Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Politics as Usual -- Not

The American Political System is highly dysfunctional. Politics as usual will only bring more of the same. Robert Reich: "[Hillary Clinton is] the most qualified candidate for president of the political system we now have, but Bernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have, because he's leading a political movement for change." Can Bernie possibly win in this system we now have? Many think not, yet his opponents are becoming increasingly nervous and his supporters steadily more confident. Will we know more by this evening? We shall see.

FiveThirtyEight predicts that Bernie Sanders will lose in Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, and likely Missouri. If correct, they will claim "politics as usual" and argue that the Democratic nominee can now be predicted with some certainty (and it's not Bernie). If their predictions happen to be wrong, on the other hand, they will wring their hands over the "greatest polling errors in history" (except for the time before in Michigan). Either way, we would argue that they are missing the point, which is that this campaign is not about politics as usual. Not by a long shot.

The success of the Bernie Sanders candidacy and the movement he has spawned is largely a result of the Internet.


Bernie Sanders has said, often and in many ways, "This campaign is not about me—it's about all of us. No president can accomplish what has to be done unless millions of people come together." Call it a movement, as he has, or a political revolution, this assemblage of tens, even hundreds of thousands online has become a true community, in fact one of the most cohesive, supportive, vibrant, amazing online communities I have ever witnessed. (And I've been involved in more than a few over three decades, starting with The WELL.)

These are but a few of the many social media pages devoted to the Bernie for president community. and as you may guess there are trolls, disagreements, and arguments. Let me state again, however, that these are among the most knowledgeable, engaged, friendly, supportive, compassionate, helpful, loving people I've had the pleasure of interacting with online. This community counts for a lot, a whole lot.



"The revolution will not be televised. ... The revolution will be live." ~Gil Scott-Heron. This slogan is often used both to lament and challenge the fact that Bernie's campaign has been largely ignored by the mainstream media. This has not stopped the message from getting out, however, because there are so many online resources. Here are just a few examples out of dozens, maybe hundreds, more.


And of course one of the biggest differences in this political campaign is how it is being financed, which is almost entirely by small online donations.

Image credit Kyle O'Leary

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Changing for Survival

Dr. Luis Contreras (guest)

Our planet is gravely ill and so far there is talk but no action. At a time when we are on a downward spiral, filing lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency to delay compliance with Clean Power Plan regulations does not seem like a smart idea. Natural laws, the mysterious and complex ways our planet functions, can't be broken; the laws of nature are final. If we ignore them, we pay for the consequences.

The U.S. Supreme Court says corporations are people with rights protected by the U.S. Constitution. Recently, they got the right to spend money in presidential elections. If corporations have rights, they should have responsibilities like integrity, concern for the environment, and other values we expect from regular people. Some companies have codes of conduct, but they must be optional; corporate behavior is not always what they say. When dealing with survival, people and corporations need to change. We have no other choice.

California is coping with severe drought

We have been lucky so far, and as we reach the end of 2015, life seems good in Eureka Springs. California seems to be ahead of the times. They are making necessary changes to cope with severe drought. We may learn something looking at what California is doing. The changes involve everyone, with rules to use less water, recycle agricultural water, and eliminating water losses. Old pipes, pumps, valves, and all else used to bring water to dry places, built and designed 90 years ago when there was more water for a smaller population, is undergoing maintenance upgrades to eliminate water losses.

Case in point

Two Arkansas wood pellet mills are under construction and scheduled to open in 2016, owned by out-of-state corporations. Wood pellets are on high demand due to what some call an accounting error. To meet pollution standards, coal-fired power plants in U.K. and other E.U. countries are allowed to burn wood pellets pretending it is carbon neutral. This means they only have to account for the carbon footprint of processing and transporting wood pellets. However, the amount of greenhouse gasses from burning wood pellets is higher than burning coal. Not only that, the trees used by the Arkansas pellet mills from private forests will be gone.

The numbers tell the true story. The Monticello Zilkha mill will produce 450,000 tons of pellets per year, using 45,000 acres of forest. With no plans, funds, or resources for re-forestation, a process that takes around 40 years under good weather, the result will be forest soil erosion from severe rains and sedimentation of creeks and rivers. Looking at 2016-2056, the Zilkha "clean heat" wood pellets will destroy 2 million acres of forest in the Monticello area along with the carbon sink provided by the forests. A similar tragedy will happen in the new Pine Bluff wood mill.

