Year 4, Month 4, Day 28: Liars Figure

US News and World Report acknowledges that we’ve made some progress. But:

There’s a lot of angst or worry that we’re not doing anything,” says David Nelson, of the San Francisco-based Climate Policy Initiative and author of the report. “But quite clearly what we’re doing has managed to stop the growth of emissions in a number of sectors.”

Over the past seven years, carbon emissions have fallen by 13 percent in the United States.

Nelson says the gains haven’t been because of a concerted effort to fight climate change. The issue is still highly partisan—just 69 percent of Americans believe Earth is warming, according to a recent PEW poll.

Instead, a series of policy reforms focused on improving the economy, creating jobs and making the country less dependent on foreign oil have led to less carbon emissions overall. Tax credits for alternative energy sources, local antipollution laws, federal automobile fuel efficiency standards and new, more efficient energy technologies have led to a net overall positive.

Statistical criticism? April 16:

To describe climate change as a “highly partisan” issue is true enough; there is no doubt that one significant ideological bloc in the United States is dead-set against acknowledging either the existence or the danger of anthropogenic global warming. But to bolster this assertion by commenting that a recent Pew poll shows that “just” 69 percent of Americans accepted global climate change is an utterly bizarre interpretation of the data. A president elected with that margin would have won in a landslide; if “just” 69 percent of Americans supported marriage equality it would rightly be called an overwhelming mandate.

Interestingly enough, a 2010 Dartmouth survey found that “just” 69 percent of Americans believed President Obama was born in Hawaii, while 31 percent was still demanding to see his “real” birth certificate. The real story is that a slowly-shrinking percentage of conservative zealots will believe anything that supports their preconceptions, evidence and rationality be damned.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 10, Day 6: What The Framp?

The Monterey County Weekly runs a devastating piece by Dan Linehan titled, “We are almost completely f%#&ed— Al Gore rallies citizen deputies to break through climate-change denial while there’s still (a little) hope.” Read the whole thing. Excerpt:

If Al Gore’s environmental truth was inconvenient before, now it’s outright uncomfortable.

Last year was the earth’s hottest on record. Ever. 

That triggered extremes: A drought-generated dust storm reached 50 miles wide and 6,000 feet tall, engulfing Phoenix, Ariz. Tropical Storm Irene hit Killington, Vt., which has a ski mountain tall enough to see Canada – and it’s not too often you see the words “tropical” and “Canada” in the same sentence. Typhoon Megi dumped 45 inches of rain on Taiwan in 48 hours, forcing more than 350,000 people to evacuate.

And this year has scorched 2011. Over a recent month-and-a-half stretch, the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 1,692 counties disaster areas due to drought, with about 80 percent of the country’s agricultural land affected. This comes after Russia stopped exporting food due to weather-related crop failures and resulting shortages. The worst drought in more than 100 years hit both North Korea and South Korea. On July 15, Kuwait hit an all-time high of 128.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

National Geographic reports that between 1998 and 2011, there have been 87 severe weather events in the U.S., and each caused at least $1 billion in damages, though they were comparatively modest economically compared to Hurricane Katrina, which topped out at $146 billion. The total disaster price tag nearly doubled the cost of the previous 16-year period. 

Severe weather events, like stronger hurricanes, harsher droughts, wilder floods and fiercer firestorms, are happening with greater frequency. Scientists have been warning us that this – the wallop of planet warming hitting harder and more frequently – was coming.

Good, if agonizing, stuff. Sent September 29:

There is no “solution” to global climate change, because the metastasizing greenhouse effect and its epiphenomena are not one, but a multitude of problems. What we face is a richly complex set of puzzles: how to survive in a rapidly transforming environment, how to slow (and perhaps reverse) that transformation, and how to recognize the processes that have brought us to this point in our civilization’s history.

The key, as always, is education. We as individuals and as a society must understand the factors contributing to climate change: the physics of the greenhouse effect, the chemistry of methane and carbon dioxide, the immediate and long-term costs of fossil fuels, the inherent contradictions of an economy built on a model of continuous growth, and the relentless pressure of an increasing human population.

And, while learning, we must act — as individuals, as families, as communities, as states, as nations, and as a species under threat. Oherwise, the climate crisis will offer only a “final solution.”

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 9, Day 15: Take That! And That! And That!

The Lawrence Journal-World (KS) discusses the role of science in campaigning and governance:

This fall, President Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney will have a series of debates covering domestic and foreign affairs. The first debate should be about Science, with a capital S. Why? Because Science affects every aspect of society, underpinning smart policy governing energy, food production, human health, national security, economic growth, environmental fitness, natural resources and the quality of life.

How well versed or advised are our candidates in the science of climate? Water? Biofuels? Biomedicine? Is the science they cite credible or quack? Face it: Political expediency never lets the scientific facts get in the way, opting for soothing delusions over tough, responsible policy implications.

Let’s begin with two questions.

Climate Change. As The Economist magazine declared recently, we have entered the Anthropocene Era, in which humans are the greatest agents of change on a planetary scale. Global warming, much of it human-induced, is playing with the life-support systems of the planet. If unchecked, potentially we face: devastation of our oceans, protein resources, fresh water and agro-production; virulent diseases run amok; disruption of ecosystems that clean our air, water and soil; extinction of half or more of Earth’s plants and animals; and sea-level rise and inundation of coastal cities. Yet, during the Republican primaries, all but one of the candidates proudly ridiculed climate change and the science behind it.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Sent September 8:

Even taking into account their long history of scorn for expertise, the Republican party’s eagerness to deny the essentiality of science and mathematics in formulating public policy is a spectacular celebration of ignorance. While their spokespersons proudly oppose “cultural relativism,” the GOP’s tenuous and tortured relationship with the verifiable reality of climate change suggests that they are the party of factual relativism, where ideologically inconvenient truths are twisted when they’re not ignored outright.

