Year 4, Month 9, Day 30: Break Your Heart and Leave You To Sing

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on an ichthyologist who’s noticing stuff:

On a dark night in the middle of a wide marsh near Tuckerton, N.J., a team of Rutgers University researchers lowered a net over the railing of an old wooden bridge. Then they turned off their flashlights and waited.

Below, in Little Sheepshead Creek, the incoming tide was washing hundreds of tiny fish larvae into the net.

By now – 24 years after these weekly surveys began – Rutgers ichthyologist Ken Able is seeing the unmistakable effects of warming oceans and climate change. Especially in the last decade, the researchers have been seeing more southern species, including the larvae of grouper, a fish common in Florida. At the same time, they’ve been capturing fewer northern species, such as winter flounder.

The changes Able is recording at Little Sheepshead Creek, near Great Bay, are reflected along the East Coast and worldwide. They have the potential not only to alter ecosystems, but also to change the seafood on our dinner plates. Out on Jersey’s beaches, where Atlantic croaker catches used to be a rarity – this was considered the northern end of the fish’s range – anglers now commonly reel them in.

Have a beer. September 22:

The dramatic relocation of fishes to more hospitable locales isn’t the only example of climate change’s effects on the interdependent systems of Earthly life. As the greenhouse effect intensifies, more and more plants and animals will be forced from endangered regional ecosystems into new territories, with unpredictable consequences not just for our meals, but for the other species they encounter. When human beings are forced from their homes by drought, extreme storms, or rising sea levels, we call them “climate refugees,” and the term is as accurate for Atlantic Croakers and other displaced fish as it is for members of our own species.

For fish to relocate to cooler water doesn’t sound like such a big deal — but it could easily be catastrophic for many other species struggling for survival in a complex, symbiotic oceanic environment. An unraveling web of life ultimately leaves us all uprooted and unsupported.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 9, Day 29: Daisy, Daisy, Give Me Your Answer, Do…

The same Cal Thomas column, this time in the Winona Daily News (MN):

Yet the climate change cultists continue to focus on melting polar ice caps and “displaced” polar bears as part of their emotional appeal for government to “fix” the problem. Now comes a report in the UK Daily Mail that “eminent scientists” have observed a record return of the Arctic ice cap as it grows by 60 percent in a year, covering with ice almost 1 million more square miles of ocean than in 2012.

Recycling yesterday’s letter, and making it better, too. September 21:

Ignorance may be bliss, but in today’s information-rich world, it’s no longer excusable, especially when the issue is as fraught with consequences as global climate change. As a representative of the professionally ignorant whose work demands that they remain uninformed, Cal Thomas is an exemplar of intellectual and ethical bankruptcy. His discussion of the increase in polar ice coverage since 2012 is a perfect example, for if Mr. Thomas really cared about it, he could have learned a great deal with a few minutes of research. Unfortunately for his readers, and for the broader national discussion of this important issue, he chose to remain ignorant.

When discussing how Arctic ice expands and contracts over time, there are two things to keep in mind. First, while the surface area with ice cover has indeed increased, it’s much, much thinner than ever before — not by any imaginings a good sign. And second, while year-to-year numbers may fluctuate, the trend over decades has been an accelerating decrease. If a terminal patient gains a couple of pounds, that’s a good day, not a remission.

Mr. Thomas’ simplistic misrepresentation of a planetary crisis does us all a disservice.

Warren Senders


Year 4, Month 9, Day 28: If You Lived Here, You’d Be An Idiot

Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas is a moron, and he does it for a living. Here’s his column printed in the Clarksville, TN Leaf-Chronicle:

Most bad weather – from hurricanes, which have been few this season, to tornadoes – are unwelcome by those in their paths, but these weather phenomena have existed for centuries. Both sides seem to agree that CO2 levels are elevated, but they don’t agree on whether that will cause dangerous climate change, including rising temperatures and turbulent weather. The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) argues, “The human effect is likely to be small relative to natural variability, and whatever small warming is likely to occur will produce benefits as well as costs.”

