Year 2, Month 11, Day 30: I Feel A Tingle…

Look, everybody! Actual, unambiguous good news:

A new study in the journal Science suggests that the global climate may be less sensitive to carbon dioxide fluctuations than predicted by the most extreme projections, and maybe slightly less than the best estimates of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Andreas Schmittner, a climate scientist at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Ore., and lead author on the new study, notes that, while man-made global warming is happening and tiny changes in global average temperatures can have huge and deleterious effects, the atmosphere may not be as sensitive to carbon dioxide change as has been reported.

“We used paleoclimate data to look at climate sensitivity to CO2 doubling in the atmosphere, and we are coming up with a somewhat lower value,” says Schmittner.

How long before James Inhofe suddenly discovers that science is cool and groovy? Sent November 26:

The authors of the newly released study on climate sensitivity very carefully note that while their conclusions suggest lower values than the IPCC’s more extreme projections, this does not diminish either the reality of global climate change or the importance of a robust policy on greenhouse emissions. But since the precise, reality-based language of scientists is incomprehensible to politicians desperately seeking excuses to avoid confronting inconvenient choices in an election season, we can anticipate a chorus of conservative legislators eagerly ignoring their cautionary words.

Andreas Schmittner’s historically grounded examination of paleoclimate data should not be used to bolster the usual denialist shibboleths. Employing these hopeful findings as an argument for inaction on the gravest existential threat our species has yet faced is the twisted logic of a cancer patient who, when told that the progress of the disease is slower than doctors’ worst-case projections, resumes smoking five packs a day.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 11, Day 29: Puttin’ On The Hair-Shirt

The UK Guardian runs an optimistic take on Durban (NOT):

The will to act on climate change is out of political energy, running on empty. The problem is (relatively) distant, complex and intractable. The solution is costly, immediate, and the gains uncertain. It is the kind of slow-burn crisis that democratic politicians only tackle under sustained popular pressure and right now western voters have other things on their minds. Here, the government that promised to be the greenest ever is allowing emission-cutting policies to appear an indulgent hangover from a more prosperous age. Starting on Monday, when the 17th climate change conference opens in Durban, Africa has the opportunity to remind the rest of us why inaction is not an option.

Writing letters to the UK press always makes me want to use fancy words and allusions. To the best of my recollection, Saint Augustine has never before manifested in one of my climate letters. Sent November 25:

The yawning chasm between scientific reality and political exigency is swallowing up any hope for a meaningful agreement from the upcoming Durban climate conference.

Ultimately, the world’s nations are negotiating not with one another, but with a party whose inflexibility and intransigence would be the envy of any tinpot dictator. The laws of physics and chemistry are unmoved by arguments of economic survival, of market imperatives, of global justice — and their demands are simple: stop putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Immediately. And all of us (nearly seven billion humans along with the rest of Earthly life) are the hostages.

The industrialized world’s leaders aspire to climatic chastity and carbon continence, but (like Saint Augustine) not yet. Their hope is that at some unspecified future date, some unspecified future politicians will do the right thing, an outcome depressingly less likely than the ravages of a runaway greenhouse effect.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 11, Day 28: Gooooooood Morning!

Why am I not surprised? USA Today:

As prospects for a major global accord on climate change look dim, ensuring that negotiations continue may be the most a United Nations climate summit will achieve next week.

Beginning Monday in Durban, South Africa, the 12-day U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change picks up where last year’s meeting in Cancun left off.

What eluded negotiators then, and still does today, is a grand bargain in which 194 nations commit to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions that most scientists contend are contributing to a warmer climate.

“Almost everyone agrees that some kind of big deal is unlikely,” says international negotiations expert David Victor of the University of California-San Diego. Economically, he says, “these are dark times and we have made that choice already in past meetings.”

Sheesh. Sent November 24:

In theory, our democratic government is supposed to be ever-active on behalf of the people. But in practice, it looks like America’s political system defines “people” rather more narrowly. Perhaps in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision affirming the “personhood” of corporations, our representatives mistakenly concluded that since corporations are now “people”, ordinary citizens aren’t.

How else to interpret America’s inability to take significant action on the profound threat of climate change? When the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases are “unlikely” to come to any kind of meaningful accord at the upcoming Durban conference, there is only one interpretation: “corporate persons” believe themselves invulnerable to the runaway greenhouse effect scientists say is is now all but inevitable.

