Archive for August, 2013

Conflict resolution exercise—solutions to climate change, part 2

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

Yesterday I discussed a statement produced in our July workshop, Friends Process: Responding to Climate Change. The emphasis was on conflict resolution solutions and Quaker processes that help—How do we begin talking about controversial social issues? How do we begin listening?

We focused on solutions to climate change—if you’re human, you probably object to at least one, and likely several, solutions the wonk reports (major reports out of the communities that begin with peer review) say are needed. As we said in our minute, it is important to spend more time in discernment of our values, and in finding ways to listen to scientists.

In one exercise, from Greg Craven’s What’s the Worst That Can Happen?, we explained which sources we trust and why. Consider who provides the information you trust: is it environmental groups? friends? science organizations? Heartland? The list of possibilities is long. Put them in order from most trustworthy to least. Now choose a couple of sources you really trust, say person A and organization B—explain what characteristics sources you find trustworthy have. How would I get to person A and organization B from your explanation of trustworthiness alone?

Is your description of sources the same for both the science of climate change and the solutions? If not, why?

You may find this very hard. My answer for which people and groups I trust are below, just to give an example.*

Leave comments: create a list of sources you trust on solutions to climate change, and explain your reasoning on the list, or one source, to the rest of us. Do you have different standards for the science of climate change, and solutions? (And while you’re there—have you ever learned from person A or organization B that you are wrong on an important issue?)

* Which sources do I trust?

I trust major reports that come out of the communities that begin with peer review. I don’t trust peer review by itself, as there are a lot of mistakes with the first article published. (Even with peer review, there are a lot of mistakes in good journals; some less good journals only seem to review that your check is good.)

After an idea has been introduced, the idea will be considered, seasoned, and challenged by others. Often the same experiment is done again by others, or the idea is tested with a very different approach. Government agencies, such as NOAA and NASA, often act as a higher layer of review. Even more review is done at the level of National Academy of Sciences and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. If scientists disagree with conclusions at that level, they will often say so in Science. I trust these ideas, not as final Truth, but as the best we know at present—it is a fair bet that the conclusions will hold up better over time than ideas which haven’t undergone this kind of challenge. I trust this process because I see so much real challenge to new ideas; ideas have to prove themselves. I trust this process because ideas which are found to be schlock disappear from the scientific discussion.

In addition to high level reports, I trust a few scientists highly respected both within and outside their fields to accurately characterize scientific understanding, to include the nuances, as well as what is not known. They might be heads of national labs, or elected to prominent positions, such as president of American Association for the Advancement of Science. Being chosen often to co-lead prominent committees for groups such as National Academy of Sciences and President’s Committee of Advisers on Science and Technology is yet another sign of respect. Or sometimes I just hear that particular scientists are well-esteemed by their colleagues.

I trust lay people who get their information pretty much from the above sources.

I have a very different category which I call “listening on climate change”. If a non-scientist tells me they care about climate change, I want to know what solution they accept for climate change that they did not accept when they first began to worry. If they haven’t added any new solutions outside those favored by their tribe (for some this might be a steep cost on greenhouse gases, for others it’s nuclear power and fracking), my heart doesn’t hear them talking about climate change but about solutions they favor.

Do these wonk sources ever show me where I have been wrong? Yes, at much more than the nuance level: on the importance of climate change, for one, and on the safety and importance of nuclear power, genetically modified foods, and carbon capture and storage. And more. If I am never wrong on important issues, what are the odds that I am listening?

Part 1 Quaker workshop minute on climate change
Part 3 Another conflict resolution exercise—solutions to climate change, in which individuals take positions on different solutions, and explain to the others.

Quaker workshop minute on climate change—Part 1

Friday, August 30th, 2013

Normally workshops at the Friends General Conference Gathering (FGC) have a lot of time for worship (sitting in silence). When Gretchen suggested that we use that time for Business Meeting, my first thought was, “Eeek! I need silence, not so crazy on substituting business for centering.” We were planning our workshop, Friends Process: Responding to Climate Change, and FGC is hectic enough without adding business. But I said yes, confident that if it didn’t work, Gretchen would figure that out and return to Plan A (quiet!)

To my surprise, Business Meeting was spiritually centering. We began it with the same question each day, “Where are we now in the workshop?” These minutes of exercise grew into a formal minute of our time together, a statement about the process we went through and where we ended up. For the full minute, go here.

Lots of religious people produce statements about climate change. How is ours different?

• We don’t mention God. It’s not needed; none doubted that God is telling us, “Do something!

• We do mention Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Twice. Because we trust IPCC to explain the science—what is causing climate change, and what are the impacts.

• A big part of what we looked at was the challenge we felt in choosing which something to do. While all of us trust wonk reports on climate change, the majority is uncomfortable with wonk recommendations for solutions—some see those looking at climate change as independent scientists while those looking at solutions are tools of industry. (Wonk here refers to those producing major reports out of the communities that begin with peer review.) Many of us were suspicious that government regulations and oversight wouldn’t work as well as wonk communities hope.

