Rowdy Clown Recess

The Congressional recess continues, but the clowns aren’t playing nice out on the playground. They are screaming at each other, now with threats of jail time for Trump officials who refuse subpoenas. (That, of course, is why it’s a subpoena! Anyone who doesn’t know that refusing a subpoena from Congress can lead to jail time is as ignorant of the law as Don Jr.) But this clown fight will go to the Supreme Court, so these threats back and forth are just gestures and confetti cannons.

Of course, Don Jr’s ignorance of the law and constitution seems to run in the family. The big Don with small hands threatened to sue Congress if they try to impeach.

Wow, that is truly stupid, and I’ve grown pretty used to Trump’s low IQ. Say it slowly, “separation of powers.” It’s called the US Constitution, Donny. You might ask your friends in the NRA about it. They claim to have heard about it.

So why are the Democrats in Congress so fatally slow to actually impeach Trump and so give their investigations the full force of a criminal trial?

Maybe Mueller was just too smart for Congress to understand. I’m coming to really admire much of the analysis posted on Vox.

But View from the Side sees all this as smoke bombs and confetti cannons. The Dems will have to ditch Pelosi to find their courage and that doesn’t seem likely. It looks like we’re stuck with Donny T for two more years at least. No sense repeating the same arguments. Instead, I’m spending my time during this recess digging further into the science and politics surrounding the environmental crisis.

Because, say it with me now, “I’m a Climate Voter for 2020”.

If a politician doesn’t prioritize climate protection, they don’t represent me.

Yesterday, I had a brief exchange with the author of this article from the Buffalo News, Don Paul, who is a regional weatherman.

Ken Zimmerman
I’m not sure why you would want to downplay the dangers associated with climate change. Is it important to make the public more, or less, complacent about the issue? You mention the possible feedback of methane, and that it’s dangers might be over-stated by some. You mention “conspiracy theorists” without attribution. But you don’t discuss the 9 other identified feedback loops that could take climate change out of human hands. (near-term “arctic blue-ocean event” being the most immediate danger.) You base a great deal of your argument on this one statement “Plait and Ruppel say if we slow the rate of general climate warming down, the sudden release of these clusters of methane hydrates becomes a good deal less likely.” That, I’m afraid, is a pretty big “IF” in the real world where emissions continue to rise. I appreciate your desire to stick to the science. But I feel like you pick and choose the science you bring into your article. I’m worried that your piece might add to complacency rather than truly deepen the discussion of this grave danger to our planet. Thank you! Ken Zimmerman
Don Paul
The downplaying is based on chemistry, not conjecture. The number of articles I’ve written on the overwhelming evidence human activity-driven climate change is a major threat is a very large number. But it is not my job to keep hidden bad science perpetrated by conspiracy-minded theorists (who happen not to be experts in the field) because it strikes you as some kind of chink in the armor. I strongly suggest you listen to the statement by Michael Mann at the close of the article. Mann has been a principal author of the IPCC’s publication and is one of the nation’s and the world’s leading climate scientists. I’m afraid you’ve missed the entire point of the article: “Climate change is bad enough without the hype.” Hype hurts, not helps, in raising public awareness and support for mitigation.
Ken Zimmerman
Don Paul Thanks for your reply, and for your thoughtful article. I certainly hope I’m not one of the conspiracy mongers you don’t like. I’ve listened to Michael Mann many times, including the clip above, and I know just how stung he has been by climate denialists. He’s written books about it. And I do appreciate the point of your article. In discussing climate change, it’s good to use the best science available. Overstatement can have bad effects.

I just worry that, without even more context about the extent of the dangers coming (without the hype, of course) this piece might end up being used incorrectly by deniers or those hoping to delay action. Please don’t miss my point. I do appreciate the concern you express. I just worry that others will take this as a reason not to worry about climate change. I’ll certainly try my best not to overly hype the existential threat of climate change, extinction of species, and ecosystem collapse. Your article is a good reminder to speak carefully. Thanks again! Ken

As I wrote yesterday, I’ve been studying the newest climate science over the last several months. It turns out there’s a pretty big debate going on among the science community. But it’s not the “climate skeptic” debate that we’ve all heard about.

The debate seems to hinge on two main different issues, one of them scientific, and the other political. The scientific debate is not the “Is climate change human-caused?” debate you can see in the long Michael Mann video below. The debate among serious climate scientists seems to be about just how terrible things are going to get, and whether or not it’s too late to mitigate the catastrophe we have caused. How fast will the changes accelerate? Not if, but how soon will the arctic be ice-free in summer? Not, can we prevent a two degree C rise, but whether it’s possible to prevent a 4-6 degree rise in this century. The scientific debate, in other words, is not about whether we are in the middle of a climate crisis, but whether we are in the middle of a truly unavoidable and deadly catastrophe or not. Yet.

The other lively debate among the most serious climate scientists is not so much about the science anymore. It’s a debate about political tactics. Is it best to look at the worst-case possibilities as scientists like Paul Beckwith, Peter Wadhams, and (at the most extreme end of the doom and gloom spectrum) Guy McPherson do? Two recent books by journalists, The End of Ice by Dahr Jamail and The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells present these worst-case scenarios in convincing and shocking terms.

Or is it best to emphasize the hopeful possibilities, and to focus as IPCC does on best-case scenarios? Some scientists think concern but not alarm is the best way toward political action and public motivation. Others believe that only the shocking truth leading to near-panic will lead to real political action. I side with this second group. Complacency at this point seems like a far greater danger than over-statement. But I’m always willing to re-think my ideas. Let me know where you stand on this issue of how we approach communicating the crisis to others.

The problem I see is how great the needed changes are, and how quickly they need to be made, even under best-case scenarios. IPCC says that to stay under 2 degrees of warming carbon emissions need to be reduced by half in just 10 years. And, they say, new, not-yet-developed carbon capture technologies will need to be deployed massively in the same time period. While, in the real world, carbon emissions continue to rise, not reduce. Changes of that scale simply won’t happen, I’m sorry to say, unless a world-war attitude prevails. The inertia of our environmentally destructive culture has to be redirected. That won’t happen if the public doesn’t understand the extent of the crisis. Not panic, perhaps. But real fear for real motivation would be useful.

In an existential crisis, complacency is death.

Here are a few more environmental links for your continued edification. As I’ve said, I’m studying this broad set of concerns with some focus right now. If you have good sources of real, up to the minute scientifc data, please let me know about them.

Dahr Jamail became one of the journalists I ‘most respect for his work in Iraq. He has spent the last ten years studying climate.

This is a sad story. This collapse is tragic in its own right. But even more so in what it foretells. The theme I see again and again in each new piece of information is “unexpected”, “faster than predicted”, “accelerating”.

Michael Mann debates climate 2018 with some terribly mis-informed skeptics. Mann is the one accused of catastrophism here.

If you are just becoming familiar with the climate debate, here’s two good starting points. “What We Know” climate basics

And this powerful, new documentary by David Attenborough. The Facts.

That’s the view from the side this morning.

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