Saturday, July 2, 2011

Beware the Banality of Evil - Heartless at the Heartland Institute SICCC

SICCC is the eponymous acronym for the Sixth International Climate Change Conference hosted by the Heartland Institute on Thursday, June 30 and Friday, July 1, which was located at a very swank Marriott Hotel in Washington, DC.  It wasn't really about climate change though - it was about denying humans are causing climate change...and denying it is ever likely to cause any problems for us.
You'd think these right-wing ideologues would have learned to think twice about embarrassing names after the skulduggery engaged in by CREEP (for any so young they post-date Nixon, that was the notorious Committee to Re-Elect the President).  But I guess they are so arrogant it never occurs to them to imagine there might be a problem with any edict they choose to issue.

I arrived Wednesday afternoon and took the Metro to Wardley Park.  Three young people sat across the aisle and debated the merits of a vacation in West Virginia.  "I think it's pretty there," ventured the young man, and one of his female companions replied, "Yeah it is - except now there's mountaintop removal".  This thought silenced the discussion and the rest of the way they just sat quietly, looking glum.
Even from a window in the lobby it's obvious the trees in Washington are dying from pollution.  After I checked in, I went back outside to walk several blocks along Connecticut Avenue to the zoo.  Following are pictures of dying trees, which are interspersed with some notes from the seminars at the conference, and of course some of the animals.  At the zoo, not the conference.  This street is lined with large old oaks, and most of them have transparent leaf cover, clear evidence of decline.
Not surprising considering the cause is tropospheric ozone, the young trees are faring no better.  This flowering ornamental is completely dead and the one just beyond has hardly any leaves left.
It does have some curious itty bitty growths.  I don't know if they are fruits with a fungus, or all fungus.
But I am certain that crowns are only this misshapen when they have lost entire, substantial branches.
Bare sticks protrude from just about every single one - which makes you wonder just how many have been amputated as a precaution for safety reasons.
I originally decided to register for the conference on a whim, even though I wasn't sure why.  More than once I wondered what possessed me, until the day I was en route and suddenly remembered I had been asked the same thing, many years ago, when I went to Poland with my ex-husband.  He was attending the quadrennial International Congress of Mathematicians, which was happening a year late due to the notorious "Crackdown", to receive the first-ever Nevanlinna Award.  While I was there I was determined to travel to Auschwitz.
I asked some of his Polish colleagues about transport and every single one of them wanted to know "Why?"  They were uniformly astonished and repelled that I had any interest in visiting the site of the concentration camp, even though to me it was the obvious thing to do - having come so far already.  I had to explain that I had been a little fascinated with the Holocaust ever since I first learned of it  - because it was clearly the most monstrously evil thing that ever been perpetrated in human history (until now).  I wanted to see it for myself.  I suppose like many people I wanted to know - but never can - what would I have done had I been confronted with the choice at the time - would I have taken the easy way out and pretended the camps didn't exist?  Are all people capable of such unthinkable malice?  I don't want to go overboard on a blog with Godwin's Law - but that is honestly what I thought.
And so when I remembered that question I recognized why I felt impelled to go to the Heartland Institute.  These old white men (and they are overwhelmingly old white men) who detest the very notion that humans are capable of altering our climate in a dangerously destabilizing way, are the main opinion shapers of climate denialism in the media and in politics.  Of course many of them are petty paid bureaucrats and pseudo-academics (see Prof. Mandia's list of their so-called qualifications) but short of sneaking into a boardroom at Exxon or Koch Industries, this conference was the closest I was going to get to the nexus of the orchestrated campaign to discredit not only science but attack the courageous and devoted individual practitioners of it.  The evil of climate change and pollution being perpetrated on future generations and all the other species on Earth is the greatest crime imaginable, other than, perhaps, if we decided to set off every nuclear bomb in the arsenals - and I wanted to see the perpetrators at first hand for myself.
So after spending some excruciating time listening to them pontificate in a series of presentations, that is the phrase that popped into my head - the banality of evil (hence the original title).  Of course it's a phrase that has become so familiar that it has pretty much lost all meaning, but it struck me with the force of realizing that "oppressive regime", which also meant little to me until I went to Poland in 1983, was a palpable description.  It WAS, quite literally, an oppressive feeling everywhere.  No shops, no music, no conversation, no vibrancy.  In the same visceral impact, the banality of the evil of climate deniers feels like a penetrating, omnipresent sullying filth.

I confess I was a miserable failure as a journalist.  I didn't have the gumption to ask any of my questions, such as

1.  What responsibility do parents have to their children to provide care when the experts determine it is necessary for their survival even if medical care is against their beliefs -  and are we, the custodians of this planet, liable if we don't take advice from the experts to stop burning fuel, and instead pray while we let it die of a rising fever?

Or, 2.  If the amount of anthropogenically generated CO2 so far isn't enough to alter the climate, what would be?  How much can we put in the air before it's a problem?  IS THERE ANY LIMIT? (keeping in mind these figures from SkepticalScience:  "About 40% of human CO2 emissions are being absorbed, mostly by vegetation and the oceans. The rest remains in the atmosphere. As a consequence, atmospheric CO2 is at its highest level in 15 to 20 million years. A natural change of 100ppm normally takes 5,000 to 20,000 years. The recent increase of 100ppm has taken just 120 years.")
Of course the main concern of this blog is about trees dying from ozone, so what I really wanted to ask was,

