It’s a good day to write about climate science and climate denial. A typhoon of historically unprecedented strength hit the Philippines last weekend, with reports of 2,000 to 2,500 dead. Homes and lives are devastated, corpses hang from trees and litter the rubble of houses and buildings.
At the UN Climate Talks being held in Warsaw this week, the lead negotiator from the Philippines, Naderev Saño, has announced that he will fast for the duration of the conference, “until a meaningful outcome is in sight” — a direct challenge to the negotiators to do more than talk.
Typhoon Haiyan was caused by climate change. Superstorm Sandy was caused by climate change. If we don’t stop climate change, we can expect these “Hundred Year Storms” to become an annual or semi-annual occurrence.
Imagine you are next, because you are.
Let’s review the science
Here’s the science in a nutshell: As I write this the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has just released its fifth report. Comprised of 2000 of the world’s top climatologists, it’s the most thoroughly researched, compiled and peer-reviewed scientific document of all time. The IPCC’s consensus tells us that the Earth is warming at a rate unseen at any time in human history, and that this is due to human activity of burning fossil fuels and releasing unprecedented amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
We have raised the surface temperature of the Earth by 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.4F), and we have raised the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from 270 parts per million to 400ppm. While the Earth has warmed before, and in some cases quite rapidly, each such drastic warming was accompanied by a mass extinction event.
This human-forced warming is causing storms of unprecedented strength (Sandy). It’s causing drought and therefore wildfires. It’s causing flooding (warm air holds more moisture). The ocean is not only warming but acidifying due to increased CO2, causing shelled creatures to dissolve (at the bottom of the food chain, therefore affecting all level of ocean life). Glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, and those who depend on their fresh water will soon be facing famine.
Meanwhile, despite amazing technological process in the technology and feasibility of renewable energy (solar and wind), the amount of fossil fuels burnt continues to rise at a rate of 2-3% each year.
It seems we are not facing this. We are in denial.
Climate science deniers, big-time
The fight against true climate deniers gets ugly quick. I stay out of it unless I’m directly challenged, and in that case I pull out my debater’s knowledge of types of false logic and try to precisely name what I’m hearing. But the sort of people who turn up in the comments section of every “green article” in the news aren’t going to be dissuaded by logic, and aren’t worth much of an activist’s time.
Learn to recognize a few of the climate deniers’ tricks, point them out, and be done with them:
- The Appeal to Hypocrisy: Climate deniers love to accuse believers and activists of being part of the problem. “How did you get to that protest?”, they sneer, “did you walk?” Their point is that unless you have cleansed your life of all fossil fuels you are part of the problem, and therefore nor qualified to criticize it.
- The Argument from Irrelevant Authority: There are a few scientists out there who still deny climate change is human-caused, deny that it is happening, or otherwise trivialize it. I think there are three or maybe even five. Most of them are not climatologists and many of them are in the employ of fossil fuel companies. A simple fact is that 97% of climatologists now agree that climate change is happening, is caused by us, and is powerfully destructive.
- The Ad Hominem Attack: This will be a character assassination or an attack on your intelligence or common sense, or some other form of personal critique irrelevant to the topic. Just call it out and walk away from the argument. That’s abuse.
Climate science deniers, workaday (That’s us!)
The denial that concerns me more is present in liberals and centrists, is subtle, is nobody’s fault. Much of it comes from the construct of our minds, and the rest from some very deliberate cultural manipulation.
As humans we often believe that we are special: Beloved of God, or privileged by our superior mental and creative capacities. Do we think that our capacity to innovate technology can always outpace our inadvertent destruction of the natural world? Do we believe that nature is self-healing and hugely tolerant of our presence? It’s useful to contemplate these questions without answering them too quickly or reactively.
Climate change is happening in real time now. All dress rehearsals are over. Not a week goes by without the occurrence of an unprecedented event. This fall, Colorado was hit by wildfires and floods simultaneously. Arctic ice-cover hit an all-time low last summer (2012) that left scientists saying we will definitely see an ice-free summer Arctic in our lifetimes. Temperature records are broken every day in some part of the world. The monarch butterfly was scarcely seen in New England this past summer at all. Honeybee populations are devastated nationwide, and we face the loss of our main crop pollinator – a fact that alone threatens famine.
