The Climate in Emergency

A weekly blog on science, news, and ideas related to climate change

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Reprise of Lobsters

I just spent a week camping in Maine, and I’m tired. I’ve also gotten my lobster fix for the year, though I ate less than I might have, in part because the price is still very high, and in part because I’m no longer convinced the Maine lobster fishery is sustainable.

So because I am both tired and thinking about lobsters, I’m re-posting the following–I originally wrote it two years ago, but as far as I know the situation has not changed much.


I’m in Maine for the summer, so I can’t help noticing that the price of lobster has jumped. Two years ago, a lobster roll (basically lobster salad on a hot-dog bun, for those unfamiliar. There is often a lettuce leaf, and almost always a side of potato chips) was usually $17 dollars, and even that was a slight increase over previous years. This year they’re $25, or even more.


We know lobsters like cold water. We know the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than almost any other body of water in the world. We know that the lobster fishery of Southern New England has already all but collapsed, and Maine will be next if things continue the way they are going. So has climate change come for Maine’s lobsters at last?

Maybe not. It’s a little more involved than that.

Climate Change and Lobsters

It’s easy to fall into thinking of climate change as something that simply arrives one day–as if,for example,Maine’s lobster industry will be fine until one day all the lobsters get up and walk across the sea bed to Canada. There are indeed climate change impacts that can be sudden and unambiguous, and anthropogenic climate change is happening very, very fast, as climatological shifts go. But on the scale of human experience, most changes still take time, happen in fits and starts, and have multiple interacting causes.

Lobsters do seek out cooler waters. To some extent, that’s already happening, as some Maine lobstermen and -women feel the need to shift to deeper, colder waters farther offshore–a shift that requires a different license and different equipment. Some still fish inshore waters (I see buoys literally only a few dozen feet from the edge), but the population is moving.

But the Southern New England lobster fishery didn’t collapse because the lobsters all walked north or out to sea (though some probably did). Instead, the population there dropped by a startling 70% because of a combination of disease and the stress of living in warm waters. Maine’s most recent heat-related scare happened by yet another mechanism, when unusually warm waters in 2012 triggered the lobsters to shed earlier and more often. The catch that year was therefore mostly softshells (recently-molted lobsters) which don’t sell as well as hardshells, since they are less meaty and more likely to be damaged during shipping. This year, the catch has been relatively small so far, but nobody seems to know why, yet. It could be yet another mechanism whereby warm water causes problems. It could be unrelated.

So the answer to my question, is climate change impacting Maine’s lobsters yet, is clearly yes. Climate is a big issue for Maine’s economy, in large part because of the importance of the lobster industry, and Mainers are aware of it. But that doesn’t mean the $25 lobster is primarily a climate story. In fact, it’s not clear to me whether anyone knows exactly what’s happening.

What’s That Got to Do With the Price of Tea in China?

No, I’ve never understood that saying about the price of Chinese tea, but it’s a handy phrase to use to introduce a section on economics.

A couple of us were talking about lobster prices the other day, you know, the way you do, and the others were pretty sure they had an explanation; restaurants are charging $25 and up for a lobster roll because they’ve suddenly realized they can. There are enough out-of-state visitors with money that the product will still move just fine. The product will move, that part’s true enough, but that’s not the whole story.

Apparently the current high prices are the result of high demand and low supply combined. Demand is high because of multiple factors: more people are buying lobster to eat at home now, since they learned how to cook during the pandemic; a lot of people want to go out to eat in restaurants, now that pandemic restrictions have eased; and China is buying up lots of lobster because Chinese people like lobster and are developing the economic infrastructure to get more and more of it. I don’t know how much of that is speculation–I imagine the figures on how much lobster is going to China are pretty solid, though. Supply is low because…well, nobody’s sure why, but there aren’t a lot of lobsters around at the moment. Or, there weren’t the other week, anyway. Things could be picking up, now. They’ve been saying things probably will. The beginning of the season is sometimes slow.



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Climate change can’t be directly observed by human beings. Climate is barely observable, since a climate is, by definition, a kind of average of atmospheric conditions taken over no less than thirty years—to observe a climate changing is more than a human can do unaided. Fortunately, we are not unaided. We have rigorous data collection methods, various kinds of statistics, and the collaboration of thousands of highly educated people. So we know climate change is happening.

