While Nero Fiddles…

Here is what truly terrifies me.

America is currently in thrall to the clown occupying the Oval Office. Every day there’s a new outrage, a new assault on democratic norms and the rule of law. If it isn’t the buffoon himself, it’s a member of what has to be the worst cabinet ever assembled. And we are all transfixed by the spectacle.

Meanwhile, the earth keeps warming.

Studies confirm that the rate at which the climate is changing is accelerating. Ice is melting faster than anticipated, the oceans are warming more quickly and feeding ever-stronger hurricanes, island nations are disappearing into rising seas.

And human health is endangered. According to a new review article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Earth may experience a net increase of 529,000 adult deaths by 2050, due to food shortages caused by climate change.

While the report has several other “take aways,” including new evidence of global warming, here are a few bearing on human health:

There are a number of health risks that operate through both direct and indirect links to climate change, including malnourishment, diarrheal disease, malaria and heatstroke.

An example of a direct health effect of climate change is heat-related death.

Other health effects are linked to climate change less directly. For example, rising temperatures can lead to changes in the range and distribution of vector-borne diseases, like malaria, which is transmitted by mosquitoes.

Climate change is also linked to health effects that vary by factors such as geography, race and socioeconomic status. For example, the relative socioeconomic status of a country will to some extent determine the ability to cope with or mitigate the effects of climate change. Hotter regions of the world tend to be poorer, and these economies will face additional challenges as global temperatures rise.

An estimate for climate change-associated adult deaths resulting from expected changes to the food supply predicts a net increase of 529,000 deaths worldwide by 2050, which vastly exceed previous estimates by the World Health Organization.
This is a conservative estimate, because it does not include deaths from other climate-sensitive health outcomes and does not include morbidity or the effects associated with the disruption of health services from extreme weather and climate events.

A World Bank estimate suggests that “climate change could force more than 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030.”

The authors of the report note that there would be numerous health benefits if  global carbon emissions could be reduced to zero.  There would be less exposure to air pollution (which is estimated to account for 6.5 million premature deaths yearly). Shifting to a plant-based diet would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by  20 to 30 percent and would dramatically improve health outcomes, and shifting more transportation to walking, biking and public transportation from personal motor vehicles would not only reduce emissions, but would also encourage health-promoting physical activity.

Seems like a win/win to me.

This report adds to the steadily mounting evidence of the enormous threat to global civilization posed by climate change. Worse, the evidence shows that the threat is considerably more imminent than previous estimates suggested.

Meanwhile, rather than a sense of urgency, rather than a national effort to do what we can to avoid the worst of the likely consequences, we’re all watching the soap opera/gong show that is our current national government.

Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Trump tweets while the globe heats.

And we really, really don’t have time for this.


  1. All true but the things that warm the hearts of the Republicans are
    1. Lower Taxes for the richest people in the world – their donors
    2. Christian Right Wingers in Federal Court positions
    3. Freedom from Primary Challenges from even MORE right wing Republicans crazies

    so whats with all this logical stuff? Climate disasters and such? Disease?
    Who cares about human suffering and death?
    Not our Republican overlords.
    They are fat and happy and could not care less about the rest of us – or the world
    Especially not Comrade Trump but also the Republican Senators who enable that troll

  2. Planet Earth can really only support half the human population it currently has. That’s the irony of global warming and our desire to stay alive and reproduce even more. Our most basic instincts are to reproduce – just like every other organism on the planet. YET, the United States has turned health care into a profit center that creates more poverty and fewer people able to pay for it without having their lives destroyed …. for ANY health-related problem. BTW, the drug companies alone spend a couple billion dollars per year on LOBBYING. They pass that cost of doing business along to the drug buyer. Dutifully, our politicians ruled that Medicare negotiating drug prices was out of the question. The health care system, with its red-headed stepchild, insurance companies have only one motto: HOW MUCH WILL YOU PAY TO STAY ALIVE AND NOT HURT?

    AND the energy companies give not one hoot about global warming caused by their constant promotion of fossil fuels and plastics. In both industries, stockholders rule the roost – so to speak – and determine what each company/corporation does. PROFIT RULES OVER SENSE.

    I doubt that the majority of American are “in thrall” with Trump or his criminal enterprise. Only the shrinking minority that this blog has been pounding for two years are in thrall of anything, except maybe Fox News and other mindless propaganda.

    It is ironic also that the desire to overpopulate coupled with the mindless, counter-to-quality-of-life capitalism that drives our society will create our own demise. How about those ancient viruses locked up in the melting ice sheets? What happens to the rate of greenhouse gasses when the permafrost gives up increasing amounts of its trapped methane?

    Read “Das Kapital” (in English) to know that Marx predicted capitalism’s demise almost two centuries ago. Einstein merely confirmed it – as Todd keeps reminding us. Fascism is the immediate precursor to the collapse of capitalism, and that’s what our stupid voters keep opting for.

