global climate change

Silver Linings in a Mushroom Cloud?

Silver linings are hard to find these days and it is apparent that we really have no clue how to proceed under this administration.

What are we to do when we realize that our country has become a threat to the well-being of the entire planet? What would happen to the human race if only idiots like Donald Trump survive the blast and resulting 'winter'?

The Overton Window And Changing In An Age of Decay

One of the biggest factors that President Obama and the US now face with regard to financial, healthcare and climate issues is the Overton Window:


The Overton Window is a means of visualizing which ideas define that range of acceptance by where they fall in it, and adding new ideas that can push the old ideas towards acceptance merely by making the limits more extreme.


Specifically, the rabid Reich- Right-wing lunacy over 8 of the preceding 9 years, increasingly shrill now that they've lost both the White House and majority control of Congress, has painted a very uninformed, intellectually dishonest picture of the causes, effects and cures for all the major issues we now face. In order to make lasting change, the President must first plug the major damages, then shift public & policy perspectives via the Overton Window in order to set the stage for making lasting changes.

Moving the Overton Window, named after the originator of the term, is essentially a method of changing the public's perception of acceptability:


Overton described a method for moving that window, thereby including previously excluded ideas, while excluding previously acceptable ideas. The technique relies on people promoting ideas even less acceptable than the previous "outer fringe" ideas. That makes those old fringe ideas look less extreme, and thereby acceptable. The idea is that priming the public with fringe ideas intended to be and remain unacceptable, will make the real target ideas seem more acceptable by comparison.


It takes a lot of time and effort to make major policy shifts even when not addressing the possible effects of public perception. Changing national policies has often been described as driving a very large bus or delivery truck, or attempting to turn a huge ship at sea: it starts changing direction slowly and is a bit unwieldy to steer. President Obama's words at the world climate talks at Copenhagen reminded me of this:

Global Climate Change: Warming, Stagnant, Cooling Or What?

The recent "scandal" of hacked emails has created a flurry of activity between global climate change proponents and opponents. From this AP article by David Stringer:

In one of the stolen e-mails, Trenberth is quoted as saying "we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't."

He said the comment is presented by skeptics as evidence scientists can't explain some trends that appear to contradict their stance on climate change. Trenberth explained his phrase was actually contained in a paper he wrote about the need for better monitoring of global warming to explain the anomalies — in particular improved recording of rising sea surface temperatures.

In another e-mail posted online, and unrelated to Trenberth, the British research center's director, Phil Jones, wrote that he had used a "trick" to "hide the decline" in a chart detailing recent global temperatures. Jones has denied manipulating evidence and insisted his comment had been misunderstood. He said in a statement Saturday that he'd used the word trick "as in a clever thing to do."

A different AP piece, by Seth Borenstein, appears to provide some facts that back up the frustrated climatologists' claims about context:

Drawing A Line in the Black Sand

Crossposted from DailyKos. (Thanks!) Promoted. It's quite long, but well worth it. -- GH

I think it was maybe a year ago I was flicking through cable TV, and I happened across a movie called "There Will Be Blood."

There Will Be Blood is a 2007 American drama film directed, written and co-produced by Paul Thomas Anderson. The film is loosely based on the Upton Sinclair novel Oil! (1927). It tells the story of a silver-miner-turned-oil-man on a ruthless quest for wealth during Southern California's oil boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

I'd read a few books, watched a few documentaries and done a ton of internet research not long before this and had been slowly coming to the conclusion that we genuinely had a whole bunch of powerful people who knew that emissions of C02 were endangering the ability of life to survive on our planet. The frightening thing was many of these people were working hard to make sure we kept burning fossil fuels at ever increasing rates and making sure the transition to cleaner sources of energy never happened.

I didn't really understand why though until I watched this movie and a few pennies dropped.

