Year 3, Month 5, Day 31: Sounds Pretty Fair And Balanced To Me….

The West Virginia Gazette-Journal has an editorial by some brave fellow who dares to speak the truth in the midst of Coal Country:

Last year, America suffered historic weather calamities: disastrous tornadoes, severe floods, extended drought, record-breaking snowfall, raging wildfires, etc. Federal agencies say $52 billion in property loss was inflicted, and more than 1,000 Americans died in weather ravages.

This year brought the warmest March ever known, breaking about 15,000 local U.S. heat records. Early tornadoes again left wreckage and death.

Scientists say the violent weather is solid evidence that fossil fuel fumes are girdling Planet Earth with greenhouse gases that produce global warming and climate change. Warmer air holds more moisture, producing more extreme storms.

A new study by Yale and George Mason university pollsters found that 70 percent of Americans now believe that “global warming is affecting the weather.” Yale professor Anthony Laiserowitz commented: “People are starting to connect the dots.”

Read the comments for the full effect. Sent May 21:

On one side of the Great Climate Change Debate, we have almost every single scientific association on Earth. Their overwhelming consensus, built on the integrated results of thousands of different studies and research projects over the past five decades, is that climate change is real, it’s dangerous, human consumption of fossil fuels is a major factor, and doing something about it before it gets worse is both an economic and an environmental necessity.

On the other side, we have the oil-funded American Association of Petroleum Geologists along with a few other scientists (like Dr. Richard Lindzen, who still firmly believes the link between cigarettes and cancer is statistically inconclusive). We have conservative “think-tanks” like the Heartland Institute (recently famous for recklessly comparing environmentalists with mass murderers), a coterie of professional denialists whose voices are heard constantly in our broadcast and print media, and a major political party firmly opposed to science of every sort. Their interpretation of the data? There is no such thing as climate change; if there is, it’s not dangerous; if it’s dangerous, it’s not caused by humans; if it’s caused by humans, it’s too expensive to address. And anyway: Liberals! Socialism! Squirrel!

Warren Senders

LaMonte Young’s Gradual Unfolding

In 1980 I hitchhiked to New York to hear LaMonte Young perform The Well-Tuned Piano at the Dia Arts Foundation building. I had been interested in his music since I read Robert Palmer’s 1975 piece about him in Rolling Stone, titled “When La Monte Young Says ‘Take It From The Top,’ He Means Last Tuesday.” 1975 was also the year I discovered, and fell in love with, the music of Harry Partch (I was a weirder kid than I am adult, and I’m plenty weird).

My wife gave me Jeremy Grimshaw’s biographical study of Young, “Draw A Straight Line And Follow It” for my birthday (I’m fifty-four! Yikes!). Not being a Mormon, I found some of Grimshaw’s attempts to rationalize Young’s music-theoretical ideas under an LDS rubric somewhat bizarre (LSD seems more likely to me). Regardless, there was a lot of good information in the book which helped me understand more about the composer’s artistic trajectory.

Five Small Pieces For String Quartet

Just Charles & Cello in The Romantic Chord

Year 3, Month 5, Day 30: Heartland Haz A Sad

Awwwwwwww. So sad. Heartland’s feeling some heat:

In a fiery blogpost on the Heartland website, the organisation’s president Joseph Bast admitted Heartland’s defectors were “abandoning us in this moment of need”.

Over the last few weeks, Heartland has lost at least $825,000 in expected funds for 2012, or more than 35% of the funds its planned to raise from corporate donors, according to the campaign group Forecast the Facts, which is pushing companies to boycott the organisation.

The organisation been forced to make up those funds by taking its first publicly acknowledged donations from the coal industry. The main Illinois coal lobby is a last-minute sponsor of this week’s conference, undermining Heartland’s claims to operate independently of fossil fuel interests.

Its entire Washington DC office, barring one staffer, decamped, taking Heartland’s biggest project, involving the insurance industry, with them.