3.  Regardless of whether CO2 is a natural plant food, or whether an excess will interfere with a benevolent climate for vegetative growth - what's going to absorb it and produce oxygen when all the trees and other plants are dead from ozone, and the food chain in the sea is disrupted from acidification?
Because Senator Inhofe was SICCC, Cato Institute Senior Fellow Pat Michaels stood in as the opening speaker at breakfast.  Now this was a repast that nobody the least concerned about methane pollution - or cholesterol - would put on the menu!
Between his two talks he more or less encapsulated everything you need to know about deniers, so most of this post will concentrate on his comments.
He started off with a chart, which indicated that had we passed Waxman/Markey cap on carbon legislation, we would have committed to reducing emissions 83% by 2050.
His chart demonstrated that emissions of CO2 per person in 2050 would have to be reduced to the same level per capita as was average in the year 1867.
Not possible was his conclusion, which was, amazingly, exactly the point I was making in the flier I had printed to distribute, which is that we aren't going to be able to replace the same amount of dirty energy with clean energy soon enough to avert catastrophic warming - and the deniers know it!  It's time to admit that we are going to have to drastically conserve - sacrifice! - as well as switch to clean energy.  His next point predictably was that China has surpassed the US in emissions at 42% per year, so there's no point trying to reduce anyway let alone spend the money.  " it does not matter" he averred, if we cut back emissions, which always strikes me as odd since this argument against US action is so often espoused by the same people who like to yammer on about how our country is the greatest leader in the world.
I took a closer shot of this tree, to set the girth of the massive trunk against the stone columns next to it.  What a tragedy to see majestic trees dying.  Look at all the sunlight spilling to the ground around it, where it should be deep cool shade.
Here's a perfect example of the well-intentioned untruths that gives deniers some pretense of credibility, this one is from Lester Brown published in Treehugger:

"Although some of the prospects look good for moving away from coal, timing is key. Can we close coal-fired power plants fast enough to save the Greenland ice sheet? If not, sea level will rise 23 feet. Hundreds of coastal cities will be abandoned. The rice-growing river deltas of Asia will be under water. And there will be hundreds of millions of rising-sea refugees. If we cannot mobilize to save the Greenland ice sheet, we probably cannot save civilization as we know it."
Now, if he wants to say that getting rid of coal will help slow down the melting of Greenland - maybe even by a century or two or more, who knows - and buy precious time for (some of) civilization as we know it, well okay.  But considering no amplifying feedback other than the albedo effect, it's still GOING to happen, it's only a question of when.
If the most informed among us are going to patronize us like ignorant children who can't do the maths, then they really can't expect and aren't looking for the fundamental changes we need to make in the entire way government and economic systems function - and they're not doing a thing to prepare people for the disasters that have already started and are going to exponentially increase.
One of the first things Michaels began with, by way of introduction of himself, was the pseudo self-deprecating admission that he is not in fact the person who released the "climategate" emails - for which he says he has been accused (while of course gloating visibly over the scandal).  Now, I am pretty sure I heard him continue in a laughing sotto voce with something very near to "...and there are people in this room who know who did."  
Unfortunately the Institute in its technological whizziness has yet to post videos of the sessions as promised for the following morning - so I haven't been able to double check that I heard him correctly.  If I did though, it's important to note that those private emails were most likely stolen and not leaked by one of the correspondents - and if so, whoever released them is a criminal...and if Pat Michaels knows somebodies who knows who did it, then the police should have a little chat with him and find out who those somebodies might be...because withholding evidence of a criminal act is criminal too, I think.  Evenutally it should be on the video record.  Just sayin'.
After passing all those dying trees I arrived at the entrance to the zoo.
Just looking down the entrance, the trees are pitifully thin - and you know they are pruning out anything remotely bare.
There are the familiar, alarming holes above stains from oozing fluid because their interiors are rotting.
And evergreens like this cryptomeria have needles turning brown and falling off.
This trunk has a slash in its side which is no doubt where fluid is escaping from this atrocious hack job high above.
Next Dr. Michaels treated us to the "Stupid People Hypothesis" which I gather is a belief mistakenly harbored by warmists who erroneously attribute stupidity to people who aren't, thus assuming that they will be incapable of adapting to increasing temperatures, (which, of course, are all part of a naturally occurring cycle).  By way of evidence, he cited a study he did indicating that heat-related deaths are declining in almost all 29 urban American cities in the sample, particularly in the Southern region where, even though they have more elderly people, they have already learned how to compensate.
Heat related deaths are going up in Seattle because there is a lag, they haven't figured out yet how to stay  alive for instance by staying in special cooling centers during heat waves.  He predicted that heat-related deaths will be squeezed northwards, off the map through Canada as people brilliantly, in defiance of those morose climate scientists, adapt to gradually rising, naturally occurring temperatures.
He even offered an explanation for why there were 35,000 deaths in Europe during the record heatwave of 2003:  The health care workers "went to the beach in August and left the old people" to fry in their un-air-conditioned apartments.  YOU know how callous those French are!

