I confessed to a friend that when I first heard about the drought that is killing tens of thousands in Africa, I felt pretty depressed. His response was shock. He said that he figured it was all “mental rhetoric,” and that it wasn’t like I actually cared about any of it really.
Shock over someone feeling bad over so large a tragedy to me seemed rather absurd. But I backtracked a little nevertheless, replying that “a little down” would have been a better description than depressed and when I reflected on it, a lot of my emotional attachment was really based on being tired and irritated from long work hours and distant commutes. Getting home late on Tuesdays for the first time since Monday morning, I was usually irritable. If I hadn’t been down about that, I probably would have been down about something else.
At the same time it felt to me that this crisis was something that, more than anything, deserved people getting depressed over. Climate change is one of the most significant dangers to humankind, so as someone who is interested in the history of man, one would expect to take what is almost certainly the forerunner to what is mankind’s greatest backstep to be at least as emotionally debilitating as one might take their football team losing. Although my friend admitted that he sometimes felt bad after his favorite team lost, he nevertheless seemed sure that my interest in distant matters like that was affecting my happiness more than it was worth.
But what is really depressing is that the media isn’t covering it at all. There’s 11 million people who are in dire need of food and water. An estimated 29,000 children starved to death in Somalia in 90 days. Some 2 million children are malnourished, and another 500,000 children may starve while an estimated 12 million people in the region need emergency assistance. The massive donations to relief efforts because of the 2004 tsunami were helped by huge media interest, but with all the economic problems hitting the U.S. and Europe, the mass deaths in Africa are largely overlooked, meaning less in donations.
Africa has always been known to be the most vulnerable to climate change. A report by the international humanitarian organization DARA estimated that climate change would kill up to 5 million children, most of them under five years old, in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa over the next decade. But even though the IPCC had cited a non-peer reviewed study saying that Africa’s crop yield would be cut in half by 2020, other work cited by the IPCC actually predicted that climate change would weaken the Walker Effect, ultimately causing more rainfall in East Africa. Models done by Climate Dynamics and Climate Hazard Group model how climate change has instead weakened the Walker Effect attempt. If nothing else, it’s certainly a grim foretaste of the future.
Aside from that, the fact that the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment report won’t even be released until 2014 has made Joe Romm question whether the entire panel has rendered itself useless.
A study done by the University of Pittsburgh on the 2,300 year climate record recovered from an Andes Mountains lake reveals massive water shortages will also hit the densely populated tropical regions as temperatures rise due to drier monsoons. The team found that equatorial regions of South America were already are receiving less rainfall than at any point in the past 1000 years.
Following the Russian president’s humiliating about-face on climate following 15,000 people dying from his country being roasted, several other states and countries have spontaneously combusted in the past year: Australia, Brazil, Texas, and Arizona. Russia’s ban on grain exports, which caused a spike in food prices, may have ultimately brought about the Arab Spring. In Australia, climate scientists are having to deal with multiple death threats. The drought in Texas only got worse after Rick Perry called for Texans to pray for rain. And McCain, who promised to put a investment into nuclear on the campaign trail in 2008, blamed the fires in his home state on…. immigrants.
The Bonn Climate Talks last June ended with no agreement in sight about the future of the Kyoto Protocol, how to operationalize the agreements reached in Cancun, and international climate finance.
In other bad news, emails now show that the Obama White House tried to rush federal reviewers to push through a $500 million loan to the solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra so that Biden could gloat about it at a looming press event at the company’s factory in 2009. Despite the fact Solyndra was pushing congress for more subsidies, the company didn’t act like it was short on money when it spent $1.3 million lobbying mostly Democrats, but also a few Republicans. House Democrats even resisted Republicans investigating Solyndra “in part because of the rosy picture presented by company officials who did a summertime lobbying swing through Washington.”
Ezra Klein points out that Solyndra’s loan, the only one that went belly-up, represents just 1.3% of $38 billion in loans for 40 projects and that the private market is drastically under-investing in new energy technology, with the utility sector spending just 0.1% to 0.3% of its revenues on R&D when the national average is 3.5%. Only $3 billion was invested in energy R&D in 2009 compared to $36.5 billion going to the National Institutes of Health and $77 billion going to defense research. While Republicans look at Solar as a doomed enterprise, the reason Solyndra collapsed is because the company had invented a non-silicon solar panel right before silicon prices plummeted, meaning competitors like the ones massively subsidized ones in China are expected to be competetive with dirty energy within 10 years. Scientific American sees the price drop as being equivalent to Moore’s Law. Politifact cites a 2008 Energy Department report saying it would be possible for wind energy to provide 20% of the nation’s electricity supply by 2030, but unless policies change, wind and solar combined will only account for 4% of U.S. consumption by 2035.
