Year 4, Month 11, Day 22: The Only Thing Gonna Make ’em Mad is I Got The Gang They Wish They Had

The New Zealand Herald News reports on doings in their parliament in response to Typhoon Haiyan:

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman has used a motion of support for the typhoon-ravaged Philippines to argue that climate change is responsible for the massive storm.

Prime Minister John Key proposed this afternoon that the House express its support and solidarity for the Philippines government and population in the aftermath of the devastating Typhoon Hiyain, which has claimed more than 10,000 lives.

In his speech, Dr Norman said that the best way to acknowledge the deaths in the region was to read a statement from one of the country’s officials, the head of the Philippines climate change delegation at United Nations talks in Poland.

The statement by delegate Yeb Sano, which was made this morning in Warsaw, said: “What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness, the climate crisis is madness.”

Dr Norman said science had shown that warmer global temperatures would generate more intense and more frequent tropical storms.

National MPs cried “shame” and claimed that the Greens co-leader was making a political speech.

I sure wish we had a viable green party here in the US. October 12:

Scientists will never attribute typhoon Haiyan unequivocally to climate change, because science doesn’t work that way. Climatologists have proven the causal connection between human CO2 emissions and the rapidly accelerating greenhouse effect to a very high degree of confidence (approximately the same level of certainty links smoking with lung cancer and emphysema), and they’ve demonstrated that this same greenhouse effect is essentially “loading the dice” for more, and more severe, storms. But they can’t unambiguously tell us that the devastation in the Philippines is the fault of global heating.

When the overwhelming majority of the world’s experts on climate tell us we need to drastically reduce our greenhouse emissions, using normal statistical uncertainty to justify inaction is as absurd as rejecting an oncologist’s advice in the wake of a diagnosed malignancy because she can’t tell us with absolute confidence that a particular tumor was triggered by a particular cigarette.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 11, Day 8: Their Walls Are Made Of Cannonballs

Terence Duvall and Molly Gilligan write in the Poughkeepsie Journal, bemoaning the “Climate-Change Disconnect.”

We are currently experiencing a slow-motion catastrophe. The dye is cast. We have emitted enough carbon into the atmosphere to guarantee climate change and rising sea levels. Some of our most precious real estate, our commercial capital and destination beaches, are doomed.

And yet, instead of proactively considering possible solutions, from abstaining from new building on fragile coastlines to moving inland, the response of many is to deny that they are or will ever experience the effects of climate change in the city they call home. This is despite the fact that we are already beginning to see the effects of climate change in many coastal cities within the United States and worldwide. Why then, is there still such disconnect between science and societal beliefs? How can this gap be closed?

If I still have hope, it’s because I fight — not the other way around. October 29:

There are several forces behind our national indifference to the ongoing crisis of climate change. First the cognitive reality that we clever apes are generally poor at long-term thinking; most of us are to preoccupied with the daily and weekly concerns of our lives to give much thought to a looming catastrophe just over the horizon, and we can spare no time to imagining the lives of future generations in a world turned hot and hostile.

Second is the scientific reality that most of the factors and phenomena of climate change cannot be linked by simple causal connections; even though our greenhouse emissions have “loaded the dice” for increasingly extreme weather, no responsible scientist will specifically attribute any single extreme weather event to climate change — because scientific methodology simply doesn’t work that way.

Finally, of course, is the media reality: when oil and coal companies spend millions of dollars to influence the public discussion of climate change, they’re investing a miniscule amount compared to the profits they reap from selling fossil fuels to a captive economy. When it comes to the climate catastrophe, Bob Dylan had it right. Money doesn’t talk; it swears.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 9, Day 18: That Thesis Has Been Proven Invalid

The Press-Enterprise (CA) editorializes mendaciously:

Taking the temperature of climate scientists provides no useful information about the Earth’s climate. Yet the claim that “97 percent of scientists agree!” has become the anti-carbon-dioxide crowd’s No. 1 argument for why climate action can wait no longer. Those who set policy would do better to follow the facts than succumb to red herrings and peer pressure.

Environmental Research Letters, an electronic journal of environmental science, in May published a paper by two climate bloggers. The paper, by, Dana Nuccitelli and John Cook, purported to “quantify the consensus” on climate change in scientific literature. They reviewed 12,000 published papers and concluded that 97 percent of the abstracts that took a position “endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.”

But the “consensus view” into which the survey pigeonholes papers is extremely broad. And given the buzz the paper has generated, the climate czars in Washington should have had a few follow-up questions: “What does this tell us about the role of humans versus natural variability?” “How severe is the phenomenon you identify and what do you recommend that we do about it?” “What data lead you to that conclusion?” And maybe even, “Who are you guys?”

