It’s Here, It’s Real, and We’ve Got to Talk About It Together

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Our Problem

I know, I know. It’s the “Hysterical Doomsaying Scientists” vs the “What’s Wrong With These People? Don’t They Care About Their Grandkids?” folks. How can we ever find common ground? I’ve just discovered someone who’s devoting her life to that effort, and I’ll introduce her to you shortly.

Here’s what we don’t need in this discussion. A recent video surfaced that showed kangaroos hopping in the snow in Australia. Conservative author/filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza tweeted about it: “Global warming comes to Australia. Unless you want to believe your lying eyes.”

D’Souza, an ardent climate change denier, was playing “gotcha” with the climate scientists. The problem was that he was oblivious to the fact that when it’s summer in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s winter in Australia. As in now.

Nevertheless, Australia is experiencing serious impact from climate change, report its government websites. It’s having less snowfall, but it’s still having some.

So we can strike D’Souza off our list of reliable sources. Agreed? I certainly hope so.

One big change among climate scientists fairly recently is that they have better tools than previously, enabling them to speak more definitively about the association between some dramatic, never-before-seen events and climate change.

They can run giant simulations in their labs to determine the amounts of moisture in the air and energy in the ocean associated with today’s climatic events and compare them with those in the past.

Hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons today, they find, are bigger, wetter, and faster-moving than they used to be. Climate change isn’t hovering somewhere in the not-too-distant future. We’re living with it now.

An Important Report

The Washington Post recently published a lengthy report: “2 degrees C BEYOND THE LIMIT: Extreme climate change has arrived in America.” It provides an in-depth look at the two states in the Lower 48 that are warming the fastest of all: New Jersey and Rhode Island.

Scientists have been using an increase in temperature of 2-degrees Celsius as the danger cutoff for some time. But this report cites New Jersey as having already reached that point in some places—twice the average for the Lower 48 states—and Rhode Island having exceeded it. (Alaska is the US state that’s warming the fastest.)

In fact, the Northeast in general is warming faster than some other parts of the country. That may seem surprising, as we’re accustomed to hearing about the forest fires in California and flooding in the South and Midwest. I always thought of the folks in Miami, who watch water burbling up through their sidewalks on sunny days, as the harbinger of things to come.

The reason for this Northeast warming, scientists conjecture, seems to be a cycle involving warmer winters and very warm water offshore, which leads to less ice and snow cover. The latter reflect solar radiation into space, cooling the planet. “But as the ice and snow retreat,” the reporters note, “the ground absorbs the solar radiation and warms.”

During the winter months (December-February), New Jersey’s average temperature is higher than 0-degrees Celsius, the freezing point for water. Not surprisingly, that freezing point, according to New Jersey state climatologist David A. Robinson,”is the most critical threshold among all temperatures.”

It’s happened over three decades, and the result, the Post reports, is that

“lakes don’t freeze as often, snow melts more quickly, and insects and pests don’t die as they once did in the harsher cold.” 

The Changes Around Us

What does this change look like? Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey, used to be the site of winter carnivals, with 15,000 ice skaters, cars driving onto the lake’s thick icy surface, and hockey clubs competing. No more. According to the Post:

“That’s because a century of climbing temperatures has changed the character of the Garden State. The massive ice industry and skate sailing association are but black-and-white photographs at the local museum. And even the hardy souls who still try to take part in ice fishing contests here have had to cancel 11 of the past dozen competitions for fear of straying onto perilously thin ice and tumbling into the frigid water.”

This thinning ice allows aquatic weeds, nourished by fertilizer runoff that colder water would kill, to thrive. This year, after one of the warmest springs yet, blue-green algae took over the lake, shutting it down to swimming and fishing “for weeks, if not longer.”

The algae, cyanobacteria, is the same substance that killed 3 dogs swimming in a North Carolina pond and another 3 dogs swimming in a lake in Austin, Texas. Imagine taking your dog for a swim in a lake you’ve always frequented, not knowing it’s become toxic.

Among the changes cited in the Post’s report: rainfall in New Jersey last year was 40% above average, and that means the famous Jersey mosquitoes are in their element, enjoying longer seasons and importing such gifts as the West Nile virus.

The warmer temperatures have attracted the southern pine beetle to travel north, damaging 20,000 acres of the Pine Barrens, a national reserve. A Dartmouth researcher, Matthew Ayres, says:

“It may not be too long before people are driving through the Pinelands saying ‘Why do they call it the Pinelands?’”

