Year 4, Month 12, Day 24: If You Knew Susie Like I Knew Susie

The Akron Beacon Journal (OH) offers this perspective from Lee Thomas, former EPA head under Reagan:

During the 1980s, the United States and the world faced an urgent environmental challenge. Scientists warned strongly that chlorofluorocarbons, known as CFCs, were destroying the ozone layer. If not stopped, this would wreak havoc on public health — increasing cancer rates, cataracts and worse— and on ecosystems that are essential for agriculture and marine life. The scientists made clear: Humans caused this problem and human must fix it.

Under President Ronald Reagan’s leadership, we decided to act. We engaged with the business community, environmental organizations, government officials and other nations. Less than two years after the discovery of the ozone hole over the Antarctic, many countries negotiated the Montreal Protocol to phase out the use of CFCs.

Reagan was the first head of state to endorse the treaty, and the Senate ratified it unanimously.

This isn’t a history lesson: This matters right now. New international negotiations on climate just concluded this week in Warsaw, Poland. While the world still waits for true leadership, last month’s global science assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned starkly: Climate change is here, it’s getting worse, we’re causing it, and we need to act without delay.

Make no mistake: Climate change is a threat that, once distant, has moved squarely into the present. It demands immediate attention.

In the case of the ozone layer, we can learn from our success. But don’t think it was easy. Skeptical voices railed against the treaty, denying that CFCs were a problem or suggesting that adaptation was the preferred approach. Chemical and equipment manufacturers feared the costs. Those fears proved to be unfounded. Businesses soon adjusted to the new rules and identified opportunities for new products. More than a decade of economic prosperity followed the signing of the treaty, showing that American ingenuity can go a long way toward solving our nation’s challenges.

A generic article merits a generic letter. December 11:

The facts are in, and have been for a long time. Why, then, is there any significant climate change denial in America? The fault lies with an egregiously irresponsible news media and the corporate interests behind them. For decades, the fossil fuel industry has invested heavily in conservative “institutes” and “think tanks” which provide a steady supply of authoritative-sounding pundits who argue for the continued over-consumption of oil and coal. Oddly, these companies continue to make historically unprecedented profits.

While the US hasn’t been clobbered by climate chaos as much as some other nations, our lucky streak won’t go on forever. We are already seeing impacts on American agriculture and infrastructure, and the overwhelming scientific consensus (despite the naysaying of television’s unctuous talking heads) is that it’s going to get significantly worse in the coming decades. Conservative politicians’ irresponsible refusal to craft climate policy around facts rather than ideology is a grave disservice to their constituents and to the nation they claim to serve.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 11, Day 2: And The Horse You Rode In On…

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel offers Senator Ron Johnson an inconvenient truth or three:

This should not come as a surprise, but it appears that a refusal to recognize reality may actually hurt politicians with voters.

Case in point: Wisconsin’s own Sen. Ron Johnson and his stance on climate change.

Last summer, an ad campaign by the League of Conservation Voters targeted several federal lawmakers, Johnson among them, who don’t believe that human activities are a primary cause of climate change. Johnson, who once attributed climate change to sunspots in a meeting with the Journal Sentinel Editorial Board, has steadfastly voted against regulation of emissions that contribute to climate change.

After its ad campaign, the league did a poll of constituent attitudes, in Johnson’s case in the Green Bay market. The results, reported this week by The Washington Post’s Plum Line blog, showed that a “14-point increase in those who feel less favorable toward Johnson based on what they have heard about him; an eight-point increase in his job disapproval; and an eight-point boost in constituents believing Johnson is out of step on climate change.”

Johnson’s Green Bay constituents are right. The consensus among top climate scientists is clear and has been for years. Climate change is happening. Human activity plays a huge role in that. The consequences of doing nothing could be dire and expensive. Johnson is just flat-out wrong.

I’d love to see more like this. October 23:

While conservative politicians and media figures have perpetrated many assaults on reason and factuality over the years, none offers greater potential for damage than their steady stream of disinformation on global climate change. Many right-wing celebrities may once have known the difference between real and spurious science — but after years of peddling superficially plausible nonsense, no longer recognize the distinction. Unfortunately for Wisconsin and the nation, Senator Ron Johnson is such a man.

