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Mark Lowery:

"Hell and High Water"

This is the recap by Frank Robinson, of a presentation by Mark Lowery, at the July 10th, 2017 CDHS monthly meeting.


Mark Lowery was educated in biology and is a 28-year employee of the Department of Environmental Conservation. He currently heads its Climate Change Office (New York has the nation's second largest), calling himself the DEC's "most depressing person." His talk was titled "Hell and High Water" -- it concerned the local consequences of climate change, and what can be done about them.

Climate change is not (a) a Chinese hoax aimed at undermining the U.S. economy or (b) God's punishment for (b-1) humanity's environmental sins or (b-2) sex-related sins. The overwhelming scientific consensus is that climate change is a real phenomenon, accelerated by fossil fuel use releasing "formerly sequestered" carbon into the atmosphere.

The expected consequences include rising sea levels (due to melting ice), ocean warming and acidification (with deleterious effects on sea life), threats to land-based life as well, extreme weather and natural disasters, difficult water conditions (the dry get dryer, the wet wetter), agricultural disruptions, and effects on incomes and income inequality.

Lowery mentioned some more specifics. A slowing gulf stream could actually cause lower temperatures in Ireland and Northern Europe. A general rise in planetary heat levels, even if small overall, will significantly increase the incidence of days of extreme heat, which kills vulnerable people. As for sea level, he said a 6.6 foot rise over the next several centuries is already baked in even if Carbon emissions are arrested. And Lowery noted that the southern part of New York State is sinking besides, for geological reasons unconnected with climate change, which of course will compound the flooding.

The prescription, Lowery said, falls into two categories: "mitigation" (trying to reduce the amount of atmospheric carbon) and "adaptation" (ameliorating the effects of climate change). But he said that without mitigation, the effects will overwhelm adaptation efforts.

Scientists and climate change worriers have settled on a target of limiting the global temperature rise to two degrees Centigrade (that's 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100. It's actually iffy whether this would forestall the nightmare scenario of runaway warming due to feedback loops. Meantime, though, the Paris climate accords, if fully implemented, would entail avoidance of one degree of warming (not the two-tenths of a degree spoken of by a certain lying pig). Under Paris, America was pledging to aim for a 26-28% carbon emission reduction by 2020 (and we are currently on a path toward a 17% reduction by 2017). China and India have more onerous targets. America's nonparticipation would make it almost impossible for the world as a whole to meet the two degree target, especially considering that it might cause other nations to wobble in their commitments.

As for mitigation, Lowery focused on New York State, citing six economic sectors: energy, infrastructure, transport, land use, industry, and finance. He noted the importance of building refurbishment, 32% of emissions coming from housing; and that New York is the nation's largest user of home fuel oil. The state has initiated a "Climate Smart Community" program, which entails DEC and NYSERDA providing direct technical assistance to local efforts; 203 of the state's (approximately) 1600 communities have so far signed up (including Albany).



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