Yet the climate change cultists continue to focus on melting polar ice caps and “displaced” polar bears as part of their emotional appeal for government to “fix” the problem. Now comes a report in the UK Daily Mail that “eminent scientists” have observed a record return of the Arctic ice cap as it grows by 60 percent in a year, covering with ice almost 1 million more square miles of ocean than in 2012.

In 2007, the BBC reported that by 2013, global warming would leave the Arctic “ice free.” Oops!

Useless. The present-day commentariat is useless. September 20:

Ignorance is excusable, for it can always be corrected. But professional ignorance — deliberately choosing to stay uninformed for purely financial reasons — is both intellectually and morally beyond the pale. Cal Thomas’ attempt to discredit climate scientists by citing an increase in polar ice coverage over last year is a perfect example of the latter; if Mr. Thomas was really interested in understanding the mechanisms by which Arctic ice expands and contracts over time, he could have informed himself with a few minutes’ research — but he’s well-paid to remain ignorant, and we are all the losers thereby.

Two simple points need to be made about polar ice. First, while the surface area covered by ice has indeed grown since last year, the overall trend has been steadily downward. A cancer patient who’s losing weight may gain a few pounds occasionally on a good day, but that doesn’t mean the disease is cured. Second, that expanded surface area is much, much thinner than it’s ever been; like ice cream on a hot sidewalk, it spreads out over a wide area.

Mr. Thomas does his readers a disservice with a simplistic misrepresentation of a genuinely dangerous planetary reality.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 9, Day 27: As He Gives It To Her She Begins To Sing

Meet Rep. David McKinley, who made an idiot of himself at the recent hearing on climate change, as reported in the Charleston Gazette (WV):

McKinley cited data showing that there is now 60 percent more ice in the Arctic than there was at this time last year, when ice levels hit a record low.

However, levels of Arctic ice are still substantially below historical averages. As of this week, there were about 1.5 million square kilometers less Arctic ice than there has been, on average, for the past 30 years, according to data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, a research center at the University of Colorado.

McKinley and others pointed to a recent slowdown in temperature rises over the past several years as evidence that man-made greenhouse gas emissions might not be contributing to climate change.

Moniz pointed to a study in the journal “Nature,” published in August, showing the slowdown to be a product of short-term weather trends.

“Our results show that the current hiatus is part of natural climate variability, tied specifically to a La Niña-like decadal cooling,” that study concluded. “The multi-decadal warming trend is very likely to continue with greenhouse gas increase.”

No shortage of these asshats, unfortunately. Sept. 19:

In a single remark during the recent House hearing on climate change, Representative David McKinley demonstrated that (along with most of his GOP colleagues) he does not know the difference between short-term phenomena and long-term trends. McKinley’s claim of a sixty percent increase in Arctic ice coverage from last year is a grotesque misrepresentation of the data, which show that despite brief interludes of accumulation, the overall level of Arctic ice has been dwindling for at least a decade.

Let’s clarify with an analogy: if a stage four cancer sufferer steadily loses weight over many months, a few days of slight gain may be a brief and welcome respite from the terminal decline, but it doesn’t mean the disease has disappeared. A doctor who asserted otherwise would be guilty of medical malpractice, no matter how happy it makes the patient’s family. If his misunderstanding of Arctic ice decline is deliberate, Rep. McKinley’s intentionally misleading his colleagues and his constituents; if it arises from ignorance, he’s incompetent.

Climate science is absolutely unambiguous. Whether through stupidity or cupidity, politicians like David McKinley are endangering all of us by blocking responsible action to address the threat while there is still time.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 9, Day 26: Well, THAT’S A Surprise.

This comment from a UN honcho, via the AP via the Vincennes Sun-Commercial (IN):

LONDON — International leaders are failing in their fight against global warming, one of the United Nations’ top climate officials said Tuesday, appealing directly to the world’s voters to pressure their politicians into taking tougher action against the buildup of greenhouse gases.

Halldor Thorgeirsson told journalists gathered at London’s Imperial College that world leaders weren’t working hard enough to prevent potentially catastrophic climate change.

“We are failing as an international community,” he said. “We are not on track.”