To not see this is a major failure of attention. It’s not deliberate, but it’s also not accidental. It may be a symptom of the gradual disengagement from the natural world that has been a feature of western life over the last century (in children they’re starting to call this “nature deficit disorder”). It may very well be encouraged and even staged by the corporate world, which wants us for its own purposes.
(I do mean that to sound impersonal–I don’t believe there is truly a corporate conspiracy guided by any human hands; but just a vast web of inattention to certain consequences of deifying acquisition.)
Many goodhearted people fall into something like bargaining with Death. They try to purify their own lives, to “go green” in a variety of ways from changing their light bulbs to buying a Prius to insulating their homes to biking to work to putting up solar panels to going “off grid. There’s a lot of wisdom and good in these actions, but because of their personal and isolated nature, they won’t solve climate change, which is caused largely by a systemic reliance on an unsustainable and ruinous source of energy (fossil fuels). The biggest polluters probably rejoice in our sense of personal guilt. It keeps us busy and off their doorsteps.
The math doesn’t work. Voluntary measures to reduce consumption are not going to solve the problem of climate change. They do nothing to persuade industry polluters to change their ways, and this is the key to turning back the death march of increased CO2 in the atmosphere. I am concerned, as well, that we have been encouraged to take too much “personal responsibility” for climate change by those very polluters. It is convenient for them to have us blame ourselves, and spend all our energy atoning for our carbon sins through personal measures.
The sense of overwhelm can lead to quite a bit of denial. We may want to react with some anger, saying it’s not my problem. This is just too big for me to cope with. I can’t do anything. It’s up to the scientists/the politicians to deal with this.
Actually the scientists are doing their job, which is to gather the evidence, formulate the theories and publish them. The politicians are not doing their job, which is to take the work of the scientists and translate it into relevant policy. That’s where activism comes in; we need to do our jobs.
We may convince ourselves it can’t be that bad–if it were we would be hearing more about it. It is that bad. We’re starting to hear more about it. Don’t forget that journalists and editors and publishers are also people who struggle with denial. Add to that the reality that most major news-outlets are corporate-owned now, and often directly or indirectly tied to the fossil-fuel industries. It’s that bad, but there are news outlets you can trust for the truth on climate change. I read the Guardian, National Geographic, Nature, the New York Times (the latter is somewhat variable).
What are your options when you’ve realized you need to take action to stop climate change? And what will you do with your fear and your grief as you seek the courage to work on this? Those are issues I’ve faced over and over again, and I can speak to them not with authority, perhaps, but from a good deal of humble experience. My next two posts will be about “climate grief” and “climate courage.”
– Andree Zaleska, Transition Voice
Posted by Gypsy Chief
This week noted homophobe Bryan Fischer warned that Michelle Obama is inviting “demons into the White House.”
The First Lady’s latest offense is hosting a celebration for Diwali, the Hindu “festival of lights,” at the White House. According to Fischer, Hinduism is “a counterfeit religion,” and “in essence, an occult religion.”
“It ultimately represents the doctrine of demons, that is what you have with Hinduism, and now this is being celebrated in the White House,” Fischer raged.
Video of his comments is below; the portion on Mrs. Obama begins around the 2:30 mark:
Fischer went on to reiterate his call for a Christian president to hold an exorcism to “spiritually cleanse” the White House of the Obamas’ demonic spirits in 2016. As Kyle Mantala notes at Right Wing Watch, “We assume that Fischer called for the White House to be similarly cleansed after President George W. Bush left office, since he did the same thing.“
Gypsy Chief’s Comment
Could Buffy help with this?
Posted by Gypsy Chief
Published November 6, 2013 in Daily Kos. Written by Daily Kos staff.
