Climate hallucinations/Weekend Reader for Sunday, May 6
Ten durable, indestructible denial memes that wouldn't be so harmful, except that they're now part of national policy.
Let's start with the good news: With the obvious exceptions of Fox News, talk radio, the Wall Street Journal editorial page and others, climate deniers have largely disappeared from major American media.
On the other hand, climate denial is spectacularly well-represented in those outlets. Also in:
The White House.
The leadership of Congress and key Congressional committees.
The Secretaries of State, Interior, Commerce, Energy and the Administrators of EPA and NASA.
Oh well, nobody's perfect.
There have been other perfectly worthy lists of climate denier memes, but here are the one that just won't die, and are now thanks to our leaders and those who influence them, a part of national policy.
Environmentalists "stage" disasters to raise concern about climate change. In the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh mused about whether "environmental wackos" had staged the rig explosion -- which killed eleven workers -- and the resulting spill as a promotional stunt for Earth Day. Of course, before Limbaugh dove in, BP had already taken responsibility for the spill. But I digress.....
More recently, conspiracy virtuoso Alex Jones, whose radio show claims two million nightly listeners and a robust online audience, said that 2017's Hurricane Irma was geo-engineered by enviros to tout their cause, and to promote an upcoming movie on geoengineering climate. The Green Menace indeed.
Coal prosperity is just around the corner. A favorite of President Trump's, he's made frequent mention of "beautiful, clean coal" in speeches, particularly in beleaguered Appalachia. But it's clear he doesn't know what "clean coal" is, or whether it's feasible. Mining operations routinely wash coal after it is mined to improve its quality. But "clean coal" is something different: The process of removing and storing CO2 emissions as the coal is burned. Two demonstration projects, in Illinois and Mississippi, have tried and failed, with a loss of billions to taxpayers and the private sector.
Trump has also made sweeping promises about bringing back coal mining jobs. Even the most zealous of the coal barons, Bob Murray of Murray Energy, has tried to talk him down from this one.
And a lad named Alex Epstein is a new denialist darling, making the rounds on the speaker/talkshow/op-ed circuit on the theme of "The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels." Bear in mind that in the 1860's, it took this country five bloody years to turn back the moral case for slavery.
It's the sunspots, stupid. Sigmund and Anna Freud wrote that finding another culprit for an inconvenient problem is a common outlet for denial. Blaming sunspots for worldwide warming trends fits their description to a tee. On the leading conservative site Newsmax, University of Houston professor Larry Bell recently predicted that a decade-long decline in solar activity would cool the earth and put an end to "global warming hysteria" once and for all.
The Gilded Age of climate science. Shortly after Trump's election in 2016, MIT professor Richard Lindzen called for an "80 to 90 percent cut" in Federal funding of climate research. Trump himself has lamented the TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS (his Twitter all-caps, not mine) he anticipates will be spent on . Energy Secretary Rick Perry has pressed the line that climate scientists are in it for the money: "There are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects," he said, without ever citing examples.
Relax, God's got this. Not all climate deniers play the religion card, but some do it extremely well. Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) has argued in Committee hearings and on the House floor that God would simply never let destructive climate change happen.
Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) has taken to the floor of The World's Greatest Deliberative Body and cited a passage from Genesis (8:22) to argue that only God can alter the climate.
"As long as the earth remains
There will be springtime and harvest
Cold and heat, winter and summer"
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, under fire for multiple allegations of ethical lapses, draws upon the Bible to justify not just his denialist views on climate change, but his sweeping efforts to undo environmental regulation. He recently told the Christian Broadcasting Network, "The biblical world view with respect to these issues is that we have a responsibility to manage and cultivate, harvest the natural resources that we've been blessed with to truly bless our fellow mankind."
Rush Limbaugh pitched in on this one in 2013: "if you believe in God then intellectually you cannot believe in man-made global warming." Intellectually, Rush?
It snowed here yesterday, therefore.... Yes, every time there's snow in your neighborhood, it negates a torrent of global, on-the-ground evidence and responsible science. The President's big on this one, too.
Those climate emails. In 2009 as representatives gathered in Copenhagen for a crucial summit on climate change, a bombshell threatened to divert news coverage of the meeting. Climate deniers seized upon the theft of thousands of emails to or from the Climate Research Unit at Britain's University of East Anglia. As a rule, climate scientists have never been mistaken for Shakespearean wordsmiths, and they soon found a few poorly-worded emails turned into smoking guns proving a vast conspiracy to embrace the hoax of manmade climate change. Despite multiple exonerations from multiple investigations, denier groups are still pressing nuisance lawsuits to release more scientists' correspondence. Before his election, Trump cited the emails as evidence of a global science "con." Others have pointed out the similarity of the email theft to the one that waylaid Hillary Clinton seven years later.
More CO2 means happy days on the farm. Steve Goreham runs a group called the Climate Science Coalition. One would think someone in such a position might be a climate scientist, but no. In an op-ed in The Daily Caller in December, the electrical engineer featured the cannabis industry as a shining agribusiness example of farmers who have figured out what actual climate scientists can't accept: Increased levels of CO2 is a godsend for farmers.
"The climate has changed and is always changing." So spake Deputy White House Press Secretary Raj Shah in November, in response to a long-awaited report from 13 Federal agencies that underscored the climate emergency and contradicted the Trump Administration's position. Current Energy Secretary Rick Perry, in his unsuccessful Presidential campaign in 2011, said, "Yes, our climates change. They've been changing ever since the earth was formed."
The polar bears are just fine, thank you. A decade ago, i looked into the curious case of Ursus maritimus,Ursus maritimus, better known as the polar bear. Scientists had determined that declining Arctic ice cover would imperil the bears. But a decidedly non-urban myth had emerged that not only were polar bears doing fine, but they were breeding like hamsters and would show up in the suburbs of Montreal at any minute. Not so. Most recently, the Heartland institute's Sterling Burnett harped on the myth in the American Spectator..
Top Weekend News
Water scarcity solution? From The Conversation: In arid areas, could bats help humans find scarce, safe sources of drinking water?
Podcasts & Video Clips of Note
Two from Climate One, the podcast of San Francisco's Commonwealth Club: 1) An interview with Paul Ehrlich, fifty years after his book "The Population Bomb" focused attention on earth's burgeoning population; and 2) Veteran communicator/eco-PR man David Fenton on selling climate change to a reluctant or apathetic public.
From The Late Show with Steven Colbert: Former coal baron and convicted felon Don Blankenship is running for the U.S. Senate. Mayhem ensues.
From Comedy Central's Jim Jeffries Show: Brad Pitt as a particularly climate-gloomy weatherman.
Opinions and Editorials
In an interview with CNN, Christine Todd Whitman says Scott Pruitt is "unfit" to run the EPA. Whitman is former governor of New Jersey and was EPA Administrator during the first years of the George W. Bush Administration.
Trump's Environment Adventures This Week
Ohh, myyy: A press aide to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is said to have sent out negative information on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, ostensibly to draw fire away from Pruitt's many scandals.