The five corrupt pillars of #ClimateChange denial — The Conversation

From The Conversation (Mark Maslin):

The fossil fuel industry, political lobbyists, media moguls and individuals have spent the past 30 years sowing doubt about the reality of climate change – where none exists. The latest estimate is that the world’s five largest publicly-owned oil and gas companies spend about US$200 million a year on lobbying to control, delay or block binding climate policy.

Their hold on the public seems to be waning. Two recent polls suggested over 75% of Americans think humans are causing climate change. School climate strikes, Extinction Rebellion protests, national governments declaring a climate emergency, improved media coverage of climate change and an increasing number of extreme weather events have all contributed to this shift. There also seems to be a renewed optimism that we can deal with the crisis.

But this means lobbying has changed, now employing more subtle and more vicious approaches – what has been termed as “climate sadism”. It is used to mock young people going on climate protests and to ridicule Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old young woman with Asperger’s, who is simply telling the scientific truth.

Anti-climate change lobbying spend by the five largest publicly-owned fossil fuel companies. Statista, CC BY-SA

At such a crossroads, it is important to be able to identify the different types of denial. The below taxonomy will help you spot the different ways that are being used to convince you to delay action on climate change.

1. Science denial

This is the type of denial we are all familiar with: that the science of climate change is not settled. Deniers suggest climate change is just part of the natural cycle. Or that climate models are unreliable and too sensitive to carbon dioxide.

Some even suggest that CO₂ is such a small part of the atmosphere it cannot have a large heating affect. Or that climate scientists are fixing the data to show the climate is changing (a global conspiracy that would take thousands of scientists in more than a 100 countries to pull off).

All these arguments are false and there is a clear consensus among scientists about the causes of climate change. The climate models that predict global temperature rises have remained very similar over the last 30 years despite the huge increase in complexity, showing it is a robust outcome of the science.

Model reconstruction of global temperature since 1970. Average of the models in black with model range in grey compared to observational temperature records from NASA, NOAA, HadCRUT, Cowtan and Way, and Berkeley Earth. Carbon Brief, CC BY

The shift in public opinion means that undermining the science will increasingly have little or no effect. So climate change deniers are switching to new tactics. One of Britain’s leading deniers, Nigel Lawson, the former UK chancellor, now agrees that humans are causing climate change, despite having founded the sceptic Global Warming Policy Foundation in 2009.

It says it is “open-minded on the contested science of global warming, [but] is deeply concerned about the costs and other implications of many of the policies currently being advocated”. In other words, climate change is now about the cost not the science.

2. Economic denial

The idea that climate change is too expensive to fix is a more subtle form of climate denial. Economists, however, suggest we could fix climate change now by spending 1% of world GDP. Perhaps even less if the cost savings from improved human health and expansion of the global green economy are taken into account. But if we don’t act now, by 2050 it could cost over 20% of world GDP.

We should also remember that in 2018 the world generated US$86,000,000,000,000 and every year this World GDP grows by 3.5%. So setting aside just 1% to deal with climate change would make little overall difference and would save the world a huge amount of money. What the climate change deniers also forget to tell you is that they are protecting a fossil fuel industry that receives US$5.2 trillion in annual subsidies – which includes subsidised supply costs, tax breaks and environmental costs. This amounts to 6% of world GDP.

The International Monetary Fund estimates that efficient fossil fuel pricing would lower global carbon emissions by 28%, fossil fuel air pollution deaths by 46%, and increase government revenue by 3.8% of the country’s GDP.

3. Humanitarian denial

Climate change deniers also argue that climate change is good for us. They suggest longer, warmer summers in the temperate zone will make farming more productive. These gains, however, are often offset by the drier summers and increased frequency of heatwaves in those same areas. For example, the 2010 “Moscow” heatwave killed 11,000 people, devastated the Russian wheat harvest and increased global food prices.

Geographical zones of the world. The tropical zones span from the Tropic of Cancer in the North to the Tropic of Capricorn in the South (red shaded region) and contains 40% of the World population. Maulucioni/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

More than 40% of the world’s population also lives in the Tropics – where from both a human health prospective and an increase in desertification no one wants summer temperatures to rise.

Deniers also point out that plants need atmospheric carbon dioxide to grow so having more of it acts like a fertiliser. This is indeed true and the land biosphere has been absorbing about a quarter of our carbon dioxide pollution every year. Another quarter of our emissions is absorbed by the oceans. But losing massive areas of natural vegetation through deforestation and changes in land use completely nullifies this minor fertilisation effect.

