Tags: climate change*

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  1. the UN diplomat who shepherded global climate talks from their post-Copenhagen standstill, remembers “5,000 people jumping out of their seats, crying, clapping, screaming, yelling, torn between euphoria and still disbelief.”

    But that euphoria masked a hard truth. The plausibility of the Paris Climate Agreement’s goals rested on what was lurking in the UN report’s fine print: massive negative emissions achieved primarily through BECCS—an unproven concept to put it mildly. How did BECCS get into the models?

    The story begins with the 2°C goal itself, a formal international climate target since 2010 (and informal since the 1990s). For years before Paris, climate researchers had warned that the 2°C limit was slipping out of reach—or was already unattainable.

    Here’s why: As climate researchers have clearly (and tirelessly) linked temperature rise to increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations, they can calculate back from a temperature target to the maximum amount of CO2 we can emit—our “carbon budget.” For a greater than 66 percent chance of staying below 2°C of warming, our CO2 concentration should remain under 450 parts per million.

    In 2010, when the 2°C goal was adopted at a major conference in Cancun, Mexico, the carbon budget for 450 ppm, or 2°C, was formidably tight: Only a third was left—1,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide. Since humans were emitting 40 gigatons a year, the carbon budget would be easily blown before midcentury. This is the global accounting problem that a handful of specialized modeling groups began confronting in 2004, when the IPCC asked them to map scenarios in line with the 2°C goal. Essentially, how might we cut emissions without grinding the fossil-fuel-driven economy to an immediate standstill?

    To tackle this problem, the groups used a tool called an integrated assessment model—algorithms that draw on climate, economic, political, and technical data to imagine cost-effective policy solutions.

    Around the same time that Karlsson’s life changed via late-night Swedish television, Detlef Van Vuuren, a project leader of the Dutch modeling group IMAGE, came across the idea behind BECCS in the literature, looking at Obersteiner’s 2001 paper and work by Christian Azar and Jose Moreira. He was intrigued. In theory, by both producing energy and sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere BECCS could result in a path to 2°C that the global economy could afford.

    The key was that BECCS resulted in negative emissions, which, in the carbon budget, worked like a negative number. It was like having a climate credit card: Negative emissions allowed modelers to “overshoot” the carbon emissions budget in the short term, permitting greenhouse gases to rise (as they were doing in reality) and then paying back the debt by sucking the CO2 from the atmosphere later.

    “The idea of negative emissions became a deeply logical one,” Van Vuuren says.

    The rationale behind negative emissions relied heavily on the work of physicist Klaus Lackner, who at the turn of the millennia was sketching schemes for CO2 removal on blackboards for his students at Columbia University. Lackner, who was working on carbon capture and storage (then intended for storing emissions from coal-fired power plants), was the first person to suggest the idea of direct air capture—pulling CO2 out of the air. At that time, Lackner’s idea of direct air capture, like BECCS, was just theoretical.

    But Van Vuuren says that for the purposes of the models, BECCS could be said to exist, at least in its component parts. The IPCC had published a report on carbon capture and storage—and bioenergy just meant burning lots of crops. Some models did ultimately include direct air capture and another negative emissions technique, afforestation (planting lots of trees, which naturally absorb and store CO2 in the process of photosynthesis). But BECCS was cheaper because it produced electricity.

    In 2007 IMAGE published an influential paper relying on BECCS in Climatic Change, and garnered much attention at an IPCC expert meeting. Other groups started putting BECCS into their models too, which is how it came to dominate those included in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (the one that prompted the BBC to call Karlsson).

    The models assumed BECCS on a vast scale. According to an analysis that British climate researcher Jason Lowe shared with Carbon Brief, at median the models called for BECCS to remove 630 gigatons of CO2, roughly two-thirds of the carbon dioxide humans have emitted between preindustrial times and 2011. Was that reasonable?

    Not for James Hansen, who wrote that reliance on negative emissions had quietly “spread like a cancer” through the scenarios, along with the assumption that young people would somehow figure out how to extract CO2 at a cost he later projected to be $140–570 trillion this century.