Board directors quit, conference speakers cancelled at short-notice, and associates of long standing demanded Heartland remove their names from its website. The list of conference sponsors shrank by nearly half from 2010, and many of those listed sponsors are just websites operating on the rightwing fringe.

“It’s haemorrhaging,” said Kert Davies, research director of Greenpeace, who has spent years tracking climate contrarian outfits. “Heartland’s true colours finally came through, and now people are jumping ship in quick order.”

Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of sociopaths. Sent May 20:

By sponsoring billboards comparing climate scientists to mass murderers, the Heartland Institute proves that bizarre beliefs lead inexorably to bizarre behaviors. This secretive corporatist think-tank has for years invested enormous fiscal and intellectual capital in ideas unconnected to verifiable scientific fact; their plans for the promotion of anti-science curricula demonstrate: this isn’t just ordinary climate-change denial, but near-sociopathic fabulism.

But organizations this disconnected from reality in one area cannot be expected to understand the consequences of their actions in other areas, which is why Heartland’s response to the predictable outrage generated by their grotesque guilt-by-association strategy seems so clumsily pathetic. “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities,” wrote Voltaire, centuries ago. We now have a new corollary to his apothegm: those who believe their own absurdities cannot recognize their own atrocities.

Heartland’s wounds are entirely self-inflicted — yet another inconvenient reality for them to deny.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 5, Day 29: Getting So Much Realer All The Time

The Ledger (Lakeland, FL) runs a piece by Charles Reynolds, addressing some implications — and taking a dig at the chuckleheads along the way.

Some people believe the concept of climate change, also called global warming, is a plot cooked up by tree-hugging liberals to get everyone else to stop treating planet Earth like a trash heap. But governments and multinational corporations worldwide don’t think climate change is a hoax.

Among corporations taking an active role in finding solutions for problems caused by ever-worsening weather patterns are Weyerhaeuser, DuPont, Boeing, Georgia-Pacific, Deutsche Telekom, Royal Dutch/Shell, Toyota and Ontario Power Generation. Hardly bastions of liberalism. And speaking of the flip side of altruism, the government of communist China is becoming increasingly concerned about the damage climate change is causing.

The organizations mentioned are, of course, worried about their bottom lines. It’s the world’s biologists, botanists and scientists who are distressed over the effects of climate change on hundreds of thousands of species of plants and animals.

Sent in a rush, 5/19 – getting ready for the Flutes concert.

When confronted with the facts about climate change, denialists respond in one of several extremely predictable ways. By far the most popular is a mix of guilt-by-association and ad hominem attack, as in the endless attacks on the integrity of former Vice President Al Gore. Another “greatest hit” for self-styled skeptics is the argument from incredulity — “it must be impossible, because I don’t understand anything about science.” And, of course, we’re always going to hear from the tinfoil hat brigade, with their increasingly far-fetched conspiracy theories: “global warming is a hoax cooked up by socialists in order to enforce global redistribution of wealth from the hands of the job creators into the pockets of greedy climatologists,” or something like that.

Meanwhile, the researchers who are actually working in the field keep finding more information that suggests the problem is actually significantly more dangerous than had been previously thought. While warmer weather is excellent news for gardeners in the short term, the steady increases in planetary temperature are going to make feeding our civilization exponentially more difficult in the centuries to come — something which should (eventually) engage the attention of the denialists.

Would those who reject the validity of climate science be willing to sign insurance waivers, relinquishing any damages from the effects of global warming? Let’s see them put their money where their mouths are.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 5, Day 28: We Don’t Deserve The White Hats

As usual, we’re the bad guys in this picture.

NEW DELHI: On the second day of the Bonn climate change negotiations, the US, the EU and other developed countries tried to stall discussions on whether the rich countries had met their obligations on reducing emissions and financing the poor countries. Many developed countries pushed for talks to take place only on a new single legal treaty that would wipe out all past and existing obligations.

