Year 3, Month 7, Day 31: I Know Nothink!

The Iowa City Press-Citizen notes that nobody’s talkin’ about it:

The 800-pound gorilla in the Mount Pleasant High School Gymnasium Tuesday was the subject of climate change.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad called for a public discussion on drought conditions in Iowa, and all of the governmental players were there:

• U.S. Department of Agriculture.

• Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

• Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

• Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

• And the Farm Services Administration.

The phrase “climate change” or any analysis of causation for the current drought was absent from the public discussion. This was a meeting about row crop agriculture and related agricultural producers and it was intended to deal with the as-is situation.

The obvious problem, as Mark Schouten of Homeland Security and Emergency Response put it, “you can’t snap your fingers and make it rain.”


It was the Farm Services Agency that raised the issue of environmental groups, saying a group had sued for an environmental impact statement before releasing CRP acres to haying or grazing.

During the public comment section, a truck driver who had just delivered a load of grain stood at the microphone and demonized the environmental groups for trying to influence food production. It got the biggest applause at the event and the governor jumped on board reminding us of his joining a lawsuit in Nebraska against an environmental group.

Trouble in River City. Sent July 20:

It’s unsurprising that people still aren’t drawing the connection between the extreme weather hammering America’s farmlands and the accelerating greenhouse effect caused by excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but blaming environmentalists for devastated crops while ignoring the role of climate change is like blaming oncologists for cancer.

While scientists have been making increasingly scary predictions for several decades about the consequences of uncontrolled greenhouse emissions, their words have gone unheeded; many who’ve tried to sound the warning have been mocked, harassed, and threatened for their pains. Meanwhile, our print and broadcast media have maintained a scrupulous false equivalency between genuine expertise and the pronouncements of petroleum-funded denialists.

The United States owes its existence to the Minutemen of Concord and Lexington, who responded unhesitatingly to a midnight rider’s call. The Paul Reveres of the present day are climatologists; our nation will owe its future to those who heed their alarms.

Warren Senders


Year 3, Month 7, Day 30: After The Break, The 8th Anniversary Of Janet Jackson’s Nipple!

More on the “Generation X doesn’t give a shit” story, this time from U.S. News And World Report:

If each season was progressively a little bit warmer, people might be able to more easily understand climate change, but “if it’s perturbed, it’s hard for people to grasp,” he says. “I’m not sure common sense alone will ever carry the day on this. The pattern is not likely to be consistent.”

Climate change, besides being controversial, isn’t something that can be easily solved with a couple of regulatory changes, and behavioral changes today will take decades to reduce the atmosphere’s carbon levels, Miller says.

“It’s a challenging political problem because it won’t cause a lot of problems in [Generation X’s] lifetimes,” he says.

In the study, he writes that “adults have a limited attention span for public policy issues and tend to grow tired of the same issues if they persist over a number of years. This argument was made in regard to the public reaction to both the Vietnam War and the Iraq War and it may be applicable to a long-term issue such as climate change.”

So, in a world that expects quick responses to imminent problems, people are ambivalent towards climate change. Miller says that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as elected politicians take the long view and don’t let the issue die. According to the study, just 10 people are “doubtful” or “dismissive” about climate change, and that most are simply “disengaged.”

I wonder why that is? Sent July 19:

In an informational environment dominated by celebrity scandals and the manufactured hysteria of the 24-hour news cycle, Generation X’s dismissal of climate change is understandable if unforgivable. The difficulty of explaining statistical correlation to an audience fixated on Missing White Women means that the dangers of an accelerating greenhouse effect are still not part of the national conversation. Our media and political establishments reap profits and accrue power through exploiting America’s national case of ADD.

The NSF survey confirms that 37-40 year olds are too preoccupied with immediate issues to worry about the decades-away effects of increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and an acidifying ocean — but their troubling indifference to the issue is a single symptom of a systemic problem. When it comes to the future of our planet and our civilization, the broadcast and print media have made it easy for all of us to evade our responsibilities.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 7, Day 29: (Facepalm)

The Greenville Online (NC) notes that young conservatives are sad:

On the Facebook page for the group Young Evangelicals for Climate Change, there’s a classic satirical “LOLchart,” except in this case the numbers are real.

A map of the United States is supposed to be colored blue wherever temperatures have been cooler than normal, and orange wherever they’ve been warmer than usual.

It’s a useless distinction, because the entire map is orange — June capped the country’s warmest 12 months on record.

This, of course, doesn’t itself prove that humans have provoked profound global climate change, and in the political football that often erupts over the subject, the skeptics tend to discount such maps, while believers note them with alarm.

Some younger conservatives, however, have grown increasingly uneasy with the presumption that they hew to the skeptical line of the Republican Party, and some evangelicals in particular are looking for ways to embrace the science and steward the planet.

As far as political representation goes, they’re mostly on their own.

