Monday, July 14, 2014

A Rising Tide

Chances are pretty good that within less than a hundred years, the place where I’m sitting right now will either be under water or right on the edge of the ocean.

I live about a quarter of a mile from the Atlantic Ocean in a suburb south of Miami.  According to overwhelming scientific evidence, this entire area will become submerged due the rising ocean because of climate change.  It’s not just speculation; it’s a fact and signs are already being seen in some of the more vulnerable coastal areas like Miami Beach.

The question isn’t just what can be done about it; it’s more fundamental than that.  It’s getting people to acknowledge that it’s happening.  The scary thing about that is that there are people who appear to be otherwise intelligent enough to grasp the reality but refuse to do so because of political pressure or sheer denialism.

Most of Florida’s senior politicians – in particular, Senator Marco Rubio, former governor Jeb Bush and current governor Rick Scott, all Republican climate-change deniers – have refused to act or respond to warnings of people like Wanless or Harlem or to give media interviews to explain their stance, though Rubio, a Republican party star and a possible 2016 presidential contender, has made his views clear in speeches. “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it. I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy,” he said recently. Miami is in denial in every sense, it would seem. Or as Wanless puts it: “People are simply sticking their heads in the sand. It is mind-boggling.”

Not surprisingly, Rubio’s insistence that his state is no danger from climate change has brought him into conflict with local people. Philip Stoddard, the mayor of South Miami, has a particularly succinct view of the man and his stance. “Rubio is an idiot,” says Stoddard. “He says he is not a scientist so he doesn’t have a view about climate change and sea-level rise and so won’t do anything about it. Yet Florida’s other senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, is holding field hearings where scientists can tell people what the data means. Unfortunately, not enough people follow his example. And all the time, the waters are rising.”

Mayor Stoddard’s pithy statement regarding Mr. Rubio’s denial of climate change captured a few headlines, but it points out the most troubling aspect of this situation.  It’s not that Mr. Rubio has a disagreement with the evidence or the conclusions reached.  He’s already made it quite clear that he’s not a scientist.  His problem is that he doesn’t believe in the overall concept that the climate is actually changing in spite of overwhelming evidence.  He’s provided no proof to back up his claim; he’s just not a believer, and even if he did believe it, nothing we can do can stop it.

That is a view that is meant to end the discussion, not carry it forward or find remedy.  It’s the equivalent of slamming the door shut, and thereby proving Mayor Stoddard’s point.

Marco Rubio plans to run for president, either in 2016 or 2020.  The idea of having someone in a leadership role who simply refuses to acknowledge reality should be enough to put an end to that kind of ambition by voters who would rather not have to swim to the polls.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

And All This Science I Don’t Understand

According to Kentucky state Sen. Brandon Smith (R), climate change is not caused by humans because it’s just as warm on Mars as it is here.

“I don’t want get into the debate about climate change,” state Sen. Brandon Smith said, according to Louisville NPR affiliate WFPL. “But I’ll simply point out that I think in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that. Yet there are no coal mines on Mars. There’s no factories on Mars that I’m aware of.”

However, Smith’s claim is definitely disputable.

The average temperature on Mars is -81 degrees Fahrenheit, while the average temperature on Earth is 57 degrees Fahrenheit, according to NASA.

Elton John knows that.

Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids
In fact it’s cold as hell
And there’s no one there to raise them if you did
And all this science I don’t understand

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Monday, June 2, 2014

How Dare He Enforce The Law

Brace yourself for fuming and fulmination from the GOP as President Obama uses his duly-granted authority to do something.

President Obama will use his executive authority to cut carbon emissions from the nation’s coal-fired power plants by up to 20 percent, according to people familiar with his plans, which will spur the creation of a state cap-and-trade program forcing industry to pay for the carbon pollution it creates.

Mr. Obama will unveil his plans in a new regulation, written by the Environmental Protection Agency, at the White House on Monday. It would be the strongest action ever taken by an American president to tackle climate change and could become one of the defining elements of Mr. Obama’s legacy.

Congress wrote the rules and granted the president the authority to set the regulations.  So of course they’ll try to impeach him for it.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Short Takes

Nigeria — The U.S. has deployed 80 troops to Chad to help in the search for the missing schoolgirls.

Pennsylvania will not appeal the ruling overturning the state’s ban on marriage equality.

Nearly half a million acres in New Mexico are part of a new national monument.

Russia and China signed a major gas pipeline deal.

The Tigers got swept by the team from Cleveland in 11 innings 11-10.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Monday, May 12, 2014

Not Mr. Science

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) declaimed on climate change on Sunday:

“I don’t agree with the notion that some are putting out there, including scientists, that somehow there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what’s happening in our climate,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “Our climate is always changing. And what they have chosen to do is take a handful of decades of research and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that’s directly and almost solely attributable to manmade activity, I do not agree with that.”

ABC’s Jonathan Karl pressed Rubio on his belief that humans don’t have anything to do with global warming.

“But let me get this straight, you do not think that human activity, its production of CO2, has caused warming to our planet?” Karl asked.

“I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it. That’s what I do not — and I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it. Except it will destroy our economy,” Rubio responded.

To paraphrase Neil deGrasse Tyson: “Science is real whether you agree with it or not.”  And it’s not a “notion.”

