The Bike works, except for the wheels

And the chain. And the pedals. And the handle bars. Oh but the stickers on the frame are okay? No, anonymous NYT Op-Ed writer, you don’t get to do that:

It is one thing to argue that professionals should be willing to serve a bad president in the interests of public service, and it is quite another to argue that the officials working for the president are entitled to disregard and override the president’s decisions because the president happens to be an ignorant buffoon.

Their only option is to come clean, resign in protest and protection of their own good conscience, ability to beg forgiveness and be trusted with an unpaid internship sorting recyclables at the landfill.

Use any other metaphor as needed – spouse abuser, drug addict, anyone known to be a danger to themselves and those around them. Only the context this time is global. You’re stopping them or you’re an enabler. The longer this goes on, the longer it goes on.
And the same goes for the Times op-ed page.

Misleading Investors

gas-pump-climate-changeI guess if that’s how we’re going to see things. But it would be better to state at the outset that every instance of disbelieving, climate change skepticism rises from the deliberate misinformation campaign devised by fossil fuel extraction companies when their own research began to tell them that the delicious smell from the kitchen was their own bacon frying:

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman released the results of an investigation that found one of the world’s largest coal companies had misled the public and its shareholders about the risks climate change could pose to its bottom line.

After several years of investigations, Schneiderman reached an agreement with Peabody Energy that won’t require the company to admit it broke the law and does not entail a fine or other penalty. Instead, Peabody must file revised shareholder disclosures to the Securities and Exchange Commission with new language acknowledging that “concerns about the environmental impacts of coal combustion…could significantly affect demand for our products or our securities.”

The agreement comes just days after Schneiderman issued a subpoena to ExxonMobil, kicking off an investigation into whether the oil giant has misled investors and the public about the basic science of climate change for decades. Exxon has denied any wrongdoing. While the two investigations have some similarities, Exxon could face tougher penalties than Peabody, said Andrew Logan, director of oil and gas programs at Ceres, an investor advocacy group. The allegations against Exxon stretch back much further in time and could potentially be more serious, so the attorney general could pursue more aggressive action against the company, Logan said.

The Exxon practice is the actual real story here, one that goes back to the late seventies. The companies were no fools; they invested their own money in real research because they wanted to know the truth. They just decided that it was more important that you didn’t know. And that you questioned any attempts by the government to reign in your freedom. They even gave you a few things you could say.

Framing the practice of climate deception as ‘no duty’ to be truthful with investors may make it seem like a victimless crime, we’re all adults here and all’s fair in love n’ bidness, but c’mon.

Liberal Myths about Climate Change

CorsoThis is pretty right on, and not in a good way:

But before moving on, one more point about liberal and conservative denial: Naomi Klein has suggested that conservative denial may have its roots, it will surprise many liberals, in some pretty clear thinking. [i] At some level, she has observed, conservatives climate deniers understand that addressing climate change will, in fact, change our way of life, a way of life which conservatives often view as sacred. This sort of change is so terrifying and unthinkable to them, she argues, that they cut the very possibility of climate change off at its knees: fighting climate change would force us to change our way of life; our way of life is sacred and cannot be questioned; ergo, climate change cannot be happening.

We have a situation, then, where one half of the population says it is not happening, and the other half says it is happening but fighting it doesn’t have to change our way of life. Like a dysfunctional and enabling married couple, the bickering and finger-pointing, and anger ensures that nothing has to change and that no one has to actually look deeply at themselves, even as the wheels are falling off the family-life they have co-created. And so do Democrats and Republicans stay together in this unhappy and unproductive place of emotional self-protection and planetary ruin.

If one of our strengths is the ability to be honest with ourselves, then we need to go the Fully Monty. It means not being afraid to go there, if ‘there’ is about substantial changes to our way of life in order to stave off planetary ruin. Sure, the extent to which you already live close to work, take alternative transportation, do not own one car per-driving-age person in your household will make you more open and amenable to solutions that are simply out of the question to other people. But that’s the point above. maybe we need to start with ‘out of the question’ and try to work forward.

