The 2010 Climate B.S.* of the Year Award

Welcome to the 2010 Climate B.S. of the Year Award.

2010 saw widespread and growing evidence of rapidly warming global climate and strengthening scientific understanding of how humans are contributing to climate change. Yet on the policy front, little happened to stem the growing emissions of greenhouse gases or to help societies prepare for increasingly severe negative climate impacts, including now unavoidable changes in temperature, rainfall patterns, sea-level rise, snowpack, glacial extent, Arctic sea ice, and more. These physical impacts will lead to sharply increased disease, military and economic instabilities, food and water shortages, and extreme weather events, among other things. Without appropriate risk management action, the United States will be hit hard. There is no safe haven. Yet confusion and uncertainty about climate change remain high in the minds of too many members of the public and Congress.

Why? In large part because of a concerted, coordinated, aggressive campaign by a small group of well-funded climate change deniers and contrarians focused on intentionally misleading the public and policymakers with bad science about climate change. Much of this effort is based on intentional falsehoods, misrepresentations, inflated uncertainties, and pure and utter B.S. about climate science. These efforts have been successful in sowing confusion and delaying action – just as the same tactics were successful in delaying efforts to tackle tobacco’s health risks.

To counter this campaign of disinformation, we are issuing the first in what may become a series of awards for the most egregious Climate B.S.* of the Year. Continue reading

Trust us – we're smarter than you: climate and Superfreakonomics

sstAug24-09 Back in 2005, self-described “rogue economist” Steven D. Levitt teamed up with journalist Stephen J. Dubner to write Freakonomics, a book that rose to #2 on the NY Times Nonfiction Bestseller List based largely on the controversial topics within its covers. Some of those topics included analyses of cheating by teachers, the economics of being a crack cocaine dealer, and the impact of legalized abortion on the crime rate. Levitt and Dubner (hereafter L&D) have recently published a second book, Superfreakonomics, and even before it was published it had made a huge splash in climate circles over its last chapter (Chapter 5 – “What do Al Gore and Mount Pinatubo have in common?”), the one that attempts to tackle climate disruption.

I’m greatly troubled by the content of Chapter 5, but only partly because of the many factual errors that L&D made. Continue reading

I man-love me some Obama

by John Harvin

Or I did. Now I am not so sure.

I voted for Obama, defended him from the snarks of my Hillary-supporting friends, and maxed out my contribution. In Indianapolis, I walked down dim halls that smelled of vomit and urine begging sick old people to vote.

But his acceptance of the Nobel Prize has turned me off worse than a garlic-breath kiss.  I don’t care that he doesn’t deserve it. He didn’t “deserve” to be President either. (Who does?) I mind that he’s letting himself be used to bad purpose. As Meatloaf sang, “I will do anything for love, but I won’t do that.” Continue reading

Why isn't Rush happy?: Limbaugh inadvertently illustrates democracy in action

America’s democratic ideal doesn’t work perfectly. Sometimes it doesn’t work at all, and in these cases it feeds our cynicism to the point where we’re tempted to conclude that the very possibility of true freedom is a sham. I know whereof I speak, because there are few people out there more soaked in bile than I am.

Still, this whole “marketplace of ideas” is a marvelous concept. Perhaps the most marvelous concept in history. Drawing on the Miltonian belief that if people are allowed to enter the agora and freely state their cases, then “the truth will out” (that is, an educated and informed citizenry will unerringly perceive the truth and that weaker ideas will be disregarded in favor of stronger ones), our nation’s founders crafted a Constitution that assured people the right to voice their opinions, free from government intrusion. Continue reading

Gore says ‘tipping point’ close for public push on climate change

Tom & Gore SEJ
SEJ member Tom Yulsman
asks a question of Vice
President Gore in Madison.
Photo: Anne Minard.

The fate of the earth could end up determined by which tipping point is reached first: a physical shift that ushers in abrupt climate change with catastrophic consequences, or a social one, in which public attitudes rapidly coalesce around a mandate to address climate change. Or, neither could materialize, at least not imminently.

Al Gore believes the U.S. is on the brink of a political tipping point on the climate issue. Speaking to the Society of Environmental Journalists annual conference in Madison, Wisc., last Friday, the former vice president said, “The potential for change can build up without noticeable effect until it reaches a critical mass. I think that we are very close to that tipping point.” Continue reading

I am no better than George Will. And it sucks.

by John Harvin

“If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it ought to be good enough for the children of Texas,” supposedly said Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, first woman governor of Texas, in opposing the teaching of foreign languages in Texas schools.  In fact, the college-educated Ferguson probably didn’t say it. But the misquote endures because it captures pretty well one particular segment of the American population – those who are almost always against learning and science, particularly when that science is “inconvenient.”

