Category Archives: Miami Herald

“When the History of This Era is Written, Who’ll Be to Blame?”

Most people would agree that when you visit your doctor, someone who is a scientist by education of course, and she tells you that she’s 98% sure of one thing or another you don’t hesitate to follow her advice. That percentage is so high it speaks for itself and leaves little to no doubt that you don’t even question it and, instead, you take action.

And yet when it comes to climate change and our dire need to begin to materially fix the problem by shifting to sustainable energy something is different.

We know that 98% of scientists that have studied the issue have concluded that climate change is not only real but substantially made by man. And mind you, that overwhelming percentage of climate scientists that have come to that conclusion did so after being subjected to rigorous, peer reviewed, expert professional analysis from folks who are skeptical by nature and spend their days asking questions so as to seek the factual truth to support their answers and views.

So if 98% of scientists have the same view, have drawn the same conclusion, then why are we so slow to change our ways and move into the future by doing what’s right?

And speaking of percentages, if you live in a place like South Florida for any length of time as I have then you are 100% certain that we have a problem, that things are changing, that the temperature and water all around us are rising. You don’t need someone to tell you what your eyes and brain make clear and yet many in Washington and elsewhere spend a significant amount of their time working on ways to either keep things the way they are or make them worse rather than better, when better is so obviously achievable.

Why are we not taking more decisive action to address our warming planet?

Why do we pander to those who question the science when those who have spent careers studying it have nearly no doubt and, even if they are slightly off in their projections, would making our world cleaner, safer and cooler not be the wise and decent thing to do anyway?

The answer to our collective lack of sufficient action can often be found in our mass media. When the media runs a piece on what is so obviously happening and has expert opinion explaining the science and solutions it often feels compelled to have a dissenting voice express their opinion even though the facts, and the truth, is so single sided. The moment the media places someone who suggests that earth is not warming, that man is not at fault, that one thing or another is “normal” they provide the stage for that person to be seen as a 50/50 equal to their counterpart on that same screen and that, for the public, can be terribly misleading.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is most certainly a member of the mass media. He is a long time, magnificent, opinion writer for the Miami Herald who eloquently describes much of what people call the human condition but he does so with a heart and soul that often brings tears to my eyes. His work on race relations, gun control and any number of other important topics is nothing short of brilliant and I am so very pleased that he’s written about a change at the British Broadcasting Corp (BBC) than you need to consider and then, please, share.

In his wonderful piece entitled When the history of this era is written, who’ll be to blame?, Mr. Pitts thankfully shares his concerns by using this recent BBC memo, which itself uses climate change to illustrate its point, to explain why the new BBC policy is so important to all of us receiving the truth and to then taking action before it’s too late.  In fact, the BBC explains that it “gets climate change wrong too often” and concludes that “you don’t need a denier to balance the debate.”

Mr. Pitts explains what he calls “bothsiderism” and describes how the BBC warns its employees to “be aware of a false balance.”  I hope that he and the Herald don’t mind but it’s so important, and his voice so important, that I had to share it with you today:

Shared from the 2018-09-12 The Miami Herald eEdition

When the history of this era is written, who’ll be to blame?

BY LEONARD PITTS JR. lpitts@miamiherald.com

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A prediction.

When the history of this era is written, when future generations wonder how a mostly-educated and largely-literate nation became mired in “truthiness,” when they ask how we became so mentally muddled that we lost the ability to identify facts and the capacity to care, they’ll find many culprits.

They’ll blame Fox “News” for feeding the fearful a steady diet of hogwash designed to make them feel beset, encircled and put upon.

They’ll blame Alex Jones for spinning webs of conspiracy so bizarre and convoluted as to shame Fox Mulder.

They’ll blame schools for failing to teach young people to think critically.

They’ll blame Donald Trump for being Donald Trump.

