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Posted at 12:00 AM ET, 11/30/2010

Cable ready

By Tom Toles

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Media forecast: wind
USA Today did the history of journalism a service in printing a story Monday about climate change. It was pretty tidy in illustrating everything that is and has been wrong in the way the media have covered this subject, starting right off with a clever headline which makes the whole subject into a political game.

You see, it's about Obama wanting to pass some sort of strange regulations, and now he can't because, in a quote remarkable for its lack of awareness of its own irony "The whole atmosphere has changed dramatically." The POLITICAL atmosphere! That's the only one this story cares about! The actual climate? We get ONE opinion on that: that the BIBLE says no problem! So Obama and his strange regulations are toast, but WE won't be because it's just politics, after all.

Meanwhile, the New York Times provided a great counter-example in a real-life illustration of how climate change can actually affect real American interests, for the impoverished of imagination, which we seem awash in. Anecdotal, yes, yes, yes, but realize that this is the kind of outcome the actual, non-biblical science is pointing relentlessly toward. THIS is where the EVIDENCE says we are heading. Or you can go back to taking satisfaction that Obama and his funny ideas have been dealt another setback. Which, apparently, you will. --Tom Toles
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By Tom Toles  | November 30, 2010; 12:00 AM ET
Categories:  International, National Security  
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Comments

What's the use - Beliefs trump facts in America.

Vote PALIN/BACHMANN 2012! They are what this country deserves.

Posted by: kparc1212 | December 2, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

"A small cash prize..." Google "X-prize."

Would truckers buy higher-mileage vehicles if they were available? Of course. Modern semis, by the way, are actually quite efficient relative to the weight they carry; trains are even better. And companies ARE investing in design of hybrid and all-electric trucks to transport goods.

There is no conspiracy to deny these vehicles to us but, believe it or not, it takes time to develop technology and even the best engineers are limited by the laws of physics. It also takes guts and a LOT of capital to develop revolutionary new technology that may not sell because it's risky to consumers until proven, and there's not a lot of incentive to do so when incremental innovation is such a safe option.

--

CO2 not a pollutant because it's a natural excretion? What about other natural excretions? Are they also not pollutants?

Posted by: jonroesler | December 1, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Gore and all those so called scientists pushed ethanol as a way of reducing the carbon footprint now Gore is against ethanol since some scientists have said ethanol production actually produces more carbon than burning fossil fuel. Now Gore says he first supported ethanol for political reasons?

Posted by: jornolibist | November 29, 2010 9:22 PM
-------------------------------------------------
It's long been known that the "carbon footprint" for ethanol is greater than for petro-based gasoline. Using ethanol makes some sense IF your primary goal is to reduce dependence on foreign oil. Fuel/energy yield from ethanol corn is still low (but improving) and land that should probably be left as is gets converted to use in growing the corn. Next-generation biofuels derived in less energy-intensive ways, and from non-food sources like switchgrass, are potential solutions. This is a work in progress, a problem no one realistically thought would be solved overnight---al the more reason to get started on it NOW. Conservatives have no place in governing (too boring for them) or in scientific research (too hard for them)--they are too narrow minded and expect immediate and permanent solutions to difficult problems so they head for the country clubs to hang with their corporate buddies. But at least Gore admits that his past support for ethanol was a mistake. I keep waiting, in vain, for AGW deniers to admit that they were and are wrong. You can make Al Gore your AGW pinata if you want, but you'd be missing the point. Al Gore has mostly got it right with AGW--you don't like him because he's a progressive. But don't expect ethanol corn to go away...it's not necessarily the best way to derive biofuels, but Republicans love the subsidies coming to their (farm) states.

Posted by: ptgrunner | November 30, 2010 6:07 PM | Report abuse

dalyplanet, your "Al Gore" comments are getting a bit old. We get it. You don't like Al Gore. Please explain why that's relevant to science. He is not a scientist. He did a movie and lecture series about global warming. Done. He is not doing any current research into climate change, and he never will. He is a messenger, and certainly not a perfect one.

He was recognized (Peace Prize) for raising awareness. Unfortunately, Gore-haters entrenched themselves deeper into denying global warming because of this, and in some ways he may have done some harm by bringing a political figure (himself) into this discussion. It should have NOTHING to do with politics. But unfortunately, you can't be a Republican these days and believe in science. It's not allowed. Nixon didn't understand science either, but he recognized that rivers burning, eagles dying, and gagging on the air outside were things that needed to be addressed, so he created the EPA, signed the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act; things that were all responsible for cleaning up a lot of our pollution issues. Nowdays, NONE of that legislation would make it through a Republican congress (or even a spineless Democratic one!).

