Tag Archives: climate change

David Pogue’s Primer For The Planet

For years, every climate change story has mentioned “the greenhouse effect”: how radiation from the atmosphere super-heats the earth’s surface.

But how many Americans have actually been in a greenhouse to understand the analogy?

How about this: “the dog-in-the-car effect.” Everyone knows exactly what happens when you leave Fluffy inside, even for a minute.

David Pogue has many talents. One is the ability to explain abstract concepts like climate change in ways everyone on, well, the planet can understand.

Many Westporters know Pogue as our neighbor — the clever, talented host of Westport Library variety shows.

David Pogue, in a Westport Library promotion. (Photo/Pamela Einarsen)

The rest of the country knows him as a tech guru (New York Times, Yahoo, “Missing Manual” books); “CBS Sunday Morning” science and tech correspondent and PBS “NOVA” star. I’m missing a lot, but you get the idea.

Pogue writes books the way you or I write emails. He’s lost count of the number — 50 or so (130, including updates). They range from self-help to life hacks; he’s even written novels (because, David Pogue).

But his most recent work is different. “How to Prepare for Climate Change; A Practical Guide to Surviving the Chaos” is special.

It’s one thing for Pogue to explain how to get more out of our iPhone cameras.

It’s a bit more important to tell us how we can all live to see the rollout of iPhone 20.

Simon & Schuster explains “How to Prepare” this way:

You might not realize it, but we’re already living through the beginnings of climate chaos. In Arizona, laborers now start their day at 3 a.m. because it’s too hot to work past noon. Chinese investors are snapping up real estate in Canada. Millennials have evacuation plans. Moguls are building bunkers. Retirees in Miami are moving inland.

Pogue walks readers through what to grow, what to eat, how to build, how to insure, where to invest, how to prepare your children and pets, and even where to consider relocating when the time comes.

He also provides wise tips for managing your anxiety, as well as action plans for riding out every climate catastrophe, from superstorms and wildfires to ticks and epidemics.

Yes, ticks. Shorter, warmer winters do not kill them off. The result: more Lyme disease than ever. Pogue does not miss anything.

“How to Prepare for Climate Change” does two things simultaneously. Pogue wags his finger sharply — warning, for example, that oceans will take decades to cool down, even if we enact changes today —  while also throwing a life buoy as we drown.

(FUN FACT: Seven of the 10 most flooded states are not on a coast. Damage comes from rain, swollen rivers, and broken dams.)

Sure, governments can build seawalls. But what can we as individuals do? His advice — on reinforcing our homes, choosing where we live, suggesting how to talk to our kids — makes sense, in an often-senseless world.

Why should we listen to Pogue, who is many things but not an expert on climate science, agriculture, investments, or any other topic he discusses?

He’s simply distilling the advice of 55 experts into plain, understandable English. That’s one of his gifts: helping us make the leap from a dog in a hot car, to all living things on a hot planet.

We’re all in danger. But — this being “06880,” and Pogue being a Westporter — I asked: “What about here?”

“We’re in the line of fire for hurricanes and sea level rise,” he says. “By 2050, we’ll have lost a lot of coastline.” (NOTE: That sounds far away. But it’s nearer to us now than 1990.)

We’ve already seen the effects of extreme weather events, like Superstorm Sandy and Tropical Storm Isaias. (They were not even hurricanes!) His section on flood insurance is, well, priceless.

Will the right people read this? A Yale study showed that 37% of Americans believe that climate change is not caused by humans, but rather part of a natural cycle.

Of course, Pogue says, “It doesn’t matter what you think. You still need to get ready for hurricanes, floods and wildfires. And ticks.”

Which means every American needs to read “How to Prepare for Climate Change: A Practical Guide to Surviving the Chaos.”

(PS: When I said that Pogue books as easily as the rest of us write emails, I was not kidding. His climate change book was only one of 3 published on the same day last week. The other 2 — “Mac Unlocked” and “iPhone Unlocked” — are guides to the Big Sur and iOS 14 operating systems, respectively. Even for David Pogue, that’s impressive.)

David Pogue puts complex concepts into plain language. As a “NOVA” host, he stood behind a periodic table “table.”

And The Pulitzer Prize For Explanatory Reporting Goes To …

… Harry Stevens of the Washington Post.

Well, he was part of a team of writers, photographers, researchers and (his specialty) graphic designers who contributed to this year’s prestigious award.

“2°C: Beyond the Limit” — a series on climate change — “fundamentally reshaped the climate debate by showing that extreme warming is not a worry for the future,” the Post said in a story about the Pulitzer. “10 percent of the planet has already warmed by 2 degrees Celsius.”

The paper employed reporting from a dozen global hot spots. The series included “vast datasets to help readers visualize our rapidly warming planet.”

Stevens — a 2004 Staples High School graduate — co-authored a piece about how we know global warming is real.

He posted on Facebook at the time:

The idea that the planet is getting hotter is not based on computer models or some kind of fancy voodoo science. It’s actually much simpler than that: readings from thousands of thermometers, many of which have been around for centuries. When scientists wanted to figure out if global warming was real or not, they went out and collected all those thermometers’ recordings.

My coworkers and I wrote about those thermometers and how they are being used today to monitor a disaster that could scarcely have been foreseen by 19th-century meteorologists, but which now constitutes the single most significant fact about the planet’s environment.