But they will also blame many of us in the non-Fox news media for our failure to be energetic advocates for, and defenders of, the actual, factual truth. They will blame us for surrendering to a boneless “bothsideism” that simulates professional impartiality at the cost of clarity and fact.

Which is what makes a new memo from the BBC such bracing reading. The subject is relatively narrow — climate change — and the intended audience is only the company’s own troops. But the point the memo makes should give pause to all of us who consume or report the news.

“Be aware of ‘false balance,’” it warns. “…To achieve impartiality, you do not need to include outright deniers of climate change in BBC coverage, in the same way you would not have someone denying that Manchester United won 2-0 last Saturday.”

And isn’t that a novel idea? BBC reporters are henceforth free to report on climate change without feeling bound to include those who insist it doesn’t exist. They are free to treat facts as factual.

Sadly, that notion would be resisted here. In the first place, climate change deniers would raise a squall. But journalists, addicted to conflict and confrontation and to a misguided idea of what it takes to be “fair and balanced” would likely also be up in arms.

Never mind that neither fairness nor balance require us to report discredited and disreputable information. Never mind, either, that winning the debate is not the point for climate change deniers anyway. No, they win simply by being included, thus wringing from us an implicit concession that they represent a point of view worth hearing. Even when they do not.

As deniers of tragedies from the Holocaust to the Civil War to the Parkland shooting prove, both-side-ism isn’t just a journalistic problem. But it is in journalism that it is arguably most consequential.

One recalls with a grimace how reporters treated Hillary Clinton’s sloppy handling of emails as an object of concern equivalent to the racism, misogyny, mendacity, ineptitude, ignorance and corruption that trail Trump like an odor. Indeed, a survey by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center found that over the course of the full campaign, Clinton actually received more negative media coverage than he did.

More.

Two years later, most of us would likely agree there was no comparison between the two. Too bad more of us did not come to that obvious conclusion back when it mattered.

Yes, reporters should strive for impartiality. They should strive to be open-minded. But they should also strive to cover the world as fully and factually as they can.

The BBC seems to have reached a moment of, well…truth in that regard. American journalists would be well advised to emulate them. Tomorrow’s historians will record that we helped lead the country into this mess.

The least we can do is to help lead it out.

To read the new BBC Memo, click here. And once done please consider sharing it with every media outlet you can find in hopes we can stop trying to turn the science of climate change into reality television.  And to read Mr. Pitts article on the Herald’s website, or to order a subscription and to continue to enjoy his amazing work please visit https://www.carbonbrief.org/exclusive-bbc-issues-internal-guidance-on-how-to-report-climate-change

Who’ll be to blame? Let us put a stop to the political madness by agreeing that the debate over whether climate change is real has ended and that the time to begin solving the problem by shifting away from fossil fuels and to sustainable energy has begun.

To do that we must demand far more of our leaders (read more about that by clicking here) and each other or else there will be an infinite amount of blame to go around as we watch our South Florida sink into extinction.

Why I’m Suing the State of Florida & Governor Rick Scott

On Monday April 16th I sued Florida Governor Rick Scott and the State of Florida (click here to read the lawsuit) along with seven brave children from all over the state to demand that the promises made to us in the Florida Constitution and The Public Trust Doctrine be kept and that our Public Trust Resources including our atmosphere and waters be protected from man-made carbon dioxide pollution caused by fossil fuels. Here are some of the reasons why I feel that we have a moral obligation to try and change things before it’s too late and, therefore, why I’ve sued our State and Governor.

I am the fourth generation of my family to live in South Florida and was born here in Miami. I love the state of Florida and its incredible diversity including the vibrancy and natural beauty of Miami and Miami Beach, the serenity of places like Matheson Hammock, and natural wonders such as the Florida Keys, our state’s amazing coral reefs and, of course, the Everglades, the only habitat of its kind on earth.

But I am deeply worried about Florida’s future. The carbon dioxide that is being pumped into our atmosphere and oceans from petroleum products made from fossil fuels place parts of Florida that I cherish at the very real risk of disappearing.

