Weekly Mulch: ‘Global Weirding’ and Climate Skeptics’ Slushy Logic

By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

Climate skeptics found plenty of reasons to dig out their dreary critiques this week, between the continuing controversy over erroneous reports from the International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) and the record-breaking snowfall on the East Coast. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) and his family built an igloo which Inhofe then dubbed “Al Gore’s house” in the streets of Washington, D.C. The Virginia GOP ran ads attacking the state’s Democratic representatives for their support of cap-and-trade and urged voters to “tell them how much global warming you get this weekend.” And skeptics across the world claimed that the smaller mistakes in IPCC reports undermined the organization’s broad conclusions on climate change science.

Let’s plow through this slushy thinking before it piles up too high.

Snow still happens in a warming world

In the winter, it snows, and one snowstorm does not overthrow all of climate science. “Perhaps it’s time for a refresher,” wrote Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones. “’Weather’ and ‘climate’ are not the same thing. Weather is what happened yesterday or may happen tomorrow; climate patterns occur over decades.”

“We can absolutely expect climate change to bring blizzards in places that don’t normally see a lot of blizzards, like Washington, D.C.,” chimes in Jonathan Hiskes at Grist. “Climatologists expect just this sort of ‘global weirding’: less predictable, more extreme, more damaging.”

Cold temperatures, even record lows, do not contradict the extensive body of evidence that global temperatures are rising. As Hiskes points out, erratic weather patterns support climate change theories, and the coming seasons will feature more newsworthy weather events. Chalk up the snowfall that shut down the federal government for almost a week as a bad sign, akin to harsh storms like Hurricane Katrina.

Climate science stands despite IPCC errors…

The IPCC messed up. The international organization is meant to gather and review the body of climate change science and produce definitive reports on that field. But in past reports, the organization included a few facts unsupported by real scientific research. Mother Jones’ Sheppard runs down these mistakes: the IPCC cannot back up its claims about the rising sea-level in Holland, crop failure in Africa, and the melting of Himalayan glaciers.

The bottom line, though, is that these errors do not affect the reports’ main conclusions. As Sheppard explains, “The controversies over the IPCC’s data haven’t challenged the fundamental agreement among the vast majority of scientific bodies that climate change is happening and caused in large part by human activity.”

…but that does not excuse the IPCC’s behavior

The IPCC cannot use that broad consensus as a defense, however. The organization needs to maintain both an impeccable reputation as a scientific body and its independence from political pressures. At The Nation, Maria Margaronis argues that in the climate arena, science and politics have been wedged too closely together.

“On a subject as politicized as this, it’s not surprising that scientists have been found guilty of hoarding data, smoothing a graph or two, shutting each other’s work out of peer-reviewed journals,” she writes. “The same goes on in far less controversial fields, where what’s at stake is only money and careers. … Every research paper and data set produced by climate scientists or cited by the IPCC is now fair game for the fine-toothed comb, whether it’s wielded honestly or with malicious intent. Nit-picking takes the place of conversation.”

Margaronis suggests that scientists admit to uncertainties and open up their data, while the rest of us stop looking to them as unimpeachable oracles on climate change. But as long as skeptics jump on a researcher’s every doubt as a refutation of all climate science, that’s not likely to happen.

Brace for impact

Negative attitudes about the IPCC and the snow are not idle threats to climate reform. As Steve Benen writes at The Washington Monthly, “It seems mind-numbing, but Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) said snowfall in D.C. has had an effect on policymakers’ attitudes.”

As cheap as they are, stunts like Inhofe’s seem to dampen lawmakers’ political will to pass real climate change legislation. Apparently, the Senate, already tip-toeing away from the cap-and-trade provisions passed in the House, can’t talk about global warming when there’s snow on the ground.

Foot-dragging like this costs the United States money and credibility. Administration officials are already downplaying expectations for the next international conference on climate change, to be held next winter in Mexico. And if the Senate gives up on a comprehensive climate bill and passes a weaker provision, the country will ultimately pay the price in higher deficits.