Nevertheless, once you know climate change is happening, it’s possible to notice its impacts.

Pulling ticks off your dog in New Hampshire. Seeing dead and dying spruce trees in Maine. Understanding a certain pervasive anxiety in yourself and in the others who know.

It’s tricky, because certain things that look like climate change (an unusually hot week) aren’t, just as certain things that look like the opposite of climate change (an unusually cold week) aren’t. Again, that’s why we need statistics. That’s why we need scientists.

But notice the signs you see. Speak of the things you notice. Acknowledge the reality, and maybe you can do something about it.


I’m With the Bears

Cover image of the book, "I'm With the Bears." The lower third of the image shows a young white man in beige shorts and a black t-shirt sitting on a tiny islet hardly bigger than a sofa with a sapling tree growing beside him. He is looking straight at the camera. The water around him is blue and relatively calm. The sky against which he and the tree are silhouetted is simply blank white, the black white background of the rest of the cover. Against the white in very large text is the title of the book in blue and in a separate column in smaller text to its right are the names of the authors of the stories in the book. The subtitle, in green, is beneath both in the same small text as the names. In white text against the blue of the water at the bottom are the words "with an introduction by Bill McKibben." The name of the editor does not appear on the cover.

I’m With the Bears: Short Stories from a Damaged Planet, edited by Mark Martin, is indeed a collection of short fiction about environmental damage. It is a book on a mission. Royalties go to, and both the blurb on the back of the book and the introduction (written by no less a luminary than Bill McKibben) make quite explicitly clear that the job of this little anthology is to wake people up to the depth of the disaster we face:

“The size and severity of the global climate crisis is such that even the most committed environmentalists can drift into a state of denial. The award-winning writers collected here have made it their task to shake off this nagging disbelief….”

Very noble.

It’s a good book in that its stories are well-written and engaging, and the collection is short enough, just ten stories, not to intimidate. But since it is a book on a mission, the question is how well does it succeed?

First of all, the collection as a whole was published in 2011, that’s over a decade ago. Six of the ten stories were previously published, one of them a decade earlier than that. So this little book hasn’t saved the world yet. But has it nudged anyone in the right direction? Might it still?

Maybe. But I have my doubts.

Start with the problem that very few people in need of a shock to the system will seek such a shock voluntarily–and those who do seek a shock will likely not receive much of it, since shock depends partly on surprise. This book is for, almost by definition, people who don’t read it. Hence my sarcastic “very noble.”

And is a shock really the thing we need? Is the real problem that too many people don’t grasp the enormity of the crisis? Or, put it another way–does grasping enormity cause people to act?

Well, sometimes.

I’ve heard of specific instances of people shocked into action by news of calamity. Jim Merkel, the author of Radical Simplicity: Small Steps on a Finite Earth, has written about how seeing news coverage of the Exxon Valdez disaster prompted him to adopt a new sense of personal responsibility for the planet and to totally transform his way of life. But lots of people saw that coverage, and clearly very few people were transformed by it. Even those who do allow themselves to be deeply shocked don’t necessary take action as a result–I have been deeply shocked by several stories of disaster over the years (perhaps most profoundly by a short story about the Rwandan genocide I stumbled into by accident in The New Yorker magazine) and those deep feelings have never lead me to change anything I was doing–because they never convinced me there was anything useful I could do.

Has it not occurred to the editor of this book that maybe I need my slight slippage into denial just to get some sleep? And that without adequate sleep I couldn’t be an effective environmentalist?

Many environmentalists, including, apparently, Mark Martin and Bill McKibben, seem to believe that the reason we don’t have meaningful climate action is that too many people aren’t feeling the right emotions yet. Some authors attempt to remedy the problem by trying to make people less upset–less overwhelmed, less anxious, less guilty, less ashamed. They claim that environmentalists are being too militant, too accusatory, too doom-and-gloom, and are thereby turning others off. We ought to be gentler, more understanding, more encouraging. In contrast, I’m With the Bears is based on the opposite claim and has the opposite strategy–enough with this softness, rip any and all bandaged right off! Sit and watch it bleed.