But no. President Obama — or those who fill his Twitter feed — immediately took up the cause, not only accepting the findings uncritically but exaggerating them: “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.”

It makes me sooooo tired. September 11:

The editorial purporting to demonstrate methodological flaws in a recent study of the consensus among climate scientists is, ironically, far more factually-challenged than the research it tries to criticize. To begin with, the study wasn’t produced by a pair of “bloggers”, but by nine separate authors, all practicing professional scientists. Furthermore, this particular paper was deliberately confined to examining a significant discrepancy between popular perception and scientific opinion on climate change; it is inherent in the nature of such research to tackle one problem at a time.

More significantly, while there are many aspects of climate change which remain still uncertain, human causation isn’t one of them.

In politics and media, pre-existing political orientations often influence “factuality,” as was tragically demonstrated by the buildup to the Iraq war. But science doesn’t work that way: scientific method requires stringent self-correction as a way of getting at the truth. When climatologists all over the planet agree that humans are causing the greenhouse effect, this consensus arises from decades of steady examination and analysis of multiple types of evidence. Widespread agreement doesn’t prove that global warming is anthropogenic; rather, the evidence has created the agreement.

Your column was ill-conceived, irresponsible and without foundation.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 6, Day 6: Du da du du, du du du-du du-du…

The San Luis-Obispo Tribune notes Jerry Brown’s principled advocacy with an unfortunate term:

Gov. Brown continues climate change crusade

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Gov. Jerry Brown is set to continue his climate change charge, joining scientists releasing a 20-page call to action on environmental problems including pollution, extinctions and population growth.

Brown plans to address Silicon Valley leaders, as well as climate scientists from University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University and NASA, on Thursday morning at a conference at NASA Ames Research Center.

The governor has repeatedly called for changes in public policy to better address the impacts of the changing climate on the world’s economy and environment.

Berkeley professor Anthony Barnosky, a featured speaker, says the earth is now at a tipping point, and what decisions makers do now “will determine whether or not human quality of life declines over the next few decades.”

Sheesh. May 23:

Unlike the theologically-driven military adventures of the Middle Ages, Jerry Brown’s “crusade” against climate change is based on facts and evidence. The scientific consensus on the human causes of global heating and the dangers it poses is overwhelming. Another difference from the medieval attitude that motivated hundreds of years of pointless violence is that scientific method actively seeks disproof — which means that even in an “overwhelming consensus” there is always room for doubt.

But this fact, which is a feature of science’s epistemology, should not be used as an excuse for inaction. Climatologists are the closest we’ve got to “planetary physicians,” and their advice to us right now is less scientific than practical: don’t wait for the chimera of absolute proof before taking action to fight the accelerating greenhouse effect. When 97 out of 100 oncologists diagnose malignancy, you don’t need the remaining three to agree before starting therapy.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 5, Day 29: Happy Birthday

The Southwest is in for a rough summer. The Albuquerque Journal (NM):

With the preliminary April 1 runoff forecast numbers in hand, this is “the worst year ever” on the Rio Grande, according to Phil King, New Mexico State University professor and the water management adviser to the Elephant Butte Irrigation District. “Ever” in this case translates to a century of water management on the river system through modern New Mexico.

The most likely forecast calls for just 14 percent of the long term average for spring runoff into Elephant Butte Reservoir, according to federal forecasters. That’s not a surprise – King and others were watching the March weather and knew the numbers would be bad. But still… “It hurts to get slugged in the stomach,” King told me this afternoon, “even if you were expecting it.”

EBID will begin releasing what limited water it has to lower Rio Grande farmers beginning in early June, and hope for a big monsoon, King said.

Upstream, farmers in the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District are seeing water already in their ditches, but it’s not clear how long that will last, according to David Gensler, the agency’s water manager. The District will run out of stored water in upstream dams sometime in late June, according to Gensler, after which farmers will depend on whatever meager supply comes from natural river flow.

“This is going to be one of, if not the worst years in memory,” Gensler said.

Synchronicity, I call it. May 17:

While climatology cannot state definitively that this summer’s projected extreme drought is a direct consequence of climate change, observations and analysis do allow us to understand that the burgeoning greenhouse effect is having an alarming impact. For exmple, atmospheric circulation in the northern hemisphere was distorted for several months following the breakdown of the polar vortex, and extreme high pressure above the Labrador sea pushed the normal storm track south of its usual Atlantic position. All of these changes happening across the globe will hardly leave the Southwest untouched, and in fact it looks like a third straight year of tinderbox conditions lies ahead for New Mexico.

