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There is no Planet B

Public Policy

Yeah, the earth is warming. If things don’t change we’ll be like Venus – uninhabitable. So, what are we going to do about it?

There’s certainly no leadership coming from President Trump, or EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Is it all hopeless?

Actually not.

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz is actually upbeat. So is former Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, who still chairs – unbelievable in the Trump era – the federal Arctic Science Policy Commission.

Berkowitz recently put Anchorage on the list of about 300 U.S. cities supporting the Paris climate accord, basically giving Trump the finger. Trump, a climate change denier, took the U.S. out of the Paris agreement.

Berkowitz and Ulmer say there are thousands of things – little things – that are starting to happen mostly at the local, grass-roots level. People can strive to use less fossil fuel and more renewable energy like solar, reduce food waste and eat more of a plant-based diet. Collectively these things can add up.

Some of this came out Thursday night, Aug. 24, when Ulmer chaired a panel of citizen climate activists at Anchorage’s downtown Side Street Espresso. Berkowitz was there to open the event.

Sandy Harper, recently retired from Cyrano’s, the popular Anchorage playhouse, has become a climate activist and organized the event. Travis Rector, University of Alaska Anchorage professor of physics and astronomy; commercial fisherman George Donart, Alaska Native leader Larry Merculieff, ecologist Ceral Smith, and journalist Yereth Rosen were on the panel.

“I don’t think we should be operating without facts, and the facts on climate change should make a difference,” Berkowitz said. “Change starts at the local level. That’s where ideas are generated.”

Donart is part of the Citizen Climate Lobby, a national effort, and has been working the halls of Congress with fellow citizen climate lobbyists from around the country. Surprisingly, Donart sees some progress even in a Republican-led Congress. While it’s easy to be cynical about Congress, grassroots citizen lobbying can actually work.

One result, after long and patient persuasion, is a “Bipartisan Climate Caucus” in the U.S. House of Representatives that now has 52 members. This is up from 16 members of the House since the start of the current Congress last January, Donart said.

The caucus was actually formed in the last Congress and was up to 20 members in 2016 but five were lost due to election defeats or member not seeking reelection. In any event, increasing the caucus to 52 in eight months is an achievement. While not a majority in the house, “this is still large enough to block bad legislation,” Donart told the forum.

What’s also surprising is that the caucus is equally divided between Republicans and Democrats. One of the rules, in fact, is that a new congressman or congresswoman joining most also bring in a new member from the other party, Donart said.

Rector, speaking as a scientist, described the effects that the increasing level of atmospheric carbon dioxide is having in causing increasing acidification in the oceans as carbon interacts with water and forms carbonic acid. This injures shellfish, and Rector said Alaska’s lucrative commercial crab fisheries will be in trouble within a decade or two.

The effects on salmon are still unknown but they can’t be good, he said.

“Right now, the oceans are still our friend because they are absorbing the bulk of the C02 being released, so that less of it goes into the atmosphere,” which would accelerate the greenhouse heat-trapping effect.

“But as the earth’s temperature rises and the oceans warm, they will begin releasing CO2,” increasing what is going into the atmosphere, Rector said. The atmosphere is already at 400 ppm CO2, up from the historic levels of 270 to 280 ppm.

If status quo prevails and 1,000 ppm is reached the effects will be catastrophic. “Even at points below that, bad things will happen,” he said. The rise of sea levels is already happening and the more conservative modeling predicts at 3-foot rise by the end of this century. If the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are destabilized, the rise will be greater.

“Miami could be history,” he said. “Most of the world’s population lives in cities and cities are usually on the coast, so the effects will be very disruptive.”

The Earth’s climate has always changed, but the difference now is the speed of change. “What has happened in the last 50 years formerly took 100,000 years,” Rector said. “It’s like a person who has experienced natural weight variation over his or her life and there’s a sudden 30-pound weight gain in two years. If this were a friend, wouldn’t you talk about it? Wouldn’t you be alarmed?”

Ulmer described her personal observations on a trip to the North Pole earlier this summer aboard a Russian icebreaker.

“I stood on the ice at 90 degrees north, and it was raining. Imagine, rain at the North Pole,” she said.

“Also, we didn’t see any thick multi-year ice,” she added — only thinner and newer first-year ice. This is a huge change in the Arctic ecosystem and the creatures that depend on it. Actually, we all depend on the Arctic. The Arctic acts like a huge refrigerator for the world, helping regulate climate and weather,” she said.

