Year 4, Month 2, Day 18: Hey Now Baby, Get Into My Big Black Car

The Palm Beach Post wonders if the President is gonna go there:

Climate change — a topic absent from last year’s presidential campaign — has slipped so far down the nation’s to-do list that stakeholders have taken to counting how often the president even utters the phrase.

So when President Barack Obama mentioned climate change in his inaugural address Jan. 21, those observers cautiously took notice. Now they are waiting to see whether the president mentions climate change again in his State of the Union address Tuesday.

“If he were to talk about it regularly, then it would matter,” said Theda Skocpol, professor of government and sociology at Harvard, who recently published articles on climate change policy during the president’s first term. “Public opinion researchers have found that public opinion decays really fast, so you have to keep at it.”

Read the comments on the article and get seriously depressed. Sheesh. February 9:

A storm of unprecedented size hammers the East coast of the USA, destroying towns and causing billions of dollars’ worth of damage. A giant snowstorm drops two feet of snow on the Northeast, leaving half a million people without power. Drought cripples our agriculture; last year is confirmed as the hottest in recorded history — and yet there is still a question as to whether climate change deserves presidential recognition? How bizarre.

Think of it this way: if a terror attack destroyed thousands of homes, wrecked infrastructure, crippled huge sections of the power grid, and threatened the continued safety and productivity of our agriculture, politicians and media would be beating the war drums night and day. But when the same wreckage is a consequence of our addiction to oil, those voices are curiously silent.

There is still hope to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, but there is no time to lose, and none to waste. Conservative commentators who treat “global warming” as a laugh line are on the wrong side of science, and the wrong side of history.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 2, Day 17: Lies From The Pit Of Hell

The Christian Science Monitor extols the potential of new technology for carbon capture:

Global temperatures are rising faster than scientists thought possible even a few years ago. The Arctic icecap is melting at a rate that few researchers had anticipated, and, most ominously, the permafrost is beginning to thaw, which could release vast amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than CO2.

The situation is indeed grave – but not unsolvable. While the majority of scientists agree that we humans have made the problem, new innovations show that we can also solve it. Climate change is a global problem, but the world looks to the US for leadership and solutions.

There are three reasons for this. First, America is the world’s largest economic power. Second, the US has been the main obstructionist at global climate conferences preventing the tough action that needs to be taken to cut the emissions of greenhouse gases and slow the progress of climate change. Finally, and more hopefully, the US remains the world leader in science and innovation.

I saw proof of this when I visited Dr. Klaus Lackner, the chairman of the Earth and Environmental Engineering department at Columbia University in December. He showed me a palm-sized mockup for an “artificial tree” that mimics the photosynthesis of real trees by chemically sucking CO2 out of the air. A single such tree-sized device left standing in the wind, Dr. Lackner told me, would remove one ton a day of carbon from the atmosphere, the equivalent of the greenhouse gases produced by 36 automobiles.

If horses could fly, they’d be airplanes. Or something. Feb 9:

It’s comforting to think that American ingenuity, resourcefulness, and determination can mitigate the rapidly accelerating climate crisis. After all, we’re the nation that initiated the Manhattan Project, that landed men on the moon and brought them back safely. Surely the threat of global heating can be eliminated with good old American know-how and our iconic “can-do” spirit?

Maybe. But putting all that ingenuity, resourcefulness, and determination to work addressing the climate threat will take money, a taboo subject for the Republican lawmakers currently blocking forward motion on meaningful energy or environmental policy. So much for the “can-do” part of the equation. If we can take their public statements on scientific subjects as evidence, those same legislators are notoriously short on know-how.

Yes, scientific and technological innovations may well provide ways to cope with climate change — but only if our politicians fully accept the science and fully fund the innovation.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 2, Day 16: If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now

Time Magazine takes another whack at the argument from personal incredulity:

As the blizzard-bound residents of the mid-Atlantic region get ready to dig themselves out of the third major storm of the season, they may stop to wonder two things: Why haven’t we bothered to invest in a snow blower, and what happened to climate change? After all, it stands to reason that if the world is getting warmer — and the past decade was the hottest on record — major snowstorms should become a thing of the past, like PalmPilots and majority rule in the Senate. Certainly that’s what the Virginia state Republican Party thinks: the GOP aired an ad last weekend that attacked two Democratic members of Congress for supporting the 2009 carbon-cap-and-trade bill, using the recent storms to cast doubt on global warming.
(See pictures of the massive blizzard in Washington, D.C.)

Brace yourselves now — this may be a case of politicians twisting the facts. There is some evidence that climate change could in fact make such massive snowstorms more common, even as the world continues to warm. As the meteorologist Jeff Masters points out in his excellent blog at Weather Underground, the two major storms that hit Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., this winter — in December and during the first weekend of February — are already among the 10 heaviest snowfalls those cities have ever recorded. The chance of that happening in the same winter is incredibly unlikely.