But the emotions of the middle class (the people most environmental outreach seems to be aimed at) have very little to do with climate change. The fact of the matter is that environmental action–and specifically climate action–has been popular enough with the general public for long enough that meaningful steps could have been taken a generation ago. But there are people, a small minority of very powerful people, who have a vested interest in preventing climate action and have effectively done so.

Our societal problem is not scientific, cultural, or emotional. It’s political.

What we need now is neither a greater immediacy or fear and pain nor a confident, motivated optimism but a plan of attack. We need to know what to do and how to do it.

This book doesn’t provide.

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Quick Update

Some weeks ago, I announced that my mother and I are in the process of creating a website about local transportation issues, with an eventual eye to decreasing the use of private automobiles, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The plan has several things going for it, including that it will address problems that seem real and concrete to people who don’t necessarily think about climate change very much–climate change is a big issue made out of lots of smaller issues, and if not enough people care about the big issue, they certainly care about some of the smaller ones.

Also, it’s something we can actually do.

I just wanted to tell you that we have a projected launch date, a to-do list, and a time-line. The outline for the website is complete, and most of the research for its text is done.

Every week we do a little on the project.

A website about transportation is not big, dramatic, or sexy. It’s not an international cap-and-trade system, carbon quantitative easing, the entire Green New Deal, or any other big project that might save the whole world. But neither my mother nor I can make any of those things happen-we can urge our elected leaders to act, but we can’t just make it happen.

We can do this.

Climate change is a big problem. Work on whatever corner of it you can get your hands on.

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A Quick Note About Fiction

Very few books are about climate change–even fewer movies and TV shows are. That should change.

But do you know what I want even more that creative work that’s about climate change? I want creative work that’s not about climate change but mentions it simply as part of the background, the same way that a story might be not about food and still show characters eating now and then. Not that all stories do show characters eating, but if the context is such that it makes sense for characters to eat, they do so–or they complain about being hungry. In a similar way, climate change shouldn’t be noticeable in all stories, but it should be visible in the background of many.

I want the reality of climate change to be so well accepted that a movie or book overlooks climate looks just as silly as a story in which the characters are quite obviously just never getting hungry.

Maybe then, it will seem real enough to do something about.

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The Ministry for the Future

Cover image for the book, "Ministry for the Future." It features the title in big, black text, the author's name in smaller orange text, and celebrity recommendations from Barack Obama and Jonathan Lethem in even smaller black lettering. The cover is mostly white but has thick, pale yellow margins. Centered, under the title and author's name, is a gold-rimmed, old-fashioned pocket watch with no hands.

The Ministry for the Future, by Kim Stanley Robinson, is not as good as it could be, or should be, but it’s still worth reading, and even its shortcomings are interesting.

Let’s start with a synopsis and go on from there. I will avoid all but one spoiler, though.


The Ministry for the Future is a novel only in the sense that it is book-length narrative fiction, but readers who judge it according the a novel’s standard will find Ministry wanting, while missing most of what makes it an interesting book.

There are several narrative threads of various lengths, most of which intersect at least some of the others eventually. Some appear isolated, though not unrelated. The two longest of these concern Frank May and Mary Murphy.

Frank May is one of the few survivors of a heatwave that kills a startlingly large number of people in India. His psychological wounding from that incident becomes his most obvious characteristic, though he is a well-developed, intriguing, and fundamentally likable character beneath and beyond that wounding.

Mary Murphy is the diplomat who becomes the head of an international body nicknamed the Ministry for the Future, formed under the authority of the Paris Agreement in response to the Indian heatwave. Its brief is to advocate for people who are not yet born, hence its unofficial name (it seems not to have an official name). Essentially, this is the group charged with making international climate change happen, and Mary is its point person.

Frank’s story doesn’t have a plot arc. He simply lives his life while we watch. It is not an uneventful or unmeaningful life, it just doesn’t read like a story in the normal sense. Mary’s story contains the plot arc of the book, which is the story of climate action finally happening—and yet she is not exactly a protagonist, either.

