The Upside of the Election of @$&#%

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Rather than allow myself to sink into a deep depression following the election of a certain sociopath* (whose name I’d rather not mention for fear of nauseating all the kind people who read this blogpost**), I’ve been looking for any silver linings that might have attached themselves to this catastrophic event.  So far, I’ve found three:

  1. People will have the opportunity to see what happens when Republicans are in control of all three branches of government. If the past is any guide, Republican policies will drive us into a ditch. This time, however, the Republicans will have a hard time blaming Democrats for their failures; they will be held accountable for just about everything.
  2. During Obama’s presidency, rank-and-file Democrats have generally been passive, trusting that Obama will do the right thing most of the time, and feeling that activism has been unnecessary. With @$&#% as president, more progressives will realize the importance of getting involved in politics and fighting back.
  3. Given that @$&#% denies the existence of global warming and has promised to undo Obama’s environmental regulations, the chance that the U.S. government will address global warming—as long as @$&#% is president and Congress is under Republican control—is near zero, and that, of course, is bad news. But here’s the silver lining: When the government refuses to act and the ecological consequences become increasingly apparent, a growing number of individuals will, of necessity, take responsibility for their own ecological footprints. And that’s good news because bringing the planet back from the ecological cliff will take all of us doing our part whichever party is in power. Besides, the more actively we’re involved, the more likely it will be that politicians will have the courage to do the right thing.

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*  Is @$&#% really a sociopath, or am I exaggerating for comic effect? I don’t have the credentials to say for certain, and I don’t know if http://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.html has the credentials either, but here’s some of what I found at that website:

Profile of the Sociopath

  • Glibness and Superficial Charm
  • Manipulative and Conning

They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They may dominate and humiliate their victims.

  • Grandiose Sense of Self

Feels entitled to certain things as “their right.”

  • Pathological Lying

Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.

  • Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt

A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.

  • Shallow Emotions

When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. Outraged by insignificant matters, yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since they are not genuine, neither are their promises.

  • Incapacity for Love
  • Need for Stimulation

Living on the edge. Verbal outbursts and physical punishments are normal. Promiscuity and gambling are common.

  • Callousness/Lack of Empathy

Unable to empathize with the pain of their victims, having only contempt for others’ feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them.

  • Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature

Rage and abuse, alternating with small expressions of love and approval produce an addictive cycle for abuser and abused, as well as creating hopelessness in the victim. Believe they are all-powerful, all-knowing, entitled to every wish, no sense of personal boundaries, no concern for their impact on others.

  • Irresponsibility/Unreliability

Not concerned about wrecking others’ lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blames others, even for acts they obviously committed.

  • Promiscuous Sexual Behavior/Infidelity

Promiscuity, child sexual abuse, rape and sexual acting out of all sorts.

Do you think that profile fits @$&#% to a tee?  I do.

** Henceforth, I shall refer to the unnamed one as @$&#%.

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Another Series of Presidential Debates with No Climate-Change Qs

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Did you notice? None of the debate moderators asked a single question about climate change. Isn’t that odd? As President Obama recently said: “No challenge  poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.” So why didn’t this existential threat merit even one question? Are all of the moderators climate-change deniers?
Probably not. My guess is that each of them asked questions on topics the American people find most pressing, and poll after poll shows that only about 1% of Americans name “the environment” (much less “climate change”) as one of the most important issues facing the U.S. today. The Big Q, then, is: Why do so few Americans express concern to pollsters about the environment? One of the reasons, no doubt, is that the news media under-report environmental problems relative to their importance. People discount environmental issues, because the media rarely bring the issues to their attention. Completing the vicious circle, the news media under-report environmental problems because the public seems not to care about those problems.
Here’s a link to a relevant article, which contains links to a number of other relevant articles.

The Urgency of NOW

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After studying environmental issues for decades, I feel responsible to wake up as many people as possible to the fact that procrastinating on climate change is a horrific mistake.  If we wait to reduce our greenhouse-gas emissions drastically, we will make it virtually impossible to reverse, stop, or even slow global warming. Why? Because the current level of warming has already begun to trigger positive-feedback mechanisms, and, as the temperature goes up, those mechanisms will trigger more mechanisms, and then the warming will continue to accelerate to levels we don’t even want to think about.

As The Guardian explains:

Scientists are aware of a number of positive feedbacks loops in the climate system. One example is melting ice. Because ice is light-coloured and reflective, a large proportion of the sunlight that hits it is bounced back to space, which limits the amount of warming it causes. But as the world gets hotter, ice melts, revealing the darker-coloured land or water below. The result is that more of the sun’s energy is absorbed, leading to more warming, which in turn leads to more ice melting – and so on.

