Welcome to Climate Notes. I’m D.R. Tucker.
So I’m reading through news coverage of the conclusion of the Brayton Point case, and I come across this story from Boston Herald reporter Bob McGovern:
“The Bristol County district attorney dropped charges against two environmental activists, letting them walk away from a trial where they were claiming a global warming ‘necessity defense,’ saying he agrees climate change is a major issue facing the planet, and the favorable plea deal was ‘in the best interest of the people.’“Jay O’Hara and Ken Ward were ready to stand trial yesterday at Fall River District Court and planned to argue that blocking a coal shipment to the Brayton Point Power Station with a lobster boat in May 2013 was necessary to save the planet from the theoretical (emphasis mine) dire consequences of global warming.”
This odd story continued:
“The defendants planned to use the necessity defense that would have required them to prove they acted to prevent a significant risk of harm and there was no lawful alternative. Whether the planet is in fact warming and any potential consequences have been highly controversial, with both scientists and politicians sharply divided on the issue (emphasis mine).”
A year or so ago, this Fox News Channel-style reporting on the climate crisis would have ticked me off. Now, I just laugh at it. Look, the Boston Herald will never change. Fox News will never change. The Wall Street Journal editorial page will never change. Rush Limbaugh will never change. Their stubbornness is super-stupid.
I’m not saying these denialist media entities should be ignored. I’m saying they should be ridiculed relentlessly, mocked mirthfully, scorned with a smile. They should be laughed at as ludicrous losers.One such ludicrous loser is Matt Ridley, who regularly writes denialist screeds for the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Back in 2012, the Wall Street Journal actually acknowledged: “Mr. Ridley writes the Mind and Matter column in The Wall Street Journal and has written on climate issues for various publications for 25 years. His family leases land for coal mining in northern England, on a project that will cease in five years (emphasis mine).”
In other words, even the Wall Street Journal admits Ridley has no real credibility on climate change. Now how about that!Earlier this month, Ridley wrote another nonsensical rant insisting that climate change had somehow stopped in the 1990s. Even children know this is nonsense, which means Ridley has apparently gotten dumber as he’s gotten older.
Those who are smart enough to understand basic physics—and who aren’t depraved enough to nakedly suck up to the coal industry—called out Ridley for his ridiculous rhetoric. Lindsay Abrams of Salon.com observed: “And now for another installment of conservative media making stuff up about climate change. Our player comes from the esteemed pages of the Wall Street Journal. The blatant lie, again, concerns the ‘pause’ in global warming: the perceived slowdown in temperature increases over the past 15 years that skeptics attempt to use as evidence that man-made climate change isn’t happening (they’re wrong). And as happened last time, the lie appears to have arisen from someone misreading a press release and determining, from that alone, that they’ve found the evidence to contradict the scientific consensus on climate change. Crazy how that keeps not working out for people.
“Matt Ridley, a member of the British House of Lords with a track record for making egregious errors in his opinion columns, asks ‘Whatever happened to global warming?’ To help prove his point that this whole global warming thing was seriously overblown and no longer worth our time, he points to a recent paper, published in the journal Science, that, in his words, concludes that ‘the man-made warming of the past 20 years has been so feeble that a shifting current in one ocean was enough to wipe it out altogether.’ Yes, this is the same paper that, per Climate Progress, provides ‘more evidence that [the] global warming ‘pause’ is a myth’ and, in the words of one climate expert, ‘is another nail in the coffin of the idea that the hiatus is evidence that our projections of long-term climate change need revising down…’
“This betrays Ridley’s fundamental inability to explain how climate change works. Because we didn’t act sooner to act on scientists’ warnings that greenhouse gas emissions were threatening the planet, we are already experiencing the impacts of an altered climate. As the years pass, the stakes are only rising, the consequences of inaction becoming more severe. The next two decades continue to be extremely important: not because they’re going to be catastrophic, but because they’re going to be key to mitigating and preparing for catastrophe. The IPCC made that abundantly clear in its most recent report. The next 20 years, its authors asserted, are a ‘window,’ during which smart planning and effective leadership can actually make a difference. Use that time wisely, and we can be better prepared when accelerated warming returns. Use it to pretend that climate change is over forever and, well, that’s two more decades to live comfortably ensconced in a fantasy. But knowing what we do about what’s likely going to happen once we’re forced to wake up, deniers can’t seriously expect any of us to join them there.”
Abrams also references a piece by Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, who also gave Ridley a strongly deserved dope slap:
“That Rupert Murdoch governs over a criminal media empire has been made clear enough in the UK courts in recent years. That the Wall Street Journal op-ed pages, the latest victim of Murdoch’s lawless greed, are little more than naked propaganda is perhaps less appreciated. The Journal runs one absurd op-ed after another purporting to unmask climate change science, but only succeeds in unmasking the crudeness and ignorance of Murdoch’s henchmen. [The September 5] op-ed by Matt Ridley is a case in point.