What happens, in Paul Greene’s observation, is that many of the loudest voices drawing a bead on climate change come off as world-is-crumbling alarmists, which is a turn-off to many conservatives.

What’s missing is the calmer, conservative voice of reason. Some Republicans have tried it, but without much success: Voters hear a leftist/screaming/Al Gore point of view, he says.

For Greene, an attorney, former intern for a Republican congressman and board member for TreesGreenville, the party’s sprint to the right is exasperating.

“That hasn’t made me vote Democratic yet, but that certainly isn’t pushing the electoral options into my worldview,” Greene said.

Oh, for fuck’s sake. Grow up, why don’cha? Sent July 18:

As global warming intensifies and America bakes under anomalous heat waves, young conservatives who are paying attention to environmental issues will need to reject the stereotypes exemplified in Paul Greene’s pat dismissal of a “leftist/screaming/Al Gore point of view.” Given that scientists’ predictions of climate change have generally erred by underestimating the likely extent of the problem, those so-called “climate alarmists” are rapidly emerging as the people who had it right all along.

Al Gore is an American politician with enough understanding of basic science to recognize that the country he loves is in for a world of hurt as the greenhouse effect intensifies, and enough sense of responsibility to take the initiative and do something about it. It wasn’t environmental activists who cast the former VP as a “screaming leftist”, but right-wing commentators like Rush Limbaugh, who’s as wrong on climate as he is on countless other issues.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 7, Day 28: Smile When You Say That, Punk.

Buncha slackers:

Amid a summer of record-setting heat, most of Generation X ‘s young and middle-aged adults are uninformed and unconcerned about climate change, says a survey today.

Only about 5% of Gen Xers, now 32 to 52 years old, are “alarmed” and 18% “concerned” about climate change, reports the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. Two-thirds, or 66%, of those surveyed last year said they aren’t sure global warming is happening and 10% said they don’t believe it’s occurring.

“Most Generation Xers are surprisingly disengaged, dismissive or doubtful about whether global climate change is happening and they don’t spend much time worrying about it,” said author Jon D. Miller.

I’ve used the Arabic translation motif before. This one works pretty well, I think. Sent July 17:

It’d be easier if “climate change” had a scarier name. If we said it in Arabic, jingoistic politicians could warn their constituents that “Aletgheyrat Alemnakheyh” would devastate American agriculture and infrastructure. Flag-waving pundits on cable news could discuss the threat to our way of life, drumming up support for an all-out national effort against an unpronounceable enemy — an epic struggle to preserve our civilization. Young people would be patriotically inspired to enlist.

But as the NSF survey shows, America’s youth are understandably too preoccupied with shorter-term, more immediate issues — paying for their education, finding jobs — to consider the threats posed by climate change. And who can blame them? It is the job of a society’s elders to think in the long term, to avoid convenient falsehoods and easy generalizations. Our generation has evaded its responsibilities to the future; it is theirs that will pay the price.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 7, Day 27: Sex Laxar I En Laxask

The New York Times reports on a nice piece of science:

Alaskan salmon are apparently evolving to adapt to climate change.

Researchers have suspected that temperature-driven changes in migration and reproduction behaviors — which have happened in many species — may be evidence of natural selection at work. Now there is genetic evidence to confirm the hypothesis.

For their study, published online last week in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the scientists studied Alaska pink salmon in a small stream near Juneau where there have been complete daily counts of all adult fish since 1971.

The salmon migrated in two distinct populations, one appearing toward the end of August, the other starting in September. In 1979, scientists introduced a neutral genetic marker into the later-migrating population so it could be identified and tracked without affecting its fitness.

A small prize to anyone who can tell me something about the headline. Sent July 16:

The news that pink salmon are beginning evolutionary adaptation to a rapidly transforming environment should be a powerful signal to those people still actively denying the reality of global climate change. But there’s a big gap between “should” and “is,” and it’s spelled “rejection of science.”

The same people proclaiming evolution a blasphemous falsehood are at the forefront of the climate-denial pack, rejecting as absurd the suggestion that two centuries’ worth of CO2 emissions might have an effect on Earth’s atmospheric equilibrium. Such ignorance would be merely risible but for the fact that blinkered rejection of facts is now an absolute prerequisite for electability in today’s Republican party.

As the scientific evidence for climate change keeps accumulating, the GOP’s positions will evolve — incorporating even-more-convoluted explanations for the inconvenient facts. 2016’s Republican convention will likely be a sea of tinfoil-hatted conspiracy theorists. Can those Alaska salmon produce their birth certificates?

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 7, Day 26: Quiet Out There! Don’t You Know What Time It Is?!?!