The science is solid. Fossil fuel use leads to a rapidly altered climate (yes, climate has changed in the past....VERY slowly...over long periods of time, except when driven by catastrophic events such as meteor or comet collisions). We must get ourselves off fossil fuels as soon as possible, away from the poison of nuclear, and find every way we can to produce energy sustainbly for generations to come. We can do it with existing technology. There is enough wind, solar, geothermal, wave action, conservation, etc, to give us the power we need. The only thing missing from this equation is the political will to do it. The trillion or so we've spent on oil wars could have easily rebuilt and modified our electrical grid. But that's not a "flag waving, kick-ass" cause, so we instead chose to kill people for oil.

In plain terms, this country needs to grow up and quit fearing all the evil demons Fox News tells us are out to steal our "freedom", whatever that means. To me, freedom means I can turn on a light switch and know that the energy needed to provide me some light for reading is minimal, is not harming the environment, giving anyone asthma or mercury poisoning, is not fouling the Gulf of Mexico, is not destroying my children's chance for a healthy planet, and is not killing someone I don't know on the other side of the planet.

Posted by: PrairieDog60 | November 30, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

I do care about global warming, but I care about my pocket book even more.

I can see a world where solar energy IS efficient, and I HAVE NO MORE ELECTRIC BILL. Not only that, but when a strong storm comes through, I DON'T lose power, and I DON'T lose a couple of hundred bucks in food.

I see a world where I don't have to watch the gas gage and fill up every several days. I won't have to fill up at all.

The FACT that such things would go a long way to alleviating the worst of global warming effect is a bonus.

The FACT that we would no longer be bankrolling Saudi Arabia and OPEC so they can fund terrorists to blow up things like the Twin Towers is also a bonus.

Strangely enough, when the talk turns to alternative energy and renewable sources, there is always at least one monkey that has to say, but, I don't believe in global warming, as if that is the only advantage.

Believe global warming or not, as you please, but tell me: who do you really want to give your cash to? Oil barons, or entertainment? Terrorist sponsors, or food?

Posted by: taroya | November 30, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

For debunking the climate change deniers argument that temperature change(increase) precedes CO2 increase and therefore CAUSES CO2 increase, see:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/co2-lags-temperature.htm

Actually, temperature increase does precede CO2 increase sometimes. But the current temperature increase causes by a CO2 which, in turn causes more temperature increase. Positive feedback. With just a little reading, this denier argument falls apart.

It's also true that the global temperature has increased only by about 0.6˚. That's 0.6˚ C(Centrigrade) or about 1.2˚F(Fahrenheit). But just as importantly, it's the vast amount of increased heat now stored in the oceans. And the point is that global temperature is STILL increasing, with no end in sight.

When you wait for the crisis to hit, it's too late.

There really are many things we can do now. We're not talking about eliminating the use or oil and coal tomorrow. But we can't ignore the problems like the auto industry did. Failure to start acting now simply means that when we do act, we will be forced to take very draconian measures...just as with the U.S. auto industry. I'm getting older and I have no children, so I don't really know why I should care. This is not going to affect me or mine. But for younger people or people with children, I can't understand the cavalier attitude towards AGW. I suppose it's the conservative "hide your head in the sand"
view of the world which has not exactly served them so well up to now. AGW deniers should just say "we don't want to" instead of repeating the Rush Limbaugh talking points about AGW...that I could understand because _they never want to_.

Posted by: ptgrunner | November 30, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

There is one reason, and one reason only, that the United States does not reprocess nuclear fuel: Fear.

We have been fearful, since the Carter administration, that nuclear material could be hard to control and might fall into the wrong hands.

Each time nuclear fuel is used, 95% of the energy remains untapped. Gaining only 5% of that 95% each time doesn't sound like much, but keep in mind that 5% of 95% is almost 5% of the first 100% available, and 5% of the next 95% is almost as much, 5% of the next 95%, etc.

Are there risks? Of course. Has reactor technology improved over, say, the last 30 years since Three-mile Island? Most likely, yes.

The French (those damned French again) reprocess their waste and, in spite of not being particularly oil-rich, are a net exporter of energy. "Yes," you say, "but the French are freedom-hating Socialists. We Americans must have OIL!"