And despite the fact Louisiana Senator David Vitter wrote the Energy Department 7 times since 2009 seeking money for projects that would benefit his home state and signed a Republican letter complaining that the Energy Department was being too careful with loan guarantees for nuclear plants, he has lately filed a bill to increase scrutiny of taxpayer-financed renewable energy projects, but not non-renewable energy projects.
In other news, Obama delayed the dreaded Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline, which many greens believe would be the death-kneel to earth’s climate. Since TransCanada has already spent $1.7 billion delivering pipeline on flatbeds, they will now have to spend $1 million a day to store all that construction equipment for 18 months while everything is reviewed, meaning the company may just cut its loses and abandon the project. But this may just send producers to two new Enbridge pipelines that would connect Alberta’s oil sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Many people, including Ralph Nader, believes Obama only delayed the pipeline for the 2012 election and that he fully intends to approve it after he takes in all the donations from environmentalists. A more likely suggestion is that he just wants the problem to go away.
Of course, even without Keystone, we may have already passed the point of no return. Some of the latest estimates on how bad it’s going to get comes from a study from Inter-Research that “Current global warming appears anomalous in relation to the climate of the last 20,000 years.” Studies from MIT, NOAA, and the Hadley Center all predict 9 to 11 °F increase in temperature by 2100, with sea levels rising between 1.3 and 2 meters, the fastest sea-level rise in 2000 years. Kansas is expected to register above 90 °F some 120 days a year.
According to a report by the IEA, we are about five years away from buying enough carbon-spewing factories that we will essentially be “locked in” to the point of no return. For every investment dollar in clean technology that is avoided before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent afterwards to compensate for the increased emissions.
And while Conservatives have long demanded that presidents should never dictate to their military commanders when they should end a war, no matter how many years it takes, the Republican congress is ignoring Pentagon requests that the military move away from fossil fuels since “dependence on those types of fuels degrades our national security, negatively impacts our economy, and harms the environment.”
They aren’t the only ones censoring climate reports. Rick Perry also recently gutted a report on sea level rise in Galveston Bay, removing all mentions of climate change. The report was delayed as scientists tried to compromise with Perry, removing references to the IPCC and avoided mentioning that humans were causing the climate change, but ultimately the author and co-editor asked to have their names removed due to factually inaccuracies.
Of course, the third department of government that Perry that he wanted to get rid of, which he forgot during the debate, was the Energy Department. Trying to capitalize on his blunder, the Perry campaign last night e-mailed supporters encouraging them to vote in an online poll to select the federal agencies they’d most like to eliminate,” and to, I shit you not, “Send your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you are on twitter join us in using a new twitter hashtag: #forgetmenot.” As Ezra Klein says, “I bet he couldn’t tell you how he would do it,” since it would mean moving around the Census Bureau, the Patent and trademark Office, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory. His claims that he could dismantle the EPA are also bunk. And of course all these “conservative credentials” never stopped him from supporting farm subsidies since he’s taken in $80,000 from them.
Before 2008, calling for large numbers of government departments would only have been appealing to certain Libertarians. But following the shock doctrine of the economic criss, the increasing intensity and radicalization of the right have brought them to increasingly reject empirical reality and “adopt stances of unshakeable ideological opposition to anything the non-right does, even policies they have supported in the past.”
Rush Limbaugh is claiming that government listings of the heat index are manufactured and that even conservative news site creator Matt Drudge was being “sucked in.”
Republican congressman James Inhofe also made the news last April when airport manager Marshall Reece referred to him, saying: “I’ve got over 50 years flying, three tours of Vietnam, and I can assure you I have never seen such a reckless disregard for human life in my life.”
If only Reece knew how instrumental Inhofe’s climate denial will turn out to be for human civilization.
But this in particular was in reference to the fact that Inhofe had driven his twin-engine on the runway and then ‘sky hopped’ over the six vehicles and personnel working on the runway before landing. Sidney Boyd, who was supervising construction, said that the dangerous stunt “scared the crap out of” the workers he “skyhopped” over and that he “damn near hit” a red truck. “I think he actually wet his britches, he was scared to death. I mean, hell, he started trying to head for the side of the runway. The pilot could see him, or he should have been able to, he was right on him.” But rather than feeling embarrassment at risking the lives of airport workers, Inhofe came out of the plane acting uppity. “He come over here and started being like, ‘What the hell is this? I was supposed to have unlimited airspace.’”
Yet Inhofe did something no other congressman has dared to do: say that Rush Limbaugh was wrong about something. When Rush criticized Obama for sending troops to help Uganda fight the marauding Lord’s Resistance Army, saying that they were Christian warriors “fighting the Muslims in Sudan,” Inhofe, who often travels to Uganda, politely called Rush out on the House floor, saying that his “good friend” had made a mistake in calling them Christian. Inhofe pointed out that the Catholic Church had disavowed them and listed many of their atrocities, after which, Rush, for the first time in his life as far as I know, admitted he was wrong and laughed it off by saying he was happy to have his name entered into the Congressional record.
