A new Gallup poll shows worry about global warming and acceptance of the climate science consensus is up sharply in the last two years. Those spikes are not being fueled by Democrats or independents - they're being fueled by Republicans.
But the political conventional wisdom in Washington presents a very real obstacle to this reality breaking through. The same pundits who bemoan partisan polarization in one breath perpetuate it the next - all Democrats hate coal, and all Republicans hate clean air! The nuance of rank-and-file Republicans disagreeing with Republican party leadership stands little chance of breaking through these stereotypes.
Let's dig into the poll numbers. You could make the case that Republicans are just cooling off from the heated fight over clean energy & climate legislation that had party leaders, polluters, and conservative media telling them that they had to oppose climate action to support the team.
But we're just coming off an election year in which Republican candidates went after climate science and clean energy with renewed fury, yet rank-and-file Republican acceptance of the climate science consensus went up anyway. What's really going on here?
Is Ken Cuccinelli moving to the political center to win the Virginia governor's race? Um...no.
Quite to the contrary, our Ayatollah General is once again petitioning the courts to validate his favorite climate change conspiracy theories. Just last week, he asked the Supreme Court to throw out the US EPA's scientific finding that climate change represents a threat to human health.
If he wrote that he is filing his petition out of concern for his fossil fuel industry donors, who may have to sell a yacht or two if oil, gas and coal stocks sink, I might give him an A for honesty. No such luck -- his rationale (or more accurately, irrationale) is that thousands of scientists worldwide falsified their data as part of the biggest conspiracy since the faked moon landing.
David Doniger of NRDC demolishes this shoddy edifice in his blog by playing the dirty trick of quoting the last court -- the US Court of Appeals in Washington -- to throw this bum and his bull-hockey out on the street:
State and Industry Petitioners assert that EPA improperly "delegated" its judgment to the IPCC, USGCRP, and NRC by relying on these assessments of climate-change science. ... This argument is little more than a semantic trick. EPA did not delegate, explicitly or otherwise, any decision-making to any of those entities. EPA simply did here what it and other decisionmakers often must do to make a science-based judgment: it sought out and reviewed existing scientific evidence to determine whether a particular finding was warranted.[...]Relying again upon substantial scientific evidence, EPA determined that anthropogenically induced climate change threatens both public health and public welfare.[...]State Petitioners have not, as they assert, uncovered a "pattern" of flawed science. Only two of the errors they point out seem to be errors at all, and EPA relied on neither in making the Endangerment Finding.
But undeterred, our Kook presses onward. If you feel any temptation to praise him for his doggedness, please note that most conspiracy theorists tend to be just as persistent. That is because they are, not to put too fine a point on it, INSANE.
Predictions that a major El Niño warming event - and the coming solar maximum - would help make next year the warmest on record now seem wide of the mark. All eyes will probably be on the Arctic instead. Some say the record loss of sea ice in summer 2012 was a one-off, others that it was the start of a runaway collapse. If the latter, summer sea ice could virtually disappear as early as 2016. What is certain is that the ice reforming now will be the thinnest on record, priming it for destruction next summer. [...]
When our children are wondering why we didn't solve the climate crisis when we had the chance, I'm sure they'll be thankful we took the time to try to gut their retirement benefits.
This morning I watched Meet The Press host David Gregory and his panel not only agree Social Security and Medicare must be cut, but to brainstorm aloud strategy for making it happen. This very same panel had just gotten done unanimously agreeing that objective journalists are not allowed to say that Republicans are the problem in Washington. But they were now designing their very own political campaign.
Because people in the insular, wealthy world of Beltway politics will never need to put off a trip to the grocery store until their Social Security check arrives. The threat of going hungry could never compare to the alleged threat of the budget deficit.
The White House is now calling former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel a "solid" candidate for Defense Secretary, per the Washington Post. And certainly Hagel, who emerged as an opponent to Bush's bloody, wasteful Iraq War, has some things going for him.
But it's important to consider his entire career in making such a choice -- including Hagel's fierce and tragically successful efforts to kill the Kyoto climate treaty in the U.S. Senate.
Hagel was a Congressional observer in Kyoto during the negotiations over the landmark climate change treaty in 1997. His position on Kyoto was never ambiguous: "We will kill this if the president signs it." Or as he put it a few years later, in over-the-top language in support of the Bush administration's limp approach to the issue:
The Kyoto Protocol would have eliminated millions of jobs in America. It would have driven our economy downward. It would have eliminated opportunities for investment, such as clean energy technology, in developing countries. It would have driven a stake through any hope of prosperity for America.
Dr. Mann, a Professor and Director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, has instituted this lawsuit against the two organizations, along with two of their authors, based upon their false and defamatory statements accusing him of academic fraud and comparing him to a convicted child molester, Jerry Sandusky. [...]
In response to these types of accusations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation and seven other organizations have conducted investigations into Dr. Mann's work, finding any and all allegations of academic fraud to be baseless. Every investigation-and every replication of Mann's work-has concluded that his research and conclusions were properly conducted and fairly presented.
