Year 3, Month 8, Day 14: The Horns Of A Dilemma

The Coshocton Tribune (Arkansas) runs a column by Gene Lyons, noting that while humans may still be pretty clueless, cows have it all figured out:

Of all the ways nature has to kill you, drought might be the cruelest. The desiccation proceeds day after punishing day. The afternoon sun pounds the earth like a brazen hammer. As I write, the temperature here in Perry County, Ark., has reached 108 degrees.

The countryside is dying. There’s nothing green in my pastures except inedible weeds. Even pigweed is drooping. Our pond dried up six weeks ago. The ground beneath is bare and cracked. Up on the ridge, some hardwoods are shedding leaves and going dormant; oaks are simply dying.

When I’d turned my cows into their new pasture last year, they kicked up their heels and frolicked like calves. So much fresh grass! Last week, they tore down a low-hanging limb from the persimmon tree they rest under most afternoons. They herded in and stripped the leathery leaves within an hour, the first green thing they’d eaten in weeks.

Lucky cows. Mine is basically a hobby farm, so I can afford to keep my small herd intact. Because spring came a month early, I had enough hay left over to see them through the summer. Neighbors who operate close to the margin have hauled thousands of cows to the sale barn — animals they’d planned on breeding. Pastures stand barren and empty throughout the region.

I don’t know about Buddha nature, but they’re smart enough to come in out of the drought. Sent August 3:

When the vast majority of people are totally disconnected from the food they eat, it’s unsurprising that many still can’t find a reason for concern about global climate change. After all, milk and corn both come from the supermarket, right? Eventually, of course, the reality will start hitting home; once our grocery bills go up to reflect the destructive droughts and heatwaves that have devastated American agriculture, we’ll have no choice but to acknowledge that the consequences of a century’s consumption of fossil fuels may well include an end to the abundance we have long taken for granted.

Or will we? We shouldn’t underestimate the strength of denial. The corporations whose profits hinge on our continued use of fossil fuels are working hard with a complaisant news media to ensure that Americans and their elected representatives never learn what a herd of cows already know: climate change is real.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 8, Day 13: Coming Up: More On That Runaway Squirrel Story!

The Santa Cruz Sentinel (CA) regrets that the public is so uninterested in the problem:

Maybe the lack of substance in the presidential campaign reflects a perception by President Barack Obama and Republican erstwhile nominee Mitt Romney that voters aren’t really that plugged in.

If so, that would explain why issues such as climate change seem lost in the ether as the candidates seem content to trade daily attacks.

An illustration: Despite years of gloomy prognostications by scientists and California’s efforts to get out in front on global warming, most people in this state know absolutely nothing about the controversial cap-and-trade program, which is due to be rolled out in November, the same month as the presidential election.

According to new polling by the Public Policy Institute of California, 57 percent of likely voters say they haven’t heard anything about the program, in which the state will be auctioning off emissions permits. Cap and trade is a central part of California’s AB32, signed into law by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006. AB32 sets limits on companies’ greenhouse gas emissions, while allowing non-polluters to sell permits to companies that exceed the new limits.

The state will get money from these auctions — with estimates as high as $1 billion annually. Gov. Jerry Brown is already eyeing this revenue to help pay for another controversial project — high speed rail, which might explain why two of three Californians say they have little or no confidence the state will spend the auction money wisely.

Yadda yadda yadda. Sent August 2:

Our species’ survival is absolutely the most important issue of the century — indeed, the most important issue in our entire history on the planet. Right? Right. When surveys show that citizens aren’t that worried about climate change, our media reliably poses the same old question: why not?

The answer is pretty simple: because that same media has for years been hewing to an irresponsible approach that “balances” every genuinely worried climatologist with a petroleum-funded denialist — thus presenting “both sides of the argument.” Our politicians take their cues from the media, so it’s hardly surprising that all but a few of our elected representatives won’t spend any more time on climate change than they have to.

If we want more people to be concerned about this very genuine and very terrifying threat, it is incumbent on our news media to inform them about it without equivocation or false equivalency.

Warren Senders


Year 3, Month 8, Day 9: Evolutionary Koch-Bottleneck Edition…

The New York Times prints Richard Muller’s acknowledgement that everybody else was right all along:

CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.

He’ll disappear down the memory hole. Or will he? Sent July 29:

Now that Richard Muller’s examination of the data has brought him into agreement with the majority opinion that climate change is of human origin, one wonders how the Koch brothers, who funded much of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project, will respond. While Dr. Muller is now nicely aligned with the climatological consensus of the 1990s, if the Kochs’ position simply joined the twentieth century, it would be a major advance.

