The Philadelphia Examiner site carries a top-notch article today by Joshua Reese called "Climate Change We Can Believe In"; I very strongly recommend it (and a hat-tip to frostokovich for recommending it to me). It's a level-headed assessment of the political realities we find ourselves among because of a long history of mixed stupidity, cupidity and corruption among our legislators and their counterparts in some (not all) other countries. Reese holds out a tiny measure of optimism that we may indeed be able to get past these political and ideological logjams, despite the huge probability against.
And then you read the comments beneath the article and you realize that, no, Reese's small gleam of hope is just an illusion. We're doomed because of Teh Stupid. Here's "Tim":
This new religion and former science (climatology) is a scam. Most of the believers (climatolojists) will argue that crazy people like me refuse to acknowledge the facts and data on global warming. Well, as to the question of weather or not the Earth is getting warmer, it is. Now here is where people like me and climatolojists differ. A scientific mind must be very careful to separate correlation and causation. Just because two events happen at the same time does not mean that they are linked in any way. Scientists have done much research on the subject. It seams that governments around the world repress any scientific facts that are contrary to this new fascism. Fact = all the other planets are also warming at same rate as Earth. The EPA's own report was suppressed by the current administration in June 09 because it did not reflect current policies, Google it, I dare you to think for yourself. To understand why climatolojy is so insidious, you only need ask, who benifits?
When, at the end of this century, humanity's billions have been reduced to a few warring tribes at the poles, and someone wonders why this catastrophe could have come about, they need look no further than "Tim".
Tonight we watched Yann Arthus-Bertrand's astonishing movie Home, which a couple of weeks ago was released simultaneously all over the world to cinemas, on DVD, on YouTube, to various free download sites, etc.; you can go watch a fairly hi-res version at the movie's home-site here or download it (assuming you have the requisite software) here.*
The description on the latter site, and on Wikipedia, is quite seriously misleading in that it understates the movie. This is so very much more than a film "almost entirely composed of aerial shots of various places around Earth, taken in over 50 countries in the process. It shows the diversity of life on Earth and how humanity is threatening the ecological balance of the planet". Although Home is often an amazingly beautiful movie -- sometimes so lovely it's hard not to weep -- what it really is is an unspeakably stark warning about the hair-thin proximity to the precipice we've allowed our technology and our greed and our stupidity and our sheer numbers to bring us. I would say this is a far better movie, and certainly a far more visually extraordinary one, than An Inconvenient Truth.
There are particular categories of people who, it immediately occurred to Pam and myself, should be urgently recommended to watch Home.
First, of course, there are the incumbents of the Senate and House -- and White House. Some of them probably will take the trouble to see it. Most, I suspect, will be too incompetent and/or stupid and/or mendacious and/or ideologically hogtied to do so -- or maybe just too bloody lazy to give a flying whatsit about the near-incomprehensible levels of human suffering this century will almost certainly witness even if we start changing our ways pronto.
As an example of the urgency here, we have approximately a decade -- unless we take strong action now -- before the Siberian permafrost melts sufficiently to start releasing into the atmosphere the huge stores of methane gas imprisoned beneath it. Methane is an even fiercer greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. As the movie makes plain, the effect of such an enormous release will be to alter radically the very nature of the planet we live on.
A second category of people who should see this movie urgently is the young. And here there's something even more depressing than the witless Inhofes and the scientifically challenged Jindalls. Many and perhaps most schools in this country would not dare show Home to the kids, because its arguments are scientifically based and consequently assume such items as the antiquity of the earth, the interconnectedness of all lifeforms including ourselves, and of course human evolution; its makers quite rightly don't waste time pussyfooting around with imbecilities like young-earth creationism. Since the US is still the most powerful nation in the world, the importance of educating its youth in the concerns of this movie cannot be underestimated; yet the self-indulgent fantasies of the willfully ignorant are going to make that vital piece of education impossible in so many parts of the land.
So much for my random thoughts. Home is a wonderful movie, and an important one, and you can watch it for nothing in the privacy of your own home. Do so. Please.
Footnote: *I think you can download it directly from iTunes, but I'm resistant to all of the spyware lurking in the software Apple insists you install in order to go that route.
To be honest, I'm not 100% sure this falls within the remit of the Science Masterclass as I've been defining it to myself. However, it's concerned with science, and it does indeed refer to scientific idiocy/illiteracy/denial, so I guess my heading's okay . . .