Maybe so. If climate change brings an “evolutionary bottleneck” for humanity, Earth may indeed eventually be ruled by mindless, consumption-driven corporate intelligences. Cockroaches, after all, are the ultimate survivors.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 11, Day 27: Fool Me Twice…

The Washington Post addresses the new attempt to cobble together another “Climategate” from another batch of the same damn emails:

LONDON — The British climatologist ensnared in a major new email leak took his case to the public Wednesday, arguing that he and his colleagues’ comments have again been taken out of context.

The University of East Anglia’s Phil Jones was one of the major players in the controversy that erupted two years ago over the publication of emails which caught prominent scientists stonewalling critics and attacking them in sometimes vitriolic terms.

The University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit is one of the world’s leading centers for the study of how world temperatures have varied over time, and Jones came under particular scrutiny following the 2009 disclosures — even receiving death threats over allegations that he was a leading a conspiracy to hype the dangers of climate change.

Sarcasm isn’t usually going to make it into print, but it felt good. Sent November 23:

Goodness! What a coincidence that another batch of hacked emails from the University of East Anglia’s climatology team should be released just in time for this year’s Durban Climate Conference. One wonders if our nation’s journalists have learned anything from the last time this happened. The fortunate few who have access to the series of tubes known as the “internet” will discover that climatologists Phil Jones, Michael Mann and their collaborators were cleared of any wrongdoing by no fewer than six independent investigations.

Perhaps one or two reporters may sense a bigger story at work here: why are stolen communications from 2009 being released in the build-up for another important conference on global warming? Who’s behind the subterfuge? Who will benefit should these inconvenient scientists be discredited? Who gains from confusing the discussion, from delaying action on the climate crisis?

The losers, of course, are the rest of the world’s people.

Warren Senders

What We Did On Halloween…


My daughter stood out from the menage of Harry Potters, Cinderellas, Fairies, Ghosts and Goblins.

My daughter was a Parasauralophus.

For purposes of comparison, here is an image of an actual Parasauralophus:

Our Parasauralophus was made with plaster-impregnated gauze wrapped around two balloons. The whole head was mounted on a Sono-Tube with slots cut for her arms. The eyes are rubber bouncy balls. Looks pretty good to me.

Year 2, Month 11, Day 26: Cluck Old Hen!

The Portsmouth (NH) Herald notes a locally-based conference addressing regional implications of the IPCC report:

PORTSMOUTH — The likelihood of more frequent and severe weather events, increased asthma and the death of crucial plant life in Great Bay are all realities on the Seacoast.

That was among the conclusions reached by experts who were in Portsmouth on Thursday at a conference sponsored by the New Hampshire Carbon Action Alliance.

“Climate Change and New Hampshire’s Seacoast” brought together professors, engineers, doctors and scientists who provided statistical evidence to suggest a correlation between climate change and a number of issues facing the region.

Their talks were framed, many said, by the recent draft document by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change that links man-made climate change to the extreme weather conditions in much of the world in recent years.

I think I come off as a bit of a scold here. On the other hand, who could resist the allure of “carbon dioxide chickens”? Sent Nov. 22:

There have been many failures in our civilization’s handling of the crises posed by global climate change. Our politicians have failed in their responsibility to the common good, and their corporate paymasters have failed to look beyond the demands of their next quarterly profit reports. Our reporters, seduced by the ease of he-said, she-said stenography, have failed to live up to their journalistic responsibilities. And we, as citizens, have sustained a collective failure of imagination: unable to conceive the consequences of a runaway greenhouse effect, we have chosen to pretend the carbon dioxide chickens will never come home to roost.

The failure of those who insist that “climate change” is a liberal conspiracy rests in their inability to recognize that scientific reality trumps conservative ideology. But if humanity is to succeed as a species we must stop avoiding the truth of the climate crisis, and start making profound changes in our ways of life. Recent climate studies from organizations such as the International Energy Agency and the IPCC make it clear: the time for failure is past.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 11, Day 25: It Looks Like It’s Climbing Clear Up To The Sky

The Gannett News Service for New York’s Lower Hudson Valley is called; they run an article about the study of climate change’s impact on New York state:

If you lost power after the recent nor’easter or struggled with flooding from Tropical Storm Irene, gear up. There’s more to come.

Scientists at some prestigious New York universities say the recent bizarre weather may be a part of a trend in the coming decades as the state faces an outsize effect of climate change because of its northern latitude and geology.

