Andy’s Climate National Security Letter to Obama
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March 10, 2013
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
I’m thrilled to see that you are opening a national dialog about the Climate Crisis and what we should do about it. I have dedicated over 30 years of my life to organizing my community, the nation, and the rest of the world to fight the Climate Crisis with the urgency required of us to stabilize the planet’s ecosystems upon which we all depend.
Unfortunately, for all of that time, both the Democratic and Republican parties have betrayed the trust of the American people and failed to provide any national leadership about the greatest national security threat of all time, the death of our life support systems from climate destabilization and ecological meltdown. Omnicide.
You are the first U.S. president to actually get Climate Crisis legislation through Congress and do something about it. Tragically, what you have done so far is astronomically far from adequate, so I appreciate that you too recognize this and want to do more. Hopefully, you’ll want to do all that is necessary to save the planet, for the 30 years of national betrayal by the two corporatist parties means we now have only one adequate choice left: an all-out war effort to convert our nation’s infrastructure to a post-fossil fuel one as fast as humanly possible. You should use this to fight Republican Austerity proposals.
Back in 1996, I coined the meme Climate Crisis because people were reacting to greenhouse effect and global warming as if they were going to receive a free hot tub from Mitt Romney! But my research on the polar ice crisis revealed that this planetary warming could ultimately, through negative feedback loops, trigger our immersion back into a 100,000-year long ice age glaciation period. So global warming is a grossly misleading and inadequate term.
It doesn’t put things into human terms. Likewise with greenhouse effect, even though that might sound pretty good to some of the local marijuana growers in my neighborhood of Humboldt and Mendocino counties.
My preferred term for defining the Climate Crisis is Climate Destabilization. Again, Climate Change can mean something good, so it’s no good for our purpose of rallying the nation. But Climate Crisis puts it into the human context. A crisis is something we must respond to with urgency in order to prevent dire, and in our case, lethal consequences. That is what we face right now and have faced for over 30 years. Or not faced…
So the first strategic question you have to ask and answer is, “How much must we reduce our fossil-fuel emissions and by when in order to prevent Climate Chaos?” This is a scientific question first, not a political or economic one. There are No Jobs on a Dead Planet.
If you and your team can’t answer that question, then you really don’t know what you’re doing. If you were a four-pack-a-day tobacco smoker, wouldn’t you want a doctor who knew whether or not you needed to quit 4 cigarettes a day or all four packs? It makes a difference! It makes all of the difference. As our president, you have taken on the role of Planetary Climate Doctor.
We expect as much of you because, metaphorically speaking and literally, if a tsunami is heading our way, it matters that you get us off the beach and far enough away in time. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter if you had good intentions to move us in the right direction, those of us who don’t get far enough away in time will all be just as dead as if we remained on the beach drinking Mai-Tais.
The Republican and Democratic party leadership of the last 30 years failed to meet their obligation to pass legislation to get us far enough away in time from the devastation of the accelerating Climate Crisis by doing enough to prevent it! So far, all of you have failed to maintain our national security adequately to protect the victims of Superstorm Sandy against the Climate Catastrophes brought down upon us by the fossil-fuel lobbyists. It was a gross, catastrophic national security failure by majorities of both parties!
So when it comes to national strategic planning, you should start with defining what Climate Chaos actually means, and specifically what we must prevent. University of Chicago Geophysics Professor David Archer points out in his book, The Long Thaw, that what we’re putting into the atmosphere now will change it for 100,000 years! So you better get it right, sir, for we get no second chance. After 30 years of Congressional and Presidential inaction, you might say that this is our last chance! You are our last hope! You can’t get squeezed-out toothpaste back in the tube!
I would suggest to you three foundational criteria for defining and preventing what would be Climate Chaos: 1) the collapse of the global economy; 2) preventing the polar ice sheets from disintegrating and causing cataclysmic rapid sea level increases, and assuring that the mountain glaciers remain extant; and 3) preventing the ecological biodiversity meltdown of Earth’s terrestrial and ocean ecosystems by massively investing in restoring nature’s capital, its native biodiversity and native ecosystems.
Regarding the polar ice Crisis in the Cryosphere, I direct you to my Summer 1998 Earth Island Journal article, “Antarctica’s Deep Impact Threat: Is a Madhouse Century Knocking at Our Door?”
According to 2007 Australian of the Year and Chief Commissioner of the Australian Climate Convention environmental sustainability professor Tim Flannery, no one on Earth predicted the 2002 collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf, but as you’ll see in my article, I did so back in 1998. So I know what I’m talking about, even if no one else is bringing this up. Everything I’m presenting here comes straight out of peer-reviewed science journals, primarily Science, Nature, New Scientist, and also from Scientific American.
