Year 3, Month 4, Day 30: “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

According to the Christian Post, some of the God-Botherers are apparently, um, seeing the light:

A professor at an evangelical university in Southern California claims that evangelicals are becoming more convinced of the evidence for man-made global warming ahead of Earth Day this Sunday.

Mark McReynolds, assistant professor of Environmental Science at Biola University, said, “Evangelicals, like the rest of our society, are coming around to the real evidence of global climate change. It is a big, complicated topic, with many implications for us in the U.S.”

“Climate scientists are in near unanimity that the evidence speaks loudly for human-caused climate change and the general public is slowly understanding the issue and its implications.”

McReynolds’ remarks come as Biola University prepares for a series of events to observe Earth Day next week. Titled “Creation Stewardship Week,” the events from April 23 to 27 include participation in the Global Day of Prayer for Creation Care, a tour of the faculty-student run Biola Organic Garden, and the screening of the film “No Impact Man,” which is about a family that tries to live a lifestyle without high environmental impact.

It’s still a little clunky, but if this story has any legs, I’ll send out a few more versions in the next few days. Sent April 21:

When I hear that evangelicals are beginning to accept the reality of global climate change, my emotions are mixed. While it seems a positive development that members of many Christian groups no longer reject the validity of climate science and its analyses, the question necessarily arises: how many of you agree that climate change is real, only because you see in the burgeoning greenhouse effect a harbinger of the End Times?

I am puzzled by those who enthusiastically assert that the Lord’s wishes involve the utter destruction of His own Creation. But the introduction of vast quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere makes Armageddon a matter of chemistry, not theology. It would be reassuring to know that evangelicals who are coming to accept climate change are not doing so from an eager anticipation of apocalypse, but from a desire to preserve the infinitely majestic web of earthly life for future generations — a wish I, an unbeliever, can wholeheartedly embrace.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 4, Day 29: Coming Up Snake-Eyes

Guam Pacific Daily News has an excellent editorial from a guy named Richard Alley, titled “Rolling the dice on climate change.” Definitely worth a read:

Science still says, “Maybe, maybe not.” But we’re rolling the dice in a serious game where the “jackpot” means we lose.

There’s very high scientific confidence that our fossil-fuel burning and other activities, which add carbon dioxide to the air, are turning up the planet’s thermostat.

In a warmer world, we expect more record highs and heat waves but fewer record lows, just as we’re observing. Warmer air can carry more water vapor, so a warmer rainstorm can deliver more inches per hour. Hair dryers have a “hot” setting for good reasons, and warmer air between rainstorms can dry out the ground faster.

Thus, we expect rising CO2 to bring more floods in some places and more droughts in others, with some places getting more of both. That might seem contradictory, but it’s not. And with more energy to drive hurricanes, the peak winds may increase, even if the number of storms drops.

But couldn’t nature have caused the ongoing changes without our help?

Imagine playing dice with a shady character. Suppose, after you lose, you discover that some of the corners are filed off and there are carefully positioned weights inside. In court, your lawyer could say, “The dice were loaded, double-sixes came up three times in a row, so the defendant owes restitution.”

His lawyer, however, might counter, “My client doesn’t recall where he got the dice, the modifications are really quite small, dice games are inherently variable, anomalous events do happen, so my client is innocent and should get to keep all the money plus the plaintiff’s wallet.”

Time to expand the analogy. Sent April 20:

In games of chance, the amount we wager depends on how much we can spend. The embezzlers who lose vast sums of other people’s money at racetracks or card games are the exceptions, not the rule.

Or are they? The past several decades of climate science have revealed the unintended consequences of industrial humanity’s century-long fossil-fuel binge; we clever apes find ourselves in the unenviable position of a losing card player who’s squandered not just his own resources but those of generations to come.

And like compulsive gamblers, we deny there’s a problem. We loudly assert that our civilization’s progress depends on burning the fossilized sunlight of ancient eras; if we want a present, we must consume the past. But if our descendants are to have lives worth living, we can no longer wager their happiness and prosperity in a rigged game with stakes exponentially higher than we can afford.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 4, Day 28: Hot Air Jokes Aside, What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Popular Mechanics covers the “People are waking up” by running a short interview with Gavin Schmidt, a NASA climatologist. It’s worth reading the whole thing:

Yesterday The New York Times covered a new poll showing that an increasing number of Americans are linking the extreme weather events of the past few years—including the extremely warm March 2012, droughts, and hurricanes—to climate change. We asked Gavin Schmidt, a climate researcher at NASA’s Goddard Institute and a member of PM’s Editorial Board of Advisers, why he thinks this shift is happening, and if it means that policy changes could be on the horizon.

Q: What’s your first reaction to these polling numbers?

