Dark ages: Do you know what to do?

A friend and colleague wrote me saying “The US is clearly entering the dark ages in terms of climate, environment, etc. This requires action. … I’m not sure what to do. Do you?”

My response (lightly edited) is below:

A few thoughts:

— It is important to focus on the Congressional and Senate Republicans. It is they who are enabled by and who are enabling Trump. They can get rid of Trump if he becomes too much of a liability. We should not focus on a single man, but on the whole corrupt apparatus behind him.

— We all need to get more politically engaged, and in particular get more people out to vote and vote the right way. If more people had just gone out to vote, Trump would not be President today.

— The Democrats needs to have real plans. In the next 10 to 15 years, 3.5 million Americans who work as drivers may lose jobs to automation. What do the Democrats believe someone in their 50’s should do if they have been a driver all their lives and now lose their job to automation? The Democrats need to come out for guaranteed basic health care, a guaranteed basic job or income, access to free or low-cost high-quality education, etc, etc. They need to stand for things that are meaningful to the average person who is not a policy wonk.

— We need to get better at telling stories with happy endings. People respond to narratives. People have be able to envision a better future. Trying to sell the double negative of the bad that will happen if we don’t do something just isn’t going to work.

We go through our days acting as if we are in normal times, when the times are clearly not normal. The level of corruption and destruction and malevolence and incompetence is mind-boggling.

— We need to be vigilant and aware, and help others be vigilant and aware. Already, things that would have seemed crazy in the past are being considered normal behavior. We cannot act like doing terrible things is normal.

I am shocked at how unprincipled the Republican Party is. I thought they stood for things like free trade, containment of Russian expansionism, etc. It turns out all they stand for is power and wealth. I thought they were children of Adam Smith, when they are really just children of Machiavelli.

Part of the problem the Republicans are having now is that they were all about negativism, about being against things. So, now when they are in power, they cannot get consensus on what positive actions to take.

It will ultimately take responding to the negativism of the Republicans with a positive vision. Focusing on being anti-Trump and anti-Republican is ultimately not a winning strategy. It needs to be there, but we need the yin along with the yang.

IMG_1936-IMG_1940_arty2_1920x1080 (1)Colorized photo I took of the Michelson Building at the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Assessment, where I am visiting now.

Where do the winds come from?


Eva Ahbe and I wanted to know where the energy came from to make winds.

This is infeasible to directly observe in the global atmosphere. Therefore, we used a model of the atmosphere to study where the energy comes from to drive winds.

The potential energy available to generate winds is created most strongly high above the tropical western Pacific Ocean where the condensation of water in convective systems heats up already warm air, and also in the high polar night where heat radiates to space, cooling already cold air.

These heat fluxes create density contrasts that tend to make the tropical air rise and the polar air sink, and this is a primary driver of global winds.