Year 4, Month 6, Day 30: I Was Always There, Right On The Job

All plants and trees died. All of them. The Globe and Mail (Toronto):

The substance is the inky black colour of oil, and the treetops are brown. Across a broad expanse of northern Alberta muskeg, the landscape is dead. It has been poisoned by a huge spill of 9.5 million litres of toxic waste from an oil and gas operation in northern Alberta, the third major leak in a region whose residents are now questioning whether enough is being done to maintain aging energy infrastructure.

The spill was first spotted on June 1. But not until Wednesday did Houston-based Apache Corp. release estimates of its size, which exceeds all of the major recent spills in North America. It comes amid heightened sensitivity about pipeline safety, as the industry faces broad public opposition to plans for a series of major new oil export pipelines to the U.S., British Columbia and eastern Canada.

In northern Alberta, not far from the town of Zama City, the leak of so-called “produced water” has affected some 42 hectares, the size of 52 CFL fields, in an area less than 100 kilometres south of the Northwest Territories border.

No shame, these people. Sociopaths, every one. June 14:

When looking at the devastation wreaked upon Northern Alberta by almost ten million litres of toxic Tar Sands waste, it’s easy to understand why people everywhere are worried about what will happen should the Keystone XL pipeline be constructed across North America. After all, 100 percent mortality of vegetation doesn’t sound too healthy for fauna either. With that in mind, the recent news that internal TransCanada documents labeled anti-Keystone activists as “potential eco-terrorists” is even more disturbing.

If another nation dropped a bomb on Canadian forest land, exterminating everything within a 42-hectare space, it would rightly be condemned as egregious aggression; an act of war. If a sectarian group did the same thing it would justifiably be called terrorism. Why is it that when the same damage is committed by a multinational corporation based in Houston, Texas, it’s simply part of the cost of doing business? Who’s the terrorist in this picture?

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 6, Day 29: Polly Want A Cracker?

The Rutland Herald runs a column by one John McClaughry, who is a certifiable idiot. Read and enjoy:

For the past 20 years Vermonters have been fed a heavy diet of terrors originally labeled the Menace of Global Warming — then renamed “climate change” after the predicted warming failed to appear.

This diet also includes lots of urgent proposals for making Vermont the world leader in battling “climate change,” victory over which will presumably occur when the climate finally stops changing.

All of these proposals have called for new mandates, new bureaucracies, more subsidies to the renewable industrial complex, and of course more taxes.

The most ardent and determined Vermont proponent of this war — especially in advocating the handouts to the wind and solar investors — has been Gov. Peter Shumlin. Back in 2006 he was telling reporters that “I think [the number one issue] is global warming and keeping this planet from destroying itself and keeping us from destroying this planet in front of our own eyes.”


There are four components to the Shumlin climate theology: First, the climate is doing terrible things; second, we irresponsible humans, addicted to carbon combustion, are producing these dangerous changes; third, government must force us to stop, through a broad array of taxes, mandates, regulations, and subsidies; and fourth, all of this is completely beyond debate: “The science is settled,” so shut up. This theology is impervious to facts.

Sheesh. June 13:

If “global warming alarmism” is a new “theology,” as John McClaughry argues, it’s a pretty strange one — a religion whose adherents desperately hope to be proven wrong.

A “gut check” can be very satisfying; our guts tend to favor the simple, linear and intuitive solutions that are most emotionally fulfilling. However, it is precisely because the real world is complex, non-linear, and counter-intuitive that the methods of scientific inquiry have been so powerful and useful in the progress and accomplishments of our civilization. And scientific method has brought us many conclusions which were at first rejected — a heliocentric solar system, the importance of antisepsis, the existence of deep time, evolution by natural selection, to name just four. None of these are obvious, even today.

The work of Roy Spencer and the other sources Mr. McClaughry cites have all been substantially debunked, as a few minutes’ research will reveal. And he leads off with the easily disproven assertion that global warming was “renamed” climate change, “after the predicted warming failed to appear.” Actually the phrase “climate change” was introduced by Republican strategist Frank Luntz during the Bush administration, as a “less-scary” substitute for “global warming.” It was purely accidental that the term is a more accurate description of what the world is now experiencing.

Mr. McClaughry is free to think with his guts, but most of us find that brains are better suited to the task.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 6, Day 28: The Thrubble With Thribbles

The Washington Post, mouthpiece of the Very Serious People, lacks a sense of irony. Witness Dominic Basulto’s piece, “Global warming is a mess. It’s high time we innovate our way out of it.” Ooooooh! Well spotted!

