Year 3, Month 6, Day 28: Greedy Old Plutocrats

The Tulsa World’s Associate Editor, Mike Jones, is a tad shrill, in an article titled, “Can’t We Agree To Do Something About Climate Change?”:

In Virginia, it can’t even be referred to as “climate change.” It is now “recurrent flooding.” That is the term the Virginia Legislature came upon in order to agree to even discuss the problems plaguing that state.

In the last 100 years, the Virginia coast has seen a 14-inch rise in sea level. That, combined with some wicked rain, has caused the flooding. Whether the Virginians eventually settle their squabble and attempt to solve their problems remains to be seen. It does, however, illustrate the problem the entire country has when it comes to “global warming,” “climate change” or “recurrent flooding.” We can’t even decide what we want to call it.

There are two very stubborn sides in this debate. There is the great majority of scientists, including those with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who believe that the Earth is changing, getting warmer, and believe that humans have something to do with it.

While the phrase “climate change” is very much present in the article, the word “Republican” is not. Funny how that should happen, no? Sent June 17:

Many of the obstacles to “doing something about climate change” are beyond our control: we cannot alter the amount of CO2 already in the atmosphere, the amount of heat our oceans have absorbed, or the laws of physics and chemistry. Other aspects of the problem are solvable — in theory.

In theory, the people who’ve promulgated conspiracies about SUV-confiscating environmentalists could wake up one morning and realize they’ve been duped. In theory, conservative politicians who’ve embraced climate-change denial could recognize that their human (as opposed to corporate) constituents are suffering — and decide to do something about it.

But as Yogi Berra famously said, “In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they’re not.” As long as half of America’s political system is controlled by authoritarians who cannot admit error, the reason for our inability to act on climate change can be summed up in three letters: G.O.P.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 10, Day 26: Your Lips Are Moving, But I Can’t Hear A Word You’re Saying.

Time Magazine offers Dominique Browning a chance to explain why people don’t talk too much about climate — and while her piece is reasonable enough, it largely ignores the elephant in the room:

There’s been much hand-wringing — but perhaps not enough soul-searching — among environmentalists about how climate change got to be the political third rail. The New York Times ran a lengthy piece asking “Where Did Global Warming Go?” which raised more questions than it answered.

Here is some more explicit finger-pointing, along with a few proposals. I speak as an informed, and deeply concerned, citizen; as a grumpy environmentalist fatoosted by my tribe; and as a person who has had a lifelong career in “communications.” But mainly, I’m up at night worrying about global warming because I’m a mom who hopes someday to have grandchildren. And I don’t like the terrifying mess my kids will face. (By the way, “climate change” is yesterday’s weak phrase; it doesn’t begin to convey the intensity of trouble that is now upon us. I’m going with “climate chaos.”)


We know exactly why climate chaos has fallen off the national agenda. We’ve let it happen. And by “we” I mean everyone from environmentalists to doctors to scientists to teachers to politicians, to parents. There’s no one else to blame. We care about this issue. But we’ll be more ardent, and more focused, when the message is more urgent: we should fight global warming because our lives depend on it.

It’s a good piece, but…

Sent October 22:

Dominique Browning barely touches on the pivotal role of the corporatized news system in her attribution of causes for the decline in robust discussion of climate change in the United States. The deregulation begun under Ronald Reagan has put our media increasingly under corporate control, and the national interest has suffered dramatically thereby. Nowhere is this more telling than in the media’s handling of climate change, where false equivalency — the “balancing” of each scientifically-informed voice with a petroleum-funded one — has helped convince the public that the debate is “still open.”

With each new study (even ones funded by conservative climate denialists) confirming the planetary scientific consensus, any debate we should be having about climate change is no longer whether it’s real and dangerous, but what to do about this increasingly immediate threat. And any action on climate that ignores media reform condemns itself to ineffectuality.

Warren Senders

Aaaaaaand…………….they published it!

Year 2, Month 9, Day 22: He Told You So

The Whittier Daily News reports approvingly on Al Gore’s 24-hour climate reality marathon:

NO one packs more information into a slide show than Al Gore, who won an Oscar for his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2006.

Gore, the leading voice on global climate change, was back at it last week with his 24-hour streaming video show “Climate Reality Project” ( broadcast from 24 different locations in 13 languages Sept. 14 to Sept. 15.