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Southern pine beetle devastation. Photo courtesy of flickr.com

When Climate Change Suddenly Becomes Visible

“Climate change plays havoc differently in different places,” the reporters observe.

Beach erosion is the key problem in Rhode Island, where people with homes close to the ocean scramble to move them back farther and farther. Three feet of beach are lost each year. Whole communities are relocating as the water encroaches. A summer resident of one community said the residents wanted the owners to build a wall to hold back the sea. “Last year, they spent a lot of money on sand,” he said. “Guess what? It’s all gone.”

The Post reporters note:

“That’s what people who live in 2-degree Celsius zones are discovering: that climate change seems remote or invisible, until all of a sudden it is inescapable.”

Narragansett Bay has warmed 1.6 degrees Celsius over the last 50 years, and in the past 20 years, Rhode Island’s lobster industry has dropped 75%.

“With 420 miles of coastline, Rhode Island is particularly vulnerable to the vagaries of the Gulf Stream, a massive warm current that travels up the East Coast from the Gulf of Mexico before making a right turn toward Greenland and Europe.”

Scientists believe that the melting of Arctic ice has slowed the currents, moving the Gulf Stream closer to the East Coast. That, in turn, has warmed the water by 2-degrees Celsius or more in places and is apparently responsible for the hotter air temperatures as well.

Lest the skeptics point to severe winters as evidence to the contrary, the reporters note:

“This doesn’t mean the states can’t have extreme winters anymore. Polar vortex events, in which frigid Arctic air descends into the heart of the country, can still bring biting cold. But the overall trend remains the same and is set to continue. One recent study found that by the time the entire globe crosses 2 degrees Celsius, the Northeast can expect to have risen by about 3 degrees Celsius, with winter temperatures higher still.”

These trends are, of course, worldwide. Though much of the Earth has warmed 1-degree Celsius over the century, areas in Romania and Mongolia have also registered the 2-degree change seen in parts of the US.

“…for huge swaths of the planet, climate change is a present-tense reality, not one looming ominously in the distant future.”

The Post quotes Daniel Pauly, a marine scientist at the University of British Columbia:

“…the 2-degree Celsius hot spots are early warning sirens of a climate shift. ‘Basically, these hot spots are chunks of the future in the present.’”

All this sounds quite scary, and those on the “denier” side point to the alleged hysteria as a reason not to pay attention. But there is still time for meaningful action to slow and even reverse these trends—if we work together with common purpose.

A Key Question

So how do we get the skeptics to buy into our shared concern in order to move us toward meaningful action?

Enter Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist and professor of political science at Texas Tech University, where she is director of the Climate Science Center. Hayhoe spends a great deal of her time talking to people about climate science and how we can both adapt to and improve our changing environments.

I watched her 2018 TEDWomen Talk and listened to Alan Alda interview her on his podcast, Clear and Vivid. She’s funny, knowledgeable, and wise, and I recommend both her TEDWomen Talk (also available in transcript, with references) and the Alda podcast. I’ve intermingled her comments below.

“So when we turn on the TV these days, it seems like pundit X is saying, ‘It’s cold outside. Where is global warming now?’ And politician Y is saying, ‘For every scientist who says this thing is real, I can find one who says it isn’t.’ So it’s no surprise that sometimes we feel like everybody is saying these myths. 

“But when we look at the data — and the Yale Program on Climate [Change] Communication has done public opinion polling across the country now for a number of years — the data shows that actually 70 percent of people in the United States agree that the climate is changing. And 70 percent also agree that it will harm plants and animals, and it will harm future generations.”

And yet…only about 60 percent of people think it will affect people in the United States, and only 40 percent think it will affect them personally. (I doubt whether the couple who lost their 3 dogs in a toxic North Carolina lake think that.)

What’s more, two-thirds of people in the US say they never talk about it, and more than three-fourths say they don’t hear the media talk about it either. 

“So it’s a vicious cycle. The planet warms. Heat waves get stronger. Heavy precipitation gets more frequent. Hurricanes get more intense. Scientists release yet another doom-filled report. Politicians push back even more strongly, repeating the same sciencey-sounding myths.”

“What can we do to break this vicious cycle? The number one thing we can do is the exact thing that we’re not doing: talk about it. But you might say, ‘I’m not a scientist. How am I supposed to talk about radiative forcing or cloud parametrization in climate models?’ We don’t need to be talking about more science; we’ve been talking about the science for over 150 years.” 

Hayhoe says it was more than 150 years ago that climate scientists first discovered that burning coal, gas, and oil resulted in “heat-trapping gases…wrapping an extra blanket around the planet.”

