Year 3, Month 10, Day 27: Both Candidates Will Eat A Live Bug, On National Television

By the time this shows up on the blog, the last presidential debate will be in the past. Maybe my letter will have been rendered irrelevant. In any case, as I type this, it’s Saturday, October 20, and the LA Times notes that climate activists are still trying to get somebody (anybody!) to ask some damn questions:

With just 2 1/2 weeks left before election day, there’s an urgency on all fronts in the presidential race. For activists, it’s not just about whether President Obama or Mitt Romney will win, but whether either man will pay attention to their issue.

Perhaps no interest community has been as disappointed as those who worry about global climate change. They have repeatedly called for more attention to the issue and, for the most part, failed to get it.

This week’s presidential debate prompted a new round of regret and demands for Romney and Obama to address the topic, as both candidates spent their most notable time arguing about how much coal they would extract from federal lands.

“Both President Obama and Gov. Romney maintained the silence on climate, again ignoring the growing roster of extreme climate-change induced weather events,” said Maura Cowley, executive director of a consortium of youth-oriented groups called the Energy Action Coalition. “As young voters, and the generation with the most to lose if we don’t address the climate crisis now, we demand both candidates break the silence on climate change by standing up to big oil and gas with ambitious plans for clean energy.”

A political application of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis helps us understand why it’s nahgannahappan. Sent October 20:

Monday’s presidential debate will focus on foreign policy, which ought to provide a perfect opening for questions about global climate change. After all, the accelerating greenhouse effect transcends national boundaries, affecting all life on Earth equally. Furthermore, rising planetary temperatures and increased extreme weather will have humanitarian and geopolitical consequences, often in areas with a long history of conflict. It’d seem that our rapidly transforming climate is an essential subject in any discussion of foreign policy. Why won’t it happen on Monday?

“Foreign policy” as a field is concerned precisely with national boundaries — those human abstractions which surging atmospheric CO2 counts make irrelevant. The hard truth is that America (and the rest of the world) must rise above the narrow strategic concerns which have preoccupied us for centuries. Climate change is a global problem, not a “foreign” one, and there is as yet no scheduled debate on “planetary policy.”

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 2, Day 9: There Is No Word For That In Our Language

John Monahan writes a nice piece in Modern Times Magazine (AZ) addressing climate change denial, with specific reference to the WSJ flap. The whole piece is well worth your attention.

Feb. 3, 2012 — What a crazy seven days it has been for the climate change debate. Scientists from both sides of the issue took to the Wall Street Journal late last week and early this week to opine on the merits of the issue and what should be done about it.

But that’s just putting it nicely. What really happened is one side said the other was wrong — knowingly in an attempt to hide the truth — in pursuit of riches.

To say it even more bluntly, each said the other was the ‘real’ greedy liar.

The most important bit is the part where he quotes James Hansen, who is, as usual, right:

“Public doubt about the science is not an accident. People profiting from business-as-usual fossil fuel use are waging a campaign to discredit the science. Their campaign is effective because the profiteers have learned how to manipulate democracies for their advantage,” Hansen said. “The scientific method requires objective analysis of all data, stating evidence pro and con, before reaching conclusions. This works well, indeed is necessary, for achieving success in science. But science is now pitted in public debate against the talk-show method, which consists of selective citation of anecdotal bits that support a predetermined position.”

Simply, Hansen is saying corporations are using the scientific method to bolster an argument that has little merit only because it serves their bottom line. He also places blame upon the mainstream media, calling their need for “balance” a means to validate bad science and support corporate positions.

“Today most media, even publicly-supported media, are pressured to balance every climate story with opinions of contrarians, climate change deniers, as if they had equal scientific credibility. Media are dependent on advertising revenue of the fossil fuel industry, and in some cases are owned by people with an interest in continuing business as usual. Fossil fuel profiteers can readily find a few percent of the scientific community to serve as mouthpieces — all scientists practice skepticism, and it is not hard to find some who are out of their area of expertise, who may enjoy being in the public eye, and who are limited in scientific insight and analytic ability,” Hansen wrote.

They have a 500-word limit; I took about 225 to try and tie all these phenomena together. Sent Feb 3:

Climate-change denial is part of a larger problem, one exemplified by the anonymous Bush official who told journalist Ron Suskind, “We’re an empire; we create our own reality,” and ridiculed those who lived in the “reality-based community.” Conservative politicians and electoral strategists appear to believe in a post-modern universe where measurable reality is just another kind of fiction. Examples of this are easy to spot.

The anti-evolution politicians whose claim that “science is just another religion” serves as a rationale for their attempts to introduce creationism into public school science curricula; the runup to the war in Iraq, in which facts were manipulated and cherry-picked to support President Bush’s martial agenda; the legislators in some Southern states who seek to have any mention of slavery simply removed from history books — the list goes on and on.

Climate change denial is by far the most damaging of these delusions. Human science has discovered and illuminated the laws of physics and chemistry, but that doesn’t mean that the “we make our own reality” crowd can apply wishful thinking to the greenhouse effect. Given enough time, American culture could recover from forced creationism, historical revisionism, and clueless warmongering — but if we fail to recognize the imperative need to address climate change, we’re not going to have the chance.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 2, Day 3: Take That, You Bow-Tied Carp-Faced Twerp.

The Washington Post wonders why people don’t use the words they used to use:

What happened to “climate change” and “global warming”?

The Earth is still getting hotter, but those terms have nearly disappeared from political vocabulary. Instead, they have been replaced by less charged and more consumer-friendly expressions for the warming planet.

President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday was a prime example of this shift. The president said “climate change” just once — compared with zero mentions in the 2011 address and two in 2010. When he did utter the phrase, it was merely to acknowledge the polarized atmosphere in Washington, saying, “The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change.” By contrast, Obama used the terms “energy” and “clean energy” nearly two dozen times.

It’s pretty rich, coming from the paper that’s given George Will a podium for fatuous bloviation for decades. Sent January 28:

“Climate change” was a fortuitous choice of words for Republican strategist Frank Luntz. While he was primarily attempting to dilute public concern about global warming (and the concomitant policy changes that would have endangered the profit margins of Big Oil and Big Coal), his term’s a better descriptor. In the face of mountains of evidence, the reality of climate change is irrefutable. Even “denialists” have shifted their arguments; they now assert that while the climate is indeed changing, human beings have nothing to do with it.

It’s obvious: our politicians and media outlets have failed to address a long-term existential threat. After exploiting virulent American anti-intellectualism for years, there is now no way Republican lawmakers can engage in science-based policy-making without risking electoral reprisals. But in the face of the planetary transformations wrought by the burgeoning greenhouse effect, ignorance is a costly and immoral luxury we can no longer afford.

Warren Senders