Posts Tagged ‘climate change’
(via Fair Blog)
John Horgan over at Scientific American came out last week with the stunning revelation that a majority of the editors of the Science Times section of NYT do not believe in climate change:
Two sources at the Science Times section of the New York Times have told me that a majority of the section’s editorial staff doubts that human-induced global warming represents a serious threat to humanity.
My brain just exploded.
Chris Hedges in Alternet with one of the most well-written dissections of our modern politics I’ve ever read:
Democracy, a system ideally designed to challenge the status quo, has been corrupted and tamed to slavishly serve the status quo. We have undergone, as John Ralston Saul writes, a coup d’état in slow motion. And the coup is over. They won. We lost. The abject failure of activists to push corporate, industrialized states toward serious environmental reform, to thwart imperial adventurism or to build a humane policy toward the masses of the world’s poor stems from an inability to recognize the new realities of power. The paradigm of power has irrevocably altered and so must the paradigm of resistance alter.
Too many resistance movements continue to buy into the facade of electoral politics, parliaments, constitutions, bills of rights, lobbying and the appearance of a rational economy. The levers of power have become so contaminated that the needs and voices of citizens have become irrelevant. The election of Barack Obama was yet another triumph of propaganda over substance and a skillful manipulation and betrayal of the public by the mass media. We mistook style and ethnicity – an advertising tactic pioneered by the United Colors of Benetton and Calvin Klein – for progressive politics and genuine change. We confused how we were made to feel with knowledge. But the goal, as with all brands, was to make passive consumers mistake a brand for an experience. Obama, now a global celebrity, is a brand. He had almost no experience besides two years in the senate, lacked any moral core and was sold as all things to all people. The Obama campaign was named Advertising Age’s marketer of the year for 2008 and edged out runners-up Apple and Zappos.com. Take it from the professionals. Brand Obama is a marketer’s dream. President Obama does one thing and Brand Obama gets you to believe another. This is the essence of successful advertising. You buy or do what the advertisers want because of how they can make you feel.
We can march in Copenhagen. We can join Bill McKibben’s worldwide day of climate protests. We can compost in our backyards and hang our laundry out to dry. We can write letters to our elected officials and vote for Barack Obama, but the power elite is impervious to the charade of democratic participation. Power is in the hands of moral and intellectual trolls who are ruthlessly creating a system of neo-feudalism and killing the ecosystem that sustains the human species. And appealing to their better nature, or seeking to influence the internal levers of power, will no longer work.
The absurd idea that the marketplace alone should determine economic and political constructs led industrial nations to sacrifice other areas of human importance – from working conditions, to taxation, to child labor, to hunger, to health and pollution – on the altar of free trade. It left the world’s poor worse off and the United States with the largest deficits – which can never be repaid – in human history. The massive bailouts, stimulus packages, giveaways and short-term debt, along with imperial wars we can no longer afford, will leave the United States struggling to finance nearly $5 trillion in debt this year. This will require Washington to auction off about $96 billion in debt a week. Once China and the oil-rich states walk away from our debt, which one day has to happen, the Federal Reserve will become the buyer of last resort. The Fed has printed perhaps as much as two trillion new dollars in the last two years, and buying this much new debt will see it, in effect, print trillions more. This is when inflation, and most likely hyperinflation, will turn the dollar into junk. And at that point the entire system breaks down.
All traditional standards and beliefs are shattered in a severe economic crisis. The moral order is turned upside down. The honest and industrious are wiped out while the gangsters, profiteers and speculators walk away with millions. The elite will retreat, as Naomi Klein has written in The Shock Doctrine, into gated communities where they will have access to services, food, amenities and security denied to the rest of us. We will begin a period in human history when there will be only masters and serfs. The corporate forces, which will seek to make an alliance with the radical Christian right and other extremists, will use fear, chaos, the rage at the ruling elites and the specter of left-wing dissent and terrorism to impose draconian controls to ruthlessly extinguish opposition movements. And while they do it, they will be waving the American flag, chanting patriotic slogans, promising law and order and clutching the Christian cross. Totalitarianism, George Orwell pointed out, is not so much an age of faith but an age of schizophrenia. “A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial,” Orwell wrote. “That is when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud.” Our elites have used fraud. Force is all they have left.
Alternet out with a grim report on Africa. It would appear that much of the land in the Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Madagascar, Ethiopia, and many other nations is being bought up by billionaires and multi-national corporations in a 21st century “scramble for Africa”. All of this is being done, of course, though shady backroom deals between business executives and US-installed dictators – without the permission or even notification of the indigenous peoples already living there.
As a few locals remark:
“The foreign companies are arriving in large numbers, depriving people of land they have used for centuries. There is no consultation with the indigenous population. The deals are done secretly. The only thing the local people see is people coming with lots of tractors to invade their lands.
“All the land round my family village of Illia has been taken over and is being cleared. People now have to work for an Indian company. Their land has been compulsorily taken and they have been given no compensation. People cannot believe what is happening. Thousands of people will be affected and people will go hungry.”
It looks like this is mainly agribusiness, commodity traders, investment banks and hedge funds. They’re quite plainly “hedging” against future environmental disaster by cornering virtually the last untouched, sparsely populated and cheap land to be had. And they’re making a killing – leases go for $1 per year per 2.5 acres.
Leslie Kaufman has a good article in today’s Times about how Creationists are latching on to the “controversy” over climate change and arguing that just as science classes treat climate change with skepticism, so should they treat evolution.
This, to me, seems like learning precisely the wrong lesson: science classes should treat neither subject with very much skepticism, as consensus on those issues is as solid as one could possibly expect. But the article does mention something which I have thought for some time: that the know-nothing movement demanding that we “debate” climate change uses the same tactics, and is likely made up of many of the same persons that demand “alternate viewpoints” to evolution be taught in the classroom.