And, she notes, the first formal warning from scientists that changing climate presented a danger was given to President Lyndon Johnson 50 years ago. What’s holding some of us back from accepting this reality?

“…the social science has taught us that if people have built their identity on rejecting a certain set of facts, then arguing over those facts is a personal attack. It causes them to dig in deeper, and it digs a trench, rather than building a bridge.”

And while climate change is also regarded as a danger to our outdated infrastructure, this is one bridge we really need to build—and soon. But how do we do it?

Building That Bridge…

Hayhoe suggests finding something you have in common with a person. In her interview with Alan Alda, she speaks of a mutual interest in gardens.

“I ask them ‘What do you grow? Are there challenges?’ They’ll say ‘no rain, everything died,’ or ‘torrential rains.’

“I ask, ‘Have you noticed…? Most people say “Yeah, we’ve always had droughts, but more in the past few years,’ or ‘Spring comes earlier…’”

She stresses that we can bypass the question of whether or not these problems are manmade. We are seeking commonality in finding solutions. The farmer whose crop insurance consists of devoting some of his acreage to wind and solar is a case in point. Look for local solutions to local concerns. How we got to this point is less important than how we get out.

“All we have to do is connect the dots between the values they already have and why they would care about a changing climate. I truly believe, after thousands of conversations that I’ve had over the past decade and more, that just about every single person in the world already has the values they need to care about a changing climate. They just haven’t connected the dots. And that’s what we can do through our conversation with them.

“The bottom line is, we don’t have to be a liberal tree hugger to care about a changing climate. All we have to be is a human living on this planet. Because no matter where we live, climate change is already affecting us today…” 

“What we need to fix this thing is rational hope. Yes, we absolutely do need to recognize what’s at stake…But we need a vision of a better future — a future with abundant energy, with a stable economy, with resources available to all, where our lives are not worse but better than they are today. 

“There are solutions. And that’s why the second important thing that we have to talk about is solutions — practical, viable, accessible, attractive solutions. Like what? Well, there’s no silver bullet, as they say, but there’s plenty of silver buckshot.” 

Some “Silver Buckshot”

Here are a few pieces of silver buckshot that Hayhoe points out both save money and reduce our carbon footprints:

*light bulbs
*solar shingles
*plug-in cars
*eating local
*eating lower down the food chain
*reducing food waste

This last one fascinates me. We throw away about one-third of our food, and methane from rotting foods in landfills is an even worse source of warming than carbon dioxide. After China and the US, food waste is the third leading contributor to climate change, Hayhoe says. So I guess it’s time for me to compare our shopping lists with our actual eating habits and what we toss away.

There’s also hope in the corporate world. Apple has decarbonized its entire operations. Walmart and Berkshire Hathaway are making changes. So are various agricultural and oil and gas companies (but not BP, which obstructs climate improvement actions behind the scenes, Hayhoe reports.)

And guess who Hayhoe finds the most effective sector of the population in driving awareness and working toward solutions? Kids!

“Children are speaking up—so genuine and real: ‘We need to preserve the planet.’”

Hayhoe cites a North Carolina study that found educating children about climate change had a positive and noticeable impact: when a young daughter spoke to her conservative father, she moved his position.

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A child helping us connect the dots! Photo courtesy of flickr.com

“The world is changing. But it just isn’t changing fast enough. Too often, we picture this problem as a giant boulder sitting at the bottom of a hill, with only a few hands on it, trying to roll it up the hill. 

“But in reality, that boulder is already at the top of the hill. And it’s got hundreds of millions of hands, maybe even billions on it, pushing it down. It just isn’t going fast enough. So how do we speed up that giant boulder so we can fix climate change in time? You guessed it. The number one way is by talking about it. 

“The bottom line is this: climate change is affecting you and me right here, right now, in the places where we live. But by working together, we can fix it. Sure, it’s a daunting problem. Nobody knows that more than us climate scientists. But we can’t give in to despair. We have to go out and actively look for the hope that we need, that will inspire us to act. And that hope begins with a conversation today.” 

So are you encouraged to have a conversation? Do you think it’s realistic to find common ground on this vital issue that affects us all—including those who don’t think it’s even an issue? And are you letting your representatives at all levels know how important you think this topic is?

And if you’re a skeptic, how would you react if your child, grandchild, or other young person close to you made a rational appeal—for the sake of their future?

Annie

44 thoughts on “It’s Here, It’s Real, and We’ve Got to Talk About It Together

  1. I believe there is no common ground on this issue. Enough skeptics have to be convinced to change their minds or nothing will happen in this country that would make a meaningful difference.
    Are the climate change skeptics ever asked what evidence they would need to change their minds? Just wondering.