Thorgeirsson, a senior director with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, was speaking with two years left to go before the world powers gather in Paris for another round of negotiations over the future of the world’s climate, which scientists warn will warm dramatically unless action is taken to cut down on the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

One of the main points of contention is how to divide the burden of emissions cuts between industrialized nations and emerging economies such as India and China, the world’s top carbon polluter. The lack of progress in recent years has fueled doubts over whether a binding deal is possible at all.

Thorgeirsson seemed to strike a pessimistic note Tuesday, talking down the idea that Paris — or any other conference — would produce a grand bargain that would ensure the reductions needed to prevent a dangerous warming of the Earth’s atmosphere. He even seemed to suggest that a global solution to the issue wasn’t likely until the effects of climate change came barreling down on peoples’ heads or flooding into their homes.

“I don’t think that an international treaty will ever be the primary driver for the difficult decisions to be made,” he warned. “It’s the problem itself that will be the primary driver — and the consequences of that problem.”

Sorry about that, kids. September 18:

The inability of the world’s people to respond adequately to the threat of climate change is undeniable. This collective apathy in the face of a planetary threat now threatens not only our civilization, but our very survival as a species. Why have we, and our leaders, failed to act? There are many factors in this potentially deadly equation.

Climate change’s consequences unfold over decades, which may be instantaneous from a geological perspective, but are far longer than politics’ two, four, and six year electoral cycles. Our representatives in the halls of Congress are unwilling to address long-term issues except in the vaguest possible terms. Furthermore, many are profoundly ignorant of scientific method, and mistrust any experts whose conclusions or analyses are ideologically inconvenient.

This political shortsightedness is exacerbated by corporate interests which fear for the safety of their profit margins. These multinational malefactors of great wealth have invested heavily in misinformation campaigns, obscuring the unambiguous science of climatology with mediagenic spurious false equivalency.

It is a “perfect storm” of ignorance and narrow self-interest. As they struggle to survive in a climatically-transformed world, our descendants will have justifiable contempt for the “deniers” and “delayers” in our government and media.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 9, Day 25: Then You Came And Caused A Spark

The Roanoke Times has a nice piece by Sarah Frost, debunking business-sector whining:

In her Aug. 11 commentary, “Climate-change zealotry will cost jobs,” Jane Van Ryan posits that by regulating carbon pollution, the Obama administration “could eliminate the ability of many American families to reach for the American dream.”

In fact, acting to slow and stop climate change will undoubtedly improve our health, safety, environment and economy. Failing to do so will leave future generations with diminished resources and opportunities.

The science on this issue is unambiguous: 97 percent of climate scientists agree that global warming is real and caused by human activity. We reached 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for the first time in human history this spring, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently confirmed that 2012 was the hottest year on record in the U.S.

The costs of inaction are already being felt around the commonwealth and beyond: nine out of 10 Virginians live in counties and independent cities affected by federally-declared weather-related disasters since 2007. Nationally, between 2011 and 2012, Superstorm Sandy and 24 other extreme weather events left $188 billion in damages and claimed more than 1,100 lives. Scientists agree that these types of events are likely to become more frequent and more severe in a warming world.

The United States’ largest source of carbon emissions is our power plants, though to date, there are no regulations on carbon emissions from power plants the way there are on arsenic, mercury, sulfur and soot. As part of his Climate Action Plan, President Obama has directed the Environmental Protection Agency, under the authority of the Clean Air Act, to issue limits on carbon pollution from new and existing power plants.

Americans submitted more than 3 million comments — including 130,000 from Virginia — in favor of this plan last year. And in a recent poll, nearly two-thirds of voters said they support “the President taking significant steps to address climate change now.”

The opponents of action ignore and deny the science that tells us it is time to act – and often times are quietly backed by corporate polluters.

When Van Ryan suggests that the president and his administration “place a higher value on big government and the environmental movement than on the financial well-being of the American people,” she is failing to recognize that the health benefits from the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 are estimated to exceed the costs of implementation by a factor of more than 30 to one.

Hit me baby, one more time. September 17:

It wasn’t that long ago that US auto manufacturers were up in arms about legislation requiring that all cars be equipped with seat belts. It would, apparently, cripple sales, alienate consumers, and deal a death blow to American manufacturing. And it wasn’t long after that that tobacco companies got into a swivet about mandatory warning labels, which apparently would wipe out all their profits forever. Last I looked, the roads were full of cars, and there’s no shortage of smokers either.