A: I am not really surprised. Most people don’t have a very sophisticated grasp of what climate change is, which is completely understandable. But people do have a visceral connection to weather; they talk about it, understand it, and they’re very fond of extremes in weather (in a conversational way.)

Since it was Popular Mechanics, I figured a mechanical analogy would do the trick. Let’s see. Sent April 19:

While it’s good to know that increasing numbers of Americans are connecting the dots between extreme weather and global climate change, it’s unrealistic to expect that the shifting winds of public opinion will lead to changes in our country’s energy and environmental policies.

Why? The answer can be expressed in simple analogical terms.

Policy development in the USA is driven not by public opinion, but by private cash — the vast sums of money required by political campaigns motivate lawmakers far more powerfully than any number of concerned constituents. Unlike cutting-edge hybrid and electric automobiles, our politicians are almost entirely fueled by petroleum. If we as citizens want our nation’s policies to reflect environmental reality and address the climate crisis with the requisite seriousness, it’s not just our technology that needs to change, but the political system that has made a robust response to the climate crisis impossible.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 4, Day 27: While You’re Up, Would You Get Me A Beer?

An article in the NYT is picked up by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; apparently some people are actually putting the pieces together. Huh. Who’da thunk it?

Scientists may hesitate to link some of the weather extremes of recent years to global warming — but the public, it seems, is already there.

A poll due for release on Wednesday shows that a large majority of Americans believe that this year’s unusually warm winter, last year’s blistering summer and some other weather disasters were probably made worse by global warming. And by a 2-to-1 margin, the public says the weather has been getting worse, rather than better, in recent years.

The survey, the most detailed to date on the public response to weather extremes, comes atop other polling showing a recent uptick in concern about climate change. Read together, the polls suggest that direct experience of erratic weather may be convincing some people that the problem is no longer just a vague and distant threat.

Nothin’ to see here, folks. Move along, move along. Sent April 18:

While a majority of Americans are finally accepting the idea that global climate change is real, there’s no corresponding recognition of environmental reality in the air-conditioned halls of Congress. Perhaps our representatives should meet in one of the hundreds of locations across the country that have experienced record-breaking weather extremes this year. Perhaps they should spend less time listening to the corporate lobbyists and conservative “think-tanks” who are dictating fossil-fuel-friendly legislation, and pay more attention to the expertise of climate scientists who have been predicting exactly these sorts of weather anomalies as a consequence of the runaway greenhouse effect.

Yes, Americans are finally connecting the dots between climate change and extreme weather — but it is alarming, astonishing, and ultimately depressing that on this issue, our politicians will be the last to come to their senses. Our representatives aren’t just unwilling to lead — they aren’t even willing to follow.

Warren Senders

Surely Jesus is hypoallergenic?

Seen on a Facebook status update:

I’m wondering if any of my pastor colleagues have some suggestions for serving the Eucharist to the gluten intolerant members of the church?

Am I the only one who finds this funny?

Strings Of Genius…

Ralph Stanley with “The Angel Band”:

Year 3, Month 4, Day 26: If I Make My Lips Go B-B-B-B-B-B, I Can Pretend To Be A Motorcycle

More on the military plans for a transformed climate, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Russia, Canada and the United States have the biggest stakes in the Arctic. With its military budget stretched thin by Iraq, Afghanistan and more pressing issues elsewhere, the United States has been something of a reluctant northern power, though its nuclear-powered submarine fleet, which can navigate for months underwater and below the ice cap, remains second to none.

Russia — one-third of which lies within the Arctic Circle — has been the most aggressive in establishing itself as the emerging region’s superpower.

Rob Huebert, an associate political science professor at the University of Calgary in Canada, said Russia has recovered enough from its economic troubles of the 1990s to significantly rebuild its Arctic military capabilities, which were a key to the overall Cold War strategy of the Soviet Union, and has increased its bomber patrols and submarine activity.

He said that has in turn led other Arctic countries — Norway, Denmark and Canada — to resume regional military exercises that they had abandoned or cut back on after the Soviet collapse. Even non-Arctic nations such as France have expressed interest in deploying their militaries to the Arctic.

Don’t ask me to explain the headline of this post. Sent April 17:

It was a mantra for Republicans when discussing proposals to end America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan: the only authorities worth consulting were the “generals in the field.” But conservatives don’t always revere military opinion. Those same lawmakers will certainly do their best to ignore the fact that our armed forces are hard at work, planning for a geopolitical future transformed by climate change.

Because, of course, it’s another conservative mantra: climate change isn’t real (if it is real, it’s a socialist conspiracy; scientists want to raise our taxes!). Given that the loudest voices rejecting the science of global warming belong to the senators and representatives who once vociferously touted the ultimate authority of our military leaders, how can these legislators possibly recognize the existence of the U.S. Navy’s task force on climate change?