    Anderson (of the India calculations) pointed out that the few 2°C scenarios without BECCS required CO2 emissions to peak back in 2010—something, he noted wryly, that “clearly has not occurred.” In a scathing letter in 2015, Anderson accused scientists of using negative emissions to sanitize their research for policymakers, calling them a “deux ex machina.” Fellow critics argued that the integrated assessment models had become a political device to make the 2°C goal seem more plausible than it was.
    https://www.wired.com/story/the-dirty...climate-disaster/?mbid=social_twitter
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  2. The largest uncertainties and limitations of our analysis stem from the assumed values for impacts per unit electric energy produced. However, we emphasize that our results for both prevented mortality and prevented GHG emissions could be substantial underestimates. This is because (among other reasons) our mortality and emission factors are based on analysis of Europe and the US (respectively), and thus neglect the fact that fatal air pollution and GHG emissions from power plants in developing countries are on average substantially higher per unit energy produced than in developed countries.

    Our findings also have important implications for large-scale "fuel switching" to natural gas from coal or from nuclear. Although natural gas burning emits less fatal pollutants and GHGs than coal burning, it is far deadlier than nuclear power, causing about 40 times more deaths per unit electric energy produced (ref. 2).

    Also, such fuel switching is practically guaranteed to worsen the climate problem for several reasons. First, carbon capture and storage is an immature technology and is therefore unlikely to constrain the resulting GHG emissions in the necessary time frame. Second, electricity infrastructure generally has a long lifetime (e.g., fossil fuel power plants typically operate for up to ~50 years). Third, potentially usable natural gas resources (especially unconventional ones like shale gas) are enormous, containing many hundreds to thousands of gigatonnes of carbon (based on ref. 6). For perspective, the atmosphere currently contains ~830 GtC, of which ~200 GtC are from industrial-era fossil fuel burning.

    We conclude that nuclear energy — despite posing several challenges, as do all energy sources (ref. 7) — needs to be retained and significantly expanded in order to avoid or minimize the devastating impacts of unabated climate change and air pollution caused by fossil fuel burning.
    https://climate.nasa.gov/news/903/coa...e-far-more-harmful-than-nuclear-power
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  3. determining when radical physical changes in the Earth system happened provides a basis for determining which human activities were responsible, and thus what measures humans might take to prevent the change from reaching catastrophic proportions. In this article I offer an overview of the issues and stakes in the “when it happened” debate.

    in fact, a dozen or more proposals for dating the Anthropocene have been made to the AWG. While they differ substantially from each other, the starting dates under serious consideration fall into two broad groups that can be labelled Early and Recent, depending on whether the proposed starting date is in the distant past, or relatively close to the present.
    An Early Anthropocene?

    The first Early Anthropocene proposal was advanced by U.S. geologist William Ruddiman, who argues that the Anthropocene started when humans began large-scale agriculture in various parts of the world between eight and five thousand years ago. Those activities, he believes, produced carbon dioxide and methane emissions that raised global temperatures just enough to prevent a return to an Ice Age.9

    Other Early Anthropocene arguments suggest dating the Anthropocene from the first large-scale landscape modifications by humans, from the extinction of many large mammals in the late Pleistocene, from the formation of anthropogenic soils in Europe, or from the European invasions of the Americas in the 1500s. Some archeologists propose to extend the beginning of the Anthropocene back to the earliest surviving traces of human activity, which would take in much of the Pleistocene, and others have suggested that the entire Holocene should simply be renamed Anthropocene, since it is the period when settled human civilizations first developed.

    This outpouring of proposals reflects humanity’s long and complex relationships with the earth’s ecosystems—many of the proposed beginnings are significant turning points in those relationships, and deserve careful study. But the current discussion is not just about human impact: “the Anthropocene is not defined by the broadening impact of humans on the environment, but by active human interference in the processes that govern the geological evolution of the planet.”10 None of the Early Anthropocene options meet that standard, and none of them led to a qualitative break with Holocene conditions.