New propaganda at corporatist bile mills continues to pump oxygen into the Conservative media bubble. Conservative blogger Matt Ridley, in an article for “New Geography,” lambasted wind energy, complaining about their size and bulk as if your source of electricity was within “view from your house.” Continuing on, he writes:
Unpersuaded? Wind turbines slice thousands of birds of prey in half every year, including white-tailed eagles in Norway, golden eagles in California, wedge-tailed eagles in Tasmania. There’s a video on YouTube of one winging a griffon vulture in Crete. According to a study in Pennsylvania, a wind farm with eight turbines would kill about a 200 bats a year. The pressure wave from the passing blade just implodes the little creatures’ lungs. You and I can go to jail for harming bats or eagles; wind companies are immune.
We’re facing a crisis causing millions in East Africa to slowly starve to death because of all the carbon we’ve dumped into the atmosphere, but let’s shed tears for some birds and bats. Funny how I don’t remember Conservatives whining about the thousands of birds and hundreds of turtles and other mammals that died from BP’s oil spill. Wind turbines kill about 100 times less birds than buildings, cars, communication towers, power lines, or cats. The Daily Show pointed out that even duck hunters are trying to stop wind power because they thought the wind turbines were killing the ducks before they could.
The gas well requires no subsidy – in fact it pays a hefty tax to the government – whereas the wind turbines each cost you a substantial add-on to your electricity bill, part of which goes to the rich landowner whose land they stand on. Wind power costs three times as much as gas-fired power. Make that nine times if the wind farm is offshore. And that’s assuming the cost of decommissioning the wind farm is left to your children – few will last 25 years.
First off, according to Politifact, onshore wind is cheaper than coal, nuclear, and conventional natural gas, though plants with an “Advanced Combined Cycle” are cheaper still. Offshore wind is not even twice as expensive as conventional natural gas.
And what is this about no subsidies for oil and gas? It’s true they don’t require taxpayer money to be profitable, but that’s different than whether they are subsidized for no good reason. They are.
Ron Paul’s idea that no energy, dirty or clean, should be subsidized is also unrealistic. There has never been an energy industry in history that was not subsidized by the government. But it’s certainly more an ironic flavor of outrage that the dirty energy that is destroying the climate is even today still being given free money despite being the most profitable corporations on the planet.
Yet Conservatives who are always talking about spending cuts never complain about them. Often they are dismissed as not being “real” subsidies because the companies get them in the form of tax cuts, but a tax cut is when everyone gets a cut. When the government gives money to one group, that’s a gift regardless of whether it’s taken out directly or out of their taxes. Comparing a subsidy report from the EIA to the 2010 budget puts this in perspective:
Biomass: $114 million
Oil & Nat. Gas: $654 million
Coal: $1.189 billion
2010 TOTAL: 2.572 billion
Geothermal: 200 million
Hydro: 215 million
Solar: 968 million
Nuclear: 2.499 billion
Wind: 4.986 billion
2010 TOTAL: 8.868 billion
EPA: $10.5 billion
Dept. of Interior: $12 billion
NASA: $19 billion
Dept. of Justice: $24 billion
Dept. of Agriculture: $26 billion
Homeland Security: $43 billion
Dept. of Transportation: $73 billion
Dept. of Health/Human Services: $79 billion
Interest on National Debt: $164 billion
Medicaid: $290 billion
Medicare: $453 billion
Dept. of Defense: $664 billion
Total cost of War on Terror: $3.2 – $4 trillion
[Update: The Christian Science Monitor gives some very different numbers, saying that oil and coal take in far more in subsidies.]
Funny how Republicans always pick the smallest things on the list to complain about. “Last year’s federal budget included more than $200 million in funding for the Office of Personnel Management,” writes the Onion. “Since nobody really knows what that is, we suggest that money perhaps be spent making sure the oceans don’t turn into acid.”
The Union of Concerned Scientists have complained about the report, arguing that by using a “snapshot” of only one year, “the agency failed to count the massive federal subsidies that the fossil fuel and nuclear industries have enjoyed for decades—benefits they presumably will continue to receive unless Congress acts to limit them. Conversely, relatively new subsidies for wind and other renewables will only last for a finite period—10 years—after those facilities begin operation.”
In other words, if you took all that money that has been given to dirty energy over the years and used that amount to subsidize clean energy now, then it would be fair, that is, ignoring the fact that dirty energy is destroying the planet and clean energy needs to be funded to save it. But even ignoring that, dirty energy has still gotten more money over the years.
On this point, I was asked by a relative of mine, “What is fair? If a wife gets beat up by her husband and leaves him for another man, and he feels its only fair that he gets to beat her too. Is that fair? Huh?”
