There are many tipping points

12 07 2007

After the rain 1 - by Tanakawho (creative commons)I normally enjoy visiting James’ place, and this day was no exception. However, this post of his had me scratching my chin. The post is from a while ago, and something about the snarky bored tone got me thinking.

I imagined him thinking to himself as he typed it up. “Why another film? Hasn’t Gore done the subject to death? Can we stop being sanctimonious already?”

But I think that misses the point. The movie isn’t for us, the people who care passionately about climate change and/or work in the field.

The movie is for ordinary people for whom “global warming” is either something to bravely deny (thus showing they ain’t no tree huggers, no siree) or bravely ignore (it’s the end of the Earth, I can’t change that, pass me the keys to the SUV).

I think about what happens when a new breakthrough occurs in science; you see a lot of activity in that same area, a lot of papers applying the new ideas with slightly different parameters. It’s pretty much the same in every academic endeavour. Knowledge proceeds in increments.

Why can’t we think of public awareness of climate change in the same way? The denialists (and the media, though unwittingly) have been complicit in this by reducing “global warming” into a meaningless catchphrase. It’s about time people saw what it really means, and if that means an explosion of docos all touting some different aspect of climate change, just so that ordinary people can see it’s a complex issue, then I’m all for that.

Photo: After the rain 1 by Tanakahwo (creative commons at


Inhofe Gore’d

22 03 2007

Gore testifies

As my thesis is on climate change matters, I keep a weather eye (Hah! Get it?) on Al Gore, the highest profile spokesperson for the cause. Today, he gave testimony before Congress on matters related to climate change. According to David Roberts, he got off to a shaky start in his prepared opening statement, but perked up when he smelt fresh meat in the form of long-time climate denier Sen. James Inhofe (R-AK). Gore speared him.

Then — the hacktacular coup de grace — [Inhofe] asked Gore to sign a pledge to reduce his personal home energy use to that of an average American. As gimmicks go, this one would embarrass a high school student, but Inhofe’s band of knuckle-draggers seems quite pleased with themselves. I’m sure there were frat boy back slaps all around.

When Gore tried to respond that he’s purchasing green energy and offsets and trying to put solar panels on his house, Inhofe just rode right over him.

Ponder for a moment: What could any of that conceivably have to do with the business of the U.S. Senate? Even if you think Gore’s wrong, is trying to catch him in a clumsy gotcha the way to advance your case? What a small, sad man.

ThinkProgress has the video. More videos here.

I was interested in how marginalised people like Inhofe now have become, despite overt efforts on the part of Republicans to stack the committee with anti-Gore members on their side. This is a positive sign that deniers are slowly but surely becoming objects of derision.

This is by no means to say that the fight is over, especially when the “paper of note” can still produce front-page misleading broadsides against Gore like this one. And here in New Zealand, the main problem is a government that, hemmed in on all sides politically, seems afraid to take bold steps in addressing climate change. The Greens also appear to be the subject of a lot of hysteria from free-marketeer types. (These statements are provisional on my part at this point, as I have yet to really study the matter in-depth as I would like to.)

Anyway, though the fight is a long one — and I definitely need to take stock of my thoughts and make some wide-ranging strategic statements later on in the year — the day belongs to Al Gore. With the last word, Tom Watson draws a link between Inhofe’s humiliation at the Senate hearing with the wider slow-motion implosion of the Republican Party:

Inhofe’s staff tried one of those old-school “when did you stop beating your wife” tricks, attempting to trap Gore into admitting his own energy usage at his Nashville home. Swing, miss. But not to disgraced former law professor Glenn Instapundit:

A gimmick? Yes. A stunt? Yes. But it’s one that Gore has opened himself up to. That’s the problem with moralistic, messianic crusading — people expect you to live up to it.

Hee hee, that’s insta-panic right there – panic that Al Gore is bathing in incredible national and even worldwide popularity – that he accomplished more by losing the Presidency than George Bush did by winning it. Panic that Gore is about to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

And there was Al Gore, sitting in testimony as the grand winner of our political times – even as Republicans refused to testify under oath about their roles in the scandal over the political dumping of U.S. Attorneys. The great national nightmare for the shrinking right is just beginning.

Right-wing logic

19 03 2007

Snow FestivalIt’s amazing what passes for logic among the those in the right-wing world sometimes. Over at his virtual Bedlam and cranktastic soap box, Adolph Fiinkenstein teases the reader with a rant about antiwar marchers in Washington, but bless his heart, he can’t keep it up for long before he veers wildly off-topic onto what he really wants to talk about: Al Gore. (I swear, the man is like catnip to wingnuts.)

Now, one of the “gotcha” games conservatives love to play when it comes to climate change and global warming is to point out how cold some winter days can get. Goodness gracious! It’s brass monkey weather! But doesn’t global warming say winters are supposed to be tropical, starting tomorrow? Fiinkenstein is no exception and wastes little time before rushing for that oh-so-soothing Ctrl-B.

There was one moment of sheer hilarity in the report. Obviously Al Gore has been to Washington DC recently. The evangelicals should send him down for a visit to Hell – the place would immediately freeze over!

Organisers of the protest march said the turnout had been hurt by a winter snow storm on Friday that moved up the East Coast from Washington into New England, disrupting travel.

These same jerks and misfits who are protesting outside the White House would have you believe we are doomed because of global warming.

That’s right. It’s winter. It gets cold in winter. It was so cold on this day that fewer people than expected turned up to a march. Therefore there’s no such thing as global warming.

But wasn’t it pretty cold all over the States this winter? Weren’t there all those stories of record blizzards and stuff? Yes, there were, but get this: Across the planet, the December – February period was the warmest on record. As for those cold days in the US:

For the United States, meanwhile, the winter temperature was near average. The season got off to a late start and spring-like temperatures covered most of the eastern half of the country in January, but cold conditions set in in February, which was the third coldest on record.

Oops! Guess Adolph didn’t study statistics much.