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    1. But the North Carolina study, which admittedly was small, showed that when children were educated about climate change and spoke with their parents, they changed their minds. Conservatives, fathers of daughters, and men in general–the groups most likely to be skeptics, were persuaded by their daughters. And Hayhoe’s whole emphasis is on engaging people where they are in life. I think there’s a lot of wisdom and hope in what she says and recommends.

      Her whole point is “show, by asking…” Not what the skeptics need to change their minds, but what they’re observing in their everyday lives.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. i agree but I believe that logistically, it could take years for that to happen on the scale that is required to reverse climate change.

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    1. It’s not intended as THE solution; rather, as a way to get to the 70% of Americans who believe climate change is real and manmade, but not here and affecting them directly. In the meantime, of course we need actions on all levels. But I never knew that methane from thrown-out food was the third leading contributor to warming–after the US and China–so I think there are plenty of things we can all be doing that can in the aggregate make a difference. Otherwise, our frustration and despair and sense of having no control lead us nowhere.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Annie. Interesting and thoughtful post. I am a sceptic regarding people causing climate change disaster. I believe that the earth’s evolutionary cycle contributes more to climate change than it’s population. That said we both believe in climate change but disagree on the cause. I would say this is more of a politicised issue with the general public that care about climate change rather than a genuine scientific debate. The “left” has politicised this issue to such a degree that the majority of people just roll their eyes with the discussion of plastic straws, synthetic meat products over animal products, the world ending in twelve years etc. In regard to the hyped media children’s crusade on climate. It has been my experience that the education system is mainly liberal and children are indoctrinated into a new climate change religion. They are preached the climate change catechism over and over and absorb the words without understanding the meaning. It reminds me of the old time religion where children were taught that they would go to hell if they didn’t conform to accepted values. Now, it’s the world will end in twelve years if you don’t conform to the climate change agenda. Having said all that I believe we should take climate change seriously……but let’s separate the important issues of cleaning up our planet and dietary from the subject of climate change.

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    1. Hi, Len—

      Well, the fact that you and I agree that climate change is real, it’s here, and we’ve got to talk about it is a very good start. As to your talk of the “left politicizing” the issue, Katharine Hayhoe began her talk by saying that in her first year as an atmospheric science professor at Texas Tech, she was asked to teach an undergraduate geology class. She tracked the history of the carbon cycle to the present while the students dozed off. When she asked for questions, “one hand shot up.” The student said in a loud voice: “You’re a Democrat, aren’t you?” Hayhoe’s response? “No, I’m a Canadian.”

      Seventy percent of Americans believe climate change is real and manmade. I would bet that would also be true of Canadians. But I would hope that if you want to have a meaningful discussion, we set aside the baggage about politics and alleged indoctrination of school kids, and focus on what you say: “the important issues of cleaning up our planet.” I welcome any suggestions you may have.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Maybe I am overly pessimistic but I just don’t see sufficient changes being made by individuals without mandatory regulations put forth with penalties for noncompliance. If Trump gets his way, the budget for the EPA will be slashed by about 30% in 2020, limiting what the US can do to begin to reverse climate change. Of course, little gestures by many count for something but I don’t think it is enough.

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    1. I agree it’s not enough, but I think a lot of little changes can move us in the right direction—certainly reducing food waste to get methane gases down. My thinking must, perforce, look past trump to more reasonable decision makers who are well informed and believe in science. Businesses worldwide are adopting renewable resources. Apple intends to move beyond its own production to include its entire supply chain, according to Hayhoe. I have info about what China and India are doing, and it’s significant. We may soon find a carbon tax widely accepted. I think we’ve reached the “shock of recognition,” as evidenced by the Washington Post report. But individuals have to do what we can while these larger forces continue to move forward and we work to change our gridlocked political system.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Really interesting aspect of trying to negotiate the point of view of climate change with sceptics, especially what Hayhoe says – “we can bypass the question of whether or not these problems are manmade. We are seeking commonality in finding solutions.” I’m quite divided on the solutions, however, especially with changes that are being made in the UK. Some are fantastic, but others are clearly just governmental initiatives to make more money. It’s like the taxes on sugar, under the guise of reducing obesity (while completely ignoring the underlying reasons people reach for surgery foods or don’t exercise in the first place).

