Stop talking to billionaires, start listening to climate scientists

A gang of billionaires — Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson — were asked why they were spending so much of their ill-gotten gains on space travel. They answered that they’d been inspired by the space programs of the 1960s, and then, the usual stupid bullshit.

“We humans have to go to space if we are going to continue to have a thriving civilisation. We’re in the process of destroying our planet. We’ve sent robotic probes to every planet in the solar system; this is the good one. We have to preserve this planet. We can do that using the resources of space.”

That’s Bezos. He seems to have a superficial understanding of the fact that we’re wrecking our home, but his excuse is that we can go get stuff from space to reduce our drain on the system, which is nonsense. There’s no oil in space. Mining is always going to be more difficult, expensive, and dangerous on asteroids. The kinds of resources that drive the material development of society are going to be more destructive to the environment if we haul in more of them. If you’re serious about saving Planet Earth, work to end capitalism and build sustainable, renewable institutions.

But I don’t give a damn what self-serving excuses greedy rich fucks give for their profligacy. Skip to the end where Michael Mann (not a billionaire) gives his rebuttal.

“I’ve confirmed that Mr Bezos carries the collected works of the great Carl Sagan on his website. I would advise that he read what Carl Sagan had to say on this topic,” says Michael Mann, a climate expert and professor of Earth sciences at Penn State University.

“Sagan loved space exploration as much as anyone, and he envisioned us eventually travelling out into the cosmos. But he harboured no illusions about the near-term prospects for making that happen. That’s why he devoted the latter decades of his life advocating for the protection of this planet.

“Mr Bezos needs to absorb the sage advice of Sagan and invest his funds in efforts – environmental preservation and, especially, action to avert catastrophic climate change – that might actually accomplish his stated goals.”

He’s polite not to mention that we should also end the concentration of wealth in the hands of people who only believe in concentrating wealth even more.

UMM is #1 in something!

Environment America has noticed that my campus has made a big accomplishment in renewable energy.

The University of Minnesota (UMN), Morris leads in producing renewable electricity on its own campus. The university produces about 60 percent of its electricity needs with two commercial-scale wind turbines, and also powers one of its residence halls with a 20-kW solar PV installation.

Switching to renewable energy sources is a very big deal at this campus. I know one of our goals is 100% energy independence, and the turbines are just the beginning — we also have a biomass gasifier on campus, which has been off to a slow start, but it’s part of a grand plan to lead the way in sustainable energy production.

You can read more at our page on Renewable Energy Initiatives.

That’s the Pinwheel of Doom

Oh, what a pretty pinwheel! Until you look at what it illustrates. The height of each bar is the approximate number of hazards to the human concern listed from the impact of climate change. We’re in big trouble because each hazard compounds the others — it’s saying that if one thing doesn’t get you, something else will, and here’s an objective attempt at real risk assessment.

Six different aspects of human systems are shown (health, food, water, infrastructure, economy and security), with their subcategories for which impacts were observed. The heights of the bars indicate the number of hazards implicated in the impacts. Here we analysed ten climate hazards. The complete table of climate hazards and human aspects impacted is available at

The authors conclusion could be shorter. They could have just written “We’re fucked.”

Given the vast number of components in coupled human–climate systems, assessing the impacts of climate change on humanity requires analyses that integrate diverse types of information. Contrasting temporal and spatial patterns of climate hazards, compounded with varying vulnerabilities of human systems, suggests that narrow analyses may not completely reflect the impacts of climate change on humanity. Our integrative analysis finds that even under strong mitigation scenarios, there will still be significant human exposure to climate change, particularly in tropical coastal areas; such exposure will be much greater if GHG concentrations continue to rise throughout the twenty-first century and will not differentiate between poor or rich countries. The multitude of climate hazards that could simultaneously impact any given society highlights the diversity of adaptations that will probably be needed and the considerable economic and welfare burden that will be imposed by projected climate change triggered by ongoing GHG emissions. Overall, our analysis shows that ongoing climate change will pose a heightened threat to humanity that will be greatly aggravated if substantial and timely reductions of GHG emissions are not achieved.

Every election from here on out is going to be all about who is going to save my grandchildren from onrushing doom.

Camilo Mora, Daniele Spirandelli, Erik C. Franklin, John Lynham, Michael B. Kantar, Wendy Miles, Charlotte Z. Smith, Kelle Freel, Jade Moy, Leo V. Louis, Evan W. Barba, Keith Bettinger, Abby G. Frazier, John F. Colburn IX, Naota Hanasaki, Ed Hawkins, Yukiko Hirabayashi, Wolfgang Knorr, Christopher M. Little, Kerry Emanuel, Justin Sheffield, Jonathan A. Patz & Cynthia L. Hunter (2018) Broad threat to humanity from cumulative climate hazards intensified by greenhouse gas emissions. Nature Climate Change

Once again, I am embarrassed to be an American

I have really been looking forward to seeing David Attenborough’s latest, Frozen Planet, here in the US. I’ve seen brief snippets of the show on youtube, and like all of these big BBC nature productions, I’m sure it’s stunning. And then I hear that the Discovery Channel has bought the rights! Hooray!

