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Fall weather

By Tom Toles



Way to go!

The economy of the 21st century will be based on an educated workforce. This will entail a familiarity with science and technology and the ability to recognize that peer-reviewed scientific work is a conspiracy. Employers will be looking for people to compete against foreign workers by having the skills to look online and find a Web site that tells them that entire fields of science are a hoax.

The United States is still, even in this era of budget cuts, able to turn out millions of adults ready and willing to cite obscure e-mails to prove that all scientists want is to control their lives. Adults able to seek out and find television and radio programming that gives them CLEAR, CONSISTENT misinformation that they can use to elect politicians who will turn that misinformation into policy.

And parenting is key. If you are one of the fortunate millions who have had these opportunities to arm yourself with a delusional worldview, be sure to PASS THAT ON to your children. This will equip them for a productive life in the global dust bin. This is how the U.S. will position itself for leadership in a world that is changing, in more ways than one. --Tom Toles




By Tom Toles  | November 15, 2010; 12:00 AM ET
Categories:  Environment & global warming  
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daly planet,

Thanks for the comments. Be careful with the long-term estimates of fossi fuel supplies. Different sources have different numbers. The industry quotes the numbers you do. Other geologists not attached to industry or government will quote numbers much smaller. Either way, it's also important to remember that "reserves" just means that it's there. It doesn't mean it's easy to get at, nor easy to process. Canada is finding that its tar sand oil is creating some environmental nightmares.

Coal is the big bad monster here. Several hundred people are currently in litigation over the pollution of their groundwater in WV by coal slurry, pumped by coal companies into underground mines to get out the last of what was there, only to leave massive pollution in the groundwater. As they blow the tops off mountains to get at coal, they dump the refuse into the nearby valleys and streams. Do you honestly think we can keep doing that for another hundred years?

Up until a few years ago, we only had enough natural gas for a few more decades. Now, with the advent of fracking, that has turned into a century. Fracking is the process of pumping water and other fluids underground under high pressure to break the bedrock and free gas deposits. We're already finding this is also causing the pollution of groundwater, with people able to "light" their water as it comes out their faucets in areas where fracking is prevalent.

Oil is a no brainer. It will be at the "Peak Oil" point in 30 years or less, and that's even according to the most optimistic industry-types (not sure where your "150 year" came from). It's a vanishing fuel, and by the time my kids are my age, they will simply not be driving a vehicle with an internal combustion engine.

This doesn't even get at the mercury released into the atmosphere, then deposited into lakes and streams, when we burn coal (seen any fish advisories in your neighborhood lately?). Or NOx and SOx and particulates released, all tied to acid rain, and health problems like asthma.

So, it's too expensive to get off these fuels you say? I disagree. If the real cost...the hidden and external costs...of continuing to use these fuels were added in, we'd see that we've been in the red for a long time.

We've got hundreds of billions of dollars for oil wars in Iraq. Imagine what we could do with that money going instead toward R&D, toward retrofitting older homes and businesses, to high-speed rail powered by electricity from a new grid that taps solar fields, wind farms, geothermal sources, and yes, the occasional coal plant to augment the grid when the other sources are producing less.

There is no excuse to continue using fossil fuels at the rate we are now. To fall back on the "it would hurt the economy" arguement is a cop out. We can move off them. We just need the political and social will. But energy-industry-induced fear is preventing it from happening.

Posted by: PrairieDog60 | November 15, 2010 6:10 PM | Report abuse


I was seeing in a report that the US has 500 years of coal and 100 years of known natural gas. Plus maybe 150 years of oil. so that gives us 500 years of electricity the most useful of power sources. Geology is a much more understandable science than climatology because it involves mapping not modeling. In other words when I see we have 500 years of coal I believe it because there is a 3D map that states there is X number of trillion cubic feet of coal divided by present annual consumption equal 500 years of coal. When a human conceived computer model states that arctic ice will be completely gone by summer of whatever date I am not as likely to accept because it is a guess due to too many variables and unknowns.