While one right-wing blogger called it “death by PowerPoint,” I found it informative and worth a watch. If you missed it, you can catch re-runs on his website and on his Current TV channel. Not one fact will move you to act, but perhaps the avalanche of facts, quotes and paraphrases from just the “24th hour” presentation given by Gore himself from New York, will.

The link has an excellent set of bullet points that you would do well to copy and use over and over.

Sent September 18:

The corporate forces aligned to muffle Al Gore’s message are enormous. Through the misleading practice of false equivalency, in which two opposing sides are equated under the guise of journalism, many in our news and opinion media have abdicated their responsibility to the truth.

When the American public sees a one-to-one ratio of worried climate scientists and petro-funded denialists, it’s no wonder that there’s still “debate” on the veracity of climate change. But the correct proportion isn’t one-to-one; it’s more like ninety-seven to one. If ninety-seven heart specialists told you to quit smoking, and three said they wanted more tests…what would you do?

While some candidates explicitly reject science (or pretend to in order to curry the favor of primary voters), climate change’s terrifying consequences should remove this issue from the political arena. The vast majority of climatologists are telling us something important. Will we wake up and pay attention?

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 9, Day 11: I Didn’t Feel Like Writing Today, But I Did Anyway. So?

The Evansville IN Courier-Press runs a carefully neutral assessment of the state of scientific opinion on climate change and extreme weather:

The destruction wrought by Hurricane Irene has sparked another round of debate over global climate change, with believers advocating urgent action to address what they fear is a looming environmental catastrophe and doubters characterizing the issue as a hoax created to promote a political agenda.

And it is emerging as a major political issue, with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, leading in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, counting himself among those who doubt that burning fossil fuels has an impact on the earth’s climate.

“I don’t think from my perspective that I want to be engaged in spending that much money on still a scientific theory that has not been proven and from my perspective is more and more being put into question,” Perry said during a stop in New Hampshire, home to the first-in-the-nation primary.

While a vast majority of climate scientists readily acknowledge that man is contributing to what they perceive as a problem by producing greenhouse gases, few at this stage are willing to declare that global climate change is leading to an increased frequency in hurricanes like Irene, although they don’t dismiss the possibility.

The comments include a great deal of idiocy. Sigh. This letter was written with multiple delays and a great drooping lack of motivation. But By Grabthar’s Hammer, I wrote it and sent it on September 8, whether I’m proud of it or not. Here you go:

America has a science problem. The overall level of scientific literacy in our country is shockingly low, a state of affairs that bodes ill not only for our country’s future, but that of the world as a whole. Nowhere is this more problematic than in reporting on climate change, a profoundly important issue for our species’ future. When scientists discuss the relationship between large-scale phenomena (like the greenhouse effect) and local events (a particular storm or some other form of extreme weather), they’ll use careful language that describes the relationship precisely, minimizing its emotional impact. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of climatologists are absolutely convinced that anthropogenic climate change will bring a drastic worldwide increase in extreme weather events — and that only rapid action can avert catastrophe. When news media give equal weight to the opinions of a few contrarians, it is both scientifically ignorant and deeply irresponsible.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 8, Day 19: We’re Still Learning More About Gravity!

The August 2 edition of the Deseret News (UT) contains more false equivalency bullshit:

In the face of repeated assertions that the science on global warming is “settled,” ongoing studies and developments in the area leave some insisting that claim remains true, while others say the science is anything but.

According to Gallup’s annual environmental poll, the percentage of Americans saying they worry a great deal or a fair amount about global warming has fallen from a high of 66 percent in 2008 to a stable 51 percent in 2011. Furthermore, 43 percent of Americans say the seriousness of global warming is exaggerated in the news.

A breakdown of global warming poll data shows that the issue remains mainly ideological, with 72 percent of Democrats saying they worry about global warming compared to 51 percent of Independents and 31 percent of Republicans.

As the global warming debate becomes more politicized in individual attitudes, state governments, Congress and even within the United Nations, the possibility of the science becoming truly “settled” appears unlikely.

In a study published July 25 in the science journal Remote Sensing, William Braswell and Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and a former senior scientist for climate studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, suggest the Earth’s atmosphere is more efficient at releasing energy into space than models used to forecast climate change have been programmed to “believe.”