If you hit a woman 3000 times, and are still hitting her, and then keep complaining about me hitting a woman 8 times, then your problem is psychological.
Also, my punches are CPR.
He then complained about my use of the terms “dirty” and “clean” energy: “What is it about dirty energy that makes it dirty and kills so many people? Is CO2 dirty? Only in the liberal lexicon can something that is odorless, colorless and invisible be deemed ‘dirty'”
It’s true that “clean” and “dirty” are poor descriptions for our energy use. They should be referred to as “life-saving” and “suicide-holocaust-by-planetary-desertification-inducing.”
I pointed to a Wall Street Journal article that detailed research showing that the carbon in tailpipe exhaust which had long been implicated in heart disease, cancer and respiratory ailments might also injure brain cells and synapses key to learning and memory.
The response to this was “CO2 is not a pollutant…it is as essential as O2 and H2O for life on earth.” I replied with the definition of a pollutant but he only continued: “how does this relate to CO2? the air and soil are made up partially of CO2, without which air and soil would not even exist and neither would life on earth.” So I pointed out that the air is 78% nitrogen, which is also invisible, odorless, and important to life, but that if nitrogen was not a pollutant, that would mean the dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico, caused by the eutrophication of nitrogen from fertilizer, is not caused by pollution.
After a while, I got this response:
“So fertilizer is pollution?
We fertilize our crops with pollution?
You are misapplying the word pollution.
Under your definition everything can a pollutant.”
Of course, it wasn’t my definition. It was dictionary definition. I responded: “Right. Anything CAN be a pollutant, if it harms the natural resource. The definition of pollution is ‘any substance, as certain chemicals or waste products, that renders the air, soil,water, or other natural resource harmful or unsuitable for a specific purpose.'”
But I guess even getting him to admit that fossil fuels are getting subsidies is small victory. A year ago he wouldn’t even admit that energy companies were funding climate denial. Being in the oil information industry, he was convinced that since oil companies want oil to be more expensive, they were on the side of climate change alarmism.
I asked if he really thought this is hurting them financially, then why do you think they’re doing it? Is it just some coincidence that Koch Industries just happened to spend almost $25 million on “organizations of the ‘climate denial machine'” between 2005 and 2008? Was it a coincidence that the Koch-funded Cato Institute took in $11 million while propagandizing against climate change or that Koch Industries funded opposition to the Cape Wind offshore project? Was it also a coincidence that Texas oil giants Valero and Tesoro spent two-thirds of the $3 million used to fight the California climate bill?
He said that higher oil prices help producers like OPEC but hurts refiners like Koch and chemical companies because they have to pay more for raw material (oil) to make their products and “Obama’s cap-and-trade gave them no credits (subsidies) like they showered on the utilities to get them to go along with the scheme.” He also asked me to explain “why BP, ConocoPhillips and Chevron, each 10 times bigger than Koch, are FOR global warming legislation.”
Actually, ConocoPhillips and Chevron make about twice as much revenue as Koch Industries, and BP makes about three times as much, but for each of those the profits go to shareholders while Koch is the second largest privately-owned company in the world. Koch spent $12.3 million on lobbyists in 2009, ranking it fifth behind Exxon, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and BP PLC.
And I think that oil companies are a lot more fearful of their main product being drastically cut if renewable energy took hold than whatever extra profit they would take in from higher oil prices. He knows full well that extremely high oil prices affects how people commute to work and that OPEC ultimately lost money when they brought an oil embargo against the U.S. following the Yom Kippur War, which was brought on when Nixon and Israel refused to return control over the Sinai to Egypt. The Sinai was given back after the war, so the whole war and embargo was pointless and could have been avoided.
BP funded the midterm election campaigns of Tea Party candidates who deny the existence of global warming or oppose Barack Obama’s energy agenda.
Exxon, Shell, and BP were also part of the Global Climate Coalition, whose mission statement opposes the Kyoto Protocol.
BP and Shell are also part of the American Petroleum Institute which campaigned against Obama’s climate legislation. An email from the American Petroleum Institute outlines their plan to create the appearance of public opposition to Obama’s climate and energy reform by staging public events to give the appearance of a groundswell of public opinion against the legislation. A key lobbying group will bankroll and organize 20 ‘energy citizen’ rallies in 20 states. In an email obtained by Greenpeace, the president of the American Petroleum Institute outlined “sensitive” plan to stage events to put a “human face” on climate denial.
Exxon has been the slowest of the big oil majors to acknowledge climate change. In 2007, the board made a pledge that in 2008 they would “discontinue contributions to several public policy groups whose position on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion on how the world will secure energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner.” It broke that promise. The Rockefeller family, descendants of the original Standard Oil monopoly from the late 1800s which was broken up into 34 companies including Exxon and Mobil (now Exxon-Mobil), led a shareholder rebellion against their forefather’s creation in 2008 in order to change its funding of climate denial. It ultimately failed.