Get around the anger and soft-pedaled pedantry about climate change by blasting straight through it. It won’t make the tough decisions go away, but maybe we could get face-to-face with them sooner rather than later.

Image: The Corso, Rome, author photo from June 2014

Quitting the Gang

kool_and_the_gangsomethin__specialYou may wonder, as I do, why and how conservatives (Republicans… however you choose to respectfully refer to them) can continue to fuel climate change denial. Evidence suggests that the house-of-cards policy package ( low taxes, drill everywhere, no regulations) they support cannot admit one such reality without a torrent of others coming into the discussion and justification for their political existence vanishing overnight. A pathetic justification, it also makes the most sense.

However, there are conservative pockets drawing pretty ‘reform conservative’ stick figures in the wet cement. As the concrete dries, so do their creaky explanations evaporate. Especially when it comes to climate change, one extraordinarily sawn limb gets walked out on, and it’s really something. A crazy metaphor involving an insurance salesman at your door is proffered to explain why now is still not the time to do anything about carbon emissions… caveat lector. But a rejoinder is offered in the comments that is quite instructive:

I generally think you show a good appreciation for the explanatory power of metaphor and incentives, but this piece is a disappointment. Your insurance policy description is fundamentally flawed: insurance exists to refund some of the losses that will indisputably occur if a low-probability event takes place. Changing our energy consumption and production habits is an action designed to reduce the probability of the catastrophic events occurring. Let’s think about a high-pollution lifestyle as similar to gang membership in the inner city, a popular conservative issue. It may cost a gang member real present resources and satisfaction to quit the gang. It may not even improve the gang member’s chance of not being shot, unless others also stop the violence. But the gang member has no moral claim on others to cease their violence unless he quits as well. And if he continues his present lifestyle he is unlikely to live a healthy or successful life. Based on your recommendation, if fewer of his friends than he expected were killed last year even though he didn’t quit the gang, and he could really use some drug money now, he should stick with it- after all, it’s uncertain future benefit versus known present costs.

People around the world are losing their homes and dying while we argue about whether or not the causality is strong enough, or what magnitude of impact we’re trying to avert.

Lying or stupid was a 2004-vintage take on why Republicans said or supported certain things. Perception certainly evolves and as they get closer and closer to honesty, the trend horizon  collapses on available policy prescriptions. That is intentional, and candidates with (R) should rewarded for learning how to run out the clock for the sake of propping up their ideology. One prize we might suggest is election losses, constant and everywhere.

Image: One of my very favorite bands and records of 1981. Never quit this gang.

Disconnect on Energy

Back from the sunny Med. Where to begin? There is all kinds of stuff, but K at BJ had a really good post on local municipal utilities, even in conservative areas, breaking away from the nationalized ALEC propaganda about alternative energy, doing their own thing, saving money and generally moving ahead smartly:

Just 10 weeks after breaking ground, construction of Bryan Municipal Utilities’ solar generation project has been completed, and power is being supplied to Bryan’s electrical grid.
BMU broke ground for the $7.42 million solar array in early December 2011. By mid-January 2012, all 23,530 solar modules were in place, and by the first week of February, the solar plant was fully operational.
“The solar arrays are producing just as expected, and we have seen them perform up to the maximum capacity of 1.8 megawatts on sunny days,” said Steve Casebere, director of utilities.
As of February 13, the solar field has produced 100 MWh, which means it has also produced 100 solar renewable energy credits. BMU sold 2,500 solar RECs produced in 2012 to American Electric Power and Duke Energy for $606,500.
In addition to the power and energy credits, what the solar plant does not produce is valuable. With the energy produced to date, the solar field has saved 76 tons of carbon dioxide and 3.6 tons of methane gas emissions.

Meanwhile, as she says, conservative and libertarian lobbyists dig in against these and other success stories.