Chapters following either Frank or Mary interweave with chapters following other characters (some we are given the names of, others not. Some have more than one chapter. Others don’t). These include several refugees, two slaves, at least one member of a violent non-state group, at least one member of the American military, a glaciologist, and at least one super-rich yahoo. Other threads also enter the weaving. There are essays on philosophy, psychology, history, economics (so many on economics), chapters where various allegorical entities (“the market,” “a photon,” and so on) speak, long passages summarizing history (mostly history set in or future). None of these are introduced, signaled, or in any way explained. The timeline, though running roughly from 2024 (the year of the Indian heatwave) to sometime after 2040, is unclear, with some events possible being presented to the reader out of strict chronological order. The book appears to be a giant mess by design.

Giant messes can work, though.

The one spoiler I do not believe I can avoid is that the world is, more or less, saved. I won’t give you the details, but the world is saved through a curious combination of grassroots political revolution, high-level diplomacy, and shadowy, extra-judicial violence—all coming together to trigger a sea-change in, of all things, international financial policy.


I like the book, OK? But I liked it more at the middle than at the end. As a writer, I find the unusual structure, it’s identity as something not quite a novel, intriguing, and as a reader I found its hope believable a refreshing. The thing is, if you tell me everything is going to be fine because everyone will suddenly start doing the right thing tomorrow, I won’t believe you. If you tell me things will be close to OK eventually because a disaster in India triggered both a series of revolutions and the formation of a shadowy organization willing to engage in violence, well, I’m listening.

It’s not that I advocate violence, exactly, it’s that I don’t think certain very powerful people are going to get with the program voluntarily out of the goodness of their hearts. I regard violence as one plausible way to cut through that impasse. It’s not the only possibility, but it might work.

But the father into the future the book gets, the more easily the successes seems to come, the more simplistic the descriptions become. The nitty-gritty wrestling of individual characters with various Gordian knots is more and more supplanted by broadly sweeping descriptions of how the implementation of some briefly-described new policy made all sorts of previously intractable problems just go away. Perhaps the new policy could do that, if given the chance, but that’s not how to make it believable or interesting.

Other plausibility problems also add up. OK, so a shadowy group in India starts assassinating badguys—and the badguys don’t do anything about this? Even supposing that the badguys can neither effectively protect themselves nor target and counter-attack their enemies, you’d think they’d use their power and influence to at least do something reactionary and stupid (“the people targeting us are based in India? Great! Let’s get somebody to go bomb India for us!”), but they never do. Or how come there is no mention of merely irritating weirdly severe weather? There’s the monstrously killer heatwave in the first chapter, a later mention of a similar disaster on a smaller scale, and otherwise the weather is mostly pleasant and entirely typical of wherever the scene in question happens to be set. And so on.

And for all the attention to detail on economic policy, culture, and geography, there are great blocks of other sorts of detail just simply overlooked. For example, the rather sudden transition away from fossil fuel for shipping at least initially results in much slower shipping speeds, but apparently without causing any problems because as long as shipments are sent frequently they also arrive frequently—their taking longer to get there doesn’t matter. What? Say that to the lettuce on grocery shelves in February.

No book can cover everything, of course, there is a limit to the number of rabbit holes one author can explore, and Ministry is long enough as it is, but at a certain point, such glossing-over becomes distracting.

As impressed as I am by the boldly experimental structure of Ministry for the Future, I wonder if perhaps Mr. Robinson set himself too high a bar. After all, had this been an ordinary novel, with politics and philosophy and so forth taking a back seat to the protagonists’ plot arc, then the reader could ignore errors or shortcomings in the politics, etc., just as I routinely ignore the basic plausibility problems in my beloved Star Trek. But Ministry doesn’t exactly have protagonists because its main characters don’t have plot arcs. The politics and so forth is foreground, not background—so it has to be right. And it’s not, not quite.

Overall, Ministry for the Future is a good book, but it’s an A- or a B+ that reads like it could have been, should have been, an A+.

It’s frustrating.


But it is fair to judge this book by how well I liked it? While Ministry should be, and is, an engaging and enjoyable (though far from light) read, Mr. Robinson clearly has an agenda. He’s trying to accomplish something with this book.

So what’s he trying to accomplish, and does he pull it off?