Climate change deniers will tell you that more people die of the cold than heat, so warmer winters will be a good thing. This is deeply misleading. Vulnerable people die of the cold because of poor housing and not being able to afford to heat their homes. Society, not climate, kills them.

This argument is also factually incorrect. In the US, for example, heat-related deaths are four times higher than cold-related ones. This may even be an underestimate as many heat-related deaths are recorded by cause of death such as heart failure, stroke, or respiratory failure, all of which are exacerbated by excessive heat.

US weather fatalities for 2018 alongside the ten- and 30-year average. National Weather Service, CC BY

4. Political denial

Climate change deniers argue we cannot take action because other countries are not taking action. But not all countries are equally guilty of causing current climate change. For example, 25% of the human-produced CO₂ in the atmosphere is generated by the US, another 22% is produced by the EU. Africa produces just under 5%.

Given the historic legacy of greenhouse gas pollution, developed countries have an ethical responsibility to lead the way in cutting emissions. But ultimately, all countries need to act because if we want to minimise the effects of climate change then the world must go carbon zero by 2050.

Per capita annual carbon dioxide emissions and cumulative country emissions. Data from the Global Carbon Project. Nature. Data from the Global Carbon Project

Deniers will also tell you that there are problems to fix closer to home without bothering with global issues. But many of the solutions to climate change are win-win and will improve the lives of normal people. Switching to renewable energy and electric vehicles, for example, reduces air pollution, which improves people’s overall health.

Developing a green economy provides economic benefits and creates jobs. Improving the environment and reforestation provides protection from extreme weather events and can in turn improve food and water security.

5. Crisis denial

The final piece of climate change denial is the argument that we should not rush into changing things, especially given the uncertainty raised by the other four areas of denial above. Deniers argue that climate change is not as bad as scientists make out. We will be much richer in the future and better able to fix climate change. They also play on our emotions as many of us don’t like change and can feel we are living in the best of times – especially if we are richer or in power.

But similarly hollow arguments were used in the past to delay ending slavery, granting the vote to women, ending colonial rule, ending segregation, decriminalising homosexuality, bolstering worker’s rights and environmental regulations, allowing same sex marriages and banning smoking.

The fundamental question is why are we allowing the people with the most privilege and power to convince us to delay saving our planet from climate change?

#NewMexico hunters and anglers celebrate access win — @BackCountry_H_A

Here’s the release the Back Country Hunters (Katie McKalip):

Sportsmen and women are commending a decision yesterday by the New Mexico Game Commission to support public access to the state’s streams and waterways.

The commission’s action on [November 21, 2019] addresses a rule dating from 2017 that allows landowners to petition the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to have previously navigable streams bordering private property certified “non-navigable” and therefore closed to public access without the landowner’s consent. Following outspoken advocacy by a range of stakeholders, including hunters and anglers, the commissioners, with guidance from the State Attorney General Hector Balderas, agreed to amend or repeal the highly unpopular rule with final action expected in 2020. A majority of the commissioners made it clear Thursday that the rule passed by previous game commission is unenforceable in light of the AG’s finding. The commission’s decision follows a 90-day moratorium it issued in July on actions around the rule.

Since statehood in 1912, New Mexico sportsmen and women have had the constitutional right to fish, boat or otherwise recreate in any stream so long as they did not trespass across private land to get there. But past game commissions have ignored that right, even after the state attorney general in 2014 issued an opinion that all streams were public domain for recreational purposes. In late 2017, the commission adopted the rule that permitted declaring “navigable” waters as “non-navigable,” therefore allowing the adjacent landowner to prohibit public access to the stream. The first round of applications was approved in 2018.

The New Mexico chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and other conservation groups applauded the commission’s decision.

“This week our state game commission took an unprecedented step on behalf of New Mexico hunters, anglers and other public land users by starting to roll back stream access regulations that our attorney general deemed unconstitutional,” said New Mexico BHA Chair Joel Gay, who lives in Albuquerque. “This represents a tremendous victory in reestablishing the public’s right to access public waters, an ongoing battle across the West.

