Month 11, Day 1: Evidence? We Don’t Need No Steenkin’ Evidence!

The L.A. Times runs an article by Neela Banerjee noting that the Republican climate zombies are in a position to screw everything up should they (as seems distressingly likely) gain power in this election.

GOTV! GOTV!

When Republican congresspeople dismiss the scientific consensus on the role of carbon dioxide in global climate change, they selfishly sacrifice the long-term health of the country and the planet for the sake of immediate political expediency. Their readiness to declare that climate science is not “settled” demonstrates a distrust of expertise that runs counter to their ideological slant — and they’ve been equally ready to dismiss expert information in other areas — as in the run-up to the Iraq war, where the Bush administration and their enablers in the Republican caucus systematically cherry-picked intelligence to support their predetermined policy objectives. That debacle cost us the lives of thousands of soldiers, countless Iraqi civilians, and our country’s credibility in the eyes of the world. It’s time for climate deniers to listen to the experts: the evidence for human causes of global warming is far, far stronger than that for Iraqi WMDs.

Warren Senders

Month 10, Day 31: It’s Halloween! I’m Going As David Koch!

Tim Rutten writes in the LA Times about the corporate role in creating the current army of climate zombies who threaten to derail our already pitiful progress on getting a law in place to deal with GHG emissions.

Voters are regularly told that experience in business is a political plus; the notion of running the state or the country “like a company” is extolled. But tobacco companies conspired to hide a fact: their product killed people who used it, and oil companies have likewise conspired, hiding the reality that their product is rendering our planet uninhabitable. Apparently corporations are not only prepared to ignore facts if they get in the way of a healthy quarterly report, but they haven’t yet figured out that killing your customers is bad for business. If we elect corporate CEOs to public office, we should not be surprised if they behave like corporations, employing mendacity, avarice, and short-sightedness to the detriment of our common welfare. The fossil fuel interests’ fixation on denying the existence of the gravest threat humanity has ever faced makes the big tobacco companies look like a bunch of pikers.

Warren Senders

Month 10, Day 30: Get Down To What Is Really Real.

The Miami Herald runs an AP article on the GOP aversion to reality. And it refers to them (Republicans) as “skeptics.”

Nuh-uh.

It is inaccurate to call most Republican candidates “skeptics” on the issue of climate change. A skeptic is motivated by a search for truth, which leads him or her to doubt any knowledge that has not been verified by personal experience or research. These candidates should be called “deniers” or “denialists.” Observe their unwillingness to do any research, their aversion to verifiable facts — the conclusion is inescapable: Republican opposition to the very concept of climate change is entirely ideological. Why do they reject the statements of scientific specialists? Precisely because scientists present actual hard evidence that climate change is real — evidence that can only be countered by unwavering refusals to listen and to understand. In other words, GOP candidates’ response to the facts on climate change is to stick their fingers in their ears and shout loudly. Republicans weren’t always anti-reality, but that was a long time ago.

Warren Senders

Month 10, Day 29: The Auteurial Imagination….

The Modesto Bee, a small California paper, notes that film director James Cameron has come out against the odious Proposition 23.

That is to say:

It’s good to hear James Cameron joining Governor Schwarzenegger in opposition to Proposition 23 in the last few days before the election, when the Koch brothers and their collaborators from the extractive industry sector are pouring surreal quantities of money into the campaign to suspend AB 32, California’s excellent climate change law. We recognize these conscienceless billionaires in two of Cameron’s creations: they occupied the Titanic’s most luxurious staterooms, and they’re the principal shareholders of “Avatar’s” RDA Corporation. These latter-day robber barons ignore the crucial truth that global climate change is likely to trigger a “domino effect” of infrastructural collapse, which would surely be bad for business. The worst-case scenarios suggested by climatologists can be summed up in one word: Venus. A film based on that planet would challenge any directorial imagination: hot and empty. Nobody to buy oil. A defeat of Proposition 23 will benefit the Koch brothers and their allies, too.

Warren Senders

Month 10, Day 28: How I Long For The Days Of “Enlightened Self-Interest”

The Washington Post runs an AP story on the corporate groups that are destroying our democracy:

Rove, who was President George W. Bush’s top political adviser, and the two Mayflower lunch partners – former GOP Chairman Ed Gillespie and Steven Law, a veteran of Capitol Hill and the Chamber of Commerce – worried that the Republican Party alone would be no match for President Barack Obama’s superb fundraising.