Stupid is as stupid does. Feb. 8:

While the notion that a warming planet could trigger more extreme snowstorms is counterintuitive, the fact is that if nature always corresponded to our intuitions, there would be no science. Our species’ innate intuitive sense of how things work doesn’t include bacteria, DNA, irrational numbers, subatomic particles, or radioactivity — but they’re real beyond any doubt. So, too, are the localized manifestations of a steadily rising global temperature, which include extreme rain and snow, droughts, heat waves, superstorms, and increasingly unpredictable weather everywhere around the planet.

Indeed, many of the processes attendant to global heating are complicated and unobvious, which is why scientific insights are essential. Climate-change deniers, unable to understand the mechanisms whereby a hotter atmosphere turns once-in-a-century storms into frequent occurrences, reject the science entirely, shamefully rendering America’s energy and environmental policies captive to the intellectual failures of our most willfully ignorant and superstitious politicians.

Warren Senders

Someone who really should know better…

…sent me this stupid chain email:

An atheist was seated next to a little girl on an airplane and he turned to her and said, “Do you want to talk? Flights go quicker if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger.”

The little girl, who had just started to read her book, replied to the total stranger, “What would you want to talk about?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said the atheist. “How about why there is no God, or no Heaven or Hell, or no life after death?” as he smiled smugly.

“Okay,” she said. “Those could be interesting topics but let me ask you a question first. A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat the same stuff – grass. Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns out a flat patty, but a horse produces clumps. Why do you suppose that is?”

The atheist, visibly surprised by the little girl’s intelligence, thinks about it and says, “Hmmm, I have no idea.” To which the little girl replies, “Do you really feel qualified to discuss God, Heaven and Hell, or life after death, when you don’t know shit?”

And then she went back to reading her book.

Ha Ha Ha!!!

Christians 1, Atheists 0.


I sent back the following:

And the atheist said, “I don’t know everything about animal digestion, but we can ask a scientist who does.” Fortunately the person in the seat behind them was a zoologist specializing in digestive processes, who was able to supply them with the needed information.

The little girl then turned to a Priest, a Mullah, a Rabbi and a Pandit who were conveniently seated elsewhere on the plane and asked them about deities, heaven, hell, and life after death. Naturally they could not agree on anything beyond the “irrefutable fact” that everyone else’s views were wrong.

A religious riot broke out on the plane that ended when competing eschatological factions beat one another into bloody pulp, terrorizing the other passengers. All participants were arrested. Unfortunately the little girl was severely injured in the fray and has not yet regained consciousness.

No answer to her concerns was ever provided, although the questions about shit were both answerable and answered.

Year 4, Month 2, Day 15: You Can’t Fool Me.

USA Today let us know: the farmers are f**ked:

A comprehensive USDA study concludes rising temperatures could cost farmers millions as they battle new pests, faster weed growth and get smaller yields as climate change continues.

WASHINGTON — Climate change could have a drastic and harmful effect on U.S. agriculture, forcing farmers and ranchers to alter where they grow crops and costing them millions of dollars in additional costs to tackle weeds, pests and diseases that threaten their operations, a sweeping government report said Tuesday.

An analysis released by the Agriculture Department said that although U.S. crops and livestock have been able to adapt to changes in their surroundings for close to 150 years, the accelerating pace and intensity of global warming during the next few decades may soon be too much for the once-resilient sector to overcome.

“We’re going to end up in a situation where we have a multitude of things happening that are going to negatively impact crop production,” said Jerry Hatfield, a laboratory director and plant physiologist with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and lead author of the study. “In fact, we saw this in 2012 with the drought.”

It’s a hoax! I saw it on FOX! Sent February 7:

As the song puts it, the farmer feeds us all. However, many Americans, raised in a consumer economy where produce sometimes travels thousands of miles to local stores, lack the experience to understand the implications of a phrase like “devastated agriculture.” Industrialized farming has created a food system capable of feeding huge numbers — but only under absolutely predictable conditions. The encroaching threat of climate change is certain to render those conditions anything but predictable. The result? A farm system that decades ago moved to monocropping — taking advantage of economies of scale at the expense of resilience and flexibility — will become enormously vulnerable to changing environmental conditions, rapidly evolving pests, and diseases which can eradicate entire harvests in an eyeblink.

In the late 19th century, Irish monocroppers facing devastating potato blight had two alternatives: die of starvation, or emigrate. What choices will Americans face in the coming decades?

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 2, Day 14: And Because I Love You, I’ll Give It One More Try

The North Andover Eagle-Tribune reports on climate change in New England:

One of the harbingers of change has been the lobster industry, which Wahle called a kind of “canary in a coal mine.”

Maine fishermen have set record harvests over the past few years, perhaps due in part to higher water temperatures and fewer groundfish, which prey on young lobsters. Fishermen off Newburyport have also reported good harvests, with last year being among the best.

