Why People Disagree About (How Forest Plans Deal With) Climate Change. II. Some Philosophical Orientations and The Problem of Climate Everythingism

Ski area parking lot.There are many AGW-Climate Change philosophical differences that are out there that may influence forest planning. I’m sure there are more that readers can add. I’ll use “you” to mean a forest or other planning entity.

1. How do you handle uncertainties about future climates? How explicit are you about them? How do you treat model outputs, or like Denver Water, do you use a pretty broad uncertainty envelope? How do you combine uncertainties about climate with uncertainties about other things.. population, recreation use, economics? Do you use scenarios and involve the public, or what is your approach to discussing uncertainties with the public? (this was discussed more generally in the previous post).

2. I give adaptive management its own category here because it is something that the FS (and BLM?) were supposed to be doing, but may have had trouble.  At least at the level that some have talked about it (extremely formalized, scientist design, and so on).  Perhaps at the District human being observational level or the specialist level (say fuels or wildlife or reforestation)  it is working just fine using old-fangled communication- person to person and through professional groups. But maybe different “adaptive management” aficionados simply mean different things by their use of the term. How is adaptive management currently working on the forest, and how is the plan going to help- does it have a role; what are the requirements of the 2012 Rule on this, and how are they being applied?

3. Climate mitigation. Seems like we mostly hear about SOSO (same old same old) with regard to mitigation. ENGOs who didn’t want to cut trees now say it’s bad for carbon. ENGO’s who don’t like cattle grazing say it’s bad for methane. Less fossil fuel leasing seems like it would be mitigation, until you analyze it and discover that the sources simply move to private land or offshore. And what about recreation? Most recreators, myself included, use vehicles to access NF lands that are powered by fossil fuels directly or via electrical sources. What are the key issues in the plan vis a vis mitigation?

4. There’s also a bit of meta-thinking that I call Climate Everythingism.
To some, climate now the mantle for everything- other environmental issues, all natural hazards, as we have seen with EPA, CEQ, and many media outlets now have environment as a subset of climate. Check out the WaPo main page where Environment is a subset of Climate.

Others think that climate another source of uncertainty, like population and economics, which all need to be addressed through planning- and it is the role of each discipline to learn about what CC means for their resource.

Most Everythingists I’ve met consider themselves to be “climate experts” (whether I would consider them that or not). But for every Forest Service Everythingist who thinks we need climate specialists advising on each project, there is someone outside the Forest Service who thinks the agency itself can be done away with and replaced by a Climate Adaptation Agency staffed with.. climate experts. 
I often find what is least talked about in these discussions are the disciplinary and authority implications of Everythingism, as well as moving the locus of knowledge and authority away from experts on the ground and the people most affected. At its worst Everythingism could be a systemic antagonist to the idea of empowering disadvantaged communities. I find Everythingists not usually involved with forest planning, but their ideas are in the atmosphere, and may well be among partners and the public, so I think it’s something to be aware of.

Addition: I just ran a across a job ad for a Climate Editor at Vox Media on Linked-In. Under “About the Job” it says:

Climate change is the most important story in the world. It’s no longer a looming consequence in the far-off future, but rather a present challenge that’s forcing all of us to adapt. Wildlife and natural habitats are disappearing, driving a biodiversity crisis.

If you’re an Everythingist, I suppose biodiversity is a subset of climate. It’s a mantle that you can place over everything, except perhaps non-native invasive species. But we don’t hear about the latter much anymore.

Please add your own philosophical differences that may affect the approach to climate change in forest plans.

7 thoughts on “Why People Disagree About (How Forest Plans Deal With) Climate Change. II. Some Philosophical Orientations and The Problem of Climate Everythingism”

  1. “Science” reports the inter glacial period of our ongoing Ice Age is the climate driver of Earth and has been for the Holocene to now. With no human caused direct addition of atmospheric gases, the return to dual pole polar ice caps, full time frozen oceans north and south of the Arctic Antarctic “Circles” has happened many times before our human species evolved. Expanding glaciers, perpetual snow fields, evolving Ice Age wildlife and sometimes impacts to subtropical Earth. Likely beginning again as a return to the cold oeriod of glaciers and perpetual snow fields and seasonal warmer months annually in about 25,000 years. But, human caused Atmospheric gas already causing a degree of “climate change warming” are predicted to have delayed the onset of glaciation for maybe as much as 100,000 years.

