Recent Posts

Climate Change

Democrats need to watch their language

by Eric Ferguson on June 30, 2014 · 3 comments

Don’t be linguistically hoist by your own petard.

No, that title doesn’t mean Democrats need to stop swearing. Ever been to a DFL meeting? You could broadcast those without a seven second delay; not with much audience except the five Republicans hoping something stupid will be said, but certainly without fear of FCC fines. I’m referring to our actual verbiage. The way we communicate.

Yes, I know, you’ve heard about messaging and framing, and semantics, and your head just swims as the concepts fade from your brain. You don’t need any theoretical understanding as long as you get it empirically; say X and not Y. So my intention here is to look at specific word choices. I’ve been delaying posting as I give time for examples to accumulate, not that I’m not bound to miss a bunch. Feel free to disagree of course, but also feel free to add. You might well have better ones than I came up with.

Let’s just dive in. In order basically as they occurred to me, not alphabetical or topical or ranked by importance:
“Photo ID”, not “Voter ID”: They’re not the same. We’re playing into the hands of the voter suppressors every time we say “voter ID”. The problem isn’t getting an ID; the problem is getting an ID with a photo on it. We already have voter ID for registering, when you need something with your address on it; bank statements, rental agreements, or utility bills. If a voter could vote with a utility bill, showing ID to vote would still be a pointless step given the scarcity of impersonation, but at least the requirement wouldn’t be disenfranchising. Getting the photo ID is the hard part for many people, especially when what people have is disallowed, like states that sent confirmation cards to registered voters stopped accepting those cards at the polls because they don’t have photos. Saying “voter ID” grossly understates the difficulty many voters have in getting acceptable ID, and the voter fraud invention industry depends on the majority for whom photo ID is no big deal giving it no thought. At least “photo ID” gets us part way to making the point that people do have ID, but new laws won’t accept it. As we learned in Minnesota when we beat back the photo ID constitutional amendment, public support is broad but shallow, and quite amenable to factual arguments (how rarely that happens unfortunately).


So long and thanks for all the fish

by Grace Kelly on June 6, 2014 · 1 comment

CarbonEmissionsWe are facing the destruction of everything so that oil oligarchs can extract more money for another decade or two.  Never mind that there is no happiness left for the oil oligarchs left to buy. If we allow the oil oligarchs to burn the carbon reserves they currently own, total warming in 300 years would lead to 2.75 doublings of CO2, or a global temperature rise of about 12 °C. One more study says 12 °C would cause too much heat stress for humans to survive. Even if we could shelter humans under such conditions, the problem is that our main staples of food will not grow.
hot temps not good for corn

I grew up with the threat of nuclear annihilation, but that was expected to be quick. We have so far avoided a nuclear war. Now we face a certain threat of the slow pain of climate change. While President Obama recent moves are encouraging, it is no where close to stopping the climate change. Now that we are in a doom scenario, will conservatives finally admit climate change since they can now justify ignoring it as it is too late anyway. What I want to know is what conservatives will say to their children and grand children when it becomes really obvious. Like “Hey, I sold your future for a gas guzzling car, more oil profits on my 401K and for the pleasure of politically beating up liberals. ”
Maybe all that is left is the Hitchhiker Guide to the Galaxy message:

The last ever dolphin message was misinterpreted as a surprisingly sophisticated attempt to do a double-backwards-somersault through a hoop whilst whistling the “Star Spangled Banner”, but in fact the message was this: So long and thanks for all the fish.

{ 1 comment }

 Imagine my surprise when I saw the Pioneer Press admit to climate change on the front page. Maybe business has finally figured out that what is good for the oil business and the Koch brothers is not good for anyone else. Gosh even the Obama administration has figured what a bully pulpit is. Will wonders never cease? Before us is now the summary of climate change impacts on our lives. Will business actually even admit that maybe we should do something? Let me catch my breath from the shock.