Meanwhile, in southern New England, it’s an entirely different story. Mass lobster kill-offs in Long Island Sound have been caused by warming waters, Wahle said, while a disease that infects lobster shells has been spreading northward through the sound and into Massachusetts waters.

“(The disease) seems to have stalled out just south of Cape Ann,” Wahle said.

If the disease spreads further north, it could have a devastating impact on northern New England’s lobster fisheries, Wahle said.

As of Feb. 6, the comment thread on this article was 100% denialist stupidity. Sent, with an optimistic tag:

New England’s not alone in feeling the increasing impact of global warming. While specific symptoms of climate change vary from place to place, regions everywhere around the planet are affected. Whether it’s drought in the corn belt, unseasonal monsoons in Asia, or warmer winters fostering pine beetle infestations in Colorado, the consequences of the greenhouse effect are hitting people painfully. Some communities may reap temporary benefits — like Maine lobstermen who are hauling in a bumper harvest — but since warmer winters may bring an end to the state’s skiing industry, there’s no real positive economic impact on a wider scale.

If there is any upside to the accelerating climate crisis, it is that our species’ future requires us to realize that what we do today in our own narrow corner of the world will affect people thousands of miles — and hundreds of years — away. Only by recognizing that political boundaries and cultural differences are irrelevant in the face of the gathering storm can we humans make a happy and prosperous future for our posterity.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 2, Day 13: Too Much Confusion Going On, I Can’t Get No Relief

The Canberra Times runs an op-ed by a chap named Nicholas Stuart, who gets the brass ring:

Even if you still believe there is doubt about the specific linkage between carbon dioxide emissions and the rising global temperature – and I do not believe there is – there can be no doubt about the increasing incidence of extreme climatic events. The hottest January on record resulted in terrible bushfires across the nation, while at the same time we’ve suffered devastating floods in the tropical north: Australia can no longer rely on ”global action” to avoid the catastrophe that climate change represents.

Yet you would not know this listening to what passes for political debate in this country. Politicians still seem to believe that all that is required during a natural disaster is for them to tour the affected area, nodding sympathetically and promising relief.

Environmental catastrophe is framed as the ”work of nature” and therefore inexplicable. By pretending we cannot comprehend why this is happening we absolves ourselves from dealing with reality. This means that individuals can avoid the hard choices about the future while society pretends it can still afford to ”nationalise” the losses. A far better way of coming to terms with the way the climate is changing is provided by the internal workings of insurance companies.

Businesses don’t deal in academic theory. They deal in reality. That’s why the cost of insuring against damage caused by natural disasters is climbing, because the companies realise that the chance of these events is increasing. There’s nothing ideological about this and certainly no pro-Labor bias at work.

The opposition needs to explain immediately how it will deal with climate change because the holes in its current program are so large, and urgency so absent, that one inevitably returns to the possibility that Tony Abbott doesn’t believe in climate change at all.

Aye. Sent Feb. 5.

Nicholas Stuart has it exactly right in his description of climate change as an existential crisis. We humans have faced other crises of our own creation before this; the life-shattering forces of war and the morally overwhelming phenomena of slavery and genocide come to mind. But these, all-encompassing and inescapable though they may be, have always played out on a planetary stage that has changed its shape slowly if at all. The climate crisis, rendering our feeble political systems incompetent and impotent, is a threat of an entirely different nature.

War, slavery, and injustice transpire on a historical timescale of decades and centuries, while climatic processes have taken place over millennia, over eons. Now, climatic transformations are happening with the speed of war. With our wasteful consumer economies and our fossil fuel addictions, we have unwittingly an auto-immune response from the natural environment upon which our lives depend. Our species’ continued survival hinges on how rapidly we can understand these facts and their implications.

Warren Senders


Year 4, Month 2, Day 12: Bad Guys Finish, Period.

More on the Keystone Clusterf**k, from the West Virginia Gazette:

President Obama hasn’t publicly drawn a connection between climate change and the Keystone XL pipeline, but new pressure is building on him and other officials to connect those dots.

Protests are springing up from Maine to Washington, D.C., to Oklahoma urging leaders to stop the Keystone XL and other oil sands import projects on climate change grounds. The Texas-bound Keystone XL is the biggest of many projects being proposed to connect Canada’s oil sands to U.S. refineries and export ports. Protesters claim the pipelines would commit the United States and other countries to a form of heavy oil that would worsen global warming.

On Jan. 26, some 1,400 people marched through Portland, Maine, against possible plans to move oil from Canada’s tar sands mines to local ports for export. Days earlier, hundreds of people joined solidarity rallies across New England and in Canada, where they picketed outside gas stations, locked arms along bridges, and hoisted signs that read “Tar Sands (equals) Game Over for Climate.” On Monday, indigenous rights activists in Texas and Oklahoma filled public squares to show support for efforts by Canada’s First Nations to block oil sands growth.

