“Smokey Joe” Barton’s long history of antiscience propaganda

Remember how Joe Barton apologized to British Petroleum for the government’s mild reproach and slap on the wrist after their oil spill destroyed the Gulf of Mexico and created a dead zone that will last for decades? Turns out he was one of the bigger names involved in the disinformation campaign waged by the tobacco industry.

Those of us who weren’t old enough or politically aware enough might not have known this fact about Barton, or might have let that information slip into the memory hole; we might otherwise think that this antiscience campaign waged by the oil industry against climate scientists is a unique phenomenon. Spreading this information about Barton’s and others’ tactics is therefore vital.

Normally, ad hominem is a fallacy. However, establishing a pattern of behaviour and modifying one’s treatment of or trust in another person based on such patterns of behaviour is entirely reasonable and rational. Seeing this man (and others, like Boehner) repeat the same tactics that worked so well in forestalling public acceptance of the truth behind tobacco’s deleterious health effects, used in a fight with vast and far-reaching consequences about the deleterious effects we as a species are having on our environment, is rather galling, but definitely useful information. It means we are forearmed against these tactics and can counter them. It means we are aware in advance of the fact that the people with their hands on the levers of political power in this country are not principled actors, and that they are more than willing to lie about reality for a quick buck to everyone else’s detriment.

The costs of action vs the costs of inaction on global warming

By our inability to prevent a global 2+°C warming, by virtue of there being very nearly 400 parts per million CO2 despite our scientists’ constant warnings to do whatever it takes to reduce that number to at least 350, we’re going to cost ourselves a hell of a lot of money. Both in the short term and in the long term.

Firstly, the Arctic is thawing. Within the Arctic is a time-bomb of methane gas that’s gonna cost us almost as much as the global economy.

“The global impact of a warming Arctic is an economic time-bomb,” said Gail Whiteman, an author of the report and professor of sustainability, management and climate change at the Rotterdam School of Management, part of Erasmus University.

“In the absence of climate-change mitigation measures, the model calculates that it would increase mean global climate impacts by $60 trillion,” said Chris Hope, a reader in policy modeling at the Cambridge Judge Business School, part of the University of Cambridge.

That approaches the value of the global economy, which was around $70 trillion last year.

The methane bomb is a one time event though, as it has a significantly different impact life span of 20-ish years, compared to CO2‘s 5 years in the atmosphere til it gets either taken up by biological processes or the ocean. The problem with CO2 is that while any individual molecule stays in the atmosphere for a few years, it also might return to the atmosphere after a stint in the ocean or in the trees. The individual molecules stick around for thousands of years compared to methane’s 20-ish, and we’re pumping out twice as much CO2 as the planet can apparently sink per year.

Plus, the repercussions of more CO2 in the oceans is acidification, which kills coral and marine life and could destroy the entire fishing industry and any culture that relies on it for food.

Global warming doesn’t just mean it’ll get warm and stay warm — it means there’s more energy in the system, so you have wilder weather swings. You’ll therefore see superstorms in all weather: tornadoes and hurricanes, blizzards and thunderstorms, floods and droughts. The more energy, the bigger and more frequent the energetic releases. And we all know how much damage each of those events can do, money-wise.

All of this, compared to the costs of finding a less carbon-heavy way of feeding ourselves, finding a less carbon-heavy way of powering our electrical gadgets and climate control systems and personal conveyance, and industry. It’s possible to beat this issue without all of us turning into cave-dwelling survival nuts, but we need to fix a lot of processes that are well and truly entrenched — and as far as I can tell, they’re only entrenched at this point because certain people are still making money off the carbon economy. A carbon economy the American government subsidizes heavily by giving huge kickbacks to the oil industry. How much is THAT costing us? How much would carbon really cost if not for the invisible hand of the marketplace sticking a heavy thumb on those scales?

When some climate denialist says it’s too expensive to do anything about CO2 emissions — show them these costs. The cost argument evaporates when you take into account how much inaction will cost.

Monckton assures Australians that their country isn’t burning because of global warming

Via Climate Crocks, the news that “Lord” Christopher Monckton is touring Australia to assure everyone that the fires that are visible from space are totally not caused by global warming.