The greenhouse effect was discovered well over a century ago, and scientists have been warning us about its consequences since the Eisenhower administrations. It testifies to the power of fossil-fuel industries in the world economy that we’ve avoided any meaningful regulation of CO2 emissions for just as long. But the laws of physics trump the laws of a nation, and climatic reality is catching up with deniers like Senator Johnson. And to the rest of us.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 10, Day 9: A World Of Hurt

An editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch takes conservatives to task:

There was a time in U.S. history, not long ago, but longer than the recent 15-year slowdown in warming trends, when Republicans and Democrats could respond to such challenges together. When they could realize, as President Nixon said on that important day in 1970, “that all of us, Democrats, Republicans, the House, the Senate, the executive branch, that all of us can look back upon this year as that time when we began to make a movement toward a goal that we all want.”

What we all want is a planet, a country, a city, that we can pass on to the next generation. We want our children and grandchildren to have the same or better opportunities than we have had. Climate change is making that less likely.

To deny climate change is to deny them that chance.

It’s always the right time to mock Republicans. October 1:

Republicans love to invoke “future generations” when they’re inveighing against the ostensible evils of taxation and government, but when it comes to addressing a crisis that’s going to disrupt the lives of our children’s children for generations to come, they’re strangely resistant to doing anything. Trapped between the profit-above-all orientation of their corporate sponsors and the anti-science, anti-tax hysteria of their Tea Party constituents, GOP politicians can no longer even publicly recognize the existence of climatology as a scientific field, much less pay any heed to the findings of climatologists.

From the McCarthy-era purges of State Department China specialists to their unrelenting opposition to such notably successful initiatives as Medicare, Social Security, and the Voting Rights act, conservative politicians have repeatedly wound up on the wrong side of history. As their reflexive and ideology-driven opposition to tackling the climate crisis demonstrates, they’re on the wrong side of the future, too.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 9, Day 27: As He Gives It To Her She Begins To Sing

Meet Rep. David McKinley, who made an idiot of himself at the recent hearing on climate change, as reported in the Charleston Gazette (WV):

McKinley cited data showing that there is now 60 percent more ice in the Arctic than there was at this time last year, when ice levels hit a record low.

However, levels of Arctic ice are still substantially below historical averages. As of this week, there were about 1.5 million square kilometers less Arctic ice than there has been, on average, for the past 30 years, according to data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, a research center at the University of Colorado.

McKinley and others pointed to a recent slowdown in temperature rises over the past several years as evidence that man-made greenhouse gas emissions might not be contributing to climate change.

Moniz pointed to a study in the journal “Nature,” published in August, showing the slowdown to be a product of short-term weather trends.

“Our results show that the current hiatus is part of natural climate variability, tied specifically to a La Niña-like decadal cooling,” that study concluded. “The multi-decadal warming trend is very likely to continue with greenhouse gas increase.”

No shortage of these asshats, unfortunately. Sept. 19:

In a single remark during the recent House hearing on climate change, Representative David McKinley demonstrated that (along with most of his GOP colleagues) he does not know the difference between short-term phenomena and long-term trends. McKinley’s claim of a sixty percent increase in Arctic ice coverage from last year is a grotesque misrepresentation of the data, which show that despite brief interludes of accumulation, the overall level of Arctic ice has been dwindling for at least a decade.

Let’s clarify with an analogy: if a stage four cancer sufferer steadily loses weight over many months, a few days of slight gain may be a brief and welcome respite from the terminal decline, but it doesn’t mean the disease has disappeared. A doctor who asserted otherwise would be guilty of medical malpractice, no matter how happy it makes the patient’s family. If his misunderstanding of Arctic ice decline is deliberate, Rep. McKinley’s intentionally misleading his colleagues and his constituents; if it arises from ignorance, he’s incompetent.

Climate science is absolutely unambiguous. Whether through stupidity or cupidity, politicians like David McKinley are endangering all of us by blocking responsible action to address the threat while there is still time.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 9, Day 26: Well, THAT’S A Surprise.

This comment from a UN honcho, via the AP via the Vincennes Sun-Commercial (IN):

LONDON — International leaders are failing in their fight against global warming, one of the United Nations’ top climate officials said Tuesday, appealing directly to the world’s voters to pressure their politicians into taking tougher action against the buildup of greenhouse gases.

