IBI Watch 6/30/13

30 06 2013

Fire Meets Ice //

All weather eyes this week are out West, where a lingering heat wave threatens to melt all-time high temperature records, not just for a particular place or date, but all-time planetary highs. That’s right, forecasters say the Death Valley high temperature – 134 – might be topped in this wave. But heat waves in the American Southwest are nothing unusual – after all, that Death Valley high is 100 years old. (Andrew Freedman puts this western hot spell into context.)

On the other hand, what is happening up north is absolutely without precedent – even a denialist’s cherry-picked, out-of-context precedent – in recorded history. First it was Alaska, then Europe. Now Siberia is feeling the heat. And it is all part of the same out-of- range phenomenon, one that I have written about several times recently – here is an example.

You can expect skeptics, denialists and denial-liars (hard to sort those out sometimes) to spin everything, and this is no exception. I have seen posts and troll hit jobs advising scientists and journalists to just back off and let Alaskans enjoy their rare warmth, and I saw a recent post labeling the weird warmth as “not global warming, ‘just’ the jet stream.” Right.

But more people are getting the connection. Here for maybe the first time ever I offer a well-written article from, of all places, the Fox News site. It is mercifully free of the old false equivalence hooey that goes something like this – “some scientists say this, others say the opposite, so we really won’t know what the hell they are saying until decades of more research are completed, and Miami, New York and New Orleans are underwater ruins.” Sorry, got a little carried away there.

So why is this warming way up by the North Pole and nearby higher latitudes so important? Well, first, the Arctic is really the world’s air conditioner. It has a dominant role in the world’s weather, and we are changing everything with our greenhouse warming – as you can see in this terrific video. And second, as the heat rolls through the far north, we are awakening a sleeping giant – permafrost melting and the freeing of long-dormant methane. And this is a monster that, fully set free, will take no prisoners.

All of this is the backdrop for President Obama’s long-awaited speech on climate change and renewable energy. The president did not disappoint us this week. The Star Tribune offered context with a helpful editorial. It is so refreshing to hear our nation’s leader talk about respect for science, and the need to plan and deal with an inevitably challenging future. Of course, he will get little support from the gerrymandered, GOP-obstructed, science-trashing Congress (that goes for both houses, thanks to the abused-to-death filibuster), but it seems he is ready to do virtually everything he can to slow and halt climate change and build a sustainable-energy future.

What is needed of course is a fee on carbon – exactly the idea that Senator Mitch McConnell attacked at length in the preceding video. (I think the Senate “minority” Leader should be renamed McCOALNell.) And the president’s commitment will be sorely tested when his long-delayed decision on Keystone XL – the ambitious pipeline that will enable further development of the dirtiest oil on the planet. I fear that, for all the positive change President’s announcement portends – reduced power plant emissions, more efficient appliances, more clean energy, this may just be cover for the “all-of-the-above” approach that will include tar sands oil. I want to be wrong on this one, friends. If you had a chance to ask Bill McKibben and James Hansen, they would agree. We need to keep our fire from melting ice. All of the ice.

 

Activist Starting Young

Fourth Grader Zachary Maxwell strikes a blow for progressives everywhere with his new video. This future Michael Moore takes on false advertising and empty nutrition claims (eat your ketchup!) in his short film. This trailer tells me I have to see the whole Yuck!. Here is a Marketplace podcast on the same project.

 

Flood City

There is much to be learned in a recent NPR story on American cities vulnerable to ocean rise. The stars here are Miami and New York. Jackie Lyden –one of the best of the best on NPR – does her usual excellent job on this story.

 

Middle Class? Who Needs that?!

You will find this satirical interview that Stephen Colbert did with Bill Moyers entertaining. What makes Colbert’s shtick so effective is this – without context, it would be difficult to distinguish his persona from that of an interviewer on a short-leashed corporate media organ. Be sure to catch Moyers’ use of a comical name for the best known of such outlets. As Colbert says, making more people “strive” is what makes America great. We are getting greater all the time.

 

Car-Free

This little story makes me want to visit Mackinac Island. How about you?

 

“Our modern industrial economy takes a mountain covered with trees, lakes, running streams and transforms it into a mountain of junk, garbage, slime pits, and debris.”
-Edward Abbey

 

Contributed links to this posting –Allyson Harper, Michael Kuehn

 

Blogger – Michael Murphy, St. Paul MN

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