I believe we are adding CO2 to the air, it is a fact, as is an apparent slight increase in average annual temp. Is CO2 entirely or not at all causal is open to debate, probably in the middle. Is a little warming a bad thing, probably not. Is a lot of warming a bad thing, probably. But the computer model is not facts but only a prediction. This is the area of needed study in my mind

The solution to stopping using fossil fuel is so painful and destructive now that there is no solution presently that is acceptable. One is to replace all coal electrical generation with nuclear but that is not going to happen soon here in the US. Another would be to cut electrical usage to only renewable sources but that would require reducing consumption by at least 60% or 9 hours of power daily plus industry doing the same. Not going to happen. None of the solutions offered today put a dent in energy use.

I believe that our hope is in developing new tech from the minds of our billions of humans. There are more chance for genius today than 100 years ago because there are billions more of us. We need to be patient.

What are you doing to save fossil fuel.

Posted by: dalyplanet | November 15, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

"The Tragedy of the Commons," by Garrett Hardin, 1968, is a good read.

There is a technical solution to the problem, but the likelihood of it being implemented in time approaches zero... for pretty much the reasons laid out so plainly by Hardin in his essay.

Also read, "Easter's End," by Jared Diamond, August 1995. Yes, the same Jared Diamond who wrote, "Guns, Germs and Steel."
Diamond went to 'real' schools, however, long before Al Gore invented the internet, so readers will want to take his work with a grain of salt.

On the other side, there's the happy poster even claims foreign energy companies are behind the Green movement, forcing Americans to use foreign oil. Apparently believing that we Americans and our friends the British were somehow "conned" by (at the time) third-world Arab nomads into partitioning the Middle East in the 20th century so that these same nomads could fleece us of our hard-won cash in exchange for the oil under their sand. Which they knew nothing about until we got there. By funding the Green movement, which did not exist at the time.

So much for internet education.

Posted by: jonroesler | November 15, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

mfn, dalyplanet, and others...

If you don't believe in anthropogenic climate change, do you understand that fossil fuels are finite? Or is this also a science with which you disagree? Do you believe that there is an endless supply of crude oil, easy to get at, with little or no consequence and no price we wouldn't be willing to pay to get it? And natural gas? And coal? If this is the case, then I'd say you're delusional and I probably should just give up now and recognize that it's pointless to try a meaningful dialogue. But...I venture a guess that you are all bright enough to know better than this.

That being said, why then do you fight so hard to not do the things we need to do to wean ourselves off sources of fuel that are going to run out in the next few decades? Is it just because, for some reason, you hate Al Gore, and think that by being forward-thinking with regard to energy policy will somehow mean you'd be seen as liking Al Gore by all your Gore-hating friends? Do you recognize that converting an economy to different sources of energy won't work overnight...that it has to be started long before it is absolutely inescapable? To wait until the last minute would be catastrophic.

Let me ask this another way. If you and your family were stranded on an island with just a few supplies and little hope of rescue anytime soon, wouldn't you start figuring out ways to find food elsewhere, ways to build shelter using what the island had to offer, ways to make your supplies last as long as possible, ways to adapt to a life where convenience had to be sacrificed for the benefit of your family's survival? And all this by making sure you didn't strip the island of every last resource so it could sustain you indefinitely? I would guess you would do these things for yourself and your family.

Well, Earth is an island. There is only so much here. 6.5 billion people (and climbing) CAN use up too much of the "island" resources and create too much garbage (garbage being water pollution, air pollution, filled-up land fills, etc.) if we're not careful. Are you Christian folk? Isn't there something in Christian ideology about being good stewards of the Earth?

Please explain, if you believe our fossil fuels are finite, why you fight so hard to wean ourselves off of them. I'd be very interested in knowing this.

Posted by: PrairieDog60 | November 15, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

I'll be more than happy to pass on my belief in natural climate change to my children. In turn, I hope you and your kind continue to embrace a fear of overpopulation coupled with your love of abortion. I hope none of you have children to pass anything on to.

Posted by: mfm69cubs | November 15, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

I'll be more than happy to pass on my belief in natural climate change to my children. In turn, I hope you and your kind continue to embrace a fear of overpopulation coupled with your love of abortion. I hope none of you have children to pass anything on to.

Posted by: mfm69cubs | November 15, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Have any of you alarmists pulled your electric meter sold your car and stopped flying or are you all waiting till everyone believes is man made warming before you contribute to stopping carbon emmissions. I think most of you are just name calling hippocrits when it comes to actually reducing your carbon footprint in any meaningful way Al Gore being chief waster of energy amoung the alarmists.

