Year 4, Month 2, Day 9: The Paranoid Style

The Detroit News has a pair of columnists, Donald Scavia and Knute Nadelhoffer. They reiterate the danger we’re in:

In his inaugural address, President Barack Obama said, “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” It was gratifying to hear the president finally making climate change a priority. The evidence is overwhelming and the time to act has long been upon us.

Make no mistake: The fact that our climate is changing beyond the bounds of natural variation comes from many indisputable scientific sources, including advanced satellite sensing systems, the chemistry of Greenland and Antarctic ice cores, ancient tree rings, shrinking Arctic ice caps and literally millions of ground- and sea-based measurements. The recently released National Climate Assessment draft report and the peer-reviewed science upon which it is built confirm that our planet is warming, droughts and storms are more severe, air quality is worse and the negative effects of these changes are damaging our health and economy. If we continue the unabated release of climate-warming gases, temperatures will continue to climb and extreme weather events will increasingly disrupt our lives and livelihoods.

Historical global warming is incontrovertible and the rate of warming in the Midwest has, in fact, accelerated in recent decades. Between 1900 and 2010, the average Midwest air temperature increased by more than 1 degree Fahrenheit. But it increased twice as fast between 1950 and 2010 and three times as fast between 1980 and 2010. The length of time that ice covers our lakes is decreasing. Winter snow-cover seasons are shorter and interrupted by thaw events.

And predictably they get a storm of denialist conspiracy theorists in the comments. Sheesh. Sent Feb. 1:

The evidence of planetary climate change is not just supported by an overwhelming consensus of climate scientists, but is now visible to the eye, all over America and the world. But this won’t be enough to convince the denialist contingent that the greenhouse effect isn’t a liberal plot hatched in secret meetings between Al Gore, the United Nations, and a non-specified group of socialist scientists.

While these half-baked conspiracy theories laughably fail any sort of inspection, the lack of evidence feeds rather than starves the paranoid mindset. If temperatures are climbing, it’s because of collusion among scientists, or cosmic rays; if droughts are killing off our amber waves of grain, it’s because of sunspots, or environmentalists cutting the water lines — or something, anything, other than what it is — the consequences of drastically increased atmospheric CO2.

While there has long been a vibrant streak of anti-science faux populism at work in American conservatism, the accelerating climate crisis offers these willfully ignorant citizens and their representatives an unparalleled opportunity to damage our nation and our planet irreparably — simply by obstructing reality-based energy and environmental policies. History will not treat them kindly.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 3, Day 9: Today Is The First Day Of The Rest Of Our Lives

Oceanic acidification is the great unrecognized disaster awaiting us. The Albany Times-Union:

ALBANY — Greenhouse gases that drive man-made climate change are also dangerously changing ocean chemistry, likely faster than at any other time in the past 300 million years, according to research coordinated between New York state and the United Kingdom.

The change — known as ocean acidification — is associated with several massive extinctions of marine life in that period of Earth’s history, and now presents a growing threat, said study lead author Barbel Honisch, a paleoceanographer at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Located in Rockland County on the Hudson River, where the ocean tides stretch upriver to Troy, the observatory was joined by the University of Bristol in southern England in the report, which examined several hundred independent studies from around the world done over the last two decades.

I just felt in the mood for some mockery. Sent March 3:

Red alert! The global scientific conspiracy is not satisfied with contaminating the minds of our nation’s citizens with actual, you know, science-y stuff about the accelerating concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These nefarious empiricists have now infiltrated oceanography!

As part of their plan to bring about a New World Order, rogue researchers are now presenting genuine facts about the terrifying likelihood of catastrophic acidification in the world’s oceans. Have they no shame? Because of this unprecedented power play on the part of the corrupt scientific cabal, climate-change denialists will need to work even harder to keep their minds unsullied by any contact with actual evidence. Note: if you don’t see the sarcasm in these paragraphs, you’re probably part of the problem.

What will the doubters do when the evidence is finally too much to refute? How much more will it take for them to change their minds?

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 2, Day 13: Get A Brain! Morans!

Aw, jeez. These idiots again? Check it out. The NYT:

Across the country, activists with ties to the Tea Party are railing against all sorts of local and state efforts to control sprawl and conserve energy. They brand government action for things like expanding public transportation routes and preserving open space as part of a United Nations-led conspiracy to deny property rights and herd citizens toward cities.

They are showing up at planning meetings to denounce bike lanes on public streets and smart meters on home appliances — efforts they equate to a big-government blueprint against individual rights.

“Down the road, this data will be used against you,” warned one speaker at a recent Roanoke County, Va., Board of Supervisors meeting who turned out with dozens of people opposed to the county’s paying $1,200 in dues to a nonprofit that consults on sustainability issues.

Oy. What can you do with this kind of dreck? Sent February 7:

In the minds of Tea-Partiers, everything is evidence of a conspiracy. If enough people are riding bicycles that municipal governments incorporate bike lanes in street planning, that’s not simple good sense — it’s a conspiracy. If research suggests that informing people about their energy consumption decreases waste, that’s a conspiracy, too. If the accumulated evidence supporting the existence (and threat) of global climate change outweighs that compiled by deniers by a twenty-thousand-to-one ratio, that’s just proof that the scientists are in on it.

Richard Hofstadter’s analysis of the “paranoid style” in American politics — “…heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy” — has never seemed so accurate. Imagine the benefit to our country if these suspicious zealots could stop obsessing about a Socialist New World Order concealed in an innocuous UN memorandum about environmental responsibility, and instead turned their energy towards making a more cooperative, just, and sustainable society.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 2, Day 19: Bonnie Prince Charlie

The UK Sun runs a brief piece on Prince Charles, who’s come out swinging at the climate deniers:

PRINCE Charles blasted climate change sceptics yesterday, accusing them of playing “a reckless game of roulette” with the planet.

The campaigning royal added that doubters are having a “corrosive effect” on public opinion.

He asked: “How are these people going to face their grandchildren?”

Charles hit out at claims people fighting climate change “are secretly conspiring to undermine and deliberately destroy the entire market-based capitalist system”.

This letter was sent on February 10. I used the British spelling of “sceptic.” I may be delusional, but I always feel a greater freedom to use big words and fancy allusions when I’m writing to the British press. Even the Sun, which ain’t no Times of London.

Prince Charles’ comments on those who deny the threat of climate change are entirely apropos.   The petroleum-funded media and the politicians they enable (both in the UK and the USA) are playing a very dangerous game:  whether fomenting paranoid delusions that the world’s climatologists have formed a giant cabal secretly planning a New World Order,  attributing the dramatic uptick in extreme weather events across the globe to “sunspot activity,” or simply refusing to acknowledge the existence of a problem, these individuals and organizations are setting the future of their own descendants, and the rest of us, at risk.   One has only to examine their rhetoric to recognize that the term “sceptic” is a terrible misnomer; far from being empiricists committed to the use of reason, logic and evidence, they are so determined to make the world fit their increasingly twisted conspiracy theories that they’ve left Occam’s razor far, far behind.

Warren Senders