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 8, Day 6: Damned Truths!

The Las Vegas Review Journal reports on Harry Reid’s readiness to connect the dots:

WASHINGTON — As firefighters head home from Southern Nevada, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid on Wednesday blamed “climate change” for the intense blaze that consumed nearly 28,000 acres and drove hundreds of residents from their homes around Mount Charleston this month.

Reid said the government should be spending “a lot more” on fire prevention, echoing elected officials who say the Forest Service should move more aggressively to remove brush and undergrowth that turn small fires into huge ones.

“The West is burning,” the Nevada Democrat told reporters in a meeting. “I could be wrong, but I don’t think we’ve ever had a fire in the Spring Mountains, Charleston range like we just had.

“Why are we having them? Because we have climate change. Things are different. The forests are drier, the winters are shorter, and we have these terrible fires all over the West.”

“This is terribly concerning,” Reid said. Dealing with fire “is something we can’t do on the cheap.”

“We have climate change. It’s here. You can’t deny it,” Reid went on. “Why do you think we are having all these fires?”

“You can make all the excuses,” he said, such as that fires are disasters that “just happen every so often.”

Avoid the comment thread if you value your sanity. July 18:

Linking single events with larger trends is problematic. Whether it’s an oncologist tracking the etiology of a malignancy or a politician connecting the dots between wildfires and climate change, it’s easy to misinterpret the causal chain. But this doesn’t make the statistics of probability irrelevant. The same people who dismiss extreme weather or fatal blazes as unconnected to the overall trends of atmospheric heating have no problem betting on the outcome of sports events!

But let’s say that the overwhelming majority (97 percent) of the world’s climate scientists have got it wrong, and the likelihood that climate change is connected to more frequent wildfires is actually relatively low. Well, here’s an important conservative politician’s analysis: “If there’s a 1% chance…we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response.” That was Dick Cheney, articulating the foreign policy doctrine that bears his name.

What’s the difference? Well, the connection between the intensifying greenhouse effect and more frequent natural disasters is much stronger than that between Saddam Hussain and 9/11 — but the probability of conservative politicians and their corporate paymasters opposing anything that would even slightly reduce their profit margins is 100 percent — an absolute certainty.

Warren Senders

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 11, Day 17: You Can Leave Your Hat On

BREAKING: John Boehner is still an asshole:

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER has made some encouraging statements since last week’s election, pointing toward productive policy-making. This was not one of them:

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that we’ve had climate change over the last 100 years,” he told USA Today. “What has initiated it, though, has sparked a debate that’s gone on now for the last 10 years.”

The Ohio Republican continued: “I don’t think we’re any closer to the answer than we were 10 years ago.”

President Obama recently sounded some positive notes on climate change, perhaps the most neglected big issue of the 2012 campaign. His comments rekindled hopes of environmentalists that his second term will see more aggressive policymaking to combat global warming than did his first. Mr. Boehner’s words, which appear to mischaracterize the scientific debate on global warming, indicate that blinkered Republican opposition to doing much of anything about the problem may persist.

The Great Orange One is an utter waste of space. I can’t believe these Republicans, can you? Sent November 13:

The election is over; the nerds won. Statisticians and data-crunchers combined with a prodigious grass-roots effort brought victories to Democrats all over the US, and provided a spectacular view of conservative pundits and politicians stumbling all over themselves trying to explain how they could have gotten things so wrong.

But there’s another election in two years. In the realm of climate change, by contrast, we’ve only got one planet, and climatology’s statisticians and data-crunchers are unanimously warning us that we’re perilously close to ruining it forever. John Boehner’s years in Washington have taught him the wrong lessons; what’s needed right now is responsible action, not politically expedient procrastination. Once the full ramifications of the climate crisis are upon us, there’ll be no satisfaction for environmentalists in watching conservatives trying to rationalize their failure to take the its seriously. Speaker Boehner needs to lead, follow, or get out of the way.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 11, Day 16: Wake Up And Smell The Red Bull

Oregon’s former SoS is one of those reality-based guys:

Bill Bradbury figures you don’t have to be a climate-change expert to know which way the wind is blowing.