    Even if Ruddiman’s controversial claim that the agriculture revolution caused some global warming is correct, that would only mean that human activity had extended Holocene conditions. The recent shift out of Holocene conditions, to a no-analogue state, would still need to be evaluated and understood. Noted climatologist James Hansen and his colleagues make this argument clearly in a recent paper:

    Even if the Anthropocene began millennia ago, a fundamentally different phase, a Hyper-Anthropocene, was initiated by explosive 20th century growth of fossil fuel use. Human-made climate forcings now overwhelm natural forcings. CO2, at 400 ppm in 2015, is off the scale … Most of the forcing growth occurred in the past several decades, and two-thirds of the 0.9 C global warming (since 1850) has occurred since 1975.”11

    The Early Anthropocene has been promoted by anti-environmental lobbyists associated with the Breakthrough Institute, because it supports their claim that there has been no recent qualitative change and thus there is no need for a radical response. In their view, today’s environmental crises “represent an acceleration of trends going back hundreds and even thousands of years earlier, not the starting point of a new epoch.

    Moving in exactly the opposite direction, the IGBP’s 2004 book Global Change and the Earth System included several pages of graphs showing historical trends in human activity (GDP growth, population, energy consumption, water use, etc.) and physical changes in the Earth system (atmospheric carbon dioxide, ozone depletion, species extinctions, loss of forests, etc.) from 1750 to 2000. Every trend line showed gradual growth from 1750 and a sharp upturn in about 1950. The authors said that “the last 50 years have without doubt seen the most rapid transformation of the human relationship with the natural world in the history of the species,” but did not explicitly connect that to dating the Anthropocene.14

    In 2005, Will Steffen, principal author of that book, together with Crutzen and environmental historian John McNeill and others, coined the term Great Acceleration for the dramatic social-environmental changes after 1950. The name was a deliberate homage to The Great Transformation, Karl Polanyi’s influential book on the social, economic, and political upheavals that accompanied the rise of market society in England.15

    In 2007, in a journal article provocatively titled “The Anthropocene: Are Humans Now Overwhelming the Great Forces of Nature?,” Steffen, Crutzen, and McNeill republished the Great Acceleration graphs, and suggested that the second half of the twentieth century should be viewed as Stage 2 of the Anthropocene. Updated versions of the 2004 Great Acceleration graphs were prepared this year by the IGBP. As in the original graphs all the trend lines show hockey stick-shaped trajectories.
    https://monthlyreview.org/2015/09/01/...hropocene-beginand-why-does-it-matter
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  4. Unlike most environmentalists, Francis locates the heart of climate degradation in the economic and social degradation of human beings. As the inverter of hierarchies, he views every problem through the lens of those on the bottom. It is not enough to save Earth. Francis criticizes “economists, financiers, and experts in technology” who, using “green rhetoric,” promote the eco-capitalism and technoscience that might clean the water and the air, or cope with rising sea levels, but would still preserve the cult of unlimited growth, promote open-ended consumption, reinforce an inequitable distribution of goods, and protect a market economy that continues to ravage the poor—an approach that “leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit.”

    Imagine Donald Trump using the phrase “civic and political love.” Yet that defines the prescription Pope Francis offers after his stark and unyielding diagnosis. “We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, that being good and decent are worth it,” he writes. “We have had enough of immorality and the mockery of ethics, goodness, faith, and honesty. It is time to acknowledge that light-hearted superficiality has done us no good.”

    For Francis, as a religious man, the love of one’s neighbor is the surest sign of God’s presence. But his invitation is profoundly secular, for his critique of the shrunken circles of love that reduce family, tribe, and nation to shelters from the larger human commonwealth has everything to do with this world, not the next. This world’s value is absolute. If the rescue of our one and only heaven requires economic, psychological, political, and spiritual revolutions—or, rather, one revolution combining all of those—then let’s be about it. That is the message of this encyclical, the gift.
    http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-de...franciss-encyclical-on-climate-change
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  5. Today in the Rose Garden, Mr. Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, which virtually the entire world had joined in order to mitigate the effects of climate change. The United States joins Syria and Nicaragua as the only nations not committed to the voluntary restrictions outlined in the agreement.