Halldor Thorgeirsson told journalists gathered at London’s Imperial College that world leaders weren’t working hard enough to prevent potentially catastrophic climate change.

“We are failing as an international community,” he said. “We are not on track.”

Thorgeirsson, a senior director with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, was speaking with two years left to go before the world powers gather in Paris for another round of negotiations over the future of the world’s climate, which scientists warn will warm dramatically unless action is taken to cut down on the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

One of the main points of contention is how to divide the burden of emissions cuts between industrialized nations and emerging economies such as India and China, the world’s top carbon polluter. The lack of progress in recent years has fueled doubts over whether a binding deal is possible at all.

Thorgeirsson seemed to strike a pessimistic note Tuesday, talking down the idea that Paris — or any other conference — would produce a grand bargain that would ensure the reductions needed to prevent a dangerous warming of the Earth’s atmosphere. He even seemed to suggest that a global solution to the issue wasn’t likely until the effects of climate change came barreling down on peoples’ heads or flooding into their homes.

“I don’t think that an international treaty will ever be the primary driver for the difficult decisions to be made,” he warned. “It’s the problem itself that will be the primary driver — and the consequences of that problem.”

Sorry about that, kids. September 18:

The inability of the world’s people to respond adequately to the threat of climate change is undeniable. This collective apathy in the face of a planetary threat now threatens not only our civilization, but our very survival as a species. Why have we, and our leaders, failed to act? There are many factors in this potentially deadly equation.

Climate change’s consequences unfold over decades, which may be instantaneous from a geological perspective, but are far longer than politics’ two, four, and six year electoral cycles. Our representatives in the halls of Congress are unwilling to address long-term issues except in the vaguest possible terms. Furthermore, many are profoundly ignorant of scientific method, and mistrust any experts whose conclusions or analyses are ideologically inconvenient.

This political shortsightedness is exacerbated by corporate interests which fear for the safety of their profit margins. These multinational malefactors of great wealth have invested heavily in misinformation campaigns, obscuring the unambiguous science of climatology with mediagenic spurious false equivalency.

It is a “perfect storm” of ignorance and narrow self-interest. As they struggle to survive in a climatically-transformed world, our descendants will have justifiable contempt for the “deniers” and “delayers” in our government and media.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 9, Day 23: It’s Dark In Here

Richard Doak, in the Des Moines Register, speaks sooth:

To date, most foreign policy in regard to climate change has been aimed at achieving international agreements to curb the burning of fossil fuels, so the buildup of heat-trapping CO2 in the atmosphere can be slowed or reversed. That’s all well and good, but even if such agreements can be achieved and implemented, they would take decades to show results.

Meanwhile, the science suggests climate change is unstoppable. The globe will get warmer, ice will melt, seas will rise. There will be more extremes of weather, more disasters like Superstorm Sandy and more turmoil as in Syria.

That’s why climate-change treaties aren’t enough. The United States can’t just sit around and wait for the climate to return to normal. That might never happen.

America needs to be the world leader in making adaptations to climate change and helping others to adapt. Farmers in now-permanent drought regions need help to find new livelihoods. Coastal and riverside cities need help moving to high ground or building protections. Whole populations may need to be relocated. Buildings in storm-prone areas need to be tornado-proofed. Homes in wildfire regions need to be protected or moved. More innovation in drought-resistant and pest-resistant crops will be needed. Breakthroughs in water conservation and reuse will be essential.

In short, there’s a lot of work to be done. America has always been a can-do country. So let’s do it, both abroad and at home.

True enough. And the source of your problem? September 15:

Yes, America was once a “can-do” country, as Richard Doak reminds us. But when it comes to common-sense response to genuine threats like climate change, the new default setting for our political class is no longer so optimistic. It’s now too inconvenient to prepare for imminent disaster; better to reassure ourselves with platitudes and distract ourselves with irrelevancies.

This is the GOP’s new normal, and its implications for our nation and the world are appalling. For Republicans in our government, it’s not just that meaningful responses to the climate crisis are too much trouble, it’s that thinking about the problem is politically unacceptable. After Katrina, President Bush claimed that “no one anticipated” the failure of Louisiana’s levees. In other words, Republicans didn’t listen to the people who predicted correctly; anticipating the problem was too hard.