So, how is it, seven years after Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” woke people up to the dangers of global warming, we’re seemingly back to square one?

One problem, quite simply, is that many of the renewable technologies that we hoped would eventually save us are turning out to be, at best, long-term solutions—longer terms than we can currently afford. According to the IEA, even the most promising renewable energy technologies – solar, nuclear, wind – have done little or nothing to dent our carbon use on a global scale. In Japan, for example, long-term efforts to shift into nuclear power from carbon power were undone in the wake of the Fukushima accident. In fact, most of the gains in reducing carbon emissions, according to the IEA, have simply come from shifting away from dirty coal into energy sources such as shale gas. We’re essentially replacing one form of carbon power with a slightly cleaner (or not, depending on how you look at it) form of carbon power.

So, now what’s the plan?

One of the more radical ideas out there involves a plan to capture all the carbon dioxide that we’re spewing into the atmosphere and either store it underground or transform it into another substance such as sulfuric acid before it becomes a greenhouse gas. Carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) technologies are still incredibly expensive. But they represent one way we may (emphasis on the “may”) be able to reduce our global carbon footprint without completely dismantling our existing energy infrastructure. In some cases, the captured carbon dioxide could be sold to oil producers immediately, who can use it for other oil extraction processes, rather than storing it underground.

While the concept for carbon dioxide capture and storage has picked up some strong supporters at the U.S. Department of Energy, which sees it as a potential way to transform the Department into a “center of innovation”, one of the early full-scale carbon capture and storage projects is actually going into action in Saskatchewan, Canada. If successful, it could create momentum for other carbon capture projects around the world.

Another idea to win the war on carbon is to place a tax on carbon.

Where there’s a Will, there’s no way. June 12:

To assert that we need to “innovate” our way out of the planetary climate crisis is to make a rhetorical virtue out of stating the obvious. Our old patterns of consumption are what brought the problem on in the first place, and it is old patterns of thinking that are blocking forward motion towards solutions. What most people really mean when they talk about technological innovation as a pathway to sustainability is that they don’t wish to give up the conveniences and privileges they experience as wealthy participants in a consumer economy. Fair enough; who would?

But we cannot maintain the luxury of ignorance. New inventions and near-miraculous energy sources won’t mean a thing if our media don’t report on climate change accurately and carefully. Journalistic “innovations” like false equivalence and willful distortions of science have helped stall meaningful action on climate for decades. Let’s begin by telling the truth.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 6, Day 27: Till You’ve Known The Meaning Of The Blues

The Indianapolis Star (IA) notes that Robert Redford is offering President Obama some free advice.

Like a lot of people, I felt reassured earlier this year when President Obama spoke of the need to combat climate change for the sake of our children.

The president demonstrated leadership that night in that State of the Union address by making it clear that he doesn’t see extreme heat waves, powerful storms like Hurricane Sandy, the most severe drought in decades and the worst wildfires ever in some states as just weird coincidences.

He demonstrated leadership by calling out Congress, saying if it doesn’t act soon, he will take executive action to reduce pollution, prepare communities to cope with climate change impacts and spur us toward cleaner energy.

Clearly, the president understands the climate issue. But he owes more to future generations than his intellectual acknowledgement about the hardships they will face if nothing is done to address it. He owes them action.

I just hope the president has the courage of his convictions.

It’s what separates presidents that we don’t often remember from those we do. Years ago, an ally advised newly sworn-in President Johnson against using his political capital to try to muscle civil rights legislation through Congress. Johnson’s reply was classic: “Hell, what’s the presidency for?”

Time to advocate for the national laboratory system again. June 11:

It’s true that when it comes to climate, the President talks a stronger game than he plays. And to be sure, the chief executive’s position is an unenviable one: caught between intransigent Republicans on one hand and the hard facts of the runaway greenhouse effect on the other, his desires for inclusive compromise have nowhere to go.