For details, please google Climate Central Pulp Fiction. Here is a hint: wood mills, in theory, use sawdust and wood waste; in real life, high-venture investors like Zilkha, the people trying to build the Clean Line transmission lines, target low-income areas where jobs are hard to find. Predatory behavior is unacceptable for individuals and criminal for corporations ignoring the climate emergency. U.S. Congressman Bruce Westerman, in Pine Bluff, is pushing the "Resilient National Forest Act" to make it easy to sell our national forests. If you can, please visit the Ouachita National Forest before it is destroyed. I called Westerman's D.C. office and was told the two new pellet mills in his district are not related at all to the "Resilient Act," please call after reading Pulp Fiction mentioned above, (202)225-3772, they will be expecting to hear from you.

There are no easy solutions to climate change

Some of the people wanting to be our next president offer simple solutions. One of the candidates has been proposing solutions to the hard questions and promises to make structural changes. It is up to us; we need to change, vote and choose survival.

November 10, 2015
Op-Ed, Eureka Springs Independent

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Road to Paris

Paris is mentioned nowhere in the Pope's encyclical Lautato Si'. Yet it is everywhere. By all accounts the Paris Climate Change Conference in December is the primary reason for the timing of the encyclical's release earlier this year and of the Papal visit to the U.S. and the U.N. last month. The central message is that the world must act decisively and we must do so now to address the environmental and social crises we face, especially that of climate change. We are called to repentance and moral action at all levels from individuals on up. Internationally the Paris talks, just a few weeks away, are front and center. The whole world is watching expectantly.

But why is the Paris conference so critical? It occurred to me that most of us know so little about how we got to this point, and much of what I had been aware in the past I have forgotten, so I decided to dig deeper. In what follows, I use acronyms to save space, but you can see what the acronyms stand for by hovering your cursor over each one.

1972. The Stockholm Declaration was issued by the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (UNEP).

1988. The IPCC was established by two UN organizations, the WMO and the UNEP to provide an internationally accepted authority on climate change, producing reports which have the agreement of leading climate scientists and the consensus of participating governments.

1990. The IPCC issued FAR which stated with certainty that emissions resulting from human activities are substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gases, resulting on average in an additional warming of the Earth's surface. This report was the basis of the UNFCCC.

1992. "Earth Summit" (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro negotiated the UNFCCC, an international environmental treaty to "stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system". Pope Francis does mention this conference (167): "Although the summit was a real step forward, and prophetic for its time, its accords have been poorly implemented, due to the lack of suitable mechanisms for oversight, periodic review and penalties in cases of non-compliance. The principles which it proclaimed still await an efficient and flexible means of practical implementation." After 1995, the Parties to the Convention agreed to meet annually (COP).

1997, COP3. The Kyoto Protocol extended the UNFCCC to set emissions targets (in broad outline) for developed countries which are binding under international law, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. The first commitment period was from 2005-2012. The U.S. is a signatory, but has never ratified the Protocol.

2007. The IPCC issued AR4 calling for an initial target of 25 to 40 percent reductions below 1990 levels by the year 2020 and a peak and decline within the next 10-15 years.

2007, COP13. The Bali Roadmap marked a milestone in the process of international consensus building, setting forth a multilateral legal framework to address climate change. The process was acrimonious, however, with the US delegation systematically derailing negotiations throughout. In the end, the US removed its block on the final text, but the US still refused to allow numbers into the Bali Action Plan's nonbinding preamble. As a compromise, the Bali Action Plan's sole footnote refers to the volumes and page numbers where the 25 to 40 percent reductions in emissions appear in the IPCC AR4. A two-year process was outlined to finalize a binding agreement in 2009 in Copenhagen.

2009, COP15, The Copenhagen Summit. According to the Bali Road Map, a framework for climate change mitigation beyond 2012 was to have been agreed here. Expectations were high. On the final day of the conference, international media reported that the climate talks were "in disarray". In lieu of a summit collapse, The Copenhagen Accord was drafted by the United States, China, India, Brazil and South Africa. It was "taken note of", but not "adopted", in a debate of all the participating countries the next day, and it was not passed unanimously. The document recognized that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of the present day and that actions should be taken to keep any temperature increases to below 2 °C. The document is not legally binding and does not contain any legally binding commitments for reducing CO2 emissions. So much for the Bali Roadmap.