There's a very good article by David S. Bernstein on the Boston Phoenix site at the moment called "Generation Green". Moderately long but well worth perusing in full, it has as its subject the way the current stalwarts of the GOP are essentially driving the Republican bandwagon over the edge of a cliff by promoting anti-scientific, non-reality-based notions concerning climate change. Why? Because the very people who're going to be hardest hit by the consequences of any continuation of the criminal inactivity on this front (or, even worse, promotion of potentially genocidal junk science) of the Bush years are all too well aware of the hazards of the future that people of older generations have created for them. And those young people represent an already large and (obviously) steadily increasing slice of the US electorate.
As I say, Bernstein's piece is well worth reading in toto; nonetheless, here are some pertinent extracts:
Republicans have a lot to say about the immorality of saddling the next generation with our national debt. But when it comes to leaving them a wrecked, depleted, and rapidly warming planet, they are taking the exact opposite line.
That's especially odd when you consider how important that next generation is to the faltering GOP - and how broadly united those voters, known as Millennials, are in their concern over global warming and other energy and environment issues. [. . .]
Even the most senior Republican leaders, and the top GOP lawmakers on energy and environment committees, keep shooting themselves in the foot by spewing antiquated, anti-science nonsense. [. . .]
Global warming, more than any other issue, carries an urgency among Millennials of all backgrounds and ideologies. "That's the scary thing, if you work for the RNC [Republican National Committee]," says John della
Volpe, who studies this generation at the Harvard University Institute of Politics (IOP). "It absolutely cuts across all the demographics."
"For young people, no issue is more important," says Pat Johnson, a Suffolk University student and president of the College Democrats of Massachusetts. "We are going to have to live with the consequences of inaction."
Conventional wisdom suggests that getting bogged down over environmental legislation would distract Democrats from important issues like the economy and foreign policy. [. . .] To this generation, this fight is not only about climate change - it is about creating green jobs and increasing national security by reducing dependence on foreign oil. [. . .]
In a stance utterly bewildering to most Beltway veterans, Millennials don't necessarily view the environment as a partisan or ideological issue. To them, it's an infrastructure problem, like wanting the New Orleans levees
fixed. That's why even those Millennials otherwise open to the GOP will get turned off if the party opposes climate-change progress. [. . .]
But the loosest cannons in the GOP - and they are legion - simply cannot stick with the game plan. How can they? Surveys show that solid majorities of Republicans believe that global warming is either a myth or, at most, a wildly overblown media creation. Those warming deniers control the party, and their elected officials can only go along with it.
As a result, prominent Republicans regularly spew inanities on climate change ready-made for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. And it only gets worse when you move beyond the elected Republicans. The most popular conservative talk-show hosts, publications, bloggers, and pundits are almost unanimously dismissive of global warming, from columnist George F. Will, to Fox News superstar Glenn Beck, to bloggers at redstate.com.
After the recent EPA announcement on regulating greenhouse gases, Jonah Goldberg, National Review contributor, Fox News analyst, book author, and rising star of right-wing punditry, fumed on National Review Online, without irony, that "A federal agency has decided that it has the power to regulate everything, including the air you breathe" -- as if, under the Clean Air Act, the federal government has not been doing exactly that for the past four decades.
To almost anyone under the age of 30, all of this is similar to watching cigarette executives insist that smoking isn't harmful. "Younger voters get interested when they can choose sides," says Rasky, and the Republicans are going to make that very easy. "You give them the opportunity, they'll talk about drilling for oil, and how global warming isn't really happening."
To Millennials, that rhetoric makes the GOP nothing more than obnoxious gas.
(It's perhaps a little unfair of Bernstein to cite Goldberg, who's a man of such extraordinary stupidity that any argument he supports becomes ipso facto risible -- at least, this is what I thought on first reading the relevant passage. Thereafter, though, it dawned on me that Bernstein's choice was a bit circumscribed. Had he selected just about any of the alternatives among the rightist pundits he'd have been accused of picking too-easy targets: Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Coulter, Buchanan, Beck, Inhofe, Gingrich, Savage . . .)
My own feeling is that perhaps we're already too late to avert the onrushing climate disaster: even those politicians/political factions around the world who're trying urgently to take ameliorative steps are producing results short of what is necessary; as James Lovelock has said, by the end of this century humanity is likely to consist of at best a few million individuals living in conditions of extreme barbarism near the poles. But words like "perhaps" and "likely" leave open the smallest of cracks in the doorways ahead of us; the people who're so determined to close those cracks, slam shut those doors, are nothing short of public enemies -- as, apparently, the "Millennials" (ugly term) recognize only too well.
And, yes, I've been here before -- notably in my nonfiction Corrupted Science and my mosaic novel Leaving Fortusa, both of which have been subject to rightist vituperation. I wonder if those vituperators realize I wear their smears with pride?