    It’s good to be old.

  3. While Nero fiddles the citizens and serfs, the ones with common sense, will get busy taking care of their own lives. They will look to what they themselves can do to offset the effects of climate change. They will make sacrifices in their own comfort; they will restrain their greed; they will consume less; dampen their expectations; protect what is left of nature around themselves. They will be their own best leaders and march forward into a better world of their own making … a world with balance and respect for all of life.

  4. This past week in Davos, the world’s Elite gathered to discuss many global issues including climate change.

    Trump wasn’t there because the government was shut down. May wasn’t there because Brexit is running out of time. The two leaders from the Western Empires were missing due to self-created crises, yet you want them to take climate change seriously. LOL

    Enter stage left, a 16-year-old girl named Greta Thunberg. She took a 32-hour train ride and slept in a tent vs staying in a luxury hotel. She told reporters that flying in private jets to discuss climate change is absurd…”It’s not reasonable.”

    She told a small crowd:

    “Some people say that the climate crisis is something that we will have created, but that is not true, because if everyone is guilty then no one is to blame. And someone is to blame,” Thunberg said flatly. “Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular, have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. And I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”
    There was a short pause in the room before Bono started clapping.

    Greta has more sense and maturity than DJT will ever experience in his lifetime.

    And she’s a more intelligent speaker…


  5. We have 11 years to obtain zero emissions in energy production and transportation. Have you seen any movement to meet these goals? Big Auto doesn’t push electric vehicles. (Anheuser Busch will switch to a gas free fleet.) Fossil fuels are still subsidized. A few cities and a handful of countries are switching. But not US.

  6. Todd,

    “Thunberg said flatly. “Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular, have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. And I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”

    She is absolutely right.

    As Vernon said, “It’s good to be old.” I’m old too. So is Charles Koch We’re playing the wrong game.

    At this point in time, it is too late for the game of Democracy vs. Fascism. If Professor Einstein was alive, I’m certain he would second that statement.

    It has to be Anti-Oligarchy vs. Pro-Oligarchy in order for DECENCY to prevail. That’s a no-brainer.

    Donald Trump didn’t cause the problem we are all facing. He has just highlighted it.

  7. We all need to be supporting NGOs that have ecology as a primary mission. We must also take steps to lower our own carbon footprint. It won’t solve the problem, but it can’t hurt.

  8. I would suggest reading “German Big Business & The Rise of Hitler” by Henry Ashby Turner, Jr. (Oxford University Press, New York, 1985).

    I’ve never lost in a confrontation with the oligarchy because the collection of my intelligence, has always been better than that prepared by their experts.

    “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

    I now can understand, after four years on this blog, why only a handful of you have ever identified with what I have been trying to say.

    I don’t blame you. You must think I’m a FOOL. I beg to differ with you.

  9. What patmcc said, and this: But, but, this will speed up Jesus’ coming back!! Gllooorryy!!

  10. Global climate change and the country’s growing national debt are very similar in two respects. They are massive, and they change relatively slowly. We can’t solve either during one legislative term. We rationalize that things won’t get noticeably worse even if we do nothingabout them during any particular legislative term. So we do nothing. Our leaders shun these issues, because the political cost of doing the right thing is too great for most politicians to bear. They kick the can down the road. When will we reach the tipping point? I am no fan of the president. But these two problems will still be with us long after he evolves from a nightmare to a historical joke. We won’t address either of these “problems” until they become “crises”.

  11. Closer to Home in Indiana:
    From the Hoosier Environmental Council:
    1.) Urge Your State Rep to Support CAFO Reform

    Indiana’s factory farms generate 14 times more urine and feces than the entire human population of the state. Like human waste, livestock waste contains dangerous pathogens such as e.Coli that can make people sick if the pathogens make their way into drinking water, food supplies, or lakes and streams where people fish and swim.

    As livestock waste decomposes, it releases noxious and dangerous air emissions including ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and VOCs that also pose serious public health risks.

    Unlike human waste, however, livestock waste is allowed under current law to be collected in unlined, open-air cesspools that are larger than football fields. When those cesspools fill up, current law allows factory farm operators to dispose of the waste, untreated, on nearby land. As a result:
    • e.Coli is now the leading cause of water pollution
    • residential wells near factory farms can be found to be contaminated with nitrates and pathogens
    • living conditions for long-time rural Hoosiers downwind of these factory farms can be unbearable

    This has to stop, which is why HB 1378 has been introduced, which would give IDEM the authority it currently lacks to regulate the noxious air emissions released at factory farms and to deny a permit to a new or expanding factory farm that, if allowed, would endanger human health or the environment. For more information about HB 1378.
    The factory farms are an example of negative Externalities (a side effect or consequence of an industrial or commercial activity that affects other parties without this being reflected in the cost of the goods or services involved, such as the pollution).