He was involved in all aspect of the story: analyzing temperature data, making maps, interviewing scientists and archivists, tracking down a 3D model of an Alpine weather observatory, framing and writing the narrative, and more. The story occupied most of his time for the first several months after he joined the Post.

Harry Stevens (Photo/ Sarah L. Voisin for The Washington Post)

For other stories, he built the spinning globes that locate where in the world the stories take place, and he created a map for a story about Australia.

“But the series had already been launched when I joined the Post,” he says modestly. “So the credit for the idea and execution goes to my brilliant colleagues.”

If Stevens’ name sounds familiar to Westporters: It is. In March — right at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis — “06880” profiled his work on the Post‘s interactive, ever-changing simulation of how the virus can spread throughout a population.

His “data journalism” drew worldwide attention. Who knows? That story might draw the attention of the judges a year from now, when they meet to award the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism.

(Hat tip: Kerry Long)

Dawn Henry’s Cross-Country Ride To Environmental Activism

Two years ago, Dawn Henry bought a Tesla.

It was not to save the planet. “I just thought it looked cool,” she admits.

The Westporter was a successful marketing executive. She’d spent 12 years working with Diageo. Now she was a sought-after consultant.

Environmental concerns were off her radar. “I vaguely knew about climate change,” she says. “But I wasn’t paying much attention.”

Dawn Henry

She flew to California to pick up the electric car, then drove it home. At nearly every charging station along the way, she chatted with people who were interested in renewable energy.

There were, for example, 2 solar installers from Germany. They talked for 45 minutes. Dawn learned a lot.

Back home, she watched documentaries and read about climate change. She realized that the effects will not be “300 years from now. It’s happening today.”

The 2016 election galvanized her. “What Scott Pruitt is doing to the EPA, the fossil fuel money that’s going into politics — our government is moving backwards,” she says.

She joined national organizations. She went to conferences, and got trained as an advocate.

She lobbied Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, and Congressman Jim Himes. “They’re great on the environment,” she says. “But I realized there’s not a lot that’s going to happen nationally. It’s more on the local level.”

Dawn Henry and her son Charles at the Climate March in Washington, DC, in April 2017.

She took the Climate Reality Project course in Seattle. The brainchild of Al Gore, it was “amazing,” she says. Back home, she made presentations at the United Methodist Church, the Fairfield Senior Center and Fairfield University. Soon, she’ll speak at the Westport Senior Center and Bartlett Arboretum.

Dawn joined the board of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Westport’s Green Task Force and the Electric Car Club.

“It’s hands-on. You can see results,” she says of the community organizations. “Energy, waste, water, conservation — they’re all important.”

So how does Dawn assess our town’s awareness of and commitment to environmental concerns?

“We’ve got good history and momentum,” she says. “There’s Net Zero” — the goal is to be fully sustainable by 2050. “The plastic bag ban. And we’re expanding our EV charging stations.”

Dawn Henry presenting at Indivisible’s ICT4 “Evening of Action” at the Unitarian Church last month.

Through her involvement in environmental issues, Dawn says, she has met “so many great people, in Town Hall and around town, I’d never have known.”

But, she notes, she and her fellow activists have “way more ideas and ambitions than we have hands to do them.” She invites anyone interested in helping to contact her (dawn@henrystrategy.com).

If you want, she’ll show you her Tesla.

It is pretty cool.

Everyone Into The Water!

Just a typical Saturday in mid-October:

(Photo/Chip Stephens)

Intriguing Real Estate Trends: 2050 Estimate Now Available

The good news is: By 2050, Westport will have plenty of new waterfront property.

The bad news: Current waterfront property will be worthless. It will sit underwater.

Want to check out if you’re a winner or loser? Head to Climate Central. They’ve spent 2 years developing interactive maps for coastal states. You can see — if you dare — estimates of areas vulnerable to flooding from combined sea level rise, storm surge and tides, or to permanent submergence by long-term sea level rise.

The site also offers reams of statistics. But the maps are the money shots.

2050 Westport coastal map

This is a very pretty map. Until you realize that blue represents water. Nearly everything south of the Post Road could be submerged. And look how far over its banks the Saugatuck River flows. Hover over or click to enlarge.

The above map is based on a 2-degree Celsius average rise in temperature.

Virtually everything south of 95 is gone. So is all of downtown, as the Saugatuck River surges over its banks.

Alert “06880” reader Glenn Payne — who we can thank (or blame) for sending the link along — notes:

While the attached is somewhat alarmist (it shows all land within 20 feet of high tide underwater), and the timing is likely beyond most readers, it does paint a very different picture of Westport sometime in the future. While some may be relieved that their house has not been submerged, their commute will be challenged, as I-95 will be.

He poses some interesting questions:

  • What is Westport without a beach and downtown?
  • Who pays the bills if the biggest taxpayers (Nyala Farms, Beachside homes) are not there?
  • And who lives in the rest of Westport if much of Manhattan (and the financial district) is gone?

So don’t sweat the details of the new downtown plan. Who cares if there’s a new traffic pattern at the beach. Neither will be around forever.

But until then, be careful where you park. “06880” will move to higher ground. We’ll still be watching.

Welcome to Westport!

Welcome to Westport!

(To see the interactive Westport map, click here. For Climate Central’s “Surging Seas” page, click here.)