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Global Warming

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Global Warming

HD2B Steve Green dislikes both science and law

by Eric Ferguson on October 20, 2014 · 2 comments

State Rep. Steve Green, HD2B
State Rep. Steve Green, R-2B, has authored some interesting bills. By “authored”, I suspect I mean “stuck his name on some special interest’s bill, and who knows if he even read it”. But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume he really believes this stuff. Wait, that’s sort of worse. Anyway…
 
Let’s start with a bit of tentherism. Green is one of those who buys into that doctrine birthed in John C. Calhoun’s black-enslaving heart that states can ignore whatever federal laws they disagree with. That doctrine, originally intended for the defense of slavery, has never entirely died out on the extreme right, which extremity apparently includes Green, trying to apply it to modern issues with just as little understanding of how the law works.
 
Green coauthored a bill that calls for the arrest of federal officials enforcing federal gun laws. He seems to be fond of arresting federal officials for implementing laws he disagrees with. Green was one of the Republicans who said they would support arresting federal officials implementing Obamacare in Minnesota. No shock I suppose that there is considerable overlap between the Republicans who want to arrest federal officials for one and the other. Each list is like a handy guide to nutjobbery.
 
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Amargosa_desertThis shouldn’t surprise anyone.
 

In July, the Heartland Institute will host its annual conference railing against the scientific consensus that humans are the main cause of climate change. The conference was nearly ended in 2012, after funders fled the organization for running a short-lived billboard campaign comparing those that accept climate change to the Unabomber. The co-sponsors of the 2014 conference, who pay anywhere from $150 to $10,000 and are asked to “[w]rite at least one story” before and after the event,* are mostly right-wing groups such as the Heritage Foundation, the Media Research Center, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Leadership Institute. However, one group stands out: Hubbard Broadcasting Inc., an American television and radio corporation that owns several ABC and NBC affiliates across the country.
 
Hubbard Broadcasting is run by billionaire Stanley Hubbard, who, according to Rolling Stone, has said that global warming is “the biggest fraud in the history of America.” Hubbard has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to political candidates (most of whom are Republicans) both individually and through his corporation…
 
Hubbard Broadcasting’s flagship station, KSTP-TV, an ABC affiliate broadcasting on Channel 5 in the Twin Cities and surrounding area, has cast doubt on climate change by citing the Heartland Institute.
(Media Matters)

(If you read the article, Hubbard Broadcasting denies that it’s really “co-sponsoring.” I think MM conclusively makes the case that it most certainly is.)
 
This article (it’s from 2013, but there’s no reason to think anything’s changed) details how, of the three local broadcast news entities that have been around for, like, forever, in the Twin Cities, KSTP is facing the most dire long-term outlook – and it’s not really all that “long”-term. Add that Stan’s beloved Minnesota GOP is on the precipice of minor party status in the state, and I suppose he could be what they used to call a “hard-footin’ desperate man” (not that any of his material comforts and luxuries are at risk). And he’s still facing backward as relentlessly as a statue. Sounds good to me.
 

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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.
 
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Young voters both encouraging and discouraging

by Eric Ferguson on February 20, 2014 · 4 comments

Just to steer clear of the false balance thing implied by the title, more encouraging than discouraging. But yes, a bit of both.

 

The youth vote has become vital to Democrats. We’ve been winning the people voting in their first elections by a large percentage and for several elections in a row, and without them, we would be the ones perpetually fretting about our demographics problem. This has provided a huge incentive for Democrats to get on the right side of gay rights and marijuana legalization, and Democrats who want to win will make student debt a top priority. It goes the other way too, in that if we want to make progress on issues that aren’t seen necessarily as youth issues, we need to win over the “millenials”, a term I put in quotes from uncertainty over just who that describes, but I guess it’s more compact than “30 and under but old enough to vote”.  Or are millenials now reaching their early 30s? Anyway, we need to win their support on more than the two or three issues that go on the lit pieces for candidates with a college campus in their district.

 

Which gets to some encouraging news: millenials (used in this article) are the age group most likely to accept evolution.