Consider the above graphics. They show the extraordinarily rapid increase in the area of Greenland’s ice sheet that is melting from beneath. Now, far more than half of Greenland’s ice sheet is sitting on a layer of water like a Slip-n-Slide! If the entire ice sheet goes, then we are looking at a 20-feet high global sea level jump! If history is a judge, then that will probably happen, once started, abruptly over a 20-year period, way too fast for the world’s coastal cities to mount adequate defenses and survive.
If only 1/20th of it goes, that’s still a foot of global sea-level increase! Consider that it was less than one inch of sea-level increase from all of the greenhouse gas warming to date that increased so severely the impact of Superstorm Sandy on the people and places along the northeast coast.
Further, that one foot could raise sea level enough to break up all of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) and collapse the continent’s ice shelf system. Most of the Mexico-sized WAIS is sitting over the ocean, anchored together only by some islands and tethered laterally to the Transantarctic Mountains. This is unlike the Antarctic ice sheet east of the Transantarctic Mountains which rests overland the size of China covering it with 2 to 3 miles of ice.
120,000 years ago, something like this kind of extremely rapid, gargantuan polar ice sheet collapse happened and Earth entered what scientists coined a “Madhouse Century” during which sea level jumped 20 feet higher from where it is now and then plummeted at least 50 feet in just one hundred years! That’s a net change of at least 70 feet over one hundred years! That must have been almost a foot of sea-level change every year! This kind of stuff really does happen that abruptly on planet Earth and is about to happen again!
The Madhouse Century then initiated the last 100,000 yearlong glaciation era!
My hypothesis is that back then, Greenland’s and West Antarctica’s ice sheets, probably commencing with Greenland’s first, rapidly disintegrated due to the usual, natural interglacial greenhouse gas warming, and sea level eventually crossed a critical, catastrophic threshold uplifting the WAIS which became “unmoored” from the Transantarctic Mountains causing it to largely disintegrate. Coincidentally, for decades climate scientists have predicted that if WAIS goes, it would cause a global 20-feet sea level increase over 20 years.
So, Mister President, you must provide the extraordinarily challenging and courageous leadership that brings about the necessary, albeit radical, changes that will restabilize the ice sheets, prevent massive methane and CO2 “burping” from the permafrost, and save the world’s forests from ecosystem killing, cataclysmic conflagrations. (You should check out the documentary, The Day the Oceans Boiled.) In fact, Mr. President, it will require that you become the greatest hero of all time! Nothing less will save our nation. As you can see in the following Christian Science Monitor article, just during your 2012 campaign, since July 2012, the surface melting of Greenland’s ice sheet is now 97%!!!
How much do we have to reduce our fossil fuel emissions and how fast? Three years ago, we saw for the first time in the ice and plankton records, the history of CO2 levels and glaciation periods going back 2.1 million years. Please check out:
My understanding of your administration’s Climate Crisis policy is that your strategic goal is to allow CO2 levels to peak at 450 ppm to, presumably, limit the global atmospheric temperature increase to 2 degrees centigrade, and are directing us to an 80% reduction below 1990 levels by 2050. If that remains your national climate defense strategy, Mr. Obama, then you have already doomed us all. You will kill the planet, at least as far as we’re all concerned, certainly as far as your children are concerned.
In 1990, David Suzuki pointed out that the EPA, the Woods Hole Research Center, and the IPCC issued reports indicating that we must reduce our emissions on the order of 50-80% below 1990 levels by 2000 or 2005. We did nothing of the kind, as almost all of the Republican and Democratic politicians alike instead treasonously conspired and aided the fossil fuel industry in subverting our ecological national defense-instead of heeding the clarion call of Earth Day in 1970 and developing a Green national security industrial plan to put us on the sure path towards true ecological sustainability forever after. So our emissions steadily grew, these politicians and their Big Energy corporate masters relentlessly subverting and shredding our national security!
But our inaction doesn’t mean we get any more time! In fact, climate science since that time indicates that those reports underestimated the rate of ecological change brought about by greenhouse gas warming and what is required of our response to it. Because of the Republican and Democratic inaction for 30 years, and the extremely rapid rate of change that the physics of climate destabilization requires we must now make in our society, capitalism itself may fail, like the other dinosaurs before them, unable to make the rapid changes required of us, unable to make a sharp enough turn before going over the waterfall.