Posted by: jonroesler | November 30, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

We need to think creatively about climate change. If we play our cards right, we can get a nuclear exchange going with North Korea and possibly a few other members of the H-bomb club, thereby precipitating a nuclear winter that should balance out global warming quite nicely. This solution would also help to alleviate the underlying problem: the ever-growing world population and its effluents.

As Wikileaks makes clear, the ingenuity of mankind is boundless.

Posted by: EthelredtheUnready | November 30, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

PrairieDog60

The chip is not an analogy. The computer processing chip is a tiny part of silicon technology. The chip is part of the solution. The silicon chip is now in every device that uses electricity and our understanding of electrons continues to improve. When electron understanding is more complete our need for oil WILL be diminished. So in the last 40 years chips go from being in nothing to being in everything electric. 40 more years will be transformational. 100 years ago there was no commercial electricity. Now you can phone home from Mt Everest. Perhaps in the near future Tesla's vision of directly tapping electrons from the earth without the generator will be reality. This is the guy, remember, who invented AC power when all others could only think in DC.

There are HUGE profits to be made from developing new or more efficient power supplies. Imagine a 50% efficient solar cell that was cheap to build, billions in income and reduce your electric bill to boot. I believe the government lacks the understanding to pick correctly hence the boondoggles of today. And truckers will love 100 MPG.

I am hard pressed to "see" these immediate effects of climate change in the last decade. Slight at best. So I am not ready to turn over our world energy policy to a handful of "experts" at this time. Especially the huge energy waster Al Gore and his pals who are getting rich selling fear and hype, and carbon offsets. All of the government solutions offered today are part of existing Big energy. The government WILL NOT promote innovative solutions. As has been said many times here, Politicos and Corporations are way too connected.

I agree that competition is the answer to our future energy needs. A small cash (50 mil) prize open to all for innovation will do more to solve our carbon dependence than all the ethanol subsidies have achieved. A lot of smart people thinking independently about energy is better than a handful of Politicos subsidizing their favorite committee agreed single solution.

Another idea; privatize nuclear energy storage. 40% of US CO2 emissions could end in 40 years with more nuclear energy. Why is this not on the table if CO2 is SO dangerous to the earth.

Posted by: dalyplanet | November 30, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse


Doing what is good and the right solution to the problem is essential to our survival.
Stealing from the poor and giving to the rich is an abomination.
Our disconnect with reality is going to be our demise; so much potential and so little success.
The latest Wikileaks is a prime example of our incompetence. The disrespectful and belligerent attitudes of our so wrongly called "diplomats" are only the tip of the incompetency that is ramped.
We need government employees including the President and Congressmen who are highly qualified, not incompetent. The Republicans and the Democrats need to read Plato's Republic and practice what Plato preaches.
The corruption of our government and the moral decay of our people has been a great political success for the "terrorists".
It is amazng how little fear it takes to unhinge a society. Instead of getting our act together and adressing the problems, we run around in circles at the fence.
There is the story about an accident at one of the nuclear silos. A crane failed when placing a warhead and the war head fell into the silo. There was fresh snow on the ground and the next day there were circular foot prints where the workers got to the fence and then ran in circles at the fence.
Like Sir Winston Churchill said, "What we must fear most is fear itself".
Dave



Posted by: OckamsRazor | November 30, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

What caused global warming in the geologic past, before humans existed? Who or what was pumping CO2 into the atmosphere? Answer: The oceans, because global warming was occuring, caused by changes in solar and cosmic cycles, along with changes in ocean currents. History shows that global warming leads to an increase in atmospheric CO2, NOT vice versa. This whole climate change issue is being driven by the desire of global power elites to seize control of every form of human activity everywhere on the planet.

Posted by: DirtFarmer1 | November 30, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Using the development of the silicon computer chip as an analogy of how science will solve our energy problems is not quite prudent. Computer technology was very profit driven once it entered the market. There were huge profits to be made by improving the ability to do word processing, computing, communicating, etc.

Right now, there are NOT huge profits to be made in moving our economy from fossil fuels to renewable fuels. In fact, there is a huge opposing force fighting against this very idea. The established energy companies, along with those that make lots of money off truck transportation, etc, have a vested interest in seeing the status quo continue. Most of the money that funds "scientists" to do anti-global-warming research comes from organizations like the American Petroleum Institute.

