Reporter brings science to politics of climate

Reporters can fall into ruts and become predictable and dull, like anyone else, so it’s worth noting when a veteran reporter tries a new trick. Such was the case this past week, as the Associated Press’s Seth Borenstein, a veteran reporter who continues to cover big daily stories, tried something original with the political candidates’ views on climate change.

Instead of going out and interviewing the candidates and grading them on accuracy himself, which would of course make him a judge of their views, he gathered statements from debates and speeches, stripped their names off the statements, and ran them by a panel of eight scientists.

The results were predictable, but still striking. Here it is in tabular form:


Note that Bernie Sanders was dinged for stating that the earth could become “uninhabitable” within the next two generations. Yes, it’s serious, but it’s not that hopeless.

The scientist’s opinions were often all too revealing. Donald Trump, for example, spouted this:

“It could be warming and it’s going to start to cool at some point,” Trump said in a September radio interview. “And you know in the 1920s people talked about global cooling. I don’t know if you know that or not. They thought the Earth was cooling. Now it’s global warming. Actually, we’ve had times where the weather wasn’t working out so they changed it to extreme weather and they have all different names, you know, so that it fits the bill.”

The scientists were not impressed with his meandering.

McCarthy, a former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, called Trump’s comments “nonsense,” while Emmanuel Vincent, a climate scientist at the University of California, Merced, said, “the candidate does not appear to have any commitment to accuracy.”

Borenstein called this a “fact check,” which is true enough, and suggests that facts are important, and we should be paying attention. Rebecca Leber, writing for the New Republic, puts it much more bluntly:

For now, though, electing a Republican—any Republican—is as good as saying America welcomes a world of 4 degrees Celsius or more of warming.

Scary that it’s that important, but Leber makes a strong case for this election as an inflection point. Her story’s headline?

The planet’s worse nightmare: Republican White House

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The hazardous truth: Santa Clara Waste Water

My old friends at the Ventura County Reporter ran my latest obsession/story, which I’ve been working on for the last six months or so, off and on, and did a nice job with the lay-out, may I say. Here’s the crux of the matter:

What really happened when Santa Clara Waste Water (in Santa Paula area) blew up? Why is the entire management of the company facing trial on 71 felony charges?

For answers, see here:


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Scenes from an Explosion: the chemical fire totes

From a picture taken at Santa Clara Waste Water the day after the explosion, fire, and toxic plume:

SCWW totes fire quote

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Santa Clara Waste Water: 1 year after the explosion

Will publish a story on the Scenes from an Explosion story I have been recently slightly obsessed with soon, but for now:

SCWWfire quote card number three



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The John Muir Way — now in Scotland too

Mark Grossi, a California reporter of long standing, recently retired, and his paper republished some of his best work, notably this recounting of a stretch on the John Muir Trail, walked in memory of Gross’s late father.

Speaking of John Muir, recently a wonderful story in the Wall Street Journal described a new trail through Scotland in honor of this great immigrant American hero.

Here in his homeland, however, Mr. Muir remains surprisingly little-known. Until recently there was not much to mark his memory apart from this statue and the small, white, pebble-dashed house across the road, where he was born in 1838 and which today houses the John Muir’s Birthplace museum.

Last year, Scotland inaugurated the John Muir Way, a new walking route that traverses the country west-to-east for 134 miles between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde. It was conceived both to resurrect Mr. Muir in the Scottish consciousness and, as environmentalist Keith Geddes, one of the Way’s architects, explained, to “help today’s young Scots develop a relationship with the countryside around them.”

The trail takes a few days, and has industrial and architectural parts as well as wild parts. But walking on past Loch Lomond, the first and most famous of Scottish national parks, Henry Wismayer finds a certain peace.

Throughout the afternoon we rarely saw another walker. And if we looked in the right direction at the right moment even here, 30 miles from Glasgow, we could glimpse the pre-human innocence Mr. Muir coveted, away from what he called the “tyranny of man.”

Perhaps, I thought, as we rolled down toward the Way’s end in coastal Helensburgh, the intrepid nature-lover, who described himself as “hopelessly and forever a mountaineer,” might have selected a trickier route through these hills.

But accessibility is what the Way is all about: coaxing people to dust off their boots, pack a bag and set out to explore the many colors of Scotland’s coastline and countryside. And that is no doubt a mission that Mr. Muir would have commended.

From the story, here’s a new statue of Muir stood up in his hometown, ancient Dunbar.


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Ben Carson’s shameful past — as a nerd!

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal joined the chorus of media outlets scrutinizing Ben Carson’s past (as detailed in his memoir). Like CNN and the Washington Post, they discovered it’s a lot less colorful than Carson and his co-writer claimed. The WSJ concludes:

One reason that Mr. Carson’s stories are difficult to check is that he navigated the turbulent times of his young adulthood without leaving much of a trace. He arrived as a scholarship student at Yale University in 1969 to a campus engulfed in protests but said he avoided them.