A Novel Proposal

Ministry could be seen as an attempt to make various policy proposals interesting by wrapping them in fiction. And indeed, the policies and plans and projects the characters enact are described in enough detail as to provide a rough but real idea of what they’re for and why they might work. And while it’s true that very few of these proposals can be acted on directly by the majority of readers, Ministry has made it into the hands of at least one person who could act on it, and may in fact be doing so now, quietly, for all I know—Barack Obama. He really liked Ministry for the Future.

But the book has two shortcomings as a proposal.

One is that Ministry includes no clue as to which parts are made up and which are not. I happen to know that a lot of it is quite real, but there are some very important areas that I just can’t assess, mostly to do with the cultures of India and Switzerland. Another reader might have a different list of things they know verses things they don’t. Although novels typically mix made-up and real elements, often without making clear which is which, a book truly attempting to inform and persuade can’t neglect that type of clarity. You can’t learn from someone if you don’t know which things they tell you are true.

The other problem is that Ministry frames targeted assassinations as a good idea.

Now, we don’t live in a pacifist society—very few people would actually agree that there should be no violence at all, ever. In suggesting that certain forms of violence might be necessary, Ministry is not far outside of widely-accepted norms. But there are passages in which it comes very close to calling for the deaths of specific, real people. The passages never call out such people by name, but do assert that the leadership of certain companies and organizations are guilty of genocide by their deliberate blocking of climate inaction, and therefore deserve to die. And while the individuals aren’t named, the companies and organizations are.

Within the story, these aren’t metaphors or speculations—characters say these things and then carry out targeted assassinations. And these killings, together with other, less-targeted attacks, are central to the story. What are we, the readers, supposed to make of these passages? They are food for thought, certainly, but to take them as anything else is very, very serious.

For a fictional character to assert that the leadership of, say, ExxonMobil deserve to die wouldn’t be all that remarkable, but for a policy proposal dressed up as fiction to say the same thing is very different.

We can assume that Mr. Robinson did not mean his book to be taken too close to heart.

A Note of Hope

Ministry for the Future could function as a proposal, but it has severe shortcomings if seen in that way.

But the book can also do something else—it can provide a note of hope.

The hour is very late, we face very powerful opposition, and at this point it’s hard to imagine a happy ending to any of this. More than a few people understand climate change is real but are doing nothing about it because, as they explain, they believe there is no longer anything to be done.

But Mr. Robinson has imagined a path to success—and while some of the details seem iffy, overall, it’s plausible.

That’s why the book begins with a disaster—Mr. Robinson is saying look, I get it, it’s bad. But we can still win anyway, if everyone who cares fights hard, wherever they are, however they can, whatever that ends up meaning as we go forward.

If that’s the objective, then the execution is uneven, at times self-indulgent, and certainly better at the beginning of the book than at its end.

But it works. I feel better. And out of all the books on climate change I’ve read and reviewed on this blog, this is the first one I can say that about.

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Do It

A photograph of a protest march, although the people are barely visible. Mostly what shows are home-made signs on sticks, but there are a lot of them, with a few hands and the tops of people's heads just barely in the shot. The sign in the middle of the frame is on red construction paper with the outline of a heart-symbol drawn in heavy, black marker on it, with the word, "love" written in cursive in the middle of the heart in black. It is not clear what the other signs say or what the protest is about.
Photo by Ben Mater on Unsplash

I’d like to put a bug in your ear.

As some of you know, it’s been bothering me for a long time that there aren’t climate marches anymore, at least not in the United States, where I live. I mean big, well-publicized marches in major cities that are designed to attract thousands of people.

What protests have occurred in recent years have been of two types.

There have been coordinated swarms of small, local protests, the idea being, I suppose, to get huge numbers of people involved all across the country–except the events are, individually, too small to make the news or to otherwise gather any attention at all. I’ve been to several, and they feel pointless. I suspect they are pointless, which is why there haven’t been any lately.

There have also been outbreaks of street theater, thanks to groups such as Extinction Rebellion and the Sunrise movement, but these are also localized and get no media coverage–and since they are more or less designed to get participants arrested, there is a limit to who can afford to get involved. Although such tactics have gotten some real traction in Europe and perhaps other places, they don’t seem effective in the United States.

Were the big marches effective?