    Around the United States and the world, Catholic leaders quickly voiced their concerns.
    http://www.americamagazine.org/politi...is-agreement-catholic-leaders-respond
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  6. Sanchez Sorondo said he believed the U.S. oil lobby was behind the decision and that the industry had "maneuvered" Trump.

    A withdrawal "would not only be a disaster but completely unscientific," he said. "Saying that we need to rely on coal and oil is like saying that the earth is not round. It is an absurdity dictated by the need to make money."

    Trump has called the idea of global warming a hoax.
    Also In Environment

    Trump abandons global climate pact; allies voice dismay
    Exclusive: California to discuss linking carbon market with China

    In March, Cardinal Peter Turkson, the pope's point man for the environment, immigration and development, urged Trump to listen to "dissenting voices" and reconsider his position on climate change.

    Former U.S. President Barack Obama helped broker the Paris accord and praised it during a trip to Europe this month.

    Canada, the European Union and China have said they will honor their commitments to the pact if the United States withdraws.
    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa..._medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=twitter
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  7. This past September, Pope Francis held a World Day of Prayer that was almost entirely dedicated to the global problem of climate change. On Thursday, surrounded by plants that will surely die in the White House’s Rose Garden, unpopular President Trump announced that the United States would be pulling out of the Paris Climate agreement. A short while before Trump’s official statement, Reuters reported on Vatican Bishop Marcelo Sanchez’s feelings about the reports that the United States was going to do just this.

    "If he really does (pull out), it would be a huge slap in the face for us," said Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, head of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which has hosted numerous international conferences on climate change.

    "It will be a disaster for everyone," he told the Rome newspaper La Repubblica. In a telephone call with Reuters, Sanchez Sorondo confirmed the comments in the newspaper.

    Well, he has pulled out and it is a slap in the face.

    Sanchez Sorondo said he believed the U.S. oil lobby was behind the decision and that the industry had "maneuvered" Trump.

    A withdrawal "would not only be a disaster but completely unscientific," he said. "Saying that we need to rely on coal and oil is like saying that the earth is not round. It is an absurdity dictated by the need to make money."
    https://www.dailykos.com/story/2017/6...e-like-believing-in-flat-earth-theory
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  8. Lord’s thesis is that the kind of art a society makes and values is joined at the hip with the kind of energy that society depends on to keep itself going. He traces the various forms of energy we have known as a species throughout our pre-history — our millennia spent in the Pleistocene — and in our recorded history — sexual energy, without which societies can’t continue; the energy of the body while hunting and foraging; wood for fire; slaves; wind and water; coal; oil; and “renewables” — and makes some cogent observations about their relationship to art and culture. In his Prologue, he says:

    Everyone knows that all life requires energy. But we rarely consider how dependent art and culture are on the energy that is needed to produce, practice and sustain them. What we fail to see are the usually invisible sources of energy that make our art and culture(s) possible and bring with them fundamental values that we are all constrained to live with (whether we approve of them or not). Coal brought one set of values to all industrialized countries; oil brought a very different set… I may not approve of the culture of consumption that comes with oil… but I must use it » if I want to do anything at all.

    (Photo via gettystation.com)

    Those living within an energy system, says Lord, may disapprove of certain features, but they can’t question the system itself. Within the culture of slavery, which lasted at least 5,000 years, nobody wanted to be a slave, but nobody said slavery should be abolished, because what else could keep things going?
    (Sébastien Bonaimé/Getty Images; Viktor Drachev/AFP/Getty Images)

    Coal, says Lord, produced a culture of production: think about those giant steel mills. Oil and gas, once they were up and running, fostered a culture of consumption. Lord cites “the widespread belief of the 1950s and early ’60s in the possibility of continuing indefinitely with unlimited abundance and economic growth, contrasted with the widespread agreement today that both that assumption and the world it predicts are unsustainable.” We’re in a transition phase, he says: the next culture will be a culture of “stewardship,” the energy driving it will be renewables, and the art it produces will be quite different from the art favored by production and consumption cultures.

