Sunday, February 17, 2013

Climate change is not British imperialism

President Obama, after absolutely ignoring climate change during the fall's campaign, at least had the sense to bring it up in his State of the Union address.  He's still not taking the subject seriously, mind you, but he did bring it up which proves to a big chunk of Democratic loyalists that they and their party are on the side of the angels.  All of this has been leading up today's high mass—the Forward on Climate rally in Washington DC.  We have already had the "holy week" arrests—Daryl Hannah was taken in on Valentine's Day for chaining herself to the White House fence.

Democratic loyalists are quick to point out that such events "raise awareness" and prepare the ground for more enlightened legislation to come.  And usually I tone down my critiques of street actions for that reason although I am FAR from convinced by it.  But this time, there is something especially irrelevant about protests.  Climate change is a chemistry event caused by over-oxidation of carbon by billions of people with access to too many fires.  So the question becomes, given this is a mass-participation chemistry event, what exactly can one address by getting ritually arrested at the White House?

When Mohandas Gandhi, the great spirit of mass protests was organizing the Salt March, his opposition was an economic and political system—something that could be changed in response to his demands.  It think it a major stretch to think such methods are remotely applicable to a mass-based science problem like climate change.  Just remember, the only way the non-scientifically and technologically literate folks can hope to help solve the climate problems is to make sure the folks who CAN solve the problems are properly funded.  Now IF you can show us how getting symbolically arrested leads to the funds necessary to build the green society, then have at it.  Otherwise, you are nothing more than attention-hogs.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Arrested: Activist Defends Keystone Pipeline Protest At White House 

By Lindsay Wilkes-Edrington  02/15/2013

A day after Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was arrested during a climate change rally outside the White House, the environmental activist joined HuffPost Live to defend his protest against the Keystone XL pipeline.

Kennedy, who is president of the Waterkeeper Alliance and a senior attorney for the National Resources Defense Council, told HuffPost Live's Jacob Soboroff that he and other opponents believe the project is "the worst project that we've seen come along in our lifetime."

Others arrested Wednesday included actress Daryl Hannah, founder Bill McKibben, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune and Kennedy's son, Conor.

Although there is great oil potential to come from the pipeline, Kennedy argued that the oil available would create three times the amount of carbon of Saudia Arabian crude oil.

"If we burn that, or even come close to burning a fraction of it, James Hansen, the top scientist of NASA, says it's game over for climate change," Kennedy told HuffPost Live. "In other words, it's the end of civilization." more
This post over at Kos highlights the absurdity of street protest in response to climate change.  This cheerful person actually believes that the best way to show your concerns about climate change is to get on a diesel-burning bus and travel a great distance to demonstrate your commitment to a cause.  Talk about not getting it!

Forward on Climate: Sens. Sanders and Boxer to Sponsor Major Climate Change Bill

by peregrine kate  FEB 13, 2013

Good morning! Welcome to Day 3 of Daily Kos' weeklong blogathon "Forward on Climate" in the lead up to a huge Sunday, February 17th rally in Washington, D.C. cosponsored by Bill McKibben of; the Sierra Club; and the Hip Hop Caucus.

This Mothership diary offers lots of news, views, and resources for your entertainment and edification. Today's guest speakers are named at the end of the intro section, before the squiggle; the week's schedule and the core publicity for the Forward on Climate rally follow the squiggle.

Please consider this an open thread on anything and everything related to Climate Change and the upcoming rallies in D.C. and across the country this Sunday.


Don't forget, you can also participate by
- promoting the many buses going to D.C. (see the Sierra Club website)
- arranging and promoting additional buses
- helping the Sierra Club phone-bank for the event
- donate to the Sierra Club and/or
- sponsor (in some way) another attendee...This is a new stage in climate change activism; there will be plenty more to do.  more 
Of course, just when one is driven to despair over the actions of those who actually share your concerns, we get a reminder that the climate deniers are a hundred times worse.  And the report is, much of this funding is coming from the fossil fuels industries.  Now I can see coal getting all defensive because it is quite clear planet earth can tolerate no more coal burning.  But why should the petroleum industry care if consumption rates go way down?  They have a product that is a design requirement of millions of pieces of machinery.  The demand for petroleum stretches far into the future because of decisions that have already been made.  As a result, they have a resource that becomes more valuable the longer it stays in the ground.

Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks

Anonymous billionaires donated $120m to more than 100 anti-climate groups working to discredit climate change science

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, 14 February 2013

Conservative billionaires used a secretive funding route to channel nearly $120m (£77m) to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change, the Guardian has learned.

The funds, doled out between 2002 and 2010, helped build a vast network of thinktanks and activist groups working to a single purpose: to redefine climate change from neutral scientific fact to a highly polarising "wedge issue" for hardcore conservatives.

The millions were routed through two trusts, Donors Trust and the Donors Capital Fund, operating out of a generic town house in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington DC. Donors Capital caters to those making donations of $1m or more.