Building A Way Out: Better Building Codes Mean Less Energy Consumption

An important commentary by DailyKos diarist gmoke hit the Diary Rescue list last night.  The piece was essentially conveying the review of the Waxman-Markey bill (H.R. 2454: American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009). In particular, the diarist and the source article he quotes from (Architecture 2030's review of the bill here -- PDF alert!) speak specifically about the importance of Section 201:


Architecture 2030 analyzed the Waxman-Markey climate bill (H.R. 2454: American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009) and really likes Section 201 which covers energy building codes because buildings are responsible for

  • 50.1% of total annual U.S. energy consumption
  • 49.1% of total annual U.S. GHG emissions
  • 74.5% of total annual U.S. electricity consumption
  • most of the projected 7.34 QBtu increase in U.S. electricity consumption by 2030

Section 201 strengthens building codes so that by 2010 buildings will be 30% below the baseline energy code (IECC 2006 and ASHRAE 90.1-2004), increases that to 50% below the baseline energy code by 2014-2015, and adds an additional 5% reduction every three years after, out to 2029-2030.


Whereas the 100 nuclear power plants only act as a replacement energy source, the updated building energy codes of Section 201 actually reduce energy consumption, eliminating the need for more plants. The codes also achieve more than six times the emissions reductions as 100 nuclear power plants. The codes accomplish all of this at a fraction of the cost.


It appears that simply by being smarter about how we build our homes, businesses and various other structures, we can reduce our energy consumption and thus have a seriously positive effect on reducing GHGs as well as impacting energy and environmental goals.

Good to know.

Open Thread -- Disturbing Developments Edition

Originally posted 2009-04-05 21:35:35 -0500. Re-bumped by carol.  

Two disturbing developments out of many events to choose from when perusing Mishima's World News Sunday:

Here's a little more about the Wilkins Ice Shelf's near-imminent collapse:

A thin ice bridge between two islands that has held the giant Wilkins ice shelf in place on the Antarctic peninsula for centuries appears to be near final collapse.

In a development that has shocked climate scientists, the 40 kilometre-long bridge is showing new rifts along its length and its imminent break-up could release thousands of square kilometres of ice behind it.

Ever hear the phrase "It wasn't the fall that killed him, but the sudden stop at the end"? This is sort of a take on that theme -- it's not the sea-borne floating ice that threatens to raise ocean levels: it's the thousands of kilometres of land-based ice behind it.

As for the second item, the disturbing news from the FBI may provide some insights to the Highway of Tears killings, and perhaps lead to the development of effective ways to protect the lives of those who may otherwise find themselves prey to such horrible circumstances.

Be careful out there.

This is an Open Thread.


Open Thread -- Climate Change Forestry Edition

In US News, per Google News, a tidbit jumped out that appears worthy of more attention. Here's the tidbits, slightly enhanced from the news blurb block:

  • West's trees dying faster as temperatures rise -- Los Angeles Times
    A study of old-growth forests predicts that if the trend continues, it could alter not just the region's woodlands, but the quality of wildlife habitat and forests' ability to store carbon.

    By Bettina Boxall, January 23, 2009

    More trees are dying in the West's forests as the region warms, a trend that could ultimately spell widespread change for mountain landscapes from the Sierra Nevada to the Rockies.

    Scientists who examined decades of tree mortality data from research plots around the West found the death rate had risen as average temperatures in the region increased by more than 1 degree Fahrenheit. [...more...]


  • Environment Blamed in Western Tree Deaths -- New York Times
    By MIREYA NAVARRO, January 22, 2009

    Rising temperatures and the resulting drought are causing trees in the West to die at more than twice the pace they did a few decades ago, a new study has found.

    The combination of temperature and drought has also reduced the ability of the forests to absorb carbon dioxide, which traps heat and thus contributes to global warming, the authors of the study said, and has made forests sparser and more susceptible to fires and pests. [...more...]

  • Drought, heat killing trees in western N.America -- Reuters
    By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Trees in the western United States and Canada are dying twice as quickly as they did just 30 years ago, with rising average temperatures almost certainly to blame, researchers reported on Thursday.Drought, heat killing trees in western N.America
    Reuters, UK


    The U.S. and Canadian researchers from a variety of agencies and universities studied trees in old-growth forests for more than 50 years to document the die-off, which they say is beginning to outpace replacement by new trees. [...more...]