Of becoming extinct.

Of being lost.

Forever.

And those concerns, along with our State leaders total disregard for what is already happening, much less the threats that we face in the future, is part of the reason that I am suing our Governor and State of Florida.  Our climate change crisis is the biggest issue that my generation will ever face and it’s up to us, today’s children, to fix this problem. It is my hope that the court will rule to require that Florida enact and enforce laws to reduce and eliminate carbon emissions so that our state and citizens can have a future here.

I cherish my family home on No Name Key in the Florida Keys in Monroe County, an island that’s in the National Key Deer Refuge and the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge. No Name Key is filled with amazing, magical, creatures like the tiny Key Deer who make their home there but in a County whose average elevation above sea level is less than 6 feet, I wonder and worry about whether the Florida Keys, and my home, the deer and their habitat will survive a future where seas are projected to rise between at least two and six feet, or more, unless we take action now.

But when I wrote to the State of Florida’s Department of Environmental Resources to ask what they are doing about our climate change crisis and my sea level rise concerns and our overall region their response upsets and scares me. Here’s what they wrote in response:

To Delaney Reynolds; 

Unfortunately the response to both of these questions is “Not much”. The Governor has not supported climate related legislation and as a result not much is getting done at the State level. 

Sr. Administrator / Department of Environmental Resources, 

State of Florida

That response, the state’s “not much” response, is unacceptable and is another reason why I am suing Governor Scott and the State of Florida.

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This is me at 2 years of age at Matheson Hammock Beach. Unless we take action now, future generations will not be able to enjoy this special place like I did. 

And speaking of special places, Matheson Hammock is a wonderful public park that’s a short walk from my Miami home. It has an incredible path that winds its way through miles of mangrove forests as well as a marina and beach with a salt water swimming hole that overlooks downtown Miami and the ocean beyond. It’s a place that generations of South Floridians have enjoyed, a place where I learned to swim and where my father before me did too.

But it breaks my heart to see sea level rise covering the park’s paths, roads and beaches more each year and to know that someday soon, unless the State of Florida takes action to protect us, Matheson Hammock and places all over Florida like it will forever disappear. And that’s a tragedy that we cannot tolerate and yet another reason why I am suing the Governor and State.

Communities large and small all over Florida are already being forced to take action to address our climate crisis and when it comes to sea level rise, South Florida is literally ground zero for what’s happening here in the United States. Billions of dollars of real estate, as well as the tax revenue that goes with it is at risk.  Millions of people face the very real risk of being forced from our region and becoming climate change refugees. Much of our environment is literally at risk of extinction and yet our state’s political leaders avoid and deny the reality that our citizens increasingly face and leave it to locals to try and address this enormous issue. Examples include:

1. Miami Beach is spending nearly half a billion dollars to begin addressing the flooding from sea level rise that already consumes their community.

2. Last year City of Miami voters passed the Miami Forever Bond including $200 million towards sea level rise mitigation. Of course they did, flooding from seal rise has become a way of life here.

3. The City of South Miami passed a historic solar power law last year, the first of its type in Florida, a law that I proudly played a role in conceiving and helped to write, that requires residential solar power as a step to reduce carbon emissions.

4. Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach Counties have banded together to create the South Florida Climate Change Compact because of the dire risks that our entire region faces.

In each of these cases concerned citizens and local leaders have come to realize that we must take action if South Florida is to have a chance to have a future. And yet, Florida’s Governor mocks us by denying that human caused climate change and sea level rise is an issue by saying that he has no view on these topics because, as he likes to say, he’s “not a scientist”.

Well, most of the people in our region are not scientists, but they do have eyes and can see that the water and temperature are rising, and that climate change is already affecting their ability to live a happy life here.  The science and facts related to human induced climate change and sea level rise are indisputable and you do not need to be a scientist to see this and, thus, another reason I am suing is to help those communities, and the people who live in them, all over Florida that are desperately fighting our climate crisis without help from the Governor or State of Florida.

