Beginning on January 1, 2010, I resolved to write a letter a day on climate change, either to politicians or to print media (lacking a TV and not listening to the radio, I was poorly equipped to write genuine letters to broadcast outlets).
A few days ago I started my fourth year of daily climate letters. Every day I plug in the phrase "climate change news" into my google bar, and follow the results until I get something that will work as a hook. Recently a facebook friend has been posting links to climate articles in the print media, and I swear he's cut my search time down by 50 percent. Thanks, Devone Tucker — you totally rock.
It's not really much fun, to be honest. I'm a skillful writer and I enjoy the technical challenge of saying what I have to say within (usually) a 150-word limit. And I like the feeling of having written my daily letter far more than the feeling of having to write my daily letter. But that's where the fun ends. Because the news is grindingly, unremittingly horrible — and keeping in touch with it every damn day often makes me morose and grim.
I went through a long period last fall when I wasn't getting anything published at all. It was depressing, in a thoroughly inconsequential way (well, boo-de-fuckin'-hoo). But right around the beginning of December, things turned around, and I've seen print quite a bit over the past five weeks. This assortment of my recent hits starts below the Copulating Snails Of Orange Progressivism. Enjoy. If you like my letters, you can find them indexed by various keywords at my blog. Drop in sometime and help drive my guest count up.
OK — ready?
The Concord Monitor runs an AP article titled: "Climate change skeptics take aim at state energy mandates." It's our old buddies at the Heartland Institute!@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
The Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank skeptical of climate change science, has joined with the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council to write model legislation aimed at reversing state renewable energy mandates across the country.Fuckers. Sent November 25:
The Electricity Freedom Act, adopted by the council’s board of directors in October, would repeal state standards requiring utilities to get a portion of their electricity from renewable power, calling it “essentially a tax on consumers of electricity.” Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have binding renewable standards; in the absence of federal climate legislation, these initiatives have become the subject of intense political battles.
The legislative council, or ALEC, is a conservative-leaning group of state legislators from all 50 states that has sought to roll back climate regulation in the past. It lost some corporate sponsors early this year because of its role promoting “stand your ground” laws that allow the use of force in self-defense without first retreating when faced with a serious threat.
But the involvement of the Heartland Institute, which posted a billboard in May comparing those who believe in global warming to domestic terrorist Theodore Kaczynski, shows the breadth of conservatives’ efforts to undermine environmental initiatives on the state and federal level. In many cases, the groups involved accept money from oil, gas and coal companies that compete against renewable energy suppliers.
The Heartland Institute received more than $7.3 million from Exxon Mobil between 1998 and 2010, and nearly $14.4 million between 1986 and 2010 from foundations affiliated with Charles and David Koch, whose firm Koch Industries has substantial oil and energy holdings.
James Taylor, the Heartland Institute’s senior fellow for environmental policy, said he was able to persuade most of ALEC’s state legislators and corporate members to push for a repeal of laws requiring more solar and wind power use on the basis of economics.
“Renewable power mandates are very costly to consumers throughout the 50 states, and we feel it is important that consumers have access to affordable electricity,” Taylor said. “We wrote the model legislation and I presented it. I didn’t have to give that much of a case for it.”
Taylor dismissed the idea that his group pushed for the measure because it has accepted money from fossil-fuel firms: “The people who are saying that are trying to take attention away from the real issue - that alternative energy, renewable energy, is more expensive than conventional energy.”
Heartland Institute spokesman James Taylor's confident assertion that "renewable energy, is more expensive than conventional energy" is disingenous at best, mendacious at worst. While oil, coal and natural gas appear cheaper initially, once externalities are included, the cost goes through the roof. What "externalities?" Well, let's start with the enormous government subsidies to fossil fuel industries — since our tax money is what makes the price of these conventional energy sources so low to begin with, we've already paid once at the pump before we even start filling our tanks.Published.
Next, let's remember that tankers run aground, pipelines leak, and pumping stations can aren't exactly disaster-proof. Who cleans up after catastrophic spills? Once again, American taxpayers are on the hook; while companies may pay some fines, these never actually cover the cost of such a disaster. Instead, mopping up and decontamination comes out of our wallets. The public health and environmental effects of coal and oil are handled similarly.
On a larger scale, the grim fact is that America's military power is often part of the geopolitical strategy of energy. Would conservatives be beating the war drums so vigorously if Iran had no oil? These costs should properly be added to the bill for fossil fuels as well. Finally, it's no longer feasible to deny either the existence of global climate change or the role of conventional fuels in the accelerating greenhouse effect. Far from being cheap, fossil fuels may well wind up costing us everything we value, and more.