At Grist, David Roberts declares, “Good climate policy is responsible fiscal policy.” His evidence? Reports from the Congressional Budget Office. The Senate’s comprehensive climate legislation (known as the Kerry-Boxer bill) knocks $21 billion a year off the deficit, according to the CBO. The watered-down alternative increases the deficit by $13 billion a year.

Encounters with the arch-skeptic

Citing snowfall as an argument against global warming—and against passing climate change legislation!—is not the only half-baked idea climate skeptics throw around. As Joshua Frank notes for AlterNet, “There are usually a range of issues these skeptics raise in an attempt to cast doubt on climate change evidence.” Frank offers a primer of responses to common complaints—i.e. humans don’t contribute to global warming, that carbon emissions aren’t to blame, either, that climate science cannot accurately measure global warming.

Keep this resources handy. It only takes one event, like this week’s snow storm, for those misguided arguments to surface.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Mulch: ‘Global Weirding’ and Climate Skeptics’ Slushy Logic

By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

Climate skeptics found plenty of reasons to dig out their dreary critiques this week, between the continuing controversy over erroneous reports from the International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) and the record-breaking snowfall on the East Coast. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) and his family built an igloo which Inhofe then dubbed “Al Gore’s house” in the streets of Washington, D.C. The Virginia GOP ran ads attacking the state’s Democratic representatives for their support of cap-and-trade and urged voters to “tell them how much global warming you get this weekend.” And skeptics across the world claimed that the smaller mistakes in IPCC reports undermined the organization’s broad conclusions on climate change science.

Let’s plow through this slushy thinking before it piles up too high.

Snow still happens in a warming world

In the winter, it snows, and one snowstorm does not overthrow all of climate science. “Perhaps it’s time for a refresher,” wrote Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones. “’Weather’ and ‘climate’ are not the same thing. Weather is what happened yesterday or may happen tomorrow; climate patterns occur over decades.”

“We can absolutely expect climate change to bring blizzards in places that don’t normally see a lot of blizzards, like Washington, D.C.,” chimes in Jonathan Hiskes at Grist. “Climatologists expect just this sort of ‘global weirding’: less predictable, more extreme, more damaging.”

Cold temperatures, even record lows, do not contradict the extensive body of evidence that global temperatures are rising. As Hiskes points out, erratic weather patterns support climate change theories, and the coming seasons will feature more newsworthy weather events. Chalk up the snowfall that shut down the federal government for almost a week as a bad sign, akin to harsh storms like Hurricane Katrina.

Climate science stands despite IPCC errors…

The IPCC messed up. The international organization is meant to gather and review the body of climate change science and produce definitive reports on that field. But in past reports, the organization included a few facts unsupported by real scientific research. Mother Jones’ Sheppard runs down these mistakes: the IPCC cannot back up its claims about the rising sea-level in Holland, crop failure in Africa, and the melting of Himalayan glaciers.

The bottom line, though, is that these errors do not affect the reports’ main conclusions. As Sheppard explains, “The controversies over the IPCC’s data haven’t challenged the fundamental agreement among the vast majority of scientific bodies that climate change is happening and caused in large part by human activity.”

…but that does not excuse the IPCC’s behavior

The IPCC cannot use that broad consensus as a defense, however. The organization needs to maintain both an impeccable reputation as a scientific body and its independence from political pressures. At The Nation, Maria Margaronis argues that in the climate arena, science and politics have been wedged too closely together.

“On a subject as politicized as this, it’s not surprising that scientists have been found guilty of hoarding data, smoothing a graph or two, shutting each other’s work out of peer-reviewed journals,” she writes. “The same goes on in far less controversial fields, where what’s at stake is only money and careers. … Every research paper and data set produced by climate scientists or cited by the IPCC is now fair game for the fine-toothed comb, whether it’s wielded honestly or with malicious intent. Nit-picking takes the place of conversation.”