This is PROVEN because, in a subsequent heatwave in 2006, they didn't die in such numbers because - tada, I kid you not!! - Europeans discovered window air conditioners in Walmart.
Abruptly he declared "...enough of stupid people hypothesis" and that was good because I was throwing up in my mouth a little bit at that point.
One of his favorite slides which he dwelled on more than once was a picture of the fictitious State Science Institute from Ayn Rand's very own sophomoric excuse for rampant unbridled selfishness "Atlas Shrugged" which he gleefully alleged is comparable to the National Science Foundation, a respected institution he dubbed "Home of the Hotheads".  oh yes, they love Ayn at the Heartless Institute - there is her pinhead right at the top of their website!
This is how idiotic his arguments are and lame his aspersions became - as an example of political bias in scientific papers, he reproduced the headline of a letter published in Nature - Vol 470 on 17 February 2011:  "...more intense precipitation extremes" as a gratuitous redundancy between "more intense" and "extremes"!!!!  Uh, doesn't he get that the extremes are extremes of "more" as in floods, and "less" as in droughts, both of which will be more intense?  Apparently not, and neither did his audience, which chortled in admiration at this clumsy misreading of simple English.
But it got incomparably worse - he compared the energy revolution of the past century to what he anticipates will happen in the next 100 years, which is that "...we will innovate our way out of the problem that doesn't exist."  By way of example he offered "TWO WORDS - SHALE GAS".  Have no fear, our fabulous, unparalleled, exceptional homo sapiens sapiens "" will save us!!  Never mind that the stated amount of reserves are exaggerated, and there is massive pollution from the extraction process, and leaving aside of course any emissions of "plant food" from burning it for power - SHALE GAS will come to our rescue!!  Flames coming out of your kitchen faucet?  Use them to make popcorn!  Read Decline of the Empire for a more thorough examination of the perils of fracking.
In between Michaels two stints we got to listen to Anthony Watts, on whose illustrious blog I was once featured as a climate zombie in a photograph with Jim Hansen, to my enduring delight!  In fact, I had toyed with the idea of going to the Heartland Conference as a zombie - you know, that fearsome creature who, like any common climate denier deception, gets shot down over and over but still won't die?  But I thought that would be too confrontational in a nice hotel.
Watts began by recalling, as I've heard deniers are wont to do, that he initially once was a climate alarmist himself - and he recounted that he was inspired by Jim Hansen on the teevee to start a program to plant 250,000 trees on National Arbor Day back in 1990 and '91.

What set him on path to skepticism was his realization that the temperature rise shown by measuring stations is related to population density.  Now this strikes me as a perfect illustration of a person who simply does not have the constitutional fortitude (and it's tough, make no mistake) to accept the implications of climate change, and the incipient uncomfortable revelation that planting trees is not nearly sufficient to save us, and so casts about for anything no matter how ridiculous to refute the implacable science.  

Then he began a vivid illustration of why there can be no such thing as tipping points from additional CO2 in the atmosphere, an analogy having to do with salt and soup.  For me it constituted a rare moment of bitter mirth.  CO2 in the atmosphere is like salt in soup you see, there is a saturation point after which you can't taste any extra salt, therefore no tipping point can result.  Seriously, this is what passes as chemistry with these morons!  I had the abruptly discomfiting idea that since I could follow every word spoken - even though I didn't agree with it - there was little problem with this confab which is that if there was any real science being discussed, I can guarantee I wouldn't have been able to follow a thing other than "the" and "and".  Seriously I admit I am that ignorant.
Next we heard from Tim Ball, a former climate professor at U Winnipeg, who opened with this lame attempt at humor from the NY Times:

"Why did the Canadian cross the road?  To get to the middle."  Seriously.  Like he is the middle!  He is a far right crackpot.  But anyway.

Then he launched into a paranoid rant that can hardly be described as middle of anything, for instance, that the IPCC goal is to "demonize" CO2.
His paranoia got more and more evident as he pronounced that in the law, a premeditated crime is much worse, and accused various federal scientific agencies or "orchestrated" political statements and "hatching a plot".  He called with great acclaim for the disbanding of IPCC, the World Meteorological Association and suggested instead that all climate research henceforth be undertaken by museums.  Maybe that's because the Koch brothers bought the Smithsonian?

The ultimate crux of his message can be discerned in a quote he chose by Napoleon:  "Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence."  In this case he made it clear that in his opinion the IPCC is guilty of deliberate malice.

From such sweeping deliriums are spawned ever more ludicrous and petty inanities, such as that during Hansen's Congressional testimony on June 23, 1988, which "lit the bonfire of the greenhouse vanities" (har har) the air conditioning was deliberately disabled making the audience sweat.  "These things do not happen by accident," was the ominous warning.
I discovered this ludicrous assertion was repeated by the National Review, and who knows who else, but it kind of begged the question as to why the a/c was set so low for SICCC that my toes were freezing.

Never mind.  In the question period a member of the audience brought up the topic of ocean acidification, and whether there is a strategic transition in emphasis going on.  Indeedy according to Michaels , "They've lost it on climate change" so "I suspect ocean acidification is the next big thing".
Timothy Ball took it a little further and opined that "they" are reverting back to the original agenda of the nefarious "Club of Rome" which I know little about but I gather is some sort of demonic cabal.  Oh right, limits to growth.  Now, isn't that a preposterous notion!  In case anyone wants to know, the deniers appear to be very, very concerned that overpopulation is again the "vehicle to push"...and that potable water will be another major issue.

Sigh.  Next up was a debate between a "Skeptic" and a "Warmist" (that's what they call climate hawks when they're trying to be polite, instead of "alarmist" or "hotheads" or "liars" - oh yes - Fred Singer called Michael Mann a liar...but that came later.) Dr. Scott Denning, professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State U, presented the case for AGW, while Dr. Roy Spencer from the University of Alabama stood for the "Skeptic" cause.
As an aside it's quite amusing how they are at pains in their talks and on their website to list the credentials of deniers, particularly any university affiliation, while at the same time denigrating climate scientists as part of a corrupt academic conspiracy.  I mean, which is it?

The claim was made that they sincerely invite "alarmists" to speak and none of them accept, except Professor Denning.  During break one woman told me she thinks AGW is bunk because temperature lags the rise in CO2.  I wish I had a coherent rebuttal to this standard denier canard for her, and it is why I think that more climate scientists should attend the HI conferences, presuming they really are invited to speak, and won't.  Just to satisfy myself, I looked it up and found the answer on SkepticalScience (with a great Greenman video at the end), and a comment which as a chicken farmer I appreciate:

"...gotta love this quote from Deltoid in answer to the CO2 lag argument: "See also my forthcoming paper: "Chickens do not lay eggs, because they have been observed to hatch from them".
I could be wrong but I think she might be an example of a persuadable "skeptic" if somebody knowledgeable could answer her questions - although of course if she bothered she could find real science just as easily as I did.  So maybe not - but even Dr. Denning said he wished some other climate warmist scientists should be there.  She may be one of the "unknowing pawns" referred to by Greenman in his video mentioned above, when he says:  "The majority of climate deniers are unknowing pawns who have been manipulated by fear, and ignorance, to continue spreading a few carefully crafted propaganda memes.  As I've studied this debate, the wonder has always been, the depths of dishonesty and cynicism that are common practice among the paid professional climate denier community."