Sure, it might be just a “coincidence” that climatologists have predicted just the sort of harsher droughts and extreme weather that are now making headlines. But if so, it’s a coincidence that’s happening all over the world, with steadily increasing frequency and intensity.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 5, Day 14: An Inconvenient Tooth

The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot (VA) reports on what a bunch of shrill tree-hugging hippies had to say:

A panel of speakers laid out a grim scenario for Hampton Roads’ future Monday night, predicting devastating effects if the region fails to adapt to escalating climate change.

It is a scenario that is particularly troubling to the Navy because of its enormous footprint in the area, said Rear Adm. Philip Hart Cullom, deputy chief of naval operations for fleet readiness and logistics.

Cullom was one of five speakers at a town hall meeting at Nauticus organized by Operation Free, a national coalition of veterans and security experts that portrays climate change as a threat to national security.

“We have to figure out how we’re going to adapt,” Cullom said. “There are good futures. There are bad futures. It depends on what path we choose.”

Hampton Roads is threatened by rising sea level, increased flooding and more frequent natural disasters, said Joe Bouchard, a retired Navy captain and a former commanding officer of Norfolk Naval Station.

Taking another opportunity to mock Teapublicans. May 2:

If Virginia wants to prepare for the rising seas and increasingly severe weather that is certain to accompany Earth’s climbing atmospheric temperatures, the state’s politicians must recognize that they cannot legislate climate change out of existence. All over America, Republican lawmakers have declared open hostility to scientific method, in which hypotheses are tested, experiments analyzed, and false results rejected. Instead, these legislators have chosen to exalt a kind of politicized wishful thinking, in which inconvenient facts are either erased from the record or not allowed in the first place. South Carolina’s recently enacted law requiring the use inaccurate projections of sea-level rise is one of many examples.

When it comes to climate, ideology trumps reality in the minds of conservative politicians. This is the worst sort of magical thinking, endangering the lives and livelihoods of millions of people through deliberate and cynical pandering to the forces of ignorance and denial.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 5, Day 9: Great Green Gobs…

The Lewiston Sun-Journal (ME) runs a good article from a trio of scientists, explaining all about fish kills:

Last summer, hundreds of economically valuable, fun-to-catch trout died at Lake Auburn. Some people blamed this event on “global warming,” but were they right to do so? It’s hard to say for sure, but the early ice-out and warm summer temperatures in 2012 did probably play a role, in combination with other, locally controlled factors.

To understand what happened to the fish, we need to know a bit about how lakes work.

During the summer, deep lakes stratify — divide horizontally — into a warm, well-lit upper layer and a cold, dark lower layer. Sunfish, like bass and bluegills, grow fastest at water temperatures around 80 degrees F, so they tend to live near the surface of the lake. However, lake trout and other salmonids live in the deeper layer, since they grow best at temperatures around 48 degrees F and cannot tolerate temperatures above 75-80 degrees F.

Last summer, a large bloom of phytoplankton — algae and cyanobacteria (sometimes called blue-green algae) — developed in Lake Auburn. Phytoplankton growth got an early start when the ice went out in late March 2012, which was the second-earliest ice-out ever recorded for the lake.

More science in the popular press! April 28:

Fish kills are one of many ways that climate change, usually thought of as a planet-wide problem, manifests itself locally. The consequences of our civilization’s century-long carbon fuel binge will differ radically, depending on the particular regional environment — and this variety of impact creates another problem. Our news media’s fixation on simplistic explanations of complex phenomena means that even though its epiphenomena (freak storms, torrential rainfalls, droughts, forest fires, fish kills) may lead the nightly newscasts, the climate crisis will not be televised.

Of course, it’s not just that our collective national ADD makes it impossible for us to understand the greenhouse effect, and for our pundits to explain it. Our broadcast and print outlets are also prone to the fallacy of false equivalence, in which a scientist’s measured statement about global warming is “balanced” by the dismissive rhetoric of a petroleum-industry shill. Climate change’s effects can no longer be ignored or trivialized; Drs. Cottingham, Ewing and Weathers deserve our appreciation for their careful explanation of how a global phenomenon can manifest itself in a single lake.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 4, Day 30: Sink or Swim

The Japan Times introduces us to a polar explorer and total mensch:

RESOLUTE, NUNAVUT – Spending six months of every year in the Arctic, adventurer Tetsuhide Yamazaki sees the impact of global warming firsthand through the region’s thinning sea ice, the expanse of which has roughly halved in the last three decades.

The ice is “very thin this year,” Yamazaki, 45, said after confirming a thickness of 118 cm with a drill during his recent exploration of an area at the North Pole. Sea ice in the area is usually almost 2 meters thick, according to Yamazaki, who senses the ice grows thinner every year.

Born in October 1967 in Hyogo Prefecture and raised in a coastal town in Fukui Prefecture, Yamazaki decided to become an explorer when he was in high school in Kyoto after reading a book by well-known adventurer Naomi Uemura, who climbed Mount McKinley solo in 1970. The explorer was lost on the mountain in February 1984.