    What are the implications for the way we view both ourselves and the way we live? In brief: in the coal energy culture — a culture of workers and production — you are your job. “I am what I make.” In an oil and gas energy culture — a culture of consumption — you are your possessions. “I am what I buy.” But in a renewable energy culture, you are what you conserve. “I am what I save and protect.” We aren’t used to thinking like this, because we can’t see where the money will come from. But in a culture of renewables, money will not be the only measure of wealth. Well-being will factor as an economic positive, too.

    Like Barry Lord, Morris is interested in the link between energy-capture systems and the cultural values associated with them, though in his case it’s the moral values, not only the aesthetic ones — supposing these can be separated — that concern him. Roughly, his argument runs that each form of energy capture favors values that maximize the chance of survival for those using both that energy system and that package of moral values. Hunter-gatherers show more social egalitarianism, wealth-sharing, and more gender equality than do farmer societies, which subordinate women — men are favored, as they must do the upper-body-strength heavy lifting — tend to practice some form of slavery, and support social hierarchies, with peasants at the low end and kings, religious leaders, and army commanders at the high end. Fossil fuel societies start leveling out gender inequalities — you don’t need upper body strength to operate keyboards or push machine buttons — and also social distinctions, though they retain differences in wealth.

    The second part of his argument is more pertinent to our subject, for he postulates that each form of energy capture must hit a “hard ceiling,” past which expansion is impossible; people must either die out or convert to a new system and a new set of values, often after a “great collapse” that has involved the same five factors: uncontrolled migration, state failure, food shortages, epidemic disease, and “always in the mix, though contributing in unpredictable ways–- climate change.” Thus, for hunting societies, their way of life is over once there are no longer enough large animals to sustain their numbers. For farmers, arable land is a limiting factor. The five factors of doom combine and augment one another, and people in those periods have a thoroughly miserable time of it, until new societies arise that utilize some not yet exhausted form of energy capture.
    https://medium.com/matter/it-s-not-cl...e-it-s-everything-change-8fd9aa671804
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  9. The sea level rise scenarios certainly go beyond the scientific consensus. The latest IPCC projection of about half a meter to a meter this century (for business-as-usual emissions) increased from the previous report, but it is still widely regarded as conservative. However, a couple of efforts to ask expert researchers for individual estimates put the upper bound of likely sea level rise under two meters this century.

    Penn State glaciologist Richard Alley told Ars, “There is very little physical basis for the assumed sea level rise scenarios in the Hansen et al. paper.” Still, the business of putting a true upper limit on how much ice could melt—and how quickly—is a difficult one. “There are, however, many semi-empirical models, expert elicitations, etc., and the higher Hansen et al. numbers are high compared to those others,” Alley said.

    That’s not to say higher sea level rise scenarios aren’t worth thinking about, but predicting that they will occur takes you pretty far out on a limb. “My thought is that no one has yet published anything that really changes the ‘most likely’ value from the IPCC, but there is extensive information showing that the distribution of less-likely-but-possible outcomes is skewed/lopsided, with much more chance of a higher rate of sea level rise than of a lower rate,” Alley said. “So, while I don’t think that there is a high likelihood that the Hansen et al. doublings will prove to be right, they do highlight the strong asymmetries in the possible future. One sometimes hears the argument that scientific uncertainty justifies a wait-and-see approach to CO2 emissions, but the real distribution of the uncertainties doesn’t provide support for that view (and probably argues strongly the exact opposite).”

    Further Reading
    Updated ice sheet model matches wild swings in past sea levels
    As for the feedbacks modeled in the Southern Ocean, plenty of scientists have expressed skepticism there, as well. (Some of these views were gathered by New York Times blogger Andrew Revkin.) Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research took to The Conversation to caution that the paper “uses a model that does not, in my view, have a very good climate simulation.” He continued, “The paper is quite well-written and a tour de force in many respects, but there are way too many assumptions and extrapolations for anything here to be taken seriously other than to promote further studies.”