The Boston Globe reports on a recent Town Hall meeting held by Ed Markey (MA-07) on Boston's vulnerability to a Sandy-like storm:@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
There could be enough water in Boston for boats to float through parts of the Back Bay and fish to swim across the Public Garden if a super storm were to hit Boston years from now. That was a worst-case prediction displayed on color-coded maps in Faneuil Hall today as part of a forum on the potential impact of climate change.Did I mention that I love my Congressman? Sent November 26:
The maps detailing potential flooding, on stage as part of a “What If Sandy Happened Here?” forum, factored in rising sea levels and suggested that by 2050 a severe 100-year storm could also send floodwaters lapping into Central Square and Harvard Square in Cambridge.
“Sandy was a warning,” US Representative Edward Markey, a Malden Democrat long active in climate change legislation, said as about 150 people filled the Great Hall, where he led a town hall-style meeting on the costs Greater Boston could face if a super storm hits.
Cast as a gathering to contemplate the havoc climate change could cause, the meeting drew together speakers who focus on the issue and an audience that included many area activists.
“This reaffirms the need to put greater energy and greater effort into convincing others that this issue is significant,” James Kaufman, president and CEO of The Laboratory Safety Institute, a health, safety, and environmental affairs nonprofit in Natick, said after the hour-long meeting.
Maria Cooper, president of the environmental group Green Decade Newton, said the forum was “all the more inspiring because we can see that people are getting it. This is urgent stuff that we need to address in our everyday lives.”
Representative Markey deserves high praise for his relentless calls for action on global climate change, starting long before Superstorm Sandy returned the accelerating greenhouse effect to the national conversation. It's particularly galling to compare the Congressman's work on this issue with the anti-science positions of Republican members of the House of Representatives, who appear to be in a contest to see who can most enthusiastically advocate the most regressive ideas (such as Georgia's Paul Broun, who recently described evolution, embryology, and cosmology as "lies from the pit of Hell.").Published.
Based on meticulous computer modeling and the careful analysis of massive amounts of data, climate science is as impartial as it gets. The GOP's relentless politicizing of the by-now-completely-resolved debate on the causes and dangers of global warming is another symptom of their scientific illiteracy. Ed Markey's research and advocacy on behalf of humanity's future isn't political strategizing, but reality-based humanitarianism.
The Poughkeepsie Journal has an Op-Ed column which delivers the obvious truth:@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
This year is on the verge of becoming the warmest one in the nation’s history, something that climate-change deniers undoubtedly would like to chalk up to some kind of statistical anomaly.Nice little planet you got here. Wouldn't want anything to happen to it, would you? Sent December 13:
Except for this: Seven of the 10 warmest years in U.S. history have occurred over the past 15 years, according to the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.
Global warming is real, and it’s causing massive damage and is likely to cause a whole lot more. The overwhelming number of climatologists not only tell us this, they say it is very likely being caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
It’s hard to imagine a scenario under which that would not be the case. Over the decades, emissions from old power plants, factories and vehicles have polluted the air and have contributed to global warming.
The accelerating climate crisis presents a rare opportunity for our nation to come together in the face of impending catastrophe. For too long we have delayed action until after a disaster mobilizes our energies; while the focused and dedicated response to Superstorm Sandy offers a fine example of what America can do in a pinch, the fact is that we're going to see more storms and extreme weather of unprecedented scale over the coming decades. And our continuing consumption of fossil fuels is going to make things worse, not better. What's needed is a country-wide response that mobilizes our ingenuity, optimism and expertise on local, regional, national, and global levels in order to cut our carbon emissions, stabilize excess greenhouse gases that are already in the atmosphere, and prepare for the things we can't prevent.Published.
The only thing that stands in the way is ignorance and apathy, as exemplified by obstructionist Republican politicians and a news media too lazy to present anything more than he-says/she-says false equivalent. And of course, their paymasters in the oil and coal industries: senators and congressmen are almost as expensive as broadcast networks.
Two articles in the 12/13 issue of the LA Times. First, David Horsey's op-ed, "The Blind Faith of Climate Change deniers endangers us all":@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
This week’s Newsweek magazine features a couple of essays -- one about Jesus and one about climate change -- that demonstrate the difference between simple faith in the unknowable and blind faith that denies scientific fact.And then Bettina Boxall's piece on water shortages in the Colorado River Basin:
Yet, even though the consequences of climate change are becoming frighteningly obvious and, as Hertsgaard writes, "scientists at both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency linked the record heat and drought of summer of 2012 with man-made climate change,” far too many conservatives cling to a blind faith that climate science is a hoax. Doug Goehring, North Dakota’s Republican agriculture commissioner, is typical of them all. Rather than believe the science, he says, "I believe an agenda is being pushed."