Merculieff, who is from the Pribilof Islands, recounts observations from Native elders who have observed unusual lesions on salmon as well as parasites that they believe is caused by low water levels in spawning stream, exposing salmon to gravel.

“We are also seeing a proliferation of beavers including in the Arctic,” Merculieff told the panel. Low water is sign of a smaller winter snowpack and lower spring runoff. Changing levels of water also affect mosquito breeding, which may be a relief for humans in places where mosquito levels are down, but it affects bird populations.

George Donart, who is a commercial fisherman, said that while scientists are unsure of the cause of the 2016 collapse of pink salmon runs across much of coastal Alaska, he believes it had something to do with unusually warm water temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska.

Rector said the climate change problem “seems so overwhelming that it has left people paralyzed, feeling fear and shame,” that so little can seemingly be done. “Actually, we can do things,” he said. “We have the ability. We’ve done it before with DDT and the ozone problem,” where nations worked collectively to tackle global environmental problems.

He acknowledges that climate change is much bigger, but “we can start to fix it. We shouldn’t let people feel paralyzed.” At the same time, as much as people blame Republicans for playing out a political agenda with climate change, it’s possible that Democrats do the same thing.

For example, Merculieff said he was once recruited by people working with former vice president Al Gore to join an advocacy effort. “I asked if I could include Native elders, and I was told no, that I had to follow Al Gore’s script,” Merculieff told the panel.

Merculieff declined to join Gore, but said he actually has a lot of hope for the future. “Twenty-year-olds get this,” he said. The issue is complex and, includes not just the climate crisis but related problems like deforestation, but people are starting to do things, Merculieff said.

He also said people should have a vision of what they want the world to be.

“It’s important not just to react, to want to stop something, but to have a vision of how to guide what you do,” he said.

However, there can be complex side-effects that must be remembered, Merculieff said. For example, more use of electric vehicles will increase the numbers of dead batteries to be disposed of, which can create toxic pollution if that isn’t done properly, and monitored.

Ulmer said it’s of fundamental importance to change how energy is used. She was asked what encouraged electric utilities in Texas, a major oil state, to begin using large amounts of renewable wind power. Credit for that is sometimes given former Gov. George W. Bush.

Ulmer said market forces actually had a lot to do with it. Renewable power is becoming less expensive across the world and in Texas it became a simple business decision. Economics will drive much of the shift away from reliance on fossil fuels, she said.

Major corporations see these trends and are already including assumptions for climate change in corporate planning, including using an internal price for carbon emissions to see how financial performance will be affected is policies like cap-and-trade for carbon dioxide emissions, or a carbon tax, were imposed.

Despite the current political environment, many large companies, including international oil and gas companies like Shell and BP, believe renewable solutions are inevitable in the long run.

“The business case is what will really drive this. If we could start with a very modest carbon fee that gradually increases,” the economy will be able to absorb it very easily, Ulmer said. The Citizen Climate Lobby is pushing this idea in Congress, Donart said, with the added idea of a “dividend” paid back to people from the reduced carbon use.

What is so surprising about today’s political environment, Ulmer said, is that 10 years ago there was actually bipartisan agreements on the need for some form of policy to slow climate change, with carbon emissions trading the lead policy option. “It has taken us ten years to undergo this shift to outright denial,” Ulmer told the panel.

If action is taken soon can the earth heal itself? Ulmer thinks so. “Nature can be part of the solution,” she said. “Our planet can heal itself if we get out of the way.” There are things citizens can do to help this. “Wetlands are incredibly important. If we keep filling them in, the natural cycle can’t help us. We could also do with a little less timber harvesting and more planting of trees,” she said.

The move toward electric vehicles is well under way but governments can speed this with incentives, Ulmer said. “Norway is an oil and gas producing nation but it has the highest percentage of electric cars in the world. This is encouraged by no parking fees for electric cars in Oslo, and no tariffs on imported electrics,” she said.

Yereth Rosen said there are nations that don’t buy into this, Russia for example. “Russia is really big on climate change denial. A lot of Russians think global warming is good,” if it makes winter less severe, she said.

Donart is still hopeful, though. Regardless of Russia a lot of things are happening in many nations. “It’s important to have a hopeful message. If people feel there’s no solution to climate change, they’ll be discouraged and will try to ignore it,” he said. It’s important to help people see what others are doing.