    A few years ago after returning from a trip to the Chicago area, I stopped at a rest stop in northern Indiana on I-65. My eyes started to burn along with a horrible stink. I asked the rest stop attendant about the horrible stink and he said – It was a factory farm.

  12. Here’s one of my spiritual vows “In an age of consumption, I vow to practice voluntary simplicity.”

    I’m doing what I can to decrease my carbon footprint. Indiana has added 50 dollars to the excise tax on my car because I had the nerve to purchase a Toyota Prius. This does not support Hoosiers who are trying to buy gas efficient cars. JRR Tolkien author of The Lord of the Rings stated once that the combustible engine would be the ruin of civilization.

    I just bought steel drinking straws for me and some friends so I can stop using plastic straws when I eat out . I don’t eat out frequently now because I’m on a fixed income with my retirement.

    I just read where 2 girls in Bali started a movement to stop the use of plastic in their country. They are succeeding!

    This again goes to the point that David Brooks made about the lack of a moral compass in global and American corporations.

    We need to start a movement. Of course, that would require sacrifice. We’d have to give up some creature comforts and stop buying stuff just because we want it.

  13. It’s hard to take people seriously when their actions (flying and driving) seemingly belie their complaints against climate change itself.

  14. Our only hope is the younger generations. They are starting to speak up and demand that we make changes so that they have a planet that is livable for them and their future offspring.

    We need to support them both emotionally and financially as they fight to save this planet from greed and destruction.

  15. So,how many times on this very forum have we read the following; “These people want to return to a past that will never come back?” That sentence is approval of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism itself has added to the source(s) of climate change. But who cares? The deplorables should have gone to college and acheived white-collar jobs. And besides,our portfolios at Vanguard have done very well thanks to outsourcing,MMT,offshoring and neoliberialsm.

    No one REALLY cares about climate change. No one on this very forum is prepared to make the sacrifice needed. That’s the truth. Now,can we discuss something important like the travels of our fellow contributors to this forum?

  16. What we are talking about is the platform that our next governance team will have to take on. We will write off 2016-2020. No progress was or will be made and we went backwards in so many ways at times when AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) was creating a world profoundly different from the one that we settled and built our civilization in accord with.

    When fossil fuels are burned virtually everything but the energy that they hold within them gets dumped into the atmosphere. In a few years we will have doubled the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from all the fuel that we’ve burned. That will have profound effects on our weather, sea level, and ocean chemistry. Land and sea that we have dedicated to serving us will no longer and what we counted on it for will have to be relocated and rebuilt in some cases and abandoned in others. We can’t predict long term weather yet so the details are unknowable but what earth’s changing energy balance tells us is that what we are creating is now and will be increasingly and profoundly different than what we have now for a home planet.

    Accommodating all of this change while minimizing the natural chaos that it will create will require the absolute best of government starting as soon as possible.

    The good news is that we have started. The bad news is that what we can do between now and 2021 will be very limited. After that it will only be limited by the ability of those we elect.

  17. the mass use of the personal car,probably has the most effect. i lived in l.a. in the 70s,the whole county,and eastward, is blocked in by a basin like mountian side. when the wind isnt blowing,it looks like smoke in a bowl. fog and smoke,smog..the calif air resources board,has mandated all vehicles,and truck refregeration units,be registered and account for maintaining its smog equipment. you can not take a commercial truck older than 2007 into calif. newer models have a DPF,diesel particle filter, and since its inception,has maybe helped,but your still buring fueloil.the trucking industry is only now, making a effort to develop elec,and hydrogen generation trucks,cng… all in all, its way behind in any delvelopment,and investment in alternitives. when we look and use, the new way to shop, immediate delivery,aka,amazon style, your only adding to clean air theft.. (o.k, i just made that up) our desire to now everything is a collosal waste. immediate action to everything,(like watching a t.v plot ,,done in,well a few commercials,)and we expect it. ever wonder about where everything comes from today? its done now,on contract,and its gone, no warehousing anymore,because it costs. so we have immediate needs and a rush to get them there. its called JIT just in time.its been around since the early 80s this alone adds to the we want it now gen..when ordering some thing,use the general way,post,fed up, adding extra to the atmosphere,can start with that. support local train development for the buisness areas,and develop industral areas,with mass transit,as a must,not a question. like a euro style rail,would be a safe alt,but remember,that electric car,still takes a power plant to run it…