As an atheist I strive to avoid theonormative expletives. So I have a limited rhetorical palette available for properly cursing these fuckers. Sent August 2:

It’s amazing how much faith Republican politicians and members of the media place in science. Just watch as they cite the Braswell/Spencer study as an invalidation of the work of hundreds of other researchers. Their readiness to trust a paper which has already been criticized as methodologically flawed is touching in its innocence. Of course this has nothing to do with the study’s usefulness to the anti-environmental agenda; such a suggestion is terribly cynical!


Scientific integrity demands that experimental results must be regarded skeptically; ideologically convenient findings should be even more subject to careful scrutiny. The scientific consensus on human causes of climate change is built on an enormous body of work that has withstood attempts at falsification. To say the “science isn’t settled” does not mean the basic principles are invalid, only that there are still gaps in our knowledge. The science of global warming is as settled as it needs to be, despite the wishful thinking of denialists in Congress and the media.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 4, Day 23: I Miss Abbie Hoffman.

The New York Observer notes that Bill Clinton and Michael Bloomberg are teaming up to “save the planet.” Bold environmental strategy, or timid capitulation to corporate predators? You decide.

As is often the case, it took me almost as long to find the LTE link as it did to write the letter in the first place. With the exception of the closing sentence this is a standard “false equivalency” screed.

Sent April 13:

Bill Clinton’s analysis of the media coverage of climate change is entirely correct. For decades, America’s news outlets have been the focus of non-stop intimidation from right-wing ideologues claiming “liberal bias” on any story reporting facts they find inconvenient or undesirable. Couple this with a relentless focus on celebrity gossip and a steady shortening of attention span, and you have the recipe for disaster: while the burgeoning climate crisis will affect every soul on this planet in unpredictable and drastic ways, our television, radio and print outlets persistently downplay the severity of the emergency. When scientific debate is a televised competition between talking heads, it’s the loudest sound bite that “wins.” Just when we most need wisdom and insight, our media serves us false equivalency and shouting matches. While the world gets hotter and hotter, they’re yelling “theater!” in a crowded fire.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 3, Day 5: We Don’t Need No Steenkin’ Evidence!

The Nashua Telegraph (New Hampshire) discusses the move in that state to stop participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. They’ve got climate zombies in the state house and misleading robo-calls from the Koch Brothers. What could possibly go wrong?

Americans for Prosperity, an conservative group with financial support from the oil industry, made automated robocalls over the long holiday weekend, attacking RGGI as guaranteeing further increases in electricity bills.

Studies had concluded that RGGI has added 6.5 cents per month to an average consumer’s bill.

Rep. Sandra Keans, D-Rochester, attacked AFP’s calls as “sleazy” and deliberately false.

“I have never seen such a cowardly perpetration pulled on the citizens of New Hampshire,” Keans said.

AFP Executive Director Corey Lewandowski defended the group’s lobbying against RGGI.

“Constituents should be able to call their elected officials to register a concern. Nobody forces people to run for office if they don’t want to hear from those who elected them,” Lewandowski said. “We’re delighted by the strong House vote for consumers.”

Rep. Beatriz Pastor, D-Lyme, said that even if there were questions about climate change science, it’s wise for the state to take preventive measures like RGGI.

“Noah got intelligence (that) a natural disaster was about to occur,” Pastor said of the Bibilical account. “He could have looked out the window and said ‘it doesn’t look like it is going to rain’.”

But Deputy Majority Leader Shawn Jasper of Hudson disagreed.
“Neither man nor cow is responsible for global warming,” he added.

Mr. Jasper seemed like an excellent hook upon which to hang a letter. Sent February 25:

Representative Shawn Jasper is an excellent example of an increasingly prevalent species of Homo Politicus: the “climate zombie,” a politician whose denial of the facts of global climate change is so ideologically rooted that no amount of factually-based argument will change his mind. Our nation used to regard scientists with respect; after all, they were responsible most of our major technological advances and noteworthy achievements (the Apollo program, anyone?). There should be nothing unusual about the idea that when you need expertise in a particular area, you ask experts and take their advice very seriously. But in the world of today’s Republican party, scientists are only to be listened to when their opinions are ideologically convenient. Representative Jasper’s pronouncement that “neither man nor cow is responsible for global warming” has no factual foundation, as author Kevin Landrigan could have ascertained with a few minutes’ worth of research. The fact that this “climate zombie” has been given an unrefuted last word in a supposedly objective article about the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is an unfortunate dereliction of journalistic responsibility.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 3, Day 1: We Need More Like This

The Aurora Sentinel (Aurora, CO) addresses the problem directly, in a very well-done and strongly-worded editorial.

