Let’s not talk about global warming Where's the profit in that?

burning earthJuly wasn’t just hot,” sez the Times editorial page. “It was the hottest month ever recorded.”

Fourteen of the 15 hottest years have occurred since 2000. Does any serious person not see what’s happening?

Still, the steady approach of catastrophic global warming — no matter how dire, no matter how evident — is never much of a topic for the Wisconsin State Journal editorial board.

  • Are they climate denialists? No, that’s not it. Every once in a while there’s a crumb of evidence that they do know it’s a real thing and that it’s happening.
  • Are they reluctant to ‘call out’ climate denialism or the climate deniers? Well, this seems much more likely. Since climate denialism has for at least a decade functioned as a bright identity marker in our tribal politics, as well as a marker of being in touch with reality — with the Elephants in denial and the Donkeys not — it’s gotten very hard to make the case that oh, everyone’s to blame. Saying, “everyone’s to blame, both sides do it, the truth is somewhere in the middle…” this is the safe spot for American commercial journalism, and of course it’s not always wrong. But to make this claim about climate change is journalistic nonsense, so the State Journal editorial page just shuts up about it. It finds a million other things to talk about.

 


How can the front page be at war with the back page? Wisconsin State Journal shows us how

Paris Climate Conference.  Wisconsin State Journal headline:

“Event goal: Avert global havoc”

WSJ front page

Is this headline controversial? Well, sure and alas, it is.

The headline seems to offer matter-of-fact acceptance that global climate change is real. It is real, of course, but not everyone believes it.

Oh, yes, the insurance industry, the Department of Defense, and scores of U.S. corporations all recognize that climate change is real. Scientists are in consensus. Really, all serious people recognize this looming danger. But that’s not everyone, is it. In point of fact, one of our two major political parties remains ludicrously married to climate denialism.

And that brings us to the back pages of the Wisconsin State Journal. There, on the editorial page, where they ought to be able to speak freely, they’ve got almost nothing to say. On the front page, as we noted, they can say the words “Avert global havoc,” but on the back page, they’re sound asleep. How does this happen? Mr. Milfred, the apparent editorial page editor for life, is snoring away.

Consider Milfred’s recent editorial page celebration of Congressman Paul Ryan — an over-the-top tribute which dubbed Ryan a “statesman” and a figure of “intellectual heft”. Somehow — and we know not how — Milfred seems not to know about Ryan’s nutty stance on climate change.

Writing in New York magazine, Jonathan Chait said this about Ryan’s climate change stance:

During a debate last night for his election to the House, Paul Ryan was asked if he believes that human activity has contributed to global warming. “I don’t know the answer to that question,” he replied, “I don’t think science does, either.”

In fact, science does know the answer. Climate scientists believe with a 95 percent level of certainty (the same level of certainty as their belief in the dangers of cigarette smoking) that human activity is contributing to climate change. There are things science knows, and this is one of them. Scientists may not have the answer to what policies are appropriate for responding to the fact that greenhouse-gas emissions cause changes to the environment, but they can tell us what happens when we release heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere.

This is another way of saying that Paul Ryan is a nut.

Is “nut” too strong a word? Too colorful? Maybe for some. But really, no one should offer up baseless nonsense about a grave problem facing the planet and still have claim to “intellectual heft”.

 


Are climate-science denialists fit for public office? An elephant in the room? What elephant?

Jonathan Chait, writing at nymag.com, believes climate-science denialists should be disqualified from holding public office.

If a candidate for a managerial job at your office insists that two plus three equals seven, it wouldn’t matter how well-qualified this candidate may be at any other aspect of the job…

That’s true about hiring decisions. There are some things so basic, so necessary to get right, that any job applicant with the wrong answer to a critically important question — much less insistence on the wrong answer — needs to be culled from the list of applicants. Organizations really cannot hire an ignoramus without damaging their whole operation and everyone in it.

Simple. No? And yet, for some — and here we turn to the editorial board of our local Wisconsin State Journal — it’s just impossibly difficult.