After graduating, Yamazaki worked in Tokyo to save funds for his first trip at age 19 — rafting the Amazon. But it ended in failure after his boat capsized. The following year, Yamazaki successfully rafted some 5,000 km down the river in over a span of 44 days.

This February, he camped on an ice floe in the Arctic at a latitude of 74 degrees north. The temperature was minus 41 degrees, and the inside of his tent was covered with frost that formed from moisture released from his body. The dogs drawing his sled were around the tent.

There’s a hero for you. April 18:

While a scientist can observe its impact very clearly in the Arctic, global climate change is no longer something only specialists can detect, but a phenomenon which affects us all, regardless of where we live. The interconnected web of Earthly life is far more sensitive to environmental factors than most of us can imagine, and climatic disruption is making itself felt in ways that will only become more severe as the greenhouse effect intensifies.

When flowers open a fortnight early, the insects that fertilize them may still be in their larval stages. When plants fail to spread their seeds, animals that depend on them for nourishment may have to seek food elsewhere. When agriculture reels under the impact of extreme weather or devastating drought, food prices go up.

For years we have thought of climate change as something that belongs to future times and distant places. Dr. Tetsuhide Yamazaki’s observations confirm: the consequences of industrial civilization’s fossil-fuel consumption belong to us all. There is no time left to waste, and no place left to hide.

Warren Senders


Year 4, Month 4, Day 15: Hardly A Man Is Now Alive

Mind you, this is the same paper that recently shut down its Environment reporting entirely:

James E. Hansen, the climate scientist who issued the clearest warning of the 20th century about the dangers of global warming, will retire from NASA this week, giving himself more freedom to pursue political and legal efforts to limit greenhouse gases.

His departure, after a 46-year career at the space agency’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan, will deprive federally sponsored climate research of its best-known public figure.

At the same time, retirement will allow Dr. Hansen to press his cause in court. He plans to take a more active role in lawsuits challenging the federal and state governments over their failure to limit emissions, for instance, as well as in fighting the development in Canada of a particularly dirty form of oil extracted from tar sands.

“As a government employee, you can’t testify against the government,” he said in an interview.

A hero. Resurrecting the Paul Revere meme for James Hansen. April 2:

Two hundred and thirty eight years ago, courageous patriots sounded a call; a midnight ride alerted the Minutemen to the arrival of the Redcoats — and the consequences are both an indelible part of our nation’s history and an irrefutable testament to the value of an early-warning system.

The modern equivalents are the world’s climate scientists, who have been trying to wake up a complacent citizenry for decades.

Dr. James Hansen’s resignation from NASA in order to devote himself to alerting America and the world to the climate crisis is a measure of the trouble we’re in. Dr. Hansen and his colleagues have received opprobrium and insult simply for doing their jobs responsibly. If Paul Revere had faced an analogous situation in April 1775, he’d have to persuade “every Middlesex village and farm” not only that the British existed, but that King George’s army posed a danger to their lives and liberty.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 1, Day 25: Here Comes Science!

Now THIS is a damn good idea — Naomi Oreskes, in the Washington Post:

But President Obama can move independently of Congress to address this critical issue: He can mobilize scientists through the U.S. national laboratory system.

There is a powerful precedent for the president to take this route. The core of the national laboratory system was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of the Manhattan Project to address an earlier threat to American safety and security: the possibility that German scientists were going to build an atomic bomb that could have been decisive in World War II. Scientists brought the issue to the president’s attention and then did what he asked: They built a deliverable weapon in time for use in the war.

While historians have long argued about the seriousness of the threat of a Nazi atomic bomb, there is no question that at the time it was viewed as imminent. Today we face a threat that is somewhat less immediate but far less speculative. An obvious response is to engage the national laboratory system to study options to reduce or alleviate climate change, which the president could do by executive order.

Let’s defuse the Carbon and Methane bombs. Sent January 18:

A national call to scientists is precisely what is needed in the face of the metastasizing threats posed by climate change. A negative consequence of the Industrial Revolution has been the consumption of many millions of years’ worth of fossilized carbon in a geological instant, with concomitant consequences for our biosphere and our civilization. But another consequence is the rapid expansion of human intellectual resources; thanks to leapfrogging technological advances, we’ve made strides of understanding and insight into the nature of our universe that even a few decades ago would have seemed beyond the wildest imaginings of science fiction.

If there are solutions to the greenhouse effect and its destructive epiphenomena, they won’t be found by those so-called conservatives who’ve carried out a multi-decade campaign against scientific understanding and method, but by climatologists, physicists, chemists and other experts working together for the common benefit of our species and our posterity.

Warren Senders