Robert Redford’s heartfelt and entirely sensible plea for decisive executive action misses an important resource which Mr. Obama could use immediately without interference from Congress: the U.S. national laboratories, originally created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of the Manhattan Project to address the possibility that German scientists were going to build an atomic bomb. The climate crisis is an unambiguous danger to our civilization, and the president could issue an executive order instructing the national laboratory system to study options to reduce or alleviate climate change by finding ways to defuse the threats posed by atmospheric carbon, methane, and other greenhouse gases.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 6, Day 26: Wading In The Kiddie Pool

The Christian Post says that evangelicals need to address climate change if they want to bring their youth back into the fold. Sheesh:

A five-year study by the Barna Group, a leading research organization focused on faith and culture, found that three in five young Christians leave the church after reaching the age of 15. As a result, over the past five years the percent of young evangelicals fell 4 points to a mere 13 percent, while the percent of young agnostics/athiests grew by the same amount to 35 percent.

Most evangelical leaders point to the widening gap between traditional Christian views and those of a changing American culture – especially on issues like same-sex marriage, abortion, and pre-marital sex – as the primary cause of this problem. The reality is that for many of today’s young Christians, who are more immersed in mainstream culture than ever before through digital and social media, holding on to the church’s teachings amid such overwhelming opposition is often too difficult a task.

And there don’t appear to be any easy solutions. Evangelicals, whose social views are based primarily on Biblical teachings, cannot, and should not, change them just to better align with modern culture. And in today’s vastly interconnected world, young people can no more easily remove themselves from the conflicting influences.

However, there are issues on which we evangelicals can reengage our youth – without compromising our values.

Climate change is the perfect place to start. A large majority of young Americans view climate change as a serious problem facing their generation. And to date, American evangelicals have been among the slowest to recognize the problem. Far from compromising our values, helping to address the world’s changing climate – which the United Nations Development Program says “will reverse decades worth of human development gains” – would help us fulfill Christ’s command to care for the poor in a way that unites our faith tradition with America’s youth and the broader society.

Some kinds of stupid can’t be fixed. June 11:

If evangelicals want to prove they’re genuinely serious about addressing climate change, they’ll need a stronger rationale than simply needing to draw youth back into their faith communities. The climate crisis transcends the marketing and membership requirements of even the most fervent religious group. When agriculture collapses due to extreme weather and prolonged drought, the starving will include those of every creed; when rising seas submerge coastlines and remove island nations from the map entirely, issues of religious affiliation will be irrelevant.

Young people everywhere around the world can see that their elders have not only failed to solve the problem, but have all too often denied that a problem exists in the first place — scarcely a way to inspire confidence in those who are supposed to be examples of leadership, wisdom, and responsibility. Those who ardently anticipate the End Times cannot be credible advocates for long-term environmental sustainability.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 6, Day 25: You Don’t Know What Love Is…

The Cedar Rapids (IA) Gazette gives column space to the infamous Tom Harris. I’d almost forgotten about this asshole.

Last month, U.S. Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) hosted an unbiased climate change panel discussion in Fairmont, W.V. Experts from both sides of the climate debate participated without restrictions of any kind.

McKinley’s open-minded approach is one that should be copied across the United States. Considering what’s at stake — a human-induced eco-collapse if former Vice President Al Gore and his allies are correct, or, if skeptics are right, a waste of billions of dollars and the loss of millions of jobs as we experiment with a switch away from hydrocarbon fuels to alternative energy sources — the risks are too high to do anything less.

No matter what Gore and founder Bill McKibben tell us, experts in the field know that climate science is highly immature. We are in a period of “negative discovery,” in that the more we learn about climate, the more we realize we do not know. Rather than “remove the doubt,” as Gore tells us should be done, we must recognize the doubt in this, arguably the most complex science ever tackled.

The confidence expressed by Gore, McKibben and President Barack Obama that mankind is definitely causing dangerous climate change is a consequence of a belief in what professors Chris Essex (University of Western Ontario) and Ross McKitrick (University of Guelph, Ontario) call the “Doctrine of Certainty.” This doctrine is “a collection of now familiar assertions about climate that are to be accepted without question” (Taken by Storm, 2007).

Fuck. I need a shower. June 10:

Let’s pass over the longstanding relationship between Tom Harris’ reassuringly-named International Climate Science Coalition with the odious Heartland Foundation (notorious for their billboards comparing environmentalists with Charles Manson and the Unabomber). Let’s pass over the ICCC’s incestuous links (identical IP addresses!) with other notorious climate-change denial groups, and let’s choose to ignore Mr. Harris’ explicit advocacy of misinformation and confusion.

Instead, let’s just look at his advice. A measured call for “calmness” in the discussion of global climate change sounds ideal, doesn’t it? But Mr. Harris’ advice is profoundly wrong, for multiple reasons.