 

The 60 percent level of acceptance of human evolution includes all adults. But digging into particular age groups reveals that, while acceptance is significantly lower in adults older than 65 (49 percent), it is significantly higher in younger adults, between 18-29 (68 percent), with other age groups close to the national average.

Hang on. Since when do we vote on evolution? All in favor of delaying the mutation of new traits to next week say “aye”? Well, we do sometimes elect school board members based on the evolution/creation debate, but I’m thinking a bit more meta. Specifically, when kids are taught that science says one thing, but your parents, your preacher, or the blatherer on wingnut talk radio say otherwise, so believe what you want, the lesson isn’t just that there’s a debate over creationism and evolution. There’s another lesson that science is just one opinion, no better than what feels right however you get there. If science is just another opinion on evolution, then believe whoever you want on other controversial subjects.  That, I’m convinced, underlays much of our problem convincing the public on environmental issues, especially global warming.

 

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Huxley hoarding snow, just in case!

Huxley hoarding snow, just in case!

My son, Huxley, is 4. It is possible that he will see the end of the present century. If climate change proceeds as it is now, with no serious action to curtail the release of fossil carbon into the atmosphere, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere will be well above 500 parts per million.
 
The last time there was this much CO2 in the atmosphere sea levels were meters, not centimeters or millimeters, but meters, above present level. When CO2 is added to the atmosphere quickly, as we are doing now, the Earth’s surface starts to heat up. It takes years to reach equilibrium. As this heating takes place, glacial ice melts and raises sea levels. We do not really know how fast temperatures reach equilibrium, and we know even less how fast glaciers melt. But we are already at the point where sea level “should” be higher than it is now. It is quite possible that Huxley will witness the historic event of major cities around the world being inundated by the sea.
 
But if he lives in Minnesota, one might think, he’ll have to travel to the coasts to witness this event. But that is not really the case. Minnesota at present has about 5.3 million people. Since I moved here close to 20 years ago, about one million people have been added to the state, mostly through migration and immigration. When 25% or more of the population of the United States has to move, places like the Twin Cities will have to absorb millions of people. A large percentage of our food staples, globally, are grown in regions which will be inundated by rising seas, especially in places like South Asia and Southeast Asia, but really, all around the world. Climate change induced or worsened drought and severe weather already affect food supplies. The civil war in Syria stems directly from the climate change induced collapse of agriculture in that country, and climate change is implicated in all of the Arab Spring uprisings as a major causal factor. Smaller and more arid countries are being affected now by climate change in this regard. Everyone else will be affected over the next few decades.
 
So Huxley will not have to go to the coasts to witness the effects of sea level rise. The mass migration of people away from heavily settled coastal regions will come to him even if he stays here in the middle of the continent. And, the food supply will not be as stable and secure at it is now, by any means. I’ve never felt comfortable with survivalism and I have always thought of it as a rather quirky and even dangerous cult. But I wonder if I should try to make sure Huxley has some of those skills. It pains me to write this but I find myself defying my own distrust of apocalyptic scenarios when I examine, as a scientist and a science communicator, and a father of two (Huxley is the youngest), and find it not so hard to see the shadow of collapse not to far ahead, around a corner we are approaching all too quickly.
 
President Obama, in the State of the Union Address, reaffirmed that climate change is real. The Republican opposition took no time to deny this. It is absolutely essential that we understand the science of climate change and apply good science to the development of effective policy at all governmental levels. But any unit government that has a significant GOP power base, such as the US Federal government today with a GOP house, is unable to do so. At present we are 17 seats away from removing the anti-science pro-global warming Republicans from a position of ruinous power in Washington. Erik Paulsen, my representative, is one of the 17 members of the House who has to go.

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Here is what will happen in 2014

by Eric Ferguson on January 10, 2014 · 10 comments

Yes, we’re already into the second week of 2014. Too late for predictions? Why, because that first week gives away the game? I suppose it’s a bit of a game, because making predictions is hard. Actually, predicting is easy. Being right is hard. But hey, it’s a community blog, so feel free to join in.

