Archive for Sunday, September 10, 2017

Opinion: Climate deniers: Nothing to see here

September 10, 2017


Katia and Jose? Seriously?

As if it were not bad enough that Houston is still drying out from Hurricane Harvey and South Florida is hunkered down in the face of Hurricane Irma, last week found the newly formed hurricanes Katia and Jose, respectively spinning in the Gulf of Mexico and whirling west across the Atlantic. We face multiple, simultaneous catastrophes.

But it’s not just their timing that has some of us watching weather maps with fearful speculation. It’s also the record-shredding ferocity of the two storms that have so far impacted the United States. They’ve produced superlatives like a Donald Trump press conference.

Harvey dropped more rain on the continental United States than any storm ever has. At about the size of Texas, Irma is a behemoth, not to mention one of the strongest Atlantic storms ever recorded.

And the timing of them, combined with the historic awfulness of them, feels more sinister than simple coincidence, does it not? You find yourself wondering if this might not be a consequence of that inconvenient truth Al Gore has been warning about — if, thanks to global warming, this is just a preview of our ghastly new normal — record-breaking storms lining up like cars at a toll booth to take turns smashing the American coast.

Unfortunately for those of us craving clear cause and effect, the answer from scientists is a bit more nuanced. Asking if global warming caused all this is, it turns out, like asking if old age causes arthritis and bad eyesight. It doesn’t, but it does make those things more likely — and exacerbates them when they occur.

Not that everyone sees the same thing when they look at the weather map. Last year, right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh said that hurricanes are actually part of a vast liberal plot. “It is in the interest of the left to have destructive hurricanes,” he said, “because then they can blame it on climate change ...”

He expanded on that as Irma bore down on South Florida, opining that media and marketers were in on the conspiracy, using hurricanes to drive viewership and sales of bottled water. “So the media benefits with the panic with increased eyeballs,” he said, “and the retailers benefit from the panic with increased sales.”

Limbaugh’s lunacy reflects right-wing orthodoxy, which favors doing nothing in response to climate change on the theory it’s all an expensive boondoggle designed to victimize innocent oil and gas companies. So you get Trump pulling the country out of the Paris climate accord and Florida Gov. Rick Scott forbidding his team to even use the term “climate change.” Where the health of our planet is concerned, Republicans essentially ask us to make a wager that science is wrong.

Mind you, no one had trouble accepting science as authoritative last month when it predicted to the very minute a solar eclipse that darkened a great swath of America. But the eclipse threatened no one’s money pot. Global warming does. So conservatives pretend science is somehow suspect when it says the planet is warming because of fossil fuels. And we should accept it as just — What? Coincidence? — that the fossil fuels industry donated $55.1 million to the Republicans in 2016 alone?

That money is a wager against our one and only planet. And that feels especially obscene on a day when much of Houston is navigable by boat and a monster storm is bearing down on Florida. Nothing to see here, say the climate deniers. Everything is just fine.

Is that dangerous, delusional, and irresponsible? You bet your life.

No, actually, they do.

— Leonard Pitts is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Miami Herald.


Bob Summers 2 months, 1 week ago

Liberal flat Earthers like Pitts thinks man, a natural product of the Earth, is why the climate changes.

Never mind the fact the sun is getting larger, man is why the climate changes.

Because. You know. A million years ago when there was no man, the climate never changed.

Well. Until the dinosaurs show up. Then their flatulence changed the climate.

Ken Lassman 2 months, 1 week ago

You outdid yourself in your stupidity this time, Bob. I nominate this post as your most ignorant post to date, which is quite an accomplishment, I guess.

Bob Smith 2 months, 1 week ago

There's a difference between climate and weather. Das Lennypitts seems to have forgotten that.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 months, 1 week ago

And, Bob Smith. Try reading the whole thing again. You missed a paragraph.

"Unfortunately for those of us craving clear cause and effect, the answer from scientists is a bit more nuanced. Asking if global warming caused all this is, it turns out, like asking if old age causes arthritis and bad eyesight. It doesn’t, but it does make those things more likely — and exacerbates them when they occur."