Now, if I were more prepared I could have just read that quote several times until I memorized it by heart before I went to Washington, and then I could have skipped the entire trip, all the humiliation, and saved a bundle of money too.

Spenser was obsequiously smarmy throughout - and ridiculously rude and contemptuous, when he indicated he couldn't even think of a question for Denning!  Considering the format was already on the schedule indicating they were to finish by each asking a question of the other, I was like - are you kidding?
I had been a little disappointed to see that Viscount Lord Monkton would not be speaking, since he is sort of famous and crazy and goofy and all, but after listening to Fred Singer,  I could see why - who needs TVMOB when you've got a daft, doddering buffoon like Singer instead?  I really loved it when he predicted that we won't be able to get the definitive proxy temperature data until the climategate investigation is finished!  Is he stuck in a time machine?  Apparently so.

While there I was impressed with the number of legislators I met in the audience, imagining their dedication in learning about climate change, and willingness to spend all that money that personally I had to scrimp and save to afford...until I noticed this from the conference website:

"Elected officials are welcome at all panels and discussions for the entirety of the conference. The registration fee will be waived for elected officials and staffers.
If you are a member of The Legislative Forum at The Heartland Institute, Heartland also will arrange and pay for two nights’ accommodation and reimburse you up to $500 for travel expenses."

Very clever.  They definitely get a turnout that way, and why not?  It's a free trip for any elected official, and of course many of them will go home with warm fuzzy feeling about the HI, having received a free stay in a hotel where prices start at $250/night!  Of course, you have to have some funding to provide an inconsequential perk like that.  And the Heartless Institute, as we were promised by their fearless founder in the very beginning, does NOT take any money from fossil fuel industry.  So how come those scientists that are awash in taxpayer money - Billions of it! - don't sponsor free trips for elected officials to their conferences?  Silly scientists.

Still it was all very exciting because I had a couple of BIG celebrity moments that more than made up for not catching a sight of TVMOB, one was the aforementioned Anthony Watts, about which, if only I were a comic genius like Kathy Griffen, I could describe in a super clever way on a video, because there he was, right in front of me at the checkin line, Himself.  I have to make that font big because he's, um, big and since I don't know how to dispense a raunchy hysterically funny monologue like Kathy, I'll just have to share my pictures instead...
 I could hardly focus the lens I was so thrilled and star-struck to see him.
 Can you see the adorable winking face in this wedgie?  How could anything so cute be threatening?
And then the most important celebrity moment that made the whole trip worthwhile was obtaining a photograph with a lovely young woman who was attending incognito (and so she shall remain nameless).
I hope she will forgive me for posting our picture, but as she is one of my major heros I cannot resist - this was a greater joy than posing with Obama would be (even before I learned he sold out to banks and the biofuel industry!).  She will never sell out and knew enough not to flaunt her presence.  Maybe she has more experience in how ruthless these people are.  I, on the other hand, feel like an unmitigated failure both as a blogger and an agent provocateur.  But before I get to that humbling mortification, here's an essential list, of the worst bogeymen the deniers are worried about defending against for their fossil fuel masters (as evidenced by repetition and audience reaction):
1.  Public opinion changing to believing people are causing climate change and it's a problem government has to fix
2.  ocean acidification
3.  water scarcity
4.  much to their chagrin, the Defense Dept (which has been infiltrated!) is planning for climate change and resource wars
5.  people understanding that exponential growth of the population is an issue which underlies all other concerns

So, as the last session was ending, I changed into my cupcake costume, which was meant to demonstrate in a non-threatening, cheerful image the simple verity that Climate Change is Baked in the Cake - as described in my flier.  The Heartless Institute's Director of Communications, Jim Lakely, accosted me in the hallway within seconds of my arrival, having been summoned by shocked staff, and regarded me with the most scathing chagrin and was quite intimidating.  He insisted I had to leave and could not even remain anywhere on the mezzanine.  He called a security guard - you would have thought I had a submachine gun under my tulle and glitter.

Why did he get so agitated?  Simple.  My costume was irreverent, and profoundly frivolous and silly - just like all their denier bullshit.   Jim Blakely told me with as much contempt as he could muster that I looked like I am insane. I could have told him no, they are the crazy ones - but I still harbored hope that I might be allowed to hand out my leaflets on the main floor below if I remained pleasant.

I will have to learn to be more daring perhaps because a number of them clustered over the balcony looking at me with livid loathing and soon enough, four more security guards appeared and I was ignominiously ushered from the building.
Eventually I was allowed back inside as long as I refrained from giving anyone my flier, and kept to the main lobby, far removed from the conference wing.
Outside I was approached by dozens of nurses from all over the world who were attending a meeting in the same hotel.  They were eager to talk to me because as they said, they see kids with asthma from air pollution every day.  And children of all ages just loved the cupcake!  I posed for picture after picture, and people driving by honked and waved.
Even so, I couldn't wait to get home so I headed back to Union Station first thing in the morning.
It's a really beautiful building with lots of smart shops and tempting restaurants.  I had intended to check my bag and wander around since I rarely get to DC , but I felt like such a flop, I couldn't wait to get home to the calm at my own little farm.
I took the first train out and watched the dead trees hurtle past.  You can see mile after mile from the train, because unlike downtown Washington, nobody clears them up - but I have no doubt, I'm the only passenger who thought anything of them one way or the other.