Market forces in a situation like this work very slowly. Unfortunately, the issue of speed is an appropriate one in this case, as climate change scientists are pretty convinced we have a very short window to really stop some of the most catatrophic scenarios from becoming reality. When quick action is necessary, markets are not the solution. Government has to provide many incentives and stimulus to get such a dramatic change in motion. And with well-established and well-funded opposing forces working to stop transition to a sustainable economy, market inertia is even greater.

More than anything else, I believe the issue of climate change needs to be framed as one of frugality and competition. In essence, two communities compete with one another to see how much money they can save in energy costs; and how much they can decrease their consumption. America loves a good competition. If we can get communities/citizens/businesses/governments/etc. to do the kind of conservation and conversion needed by having them compete with each other, we'll see better results than if we lecture them about global warming. Frame it as making America energy independent by besting the guy next door.

"Be the first on your block to free us from foreign oil!"

Posted by: PrairieDog60 | November 30, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

GaryEMasters

I am in agreement with you. But there are too many voices saying we must do something now or we will perish. These voices promoted and subsidized corn ethanol as a solution to help solve our energy needs. They picked this looser solution as the winner and spent stupidly. Using food for fuel is such a bad idea that it needs no discussion. Plus the process is so expensive that energy gain is small. Big government elites and special interests forced this boondoggle on the public. It has taken more than ten years to admit to the folly of this moronic experiment and at least as long to wind it down so twenty five years of down the wrong path by Big government elites and nothing to show for it but higher food cost. But at least we did something.

I am concerned that 15,000 partying elite delegates in Cancun will decide on another foolish rat hole solution so they are doing something to save us from ourselves. And they will all feel useful and good.

The silicon chip has changed the world in about 30 years of practical use. I can imagine where it will take us in 30 more years. We are only just beginning to command electrons and they are everywhere. The chip industry remarkably developed without government intervention and will continue to do so without interference. I believe that Science will solve our future energy needs not Politics or Taxes.

Most importantly, until 15,000 climate negotiators start using the technology available and telecommute to these conferences at a cost of a few kilowatts of energy instead of using the millions of kilowatts to accomplish she same in Cancun I am going to remain skeptical of their assertions and motives.

Posted by: dalyplanet | November 30, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Razor makes a good point. We are beyond the carrying capacity of the planet for any technology that predated oil, we have not developed any post-petroleum technology that will support even a fraction of the population, and oil is a finite resource.
People need to be a whole lot fussier about who they make babys with, and they need to make a point of making sure they can provide for the babys they have before they make more. If they can't do that, Mother Nature will adress the problem, and she is a ruthless beyotch.

Posted by: Capn0ok | November 30, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Those who can not imagine anything but a zero sum game in the climate discussion have one last hope. "At least one of us is right."

But it is very possible that both the "warmers" and the "deniers" are essentially wrong in limiting themselves to one scenario and never looking for any other questions or futures to prepare for.

The only conclusion I have is the blind are leading the blind.

But where?

Posted by: GaryEMasters | November 30, 2010 6:48 AM | Report abuse

We will run out of the stuff someday but we have been in the golden age of mankind with oil powering our energy needs. Without oil almost every tree would be cut for heat by now, our cities would be hot in the summer and cold in winter and all the amazing communication electronics would not be available because we would be still be concerned for the most part about what we would be eating today as there would be no refrigeration and poor very slow transportation to move our groceries.
Posted by: dalyplanet

My Reply...
That is why...
It is necessary to perfect our technology to provide the resources to support our society and expand our economics to provide the goods and services that make our high tech society possible.
The only way we could go back to a gregorian society without the technology is to eliminate a large portion of our population.
That might solve some of the C02 problem but it would be a disaster for a large segment of our society.
Our best solution is to get our act together and do what is necessary to solve our economic systemic problems and provide a reasonable method to get our society functioning efficiently again.
This nation is all about making things work and right now things are falling apart at a rapid rate.
Corruption and greed are the cancerous growths that are putrefying our nation.

Posted by: OchamsRazor | November 30, 2010 12:47 AM | Report abuse

As to the first link, calling CO2 a pollutant is a bit extreme as we all emit CO2 while breathing. I am personally hoping Congress will keep the EPA out of the debate as these issues should be part of the US energy policy with elected voices setting a plan for the future of our energy consumption. It is clear that a measured approach is appropriate as some climate change voices are too strident in their demands for curbing energy consumption compared to the perhaps modest costs to society of our shorter term carbon based energy needs. We will run out of the stuff someday but we have been in the golden age of mankind with oil powering our energy needs. Without oil almost every tree would be cut for heat by now, our cities would be hot in the summer and cold in winter and all the amazing communication electronics would not be available because we would be still be concerned for the most part about what we would be eating today as there would be no refrigeration and poor very slow transportation to move our groceries.

