Year 2, Month 8, Day 14: Is Anyone Listening?

The July 27 Manila Bulletin lets Rajendra Pachauri tell it like it is:

MANILA, Philippines — The key facts on global warming are already known and leaders should not wait for the next edition of the UN climate panel’s report to step up action, the body’s top scientist told AFP.

The 4th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, released in 2007, “is very clear,” Rajendra Pachauri said Monday in Paris, ahead of a five-day meeting of the body in Brest, France.

The fifth multi-volume assessment, which summarizes peer-reviewed science to help policy makers make decisions, is due out in 2013-2014.

“We have enough evidence, enough scientific findings which should convince people that action has to be taken,” he said after a round-table discussion with France’s environment minister, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet.

“Based on observation, we know that there will be more floods, more drought, more heat waves and more extreme precipitation events. These things are happening,” Pachauri said.

Sent July 29:

It is beyond foolish to delay action on mitigating the effects of climate change any further. Rajendra Pachauri is entirely correct; the accumulated evidence overwhelmingly supports the idea that global warming is caused by human civilization’s emissions of greenhouse gases. Responsibility for the solution must be borne by all the world’s nations, for building a sustainable future that protects us all against the ravages of a radically transformed climate is a civilizational project. But consider the predicament of an island state facing physical elimination in consequence of rising sea levels triggered by the greenhouse effect. Because large industrialized countries have contributed far more to the problem over the past century, it is economically sensible and morally just that they should contribute proportionally to the solution. If the tables were turned, and a tiny nation’s actions threatened the existence of one of the world’s great powers, could anyone doubt the outcome?

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 5, Day 15: Double Uh-Oh.

The Washington Post reports on the AMAP study:

OSLO — Global sea levels will rise faster than expected this century, partly because of quickening climate change in the Arctic and a thaw of Greenland’s ice, an international report said Tuesday.

The rise would add to threats to coasts from Bangladesh to Florida, low-lying Pacific islands and cities from London to Shanghai. It would also raise the cost of building tsunami barriers in Japan.

Record temperatures in the Arctic will add to factors raising world sea levels by up to 5.2 feet by 2100, according to a report by the Oslo-based Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), which is backed by the eight-nation Arctic Council.

I went with the “birther” analogy here. Sent May 4:

The AMAP report confirms what many of us have been suspecting and fearing all along: the projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have been consistently wrong — too conservative by far. The likely effects of global warming will include sea-level rises that will devastate coastlines throughout the word; when the atmospheric release of methane clathrates is factored into the equation the resulting picture is increasingly nightmarish.

And yet fully fifty percent of America’s representative government can’t even admit the problem is real, preferring instead to believe in a grotesque and wholly improbable mishmash of paranoia, false equivalency, and scientific illiteracy. The assertions of climate deniers are weirdly reminiscent of another long-running conspiracy theory that has remained unaffected by common sense, logic, and evidence. If only global warming could produce a long-form birth certificate!

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 5, Day 13: Uh-oh.

The Barents Observer (Norway) writes about a new report issued by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) that predictably shows us in much worse trouble than we’d thought. Not that this is actually a surprise or anything:

According to the study, multiyear sea ice, mountain glaciers, ice caps and the Greenland Ice Sheet, which were once considered fixtures in the Arctic, shrank faster in the past decade than in the previous one. Their meltwaters contributed more than 40% of the global sea level rise, which averaged at 3 mm per year, between 2003 and 2008.

Sea ice cover has reached record lows every year in the past decade and is “now about one third smaller than the average summer sea-ice cover from 1979 to 2000.” According to the report, the decreased sea ice cover offers opportunities for increased shipping traffic and industrial activity. However, “threats from icebergs may increase due to increased iceberg production.”

My kid is growing up into this world.

Sent May 4:

Given that the IPCC has always tended to err on the conservative side, it’s not surprising that the recently released AMAP study is projecting sea-level rises that drastically exceed the earlier predictions. In fact, it is increasingly recognized that the effects of runaway climate change are happening both faster and more severely than any climatologists had expected. The introduction of methane clathrates into the picture is particularly alarming, as this gas has the potential to trigger greenhouse effects of devastating intensity; the IPCC’s analysis did not take this factor into account, which is one reason their estimates were significantly lower.

Looking at the likely effects of a climate catastrophe on worldwide political and economic stability, one wonders: how much longer can the world’s developed countries and multinational corporations continue to opt for a “business as usual” model? Industrialization’s virtues won’t matter much if humanity’s only available home is rendered uninhabitable.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 3, Day 2: Eruptions of Ignorance

Missouri Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer is the guy who introduced the amendment to kill funding for the IPCC, which (given our all-new teabagger-friendly House) passed handily. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has the story.

The guy’s a moron, but is that news? Anyway, I started remembering Bobby Jindal for some reason, and generated the following letter, sent 2/21:

Those of us who still recall Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal’s disparaging remarks about “something called ‘volcano monitoring,’ ” back in early 2009 will also remember that only a few weeks later, a real live volcano erupted in Alaska — and that the Government’s Volcano Monitoring service was credited with giving essential warnings that saved lives and property. Blaine Luetkemeyer is in a position analogous to Jindal’s; his hostility toward the I.P.C.C. has nothing to do with its essential work on the likely effects of global warming and everything to do with short-term political exigencies. As the scientific evidence mounts, climate-change deniers use multiply-debunked arguments to delay and weaken any action on the most significant threat humanity has faced in millennia. The smoke from Mount Redoubt made Governor Jindal’s mockery of volcano monitoring an embarrassment; one wonders: what sort of environmental catastrophe will bring Representative Luetkemeyer to regret his similarly ignorant grandstanding?