“It’s certainly an excellent example of what is to come,” said Klaus Jacob, a senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Palisades-based Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, one of several scientists who authored a study on the impact of climate change on New York state.

“It has been relatively rare till now. What will be different is that it will be more frequent. Therefore the impact will be more severe,” Jacob said.

This letter was a little longer than 150 words; I didn’t have time to pare it down due to various domestic exigencies. Sent Nov. 21:

The Energy Research and Development Authority study on climate change’s likely impact on New York State is just one of several recently released documents to discuss the shape of our future in a post-greenhouse-effect world. Along with the globally relevant work of NASA, the International Energy Agency, and the IPCC, regionally-focused climatologists have helped build a pile of scientific evidence far higher than your average denialist’s head. The picture they paint of the coming century is not a pretty one.

Those “once-in-a-lifetime” storms are going to be coming once or twice a decade; maybe even more often. More droughts, heat waves, shattered infrastructure, disrupted agriculture — our children and grandchildren may not be able to forgive us our decades of apathy.

While it will take many centuries for excess atmospheric CO2 to dissipate even if we stopped burning fossil fuel tomorrow, there is no longer any time for temporizing if we are to avoid catastrophic outcomes. Our politicians must stop protecting the oil industry’s profits, and bend their efforts towards protecting all of us from the consequences of climaticide.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 11, Day 24: Who’s That Knocking At My Door?

More on the IPCC report, this time from America’s McNewspaper:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, obtained in draft form by USA TODAY, stresses that expanding cities and populations worldwide, also raise the odds of severe impacts from weather disasters.

“Unprecedented extreme weather and climate events” look likely in coming decades as a result of a changing climate, says the draft report. The final version was released early today by IPCC chief Rajendra Pachauri at a meeting hosted by report sponsors, the World Meteorological Organization and United Nations Environment Programme, in Kampala, Uganda.

Nothin’ to see here, folks. Move along. Move along.

Sent November 20:

Climate-change denialists are sounding increasingly desperate these days, as the volume of evidence and analysis mounts ever higher. Coming hard on the heels of a recently-issued study from the International Energy Agency (which gives us about five years to change our fossil-fuelish ways or risk irreversible damage to the Earth’s climate) is the IPCC report, which offers a sobering preview of what that irreversible damage is likely to look like.

Enthusiastic fans of Armageddon will enjoy the IPCC’s predictions, which include droughts, wildfires, unpredictable storms of unprecedented severity, massive disruption of agriculture and infrastructure, and political instability, often in areas of the world that are nuclear-armed and dangerous.

It’s too bad the greenhouse effect doesn’t come with a scary-sounding name that politicians could invoke to mobilize our nation to action, for all that excess atmospheric CO2 is sure to do far more damage than any terrorist group ever could.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 11, Day 23: Defund or Defend?

More on the IPCC report, this time from the Washington Post:

Climate change will make drought and flooding events like those that have battered the United States and other countries in 2011 more frequent, forcing nations to rethink the way they cope with disasters, according to a new report the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued Friday.

The report — the culmination of a two-year process involving 100 scientists and policy experts — suggests that researchers are far more confident about the prospect of more intense heat waves and heavy downpours than they are about how global warming is affecting hurricanes and tornadoes. But the new analysis also speaks to a broader trend: The world is facing a new reality of more extreme weather, and policymakers and business alike are beginning to adjust.

It’s late at night in a hotel room in Madison, Wisconsin. I’ve got a big day tomorrow — four hours of classroom teaching and a concert, so I figured I’d get the letter out of the way before I went to sleep. Sent November 18:

As the case of Dr. Richard Muller case demonstrates, a responsible scientist changes his or her mind when confronted with factual evidence. The past few weeks have seen a plethora of studies demonstrating over and over again that the reality of human-caused climate change is no longer deniable. The newly released report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change offers an ominous look at a post-greenhouse-effect future in which extreme weather is the norm, with concomitant effects on agriculture, infrastructure and geopolitics that range from inconvenient to outright terrifying.

Scientific ethics compelled Dr. Muller to revise his opinion once he confirmed the validity of worldwide temperature measurements. Confronted with the same data, conservative politicians would resolve the problem differently — by defunding the IPCC and any other scientific organizations with the temerity to report facts as they are. In Republican politics, electoral exigencies trump the truth, every time.

Warren Senders