There’s a great deal we as a nation can do to address the threat of climate change before it becomes a catastrophic emergency. But it all comes down to the science-deniers in the halls of Congress. Can they recognize that anticipating problems and preparing for them is one of the principal responsibilities of government, and that pretending something doesn’t exist won’t make it go away?

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 29: You’ve Just Got To Understand: What Is Its Motivation?

Former GOP Representative Bob Inglis keeps pounding his tocsin. This time it’s in New Jersey:

Gov. Chris Christie listened to the scientists at the National Hurricane Center when they said Hurricane Sandy was coming to New Jersey. It’s time to listen to the scientists warning of the longer-range risks of climate change.

New Jerseyans would have been alarmed had Christie said, “I don’t buy it. I think the National Hurricane Center is exaggerating the threat.” And perhaps he might have found an “expert” or two who might have said the odds of Sandy surging onto New Jersey were lower than the costs of preparing for her wrath.

But Christie did what good leaders do: He listened to the best advice available and then acted to protect New Jersey.

Likewise, folks alive today and folks yet to be born will be grateful for elected officials who listen and act on the science that indicates risk of climate change.

That doesn’t mean acting hysterically or exaggerating the threat. Leaders who would lead on climate change need to talk to us about reasonable risk avoidance, not apocalyptic visions.

Tire rims and anthrax. Tire rims and anthrax. Tire rims and anthrax. August 2:

Bob Inglis’ op-ed recommending that Republican politicians focus on addressing the climate crisis is well-conceived, articulate and factually correct. Indeed, the GOP’s legislators should indeed embrace strategies to mitigate our civilization’s emissions of greenhouse gases, to reinforce our infrastructure in preparation for the coming storms, and to educate the public about the causes and consequences of climate change.

They should. But they won’t. And the reason is simple: today’s Republican party is entirely driven by an ideologically-premised hatred of all things liberal, all things Democratic, and all things Obama. For example, a recent study showed that conservatives only bought compact fluorescent lights if they were marketed as money-saving products — but if the label used the word “environment”, there would be no sale.

When politicians reject responsibility to the greater good in favor of doctrinal rigidity, they no longer deserve the respect — or the votes — of their constituents.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 23: Because It’s There

The Bloomington Pantagraph (IN) notes that one of their state’s own has spoken out:

BLOOMINGTON — McLean County farmers are fortunate to have high quality soils but their success – and ultimately the economic success of the broader community – relies on a favorable and stable climate.

That was the message McLean County Board member Carlo Robustelli offered as he joined several local and state leaders at the DoubleTree by Hilton Monday to urge the acceptance of the scientific consensus that human activity is causing climate change that, unmitigated, will have devastating effects.

“The consequences of climate change are real,” he said, noting the inability to transport farmers’ harvest last year due to low river levels caused by drought. “Taking action on climate change is good economic policy … It is also just the right thing to do for future generations.”

Aaaaand away we go. July 30:

While the grim realities of climate change are starting to hit home, the fact that there is still a vocal plurality of “denialists” speaks to the remarkable power of giant financial interests to influence public understanding. By sponsoring their own pseudo-scientists through “think tanks,” multinational fossil-fuel corporations have muddled the discussion of a rapidly metastasizing crisis while co-opting legislators and ensuring that meaningful policy initiatives are impossible to enact.

How many times have you seen “Senior Policy Analysts,” “Energy Research Consultants,” and “Energy Strategy Fellows” on your television? These generic talking heads are the creation of Big Oil and Big Coal, which have invested heavily in creating diversions and distractions in order to persuade a significant number of Americans that the international scientific community is a front for a liberal One-World conspiracy.

Yes, climate change is real. Unfortunately, so is the massively-funded denial industry, brought to you by the same people who fought tooth and nail to hide the link between cigarettes and lung cancer. Of course we can trust them. What could possibly go wrong?

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 20: Eeeeeeeew.

Just eeeeeeeeew. The Concord Monitor:

In 1950, New Hampshire was home to just 50 moose. Today, the count is near 5,000, but state biologists fear that climate change – by way of winter ticks and other parasites – is threatening the herd.

“Shorter winters are a problem for moose because they give ticks a leg up,” said Kristine Rines, moose project leader for the state Fish and Game Department. “People have to recognize that the (climate) changes we are facing are not just changes in the Arctic. It’s not just polar bears that are going to be affected.”