Gee, nobody could've foreseen that global climate changes might impact things like life on earth, which in turn could in turn affect global warming...

This is an environmentally-friendly (-ish) Open Thread.

Open Thread -- On The Importance of Fish Poop Edition

So just for kicks and giggles, have you ever wondered what a self-fulfilling prophecy was or wanted to see a self-perpetuating feedback mechanism in action? Or, even more simply and direct, find out why it's not good to break things before you at least learn more about what they do?

Sometimes, it's smart to learn more about the big picture before taking action on incomplete assumptions.

Attribution: xkcd.1

From the site comes this AP Report that Fish Poop helps balance ocean acidity:

Jan. 15, 2009 -- The ocean's delicate acid balance may be getting help from an unexpected source, fish poop.

The increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere not only drives global warming, but also raises the amount of CO2 dissolved in ocean water, tending to make it more acid, potentially a threat to sea life.

Who knew?

There's some excellent information exploring this discovery out there among the vast intertubes network, but one really interesting discussion has been taking place on the science blog The Questionable Authority. In particular, check out the comments where you can run across nuggets ranging from a great link to How to talk to a climate skeptic to an interesting comment regarding anthropogenic vs non-anthropogenic carbon cycles. After reading all of the above, I began to wonder if the "common wisdom" explored here was, in light of the latest scoop on fish poop and the oceanic carbon cycle, now a bit too presumptuous.

Anywho, that's the latest scoop. Below the fold, a selection of semi-related (maybe -- kinda-sorta) past Open Threads.

Which reminds me -- this is an Open Thread, too.

Open Thread -- Shoeless Wet Socks Edition

A disturbing morning round-up to be sure:

  • Muntadar al-Zaidi, the Iraqui journalist best known for throwing his shoes at George W. Bush and calling him a "dog" at a press conference, was reported to be transferred to US custody in US-run Camp Cropper, and allegedly beaten.  The BBC this morning confirms the report to an extent, and elaborates on it as well as provides additional background.
  • Steve Connor, Science Editor for the Independent Online -- another UK-based media source -- brings us the disturbing report that the Arctic melt passes the point of no return:

    Scientists have found the first unequivocal evidence that the Arctic region is warming at a faster rate than the rest of the world at least a decade before it was predicted to happen.

    Climate-change researchers have found that air temperatures in the region are higher than would be normally expected during the autumn because the increased melting of the summer Arctic sea ice is accumulating heat in the ocean. The phenomenon, known as Arctic amplification, was not expected to be seen for at least another 10 or 15 years and the findings will further raise concerns that the Arctic has already passed the climatic tipping-point towards ice-free summers, beyond which it may not recover.

  • And, in case that wasn't enough cheery news, those of us thinking of investing in rubber socks and spare hip-hugging high-water waders can seque into thinking of Socks, the Clinton's cat, who is reportedly dying. Hat-tip Dupa.

All in all, not a very cheery start to the week.

This is an Open Thread.


Open Thread: Sinking News Edition

Sometimes, it's hard to start the day off with a bit of sunshine.

Typhoon Fengshen Sinks Princess of Stars,
700-plus Missing, Presumed Dead

Bad news from the Philippines, via Reuters:


Philippine ferry sinks; 700-plus passengers missing
By Manny Mogato and Rosemarie Francisco, Sun Jun 22, 2008 5:41am EDT

MANILA, June 22 (Reuters) - Rescuers braved rough seas on Sunday searching for survivors of a Philippine ferry that capsized with more than 700 passengers and crew during a typhoon that has killed scores and left a trail of destruction.

So far, only four people are known to have survived and they said many passengers did not make it off the MV Princess of Stars in time.


Click the link before the excerpt for the full story.

"Though the weather outside is frightful..."

The news of the disaster in the Philippines comes right on the back of this piece, which in and of itself isn't exactly full of warmth and promise:


Extreme floods, storms seen increasing in North America
Reporting by Timothy Gardner, editing by Chris Wilson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Floods, droughts and severe storms are likely to ravage North America more frequently as emissions of planet-warming gases rise, according to a U.S. government study.