Whether it’s evolution or landing on the moon or daylight savings time or climate change, there is always a group of people who are just plain agin’ it. Continue reading

Neither climate change deniers nor activists are Nazis or genocidal maniacs

I get seriously annoyed when I read that James Hansen and others are comparing climate disruption deniers and skeptics to Nazis and war criminals – it’s too extreme and it leads to polarization and results like the latest Gallup poll. I also get seriously annoyed when I read that garbage coming from said deniers and skeptics.

Yesterday, Dr. Arthur Robinson, Director of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine and the originator of the petition against Al Gore’s global warming hoax which as of now 32,000 scientists have signed, told the 2nd International Conference on Climate Change, that the people like Al Gore who promote global warming alarmism are committing genocide by the withdrawal of technology from the developing world.

[Robinson] noted, “that the billions of people who live at the lowest level of human existence will suffer greatly from the rationing of energy, and this, in turn, will lead to the death of hundreds of millions, or possibly billions.” Continue reading

An open letter to America’s progressive billionaires

Dear Mr. Buffet, Mr. Gates, Mr. Turner, Mr. Soros, Ms. Winfrey, and any other hyper-rich types with progressive political leanings:

If this essay has, against all odds, somehow made its way to your desk, please, bear with me. It’s longish, but it winds eventually toward an exceedingly important conclusion. If you’ll give me a few minutes, I’ll do my best to reward your patience.
_______________

In the 2008 election, Barack Obama won a landmark political victory on a couple of prominent themes: “hope” and “change.” He has since been afforded ample opportunity to talk about these ideas, having inherited the nastiest economic quagmire in living memory and a Republican minority in Congress that has interpreted November’s results as a mandate to obstruct the public interest even more rabidly than it was doing before. Reactions among those of us who supported Obama have been predictably mixed, but even those who have been critical of his efforts to date are generally united in their hope that his win signaled the end of “movement conservatism” in the US. Continue reading

The Weekly Carboholic: Pew poll says climate lowest priority, but results are curious

carboholic

pewpriority

A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in early January says that, of the priorities listed in the poll, “dealing with global warming” was dead last, with only 30% of respondents declaring it a “top priority.” This was below other issues such as the economy, jobs, fixing Medicare, crime, and the environment. But as is so often the case with polls, the devil is in the details and the methodology. For example, climate disruption is certainly an environmental issue, yet the issues are polled separately. And when you broaden the poll results beyond just the “top priority” category to include “important but lower priority,” global warming attracts support of 67% of the poll’s respondents. Continue reading

Reality campaign's first ad (updated)

Reality. This is the name of a new campaign by the combined might of the Sierra Club, the Alliance for Climate Protection, the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the League of Conservation Voters that was officially launched yesterday. Its aim is to oppose all the bogus “clean coal” advertising that the coal companies, and their mouthpiece the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, are running. It’s called “Reality” because, as the ad says “in reality, there is no such thing as clean coal.”

Here are the campaign’s first ads: the print ad is at right, the TV ad is behind the cut. Click on the print ad to see a larger, readable version. Do the two ads work? Do you get them? Will others? Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Continue reading

Can you relate?

by Alexi Koltowicz

As the story goes, G.W. Bush won the presidency in 2000 because enough people wanted to “have a beer with him.” Bush was a reformed alcoholic, so the idea was metaphorical. What people meant was that they felt that they could relate to G.W. Bush. Of course few of us really could. Was your daddy a president? Did you go to Yale and Harvard? Have you ever had dinner at the bin Laden house? No. None of the people who spouted the beer rationale could actually relate to Bush. The trick was that he didn’t talk about his father or Yale or what it’s like to roll around in oil money. Continue reading

Ignoring her Bible, Palin denies human dominion over Earth

by Tom Yulsman

Sarah Palin’s Alaska has been called the “Paul Revere of global warming.” That’s because the sharp impacts the state has been feeling, including the just-announced near-record melting of Arctic sea ice this summer, are a warning of what the rest of us will soon be feeling.

But even as these impacts have become evident (and notwithstanding her equivocal, unconvincing comments about climate change in her recent interview with ABC’s Charlie Gibson), Palin has remained in a state of denial. If she should ever ascend to the presidency, we would be right back where we started from with a leader who believes in her guts, like George W. Bush, that humans can do no wrong to the planet. And that fantasy could ultimately lead to a truly scary future.

The harm is already vividly apparent in Alaska. Continue reading

The man, the war hero, the…uhhh…inventor?

The fact is that Al Gore never claimed that he invented the Internet.

We all joke about it, of course, and his opponents made ungodly amounts of political hay with the distortion.

So, in the interest of bipartisan fairness, I’m sure we can trust everyone (yes, I mean you, FOX “News”) to do what’s appropriate with this breaking tidbit.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, John McCain invented the Blackberry.