It’s hard to imagine ticks taking down one of the state’s largest animals until you consider the magnitude of the problem.

In the recent issue of New Hampshire Wildlife Journal, Fish and Game biologist Dan Bergeron reported that the average number of winter ticks on a single moose in Alberta, Canada, is 32,000 but can be as much as 150,000, all of them feasting on the moose’s blood.

According to Bergeron, the number of winter ticks is directly related to fall and spring weather. If those seasons are mild and nearly snowless, ticks thrive. The winter ticks, which are different than deer or dog ticks, attach to the moose, mate and lay eggs, Bergeron wrote in his piece. That cycle repeats and repeats unless the state gets a traditional, long, cold winter.

Read that number again. 32,000 ticks on average per individual. I’m sooooo squicked out by that. July 29:

When it comes to undocumented immigrants, the most powerful causal factor is global climate change. While it’s obvious that a warming atmosphere, rising sea levels, and increasingly extreme weather are going to create burgeoning populations of climate refugees, these human casualties of the intensifying greenhouse effect are just the tip of a (rapidly melting) iceberg.

If conservatives really cared about illegal aliens they’d be working to address the greenhouse effect and its consequences, for it’s not just people, but non-native mammals, plants and insects that find their way Northward as newly hospitable ecological niches open up. Ask New Hampshire’s moose population, which is now hosting hundreds of millions of winter ticks, thriving in the warmer temperatures that constitute the region’s “new normal.” Unlike the hardworking humans so often targeted by conservative xenophobia and fear-mongering, these debilitating bloodsuckers are genuine parasites whose contribution to the local economy is entirely negative.

Warren Senders


Year 4, Month 8, Day 20: I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!!!

The Reno News Review (NV) considers the wildfire situation:

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is trying to cope with drought and heat across the West.

And U.S. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada said Western heat and fires are signs of climate change.

The heat and fires jeopardize the livelihood of ranchers who depend on grazing, and threaten urban areas like Reno that depend on snowpacks for their water supplies.

“Since last fall and winter, we have been working with grazers across the West in anticipation of tough conditions related to drought,” said BLM deputy director Neil Kornze in a prepared statement. “In southwestern Montana, for example, the BLM worked with permitted ranchers to graze no more than 70 percent of their allotted forage on BLM-managed lands. As drought conditions continue, wild horses, livestock, and wildlife that rely on rangeland forage and water will face extremely challenging conditions that may leave them in very poor condition. We are taking action to address these situations as quickly and as effectively as we can, but our options are increasingly limited by conditions on the land.”

In Nevada, the BLM has been trucking 5,000 gallons of water day, five days a week to four locations for wild horses. A veterinarian was expected to be in Lincoln County this week. BLM employees reported that horses were not eating or drinking, raising questions about their health.

“The West is burning,” Reid said in Nevada on July 17. “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.”

“The West is being devastated by wildfires,” Reid said a day later in D.C. “Millions of acres are burning. Millions of acres have burned. … They’re occurring all over. Why? Because the climate has changed. The winters are shorter, the summers are hotter.”

La la la la la la la la la la la. July 28:

The sad fact is that as long as the majority of American news media are financially beholden to corporate interests allied with fossil-fuel producers, the grim and compelling evidence of climate change will never be presented on prime-time TV without a protective dose of false equivalence. Here’s how that works:

A petroleum company provides generous funding to a “think tank,” which hires a videogenic person with a degree in a tangentially-related field (statistics, engineering, meteorology), gives them grand-sounding but semantically meaningless title, and equips them with a full array of obfuscatory talking points (“the science isn’t settled,” “action on climate change will damage the economy,” etc.).

When a climatologist is scheduled to appear, TV programs call the think tank, which sends a “Senior Policy Analyst” to provide “the other side of the argument,” thereby creating the impression that there is a legitimate dispute. If this mechanism were in place elsewhere in our national discourse, we’d be hearing from flat-Earthers, lizard-people theorists, faked-moon-landing believers, and adherents of the medieval medical theory of “humors.”

Could this be related to the fact that responsible action on climate change will reduce oil-industry profits by a small but significant margin? I wonder.

Warren Senders