The talks got stalled with developed countries opposing adoption of the agenda, which requires pending issues from the Bali Action Plan of 2009 to be addressed before negotiations on this parallel channel come to end this year. Under the Bali Action Plan, the developed countries, including the US, are required to increase their ambition levels to cut emissions.

It took me forever to find an article that catalyzed a letter today. Sent May 18:

There seems to be no impulse more powerful than the profit motive. Why else should the world’s richest nations continually hinder any move toward a sane international policy on global climate change? As multinational corporations take advantage of legal loopholes to exert ever more control over the political systems of the industrialized West, the notion that governments exist for the benefit of the governed seems increasingly naive.

As the climate crisis unfolds, we see a grotesque irony. Whether it’s actual obliteration in the form of rising ocean levels or the decimation of population from extreme weather disasters, there is no denying that the countries contributing the least to the rapidly accelerating greenhouse effect are the ones sacrificing the most. Meanwhile, the world’s biggest polluters continue blocking progress toward a robust international policy on climate change. Apparently “sustainability” is apparently only desirable when it applies to their astronomical profit margins.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 5, Day 27: You Say Yes, I Say No.

The Calgary Herald has a columnist named Brian Crowley, who is attempting to thread the centrist needle on climate.

The time has come to think differently about climate change.

For too long, the debate has been monopolized by two parties. One is almost religious, fervently believing in man-made climate change, and that only large changes in human behaviour can stave off disaster.

Their opponents argue that the science is uncertain, unsettled and inconclusive, and therefore, that no action is warranted until we possess that missing certainty.

I don’t agree with either camp. In most areas, there is only ever certainty of uncertainty. In other words, both those who believe certainty has been achieved and those who say it has not share the same assumption: that certainty is what we are after and we can get it.

The reality is that long-range future energy, climate, economic and other carbon-related environmental conditions are and will remain significantly uncertain, highly variable and largely unpredictable. Scientists and mathematicians know that the systems involved in the various dimensions of climate change policy are in fact extremely complex and often chaotic, fraught with considerable, irreducible uncertainty.

But contrary to the so-called skeptics, this uncertainty does not license inaction. Most human decisions are made in conditions of imperfect uncertain information. We have to act even though we don’t know everything.

More than the usual denialist bullshit, stuff like this really makes me mad. The Herald did not stipulate a word limit, so I let myself run on a bit. Sent May 17:

In his attempt at a “centrist” position on climate change issues, Brian Crowley sets up and knocks down several convenient strawmen.

One: caricaturing those concerned about Earth’s climatic transformation as “almost religious, fervently believing in man-made climate change” misrepresents both environmentalism and religion by overlooking the simple fact that those advocating for action on climate change would be delighted to learn they’d been mistaken (unlike the faithful, who resist contradictions, facts, and logic with preternatural stubbornness). Those who understand enough science to recognize that our civilization is in deep trouble aren’t persuaded by out-of-context statistics, ad hominem arguments, or pseudo-scientific irrelevancies, which is why there aren’t a lot of “former climate-change believers” around except on internet comment threads.

Two: Mr. Crowley’s dismissal of “policies that promise to prevent climate change.” No such policies have been seriously proposed by any politician anywhere, for the simple reason that those who understand the science know that the changes are already irreversible. Realistic global warming legislation advocates either preparation strategies (e.g., investing in strengthened infrastructure) or mitigation (e.g., ways to reduce greenhouse emissions).

Three: he dismisses the notion that human attitudes and behavior can change, calling it an assumption “that has little or no basis in social science or historical precedent.” Mr. Crowley’s notion that the conveniences of contemporary civilization are somehow permanently fixed in our species’ way of living is risible. Two hundred years ago, most people never traveled more than a few miles from their birthplaces; one hundred years ago, almost nobody on Earth owned a car; fifty years ago, almost nobody owned a computer; fifty years from now, we’ll be out of oil, and living on a grossly hotter planet — and we will have to adapt if humanity is to survive.