Posted by: dalyplanet | November 15, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse


What responsible action should I be taking to save my children. What action are you taking.

Posted by: dalyplanet | November 15, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

If 98 out of 100 climate scientists told us that global climate change is actually happening, the Republican/Tea Partyers would want us to bet on the 2 who say it's not. That's hardly what I'd call the "conservative" position.

Posted by: fostersm1 | November 15, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Climate change is thought a myth
And Tom is all against it.

To be sure he saw the bucks to gain
By making a science to fit it.

While Evolution’s a science that’s already been taken
And abortion is no longer debated,

The thing to remember when considering this
Could Tom Toles be inebriated?

Posted by: quiensabe | November 15, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Hey CardFan, it IS cyclical. There were no polar ice caps when the dinosaurs were the dominant species and many times during the history of the planet since their extinction. The planet has gone through phases where it was nearly completely covered in ice and phases when it was completely free of ice. We have NO idea what caused these cycles and yet we somehow "know" that we are causing the latest round of increasing temperatures.

Posted by: ATrueChristian | November 15, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

So you think you can tell, Heaven from Hell,
blues skies from rain.

Posted by: backspace1 | November 15, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I keep wondering what the denialists will say when there's a summer all water passage across the arctic. Will they say it's merely "cyclical"?

Posted by: CardFan | November 15, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

I keep wondering what the denialists will say when there's a summer all water passage across the arctic. Will they is "cyclical"?

Posted by: CardFan | November 15, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Good Lord, enough of all this bickering over climate change. The honorable John Shimkus has assured us that God promised Noah that there will be no more floods. That's it folks, now let it go.

Posted by: merhoff | November 15, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I am in the camp with GaryEMasters. A bridge approach. Measured and thoughtful.

Al Gore is not a climatologist but is the voice of the alarmists. The dire predictions proposed in his film do not have universal acceptance in the scientific community. This overreaching approach creates skeptical reaction.

The sure HOAX part of the debate is the proposed cure. These cures come from political and business minds not scientific. Mandating curly light bulbs in my home or other modest conservation efforts will slightly slow but not stop the rise of CO2 emissions. Stop using electricity in your home might. Trading tax credits and carbon offsets are only a shell game that add cost to energy but will do nothing to conserve energy. The only real solution for this problem is to stop using fossil fuels entirely. Assuming the problem is as serious as you believe it to be Mr. Toles.

Posted by: dalyplanet | November 15, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

The jury is out on whether any species that counts as members some of the climate change deniers posting here, even deserves to survive. They simply are the equivalent of aboriginal island dwellers, with a total disregard for science and responsible action.

If they have kids, those kids will be cursing their names every day of their existence a couple decades from now. It's sad that *I* don't even know their kids, but care about them more than they do. What pathetic proto-humans these idiots are.

Posted by: B2O2 | November 15, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

One of the prerequisites for becoming extinct is being too dumb to live. We are getting there.

Posted by: dataflunky | November 15, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Can you imagine if these low IQ progs had been around during colonial times? As the little ice age ended they'd have been running around in circles screeching. Don't EVEN think about the beginning of the Medieval Warm Period. LMAO

Posted by: illogicbuster | November 15, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

With education, much like with society, the more we rely on technology and "individual" learning, the more it will be our undoing as a society.

Teachers, classrooms, working in groups, bouncing ideas off each other, learning to give your peers healthy criticism, learing to TAKE healthy criticism, learning to function as a member of a team, all of these are crippled by the "one person in front of a computer" type of learning. Computers have their place in the classroom, but are NOT the only tool by which we should be learning.

Our society functions at its best when we work to solve problems AS a society. We've seen what polarizing media (people sitting in front of Fox News or reading nothing but websites they agree with) can do to people. It makes them think anyone who disagrees with them is "evil" or the enemy, or "Hitler". This is where the societal nature of classroom learning is crucial. You will meet people in a classroom that you disagree with, but you will also learn how to disagree with them in a civil and constructive way (if you have good teachers).

Those that denegrate our education system should work hard to improve it, rather than lobbing insults at teachers. A good portion of the teachers I know work hard, are poorly paid, have to jump through way too many hoops (NCLB), act as social workers far too often, deal with obnoxious parents, and grade papers late into the evening. Yes, there are things about the education system that need to be refined and modified, but we still have the framework of a fantastic education system in this country. Let's not dismantle it.

