Category: Global Warming

Galileo and the Tea Party

By Chris Mooney | September 12, 2011 2:41 pm

I’ve done my latest DeSmogBlog piece on the Rick Perry Galileo flap. I say a lot, but I particularly liked this part of it:

The misuse and abuse of Galileo’s story, in other words, is a case study in how people reason about history—just as they do with science—in a biased, motivated way, seeking to cast themselves as the good guys, the victors, and their foes as the opposite.

And once you see things in this way, you realize there’s a very close analogy in our politics to the Perry-Galileo flap. Climate “skeptics” invoking Galileo is really quite a lot like right wingers calling themselves the “Tea Party.”

The great architects of the United States—Jefferson, Franklin, Madison—were men of reason and the Enlightenment, just as Galileo was a man of the Scientific Revolution. They were freethinkers and, in Jefferson’s and Franklin’s case, scientists and inventors. And they didn’t want religion shoved down anybody’s throat.

And yet we now find a movement in America that wants more religion in politics, and that rejects science on climate change and evolution alike, trying to claim the mantle of the country’s founding.

Rick Perry’s invocation of Galileo, then, is much more than merely ridiculous. It gives us quite the window on the right wing mind, and demonstrates just how much it has managed to turn reality upside-down.

Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength…and Galileo and Rick Perry ride off together into the Texas sunset.

Full piece here.

Rick Perry's Texas-Sized Climate Denial

By Chris Mooney | August 17, 2011 4:29 pm

Coming on strong as a candidate, with everybody talking about him, Rick Perry immediately attacks global warming and says it’s all a plot for scientists to get ‘da bucks. It’s like, a welfare program, but for scientists. Here are some quotes:

Fielding audience questions after brief remarks that dwelled largely on fiscal and economic issues, Perry encountered one skeptic who said he was quoting from Perry’s 2010 book, Fed Up!: Our Fight to Save America From Washington, then asked whether misgivings about climate science fueled distrust of federal research in general.

“I do believe that the issue of global warming has been politicized,” Perry answered. “I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. I think we’re seeing it almost weekly or even daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change. Yes, our climates change. They’ve been changing ever since the earth was formed.”

More here.

Hey Rick Perry–when and how do you think the Earth was formed? What was the “climate” like then? I’d love to hear his answer to that one.

Now, is it surprising to find a GOP candidate denying human caused global warming? Heck no–this is a litmus test issue in the party.

But it is surprising to find how exercised Perry seems to be about it. He isn’t just toeing some line. He actually seems to be engaged with the topic–which is what’s most worrisome.

Catch Me Today on "Ring of Fire" Discussing Attacks on Climate Education

By Chris Mooney | August 17, 2011 9:37 am

OOPS: I am recording today for a show over the weekend.  My bad. Check local listings here.

I’ll be on the air today around 1 ET–check local listings–with Mike Papantonio. I’ll be discussing this recent DeSmog piece, which got a lot of pickup, about right wing attacks on climate science teaching at the local level.

I hope you’ll tune in.

S&P Downgrades Planet Earth!!!

By Chris Mooney | August 16, 2011 8:56 am

Over the weekend, I wrote,

I’m also still waiting for the Onion headline: “S&P Downgrades Earth; Cites Unbalanced Carbon Budget.”

But the Onion was too slow, and so I took it on myself to write the piece, over at DeSmogBlog. It starts like this:

Washington, D.C.—In a move that came as a shock both in this city and throughout the planet on which it is located, Standard & Poor’s late Monday downgraded Earth from its unique HHH rating—the only one in the galaxy—to HH+.

The coveted HHH rating—meaning, “extremely habitable”—has become indefensible, the ratings agency said, due to continuing failures to balance the atmospheric carbon budget and an increasingly toxic political debate that renders better policies unlikely any time soon.

“Atmospheric carbon inputs continue to outweigh carbon outputs (or sinks), leading to a growing and unsustainable carbon ‘surplus,’” wrote S&P. “Unlike fiscal surpluses, this surplus is very dangerous and is already triggering rising temperatures, heat waves, droughts, and extreme weather patterns.”

Under the new HH+ rating, the Earth is still considered “highly habitable” for humans. However, S&P also changed the planet’s outlook to “negative,” suggesting the possibility of further downgrades.

Critics Cite Dearth of Spaceships

Criticism came fast and furious….

You can read on here. Enjoy.