In response to this I was sent some of the contents of three different webpages:
1. An Indigo Ecology Paper from 1998 describing BP’s “break” with the oil industry over climate change
2. A 2007 newspaper article indicating that Conoco joined the U.S. Climate Action Partnership
3. A 2010 commercial from Conoco saying that they believe in climate change legislation referenced by a right-wing climate denier, Alex Jones, who thinks
This still left out Exxon and Shell which were the two companies he originally mentioned and these three points can be easily refuted:
The Indigo Ecology Paper is 13 years old and does not reflect BP’s attitude today. Since this report was written BP lobbied the Australian government not to sign the Kyoto Protocol unless the US did. In 2010, BP and Conocophillips left the U.S. Climate Action Partnership. In fact, the web page he copied it from has an update reading: “BP’s Deep Horizon Blowout demonstrates that the company culture reported on in this paper has drowned in deeply polluted water.”
So I’m not surprised he left that out.
As for the commercial, it’s a commercial. Here is what the CEO of Conoco really thinks:
“We must overcome the opposition of the ‘hydrocarbon deniers,’ “ Mulva said, playing off the term “climate deniers,” used to describe skeptics about climate science. Hydrocarbon deniers, he said, are those who “believe that renewable energy will quickly and easily replace hydrocarbons and cure all that ails us.”
Mulva, whose company supports mandatory U.S. regulation of greenhouse gases, said renewables cannot develop quickly enough to replace fossil fuels, and he predicted that even in 40 years, most electricity will not come from renewable sources.
“After all, there are only so many places where massive development is economical and publicly acceptable,” Mulva said, “and only so much government funding to subsidize the renewable sources.”…
Mulva lambasted the administration’s proposals to terminate tax benefits on oil and gas. “Perhaps it has not learned that if you tax something you get less of it,” he said. “Less supply security, fewer jobs and lower reinvestment.”…
Wind and solar have problems with “cost, reliability, visual impact, land and water use, bird strikes and massive power-line rights of way,” Mulva said. Biofuels, he said, require large amounts of land and water, can drive up food prices and increase greenhouse gas emissions.
So oil extraction and refining are completely benign? What Mulva really wants is endless subsidies for fossil fuels that already dominate the market, but there’s only so much money for stopping our destruction of the climate. The point of having a price on carbon is so you don’t need endless subsidies.
The last complaint I got was that “liberal institutes that George Soros and Ted Turner and their ilk fund is OK, I guess.” In fact, yes, it is all right for George Soros and Ted Turner to fund liberal causes because neither of them are funding ideologies that support the sell of the product they are making millions off of.
Jon Monbiot points to three case studies to illustrate how the climate denial industry is duping the public:
The first case study I’ve posted reveals how a coalition of US coal companies sought to persuade people that the science is uncertain. It listed the two social groups it was trying to reach – “Target 1: Older, less educated males”; “Target 2: Younger, lower income women” – and the methods by which it would reach them. One of its findings was that “members of the public feel more confident expressing opinions on others’ motivations and tactics than they do expressing opinions on scientific issues”.
Remember this the next time you hear people claiming that climate scientists are only in it for the money, or that environmentalists are trying to create a communist world government: these ideas were devised and broadcast by energy companies. The people who inform me, apparently without irony, that “your article is an ad hominem attack, you four-eyed, big-nosed, commie sack of shit”, or “you scaremongers will destroy the entire world economy and take us back to the Stone Age”, are the unwitting recruits of campaigns they have never heard of.
The second case study reveals how Dr Patrick Michaels, one of a handful of climate change deniers with a qualification in climate science, has been lavishly paid by companies seeking to protect their profits from burning coal. As far as I can discover, none of the media outlets who use him as a commentator – including the Guardian – has disclosed this interest at the time of his appearance. Michaels is one of many people commenting on climate change who presents himself as an independent expert while being secretly paid for his services by fossil fuel companies.
The third example shows how a list published by the Heartland Institute (which has been sponsored by oil company Exxon) of 500 scientists “whose research contradicts man-made global warming scares” turns out to be nothing of the kind: as soon as these scientists found out what the institute was saying about them, many angrily demanded that their names be removed. Twenty months later, they are still on the list. The fourth example shows how, during the Bush presidency, White House officials worked with oil companies to remove regulators they didn’t like and to doctor official documents about climate change.
In Climate Cover-Up, in Ross Gelbspan’s books The Heat is On and Boiling Point, in my book Heat, and on the websites DeSmogBlog.com and exxonsecrets.org, you can find dozens of such examples. Together they expose a systematic, well-funded campaign to con the public. To judge by the comments you can read on this paper’s website, it has worked.