Wouldn’t it be nice if environmental policy was based on scientific reality instead of political ideology?

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 4, Day 25: Nothin’s Gonna Bother Me Atoll…

The Wyndham Weekly (Austrialia) writes about a newly released study that suggests coral may have a hope in hell after all:

Rising ocean temperatures caused by climate change are unlikely to mean the end of the coral on the Great Barrier Reef, according to a new scientific study.

The Cell Press journal Current Biology this morning published what it says is the first large-scale investigation of climate effects on corals and found while some corals were dying, others were flourishing and adapting to the change in water temperatures.

For the study researchers identified and measured more than 35,000 coral colonies on 33 reefs across the length of the Great Barrier Reef to see how they were responding to warming ocean waters.

In results they have described as ‘‘surprising’’ the study found while one species declined in abundance, other species could rise in number.

One of the researchers, Professor Terry Hughes from James Cook University, said while critical issues remained he now believed rising temperatures were unlikely to mean the end of the coral reef.

‘‘The good news is that, rather than experiencing wholesale destruction, many coral reefs will survive climate change by changing the mix of coral species as the ocean warms and becomes more acidic,’’ he said.

‘‘That’s important for people who rely on the rich and beautiful coral reefs of today for food, tourism, and other livelihoods.’’

He said earlier studies of climate change and corals had been done on a much smaller geographical scale, with a primary focus on total coral cover or counts of species as rather crude indicators of reef health.

The problem with good news… Sent April 15:

While a recently released study on coral reefs’ potential for survival in a climate-transformed world reassuringly suggests that oceanic acidification and global warming may not mean extinction, it should prompt us all to work harder on controlling and reducing the planetary greenhouse effect. Gigantic coral colonies like the Great Barrier Reef may well continue living even as their ability to form structures is compromised by higher pH seawater — but this good news cannot be our civilization’s newest excuse for inaction.

Just as the long-term health and prosperity of coral reefs is compromised by climate change, humanity will find its long-term health and prosperity to be surprisingly vulnerable. While we clever apes will surely figure out ways to go on living, our species faces significant dangers from the rapidly emerging effects of the past century’s worth of atmospherized carbon. In the long run, perhaps we are all coral.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 4, Day 24: Paisley and Patchouli

The Minnesota Star-Tribune addresses the newest addition to the Hippie Ranks:

YOKOSUKA, Japan — To the world’s military leaders, the debate over climate change is long over. They are preparing for a new kind of Cold War in the Arctic, anticipating that rising temperatures there will open up a treasure trove of resources, long-dreamed-of sea lanes and a slew of potential conflicts.

By Arctic standards, the region is already buzzing with military activity, and experts believe that will increase significantly in the years ahead.

Last month, Norway wrapped up one of the largest Arctic maneuvers ever — Exercise Cold Response — with 16,300 troops from 14 countries training on the ice for everything from high intensity warfare to terror threats. Attesting to the harsh conditions, five Norwegian troops were killed when their C-130 Hercules aircraft crashed near the summit of Kebnekaise, Sweden’s highest mountain.

The U.S., Canada and Denmark held major exercises two months ago, and in an unprecedented move, the military chiefs of the eight main Arctic powers — Canada, the U.S., Russia, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland — gathered at a Canadian military base last week to specifically discuss regional security issues.

I ought to be able to get a couple more letters out of this story. It’d be fun to mock Darrell Issa even if there was no climate crisis. Sent April 16:

If we are to judge by their plans and strategic preparations, there’s no doubt that America’s military establishment is taking climate change seriously.

This raises the troubling possibility that the armed forces have been infiltrated by an international conspiracy of climate scientists, tree-hugging environmentalists, and socialist college professors, in which case we can expect soldiers to start confiscating SUVs and hauling their drivers off to compulsory re-education camps. This is surely an obvious place for a stalwart anti-environmentalist like Representative Darrell Issa to start an investigation. The House Oversight Committee, which Issa chairs, needs to start issuing subpoenas; let’s get to the bottom of this!

But wait — could it be that military analysts know something these legislators don’t? Perhaps in their eagerness to pander to the tea-partiers in their district, congressional climate-change denialists have been ignoring facts that don’t suit their ideologies. Perhaps the corporations that fund their campaigns have more influence on our lawmakers than the opinions of our nation’s military leaders.

I don’t know. Sounds pretty far-fetched to me.

Warren Senders

Very Powerful…

I never had to go through much of this stuff. I was raised a freethinker by scientific parents, and I had almost no content with mainstream Xtianity when I was growing up. Nobody in our family or community circles ever asked about religion; open religious advocacy would have been considered bizarre.

I was bullied in school and hated every bit of it — but this is bullying of a whole different order. This kind of bullying starts at birth.

How appalling.