I don’t know, but they may have. There is evidence that large protests can have indirect effects by acting as rallies and networking opportunities around a cause. More directly, then-President Obama did become more of a climate hawk towards the end of his tenure, when there were a lot of such marches, and PBS Newshour started covering climate issues without bringing climate deniers on air for “balance,” and important shift. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not.

And I just watched an American Experience, “The Movement and the Madman,” that showed how two Vietnam-era anti-war protests had an effect far beyond what was visible to the public at the time. After all, the President publicly stated that he was ignoring and would continue to ignore the anti-war movement, and it must have seemed like he was doing just that. The war didn’t end for another six years, not until after President Nixon resigned partway through his second term. That his championing of the war didn’t cost him the election must have seemed very disheartening to the protestors. And yet, we now know that President Nixon was seriously considering escalating the war and had an escalation plan that included the option to use nuclear weapons. The main reason he didn’t was those two protests.

So protests can make a difference, and they can make a huge difference even when they seem not to.

so why aren’t we protesting?

Let’s put that question anther way: why don’t we protest? This coming Friday, say?


So this is the bug I’m putting in your ear–go protest. Go by yourself, if need be.

Get a big sign and write CLIMATE! or some similar thing, on it, and go wave that sign in some publicly visible place for at least an hour this week. See what happens.

Do it again the next week, and the next. See if you can convince other people to join in, either by standing with you or at their own place and time. Post to social media that you’re doing this. Tell people. Make it go viral. Maybe something will come of it. After all, Greta Thunberg started by herself.

I’m doing it. I’ve decided. I’m getting a sign. Weather permitting, I’ll go wave my sign on Friday, since Fridays have already been a designated day for climate protests for a while, now. If weather is a problem, I’ll do it a different day.

This won’t likely go viral because I wave my sign, though. What I do tends not to catch on–I am not “contagious,” so to speak. But maybe YOU can make it catch on. Maybe you’re the seed that will sprout.

I really only need one to get this going.

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Looking to Easter

Hi, all,

Next week will be the week before Easter Sunday, and I hope to have time to do an in-depth post then, so instead I’m reposting this now–it’s a slightly editing version of something I first posted some years ago.

Be bullet-proof.


Easter is the commemoration of the death of a political prisoner at the hands of the State. I’ve always found the thought of Jesus-as-activist much more intriguing than the possibility of His resurrection–which might be because I’m not Christian, but I know dedicated Christians who seem to feel the same way. It’s a fact that being a good person can be dangerous. It’s also true that we keep having good people anyway.

I’ve decided to honor the incontrovertible miracle of bravery in the face of persecution by acknowledging climate change martyrs–scientists who are being harassed, even threatened, because of their work on climate. Some may be murdered, if the problem persists. They keep working.

The harassment goes back to the mid-1990’s, but has been increasing in recent years. Examples taken from the various articles I read for this piece (and have linked to) include: threats to “see to it” that a scientist would be fired; vague threats on a scientist’s children’s safety; the deposit of a dead rat on a scientist’s doorstep; the display of a noose by an audience member during a public talk by a climate scientist; and multiple, spurious accusations of fraud or other wrongdoing on the part of climate scientists.

That last may seem less frightening than the physical threats, but it’s actually much more sinister. After all, it is illegal to physically attack someone, so the chance of anyone actually making good on a death threat are very low–but it is not illegal to file so many Freedom of Information Act requests or legal challenges over the use of government money that the target cannot conduct research.

Some researchers are becoming afraid to speak out on climate change, sometimes asking that their names not be associated with their work. Others labor on behind locks that have been changed and phone numbers that have been de-listed. This is happening.

Curiously, the problem is largely American. Australian climate scientists have also been harassed, but not on the scale of what their American counterparts have had to deal with. And while Canada has had a serious problem with high-level climate denial in the past, it never bubbled over into organized harassment of scientists. Britain and continental Europe and Japan have seen little of the problem, although scientists there are very concerned for their American and Australian colleagues. Climate-denial in general is specific to the English-speaking world, at least in part because organized climate denial is propagated largely by American organizations–that speak English. That the United States is at the center of the problem should, perhaps, not be much of a surprise. After all, the United States is key to global climate action–without American leadership, meaningful emissions reduction is unlikely to happen. With American leadership, we have a chance. And since the only way to accomplish meaningful emissions reduction is to stop burning fossil fuel, if I owned a boatload of stock in the fossil fuel industries and had no conscience whatsoever, I’d try to take out American interest in climate. Wouldn’t you? And, clearly, attacking American climate scientists is part of that effort.