“A lot of those students who were doing the protesting were also students who were involved in a lot of things that I didn’t believe in,” he told the Journal. “Drugs, premarital sex, free love, alcohol. And it just wasn’t the crowd that I particularly wanted to get involved with.”

Mr. Carson was assigned to Davenport College, a four-story brick dormitory with a gothic facade where future Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke invited anti-war speakers. Yet, when other students discussed politics and their changing world over meals in the cafeteria, Mr. Carson rarely spoke up, according to interviews with more than 50 Davenport College dorm residents of that era.

“He made no impression on you at all, other than a cheerful smile and a ‘Hello,’” said Ron Taylor, one of seven black students in the Davenport class of 1973.

Those acquainted with Mr. Carson said he was a serious student, typically wearing a pocket protector and toting a reddish-brown briefcase.

“He would go to bed at like 9 p.m. and get up at 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. and put on a suit, a tie and a jacket and a button-down shirt and study in the early morning,” said Thomas Noonan, an actor and Mr. Carson’s roommate their sophomore year.

How curious that this is what Carson feels compelled to cover up, his “A” student tendencies.


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Another paper published my FORECAST: GODZILLA story, which includes an amusing history of the “meme” from the weather reporter’s friend at JPL/NASA, Bill Patzert.

Don’t usually repost my reporting, but I really like this story, and this paper used my headline.














They didn’t use the image that launched the concept, however (see below). Guess the monster lurking in the data may not be as visible to others as it is to me.

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Poll: US sees no problem with climate change

Have been struggling a bit with climate “overwhelm” — the volume of bad news is drowning out my efforts to keep up and post, even my own thoughts. I sympathize with a JPL/NASA scientist and publicist named Laura Faye Tenenbaum:

The energy it takes to make honest, interesting and informative content for NASA’s climate website, the energy it takes to not let the daily deluge of Internet trolls and nasty comments get to me, all while facing the reality of GLOBAL WARMING, is exhausting.

I try to make a difference, to keep encouraging myself, to lift myself out of despair. We’re supposed to keep our noses to the do-something-meaningful-with-your-life grindstone and keep chugging endlessly uphill, just like The Little Engine That Could, while repeating some mindless positive slogans of encouragement to keep our heads up.

I try to find a way to cope with these enormous problems without turning away, without downing a pint of ice cream, without watching the stupidest reality TV show I can find. For to be so disconnected from the world as to be capable of polluting it, is to be disconnected from life. And connection is the one thing I refuse to let go of.

True, maybe you really should crawl under your desk and your little engine should pull over to the side of the road for a break. But you’re here, just like I am, pushing through because it’s somehow better to stay connected even if it hurts.

Doesn’t help that the public sees the reality, but shrugs off its seriousness. From an AP poll just out today:

Most Americans know the climate is changing, but they say they are just not that worried about it, according to a new poll by The Associated PressNORC Center for Public Affairs Research. And that is keeping the American public from demanding and getting the changes that are necessary to prevent global warming from reaching a crisis, according to climate and social scientists.

As top-level international negotiations to try to limit greenhouse gas emissions start later this month in Paris, the AP-NORC poll taken in mid-October shows about two out of three Americans accept global warming and the vast majority of those say human activities are at least part of the cause.

However, fewer than one in four Americans are extremely or very worried about it, according the poll of 1,058 people. About one out of three Americans are moderately worried and the highest percentage of those polled — 38 percent — were not too worried or not at all worried.

Despite high profile preaching by Pope Francis, only 36 percent of Americans see global warming as a moral issue and only a quarter of those asked see it as a fairness issue, according to the poll which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

“The big deal is that climate has not been a voting issue of the American population,” said Dana Fisher, director of the Program for Society and the Environment at the University of Maryland. “If the American population were left to lead on the issue of climate, it’s just not going to happen.”

Friends and hard-working activists keep me from despair — but I have my moments.


Are we all living in a bubble?

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Hillary as an action hero: take two

Apparently Clinton as a killer is “a thing” as they say in pop culture.



















Turns out that the artist, Sarah Sole, has been “obsessed” with Hillary for years. She told the New York Times a year or two ago that she “bankrupted” herself painting these quasi-Warholish images of Clinton, including sexual images, when no one cared.

Now a left-wing writer for Harper’s, Doug Henwood, has written a critical book about Clinton, called My Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets the White House, and the artist allowed him to use the picture as its cover.

To me this speaks to a turning point in the culture: Clinton, long hated by the right, has learned how to give as good as she gets, and critics on right and left now understand that. The cover stirred up controversy: some thought it “disgusting,” according to a Politico story.

To the artist, however, the picture comes “from a place of love.”

“I love Hillary Clinton, I support Hillary Clinton, I very much want her to be president. I will certainly vote for her,” she told the International Business Times.

As a former analyst for the movie industry, I believe her. To be a killer is to demand respect in our pop culture. For good or ill.

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Hillary and Bill on the road to the White House

Don’t see Mad magazine much anymore but I think this is freaking hilarious:


Regardless of your affiliation, you get the point. Don’t mess with the Hill, that’s all.

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