But people behind these campaigns know that their claims are untrue. One of the biggest was run by the Global Climate Coalition, which represented ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, the American Petroleum Institute and several big motor manufacturers. In 1995 the coalition’s own scientists reported that “the scientific basis for the greenhouse effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well-established and cannot be denied”. The coalition hid this finding from the public, and spent millions of dollars seeking to persuade people that the opposite was true. (emphasis mine)
According to a congressional investigation, The American Coalition for Clean Coal waited until several weeks after a major House vote on climate legislation in 2009 to let lawmakers know that letters sent to House lawmakers in the days before the vote opposing the bill which purported to be from minority and senior citizen groups concerned about the legislation were fraudulent. The letters were sent to several politically vulnerable.
Fox news personalities even admit on air that they are more interested in changing the response to climate change based on psychological tricks. Last year, the Daily Beast reported on a memo by Fox News VP and Washington Managing Editor Bill Sammon, on October 27, 2009, advising all on-air personalities to “use the term ‘government-run health insurance,’ or, when brevity is a concern, ‘government option,’ whenever possible.” The memo followed an on-air conversation between Frank Luntz telling Sean Hannity that “If you call it a public option, the American people are split,” but “If you call it the government option, the public is overwhelmingly against it,” to which Hannity replied that he made a great point and that “from now on, I’m going to call it the government option, because that’s what it is.”
Back in February, Fox News columnist Gene Kaprowski put a memo asking for sources, reading: “Former Vice President Al Gore told Bill O’Reilly that: “A rise in global temperature can create all sorts of havoc, ranging from hotter dry spells to colder winters, along with increasingly violent storms, flooding, forest fires and loss of endangered species.” We need comments from someone who can point out the ridiculousness of his argument, even if you accept the somewhat-implausible argument.” (emphasis mine)
Koprowski here is openly asking for sources to feed him his own quotations to make an argument they know is false.
I often wonder if Al Gore’s involvement in the climate change debate has helped or hurt the chances of something being done about climate change. The topic needed someone to bring to spotlight to it, and Gore’s movie certainly got people talking about it. But it also helped polarize the argument: If the Democratic Vice President says global warming is real then it must be a hoax! Conservatives kind of have a point when they point out that despite his heavy use of solar panels, his mansion still boasted 12 times the national average. But far more unforgivable was Gore’s admission that his support for corn ethanol subsidies that contributed to a food price crisis was borne out of a political interest to appease corn farmers in Tennessee. How is anyone supposed to trust him on what he is saying about climate change after that?
Robert Bryce, who left the Institute for Energy Research in 2008 over ideological issues and is now a Senior Fellow at the Manhatten Institute Conservative think tank wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal arguing that since neutrinos at the CERN institute might have gone faster than the speed of light, then “there must be room for debate about the workings and complexities of the Earth’s atmosphere.” FrumForum’s Kenneth Silber admirably rebutted him, pointing out that even if the neutrino finding is confirmed (a possibility that is looking smaller and smaller), then “one can expect relativity would be subsumed into some larger theoretical picture (much as Newtonian physics was) rather than just thrown away. Certainly the finding will not mean that all data having to do with relativity — for example, the fact that nuclear power plants work — get overturned.”
Fox News also came out with an article claiming that many of the people writing the IPCC are not actually experts in their field, saying: “Grad students often co-author scientific papers to help with the laborious task of writing. Such papers are rarely the cornerstone for trillions of dollars worth of government climate funding, however — nor do they win Nobel Peace prizes. But out of 1250 authors of the 2007 report, Fox only named one who was a grad student. The article claimed that Jonathan Patz was a grad student when he worked on the 1994 report, but in fact he was a Doctor of Occupational and Environmetnal Medicine. Richard Klein was also a grad student but he only helped author a Special Report, not a Major Assessment Report. Lisa Alexander was a grad student as well, but she was only a contributor, not a lead author.
Conservative ads are getting pretty crazy. Joe Romm describes the latest anti-EPA ad as something the local middle-school AV club were to asked to make something along the lines of “‘Tomb Raider 4? meets ‘Night of the Living Dead’ meets ‘Lord of the Rings’ meets ‘Star Wars’ meets ‘Fox News.’”
But the news item that has really been making the rounds is the fact that an independent study led by climate skeptic Richard Muller and funded by Libertarian think tank founders, the Koch Brothers, proved Muller’s previous skepticism wrong. Muller’s team from Berkeley confirmed that the effect of urban heating on the global trends have a negligible effect on the increased warming over the last century. Skeptic Anthony Watts promised that he was “prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong,” but then quickly back-flipped from that position once he heard that Muller’s findings were already completely in line with the existing data even when only 2% of the data had been processed. Watts’ complaint was that Muller’s team reaching a conclusion with only 2% of the data proved that they had come to a predetermined conclusion.