Warren Senders


Year 3, Month 5, Day 26: Zippadee Doo Dah Day

More on the Heartland idiocy, this time from the Pocono Record (NY):

The Heartland Institute may be doing climate scientists a big favor through its lastest anti-climate change campaign.

The group is employing a sensational illogic in trying to debunk the theory that the earth is warming, allying repellent criminal characters with an acknowledgement of rising temperatures. It’s an odd marriage, so odd that maybe deeper thinkers will question its merit, as they should.

Recently, the Heartland Institute launched a billboard advertising campaign in Chicago featuring the image of convicted “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski along with the statement, “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?”

The so-called think tank announced plans to link deranged murderer Charles Manson and international terrorist Osama bin Laden to global warming, too.

Maybe their idea is that the unknowing public will begin to identify climate scientists as beyond the pale — mentally ill criminals or insanely cruel religious zealots.

So is Defense Secretary Leon Panetta a nut case? Panetta has described global warming as a national security threat.

Is former vice president Al Gore a terrorist? You may not agree with his assessment that climate change is “An Inconvenient Truth,” but should he really be locked up?

I know who deserves to be locked up. Sent May 16:

Given the possible catastrophic consequences of a runaway greenhouse effect, the irresponsibility of denialist organizations like the Heartland Institute is staggering. In cherry-picking from the available climatological research only the few small smatterings of data which support their predetermined conclusions, Heartland’s “experts” engage in a travesty of scientific method. This alone would warrant dismissal of their assertions. But by framing the discussion of climate change with comparisons between climate scientists and deranged sociopaths, the corporate-funded “think tank” has sacrificed any remaining vestiges of credibility.

In reality, of course, the worldwide scientific consensus on climate change is exceptionally robust, and getting more so every day as new evidence is integrated with the old. By preventing or delaying much-needed policy responses to the rapidly unfolding crisis, organizations like the Heartland Institute are far closer to those conscienceless mass murderers than the researchers and environmentalists they have so grotesquely maligned.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 5, Day 25: The Pitter-Patter Of Little Feet

The Boston Herald (my local Murdoch rag) runs an article from the Seattle Times on a problem with animals:

SEATTLE — As climate change transforms their habitat, some animals are already on the move. But a new analysis from the University of Washington warns that many species won’t be able to run fast enough to survive a warming world.

On average, about 9 percent of the Western Hemisphere’s mammals migrate too slowly to keep pace with the rapid climate shifts expected over the next century, says the study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In some areas, including parts of the Appalachian Mountains and the Amazon basin, nearly 40 percent of mammals may be unable to reach safe haven in time.

They’ll never print this one in a million years, but it was fun to write. Sent May 15:

If the thousands of mammal species whose slowly-changing migratory patterns put them at risk of extinction just knew that climate change is a hoax engineered by a worldwide conspiracy of scientists and liberal environmentalists, it would undoubtedly make them feel much better about the loss of their irrecoverable habitats.

But only humans are susceptible to the misdirection practiced by conservative news networks, which means that those endangered animals will just have to get used to their newly inhospitable ecological niches, or die. Ultimately, though, it’s not just regional and local ecosystems that are being transformed, but the entire planet. That’s what “climate change” means — global, not local; long-term, not short-term — and the implications of the University of Washington study should be a wake-up call for any still living in the denialist dreamland.

Humans are mammals, too. Where will we go when our habitats will no longer sustain us?

Warren Senders

Ha ha! The joke’s apparently on me. They printed it. And boy oh boy did it attract a fusillade of stupidity in the comments.

Year 3, Month 5, Day 24: We Can Share…

The Idaho Statesman discusses the, um, intellectual foundations of the partisan divide on climate change:

The science that has driven and dominated this debate is the “psychology of persuasion.”