    Of course oceans will rise from Greenland and Baffin Island glaciers melting. And, Ice Age sequestering water, The land supported ice will lower the world’s oceans by 100 meters at the peak of Ice Ages.

    The constant? Climate change with or without human caused atmospheric additional gases. After all, polar ice caps are an exception to the norm in the history of this planet. Science has reported that.

    Change is the norm. Random celestial events. Extinctions caused by large asteroids hitting Earth, bringing “nuclear winter” for a time. Then millions of years of evolving new life forms.

    No way in that for money managers and hedge funds to profit in a human life span. However, climate change hysteria is a path to unimaginable wealth accumulation in a short time for a few. The pesky human lifespan determines our collective actions and resulting unintended consequences.

    “Now” is the driver. Faster computer speeds, reactions to realities and events. Much too fast for adequate vetting before reactions are underway.
    From an aged perspective, I am reminded of helping Mrs Eddy slaughter, dip, pick and butcher 80 fryer white leghorns one Saturday at age 13. Some strutting around headless until they bled out. Most were leg hooked on the long 4 wire clothes line. The family lab chased them down and dutifully retrieved them. Chicken rodeo. Basic post war work evolved from agrarian past and lost soon after.
    We pretty much were done in short order. Mrs Eddy was efficient and gave good direction. I was “axe man.” And a plucker. All were frozen for later use.

    She also was a barbecued chicken cook extraordinaire. From SE Oklahoma farm family. Yummy!!

  2. Sharon – “Others think that climate another source of uncertainty, like population and economics, which all need to be addressed through planning- and it is the role of each discipline to learn about what CC means for their resource.”

    Maybe the agency perspective is evident from their designating “climate change coordinators” via “other duties as assigned” to forest or regional whatevers (who maybe happened to be not very important to meeting targets). Climate is one of the mostly uncontrollable factors that become assumptions in the planning process, and it makes sense to treat it like social and economic forces (so maybe there should be a regional climatologist). However, to the extent doing something about it is a goal, should the agency hire advocates for doing something – or should we leave that to existing resource specialists (aquatic biologists wanting to conserve water like foresters wanting to support the timber industry).

    John – “However, climate change hysteria is a path to unimaginable wealth accumulation in a short time for a few.” Consider this reality. Government employees are not in it to get rich. (Sorry I can’t reply in haikus.)

    • So.. everyone in the Forest Service wants to “do something” about it…but what exactly should they do? That is the question. There are only so many things forests can do. And the existing specialists know all those things. What would an advocate of “doing something” add?

      I’m a forester and I don’t particularly want to support the timber industry. I think they are useful and I use their products and I certainly have nothing against them. However if the biochar industry or the biomass energy industry would buy the thinned material around here, I’d be happy with them also.

      • I’m a forester, too. In my experience, foresters who worked on a timber management staff tended to be pretty close with the timber industry.

        • What exactly are you implying Jon? Are Foresters that work in timber management supposed to fervently oppose all things that relate to the timber industry or risk being seen as impure to those that do?

          • The point was to suggest that the various specialists each have their own angle on climate change, so maybe there doesn’t need to be a specialist with just that angle. I don’t have a strong opinion on that.

        • Well, I worked in silviculture, reforestation and genetics and have never been very close with the timber industry. I have never met a person in the industry from when I worked in R-6 and R-5. And yes, for all those years I was on the Timber Management Staff.

          I think there are people in the timber shop who work with timber industry, just as there are those who work with the minerals industry, the ski industry, water providers, ranchers and so on.

          In fact, my major dealings with timber industry folks were when I was in R&D and went to meetings with their research folks.


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