“New Mexico hunters and anglers should thank Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for appointing a forward-looking commission that’s dedicated to transparency and upholding public land rights and our state constitution,” Gay continued. “This was a joint effort between the New Mexico Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and other sportsmen’s groups, thousands of sportsmen and women who made their voices heard, and a variety of industry partners who support our growing outdoor recreation economy. We thank the commissioners for recognizing the previous regulation was flawed and taking action to restore public access to New Mexico streams.”

“The American Fly Fishing Trade Association applauds the New Mexico Game Commission for its decision to reconsider the rule restricting stream access in the state,” said AFFTA President Ben Bulis. “It is important not only to sportsmen and women but also to an industry that relies on access to clean and healthy waters.”

New Mexico Game Commissioner Jeremy Vesbach stressed the importance of balancing public access with respect for property rights.

“As we move forward to honor the access rights of people fishing or boating,” stated Vesbach, “it’s also extremely important for us to work with all sides and find those areas of common agreement like habitat improvement work and enforcement to protect private property rights.”

“The commission’s decision to revisit the unfavorable stream access rule is a huge win for outdoor recreationists in the Land of Enchantment,” concluded Rob Parkins, BHA public waters access coordinator. “All too often the constitutional rights of sportsmen and women are ignored in favor of special interests. The support from the attorney general, commission, governor and the entire New Mexico congressional delegation proves that our voices are heard – and that together we can restore and increase our access to public waterways.”

Rio Grande River photo credit Wild Earth Guardians.

#LakePowellPipeline update #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #LakePowell #Utah

From The St. George Spectrum (Lexi Peery):

Water managers in southwestern Utah are proposing a property tax hike.

The Washington County Water Conservancy District announced the past week that the increase would help pay for things like fire protection, conservation programs and flood control, along with the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline.

The increase would translate to an estimated $7.57 per year for residences valued at $329,000. For a business of that same value, the increase would be about $13.77 a year.

The increase is mostly an effort to keep up with inflation, according to Ron Thompson, WCWCD manager, although he said it is also part of a long-term strategy by the WCWCD to prepare for future projects and growth…

Lake Powell, created with the 1963 completion of Glen Canyon Dam, is the upper basin’s largest reservoir on the Colorado River. But 2000-2019 has provided the least amount of inflow into the reservoir, making it the lowest 20-year period since the dam was built, as evidenced by the “bathtub ring” and dry land edging the reservoir, which was underwater in the past. As of October 1, 2019, Powell was 55 percent full. Photo credit: Eco Flight via Water Education Colorado

Lake Powell Pipeline

The district has been steadily increasing its tax rates along with water rates and impact fees as part of a long-range plan to ensure steady water supplies for the area, and a large chunk of future expenses are expected to go toward the pipeline.

At some 140 miles and at a price tag that could be more than $1 billion, the project would need state funding to move forward, but the district has also started increasing its revenues to help cover local costs.

The district has already started in on a plan to increase water rates by 10-cents per 1,000 gallons, every year. From where they started at just more than $1 per 1,000 gallons in 2016, the plan is to continue increasing them each year until they roughly triple, reaching $3 per 1,000 gallons.

A report filed in 2017 by the state as part of its application for a federal permit for the project suggested the water district could raise nearly $1.6 billion in revenue by 2065 by boosting the rates that way.

The district has also already been raising impact fees on new construction, with plans to continue increasing the fee by $1,000 per year through at least 2026.

The latest newsletter, “The Source,” is hot off the presses from @AspenJournalism

Click here to read the newsletter (While you’re there drop some dough in the tip jar). Here’s an excerpt:

AJ makes the Best of Nonprofit News 2019 list

In 1965, an engineer working for the city of Aspen selected this location, just below the confluence of East and West Maroon creeks, as the location for a potential 155-foot-tall dam. The city is still on record with the state as intending to build the dam here, if necessary, to meet its future water needs.

Aspen Journalism is one of about 230 members of the Institute for Nonprofit News, who (in INN’s words) “regularly produce rigorous public service journalism that elevates diverse voices, informs communities and holds the powerful accountable.”

We’re honored that INN’s annual Best of Nonprofit News list, published this month, includes this citation of Brent Gardner-Smith’s reporting in the Climate Change and Environment category: “Aspen Journalism published the capstone story in a multiyear investigation into whether the City of Aspen would maintain water rights tied to a potential 155-foot-tall dam within view of one of Colorado’s most scenic peaks, the Maroon Bells. Explaining how a complex, difficult-to-cover case was resolved in state water court, the story said the city agreed to seek to build dams and reservoirs in less environmentally sensitive areas.”