P.S.: Joe Romm reposts the spoof, and adds an additional ratings downgrade for humanity.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Economy, Global Warming, Humor

Attacks on Climate Science in Schools Are Mounting

By Chris Mooney | August 10, 2011 10:30 am

My latest DeSmog piece is about the classroom climate for climate science teaching–and how poisonous it is getting. It starts like this:

A few months back, those who care about accurate climate science and energy education in high school classes registered a minor victory. Under fire from outlets like The New York Times, the education publishing behemoth Scholastic (of Clifford the Big Red Dog and Harry Potter fame) pulled an energy curriculum sponsored by the American Coal Foundation, which gave a nice PR sheen to coal without bothering to cover, uh, the whole environmental angle. The curriculum had reportedly already been mailed to 66,000 classrooms by the time it got yanked.

When it comes to undermining accurate and responsible climate and energy education at the high school level, Scholastic may have been the most prominent transgressor. But precisely because it is a massive and respected educational publisher, and actually careswhat The New York Times thinks, it was also the most moderate and easy to reason with.

Although it’s hard to find online now, I’ve reviewed the offending coal curriculum, entitled “The United States of Energy.” In my view, it didn’t even contain any obvious falsehoods—except for errors of omission. It was more a case of subtle greenwashing.

What’s currently seeping into classrooms across the country is far, far worse—more ideological, and more difficult to stop. We’re talking about outright climate denial being fed to students—and accurate climate science teaching being attacked by aggressive Tea Party-style ideologues.

You can read on here….

Time to Start Watching Arctic Sea Ice

By Chris Mooney | July 27, 2011 12:42 pm

I haven’t done many pure science items lately, so my latest piece at DeSmog is about Arctic sea ice extent, which is even lower right now than it was at the same time during the record year of 2007. An excerpt:

The extent of ice covering the Arctic has been declining for decades, and reached a record low in September of 2007, nearly 40 percent below its long term average. This wasn’t solely the product of global warming—weather patterns also have a lot to do with ice extent, and they contributed to the 2007 record.

Nevertheless, much like the worsening of heat waves, Arctic ice decline is one of the most obvious  impacts of global warming—and this year, it’s possible that Arctic ice extent might reach a minimum even lower than it did in 2007.

The annual Arctic sea ice minimum occurs sometime in September—that’s when the ice cover has received the most summer heat and shrunken accordingly, before beginning to build again as winter sets in. There’s a natural cycle of melt and freeze, but global warming is perturbing that cycle….

You can read the full piece here.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Global Warming

The Global Warming-Heat Wave Connection = Strong

By Chris Mooney | July 25, 2011 11:49 am

My latest DeSmogBlog piece is about why, just as we had to be careful about the tornado-climate linkage–which was overplayed–so we can now talk the hell out of the global warming-heat wave connection, which is extremely strong. It starts like this:

Earlier this year, I grew uncomfortable with attempts to link the massive tornado destruction that we saw in the U.S. to climate change. As I explained then—based on an interview with Harold Brooks, one of our top experts on tornadoes and climate—the evidence just doesn’t support this assertion. We can’t show that tornadoes have gone up, or gotten worse. Nor can we show that the theory or models predict that they should in a warming world.

However, we’ve just experienced a staggering U.S. heat wave (visual here), and that makes it seriously time to talk about the link to climate change, and not shut up any time soon….

You can read the full piece here.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Global Warming

Al Gore Launches the "Climate Reality Project"

By Chris Mooney | July 12, 2011 2:12 pm

Here’s the description, and note the Enlightenment language:

Climate change is not your fault for the car you drive, the lights you turn on, or the food you eat. The climate crisis is our problem. Real solutions, systemic solutions, innovative solutions, can only come when we address it together. That’s what The Climate Reality Project will do. Without doubt. Without delay. And with your help.

The Climate Reality Project is bringing the facts about the climate crisis into the mainstream and engaging the public in conversation about how to solve it. We help citizens around the world reject the lies and take meaningful steps to bring about change.

Founded and chaired by Al Gore, Nobel Laureate and former Vice President of the United States, The Climate Reality Project has more than 5 million members and supporters worldwide. It is guided by one simple truth: The climate crisis is real and we know how to solve it.

The problem is, what if we don’t all agree upon the same “reality”? If so, calling for an embrace of the “facts” and an end to “doubt” won’t work, because we lack a consensus about what the facts are–and everybody has an argument that he/she thinks is right and convincing (even if it’s just the result of motivated reasoning).