But wait, experience cautions us. Remember when American television replaced Attenborough’s narration with Sigourney Weaver? And <shudder> Oprah Winfrey? ANd when the Oprah version dropped the references to evolution? What kind of insane butchery would they perpetrate this time around?

Well, the word is out. The Discovery Channel only bought 6 of the 7 episodes. They dropped the seventh because…it talks about global climate change.


It’s not just our dimbulbs in government, it’s active collusion by the media to suppress scientific evidence because it might be unpopular with our undereducated booberati. Jerry Coyne suggests that you contact the Discovery Channel’s viewer relations page and express your displeasure. I will not be watching a neutered version of the program on Discovery; instead, I’ll wait until I can pick up the BBC DVDs.

You know what else is annoying about this? My wife and I are having a pleasantly quiet evening at home, and what she’s been doing is watching youtube videos…of David Attenborough. She’s been gushing over these spectacular videos all night long, and I swear, I’m beginning to feel pangs of manly jealousy. At least I get to tell her that the American media has decided that he’s seditious and dangerous.

And that will probably make him even more attractive. I can’t win.

Just to end on a more pleasant note, Mary almost orgasmed over this one. You’ll like it too. Too bad the Discovery Channel thinks you hate reality.

(Also on FtB)

Like a deadly lightning bolt made of treacle

Somebody clone Attenborough, quick — the British nature program must continue forever! His latest documentary is Frozen Planet, and all I’ve seen of it is short clips on youtube and various other sites…which just makes me want to see more.

Here is a time lapse video of a brinicle forming: a column of cold water descending from the surface which is saltier than the surrounding sea, so it both sinks and remains liquid as it oozes downward, but it freezes the less briny water around it. It’s slow, but if you’re a slow-moving echinoderm, it’s like the icy finger of a vindictive god reaching down to destroy you.

(Also on FtB)

A little sliver of restoration

Hey, I know the Elwha river! I think we stopped there on my honeymoon. Lovely place, the Olympic Peninsula. And getting even lovelier if they are ripping out unneeded dams and restoring the rivers. There’s something so satisfying about a timelapse of a dam being demolished.

Next, restore the watershed and the salmon runs. Whatever, I’ve got to find an opportunity to relax on the peninsula someday again, before I die.

(Also on FtB)

Watts wrote a check he couldn’t cash

That wacky climate change denier and radio weather broadcaster Anthony Watts took a brave step a while back, and I commend him for it. He was enthused about an independent research project, the Berkeley Earth Project, that would measure the planet’s temperature over the last centuries and compare it to the work of NOAA and NASA on earth’s temperature — he apparently expected that it would show that NASA and NOAA had been inflating the data. He was so confident that he went on the record saying:

I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong.

Excellent! That’s a good scientific attitude.

So the results have been published, and they look like this:

Results from the Berkeley Earth project data fits existing NASA and NOAA temperature records like a glove

You can probably see the NASA/NOAA data wiggling beneath the dark bold line of new data from the Berkeley Earth Project. They’re rather…close. Intimate, even.

What do you think Anthony Watts’ response was?

I consider the paper fatally flawed as it now stands, and thus I recommend it be removed from publication consideration by JGR until such time that it can be reworked.

Yep. Didn’t give the results he wanted. Therefore, the experiment is bad.

(Also on FtB)

Why even bother consulting the scientists at all?

A group of scientists have done the right thing: they authored an environmental report, and are now publicizing the changes the Texas state administration tried to impose on it. This is going to backfire on the politicians: rather than hiding away the science that conflicts with their ideology, the censorship is highlighting the corruption and denialism.

Officials in Rick Perry’s home state of Texas have set off a scientists’ revolt after purging mentions of climate change and sea-level rise from what was supposed to be a landmark environmental report. The scientists said they were disowning the report on the state of Galveston Bay because of political interference and censorship from Perry appointees at the state’s environmental agency.

By academic standards, the protest amounts to the beginnings of a rebellion: every single scientist associated with the 200-page report has demanded their names be struck from the document. “None of us can be party to scientific censorship so we would all have our names removed,” said Jim Lester, a co-author of the report and vice-president of the Houston Advanced Research Centre.

Mother Jones has gone through the report line by line. Rick Perry’s mindless zombies didn’t just prune out contentious interpretations of the evidence — they cut out statements of confirmed, measurable fact, like measaurements of sea level rise in Galveston Bay. When reality conflicts with your delusions, what do you do? Rethink your delusions, or try to edit the facts?

We know what choice Perry would make.

(Also on FtB)

Faster than predicted

Good news, everyone! The dire predictions of the IPCC about the effects of CO2 have been found to be wrong. (I expect that’s all the denialists will tell you.)

The bad news is that the actual observations are showing that the IPCC predictions were too conservative, and that the pace of climate change is faster than predicted.

It’s Monday, so you’re probably already depressed, and a little more pessimism won’t make you feel much worse…so watch the video, have a cup of coffee, despair.

(Also on FtB)