Category Archives: environmental news

UN offers hope amid peril

ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The United Nations has offered the world a bad news/good news report on the state of Earth’s changing climate.

I’ll go with the bad news first: Climate change is here, it is now and the state of our planet’s climate is not well.

Now for the good news: It  is not too late to fix it.

The U.N. monitors these things for all 8 billion of us Earthlings. I mean, we need to know the state of the only habitable planet known to humankind. The report comes from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It says in part, according to Wired: “We’ve known for decades that the world is warming, but this report tells us that recent changes in the climate are widespread, rapid, and intensifying—unprecedented in thousands of years,” said Ko Barrett, IPCC vice chair and senior adviser for climate at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, at a press conference Sunday announcing the report. “The bottom line is that unless there are immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C—or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit—will be beyond reach.”

I get it. I hope you do, too. Here is a glimmer of hope from the IPCC. We have it within our power to slow the rate of increase in the worldwide temperature, which could forestall a global environmental catastrophe. President Biden has said he wants to cut carbon emissions by half over the next couple of decades. He has appointed former Secretary of State John Kerry as the nation’s international climate diplomat.

There once was a theory that we had passed the point of no return on climate change. That theory has changed somewhat. Environmentalists suggest now that it we can do more.

Climate change is not the “hoax” that too many deniers have called it. The wildfires out west, the flooding in the east, the rising sea levels, the diminishing polar ice caps, the deforestation that continues in the Third World all provide all the proof I need that we need to get busy.

The UN Climate Report: All Is Not Well—but All Is Not Lost (msn.com)

Time is not our friend, ladies and gentlemen.

Climate change: It’s here!

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

We have reached critical mass, it appears to me, on the issue of climate change.

There should be no more debate on what to do “when the time comes.” It has come. We’re there. Earth’s climate, I fear, has changed to the point that it might be too late to stop the effect we human beings are having on the planet we call home.

That, however, shouldn’t preclude our efforts to try to do something. Anything! We need to find solutions to stop what is happening to us in real time.

That Bootleg Fire in Oregon? It’s now creating its own weather system as it scorches more than 600 square miles of my home state. Icebergs the size of small U.S. states continue to break off Antarctica, drifting into the Southern Ocean and continuing to contribute to the rising sea levels around the world. We continue to emit too many carbon gases, diminishing the oxygen supply that is supposed to help cool our dear planet.

Oh, and this story needs to be covered more intently: Third World countries continue to destroy millions of acres of forestland, depriving animals of their habitat and, of course, depriving the atmosphere its primary source for oxygen.

The fire seasons are raging out of control. They are arriving sooner, it seems, each year. They are burning more intensely.

What is the world’s most indispensable to do about it? Our Congress is tying itself up in knots over climate change. Republicans still don’t want to confront it. Democrats see the urgency but are fighting among themselves over the scope and breadth of what to do legislatively.

Meanwhile, President Biden is trying to include climate change into an infrastructure package he wants enacted as soon as humanly possible.

This dithering, dawdling and debating isn’t helping us deal with a problem that is destroying our planet in real time.

Let’s get busy.

Climate change, anyone?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Under most circumstances, I am not usually prone to hold up singular weather events as evidence of climate change.

I know the difference between weather and climate. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere “behaves” over relatively long periods of time. When we talk about climate change, we talk about changes in long-term averages of daily weather.

However … the events of this early summer in my hometown of Portland, Ore., and elsewhere out west tell me that the changing climate has contributed to the misery that my family members and many friends are suffering.

Portland set an all-time heat record of 108 degree F on Saturday. Another record might be set today and again tomorrow. They’re saying the temp could top 115!

I remember vaguely being in Portland when the mercury topped out at 107. It was a horrible heat. The fire season is starting earlier this year than ever before. The snow pack in the Cascade Range — which produces Portland’s water when it runs off in the spring — is a good bit below normal. Drought conditions are taking hold.

Hmmm. Is this the result of climate change? I kinda think so.

Is there anything we can do to stem its impact? Yes. There is.

Does our Congress have the will to do anything about it. Uhh, let me see. Probably not.

President Biden is holding out for a climate change effort to be included in the infrastructure deal that a bipartisan group of senators presented to him.

I am inclined to dismiss climate change as the cause for all weather-related crises. Not this time. Not with the evidence piling up that climate change is real and it needs humankind’s undivided attention.

Climate threat is real and dangerous

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

President Biden is seeking to redefine the term “infrastructure.”

However, he is running into plenty of old-school resistance from his former friends in the Republican Party, who continue to insist that infrastructure should include roads, bridges, airports and ship channels.

Biden sees a wider world than that. He has reeled in climate change and the effect it has on our way of life. That, too, deals with “infrastructure,” according to the president.

No surprise, but I happen to agree with President Biden’s broader view of the world and the impact of factors that change it.

Biden and congressional Republicans have reached an impasse. Biden wants a massive infrastructure bill to include work on climate change; Republicans think it’s beyond the scope of the traditional definition of the term “infrastructure.”

