IPCC & Scientists Call for Radical Shift; We’ll Need a Bolder Legislature to Get It Done

“It’s not about taking our foot off the accelerator anymore—it’s about slamming on the brakes,” said one expert in response to the latest U.N. climate change assessment. Yet our Governor and President are keeping their foot firmly on the gas. How do we force the issue?

I’ve been talking with legislators a lot of late. Most are happy with how the legislative session and special session unfolded. When asked about the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report and if they see a path for NM to meaningfully reduce its carbon footprint, no one’s response conveyed the urgency appropriate to the moment. Each response included reference to 30-40% of our revenue coming from gas and oil, followed by sober references to how the pay raises for teachers, the special session relief checks, and funding for Early Childhood Education all rely on those funds. This is not news. What would be news would be someone with a plan or, failing that, a sense of urgency that reliance on G&O revenue or not, we absolutely need to start and then accelerate a pivot from gas and oil. Now.

In a sane world, our Congress would be offering financial incentives to encourage NM and other fossil-fuel states to reduce their extraction and ramp up their reduction of emissions. Instead, the President is urging gas & oil producing states to ramp up their extraction. To be clear: this is suicidal.

In this context, a wave of environmentalists and scientists are screaming for action. From The Guardian:

“Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals, but the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels.” 

From The Guardian: “Climate scientists are desperate: we’re crying, begging and getting arrested

The Guardian piece was written by climate scientist Peter Kalmus who began his commentary with this:

I’m a climate scientist and a desperate father. How can I plead any harder? What will it take? What can my colleagues and I do to stop this catastrophe unfolding now all around us with such excruciating clarity?

On Wednesday, I risked arrest by locking myself to an entrance to the JP Morgan Chase building in downtown Los Angeles with colleagues and supporters. Our action in LA is part of an international campaign organized by a loosely knit group of concerned scientists called Scientist Rebellion, involving more than 1,200 scientists in 26 countries and supported by local climate groups. Our day of action follows the IPCC Working Group 3 report released Monday, which details the harrowing gap between where society is heading and where we need to go. Our movement is growing fast.

From The Guardian: “Climate scientists are desperate: we’re crying, begging and getting arrested

It is heartening to see that someone feels the urgency of the moment, but meanwhile, here in NM, we continue to equivocate, leaving me to mull, as did 350.org’s Namrata Chowdhary in Common Dreams:

“How much more destruction must we witness, and how many more scientific reports will it take, before governments finally acknowledge fossil fuels as the real culprits behind the human suffering being felt across the globe?” asked Namrata Chowdhary, head of public engagement at the advocacy group 350.org. “As we come ever closer to the tipping points for human existence, once again scientists are sounding a clear alarm: Massive cuts in emissions are unavoidable to avert the worst,” Chowdhary added.

From Common Dreams: “Campaigners Say IPCC Report Reveals ‘Bleak and Brutal Truth’ About Climate Emergency

The new report, Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change, is the third installment from the sixth assessment of the IPCC. Much fanfare followed the publication of the first report, optimism flowed in the media: We are coming to grips with this, people felt. Then… more reports with less fanfare and less optimism.

The latest report was produced by 278 authors from 65 nations and is based on over 18,000 papers and nearly 60,000 comments from countries and experts. The report stresses the need for systemic changes globally, including decarbonizing the energy sector, electrifying transportation, shifting to more plant-based diets, and restoring key ecosystems. I’m sure it is a compelling report, but I’m done with reports. They are not causing the kind of response required.

Maybe a mental exercise could jar us from our collective stupor and inject a bit urgency to our reaction: Many of us have a nightly cry watching the news coverage of the horrific destruction in Ukraine. It is heartbreaking. Tonight, when you view the destruction, make this mental shift. You are no longer watching Ukraine and the destruction visited by Russian forces; you are watching Cleveland, Ohio, Detroit, Michigan, and New York City in rubble, with the violence delivered by Mother Nature. To facilitate that flight of fancy, the photo below from Paradise, CA.

Paradise, CA

No, what Mother Nature has in store for us will not look quite like Ukraine; there will be no burnt out Russian tanks in the foreground, but it will be every bit as horrific. And the culprit in this destruction will not be Russia, but our own inaction. The destruction could have been prevented with any kind of deliberate action. But in 2020, instead of hitting the brakes, we are accelerating our extraction, risking extinction, and making the destruction like that in Ukraine or Paradise inevitable. As you watch tonight’s news and hear stories of innocent children dead in the rubble, imagine this happening in the town where your family lives or where you live. It is our future if we don’t find a way to get our state, national, and international leadership to lead.