“Clearly there was a tremendous amount of grass-roots energy building – a grass-roots prairie fire that was building in intensity,” Law, now the Crossroads president, said in an interview. “We felt that one of the things we could do was pour gasoline on that.”
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If voters seemed angry, so was corporate America. Obama led Congress into passing health care and financial regulation overhauls and pushed for climate legislation, all of which angered the business community.

Assholes.

The fact that corporate America was “angry” about President Obama’s calls for climate legislation reveals a lot about Corporate America (which deserves full capitalizations now that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has affirmed its personhood). Specifically, Corporate America is mistrustful of expertise, incapable of long-term thought, lacks any conception of the common good, and is irrationally prone to anger.

A response to proposed climate-change legislation that was not distorted by these tendencies would look very different. For example, it would recognize the overwhelming scientific consensus on the reality of global warming, and acknowledge that the catastrophic consequences of unchecked climate chaos would be (to put it mildly) bad for business. If our corporate citizens were motivated by the common good rather than their quarterly profits, we ordinary human citizens would have no reason to fear them and their devastating impact on both the political and planetary atmospheres.

Warren Senders

By The Way…

…I know it’s been a long time since I did any music posting. Once this harrowing election is over I’ve got some goodies I’ll be posting. Until then…GOTV!

Month 10, Day 27: Down Under…

The Australian Newcastle Herald (NSW) has an article noting that scientists talk like scientists, and people often have trouble understanding what they’re talking about when they do that.

Ben Newell, a psychology lecturer at the University of NSW, and Professor Andy Pitman, a scientist from the same body’s climate change research centre, put their findings together recently in The Psychology of Global Warming, a paper for the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

They urged scientists to think about four aspects of how they delivered information: sampling, framing, comprehension and consensus.

“Sampling” is the evidence you use in making judgments. If half the opinions you hear support the view that globing warming is doubtful, you’re more likely to believe that scientists are only half-convinced of its truth.

So an audience that saw a program about “Climategate emails” the night before is going to be a harder sell than the one that saw a map in the paper that morning showing the main street under water by 2050.

{snip}

‘‘Comprehension” is a battle, since it depends on what mental models people are already using.

{snip}

The problem for scientists is that different groups have already reached a consensus about global warming based on any number of factors, including religion and politics, and the members tend to believe each other before they will believe an outsider.

(Indeed. A sceptics group in Minnesota, reviewing the Sydney duo’s paper on their website, commented: “Their conclusion seems to be that people who don’t believe in global warming are too dumb to understand.”)

Actually, that’s my conclusion, too. This letter is a little longer (their limit is 200 words) and is pretty much a standard screed on false equivalency.

And…(drum roll)…it’s letter number three hundred.

Yes, scientists do have trouble communicating with the general public. But it’s crucial to recognize that the facts of global climate change have been obscured for decades by the irresponsible laziness and profit-fixation of our news media. Actual reporting is hard work, involving research, fact-checking and the correlation of data; it’s costly, too, requiring lots of reportorial time. It’s easier to quote a few people with sufficiently divergent opinions, thereby seeming “balanced.” Thus news outlets mislead the public into believing that there are equally valid arguments for and against the reality of climate change — after all, there are people on television representing each side! This abdication of journalistic responsibility has contributed significantly to our current predicament.

But not all arguments are valid. The medieval theory of humours is irrelevant to a report on medicine; an article on global travel doesn’t require input from the Flat Earth Society. With ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agreed on the human causes of global warming, our news media should focus on reporting the bad news as accurately and carefully as they can, rather than hewing to the specious policies of false equivalence that have made their jobs easier in the past.

Warren Senders

Month 10, Day 26: And The Pig Got Up And Slowly Walked Away…

The Hudson, NH chapter of the Chamber of Commerce has broken away from the US Chamber. That inspired me to write the following letter to the current president of our local CoC, here in Medford, Massachusetts.

Mr. Rick Caraviello
President
Medford Chamber of Commerce
One Shipyard Way
Medford, MA 02155

Dear Mr. Caraviello,

I am a Medford resident, and a self-employed music teacher.