 

So here is what will happen in 2014, judged by this grading system:
100% correct: Hello Nate Silver!
75%: Somebody’s been paying attention.
50%: Coin flipper.
25%: Should have stuck with the coin.
0%: Professional psychic. (if you’re a psychic, you might not find that humorous, but you should have seen it coming)

 

These will be predictions of a political bent, not much in the way of predicting which celebrity marriages will end. Hopefully that’s not too dismaying on a political blog, though I predict my marriage will get through the year just fine. That means that I just gave myself an extra incentive to make it work, and I have a poor grasp of the meaning of “celebrity”.

 

OK, first serious prediction: the legalization of marijuana will result in only a small increase in the percentage of people who use it. By small, I mean a percentage increase in the single digits. My thinking is few people wanting to try it have been deterred by illegality, and most non-users have other reasons for declining to use, like thinking legal marijuana still stinks, it tastes foul, or has unacceptable health risks. Of course, if the statistics on usage aren’t all that reliable, then maybe we’ll never know for sure, so I’ll just plan on claiming I was right.

 

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stop_denying_global_warmingIn an ongoing effort to discredit mainstream climate science, climate contrarians have incorrectly asserted that there is a “pause” in the rate of global warming. This was never true, but now, it is even less true.
 

(Originally Published Here)

 

To any objective observer, the Earth is now a world warmed. The decade 2001–2010 was the hottest decade on record, and every single month since March 1985 has been warmer than the 20th century average. The present year promises to be the sixth warmest year on record. Already this year, our fellow Americans out West have been confronted by record breaking wildfire, extreme drought, and devastating floods. All this in addition to the ongoing pine beetle epidemic ravaging our forests. All of these “natural” disasters are exactly what climate scientists expect from a world warmed by human emissions.

 

Despite all these facts, the contrarians have been heavily (and somewhat successfully) asserting that the world isn’t warming, that global warming has paused.

 

While this has always been a blatantly misleading argument that deliberately confuses short-term variation with long-term trends, a new study makes it perfectly clear that the world has warmed.

 

Contrarians focused on the rate of warming since 1998, which was an exceptionally hot year due to climate change and El Nino. This makes later years appear to be relatively cool, and is a form of lying with statistics. They draw a line on a graph showing the rate of warming from that unnatural peak in 1998 to now, and make it look like warming has continued at a steady pace, and not accelerated as expected (an argument that would fail any Statistics 101 class, as it ignores “regression to the mean”).

 

With this cherry-picked and statistically laughable graph in hand they cry “Global warming has paused! The climate models have failed!” as though the rate of acceleration of temperatures is somehow going to make or break the fact that carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas. This would be quite the achievement, considering CO2’s greenhouse characteristics have been known since the 1820’s!

 

Our current system for measuring temperatures has a relatively large area around the poles that is not well covered. This new research uses advanced techniques to fill in the gaps in our measurements. When these holes are filled, what looked like a slight stagnation in the rate at which temperatures were increasing rose to agree with model projections.

 

What Cowtan and Way found, to the dismay of contrarians, was that when the poles are included the rate of global temperatures has been on pretty much the same upward trajectory since at least the 1950s. Climate change has continued to get worse and worse, despite what contrarians claim.

 

This means that not only is the “pause” a statistically unsound argument, but now we know it never existed in the first place!

 

So for those keeping score, the contrarians have only a debunked and imaginary pause in the rate of acceleration of warming, while there is a 97% consensus among climate scientists that humans cause warming, the UN’s climate change panel states 95–100% certainty that humans are causing warming, every major scientific institution endorses the consensus that humans cause warming, there have been almost 345 consecutively warm months in a row, and broken extreme weather records all over the world.

 

For those that may be wondering what motivates contrarians, since it clearly isn’t the science, other new research finds the answer is exactly what you would suspect. Fame and fortune seemingly outweigh the condemnation that comes with resolutely denying the realities of our warmed world.

 

Given that sad fact, we begrudgingly await for the contrarians next excuse, now that they have been caught trumpeting this “faux pause.”

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typhoon-philippines-haiyanPlease join us. It will be at the West Metro Critical Thinking Club on Saturday, December 28, 2013, at 10:00 AM at the RidgePointe Senior Apartments on 12600 Marion Ln. W, Minnetonka, MN.
 