Posted by: dalyplanet | November 29, 2010 11:53 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Toles
Sometimes I not sure if you are serious in your comments or kidding around. Today is a prime example. I will start with the Times link.
Minnesota experienced a phenomenal growing season this year. The second largest corn and soybean crop ever. Truck farmers from the area all reported extra large yields and their prices reflected this. The early part of the season had good regular rain and lots of sun later. Very few irrigation systems were made operational this year. Except for perhaps this guys location the weather was like his grandfathers one year of perfect.

The author, Jack Hedin lives in an area where the main road follows a deep cut scoured in the native limestone by the river that runs through it. Any first year geologist can see that this river has flooded many many times in the last thousand years as many thousands of square miles of farmland drain through this narrow deep cut in the landscape. It is a very beautiful area.

Prior to Modern Farming many thousands of acres in this watershed were too difficult to farm and slowed the onslaught of heavy rain, moderating flooding. Now every marginally productive acre is tilled with heavy equipment. A particular quirk in atmospheric fate has caused heavy rain to stall over this watershed several times during the last five years. But again it is clear to see that flooding has been a regular event before the industrial age.
It is very clear to me that Modern Farming is the cause of rapid runoff and more flooding than in the past. Where before many acres were preserved to hold water these preserved acres are now seen as an impediment to maximizing production. While the rest of Minnesota has had some heavy rain over the years it is only this specific area that has seen repeated serious flooding. Man has been the cause of flooding but not in the form of changing the weather. Better farming practice over the last twenty years would have prevented this present day harm.

This is of course an editorial presented by the Times but it is a very poor example of economic harm caused by changing climate as the rest of Minnesota's climate was most excellent for crop production this year. This is just another example of taking a micro climate and attempting to extrapolate it to a global scale.
There is a difference between causal and corollary or in this case anecdotal evidence of climate change

Posted by: dalyplanet | November 29, 2010 11:37 PM | Report abuse

Gore and all those so called scientists pushed ethanol as a way of reducing the carbon footprint now Gore is against ethanol since some scientists have said ethanol production actually produces more carbon than burning fossil fuel. Now Gore says he first supported ethanol for political reasons?

Posted by: jornolibist | November 29, 2010 9:22 PM | Report abuse

The budget deficit no one saw coming! I love it
Posted by: will12

I think the "head in the sand" defense mechanism is not working properly; especially when the Republicans are painting targets on all of the exposed posteriors.

It is hard to see the "light" when you have sand in your eyes.

Unless you are blinded; it is obvious that there is not enough money in the fiscal system to support wannabe trillionaires while Joe Worker cannot afford to support his family let alone trillionaires.
Without an equitable distribution of wealth; it is impossible to sustain a functional economy.

So far as I can tell, everything that has been done to fix our economy is to support the supply side of economics and undermine the demand side of economics. The problem with our economy is that instead of generating "new money" to provide new jobs at higher wages to add buying power to the demand side of economics, they have been wasting money on the supply side of the economy which is already top heavy. No wonder the system is broken.
Dave

Posted by: OchamsRazor | November 29, 2010 8:07 PM | Report abuse

The budget deficit no one saw coming! I love it

Posted by: will12 | November 29, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if journalists now also go to business school to study marketing. Rupert Murdoch has backed marketing genius Sarah Palin with millions of dollars for visibility on television etc. She is beautiful and a genius at presenting public policy in folksy terms that disguise the actual policy itself. American citizens would never support the actual policy if it were stated plainly - for example kicking people out of their homes due to illegal foreclosure filings. If asked directly if people should be forced from their homes, Sarah Palin doesn't answer. Of course the Congress and present and past administrations have allowed Murdoch to put together a mass media network that in the good old days would be considered a monopoly. So, Sarah Palin does not even have to win the presidency to be worth the money she is earning. She is useful to the congress and the administration (they can continue sucking money from corporations and wealthy donors and work against American citizens). She is also a money-maker for Rupert Murdoch who needs more money to buy more American media.

Posted by: PaloAlto4 | November 29, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

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