Whitney Ball, chief executive of the Donors Trust told the Guardian that her organisation assured wealthy donors that their funds would never by diverted to liberal causes. more 
Like the over-the-hill actress who wants to be arrested over a chemistry problem, we have people who want to do things a hundred times more ignorant for reasons of ideology.  When Mao demanded community steel mills in China during the so-called Great Leap Forward, we had an early sign of the problems of putting politics ahead of science.  But Krugman is onto something even more potentially damaging—that the rejection of science in the service of political ideology is actually a sign of faulty epistemology.

The Ignorance Caucus

By PAUL KRUGMAN  February 10, 2013

Last week Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, gave what his office told us would be a major policy speech. And we should be grateful for the heads-up about the speech’s majorness. Otherwise, a read of the speech might have suggested that he was offering nothing more than a meager, warmed-over selection of stale ideas.

To be sure, Mr. Cantor tried to sound interested in serious policy discussion. But he didn’t succeed — and that was no accident. For these days his party dislikes the whole idea of applying critical thinking and evidence to policy questions. And no, that’s not a caricature: Last year the Texas G.O.P. explicitly condemned efforts to teach “critical thinking skills,” because, it said, such efforts “have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

And such is the influence of what we might call the ignorance caucus that even when giving a speech intended to demonstrate his openness to new ideas, Mr. Cantor felt obliged to give that caucus a shout-out, calling for a complete end to federal funding of social science research. Because it’s surely a waste of money seeking to understand the society we’re trying to change.

Want other examples of the ignorance caucus at work? Start with health care, an area in which Mr. Cantor tried not to sound anti-intellectual; he lavished praise on medical research just before attacking federal support for social science. (By the way, how much money are we talking about? Well, the entire National Science Foundation budget for social and economic sciencesamounts to a whopping 0.01 percent of the budget deficit.)

But Mr. Cantor’s support for medical research is curiously limited. He’s all for developing new treatments, but he and his colleagues have adamantly opposed “comparative effectiveness research,” which seeks to determine how well such treatments work.

What they fear, of course, is that the people running Medicare and other government programs might use the results of such research to determine what they’re willing to pay for. Instead, they want to turn Medicare into a voucher system and let individuals make decisions about treatment. But even if you think that’s a good idea (it isn’t), how are individuals supposed to make good medical choices if we ensure that they have no idea what health benefits, if any, to expect from their choices?

Still, the desire to perpetuate ignorance on matters medical is nothing compared with the desire to kill climate research, where Mr. Cantor’s colleagues — particularly, as it happens, in his home state of Virginia — have engaged in furious witch hunts against scientists who find evidence they don’t like. True, the state has finally agreed to study the growing risk of coastal flooding; Norfolk is among the American cities most vulnerable to climate change. But Republicans in the State Legislature have specifically prohibited the use of the words “sea-level rise.

And there are many other examples, like the way House Republicans tried to suppress a Congressional Research Service report casting doubt on claims about the magical growth effects of tax cuts for the wealthy.

Do actions like this have important effects? Well, consider the agonized discussions of gun policy that followed the Newtown massacre. It would be helpful to these discussions if we had a good grasp of the facts about firearms and violence. But we don’t, because back in the 1990s conservative politicians, acting on behalf of the National Rifle Association, bullied federal agencies into ceasing just about all research into the issue. Willful ignorance matters.

O.K., at this point the conventions of punditry call for saying something to demonstrate my evenhandedness, something along the lines of “Democrats do it too.” But while Democrats, being human, often read evidence selectively and choose to believe things that make them comfortable, there really isn’t anything equivalent to Republicans’ active hostility to collecting evidence in the first place.

The truth is that America’s partisan divide runs much deeper than even pessimists are usually willing to admit; the parties aren’t just divided on values and policy views, they’re divided over epistemology. One side believes, at least in principle, in letting its policy views be shaped by facts; the other believes in suppressing the facts if they contradict its fixed beliefs.

In her parting shot on leaving the State Department, Hillary Clinton said of her Republican critics, “They just will not live in an evidence-based world.” She was referring specifically to the Benghazi controversy, but her point applies much more generally. And for all the talk of reforming and reinventing the G.O.P., the ignorance caucus retains a firm grip on the party’s heart and mind. more

1 comment:

  1. Jonathan Larson,

    I wanna have your children--even though I'm a dude!

    But seriously, meeting TWO (mind you, TWO) instance of sanity from fellow progressives in one day is almost more than I can take.

    I've been trying to warn Bill McKibben et al for weeks that their high-minded forms of street theater won't mean squat unless progressives and enviros get themselves a revolt movement among Democrats analogous in strategic--if not goals--to the Tea Party among the Repulsives. (I call my version True-Blue Democrats.) Lo and behold, I today heard Nathan Solomon plugging the same progressive scheme--without my clever name--on The Real News Network. Then to hear your affctionate but merited critique of McKibben et all. It's enough to keep a sane person--well, sane.
    Maybe all of us sane souls should buy an island. But alas, no climate is an island...