“Ridley’s ‘smoking gun’ is a paper last week in Science Magazine by two scientists Xianyao Chen and Ka-Kit Tung, which Ridley somehow believes refutes all previous climate science. Ridley quotes a sentence fragment from the press release suggesting that roughly half of the global warming in the last three decades of the past century (1970-2000) was due to global warming and half to a natural Atlantic Ocean cycle. He then states that ‘the man-made warming of the past 20 years has been so feeble that a shifting current in one ocean was enough to wipe it out altogether,’ and ‘That to put the icing on the case of good news, Xianyao Chen and Ka-Kit Tung think the Atlantic Ocean may continue to prevent any warming for the next two decades.’
“The Wall Street Journal editors don’t give a hoot about the nonsense they publish if it serves their cause of fighting measures to limit human-induced climate change. If they had simply gone online to read the actual paper, they would have found that the paper’s conclusions are the very opposite of Ridley’s…
“[W]hat is Ridley’s ‘smoking gun’ when you strip away his absurd version of the paper? It goes like this. The Earth is continuing to warm just as greenhouse gas theory holds. The warming heats the land and the ocean. The ocean distributes some of the warming to the surface waters and some to the deeper waters, depending on the complex circulation of ocean waters. The shares of warming of the surface and deeper ocean vary over time, in fluctuations that can last a few years or a few decades.
“If the surface warming is somewhat less in recent years than in the last part of the 20th century, is that reason for complacency? Hardly. The warming is continuing, and the consequences of our current trajectory will be devastating unless greenhouse gas emissions (mainly carbon dioxide) are stopped during this century. As Chen and Tung conclude in their Science paper, ‘When the internal variability [of the ocean] that is responsible for the current hiatus [in warming] switches sign, as it inevitably will, another episode of accelerated global warming should ensue.’
“Mr. Murdoch, and the Wall Street Journal, can it be any clearer than this?”
Another clown who wants the world to drown is Edward Lazear, former advisor to President George W. Bush, who took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal a couple of days before Ridley to argue that we should sit back, relax, and die from global warming. Thankfully, Hamilton Nolan from Gawker.com laughed at Lazear:
“Edward Lazear, a former economic adviser to George W. Bush, argues [in the Wall Street Journal] that cutting carbon emissions enough to mitigate global warming is a lost cause, and we are better off pursuing a strategy of ‘adaptation’ to a fiery new world. This is why pessimists should not be in charge.
“Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that Lazear is making a good-faith case for giving up on fighting climate change based on pure economic motives, rather than making a bad-faith attempt to fight environmentalism on the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Lazear begins by projecting nearly three decades worth of growth for emerging economies like China, and argues that even with gains in energy efficiency, a larger and more prosperous China and other nations will almost certainly be emitting far more carbon than they are now. Can America cut its carbon emissions in a meaningful way, to offset possible growth from other countries? Lazear says no. He dismisses various straw man methods (locally sourced food, public transportation) as insufficient. And when he comes to the one method that would actually prove effective on a grand scale—a carbon tax—he has this to say:
“’Very high carbon taxes or severely restrictive cap-and-trade policies might provide substantial motivation to conserve. These could reduce carbon-intensive consumption and motivate a switch to lower carbon power sources like nuclear. But these actions are undesirable because of their adverse effects on the economy. Australia instituted a $22 per ton carbon-dioxide tax in 2012. It repealed the highly unpopular measure this July, mainly because of its economic costs and perceived ineffectiveness. Research and development are worthwhile. But they can be wasteful and ineffective—recall Solyndra—and if R&D is to be government sponsored, all developed countries should participate in funding.’
“So Lazear essentially admits that a carbon tax could succeed in providing the necessary motivation to cut carbon emissions to target levels, but then immediately dismisses the solution as ‘undesirable’ because it would cost too much. His evidence: Australia tried it, and it was unpopular. That seems rather thin, considering we are talking about the future of life on earth. A carbon tax is not money that is tossed into an oven and burned. It is a tax to discourage an undesirable activity (carbon emissions), the proceeds of which can be used to fund a more desirable solution (the government-sponsored clean energy R&D that Lazear refers to ever so briefly). A carbon tax is a way to redirect economic activity away from a harmful activity and towards a more positive activity…
“’It is time to end the delusions and start thinking realistically about what can and will be done,’ Lazear concludes. What can and will be done is a matter of human will. Giving up the fight before it starts does not make you a realist. It makes you a fatalist. Edward Lazear will probably be dead by 2050. If you will still be around then, you might have a more expansive view of what is realistic.”
Mockery is what deniers deserve. They certainly don’t deserve any respect. So the next time you come across an idiotic denialist “news” piece or op-ed, have a hearty laugh—and remember that the children and grandchildren of the folks who write this claptrap will be crying with embarrassment over the fact that they’re actually related to these rascals.
Thank you for listening.