IBI Watch 9/2/12

2 09 2012

Trashing Our Refrigerator   //

Media meteorologists have had their hands full reporting on all the extreme heat and drought the United States has experienced this summer.  But most stories have stopped at reporting the individual phenomena, rather than connecting the hot and dry pattern with the obvious cause – man-made global climate change.  TV weather coverage is the weakest, with – anyone surprised? – FOX News having its head buried deepest into the sand.  But judging by the pignorance (pretend ignorance) displayed by Dave Dahl and other media meteorologists here in the Twin Cities (excepting Paul Douglas), you would never know that the American Meteorological Association minces no words.  Hey – do you think TV sponsors could be forcing downplay of the issue?  They wouldn’t do that, now, would they?

While many were ignoring the broader implications of changing weather and climate patterns, here comes a huge climate story that is also getting low-key coverage.  It is the record melting of Arctic sea ice.  Every year,  the ice retreats during the northern hemisphere’s summer, then refreezes over winter.  But the shrinking of that ice cap, well documented over the past few decades, recently broke the record 2007 melt.  And about two weeks still remain in the typical melting season.

Fortunately (and as usual), reliable sources in the less traveled media are providing extensive coverage.  Mother Jones’ Julia Whitty noted the new record and its significance.  This Seth Borenstein piece for Associated Press also tells the story, and includes this quote from NASA’s Waleed Abdalati, an ice scientist:  “Why do we care?”  This ice has been an important factor in determining the climate and weather conditions under which modern civilization has evolved.”  And this chart and commentary posted by researcher Peter Carter shows where 2012 is going compared the previous record.

Despite opening up the Arctic for incredibly risky oil drilling, this will have minimal effect on global sea rise.  Unlike the ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica, this ice is already floating.  But that ice cap is an integral part of the climate patterns we are accustomed to.  And the dramatic changes documented, especially in the last decade, are bound to have profound effects – as explained by  Climate Progress’s Joe Romm right here.  The exact results of destroying this global refrigerator – which we are so obviously doing with our greenhouse gas emissions – are chaotic and unpredictable.  But this summer gives us a stark preview of the near future.

So what does this mean to our politics?  For Mitt Romney, it’s a laugh line.  This of course is pure political pignorance – as Romney is on record as respecting climate science, pre-Tea Party.  As for President Obama, well, he certainly talks the talk, but has delivered precious little on the issue, thanks in no small part to the obstructionist Congress he is cursed with.

For my money right now, the best ideas out there are those of James Hansen.  The NASA meteorologist has little respect for ‘cap-and-trade,’ that much- maligned idea.  But his ‘fee and dividend’ plan holds much promise if we can muster the political will.  With hydrocarbon barons virtually owning our government, ‘this may take a while.’

Facts?  Truth?  Bah!

Lying has always been a part of the sport known as American politics.  And it has been a bipartisan enterprise – both parties offend.  But we may be hitting a new low this time around.

First – Charles Blow’s recent commentary in the New York Times lays out the state of truth right now – not so good, to say the least.

Second – Matt Taibbi has a new, in-depth commentary on Mitt Romney that is worth your time,  Note – it’s a long piece, but full of insights and takes on the question you hear often these days – ‘Who is Mitt Romney?’  Taibbi – clearly no fan of the former Massachusetts governor – calls his entire campaign ‘a shimmering pearl of perfect political hypocrisy .’  The heart of his critique – Romney is not the flip-flopper that media have painted, but something much more insidious – a massive debt creator (via his Bain work) who is running on the idea that debt is the biggest problem facing America and must be dealt with immediately.  No time for the entire article?  Here is the concluding paragraph:
Obama ran on “change” in 2008, but Mitt Romney represents a far more real and seismic shift in the American landscape. Romney is the frontman and apostle of an economic revolution, in which transactions are manufactured instead of products, wealth is generated without accompanying prosperity, and Cayman Islands partnerships are lovingly erected and nurtured while American communities fall apart. The entire purpose of the business model that Romney helped pioneer is to move money into the archipelago from the places outside it, using massive amounts of taxpayer-subsidized debt to enrich a handful of billionaires. It’s a vision of society that’s crazy, vicious and almost unbelievably selfish, yet it’s running for president, and it has a chance of winning. Perhaps that change is coming whether we like it or not. Perhaps Mitt Romney is the best man to manage the transition. But it seems a little early to vote for that kind of wholesale surrender.

Third – Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum asks a pertinent question – How can nice-guy Paul Ryan espouse such hard-hearted policies?  The numbers emanating from Ryan’s budget proposal will shock you.  Concise and insightful.

Finally – Where would we be without Jon Stewart?  In this 10-minute video – worth every minute – he devastates the most ubiquitous Republican straw man seen in these parts over the past month or so.  This straw man – in his many guises – came to life when President Obama’s ‘you didn’t build that’ quote was lifted, misinterpreted and milked to the last drop by the GOP.  It of course reached an absolutely ridiculous peak at the convention – prompting the Daily Show host’s hilarious send-up.  Jon Stewart  built this, for sure!

Unintended Consequences.

So now it seems we have created an environmental problem that some would like to solve with guns.  Hey!  What could be bad about that?  Plenty, probably.

This story is amazing in how it illustrates the rippling damage our carelessness and wanton environmental destruction can cause.  It also proves that, no matter how we trash the place, nature survives and adapts. . . but we may be stacking the deck against creatures many of us care deeply about.  Interest piqued?  Then read, please.

A grim story like that, it seems, calls for some biting musical satire.  This Chuck Brodsky song is a good fit.

It also calls for constructive action.  Here are two groups worthy of support.
http://www.oceanconservancy.org/

http://worldwildlife.org/
Nature Rebuilds, Right?

A trashed, then recovered, California beach provides some important environmental lessons.  This Sarah Goodyear piece for Grist asks important questions about our impact on the environment, and nature’s ability to overcome it.

It also made me think of a great book – definitely on my short list of strong recommendations – that deals in a comprehensive way with the myriad changes we have made to the planet – and their long-term consequences. Read The World Without Us.  Your eyes will be opened in so many ways.

Some Positive Developments – All Connected

Yes, friends, it is not all gloom and doom, not by a long shot.  Here is a roundup.

First – President Obama has come out in support of amending the Constitution to overturn the corporatist abomination known as Citizens’ United.  That is an indispensable step in loosening the stranglehold big corporations now have on our political life in America.

Second – Voter ID, the concerted GOP effort to suppress the unfriendly (to them) vote is running into serious headwinds in Texas and elsewhere.

Third – Just consider the benefits of the recent institution of dramatically higher fuel economy standards.  This can happen if we restore logic and respect for science and the common good to our political process.  That of course will be necessary if these new standards are to survive.  (Remember President Reagan ordering the Carter-era solar panels off the White House roof?)  Oh, and there is that matter of getting all that corporate money the hell out of politics.  Lots more on that soon . . .

“The man who has his millions will want everything he can lay his hands on and then raise his voice against the poor devil who wants ten cents more a day. . . . We do want more, and when it becomes more, we shall still want more. And we shall never cease to demand more until we have received the results of our labor.” – Samuel Gompers

Blogger – Michael Murphy, St. Paul MN

Contributed links  to this posting – Jeff Carlson, Allyson Harper

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One response

2 09 2012
Bonnie Blodgett

I’d forgotten about those solar panels. But thanks for the good news, MIke. No, seriously.

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