And I am suing the State and Governor on behalf of those who can’t but will be highly impacted by this growing catastrophe including:

1. Our natural environment and the unique habitats and creatures that will be lost or displaced without action. Take, for example, a place that’s hidden from most people’s view, our underwater environment including the Florida Reef Track, a 360-mile-long ancient coral reef that runs from the St. Lucie Inlet in Martin County to the Dry Tortugas National Park, West of the Florida Keys. It’s the third largest reef in the world and home to millions of marine animals but it IS at risk of extinction from ocean acidification caused by man-made carbon dioxide from fossil fuels.  Why would any of us allow that to happen?

2. Millions of people who face a future where they are at risk of becoming climate refuges unless we take action. People who will be forced to move from places they love and, in many cases, where their forefathers have lived for generations.

3. And people whose health will be severely impacted, especially the youngest and oldest in our society, as temperatures continue to climb.

4. And people too young to speak out today, as well as those not yet born but who have the undeniable right to enjoy a safe, clean, natural environment. A right that the State and our Governor are stealing from all of us by not taking action before it’s too late.

The good news is that there are solutions and the sooner we begin widely implementing them the better chance we have to save Florida and the less costly it will be to fix the problem. The bad news is that the State of Florida and our Governor have done little to nothing to begin solving the problem and that’s another reason why I am suing.

For example, experts predict that solar power can produce HALF of Florida’s energy needs by the time I’m 45 years or so old if our State would just become serious about sustainable energy and stop playing politics by protecting the established, polluting power companies.  My local power company in Miami, Florida Power & Light, has been in business for nearly 100 years in a place nicknamed ‘The Sunshine State” yet produces less than half of 1% of its power from solar. Now that makes NO sense.

For a Governor who likes to campaign for office by touting job creation it also makes no sense that he’s not embraced growing solar power for Florida. Experts predict that transitioning Florida to a renewable energy system would create over 300,000 good, well paying, long term jobs.

And, of course, let’s not forget that widely expanding solar power everywhere will save consumers a LOT of money while also helping save our environment.

So, while the Governor and State of Florida appear dedicated to the polluting ways of the past, I am hoping that our future will be filled with sustainable power and that The Sunshine State will become THE Solar State.

Allow me to end by sharing how much I enjoyed Ms. Hamann’s Civics & History class in 8th Grade.  Not only was she incredibly engaging, entertaining and nice, but I learned many important lessons from her about the three branches of our government:

1. The Executive branch where our Governor and his Cabinet are located,

2. The Legislative branch where Representatives and Senators serve,

3. And the Judicial branch where our state’s legal system operates to help protect us.

I am suing the State and our Governor because the Executive and Legislative branches have miserably failed to protect us and our environment from the climate change crisis. They have failed to honor their legal duties in the Florida Constitution and The Public Trust Doctrine by not protecting our Public Trust Resources and it is my hope that the Court will:

1. Affirm that our atmosphere is a Public Trust Resource,

2. Rule that the State has a fiduciary responsibility to protect our atmosphere, waters, land, marine resources, beaches and other Public Trust Resources from waste,

3. Affirm that the State has breached its responsibility to reduce Florida’s carbon emissions,

4. Rule that the State be forced to prepare and implement a remediation plan, and

5. Require the State to create the laws necessary to enact that plan so as to reduce Florida’s carbon emissions to safe levels that are based on scientific facts

As stewards of our state I believe that we have a moral obligation to solve our climate crisis and it is my hope that our legal system will help me draw a line in the sand so as to stop the damage and begin implementing solutions while Florida’s beaches still have sand on them.

Before it’s too late.

I want to end this blog post by congratulating my co-Plaintiffs, the seven children that are standing with me to fight our Governor and the State. Thanks to Levi, Isaac, Luxha, Andres, Oscar, Oliver and Valholly.  You are brave and passionate beyond words and I know that I speak for countless people when I say how grateful I am for your commitment and passion to helping me solve our climate change crisis.