The Heartland Institute is an organization now leading the climate-skepticism campaign, after it ended its efforts to raise doubts about the connection between smoking and cancer. Recently, the group pushed its case with billboards citing “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski, Charles Manson and Fidel Castro as examples of people who believe in global warming.

It’s not surprising that with the most famous promoter of climate change being Al Gore, the former Democratic candidate for president, many Republicans see the issue in partisan terms.

Generic “Republicans are idiots” screed. Sent May 14:

Devaluing expertise has long been a feature of conservative politics and government. As far back as the McCarthy-era purge of “old China hands” from the State Department, Republican politicians have exploited anti-intellectualism in American culture for their own electoral advantage, reaching new lows in the past few decades with the rise of ideologically slanted news outlets and right-wing “think tanks” dedicated entirely to the avoidance of inconvenient realities.

Call it “veriphobia” — fear of truth — and its greatest potential for long-term disaster lies in the area of climate change and its effects. Future historians will point to the psychological mechanisms of denial as key elements in our national failure to address the climate crisis. Do NASA studies indicate the planet is warming? Do climate scientists agree on the human causes of the greenhouse effect? Republicans would sooner defund NASA and vilify climatologists rather than admit error.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 5, Day 23: If You’re So Rich, How Come You Ain’t Smart? Or Nice?

The Baguio Sun-Star (Philippines) notes that their area is getting hit harder and harder:

BENGUET is not free from the effects of climate change, according to a study conducted by Benguet State University-Institute of Social Research and Development (BSU-ISRD).

The study showed that there are changes in the climate that directly and indirectly affects agriculture, biodiversity and the role of women.

Titled “Vulnerability and adaptation capacity assessment in Benguet,” the study chose four municipalities of the province representing low, medium, and high elevation areas to differentiate the experiences in the different areas.

Low elevation is represented by Barangay Bayabas in Sablan and Taloy Sur in Tuba. The medium elevation is represented by Barangay Loo in Buguias, while the high elevation is represented by Barangay Paoay in Atok.

Observed changes in climate based on 1976 to 2009 records of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) and Benguet State University-La Trinidad are increase in temperature, warmer noon and colder afternoons, longer droughts and irregular rainfall.

The study also noted some perceived effects of climate change. These are increase or introduction of new plant pest and diseases, increase or introduction of new animal plant pest and diseases, lesser crop yield, lesser water yield and increase incidence of human diseases.

In agriculture, the study found changes in the farming activities or routine. The farmers had to work at 5 a.m. until 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. until it gets dark because of the intense heat of the sun.

Also, the study discovered that there is an increase of incidence of pest and diseases, thus the farmers have increased the use of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides to correct low fertility and reduce the effects of pest and diseases.

Farmers have also looked for alternative livelihood other than farming due to low production (because of pest infestation) and low prices.

The study also revealed that farmers became careful in choosing crops and cropping systems and identifying alternative crops that are tolerant to drought and increasing temperature.

But as George H.W. Bush said, the American way of life is not up for negotiation. Sent May 13:

The industrialized West has been protected from global climate change by the exigencies of geography, even though it’s been responsible for the overwhelming majority of greenhouse gas emissions over the past century. Even now, wealthy corporate interests are hindering essential policy initiatives, while their control over news and opinion media has succeeded in confusing public discussion of the crisis. Who could have anticipated that the much-vaunted mechanisms of the “free market” could be implicated in such planetary irresponsibility?

Citizens of island nations cannot avoid the consequences of the developed world’s acts; the typhoons, droughts, out-of-season rainfalls and gradually rising sea levels are crystal-clear evidence that something’s seriously wrong. There is an extremely robust scientific consensus on the nature of the problem, and the experts’ recommendations for action are unambiguous. Will citizens of the world’s richest nations finally recognize that their profligate lifestyles are triggering catastrophic effects elsewhere on the planet?

Warren Senders