You can find another positive-feedback example, the release of methane as permafrost melts, in one of my earlier blogs. That post is entitled: IN WHICH I RANT IN CAPITAL LETTERS. Here’s a link to that post: https://sallywengrover.wordpress.com/2014/08/09/in-which-i-rant-in-capital-letters/

For lighter look at positive feedback, you might check out “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” from Fantasia. Here’s a link to it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ait_Fs6UQhQ

Below, you’ll find links to a couple of recent articles about where we now stand in regard to global warming.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/16/april-third-month-in-row-to-break-global-temperature-records

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/11/worlds-carbon-dioxide-concentration-teetering-on-the-point-of-no-return?CMP=share_btn_fb

What Would You Do?

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Fire is a natural part of the boreal forest—an ecosystem dominated by black and white spruce. This species is designed to burn and has cones that release their seeds when under intense heat. (Photo: S. Rupp)Photo by Scott Rupp — http://news.uaf.edu/four-million-acres-burned-questions-alaskas-future/

 

Today, a headline in The New York Times caught my attention. It read:

Global Warming Cited as Wildfires Increase in Fragile Boreal Forest

Here’s a link to the article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/11/science/global-warming-cited-as-wildfires-increase-in-fragile-boreal-forest.html?partner=IFTTT&_r=0

And here’s the first paragraph:

Scientists have been warning for decades that climate change is a threat to the immense tracts of forest that ring the Northern Hemisphere, with rising temperatures, drying trees and earlier melting of snow contributing to a growing number of wildfires.

The first paragraph of the article notes that scientists, for decades, have been warning that global warming would lead to fires like the one that recently devastated Ft. McMurray, Canada.

I know from personal experience that scientists have been predicting for decades a future of increasingly common wildfires in boreal forests. Fifteen to twenty years ago, some of my professors were among the scientists who made those predictions, along with a number of other predictions about the effects of global warming. Much of what they foresaw back then is coming true now.

So if I seem like an alarmist regarding the state of the environment, I hope you will put yourself in the place of someone who began studying scientists’ theories and empirical research decades ago and is now seeing researchers’ predictions come true. And while you’re at it, consider that I’ve also learned over the years that we’re in line for ever-worsening ecological and social disasters.

And now, I’d appreciate your advice. If you were me, how would you handle knowing that our best hope of avoiding ongoing ecological catastrophes is to reduce the stress that we’re putting on the planet? What would you do to motivate people to act?

#@&%#$*$!!!

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CNN aired 23.5 minutes of American Petroleum Institute ads over two weeks, compared to just five minutes of coverage about climate change or the temperature

ECOWATCH.COM

Check out the story that goes with the above headline here: http://ecowatch.com/2016/04/26/cnn-fossil-fuel-ads/

 

The fact that time devoted to oil-industry ads dwarfs time spent on climate change is not a coincidence. Advertisers avoid sponsoring environmental stories on news programs, based in part on the supposition that an informed public would demand big changes, and those changes would be bad for business. So the media report environmental stories in inverse proportion to their importance, and the public assumes that environmental degradation isn’t worth worrying about because the media rarely cover it. And the media rarely cover environmental stories because polls show that the public doesn’t realize the importance of such stories, and because advertisers don’t want to foot the bill for environmental stories that could have a negative impact on their bottom lines. 

So, in my little way, I try to inform people about what’s happening. The big media organizations have the budgets and the talent to do a much better job than I will ever do, but they seem to be more interested in fulfilling their responsibility to their stockholders than fulfilling their responsibility to the public.  I, on the other hand, have only to answer to my conscience.

And my conscience tells me that I have a responsibility to talk about what I know.  I’ve been studying environmental issues for over 30 years, and I know that things are bad and they’re getting worse at an accelerating rate. We’re rushing headlong into a chaotic world of our own making — a world of cascading social, economic, medical, and ecological catastrophies. Our children and grandchildren will blame us. They will say, “You knew or should have known that your wasteful activities would create environmental havoc down the road. Why didn’t you do something while there was still time?”