I also want to end by thanking our exceptional legal team, our attorneys, as well as the incredible team at Our Children’s Trust for all your help.  On behalf of all the children, and the generations that will come after us, thanks to Guy Burns, Andrea Rodgers, Meg Ward, Caitlin Howard, Dick Jacobs, Mitchell Chester, Sandy D’Alemberte, Wally Pope, Jane West, Erin Deady, Deb Swim, and Matthew Schultz.

To learn more about the lawsuit and the organization helping Florida’s children seek justice, please visit Our Children’s Trust by clicking here or Youth V. Gov by clicking here.

9½ Minutes

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Want to quickly learn about climate change politics? All you needed to do was watch last week’s Presidential debates from Miami and consider a few numbers:

Two

That’s the number of Presidential debates held in Miami this week. One for the Democrats at Miami Dade College and one for the Republicans at the University of Miami.

Four

The total number of hours the candidates debated here in Miami, two hours at each debate for each party.

Six

The number of candidates still running for President and participating in the debates. Within this number, here’s another; Four, that’s the number of candidates that actually addressed climate change and sea level rise (meaning two, Trump and Cruz were never asked about, nor mentioned the topic).

Two

The total number of questions the media had for the candidates between the two nights on climate change and sea level rise. One each night.

10:30 PM

The approximate time at which the moderators brought up climate change and sea rise and within that number, here’s another; 1½ hours, that’s how far into a two hour debate it took before the candidates were asked about this topic each night.

9½

Nine and half minutes.

That is the total amount of time that the candidates and mass media devoted to this critical topic during both debates while here in Miami. Nine and a half minutes on an issue that will define my generation’s time on the planet.

At 10:27 PM the Democrats were asked about climate change and discussed it until 10:32, for five minutes. Senator Rubio was asked about the topic in the Republican debate around 10:30 PM and he and Govenor Kasich spent four and a half minutes sharing their views.

Since the debates, some have expressed being pleased that the moderators even asked about the topic and that some of the candidates talked about it. I don’t see it that way, I feel as if the moderators, Univision and CNN, let our community and country down by not asking more, by not pressing each candidate into sharing their views and discussing the topics in more depth.

The topic also deserved far more time, especially given where the debates were located. We know, and knew, that both Democrats support change, Sanders being very aggressive about what must happen; Clinton seeming more moderate in her views.

I learned that Kasich is open minded and wants, he said, to embrace alternatives including solar power. Rubio was, once again, a terrible disapointment. A total Fail as my friends and I would say. I could write an entire blog about how disapointed I was over his scripted answers and lack of leadership and, although I can’t yet vote, I can say that he will never, ever, receive a vote from me in the future and that the sooner we replace the man as our Senator with someone of substance, the better.

Whoever each party nominates, the candidates and media will be back in Florida before the election in November. And when that happens we must demand that the media and each candidate deeply discuss their views on global warming, climate change and sea level rise.

If we have any doubt that rising seas are a problem in our community, click here to see an article from today’s Miami Herald about the emergency measures that the City of Miami Beach is making because of this growing problem. And if you have any doubts that this is a global problem, click here to read an article about how Alaskan kayak tour outfitters are worried that the glaciers that they guide visitors to see will be gone within just a couple of years.

Now, allow me to end with a few more numbers…

2015

The hottest year on record in 136 years of data.

2045

The year in which it is predicted that seas may have risen by as much as 2 to 3 feet.

2100

The year in which it is predicted that seas could rise anywhere between 6 and 10 feet, if not higher.

It’s time to get started solving the problem and the next American President needs to help us (please) lead the way. Spending more than a few minutes on the topic in coming debates and months would be a good way to start. We and our planet deserve more than the 9½ minutes they collectively spent on it this week. Our country deserves nothing less and our planet, as well as my generation, demand it.

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