Bearing Witness to the Pandemic November 2021

The month starts with the official global death toll from COVID-19 surpassing 5 million from an estimated 250 million cases. However, most public health experts advise this number is way undercounted. One reason that experts feel the numbers are underreported is the example of Tanzania. Their president who had denied COVID claiming the country was free of it, then died from it himself, but had refused to collect data on the infected and dead.

Deaths in the US have now exceeded 750,000, the most of any one nation. The story of how the most prosperous and what should have been the most prepared nation on Earth fell so hard is still being unfolding. Read More

Bearing Witness to Climate Change November 2021

As part of COP26 UN Climate Summit, more than three dozen countries announced they would phase out the use of coal for power generation. Nearly two dozen nations added their names with new pledges. Unfortunately, the largest coal users and exporters, China, US, and Australia, were not part of the agreement. Scientists warn that to limit global warming, industrialized countries would need to replace nearly all of their coal, oil, and natural gas power plants with renewables by 2035.

The US, along with 20 other countries, did agree to end financing for new international fossil fuel projects. This could result in $18B of investment being diverted to renewables. But again China, along with Japan and South Korea, abstained from participating. Read More

Bearing Witness to Climate Change October 2021

A global trio of climate research scientists have won the Nobel Prize in Physics this year. The most notable is Dr. Syukuro Manabe who as far back as 1967 developed a model of the link between CO2 in the atmosphere and warming. Yes, we have now had over 50 years of warning from scientists that we failed to take seriously.

Last month China, the world’s largest GHG emitter, announced it would stop funding the construction of new coal-fired power plants around the world. That is with the exception of in their own country. China is reported to be on the path to add another 250 GW of new coal energy from plants already planned or under construction. That said, China is also the world’s leader in hydroelectric, wind, and solar power. The biggest driver for new energy in the country comes from a huge concrete and steel industry to support massive building across the booming economy. This industry is said to account for 7% of total global emissions. Read More

Bearing Witness to the Pandemic October 2021

The month starts with the nation passing 700,000 deaths from COVID. And tragically, a public health expert suggested that nearly 100,000 of these fatalities occurred after vaccines were widely available. Daily death rates are still near 2,000 but falling now that the 4th Delta wave is receding. Nearly all of those who are hospitalized and dying are unvaccinated. Sad. Very sad.

Some 46 million Americans have now been infected by the Coronavirus. The US still leads the world in cumulative deaths and deaths per million of population. Around the world nearly 5 million are reported to have died with COVID from over 250 million cases. But in good news, India has administered more than 1 billion doses, an amazing accomplishment. However, still less than one-third of India’s adult population is fully vaccinated. Read More

Bearing Witness to the Pandemic September 2021

As the month begins the US passes 40 million confirmed cases with 650,000 deaths. Experts predict we will end the year with fatalities topping 750,000 from the start of the pandemic. Who could have predicted or even imagined these grim numbers when all this started in early 2020? Members of former President Trump’s COVID task force had estimated that 100,000-240,000 citizens might eventually die. The final numbers may be an order of magnitude higher.

The US is averaging about 150,000 new cases a day early in the month. The average daily death rate continues to rise from the 4th wave due to the Delta variant, or more accurately due to the unvaccinated which allowed it to get rolling. The death toll hit 1,500 per day with most of these in the unvaccinated South. The state of Florida experienced an average of 325 per day from nearly 20,000 new infections, all while its Governor DeSantis continues to rage against school boards and mayors. In some parts of the state, only 1 in 3 residents are fully vaccinated and 90% of those hospitalized from COVID are unvaccinated.

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Bearing Witness to Climate Change September 2021

At the end of last month, Hurricane Ida became the 4th strongest storm to strike the US gulf coast where it left widespread flooding, damages, and over a million without power or drinking water for days. But the surprise was the disaster the storm left behind in the northeast of the country. Dozens died in flash flooding across New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.  Three inches of rain fell in NYC in less than an hour, flooding subway lines and trapping families in basement apartments where some sadly died. Over 10 inches fell in other locales in less than a day, breaking all-time records.