Ken Lassman 2 months, 1 week ago

You are correct, Bob. Climate is an accumulation of weather as it is measured over time, so in actuality, it takes a while to say that the climate is changing. Now that that is cleared up, things like the Irma and Harvey hurricanes are adding to the changing averages, and there is a reason for those changing averages in the same way as Sammy Sosa's home runs were an indication of something that is changing. Greenhouse gases are the steriods of the atmospheric chemistry, and just as with Sammy Sosa's positive blood tests, the increased accumulation of the greenhouse gases don't lie.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 months, 1 week ago

Oh, yes. The B.S.ers have spoken with their vast scientific knowledge. I wonder if the Bob's would have agreed with Rush that these hurricanes are a Liberal conspiracy to sell out grocery stores and promote climate change, as he hauled his tail out of Florida. Do you think any of his followers stayed behind to fight the liberal conspiracy?

Bob Smith 2 months, 1 week ago

No sensible person believes that any person can control the weather. You seem to have mistaken a the nature of a joke that Rush told. It wasn't a good joke, but it was not meant to be taken literally.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 months, 1 week ago

And yet, his followers do take him literally.

Bob Reinsch 2 months, 1 week ago

Bob, do you have any evidence to support your assertion that Leonard PItts (or any other liberal) believes in the Flat Earth model, or are you just engaged in bovine scatology to reinforce your reputation as a troll?

Bob Smith 2 months, 1 week ago

I recall the Goreacle predicting that hurricanes would be happening more often. There was a 9 year gap from the last major hurricane until 2017. What an inconvenient fact!

Ken Lassman 2 months, 1 week ago

Um, didn't you just say that there is a difference between climate and weather earlier? Climate is typically figured on a 30 year average, or the anomaly from a 100 year calculated average, which means your little factoid is called cherry picking, I believe.

From the final draft of the report being held up by the Trump Administration, the scientific community had this to say about it: "9. Extreme Storms-- KEY FINDINGS Human activities have contributed substantially to observed ocean-atmosphere variability in the Atlantic Ocean (medium confidence), and these changes have contributed to the observed increasing trend in North Atlantic hurricane activity since the 1970s (medium confidence).

For Atlantic and eastern North Pacific hurricanes and western North Pacific typhoons, increases are projected in precipitation rates (high confidence) and intensity (medium confidence). The frequency of the most intense of these storms is projected to increase in the Atlantic and western North Pacific (low confidence) and in the eastern North Pacific (medium confidence)."

Note that instead of stating things in black and white, good science states the probability of a statement being true, and states the confidence level based on the amount of reliable evidence/data to back it up. Let me know if you'd like the references.

Chris Golledge 2 months, 1 week ago

Umm, Bob, maybe you aren't aware, but the world is bigger than the continental US. "... a strong signal is found in proportions of both weaker and stronger hurricanes: the proportion of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has increased at a rate of ~25–30 % per °C of global warming...This global signal is reproduced in all ocean basins."

Richard Aronoff 2 months, 1 week ago

There have been at least 3 major ice ages that geologists know about. The most active decade for hurricanes was the 1860s. The creator of the "hockey stick" graph who lied about winning a Nobel Prize admitted he left out the period known as the Roman Warming to make the graph take that shape. Mars has been warming for years.

Ken Lassman 2 months, 1 week ago

1) There have been many ice ages, mostly caused by the Milankovitch cycle of the earth's orbit. But guess what: it's not in play this time around. Why do you have such a hard time getting that? If your car doesn't start in the morning, it could mean you're out of gas, but not every time: it could also be your battery, your car's computer, you let the oil go dry and the motor locked up, or any number of other possibilities.

2) The 1860s isn't even listed on any of these top hurricane season lists--show me YOUR source:

3) Pure BS--again, show me your source.

4) If you want the real story on Mars, start here: You really need to check this website before you start spouting such distortions or outright lies, Richard. If your information passes this vetted source, then I'll listen to it. If it doesn't, then you'd better have some real sources that reliably show why the scientists who run the Skeptical Science website are wrong.

Chris Golledge 2 months, 1 week ago

I'll add to "There have been at least 3 major ice ages that geologists know about." So, what you are saying is, the earth has responded wildly to forcings in the past; therefore, there is no reason to believe it is responding to the forcing we are causing. What?

Richard Aronoff 2 months, 1 week ago

Kenny: My comment about the ice ages was meant to point out to anyone with a room temperature IQ that Earth's climate has gone through significant changes without any help from humans.

As noted above, 1860 was a typo. It should have said 1880.

My comment about the creator is absolute fact.

My comment about Mars has been written about extensively but if you want one source try National Geographic.