After 16 years of NO WARMING, Lord Christopher Monckton returns to Australia and NZ for a speaking tour late January – April 2013

Tour Title: “Carbon tax, climate scam, Agenda 21: can democracy survive all three? Lord Monckton does due diligence”.

Umm…

Even if you cherrypick the last 16 years, it’s STILL a clear warming trend. But to try to do damage control in Australia, where the Australian Board of Meteorology had to put a new color on their maps to represent the 51-54°C range… that’s chutzpah. Or dedication to your delusion. I don’t know which.

Oh, and you might also be interested in the fact that arch-denialist Anthony Watts is threatening to sue Greg Laden for teaching him some science and scoffing at his crank magnetism.

More Republicans believe in demonic possession than global warming

Yeah.

Alternet reports on a Public Policy Polling Hallowe’en poll (pdf) and cross-references this poll on global warming:

A staggering 68 percent of registered Republican voters stated that they believe demonic possession is real. Meanwhile, only 48 percent of self-identified Republicans believe in another equally if not more scary natural phenomenon: climate change.

I would say it’s more scary, because it’s real. And the evidence provided by actual scientists is ironclad.

The scientists are unanimous, as long as you include actual climate scientists and not geologists or meteorologists or other pretenders at authority on the complex subject of climate. And yet, only 45% of all people agree that scientists generally agree about global warming. The misinformation efforts by liars like “Lord” Christopher Monckton are working.

To make matters even worse, 49% of Democrats also believe in demonic possession, even while 85% of Democrats say there’s solid evidence for global warming. It’s not that they’re smarter, it’s that they’re only marginally less prone to superstitious belief and more prone to trusting scientific evidence.

I’d say “let the mouth-breathers secede”, but it’s not like they’re all Republican secessionists.

Kickstarter for Climate Crocks’ expedition

Peter Sinclair has been invited to join a research team to Mt. Baker to document the glaciers on this active volcano. His further appeal for funding is here:

Unlike well-funded, professional climate deniers, I don’t have the Heartland Institute, The Koch Brothers, Oil, Fossil Fuel, and Tobacco Companies paying my way. If this is going to happen, I have to rely on my viewers to jump in and help out, as many have in the past.

Therefore, from now until midnight, Friday, July 13th, I’m running a fundraiser on kickstarter.com, a crowd sourcing site with a good track record, and inviting any and all friends of Climate Crocks – if you’ve ever thought about what you could do to help communicate the science on the issue of the millennium, here’s one of the most direct and efficient opportunities you could have.

Worthy cause, if you ask me. Denialists are way better funded than the scientists and others who actually know how dire the situation is becoming. The Kickstarter is right here.

Inhofe staffer asks oil company “partners” for better coordination against Obama

Via Climate Progress, a staffer of the Senate’s own climate arch-denialist exhorts their “partners” to fight harder against the White House’s EPA regulations:

In an April 23 e-mail acquired by National Journal, a staffer for Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) called on the industry to utilize their partnership to coordinate attacks on the White House:

Senate Republicans, who led a successful fight this spring against Obama’s proposal to repeal billions of dollars in tax subsidies enjoyed by major oil companies, felt betrayed by the industry’s collaboration with the White House on fracking regulations. The e-mail to top oil and gas lobbyists made that unhappiness clear, and it suggested that the industry was being duped.

“Moving forward, we—your partners—would kindly ask for better coordination and communication from you to prevent the Obama administration from pulling similar stunts in the future,” wrote Inhofe aide David Banks in the 800-word e-mail to two dozen lobbyists.

Some lobbyists apparently “cringed” at the wording. But coordinated attacks on behalf of Big Oil interests are nothing new, even if lawmakers don’t usually use such frank language. A host of EPA pollution regulations have faced congressional opposition, including Inhofe’s resolution to prevent new limits on mercury pollution in power plants. Inhofe, a well-known climate denier, is also one of the top recipients of oil and gas contributions with well over $1 million for his career.

Because protecting the environment from hyper-capitalist externalization of losses — to the point where the people who pay those losses are the human race — is a “stunt”. Because, you know, fuck all those human beings.

Guess what I think about this.

Solar advertisement: Vork hates dolphin babies!

