Tag archive for Toles

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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Global weirding, vol. 9031

A big story from the Associated Press:

Torrential downpours in Texas that have whiplashed the region from drought to flooding. A heat wave that has killed more than 1,800 people in India. Record 91-degree readings in Alaska, of all places. A pair of top-of-the-scale typhoons in the Northwest Pacific. And a drought taking hold in the East.

"Mother Nature keeps throwing us crazy stuff," Rutgers University climate scientist Jennifer Francis says. "It's just been one thing after another."

So writes Seth Borenstein, who has been reporting on science at a national level for decades, and knows how to get a story, no doubt. I've heard him call-in to numerous locales — from Vandenburg AF base in Lompoc, to the AGU science conference in San Francisco — with questions. Often he's the first reporter to ask a question in these national press conferences.

He goes on to detail some of the climactic weirdnesses, and, just as interesting, some of the reactions of research climatologists to the weirdness they're seeing, Giving the experts researchers the chance to speak to the question in plain English. 

Jerry Meehl, an extreme-weather expert at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, points out that May is usually a pretty extreme month, with lots of tornadoes and downpours. Even so, he says, this has been "kind of unusually intense."

The word "stuck" provides one possible explanation.

Francis, Meehl and some other meteorologists say the jet stream is in a rut, not moving nasty weather along. The high-speed, constantly shifting river of air 30,000 feet above Earth normally guides storms around the globe, but sometimes splits and comes back together somewhere else.

A stuck jet stream, with a bit of a split, explains the extremes in Texas, India, Alaska and the U.S. East, but not the typhoons, Francis says.

[ — which is interesting, on a level of character, because Francis is something of a crusader for the theory that the jet stream gets stuck in a meander mode, and is considered an innovator, where Meehl, a super-nice individual in my experience, is much more of the scientific mainstream –]

No one newspaper story will resolve  this question, no matter how well placed, but it's interesting to see that the long association between climate change and weather extremes, which has been showing up in the global climate change statistical models since the l990's, now has a mechanism that appears increasingly accepted in the research community.

It's not a surprise to Tom Toles:


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The sound and sights of the California drought

As noted here a week or so ago, Ronald Reagan's close friend and confidant George Shultz published an op-ed declaring that if Ronald Reagan was president today, he would take action to restrain climate change. Along similiar lines, this week Reagan's biographer Lou Cannon published a tough warning about drought and California that began with a great/horrifying lead:

“The heart of the West is a desert, unqualified and absolute,” wrote prescient 20th century Texas historian Walter Prescott Webb. Nearly six decades later, the desert is returning to claim its own.

Cannon surveys the parched state, nodding at desalination, frowning at the exploitation of deep aquifers containing the water of thousands of years of rainfall, and ultimately concluding that California farmers are living "in a dream land"…and that the desert is coming back. 

He didn't even mention the pictures of the dry Sierra Nevadas, as seen from satellites or on Gov. Brown's snow survey, or in charts. It's a scene depicted as amusingly as possible by Steve Breen:


Nor did Cannon mention any of the latest research, which continues to sound alarms:

Wenju Cai and colleagues report that increased land warming relative to the ocean and an increased frequency of extreme El Niño events, are setting the scene for these events every 13 years compared with a past frequency of one every 23 years. They use a collection of global climate models, selected for their ability to simulate extreme La Niña events, to investigate how the frequency of those events will change with global warming. The authors find that extreme La Niña events will increase in frequency and that approximately 75% of this increase will occur immediately following an extreme El Niño event. The implication of this is that weather patterns will switch between extremes of wet and dry.

Kind of like now, only more violently. What is the sound of a drought? 

Tom Toles has an idea: 


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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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Falling oil prices and rising sea levels

Toles notes the irony :


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Toles: Did you see how bad the Chinese air is?

Another of Toles' thoughtful sketches:


All of us share the same air, live under one sky.

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The “fiscal cliff” and the climate cliff: Tom Toles

A month ago the environmental Time reporter Bryan Walsh, commenting on Paul Krugman and the fiscal cliff, laid out the basic equivalence between these two crises, one manufactured, the other real: 

The fiscal crisis and global warming are
both, to put it bluntly, problems for tomorrow. Even if Congress can’t
come to an agreement to avert the fiscal cliff, the economy won’t
collapse immediately and the U.S. will still be able to borrow money,
just as climate change won’t render the world uninhabitable next year
the world can’t reduce carbon emissions overnight anyway. As a
society—and as a species—we tend not to be very good at addressing
problems of tomorrow, but in one very important respect, the climate
cliff and the fiscal cliff are very different. The Washington
establishment—including large chunks of both parties—is convinced that
something must be done now about the U.S.’s long-term fiscal problems, and a lot of Americans agree with them. They disagree on what to
do, but no serious politician would simply dismiss the threat of the
fiscal crisis. Yet Washington remains largely unmotivated on global
warming, despite growing evidence that we could be facing a truly frightening future. Why does one long-term problem scare us, and the other remain ignored?


Some of us wonder about this question too. 

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Toles on crazy Italians who jail earthquake scientists

A "Tsketch" from Toles: 


Here's the background. Interesting that the AGU took a position on the issue.

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GOP finds solution to global warming

From Tom Toles, in today's Washington Post

If only the GOP was even looking for a solution. Jeez. I wish. 

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Still destroying the climate, but having less fun

Because Americans are driving less, mostly due to the recession (total greenhouse gas emissions are down a pretty stunning 6%, the Energy Information recently reported) the federal government doesn't have the money it needs to fully fund its highway program. But still, all the politicians agree that raising the gas tax is off the table, even though it hasn't been changed since l993

Matthew Iglesias, a famous lefty blogger who usually hides his idealism behind his intelligence, sighs:

You don’t win the future by cutting back on your physical infrastructure out of fear of taxing pollution. Just saying. 

But Toles understands what the politicians — and the public — are thinking: 


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