The former Oregon secretary of state, who will discuss “Climate Reality” Thursday evening at Southern Oregon University, said he has seen denial over climate change slowly fade since he began giving talks about it in 2006.

“When I first started giving presentations, it was very normal to have a small group of deniers attending,” said Bradbury, 63. “Now I don’t need to convince anyone that climate change is happening.

“The focus has changed to, ‘OK, so what are we going to do about it?’ ” he added. “There are some who believe there is not much we can do to change the direction we are going. But most believe we can change how we act and affect climate change.”

Bradbury was one of the first 50 people trained in Nashville to spread the climate-change gospel according to former Vice President Al Gore. Bradbury has given about 300 presentations on climate change in Oregon, outlining the need to reduce carbon pollution caused by dependence on oil and coal.

In addition to recent weather extremes, including the fact this past July was the hottest on record for the nation, Bradbury will talk about energy needs in Oregon and strategies to reduce carbon pollution. As part of Gore’s Climate Reality Project, he met with leading climate change scientists this past summer.

Recent nationwide polls indicate about 70 percent of the population believes the global climate is changing because of human activity.

Will our talking heads pull out of their own rears? Who the hell knows? Sent November 13:

While the 2012 election forcefully demonstrated the power of statistical analysis, it should also end the mainstreaming of climate-change denial in our media and politics.

While Nate Silver’s prediction models were astonishingly accurate, he and other statisticians were mocked before the election by commentators relying less on science than on their own inscrutable blends of gut reaction and wishful thinking. By midnight Tuesday, however, it was clear: real-life numbers didn’t match those in the Republican bubble of denial. Conservatives’ cognitive dissonance as mathematical reality overwhelmed their expectations was dramatic (and occasionally hilarious).

Well, the world’s climate scientists are numbers-and-facts people, rather like Mr. Silver. And those same Republican pundits and politicians have denied the science of climate change for decades, ignoring the profoundly troubling results of genuine analysts while extolling the expertise of ideologically-convenient denialists. Not any more — a superstorm’s far more tangible than a 100-EV margin, and when climatic reality finally overwhelms conservative preconceptions, the results won’t be funny at all.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 6, Day 3: Can’t You Speak Nicely?

The Boston Globe reports on some disturbing statistics — but not disturbing enough:

An additional 150,000 or more Americans could die by the end of this century due to excessive heat caused by climate change, according to a report released Wednesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The New York-based advocacy group, which based its findings on other studies, projects that Midwestern cities will bear the brunt of hotter summers, with 19,000 additional deaths by the end of the century in Louisville, 17,900 in Detroit, and 16,600 in Cleveland. The Midwestern cities are more vulnerable because of their greater temperature swings, lack of air conditioning and green space, and the types of buildings.

The report estimates an additional 5,715 people will die in Boston by the end of the century because of the increased heat.

I’m running all over the place; this letter’s nothing I’m going to point to with pride later on. Sent May 24:

The statement forecasting an extra 150,000 American deaths over the next ninety years due to climate change will undoubtedly be used to mislead the public: those with vested interests in minimizing the threat of global climate change can simply do some arithmetic to back up a claim that fewer than 2000 extra deaths a year is nothing to get excited about.

But the scary numbers aren’t those referring to the people who succumb to months of uninterrupted hundred-plus degree days, which is what the NRDC report quantifies. What happens to our food supply when agricultural yields plummet in the extreme heat? When electrical supplies begin to fail due to unplanned-for demand? When our water supply proves inadequate?

And, of course, those numbers only refer to the USA. How many deaths can we expect worldwide? How many millions of climate refugees, some in the most geopolitically unstable parts of the world?

Warren Senders