Back to Peter Kalmus in The Guardian:

It’s now the eleventh hour and I feel terrified for my kids, and terrified for humanity. I feel deep grief over the loss of forests and corals and diminishing biodiversity. But I’ll keep fighting as hard as I can for this Earth, no matter how bad it gets, because it can always get worse. And it will continue to get worse until we end the fossil fuel industry and the exponential quest for ever more profit at the expense of everything else. There is no way to fool physics. Martin Luther King Jr said, “He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” 

Sadly, according to another Guardian report, strident calls to action aside, even the IPCC report continues to offer false promises that allow governments to continue to delay meaningful action and rely on false solutions to magically rescue us. Some of the “solutions” offered in the latest IPCC report:

  • Plant-based diets. Nice and likely necessary, but wholly insufficient, as if a worldwide shift to green chile Impossible burgers were the sacrifice needed.
  • Removing carbon from the atmosphere by chemical means. These technologies are experimental, in the early stages of development, and seem like saying, “We’ll figure something out, but for now, keep drilling.”
  • Carbon Capture & Sequestration. Here we are talking about a technology that has never worked at a meaningful scale, yet it remains in the discussion as the gas and oil industry’s Hail Mary, cuz, if they could do this, they could profit from the process, and they’d argue it will offset continued drilling and allow still more profit.

Using any of these “solutions” offers government and industry an escape route from confronting the overarching conclusion: Our only option to avoid vast destruction and possible extinction is inescapable: We must keep it in the ground, starting yesterday.

And we must begin producing less…of everything, including profit.

The science has spoken, now policymakers must either fiddle while Rome burns or come to grips with this reality, face it, and begin the transition to zero growth economies and renewable energy by rapidly ceasing all extraction. I wish I were more confident that the world’s leaders seem willing to make this shift, which returns us to our collective challenge: What can WE do to force the needed shift?

Two years ago, I joined about a dozen other adult allies in refusing to leave the Governor’s office. We were protesting the absence of leadership in addressing the looming climate crisis. We were arrested, but nothing changed. Maybe we were too damned civil and instead should have been more disruptive, maybe even pushing our way into the Governor’s private office for a little sit down.

I have actually never seen calculations for the impact on our state budget of a sequenced reduction in drilling or what can be done to reduce our carbon footprint across multiple sectors (transportation, agriculture, etc.). If we are going to demand action from our legislature and governor, our demands would have more credibility if they were well researched and specific. Is there anyone out there with the research chops needed to tackle this? If so, please write us at RetakeResponse@gmail.com.

One thing I think we all need to begin doing is reject the typical political responses, where politicians voices pained concern but no commitment to action. So, if you attend one of those candidate forums, come prepared with a question like: “I understand that we rely upon gas and oil for 30% of our revenue, but I also understand that NM emits more CO2 and methane than any other state in the nation When and how do we begin to honestly grapple with that challenge? And please be specific.

I’m not offering any solutions, only pointing out the obvious: what we are doing now is not working and time’s a wasting. So, if you have any ideas, please share them with a comment below. We will devote time to this discussion in our next Huddle, Weds, April 13, 6-7:30pm. Click here to register for the Huddle. Specifically: How do we force the issue and coerce meaningful action from our all-too-comfortable Democratic leadership?

In solidarity and hope,

Paul & Roxanne

Categories: Climate Justice

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4 replies

  1. Thank goodness for Paul and Roxanne!

  2. Great stuff you two. I have been looking into many of the areas that will make a difference if we have a tad of resolve. How to get to that is beyond me though. It’s as if we were staring into the face of a grizzly and refusing to pull out the bear spray!
    It is never enough but the three “cures” that you list are in actuality important. No, eating Beyond Beef burgers won’t make a bit of difference but a complete shift in how we eat and what we eat, including it’s cradle to compost costs, are important. Be a vegan!
    Extracting CO2 from the atmosphere is real and if it was funded could be a great help. Atmospheric CO2 can easily be made into methane from which H2 can be created with both solid carbon or the CO2 recombined with H2 used to transport the H2. The byproduct of methane pyrolisis can produce H2 and a solid carbon for industrial uses. This can all be done with atmospheric CO2 or, undesirably from burning methane with CO2 as a byproduct. The carbon would be captured permanently. Atmospheric CO2 could fuel us forever if done green. Renewables can fuel all of these options but the first option should be to stop burning fossil methane. We have answers but not the will.

  3. ““Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” A different system structure therefore will produce a different result.”
    Capitalism is designed and redesigned by Capitalists, Ruling Classes, to serve the super rich,
    This system/paradigm has and is fulfilling its goal very well.
    please apply Donella Meaows ideas…

  4. Today at 11 am on One A on KANW 89.1 FM will be an in depth dive into how/why climate change efforts are not moving at an urgent pace.

    Today’s Retake blog has grabbed my heart. I feel so compromised by personal and political and societal barrriers.

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