And, this push toward "charter schools" and private education, is a dangerous thing. It should not only be those with money that get a good education.

The rest of the educated world laughs at us for denying climate science, and denying evolution. If we choose to regress with our education, we will regress as a society. A nation that refuses to understand and teach the future, will rapidly become the past.

Posted by: PrairieDog60 | November 15, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Foreign oil producers continue to push for Cap and Trade legislation that is designed to kill off American energy producers. Foreign oil producers finance radical Green movements that wish to shut down Americas ability to produce their own energy. Why force Americans to use foreign oil. This policy has caused tremendous economic harm.
We have vast amounts of natural gas reserves. Bill Gates supports new nuclear technologies that uses old nuclear waste as a fuel.
Elements of the Green movement have unwittingly become shills for foreign oil importers

Posted by: cosciousness | November 15, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Toles' cartoon "Fall Weather" (beware the climate abyss, etc.) contains an implicit assumption: the actual existence in physical reality of something vaguely labelled "the climate abyss". How left-wing/progressive to vastly oversimplify a situation and then demonize the opposition as either completely ignorant of the hard facts or fiendishly black-hearted with respect to the future of the human race. As of today, science has not firmly answered either of the following two questions, "Is the Earth on a long-term warming trend?" and "If the Earth is on a long-term warming trend, can/should mankind do anything to halt/reverse the trend?". Until it is able to do so, the responsible action to take is "Wait until there is actionable intelligence." All else is folly.

Posted by: DoTheRightThing | November 15, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

It is my understanding that there should be great concern with global climate change. However, I must warn Tom Toles of the risks of a far left liberal scolding others about denial.

You lose a lot of points there.

Posted by: primegrop | November 15, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse


I certainly agree the current education system is in much need of an overhaul, not the least of which is we should include more use of current technologies, which are getting cheaper every day (why in the world do we spend hundreds for a textbook that we have to replace every few years instead of having the information online and just updating it regularly?), however, I think you are understating the importance of teachers, and also the importance of children learning and working together and not alone in front of a computer at home.

There's plenty else to change I just wanted to point that out.

Posted by: jhnnywalkr | November 15, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Truth in the middle?

Sure if you mean a bridge.

The real bridge is to get beyond "How can we cool the Earth?" and "We will not need to cool the Earth." Or even "We can not cool the Earth."

Just take this one step at a time. Say This is what we do if the warming trend continues..."

And also say "This is what we do if the warming trend changes..."

Not to deny warming, but to realize that warming is no the only future or problem we face.

I call it "expanding the discussion" and not denying anything.

A minor point?

It may be. But most problems we see on the horizon are minor when we first see them. But we need to pay attention to them before they become too big to fix.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | November 15, 2010 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Oh, Tom, you have captured my grief and put a frame around it.

Posted by: goodgovernment | November 15, 2010 8:00 AM | Report abuse

Tom joins Dave Barry, Gene Weingarten, and Carl Hiassen in today's (not Friday Rant) rant. This is fast company. John D MacDonald's bits come to mind as well.

Tom, your comment is certainly as biting as your cartoons. Consider this some sycophantic adulation from afar. (Only in a literary frame, of course.)

Posted by: Geezer4 | November 15, 2010 7:54 AM | Report abuse

ALL of the newly elected House Regressives have been "led" to believe global warming is a hoax - conned by their House & Senate Regressive mentors who receive huge donations from Big Oil.

Posted by: angie12106 | November 15, 2010 6:57 AM | Report abuse

Al Gore didn't invent the internet, but he did invent manmade global warming.

Posted by: billybeer6 | November 15, 2010 6:25 AM | Report abuse

Dear Poor Butterfly:

As a recipient of one of those lousy brick and mortar doctorates (medicine), I am ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN I do not want my doctor to have gotten his degree online.

There is no substitute for sitting at the bedside of a living, breathing human being and talking, touching and learning. Sticking your gloved, sterile hand in the actual not virtual abdomen during surgery cannot be duplicated.

Furthermore, in all fields, the screen from an inaccurate/misleading website looks pretty much the same as a spot-on accurate one. Or, if you prefer the succinct Latin question of Juvenal: "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"

Be careful what you wish for.

