Climate Addendum

February 6, 2019

BW photograph of the Hurricane Jose's flooding of Bethany Beach.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This is an addendum to the previous post.

Tuesday night, the president made no mention of climate change in the State of the Union Address-here is a transcript.  (This version has also been fact-checked by the reporters at NPR.)  There certainly has been talk about declaring a “national emergency” (although that also was not in the speech) in order to fund border security.  That term, “national emergency”, which does trigger some presidential power, has not been used for climate change by the president.  One should also not expect that to happen.

In light of that, this headline (and article) would certainly make a different argument.  One issue, and I am not a legal scholar, is that climate change is not an unforeseen problem:  it is a well-known entity, but one that is denied or minimized in a variety of ways or flat-out ignored.  Therefore, the term “emergency” may not apply as per the National Emergencies Act-this report provides an overview of the Act and the political ramifications involved with its invocation-specifically as the president has threatened its use.

BW photograph of the Hurricane Jose's flooding of Bethany Beach.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This is the link to Mr. Balog’s interview about the new documentary The Human Element, which was mentioned in the previous post.  It is well worth a listen as there is much to be said about the political conflicts that arise with climate change.  Mr. Balog describes the movie as operating of the premise that humans are as elemental as the Earth, fire, water, and wind.  As Mr. Balog states, “We are in nature.”  I think he also very nicely sums up this issue when he says “Climate protection equals people protection.”  To further that point, please read this report.  Himalayan glaciers are theorized  to be responding in much than same manner as arctic ice as a result of climate change.

BW photograph of Detour with Double Pipe Creek flooding its banks onto a road.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It must be understood that climate change does not respect borders or boundaries-there are no walls to build, unless one talks about adaptation efforts to control rising seas.  (Importantly, Mr. Balog does provide an example of that type of wall in the interview.)  From a climate standpoint, what the United States does or doesn’t do impacts the Maldives.  What China does or doesn’t do impacts Tangier Island.  This is truly a global issue wherein some already are paying a terrible price.  For others, that time is yet to come.  Some may have the resources to insulate themselves.  For a little while longer.

Make no mistake-climate change does not disappear simply by ignoring it.

Take care.

P.S.  I know there are a lot of links in this post.  I suppose the entirety of what is written and linked here is very much summarized in the first and last sentences.  The evidence, though, is important-particularly for the political context in which this is written.



February 5, 2019

BW photograph of a neuron-shaped break in an ice-covered creek.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It was 73 degrees in Washington, D.C. today.  That set a record.

Tomorrow (February 6) on NPR’s Fresh Air, Mr. James Balog is to be interviewed regarding his new documentary, which is entitled The Human Element.  Along with Chasing Ice, Mr. Balog has used his prodigious photographic skills to create images of the environmental consequences of climate change-he remains a voice critical to the need for intervention in the processes that are driving the heating of the planet.

Congressional Democrats are “holding two climate-related hearings” tomorrow as well.  It is helpful to listen to that NPR report for its summary of the political perspective by which the U.S. has addressed this issue recently, and for how the political climate regarding climate change looks going forward.

While politicians talk, NOAA has published the data, and it is not pretty.  It does, however, continue to demand attention.  I usually say “time will tell” as to the outcome of issues.  The key here, though, is that time is running out.

As an aside, it will be interesting to see if climate change is mentioned in the State of the Union speech tonight.  The degree to which that happens will give a sense as to the priority this issue has received.

Take care.


Not Spring

January 17, 2019

BW photograph of trees after a snow storm.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

I have written before about the migratory habits of robins, and that info is also readily available online.  This article is from 2013, but the comments about the warming of winters and availability of food drawing robins northward is quite applicable in 2019.

Yesterday, a local holly tree was quite literally inundated by robins in search of food-the berries were the attraction.  (Photographer’s Note:  the above are not holly trees, and I have no photographs of the robins.  The above photograph, though, was made yesterday and does document the conditions that follow.)  The ground here is still covered in snow, and frozen as an aside.  To make this worse for the robins, we are due for 1-3 more inches of snow tonight into tomorrow, and then a “wintry mix” of snow, sleet, and freezing rain for the weekend.  To cap that, nighttime temperatures are to be in the low single digits as the weekend itself ends.  In other words, this is not spring.  While this article is a bit dated, it does explain the fundamental impact of climate change (and other environmental issues) on bird migration and is therefore worth a read.

Robins in particular, and birds in general, are not the only species at risk.  This article by Bill McKibben discusses, in no uncertain terms, the current and future complications for humans as the planet warms.

Given that this post ended up covering food, climate change, and species adaptation, this piece from the BBC about the flexitarian diet is apt-there is more about the connect between diet and climate change here.  Truth in disclosure, I am vegetarian and have been for decades-a decision made long before I became aware of the interaction between diet and climate change.  My concern then was about the use of hormones and antibiotics and the general conditions produced by industrialized agriculture, which, by the way, has spread to aquaculture.  From where food comes and the method by which it is transported are yet other issues for consideration.

My goal here is not to preach.  My desire is to present scientific information for serious consideration as there is much still under our human control.  What we choose to eat can be one of those factors.  I say “can” for a reason:  those living in food deserts often have a very limited choice of what is available and affordable-that is another issue.

It is also painful to see robins at this time of year.

Take care.

Record High

January 10, 2019

BW photograph of a downed tree bleached by the weather.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

2018 set the record for CO2 emissions.