I wondered if I had learned anything new in this misguided adventure.  Maybe nothing intellectual but on an emotional level, yeah - keep far away from those bastards.
I had requested an interview with one of the speakers, Craig Idso from the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change.  I wanted to ask him about the assertion in his talk, that tree growth has increased thanks to higher levels of CO2 - which he also claimed increases the potency of beneficial substances in plants such as vitamin C.  I though he might shed light on this new research from Sweden, which states definitively that increasing temperatures from climate change will increase ozone, which will likely increasingly harm plants.  Here's an excerpt:
"'The models show that higher carbon dioxide concentrations in the air could mean that the risk of ozone damage to crops and deciduous trees will not increase,' says Klingberg. 'But the magnitude of this effect is uncertain, especially for trees. If the effect of carbon dioxide on the stomata will turn out to be small, future climate change has the potential to significantly increase the risk of ozone damage to vegetation in northern and central Europe.'"

I never got a response to my request to interview him even though the Heartland website features an entire page moaning about the suspicious secretiveness of climate scientists, and vowing to practice transparency, openness, and a willingness to answer questions.  This is their published claim:
"Compare Mr. Mann's recalcitrance with the openness of the scientists who will be speaking later this month at the Heartland Institute's Sixth International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC), which starts June 30. Prominent scientist Roy Spencer will happily answer questions about how he collects and reports global temperature data on behalf of NASA and its Aqua satellite instruments.

Meteorologist Anthony Watts will talk your ear off if you ask him about how he assembled and reported data documenting the strong urban heat-island effect that alarmists claim is a myth. Numerous others will be equally transparent.

While alarmists like Mr. Mann fear the disclosure of their methods and data, skeptics have long championed transparency and openness. What does that tell you about who is and who is not confident the data back them up?

...Not only have they voiced their skepticism regarding alarmist global warming predictions, but they have assembled for ICCCs precisely because they welcome and encourage the sharing of scientific information at the heart of the global warming debate. Ask them a thoughtful question about their data and methodology, and you will not be slapped with a cease-and-desist order."
Unless you are dressed like a cupcake of course!

It was such a relief to return home to Wit's End where the pond lilies are blooming.
It's possible this quote from the paper cited above has something to do with my tiny apples turning red in the early part of summer:  "The increased risk of ozone damage to vegetation is mainly due to rising ozone concentrations and higher temperatures in the future," says Jenny Klingberg at the University of Gothenburg's Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences. "The most important effect on agricultural crops is premature aging, which result in smaller harvests with lower quality."
How are we going to feed billions more people with that going on, I wonder?
Oh well - here's my flyer - I have lots left over!


If you suspect that climate scientists aren't being truthful, you would be correct.  They are not leveling with us.  Are they part of an alarmist conspiracy to embezzle government grants...furthering a plot to regulate, tax and destroy the American way of life?

Not exactly.  (For one thing, the amount of money spent on climate research is trivial compared to the profits of the international oil, gas, coal and biofuel industries which are primarily causing climate change - and have oodles left over to fund a well-organized cadre of opposition.)

So, what secrets  *are*  those pesky climate scientists withholding?

Like doctors reluctant to diagnose a fatal cancer...THEY AREN'T TELLING US HOW BAD THE PROGNOSIS ACTUALLY IS.  And why not?  They have several inhibitions:

Reason #1.  Scientists don't want to jeopardize their careers by being branded hysterical or unprofessional.  Traditional scientific reticence limits predictions researchers can prudently risk when their calculations are subject to complex uncertainties.  Because they can't accurately model the timing of delayed effects from system inertia, or the precise influences from positive amplifying feedbacks, they simply DON'T INCLUDE the most important variables and tipping points in consensus reports - like the albedo effect, and temporary aerosol cooling - even though they know climate change is provoking extremely violent storms, sea level rise, and desertification.  And oops...they've completely left out of the equation the ramifications of ocean acidification leading to near total extinction of sea life (which produces much of our oxygen!).

Reason #2.  Scientists mistrust public reaction.  They are fearful that if it were widely recognized how inevitably and rapidly climate destabilization is occurring (and will accelerate exponentially), the majority of people would become resigned, depressed, and lose motivation to do anything about it...or worse - succumb to collective terror and derangement; and

Reason #3.  Societal consequences are not in their purview.  They know that only an urgent and drastic curtailment of emissions can mitigate the worst effects on society...and that imposing such harsh measures is politically impossible.  Following natural laws rather than wishful thinking means that what is required is no less than a revolutionary change in modern lifestyles, including economic systems built on nonsensical faith in unlimited growth and unsustainable resource extraction.  Issues such as government energy subsidies, corporate personhood, justice for climate refugees, prevention of famine and wars are foreign to the realm of atmospheric physics, and only the rare scientist has enough courage to venture into policy implications; and

Reason #4.  Scientists are human and hope for the survival of their children too.  They can't believe how absurdly awful and inconceivable it is that humans have ignored consistent warnings from decades ago that releasing 90 million tons of greenhouse gases per day means we are knowingly and unnecessarily destroying the habitability of our only home, Earth.  Like the most stubborn ideological deniers, many prefer to think the destruction of an environment hospitable to agriculture must be a preposterous nightmare - and that any minute, someone will pinch them and wake them up.  They themselves don't want to admit that


What remains to be seen is how much more disastrous we allow it to become for future generations.  The blog WitsendNJ links to studies indicating exposure to toxic tropospheric ozone is killing trees - even faster than warming from CO2 (oh, yes indeed, no kidding - pollution is really killing trees!  Go look carefully at some).  We CAN and MUST stop that before the entire ecosystem that depends upon them enters irretrievable collapse.


