Year 4, Month 4, Day 18: Ain’t Got No Mash Potato

The LA Times runs an op-ed by James Hansen, which gets picked up by the Register-Guard (Eugene, OR):

In March, the State Department gave the president cover to open a big spigot that will hitch our country to one of the dirtiest fuels on Earth for 40 years or more. The draft environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline acknowledges tar sands are nasty stuff for the environment, but concludes that the project is OK because this oil will get to market anyway — with or without a pipeline.

A public comment period is under way through April 22, after which the department will prepare a final statement to help the administration decide whether the pipeline is in the “national interest.” If the conclusion is yes, a Canadian company, TransCanada, gets a permit to build a pipeline to transport toxic tar sands through our heartland, connecting to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico, for likely export to China.

Around the world, emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide continue to soar. Australia is now finishing “the angry summer” — 123 extreme weather records broken in 90 days —which government sources link to climate change. Last year, 2012, also was the hottest year on record in the contiguous United States.

More Paul Revere analogies…coming up on Patriot’s Day here in Massachusetts! April 7:

Scientists have been warning us for over fifty years that our CO2 emissions were likely to transform Earth profoundly — perhaps catastrophically. And for over fifty years our elected leaders chose to pass the problem along to someone else to solve. When they weren’t simply trying to keep the scientists quiet, that is.

George W. Bush’s administration censored NASA climatologist James Hansen’s report on climate change, muzzling one of climate science’s most informed and articulate voices. Meanwhile, deranged talk-radio personalities incited their low-information audiences into an anti-science frenzy that brought Hansen and other researchers like Dr. Michael Mann death threats and torrents of hate mail.

Two hundred and thirty-eight years ago, farmers in a few Massachusetts towns hearkened to a midnight call, and our nation’s birth can be traced to their readiness to respond to a clear and imminent danger.

Now, a modern-day Paul Revere is again sounding the alarm. Where will we be in two hundred years if we ignore James Hansen’s urgent warnings?

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