Tim Bradner is co-publisher of Alaska Legislative Digest

Want to do something on climate change?

Here are two local contacts:

George Donart

Ceral Smith

91 Comments on "There is no Planet B"

  1. Makati1 on Fri, 1st Sep 2017 1:45 am 

    TV, and now the computer, could have been magnificent methods of education. Everyone could have learned a wealth of things in an enjoyable way. We could all have been the equivalent of PhDs if we had spent all that time learning useful facts instead of advertising jingles and corporate logos. “Let’s have another cup of coffee! Lets have a cup of Nescafe!” The “Ho ho ho!” of the “Jolly Green Giant” Or the antics of “Snap, Crackle and Pop”. Etc. Not to mention the Marlboro Man, Aunt Jemima, Betty Crocker, Barbie and Ken, etc. What Westerner cannot see the double arches and not think “McDonalds”? Answer: Few who are over the age of five.

    This was/is another cancer from the advent of ‘for profit’ capitalism.

  2. Apneaman on Fri, 1st Sep 2017 3:10 am 

    Boat you are sooo right dude. There is abso-fucking-lutely no evidence at all that industrial civilization is on the ropes. Nope. Everything is awesome. Especially in Houston.

    Harvey Damages Could Cost Up to $90 Billion

    90 billion. Bet that’s low balled. That’s fuck all fer y’all big swinging texass dicks hey?. Ha that’s coffee money.

    I guess it really is true that everything is bigger in texass. Collapse certainly is.

  3. Apneaman on Fri, 1st Sep 2017 3:12 am 

    It’s good to have top men on the job.

    Pruitt Delayed Emergency Rules for Chemical Plants Weeks Before Toxic Fires Erupted in Houston

  4. Cloggie on Fri, 1st Sep 2017 3:19 am 

    TV, and now the computer, could have been magnificent methods of education. Everyone could have learned a wealth of things in an enjoyable way.

    That’s too pessimistic. A lot of people do use the internet to learn. I myself fire off several hundred of Google searches per day and watch several Youtube videos. The majority does indeed spend most of the time chatting on Facebook, but so what.
    Young adults spend 27 hours online per week.

    Being active online is still better than passively watch TV for many hours per week.

    An additional benefit is that people are being conditioned to work online, making it easier to “transition away” from commuting and private car ownership towards working remote, either from home or from a community office around the corner at walking distance.

    According this source…

    …86% of all working Americans sit all day.

    They can do that at home as well and work online, working via the cloud. Groupware and Skype can replace meetings. I once worked for a big Telco in The Hague where the entire workforce operated all over the Netherlands and Belgium. It can be done. A huge source for demand destruction.

  5. Apneaman on Fri, 1st Sep 2017 3:28 am 

    As I have long predicted the denial will only get more ridiculous as the end nears.

    Why is the EPA is lashing out at climate scientists for telling the truth about Harvey?

    The federal agency most responsible for climate science, is lashing out at climate scientists trying to educate the public about the connections between Harvey and a hotter planet. Trump’s climate denial is becoming climate censorship.

    For Scott Pruitt’s EPA, Climate-Change Denial Is Mission Critical
    The EPA chief is very wrong about Harvey.

    Conway slams CNN anchor for climate change questions during Harvey

    These denier leaders and their army of useful idiot true believer deniers will only kill you and your kids all the sooner, so keep denying and buy that beach front property.

    Fucking stubborn, reckless, willfully ignorant, denier retards are rushing your country and family to their doom as fast as is possible.

    Good fucking riddance.

  6. Makati1 on Fri, 1st Sep 2017 3:29 am 

    Cloggie, over 70% of the internet is porn. That does not mean that it is not used for real education also. I use it everyday as a fantastic library. I am not a social user like most young people or a porn voyeur like most others. I have always been a book lover and the internet gives my inner student access to most any subject I desire. I now know more about Roman Britain than most Brits. Ditto Germany. Both are my genetic heritage from 1734. I know more about geology, geography, history, science etc than I knew when I retired. If I read about something that interests me, I may spend days researching and learning about it. THAT is the value of the internet that MOST are missing today. So sad.