    While he hadn’t had time to really dig into the paper yet, University of Washington researcher Eric Steig told Ars he felt the movement of increased precipitation offshore from the ice sheet wasn’t likely to be an important feedback. “We've done our own model experiments looking at the impact of sea ice change on Antarctic precipitation, and it is detectable in the model experiments, but generally not statistically significant. A far bigger impact is likely to be changes in the wind field, which are forced by quite different things than sea ice.”

    That said, the manuscript’s first review (by University of Chicago carbon-cycle scientist David Archer) was posted on Monday and was largely positive. Archer described the paper as “another Hansen masterwork of scholarly synthesis, modeling virtuosity, and insight, with profound implications.”
    Uncrossing the streams

    One issue here is James Hansen’s PR push for a paper that has not yet been peer-reviewed. While many people are advocating more transparent and open peer-review models, there’s some uncertainty regarding how that should fit into the usual journalistic process. (Though arXiv broke this ground long ago.)

    Journalists covering this story should have had access to the draft manuscript, and some of the poor coverage could have been avoided by carefully reading it. However, the summary document that was circulated along with it was misleading, adding that the study concluded these sea level rise scenarios were likely to occur this century. (Ars e-mailed Hansen for clarification of that statement, but a reply has not been received as of press time.)

    In an interview on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS, Hansen could have corrected Zakaria when he said, “You say that there will be a 10-feet rise in 50 years.” But instead, Hansen responded, “Not only would it be 10 feet, but it would imply that in the next decades after that it would be even more.”

    Later, Hansen said, “So if we allow the temperature to go two degrees higher, we're guaranteeing that that sea level rise will occur; we just aren't sure how fast it will occur. And what our study shows, it's a lot faster than the glaciologists had imagined.”

    This study may explore a rapid sea level rise scenario, but it doesn’t show it.

    In an essay posted to his Columbia University page, Hansen writes, “My conclusion, based on the total information available, is that continued high emissions would result in multi-meter sea level rise this century and lock in continued ice sheet disintegration such that building cities or rebuilding cities on coast lines would become foolish.” It may be that Hansen’s personal conclusion has been appended onto descriptions of this particular study’s conclusion. And that’s the stuff that confusion is made of.
    https://arstechnica.com/science/2015/...dicting-10ft-higher-sea-level-by-2050
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  10. The Transformative Power of Climate Truth was initially published 3 months ago. This updated version includes our more recent successes as an organization, as well as addressing the impact of the Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ Encyclical, which is one of the most profound, and surely the most powerful, statement of climate truth that has ever been made.

    The Power of Truth for Individuals

    Humans have a remarkable capacity for imagination and fantasy. This is a precious gift, which allows us to create technological breakthroughs and captivating, brilliant works of fiction. Our imagination gives us the capacity to re-make the world, a uniquely powerful ability that no other animal can come close to rivaling. The downside, however, is that our minds are such powerful and flexible creative forces that they can also easily deceive us.

    In the field of science, there are processes—replication and peer review—that check the human tendency towards distortion. As individuals, we must take charge of this process ourselves. Socrates advocated that individuals must work to discover personal truth, encapsulated in his statement, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Gautama Buddha, a near contemporary of Socrates, created a spiritual system that also emphasizes seeking personal truth and staying in touch with reality. This is no easy task—distinguishing reality from fantasy is a life-long developmental challenge. The child, for example, must learn that monsters and fairies are not real. As the child grows, she must continue to determine what is real about herself, her family, and the world—including recognizing the truth of her capacities, proclivities and limitations. She must question what she has been told, attempting to identify distortions of reality, i.e. “In this family, everyone always gets along!”

    There are two basic reasons why it is critically important that individuals separate truth from distortion and fantasy. The first is very practical. If someone does not adequately understand themselves and the world, they will have a very difficult time navigating it, or growing in response to it. For example, if a teenager believes himself to be invincible, he may break bones or worse before coming to terms with the reality of his vulnerability. Or if he has been told his entire life, and now believes, that he can accomplish any goal easily, he might be in for a rude awakening when he enrolls in advanced courses for which he is unprepared. An accurate assessment of oneself allows a person to utilize their strengths and shore up their weaknesses.

    The second reason was discovered by Freud, and used during the past century for psychoanalysis and related psychotherapies to relieve individual suffering and enhance individual lives. The truth is inherently energizing and enhancing to the individual because the truth is often known, but defended against—repressed, dissociated and denied. This avoidance of the truth takes continual effort and energy. Take, for example a woman who finally admits to herself that she is a lesbian after years of fighting this knowledge. When the truth is finally embraced, a weight is lifted and a new level of personal freedom is accessed. The woman feels as though she has a new lease on life, and indeed she does, because she has integrated an important truth, which is inherently invigorating and opens up new frontiers of possibility.

    Sexual orientation is only one example. We all shield ourselves from unpleasant truths; it is a basic part of human mental functioning. That is why actively examining oneself is critical. Psychotherapy is one such process of active examination, and the results can be staggering. First the client’s depression lifts, then their interpersonal relationships improve, then they may make a career change that is more rewarding. Increased understanding and honesty bear many fruits.

    The Power of Truth in Social Movements

    All of the great social movements throughout history have successfully applied the transformative power of truth en masse. The transformative truths of social movements are widely known before the emergence of the movement, but they are repressed, denied, and ignored. The institutions of society—the government, media, academy and religious institutions often collude in denying the truth, failing the people they are meant to serve. Successful social movements take the truth into their own hands and force individuals, institutions, and especially governments to reckon with, accept, and ultimately act on the truth.

    Vaclav Havel championed “Living in Truth” rather than complying with the corrupt, repressive actions of the Soviet Union. His work played a major role in starting the non-violent Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, after which he became the first democratically elected President of Czechoslovakia in 41 years. Havel described the strategic power of truth:

    (The power of truth) does not reside in the strength of definable political or social groups, but chiefly in a potential, which is hidden throughout the whole of society, including the official power structures of that society. Therefore this power does not rely on soldiers of its own, but on soldiers of the enemy as it were—that is to say, on everyone who is living within the lie and who may be struck at any moment (in theory, at least) by the force of truth (or who, out of an instinctive desire to protect their position, may at least adapt to that force). It is a bacteriological weapon, so to speak, utilized when conditions are ripe by a single civilian to disarm an entire division…. This, too, is why the regime prosecutes, almost as a reflex action, preventatively, even modest attempts to live in truth. (1978, emphasis added.)

    The lies of the Soviet state in Czechoslovakia collapsed when confronted with the force of the truth. This was possible because, as Havel describes, the power of truth exists in everyone, including the army, governmental leaders, and other elites. All of us “know” the truth on some level, but it is buried under layers of defenses, fear and doubt. However, when people advocate the truth with clarity and moral certainty, the truth comes to the forefront of people’s minds; it cuts like a spear through layers of denial and self-deception.

    Gandhi pioneered the movement strategy called “Satyagraha” which means “Truth force” and has connotations of love and inner strength. Rather than using violence to create change, practitioners of Satyagraha used their inner resources to march, fast, and otherwise demonstrate the truth of their message that colonialism was inherently degrading and that India needed to govern itself. Satyagraha was instrumental in helping India achieve independence.

    Martin Luther King utilized Gandhi’s teachings and preached about the need for “soul force” in the struggle for racial equality. Before the civil rights movement, America rationalized, ignored, and passively accepted the brutal Jim Crow system. The civil rights movement brought the ugly truth of Jim Crow to the center of American life. When non-violent protesters were met with hateful violence, and these confrontations were broadcast into living rooms across America, the truth could no longer be denied and ignored: the status quo was seen as morally bankrupt. Major, immediate changes were plainly necessary. When a powerful truth is effectively communicated, change can happen very rapidly.

