Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"He was a registered Republican... he would have been dismayed" - NYT on Keeling

A Scientist, His Work and a Climate Reckoning - today's New York Times front-page profile of Charles David Keeling, discoverer of the rising-CO2 Keeling curve.
Dr. Keeling’s widow, Louise, said that if her husband had lived to see the hardening of the political battle lines over climate change, he would have been dismayed.

“He was a registered Republican,” she said. “He just didn’t think of it as a political issue at all.”

"Climate Hawk" logo; plus other imagery

I've added a Climate Hawk logo to this blog's sidebar (though it makes the mouse a bit nervous) - David Smith of Stockbridge Green architects designed it, and Gail is making lapel pins.

As for other imagery, I'm working on a (Creative Commons-licensed) climate communication "salient climate imagery & quotes" page/poster; drafts of it are up & I'd welcome feedback on it from science-aligned folk.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fox News boss to talent: Cast doubt on climate science

See Media Matters for the story (and Wonk Room for the leaked memo):
Fox boss ordered staff to cast doubt on climate science
"In the midst of global climate change talks last December, a top Fox News official sent an email questioning the "veracity of climate change data" and ordering the network's journalists to "refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question." "

Also see this Howell Raines Washington Post op-ed from last spring, “Why don’t honest journalists take on Roger Ailes and Fox News?(h/t Climate Progress)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Infovore: Getting the most from the discourse of ideas

Someone recently pointed me to James Fallows's article in The Atlantic, Dirty Coal, Clean Future, noting "This is a very practical, realistic approach considering the world's need for fossil fuels and the super abundance of coal."

I wondered what others thought about Fallows' argument, so I did a Warming101 custom search for posts about this article; which brought up David Roberts's thought-provoking response at Grist, A question for James Fallows about coal and focus ...which was followed by Fallows' response, and Roberts' response to that.

Viola - a more well rounded understanding of the issue.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Re-lighting Nevada City

This morning's visual news:
That's Chris nestled in the lofty (and prickly!) boughs of the spruce tree in Calanan Park, replacing Christmas lights; Vern down below said no, Chris is not afraid of heights.

And the gaslight next to the Broad St. freeway offramp was having a glass pane replaced, as some doofus broke the old one with a rock.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Clay Shirky on Wikileaks

Wikileaks and the Long Haul - best take so far.

Cancun climate deal reached

The Guardian has the story.
In short, reputable sources say, it's a step forward but it's just one step: it saved the process, but isn't enough yet to save the habitability of the planet.

Drivers beware - Motorcycle Toy Run today, noon-?

Followup, at KNCO: Problems Suspend Toy Run for Next Year (throwing candy, candy mess on roads, bikers w/o helmets)

If you don't want to get stuck at an intersection for a half hour or so, you need to avoid travel in & between our towns starting at midday today - the toy run starts at noon in Nevada City & goes to the fairgrounds ("1:00-3:30 pm"), circuitously and without ever stopping to let motorists (or peds?) through.

I once asked a participant how long he thought was acceptable, to have motorists wait; he refused to answer.

I looked on the Toy Run website for a map of the run, to see what routes if any are still available to drivers while the run is in progress, but the only map they provide is one showing how to reach the [Rood Center] starting point.

Putting on my Keachie hat, what the organizers could do, if they wanted to avoid inconveniencing the community, is divide the bike traffic into 10-minute "slugs" at the outset, with 2 or 3 minutes in between; then the ride could still be nonstop for the bikers, but cars could still get through while the ride was in progress.
And providing a route map - ideally with estimated start/end time the bikers will pass through each segment - would be helpful too. (Does Google let you do animated route maps?)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

"Brain vs bluster" climate video, testimony

Dr. Richard Alley and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in action: Brain vs Bluster
(h/t Peter Sinclair)

As you watch it, remember: this official got more votes than any other contender in his district.

Alley is wonderful, as always. Money quote, circa 8:20: "If humans weren't here and we didn't care about anything that lives here, if this were a video game, I'd push the button and see what happens, because it'd be really exciting; but it's not a video game."

(The fellow who speaks after him is Pat Michaels.)

Friday, December 03, 2010

This week's climate news roundup... the Climate Post from Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions; online here at Grist.

Most interesting - Sharon Begley's Newsweek article about using fractional risk attribution to pin the blame for extreme weather events on climate change.