Wet Behind the Turnip Truck Yesterday

Pierce calls this the Dare to be Ignorant Protection Act of 2013 and I’ll have a hard time swimming up the Nile on that one:

In biology class, public school students can’t generally argue that dinosaurs and people ran around Earth at the same time, at least not without risking a big fat F. But that could soon change for kids in Oklahoma: On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Common Education committee is expected to consider a House bill that would forbid teachers from penalizing students who turn in papers attempting to debunk almost universally accepted scientific theories such as biological evolution and anthropogenic (human-driven) climate change.

Gus Blackwell, the Republican state representative who introduced the bill, insists that his legislation has nothing to do with religion; it simply encourages scientific exploration. “I proposed this bill because there are teachers and students who may be afraid of going against what they see in their textbooks,” says Blackwell, who previously spent 20 years working for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. “A student has the freedom to write a paper that points out that highly complex life may not be explained by chance mutations.”

Stated another way, students could make untestable, faith-based claims in science classes without fear of receiving a poor mark.

HB 1674 is the latest in an ongoing series of “academic freedom” bills aimed at watering down the teaching of science on highly charged topics. Instead of requiring that teachers and textbooks include creationism—see the bill proposed by Missouri state Rep. Rick Brattin—HB 1674’s crafters say it merely encourages teachers and students to question, as the bill puts it, the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of topics that “cause controversy,” including “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”

Eric Meikle, education project director at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) in Oakland, California, says Oklahoma has proposed more anti-evolution legislation than any other state, introducing eight bills with academic freedom language since 2004. (None has passed.) “The problem with these bills is that they’re so open-ended; it’s a kind of code for people who are opposed to teaching climate change and evolution,” Meikle says.

You don’t say, Eric. Friday reading, indeed.

Climate Broderism

As in the late Washington Post columnist David Broder, who made a real name for himself with the kind of ‘both sides do it’, why can’t ‘Obama and Boehner have a drink and settle this like Tip and Ronny used to’ false equivalence Villager-ism that makes anyone paying attention from outside the beltway feel like they’re picking up a signal from Venus on the state flower satellite dish. Anyway, this is a bizarre turn but because it’s right there in the paper of record (and elsewhere) we would be remiss in not mentioning it. Dave Roberts, via LGM:

Self-proclaimed moderates like to lecture anti-Keystone XL activists that they are “distracting” and “counterproductive,” without spelling out what the hell that means, yet they seem bewildered when that makes the activists in question angry.

Let’s review. This weekend, close to 50,000 people gathered for the biggest rally ever against climate change, a threat Revkin acknowledges is enormous, difficult, and urgent. Revkin and his council of wonks took to Twitter to argue that the rally and the campaign behind it are misdirected, absolutist, confused, and bereft of long-term strategy. They had this familiar conversation as the rally was unfolding.

As a result, Revkin suffered the grievous injury of a frustrated tweet from Wen Stephenson, a journalist who has crossed over to activism. This gave the wounded Revkin the opportunity to write yet another lament on the slings and arrows that face the Reasonable Man. He faced down the scourge of single-minded “my way or the highway environmentalism,” y’all, but don’t worry, he’s got a thick skin. He lived to tell the tale.

This is all for the benefit of an elite audience, mind you, for whom getting yelled at by activists is the sine qua non of seriousness. The only thing that boosts VSP cred more is getting yelled at by activists on Both Sides.

Read the whole thing. This is happening on the NYT Green blog. As Loomis explains, the most important thing for Revkin is compromise with the big polluters, no matter how wrong they are or how much their industries are the cause of it all and their lobbying keeps any solutions from being considered much less implemented.

Themes on a Variation

Apologies – fun but very busy day yesterday. Two good things not to miss. Okay, good is not the word.

Sandy was devastating to scientific research on a scale that we probably can’t imagine:

Flooding and blackouts caused by super storm Sandy have had a devastating impact on scores of scientists in the Big Apple, with one research center losing thousands of lab mice as well as precious reagents—a situation that could set some researchers back years.