  18. It’s time to stop using the terms “Global warming” and “Climate change” and start talking about what’s causing this phenomenon. “Believing” in Climate change is no more effective at getting people to take action than believing in the tooth fairy.
    Some facts must be addressed whether we “believe” in GW or not. The North Atlantic garbage patch is an area of man-made plastic debris that is estimated to be hundreds of square miles in size. It blocks the sun and reduces oxygen levels killing fish and whole species of marine life. Recently a dead whale was found with a large amount of plastic in its gut, including a pair of flip flops. Fish are eating microscopic sized plastic and we are eating the fish. Hopefully none of us will be found like beached wales with flip flops in our stomach.
    While melting ice in the Arctic may raise ocean levels, it is also releasing carbon dioxide that has been trapped there for thousands of years, thus negatively impacting the delicate balance of our atmosphere.
    You think there is no such thing as too much carbon dioxide? Put a plastic bag over your head, breathe deeply for 10 minutes and call me in the morning.
    And let’s not forget about disastrous forest fires and resulting mud slides that are negatively tipping the balance of our fragile atmosphere. Surely, we remember our grade school lessons that people breathe oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide while trees take in Co2 and give off oxygen. Trees can’t do their job when humans are too lazy and self-centered to do theirs.
    Much of this is happening right now and is obvious to anyone who cares.
    Obama tried to regulate coal sludge from being dumped in our waterways. Trump rescinded this saying it was a burden on business.
    Trump wants to save the coal industry, an outdated and unhealthy method for producing energy. Hilary Clinton tried to steer the focus to cleaner and renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, which are among the fastest growing and job-producing industries throughout the industrialized world.
    So my plea is that people and politicians understand and address the causes of environmental destruction: human generated pollution.

    Using the terms “Global warming” and “Climate change” are mere cop-outs that allow politicians (and citizens) to do nothing.

  19. I can’t agree with Steve Kern that one legislative term won’t make a difference. Ocasio-Cortez is proving more effective than Bernie Sanders in making the case that the tax system is the tool we must use to fight income inequality. Others are jumping on board and some are suggesting taxes on wealth, not simply on income. Serendipitously, that same approach addresses the debt and deficit problems. Governor Brown of California put that issue to rest for all time by taxing the wealthy to avoid bankruptcy. Sam Brownback proved the same point (albeit unintentionally) by going in the opposite direction from Brown.

    As for climate change, Trump’s clueless approach to all serious problems is likely to endure only four years. So many governors, mayors, legislatures, businesses, institutions, and intelligent people understand climate change that we won’t allow the most ignorant among us to control the debate much longer. Bloomberg is leading this fight from the top down and countless approaches are taking hold from the bottom up. For example, only a handful of us vocally opposed offshore drilling in South Carolina just 4 years ago. Now it is the rallying cry of our Republican governor, all coastal mayors, and impressive numbers of citizens. Things often change quickly, and through his in-your-face obnoxious mind and personality, Trump seems to be helping that process along. What is most helpful is that the more you see of him, the less you want to see. Despite their power, arch criminals don’t hold sway for long in the U.S.

  20. Oil and climate change.

    In case anyone thought U.S. hemispheric imperialism was waning, check out the coup we are instigating in Venezuela

  21. Irvin, ‘

    My statement is not meant to be critical of others, only an admission of MY failure to communicate the “less traveled route” that I feel must be taken to stem the FASCIST tide. I wasn’t thinking of you when I made what appears to be a negative statement. You’re one of the few, I’ve been able to communicate with.

  22. Marv – I do not for a minute think you are crazy and very much appreciate your contributions to this blog, especially some of your referenced publications. I also agree with you that we may be using the wrong tense of the verb in describing our descent into fascism – we may have already arrived (with our democracy hanging by a single thread and in need of robust defense),so keep on keeping on.

  23. Well… maybe we can just set fire to NERO!… and while he is being run through the inquisition the rest of us can go about getting on with our daily lives and not having in any way shape or form to see his face or hear his voice ever again… I say burn NERO! and his little dog(s) too!

  24. In the U.S. and likely elsewhere, the Koch brothers have made protection of fossil fuels and dangerous but profitable chemicals the major condition of their immense political and financial support. They have organized other big businesses to help finance independent campaign ads for candidates who will protect and strengthen their right to pollute. They have financed think tank “research” to deny the overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change. They contribute to universities IF university researchers will echo the denials of climate change. They fight in election campaigns, in the courts, and more quietly behind closed doors where environmental protection rules and regs and those who protect the protections can be changed mostly out of public view. They also fight for gerrymandered districts by the politicians they elect to keep them in safe districts with little threat of election defeat.

    The good news is that public sentiment and average voters can and could overwhelm the fossil fuel and chemical industries. Rest assured, the polluters will buy lots of airtime to defeat those who want to protect the environment. It’s time the environment’s protectors the polluters pollution of our political discourse.

  25. Sorry for the word ommission. It’s time the environment’s protectors expose the polluters’ pollution of our political discourse.

  26. Once again…apologies for repeating…young people talk a good game here, too. But they don’t vote.

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