights council (HRC) concludes: “Human rights might not survive the coming upheaval.”

The report also condemns Donald Trump for “actively silencing” climate science, and criticises the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, for promising to open up the Amazon rainforest to mining. But Alston said there were also some positive developments, including legal cases against states and fossil fuel companies, the activism of Greta Thunberg and the worldwide school strikes, and Extinction Rebellion. [Continue reading…]

Oregon’s legislative chaos has senators fleeing to Idaho and a militia threatening the capitol

Slate reports:

Oregon’s state legislature appeared to be on track last week to pass a sweeping climate change bill aimed at curbing emissions in the state.

At least until Republicans in the state Senate decided to go to extremes to prevent a vote, making a move that resulted in the governor calling in Oregon State Police. And the drama didn’t end there: Democrats cancelled a session Saturday over safety threats from a far-right militia group.

The bill would make Oregon the second state after California to adopt cap-and-trade restrictions and would dramatically reduce emissions by 2050, but Republicans argue it would drag down the state’s economy. Eleven GOP senators who opposed the bill went all out to prevent a vote, fleeing the Legislature on Thursday. Oregon Democrats have a supermajority, but they aren’t able to vote without a quorum. The move effectively halted the legislative process, and Democratic Gov. Kate Brown ordered state police to find the senators and haul them back to the statehouse. Some had fled to Idaho and other states, out of the jurisdiction of the Oregon police. Each senator faces a fine of $500 per missed session.

But there’s more. Senate leadership shut down the state capitol Saturday after receiving threats from far-right militia groups planning to protest that day outside the statehouse in support of the GOP senators. The Senate’s president, the entire Democratic caucus, and the building’s staff received threats, according to the Associated Press. [Continue reading…]

Agriculture Department buries studies showing dangers of climate change

Politico reports:

The Trump administration has refused to publicize dozens of government-funded studies that carry warnings about the effects of climate change, defying a longstanding practice of touting such findings by the Agriculture Department’s acclaimed in-house scientists.

The studies range from a groundbreaking discovery that rice loses vitamins in a carbon-rich environment — a potentially serious health concern for the 600 million people world-wide whose diet consists mostly of rice — to a finding that climate change could exacerbate allergy seasons to a warning to farmers about the reduction in quality of grasses important for raising cattle.

All of these studies were peer-reviewed by scientists and cleared through the non-partisan Agricultural Research Service, one of the world’s leading sources of scientific information for farmers and consumers.

None of the studies were focused on the causes of global warming – an often politically charged issue. Rather, the research examined the wide-ranging effects of rising carbon dioxide, increasing temperatures and volatile weather.

The administration, researchers said, appears to be trying to limit the circulation of evidence of climate change and avoid press coverage that may raise questions about the administration’s stance on the issue.

“The intent is to try to suppress a message — in this case, the increasing danger of human-caused climate change,” said Michael Mann, a leading climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University. “Who loses out? The people, who are already suffering the impacts of sea level rise and unprecedented super storms, droughts, wildfires and heat waves.” [Continue reading…]

World scientists’ warning to humanity on microorganisms and climate change

An editorial in Nature says:

In 1992, the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington DC, and more than 1,700 researchers, issued the World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity. It cautioned that humans were inflicting “harsh and often irreversible damage” on the environment, and that current practices were endangering humanity’s future. More than 21,000 scientists have so far endorsed a widely publicized and equally stark second warning, issued in 2017.

This week, part of the Scientists’ Warning movement calls attention to a factor that has been largely ignored: microbes. In a Consensus Statement published in Nature Reviews Microbiology, 33 leading microbiologists from around the world “put humanity on notice” that the impact of climate change will depend heavily on the response of microorganisms.

The ubiquity and diversity of bacteria, archaea, viruses, fungi and protozoa have been appreciated only in recent decades. Researchers recognize the colossal number (around 1030 total bacteria and archaea) and range of microorganisms, and that they are essential to the food web and the cycling of carbon and other elements. Microorganisms can speed the release of greenhouse gases from thawing permafrost, and climate change increases the spread of infectious diseases that threaten public health and food security. [Continue reading…]

The foolishness of disregarding the effects that microorganisms have on human life was recently highlighted by Fox News host Pete Hegseth when he revealed that he hadn’t washed his hands for ten years because, he claimed, “germs are not a real thing.”