At New York University’s Smilow Research Center, on the eastern edge of Manhattan, which lost power shortly after Sandy struck on Monday night, hundreds of biological samples were destroyed as freezers thawed and refrigerators warmed. And as animal care facilities in the basement flooded, hundreds of mice and rats were killed—animals that had been painstakingly genetically engineered for use as disease models.

And, some people aren’t going to take it anymore, and we need more of them. Mainstream media types have actually no constituency beyond their own sake and that of their corporate super-structures that exist because of the 24-7 need for news vacuum that is their own creation. This has to change:

And I told them that I was there, in that room, because the national conversation we’re having about this situation, this emergency, is utterly inadequate —or, really, nonexistent. And I looked Peter in the eye, and told him that I’m sorry, but that’s completely unacceptable to me. If we can’t speak honestly about this crisis — if we can’t lay it on the line — then how can we look at ourselves in the mirror?

Since I had requested the meeting, I told Peter that I hoped to frame the discussion around two points:

First: We need to see a much greater sense of urgency in the media’s coverage of climate change, including in the Globe‘s editorial and opinion pages. This is more than an environmental crisis: it’s an existential threat, and it should be treated like one, without fear of sounding alarmist, rather than covered as just another special interest, something only environmentalists care about. And it should be treated as a central issue in this election, regardless of whether the candidates or the political media are talking about it.

Misogyny for the Planet

When Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock talks about rape and what God intends, is there any difference between that and rationale claimed by those who deny global warming? Aren’t the Kochs and BPs of the world spreading doubt about the effects of their/our actions on the planet as a way of justifying our/their right to pollute? After all, they don’t dispute global warming with science, but with ideology.

Another example is when Mr. Phillips discusses his take-no-prisoners strategy on Republicans who stray from the fold by talking about alternative energy sources.

Mr. Hockenberry: You said “We’ve made great headway.” What it means for candidates in the Republican side is, if you buy into green energy or you play footsie on this issue, you do so at your political peril?

Mr. Phillips: You do. Absolutely. And that’s the big change, and it is important. Again, I remember four, five or even three years ago, John, a lot of Republicans, they would play games with this. They’d say: “O.K., oh gosh, I think I need a green energy agenda. But I won’t go all the way and support cap and trade.” They did. They tried to walk down the middle. And that’s wrong. I think it’s philosophically inconsistent, but it’s also politically disadvantageous. And we’ve worked hard to make that so, by the way.

Legitimate rape? There is a very direct link between overt religiosity and not worrying when bad things happen to people or planet (though interestingly, the fate of profits are exempted from this formulation: evil visited upon profits is somehow the fault of government or other secular forces, by definition against God and thereby completing the circle) because it is somehow ordained by God. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be happening. You’ve got your Ipso in my facto. That is how they are defining their own logic. The consistency is startling.

Ignore This

Don’t even think about the fact that 2010 saw the largest spike in global warming gases in 50 million years:

Harmful carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels made their biggest ever annual jump in 2010, according to the US Department of Energy’s latest world data released this week.

China led the way with a spike of 212 million metric tons of carbon in 2010 over 2009, compared to 59 million metric tons more from the United States and 48 million metric tons more from India in the same period.

“It’s big,” Tom Boden, director of the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center Environmental Sciences Division at the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, told AFP in an interview.

“Our data go back to 1751, even before the Industrial Revolution. Never before have we seen a 500-million-metric-ton carbon increase in a single year,” he said.

Mm Hmm. So there’s at least two levels here: what you are doing personally to address this fact (it counts) plus what are the useless politicians who represent you doing. Unless I’m mistaken (and/or you’re reading this from another country), that’s two levels of apathy. Blaming China and India isn’t going to do anything about your commute, your inefficient house, the amount of waste you generate. Find some place that seems just beyond manageable and start there. At first, it seems true; you can’t do anything. Until you start doing something, even a little, and wanting to do more. Nothing to gain but a little superiority and the transferable right to bitch.

via Juan Cole.