How much more proof is needed to persuade skeptics that humans are warming the planet to dangerously high temperatures?

Scientists released not one, but two reports on Wednesday showing definitively that human-caused temperature hikes in Earth’s atmosphere are producing increasingly harsh, wet storms across the globe.

The studies should counter arguments by skeptics that climate change is a “victimless crime,” said Myles Allen of the University of Oxford, one of two authors of a study associating flooding and climate change in Britain. “Extreme weather is what actually hurts people.”

Can’t wait to see the comments in a couple of days…

Sent 2/21:

Your editorial hits the nail squarely on the head. The current inability of our major media outlets to address global warming without false equivalency would be hilarious if it were not tragic. By equating the expertise of thousands of climatologists with a few paid shills from the oil companies, the true nature of the climate crisis is disguised, and millions of people are lulled into a false sense of security. Add to that the constant stream of virulent anti-environment rhetoric from right-wing talk radio and you have a recipe for disaster — since we can’t deal with the problem without recognizing its existence. Not only is America the planet’s largest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases, its media pollute the public discourse with some of the most egregious and irresponsible mendacity the world has ever seen. And don’t even get me started on Republican politicians, who are appallingly ready to sacrifice the long-term future of their constituents on the altar of short-term political exigencies of the most cynical and willfully ignorant sort.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 2, Day 10: Just Stop It. Stop It. Right Now.

Under a snarky and dismissive headline (“Al Gore’s Snow Job”), Lorrie Goldstein of the Toronto Sun talks about Al Gore’s futile attempt to educate Bill “the tide goes in, the tide goes out” O’Reilly and his audience about how global warming is linked to all this f***ing snow. As snarky and dismissive pieces go, it’s not that bad, pointing out that all Gore’s claims are correct and all of O’Reilly’s statements are stupid…but it nevertheless treats the 2000 popular vote winner as a vaguely comic figure. Our media is so, so, so, so damned lazy.

Sent on February 3:

Lorrie Goldstein notes that Al Gore’s name now triggers reflexive skepticism among people who are anxious to dismiss the very real threat of global climate change as somehow chimerical. But her column inadequately addresses the reasons for this. The former vice-president and Nobel laureate has done his homework; his prescience on the issue of global warming is, or should be, a foregone conclusion by now. Instead, many media outlets dismiss his hard-won expertise, either through a simplistic Bill O’Reilly-style confusion of weather and climate, or through the marginally more sophisticated tactic of false equivalency, in which a statement by a genuinely worried climatologist (or a former VP) is “balanced” by pronunciamenti from petroleum industry mouthpieces. Yes, it’s true that the climate debate has become politically polarized — but environmentalists haven’t been doing the politicizing. That responsibility belongs to the Republican party and its sponsors, Big Oil and Big Coal.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 1, Day 29: Talk To The Scientists, Mike.

Randall Parkinson and Scott Mandia take on columnist Mike Thomas’s volleys of idiocy in the Orlando Sentinel. It is excellent to see actual scientists doing this work; Mandia and Parkinson are both smart and dedicated people.

I am informed that this letter has been published. Yay, me.

As Parkinson and Mandia point out, our media’s relentless preoccupation with short-term phenomena has made it all but impossible for the general public to become well informed about the slow-motion disaster of climate change. When broadcasters and columnists offer an anomalous snowfall as “proof” that global warming isn’t happening, they are contributing to a climate of ignorance and irresponsibility. When that same media plays the game of false equivalency, where each genuinely worried climate scientist is “balanced” by at least two spokespeople from petroleum-funded conservative think tanks, they are acting recklessly and endangering all of us. What we need is education; a population that understands a few basic principles of science won’t be so easily misled. What we get, of course, is something different and much more damaging. As our warming world makes climate change’s effects ever harder to ignore, will our media begin trying to keep pace with reality?

Warren Senders