What we are talking about is redirecting trillions of dollars to rebuild the entire nation’s infrastructure away from fossil fuels and nuclear power toward bioregional sustainability as fast as humanly possible, since we’ve already missed the 2000-2005 deadline. Hopefully, God will accept your late homework!
Here are the numbers:
Throughout the last 2.1 million years, during which the human species evolved, almost the entire Pleistocene epoch, the planet oscillated between glaciation periods of roughly 100,000 years length (at least for the last 800,000 years or so) with interglacial periods like this one now in which our entire civilization evolved, of roughly 10,000 years duration. (Did you know that Homo sapiens is less than 200,000 years old? We are children of the ice age!)
We are now 10,000 years into the current interglacial, the Holocene, so due for a new glaciation era. (Please don’t listen to the scientists who have christened this era of climate crisis the Anthropocene. Human impacts are certainly the dominant ones affecting Earth now, but there is no evidence that we have left the cycle of Pleistocene glaciation oscillations yet!) As I point out in my Madhouse Century article, accelerated global warming could bring about the disintegration of the WAIS, which would mean the outward expansion of miles thick ice now held in check over the entire Antarctic continent by the ice shelves that ring 97% of Antarctica. That would increase the overall reflectivity of the planet and thus, cool it.
That would cause the opposite of what we see right now at the North Pole over the Arctic Ocean. There, the ice which is currently disappearing is decreasing Earth’s overall albedo (reflectivity), and thus, causing the planet to absorb an accelerating amount of heat.
But the outward expansion of an unleashed 2-mile thick Antarctic ice sheet, on the other hand, would double the area of high reflectivity in the Antarctic region, thus increasing the planet’s heat reflectivity and cooling it. Hence, it could bring about a new glaciation era. So we can’t mess around anymore!
The deep-sea foraminifera record has recently revealed that the lowest atmospheric CO2 levels ever got during the Pleistocene was 181 ppm. Before humans entered the picture, the highest it usually got was around 280 ppm, only peaking once as high as 297 ppm. We are now at over 395 ppm-a 2.4 ppm increase over just one year ago and we will hit 398 ppm this summer (the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere oscillates between summer and winter).
We have expanded the entire range of natural carbon dioxide change by a factor of 2! For 2.1 million years CO2 levels only oscillated by a range of 100-116 ppm (from 181 to 297 ppm). Now, in just 200 years, we’ve added another 115 ppm to that 280 ppm normal interglacial maximum!
In An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore talks about his college professor Roger Revelle. Coincidentally, Roger Revelle was my chemistry professor a generation later at UCSD and the man who first informed me of global warming back in 1980. He’s the guy who first started measuring atmospheric CO2 levels at Mauna Loa back in 1958 (also, coincidentally, my first year of life). Back then, only 55 years ago, the atmosphere had 315 ppm of CO2. That means that all of human history before I was born had added only 35 ppm to the preindustrial (natural) levels.
But since then, just during my lifetime, we have added 80 ppm more! 5,000 years of human civilization added 35 ppm. Our modern globalized economy since 1958 has added 80 ppm in 55 years. This is an emergency! All hands on deck! This is why nothing less than an all-out “war effort” to convert immediately from fossil fuels and nuclear power (which requires massive carbon dioxide production to sustain), similar to our response to World War II, is our only moral and ecologically sound path. It’s the only path forward that doesn’t make the planet inhospitable during our kids’ lifetime.
Therefore, I think we have to aim to reduce our carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions 80% below 1990 levels in ten years or less. We have to aim to get back to the only reasonably stable level, the preindustrial level of 280 ppm (but even at that low-the level at which the previous glaciation periods commenced-we still might go into a new Pleistocene glaciation era! So maybe we need to eventually get it down to a “stable” 250 ppm to prevent that from happening!)
During my 2012 California Democratic Congressional campaign, the citizens of my district, CA-2, and all eleven of my competitors were extremely receptive to this message and modified their positions in this Climate Action NOW! direction. The day after my unfortunate defeat last June, a new report came out of Berkeley indicating we have just a few years to start redirecting our infrastructure construction away from the coal and oil path that we are currently set to pursue.
I know it’s not in your basic nature to wage all-out political warfare, but this time it’s US or them. You must take-up sides. There is no future at all for the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries. We have to let them fall. I know that’s a lot to accept at this point, Mr. President, but please do the math. Once you conclude along with me about how much and how fast we must bail on fossil fuels and nuclear power, in order to act morally, you’ll find no path that leaves those industries standing but also reduces our emissions at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2022, which is what we must do no matter what! It’s simply not possible in an economy where a 4% growth rate is considered robust and a 2% growth rate a recession. There’s just not enough room for them, like giant oil tankers, to make the sharp turn that we must make. They aren’t economically flexible enough.