Water demand in the Colorado River Basin will greatly outstrip supply in coming decades as a result of drought, climate change and population growth, according to a broad-ranging federal study.Too soon old, too late smart. Sent December 14:
It projects that by 2060, river supplies will fall short of demand by about 3.2 million acre-feet — more than five times the amount of water annually consumed by Los Angeles.
"This study should serve as a call to action," U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Wednesday as he released a report that predicted a drier future for the seven states that depend on the Colorado for irrigation and drinking supplies. "We can plan for this together."
The December 13 Times offers an ironic juxtaposition: David Horsey's column analyzing conservatives' unthinking rejection of climate change, and the ominous report on rapidly dwindling water supplies in the Colorado River Basin. How many climate-change denialists live in those seven states? How much evidence must accumulate before they stop shouting that global warming is an ideologically-driven hoax?Published.
Our media privileges the discussion of religion, rationalizing that people are entitled to their own beliefs. True enough. But climate science is no theology, and relies on facts, observation, and analysis. The facts of a warming planet emerge in every day's news reports. The observations of rising temperatures and melting ice caps are confirmed and reconfirmed. The analysis of climate data shows very strong correlation between our warming planet and the increasing amounts of atmospheric CO2.
Climate change is not a matter of belief, but of understanding — and action. No faith required.
The Independent (UK) confirms that denialists just never stop.@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
An attempt by climate sceptics to hijack the latest UN report on global warming by selectively leaking claims that it is caused by sunspots rather than man-made emissions of carbon dioxide has backfired.There are lies, damn lies, and climate denialist lies. Fuckers. Sent December 15:
Sceptics described the forthcoming report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as a “game changer” because of its apparent support for the controversial theory that solar activity, interacting with cosmic rays from deep space, can explain global warming.
Alec Rawls, a Republican blogger in the United States who signed himself up as an expert IPCC reviewer, decided to leak the panel’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) on the grounds that it is a taxpayer-funded document.
Mr Rawls claimed the report suggests that the IPCC has finally come round to the idea that solar activity – sunspots – is partly responsible for the observed global temperatures rise seen over the past half century.
“The admission of strong evidence for enhanced solar forcings changes everything. The climate alarmists can’t continue to claim that warming was almost entirely due to human activity over a period when solar warming effects, now acknowledged to be important, were at a maximum,” Mr Rawls said.
“The final draft of [the IPCC report] is not scheduled to be released for another year, but the public needs to know now how the main premise and conclusions of the IPCC story line have been undercut by the IPCC itself,” he said.
However, climate scientists pointed out that Mr Rawls has selectively quoted from the draft report and has ignored other parts of the document stating that solar activity and cosmic rays cannot explain the increase in global temperatures seen over the past half century, as sceptics have repeatedly claimed.
Let’s not dignify climate-change denialists like Alec Rawls with the monicker, “skeptics.” Leaking cherry-picked sections of the forthcoming IPCC report is not representative of skepticism, a term which properly describes a profound level of intellectual honesty. Mr. Rawls and others of similar stripe are selectively misinterpreting data and analysis in order to support their ideology. We’re going to see a lot of this sort of behavior in the coming decades, as the evidence for planetary climate change grows from being incontrovertible to being overwhelming.Published.
A good test of self-described “climate skeptics” is to ask them what sort of evidence could change their minds. A genuine skeptic like Dr. Richard Muller put his hypotheses to the test — and promptly changed his tune on the greenhouse effect’s causes and dangers. By contrast, it seems likely that (absent instructions from his petroleum paymasters) Alec Rawls’ mind will stay permanently shut.
The Aspen Times discusses the recent "winter is ending" conversation initiated by Rob Katz a few days back:@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
ASPEN — An opinion piece about climate change by the head of Vail Resorts has Aspen Skiing Co.'s point man on environmental issues scratching his head.Everybody's right. And Happy New Year. December 24:
Rob Katz, chairman and CEO of Vail Resorts Inc., wrote an opinion piece on climate change that appeared Friday in The Denver Post.
Katz criticizes the efforts of some unnamed folks to use last winter's lack of snow and this winter's slow start as proof of global warming. The head of the country's largest ski-resort operator said the ski industry must play its part in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions for the right reasons — to save the planet for future generations.
“When the effects of climate change really show up, no one will care about skiing at Aspen and Vail,” Katz wrote. “They will be rightly focused on the wildlife, natural habitat and people of our planet, about the sea levels, flooding and natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy.”
