Bearing Witness to Climate Change October 2022

Bearing Witness to Climate Change provides a monthly summary of news related to the changing climate and its impact on people and the planet.

At the start of the month, category 4 Hurricane Ian struck the southeast Florida coast killing over 100 and inflicting over $50B of damages in a devastating path of destruction. Like in many other extreme weather events, most of those who died were old, disabled, retired, or poor and unable to move fast enough to avoid the carnage. Millions across the state were left without power, water, cell phone coverage, and navigable roads for days. Hospitals and nursing homes seemed unprepared for a changing climate of more extreme storms as many evacuated patients after, not before, the storm’s record surge and flooding.

Ian may become the most visible sanity test of whether low-lying communities will rebuild where they were, in denial of climate change, or make smarter choices. Unfortunately, many conservative climate deniers refuse to admit climate change is real and only talk about rebuilding. However, insurance companies and financial markets may have the last word as building costs and insurance premiums becomes progressively more expensive. Read More

Bearing Witness to the Pandemic October 2022

More things continue to return to normal across the US, almost as if the pandemic never happened. That is with the exception of economic pain from a raging inflation that owes its origins to disruptions during the pandemic.

But things are definitely not back to normal elsewhere. China continues to believe in and enforce a no-Covid policy with a mass testing strategy. Street-side testing booths are located all across major cities to provide weekly testing for residents.  Some jobs and cities require testing every 72 hours. Read More

Bearing Witness to Climate Change September 2022

It’s official but little surprise to Europeans who suffered through the past three months, Europe just had its hottest summer on record according to data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service. The last record stood for only one year, from 2021. How tragic that now the warming continent is now worried about surviving a cold winter due to the worsening energy crisis brought on by a shortage in fossil fuels which contributed to the record summer heat.

King Charles III has ascended to the British throne after the death of Queen Elizabeth. Charles is now the most outspoken global leader who has not been hesitant to talk about climate change dating back to the 1970s. In his opening remarks to the last UN Climate Change Conference, Prince Charles at the time called for a warlike effort to combat climate change, saying that time was running out. Read More

Bearing Witness to the Pandemic September 2022

Another month begins with nearly 100,000 officially recorded new cases per day and around 500 deaths, numbers that just show no sign of abating.

Many Americans it seems have become desensitized to the continuing spread of coronavirus, illness, and deaths.  Less than 30% of adults now consider COVID a great risk or wear masks when in public. Read More

Americans Across the Heartland are Exhausted and Dejected

Americans across the heartland, on both ends of the political spectrum, are exhausted and feeling dejected for good reason.

In our public lives we have or are living through one big life-altering crisis after another: the turmoil and divisiveness of the Trump presidency, the illness and death of the Coronavirus public-health emergency, and the financial hardships during and after the pandemic.

Then there are the slow-moving crises of weekly weather-related disasters, failing public infrastructures, anxiety over an impending recession, the decline of civility, chaos at the border, erosion of democratic norms, mass shootings, falling life expectancies, extremists on the right and left, and disruptions due to climate change and the need to decarbonize energy. Read More

Bearing Witness to Climate Change August 2022

Along party lines, the US House and Senate passed, and President Biden signed, the most significant and ambitious legislation to date to move the country to a low-carbon future. The bill provides over $370B towards a large number of green energy programs that include: tax credits for purchasing new and used EVs produced in the US, methane emissions penalties, financing for alternative energy programs like hydrogen, tax credits to keep existing nuclear power plants from closing, support to reduce agricultural emissions and capture carbon, help for factories that produce materials used in alternative energy, help for states and local governments to deploy clean energy technologies, and aid for low-income and disadvantaged communities impacted the most by extreme weather and a changing climate. Here’s a closer look at everything that is in the inflation Reduction Act which rightfully should be called the Emissions Reduction Act. Read More

Bearing Witness to the Pandemic August 2022

As the month begins, the US continues to be stuck in a plateau of about 400 COVID deaths each and every day. Some 12,500 died in the month of July.  Approaching 2 1/2 years into the pandemic, there have now been about 1,030,000 official deaths in the US and an estimated 6,420,000 across the globe.

More research confirms that COVID struck people of color the hardest, especially in rural America. In the early months of the pandemic, Hispanic and Black Americans died at 2-3 times the rate of White Americans. Many reasons have been cited: the lack of health care providers and hospitals in rural communities, misinformation and denialism, far lower vaccination rates, higher levels of obesity and other comorbidities, and more dangerous lower- income jobs that put them at higher risk of infection. Read More

Bearing Witness to Climate Change July 2022

In what President Biden called a devastating opinion, the US Supreme Court ruled against the EPA by restricting its power to regulate CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants in a way that would result in their closing. The court said the agency did not have the authority to transform the nation’s power grid away from coal. Instead, it ruled that Congress must first delegate that specific authority to the agency, which of course SCOTUS knows very well won’t happen in the current dysfunctional Congress.

The EPA responded by saying there were other paths to accomplish the mission of cutting emissions by half this decade. The ruling also means that individual states and cities will have to do more to decarbonize electricity production for their own residents and businesses. Thankfully, many states like California, New York and Washington are rising to the challenge.  To meet GHG goals, the court’s decision will ultimately place more burden on the private sector to accelerate electrification and decarbonization of their operations and products. Read More

Bearing Witness to the Pandemic July 2022

Global health experts estimate that vaccines have saved the lives of nearly 20 million people around the world with 2 million of these in the US. Officially, there have been 6.3 million deaths due to the virus, which many officials think is a gross underestimate.

The BA.5 variant continues to spread around the world and has become dominant in the US, resulting in the majority of new infections. As a result, officials are considering expanding eligibility for a second booster to adults younger than 50.  However, only about a quarter of seniors have taken advantage of a second booster, which would be their fourth shot. The good news is that the variant does not appear to cause serious illness in the vaccinated or to be any more deadly. Read More

Bearing Witness to Climate Change June 2022

The US set an all-time record during the 1Q of the year for renewable energy generation with nearly 250K GW-hours of power, over 23% of total US electricity. Power from solar, wind, and hydroelectric were all up by substantial amounts. Coal-fired power was down, due to plant closures, but another fossil fuel, natural gas, was up at 35% total electricity. Of the 120 new power plants coming online, about 3/4 of them were new wind and solar. Total energy from carbon-free sources, including nuclear, provided 42% of electricity generated during the quarter. Read More