First: what Mr. Harris calls “calm” is simply an excuse for doing nothing — and given that the consequences of a runaway greenhouse effect go beyond garden-variety adjectives like “dire” and “terrifying,” that’s the last thing we need. Second: the science of climate change is as close to settled as it’s going to get; a recent study analyzed almost 34,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers on anthropogenic global warming and found only one out of every thousand rejected the prevailing climatological consensus. That’s not just a minority opinion; that’s statistical irrelevance.

Let’s use an analogy. After you find a suspicious lump, the biopsy results lead your doctor to recommend that you start therapy immediately. Getting a second and even a third opinion is wise. But if nine-hundred and ninety-nine oncologists call it cancer and advise treatment, “calm” inaction is no longer reasonable, but suicidal.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 6, Day 24: Who’s On First?

The San Bernadino Sun reports on the HFC-limitation treaty. Too little, too late…but better than sitting around doing nothing:

RANCHO MIRAGE — The United States and China agreed to mount a joint effort to combat climate change Saturday, committing to work to cut hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), or “super greenhouse” gases.

In a statement issued after a summit between Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping here, the two sides committed to phase down production and usage of the gases, which are highly potent contributors to climate change.

“Today, President Obama and President Xi agreed on an important new step to confront global climate change,” the White House said in a statement.

The deal will see Washington and Beijing work together for the first time, along with other countries to phase down the consumption and production of HFCs,” the statement said.

“A global phase down of HFCs could potentially reduce some 90 gigatons of CO2 equivalent by 2050, equal to roughly two years worth of current global greenhouse gas emissions,” the statement said.

The effort will use the institutions of the Montreal Protocol, which is sometimes referred to as the most successful global climate treaty, which was first set up to tackle depletions in the ozone layer.

Written in the Toronto airport on my way back home from a concert, June 9:

A US/China agreement on hydroflourocarbon emissions is a welcome piece of good news about global climate change.

Politics is often called “the art of the possible,” and in this context, such a commitment is a triumph of politics and statecraft.

But it’s not enough. As atmospheric CO2 soared past 400 parts per million last month, catastrophic levels of warming have become essentially inevitable. Avert our eyes though we will, the cold facts are that climatic disruptions are going to devastate agriculture everywhere; there are severe food shortages on the horizon for hundreds of millions of people.

These looming humanitarian crises require more of us. Humanity as a whole, and the industrialized nations of the world in particular, must stop being satisfied with the possible, and begin accomplishing the essential: reducing CO2 below 350 ppm, and putting a brake on the accelerating greenhouse effect. There is no time left for politics as usual.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 6, Day 23: Full Of That Yankee-Doodly-Dum

The Des Moines Register reports on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s words:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. farmers and ranchers must adapt or risk getting left behind as climate change becomes an increasingly influential part of the agricultural landscape, the head of the U.S. Agriculture Department said Wednesday.

During a speech in Washington, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said better technological advancements through products such as seed so far have been enough to maintain production levels despite more intense storms, forest fires and an increase in invasive species.

But Vilsack, who served two terms as Iowa’s governor, called the threat of a changing climate “much different than anything we’ve ever tackled” and warned that without more drastic changes the accelerating pace and intensity of global warming during the next few decades may soon begin to significantly affect agriculture.

“If we do not adapt and mitigate climate impacts, it could have an impact on yields, it could have an impact on where we grow, what we grow in the future,” Vilsack told reporters after a speech on the effects of climate change on agriculture. “This is not something that is a next week issue or a next year issue, but this is something that over the next several decades we’re going to continue to confront.”

Second letter today. June 7:

Climate-change deniers don’t have many options left. As the consequences of a runaway greenhouse effect become ever more evident, the old cliches are sounding increasingly tired. The science “isn’t settled”? Actually, the science of climate change is about as conclusive as it gets.

It’s a “liberal hoax”? Tell that to the millions of people whose lives have been disrupted by droughts, extreme weather, invasive species, and rising sea levels.

It’s “too expensive” to deal with it? Of all the absurd responses, this one surely takes the cake. Preparing our infrastructure now so that we’ll be able to cope with the ongoing climate crisis in coming decades is obviously more cost-effective than waiting for catastrophic events and then mounting a response.