In my view, Gore has been pretty much right about the science of climate all along. But sad to say, everything I’ve learned about this issue convinces me that there is little he can say or do to get conservative climate “skeptics” to accept that.

Yes, they need to renounce their counter-reality and come back to this one. But paradoxically, having Al Gore tell them that may just drive them farther away. Let’s hope he can appeal to the middle, anyway…

Newsflash: Astroturfing Works

By Chris Mooney | July 11, 2011 11:13 am

My latest DeSmogBlog post reports on a new study, in the Journal of Business Ethics, about the rather icky corporate practice known as “Astroturfing”–e.g., setting up fake grassroots organizations to defend the status quo, rather than challenge it. The study tested the effectiveness of Astroturf websites in sowing doubts about global warming, and lo and behold, they work.

Here’s a bit of the experimental design, which I appreciated:

The website for each condition, respectively, consisted of a ‘‘Home page’’ with links to five other pages pertaining to global warming and the organization’s activities. In the grassroots condition, these were labeled as ‘‘About us,’’ ‘‘Key issues and solutions,’’ ‘‘Why act now?’’ ‘‘Get involved!’’ and ‘‘Contact us.’’ Similarly, in the astroturf condition, the pages links were labeled as ‘‘About us,’’ ‘‘Myths/facts,’’ ‘‘Climate science,’’ ‘‘Scientific references,’’ and ‘‘Contact us.’’ All of the content was based on information found on real-world grassroots and astroturf web-sites ….

A further manipulation consisted of disclosing information regarding the funding source that supported the organization. The organization’s name in all websites, regardless of the condition, was ‘‘Climate Clarity.’’ In each of the funding source conditions, all web pages within the condition specified who funds the organization (donations, Exxon Mobil or the Conservation Heritage Fund). The ‘‘no disclosure’’ condition did not have any information on funding sources anywhere within the web pages.

You can read the full post here; the original study is here.

Environmentalists Caused Recent Global Warming Trends And Need To Do It Again

By The Intersection | July 8, 2011 5:40 pm

This is a guest post by Jamie L. Vernon, Ph.D., a research scientist and policy wonk, who encourages the scientific community to get engaged in the policy-making process

While many of us were howling about global warming over the last decade, Earth’s surface temperature actually failed to significantly increase.  Yes, I said it. Global surface temperature showed little warming between 1998 and 2008. But, don’t go and broadcast the demise of the global warming movement quite yet.  The reasons for the cooling trend are not encouraging.  In fact, they are quite threatening.  And, if environmentalists have their way (and I think they should), global warming will reemerge and may do so at an alarming rate.

A team of researchers led by Harvard professor James Stock have determined that gases resulting from human activities in conjunction with natural variables can explain the “1999-2008 hiatus in warming.”  Using published statistical models, they were able to demonstrate that a rapid increase in coal consumption in Asia likely generates sufficient sulfur emissions to reduce global surface temperatures.  They write,

We find that this hiatus in warming coincides with a period of little increase in the sum of anthropogenic and natural forcings. Declining solar insolation as part of a normal eleven-year cycle, and a cyclical change from an El Nino to a La Nina dominate our measure of anthropogenic effects because rapid growth in short-lived sulfur emissions partially offsets rising greenhouse gas concentrations.

In other words, despite the influence of other natural variables, sulfur dioxide is the major driver of recent temperature fluctuations.  Sulfur dioxide is a natural by-product of burning coal.  Accumulation of sulfur dioxide aerosols in the atmosphere reflects the sun’s rays leading to a cooling effect on global surface temperatures.  Because emissions from human activities greatly exceed natural production, increased dependence upon coal-based energy production can lead to sulfur dioxide-driven cooling effects that counteract the warming caused by increasing carbon dioxide.

The authors cite China’s growing dependence on coal as an energy source to explain the increase in sulfur emissions.  From 2003 to 2007, Chinese coal consumption more than doubled.  Prior to that, it took 22 years for China to double its coal usage.  Whereas global coal consumption increased by 27% from 1980 to 2002, the recent Chinese growth rate which occurs over a 4 year period (5 times the previous rate) represents 77% of the 26% rise in global coal consumption.

So why not rely on sulfur dioxide as a geoengineering tactic for regulating global warming? Read More

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