Last week on Twitter I lamented the simplistic public discourse on climate change, how it’s often framed by those who dismiss the legitimate concerns of a warming planet and those who play up those concerns. American Politicians, especially those with leadership positions in the Republican and Democratic parties, could steer the debate into calmer waters if they chose, since what they write and say on controversial issues usually makes news.
You can stop laughing now.
A recent Washington Post op-ed by Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who is chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, feigned to sound reasonable about climate change, the way Vice Presidential candidate Dick Cheney pretended to be reasonable in 2000 during his debate with Joe Lieberman. It didn’t take long for many to be disabused of that facade and similarly, winking conservatives today know that on the issue of climate change, there isn’t much space between Lamar Smith and his fellow Republican James Inhofe, the author of a new book called, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your future.
Smith is just more artful in the way he mischaracterizes climate science and downplays the threat of greenhouse gases. That said, Smith was dead-on about one thing in his op-ed, when he wrote that “unscientific and often hyperbolic claims” mar the climate dialogue.
As if on cue, one prominent Democratic senator has just served up a classic example of exploitive hyperbole. Read More
In a recent report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) lamented:
The picture is as clear as it is disturbing: the carbon intensity of the global energy supply has barely changed in 20 years, despite successful efforts in deploying renewable energy.
Another fact, noted in the IEA’s report, will disturb anyone concerned about climate change:
The unremitting rise in global coal demand for power generation continued in 2012. Global coal-fired power generation is estimated to have increased by around 6% between 2010 and 2012, building on strong growth over the past few years…China and, to a lesser extent, India continue to play a key role in driving demand growth. China’s coal consumption represented 46.2% of global coal demand in 2011; India’s share was 10.8%, up 7% and 9% respectively on 2010 levels.
Worldwide, coal accounts for 43% of CO2 emissions. Reducing that number is key to reducing the severity of global warming. Yet global demand for coal shows no sign of slowing in the near-term future, as this IEA graph makes clear. Read More
Sometimes I think the climate debate remains stalled because those who are most concerned refuse to ask the pertinent questions. Instead, they keep refighting old battles that are no longer relevant to a constructive discourse. The latest example is this survey by John Cook et al that is getting a lot of undeserved attention in the mainstream media. I say that because, questionable methodology aside, the survey tells us nothing new and is, as science journalist David Appell noted, “a meaningless exercise.”
The main finding, which was just published in the journal Environmental Research Letters:
A new survey of over 12,000 peer-reviewed climate science papers by our citizen science team at Skeptical Science has found a 97% consensus in the peer-reviewed literature that humans are causing global warming.
This strikes me as T-shirt worthy. Oh wait…
In a short post at his blog, Appell says these kinds of survey numbers
are made for lazy journalists who don’t want to examine the complexity of the science, reporters who just want a number that quickly and easily supports their position.
He’s right. In a minute, I’ll get to the kinds of complexities that would be good to examine, but first let’s look at the premise for the survey, as stated: Read More
Last year, in an interview with New York Times reporter Justin Gillis, CJR’s Curtis Brainard asked:
There’s been a lot of debate about the extent to which media coverage does or does not influence public opinion about climate change and society’s willingness to address the problem. Do journalists matter in this regard?
Gillis answered exactly as I (and any journalist) would have:
Well, if I didn’t think it mattered, I wouldn’t be doing it, but how that social dialectic works over the long run, I don’t really know.
What we do know is that the weather, above all, moves the needle on public opinion. Read More
The Guardian reports that Prince Charles is standing up for climate science and criticizing the forces of climate change denial.
If you know about the Prince’s GMO fear-mongering and falsehoods about GM crops and his dangerous promotion of alternative medicine (such as homeopathy), then you know he is not the best emissary for science. Indeed, one well-respected scientist has called him a “snake-oil salesman.” Read More
Sometimes you have to sit back and marvel when the Wall Street Journal and the loony internet fringe are indistinguishable. Last month, Mike Adams, whose special brand of crazy can be found at Natural News, wrote an article that was sufficiently whacked for it to be reproduced by Alex Jones’ Infowars.com. It starts off:
If you talk to the global warming crowd, carbon dioxide — CO2 — is the enemy of mankind. Any and all creation of CO2 is bad for the planet, we’re told, and its production must be strictly limited in order to save the world.
But what if that wasn’t true? What if CO2 were actually a planet-saving nutrient that could multiply food production rates and feed the world more nutritious, healthy plants?
I think you can see where that piece is going. Now let’s head over to a new op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, by Harrison Schmidt, a former astronaut and William Happer, a Princeton physicist. It starts off: Read More
If your concern is climate change, and you believe that slowing or preventing it is your fundamental priority, then nuclear power should be high up on the list for energy-production.
He was responding to a reader who castigated liberals for their dogmatic stance on nuclear power, fracking and genetically modified crops.
The exchange reminded me of Chris Mooney’s recent argument that conservatives are way more hostile to science than liberals. Mooney, being the author of a book called The Republican War on Science, is not exactly an impartial observer of this debate. Nor has his argument gone unchallenged. Read More
Kangaroo Scrotums are the New Victims of Global Warming
While reading this new piece from Vice magazine, I thought it was an Onion-like gag. I mean, really?
Climate change is a huge concern for many, many reasons: the ice caps are melting, droughts are sweeping the world, and mega-hurricanes are striking cities that have never before had to weather such storms. But it’s only recently that climate change has threatened Australia’s hilarious but substantial kangaroo nutsack trade. The hopping marsupials’ scrotums, which are crafted into souvenir bottle-openers and key rings, have made manufacturer John Kreuger, hereby known (by me) as the King of Ballsacks, hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Who would buy such a thing?! But there really seems to be a market and an actual “King of Ballsacks.” Read More
A long time ago, in the pre-blog era, I watched a TV debate on CNN between a newly minted U.S. Vice President and a quirky Texas businessman who, at one point during his extended 15 minutes of fame, was considered a serious presidential candidate.
In the span of 90 minutes, Al Gore sold wavering Americans on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and snuffed out Ross Perot’s political star. This was a major event 20 years ago. Weeks after the November debate in 1993, Congress ratified NAFTA and Perot, who by then was getting kookier by the day, never regained his footing, though he still won 8 percent of the popular vote when he ran for President again in 1996.
This is ancient history, especially when we consider all that has transpired since then. But the Gore/Perot debate spectacle yielded notable moments, including this one-liner from Gore that a UK correspondent picked up on: Read More
As it becomes increasingly evident that a switch from coal to natural gas is reducing energy-related carbon emissions in the United States–which is a net plus if you care about climate change– opponents of fracking find themselves being asked to choose between the lesser of two evils. That is a debate in of itself worth having.
Renewable energy can run the whole world. We know we have enough wind in the world to power the world five to ten times over. We have a technological solution for this.
We do? Which incantation do I recite to make this magical world appear? Read More