Agricultural productivity is going to take a huge hit in the next few years, as our carbon dioxide chickens come home to roost. Our survival as a nation hinges on our ability to take this clear and present danger with the seriousness it demands.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 6, Day 22: I Was The Kid With The Drum

More on Pakistan, this time from the Tribune (PK):

FAISALABAD: Climate change has raised serious concerns for the developing world posing severe social, environmental and economic challenges. Pakistan’s status as an agro-based economy made it extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change, said speakers at the concluding session of the three-day Agricultural Model Inter-comparison and Improvement Project-Pakistan (AgMIP-Pakistan).

The AgMIP-Pakistan kickoff workshop and international seminar on climate change was jointly organised by the University of Faisalabad’s Department of Agronomy at the New Senate Hall on Thursday.

Speaking at the occasion, UAF Vice Chancellor Professor Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan said that the impact of climate change had received high contemplations in Pakistan as it was closely linked to food security policy and poverty for the vast majority of Pakistan’s population.

In the 1960s, the green revolution changed the face of the global agri-sector due to research in new varieties and fertilisation. In the 1970s, cotton heat stress varieties brought new heights in productivity, whereas 1980s was remembered as poultry revolution and the 1990s, subsequently, for hybrid varieties of corn. The global agricultural landscape had witnessed revolutions when faced with tough challenges in every decade.

Khan hoped that climate change in the 21st century will ultimately pave way to explore highest productivity potential for feeding the rapidly growing population.

I’ve never been published in Pakistan. That’d be interesting. June 7:

By an ironic confluence of economics and geography, many of the countries most responsible for accelerating climate change will be among the last to feel the full destructive power of a runaway greenhouse effect — while nations like Pakistan even now find themselves on the front lines.

Severe droughts, unpredictable monsoons, and unseasonal weather phenomena combine to endanger agricultural productivity, which in turn is almost inevitably a trigger for humanitarian and political crises. If humanity is to survive and prosper in the coming centuries, the world’s major polluters must rein in their profligate carbon emissions and begin addressing the problems of global heating by taking responsibility for their role in the crisis — and the states currently bearing the brunt must prepare for the disasters looming in the not-so-distant future. Planetary climate change is bad enough by itself without adding devastating resource wars to the picture.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 6, Day 21: Now Let’s Not Always See The Same Hands….

Dawn, a leading Pakistani newspaper, discusses the climate problem from a Pakistani perspective:

Pakistan is no stranger to being plagued by multiple crises. News headlines are usually dominated by issues like terrorism, extremism and power shortage but an even more alarming danger could affect the future of Pakistan if it is not tackled on a priority basis.

The dangerous threat we all know as climate change has been virtually left off the radar by our less than visionary leaders when it comes to issues of national priority.

Environmental degradation costs Rs 365 billion annually to Pakistan and unsafe water and sanitation costs Rs 112 alone in terms of financial damage.

A comprehensive report was first highlighted in December 2012 which shows alarming trends of climate change in Pakistan.

The report entitled ‘Climate Change in Pakistan – focused on Sindh Province’ forecast low agricultural productivity from lack of water for irrigation and erratic rainfall. Conditions in the fertile Indus delta, already facing saline water intrusion and coastal erosion, are expected to deteriorate further.

Data gathered from 56 meteorological stations show heat waves increasing from 1980 to 2009, a period marked by glacier retreats, steadily rising average temperature in the Indus delta and changes in temperature pattern in summer and winter.

Ghulam Rasul, chief meteorologist at the Pakistan Meteorological Department and the main author of the report, told that although Pakistan’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is low, it is among countries highly vulnerable to climate change.

Yes indeedy. June 6:

As global heating accelerates, Pakistan and neighboring nations will face enormous challenges in the coming decades. It is a cruel irony that those of the world’s countries which have contributed the least to planetary greenhouse emissions are the ones facing the most immediate damage from their effects, while the major sources of carbon pollution are relatively protected by lucky accidents of geography from the consequences of their actions.

Analysts predict that as water shortages intensify and agriculture becomes less predictable and productive, climate change’s strategic impact will include bitter resource wars, a catastrophic development. While morality demands that industrialized nations take immediate steps to reduce atmospheric carbon output, it’s equally imperative that the countries currently suffering the most from this human-caused destabilization strengthen their infrastructure to prepare for times of shortage and privation, while reinforcing diplomatic and cultural systems to ensure that the likely humanitarian crises can be peacefully resolved.

Warren Senders