    It’s worrying to read about the effects of climate change in other parts of the world. I think many of us probably find it difficult to ‘see’ it when you’re relying on memory of how, for instance, the weather used to be when we were younger, or comparing what we think the weather should look like for certain times of the year to what is actually happening. There’s also confusion over ‘global warming’ and people saying it can’t exist because (again, for instance) in the UK we’re getting rubbish summers and far less warm days, there’s just no consistent decent weather. The misunderstanding and confusion about what constitutes ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change’ doesn’t help, and neither do money-grabbing initiatives. There’s a real problem here, and I like to think there’s more awareness now and more being done to turn things around, but there’s obviously a long way to go. Great post, very thorough on what can be quite a controversial yet hugely important issue!

    Caz xx

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    1. Thanks so much for your thoughtful response. Although what we’re experiencing is definitely global warming long-term (and the photos I’ve seen of starving polar bears break my heart), I wish we’d had the term “climate change” from the beginning because the extreme weather we’re seeing in both directions just adds to people’s confusion.

      You mentioned that some of the solutions in the UK are fantastic. Can you tell me what they are? Perhaps they’re comparable with some of our states’ efforts; as you know we are stymied at the national level with what Hayhoe calls attempts to return to “horse and buggies” by trying to revive coal, etc.

      So glad to have you comment. I hope you’ll visit as often as you can.
      xx to you too!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks, Annie, for this thoughtful discussion. I don’t think there’s harm in talking, but I wish I was more optimistic on the notion of finding common ground, common values. An exceptionally hot summer, or wet spring, or disappearing wildlife habitat, or that toxic bloom you mentioned, which plagues our beaches here in Vermont and also kills our dogs, seem to be facts that the naysayers shrug off. Or worse, put to evolutionary shifts — implying normality and inevitability. So how do I find the common ground in that? (Guess I need to hear the TED talk, which I will do soon, as well as the Alan Alda podcast.) I put my faith in science. And I vote for the candidate who does the same, support the companies who behave responsibly, and read as much as I can on the issue. Talk? I’m working on it.

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    1. I hear ya! It’s hard, I know. If you find anything from the TedTalk and/or Alda interviews that you think is especially persuasive, please come back here with it, ok? There was a lot I wanted to add but was already worrying about the length of this post…Thx!

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  7. The issue , in my mind , goes back to government and politics. In the US we seldom, if ever, make political decisions based on scientific realities. Political decisions are based on short term economic gains. There is no long term planning or even a recognition of long term goals. That is an inherent weakness in our system. To use an analogy. It would be like a person going grocery shopping for the family and liking sweets. So , all that person buys for the family is sugary drinks, chocolate, marshmallows, etc. And they eat it because it tastes good. They never eat vegetables, fruits or meats. Short term joy, long term health damage.

    We have people who claim that scientific knowledge is some “liberal “plot. Not exactly sure why “liberals” want to “plot” against fossil fuels or waste.What is their short term goal? What do climate scientists gain by calling attention to man made global warming? Do they get some kind of bonus check from the great Global Warming Corporation? Do they just have some kind of blind hatred for fossil fuels? No one has ever explained to me the economic advantage for the 99% of scientists who are experts in climatology demonstrating through the data that the pace of global warming is accelerating. Do they get some million dollar bonuses that the rest of us don’t know about?

    As long as our political system is based on “short term -make a buck now” decision making, we will never begin to solve the real long term issues we face. The rejection of expertise, especially scientific expertise, is the sign of a system in decline. Only a systematic , long term plan will work. The political party currently is charge of the White House does not have the brains or desire to do so.

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    1. Hi Joseph: You ask ” what do climate scientists gain……………..”. I would suggest that they gain research funds so they can continue with their work. Scientists depend on funds from government and perhaps universities to fund their pet projects. They are not above giving governments and universities the results these institutions require to further their own ambitions.

      The following is a March 25,2019 press release from the United States Department of Justice. ” Duke University agrees to pay $112.5 million to settle false claims related to scientific research between 2006-2018. Duke submitted claims to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) that contained false or fabricated data”.

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      1. Len–

        Please read my response to Joseph with regard to the money issue. The real money is, of course, from those who are protecting fossil fuels. Exxon was actually caught in the act: their climate scientists warned them decades ago that climate change was caused by fossil fuels, that it was a huge worry, and they needed to act. Exxon continued publicly denying this information from their own scientists while quietly moving toward renewable resources. Finally, when their deception was uncovered, they acknowledged the truth.

