Whether you feel a twinge of guilt for not doing more for the environment, or you take action on a regular basis, here are some new approaches and deeper perspectives on global change.
Through the course of my career as a climate scientist, I have been a broadcaster, teacher, writer, researcher, and now chair one of the most influential science teams in the State of California, developing policy strategies for the water sector, the front line in a changing climate. There has been some failure in science communication, many obstacles to progress, and recently, a few positive developments. The goal of the Climate Therapist is to help those of us in the consciousness community find ways to improve the state of global balance, beyond simply reducing our energy footprint.
The SAND community is open to greater understanding of the complexity of the issues, both scientific and political, and identifying actions capable of producing a more sustainable planet; even non-traditional ones. The enormity of reducing our collective footprint can feel a bit daunting, on both individual and global scales. I maintain that expanded awareness and intent can be as effective as corporate divestiture from fossil fuels, as recently announced by the Rockefeller charitable arm.
This year’s entanglement theme provides fertile ground for spying opportunities for effort and action in climate. Where are the crossroads, the stumbling blocks, the gaps in understanding? Based on the interconnectedness of all things, the consciousness community can effectively, practically and successfully take up the charge. In this matter, perhaps more than any other, we are the ones we are waiting for.
Entanglement with nature
While there are people who perceive the physical world as separate from us, and ascribe to the philosophy that one person’s or even one country’s cumulative behavior cannot impact something as large as the Earth’s biosphere, there is no doubt that the amount of trash we create, resources we consume, and the overall hyperactivity with which we live our lives all impact the environment. We don’t have the luxury of infinite supplies of clean water, fossil fuel, or even harmony between peoples. The delicate entanglement we enjoy with nature is corrupted by the cumulative impact of 7 billion people; convenience in first world countries and economic growth in advancing countries both cause pollution.
There are feedback mechanisms that mask the extent to which we are heating our world. These offsetting processes include uptake by the oceans of excess carbon dioxide, powerful redistribution forces in the atmosphere (of heat and moisture) whose core purpose is continually attempting to bring the system into temperature and pressure balance, and physical and chemical interactions at the small scale and in the oceans that we have yet to fully represent mathematically.
It’s possible that the losers will be us. The dynamic and vibrant Gaia system (the topic of my Master’s thesis, which I defended against reductionists) is capable of re-stabilizing. The cure may be our demise. I don’t say that to foster futility. Mother Nature accommodating or masking our impacts does not justify them. And the possibility that either Mother Nature or our own egocentric actions could take us out of the game, does not mean there is no way for us to make things better.
The intricate web of entanglement among the living beings in the biosphere is only one of the complications; a multitude of physical-scale complications exist as well. From small-scale weather or climate features, the size of a hillside all the way up to atmospheric jet dynamics, the interplay of pressure (which causes winds), temperature, chemistry, and unique precipitation processes are each difficult to simplify for mathematical climate modeling. Societal interactions from personal behaviors, to local government to international actions, and the myriad of response choices for mitigation (reducing greenhouse gases) and adaptation (strategizing for changes already underway) set up additional formidability.
There are many sources for detailed scientific data and assessment, the most thorough of which is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. My specialty is California climate and climate change. In my recently released paper, Estimating Historical California Precipitation Phase Trends, the changeover to ‘more rain, less snow’ in recent decades is analyzed. Droughts and wildfires are projected to become more frequent and of longer duration. Supply models indicate a major state reservoir will fall too low to pump water as often as every 6 years by the end of this century. Sea level is projected to rise 3 to 4 feet on the west coast, although there are tectonic and groundwater management practices that may have flattened (minimized) regional sea level rise this past decade. The flood risk, especially from the central and southern Sierra, due to higher elevation and limited state and federal channel capacity, will continue to increase. For a visual and straightforward synopsis of what climate change means specifically for California, see my video, Climate of Change, here.
The jet stream itself may be upset by global warming. One theory, which I ascribe to, is that already-measurable warming at the poles leads to more equal temperatures with equatorial upper air. Visualization of this is important. The disparity between cooler air over the poles and warmer air over the tropics, due to sunlight intensity, results in the jet stream. With greater warming at the higher latitudes (poles), the strength and/or breadth of the jet stream’s meandering course may be modified; allowing it wider swings from north to south.
What does that mean and why is this important? The wavy patterns of the jet indicate long-lasting weather events; a huge northward arc (in the northern hemisphere) that lasts a long time means fewer storms. If this pattern gets stuck, the area underneath could be in drought. A huge southward arc and subsequent low-pressure formation can bring prolonged precipitation; i.e. flooding potential.