It would be tempting to blame Judge Paul A. Crotty, but it's pretty clear where his sensibilities lie -- and what he would like to see done to annul this imbecilic circumstance. Today's New York Times has the shameful story:
Judge Kills Mayor’s Try at Greening Taxi Fleets
A federal judge dealt a blow on Friday to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s efforts to improve air quality in the city, blocking a rule that all new taxis must meet stringent fuel efficiency standards.
The rule, which was scheduled to take effect on Saturday, would have made it mandatory for most cabs to be hybrid gas-and-electric vehicles by 2012. In response to the judge’s order, the city signaled that it would seek to achieve similar results by other means, perhaps by creating a system of incentives that would effectively push most cab owners to buy hybrid vehicles instead of the less fuel-efficient Ford Crown Victoria model that is the workhorse of today’s taxi fleet.
Fleet owners and other industry members had filed a lawsuit against the rule, which is a major component of the mayor’s effort to make city policies more environmentally responsible.
The judge, Paul A. Crotty, of Federal District Court in Manhattan, issued an injunction to stop the city from enforcing the rule because, he said in a written order, the plaintiffs were likely to succeed in a key legal argument —that only the federal government has the right, under existing laws, to set fuel efficiency standards.
In a written statement, Mr. Bloomberg said, “We are very disappointed in the decision.”
The statement said that the city was considering an appeal of the judge’s order. “The decision is not a ruling against hybrid cabs,” the statement continued, “rather a ruling that archaic Washington regulations are applicable and therefore New York City, and all other cities, are prevented from choosing to create cleaner air and a healthier place to live.”
Let's hope a new Administration takes urgent action so that no longer are "New York City, and all other cities . . . prevented from choosing to create cleaner air and a healthier place to live".
Addendum: Shame also on the NYT, by the way, for burying this far from the headlines (at least in the online edition). NYC is one of the biggest cities in the world, so this situation adversely impacts on the global scale the fight against climate change. It is not a minor news item of local interest only.
Ever since I finished writing my book Corrupted Science a little over a year ago, there have been countless instances of my clapping my forehead and muttering foul oaths because yet another classic corruption or misrepresentation of science has been perpetrated by a government (usually the Bush Administration) or by an individual politician. Indeed, I have a bulging file of such stuff to draw on in the fanciful event of my ever being asked to write a Corrupted Science II.
The most popular area of science to be perverted is, obviously, environmental science, with climate change being a primary target for ill informed or deliberately distorting hogwash. Sex education isn't far behind. (Of course, if you count economics as a science we're into a whole new ballpark.)
As a presidential candidate, John McCain has shown his readiness to throw himself wholeheartedly into the same sort of cesspit of science corruption as the outgoing administration, although at least he seems to have cottoned on to the fact that the US public is not entirely ignorant, not entirely stupid. When it comes to climate change, for example, he recognizes that the old lies -- it doesn't matter, or that the jury is still out, or that it's a hoax mounted by climatologists worried they might lose their jobs, or whatever crap next falls out of Il Buce's mouth and miraculously forms itself into a comprehensible sequence -- won't wash any more: McCain has to recognize that global warming is here and now, and he has to pretend to have some relevant policies. If only he weren't so in hock to corporate lobbyists he might even be able genuinely to have such policies; as it is, he's being forced to bluff.
And, since his ignorance of science is almost as great as his contempt for it, his bluff would be hilarious in its inadequacy were the situation not so serious.
These thoughts were brought on by my reading an excellent piece in the environmental webzine Plenty (you can sign up for their useful free e-mail updates) called "McCain’s climate plan falls short". Here's a taster:
. . . it’s refreshing to see a GOP candidate acknowledge climate change, let alone try to tackle the problem: If we take the Bush presidency as our benchmark, the fact that McCain even has a climate strategy is genuinely revolutionary. Unfortunately, though, McCain’s “better way” is pretty small beer: Where McCain’s Democratic rivals would aim to reduce carbon emissions to 80 percent of 1990 levels by mid-century, McCain would aim only for a 60 percent cut - well short of the level of reduction scientists say is needed to halt climate change.
He’d also include a number of business-friendly provisions that would further reduce the impact of his plan. Companies would be allowed to make unlimited use of foreign carbon-offsetting operations, making it far harder to ensure genuine emission reductions. Worse still, McCain would give companies a starter-pack of free carbon credits based on their past emissions records, ensuring massive windfall profits for big polluters and introducing an extra layer of pork for politicians and polluters to scrabble over.
You can read the piece in full at http://www.plentymag.com/blogs/