        At that point, the Koch brothers, who have a huge empire in the oil industry among others, swooped in to fill the void with their disinformation campaign, giving large contributions to members of Congress (mostly Republicans, but some Democrats too) so they wouldn’t rock their very lucrative, unregulated boat. They funded a guy in California who staked his reputation on climate change being a hoax; turned out he was an aeronautics engineer whose work was totally discredited. Then they hired another scientist, whose work proved that climate change is real and manmade, so he didn’t last. All this is documented. You can see their impact in a video of then-and-now House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi seated with then Republican House leader Newt Gingrich. They’re agreeing that climate change is real and manmade and must be deal with. A few years later, after the Koch brothers launched their campaign, Gingrich is filmed saying that was the stupidest thing he’d ever said.

        So if you follow the money, the grants given to scientists are a pittance in comparison with what the Koch brothers and others have spent on their disinformation campaigns over the years.

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      2. Lens… The article you cite is one example from one researcher at one university. She was not a climatologist. She is a medical researcher who manipulated medical research data and also used Duke U funds illegally to buy herself stuff on Amazon. Her research dealt with human biology. And, to make it even more clear, she was exposed by another researcher who checked her work. That is how science develops. They check each other and when they see a problem they dig deeper.

        Not sure how one medical researcher who was crooked somehow plays out in the field where 99% of climate scientists look at publicly available data and come to the same basic conclusions. Research grants are not based on conclusions, they are based on the issue to be studied. So, while all academics want grants to study issues, if they do not develop scientifically appropriate models and data collection they will be discovered by other scientists and will lose credibility. The scientists do not get rich on US grants.

        Grants are used to fund research, not as individual payments to scientists. They are on a salary paid for by the research institute they work at. The university or research center has no reason to support any scientist who manipulates data. There is no profit to be made. In fact, their reputation will be hurt by such manipulation (as in the Duke medical data case you noted).

        An interesting article about a court case involving the accuracy of climate change data;

        https://mashable.com/2018/03/22/climate-science-in-court-oil-companies/

        Liked by 1 person

    2. You’re certainly right about our political system, but we were, not so long ago, a leading force in the Paris Agreement, and all the Democratic candidates have expressed their belief in science and their determination to rejoin the agreement, some specifically saying “on Day One” of their Presidency. So I’m guardedly optimistic… (The alternative is too grim.)

      Your rhetorical questions about the ulterior monetary rewards some attribute to the 97% of climate scientists who believe climate change is real and manmade are right on the money (pun intended). Katharine Hayhoe, the scientist I quoted in my post, said accepting that there’s a problem but being unwilling to make the changes needed to fix it “makes us the bad guy, and nobody wants to by the bad guy. So instead, we use arguments like ‘It’s just a natural cycle. ‘It’s the sun.’ Or my favorite, ‘Those climate scientists are just in it for the money.’ I get that at least once a week.”

      I note that Hayhoe was one of the authors of the “Fourth National Climate Assessment: Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptations in the United States,” commissioned by the US government and then ignored by the Trump administration. It contains Summary Findings, 16 national-level topic chapters, 10 regional chapters, and 2 chapters “that focus on societal response strategies (mitigation and adaption). For this mammoth effort, she reports her earnings: $0.

      I will now respond to Len’s response to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Insightful and well-written as always, Annie. Unfortunately I think we’ll look back in 50 years and see climate change deniers in the same light as flat-earthers. I don’t know whether you’ve ever watched Prof Brian Cox debate climate change in Australia on YouTube but it is a microcosm of the battle scientists face.

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    1. Thanks so much, Matthew. We have work to do to be able to look back in 50 years!

      Dare I watch the good professor? I guess if I’m seeking common ground, I should see the extremes…at some point.

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  9. Interesting and well researched post Annie. I can’t say what percentage of Canadians believe in climate change for sure, but I do know it’s not a topic you can argue with someone from one of the provinces which rely on the oil sands, or the oil industry (which is big business here) as they see it as attacking their economic livelihood, which is why the political will to act on this issue here is a mess. Meet the carbon targets vs anger people and not get re-elected. But how can anyone not agree that the weather is changing – it’s changing all over the world.

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    1. I actually looked up that statistic; according to one poll, at least, it was 66% in Canada who felt climate change is real and manmade.

      You raise an important issue re: those whose livelihoods are involved. Because the post was nearing the 3000-word mark, I left out some stuff that I wanted to include. In the Alan Alda podcast with Katharine Hayhoe, they both spoke of their appreciation and gratitude for the coal miners, oil workers, and others who have done such hard, often dangerous work to provide us all with the energy we need. But now the emphasis must be on retraining, and Hayhoe speaks of such programs specifically designed to transition these workers to good jobs building and running renewable resource systems. I would like to hear such discussions among the Democrats running for President here—to counter the false promises to save the coal industry, which Hayhoe calls “horse and buggy” plans (though we now know fossil fuels are far more dangerous than horses and buggies ever were).