2010, COP16. The Cancún agreements were hardly disappointing after the Copenhagen fiasco, but still minimal progress was made. The agreement reiterated that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time and that all parties must share a vision for long-term cooperative action in order to achieve the objective of the Convention, including the achievement of a global goal. It included a "Green Climate Fund" to assist poorer countries in financing emission reductions and adaptation, but there was no agreement on how to extend the Kyoto Protocol, or how the funds for the Green Climate Fund will be raised, or whether developing countries should have binding emissions reductions or whether rich countries would have to reduce emissions first. The agreement "fell woefully short of action needed."

Anyone see a pattern yet?

2011, COP17. The Durbin Platform: After two weeks of negotiations and a 60-hour marathon session, on the last day negotiators agreed to be part of a legally binding treaty to address global warming. The terms of the future treaty are to be defined by 2015 (COP21) and become effective in 2020. Considered by many as too little too late, this is our last best hope, which is why the Paris Climate Summit is so extremely crucial. If the world cannot reach such an agreement then, we will have committed the future of our planet to one of horror.

2012, COP18. The Doha Conference agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol, due to expire at the end of 2012, until 2020, and to affirm the 2011 Durban Platform that a successor to the Protocol is set to be developed by 2015 and implemented by 2020. It also formalized the concept of "loss and damage", a recognition of liability.

2012, "RIO+20". The UNCSD is not officially part of the UNFCCC process, but in marking the twenty-anniversary of the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, it raised high expectations, only to disappoint. Pope Francis (169): "RIO+20 issued a wide-ranging but ineffectual outcome document. International negotiations cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the global common good. Those who will have to suffer the consequences of what we are trying to hide will not forget this failure of conscience and responsibility."

2013, COP19. Statement by WWF, Oxfam, ActionAid, the International Trade Union Confederation, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace :"Organizations and movements representing people from every corner of the Earth have decided that the best use of our time is to voluntarily withdraw from the Warsaw climate talks. The Warsaw climate conference, which should have been an important step in the just transition to a sustainable future, is on track to deliver virtually nothing."

The pattern continues.

2014. IPCC issued AR5.

  • Warming of the atmosphere and ocean system is unequivocal. Many of the associated impacts such as sea level change (among other metrics) have occurred since 1950 at rates unprecedented in the historical record.
  • There is a clear human influence on the climate.
  • It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of observed warming since 1950, with the level of confidence having increased since the fourth report.
  • The longer we wait to reduce our emissions, the more expensive it will become.

2014 September, Leaders Climate Summit. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invited world leaders, from government, finance, business, and civil society to Climate Summit 2014 on 23 September in New York City to galvanize and catalyze climate action. He asked these leaders to bring bold announcements and actions to the Summit that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015.

2014 September, People's Climate March. The day prior to the Leaders Climate Summit, over 300,000 people (maybe 400,000) took to the streets of New York City to demand real climate action. It was endorsed by over 1500 organizations, and it has catalyzed an ongoing and growing grass roots movement around the world ever since, the People's Climate Movement.

2014 December, COP20. Work on the draft agreements for Paris began.

2015 December, COP21. "In 2015, France will be hosting and presiding the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11), otherwise known as 'Paris 2015' from November 30th to December 11th. COP21 will be a crucial conference, as it needs to achieve a new international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C. France will therefore be playing a leading international role to ensure points of view converge and to facilitate the search for consensus by the United Nations, as well as within the European Union, which has a major role in climate negotiations.".

Friday, August 28, 2015

Abortion and Ecology

Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. ~Pope Francis, Praised Be: On Care for Our Common Home, §120.

Having now read Praised Be several times, I am slowly working my way back through the Encyclical section by section. Today I reached §120, where I was confronted by the sentence quoted above. Since the entire section isn't that long, let me quote it in its entirety.

Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? "If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away".

The sub-quote at the end is from Pope Benedict's Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) (29 June 2009), §28.

Openness to life is at the centre of true development. When a society moves towards the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man's true good. If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of a new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away. The acceptance of life strengthens moral fibre and makes people capable of mutual help. (Emphasis in the original.)

These principles resonate with me, so where do I stand on abortion?

I was in medical school when the landmark Roe v. Wade decision was handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court. Young as I was, I applauded this legal decision at the time, and I've supported it throughout my medical career. I support it today. So how do I reconcile this stance with my growing concern for all vulnerable beings?

As I started writing this, my plan had been to articulate a nuanced defense of my position. Instead, I've now decided to leave the question open, to continue wrestling with it. How should our society encourage reverence for life? How do we overcome our culture of violence? How do we learn to live together with respect and dignity, and with compassion?