I know these people. This will be a tough audience. This is a well educated and thoughtful group. Also, there are many climate skeptics in the group, and a talk given last September that questioned the strength of the evidence for Global Warming was well received. So, this is going to be interesting and fun!
 
Here’s the writeup for the talk, and more info can be found HERE:
 

NASA_jet_stream_image_-resized_rev1

The Global and Local Impacts of Climate Change


 
Anthropogenic climate change, also known as “Global Warming,” has emerged as a significant reality affecting societies and economies around the world and at home. In this talk we’ll examine the contentious questions of changes in weather patterns and sea level rise. Both of these effects of warming have already had impacts and these impacts are expected to increase in the future. What does the science say about “weather whiplash,” severe storms, and the rise of seas in the near and longer term future, how certain are we of what may happen, and how severe might these impacts be?
 
Greg Laden is a science communicator and teacher who has studied the relationship between human evolution and ecology, climate change during the Holocene, and African and North American prehistory. He has addressed, mostly through his writing on National Geographic Scienceblogs, the science of climate change, and has presented several talks and workshops on this issue. He is currently teaching at Century College and is writing two books, one on fieldwork in the Congo and the other, a novel, on life in the upper Midwest and Plains in a post-climate change world. He strongly hopes that the novel remains fiction rather than prediction. Greg lives with his wife and two children in Coon Rapids, Minnesota.

 
I’m purposefully not going to address the following things beyond a brief mention:
 

  • Atmospheric CO2 has increased and this increase is because of the burning of fossil fuels by humans.
  •  

  • This change in the chemistry of the atmosphere has caused the warming of the atmosphere and oceans in accord with expectations from the physical science, and continues apace.

 

These are facts so well established by science that I don’t need to drive across town to tell them to people. Within that second fact is the question of the so-called “Hiatus” and I’ll address that briefly but really, it is just a Fox News meme and need not demand the energy and time of this thoughtful group of well educated people.
 
Sea level, storms, and weird weather, on the other hand, are a different thing. There are aspects of this feature of climate change that climate scientists argue about among themselves, and the there are differences between what the IPCC officially said in its recently released report and what many groups of mainstream climate scientists say. The differences are not deep or huge … we are not talking about science denialism here. But there is uncertainty and we are approaching new territory. This makes the science interesting, and the potential consequences of climate change make it important.
 
See you on December 28th, come hell or high water. As it were.
 

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typhoon-philippines-haiyan

A few days ago a major typhoon struck the Philippines and then Vietnam, with another smaller storm heading in roughly the same direction. At about the same time, a tropical cyclone hit Somalia and killed at least 100 people there. The United States is not unaffected by the impacts of large tropical storms. There is reason to believe that tragedies like these may become more common or more severe with climate change. We must first address the urgent needs of the people in the affected areas, but it is also true that events like these and the voices of the victims must drive our continued commitment to address climate change preemptively.

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stop_denying_global_warmingThe LA Times recently instituted a policy change: they no longer print letters to the editor from climate change deniers. The LA Times believes that peer-reviewed work by established scientists have overwhelmingly proven that our planet is warming and this is leading to significant climate change.
 

And those scientists have provided ample evidence that human activity is indeed linked to climate change. Just last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — a body made up of the world’s top climate scientists — said it was 95% certain that we fossil-fuel-burning humans are driving global warming. The debate right now isn’t whether this evidence exists (clearly, it does) but what this evidence means for us.

The LA Times started this and I think that the Minneapolis Star Tribune should join them.
 
As recently as October 22nd, the Strib printed a letter from a climate denier crank from California.
 
On October 14th, they published an op-ed by former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson. Gerson isn’t exactly a denier, instead he’s trying to vilify the messengers and, via ad hominem attacks, show that climate change and global warming are not believable.
 
Generally, the Strib allows Republicans to tell any old lie they want to on their editorial page. But it’s time to tell them to put an end to the anti-science malarkey the climate deniers want printed.
 
Please sign the petition asking the Minneapolis Star Tribune to join the LA Times in no longer publishing climate denier letters:
 
TELL THE MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE: DON’T PROMOTE CLIMATE CHANGE DENIAL
 
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