      Thanks so much for your comment.

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      1. Agree. I seem to recall reading that when Obama spoke recently in Calgary about the smart minds in the oil industry coming up with new safer sources of energy, it fell on deaf ears. Another issue, is countries like China and India and their contribution to world pollution, as they are such highly populated areas. They tore down the coal plant here about ten years ago, as far as I know there aren’t any more in Ontario.

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  10. So, for me, the issue is simple and straightforward:

    1. Who is President and which party controls both houses of Congress makes a huge difference.

    2. Engaging high school and college students, along with the usual and obvious suspects ( scientists, health and medical people) in seriously large numbers to put being change agents on their backs.

    Everything else will fall in place. Easy to get lost in the scientific weeds. Key demographics must feel in their gut what the right thing to do is and go out and make it happen. Anti-nuclear movement is a good example about what I am talking!

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    1. Dennis,
      As I tend to seek out the optimistic viewpoint, I’ll just hope that your “simple and straightforward” view of the issue will prevail and succeed in moving us forward pronto. Yet assuming we can get our own house in order, overcome the power of the Koch empire et al, and once again play a leadership role in the world, we’ll still need to confront the likes of Bolsonaro, the current Brazilian president. His pro-business rhetoric was apparently perceived as a go-ahead by cattle ranchers and loggers to start more fires than usual, thereby setting in motion the Amazon inferno that will have disastrous impact there and will also substantially contribute to the carbon in the atmosphere.

      Interesting that you mention the anti-nuclear movement. A number of scientists, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, think more nuclear power may be necessary to help us move from fossil fuels to renewable resources. They are cognizant of the economic problems and “significant human health and environmental risks.” But UCS “strongly supports policies and measures to strengthen the safety and security of nuclear power.”

      https://www.ucsusa.org/nuclear-power/nuclear-power-and-global-warming

      Unintended consequences?

      Thanks for your comment. Hope you’ll come back again soon.

      Cheers,
      Annie

      Like

  11. Well the Arctic Ocean north of Canada is seeing a lot of ice melting and is about to become a major shipping route as a result (but at heavy cost to the planet).

    And glaciers in the Alberta Rockies which are the source of most of the Canadian Prairies’ river systems are melting at a breathtaking pace each year.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. So he’s one of the 3 percent of scientists who are deniers/skeptics, and he’s probably not a climate expert. Does he precede trump or is he part of the new regime’s “whatever we’re supposed to be accomplishing, we’re undoing instead”? Of course, there have always been outliers, so who knows?

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  12. I have been holding off here until I had a little time to digest things on the topic. You would probably call me a skeptic, but I like to think that I am an equal-opportunity skeptic, which is to say skeptical about a lot of things, and not just this.

    I believe climate is changing – it has likely been doing so for millenia and will continue to do so. My questions are: how much is man made and how much is due to natural cycles. We have been taking measurements for an extremely short time in the grand scheme of things, and are extrapolating from there. I wonder about this. Add the fact that mainstream science has been so spectacularly wrong on things that are much more amenable to real-time experiments. The diet recommended to my father after a heart attack around 1980 was avoid fat and take lots of carbs. No respectable nutrition scientist believes this is a good diet now.

    I have a concern about the reliance on computer modeling. I have enough experience with computer modeling to be skeptical about almost anything that is predicted by modeling which is fed by a very small amount (comparatively) of data.

    If all is as you believe, we have a problem with countries like India and (especially) China, the latter is not terribly friendly towards us. Is it really a good idea to “unilaterally disarm” by slowing our economy as China continues to grow into a fearsome world power that shares few of the west’s ideas?

    Finally I am generally skeptical towards apocalyptic predictions. In the 60s it was overpopulation. In the 70s it was a coming ice age. In the late 70s-early 80s we were running out of oil. In the 90s it was Y2K. Each of these predictions was supported by respected people in the scientific and engineering professions. And each of them proved to be wrong. Perhaps this is the one that is actually right. FWIW I am all in favor of eliminating waste wherever we can and would eliminate virtually all plastic from consumer product packaging if I were king.

    BTW, it is 78 degrees F in Indianapolis today, August 23rd. The average high this month is 84. I looked up historical numbers and only 6 days in August have had record high temps set since 1960, with only 2 of them during 2000. Fifteen August days have seen record lows since 1960 (one since 2000). Does this mean anything? I have no idea.