What, though, happens to our coastal communities if sea levels keep rising? Or to our seaports? To highways, bridges and other thoroughfares threatened by the inevitable warming of the climate and the effect it has on our environment?

That is why in my view climate change must take a front-and-center place among the issues that need our government’s attention.

Joe Biden brought former Secretary of State John Kerry on board as a climate change adviser. Kerry is working with heads of state around the world to rivet their attention as well on the impact that climate change is having on their nations. We have returned to the Paris Climate Accords, from which we withdrew four years ago.

I can think of nothing at all more compelling than finding a way to preserve Planet Earth’s ecosystem for future generations to enjoy. It might already be too late to prevent all the destruction of our planet that is coming. None of that should preclude any effort to seek ways to head it off or to limit the impact it will bring to the only planet we can call home.

Yeah, infrastructure must include climate change.

Gohmert asks for this? Really?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

This question deserves to be asked: Is Louie Gohmert really as stupid as he sounds?

The Republican congressman from Tyler, Texas, actually wondered aloud during a House committee hearing whether the U.S. Bureau of Land Management or the U.S. Forest Service could — get ready for it — change the moon’s orbit around Earth or Earth’s orbit around the sun. 

I am left initially to mutter: Holy sh**!

To be clear, Gohmert represents a portion of the GOP that I call the Loony Bin Wing. I also must stipulate that Louie the Goober is a graduate of Texas A&M University and from the law school at Baylor University. That’s right. The wacko has a law degree!

The Hill reports:

Gohmert was speaking with Jennifer Eberlien, associate deputy chief of the National Forest System, during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing.

“I understand from what’s been testified to the Forest Service and the BLM [Bureau of Land Management], you want very much to work on the issue of climate change,” Gohmert said to Eberlien, adding that a past director of NASA had once told him that orbits of the moon and the Earth were changing.

“Is there anything that the National Forest Service, or BLM can do to change the course of the moon’s orbit or the Earth’s orbit around the sun?” Gohmert asked Eberlien. “Obviously they would have profound effects on our climate.”

Gohmert asks if federal agencies can change Earth’s or moon’s orbits to fight climate change | TheHill

So help me I do not know what to think of this. Gohmert cannot possibly contend he was joking, or that his question was taken out of context, or that the media are making hay out of a “fake news” event.

My goodness, this man represents a portion of the state where I live.

I am reminded of something my father used to tell when I complained about the weather. Dad would say, “Go talk to God.”

Hey, Rep. Gohmert, you need to ask the Almighty about doing something that is, shall we say, way above the BLM or USFS paygrade.

Good news from pandemic

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

This has to be far more than just a sliver of good news as a result of the COVID pandemic.

It is that renewable energy production has spiked considerably in the year since Earth became consumed by the coronavirus that has killed more than 2 million human beings worldwide, and more than 580,000 Americans.

A study by the International Energy Agency reports that wind power has boomed along with solar energy. The IEA reports that renewable energy jumped 45 percent in 2020 to 280 gigawatts. As National Public Radio reported: In 2020, renewable power was “the only energy source for which demand increased … while consumption of all other fuels declined,” says the IEA, whose mission is to make the world’s energy supply more reliable, affordable and sustainable.

You might be wondering: What is a gigawatt? It equals 1,000 megawatts, or 1 billion watts of energy. So, the pandemic helped spike the renewable energy output to 280 billion watts of power.

You know, from my perch, that means it can turn on a whole lot of light bulbs … you know?

This is good news for anyone — and it should be everyone — who is concerned about the impact that finite energy sources are having on Earth’s environment.

Renewable Energy Capacity Jumped 45% Worldwide In 2020; IEA Sees ‘New Normal’ | 88.9 KETR

Coal production fell by 4 percent, according to the IEA. Indeed, coal-burning power plans are seen as a primary cause of climate change, which is a serious existential threat to our national security, as well as a threat to the very life of our precious planet.

I do not wish this pandemic to continue. I do wish — and hope — to keep the trend toward more renewable energy tracking in the direction it has been headed since the pandemic struck.

Lightning, thunder = excitement

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Bear with me as I write briefly about the weather.

My wife and I long have had a fascination with explosive weather. We got a first-hand look at just how explosive it can get when in 1984 we moved from the Pacific Northwest to the Texas Gulf Coast.

Beaumont proved to be a place where the lightning was extremely bright, was spectacular in its displays. The thunder it produced was noisy beyond belief.

And, oh yes, the rain comes in torrents, unlike in Oregon where it rains for three days before you even notice it.

Then we moved in 1995 to the Panhandle of Texas, the Caprock, along the Llano Estacado. They boast there about the lightning and thunder. To be honest, in our experience it didn’t measure up to what we saw and heard on the Gulf Coast.

We did experience a couple of baseball-size hail events that wrecked the roof of the house we built in Amarillo in late 1996. So, yes, we had our share of excitement.

Now we have settled in what they call North Texas, in Collin County, just NE of Dallas. It is storming as I write these few words. The intensity of the lighting and the accompanying thunder is beginning to remind us of our time in Beaumont.