Those notorious global warming denialists will probably shift their opinions from denialism to adaptationism, following the lead of Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, who recently acknowledged the reality of climate change while blithely asserting that humanity will “adapt,” an ominous euphemism for gigadeaths. While our species will surely change in response to climatic transformations, the question is whether these fossil fuel profiteers will help our civilization avoid catastrophe if it negatively impacts their quarterly returns. The available evidence isn’t encouraging.

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 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 13: Zippadee Doo Dah, Zippadee Day!

The New York Times fails at journamalism:

HILL CITY, Kan. — This town on the parched plains, best known for its bountiful pheasant hunting and museum of oil history, recently earned a new, if unwelcome, distinction — the center of America’s summer inferno.

For five days last week, a brutal heat wave here crested at 115 degrees. Crops wilted. Streets emptied. Farmers fainted in the fields. Air-conditioners gave up. Children even temporarily abandoned the municipal swimming pool. Hill City was, for a spell, in the ranks of the hottest spots in the country.

“Hell, it’s the hottest place on earth,” Allen Trexler, an 81-year-old farmer who introduced himself as Old Man Trexler. He spoke while standing in the shade of a tree on Saturday morning, the temperature already sneaking toward 100.

Gotta love Old Man Trexler. Sent July 2:

When Kansas is reeling from a blistering heat wave, it’s a human interest story, complete with a picturesque old gentleman standing in the shade of a tree. When several states are hammered with extreme high temperatures, it’s a genuine emergency.

And when the whole country is experiencing either higher temperatures or extreme weather (like the massive thunderstorms that left millions of people without electricity in Virginia and Washington, D.C.), and hundreds of nations all over the globe are going through the same kinds of troubles, what is it then?

It’s a symptom of global warming — confirming predictions made as far back as the 1970s that an accelerating greenhouse effect would lead both to higher temperatures and weirder, uglier weather.

And what’s a good way to describe a feature article on Kansas’ disastrous weather that never once mentions planetary climate change?

“Irresponsible journalism” springs to mind.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 7, Day 12: The Snooze Button Lasts For Twenty Thousand Years

The local “Metro-West” paper runs a piece by Rick Holmes, who’s clearly just another DFH:

Mountain pine beetles are tiny critters, the size of a grain of rice. They bore under the bark of Western pine trees, infecting them with a fatal fungus that turns their trunks blue, dries their needles to a rusty red, and then they fall.

Cold winters kill off the beetle larvae and keep populations in check, but over the last 20 years, cold winters have become fewer and farther between. The beetles have taken full advantage of changes in the climate. They are thriving at higher altitudes and have expanded their range. They now reproduce twice a year instead of once.

In the last few years, the beetles have ravaged Rocky Mountain forests from upper Canada to New Mexico. The blight has deadened 3.3 million acres of forest in Colorado alone.

A long-running drought has left those dead pines extra crispy, and Colorado has been seeing record heat. Denver hit 105 degrees this week, and Colorado Springs has had a string of 100 degree days.

Add a spark and what to you get? Colorado is in flames. The Waldo Canyon fire near Colorado Springs, having burned thousands of acres and destroyed hundreds of homes, is the most destructive fire in state history. It broke the record set the week before by the High Park fire outside Fort Collins.

It’s still early in the wildfire season, but everything seems to be coming early this year. Hurricane season is young, but we’re already up to E for named storms. It was a warm winter here in New England as well, and the flowers seem to be blooming about three weeks ahead of schedule.

Watch the mockery begin! Sent July 1:

For a long time, the word “alarmist” appeared regularly in the arsenal of right-wing pejoratives. Anyone pointing out some of the consequences of a runaway greenhouse effect would be labeled a “climate alarmist” and mocked for presumed fealty to Al Gore (or, in Rush Limbaugh’s vernacular, “algore”). Watch what happens to Rick Holmes, who has the temerity to continue talking about the slow-motion emergency that is global climate change.

Climate scientists are the diagnostic physicians of our planet, and their increasingly urgent emergency signals have been ignored for decades by politicians and the media. Fortunately, more Americans are gradually accepting reality (even Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, who acknowledged climate change recently while blithely asserting that humanity will “adapt” to its new environment).

As the world sets high-temperature records, as Colorado burns, and the seas rise far faster than experts had anticipated, “climate alarmism” is looking increasingly like simple common sense.

Warren Senders


Year 3, Month 3, Day 20: Dry Ice! We’ll Sprinkle Dry Ice All Around, And It’ll Freeze Everything Up Again!

The Boston Herald apparently had an empty spot on one of their pages, so they ran an article about climate change and ice melt:

LOS ANGELES — The Greenland ice sheet has a lower melting point than previously thought, with scientists saying not only that it could melt completely at a lower temperature than once believed, but also that the melting process could soon become irreversible.