The recent rise in harassment dates to over ten years ago, when two events occurred in quick succession: the release of the 2007 IPCC Report, which seemed on the verge of triggering meaningful climate action in the United States; and the election of a black man as President of the United States. The latter made possible the rise of the Tea Party, a movement that is demonstrably fueled by racist resentment rather than ideological concerns about government and yet is funded by the Koch brothers (plus Rupert Murdock), oilmen whose personal racism (do an internet search on “are the Kochs racist?”) is obviously less important than their investment in preventing climate action–they also fund the Heartland Institute, which is a major driver of American climate denial.

That the American version of hostility to climate action became deeply enmeshed with suspicion of government over-reach at the same time that the government was headed by a black man may not be a complete coincidence.

I do not raise the specter of racism simply to discredit climate deniers, but rather to suggest a mechanism whereby American conservative populism may have been hijacked and made to serve an anti-environmentalist agenda.

Some attacks on climate scientists–and by “attacks” I mean everything from threats to legal action to deliberate bureaucratic nonsense–have been perpetrated by individuals, others by organized climate-denier groups. Some of the most frightening, to me, anyway, come from government officials, including Lamar Smith, the (now former) Chair of the Science Committee of the US House of Representatives, and (now former) Virginia Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli.

Scientists themselves are not passive before all of this, and are fighting back, both individually and collectively. The Union of Concerned Scientists particularly is taking action, but needs money, and possibly other support. They need money with which to fight spurious lawsuits and stave off equally spurious bureaucratic demands which, together, might otherwise stop American climate scientists from working. I’m posting a link to their request again, here. Please support them.

Silencing inconvenient people is not an American thing to do–and when it happens anyway, the American thing to do is to stand up and do something about it.

I chose “Ideas Are Bullet-proof” as title for the original version of this post. It’s a quote from the movie, V for Vendetta. The bad-guy has the hero riddled with bullets, and yet the hero does not fall but ultimately triggers the fall of the corrupt and authoritarian government–because while the hero is not personally immortal, ideas cannot be murdered. I had occasion to remember the quote recently–a friend of mine, a political organizer and activist and a deeply religious man, wrote something on Facebook that, knowing him as I do, reminded me of the ultimate futility of trying to erase ideas by attacking inconvenient people.

I have just asked his permission to share his post with you:

A few minutes before Easter. I love this annual celebration of the underlying reality that empires can’t kill the Spirit, and that a spiritual wholeness is resurrected every time we take loving and wise action in the world around us. I see the life of Jesus as one of the most powerful patterns and examples of radical faithfulness. Miracles continue to happen. Blessed be.

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Happy Anniversary

The day before yesterday was my wedding anniversary. I’m very pleased about this. I find that the longer I am married, the more I like it. Newlyweds, take note.

But I’ve just discovered we are very close to the anniversary of this blog–none years and two weeks ago, I made the first post.

Of course, that’s only this blog, with its current address. I’d started writing posts originally on someone else’s blog, in 2012. Eventually I offered to start a new blog for him (I forget why), and he agreed. I used the name of his original blog and website, The Climate Emergency. After all, I was working for him, albeit as a volunteer. After some months of that, he complained to me that search engines were mistaking my blog for his, so would I please change the name of mine? I was confused, as I’d thought my blog WAS his, but evidently is wasn’t anymore. So I started this blog, The Climate in Emergency, and gradually moved my older material over, posting my work from the earlier two iterations here as re-posts. So really I’ve been at this for 11 years, and I don’t remember what time of year it started. In the fall, maybe?

Maybe all that can be considered the engagement period, since we’re talking about anniversaries.

A lot has happened in nine–or eleven–years, personally, professionally, and globally. I’ve written a lot of posts. And yet the fundamental thing that needs to change has not.

It’s hard not to get discouraged.