Most disturbing - with high emissions and strong carbon cycle feedbacks, we could reach 7.2 degrees F as early as 2060 - when the toddler next door will still be younger than I am now.

She deserves better than that.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Speaking up as a citizen - Nov. NCAdvocate column

I've been remiss in [not] mentioning that I wrote a column for the Nevada City Advocate, that finally appeared in the November issue. If you still have a copy, please open it to page 12 and note the column prominently displayed near the bottom.

Accolades were received from [the] five or six people who read it.

It was about high-level tools for thought & judgment; how can and should we-as-citizens go about assessing what we hear about climate, and weighing action. (Kate's laudable credibility spectrum - from nonexperts, to experts, to groups of experts - was, in fact, lauded.)

Speaking up as a citizen - KVMR climate commentary tonight

There was an impassioned - but IMO misguided - commentary on KVMR's science show Soundings, day before yesterday. I asked to respond with a 3 minute commentary on KVMR News, and Paul Emery graciously consented and recorded it today; it will air tonight. You'll be entertained if you listen (live or later) - my lips don't behave well when chilly, so it has the distinct auditory aura of a mouthful of marbles. Or you can just read it, below.
1. I didn't credit Teresa Nielsen Hayden for her "extremely interesting ancient times" big picture, which is flat out wonderful, nor presidential science advisor John Holdren for his "car with bad brakes headed toward a cliff in the fog" metaphor - I was trying to keep it a) flowing and b) under 3 minutes w/o speaking like an auctioneer.
Update, upon listening: more like a Yugo trying to run at 40 below.
2. I don't know 100% that the Climate Science Rapid Response Team promises to provide information
and commentary to journalists, or just information; I'm 90% sure the former though.)
3. Pre-emptive apologies for disappointing a certain local contrarian; when I'd met him, I'd
(verbally) brandished my Harvard PhD in an attempt to convey that I might actually have some idea what I'm talking about. Let's just say it turned out to be a bad move, apparently never to be forgotten; I have learned from it.
4. Partial apologies to Mr. Stahler, whose commentary I was responding to, since I don't directly address most of his points here - IMO it was something of a Gish Gallop, not amenable to a substantive 3 minute rebuttal. AGU-related advice to same, based on last year: attend plenary sessions, which can be excellent for conveying the big picture.
The commentary:
This is Anna Haynes with a Free Speech message about climate science and climate action - and about the big picture.

Some people don't think the science on climate justifies urgent action - and don't want the scientists themselves to speak up about it.

This raises some basic questions.

Should we use science to inform climate policy? I'd say yes - to do otherwise is to act from ignorance.

Does climate science tell us exactly what the future holds, or even exactly what the current reality is?
No, never; science is about the weight of evidence and probabilities and getting ever closer to the truth - not about certainty.

Does the lack of certainty mean it has nothing useful to tell us? No, since it does give information on the severity and likelihood of the dangers we create for ourselves and generations to come, the longer we wait to curb our greenhouse gas emissions.

To wait for certainty is misguided - When you're "in a car with bad brakes driving toward a cliff in the fog" (*), with your children in the back seat, a good parent does not keep their foot on the gas.

Should scientists themselves go before the public and explain the risks we're running? I'd say yes - ideally they could stay in the lab & do their science & leave the communication to others, but with today's journalism of false balance, or worse yet, journalism snookered by industry public relations, as responsible citizens, scientists need to speak up. They have children too.

Do some actions pose their own risks? Yes, but they're much more tractable than global climate destabilization.

But why listen to me, I'm no climate expert - you need a reliable source. Ideally that'd be the media, but it hasn't covered climate well. This may improve, with the Climate Science Rapid Response Team, a group of working climate scientists who've gathered to fight back against misinformation - they're now a resource for journalists who want reliable climate information and commentary.

But what about for the public - for you and me, now? For us the Rapid Response Team recommends a website that uses science to assess dubious climate claims.
The site they recommend is

People can get caught up in details, so let's keep the big picture in mind:

We are "ancestral peoples"; "this is the very dawn of the world. We're hardly more than an eyeblink away from the fall of Troy - and scarcely an interglaciation removed from the Altamira cave painters. We live in extremely interesting ancient times." We need to be "earnest and ingenious and brave, as befits ancestral peoples" (link) ...

- and make our descendants proud.