  1. There can be no higher praise. Thank you most humbly!

  2. Gail, you define and lead a much needed form of journalism... thank you.

  3. What Jim said. Not that I believe for one microsecond that you aren't missing totally the criminal motives driving a tax regime to the IPCC which will amount to trillions and take money from the budget which might actually go towards energy research to take us away from petroleum addiction.
    Why ? Because it is not in anyone's purview to prove they can or cannot predict the future.
    Yet I accept rising co2 and temperatures as causing problems which may well be horrendous. But do I think the black hearted brigade are actually pure as the driven snow ?
    Not so's you'd notice.

  4. Thanks Richard, and Opit.

    I have never been a fan of cap and trade, even when it was being presented as the only game in town. I think there should be declared a state of emergency, based on pollution and peak oil, and all fuel use should be fairly rationed and restricted to essential uses.
    If they could ration cigarettes and coffee in WWII, we can ration gas and electricity.

    There is so much wanton waste that we could make amazing progress just by curtailing frivolous squandering of precious resources while we go flat-out towards a transition to clean energy.

    And you're right, Opit, the obscene profits wouldn't be there, and that's the fundamental impediment.

  5. You are really gallant, Gail, thanks. Now that you are back home, you must be jumping into the pond and taking multiple showers to try to rid yourself of the Heartland induced scummy feeling.

    Enjoy the 4th weekend, you've earned it.

  6. Mike, the most ambitious thing I plan to do today is catch up on washing eggs. Here's a painting I saw yesterday that made me think of you:

  7. Great post, Gail, but June only has 30 days.

  8. Thanks Sunnyjane - I HATE it when that happens! Magically fixed now...

  9. While watching the Aronimink AT&T Golf Tournament on HDTV this weekend, one is afforded a super-duper, futuristic view of dying trees.

    Why this picture reminds me of a wooded bikini probably deserves deeper analysis.

  10. Have you got a link, PLovering? Golf courses are excellent places to find evidence.

  11. The family and I just got back from a six mile hike on the Cherokee Trail at Stone Mountain, Georgia. The hike was supposed to be a venue for the family to get out of the routine and cleanse our psyches, so to speak, but instead, it was like visiting a concentration camp....for trees. It had been about eight months since we last hiked at Stone Mountain and I'm telling you, the difference is startling. The amount of dead, and dying trees is abysmally staggering. I kept pointing it out every ten steps to my wife until she finally told me she's not going to take and more hikes with me if this is all we're going to do. I understand her point. You do need to protect your psyche, but also, we can't shelter ourselves so much from the nasty truth that we have no clue what's going around us. Don't get me wrong, she knows what's going on, but she doesn't have the ability to absorb it like I do.

    Gail, I feel we are such kindred spirits. Maybe it's our polish heritage, but your words resonate so fully with me. Like yourself, I have always been fascinated with the Holocaust and for the very same reasons as you, and like yourself, I would have visited Auschwitz had I traveled to Poland. In fact, my son said just the other day, "Dad, why are you so obsessed with the Nazis?" This comment came on the heels of a renewed interest in the hopes it's not an omen at play. I have recently watched a spate of movies dealing with the topic....and I had thought I already watched every movie there was to see on it. One movie, in particular, you must see if you haven't, is Sophie Scholl: The Final Days.

    I wish I would have taken photos of the carnage, Gail. Next time I go, I will. It is truly devasting. Needless to say, my psyche wasn't cleansed by the hike.....there's no longer any place of refuge left. It cannot be avoided.

  12. Morocco Bama, thank you for that link, I will watch it later tonight. I no longer go for walks in the woods. It used to be my therapy - I walked every day I could make the time, usually at least 5 miles and often 8. It replenished me and gave me great joy. But ever since I figured out about the trees it is unbearable. I only go to arboretums now to get photos for the blog.

    In fact I decided that I would try to go to the movies once a week as an escape from all the doom. (My kids reached the saturation point just like your wife, ages ago!). So I just got out of "Midnight in Paris" and now I fear that the only movies I will be able to find escape in will be science fiction set in fantasy backdrops. Of course being a Woody Allen movie it had long loving shots of Paris streets and parks guessed it! First of all, there are hardly ANY big trees anywhere. Now Paris is an old city - there should be some huge specimens at least here and there. Nope. Almost all but a very few are no more than 20 years old and they are thin and have bare branches. There was one scene in a topiary park and even as groomed as that is, the big shaped shrub had a gigantic brown gash in the green.

    I really really am thinking it has to be from biofuels. Just having the background levels of ozone increase incrementally cannot account for this incredibly abrupt and destruction which as you say is astonishingly rapid. My plan is to set aside other distractions and try to concentrate on finding someone with the ability to enlighten me on that subject.

    Thank you so much for reading and commenting. The Holocaust has been omnipresent in my life so it is good to know you understand. I just heard Naomi Oreskes on the radio today. I had not realized that today's deniers at the Heartland Institute are the same crowd that was promoting Star Wars. That program terrified me so much I became very involved in the nuclear freeze movement. Funny that all these years later it is the same exact enemy.

  13. I posted an article about the rejuvenated Texas Oil/Gas boon due to the magic of Fracking. Here's an update. You get what you deserve....maybe?

    It reminds me of what Moses said to Pharoah about the last plague from the movie The Ten Commandments.

    If there is one more plague on Egypt, it is by your word
    that God will bring it. And there shall be so great a cry…..

    And Gail, I'm coining a new term I think we should adopt in our reluctant death watch. I call it the Death's what many of the trees in this area are doing because they lack the strength and inner support to hold themselves up. They begin to lean at a pivotal point some way up the trunk until the lean becomes to severe and they snap. I was astonished at the amount of trees at Stone Mountain, and everywhere around here, lately, that are exhibiting the Death Lean. As as you have so often mentioned, no one seems to notice...or care. Here's an apropos image for the 4th. I've never been a fan of the 4th....even as a youngster. It always seemed false to me, I suppose. When I was younger, it was intuition, but now that I'm older, it's a conscious validation.