Friday, August 7, 2015

NOT a Climate Scientist

Pope Francis, I am told, is trained in chemistry but he is not a climate scientist. This I have in common with him. I too have a degree in chemistry and am not a climate scientist. He and I cannot presume, therefore, to speak on climate from a position of scientific authority, but we trust the scientific method and understand its limitations and strengths, a perspective which is helpful. Otherwise we are not much different from everyone else. All of us depend on climate scientists to help us understand what is going on.

As a scientist who is not a climate scientist, here are my thoughts on climate change.

1. The science of weather and climate is extremely complicated.

Weather is the behavior of the atmosphere at a given location at a specific time. This is influenced by conditions of the land and water beneath it, as well as the weather in surrounding regions. Weather systems, therefore, are dynamic, non-linear (chaotic) interactions among enormous numbers of variables, few of which can be known with any certainty. It is small wonder weather forecasting is notoriously capricious. Yet it is surprisingly reliable. I recall as Hurricane Sandy was approaching the Eastern Seaboard, forecasters said over and over, we don't know what to expect because we have never seen a storm like this before, but the predictions were nonetheless uncannily accurate. Chaotic systems are not unpredictable. Recognizing the chaotic, fractal nature of our world gives us new insight, power, and understanding.

Climate is weather over longer periods of time and typically over wider regions. The region of interest may even be global and the time period as long as decades or centuries. But if weather is difficult to forecast, surely climate must be impossible. It turns out, however, that trends are easier to predict than the details, not simple, mind you, just less difficult. Climate systems such as El Nino, though, are notoriously difficult to forecast. This week I read reports that despite strong similarities between the 2015-16 and 1997-98 El Nino events, expert forecasters are refusing to make specific predictions.

All this is to emphasize that climate and weather are complicated. Computer modeling has a special fascination for me. Because the number of variables is so enormous, computer modeling even a few years ago was limited by memory costs and processing speed, but these boundaries seem to fall every year if not every month. Our computer models are now more accurate than ever, and often they are more disturbing. The latest predictions are more dire than the conservative estimates of just a few years ago. Yes, all this is complicated and much remains unknown, but the uncertainty is troubling not comforting. What we don't understand may be acceptable, ... probably not.

2. The science of man-made global warming is really simple.

(1) By contrast, the thermodynamics (physics) of green house gases (carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor, and others) has been well studied for over a century and is well understood. This has not been nor is it now in dispute. (2) The concentration of carbon dioxide and other green house gases in our atmosphere has been (and still is) steadily increasing. This is not in dispute. (3) The total heat content of the earth has steadily and dramatically increased since at least 1980. Yes it has been disputed that surface atmospheric temperatures have increased since 1998, but (a) in 1998 an abnormally strong El Nino caused heat transfer from the Pacific Ocean to the atmosphere, (b) even so ten of the hottest years on record have happened since 1998, (c) many high temperature records (and many fewer lower temperature records) have been broken since then, and (d) the steady rise in ocean temperatures since 1980 is undisputed. The earth is getting warmer, and the increase can be directly related to the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Weather and climate predictions are actually harder than rocket science; the physics of global warming is not. It is straightforward.

3. The scientific consensus on climate change is crystal clear.

Consensus does not always guarantee truth, but scientific consensus is hard to come by and often it is associated with truth. It is the nature of science to be self-correcting. Individual scientists are not above error in judgment or interpretation, nor are they flawless even in groups, but science is truth seeking. The overwhelming consensus today is that man-made global warming and climate change is real, and it is serious. This consensus is demonstrable in at least two ways. First, more than 97% of those publishing in the area (as many as 99.9%) are in full agreement. Climate change is real, and human activity is the cause. Second, nearly every major scientific body in the world has issued such a statement. Scientific organizations are typically conservative about making such statements, so this is nearly unprecedented and significant. The notion that this is in debate is fabricated by the deniers.

4. The politics of climate science denial is all too familiar.

Here I have some personal experience. Not a lot, because I am a pediatrician, but when I was in medical school the surgeon general issued his statement about the health risks associated with cigarette smoking, and for decades big tobacco companies spent billions denying the science that was well established. Millions of people lost their lives unnecessarily as a result. Some of the same public relations firms are now involved in denying global warming and defending the fossil fuel industry. I am offended by this.