“We’re trying to build the social movement” against expansion of tar sands oil extraction, said Sophie Robinson, who organized events through the Massachusetts chapter of, a grassroots organization that focuses on climate change.

I’m gonna keep recycling the “this ain’t no game” trope till it gets some traction. February 4:

Whether it’s the inevitable spillage and aquifer contamination, the vast acreage of forests destroyed, the reinforcement of a global fossil-fuel addiction, or the devastating impact the Tar Sands oil will make on the already accelerating greenhouse effect, there can be no doubt that the Keystone XL pipeline project is a collection of disasters waiting to happen. But “game over for the climate,” a phrase popular among anti-pipeline activists, gives a misleading picture of what those disasters will do to North America and the world.

The after-effects of a game are limited to the playing field. If your team loses, just wait for next week, or next month, or next year. But more and more scientists are realizing with alarm that the possible consequences of a 4-degree centigrade increase in planetary temperature may include a complete collapse of the agriculture upon which our lives depend. The introduction of Tar Sands oil into the consumption chain will speed that increase, possibly irrevocably.

Earth’s climate is no game, and when it’s over, there’s no rematch, no mulligan, no “wait for next year,” no reset button. It’s just finished — and so are we. President Obama must block the Keystone XL.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 2, Day 11: Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart!

The Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA) wonders about Republicans:

President Barack Obama’s second inaugural address made specific references to climate change. He called on the country to address the process.

Republicans did not react with enthusiasm. Although he did not scoff at climate change itself, Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley questioned how much the United States could accomplish on its own. Climate change presents a global challenge, he explained; it requires a global response that is more appropriately addressed in negotiations and treaties than in congressional legislation.


The last time we checked, the Republican response to global initiatives regarding the climate fell somewhat short of gung-ho. Remember Kyoto?

Specific treaties or protocols must be judged on their merits. They do not command automatic support. Nevertheless, conservatives tend to be skeptical of international agreements that commit signatories to action. They consider them threats to American sovereignty. The other day, Del. Scott Lingamfelter, a candidate for the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor, warned that United Nations’ efforts, supported by the Obama administration, to combat “so-called global warming” assault the rights of Virginians. Republicans who rail against one-world policies are not noted for proposing homegrown plans to address the reality of climate change.

So I took this opportunity to rag on the GOP a bit. Always fun…and always well-deserved. Feb 3:

The Republican anti-response to the threat of climate change highlights the degree to which a once-proud political party is trapped in an ideological double-bind, captive to the tea-party extremism which helped them in the 2010 election, and which now dominates their primary process. Only the most extreme views — on climate, on health care, on gun control, on anything — can pass muster with their anti-reality core constituency.

While the GOP has always been ready to indulge a strain of anti-intellectual populism when it was politically expedient, its doctrinal rejection of climatological expertise is both scientifically and politically foolish. Scientifically — because the overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists are in absolute agreement on the factuality and human origins of the accelerating greenhouse effect; politically — because a significant majority of the American people are in agreement that climate change poses a genuine threat that warrants robust and meaningful government action.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 2, Day 10: Looking Through A Bent-Backed Tulip, To See How The Other Half Lives

The Argus-Leader’s Steve Young discusses climate change’s impact on South Dakota:

South Dakota in 2050 will have longer growing seasons, milder winters and more extreme weather events if national weather experts are correct in analyzing the effects of greenhouse gases on climate warming.

A draft report released earlier this month by the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee projects that at the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions, the average temperature in South Dakota will rise an additional 5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050.

That comes as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that 2012 was the hottest year on record in the contiguous United States.

What will warming bring to the state? Growing seasons will stretch longer. There will be fewer subzero-degree days in the winter and snow won’t stick around as long. Storms will be more extreme, dumping significant amounts of snow and rain but unleashing precipitation less often.

Wheee! Same basic letter I’ve sent twice already to different states; I’m in a hurry today.

South Dakota’s not alone. The whole planet is finding out that climate change is an abstraction no longer, but a radically disruptive fact. If the weather’s too unpredictable, agriculture becomes impossible, and even the most robust infrastructure can be damaged or destroyed by extreme storms. Once-fertile land turns arid and unproductive under drought conditions, while rising sea levels may simply wipe some island nations off the map completely.

Although the accelerating climate crisis is irrevocably altering lives all over the planet, in the offices of Senate and Congressional Republicans, it’s making no impact at all. These plush chambers aren’t just air-conditioned against the heat — thanks to fossil-fuel corporations, they’re also cash-conditioned against the facts. Anti-science conservatives may come from different parts of the country, but ultimately they all represent the same state of denial. In a time of planetary emergency, South Dakota — and the world — deserves better.

Warren Senders