Margaronis suggests that scientists admit to uncertainties and open up their data, while the rest of us stop looking to them as unimpeachable oracles on climate change. But as long as skeptics jump on a researcher’s every doubt as a refutation of all climate science, that’s not likely to happen.

Brace for impact

Negative attitudes about the IPCC and the snow are not idle threats to climate reform. As Steve Benen writes at The Washington Monthly, “It seems mind-numbing, but Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) said snowfall in D.C. has had an effect on policymakers’ attitudes.”

As cheap as they are, stunts like Inhofe’s seem to dampen lawmakers’ political will to pass real climate change legislation. Apparently, the Senate, already tip-toeing away from the cap-and-trade provisions passed in the House, can’t talk about global warming when there’s snow on the ground.

Foot-dragging like this costs the United States money and credibility. Administration officials are already downplaying expectations for the next international conference on climate change, to be held next winter in Mexico. And if the Senate gives up on a comprehensive climate bill and passes a weaker provision, the country will ultimately pay the price in higher deficits.

At Grist, David Roberts declares, “Good climate policy is responsible fiscal policy.” His evidence? Reports from the Congressional Budget Office. The Senate’s comprehensive climate legislation (known as the Kerry-Boxer bill) knocks $21 billion a year off the deficit, according to the CBO. The watered-down alternative increases the deficit by $13 billion a year.

Encounters with the arch-skeptic

Citing snowfall as an argument against global warming—and against passing climate change legislation!—is not the only half-baked idea climate skeptics throw around. As Joshua Frank notes for AlterNet, “There are usually a range of issues these skeptics raise in an attempt to cast doubt on climate change evidence.” Frank offers a primer of responses to common complaints—i.e. humans don’t contribute to global warming, that carbon emissions aren’t to blame, either, that climate science cannot accurately measure global warming.

Keep this resources handy. It only takes one event, like this week’s snow storm, for those misguided arguments to surface.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

It's Snow News

by Walter Brasch

 Up to two feet of snow hit the Mid-Atlantic and New England states last week, the second storm within two weeks. Wind gusts of up to 50 miles an hour and temperatures in the 20s created severe wind chill and extreme hazardous driving conditions. Pennsylvania ordered all commercial trucks off many of its major highways and Interstates. Schools and colleges throughout the Northeast cancelled classes, many for two days.

 We were warned that this would be a severe storm, because days before we received minute-by-minute predictions from TV weather persons. The snow will be two feet deep. Or maybe only 3 to 5 inches. No, wait, that was last hour's prediction. It's now going to be 5-9 inches. Or, maybe 10 inches. No, wait. That's wrong, it'll be 15 to 20 inches. It'll bury buildings and wreak a path of destruction unlike anything seen in the past four thousand years! It might also be only a half-foot. We'll be revising our prediction to some other number as soon as our assignment editor throws a dart at the Snow Inch Board.

 Most residents, unless they were forced to work, were smart enough to stay home. Also smart enough to stay indoors were TV news directors who sent their reporters and camera crews into the middle of snow-covered roads. Deep-voiced anchors introduced us to the infotainment promotion that has become TV news: "Now, LIVE from the middle of the Interstate, and bravely facing blizzard conditions with EXCLUSIVE coverage ONLY on Eyewitless News 99, your hometown station for LIVE EXCLUSIVE weather coverage is our LIVE reporter, Sammy Snowbound."

 Reporters and meteorologists were soon entertaining us with wooden rulers, which they pushed onto snow-covered tables and snow banks to report snow accumulation, not unlike a radio reporter doing play-by-play announcing for a high school basketball contest.

 The previous week, the local news stations and TV all-news networks identified a crippling snow as "Snowmageddon" and "Snowpocalyse." This week, with its winds, we learned about "Snowicane."

And so for two back-to-back snow-somethings, we had almost unlimited Team Coverage. The teams interviewed business owners—"So, how's the snow affecting your business?" They interviewed residents—"So, how's the snow affecting your plans?" They even interviewed public officials—"So, how's the snow affecting your budget?"