Climate scientists have long predicted that with a warming atmosphere storms would dump extreme rainfall amounts. The US National Climate Assessment says that the strongest storms in the Northeast now produce over 50% more rainfall than they did last century.  For every 1 degree C the atmosphere holds about 7% more water vapor. Read More

Bearing Witness to the Pandemic August 2021

Finally, the country passes President Biden’s goal of having 70% of adults vaccinated with just under 160 million adults. Yet, a pandemic of the unvaccinated is still ravaging mostly conservative, rural parts of the country where vaccination rates are often less than 30%. New COVID cases are consistently running above 100,000 per day and deaths per day have crossed the 500 mark; levels not seen since the last wave. Some areas of the South are reporting no more ICU beds, overflowing emergency rooms, and overworked demoralized staffs.

There is not one America fighting COVID but two very different populations with different levels of education, information, and trust in institutions. In most locales, over 95% of their patients hospitalized are the unvaccinated. As a result, the frustration, anger, and hostility between those who wear masks and won’t, those who are vaccinated and not, and those who believe in science versus those who think it is all a hoax, has become a dystopian zombie movie most of us thought we would never see, much less live through.  They are egged on by governors like DeSantis of Florida and Abbott of Texas who, while their hospitals and morgues fill up, double down on the prohibition of mask mandates by local authorities and school districts. Read More

Bearing Witness to Climate Change August 2021

During the month NOAA issued its 31st State of the Climate report for the year 2020 that draws on the work of over 500 scientists from over 50 countries. It confirmed previous findings that CO2 in the atmosphere reached an all-time high of over 412 ppm, an increase of 2.5 since the previous year. Equally troubling was that methane, which is 80 times more heat-trapping than CO2, also hit a record increase to 14.8 ppb. Scientists are surprised and worried about the methane rise, especially if it is due to the warming of once-frozen permafrost, peatlands, and marshes in addition to livestock and gas drilling. During 2020 temperature records were broken from the Arctic to the Antarctic and many places in between. Sea levels rose to a record level for the 9th year in a row due to melting glaciers and ice sheets.  In some good news, scientists reported that the estimated 6-7% dip in emissions due to the pandemic economy resulted in about 2 gigatons of CO2 not emitted, but that was a small amount compared to the more than 1,500 gigatons that humans have been responsible for emitting since the industrial revolution. Read More

Bearing Witness to the Pandemic July 2021

As the month begins, the global death count from COVID passes the 4 million mark. Many think that number, already tragic, is far lower than the actual count.  The highest death rates are currently in the Southern Hemisphere. Some 3.3 billion doses of various vaccines have been administered, leaving the vast majority of the planet’s population vulnerable, nearly one and a half years after the pandemic began.

The US itself is still below a 50% fully vaccination status and vaccination drives are stalling out despite renewed attempts.  Most mass vaccination sites across the country have now closed, not because the pandemic is past, but because they have few takers. The number of daily vaccinations has dropped below 500,000. Call them hesitant, uninformed, misinformed or simply stubborn or stupid, but the result is the same. People are getting sick, going into the hospital and needlessly dying because of all this. Some of the saddest and most avoidable cases are kids at church school camps, that refuse to shutter for the summer or require vaccinations or masking, who get infected then return home and infect their families. Read More

Bearing Witness to Climate Change July 2021

The previous month of June 2021 had now been deemed to be the hottest June on record for the United States. Numerous all-time records for any month and date were set at several locations. Temperatures were 4.2 degrees F above their 20th century average.

The extreme temperatures in the Pacific Northwest last month were so far off the charts that scientists suggested that global warming may be triggering non-linear climate response. An estimated 800 people died as a result of the heat that reached as high as 121 degrees F in Lytton, Canada. Read More