I write to urge the Medford Chamber of Commerce to follow the lead of the Chamber in Hudson, New Hampshire, and formally renounce its association with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Why?

There are two reasons, one of immediate importance and the other of longer-term relevance. The first is, of course, the role played by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in funding anonymous attack advertisements all over the country during this election season. Whatever your political affiliation, we should be able to agree that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has opened the door to a tidal wave of slanderous and mendacious messaging — and that this is corrosive to the orderly functioning of our democracy. An organization that will never be held accountable for the content of an advertisement is an organization that is free to lie. The U.S. CoC’s acceptance of foreign funding is inimical to the United States’ traditions of electoral independence, and should by itself be a reason for Medford’s Chamber to renounce its affiliation with the national organization.

But there’s another reason. The U.S. Chamber has been a relentless advocate against meaningful action on climate change. For years the Chamber has funded misleading ad campaigns aimed at impugning the veracity of scientific specialists; for years the Chamber has been a major obstacle in the path towards energy independence and a future free of greenhouse gas emissions. Despite what Tom Donohue and the Chamber’s spokespeople say, the science on climate change is completely settled: it’s happening, humans are causing it, and we have to change our ways if we are to survive as a species.

Medford has built a reputation as one of Massachusetts’ most environmentally conscious cities, and I’m deeply proud to live here. For the Medford Chamber of Commerce to be affiliated in any way with the unscrupulous behavior of the U.S. Chamber is an embarrassment to our city; when I’m doing business with members of the Medford CoC, I will advocate strongly that they move to dissociate from the U.S. Chamber.

Thank you for your attention.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 10, Day 25: Real Journalism?

The Arizona Daily Sun reports on a talk given by a UN Climate Panel representative, and does a surprisingly good job of it.

Chris Field is entirely accurate, both in his assessment of the risks and dangers posed by runaway global heating and in his understanding of the obstacles and complications that make concerted action difficult. If we are to move forward in coping with this threat, it’s essential that all of us realize that the costs of action, while large, are a tiny fraction of the costs of apathy. Measuring the impact of climate change in human terms gives us terrifying numbers: of drought refugees, lives lost to flooding and fires, of millions of acres of dessicated cropland. Measuring it in monetary terms is equally scary: the long-term economic impacts of global climate change will easily amount to many trillions of dollars. In this context, it’s clear that those who resist action on the grounds of cost are terribly short-sighted. When floodwaters are rising, only a fool claims sandbags are too expensive.

Warren Senders

Month 10, Day 24: Go Git’m, Tiger!

Couldn’t find a piece in a newspaper that spoke to me, so I wrote this little pre-election missive to POTUS instead. “Playing for the Planet,” by the way, was exactly a year ago.

Dear President Obama — I’m putting as much as I possibly can into this election. As the father of a little girl who’ll be six this January, I want to be sure my daughter inherits an Earth that will support and provide for humans — an Earth that has not been rendered uninhabitable by catastrophic global climate change.

George W. Bush didn’t just fail to act on climate change; he acted decisively to make it worse. Not only were his administration’s environmental policies consistently pro-pollution (although framed in distracting Orwellian doublespeak), but his suppression of scientists working on the problem contributed to the terrifying bloom of climate ignorance that has left a huge proportion of Americans unable to identify or discuss the issue.

And thus it is left to you. At the moment it must seem a thankless task, but this is one where failure cannot be an option. Regardless of the outcome of this election, we must accomplish policy action on climate change — action of a scale appropriate to the potential disaster.

It is not just the future of our republic that is endangered by the terrible miscarriage of jurisprudence that is the Citizens United ruling. It is the future of our human species, for if oil billionaires like the Koch brothers are able to buy our democracy, then we have no hope of moving towards an energy economy free of fossil fuels. They must be stopped.

If you can accomplish this it will be the single greatest achievement of your presidency, and future generations may owe their existence to your readiness to engage the foe. As I wrote above, it may seem a thankless task in today’s political environment — but the gratitude of the Earth’s people will be yours if you succeed.

That’s why I’m volunteering and donating and phonebanking this month. We’ve got a world to save. We’re counting on you — and you can count on us.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders