President’s Climate Council has been disbanded.

The disbanding of the Climate Council1 was an easy story to miss in the last couple of weeks of statutes, protests, Harvey and floods. Even today’s news of the US State Department’s proposed reorganization2, which functionally demotes the discussions on Climate Change as well as the Arctic Region, was barely mentioned as the media brought us images of the rescues of the now internally displaced persons from Houston and surrounding regions.

The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend

Henri Bergson

How we view Hurricane Harvey3 and how we view the news that for the first time a LNG tanker crossed the northern sea route from Europe to Asia without the assistance of an icebreaker4 is a reflection of how we think. Given the geographical separation, it would be easy to see these as isolated events. Given their historic context and nature (unprecedented flooding versus a successful voyage through the northwest passage) it would be reasonable to disconnect the two events.

Yet there is a way to connect both events. Climate change, in the context of global warming, has been central to the reduction of both the surface area and the thickness of polar ice5, thus making a northwest passage possible. That same warming of the oceans is what has brought the Gulf of Mexico to record high temperatures6 facilitating the strength of hurricanes. High air temperature also allows for greater water content in the atmosphere, which can trigger larger rain events. Add to this a heat wave in the west and a high-pressure area to the east and the hurricane gets trapped7,8 where it is.

Is Hurricane Harvey a once in a lifetime event? I doubt it. It may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Houston, but not for the Gulf or the U.S.

What does any of this have to do with disbanding the Climate Council? You cannot use information you do not have. And you cannot evaluate the relative importance of the answer to a question that was not asked.

We are in a time of increasingly rapid climate change. The past is losing its validity as a model for predicting the future. As the projections on rainfall for the Houston region were being made, many people found the numbers hard to believe. They did not comply with past personal experience or recorded memory. But the truth of the projections continues to play out.

I can appreciate the wish that climate change will not happen. But I also accept the reality that it is. Welcomed or not, we need climate councils. We need people in the room when decisions are being made who are willing to ask the uncomfortable questions, and are knowledgeable about the dynamic projections of our coming climate and its implications. We need people who can help us prepare for the next Harvey while also offering insights on how to reduce the number, frequency, and scale of the future sons and daughters of Harvey.

At its core a climate council is really about vulnerability assessment and risk management. They are trying to save lives and minimize future property, infrastructure, and economic loss.

Disbanding the climate council does not make climate change in all its various forms go away. It just makes us more unprepared. And that is a risk we should not accept.


29 August 2017



2 – document/p1







Earth Overshoot Day is Here Again!

Happy August 2nd, 2017, the earliest Earth Overshoot Day Ever.

This year, humanity has been able to exceed the bio-capacity of the Earth 6 days earlier than it did last year and 11 days earlier than 2015. I am well aware that many of us get anxious about big events. Sometimes we want them to come sooner because we want to enjoy them. Sometimes we want them to come simply so we can get past them. Earth Overshoot Day should never fall into either category!

In fact, Earth Overshoot Day1 is one of those days that should never happen.

We all actively, if unknowingly, participate in creating Earth Overshoot Day. We generate Earth Overshoot Day through our collective, cumulative and continuous generation of waste and pollution, as well as our financial support of disposable objects, “non-repairable” technology, excessive packaging, extensive shipping and over harvesting of resources. Coupling those activities with our unawareness or insensitivity to the implications and scale of how things are made, grown, manufactured, used and disposed creates a formula for accelerating the arrival of Earth Overshoot Day.

The long-term concern regarding Earth Overshoot Day is that every year we overshoot the bio-capacity of the planet is a year in which we reduce the ability, robustness, resilience, and bio-capacity of the Earth to support our species.   The earlier Earth Overshoot Day arrives, the more risk we put on our long-term survival.

If we use the common estimates for population growth and species loss, we will add 80 million people2 while loosing 54,750 species3 in the next 365 days. That is a rapid annual increase in need/demand while suffering a major loss in biological resources.  Unless we actively engage in reconceptualizing and redesigning how humanity could/can positively interact with and support/enhance the regenerative bio-capacity of the planet, Earth Overshoot Day will continue to come earlier and earlier – putting us at ever increasing risk.

Earth Overshoot Day is not really a measure of planetary health and happiness. Instead it is a measure of how well we are getting along with the planet. It is a measure of whether or not we are acting in a way that supports the continuation of our civilization. If there are no Earth Overshoot Days, then we are supporting the mechanism and systems that promote our continuation. If there are Earth Overshoot Days, then we are not. This year’s record early Earth Overshoot Day indicates that we are not saving ourselves from ourselves. And that has to stop.

We need to roll back the calendar on Earth Overshoot Day. Right now we are using 20 months of Earth bio-capacity per year. At a minimum we need to match demand with capability and thrive on 12 months of bio-capacity per year. If we want to repair the harm done by this and previous Earth Overshoot Days, then we will need to prosper on 11 months of bio-capacity per year until we make the system whole again. These changes are not as daunting as they seem. Currently 60% of our ecological footprint goes to absorbing Carbon pollution1.   Getting rid of pollution and utilizing waste as a resource does most of the restoration for us. When we not only remember that all things are connected, but act in a way that supports the connections, we can say good-by to Earth Overshoot Day. And that would be a day worth celebrating.


Tim Rumage


2 – growthrate



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