Here is what the White House said about Minnesota:


Climate: “The rate of warming in the Midwest has markedly accelerated over the past few decades. Between 1900 and 2010, the average Midwest air temperature increased by more than 1.5°F. Since 1991, the amount of rain falling in very heavy precipitation events has been significantly above average.” (NCA, Ch. 18: Midwest, Ch. 2: Our Changing Climate)

Flooding: “Large-scale flooding can also occur due to extreme precipitation in the absence of snowmelt (for example, Rush Creek and the Root River, Minnesota, in August 2007 and Selected Findings and Information from the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment Relevant to MINNESOTA multiple rivers in southern Minnesota in September 2010). These warm-season events are projected to increase in magnitude. Such events tend to be more regional and less likely to cover as large an area as those that occur in spring, in part because soil water storage capacity is typically much greater during the summer.” (NCA, Ch. 18: Midwest)

More after the fold:

{ 1 comment }

Science and the 114th Congress

by gregladen on March 13, 2014 · 5 comments

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 12.00.48 PMScience, and in particular, climate change science, has been as Daphne Wysham of the Institute for Policy Studies likes to put it, the broccoli on the plate in American politics, and little more. Last election, climate science was a factor, though probably not a deciding factor, in a handful of elections. Over the last year, the issue has increased in importance. President Barack Obama actually saw fit to note that the Earth is not flat, but rather, a big round thing, and that science is a central organizing body of information on which we need to base better policy, especially with respect to energy and climate change. Three nights ago, over 30 US Senators, all Democrats of course, camped out for a night on the Senate floor talking about climate change, and among them were our own Senators from Minnesota. Word on the street is that there is a handful of Republican Senators and Representatives who hold the party line — the anti-science party line — against admitting that science is a thing and climate change is real, but who wish they were not doing that. What I’ve heard is this: The day after the first Republican goes down in flames against an explicitly pro-Science Democrat, the GOP survivors will bolt.
The 2014 election is the election in which politics in this country will turn around, because that is going to happen. If it goes far enough, the 114th Congress will have a Democratic majority and the last two years of President Obama’s term can be spent actually doing something about climate change.
How do I know this? Well, I admit this is partly wishful thinking, but there are indicators, as already mentioned. Plus, there is this. Billionaire hedge fund manager, philanthropist, and environmentalist Tom Steyer has indicated that he is willing to put as much as 100 million dollars into congressional campaigns that highlight climate change as a top tier issue.
In other words, it is time to make Climate Change the meat and potatoes, and not just the Broccoli, in this November’s mid term election. We are 17 reps away from a majority in the House. 100 million divided by 17 is a large number. Just sayin’


Stop fighting about global warming

by Eric Ferguson on March 12, 2014 · 9 comments

typhoon-philippines-haiyanLet me be clear as possible about that headline. No, don’t stop fighting global warming. Don’t stop trying to do something about it. Yes, stop fighting about it. Stop wasting time with science deniers. That means stop arguing with the crazy uncle at family gatherings and the dittohead at the watercooler. Don’t let the trolls hijack the comment threads and cause you to frustrate yourself trying to convince the unconvincible.

Why stop? Did the urgency of global warming suddenly go away like a melting glacier in a time lapse film? No. Not a bit. The urgency is actually an argument to stop trying to persuade those who have required us to learn terms like epistemic closure, motivated reasoning, and debunking blowback effect. We don’t have time to waste on the minority that will never be convinced even if the prairies become home to cacti and the lizards who served as monsters in early 50’s schlocky sci-fi. The keyword there is “minority”. That’s right, in terms of getting the public to accept that global warming is real, we’ve already won. True, it’s a minority with loads of fossil fuel industry money and a major political party under its thumb, but we already have the sort of majority that usually means you’re going to win politically. Clearly that majority hasn’t been enough, which means we have to change something we’ve been doing, like, say, spinning our wheels in pointless arguments with deniers.


minnesota climate changeMinnesota is the most livable state during climate change. Now of course, all of this depends on what you value. Here are my criteria:


1) Food -The ability to grow food is important. While Minnesota will be impacted by storms, hail, drought and higher temperatures, it starts with so much more growing capacity that I think Minnesota will always be able to feed its own state. Food is so important that I gave it double weight in the ranking.

2) Water -Having enough water is essential for drinking, growing food and business. Minnesota is ranked 38th among the states. If Minnesota is careful with its water, it should have enough.