    The Truth Allows Us to Grow

    Grappling with the truth makes us, as individuals and societies, healthier and more resilient. It allows us to approach problems with rationality and creativity and energy that would otherwise be sapped by denial and avoidance. Social movements invite us to put truth into practice—to be changed by the truth and to share the truth with others. This takes dedication and courage. In successful social movements, these traits are found in abundance. When people become agents for truth and vital change, they are elevated, enlarged, and lit up. The truth, and their role in advancing it, affects how they view themselves, what occupies their mind, and how they conduct their affairs. The power of truth allows them to transcend their limitations and redefine what is possible for themselves.

    Psychologist and climate activist Mary Pipher puts it this way:

    We cannot solve a problem that we will not face. With awareness, everything is possible. Once we stop denying the hard truths of our environmental collapse, we can embark on a journey of transformation that begins with the initial trauma—the ‘oh shit’ moment—and can end with transcendence. In fact, despair is often a crucible for growth. When our problems seem too big for us to tackle, there’s really only one solution, which is: We must grow bigger.

    The Most Powerful Truth of All

    We are living in a state of planetary emergency and must mobilize our society on the scale of WW II in order to rapidly bring greenhouse gas emissions to net zero to have a chance of averting the collapse of civilization and the destruction of the natural world. The fact that we have warmed the world to this extent, and show little sign of stopping, is evidence of widespread institutional failure. We cannot expect anyone else to save us. We must do it ourselves.

    This truth, while deeply unwelcome, has the potential to be the most powerful, transformative truth of all. Climate truth has the potential to be more powerful than any country’s independence; more powerful than overthrowing authoritarian states; and more powerful than civil rights or any group’s struggle for safety, recognition and equality. Climate truth contains such superordinate power because all of those causes depend on a safe climate.

    If we do not solve climate change, we will never be able to build a just, free, healthy, loving society. It will be “game over”— the experiment of humanity organizing into civilizations will have failed. This will mean the deaths of billions of people and the loss of safety and security for the rest. It will be a miserable, deplorable fate. If we accept climate truth, we can channel the enormous power of our values, passions, empathy and hopes for humanity toward our fight for a safe climate.

    Some people will feel that the climate crisis is not “the most powerful truth of all,” a distinction that should be reserved for the existence of God. Some even feel that the existence of God lessens or negates the need to act on the climate crisis. Pope Francis issued Laudato Si, an earth-shaking encyclical on the relationship of human, God, and nature, which firmly rebuts this position:

    It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment. Others are passive; they choose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent. So what they all need is an “ecological conversion,” whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.

    Avoiding Climate Truth

    The fact that climate change threatens the collapse of civilization is not only known to scientists and experts. It is widely known—and defended against. Witness the popularity of learning survival skills and packing “go bags”—people harbor the fantasy that in a collapse scenario, they would be able to successfully take their safety into their own hands. Or look at the profusion of apocalyptic movies, TV shows and video games that have been popular in recent years.

    If we look squarely at the climate crisis, we realize that these portrayals of destruction are not as fantastical as they seem; that they are imaginative forecasts of the climate-ravaged planet that we are careening towards. As Pope Francis puts it, “Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain.”

    Many Americans are willfully ignorant—they know that climate change, and the institutional failure it represents, is scary, so they keep it out of their focus. They never read about it, perhaps telling themselves that they aren’t interested.

    Another common defensive reaction is to intellectually accept the “facts” of climate change, but not to connect emotionally with its implications. This attitude can be seen by those who calmly, cynically state, “We are fucked,” and remain utterly passive.

    Pope Francis that denial is not primarily an intellectual phenomena. He states, “Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it” (emphasis added). Feel the pain of climate truth, and let it guide you to engagement. Accepting climate truth can affect not only your civic and political engagement, but also your priorities, goals, and sense of identity. Allowing climate truth in, to borrow Naomi Klein’s phrase, “changes everything.” You are not, as American culture has told you, an isolated actor, living in a stable country on a stable planet, whose main purpose in life is to pursue personal success and familial satisfaction. Rather, you are living in a country, and on a planet, in crisis. Your primary moral responsibility is to fight for your family, your species and all life on earth. You didn’t ask for it, you didn’t cause it, and you probably don’t like it. But here you are.
    http://theclimatepsychologist.com/the...e-truth-updated-w-encyclical-material
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