The Poll Climate Deniers Point To and Why It’s a Crock

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There are still a surprisingly large number of people who think that scientists haven’t reached a consensus on climate change. In making their case, some of those contrarians point to an online petition, signed by over 31,000 “scientists,” which states:

There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.[1]

So wow, huh? A petition with the signatures of more than 31,000 scientists seems quite impressive. I mean, if 31,000 scientists say climate change is a bunch of hooey, who am I to argue? But as Glenn Kessler wrote in his “Fact Checker” column for The Washington Post, “Only 9,000 of the [31,000+] signers actually have PhDs, and the list of signers’ qualifications shows only a relatively small percentage with expertise on climate research. One study estimated that under the petition’s rather expansive definition of a ‘scientist,’ more than 10 million Americans would be qualified to sign it.”[2] That same study found that only 39 individual climatologists—that is, people who actually study climate for a living—signed the petition. The remainder of the 31,000 signers came from the following fields:[3]

  • Computers and Math
  • Engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Environment
  • Physics and Aerospace
  • Medicine
  • Biochemistry, Biology, and Agriculture
  • General Science

Meanwhile, a peer-reviewed study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found that “97-98% of the [nearly 1,400] climate researchers most actively publishing in the field support the tenets of ACC [anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change] outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”[4]  Similarly, scientists who analyzed nearly 12,000 climate studies that appeared in peer-reviewed scientific journals, between 1991 and 2011, concluded: “Among papers expressing a position on AGW [anthropogenic global warming], an overwhelming percentage (97.2% based on self-ratings, 97.1% based on abstract ratings) endorses the scientific consensus on AGW.”[5]

So, on the one hand, you have between 97 and 98 percent of 12,000 published climate scientists agreeing that humans are causing climate change, and, on the other, you have 39 climatologists (not 39 percent of 31,000, mind you, just 39 individuals) signing an online petition that says there’s no “convincing scientific evidence” that humans are causing climate change. Now, which of those two positions do you think is more likely to be correct?

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I mention the petition and the peer-reviewed studies because I’m convinced that it’s crucial we recognize that climate change is real and that we’re causing it. If we face the truth, we’re more likely to do whatever is necessary to change our course and avert disaster.

Need more evidence that climate change is an existential threat? Check out this article from today’s Washington Post:

“How Earth Itself Has Dramatically Upped the Stakes for the Paris Climate Accord,” by Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/04/20/as-nations-gather-to-sign-climate-accord-planet-reaches-new-warming-heights/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

Need more arguments to use on climate deniers? Check out: “Yes, You Should Listen to Bill Nye Instead of Sarah Palin on Climate Change.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/04/18/yes-you-should-listen-to-bill-nye-instead-of-sarah-palin-on-climate-change/?postshare=7331461186250316&tid=ss_tw-bottom

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NOTES:

[1] Global Warming Petition Project. “31,487 American scientists have signed this petition, including 9,029 with PhDs.” http://www.petitionproject.org/index.php

[2] Kessler, Glenn. “Rick Perry’s Made-Up ‘Facts’ About Climate Change.” Washington Post, August 18, 2011. https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/rick-perrys-made-up-facts-about-climate-change/2011/08/17/gIQApVF5LJ_blog.html

[3] Angliss. “Guest Post: Scrutinizing the 31,000 Scientissts in the OISM Petition Project. March 11, 2010. http://www.skepticalscience.com/scrutinising-31000-scientists-in-the-OISM-P

[4] Anderegg, William R. L., James W. Prall, Jacob Harold, and Stephen H. Schneider. “Expert Credibility in Climate Change.” PNAS. June 21, 2010. http://www.pnas.org/content/107/27/12107.abstract

[5] Cook, John, Dana Nuccitelli, Sarah A. Green, et al. 2013. “Quantifying the Consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming in the Scientific Literature.” Environmental Research Letters. Vol. 8, p. 6.

 

A BIT OF GOOD NEWS ON A LOVELY SPRING DAY

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Spring began a good month early in Kansas City. Crocuses were blooming by mid-February; daffodils were up before the end of the month.

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By now, magnolias, forsythias,  and crabapples, are done. Redbuds and azaleas are on their way out . . .

. . . but wild violets and lilacs are at their peak.

And, of course, their are plenty of dandelions.

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Clearly, we’re not lacking for blossoms. But something is missing? What is it? Bees.

Almost every afternoon, I walk for an hour or so, and during flower season, I listen for buzzing and look for bees hovering around blooms.  Although a variety of plants have been blossoming for a couple of months now, I’ve yet to see a single bee.

But guess what. I’m happy to report a bit of good news (for a change). Garden-care giant Ortho announced today (April 12, 2016) that by 2021 it will discontinue the production of pesticides containing neonicotinoids, a class of chemicals that are particularly harmful to bees.

You can read all about it here:

http://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2016-04-12/apnewsbreak-ortho-to-drop-chemicals-linked-to-bee-declines