Good idea on the part of SunRun — pay you to install solar panels with no down payment on your part, and you pay them back for the energy your panels generate. But we’re left with a framing problem. Now that generating power using solar panels is actually cheaper overall than fossil fuel based power generation, the company has to fix the image that solar’s just for hippies.

Now I don’t have a lot of problem with focusing on the cost, but I’m not a big fan of throwing hippies under the bus yet again. I can’t think of a better way to fix the messaging without doing exactly that, though.

It’s cool to see Jeff Lewis from The Guild in something more mainstream though!

Hat tip Climate Crocks.

Network climate change coverage dropped 80% from 2009-2011

Funny, I guess something must have happened to fix the planet so that we might “stay the course” while I wasn’t looking! Suddenly, despite the big “ClimateGate” manufactroversy which should theoretically have driven all sorts of crazy TV coverage, the networks have all but gone silent on the topic.

Since 2009, when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a climate bill and a major climate conference took place in Copenhagen, the amount of climate coverage on both the Sunday shows (Fox News Sunday, NBC’s Meet the Press, CBS’ Face the Nation, and ABC’s This Week) and the nightly news (NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News, and ABC World News) has declined tremendously. This drop comes despite a series of newsworthy stories related to climate change in 2010 and 2011, including a debate over comprehensive climate and energy legislation in the U.S. Senate, a series of record-breaking extreme weather events, notable developments in climate science, the rise of so-called “climate skeptics” in the House of Representatives, and a deal struck at the most recent UN climate summit in Durban, South Africa.

Apparently Donald Trump got way more coverage. And yet, despite his best efforts, he’s very unlikely to cause economic and humanitarian calamity in the near future.

Worse yet, on those shows, 50% of the guests are politicians (two to one for the Republicans, naturally), 45% media personalities, and 5% “other” which I assume might include actual climate scientists. So almost everyone discussing anthropogenic global warming on the news, during what little coverage the topic gets, actually knows what the hell they’re talking about.

What I’ve learned from MediaMatters’ analysis, hosted on ThinkProgress, is that people no longer care about climate change, even though it’s definitely still happening, and it’s definitely humankind’s fault. Apparently the smokescreen machine put up by the fossil fuel industry and the Party of No Responsibility For Our Actions has succeeded in obfuscating the truth of the climate crisis. I can only hope the pendulum will swing again and people will realize that the longer we wait to take action, the more painful the switch off fossils will be.

Blimp-lofted wind turbines: huge return on investment

This awesome-looking prototype of blimp-lofted wind turbine can apparently achieve significant energy return on costs by being tethered high above the usual 300ft ceiling presented by ordinary tower-based turbines, delivering power for up to 65% cheaper than conventionally-built wind turbines that produce the same power. And that 65% figure assumes a height of 1000ft — Altaeros was aiming for a working ceiling of 2000ft!

My chief concern is the use of helium, which we’re kinda running terribly short on, owing to the ridiculously short-sighted US Congress in 1996. Their setting the price artificially low, and their vow to sell off the helium reserve by 2015, coupled with terrible misuse of helium for party balloons (since the stuff’s so damned cheap, it’s actually more expensive to recycle it!), could spell disaster for us. We have no ready source for it except for the natural decay of minerals or as a byproduct of the extraction of natural gas. And our use of helium is increasing rapidly, since we use a good deal of it for medical and radiation detection purposes.

If we can solve the helium problem, I’ll take a million of these, kplzthx. We might just solve the energy problem yet!

Hat tip to Climate Crocks.

Richard Alley on the Expense of Clean Energy

Professor Richard Alley explains why switching to clean energy — that which does not output CO2 — is pretty much an infrastructure problem, one which we’ve already solved once.

The technology we have to produce energy that does not rely on the burning of fossil fuels already exist, though they’re expensive. The main problems are those of cost-effectiveness and how much time we actually have before the issues become too great to overcome, and whether we’ll spend the necessary money to change our infrastructure before the damage we’re bringing on ourselves will cost way, way more than the cost for making the jump.

So the real question is not whether to do it, it’s a question of when. When will we stop putting short term profits over long term viability? When will we buckle down and solve the infrastructure problem that’s destroying our planet’s climate, in a way that will cost many more lives than did the emptying of chamber pots onto the streets?