Hegseth’s ignorance, however, is not so far outside the mainstream as it might appear.

Out of sight, out of mind is the norm rather than the exception as most people proceed through their lives. Whether that relates to the fate of refugees, the accumulation of plastics in the deepest ocean troughs, or the rising levels of CO2, the human tendency is indeed to treat the things we cannot see as though they don’t exist.

The fact that I called this website, Attention to the Unseen, was always meant to convey an implicit subtext: when we don’t pay attention to the unseen, we are out of tune with the conditions that support life.

Contrary to the perspective afforded by our narrowly constrained perceptions, we are by no means the most prolific form of life on this planet.

Neither is the seeming singularity of our body our own in the way we take it to be.

In cellular citadels where non-human cells outnumber human cells, the distinction between host and microbial colonist conjures a hierarchy of governance that says more about our imaginary identities than it says about the ecological reality.

As bipeds whose line of sight rarely encompasses the ground upon which we stand, we are perpetually inclined, imaginatively and literally, to overlook the foundation of our existence.

A climate change bill sets off tumult: Republicans flee, police follow

The New York Times reports:

Tensions boiled over in the Oregon Capitol this week as Republican state senators vanished in an effort to delay a vote on a climate change bill they oppose. On Thursday, Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, ordered the state police to find them and bring them back.

It was only the latest chapter in a season of partisan division and frustration in the nation’s statehouses, where, for the first time in more than a century, all but one state legislature is dominated by a single party. In Oregon, where Democrats dominate both chambers, Republicans were unapologetic about their efforts to slow the state’s adoption of an emissions-reduction program by disappearing — and keeping the Democrats from having enough lawmakers present to call a vote.

Brian Boquist, one of the Republican senators who went missing, issued what sounded like a warning to any police officer who might try to arrest him.

“Send bachelors and come heavily armed,” Mr. Boquist said he told Travis Hampton, superintendent of the Oregon State Police. “I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It’s just that simple.” [Continue reading…]

Himalayan glacier melting doubled since 2000, research finds

The Guardian reports:

The melting of Himalayan glaciers has doubled since the turn of the century, with more than a quarter of all ice lost over the last four decades, scientists have revealed. The accelerating losses indicate a “devastating” future for the region, upon which a billion people depend for regular water.

The scientists combined declassified US spy satellite images from the mid-1970s with modern satellite data to create the first detailed, four-decade record of ice along the 2,000km (1,200-mile) mountain chain.

The analysis shows that 8bn tonnes of ice are being lost every year and not replaced by snow, with the lower level glaciers shrinking in height by 5 meters annually. The study shows that only global heating caused by human activities can explain the heavy melting. In previous work, local weather and the impact of air pollution had complicated the picture.

Joshua Maurer, from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth observatory, who led the new research, said: “This is the clearest picture yet of how fast Himalayan glaciers are melting since 1975, and why.” The research is published in the journal Science Advances. [Continue reading…]

Reuters reports:

Hotels in Chennai are rationing water for guests amid searing heat while companies limit showers as the city of 4.6 million faces its worst shortage in years.

All four reservoirs that supply Chennai, known as the Detroit of South Asia for its flourishing automobile industry, have run dry this summer, largely because of poor monsoon rains last year.

Chennai is one of 21 cities that a government think-tank warned last year could run out of ground water by 2020. This year’s monsoon is delayed, further compounding problems across a swath of western and central India. [Continue reading…]

How the Sunrise Movement changed the Democratic conversation

Ruairí Arrieta-Kenna writes:

“When we were taught about the civil rights movement as kids, it was told to us as if a few big marches just happened and then the laws changed,” Emily LaShelle told me last weekend as she smoked a cigarette. Behind her, a group of her peers played Frisbee in a field while the sun set behind them. “But there was so much more work and effort by activists behind the scenes,” she said. “And that’s the kind of work we’re teaching people to be involved in for this movement.”