• We admit that we often avoid facing the climate problem “squarely” because “the truth is overwhelming.” And we often ignore “costs—economic, environmental, and human—…in solutions we personally favor.” (As a result, we become part of the problem.)

• We emphasize the need for solutions at high levels—international, national, and regional. This aligns well with wonk thinking as to where solutions are found, that individual behavior change will not be important to the solution. (Note: I personally feel there are many good reasons to change my own behavior. Eg, if I feel climate change is important, then it makes sense to live my life as if it were important. I learn much about obstacles to behavior change. People often change their behavior first, and having changed, are willing to acknowledge the problem that goes with that change.)

• We say that it is important to speak Truth to ourselves, “leaning into conflicts” rather than avoiding them. It is important for Quakers, and Quaker organizations, to move more in alignment with what scientists say, and with our values. Not all Quaker organizations are there now, and so we list all those involved with climate lobbying, so that we can query to what extent each makes an effort to align their recommendations with wonk information and Quaker values. Yes, we know that individually we are not there now either. In our time together, we saw ourselves shifting, and knew we would shift more as the discussion continues.

So far as I know, this is the first minute approved by Friends that stresses the individual, corporate, and organizational importance of addressing the incomplete overlap between the solutions we favor and those advocated by wonks, and between the solutions we favor and Quaker values.

• We find the Business Meeting methods used in our workshop not only effective tools for addressing the conflict within, but “personally nourishing”.

Leave a comment
How well do your, or your group’s, solutions to climate change overlap with wonk solutions? What values do your favorite solutions reflect?

Many of the details of our experience were not included in the minute, eg, what processes helped us? In my next two posts, I will give examples. Every group is different, but they worked for our group at this time.


Of course the minute was written by committee, but I was responsible for the part on 2°C/4°C, and one reader said, “??????” So to clarify:

• The increase is compared to when? In the minute, all temperatures are compared to pre-industrial. IPCC’s 2007 report compared temperatures to the average from 1980 – 1999. Add about 0.6°C to their numbers for temperature increases compared to pre-industrial. Media accounts are providing results from the draft IPCC report coming out in September, and their estimates compare to? They don’t tell us.

• What are major organizations predicting?

It is technically possible to keep temperature increase below 2°C by the end of the century, according to International Energy Agency (IEA). However, in their 2008 Energy Technology Perspectives, it was considered hard—we would need “unprecedented levels of cooperation”, and “the global energy economy will need to be transformed”. Now IEA says the task is “technically feasible, though extremely challenging”, a phrase meaning “much harder than in 2008”. No wonder we find science publications hard to read.

World Bank says we can reach 2°C within “20 to 30 years”. It’s been a long time since I have heard anyone in science besides IEA talk about keeping temperature increase this century below 2°C.

For those wanting to read more about why scientists picked 2°C as the temperature increase to avoid, see Assessing dangerous climate change through an update of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ‘‘reasons for concern’’.

A 4°C increase this century, possibly even next century, is necessarily a way station on the way to higher temperatures; if we are adding heat that fast, we are not at the top yet. Mainstream predictions of 4°C begin as early as 2060.

Many point to 4°C as the point at which human adaptation may not be possible. World Bank says in Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided, “With pressures increasing as warming progresses toward 4°C and combining with nonclimate–related social, economic, and population stresses, the risk of crossing critical social system thresholds will grow. At such thresholds existing institutions that would have supported adaptation actions would likely become much less effective or even collapse.”

Predictions for the end of the century
I have heard and read very few predictions for the end of the century below 3.5-4°C, although Robert Watson, who used to lead IPCC, and later Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, does talk about 3 – 5°C by the end of this century, and even says we have a decent chance of staying below 3°C. In the same talk, he said the same prediction is 10% species diversity loss for every °C increase over preindustrial. [Note: some of this is commitment to extinction—species loss is unlikely to be 10% at the time temperature increase reaches 1°C.]

Most other estimates are higher. World Bank says we are on track to reach 4°C “even if countries fulfill current emissions-reduction pledges.”

International Energy Agency says in Redrawing the Energy Climate Map, which it produced to show us short-term policies which are needed to keep the 2°C option open, “Policies that have been implemented, or are now being pursued, suggest that the long-term average temperature increase is more likely to be between 3.6 °C and 5.3 °C (compared with pre-industrial levels), with most of the increase occurring this century. ”

IPCC’s 2007 report gave a best estimate of 4.6°C over pre-industrial by 2090-2099, with a range of 3° – 7°, for the fossil intensive scenario. Our current emissions trajectory is near the top of IPCC projections.


Part 2 Conflict resolution exercise—solutions to climate change in which we look at which sources we rely on, and why.
Part 3 Another conflict resolution exercise—solutions to climate change, in which individuals take positions on different solutions, and explain to the others.