IBI Watch 3/25/12

25 03 2012

A Warming Trend to Alarm the National Weather Service  //

It takes a lot to shock the NWS into arm-waving mode.  But that’s just what the current late winter/early spring heat wave across most of the central, northern and northeastern United States has done.  High-temperature records are falling – in some cases by more than 20 degrees.  Here in the Twin Cities, we have spent days, weeks, where the overnight low temperature stays warmer than the historical average HIGH temperature.  It’s long past time for us to pretend that ‘one weather event does not prove climate change.’  This is not one weather event, but the strengthening of a long-term trend that has become more apparent as years pass.  We can happy-talk all we want, but this brave new climate has consequences, and winners and losers, but mostly losers.

Here are just a few recent news items I have collected.  First – I recently made a connection.  My tree-pollen allergies – which used to kick in with a vengeance in May and June – started at the beginning of March this year.  And I am not alone.  For me, this is minor.  For an asthmatic, it could be life-threatening.  And then there are those insects.  It’s not just the butterflies heading out months early.  Activist Bill McKibben has been trying to wake people up for a very long time.  His piece in The Nation highlights the extreme heat and its drought implications.  Don’t believe it?  How about this – Winner, South Dakota – 94 degrees on the second-last day of winter.  As Jeff Masters – one of the most articulate and helpful meteorologists and founder of the Wunderground blog – says in the McKibben piece – “This is not the atmosphere that I grew up with.”

And hey – this was supposed to be a cold winter for the US.  Remember those La Niña predictions?  Oops.  Read here how this has been the warmest La Niña in the records as well.  And then there is the runaway acidification of the oceans.  This story reports a possible $3 trillion worldwide loss related to the changes we are causing in the oceans with our CO2 and methane.  And according to my reading, that is really an underestimate.  I mean, how can you place a cost on turning the ocean toxic, hostile to life.  Don’t believe it?  Read this book.  But wait – there’s more.  Greenland is melting, faster than scientists thought possible.  But not to worry – it won’t completely melt for hundreds of years.  Surely, there’s enough time for the magical thinking to kick in.  Even George W Bush had an idea on this, dutifully reported in The Onion.

Can’t leave with just bad news and satire on this.  It is possible to make a difference and turn the ship around.  Just look at Germany’s achievements in alternative energy, highlighted in this Thom Hartmann video.  Though the focus is energy, this clearly bears on the climate crisis – all that alternative energy replaces burning fossil fuel.  We could do it here in the US as well.


The Happy Grump

I like to think that people who have met me would say I seem pretty upbeat, positive, even happy.  And yet, when it comes to some very important issues, I am an incorrigible grump.

Since man-made climate change noticeably kicked in – late 1980s for careful observers, 2011-12 for even minimally observant, fair-minded people, never for pignorant (pretend ignorant) pundits and tea partiers – I find myself more and more often in conversations like one I had with a store clerk the other day.  With the long run of ridiculously warm weather, nearly everyone raves about the ‘wonderful,’ warmth.  As did this clerk – “Isn’t it beautiful lately?” she asked me with a smile.  I said, “It’s been warm.  We should get used to it.”  She added, “Yes, I know.  I love this.  I hate winter.”  I said, “Whether we like it or not doesn’t matter much.  It’s the weather we are making.”  No more smile from her.  But I smiled and wished her a great day.

I know this is just small talk, and seemingly meaningless.  But I think it does have significance.  Every person who goes on pretending that nothing is happening is one more unwitting ally of those who hamstring meaningful policy that can build environmental sustainability.  I can’t celebrate our destabilization of the climate system that sustains humans and all other life.  And I definitely can’t be pignorant.

Last Sunday, March 18, I observed a small natural event that speaks volumes.  I was standing outside, next to our rain garden – which right now consists of the corpses of last year’s annuals.  Suddenly – a ‘summer’ scene.  I watched as a black swallowtail(!) butterfly floated in, and then flitted from dead stalk to dead stalk in our rain garden. No nectar; no food. Why? The poor creature is out months early, in the artificial summer of our burgeoning CO2. Easy to see where that is going. No food, no life – no matter how desirable or beautiful.  This is how we blithely shred the fabric of nature, one (or maybe one million) ecological niches at a time.

It’s common to hear this environmentalist axiom:  “Mother Nature bats last.”  To which I add:  and she doesn’t give a damn who is pitching.”  Scientists warn that staggering percentages of world species are committed to extinction in the decades ahead, and the situation will be all the worse if we stay on our current path, extracting and burning ever more fossil fuels.

Want to join me in happy grumpdom, cheerfully waking up one happily disengaged person at a time?  This site is one of the most helpful I have seen.  Next time you hear someone blaming climate change on sunspots, or claiming oceans are cooling, or saying glaciers are growing, skepticalscience.com is your best friend.  173 – count ‘em! – denialist arguments, and the science that disproves them.