Of course, Conservatives went right to work on Muller. In an article called, “Lying, cheating climate scientists caught lying, cheating again,” James Delingpole says that he had “doubts about Muller’s findings from the start” and that “there is little evidence of him ever having been one,” making the implication that no one from liberal Berkeley could possibly be a climate skeptic.
Despite what Dinglepole thinks, but there is plenty of evidence that Muller was a skeptic. Muller has called other skeptics like Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre “hero[es]” of his. McIntyre, by the way, recently tried to link the recent rape scandal at Penn State to the university’s climate science department, saying “It’s hard not to transpose the conclusions of the Penn State Climategate “investigation” into Penn State’s attitude towards misconduct charges in their profitable football program.” Watts backed McIntyre up, saying: “Steve McIntyre writes about what many of us have been thinking about Penn State’s failures at investigating its own, such as the appearance of a whitewash investigation done about Dr. Michael Mann and Climategate.”
And what did Muller think of the vindicated “Climategate”? “It felt like a woman who’s just learned her husband was cheating on her.”
In fact, Muller was so upset about scientists at NOAA being vindicated from “Climategate” that he is quoted in a Heritage Foundation article, “The Left’s War on Science,” as saying:
What they did is the took the data form 1961 on, from this peak, and erased it. What was their justification for erasing it? The fact that it went down… This justification would not have survived peer review in any journal that I am willing to publish in… And what is the result in my mind? Quite frankly as a scientist, I now have a list of people whose papers I won’t read anymore. You’re not allowed to do this in science. This is not up to our standards.
That’s an article I just a happened upon, unconnected to the recent interest surrounding Muller, proving once again that the denier bench is low indeed.
And here’s an article where Muller incorrectly blames China, claims clouds cause three times as much of the global warming as the IPCC claims, denies that hurricanes are getting stronger, and talks about geoengineering the earth’s climate as if that isn’t a desperate move of last resort.
“I certainly feel that there is lots of room for skepticism on the human component of warming,” Muller said.
What more could skeptics want? Does he have to believe the sun is carried across the sky on a chariot by Apollo?
Oh yeah, and Muller also runs a consulting company, Muller & Associates, which advises energy companies in areas that include “enhanced oil recovery and underground coal gasification.”
So it’s probably no surprise that Muller has given discordant explanations in subsequent interviews, saying on one hand that “we are dumping enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that we’re working in a dangerous realm, I realm where I think, we may really have trouble in the next coming decades,” but on the other hand, was quoted as saying that for the earth as a whole, “we don’t know that it’s warming. It may be constant, we don’t know.” He may have been quoted out of context since Joe Romm was also in that article, or he could just be a moron. The fact that he wrote a book on the crank theory that the dinosaurs were killed by a “death star” that revolves around the sun every 26 million years supports the latter theory. It may be common for deniers to subscribe to crank theories. S. Fred Singer believed we could tow one of Mars’ moons back to Earth in the ’60s and Christopher Monckton, who has been asked by the House of Lords to stop calling himself a Lord, is a birther.
“Note how the 10 year trend from 2001 to 2010 – in flat contradiction of Muller’s claims – shows no warming whatsoever. What’s odd that BEST appears to have gone to great trouble – shades of “hide the decline”, anyone? – to disguise this inconvenient truth. Here is a graph released by BEST.”
Ahhhh… they never get tired of “hide the decline.” Never mind that the “hiding” was a reference to a graph on tree rings not to any hidden data about overall climate.
Can he find one scientist that will back up this claim? No, of course not. Because in his world all scientists are liars. Only people who don’t know crap about statistics can tell you what a statistical increase or decrease is.
You can’t measure the average climate change in 5 or 10 years because, by definition, climate is the average world temperature over a minimum of 30 years. Here’s a graph showing how skeptics take 200 years of incontrovertible warming and parse it into six short-term “declines” simply by cherry-picking the start and end dates. If you work with a short enough window, you can prove anything.
Dingalingpole continues: “The data is then smoothed using a ten year average which is ideally suited to removing the past five years of the past decade and mix the earlier standstill years with years when there was an increase.”
To claim that it has cooled in the last five years after the world experienced its hottest year, decade and century in 2010 shows an amazing amount of self delusion. Nineteen countries set new heat index records, including Pakistan hitting 126.
Things are so warped in the minds of Conservatives that they can not even admit that climate science is really science. The word “science” is too strong a concept to give up on. Maybe if we didn’t live in the 21st century with cellphones, computers, etc., then it would be easier to openly criticize scientists since 97% of all them (not just climate scientists) accept man-made climate change. Some Conservatives like Gerald Warner do openly ridicule the entire profession, belittling them as “pointy-heads in lab coats” who “have reassumed the role of mad cranks they enjoyed from the days of Frankenstein to boys’ comics in the 1950s.” Other Conservatives, like the Heritage Foundtion, pretend they are fighting scientists on behalf of science. Most Conservatives, however, instead try to appeal to low-information voters and instead attempt to outright deceive the general public into thinking that scientists agree with them.