  14. MO - thanks for the picture, it's perfect! Of course I know the trees - but had no name for that. I think it is because the roots rot more quickly than what is above the surface. So the Death Lean it is. Please do send me photos! witsendnj at yahoo.

  15. I don't know if you have come across Greg Craven, but he totally let the cat out of the bag in this address to the AGU in December 2010. I think you'll recognise his stance. It even got Uncle Eli going at RabbetRun.

    (sorry for ugly link)


  16. Ha, thanks Serinde, I did read the transcript as soon as he posted it online. What was so awful is that he felt compelled to apologize for speaking the truth!

    I think many deniers don't dispute an ultimate crash from resource depletion - they just don't think it is imminent. I talked to one woman yesterday, about my age or maybe a little older, who is a right-wing conservative wealthy person thoroughly enjoying her high carbon lifestyle, and she was Population has always been checked by famine or war or disease, so soon enough that will bring the level of humans back down again.

    She's convinced that won't happen for at least two generations though, and she doesn't think it will wipe out everyone, or civilization, or enough other species to matter to humans. So I guess to the extent she projects that far, she assumes her family will have enough wealth to be among the survivors and to hell with the useless eaters, is what it comes down to. I found myself looking at her and wondering whether she had any empathy within her at all.

    I think that is pretty much the attitude that prevailed at the Heartland conference. One of the speakers said something like, since when have resource wars been a bad thing?

  17. Well, the "lady" you spoke with might well have a nasty shock; her children will, certainly.

    As for the speaker at the Heartland conference, I'm sure that resource wars are grand for business; if you aren't making money during a war, you aren't trying. In any case, the mayhem doesn't impinge on him since the US has fought its wars for nearly a century overseas. Can't even let John Q. Public see the repatriating of soldiers' remains, for fear of the penny (as they say here) dropping. What, of course, he's not taking account of is that the resource war(s) will be coming to the US eventually. His money, and that of the woman, will protect them. For a while. And then they both will discover what generations before them have always known: war is a bad thing, indeed, when you can't get out of the way.

  18. Nice pictures!

    I liked this one:

    I might steal more if you do not mind.

    PS: Tim Ball was a professor of geography, according to Sourcewatch.

  19. Thanks, and help yourself to pictures, Willard!

  20. There is a feedback loop such that When the number of lawyers and arborists both reach a critical density, tree limbs get whacked out of an abundance of caution to protect passers by. Thus, trees in DC are going to be over trimmed and look like old movie stars that have had too many face lifts, and too many “tummy tucks”.

    Better, would be photos of trees in forests where there are fewer lawyers and arborists. Unfortunately, there are tens of millions of acres of such trees that look worse than any of the trees in your photos.

    Yes, global warming is affecting us, here and now. All of our climate models (GCM) under estimated the impacts and underestimated how fast these impacts would occur. The case in point is Arctic Sea Ice, which has melted much faster than any GCM expected. (see ) If a GCM missed the melting of sea ice, then that model will get everything after that sea ice melt – wrong.

    Now, we know that warmer North Atlantic waters are entering the Arctic and circulating at depths where clathrates are found. These waters are warm enough to decompose the clathrates at the depths of these currents. And, we have observed plumes of methane rising in the Arctic seas, so it is likely that clathrate decomposition is already occurring. We know that CO2 is out gassing from the tundra and high carbon permafrost materials are being eroded along rivers and Arctic shorelines. However, none of the GCM include any such natural carbon feed backs in their calculations.

    Nor do the GCM include any of the physics of ice dynamics as large masses of ice are warmed toward 0C, and start to lose the structural strength to resist gravity. This is a current issue, as the number of moulins where melt water is advecting heat into the core of the GIS has increased dramatically over the last few years.

    Both the IPCC and the Heartland deny or ignore aspects of climate change that have important practical impacts. The difference between IPCC and Heartland is just a matter of degree. They both greatly understate the impacts and the urgency. Thus, we cannot split the difference between them for a political solution. A useful solution must address reality, and not some political fiction. The physical reality is worse than anything the IPCC has hinted at. The physical reality must be our basis of planning and action.

  21. Well said, Aaron, and thank you. As a non-scientist, it is very frustrating for me to try to see from their perspective why ecosystem collapse from pollution and unsustainable resource extraction shouldn't be inextricably linked to climate change. They all have the same root cause - and they even have the same solution.

    I suspect maybe some scientists and climate activists ust indulge in the fantasy that there is a technological magical fix, or a bunch of them, that will save us from climate change. I disagree - I think if is only a matter of timing, and based on the rate at which trees are dying, I think it's pollution killing them that is going to become a raging torrent of disasters, from crop failures to the loss of the major CO2 sink, thus adding to the heating.

    The UNEP report basically says the same thing about "other" emissions from burning fuel - but then they too get a bit worked up about social and generational justice and things not purely scientific so there you go.

    Not to bore you but there are pictures all over the blog of many species in many different sorts of habitats from around the country. Also too, research has demonstrated many times that trees and other plants which have immune systems damaged from exposure to ozone are more susceptible to attacks by insects, disease and fungus, as well as drought and wind-throw.

    So I suspect there is more at work with the beetles than just warming. If it were just warming, you would see a distinct progression from lower latitudes to higher, and lower elevations to higher. Maybe that exists, I don't know.

    Anyway thank you for stopping by to read and comment, I am going to go check out your blog for tips about knitting!

  22. Gail, you are a delightful cupcake.

    But - though I am not exactly Mr. Watts's greatest fan - I don't think it's right to publish unappealing candid photos, and IMO your report would be more persuasive without them. Whose interests are served, if we go back to "Al Gore's fat" discourse?

