Weekly Letter to the President
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ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
May 22, 2020 (posted May 27)
Mr. President: The latest news on rising sea levels can be described as another
example of human folly. The Anthropocene has seen plant extinctions, animal
extinctions, both at an unforeseen pace, and now not only worsened coastal flooding
but a vast area of low-lying south-eastern United States eventually could be under
water. Who says so? And with what level of confidence can we make such a
An assessment by 106 specialists, who study sea-levels and were selected on the
basis of peer-reviewed published research, projects a meter rise by century's end.
Earlier, in September 2019, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC) issued a report estimating, with statistical confidence levels, a global mean sea
level rise of 0.3 to 1.1 meters by 2100. Present sea levels are already about a foot
higher than in the 1970s, and coastal communities are experiencing chronic flooding
that is worsened by storm surges and extreme rainfall events -- now more frequent
due to climate change.
If global warming remains within 2 degrees Celsius, the experts estimate a sea level
rise limited to an average 0.5 meters by 2100 and to between 0.54 -- 2.15m by 2300.
This is the scenario resulting from the Paris Agreement. However, Donald Trump
representing a country that is one of the major contributors to climate warming has
already withdrawn from the Paris accord.
The earth's average surface temperature has risen by 1C since the preindustrial era
but the trajectory uncontrolled is expected to lead to another 3.5C rise by 2100. This
predicts a 0.63 -- 1.32m sea-level rise by 2100. But by 2300, this scenario also
means a possible 1.8m increase from melting Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets as
noted by the experts with knowledge of this aspect of climate change. The resulting
total rise by 2300 is then estimated at 1.67 - 5.61m. To those of us used to thinking
in terms of the English system, the last figure amounts to 18ft. 5ins.
Consider that some 10 percent of the world's population or about 770 million people
live on land less than 5m above high tide levels. Consider also that the scenarios
above are based on mean sea levels. It implies there are areas with lower seas -- the
lucky coastal areas -- but also the unfortunates living beside higher seas in low-lying
regions. Hence, the unfortunate southeast of the US.
If the figures quoted previously are not scary enough, it is worth noting what
happened during the melting of the Eurasian ice sheet 14,000 years ago -- it raised
sea levels by 8 meters or 26 1/4 feet. All of which leads once again to the question of
what we can do as individuals to alleviate global warming in the age of Trump, a man
who believes climate change is a hoax. Thanks to him making an ass of himself
during his coronavirus news conferences, there is a chance he may not be around.
As individuals, aside from avoiding unnecessary auto trips and walking short
distances, one of the best things we can do is to eat less beef (lamb is even worse,
pork much less). As ruminants, cows emit gases, mostly methane when chewing their
cud and then also from the other end -- although there is now hope for a vaccine that
can inactivate the digestive bacteria causing it. Methane is 25 times more potent than
carbon dioxide in trapping heat. It is why livestock cause 14 percent of greenhouse
gas emissions resulting from human activity. It is said, if cows were a country, they
would rank third in emissions.
On the positive side, replacing meat with poultry, fish, vegetables and fruit -- the
Mediterranean diet -- helps us live longer, healthier lives. So, what do we have to