Consider this bit of nonsense in Texas, thanks to the state’s new stringent voted ID laws:
Tarrant County [Texas] Elections Administrator Steve Raborn said Saturday that people who might find themselves in a similar situation should cast a provisional ballot and obtain identification needed to “cure” it within six days. [ … ]
Raborn’s office reached out to people who might have expired driver licenses, such as those who live in nursing homes, to let them know that the license can be expired by no more than two months to be a valid photo ID for voting. [ … ]
90-year-old Jim Wright, the former speaker of the House, was prevented from voting because of this requirement, one which disproportionately affects seniors with lapsed IDs.
Now consider this, from the 2012 presidential national exit polls:
What kind of moron party disenfranchises its most reliable voters? And not just seniors, who make up a massive proportion of non-presidential year turnout. Married women too. And guess how married women vote?
So Republicans, in their zeal to disenfranchise brown and young people, have created a voter ID law that solves a non-existent problem and subsequently disenfranchises two of their most important base groups.
We knew the GOP was stupid. This notches it up to a whole new level.
Posted by Gypsy Chief
What Americans don’t know and don’t understand is quite an obstacle to progress.
Published October 30, 2013 in Alternet. Written by Marty Kaplan.
If you think the widening chasm between the rich and the rest spells trouble for American democracy, have a look at the growing gulf between the information-rich and-poor.
Earlier this year, a Harvard economist’s jaw-dropping study of American’s beliefs about the distribution of American wealth became a viral video. Now a new Pew study of the distribution of American news consumption is just as flabbergasting.
According to the Harvard study, most people believe that the top 20 percent of the country owns about half the nation’s wealth, and that the lower 60 percent combined, including the 20 percent in the middle, have only about 20 percent of the wealth. A whopping 92 percent of Americans think this is out of whack; in the ideal distribution, they said, the lower 60 percent would have about half of the wealth, with the middle 20 percent of the people owning 20 percent of the wealth.
What’s astonishing about this is how wrong Americans are about reality. In fact, the bottom 80 percent owns only 7 percent of the nation’s wealth, and the top 1 percent hold more of the country’s wealth — 40 percent — than 9 out of 10 people think the top 20 percent should have. The top 10 percent of earners take home half the income of the country; in 2012, the top 1 percent earned more than a fifth of U.S. income — the highest share since the government began collecting the data a century ago.
But America’s information inequality is at least as shocking as its economic inequality.
Published October 30, 2013 in The National Memo. Written by Gene Lyons
“Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter.”
–Vice President Dick Cheney, 2002
Given the great hullabaloo in Washington over government spending, here are a couple of noteworthy facts. Under President Obama, the federal budget deficit has been more than cut in half, from a FY 2009 high of $1.55 trillion (largely inherited from George W. Bush) to an estimated $642 billion this year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
However, a recent Bloomberg News poll shows that 10 percent of American voters are acquainted with this indisputable fact — 59 percent mistakenly believe that the deficit has risen under Obama. Another 26 percent think it’s remained approximately the same. It’s hard to run a democracy given such widespread public ignorance.
Militant ignorance, much of it. Fully 93 percent of Tea Party members subscribe to the false belief that government spending is skyrocketing out of control. No wonder they’re running around with their hair on fire.
But hold that thought, because there’s more: Measured as a percentage of the overall U.S. economy, the federal budget deficit has shrunk from 10.1 percent in 2009 to 4 percent today. Given increased revenue and decreased spending, the CBO projects the figure will decrease to 2.1 percent by 2015.
“By comparison,” the May 2013 report notes, “the deficit averaged 3.1 percent of GDP over the past 40 years.”
Published October 23, 2013 in CleanTechnica. Written by John Farrell.
Germany is racing past 20% renewable energy on its electricity grid, but news stories stridently warn that this new wind and solar power is costing “billions.” But often left out (or buried far from the lede) is the overwhelming popularity of the country’s relentless focus on energy change (energiewende).
How can a supposedly expensive effort to clean up the energy supply be so popular?
1. It’s about the cost, not the price
Most news stories focus on the cost of electricity in Germany, which has some of the highest rates per kilowatt-hour in the world. But they don’t note that the average German electricity bill – about $100 a month – is the same as for most Americans. Germans are much more efficient users of energy than most, so they can afford higher rates without having higher bills. (Note to self: check out options for energy efficiency).