LaShelle is 21, with short-cropped blond hair and a nose piercing. Her movement is the Sunrise Movement, an organization of mostly twenty-something climate activists who are best known for seemingly instantly and improbably injecting the idea of a “Green New Deal” into the national conversation. This past week, more than 70 Sunrise activists, including LaShelle, traveled to a rural, multifaith retreat center along the Hudson River, about 50 miles north of New York City, to take part in a weeklong boot camp that’s intended to transform them into the next generation of climate activists—who, in turn, are supposed to transform American politics.

Sunrise has already moved shockingly swiftly on that front. Last November, Sunrise activists joined newly elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a splashy protest at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office that catapulted the group to national relevance. The resulting publicity added thousands of people to the group’s ranks of supporters and active volunteers. Less than a year later, Sunrise’s proposal for a Green New Deal has gone from being widely mocked as an overly ambitious socialist fantasy (or the “Green Dream,” in Pelosi’s words) to being endorsed by 16 of the Democrats running for president—most recently by none other than Joe Biden. Four years after it was founded by several activists in the fossil-fuel divestment movement on college campuses and a climate policy researcher supported by the Sierra Club, Sunrise has become an influential force not just in climate activism but in Democratic politics. And its oldest staff member is only 33. [Continue reading…]

Trump’s relentless war against science

The Hill reports:

President Trump is directing all agencies to cut their advisory boards by “at least” one third.

The executive order issued Friday evening directs all federal agencies to “evaluate the need” for each of their current advisory committees.

The order gives agencies until Sept. 30 to terminate, at a minimum, one-third of their committees.

Committees that qualify for the chopping block include those that have completed their objective, had their work taken up by other panels or where the subject matter has “become obsolete.”

Another defining factor listed includes whether the agency itself has determined that the cost of operating the agency is “excessive in relation to the benefits to the Federal Government.”

Critics say the order is another administration attack on experts who provide scientific advice.

“For the past two years they have been shrinking and restricting the role of federal science advisory committees,” Gretchen Goldman, the research director with the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union for Concerned Scientists, said in a statement. “Now they’re removing the possibility of even making decisions based on robust science advice. It’s no longer death by a thousand cuts. It’s taking a knife to the jugular.” [Continue reading…]

The Guardian reports:

A member of the Trump administration’s National Security Council has sought help from advisers of a conservative thinktank to challenge the reality of a human-induced climate crisis, a trove of his emails show.

William Happer, a physicist appointed by the White House to counter the federal government’s own climate science, reached out to the Heartland Institute, one of the most prominent groups to dispute that burning fossil fuels is causing dangerous global heating, in March.

In the messages, part of a group of emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Happer and the Heartland adviser Hal Doiron discuss Happer’s scientific arguments in a paper attempting to knock down the concept of climate emergency, as well as ideas to make the work “more useful to a wider readership”. Happer writes he had already discussed the work with another Heartland adviser, Thomas Wysmuller. [Continue reading…]

Greenland just lost 2 billion tons of ice

CNN reports:

Over 40% of Greenland experienced melting yesterday, with total ice loss estimated to be more than 2 gigatons (a gigaton is equal to 1 billion tons).

While Greenland is a big island filled with lots of ice, it is highly unusual for that much ice to be lost in the middle of June. The average “melt season” for Greenland runs from June to August, with the bulk of the melting occurring in July.

To visualize how much ice that is, imagine filling the National Mall in Washington DC with enough ice to reach a point in the sky eight times higher than the Washington Monument (to borrow an analogy Meredith Nettles from Columbia University gave to the Washington Post.)

The sudden spike in melting “is unusual, but not unprecedented,” according to Thomas Mote, a research scientist at the University of Georgia who studies Greenland’s climate.

“It is comparable to some spikes we saw in June of 2012,” Mote told CNN, referring to the record-setting melt year of 2012 that saw almost the entire ice sheet experience melting for the first time in recorded history. [Continue reading…]