Posted by: DougMUSN | November 15, 2010 5:33 AM | Report abuse

The smart children already know there is no compromising with a hoax. Just like with Madoff it will be exposed. One smart child asked if "when the manmade global warming hoax is finally exposed would there be any tangible assets left to sell to reimburse society, sort of like Madoff's used slippers?"

Posted by: jornolibist | November 15, 2010 5:31 AM | Report abuse

To Tom Toles
Unfortunately, people do not feel a thing until they hit the bottom of the gulley.
Another problem is that after you step off of the edge of the cliff, there is no stepping back on the cliff; it is a free fall to the bottom of the gulley. It is one of those things that are free that you have to pay for with your life both metaphorically and physically.
When it comes to the Tea Party, their tea is spiked with lies and deception. Their only hope is a Coffee Party to sober them up.

Posted by: OckamsRazor | November 15, 2010 2:35 AM | Report abuse

Sadly this is America's future. Climate deniers just don't get it. And the GOP has jumped onto that ship full bore. Even if Climate Change were a hoax, drill baby drill doesn't prepare us for a future without oil as our primary resource. Peak oil is inevitable and much sooner than most think. The EU and Chinese governments have been spending billions to develop their alternative energy sectors with money for research and development. The US meanwhile has given billions in research dollars and tax credits to a dying oil industry, that has hedged its future by buying up many alternative energy businesses, but allowed them to languish while they squeeze every dollar out of oil. The GOP is leading the US toward energy irrelevance, while the Democrats stand on the sidelines and bicker.

Posted by: ecostarr1 | November 15, 2010 2:28 AM | Report abuse

The real future of education is online and free.
Posted by: LePauvrePapillon

My Reply...
It is my opinion that education should start with how to learn and the function of language that could be taught on line.
Education should be a life time commitment not just a starter for a given career.
Television and computers should be learning tools not just entertainment.
It is also necessary that education support social organization and human skills.
Why to and how to are important social skills that need to be taught in order to have a functional and efficient society by and for intelligent people that cannot be deceived by propaganda and promotions that are intended to deceive people.

Posted by: OckamsRazor | November 15, 2010 2:14 AM | Report abuse

Junior high schools, high schools, community colleges, state as well as private universities in fact all forms of classroom education are now completely obsolete. The day-to-day experience of most students is more akin to doing time in prison than improving oneself through the progressive assimilation of knowledge.

We spend a fortune for so-called education in the United States. What we get is, at best, a very expensive baby-sitting service complete with pensions, tenure, paid vacations and Cadillac healthcare benefits or, at worst, Marxist Indoctrination Centers.

It makes no economic sense whatsoever. Not only that, the product it turns out is lousy.

You want to balance these budgets both state and federal? You want a highly educated work force? You want to relieve parents of the burden of paying for college degrees? You want to relieve young families of the burden of tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt?

Then fire the professors. Disband the teachers’ unions. Retire the million-a-year administrators. Close the gated compounds.

For a fraction of what we now spend on this failed bureaucracy, we could put every course, every major, every bachelor, every masters, every doctorate online for free and let every U.S. citizen learn as much and excel as far and as fast as he or she can.

Right now, every U.S. citizen could learn anything they want, at their own pace, without having to drive or live miles away from their home, without going into debt and without suffering through boring lectures that are more of a boost for the professor (or graduate assistant’s) ego than a learning experience for the student.

The annual budget for U.S. Department of Education is $160 billion. For one percent of that ($1.6 billion) you could allocate $1 million per course to create 1,600 online courses per year. With that kind of budget, you could quickly produce courses that are thorough, concise, interactive, dramatic and entertaining.

The average bachelor degree consists of only about 40 courses. Within a very few years, you could have every field from bachelor to masters to doctorate available online to all U.S. citizens -- for free -- with those completing the programs receiving an accredited degree from the United States Academy of Arts and Sciences.

We could invest a relative pittance to organize and present all human knowledge online. Make it interesting, interactive, efficient and intelligent. We have the technology, the talent and the dollars available to do this - and do it excellently - right now.

So called “progressives” like to envision themselves as forward looking, egalitarian and pro-education. They are none of these things. They are the most reactionary and conservative defenders of the status quo on the planet whenever their entrenched interests are threatened. The only change they are interested in is the change that they want others to make and/or pay for.

The real future of education is online and free.

Posted by: LePauvrePapillon | November 15, 2010 1:35 AM | Report abuse

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