  23. This was a pleasure to read, Gail.

  24. I don't think it's right to publish unappealing candid photos

    So, Gail should be a censoring propagandist then? When dealing with deliberate, misinforming scum like Alan Watts, irreverence should be used at every turn. People like Watts should be shunned. Screw etiquette.

    And Al Gore is fat. He's a slug. He's a Plutocrat. He's an opportunist, and in the end, he cares as much about the environment as does Alan Watts. How else do you explain Gore's lifestyle? I'm a firm believer in leading by example, and I've yet to see any evidence of Al mitigating his Carbon Footprint.

  25. Thanks Neven. I know I tend to run on, but then again, I saw one objection that I was taking photos of tree after tree that had obviously been hit by lightening. Really? One after the other along 3 blocks of Connecticut Avenue? So maybe there can never be too many!

    Anna, every comment goes into moderation automatically, and I am on East Coast time. I did think more than twice about Watt's Wedgie, but he is a public figure, and like any public figure, there will be images of him published that are less than flattering. I'm sure you can think of infinite examples of other famous people getting pies in the face or whatever, and this wasn't staged or photoshopped, it was just what I saw.

    I think the general rule is that fame and fortune come with some burdens, and being in the butt of the occasional joke (sorry couldn't help it!) is one of them generally considered well worth it, unless you listen to Sarah Palin, who is persecuted.

    Besides it was funny. I try to keep a sense of humor in the midst of ecosystem collapse.

  26. IMO it's a Q of what's the decent thing to do.
    (and yes, we're human, we lapse; but what do we try for, & how do we rethink&respond...)

  27. "-- I could have told him no, they are the crazy ones --"

    I wish you had.

    Good for you for your efforts. Don't be so hard on yourself for not having done more - you've done far more than almost everyone!

    @ Morocco Bama:

    "When dealing with deliberate, misinforming scum like Alan Watts, irreverence should be used at every turn. People like Watts should be shunned. Screw etiquette."

    Amen to that!

    Re: "Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence"

    According to Wikipedia at least (I know, don't believe everything you read on the 'Net) this is Hanlon's razor, which reads:

    "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

    Throwing this back at them, these deniers aren't malicious; they're just stupid. I'd pity them, if it weren't for the harm they do. As things stand, they should be tried for crimes against humanity (not to mention all the other non-human species we're annihilating at a rate of knots), and then -- after a fair trial, of course -- shunned.

    Did I say 'shunned'? I meant 'hung, drawn and quartered.'

  28. Regarding malice and incompetence.

    I so enjoyed your cupcake outfit - because the denialist party seems to act like flat-earth, tin-foil hat fools. When they present anti-science, then their folly is more like a dance in a tutu.

  29. I believe that there are two kinds of deniers of climate change. Those who are misinformed or do not completely understand climate change. And two, people who will be affected negatively by using renewable resources to mitigate for climate change. In particular, the coal and petroleum industry. The Heartland Institute states that they receive corporate contributions to run their institute. I would like to know if some of those corporate contributions come from coal or gas. That would explain a lot.

    Two, since I consider myself and environmental biologist I would like to be on the fair (I am by far not some high ranking scientist working in the field of climate change, but I have taken a class in it as a graduate student). I do not think the public should simply “believe” in climate change without first hearing all the arguments and studying it themselves a little bit. When individuals promote the climate change agenda don’t have a strong understanding of the science, or the principles of climate change, they can undermine the whole movement by having their information fact checked. It makes us all look bad. Sometimes this happens at our Universities. In other words don’t just believe in climate change cause someone says its real, cause that’s what scientist say, that would be called faith. And that belongs to religion. Instead take a hard look at the science that’s being produced. The proof is in the pudding my friends. And you’ll be a way better advocate in the end.
    That’s what happened to me, I was a little bit a skeptic, I did quite a bit of reading- including what skeptics are saying. And yes, its reality. And no its not my belief that it’s a reality, its science. It’s been a reality for quite a long time, and we need immediate action.

    By the way, miss cupcake, you are a true American hero. What ever gave you the idea to go to this stupid event. Thanks for all the info, Its nice to know what going on in these strange events.

    Turtle Ty

  30. Much appreciated, Turtle Ty. That will give me something nice to think about it when I am incarcerated after the tar sands protest in Washington next month!

  31. And as for the vehemence about not understanding the reality of Resource Depletion - you wouldn't be the first to fall for that conflation of unrelated data.

    I haven't heard from Gregory Hilbert for a while...but he isn't be silly enough to make that charge - distressed as he might be about my analysis of AGW.

  32. Gail, you'll want to read this:

    Here's a related paper:
    Williams and Funk 2011. A westward extension of the warm pool leads to a westward extension of the Walker circulation, drying eastern Africa.

    - Pete Dunkelberg

  33. Gail, did you see this treasure trove of educational resources at Serendipity? It occurs to me that you might post on this to help spread the knowledge.

    Pete Dunkelberg

  34. Thanks so much Pete for those links!

  35. Gail, you must have a lot of time on your hands. If you seriously want to understand the "denier" point of view, you should go to where it is most directly and effectively addressed -- that is, the web pages of Heartland, or Cato, and the Heritage Foundation. All these assert the same thing -- not that man does not contribute to global warming, but that the "affirmers" are vastly overreacting. If you don't want Heartland, here's are links from Cato and Heritage, respectively.

  36. "My costume was irreverent, and profoundly frivolous and silly - just like all their denier bullshit." LOL - and great review of your 'seminar experience' - read it all, thank you.
    Gail, May I re-use the text of your Flyer on my blog please? I'll ref you of course, but I totally agree and like the way you say it.
    cheers Walter


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