Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Getting hot about global warming

I love the look of old barns like the one in the top photo. I also know that, if neglected long enough, a barn will collapse and end up like the one in the bottom photo.

scenic old barn
scenic old barn             © harrington
collapsed old barn
collapsed old barn         © harrington

I think we've been neglecting the reality of global warming and its effects on Minnesota for long enough. Here's why:

According to Paul Douglas, we've just gone through "The wettest June since 1874..." Today's Star Tribune reports that "Waterlogged fields wash out Minnesota corn, soybean crops" leaving farmers with few options. Connect those dots with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's (MPCA) 2013 report to the legislature that noted:
A significant reduction in GHG emissions is seen in 2009. The financial crisis led to a contraction of economic production, which had the effect of reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. With economic recovery, emissions rose in 2010.
I hope we're not stuck with a strategy of repeated recessions (economic washouts) as our primary response to greenhouse gas reductions. Unfortunately, the Star Tribune recently touted that "Minnesota leads in reducing emissions" in reference to the Obama Administration's efforts to reduce greenhouse gases from burning coal. The editorial went on to congratulate Minnesota on how well we are going to respond to a 2025 goal. 
I can only assume that the Star Tribune didn't feel a need to fact check for an opinion piece. My interpretation of the graph below (from the 2013 report) leads me to believe we're in the proverbial "world of hurt" when it comes to meeting our own 2015 (next year-15%) and 2025 (30%) GHG reduction goals from the 2005 base. The line from the Smokey and the Bandit theme comes to mind. Something about "a long ways to go and a short time to get there."

As long as I'm raising concerns and being snarky about how seriously Minnesota appears to be responding to the challenge of reporting on and adapting to global warming's effects, I might as well highlight that the same MPCA report that contained the above graph, also contained a statement that
"In the past, this report included both a greenhouse gas emissions reduction progress report per subdivision 3 and a discussion of legislative proposals to achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions per subdivision 4. Minnesota Statute §216H.07 subdivision 4 was repealed in 2012."
Now the report doesn't say, and I don't know, why the subdivision requiring MPCA to report on a discussion of legislative proposals to achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions was repealed, but, at face value, it seems about as foresighted as North Carolina's legislative prohibition on considering sea level rises associated with climate change. 
If the Star Tribune Editorial Board wants to engage in simple boosterism, and Minnesota's legislature wants to be peered with North Carolina's, that's up to them. I happen to believe we deserve better and so do our children and grandchildren. I don't believe global warming is something we can let future generations solve while we concentrate on this quarter's profits and getting reelected. It's here, it's now and it's going to take a lot of hard work to adapt. Some of that work is already being done and is reported on here. It would, it seems to me, behoove us to pay more attention to what remains to be done, instead of spending much time on our laurels congratulating ourselves on our leadership and what we've already done. We don't need to get a prize for rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic faster than anyone else. (I probably should have read Jane Kenyon's poem before I wrote today's posting, but I've had enough water for now.)

Portrait of a Figure near Water

By Jane Kenyon 
Rebuked, she turned and ran
uphill to the barn. Anger, the inner   
arsonist, held a match to her brain.   
She observed her life: against her will   
it survived the unwavering flame.

The barn was empty of animals.   
Only a swallow tilted
near the beams, and bats
hung from the rafters
the roof sagged between.

Her breath became steady
where, years past, the farmer cooled   
the big tin amphoræ of milk.
The stone trough was still
filled with water: she watched it   
and received its calm.

So it is when we retreat in anger:   
we think we burn alone
and there is no balm.
Then water enters, though it makes   
no sound. 

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