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    1. This year is the hottest since records have been kept. We are seeing events that defy any cycles ever. I’m not sure what you’re referring to about our “unilaterally disarm” by slowing our economy—unless you’re talking about the havoc this President is doing with his looney tariffs (that’s a little attempt at humor). China is surpassing us in creating renewable energy systems—investing hundreds of billions of dollars. We should be rivaling that instead of trying to revive a dying coal industry. They’re shutting down all the coal plants around Beijing—flooding coal mines, according to Hayhoe—and placing floating solar panels in place. India is replacing light bulbs with LEDs to the tune of $7billion savings in energy costs. Their goal is to decarbonize all their vehicles. According to Hayhoe, “India may be the first country to industrialize without relying primarily on fossil fuels.”

      I, too, am generally skeptical about apocalyptic conditions. But we are witnessing unprecedented things worldwide that are already affecting migration, health, property, and on and on. We dare not be wrong.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A

        A future blogpost:

        Leadership, game changers, those few unique individuals who can step up to make a difference, to leave a legacy, a major positive mark on history. How does this world generate/find those individuals with the potential required – Martin Luther King, FDR, Churchill, Mandela, Malala, Obama – AND get them to take on the challenging issues of the times? I presume that it is the individual and not the institution -such as the UN- which tops the list.

        I know, heavy duty for Shabbat!

        Best,

        D

        Sent from my iPhone

        >

        Like

      2. “This year is the hottest since records have been kept. ”

        Which is a big point, because records have been kept for a minute part of the earth’s history. These conditions may be unprecedented in our lifetimes, but our lifetimes are mere specs in the totality of history. The earth’s climate has remained remarkably stable (albeit with irregular swings) for many millennia. Also remarkably stable has been the high state of scientific hubris (lead in gasoline and paint – what a tremendously awful idea that was considered a huge advance at the time).

        I am all for conservation. I have been happily moving to LED lighting and look forward to the day when an electric car meets my needs. But I am frankly more worried about the damages we actually know we are causing, like a water supply that is collecting almost every pharmaceutical product ingested by and excreted from the human population. Or the raising of a generation of angry, unstable, disaffected young men who place no value on life. Good heavens, human and societal failure is all around us – if we cannot fix these things, I have serious doubt that doing anything about the climate is remotely near our capabilities.

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      3. Well, I share your worries about environmental degradation and the angry disaffected young men, and the opioid crisis and, and…but I guess unlike you, I see the present administration’s handiwork in worsening existing situations—certainly with the rollback of regulations that were working and with the president’s dangerous rhetoric fueling and legitimizing hatred and violence.
        But that doesn’t mean we can’t tackle an overarching threat to the furtherance of our existence—in concert with the allies trump negates and insults. When Macron wants to bring the issue of climate change before the G7, but feels he must state in advance that there will be no formal communique at the end because our president won’t even talk about light bulbs and the advantages of electric cars (which would also economically benefit the auto workers in his base), I just think we have to stop the rhetoric that government (real government, not the anti-government we have now) is the problem and look for avenues of public/private partnership and international alliances to nourish innovation and cooperation.

        As to your sweeping view of history, that’s all true, but we are where we are, we see what we see. You give examples of erroneous scientific decisions. Of course, humans have mucked up a lot of things. But if time is running out—and each scientific report has, indeed, been worse than the prior one—I just think I owe it to my grandson to write about these issues and hope I move some people to thought and action.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Excellent post! I wasn’t so familiar with everything said here. I have had a concern that some people seem displeased by a new conversation on the subject at hand. I hope good information about climate change continues to go around the world. I’m not in a position to represent the urgency of climate change awareness–I’m a Canadian, not American–but I do have a niece, starting Grade 4, and she is one of the reasons I try to think of the future with as much optimism as I can. It is terrific you put this post together. I appreciate reading it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much. In response to your plea that I try to keep a positive attitude: that’s why I write. And climate change is affecting us everywhere; see the comment from your fellow Canadian, Dracul Van Helsing, about what’s happening there. We needn’t be hysterical, but we must—individually and collectively—do what we can to slow the pace of change.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, and welcome to annieasksyou. That’s an interesting perspective. The problem, as you’re probably aware, is that deniers and skeptics say we’re just in the midst of dramatic changes that have occurred since the earth began, and we simply don’t have a broad enough perspective. You can see such comments among my respondents (whom I respect as individuals even though I think they’re dangerously wrong).

      It’s nice to make your virtual acquaintance. I’ll come visit your blog when I can.

      Like

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