Tag archive for climate


A New York Times primer on the 17 biggest questions people ask about climate change:


A New York magazine story about climate change and the dangers of extreme heat.


A Vanity Fair article about climate change and the danger of extreme heat.


A Scientific American story about the great California megaflood.


A PBS Newshour primer on climate change and the civil war in Syria.


Daniel Swain’s superb and popular blog on California weather: Weather West.


Top Eight climate change stories in the Washington Post this year:


New Yorker story on why facts on important matters such as climate may not change our minds.


Stories by Andrew Revkin, of ProPublica and the NYTimes, on climate:


And, for a moment of hope, a Mother Jones story on why flying is less damaging for the atmosphere than it once was:

Why Flying Home for the Holidays Might Be Greener Than Driving



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Garrison Keiller on the piousness of climate activists

Humorists and contrarians so often seem to drink from the same well, as Garrison Keiller did this week in mocking Trump, Trump supporters, climate activists, Europeans, the Chinese, smokers, and himself in a column this week.

No sensuous pleasure can compare to the thrill of righteousness, and when the poor schlump [Trump] stood in the Rose Garden and read his speech about America victimized by the crafty Europeans and the treacherous Chinese who designed the Paris accords, he could not have imagined the uproar he would cause. Moments later, everybody to the left of Jabba the Hutt was shaking their fists as if he had stuck his hand up under the Statue of Liberty’s gown. Birds shrieked from the trees, small dogs growled, even heinous criminals looked upon him with loathing.

Love that hyperbole! A picture from outside the White House gates:


But as is typically the case with the great Keillor, he’s got surprises — a little poke for one and all:

People love the chance to get all apocalyptic: The right wing has enjoyed this for years and now it was everyone else’s turn. The polar icecap melting, the incidence of depression among chickadees rising, tooth decay in chickens, acorns falling, the planet turning to toast. Prophets of doom wherever you looked.


Even though the scientists are right about climate change, the sanctimony is awfully heavy. It’s like the people who told me the mortality statistics for heavy smokers back when I was doing four packs a day. They took satisfaction from my imminent demise and to demonstrate my immortality I upped my intake and switched to unfiltered Camels. The Paris accords were a bunch of drunks agreeing to go on the wagon, and what the guy at the podium did was to invest in a chain of distilleries. So what?

The man is only trying to please the folks who voted for him. They want him to walk into church and moon the clergy. They’ve always wanted to do it themselves but didn’t dare offend their devout neighbors. So they went along, saying the appropriate things about Community and Cooperation and Tolerance and the Value of Education, which made them miserable because they didn’t believe in any of it. They believed in Family Loyalty and outsiders can go to hell. Be a winner. Race to the buffet and pick all the beef out of the stew and let the others have the celery and onions.

It’s a selfish world view but so what? Sew buttons on your underwear. They never had a champion until this guy came along and spoke for them loud and clear, and they eked out a narrow win in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and now they’re making the most of it. That’s how it works. And every week or so, their guy walks up to the altar and drops his trousers.

The guy is trying to save the coal industry. We each have our causes. I am fighting for the typewriter industry and for the revival of rotary telephones. That doesn’t make me a bad person. I think the 1951 Studebaker was the most beautiful car of the 20th century. With a few billion dollars in federal subsidies and a ban on foreign imports, we can bring the Studebaker back. This will be a great boon to South Bend, Indiana.

The truth is, the man has a lousy job. He is penned up in the White House with a bunch of gossipy underlings and he is expected to make big decisions about matters he doesn’t know or care about and he is expected to make nice with world leaders who disdain him, like the Frenchman who gave him a bone-crushing handshake.

And he did the speech and was reamed by the media and academicians and loser Democrats, that whole high-fiber crowd, and you know what? He does not care. He is 70 and no scientist in the world says the sky is going to fall in the next 20 or 25 years so what exactly is the problem? Like his followers, he has no beliefs, only urges. Look at the expression of chill hauteur on the man’s face as he shoves his way through the NATO heads of state to stand in front. It’s all there. That’s him. The Duke of Earl. When you know nothing, nothing can stop you.

But as many have noted, the bizarre twist is that the President pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement is not only unpopular in polling by about a 2-to-1 margin, but it’s also sent interest in the agreement through the roof.

Will this President ever get control of the narrative?

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Trump cites MIT climate study: MIT objects

Yesterday President Trump announced he is exiting the United States from the climate deal that the Obama administration pulled together against all odds with 190 nations from around the world. Trump justified the abrogation of the deal for several reasons, and cited an MIT study:

Even if the Paris Agreement were implemented in full, with total compliance from all nations, it is estimated it would only produce a two-tenths of one degree — think of that; this much — Celsius reduction in global temperature by the year 2100.  Tiny, tiny amount.

But of course the study doesn’t stay that.

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Jerry Brown challenges Trump on climate

In a fiery speech on science, climate, and policy at the American Geophysical Union today, Gov. Jerry Brown challenged the “miasma of nonsense” from the incoming Trump administration on climate questions and promised the thousands of earth scientists in the audience that the state of California would support their work.