Despite their knowledge of the results of these many investigations, the defendants have nevertheless accused Dr. Mann of academic fraud and have maliciously attacked his personal reputation with the knowingly false comparison to a child molester. The conduct of the defendants is outrageous, and Dr. Mann will be seeking judgment for both compensatory and punitive damages.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli clumsy attempt at "investigating" Dr. Mann's work was laughed out of court. Mann has been contemplating a lawsuit for months and is now moving forward, so he must feel he has a much stronger legal case than science's hapless enemies.
It's not true that if you slowly turn up the heat, a frog won't notice that his surroundings are getting hotter - the frog will jump out of the pot if he can. That's an allegory - but whether humans will recognize & respond to their warming climate is a very real & open question.
The Washington Post has no mention of climate impacts in its main story on the storm. Even its sidebar story detailing the record-shattering temperatures that fueled the derecho waits until its final sentence to say the rare storm "raises the question about the possible role of man-made climate warming" - but says any judgement must be left to after the frog has already boiled future case studies. Next to the storm coverage is an in-depth look at tar sands, one of the most carbon pollution-intensive fuels on the planet, but true to modern American journalism's View From Nowhere, the Post makes no connection between the two stories, not even on the editorial page.
The New York Times and CNN.com make no mention of climate change in their stories on the storms. Last night, CBS Radio News blamed the storms on "Mother Nature," skipping past ignorance to outright denial.
Reading these stories, I can't help but think of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond. Past dominant societies have proved quite capable of blissfully ignoring all evidence of impending doom. So far, America's media is proving no different. Will 2012's record temperatures and extreme weather change that? Or be just another milepost on the road to disaster?
Norfolk, VA was 6 degrees above normal & broke its March record by 1 degree
Green Bay, WI was 10.4 degrees above normal & broke its March record by 4.4 degrees
Des Moines, IA was 9.8 degrees above normal & broke its March record by 3.7 degrees
Boston, MA was 6.4 degrees above normal & broke its March record by 1.6 degrees
Bismarck, ND was 9.1 degrees above normal & broke its March record by 0.5 degrees
While Europe and much of Asia have been colder than usual this year, it's not enough to offset the global trend. January-February were 0.67 degrees above the 20th century average and the 20th-warmest on record globally. NOAA has been unequivocal that global warming is fueling the trend. Have your local meteorologists been willing to point out that fact? And do your elected officials know it's time to act?
The National Park Service now agrees with what the Capital Weather Gang first predicted - our warm winter will have the Tidal Basin's cherry blossoms challenging the earliest peak bloom record, continuing the global warming-fueled trend. As this photo from Flickr's Richard Cline shows, they're already beginning to emerge.
A 2000 Smithsonian study showed the climate crisis already has the cherry blossoms emerging about a week earlier than they used to - but a new report says that could be just the tip of the iceberg:
Now comes a team of scientists theorizing that with drastic warming of the globe, future decades could see blossom times not just a few days early but advanced by almost a month.
That could mean a bloom process that begins in January, rather than February, a blooming period in February instead of March, and a peak bloom in early March, instead of early April, the research suggests.
Oddly, the study doesn't frame the challenge not as one of limiting our use of carbon-intensive fuels like oil and coal, but one strictly of limiting population growth:
Sea levels have already risen 8 inches since 1880 and thanks to global warming are forecast to rise at least several more feet in the lifetime of a child born today. A new study from Climate Central takes a look at what that means for people who live on America's coasts:
The studies look at people who live in homes within three feet of high tide, whereas old studies looked just at elevation above sea level, according to work published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research and an accompanying report by Climate Central.
That's an important distinction because using high tide is more accurate for flooding impacts, said study co-author Jonathan Overpeck, a scientist at the University of Arizona's Institute of the Environment. And when the new way of looking at risk is factored in, the outlook looks worse, Overpeck said.
"It's shocking to see how large the impacts could be, particularly in southern Florida and Louisiana, but much of the coastal U.S. will share in the serious pain," Overpeck said.
And what about here in Virginia? I entered a very modest number - three feet of sea level rise, storm surge & tide - into the ClimateCentral.org model & here's what I got:
Climate science tells us it fits a long-term pattern and we can expect more of it if we don't cut our carbon pollution
Moms doing their exercises outdoors! With cute babies!
And that's it! Not controversial. Not political. No sound bite from the American Petroleum Institute necessary. Just the facts.
Many reporters think the way to dodge politics and controversy is to avoid mentioning the connection between climate change and extreme weather altogether. Just the opposite! Omitting facts and leaving a void of confusion in their place is no better than manufacturing a false "balance" with he said, she said reporting.
Here's a new TED Talk from Dr. James Hansen, NASA climate scientist. Dr. Hansen explains how he wrote a paper in 1981 predicting "the 21st century would see shifting climate zones, creation of drought prone regions in North America and Asia, erosion of ice sheets, rising sea levels, and opening of the fabled Northwest passage. All of these impacts have since either happened or are now well underway."
The cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC are expected to peak between March 24 and 31, the National Park Service announced today. That's 5 to 10 days earlier than normal and right in line with our global warming-fueled trend - a Smithsonian study found the blossoms come out about 4.5 days earlier than they used to, part of a shift that all plants are feeling.
Of course, reporters can't say any of that! The peak's just early somehow, and the warm weather must be described as unusual or unseasonable and reporters must never mention that the changes are exactly in line with broader global warming trends.
Just look at coverage of our warm winter. DC's fresh off its 3rd-warmest winter on record and 2 of the top 4 have come within the last 10 years, exactly the type of changes climate scientists say we can expect in a warming world. But on local weather blogs, neither the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang nor WJLA's StormWatch 7 would even say the word climate.
People sometimes ask me if I'm frustrated that a minority of Americans still don't accept climate science. Just the opposite - I'm amazed the poll numbers are so strong! Even though the media won't connect the dots, Americans are doing it on their own, telling pollsters that changes in their own backyards are convincing them that our climate is warming.
The embattled Heartland Institute has roundly condemned journalists for writing about or posting a climate change strategy memo earlier this week that, while attributed to the organization, Heartland says is a "total fake."
But the memo was released late Tuesday night together with other budget and fundraising documents that the right-leaning think tank says appear to have been written by its president and mentions programs that are also detailed in the other documents.
The memo in question notes, for example, that one anonymous donor plans to pony up $100,000 to allow Heartland to develop a curriculum for schoolchildren that would "focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain." The project is to be spearheaded by consultant David Wojick. The same project is mentioned on page 18 of the budget of the fundraising plan, which Heartland says may be genuine.
An Associated Press investigation also finds no reason to doubt the Denialgate documents' authenticity. Heartland's bleating about documents which it apparently willingly handed over to someone posing as a board member stand in stark contrast to its gleeful reaction to hackers stealing the emails of climate scientists, which remains the subject of an active criminal investigation. As Zachary Shahan at PlanetSave.com writes, "Three years of nonsense and praise for 'Climategate' combined with the continual misrepresentation of what it actually was, and now the Heartland Institute wants to call in the referees and have us all sit peacefully in a thoughtful moment on how wrong it is to steal information and misrepresent people?"
The national average temperature in January was 36.3 degrees F, which is 5.5 degrees F above the long-term average and the warmest since 2006, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center. The other warmer Januarys were in 1990 and 1953. The data is based on records dating back to 1895.
Nine states - Arizona, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming - had January temperatures ranking among their ten warmest. Florida and Washington were the only states in the lower 48 with temperatures near average, and no state was cooler than average. [...]
According to data from the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the average snow cover in January was 1 million square miles, which was 329,000 square miles below average. This marked the 3rd-smallest January snow cover extent in the 46-year period of record.
USA Today's article does not mention global warming in its write-up, despite the fact that 3 of America's 4 warmest Januarys have now come since 1990, and 2011 was the 9th-hottest year on record globally. Read more on the warm January at NOAA.gov.
I've compared man-made carbon pollution to a baseball player on steroids - turning a warm winter into a potential record breaker. The National Center for Atmospheric Research has a new video fleshing out the analogy:
On a warm Groundhog Day & with mild temperatures forecast to continue across Virginia through the 10-day outlook, E&E News (sub. req.) takes a closer look at at how global warming is impacting Punxsutawney Phil & friends:
Groundhogs are one of the few animals that achieve true, or "profound," hibernation, burrowing down below the frost line for the coldest months of the year. During this period, which usually lasts from mid-October to late February, a groundhog's heart rate drops from 80 beats a minute to only three or four, and its body temperature falls by 60 degrees. Warmer temperatures shorten hibernation, causing groundhogs to burrow later and rise earlier than is customary, said [Cornell wildlife expert Paul] Curtis.
That can be a problem if groundhogs rise before their spring food supply has emerged. But the milder winters & earlier springs have a more serious wildlife implication for Virginians:
If they mentioned our changing climate, they might get angry calls from viewers who find climate reality doesn't fit in with their political views. Here in the DC area, unless your name is Bob Ryan, you're likely to figure it's better to keep quiet about the facts than risk standing up for inconvenient truths. Or maybe, like Topper Shutt, you're a climate science denier yourself.
Learn more about why some TV weathermen aren't straight with their viewers about climate science at ForecastTheFacts.org.
November 2011, 12th-hottest on record & 321st consecutive month our planet's temperatures were above the 20th-century average. January-November 2011, 11th-hottest on record. And if that doesn't sound hot, keep in mind how much the last decade - the hottest decade humans have ever recorded - has skewed the record books. Until 1995, there had never been a year recorded more than 0.4 degrees Celsius above average. Now 2011's 0.52°C above average ... and it only ranks 11th.
Here's a NOAA chart on November 2011's extreme weather events:
Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, does weekly video conversations with some of the most extreme voices in conservative politics for the website The Daily Caller. I wouldn't even describe her guests as Republicans - most are from the extreme conservative fringe, well outside the party mainstream. And they're not interviews - the website describes them as "sit downs" and Thomas doesn't hide her full political support ("What can people do who believe in what you are saying?").
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