“Once the process of melting the ice begins, it is very hard for it to change course even if we can lower temperatures in the future,” Alex Robertson, lead author of a new study, said in an interview by email with the Los Angeles Times on Monday.

“So even though melting the whole ice sheet could take a really long time, we will essentially decide the fate of Greenland within the next century.”

The study was published Sunday in Nature Climate Change.

How to criticize them without hurting their fee-fees? Sent March 14:

In a culture dominated by scandals du jour and the rapid-fire programming of a 24-hour news cycle, it’s no surprise that our nation seems to have a severe case of Attention Deficit Disorder.  When electoral politics is carried out in sound bites and bumper-sticker slogans, our civilization’s long-term future is invariably trivialized.

Nowhere is this more problematic than in the intersection of scientific research and public policy.  By its nature, science requires rigor, attentiveness, and patience — three qualities notably lacking in our political and media environments.  The most recent study on the likely fate of the Greenland ice sheet is the result of many years of concentrated study and inquiry — and its findings likewise require more than superficial attention.  Politicians and pundits, however, will do their best to ignore its implications for our nation and our planet; it’s far, far easier just to mock what you don’t understand.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 2, Day 23: Phlogiston!

The New Jersey Star-Ledger goes further on the Heartland papers:

The nation’s leading skeptics of climate change science were dealt a blow this week when hundreds of private internal documents — detailing donors, spending and the group’s anti-science strategy — were leaked to the public.

The documents betrayed the inner workings of the Heartland Institute, the most vocal of U.S. climate change “deniers” who, despite decades of scientific data proving that the Earth’s climate is warming, promote skepticism and doubt.

The leak is the smoking gun that climate scientists have been waiting for — and should be a warning to anyone who buys into the idea that “global warming is just a theory.”

You’re being played.

The Heartland Institute’s key strategy has been to create doubt in the American public by saying that climate change is a controversial, unproven theory.

Fuckers. Sent February 18:

“Teach the controversy” sounds like an excellent idea, doesn’t it? To understand scientific methodology, we should examine areas where scientists disagree; rigorously examining competing theories is surely the best way for students to learn how actual science works…the argument is an alluring one, and the climate-change denialists at the Heartland Institute are betting that America’s school systems will be seduced.

But sometimes there is no controversy to teach. Nobody’s pressuring schools to teach both geocentric and heliocentric cosmologies, and the medieval theory of “humours” has no place in medical training (for which we can all be grateful).

There is no scientific disagreement on the basic facts of planetary climate change: it’s happening, it’s a serious problem, and humans have a huge role in causing it. The Heartland Institute’s cynical strategy is to create an artificial controversy, thereby safeguarding the profit margins of their corporate sponsors for a few more years.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 1, Day 11: Sharks and Cockroaches, Sharks and Cockroaches, Sharks and Cockroaches.

Sigh. Another day, another mess o’ platitudes. Ted Kaufman (formerly D-DE) writes in the Louisiana Advertiser that:

We are beginning a new year, and the silence in Congress is still deafening. Will there ever be a debate about what should be done to deal with climate change?

Oh, you don’t “believe” in it? If you do not, please, suspend that belief system for just a few minutes and take a look at what the major scientific organizations in this country say.

» NASA. The startling timeline chart leads you directly into a summary of why the evidence for rapid climate change is compelling. There are extensive sections documenting sea level rise, global temperature rise, warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, declining arctic sea ice, glacial retreat, extreme events, and ocean acidification.


» Even the American Medical Association, says “scientific evidence shows that the world’s climate is changing and that the results have public health consequences.”

The debate we need now is not about whether climate change is a reality. I hope that, for the sake of our children and grandchildren, 2012 will be the year our leaders finally listen to the scientific community and begin to fashion solutions to protect our world.

All true, of course. But do you notice anything missing? I did.

Sent January 7:

While Ted Kaufman’s remarks on Congress’ failure to address climate change are accurate and timely, he fails to address one of the problem’s most significant components: the influence on American politics, governance, and media wielded by corporations whose short-term profits are threatened by any attempts to move our energy economy in the direction of long-term sustainability.

Even before the disastrous Citizens United decision awarding collective entities the free speech rights of individuals, multinational corporations’ power over what we as citizens can see, hear, and read has increased exponentially — thanks largely to the Reagan-era media deregulation. Combined with the grotesque power exercised by K-Street lobbyists, this has brought us government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations. In this light, the senator’s role in the financial sector bailout lends a certain irony to his remarks on Congressional dysfunction in the face of a genuine existential threat.

Warren Senders