“Never has so much power been lodged in so few hands,” Brown said to the scientists. “But it’s not about this politician or that politician. It’s about big oil, big financial institutions. We need to mobilize all your efforts as truth tellers to fight back.”


Brown’s pugilistic rhetoric inspired several standing ovations from the scientists, who are being attacked in the right wing press. The incoming administration has already sent a questionnaire to the Department of Energy asking for the names of scientists working on climate issues — an implicit threat of a witchhunt (Politico).

“The time has never been more urgent or your work never more important. The climate is changing, temperatures are rising, oceans are becoming more acidified, habitats are under stress – the world is facing tremendous danger,” said Brown at the American Geophysical Union’s annual fall meeting in San Francisco. “We’ve got a lot of firepower. We’ve got the scientists, we’ve got the universities, we have the national labs and we have the political clout and sophistication for the battle – and we will persevere. Have no doubt about that.”

Brown reminded the scientists that California has a long history of taking the lead on questions of the environment — with clean air standards from the California Air Resources Board that were eventually adopted by the Obama administration for the nation, for example. He spoke of signing memorandums of understanding with over 100 nations, states, and provinces (for more detail see the statement from his office).

I’ve never seen a more inspiring speech given at the AGU (and I’ve seen many, from the likes of James Hansen, Lonnie Thompson, et al).

“This is a big fight,” Brown said, and made it clear that he welcomed the fight. He even promised that if the incoming administration “turns off the satellites, that California will launch its own damn satellite. We’re going to collect that data.” (From the Sacramento Bee story, the best I’ve seen on the speech.)

But one of the most interesting turns (which has not been reported as of yet) came when the former Jesuit acolyte Brown reminded the scientists of the spiritual vice of “tepidity.” He went on to suggest that by “reduction ad absurdum” the incoming administration will make ridiculous its own dismissal of climate change.

He scoffed at right-wing “clowns in the media,” calling out Brietbart by name, for claiming that global warming is due to “cow farts.”

“Eventually the truth will prevail,” Governor Brown continued. “This is not a battle of one day or one election. This is a long-term slog into the future and you are there, the foot soldiers of change and understanding and scientific collaboration.”

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Climate warriors in Vogue: Hindou Oumaro Ibrahim

A feature in Vogue focuses on thirteen “climate warriors” at the Paris climate conference (#COP21) from around the world. It’s beautiful — and the words of these women hit home.


Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim is from the Sahel region of Chad, where devastating droughts and floods are now the norm. As cochair of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change, Ibrahim works to contain the humanitarian and ecological fallout from the vanishing of Lake Chad, a lifeline for an estimated 30 million people in Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Niger.

“If women come together, they can have more impact than any agreement, than any negotiations,” says Ibrahim. “Because we know that the future—it’s coming from us.”

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Chris Christie “doesn’t buy” climate change

As David Roberts of Grist/Vox has been saying for literally years now, the GOP base is batshit crazy, and as a result, Republican candidates have to compete to out-crazy each other when it comes to climate.

How low can they go? How uninformed, willfully ignorant, and flat-out irrational can they possibly be? It’s the most Through the Looking Glass performance available in American politics today, surely.

Chris Christie six months ago declared that climate change was “real,” and indicated that unlike the rest of the GOP presidential candidates he knew that humans contributed, and got the reputation as a moderate.

Now he’s evidently trying to put his unsavory past as a climate change believer behind him, and today he scoffed at the very idea of climate disruption:

The full transcript of the interview is astonishing  — more context just makes the aggressive ignorance plainer. ChristieScarboroughtranscript    

No, of course not. Whew. Now that, that would be crazy.


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The silence of the deniers: Toles

Besides being the best political cartoonist on the subject of climate and the environment, and actually funny as well, Tom Toles publishes almost as many sketches as he does full-fledged cartoons, plus he has a fiery but smart blog in the Washington Post which he often talks about, yes, climate.

As in today’s The Sound of Ice Melting:

It’s pretty quiet. Have you noticed? The vast armies of climate denial have gone quiet. It is temporary.

For the longest time, the argument was not really with the science. The science was always very straightforward. 1) Carbon dioxide is a heat trapping gas. 2) We are adding significant carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 3) The warming is nearly inevitably going to show up somewhere. There is no rebuttal to this simple set of facts, other than to hypothesize a lot of negative feedbacks which would somehow save the day.

Yes, there were the denialist websites, packed with anomalous data and spurious interpretations, unfurled and hyped with the goal of flooding the debate zone with confusion. But mostly what we got was the low-rent strategy of saying “WHERE’S THE WARMING??” Subthemes were, on a warm winter day to smirk “If this is Global Warming, I’ll take it!” How do you argue with logic such as this? You can’t.

But now, with weather patterns coming visibly unglued, somehow the deniers mouths have become gluey. Oh, sure, they have retreated to “climate changes all the time,” but this is a terribly weak argument and they know it.