S&R interviews PCAP's Bill Becker, Part 2


Yesterday we introduced you to Bill Becker and heard all about PCAP’s policy suggestions. Today we focus on some of the nuts and bolts of weaning the United States off of carbon, specifically cap-and-trade, cap-and-auction, and carbon taxes.

S&R: John Podesta said today [at the Energy and Climate Change roundtable] that the process of decarbonizing, of getting ourselves off of fossil fuels, would be a massive and breathtakingly difficult process for our country and the world. How will PCAP help the President and Congress convince the American people that decarbonizing our economy won’t be too difficult to undertake at all?

Bill Becker: Well, a couple of things. John is right, this is going to be a massive undertaking. We’ve got 200 years of a fossil economy that we need to reinvent, and we need to do it on a dime – turn on a dime. And we need to do it as a global community instead of as one country. And we don’t have a czar who can impose this on us – the democratic process is frustrating to say the least. So it’s a huge undertaking. Continue reading

Backward compatibility in energy technology

If you’ve ever worked for a manufacturing or software development company, you’re probably familiar with the concept of backward compatibility. The basic idea is that any new product needs to be able to utilize the old product’s hardware and/or software so that development costs are kept down and so that current customers can migrate to your new product more easily. Most people are most familiar with this idea from their experience with Microsoft Office products – when you upgrade Word from on version to another, you don’t have to re-write all your documents – the new version can open and manipulate the old version just as easily as it can a newly created document.

But while backward compatibility is a laudable goal for any product, there inevitably comes a point when a company’s old hardware or software is so out of date that the only thing to do is develop an entirely new approach that’s smaller, faster, lower power, more features, and tuned for the new markets of today rather than the markets of 5, 10, or even 20 years ago. It’s one of the hardest decisions a company ever has to make, because it carries with it a great deal of monetary risk, especially if the company can’t come up with a handy conversion tool like the one that Microsoft Word 2007 uses to convert older 2003-format .doc files into XML-formatted documents. But sometimes abandoning the old in favor of the new is absolutely necessary. Continue reading

Nota Bene #32

Got hot links if you want ’em!

In “Yes We Can,” his response to the skepticism he expected Al Gore’s speech to be met with, the New York Times’ Bob Herbert writes: “When exactly was it that the U.S. became a can’t-do society?”

Naomi Klein on the ease of accessing Iraq’s oil, as opposed to elsewhere: “. . . stick a straw in the ground and suck.”

Don Banks of Si.com on Brett Favre’s appearance on Greta Van Susteren’s show: “For a minute there I thought Favre might have some new information on the Natalee Holloway disappearance.” Continue reading

The Weekly Carboholic: Gore launches massive global heating media campaign

carboholic

We logoThe Washington Post reports that Al Gore and his Alliance for Climate Protection are launching one of the most expensive advocacy programs ever. The We campaign will run over the next three years and cost $300 million, of which about half has already been raised. The goal of the campaign is to change ingrained habits and behaviors directly if possible, but primarily through legislation.

“This climate crisis is so interwoven with habits and patterns that are so entrenched, the elected officials in both parties are going to be timid about enacting the bold changes that are needed until there is a change in the public’s sense of urgency in addressing this crisis,” Gore said. “I’ve tried everything else I know to try. The way to solve this crisis is to change the way the public thinks about it.” Continue reading

LIFE and the long view: ideologies of science and technology since the Enlightenment

Part two in a series.

As I suggested in Part One, the messianic/utopian view of science and technology attributed to LIFE Magazine is consistent with an ideological bent that traces its lineage to the dawn of the Enlightenment in Europe.

Francis Bacon’s highly influential New Atlantis, first published in 1626, recounts the narrator’s fictional shipwreck on the shores of Bensalem, a lost utopia, and offers one of the earliest testaments to the potential of applied science (Outhwaite & Bottomore 1994). In an extended ceremony, Bacon is given to know the seemingly limitless bounty of Bensalem’s scientific expertise. Bensalem is well versed in all manner of advanced technology: refrigeration and preservation, mining, agriculture, astronomy, meteorology, genetics, animal husbandry, desalination, medicine, musicology, mechanics, air flight, and mathematics are literally only a few of the society’s advanced technological arts. Continue reading

Prominent dingbat wants to sue Al Gore for fraud

Hoo boy.

The founder of the Weather Channel wants to sue Al Gore for fraud, hoping a legal debate will settle the global-warming debate once and for all.

John Coleman, who founded the cable network in 1982, suggests suing for fraud proponents of global warming, including Al Gore, and companies that sell carbon credits.

“Is he committing financial fraud? That is the question,” Coleman said.

That may be a question, but I assure you, it’s not the question. Continue reading