5. The consequences of climate change are already horrifyingly apparent.

So where do I start? The problem is that individual local crises are hard to connect to global "climate change." But honestly, these many disasters are becoming so severe and so commonplace, so "normal", that one can no longer imagine they are unrelated to what we have done to the earth and its climate. Moreover, the connections are often now becoming clearer.

A partial and less-than-systematic list of possible consequences would include: more powerful and dangerous hurricanes and tornadoes, drought and wildfire, intense rainstorms and flooding, deadly heat waves, bad air, allergies, asthma, infectious disease and food and waterborne illness outbreaks, ecosystem shifts and species die-gff, melting glaciers, early ice thaw, sea-level rise, and less fresh water.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Watershed Pilgrimage

The Paris Climate Conference (COP21) in December is shaping up to be a "watershed event" according to the Director for Strategy at the UN Climate Change Secretariat (UNFCCC). What does this mean? The word watershed can mean either "a drainage area" or "the ridge dividing two drainage areas." In this case, the Paris Agreement is an opportunity for Governments to set aside their differences and join forces to chart a course avoiding further disruption to our only climate system OR failing that humanity will continue its relentless plunge the other way toward destruction. This Conference will be a watershed moment. Hold that thought.

The #PeoplesPilgrimage is an open source response from the human heart to the climate crisis. It's a way for everyone - of all faiths and none - to share our hopes and fears, and call for action on climate this year. Arkansas Interfaith Power and Light would like to plan and host an Arkansas Pilgrimage between now and December. We are open to suggestions for local or regional sacred places we want to protect from destruction of climate change.

Short of a better idea, what about this? The Arkansas House of Prayer is an interfaith haven set apart in nature, dedicated to contemplative prayer, meditation, and quiet. It also happens to be located precisely on a natural watershed. Rain on the north side flows to the Arkansas River by way of the Maumelle and Little Maumelle Rivers, whereas rain on the other side flows into the headwaters of Rock Creek and on south, then east to the Arkansas River by way of Fourche Creek. What if we were to use this (interfaith) sacred place and natural watershed as a symbol of the crucial "watershed" nature of COP21?

My suggestion would be for us to gather on the grounds of the House of Prayer for an opening ceremony, after which a small contingent would walk down Chenal Parkway north toward Chenonceau Blvd. The rest would walk south on the path along Chenal Parkway toward Rock Creek. It is two miles to Promenade at Chenal. Maybe we could rent one of the theaters at Chenal 9 IMAX for a documentary or a rally (or both). The group walking north to Aberdeen Court would bring a van back to the Promenade.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Fun in the Sun (and Snow)

Just for fun (I've been too serious lately) here is a wild idea. How about asking Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH) to cover the top level of the parking deck? The top deck was closed for days this winter due to ice and snow, with a few falls anyway, so doesn't it make sense to cover it? Moreover we could stand some protection from the sun on unbearably hot Arkansas summer days and drenching rain storms.

The Proposal

David Berry (our COO) and Gina Wingfield (our CFO) would say this is a great idea if we had the money, but there are higher priorities for spending than our comfort (and occasionally our safety). But what if I were to tell them and you that it wouldn't have to cost us a dime? The details are somewhat more complicated, but the concept is spectacularly simple. A photovoltaic (PV) solar panel pays for itself in twenty years (typically, and maybe as short as ten). That's it! That is my great idea.


  • Providing protection from the sun is straightforward; that is what 'solar' panels do essentially. Using panels to protect from ice and snow requires more creativity, but it can be done.
  • The generating capacity for commercial customers for net-metering rules would be limited to 450 kW, which would be around 1800 panels. These would only cover about 180 parking spaces or ¾ of the top level.
  • Connecting to the grid will require careful coordination with Entergy, including review of the net-metering agreement and a specific contract with Entergy up front (above my pay grade). Maybe we can negotiate a higher limit at the same time.

Are you kidding?

No, I am serious. Well I am having fun, of course, but I'm serious too. Moreover, I am not the first to think of this. Maybe the first at ACH (or not, I don't know), but similar projects are already underway, for example, at UT Southwestern Medical Center and at the VA Hospital in Little Rock. The VA project has been delayed, but I'm told it is now a matter of working out a few final details. It is a big (huge) project, after all, at least five times larger than the one I am suggesting.

Although Arkansas lags behind the rest of the country, the amount of electricity generated by U.S. utility-scale solar photovoltaic power plants is up more than 100 percent in 2014 over the same period in 2013, and it is predicted to double again within the next two years or less. Solar power is no longer a risky proposition. ACH is wise not to be the first (and it's not) but it should be among the leaders for this trend.