The silence you hear now is the drip drip drip of behind-the-scenes re-strategizing. They know climate action is coming now, and their problem is how to derail or postpone the bulk of it.

They will come up with something. Watch as the glacier retreats to see what it reveals.

Toles brings real edge to his work, and his love for the natural world shines through:


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GOP takes climate change denial to the next level

The GOP's war on science gets worse, writes Elizabeth Kolbert, noting that the House GOP cut $300 million from NASA's budget for earth sciences (including climate) on the childish old theory that ignoring a problem will make it go away.

That same week The New Yorker, for which Kolbert writes, came up with an even wittier version of the same basic argument:


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CA water bureaucrat disses federal weather scientists

How often does one see an outright confrontation between state bureaucrats and federal scientists?

In my experience, well — never.

But that's what I saw last week at the Chapman Conference on California Drought

Organized by the American Geophysical Union, at a National Academy of Sciences center at UC Irvine, this conference brought together a hundred or so highly respected weather and climate scientists, many of whom work at a NOAA center in Colorado, with water authorities and bureaucrats in California.

The brilliance of those at the gathering was not in dispute, but, to my surprise, a real conflict surfaced between the two parties.

After hearing a solid day of bad news about drought, wildfire, groundwater overdrafting, and on and on, Jeanine Jones, a thirty-year veteran of California's state Department of Water Resources, took the podium, and — politely but unsparingly — unloaded on the uselessness of National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration science.  

She spoke for well over an hour. Towards the end of her presentation, to a shocked audience that kept asking her the same basic question, Jones noted:

"I came into this meeting intending to be provocative and it's obviously worked."

Jones is not the biggest person in the world, and she doesn't bang the table and engage in dramatic displays, but her words clearly took her audience aback. 


[picture of Jones at another drought event in Irvine from San Gabriel Valley Tribune]

What did she say that shocked the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration scientists so?

In part she dismissed a great deal of their work. 

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. We don't need to know if we're in a drought or not. We rely on precipitation and expected run-off."

When asked what she might do differently if scientists could with skill forecast a season or two, or even better, a year or two, in advance, she all but scoffed. 

"Since we can't predict if next year will be wet or dry, shouldn't we plan for the worst? It's lucky for us that this drought occured during a time of general funding surplus."

"Like politics, all drought is local."

"In a recession, your neighbor loses your job. In a depression, you lose your job. It's the same with drought. Impacts increase with duration."

What is not useful, Jones said:

US Drought Monitor
Drought Impact Reporter
PDSI (drought index)
Climate Prediction Center drought outlook
Climate Prediction Center precipitation

Clearly her department did not take the NOAA's guidance regarding El Nino seriously. 

When pressed on the question of how much skill was needed, she said:

"We don't use skill numbers [from the scientific literature]. All I can tell you is what a Supreme Court justice said once, that I'll know it [a useful seasonal prediction] when I see it. Our view is colored by the fact that in recent years we have had some notable busts with the AO (Arctic Oscillation) and ENSO (El Nino/Southern Oscillation). ENSO connection in particular tends to be over-hyped."

Jones indicates that she's interested in Atmopsheric Rivers, and in research at the NASA-affiliated Jet Propulsion Lab into a linkage between a phase of the Madden-Julian Oscillation that seems to have a propensity for forming Atmospheric Rivers. But she had no use for most of NOAA's work. 

Repeatedly the scientists asked her version of the same question — why aren't these forecasts any good to you? — and repeatedly Jones, who serves as the "interagency drought manager" said that they "didn't tell a story" and added that she wasn't interested in the statistical "process" that produced the forecasts. 

Never seen anything quite like it. 

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Low gas prices: a climate-destroying trap?

A scholar, Ruth Greenspan Bell, and Max Rodenbeck, a former Middle East editor for The Economist, argue in an op-ed in today's Los Angeles Times that the drop in oil prices has as much to do with keeping the U.S. addicted to oil, not to mention defeating climate-saving initiatives, as it does with anything else. 

The decade of historically high oil prices before the recent crash produced some worrying trends for big [oil] producers. From 2004 to 2014, the fuel efficiency of cars sold in the U.S. rose 25%. Electric cars make up a tiny proportion, but their sales have more than doubled in the last two years.

With oil demand flat and technology constantly improving, one does not have to be a gloomy Saudi oilman to imagine a future tipping point, when investment in the broader infrastructure around electric vehicles — from manufacturing to sales and servicing — overtakes gasoline-powered spending. 

They point out that oil producers need good customers, just as parasites need a big host, and that the nation shows some signs of kicking — or at least reducing — its addiction to imported oil. This could be good for the climate, but bad for oil producers. 

There is also the possibility that negotiations conducted in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change might actually conclude in December with a series of national commitments to cut back greenhouse gas emissions. That, buttressed by the recent U.S. deal with China to cut net greenhouse gas emissions 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025, and other efforts to advance renewables in India, suggests a level of movement on containing greenhouse gas emissions not seen in the two decades since negotiations began.

The possibility of climate safety! Can't have that. As usual, Tom Toles says it best — with a drawing. 



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