It’s the same now, as the notion of taxing carbon emissions begins to gain currency among citizens and politicians who can read the unambiguous warning signs of human-caused climate change. Once again, we get to hear wailing predictions of disaster if environmentally sensible approaches to climate change are enacted.

Those nay-sayers who claim that the economy will be damaged by environmental responsibility are perpetuating a mentality of victimization and entitlement in the business sector. America likes to call itself a “can-do” nation, but you would never know it from the whining of some of the world’s most profitable and productive industries.

Pathetic. Just pathetic.

Warren Senders


Year 4, Month 9, Day 24: Carry That Weight A Long Time

More on the acidifying oceans, this time from the San Francisco Chronicle:

The problem: When carbon dioxide mixes with water, it takes on a corrosive power that erodes some animals’ shells or skeletons. It also robs the water of ingredients animals use to grow shells in the first place.

New science shows ocean acidification also can bedevil fish and the animals that eat them, from sharks to whales and seabirds. Shifting sea chemistry can cripple the reefs where fish live, rewire fish brains and attack what fish eat.

Those changes pose risks for food supplies, from the fillets used in McDonald’s fish sandwiches to the crab legs sold at seafood markets. Both are brought to the world by a Northwest fishing industry that nets half the nation’s catch.

Sea-chemistry changes are coming as the oceans also warm, and that’s expected to frequently amplify the impacts.

This transformation — once not expected until the end of the century — will be well under way, particularly along the West Coast, before today’s preschoolers reach middle age.

“I used to think it was kind of hard to make things in the ocean go extinct,” said James Barry, of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California. “But this change we’re seeing is happening so fast it’s almost instantaneous. I think it might be so important that we see large levels, high rates of extinction.”

Still hammering away on Jacques Cousteau. One day, one day…September 16:

The crisis of oceanic acidification recalls memories of the late Jacques Cousteau, who introduced countless Americans to the extraordinary beauty and mindboggling complexity of the world’s oceans — and taught us, as well, that caring for them must be one of our generation’s responsibilities to posterity.

Katharina Fabricius’s report has me imagining that tough old Frenchman’s response to such an emergency. After a volley of unprintable Gallicisms, he’d tell the world’s industrialized nations — leaders and ordinary citizens alike — that the time is long past for us to shed our apathy and show genuine leadership on climate change and carbon emissions. He would once again remind us that “the water cycle and the life cycle are one” — a fact that’s easy to forget when we are distracted by petty politics and the scandals du jour of an industrialized civilization disconnected from the core truths of the natural world.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 9, Day 23: It’s Dark In Here

Richard Doak, in the Des Moines Register, speaks sooth:

To date, most foreign policy in regard to climate change has been aimed at achieving international agreements to curb the burning of fossil fuels, so the buildup of heat-trapping CO2 in the atmosphere can be slowed or reversed. That’s all well and good, but even if such agreements can be achieved and implemented, they would take decades to show results.

Meanwhile, the science suggests climate change is unstoppable. The globe will get warmer, ice will melt, seas will rise. There will be more extremes of weather, more disasters like Superstorm Sandy and more turmoil as in Syria.

That’s why climate-change treaties aren’t enough. The United States can’t just sit around and wait for the climate to return to normal. That might never happen.

America needs to be the world leader in making adaptations to climate change and helping others to adapt. Farmers in now-permanent drought regions need help to find new livelihoods. Coastal and riverside cities need help moving to high ground or building protections. Whole populations may need to be relocated. Buildings in storm-prone areas need to be tornado-proofed. Homes in wildfire regions need to be protected or moved. More innovation in drought-resistant and pest-resistant crops will be needed. Breakthroughs in water conservation and reuse will be essential.

In short, there’s a lot of work to be done. America has always been a can-do country. So let’s do it, both abroad and at home.