We are now a bit more than a week into 2019, and there is enough going on nationally and globally to draw attention away from climate change.  Indeed, reading a 401(k) statement or a stack of bills without a paycheck to balance them is enough to focus one’s attention on the immediate.  That is understandable.

Meanwhile, the ice is melting…which sets the stage for even more hardship.  It can be difficult for some to visualize and appreciate the impact of rising seas and volatile weather and that accentuates this predicament.  In that sense, climate change is nowhere near as tangible as the rent being due.  However, for those in 2018 affected by the consequences of rising greenhouse gas emissions (locally, nationally, and globally), the current political/financial turmoil in the U.S. that decimate savings or liquidity underlines the stress and loss.

Will emissions again break the record in 2019?  That will hinge on the manner by which countries continue to abide by their Paris commitments.  Even if the U.S. government continues with the pull-out of the process, individual persons and state governments, like California, for example, can continue to exert downward pressure on emissions via lifestyle modifications.

Focus and the will to do so are required.

Take care.

2019 Begins

January 2, 2019

BW photograph of the NPS closure notice about the "lapse in federal appropriations".

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

More than a few people most likely awoke with a bit of a hangover yesterday morning to greet the year.  That is an unpleasant way to start this new beginning.  On a much larger, and considerably more important, scale, the federal government continued its shutdown, which goes well beyond the short-term effects of a headache.  Hundreds of thousands of federal employees ended last year and began the new with furloughs or are working without being paid.  The effects are not limited to federal employees as per this report.  Indeed, after making the above photograph, a gentleman approached and asked if the rest rooms were open-they were not.  Fortunately, there was a port-a-pot a mile or so up the road.  As per that linked report, some in the national parks are doing their business (which is itself a euphemism for relieving themselves) elsewhere because visiting centers are closed due to the “insufficient appropriations”.

That is, perhaps, an effective metaphor: without an appropriate, functional outlet, excrement spreads.  That, in turn, creates many other problems down the road.

A briefing is being held today to take stock of the entrenched positions regarding governmental funding.  Democrats officially take charge of the House tomorrow.

Take care.

UPDATE:  NPR’s 1A aired this program on the government shutdown on 1/3/19-it is worth a listen.

More Rain

December 28, 2018

BW photograph looking out over traffic on a rainy evening from a sixth floor hotel window.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The mountains in the Pacific Northwest have had quite a bit of snowfall recently.  Meanwhile, here in the Mid-Atlantic, it has been another deluge of rain.  It started raining last evening…

BW photograph looking out over traffic on a rainy evening from a sixth floor hotel window.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

and continued well into the day before a period of relative dryness appeared.

BW photograph of another flood of Morgan Run.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

During that brief spell, a trip to check Morgan Run made sense.  The water level appeared to have exceeded its banks for the umpteenth (an imprecise term) time this year.

BW photograph of exposed roots from the recent flooding of Morgan Run.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

BW photograph of a view from the road of a flooded Morgan Run.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It was clear that these photographs were made after the high water mark for this particular event had been reached.  However, it had begun to rain again as I was leaving.

In the spirit of gratitude, it was nice that the temperature was in the 50s, so this was not snow.  Even though this is the end of December, I am still not ready for that kind of snowfall.

On the other hand, this is the opposite of both the amount of rain and snow experienced in other parts of the country.  Indeed, it is imperative that one understand the complexity of the cultural, economic, environmental, political, and social aspects of weather (in the short-term) and climate change (in the much longer term).  With respect to the latter, one must also remember that as the planet warms overall, different geographic areas will experience differing effects:  some will indeed warm and dry out-others will become cooler and wetter.

And in related news, as per this report, the same socio-economic factors listed above come into play with the issue of “mercury and other toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants…” the regulations on which are now under review by the EPA.  This is in keeping with efforts to revise the regulations on CO2 emissions, which are also summarized in the report.  It appears clear that longer-term thinking is not at work here.

Take care.


December 19, 2018

BW photograph of a boot print frozen in mud.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This past weekend in Katowice, Poland, representatives reached an agreement on the rules to actually implement the Paris Climate Accord, as per this article in The New York Times and this report from NPR.

The climate agreement is important, especially since CO2 emissions rose again in 2018.  As per that report, some of this is accounted for by changes in the economies of China and India.  However, the U.S. continues to play a significant role-the love affair with SUVs, for example, is mentioned.  It must also be understood that under the current administration, the U.S. remains a chief proponent for the continued use of fossil fuels, which create said emissions.  As an aside, that second linked article highlights the distinction and significance of word choice as a central point in the history of the U.N. climate negotiations.

Coincidentally, residents have also been allowed to return to Paradise, CA following the destruction brought about by the Camp Fire.  That fire was the largest (so far) in California’s history.  Here is the connection:  climate change leads to drought, which in turn leads to the drying out of trees and ground covers and thus increases the likelihood of such wildfires.  Subsequently, the carbon released into the atmosphere by these conflagrations is yet another driver of climate change due to its contribution to the melting of Arctic ice sheets, as reported hereDr. Jason Box studies this interaction.

BW photograph of a fallen oak leaf covered with frost.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Meanwhile, it was again in the 20s at sunrise and, given the recent rain, made for a quite frosty morning.  As the day progressed, the sun warmed the temperature into the 40s.  The forecast for the end of the week has temperatures in the 60s with a great deal more rain.  This represents quite a fluctuation-these days the weather seems to match the stock market for such volatility.

Take care.