3) Avoid Permanent Flooding – The middle expectation for sea level rise is 3.3 feet. I ruled out any coastal state impacted by sea level rise. Even if only a portion of the state is affected, I expected the economic costs and social turmoil will impact the whole state. Hurricanes are also a risk for these same states.


4) Avoid Toxicity -Toxic Environmental conditions are difficult to evaluate. I did my ranking based on total environmental releases. However, Montana is affected by shale activities just north in Canada so this ranking may have put Montana too high in the scoring.


5) Avoid Tornadoes – Tornadoes have gotten so harsh in Tornado Alley, that I think it would be too dangerous to live in these areas.


6) Community – Some communities work together, plan ahead, and protect civil rights. I would never want to be a black person in Florida for example. I used the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index with a double weight.


Based on the above criteria, here are the top states, with Minnesota ranked number one.

top ten states climate change

After the fold, the discussion gets more interesting.


{ 1 comment }

Climate Change Kills Kittens

by Grace Kelly on February 28, 2014 · 1 comment

kittenClimate change does kill kittens as well as threaten most living things. But why is it important that climate change kills kittens? It is about the human ability to respond to a threat.


Humans respond well to immediate danger but we do not respond well to distant dangers. This us true even when the distant danger is far more likely. Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert says that  “we take alarm at terrorism, but much less to global warming, even though the odds of a disgruntled shoe bomber attacking our plane are, he claims, far longer than the chances of the ocean swallowing parts of Manhattan.”


{ 1 comment }

SOLAR_ENERGY_IN_ITS_FINEST_FORMWe treat climate change like a logical problem, but it is an emotional problem of acceptance. Ignore the climate deniers for a moment. It an emotional acceptance problem for all of us who know and understand about climate change.


For example, when a disaster happens, climate deniers have the emotional comfort of thinking that we will fix it and it will get better. Climate change realists know that this disaster is the first one of many, and then next ones will probably be worse. Eventually our resources get depleted and there is less and less help that can be given. The Hurricane Katrina year is an example of that.



Paul Douglas On Climate Change In Eden Prairie

by gregladen on February 19, 2014 · 5 comments


Last night I attended a talk by meteorologist Paul Douglas, at the Eden Prairie High School. The talk was “Weird Weather: Minnesota’s New Normal? Our Changing Climate and What We Can Do About It,” and it was sponsored by Environment Minnesota, Cool Planet, and the Citizens Climate Lobby. I didn’t count the number of people in the audience but it was well attended (over 100, for sure). Extra chairs had to be brought in.


You probably know of Paul Douglas either because of his own fame or because I often link to (or facebook-post) his blogs at Weather Nation or the Star Tribune, and I frequently post his videos. Paul is an Evangelical Christian Republican who insists that we must adhere to the data and the science. He is outspoken on climate change, global warming, and science denialism, and he is sincere, thorough, and forceful in these areas. I consider him to be a very close ally. The contrast between what Republicans seem to think as a cultural group, and what Evangelical Christians seem to think as a cultural group, and what Paul advocates makes him, in his own words, a Human Albino Unicorn.


The talk, as something organized by three environmental activist groups, had the usual suspects in attendance. I recognized several fellow activists from the Twin Cities area, including individuals from and Obama’s OFA. I had the sense that I was attending a Democratic Farm Labor (that’s what we call Democrats ‘round these parts) convention being run by a Reasonable Republican.


Needless to say, Paul provided an excellent presentation that would have provided any skeptic sitting near the fence a gate to pass through when the moment was right. His talk would have likely convinced any dyed-in-the-wool skeptic in attendance to at least be quiet about the skepticism and let others take the conversation for a while. Paul tied together several reasons to respect the science and to act on it, touching on diverse perspectives including personal morality, concern for our children and grandchildren, business acumen, responsibility for the Earth’s environment, conservative political thinking, and (briefly, he did not belabor this point) religion.



Military is Saving Lives by Going Green

by Grace Kelly on February 18, 2014 · 1 comment

A report for the army found that in 5 years, over 3000 service members had been killed or wounded in convoys. The numbers of convoys are reduced by using solar power instead of gas generators. One test setup showed that gas usage by generators was reduced by 80%. Energy is conserved by using IED lights instead of incandescent lights. The need for trucked-in water is reduced by filtering water. The military is saving lives by going green.


{ 1 comment }