  7. Apneaman on Fri, 1st Sep 2017 3:30 am 

    Cornell researcher: Melting Arctic helped make monster Houston hurricane

  8. Davy on Fri, 1st Sep 2017 3:37 am 

    “His mind is a sewer as he cannot honestly rebut anything I post, so he reverts to childish putdowns and name calling.”
    makat, you will be called names until you stop disrespecting me. My name calling must be hitting the spot. Good, that is great to know. BTW, do I need to google your name calling? If you will notice my name calling is very mild. You didn’t say one world about your buddies. Kind of funny that does not come up. I guess because they call people names and these people you don’t like. How convenient that is. LOL. You have not been as bad lately but you have done it plenty in the past, what do they call that…hypocrisy. makat, remember HW Bush “read my lips” no ignoring you and I will never let up. I will hound you until my very last day here or you go. You are a braggart and a fake. You act like you have made such a big step down but all you did is move to a cheap club med high rise in the “western living” part of makati, Manila. You oversize the importance of your stupid little overpopulated Island. You talk about farming like you are an expert but are never there to farm. This has been going on for years. Yet, you have the bold face to cut down my farm and my effort. You make me sick every time I read you. You are everything I despise in a man. You are a disgusting human being and it is your type that is leading us into onlooker’s idea of “perdition”

  9. Davy on Fri, 1st Sep 2017 3:46 am 

    “…86% of all working Americans sit all day.”
    Clog, maybe if you came here you would see that is a bogus stat. Friggen one anti-American after another. You people suck. You can’t look in the mirror because you will see the same thing there. None of you impress me with your big talk about yourselves. Piss on you

  10. Davy on Fri, 1st Sep 2017 3:49 am 

    “I am not a social user like most young people or a porn voyeur like most others.”
    Shut up makat, you are here to get your social release. You have also said you have a Facebook page. Sounds pretty social to me. I don’t do Facebook. I did it for a short time. I had a few old girl friends look me up. That was kind of nice. Makat, did you have any boyfriends look you up?

  11. Cloggie on Fri, 1st Sep 2017 3:55 am 

    Davy, why do you interpret that 86% statistic as an insult and proof of “anti-Americanism”? I used it in a neutral way to illustrate the potential for eliminating commuting by replacing it with remote online work. Zero insult.

    Perhaps the statistic is wrong. You have a better one?

    Jeez man.

  12. Davy on Fri, 1st Sep 2017 4:16 am 

    “Jeez man”
    clog, review the threads and you will see it is one jab and insult after another. It is called polarization and tends to be embellished cherry picked facts by people who don’t live here.

    “You have a better one?”
    Yea, I live here. There are lots of fat stupid Americans. Many don’t do much. Yet, there are more shiny smart Americans than the population of your entire country. There are many Americans trying to live a good life and be decent people. The reason there is so much fodder for you anti-American animals is because of all the nations on earth the US talks about itself the most. We are very critical of ourselves or we are flag waivers. We are definitely the most talk about nation by other nations. I have live in your Europe clog. Two of my significant others are European. I know what is going on there. There are fat, ugly, and lazy people there too. If you are going to be an anti-American do it well or I will call you out. It is me you are attacking not some abstract.

  13. Cloggie on Fri, 1st Sep 2017 4:17 am 

    Cloggie, over 70% of the internet is porn.

    It is not that bad:


    Their estimate? Just 4% of those websites were porn.

    Here an ordered list of most used internet applications, very recognizable:

    Search engines
    Hobby/interests (energy in my case)
    Market research (buying preparation, reviews)
    Audioclips (half an hour in my case)
    Reading blogs (,, TheSaker, Russia-Insider,,… to name a few)
    Online banking (once a week)
    Kindle (mostly IT)

    13% “report” to watch adult content.

  14. Cloggie on Fri, 1st Sep 2017 4:24 am 

    @Davy. There is nothing wrong with being a desk worker. I’m one myself and sit all-day. Not sure if that is “shining” but at least it brings me my income.

    My 86% had zero reference or hidden jabs towards overweight Americans. Yes, we have overweight people here as well.

    Try to let it sink in I was ***ONLY*** referring to the nature of modern work and desk-workers in particular from an energy perspective and potential for saving on commuting and car usage.

  15. GregT on Fri, 1st Sep 2017 4:35 am 

    “There are lots of fat stupid Americans. Many don’t do much. Yet, there are more shiny smart Americans than the population of your entire country.”