It gives me a strangely pleasant diversion from the other things that usually occupy my time at the keyboard writing on this blog.

So my attention has been yanked away from the weirdness of the national and international news. I am fixated at the moment on Mother Nature’s sound and fury.

It will pass. Then I can think about the other matters that occupy my mind these days. Until then, I am going to stand in awe at the limitless power of our planet.

Earth is even more fragile

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Astronaut Bill Anders pointed his camera out the window of Apollo 8 on Christmas Eve, 1968 and captured this never before seen image.

The astronauts aboard the first manned lunar mission then read from the Book of Genesis and wished us good tidings on “the Good Earth.”

This picture is worth looking at once again as the world celebrates Earth Day. Anders, along with crewmates Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, all told us upon their return from deep space that our planet looked so “fragile” to their eyes as it rose from the lunar horizon.

In the more than 52 years since this iconic photo was created, Earth has become even more fragile. Humankind has damaged our “Good Earth” through a number of environmental vices: too much carbon emission and deforestation has destroyed natural habitat and caused the gradual year over year warming of our planet. The effect of that warming, of course, has damaged our polar ice caps and put more of our wildlife in peril.

Bill Anders captured a wondrous moment to share with his fellow human beings. Only these men and those who followed them to the moon can understand fully just how fragile our planet was then and has become.

Our “Good Earth” needs to be strengthened.

Hey, it’s Earth Day!

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

We celebrate this day every year. We say the right things. We actually try to do the right things.

And yet …

Our precious, precarious planet continues to be threatened by policies and behavior that places it in dire peril. What’s going on?

Earth Day is meant to bring the world’s attention to the only planet on which human beings can inhabit. Why don’t we celebrate this world of ours every single day?

I am not going to suggest that our household is doing anything extraordinary to protect our precious Earth, but we have embraced the notion of recycling with both arms. We hug the notion tightly. We now live in a community where recycling has become something akin to a way of life among the thousands of fellow residents of Princeton, Texas.

That is one small way we do our part to protect our planet.

To be clear, ours isn’t the only North Texas community that allows residents to recycle items. We are surrounded by small towns and mid-sized cities that also provide opportunities for residents to do their part, too. For that I am grateful.

Recycling material reduces the consumption of fossil fuels used to create this stuff from scratch by as much as 40 to 50 percent, as I have understood it over the years. It takes far less finite energy to re-use material than to manufacture it.

I am not going to say that every community’s embrace of recycling is going to save our planet by itself. I do offer the belief that human beings’ involvement in recycling that can contribute to the overall goal of preserving our planet’s resources and in keeping our environment clean enough for humans to continue living here.

Our government has returned to the community of nations’ effort to preserve our planet. President Biden’s executive order to return the United States to the Paris Climate Accord is a good first step. Donald Trump pulled us out of that international agreement, calling it intrusive and an impediment to business. Hmm. Well, many of us disagreed with Trump’s call and are welcoming Joe Biden’s involvement in this critical effort.

We are going to honor our Good Earth today. Schools will dedicate class time to remind our children of the need to take care of the planet. Our public airwaves will have programming aimed at doing the same thing.

Those of us who are able also will do our part by filling up our recycling bins with items that can be re-used and re-purposed with the goal of conserving our nation’s precious resources.

Happy Earth Day! Let’s remain vigilant and attentive to our planet tomorrow, too … and for as long as we all inhabit this place.

Green New Deal is back!

 

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Just in time, a newer version of legislation that got stalled a couple of years ago in the U.S. Senate, has returned to the center stage of environmental policy discussion.

The Green New Deal — the bogeyman of the Republican Party — has been reintroduced by U.S. Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York; indeed, AOC herself has become a favorite target of GOP critics.

Why is this so timely? Because we have Earth Day coming up Thursday. It’s the one day of the year — as if we should dedicate just a single day — we call attention to the fragility of the only planet we can inhabit.

I’ll save a discussion on the nuts and bolts of the Green New Deal for another day. I do want to make a point about the importance of what the GND intends to accomplish. It seeks to preserve our environment, to retain Earth as a place where human beings can inhabit.

President Biden has made climate change one of the linchpins of his tenure in office. He appointed former U.S. Sen. and Secretary of State John Kerry as a special international envoy on climate change. The president signed an executive order upon taking office to return the United States to the Paris Climate Accord, from which Donald Trump had walked away when he took office.

Climate change presents an existential threat to our national security. Never mind the spring chill that has swept across the nation in recent days. The evidence continues to show that Earth’s median temperatures continue to increase year over year. Ice caps are melting. Sea levels are rising. Third World nations continue to fell millions of acres of forest each year. The industrialized nations of the world continue to pour millions of tons of carbon-related pollutants into the air.

We must find some answers to these crises. Many of us say it when Earth Day rolls around every year: We only have one planet … and we have to protect it.

Is the Green New Deal too much? Too little? I don’t know. However, I believe we must not continue to do what we have been doing. We are contributing to the destruction of our Good Earth.