What global warming?
What the weather’s like affects some people’s beliefs about global climate change, a new study found: On hot days, they’re all over it, but on cold days, they’re not so sure.
This is not impressive, people. It’s called “global,” meaning not just what you personally felt when you walked out the door this morning. “Climate” also means something different from “weather”, and “change” could mean things will get warmer, colder, or just plain different. On unusually chilly days, these climatically labile folks are 0 for 3.
If only that was the worst of it. A string of studies have shown that people are comically bad at consistently thinking, well, anything when it comes to climate change. Even miniscule differences in what we’re up to at the moment or how we’re asked can have a big effect on what people think of climate change and what they’re willing to do to help. Here are five more ridiculously simple things that get people to change their minds:
What’s on TV. I’m sure you all remember the 2004 hit film The Day After Tomorrow, in which global warming throws Earth into a new ice age, all of a sudden, much to everyone’s surprise. After the movie came out, one study showed, people believed in global warming more, worried about it more, and felt it was more dangerous than they had a few weeks earlier. Where data fail, have Jake Gyllenhaal run through the streets of an ice-bound New York.
Wording of what’s happening. About 10% more people think weird things will happen to Earth’s climate when you call those weird things “climate change” than “global warming,” a study in March found—because the exact phrasing is what’s really important here, not the weird-climatic-things part.
The chain of cause and effect seems clear: climate change causes Arctic temperatures to fluctuate, which causes ice build-up as snow repeatedly thaws and refreezes. And to Arctic reindeer herders–who want their herds to continue to eat the nice lichen underneath all that ice–the next link in this chain is also clear: castrate your reindeer.
“Males castrated in the traditional way would have an increased chance of survival over other males since they maintain body weight and condition during the rutting season,” according to a research document by Eli Risten Nergaard of Sami University College.
But that’s not all. Researchers have found that castrated male reindeer are larger than their un-castrated brethren, are therefore better able to pound through the thick Arctic ice; they’re also more willing to share their food with calves. In other words, castrated male reindeers facilitate the survival of the entire herd–that is, assuming they’re not all castrated.
In early December someone sabotaged poor wind turbine number 8 in a wind farm in Bingham township, Michigan by taking out its transformer. The Huron Daily Tribune reports:
A hole found in the transformer’s radiator resulted in damage, which caused oil to leak out. The exact amount of damage to the $50,000 transformer was not reported. The hole in the transformer, according to police, appears to be from a small caliber firearm…. Huron County Sheriff Kelly J. Hanson said the damage to the transformer appears to be “intentional sabotage.”
The hole in the wind turbine’s transformer caused it to break down, which resulted in the turbine overheating and automatically shutting down. The shooter remains on the lam, and his motives are not clear, says Treehugger:
Sick of chasing down climate denialists himself, Nigel Leck put his programming skills to use for him. He created the Twitter bot @AI_AGW, who also goes by the name “Turing Test.”
Every five minutes the bot searches Twitter for tweets relating to climate change denialism, and automatically responds to the posters using a database of hundreds of rebuttals, which include links to information and videos. Christopher Mims at Technology Review talked to Leck about the project:
The database began as a simple collection of responses written by Leck himself, but these days quite a few of the rejoinders are culled from a university source whom Leck says he isn’t at liberty to divulge.
Warning: Some viewers might find the video below disturbing and graphic.
In a move that some are calling a misguided publicity stunt, the environmental activist group 10:10 Climate Change Campaign produced and released a gory and disturbing short film, similar to Plane Stupid’s “Polar Bear” video (warning: also gory), to promote the climate change action day scheduled for October 10, 2010 (or 10/10/10).
In the video above, people who don’t pledge themselves to 10:10’s cause (including school children and Gillian Anderson) are exploded into red, chunky goo with the press of a button. It was released last week and has resulted in a media backlash, including Sony’s retraction of support of the cause. It even inspired a cartoon.
Not only does the video offend and disgust, but the New York Times’s Dot Earth Blog summarized another main problem with the video–the dark shadow the negative publicity has spread over the entirety of the climate change debate:
If the goal had been to convince people that environmental campaigners have lost their minds and to provide red meat (literally) to shock radio hosts and pundits fighting curbs on greenhouse gases, it worked like a charm. Of course the goal might have been buzz more than efficacy. Too often these days, that’s the online norm. They succeeded on that front. I, among many others, am forced to write about it. Congratulations.
Climate change might have one teensy good effect, at least in the United States: changes to weather patterns may make it harder for the bubonic plague to survive in rodent burrows.
Bubonic plague is spread by rodents, like the chubby little prairie dog over there on the right, and their fleas to house-dwelling rats, mice, and squirrels, which can spread the deadly bacteria to humans.
Last week, an atmospheric scientist named Kyle Vandercamp stumbled across some surprising documents at his job, and decided to blow the whistle on his employer, Bluebird Lab. The privately funded lab wasn’t just researching potential geoengineering solutions–the planet hacks that could serve as a “plan B” if we can’t get globe-warming CO2 emissions under control–it was actually preparing a full-blown, unilateral tryout for one of these schemes, he said.
Freaky, eh? Might be something to be alarmed about–if it wasn’t just a game.
A second independent inquiry in Britain has cleared climate scientists at the University of East Anglia of any wrongdoing. In the ClimateGate scandal last year, thousands of emails from the university’s Climatic Research Unit were hacked into and released, after which climate change skeptics mined the emails for evidence that the researchers were distorting scientific evidence related to global warming.
The independent inquiry into “ClimateGate,” however, found such allegations to be baseless. But it seems not everyone was convinced.
Here’s a roundup of headlines from some news outlets that covered the inquiries findings: Can you spot the newsroom with an ax to grind?
The New York Times: Britain: Inquiry Finds No Distortion of Climate Data
Huffington Post: Second expert panel shows “ClimateGate” was a ClimateSham
The Wall Street Journal: Panel Says Scientists Didn’t Act Improperly
Lately when we’ve picked on people for bad science reporting, it’s often been anti-vaccine nonsense in the Huffington Post, or The Telegraph for going way overboard on one story or another. Today, though, it’s The Daily Beast, running columnist Tunku Varadarajan’s “A Skeptic’s Guide to Copenhagen.” And Varadarajan earned both contempt and some praise for this piece.
Given the title, Varadarajan certainly isn’t trying to hide what he’s doing; it’s a big tent revival for people who agree with him. The piece trots out one global warming non-believer talking point after another: suggesting the East Anglia hacked e-mails affair shows a widespread conspiracy, taking the word “trick” in the emails out of context, saying the sun is “the likeliest global warming culprit,” painting a handful of scientists like Freeman Dyson as heroic for “dissenting from the warmist consensus” and dismissing the rest as a bunch of villainous sheep, and so on.
• Avast ye matey! Indian Ocean pirates arrr trouble for lily-livered climate researchers. OK jokes aside, Somali pirates are such a serious threat that the scientists studying Indian Ocean conditions need an armed escort to carry out their work.
• Nonja the Orangutan can update her own Facebook page. Apparently, she’s also a fan of the camera-phone-too-close-to-the-face profile pic.
• The Iron Curtain not only isolated Eastern Europe, it also kept alien bird species from colonizing it.
• Nepal’s cabinet met today to discuss climate change’s effect on the Himalayas—5,242 meters high at the base of Mount Everest.
• Finally, it’s Friday. Time to kick back, crack open a few space beers, and enjoy the weekend.