Gary Gutting of the Washington Post goes a different route. While he admits that the vast majority of scientists accept man-made climate change, he attempts to compare the acceptance of expert opinion by non-experts with Plato’s argument that philosopher kings (or experts) are better at running the government than a democracy:
How can we, nonexperts, take account of expert opinion when it is relevant to decisions about public policy?
To answer this question, we need to reflect on the logic of appeals to the authority of experts. First of all, such appeals require a decision about who the experts on a given topic are. Until there is agreement about this, expert opinion can have no persuasive role in our discussions. Another requirement is that there be a consensus among the experts about points relevant to our discussion. Precisely because we are not experts, we are in no position to adjudicate disputes among those who are. Finally, given a consensus on a claim among recognized experts, we nonexperts have no basis for rejecting the truth of the claim.
By that logic, how can airline passengers trust pilots to fly airplanes correctly? Obviously, the airplane should be flown by having all the passengers vote on which buttons and levers should be pushed. Keep following these idiots and Plato’s belief that a democracy is unsustainable will proven correct for sure.
But really, that is the whole problem. Conservative psychology is not really interested in trying to derive the truth through expert opinion on that particular subject but instead adopts itself to a single hierarchical where the ultimate authority, be it the Bible or Fox News, determines all of aspects a unified truth shared by all its participants. In contrast to this, liberal psychology tends to focus not on unity but on being different and unique, even priding itself on being disorganized, as seen in Occupy Wall Street, which barely has more Liberals than Libertarians but whose causes were certainly dominated more by Progressivism than Conservativism, but emphatically denies being a “Liberal Tea Party.” This rebellious spirit causes the Left to become, as Chris Mooney puts it, “balkanized and in a completely different camp from those who are only half a political degree away from them on a 360 degree spectrum.”
But despite this, Liberals far more than Conservatives emphasize pacifism in their politics, though both sides of course know that using violence openly only hurts their position in the ongoing media narrative. Conservatives are certainly more open to the allowance of civilian deaths in the name of the War on Terror, although the election of Obama has brought a major shift in that narrative from concerns over Bush’s encroachment of civil rights to crediting Obama for success in increasing the military authority of the executive branch.
I often wonder if climate change was as important an issue with the Left as social or economic issues if eco-terrorism would play a larger role in subverting carbon production. There have been so many wars over the centuries that, while instrumental to the way some things turned out, ultimately had no large effect on the world as a whole, and yet all people can seem to do when faced with a perpetual world holocaust can only sit around desks and disagree with each other about what plans they will do to stop it.
There was the eco-terrorist James Lee, who was shot dead a year ago after holding up the Discovery Channel Headquarters in order to force them to air a television show urging people not to have babies. He claimed to have been inspired by An Inconvenient Truth, but he also hated immigrants and referred to them as trash. Obviously, he was deranged and simply didn’t realize that he was hurting his cause, which itself was fruitless. We can’t convince the world to stop having babies.
But perhaps after the desertification of the planet causes food prices to soar, there might actually be large groups of Weather Underground-like eco-terrorists who will try more direct measures like blowing up oil pipelines or bombing coal plants. I’ve always had respect for the groups who sabotage the equipment of the crews tearing down the rainforest. Unlike most people, who typically give their lives to support the power structure of the nations they were accidentally born in, the saboteurs fought for a cause transcending the divisions of race, nation, and religion to being about a better future for all of mankind, ever since I was first told by my young 6th grade Catholic school homeroom teacher Miss Singleton about how those involved worked in cels that would refuse to give any information about other saboteurs. Nevertheless, by the time the concept of the futuristic eco-terrorist hero was introduced by the video game Final Fantasy VII in 1997, the lameness of Captain Planet had made the idea seemed rather blase. But that was the 90s. Today the concept seems more prescient.
If the dream of going back in time to assassinate Hitler has become a cliche, then will Dick Cheney and James Inhofe become just as reviled? Future governments seeking to mitigate public anger at continuing carbon outputs may excavate Michael Crichton’s body in order to burn it like a heretic to the 15th-century Church, only to excuse their own carbon emissions because of the far more pressing existential threats brought upon by climate-caused wars. Unlike those assholes in the past, those conflicts will be considered “real wars,” not the vanity wars of the early 21st century.
If one really believes the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, then destruction of the energy plants that originally led to the modern scientific revolution, ultimately saving millions of lives, may be the only truly moral decision to save the lives of billions.
Obviously, I’d rather just see them retired as we moved on to cleaner energy, and this is not really a concept I would even like to entertain if anyone read or cared about this blog, but it does keep me wondering if every American today will be ultimately responsible for more deaths than any of the totalitarian dictators of the 20th century.