Its no surprise that the Texas Board of Education has mandated teachers present “all sides” of the Climate Change and Evolution “debates”, but Kentucky and other states are considering legislation of similar impact, and a vocal minority would like to see such rules nationally mandated. (Ironically, the same minority that usually demands “small government”)
Meanwhile, The Times Magazine has a fantastic article by Elizabeth Green on new paradigms in improving elementary school teaching techniques. The article mostly focuses on how to teach math to an 8-year-old – a fascinating enough subject, but one which, I think, deserves less scrutiny than she gives it. If he’s smart, an 8-year-old will eventually learn arithmetic. But if he’s continually told that evolution and climate change are all massive “left-wing conspiracies”, he may just leave the classroom believing that.
Bill McKibben has a great analogy in this week’s The Nation that explains the success of our staid climate change deniers:
The campaign against climate science has been enormously clever, and enormously effective. It’s worth trying to understand how they’ve done it. The best analogy, I think, is to the O.J. Simpson trial, an event that’s begun to recede in our collective memory. For those who were conscious in 1995, however, I imagine that just a few names will make it come back to life. Kato Kaelin, anyone? Lance Ito?
The Dream Team of lawyers assembled for Simpson’s defense had a problem: it was pretty clear their guy was guilty. Nicole Brown’s blood was all over his socks, and that was just the beginning. So Johnnie Cochran, Robert Shapiro, Alan Dershowitz, F. Lee Bailey, Robert Kardashian et al. decided to attack the process, arguing that it put Simpson’s guilt in doubt, and doubt, of course, was all they needed. Hence, those days of cross-examination about exactly how Dennis Fung had transported blood samples, or the fact that Los Angeles detective Mark Fuhrman had used racial slurs when talking to a screenwriter in 1986.
If anything, they were actually helped by the mountain of evidence. If a haystack gets big enough, the odds only increase that there will be a few needles hidden inside. Whatever they managed to find, they made the most of: in closing arguments, for instance, Cochran compared Fuhrman to Adolf Hitler and called him “a genocidal racist, a perjurer, America’s worst nightmare, and the personification of evil.” His only real audience was the jury, many of whom had good reason to dislike the Los Angeles Police Department, but the team managed to instill considerable doubt in lots of Americans tuning in on TV as well. That’s what happens when you spend week after week dwelling on the cracks in a case, no matter how small they may be.
Bill McKibben has done some fantastic journalism on this issue, and I highly recommend reading his article in full.
Bradford Plumer over at The New Republic has an excellent review up on a leading climate scientist’s latest book. Things are looking mighty grim:
I’m not trying to start a nerdy parlor game, but if we were to list the most important climate scientists of the past fifty years, James Hansen would have to be in the mix. Three decades ago, he helped create one of the world’s first climate models to predict how the Earth would heat up in response to rising greenhouse gases. (Many of his early forecasts held up well.) He stepped into the spotlight again in 1988, issuing one of the first climate warnings to Congress. And, in the 2000s, when Bush appointees tried to downplay the severity of global warming, Hansen was the one blowing the whistle. The director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies is hardly infallible, but as would-be Cassandras go, his record has proven awfully solid.
Like many global-warming skeptics, Hansen has sharp disagreements with the mainstream scientific consensus on climate change. Unlike the deniers, however, he believes that the consensus view actually downplays the problem. The computer models used to project future warming, for example, seem to be too conservative: they failed to predict, among other things, the rapid collapse of summertime Arctic sea ice since 2007.
Media Matters has a timely and thorough rundown of Mr. George Will’s fantastic assertions in the Washington Post. Mr. Will, the Post‘s resident climate change denier, willfully misinterprets data, offers baseless accusations, and generally behaves as a corporate propagandist might be expected to.
Will claimed “evidence” of climate change is “elusive.” In an October 1, 2009, Washington Post column, Will claimed that “evidence” of climate change is “elusive” and that scientists are overstating the threat of warming when they say — in the words of a September 21 New York Times article Will criticized — that a recent “plateau” in temperatures has “no bearing” on the long-term warming trend. In fact, scientists routinely present strong evidence of long-term warming and its consequences — including a September 2009 United Nations report Will himself cited that says “rapid environmental change is underway with the pace and the scale of climate change accelerating.” [10/1/09]
Will cited no evidence to claim that climate scientists are suppressing or massaging data. In his December 6, 2009, column, Will claimed that “[d]isclosure of e-mails and documents from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) in Britain — a collaborator with the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — reveals some scientists’ willingness to suppress or massage data.” Will cited no evidence to support his claims. He also flogged an out-of-context email to falsely suggest that it made the case for global warming “less compelling.” [12/6/09]
Oh, and The Post is quite aware of their colleague’s flights of fancy:
Will columns criticized by environmental community, Post colleagues. Will’s global warming columns have been widely criticized by the environmental community and have also been criticized by Washington Post editorial board member and cartoonist Tom Toles, Post weather columnist Andrew Freedman, and Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander. Fellow editorial columnist Eugene Robinson also said that Will “cross[ed] the line” in spreading global warming misinformation.
I wasn’t aware such a line existed.
Being over the age of 50, Mr. Will enjoys complete impunity from the effects of his lies. As I’m sure as he figures it, he’ll be long dead by the time the real effects of our civilization are laid bare – the droughts, oil shortages, advancing deserts, agricultural collapse, etc. Thus he has no qualms about acting as an industry cheerleader; committing willful and wanton lies to increase their profits by just that much. If I believed in an afterlife, I’m sure there would be a special place for specimens such as Mr. Will – but since there is, after all, no justice in this world, I’m sure Mr. Will will continue to draw his fat paychecks while composing shoddy and scurrilous pap aimed specifically at deceiving the public.