True enough. And the source of your problem? September 15:

Yes, America was once a “can-do” country, as Richard Doak reminds us. But when it comes to common-sense response to genuine threats like climate change, the new default setting for our political class is no longer so optimistic. It’s now too inconvenient to prepare for imminent disaster; better to reassure ourselves with platitudes and distract ourselves with irrelevancies.

This is the GOP’s new normal, and its implications for our nation and the world are appalling. For Republicans in our government, it’s not just that meaningful responses to the climate crisis are too much trouble, it’s that thinking about the problem is politically unacceptable. After Katrina, President Bush claimed that “no one anticipated” the failure of Louisiana’s levees. In other words, Republicans didn’t listen to the people who predicted correctly; anticipating the problem was too hard.

There’s a great deal we as a nation can do to address the threat of climate change before it becomes a catastrophic emergency. But it all comes down to the science-deniers in the halls of Congress. Can they recognize that anticipating problems and preparing for them is one of the principal responsibilities of government, and that pretending something doesn’t exist won’t make it go away?

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 9, Day 22: Why People Tear The Seam Of Anyone’s Dream Is Over My Head

Oceanic ecosystems are coming undone, notes the LA Times:

As climate change heats our oceans, you’d expect temperature-sensitive marine species to flee poleward to cooler waters. So why have some headed to warmer regions toward the equator?

Scientists have solved the puzzle. For the most part, these animals are relocating to cooler waters. But since the effects of climate change can vary widely across regions, sometimes those cooler regions are closer to the poles and sometimes they’re closer to the equator.

In other words, marine animals are still reacting to climate change, but at a local scale. And they’re doing it so reliably that you can actually measure the speed and direction of those changes by watching where animals go, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science.

Just another day in the Solar System. September 14:

As climate change’s effects grow more intense, we’ll see more plant and animal species on the move; the transformation of the world’s ocean populations is just one example of something that’s happening everywhere we look. But the heart of the story isn’t that creatures are traveling to more salubrious locales. The intricacy and variety of Earthly life is created by the interactions between life-forms; local and regional habitats have evolved over thousands of years to support symbiotic relationships in a richly interwoven tapestry.

A particular type of fish moving where the water is cooler doesn’t sound like that big a deal — but it could easily spell disaster for other species in an interdependent oceanic environment. When the web of life unravels in one location, it will have impacts everywhere. With billions depending on the seas for their sustenance, the news of ecosystem disruption is bad news for everyone.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 9, Day 21: I Always Recycle

The Seattle Times on oceanic acidification:

NORMANBY ISLAND, Papua New Guinea — Katharina Fabricius plunged from a dive boat into the Pacific Ocean of tomorrow.

She kicked through blue water until she spotted a ceramic tile attached to the bottom of a reef.

A year earlier, the Australian ecologist had placed this small square near a fissure in the sea floor where gas bubbles up from the earth. She hoped the next generation of baby corals would settle on it and take root.

Fabricius yanked a knife from her ankle holster, unscrewed the plate and pulled it close. Even underwater the problem was clear. Tiles from healthy reefs nearby were covered with budding coral colonies in starbursts of red, yellow, pink and blue. This plate was coated with a filthy film of algae and fringed with hairy sprigs of seaweed.

Instead of a brilliant new coral reef, what sprouted here resembled a slimy lake bottom.

Isolating the cause was easy. Only one thing separated this spot from the lush tropical reefs a few hundred yards away.

Carbon dioxide.

One of these days somebody’s going to publish one of my Jacques Cousteau letters. September 13:

Remembering my childhood in the turbulent 60s, I can single out two faces on television who were universally regarded as truth-tellers and moral authorities. Running a close second to Walter Cronkite was Jacques Cousteau, who introduced millions of people to the profound and protean beauty of the world’s oceans. How would that tough old Frenchman respond to the IPCC’s grim report on the threat of intensifying oceanic acidification?

I’m pretty sure that (after a few volleys of Gallic profanity) he’d get right to work speaking truth to the world’s developed nations, reminding them (as he long ago told us) that “the water cycle and the life cycle are one”, and that the time is long past for the industrialized world to demonstrate genuine civic responsibility in reducing their greenhouse emissions. Acidifying ocean waters could trigger a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe of planetary dimensions; we ignore this phenomenon at our peril.

Warren Senders