Toles-GOPSkateThe fact is, climate-science denialism is an almost universal orthodoxy among national Republican office-holders. Paul Ryan (R-Janesville), a perennial favorite at the State Journal, claims he doesn’t know whether human activity is contributing to climate change. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh) blames sunspots:

Johnson said extreme weather phenomena were better explained by sunspots than an overload of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere…. “I absolutely do not believe in the science of man-caused climate change,” Johnson said. “It’s not proven by any stretch of the imagination.”

Alas, Ryan and Johnson illustrate the rule within their party. Almost no Republican on the national stage will acknowledge that climate change is real or that fossil fuels are the major cause of it. Even conservative pundits like George Will and Charles Krauthammer — who cannot, for obvious reasons, fear getting ‘primaried’ or losing their nonexistent public offices — will appear on Fox News and just grasp for reasons to doubt the scientific evidence.

This poses a terrible problem for the Wisconsin State Journal and indeed for all the press trying to appear sensible without ever saying that so-and-so (in fact, so-and-so’s entire party) is peddling truly dangerous foolishness, and has been doing so for at least a decade.

Talk about your elephant in the room, or rather don’t talk about it…  What kind of journalist or journalism takes this absurd oath of silence?


Someday we hope to forgive the Koch brothers Ha ha, remember when you were total dicks?

We look forward someday to forgiving the Koch brothers, to maybe sitting around with them and few of their [former] plutocrat buddies, and laughing about the bad old days (i.e., these days now).

Hoo, boy, remember when you plutocrats were just grotesquely fixated on more and more money? And you were buying up the government, and barreling full speed toward wrecking the planet?

Do we remember? No one let’s us forget! But it was a crazy time. We were having so much fun!!! Buying people, selling people. Then we discovered meditation. And the whole power/greed thing just seemed to fall away. It was pointless in the end…

Yeah, it’s miraculous the way you guys turned your lives around. Now it’s better for everyone.

Well, it’s not perfect, but now at least there’s a future. Say, who wants more tea?!?

Now, admittedly, this is a long-shot. The Koch brothers are 74 and 79. If they’re going to have a sudden spiritual transformation, it needs to happen soon. Bring on the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. The Kochs haven’t much time, nor does the world they are wrecking.

Scrooge and ghost

 


Well that went badly…

As predicted, the elections went well for Republicans, and their owners. Of course, it was bad news for the humans, and the planet, and all those other creatures with fur, fin, and feathers, and zany hopes to survive.

Because there’s a global shit storm coming.

The Pentagon on Monday released a report asserting decisively that climate change poses an immediate threat to national security, with increased risks from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortages. It also predicted rising demand for military disaster responses as extreme weather creates more global humanitarian crises…

And days ago the U.N. Panel on Climate Change warned us, again. We have only a short time to get acting. And acting very seriously.

And yet, as we see in these elections, we are headed in an utterly wrong direction. Kids, that inheritance — the nice blue planet — isn’t going to be there for you. It’s going to be much, much worse. Your folks, many of them, it turns out, aren’t really that tuned in to reality. Advertising by the Koch brothers can easily trump science. Most voters (and all the non-voters) apparently don’t get worked up by their own children’s future calamity:

Only 3 percent of current Republican members of Congress have been willing to go on record as accepting the fact that people are causing global warming. That, at least, was the calculation by PolitiFact, which found a grand total of eight Republican nondeniers in the House and Senate.

Toles - Climate changeClimate scientists might (or might not) get a headline for a day. But we see that they’re no match for billionaire campaign contributors. They’re no match for the fossil fuel industries. They’re no match for Money.  Let’s all say hello to a few more 1%-Republican apparatchiks as they ascend into the halls of government power and the earth goes sideways.

There is no guard rail.

***

We’ve got a whole new class of opiates
To blunt the stench of discontent
In these corporation nation-states
Where the loudest live to trample on the least
They say it’s just the predatory nature of the beast

But, the barons in the balcony are laughing
And pointing to the pit
They say, “Aw look, they’ve grown accustomed to the smell
Now, people love that shit
We’re workin’ it.”

Workin’ It by Don Henley

 


Antarctic Ice Collapse: The Untold Story

Sometimes, the untold story is literally untold. It’s not reported. Doubtless many Americans live in a place — either physically or emotionally — where certain information will not likely penetrate. If you’re reading the Stinkvillle Weekend Advertiser and hearing occasional TV news, god only knows what you know.