And let's not forget that all of the predictions put out on the first Earth Day by the experts have been wrong.

Ken Lassman 2 months, 1 week ago

But Richard, the relevant point is that there is solid evidence and understanding of the physics behind the conclusion that the Earth has gone through significant climate change BECAUSE of humans this time around. Your statement is kinda like, after ingesting a large amount of arsenic, thinking as you are stooped over the toilet: "well, I have been as sick as a dog before without ingesting arsenic, so it must not be the arsenic."

So 1880s are not on the list I provided you, either. In fact 4 of the top 10, including the worst year of all, 2005, have been since 1994 for Accumulated Cyclone Energy, probably the most accurate measure for these things. Please provide your citation since I think we must be talking about 2 different things.

Regarding Mars, yes--it has been written about extensively, which is why I provided you a detailed rebuttal about how that's like comparing apples and oranges when you're looking at the atmospheric chemistry and heat retention characteristics of the two planets. I don't think your citing the National Geographic refutes anything stated in the Sceptical Science link I provided you.

So where's the beef, Richard? Please provide me with a plausible alternative to the exhaustive evidence and understanding compiled by the climatological sciences that humans have altered the atmosphere's chemistry to cause the observed changes in ocean heat content, polar and glacial mass loss, poleward migration of animal and plant populations, an increase not only in global temperature averages but in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, and on and on.

Glib comments about Mars and past ice ages don't cut it any more.

Ken Lassman 2 months, 1 week ago

And regarding Mr. Mann, his results have been corroborated independently by a number of other researchers since his original "hockey stick" paper. If you want to listen to an extended discussion of this, I recommend the following long presentation of Mr. Scott Denning on youtube:

Carol Bowen 2 months, 1 week ago

Significant changes, but changing more rapidly.

I like the expression, "room temperature IQ" . Clever.

Michael Kort 2 months, 1 week ago

So who are the major deniers of climate change ?.......Hint........this time it is not big tobacco sowing deliberate confusion and false science on behalfoftheir executives and shareholders .

Would it be the oil companies with their 20 refineries in the Texas cost area that were recently hit by Harvey or the smaller inner dependent chemical companies that are all over the Houstan area ?

And how about their boy wonder Donald who had an expensive ocean front estate for sale on St Martins Island that just got clobbered that he has not been mentioningin the press .

Do you think that he is filing an insurance claim ?........or maybe he will Make Mexico Pay For It All ? !

I wonder how Mara-la-go and Doral came out ?

It is the waters temperature that is being lowered by transferin energy into these storms.......air conditioning the ocean for fish....tragic death and loss for humans on land .

If you have enough money you can find a scientist somewhere who will sell their souls tell really big lies for a deposit towards their ongoing income or their retirement accounts .

So many people out of 100 will be sociopaths that will say and do anything to benefit themselves .

Brock Masters 2 months, 1 week ago

I think very few deny climate change; the disagreement stems from allocating man's contribution to it.

It would be as foolish to deny that man contributes to climate change as it would be to deny it completely.

It is interesting that even the hardcore climate change seem to ignore one major contributor - population growth. It is time to remove incentives for having children and start shifting costs to those that have large numbers of children. More people - more resources consumed, more fossil fuel burned, more pollution and more warming of the planet.

Ken Lassman 2 months, 1 week ago

The physics of heat retention through the properties of the greenhouse gases is well understood, and the release of geologically sequestered greenhouse gases through human activities is closely monitored, so there really is very little disagreement in the real scientific community as to the nature and degree of humanity's contribution to the issue. The main questions around this is the ways and rates that the natural systems can reabsorb the carbon that is emitted through human activities.

While it's true that continued population growth can create added burdens in any number of ways, when it comes to the atmospheric chemistry of the planet, it's the total greenhouse gas emissions numbers that really count. The planet can afford more people if they emit significantly less carbon per person; conversely, the planet cannot afford the humans already here at the rates of emissions that we are currently at. Unfortunately the lion's share of per capita emission increases AND population growth will be happening in Asia and Africa, so the climate of the planet is largely out of our hands here in North America except for two important things: we can provide low carbon consumption models of living that the rest of the world can emulate just as they have emulated us in so many other ways; and we can help those in Africa and Asia develop low carbon emission technologies and lifestyles for themselves, either of which would be in our long term economic interest.

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