How else to describe it when, confronting rising sea levels, North Carolina legislators outlaw accurate measurement and analysis, Virginia lawmakers simply ban the phrase, and Mitt Romney, on stage in Tampa, turns it into a laugh line? While television news often distorts the facts to further a preconceived narrative, the real world is not so malleable. Any politician who treats the laws of chemistry and physics as annoyances to be mocked or dismissed is inherently unworthy of the public trust.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 7, Day 28: Smile When You Say That, Punk.

Buncha slackers:

Amid a summer of record-setting heat, most of Generation X ‘s young and middle-aged adults are uninformed and unconcerned about climate change, says a survey today.

Only about 5% of Gen Xers, now 32 to 52 years old, are “alarmed” and 18% “concerned” about climate change, reports the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. Two-thirds, or 66%, of those surveyed last year said they aren’t sure global warming is happening and 10% said they don’t believe it’s occurring.

“Most Generation Xers are surprisingly disengaged, dismissive or doubtful about whether global climate change is happening and they don’t spend much time worrying about it,” said author Jon D. Miller.

I’ve used the Arabic translation motif before. This one works pretty well, I think. Sent July 17:

It’d be easier if “climate change” had a scarier name. If we said it in Arabic, jingoistic politicians could warn their constituents that “Aletgheyrat Alemnakheyh” would devastate American agriculture and infrastructure. Flag-waving pundits on cable news could discuss the threat to our way of life, drumming up support for an all-out national effort against an unpronounceable enemy — an epic struggle to preserve our civilization. Young people would be patriotically inspired to enlist.

But as the NSF survey shows, America’s youth are understandably too preoccupied with shorter-term, more immediate issues — paying for their education, finding jobs — to consider the threats posed by climate change. And who can blame them? It is the job of a society’s elders to think in the long term, to avoid convenient falsehoods and easy generalizations. Our generation has evaded its responsibilities to the future; it is theirs that will pay the price.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 3, Day 28: La La La La La La La….

The Citizen (Tanzania) runs an article on the recent Gallup poll on the environment, which shows that most American’s just can’t be bothered to worry about global warming.

I’ve never written to Tanzania before:

Sent March 18:

The numbers given by Gallup’s annual polling on the environment are distressing but hardly surprising. Enabled by the country’s promiscuous consumption of fossil fuels, most Americans enjoy many of the privileges of wealth, including that of ignorance in the face of overwhelming evidence. Given enough money and comfort, it’s possible to remain oblivious to even the clearest danger or the most egregious injustice. With per-capita CO2 emissions at levels twenty-five times greater than (for example) Bangladesh, the United States is one of the world’s primary drivers of climate change — but with American media and politics increasingly beholden to petroleum interests, it’s unlikely that US citizens will receive the information they need about how their habits of consumption affect the rest of the planet. Ignorance is indeed a luxury; as global warming’s feedback loops quicken, Americans will discover that great wealth is no protection from the consequences of their wastefulness.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 2, Day 23: Teach Your Children Well…

The San Francisco Chronicle describes the work of the Alliance for Climate Education, as they do workshops and assemblies for high-school students. It’s all a part of welcoming them to the reality-based community, you know, which is why the Republicans are so agin it.

The 200 engrossed students at Oakland Unity High School kept their eyes glued to the projector screen and hardly uttered a sound during the 45-minute presentation – the most striking exception coming at the part of the special school assembly that featured cow farts.

It turns out bovine flatulence contributes to greenhouse gases. That was just one of several topics covered in the assembly, which was offered by the Alliance for Climate Education, an Oakland nonprofit that is trying to educate students about climate change one school at a time.

Since fall 2009, Alliance for Climate Education has visited 1,100 high schools in the United States, putting on assemblies for nearly 700,000 teens.

This was sent on Valentine’s Day, with Love to the Alliance For Climate Education!

Despite the frenzied conspiracy theorizing of denialists obsessing over an imaginary Socialist New World Order, climate change is a very real and significant danger — not just to Americans, but to all the world’s people. A secondary danger is that the anti-science veriphobes in the Republican party will succeed in convincing the American public that this threat (one perhaps greater than anything humans have yet faced) isn’t real. In 2004, an anonymous Bush administration official told Ron Suskind that “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.” By opposing any meaningful climate policy, the GOP is attempting to create its own reality — based not on verifiable facts, but on superstition, hubris and ignorance. Unfortunately for us all, even the most powerful empire cannot defeat the laws of physics. Which is why the work of the Alliance for Climate Education is so essential.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 1, Day 13: I’m Gonna Build A Big Fence Around Texas

The Dallas Morning News has a piece on Texas’ ongoing struggle to block the Environmental Protection Agency from doing its job.

In attempting to block the regulatory initiatives of the Environmental Protection Agency, Texas is leading the way. Perhaps the rest of America will eventually follow — but to where? On the one hand, the state’s attempt to limit the EPA’s authority will make it easier for major polluters to continue their ongoing destruction of the planetary environment; increasing greenhouse emissions will soon bring Earth to levels of CO2 last seen hundreds of millions of years ago. On the other hand, the level of scientific ignorance used to justify anti-EPA lawsuits demonstrates that in at least some quarters, prehistoric ways of thinking already dominate. Unable or unwilling to grasp the relevance and reality of climatological data, the conservative groups attempting to stop the EPA’s work are leading Texas backward — all the way to the Carboniferous Period.

Warren Senders