Many scientists shy away from making the links between weather and climate. I do not, because this medium-time-frame (days to months) could really portend the type of climate crises that ‘bring it home.’ Bad things happen on the time scale of a season; floods, drought, crop failure, wildfire, increased storm strength, etc. If we miss the opportunity to indicate these may be harbingers of what’s to come, then the public will dismiss tying any weather they are experiencing to global change whatsoever. An interactive article on the weather and climate relationships of 2013 is found here.
There are also interrelationships that govern response to other environmental predicaments; ever-increasing loads of pharmaceuticals, pesticides, extraction solvents and residue, industrial waste, plastics manufacture and trash, habitat destruction, radioactive waste, and methane discharge from melting permafrost. Air, water and food-chain pollution comprise even broader, and more alarming global change than warming. One positive development is the ban enacted by California on plastic bags; one step we can all take to reduce trash.
Blocks to Action
At the UN Climate Summit, The European Union announced greenhouse gas emissions reduction plans, and a substantial commitment was made by nations and companies to reduce global deforestation. While much effort is being made at governmental-level conferences, we still face the real likelihood that the rate of global change is out-pacing humanity’s organizational re-patterning.
Climate science has heartily been called to task in recent years, challenged almost religiously. Granted, science itself has contributed to societal lack of commitment to change because the level of small-scale detail and relationships across multiple scales are still not all understood. And the complicated linkages between weather and climate, described above, are bounded on one side by caution and the other by alarmism; each scientist drawing the line at a slightly different position.
Media plays a role too, in misinformation and disenfranchisement. I worked as an on-air meteorologist and have an Emmy for science literacy. I take seriously accuracy and reasonable expression of possible outcomes. But in efforting to report both sides of the issue, in formulaic news report templates, the vast majority of scientists who think global warming is manmade has been falsely portrayed as evenly numbered by those that do not. And the lack of media coverage of the People’s Climate March shows newsroom disinterest. Story selection comes down to “what matters today,” and without significant progress, climate change is not news.
Climate denial is only one of the obstacles to global change alleviation, however; others are economic and geo-political (opposition to actions that curtail economic growth), scientific (limitation regarding understanding of feedback mechanisms), and the real clincher; that the correlation between small actions like filling up your tank to a heat wave in central Europe really does boggle the mind. It’s both hard to connect, and unpleasant to do so. Another obstacle is burnout. Outreach is falling on deaf ears by this point; fear-mongering from either camp isn’t effective.
Articulating all those barriers, unknowns, and sources of futility may make it seem there is no hope for gaining ground on global change. On the contrary however, there are energetic resources that are infinite, at a deeper level of humanity. These can be tapped for the benefit of the Earth and our sustainable survival. While not all groups are willing to turn their intention to global change, the SAND community, and others I work with on climate change; artists, youth, indigenous peoples, and spiritual groups, are able to look more deeply at our entanglement with nature and the need for personal and collective responsibility.
We, as a consciousness community, can ‘apply’ our conscious intent toward the climate and our role in it. Meditative practice, understanding that quantum vibration can be effective in both initiating change and manifesting seemingly miraculous outcomes, and visualization of the atmospheric and policy processes themselves are nothing short of the recipe needed to counter and stabilize global change. We must be intentional in our desire to do our part, learn more about the atmosphere, and vibrationally shift others (citizens, policy makers, scientists, media) to make more responsible decisions. I hope to make understandable the interplay of atmosphere, biosphere and anthrosphere in coming articles, locating specific junctures in the climate puzzle where we can all focus our efforts beyond just turning off the lights.
Please chat with me at SAND, where I will present my poster, “The Climate Therapist” on Friday night, Oct. 24. I know many of you have opinions, perceptions and questions about global change. Art, social pressure, boycotts, letter writing, channeling; let’s explore non-traditional approaches. I look forward to the opportunity to bring my climate credentials, visuals of these weather patterns and personal consciousness experiences to work with you on doing what needs to be done.
The Climate Therapist
Elissa Lynn is the 2002 Emmy winner for Northern California Education Segment. She holds a Master’s degree in Atmospheric Sciences, and chairs California’s Climate Change Technical Advisory Group. She leads selection of global climate models for California’s climate change adaptation strategies, drought and flooding. She has won technical and management excellence awards for climate literacy and public outreach. Her 17-year broadcast career includes Chief Meteorologist at ABC, Sacramento. Comments on the Climate Therapist are welcome: [email protected].