More on the “startled by bizarre weather, people are wondering if climate change is real” story, this time from the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Before the financial crisis hit, Americans were pretty sure that the globe was warming, and that humans were causing it, and that it was kind of a big deal. As the economy slumped, Americans decided that climate change wasn’t actually happening — and even if it was, it wasn’t our fault. And now, after a flurry of wild weather — deadly tornados, floods, droughts, an uncommonly mild winter, and recent heat waves — we’re back to believing that global warming is real. But we’re still hesitant to take the blame.

These generalizations are based on a series of Yale University studies over the last few years. According to the studies, Americans’ belief in global warming fell from 71 percent in November 2008 to just 57 percent in January 2010, but it rebounded to 66 percent by this spring. The findings mirrored those of the National Survey of American Public Opinion on Climate Change, which showed belief in global warming bouncing from 65 percent in 2009 to 52 percent in 2010 and back up to 62 percent this year.

What accounts for the rebound? It isn’t the economy, which has thawed only a little. And it doesn’t seem to be science: The share of respondents to the Yale survey who believe “most scientists think global warming is happening” is stuck at 35 percent, down from 48 percent four years ago. (That statement remains just as true now as it was then: It’s the public, not the scientists, that keeps changing its mind.)

No, our resurgent belief in global warming seems to be a function of the weather. A separate Yale survey this spring found that 82 percent of Americans had personally experienced extreme weather or natural disasters in the past year. And 52 percent said they believed the weather had been getting worse overall in recent years, compared to just 22 percent who thought it had gotten better.

Whatever wakes you up from your stupor, I suppose. Sent July 15:

While it’s encouraging that more Americans are taking the threat of climate change seriously, public attention to the crisis may well fade the next time there’s an interlude of balmy weather. Our national case of ADD makes it almost impossible to convey the implications of the accelerating greenhouse effect, something which will affect all human civilization over centuries.

Climatologists are the Paul Reveres of today, sounding a warning that the effects of our civilization’s carbon binge are now upon us — but the careful language of scientific discussion doesn’t always convey the urgency of the crisis. If the minutemen had ignored the midnight call and gone back to sleep, the redcoats would have won the day.

It behooves all of us to look beyond the latest celebrity scandal and the 24-hour news cycle, and recognize that the climate emergency has profound implications for countless generations yet to come.

Warren Senders

Published, albeit in a truncated form.

Year 3, Month 7, Day 25: “We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.” (H.L. Mencken)

The Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot reports on a new poll that offers a sort of good news:

A majority of Americans say they think climate change is real, according to a new poll on Friday.

Six in ten believe weather patterns around the world have been more unstable in the last three years, The Washington Post/Stanford University poll found, and almost as many people said it has been hotter on average in that time than ever period. And as for what the two presidential candidates want to do about climate change, almost half of those polled say that President Barack Obama wants to take a lot of government action on global warming, while just 11 percent say they feel that’s a goal of Mitt Romney.

Just over half, or 55 percent, told pollsters they think a “great deal” or “good amount” can be done to combat future global warming, but 60 percent disagree.

Seven in ten Americans say they are not in favor of tax increases on electricity or gas, and 66 percent want tax breaks to limit greenhouse gas emissions, the Post reported. But 20 percent say they would like the government to not be involved at all with regulating greenhouse gases.

Just one problem….Sent July 14:

The laws of chemistry and physics were operating long before human beings began understanding them; indeed, they were operating long before there were human beings at all. Those same laws govern the greenhouse effect which now poses a significant threat to our species and the civilization we’ve developed over our countless millennia on Earth.

From a scientific perspective, it’s irrelevant that more people “believe” in climate change; whether we accept the data or not, it’s happening. From a political perspective, it’s irrelevant that the scientific consensus on climate change is overwhelming; what matters is what people believe to be true.

American energy and environmental policies must be firmly founded on measurable scientific reality, not blown this way and that by the endlessly changing winds of public opinion. The climate crisis is real, and humanity’s future hinges on whether our politicians can recognize that the emergency isn’t affected by electoral exigencies.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 7, Day 24: I Never Understood The Designated Hitter Rule

Making up for lost time, the Washington Post continues its shrill campaign:

Most Americans say they believe temperatures around the world are going up and that weather patterns have become more unstable in the past few years, according to a new poll from The Washington Post and Stanford University.

But they also see future warming as something that can be addressed, and majorities want government action across a range of policies to curb energy consumption, with more support for tax breaks than government mandates.

The findings come as the federal government released a report Tuesday suggesting the connection between last year’s severe weather and climate change. According to the study issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, changes fueled by the burning of fossil fuels made the 2011 heat wave in Texas 20 times more likely to occur compared with conditions in the 1960s.

In the report, the scientists compared the phenomenon to a baseball or cricket player’s improved performance after taking steroids.

“For any one of his home runs (sixes) during the years the player was taking steroids, you would not know for sure whether it was caused by steroids or not,” they wrote in the report, which will be published in a forthcoming Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. “But you might be able to attribute his increased number to the steroids.”