For that matter, if you read our local daily or read on-line at Madison.com, carefully, you may discover this listicle“10 Things to Know: This Week’s Takeaways” from the Associated Press, including at #5…

5. NASA SPOTS WORRISOME MELTING OF ICE SHEET IN WESTERN ANTARCTIC

Two new studies show that the ice sheet is starting a slow collapse in an unstoppable way. Alarmed scientists said Monday that means an even higher rise in sea levels than they had feared. Scientists say that over hundreds of years, the ice melt that has started could eventually add 4 to 12 feet to current sea levels.

(The AP’s #1 “Thing to Know” was a tragic mine fire in Turkey. Is their list in any kind of order? Why is the eventual loss of many of the world’s great cities #5? The New York Times editors put it on page 1 above the fold, which is where it belonged, we think.)

Still, the week’s Antarctic Ice news wasn’t completely unreported in Madison, so that’s good. You could make a [weak] argument that Madison’s doing better than the mythical Stinkville. We hope it appeared also in the Wisconsin State Journal‘s print edition, but we don’t know. We just don’t see that anymore except for the Sunday giveaways over at Metcalf’s Sentry.

There’s no law that says adults living in an ostensible democracy need to inform themselves, and in fact many of us don’t. Less than half of us can name the three branches of government. About half of Americans can name one of their U.S. Senators; only a quarter can name both. Is this the best we can do?

Sure, it’s hard to keep up. It’s not just global warming; there’s also what’s up with the Kardashians, but it’s possible to follow both. What’s really grounds for pessimism is how many of us just really don’t want to know about certain important facts. Denialism is becoming a lifestyle. We remember when “denialism” wasn’t even in the lexicon, much less becoming a well-defined market. Now there are media outlets cashing in by ignoring certain facts or by sabotaging the facts when they cannot be ignored. It’s not just Fox News.

Polls show that climate concern goes up and down. Lately it’s down.

Gallop - environment trend It’s a particular problem among the usual suspects:

Americans are less worried about climate change than the residents of any other high-income country…. When you look at the details of these polls, you see that American exceptionalism on the climate stems almost entirely from Republicans. Democrats and independents don’t look so different from people in Japan, Australia, Canada and across Europe.

Toles - GOP Skates off the edge on climate change


Climate spurs debate — some thoughtful, some pretty frustrating

Antarctic Ice SheetThe Western Antarctic ice sheet has begun to collapse. There’s no scenario for reversal and the whole western sheet will be lost. It IS going to happen. This was the conclusion of two separate studies soon to be published in the journals Science and Geophysical Research Letters and reported lots of places but of course not everywhere (see below).

“it shook me a little bit”

Richard B. Alley, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University said he found the new papers compelling. Though he had long feared the possibility of ice-sheet collapse, when he learned of the new findings, “it shook me a little bit,” Dr. Alley said.

On the left (well, really the “center”) there’s a debate about how to communicate to the public. Basically the question is: should news about unfolding climate change emphasize urgency or actual somewhat-nerdy detail? (See: Climate Hawk vs. Serious People for example.)

  • Serious Person“: If you read the studies, this ice sheet “collapse” will be a slow-moving affair, in human terms, not really occurring rapidly until 200 years from now, or even later, at which point we’re on our way to seeing sea levels rise 10 feet or more.
  • Climate Hawk“:  Ya, sure, but we should still have “COLLAPSE!” in the headline just to get attention. If we’re going to avoid the worst of climate calamities, we must act now, now, NOW… within the next 15 years. Telling people that the real shit storm will arrive long after they’re dead is an ineffective motivator (for most of us) to do something NOW.

These are both reasonable arguments, and here at The Daily Tissue we weaselly endorse both, simultaneously.

But meanwhile what’s happening on the right?

Well, it’s unchanged. It’s now a very dumb discussion where facts don’t matter. Climate change is to be ignored, minimized or derided. It’s a foolish orthodoxy. In the week just past Presidential hopeful Marco Rubio (R-FL) reversed himself and said what “conservatives” (at least for now) simply must, must say,

“I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.”