If Jesus came to the Northeast, he'd be watching all-snow all-the-time coverage, and waiting in a green room for his one minute interview. "So, Jesus, how you surviving the snow?"

 The problem of the extended coverage is that when there isn't any snow, local TV news gives us a five minute weather report on the Evening News. Excluding commercials, teasers, and mindless promotion, that's more than one-fourth of the news budget. We learn all about highs and lows, Arctic clippers, temperatures in obscure places, and the history of snowflakes. When a weather "event" occurs, TV has to ramp up its coverage, 'lest we think we can learn what we need to know in only five minutes.

Every weather person will tell you there are no two snowflakes the same. But, we can always count on the same coverage, storm after storm, from the same flakes covering the weather. While the reporters are in the middle of a blizzard showing us snow—and how brave they are—they aren't giving us significant information about how to prepare for and then survive a storm, which may cut off electricity for up to a week. Nor are the TV crews telling us what happens to the homeless, or how the storms are affecting everything from insects to black bears.

Long after the storm passes, we'll still be seeing TV weather reports of about four or five minutes—"It'll be sunny tomorrow, and here's a history of sun." It would be nice if local TV news would spend as much time as it does delivering semi-accurate weather reports to discuss significant governmental and social issues along with its diet of car crashes, fires, and the latest Pickle Festival.

 [Walter Brasch was a reporter and editor before becoming a professor of mass communications and journalism. He is an award-winning syndicated columnist and the author of 17 books, including the recently-published third edition of Sex and the Single Beer Can: Probing the Media and American Culture.]

 

 

Senator Kerry's Apology

Have you heard the latest thing that has outraged republicans? It seems the White House and right wing web sites are all over Massachusetts Senator John Kerry for remarks he made to a group of students in California.

This is the gist of what he said: "Those that are unable to manage the current educational system get stuck in Iraq"

First came Tony Snowjob: "Senator Kerry not only owes an apology to those who are serving, but also to the families of those who have given their lives..." Then came the frat boy: "Insulting and shameful. Soldiers deserve an apology from Kerry" And as you can imagine, all the usual republican suspects weighed in next. From Dennis Hastert to John McCain, to Rush Limpboy.

Anyway, totally blindsided by this, John Kerry has gone into crisis mode. Oh he tried to come back with statements like:"I am sick and tired of a bunch of despicable republicans who will not debate real policy, who won't take responsibility for their own mistakes" But he knows it's not enough he will have to make not just a statement, but give a speech to explain his position.

Well, he f&^%ed up! Because he asked the field of all people to write his speech for him.
And, he will have to deliver it before he has time to proof read it.

So here is what the field wrote for Senator Kerry:

My fellow Americans, today, while talking to a group of some of our best and brightest young minds, I made statements that many on the right claimed was disrespectful, and brought dishonor to our men and women fighting Iraq. What I I said, or implied, was that if you don't want to end up in places like Bushdad, with one hundred degree heat, an entire country wanting you gone, stuck in the middle of a brewing civil war, and 101 of your comrades dead this past month alone. Then stay in school, study hard and graduate. This way, you will have options when you come out.

Options, that other youngsters in inner city and poor rural schools don't have. Because their parents, unlike yours, will not be able to afford to send them to college. This is what I was saying to those college students, and I meant every word of it!

My fellow Americans these statements were not disrespectful to our troops. They are truths. Most of those troops fighting in Iraq don't want to be there. They are not dumb, they know that they were lied to. Isn't it ironic that I am accused of leading people to believe that our troops are dumb, when the very people criticizing me, are the ones lying to our troops on a daily basis. These poor men and women do not deserve to be off in a foreign land fighting an unnecessary war. Don't you think they would have preferred to be tailgating and enjoying frat parties on college campuses like the sons and daughters of my republican colleagues? Don't you think they would have liked options and choices that more affluent children in this country are afforded?