Explaining Science – It’s Not Rocket Science

The pignorant pundits, fueled by the likes of the Koch Brothers, Exxon Mobil, Monsanto and others, are pushing insidious propaganda.  You know – scientists are only in it for the research money.  They are alarmist.  They don’t really know anything.  And on and on.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Alan Alda appeared on NPR’s Science Friday this week, highlighting a science education initiative.  You may remember that Alda was the longtime host of an excellent popular science program, Scientific American Frontiers.  Contrast that effort with this story about Monsanto’s infomercial curriculum on the benefits of genetic engineering.  As you might guess, this AlterNet piece includes a few rebuttals to the sales pitch.  And finally – here is a new initiative aimed at teaching climate science in grade schools.  Welcome, laudable, and sorely needed.  And for an even bigger picture, we turn to Susan Jacoby.  The author of The Age of American Unreason appeared on Minnesota Public Radio’s The Circuit this week.  Jacoby decries all manner of magical thinking, and points out during the show what she calls ‘the elephant in the room.’  Can you guess what that might be?


Gathering for (a) Reason

It’s the fastest growing religious preference in the highly faithful United States.  It can be described simply as ‘none of the above.’  That preference is much more popular in Europe, but we may be starting to catch up.  A major convention of nonbelievers is gathered in the nation’s capital this weekend, as reported by National Public Radio.  I especially liked Scott Simon’s essay on the rally and its implications, on Weekend Edition Saturday.  You might say that rally attendees are working against this.  I do know that the rally features about 300 atheists meeting members of Congress.  I am proud to say my son is one of those 300.  Now there’s some ‘lobbying’ I can support!


Shoot First . . .

Headlines across the media tell the story.  An unarmed African American youth tragically killed by a neighborhood watchman who was ‘scared.’  No charges yet – which is itself amazing.  This incident reminds me of a tragic Halloween incident from some time back.  And recent studies show that – surprise – the trend toward more and more Americans carrying guns just might have some unintended consequences.


Affordable Care Act – Say What?

Does anyone really remember the name of the current health care reform?  You mean it’s not called ‘Obamacare?’  That epithet has been so pounded into our collective consciousness by every Republican candidate (except maybe long-departed Jon Huntsman – the only one who made any sense) that it’s hard to remember that official name.  It’s also hard to remember that the reform is doing some real good, even it is really a gigantic workaround intended to start to solve some problems – like access to care – while still preserving the well-lobbied health insurance empire.  Paul Krugman gives us that score.  What I especially like in Krugman’s article is how he emphasizes this – ‘Obamacare’ is really built on ‘Romneycare,’ which in turn is really a damned successful program.  That is despite the fact that the principles of pignorance require Romney to try to Etch-a-Sketch the entire program from the record.  (Did anyone ever wish for us to live in surreal times?)  And as the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments on the legislation, it’s good to get some background on this ‘affront to personal freedom,’ as tea partiers so love to call it.  Of course, the black-robe corparatist club could save some of their valuable time by checking with the Austin Lounge Lizards.  They cut to the chase with this very funny music video.  It tells the story of what our health care system in the US is really all about – be it dollars, doubloons or pieces of eight.


“You don’t get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion.”

–       L. Ron Hubbard













Contributed links  to this posting – Jeff Carlson, Allyson Harper




5 responses

25 03 2012

Do you think Republican Americans know that your health (ahem) care (ahem) system is a laughing stock? Those of us in other countries who know anything about your system keep wondering how the “greatest nation on Earth” can believe that health care is a business, not a human right.

But perhaps I’ve figured it out. Many of your early settlers (and 16 million of their descendants) were Puritan — people who didn’t believe in showing affection to children older than about 2. Fondness, it seems, was frowned upon. Both boys and girls would have grown into unloved and unloving adults. My new theory, then, is that America was founded partly (but influentially) on cold-heartedness. And to this day, that undercurrent appears to be alive and well amongst Tea Partiers and many other Republicans.

I don’t say this to be mean. But if I’m correct, it sure explains a lot about the lack of compassion we’re seeing emanating from the U.S. these days.

25 03 2012
26 03 2012

Fantastic! Sharing with my entire county Democratic party, fence sitters and rhinos.:)

26 03 2012

*What* butterflies coming out early? The Monarch population is down by estimates of 60 to 80 per cent over a decade ago. Monarchs eat GMO grains. We are losing bees at an alarming rate, also. But hey – profits are up at Monsanto and Exxon, so it’s all good, right?

30 03 2012

Hi Mike

I just found this: http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2012/03/29/454476/a-message-from-a-republican-meteorologist-on-climate-change/?mobile=nc

You may have already seen it, but thought it was worth sending! Mindy

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