As for his comment that doing something to stop climate change “will destroy our economy,” that’s not going to mean a lot when Miami Beach is under three feet of water and the cruise ships are docking at the Port of Albuquerque.

I know he’s doing it just to ingratiate himself to the GOP base — ironically the base that is baking in drought in California and Arizona — but all this does is prove that he’s a craven little suck-up and most assuredly not ready to be president no matter what he thinks.

PS: The last guy who made that claim based on his years in office was Dan Quayle, and look what happened to him.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Short Takes

The U.S. is sending a team to Nigeria to assist in locating the missing 300 girls.

Ukraine has a new military commander.

Climate change study says the problem is only getting more urgent.

The White House is backing Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki who is under attack for the situation at the VA hospital in Phoenix.

Haiti confirms 14 new cases of mosquito-borne virus.

The Tigers walloped the Astros 11-4.  At 19-9, the Tigers have the best record in baseball.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Eat A Bug

Via Andrew Sullivan, Joseph Stromberg at Vox makes the case for eating insects.

Put simply, our increasing reliance on factory-farmed meat is killing the planet.

Growing grain and then feeding it to animals so we can eat them — the way the majority of meat is produced nowadays — is incredibly inefficient. Between the carbon dioxide emitted as a result of growing grain and the methane burps emitted by cows as they digest it, it’s estimated that raising livestock generates about 18 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions.

Studies have found that raising insects like mealworms and crickets for food, on the other hand, is much more environmentally friendly, because we don’t need to clear nearly as much land to raise them, they’re cold-blooded — so require less feed per unit of body weight to sustain themselves — and we can consume their entire bodies, wasting little flesh.

[...]

It turns out that pound for pound, eating insects like crickets and mealworms (larvae that later turn into beetles) provides similar levels of fat and protein to conventional meats like beef, chicken, and fish.

[...]

Your first reaction to this article was probably a sense of revulsion. For many readers, there’s something intrinsically gross about the idea of eating insects.

But there’s nothing innate about that disgust. For one, billions of people already eat insects in Asia, Africa, and Latin America every day. More generally, the animals considered to be fit for consumption vary widely from culture to culture for arbitrary reasons.

Most Americans consider the idea of eating horses or dogs repugnant, even though there’s nothing substantial that differentiates horses from cows. Meanwhile, in India, eating cows is taboo, while eating goat is common.

These random variations are the results of cultural beliefs that crystallize over generations, until it begins to seem like a natural truth that eating insects is gross. (io9 has a fascinating history of how that came to happen in European and American culture.) We’re all subject to it: the times I’ve eaten insects, I’ve battled a sense of disgust while objectively enjoying the taste of a crispy fried cricket.

Luckily, these arbitrary taboos can be defeated over time. There was a time when raw fish — served as sushi — was seen as repugnant in mainstream US culture. Now it’s ubiquitous.

With luck, insects — like crickets, for instance, which are closely related to shrimp — may come to seem like elegant hors d’oeuvres.

How about it?  Would you consider adding insects to your diet?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Solar Flare

Just in time for Earth Day:

Homeowners and businesses that wish to generate their own cheap, renewable energy now have a force of conservative political might to contend with, and the Koch brothers are leading the charge. The L.A. Times, to its credit, found the positive spin to put on this: Little old solar “has now grown big enough to have enemies.”

The escalating battle centers over two ways traditional utilities have found to counter the rapidly growing solar market: demanding a share of the power generated by renewables and opposing net metering, which allows solar panel users to sell the extra electricity they generate back to the grid — and without which solar might no longer be affordable. The Times reports on the conservative heavyweights making a fossil fuel-powered effort to make those things happen:

The Koch brothers, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and some of the nation’s largest power companies have backed efforts in recent months to roll back state policies that favor green energy. The conservative luminaries have pushed campaigns in Kansas, North Carolina and Arizona, with the battle rapidly spreading to other states.

…The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a membership group for conservative state lawmakers, recently drafted model legislation that targeted net metering. The group also helped launch efforts by conservative lawmakers in more than half a dozen states to repeal green energy mandates.

“State governments are starting to wake up,” Christine Harbin Hanson, a spokeswoman for Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group backed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, said in an email. The organization has led the effort to overturn the mandate in Kansas, which requires that 20% of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources.

Rachel Maddow reported last night that the state of Oklahoma, the leader in backwards thinking, has passed a law that charges homeowners for using solar panels.

The reason is obvious: solar and other renewable energy sources are a threat to the oil industry, and in America, oil rules.  If the Koch brothers’ fortune had come from the glass panel business, they’d make it their mission to put solar panels on everything.  That’s the way capitalism works, and that’s why they’re buying up every state legislature with more than 100 sunny days in the calendar year.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Short Takes

Something’s Afloat — Australia’s prime minister says satellite images may have found pieces from Malaysia MH 370.

Bugging Out — The Ukraine military is getting out of Crimea.

The Fed is planning to curtail its economic stimulus campaign.

The Obama administration is making climate change data available to help communities deal with it.

Toyota settles federal inquiry into auto defects for $1.2 billion.

Half of Syria’s chemical weapons have been removed.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Saturday, February 1, 2014