2. It’s about vision
Germany doesn’t just have an incremental approach to renewable energy, but a commitment supported by 84 percent of residents to get to 100% renewable energy “as quickly as possible.” A few U.S. states have renewable energy visions (e.g. 33% by 2020, 25% by 2025) that approach Germany’s, but they’re mired in the notion that despite enormous savings to society in terms of health and environmental benefits, renewable energy shouldn’t cost any more today than conventional, dirty energy on the utility bill. Germans have taken the long view (about energy security, price volatility, etc).
3. It’s about ownership
I lied in #1. Support for Germany’s renewable energy quest isn’t about cost of energy, but about the opportunity to own a slice of the energy system. Millions of Germans are building their retirement nest egg by individually or collectively owning a share of wind and solar power plants supplying clean energy to their communities. Nearly half of the country’s 63,000 megawatts of wind and solar power is owned locally, and these energy owners care as much about the persistence of renewable energy they own as they do about the energy bill they pay. Not only do these German energy owners reduce their own net cost of energy, every dollar diverted from a distant multinational utility company multiplies throughout their local economy.
Not only does local ownership flip the notion of energy costs as consumers become producers, it also flips the notion of political ownership. Three-quarters of Germans want to maintain a focus on “citizen-managed, decentralized renewable energy.”
The tunnel vision on cost so prevalent in the press reflects the perspective of incumbent utilities, whose market share declines as their former customers produce their own power. It’s a story that plays out in the U.S., when debates over new power plants focus narrowly on the cost per kilowatt-hour rather than how an individual or community can retain more of their energy dollar.
It may seem that Germany is going renewable “at all costs,” but only if we are resigned to being energy consumers. Because their and our energy transition is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take charge of our energy future. That’s priceless.
John Farrell directs the Energy Self-Reliant States and Communities program at ILSR and he focuses on energy policy developments that best expand the benefits of local ownership and dispersed generation of renewable energy. His latest paper, Democratizing the Electricity System, describes how to blast the roadblocks to distributed renewable energy generation, and how such small-scale renewable energy projects are the key to the biggest strides in renewable energy development. Farrell also authored the landmark report Energy Self-Reliant States, which serves as the definitive energy atlas for the United States, detailing the state-by-state renewable electricity generation potential. Farrell regularly provides discussion and analysis of distributed renewable energy policy on his blog, Energy Self-Reliant States (energyselfreliantstates.org), and articles are regularly syndicated on Grist and Renewable Energy World. John Farrell can also be found on Twitter @johnffarrell, or at email@example.com.
Posted by Gypsy Chief
Published October 21, 2013 in The National Memo. Written by Jason Sattler.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) spent the summer of 2013 telling Republicans that the conventional wisdom about the government shutdowns the 1990s was wrong.
“The sort of cocktail chatter wisdom that, ‘Oh, the shutdown was a disaster for Republicans,’ is not borne out by the data,” he said.
Cruz’s argument won over enough Republicans that they were willing to engage in a shutdown of their own — and the results were jaw-droppingly terrible for the GOP, but great for the junior senator from Texas.
“Measured head-to-head, the public blames the Republicans in Congress for the shutdown over Obama by 53-29 percent – similar to the result measuring then-President Bill Clinton vs. the Republicans in January 1996, after their own shutdown battle,” ABC News’ Gary Langer reports, based on a new ABC News/Washington Post poll.
The real problem for the GOP is that it fixated the public on the House of Representatives.
“Republicans’ detour into what some have described as a defund-at-all-costs ‘cul de sac’ has turned a negative spotlight on the party to an extent no Democratic ad could ever achieve,” The Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman said last week.
A flurry of new polls shows that the damage to the GOP’s image may have long-lasting effects and could possibly cost them their House majority, something that no serious observers considered a possibility before October 1 of this year.
Here are four bits of information from the latest polls that Republicans are hoping either aren’t true or will change quickly.