Republican candidates believe (or know?) that they cannot say anything else if they hope to be nominated. So Rubio says it, even though he’s from a state where parts of two major cities and all of the Everglades will drown in the future.

But it’s not just the craven politicians angling to a Republican base. It’s more extensive than that.

Jonathan Chait in his Daily Intelligencer column does a point-by-point takedown of two conservative, millionaire star-pundits — George Will and Charles Krauthammer who will never run for office.

Krauthammer and Will are (or used to be) as good as it gets in the world of conservative movement punditry, and yet there they are on Fox News just grasping for ways to cast doubt on an established scientific consensus, even on the whole scientific field of climate science. WHY? Would they be drummed out of the movement if they broke with Rush Limbaugh?  Would they lose their well-paid pundit gigs? How long can this bubble-think go on?

Remember “Bagdad Bob”?

Bagdad Bob was DOUBTLESS. THE. ONLY. amusing figure in the 2003 Irag war. As Iraqi information minister, “Bob” became hilariously famous for saying things like “There are no American infidels in Baghdad. Never!” as U.S. tanks were rolling by, on camera, in the background behind him. He was a figure of rich satire at a terrible moment. This is what Krauthammer and Will are doing, positioning themselves as American Bagdad Bobs denying climate change, even as — in the background — California’s fire season lasts 75 days longer than a decade ago, rain events become stronger and more frequent in the northeast, and on and on.  

Are we really doomed to do almost nothing at the highest levels of government because of a gridlock where one side enjoys its bubble of misinformation and magical thinking? That’s where the smart money would be wagering for now. Even though it cannot last.

***

 


Dear Wisconsin State Journal: Please stop with the “dream scenes”

When we saw the headline for Sunday’s Wisconsin State Journal editorial — “Three smart steps to help curb climate change” — we thought we’d have a chance to say something nice… which we really DO like to do. “Lower carbon emissions” has been on their “2013 Editorial Board Agenda”, so we’ve been waiting, patiently. And this effort, for the WSJ, was sort of good! They urge 1) raising the gas tax, 2) more money for clean energy R&D, and 3) all of us should waste less energy.

Good for you, WSJ editorial board!

Good for you, WSJ editorial board; those are three good suggestions for curbing climate change.

But wait. Something’s not right… what is it? Oh, yes, of course, only the third suggestion (which is up to individuals) could plausibly happen. In fact, it is happening; many of us are wasting less energy in our daily lives. But the first two — the bigger two — require government action, and we have a federal government that’s unable to act on almost anything. Climate change is a prime example.

Toles - GOP Blocking Tactics

Republican lawmakers have painted themselves into a corner where they can’t ever raise a tax, no matter the reason, because the moment they do, a swarm of well-financed, far-right, anti-tax groups like the Club for Growth will begin working to replace them from office with candidates even more rigidly inflexible and doctrinaire. That’s today’s Grand Old Party. Isn’t it grand?

And then, to make things even worse, most Republican lawmakers are afraid to admit that climate change is real, or that humans are to blame, or that it’s a necessarily a bad thing even if it is occurring…. Some of them figure maybe it’s good thing! Ain’t it grand? We’ve got one our major parties marching ever backward and to the right, singing from a hymnal of dangerous, deliberate, and blind nonsense. Is it likely they’ll act, or be influenced in any way, by the State Journal’s three suggestions? Of course not. They will block any such effort.

Now, does the State Journal know this? Well, surely they must, on account of being Journalists… or because of following the news generally. Well, for any number of reasons, really. So, then, to what degree should we think of this latest Sunday editorial as serious work?

Well, suppose they had urged NASA to save immense amounts of time and money by powering their space vehicles with dilithium crystals, like on Star Trek. Now, dilithium crystals don’t exist (or not yet, except in science fiction). A  call to use these crystals might sound good at first, especially to non-chemists — hell, dilithium crystals, yeah! — but it cannot happen (in reality). We’re not saying the State Journal called for fictional crystals, just that they called for Congress to raise the gas tax. It’s just an analogy but it’s pretty close.