Why should ACH take the lead?

Above I suggested that solar panels would be a cost-effective way to provide protection from the elements (sun, rain, snow, and ice) for a few vulnerable parking spaces, but there are more compelling reasons that ACH should lead out in such a project.


The CDC estimates that the prevalence of asthma nation-wide is around 8%. In Arkansas this number tends to be higher, around 13%. Among 9th through 12th graders in Arkansas, the prevalence may exceed 20%. In any case asthma among kids, especially teenagers, is a serious problem in Arkansas. The causes are multi-factorial, true, but without necessarily claiming a direct cause-effect relationship, coal-fired power plants are known to be major sources of particulate and sulfur dioxide pollution that trigger asthma, of which there are four in Arkansas. (One of these is said to be "clean" while another is listed among the dirtiest, but all contribute.)

If any institution in Arkansas should lead out in promoting clean air by cutting back on coal-fired power, it should be Arkansas Children's Hospital. Yes, 450 kW is just a drop in the bucket but not insignificant, nor would its impact be trivial. It is a start, a good start, and along with the VA Hospital we could make a profound statement for change. Yet clean air is not the half of it. Coal-fired power plants also emit carbon dioxide, a green-house gas, which is a major contributor to climate change.

Climate Change

Experts with the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) believe climate change plays an even bigger role in allergies and asthma than what is being reported. "Climate change has the potential to affect all aspects of allergen exposure, including both indoor and outdoor allergens, as well as communicable diseases that are related to allergies and asthma." Beyond that, the World Health Organization estimates that more than 80% of the health burden due to climate change occurs in children less than 5 years old. As early as 2005, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warned that "there is broad scientific consensus that Earth's climate is warming rapidly and at an accelerating rate. Human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels, are very likely to be the main cause of this warming." They went on to state that "because of their physical, physiological, and cognitive immaturity, children are often most vulnerable to adverse health effects from environmental hazards." Since then the AAP has reaffirmed these statements several times, as late as July 2014.

If any institution in Arkansas should be concerned about the health and well-being of our children and theirs it is Arkansas Children's Hospital. We cannot turn a blind eye to the many different forms of global destruction that will result from global warming caused by our addiction to coal and other fossil fuels. It will have a direct and indirect impact on the children of our state, and even devastating impacts on children around the world. How can we fail to do everything in our power to change the direction in which our world is heading?

There are powerful entities in our state that will try to tell you this is all political hype. They will claim there has been no warming for over fifteen years, or that the warming we've seen is natural variation unrelated to human activity. They will state that scientists disagree with each other and that there is still much debate about climate change. Or they will insist that reducing our use of fossil fuels would be an economic disaster, especially for developing countries. They will say anything they can to promote the continued use of their fossil fuel assets for as long as possible. Many of the medical staff at ACH are old enough to remember the same tactics used by big tobacco forty years ago to hold onto their profits. Don't believe them.

If any institution in Arkansas should accept the evidence of science on climate change it is Arkansas Children's Hospital. When we want to provide the best care for our patients we seek out the best scientific evidence we can. We follow the best experts we can find. If the evidence is equivocal we hold off and are (or try to be) patient, but when the evidence is clear we act upon it. My friends, there is ample evidence on climate change. Scientists by nature are conservative, scientific organizations even more so, but nearly every significant scientific organization in the world has issued a statement that climate change is real and that human activity is responsible. Well over 90% of the climate experts in the world agree (97% actually). To suppose that all of them are wrong (or part of a conspiracy) is foolhardy. And for those of you who wish to examine the evidence for yourselves, please let me know. I promise you, it is both impressive and convincing.

The Mission of ACH

The Mission of ACH is to "champion children by making them better today and healthier tomorrow." How can we fail, therefore, to do everything possible to mitigate climate change and its potential to devastate our children and theirs beyond anything we now imagine? How can we not do everything in our power, including actions that might be politically controversial, to change the tide?

Okay, so maybe we are not quite there yet. What we can do, however, is something less controversial and much less risky, such as installing a few solar-panel covered parking spaces. This proposal is a win-win. It protects our employees, pays us back over time, and makes a positive statement about clean energy generation. We can wait until the following year (or the next) to picket the Foundation to divest its fossil fuel holdings or the EPA to further tighten its clean air standards. As I said above, removing 450 kW from the grid seems precious little, but it would say (and do) more than you might think.

Did I say something about not being so serious? Oh well.