Why just a few weeks ago a young man from the mean streets of Philadelphia was killed in Iraq. This young man was only twenty one years old, and Charles Johnson's mother did not want him to go off to war. He was her only son, but she figured even Iraq was better than the streets of Philly. Of course, we know now, that she was wrong. There are countless Charles Johnson's in America, some have already paid the ultimate sacrifice, and some, invariably will in the days to come. Sadly, they don't have the republican spin machine, FAKE NEWS NETWORK, or lunatic talk radio behind them. All they have, are families who are left to grieve, and families who are hoping they wont have to. Just the other day, I spoke to a young man. -The brother in law of my speech writer, field negro-whose baby girl was born while he was in Iraq. She is now fifteen months old, and he still cannot properly hold her. Why? Because he was blown up by a suicide bomber while his platoon was on patrol in Baghdad. This was over a year ago, and he has been in and out of an Army hospital in Texas ever since; getting skin grafts and various surgeries to get his limbs back in working order. This young man did not want to go to Iraq, but he was a reservist when the evil neocon cabal made up this war to suit their nefarious ends, and so, he had no choice but to go.

I see where Toney Snowjob, the frat boy, and people like Rush Limpboy, and Sean Hannity have come out against my statements. This, my fellow Americans, would be funny were it not so sad. None of these men have served a day of combat, yet they have the temerity to question my statements about troops who are actually serving. And folks, let me remind you, that I did serve, and I served with honor. I have the medals to prove it; the only medals that these men carry are from republican fund raisers, and souvenirs from illegal junkets.

But these are the type of people that we are dealing with. People who will do anything, and smear anyone, to hold on to power. Even a life long Marine like John Murtha, or a man who left his limbs on foreign soil in defense of this country like Max Cleland. A double amputee like Tammy Duckworth, democratic candidate for congress from Illinois, whose opponent, Pete Roscam, made "cut and run" jokes about her. Yeah, I guess it would be real hard to run with no feet huh Pete? Right in the field's home state of Pennsylvania. Rick Santurom has become so desperate that he has literally said that his opponent, Bob Casey, Jr., is supporting the terrorist. And the White House has gone as far as to say, that the terrorist are stepping up the insurgency because they want a democratic victory. I wont even get into the race baiting and other assortment of negative things that they have been doing, but I guess desperate times call for desperate measures.

But I am a big boy, and I can take it, because I have been through a lot more than this. Distorting my words, and trying to paint me as something I am not worked for them in the last Presidential election, but it won't work for them again. Americans have heard this song before, and they are ready to change the station.

Finally, I want to say that I am ready to bring back the draft......~~whisper field, field, I don't think I support this~~~ Just keep reading Senator. Yeah I think it's time to bring back the draft. This way, we will guarantee that every ones son has a chance to serve. Not just those who are poor with no options, but the well to do sons and daughters of all those republican fat cats in Washington as well. Why just today, the Secretary of Defense approved to send more troops to Iraq. And I know many patriots signed up to fight after 911, but sadly, many of those patriots have been lied to as well, and they too, like Pat Tillman's brother, have their reservations and doubts about the honesty and the leadership of our commander the thief. Because like me, and 62% of the American people, they know that he has mismanaged this war, just like he has mismanaged his Presidency. And all the mud slinging in the world will never change that fact.

Thank you my fellow Americans, and if I decide to run in 08, I look forward to your support.

FIELD!!!!!!!!!

There's more...

Snow Links Prez to Osama bin Laden

[Apologies for "bending" any rules, but I posted this at Kos, and got 20+ hits in 5 minutes.  Then the database went down.  When it came back up i was more than 75 stories down the list, and it was dead, so I'm trying it here.  I think I make an important point (not that I don't always...). Thanks for understanding.]
   ---------
In his September 12, 2006 press briefing, Tony Snow, Press Secretary to President George W. Bush explained that while there is not an explicitly direct operational relationship between President Bush and the terrorist organization Al Qaeda, there are "links."

He did not expressly say this was true, but using his inductive logic proves that there is undisputable evidence: Bush is hand-in-hand ("there was a relationship") with the terrorists.

There's more...

Diaries

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