Extreme weather events, "could seriously affect" human health, agricultural production, and the availability and quality of water in the future, according to the report, issued by the Climate Change Science Program on Thursday.


Click the link before the excerpt for the full story.

Looking Back At Prior Dire Predictions and Misconstrued News

With all this hullabaloo, it calls to mind an interesting story from the 2004 timeframe -- two stories, in fact.

  1. From The Observer:

    Now the Pentagon tells Bush: climate change will destroy us
    by Mark Townsend and Paul Harris in New York, The Observer, Sunday February 22, 2004

    The piece tells of a March 2003 report commissioned by the Pentagon to study to worst-case potentials of Climate Change / global warming, and created quite a stir when news of the report got out. But the news may have been misconstrued.

  2. From the The San Francisco Chronicle:

    Pentagon-sponsored climate report sparks hullabaloo in Europe
    But new ice age unlikely, Bay Area authors of study say

    by Keay Davidson, Chronicle Science Writer, Wednesday, February 25, 2004


    All that Schwartz and Randall did was to investigate the "worst-case" possible events, those that are highly unlikely to happen but, if they did happen, would be catastrophic, especially in their impacts on U.S. military operations -- "low probability, high impact" events, as they are known in the futurological world.


    It isn't even a Pentagon report in the strict sense of the word. It does not constitute an official DOD position paper or policy statement, conducted by scientists and military experts. Rather, all the work was done by Schwartz and Randall -- neither of whom is an atmospheric scientist -- based on their review of what real atmospheric scientists have done.


Well, it's good thing we got all that settled. We wouldn't want to leave people thinking that things could get much worse.

This is an Open Thread.

Open Thread: Unintended Consequences, Global Warming Edition

One of the great myths of American childhood is the premise of Santa Claus, living at the North Pole and coming to all the good little girls and boys on Christmas. Another great American myth, courtesy of the Republican party and climate change deniers world-wide, is that global warming isn't happening. Now, due to the herculean efforts of the Freeway Blogger, those two myths have collided head-on in a two-sign series.

The first sign reads "If you think telling kids there's no Santa is hard," and the second reads "Try telling them there's no North Pole."


This is an Open Thread.

Open Thread -- "Oh When The Shark Bites..."


"...Ya know when that shark bites, with his teeth, babe
    Scarlet billows start to spread..."

        from Bobby / Mac the Knife

More information about the song Mac The Knife from Wikipedia.

Expect to see changes in animal migration and feeding patterns as global climate changes begin to accelerate. The attack below may -- or may not -- be one such example:


The county's first fatal shark attack in a half-century focused worldwide attention on a stretch of coastline with no history of shark activity.

This is an Open Thread.

Making 'em Sweat: Delayed Action Further Endangers Polar Bears

Just a brief blurb from a Reuters news article by Deborah Zabarenko from Monday, January 7:

WASHINGTON, Jan 7 (Reuters) - The United States delayed a decision on whether global warming threatens polar bears, saying on Monday new data and public comment required more time. Environmentalists vowed to sue for quicker action.

Apparently, while denying that the potential reason for the exception was that "substantial scientific uncertainty" existed with regard to the threat to the bears, no really adequate answer was provided, and the head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it would take "as much as a month" to analyze all the pertinent details.

The blog just2hands provides some additional information about the initial decision to consider listing the bears under the Endangered Species Act:

well, a few weeks ago, the dept. of interior finally pulled its head out and put out a proposal to list polar bears as a threatened under the endangered species act ... gee, i wonder what convinced them? was it the reports of polar bear drownings or was it the cannibalism?

You can check the link to the blog for three action sites where you can either sign a pre-written letter or add one of your own.

Important Update: A guest post by Alisha Fowler via WattHead on DailyKos draws attention to some additional -- and more sinister -- reasons behind the delay. Check it out:

the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was due to make a decision about its "threatened" status by this Wednesday. The Service has, however, delayed the listing for up to one month!

This leaves the bear and its habitat unprotected. Coincidentally, one of the largest oil and gas lease sales is set to occur on February 6, in the Chukchi Sea off of the northwest coast of Alaska –

Does anyone smell a rat burning Bush in the room?