Ironically, by fighting the national energy conversion effort for 40 years, it is the conservatives who will thus end up killing capitalism. You can read much more about this and my vision for Ecotopian conversion at my Congressional campaign web site:
And the last concern I would like to share with you in this letter is about the human impacts of unabated climate destabilization. I am a survivor of the 1991 Oakland Firestorm which destroyed the homes of 20,000 people, a direct result of repeated years of drought due to greenhouse gas warming. So I am already a Climate Crisis Environmental Refugee, right here in America.
As a result, I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Climate Crisis is bringing about an epidemic of PTSD sufferers vastly more extensive than that produced by any war to date. When I watched the first of the Twin Towers fall, the first idea to flash through my mind was the realization that, at that moment, a million people were starting to get PTSD because of that trauma. Tens of thousands more will now get a life sentence of this debilitating disorder from Superstorm Sandy. Twenty-four hundred Sandy victims are still homeless after three months living in tents in 20-degree weather.
A European climate action group called ASEED Oilwatch included in a book they published for the 2000 UN climate conference at The Hague, an article I wrote about my firestorm experience and getting PTSD. Please check it out. It’s called “A Change in the Wind… Climate Change and Human Trauma.” Every year of inadequate actions means the suffering of millions of more people and the extinction of thousands of more species.
So people suffer PTSD because the Republicans and Democrats have failed us to what I consider a criminal and even murderous extent. We need you to now lead us and fight them on a changed path before it’s too late. And too late is not a metaphor. It’s physics. It’s real, and nature has set it, but we don’t know yet when too late is except we know it’s imminent. Nature bats last!
We can’t wait for your successor to come along and lead the fight. It’s entirely up to you. You have to start framing the issue. The Republicans ran all over you and the other Democrats with the framing on every issue of your first term. Now, it’s time for you to fight for US as if our lives depend upon it because they do! And you should start by shutting down the Keystone XL pipeline today! We have to leave fossil fuels behind starting today!
If you would like to learn how to talk to the American people about all of this, I invite you to check out my Congressional campaign videos at http://youtube.com/CaffreyForCongress
There are No Jobs on a Dead Planet.
For A New Green America,
2012 & 2014 Democratic candidate for Congress, CA-2
P.S.You may have seen me on MSNBC or Jay Leno’s jokes about me. I’m the Congressional candidate who smoked a joint at a campaign press conference in Fairfax, CA last May as a direct action against your administration’s attacks on medical cannabis dispensaries. Please call me. We need to powwow on pot legalization and respecting the sanctity of medical cannabis dispensaries.
Your administration’s actions are causing thousands of Americans, including thousands of American war veterans, to suffer and live in hiding and in shame. I get letters all the time from families of veterans explaining how they have to hide their medical marijuana use from everyone they know or lose their military pensions or even get arrested! It really is medicine for many people.
I may have recently saved my best friend’s mother-in-laws life with cannabis. After completing radiation therapy last Spring for lung cancer, she had been unable to eat anything except liquid meals since July because of nausea and no appetite. Everyone feared she would be dead in six months. The first night after she tried cannabis, she ate rotisserie chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, and peas!
I named the skinny joint I smoked in Fairfax, an Obamber, and plan to launch Obamber Nation protest smoke-ins around the nation this coming year, especially in Washington and Colorado. Obamber Nation rolling papers are coming soon too. Alternatively, if you are now ready to do the right thing, I can help you sell marijuana legalization to the American people. Oh, and you can place your order for a CongBong, the official Caffrey for Congress 2014 campaign bong.
P.P.S. Did you know that all of the Republican senators and probably all of the House Republicans easily meet the diagnostic criteria for anti-social personality disorder, a form of psychopathy? That means they literally have no conscience or honor. But they can fake it pretty well. So any strategy you may develop to deal with the Climate Crisis based on appealing to the presumed consciences of Republican legislators is doomed to utter failure. Please check the psychopathy checklist at
You need to kick their asses! As hard as you possibly can! You’ll need the American people behind you in order to do that. I will support you on this! The rest of us will support you on this if you provide the powerful, unequivocal leadership that we’re counting on you to provide!
I know you can do this, Mister President. In the first two months of your second term, you are already showing more leadership and more moral courage by relentlessly hitting the road with your economics teach-ins than you did in your entire first term. Go for it, sir!