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 1, Day 25: We’re Telling You So

The Idaho Mountain Press joins the ranks of global warming alarmists with an article noting that things are getting hotter and it’s going to start hurting us, like, really soon. And the comments on this article are extraordinarily stupid, which prompted this response:

The pattern of online comments responding to articles discussing the very real threat of climate change is predictable. First there are the reflexive deniers — those whose talking points come directly from Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. They can be recognized by their reliance on uninformed mockery (ridiculing Al Gore, for example). Then come the conspiracy theorists who would have us believe that all the world’s scientists are attempting to seize our assets, criminalize SUV ownership, and usher in a new socialist world order — a notion especially ludicrous to anyone who’s ever actually known a scientist. Close behind them are the “Climategate” afficionadi, who cling to the notion that a multiply-debunked non-scandal somehow invalidates decades of measurement and analysis. And when a voice of reason points out that the wealthy and powerful petroleum industry is far more likely to distort unwelcome data than climate scientists, he or she is treated to a stream of insults and derision. Meanwhile, the world grows ever hotter.

Warren Senders

Month 10, Day 15: One Of The Good Guys…

Pachauri stays.

It is good news that Rajendra Pachauri is going to retain his position as head of the UN Climate Panel. While Pachauri’s tenure has been marked by controversies, none are of his own making, and he should not be compelled to leave a position for which he is eminently suited because of a spurious publicity campaign. The oft-cited errors in the 2007 IPCC report no more invalidate the bulk of that document than a reportorial mistake in the Times negates the rest of the paper’s news. The barrage of ginned-up “scandals” aimed at reducing the credibility of the IPCC and of climatologists in general has crippled our ability to sustain a reality-based discussion on climate issues (as witness the Republican party’s comprehensively anti-science stance, unthinkable a decade ago). Here’s hoping that Dr. Pachauri can help us wake up to the reality of global climate change before it’s too late.

Warren Senders

Month 10, Day 14: Yet Another Installment of “Why Capitalism Sucks.”

The Wall Street Journal never misses an opportunity to mislead.

A fairly even-handed discussion of the most recent round of climate negotiations was derailed by a paragraph of heavy-handed editorializing, including allegations of “flawed science” in the IPCC reports and yet another reference to the so-called “climategate.” Let’s get this straight, starting with the second item: there have thus far been three separate and independent investigations of the leaked emails, and each investigation has completely exonerated the scientists involved. Completely. If the print and broadcast media had any sense of responsibility, this fact would have received as much publicity as the original non-scandal. With regard to the flaws in the IPCC report —in a document thousands of pages long, mistakes are inevitable. If a miscalculation of glacial melt rates invalidates the entire report, then by analogy, an error of fact anywhere in the Wall Street Journal must invalidate everything in that day’s edition, including the stock market reports.

Warren Senders

Month 9, Day 2: It’s Too Darn Hot.

The Philadelphia Inquirer ran an AP story about the IPCC, with a headline that was not supported by anything in the story.

Corporate-funded denialism went into full-bore attack mode when the IPCC reports were first released. Minor discrepancies were blown up into international scientific scandals, which dissipated under further investigation. Rajendra Pachauri was charged with conflicts of interest — and has been completely exonerated. Evidence for scientific misconduct is extraordinarily flimsy — while evidence confirming human causes of global warming is extraordinarily robust. Ninety-seven percent of climatologists agree on the factuality of anthropogenic climate change— an impressive number (what would you do if ninety-seven out of a hundred oncologists told you a lump was malignant?). Meanwhile, the physical effects of climate chaos are harder and harder to ignore. When we see Pakistan’s floods, Russia’s droughts, a heat wave hammering the country, anomalous rain, snow and storms, we’re getting a picture of what’s in store for us in the years to come. We should be heeding the IPCC’s findings, not quibbling about minutiae.

Warren Senders

Month 2, Day 10: All the Specious Equivalence That’s Fit To Print

Thank goodness for Daily Kos. Today I saw two useful posts which provided me with the recipient of this letter (the New York Times) and a framing device which surfaces briefly in my 145 words.

The first, cleverly titled “NYT Soils Itself, AGAIN!” described an article about conflict of interest accusations against Dr. Rajendra Pachauri of the IPCC, and rebuked the Times for its “balanced” approach to the subject, which presents unsubstantiated allegations from AGW skeptics as somehow forming a valid counter-argument to the intensively documented and cross-checked work of the IPCC’s scientists.

The second was an article by David Brin (who’s a wonderful science-fiction novelist when he’s not writing at Dkos) noting that the climate-change denial business is a manifestation of the pervasive anti-intellectualism that saturates American culture. I strongly encourage you to read “The Real Struggle Behind Climate Change — A War on Expertise.” It rings very, very true.

So that’s the backstory for today’s letter. Off it goes to the Paper of Record, almost certainly to be filed and forgotten. Does that deter me? Not yet.

The climate-denial sector criticizes Dr. Rajendra Pachauri for supposed conflicts of interest, and generalizes to suggest that the conclusions of the I.P.C.C. are somehow compromised. These aspersions are a troubling confluence of two influences: entrenched corporate resistance to any change in business practices, and anti-intellectualism masquerading as common sense. Thousands of qualified climatologists are firmly convinced of anthropogenic global warming, yet professional denialists suggest they’re lying about it for the most venal of reasons — to increase their chances of grant funding! The evidence suggests otherwise: that Christopher Monckton and his ilk are the ones doing the lying — and receiving fat paychecks for doing so. The Times needs to report aggressively on the funding and control of the climate-denial industry, rather than adhere to a specious policy of false equivalence in which scientific facts are “balanced” by unsupported assertions from corporate shills.

Warren Senders