This was fun to write. Sent July 13:

After years of muted scientific language, the American public’s got something it can understand: climate change’s influence on weather is like that of steroids on the performance of professional athletes, according to the recent report from the NOAA. Performance-enhancing drugs affect muscle size, response time, and a host of other factors — but it is impossible to attribute any single home run or touchdown to them. Rather, they “load the dice” in favor of extreme athletic accomplishment. Similarly, atmospheric carbon dioxide is a performance enhancer for Earth’s weather systems.

Steroid use “…makes the body behave unnaturally,” as columnist George Will noted in a 2010 interview with the Wall Street Journal; greenhouse emissions make our climate behave unnaturally, while triggering side effects that may very well endanger the future of our civilization, professional sports and all. Perhaps Mr. Will, a legendary baseball fan and a climate-change denier, will grasp the NOAA’s analogy.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 7, Day 23: I Wonder Why THAT Keeps Happening?

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette runs an editorial column ruing the lackadaisical attitude of the common people:

This should be the summer of our discontent, with heat waves, drought and other troublesome weather affecting large parts of the nation. Instead, Americans are hot but apparently not bothered about what it all might mean.

According to a new Washington Post-Stanford University poll, just 18 percent of Americans interviewed named climate change as the world’s top environmental problem. In 2007, when Al Gore’s warning documentary and a United Nations report were making headlines, 33 percent called climate change the top issue.

Like so much on this topic, the findings of the poll are contradictory. It’s not as if people don’t care about the environment; the top concern, as expressed by 27 percent of those surveyed, was polluted water and air — certainly real challenges.

And those polled don’t dismiss climate change or even mankind’s hand in it; in fact, nearly three-quarters believe that the Earth is warming and approximately the same number think temperatures will continue to rise if nothing is done. Many want government and businesses to do more.

The poll and follow-up interviews suggest that people are looking to Washington, D.C., for leadership and action, although, after seeing little or none, they are not consumed by a sense of urgency.

Somebody better do something. I wonder who? Sent July 12:

The disconnect between the facts of global climate change and American public concern about the issue can be laid at the feet of our country’s politicians, who are too focused on short-term electoral exigencies to address long-term problems — and at the feet of our irresponsible media establishment, which has spent decades fostering the notion that simply reporting two sides of every argument constitutes the whole of journalism.

In a common-sense world, the looming climate crisis would be story number one, day after day. But we live in twenty-first century America, where there is no crisis bigger than the latest celebrity scandal du jour. Now there is no time left for equivocation. If we are to preserve our agriculture, our infrastructure, and ultimately our civilization, our leaders must accept the responsibility of leadership — and our media must accept the responsibility to inform the public about the gravest threat our species has faced in recorded history.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 7, Day 22: No. This Has Been Another Episode Of “Short Answers To Stupid Questions.”

The LA Times asks a reasonable enough question: “Can somebody, please, help George Will understand climate?”

George Will seems like a smart guy, so it’s a little mystifying why he cannot seem to understand the difference between weather and climate — concepts that with a little education, the average third-grader could easily grasp. Could it be that he’s not trying?

In an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” Will dismissed the notion that the heat wave plaguing the nation has anything to do with climate change. “How do we explain the heat? One word: summer,” Will said, asserting that current record-setting temperatures in the U.S. are nothing unusual.

“Come the winter there will be a cold snap, lots of snow, and the same guys, like [Washington Post columnist] E.J. [Dionne], will start lecturing us. There’s a difference between weather and climate. I agree with that. We’re having some hot weather. Get over it.”

Will would be almost right, if he weren’t willfully ignoring the evidence pointing to a changing climate. It is true that commentators on both sides of the political question about global warming tend to confuse weather with climate, with those who favor denying the problem pointing to cold winters as proof that it doesn’t exist, even as alarmists see hot summers as proof that Armageddon is nigh.

It’s not “mystifying” once you recognize that Will is a media whore who will say anything for money. He’s lying, and his avid mendacity is a disgrace to humanity, but he doesn’t give a shit, because he’s laughing all the way to the bank. Sent July 11:

Upton Sinclair famously remarked, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” Just look at syndicated columnist George Will — a man of some intelligence who steadfastly refuses to change his opinions in the face of facts.

Mr. Will’s latest failure is, as usual, in the area of climate change. Despite having been repeatedly proved wrong on this issue, (as in 2009, when two Washington Post reporters vigorously corrected his misrepresentations about the extent of Arctic sea ice), he touts a gospel of climate-change denialism even as overwhelming scientific evidence confirms the reality of human-caused global heating.

It’s not just Mr. Will’s own salary that depends on his failure to “understand” climate change. His readiness to confuse the public discussion demonstrates his fealty to giant multinational corporations whose profit margins might shrink if America finally addressed a looming planetary emergency.

Warren Senders