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DARA International, representing 20 nations, has released a new report on climate change estimating 6 million annual deaths and 3.2% of GDP lost from climate change by 2030. The news is lighting up with reports about this study, some critiquing it as alarmist, some welcoming it as speaking truth. Granted, these numbers seem pretty outrageous, but the numbers are not the most important part of this report. What'€™s most important is the general relationship of impacts to each other, the approximate magnitude of those impacts, and what those two things mean for global health.

Let's talk a bit about models like the one used to create this report. Models don'€™t predict the future, and they don'€™t purport to. What they do show us is a potential, even likely, future given the set of assumptions the model uses. Model operators are looking to put in the assumptions that best describe the system (the earth, the economy, etc), in order to get the most informative results. What is important and useful is when multiple groups independently develop and run models trying to capture the same phenomena. Where the results of all (or most) models agree is where you can have the most certainty in the impact or change being described.

Methodology certainly still matters, and the report comes with a 100 page document detailing their methods. I have not been through all of it yet, but everything I have seen so far indicates the authors knew what they were doing. This study in particular was a fingerprint study —€“ a study that attempts to assign causal factors to incidents already in progress by determining deviation from a baseline and accounting for other variables. These are incredibly helpful in parsing out where climate change is already happening and validating past predictions.

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Originally posted at BrightSpot Social

I recently wrote about why consumer behavior matters in response to Annie Leonard’s piece on why good citizens are more important than good consumers. Without rehashing that piece, I argued that good consumers help change our consumption culture and invest in sustainability, and that’s exactly what we need to get to a sustainable society.

To be frank, despite all of our “eco-consciousness,” we’re actually not doing very well in our pursuit of sustainability. I argue that this is, in large part, due to our reluctance – and in most cases, near inability – to consume less, even while we succeed in efficiency by making each thing we consume less damaging. A good case for this is California, where legislation has regularly increased our energy efficiency requirements for appliances. They have been very successful, but energy usage per capita has remained approximately constant – it hasn’t decreased – for the last few decades (compared with rapid growth in the rest of the U.S.). The laws met their purpose, but we have filled in our savings with increased usage in other areas. That is, we increased consumption, even as we reduced the damage of consumption. This savings is still quite good compared to where we could be, but we need to reduce our impact much further if we hope to meet our social and environmental goals.

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Originally posted at Next New Deal

Individual action alone won't solve our environmental problems, but neither will giving up on responsible consumer habits.

"Story of Stuff" creator Annie Leonard has posted a new video, titled "The Story of Change," in which she argues that it's not responsible consumers but good citizens – those who vote, participate, take action, and generally show up – who create environmental change. The video is quite good, but I disagree that one is better than the other. In fact, for us to get the changes we need, we’d do best to vote with both our dollars and our ballots. Leonard says as much, but the video and her recent piece in the New York Times’"Room for Debate" series send a mixed message that discourages individual-level action. The argument environmentalists should be making loud and clear is that we must have good individual consumption habits and civic participation if we hope to succeed.

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I’ll save you the trouble of reading everything and do this quickly: Is Byron Dorgan likely to vote yes for the bill? No. For cloture? Possibly. Do we really need him? Absolutely.

Byron Dorgan is a moderate Democrat from North Dakota, which is, on the whole, more conservative than he is. He is nearing the end of his third term as a Senator, which is likely pushing him to think about his actions in the frame of the election he will soon be facing – though he won each of his three previous elections with sizable margins.

Unless you are particularly active in the political arena, you may not have heard of Dorgan. But make no mistake, he is one of the most important Senators in this fight right now, and he has not been positioning himself to vote for CEJAPA, or any other bill that comes along with a cap and trade component. In fact, in 2008, Dorgan was one of only four Democrats to vote against cloture for the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act. Still, he is not our enemy, and is a potential ally if he can be convinced that the market solution is the middle ground and that speculation can be controlled.

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It's no secret that climate change action has its detractors. The media, in a somewhat misguided attempt to provide balanced reporting, covers denier lies and inactivist talking points as if they are facts and productive action. From firsthand work in attempting to get a climate bill passed, I have increasingly felt that the debate has shifted from a continuum of positions into two distinct camps of "do something" and "do nothing." The do nothing crowd has it easy. Their primary job is to say "no" to everything that comes across the table, and they have become very good at doing just that and mobilizing their base to do that as well. They have lost their credibility through fraud campaigns, outright lies, and general deception.

But they're not what this diary is about.

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Fri Sep 09, 2005 at 06:10 PM PDT

Katrina = Climate Change

by UltraAyla

Though it has been heavily talked about, I thought I should say a little bit about recent events. I'm sure I'm biased to think this way, but through every moment of this, I not only wonder why this wasn't prevented, but why nobody has said "meep" about Katrina's relation to climate change and global warming - at least nobody has written anything I've read, and I read a fair amount of sources. The media has avoided it, and the administration has, of course, avoided it as well.

What surprises me though is that the media has come quite close, but never touched on it. I hear everywhere that we've already had twice as many tropical depressions as last year at this point, and that the New Orlean's levies were built to withstand a one in 250 year storm. Maybe 250 years ago Katrina was a one in 250 year storm, but now we should, sadly, expect to see it commonplace, and I would not be surprised by the devastation along the gulf coast should another "Katrina" come along this season.

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