The opinion piece coincided with an advertisement Vail Resorts ran in The New York Times last week. The headline read, “The Climate HAS CHANGED.” It features shots of skiers and riders at the company's various ski areas and trumpets the new snow they have received the prior week.
Auden Schendler, Aspen Skiing Co.'s vice president for sustainability, said Vail is playing with fire with the ad and sending a defeatist message with the opinion piece.
“The advertising piece struck me as taunting the gods. I'm not sure why they'd do that,” Schendler said. “I think it's mocking the conversation” on climate change.
For a seasonally-organized and essentially fashion-driven industry like a ski resort, it makes perfect sense to frame climate change in immediate terms. Winter sports enthusiasts are less likely to think in the long term, as advocated by Rob Katz in his recent op-ed, so making the case for an urgent response to the climate crisis may well be best accomplished by stating the obvious: no more skiing unless we act.Published.
But Mr. Katz' argument is just as powerful and just as correct. Our collective focus on the short term has been a major contributor to our present predicament. Our culture is fixated on instant consumer gratification, informed by hysterical news media on a 24-hour cycle of excitement and spectacle, and governed by politicians fixated on the next election cycle; only with a profound reorientation in our thinking towards multigenerational responsibility to the future can we accomplish the kind of thoughtful and reasoned planetary response demanded by an emergency of this magnitude.
The Capitol Times (Madison, WI) has a nuanced discussion of climate denial in the educational system. What's happening in WI is happening everywhere.@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
The far right dominates the world of “climate change denial,” which Wikipedia defines as: “A set of organized attempts to downplay, deny or dismiss the scientific consensus on the extent of global warming, its significance, and its connection to human behavior, especially for commercial or ideological reasons.”Yup. December 31:
You don’t even need to leave the state to find one of the nation’s leading practitioners. In a PBS “Frontline” program titled “Climate of Doubt” that aired in October, U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, argued that scientists have failed to convince Congress about global warming.
Which brings me to Casey Meehan, born in Janesville and educated at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For six years, Meehan taught high school psychology and history in the Janesville and Monona Grove school districts before returning to UW-Madison to pursue a Ph.D. in education.
Meehan has just finished his dissertation on how climate change is taught in Wisconsin schools. You might not be surprised by his conclusion: Unlike most subjects on which there is scientific consensus, with climate change the human role typically is taught as an open question.
Meehan’s initial focus upon returning to school was environmental education, but he says he noticed that not much had been written about the teaching of climate change.
“I started thinking more about how climate change is such an ideologically polarizing topic, and I was just curious about how schools were dealing with that,” he told me in an interview. “How are they teaching this topic that the public thinks a range of things about, but scientists think something very specifically about?”
Once upon a time, political conservatives were simply cautious people who feared change — especially change that threatened their economic security or social position, as witness their early opposition to such mainstays of American society as Social Security. But somehow over the past few decades, conservatism has become resistant, not to change, but to reality itself. While this is evident in their responses to issues like marriage equality and immigration policy, nowhere does it do so much harm as in the politicized discussion of the climate crisis.Published.
Thanks to the Right's relentless demonization of scientists and environmentalists, even the most anodyne statements about the natural world are now considered too controversial for free discussion in schools, as demonstrated by Casey Meehan's illuminating study of the problems Wisconsin teachers face in addressing climate change. The fact that educators cannot address scientific reality in their classrooms without risking parental backlash is a sad commentary on scientific literacy in America — and a demonstration that conservatism has become a grotesque parody of its former self.
Writing these letters, to be frank, is a chore. But it's a small chore, no more onerous than doing the dishes — and I do the dishes every night, too.
There's an old story from the early days of the nuclear disarmament movement. A protester stood in the city square with a "BAN THE BOMB!" sign. A cynical onlooker asked, "Why are you doing this? You know you'll never be able to change the world." The protester replied, "I'm doing it to be sure the world won't be able to change me."
I have no idea if what I'm doing makes a difference to the world. But it makes a difference to me; a small difference, but a difference nonetheless.
Pre-publication update: SF Kossacks, keep an eye on tomorrow's Chronicle. They just called to confirm my authorship and are planning to publish my letter if space permits. Yay.
Update: I have made it into at least the online edition of the Chronicle. Check it out:Link
And here's a link to something I wrote called How To Write A Letter.
Hope you find these useful.
Okay, that's all.
Oh, by the way, my daughter turns 8 tomorrow. And I discovered yesterday that she has perfect pitch. I'd like her to have a life full of song, not a helter-skelter struggle for survival. Wouldn't you?
Good luck to us all.