    There are 17 million people in the Nertherlands Davy. That would be less than 6% of the population of the U.S. You might want to rephrase your above comment. It’s looking rather Anti-American-ish.

  16. Davy on Fri, 1st Sep 2017 4:45 am 

    “There are 17 million people in the Nertherlands Davy. That would be less than 6% of the population of the U.S. You might want to rephrase your above comment. It’s looking rather Anti-American-ish.”

    That is because you read it as an anti-American Canadian looking for a reason to prick me. I think I know what the population of Holland is. One of my best friends is Dutch. Do you have any Dutch friends grehg? Have you ever been there grehg? I have been there several times.

  17. Makati1 on Fri, 1st Sep 2017 5:03 am 

    Internet porn:

    “42.7% Of internet users view pornography”
    “1.5 Billion pornographic downloads per month (peer-to-peer) (35% of total downloads)”
    “68 Million daily pornographic search engine requests(25% of total requests)”
    “4.2 Million pornographic websites (12% of total websites)”
    ALL are 2006 stats…

    “30 percent of all data transferred across the Internet is porn.”
    “70% of men watch porn.”
    “30% of women watch porn.”

    ALL are 2013 stats…

    Internet porn seems to be getting more and more popular. lol

  18. Makati1 on Fri, 1st Sep 2017 5:12 am 

    Ah yes, Davy, we ‘anti-Americans’ love to twist realty so that a certain deluded American takes offense. It is your thin skin and short temper that is at fault. I read the above comments to see what was actually said, and you are wrong. You like to see what you want to see, not what is written or implied.

    Even so, I doubt that there are even 1 million “shiny, smart Americans”, unless they are the ones moving out of the US. I have few in my family that I would qualify as such. Most are in denial just like the rest of the country.

    You see it, but are afraid to do anything about it, like move your family to the fabled land called “Italy”. If I was still raising kids and had the opportunity to take them out of the drugged up, obese, propaganda filled US, I would in a heartbeat.

  19. Davy on Fri, 1st Sep 2017 5:52 am 

    “It is your thin skin and short temper that is at fault.”
    What’s da madder dummy? Am I getting under your skin? makat, you must have the short temper and thin skin. I went from the completely ignore list to the most comment on list. LOL. This is great!

    “Even so, I doubt that there are even 1 million “shiny, smart Americans”
    Of course you doubt there are 1MIL shiny, smart, Americans. What kind of stupid answer is that makat. You are the master anti-American I find it strange you even admitted to 1MIL. I am surprised you did not talk about 95MIL Filipinos that are shiny immediately after that admission. You see you are the twisted unbalanced one.

    “If I was still raising kids and had the opportunity to take them out of the drugged up, obese, propaganda filled US, I would in a heartbeat.”
    That is a crock of shit makat. You deserted your family for a boyfriend in the P’s so you can live a cheap western life in Makati, Manila. You want to tell us all how you are living that noble 3rd world life but at least I know better. You are living a cheap cushy life of an old man of 75 years whining insistently about a country you know little about anymore. You try to tell us after 5 years you will soon be a farmer and talk all about how to farm and about food waste all the while you live in the western living part of one of the biggest urban sprawls in the world. WTF, planet are you on, planet makat I guess.

  20. Dredd on Fri, 1st Sep 2017 5:58 am 

    There is a plan B concept that is valid.

    However, it requires a valid plan A in order to be implemented.

    A valid plan A is the one we are missing (The Tenets of Ecocosmology).

  21. GregT on Fri, 1st Sep 2017 9:42 am 

    “One of my best friends is Dutch. Do you have any Dutch friends grehg?.”

    I do Davy. My best friend, who was also the best man at my wedding, is Dutch.

    “Have you ever been there grehg?”

    No Davy, I have never been there.

    “I have been there several times.”

    That’s quite impressive Davy.

    “There are lots of fat stupid Americans.”

    Stupid dumbass Anti-American American. You dumbasess from the buthole of Missouri make me sick.

  22. Davy on Fri, 1st Sep 2017 12:11 pm 

    Nice grehg. I like it when you get in the gutter with me where you belong instead of your fake nice guy BS.

  23. GregT on Fri, 1st Sep 2017 12:29 pm 

    Merely attempting to show you how childish and unwarranted your emotional outbreaks are Davy, but I’m sure that it has fallen on deaf ears.

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