Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Punishing Syria – and the Responsibility to Protect

Much of the determination by the Obama administration and other Western leaders to punish the Assad regime for gassing its own people is probably informed by a controversial doctrine that evolved in the aftermath of the international community's collective shame following its failure to intervene in Rwanda. As the world stood by, as many as a million civilians were brutally slain during the three-month bloodbath in 1994. 

Eight years ago, when this doctrine – known as The Responsibility to Protect, or “R2P” – was on the brink of gaining international acceptance, I wrote the following column in The Aquarian explaining what it is and why I believe it's an important step forward for global justice and security. 

But while R2P might be a motivating factor for those who would intervene militarily in Syria, it's very unclear if America's non UN-sanctioned action would meet the cautious R2P criteria. More to the point, of course, will it help or will it hurt? 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Child abusers, carbon polluters and the Conservative Party of Canada

Over the years I've dropped hint after unsubtle hint to the Conservative Party of Canada – which during its seven-year (and counting) reign in Parliament has gutted my country's record of political progressivism – that I don't like them. 

— that their candidates cannot “count on my support”;

— that they are practically the polar opposite of all my political values.

Yet, somehow I've wound up on the email list for their core supporters – the one where they propagandize their base and show the side of their face they usually try to cover with heavy makeup when communicating to the general Canadian public.

It's kind of breathtaking to be candidly chatted up by the party in power like you're a flag-waving supporter of Stephen Harper (the party's leader and Canada's Prime Minister), a hater both of liberals and the Liberal Party – and the kind of person who would cheer the Conservative government's latest initiative to crack down harder than ever on child abusers while it continues to indirectly cheer on the massive child abuse perpetrated by carbon polluters.

So here is the latest of these emails which – this time – has prompted me to blow my cover with a most unsubtly derisive reply:

Thursday, August 1, 2013

CFACT's new meme: "UN bureaucrat admits global warming is really about wealth redistribution"

CFACT – the right-wing libertarian disinformation tank – has a new meme, another billboard and Internet graphic calculated to pull the wool over people's eyes while claiming to enlighten them.

Here's how it looks:

It's having the desired effect. Just look at the “I told you so” vitriol it's unleashed on CFACT's Facebook page where the oil-funded outfit describes it like this:
In a moment of unusual candor, a UN bureaucrat admitted that global warming is really about wealth redistribution.
CFACT shared his statement on our new billboard, right outside the Rockies' 50,000+ seat ball park in Denver, Colorado.
Share this post and expose the co-chair of UN IPCC working group III's true thoughts about global warming.
So what's the real story?

Friday, July 12, 2013

"Global warming stopped 15 (or 16 or whatever) years ago. Take that, Al Gore!" - Part 2

Cherry-picking is like the professional magician's stock-in-trade, sleight of hand: focus people's attention on those details of the picture that make them believe what you want them to believe and distract their attention from the rest.

Early in 2010, deniers were focused on cherry-picking out-of-context quotes from the thousands of emails between climate scientists they cleverly dubbed “Climategate.” Today they cherry-pick graphs showing little or no surface warming. But early in 2010, they wouldn't have dared to show the following graph of the UAH dataset:

The graph shows that over the past (at the time) 26 years (1984–2010), not only had there been statistically very significant global warming of the lower troposphere (about 3.5 km above ground level), it was at an alarming pace of nearly 2 degrees C. per century, with a greater than 95% probability that the true warming trend was somewhere between 0.77 and 2.93 degrees per century. 

Nor would they have dared to publicize the even more alarming warming trend since 1992:

“The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) global temperature record, which is satellite-based and therefore uncontaminated by the urban heat island effect and maintained by our trusted colleagues in climate consensus rejection John Christy and Roy Spencer, clearly shows that the planet is warming at a rate of some 2.3 degrees Celsius per century.” 

That is not something you would have read on “Watts up with That” or any other climate consensus denial blog, website or media outlet. While Watts and Fox and CFACT et al. were crowing that year about “hide the decline,” the internal memo would have been “hide the climb: do not put up highway billboard memos to Al Gore. This information must be contained!” 

"Global warming stopped 15 (or 16 or whatever) years ago. Take that, Al Gore!" - Part 1

Some people are anxious to deliver an inconvenient truth to Al Gore.

“The end is ... not near.” (Or is it?)
This banner ad frequently pops up on climate science denial websites and blogs.
But the first inconvenient truth in this graphical anti-climate science meme is that August 1997 to August 2012 (see the legend on the bottom right of the declarations above) equals 15 years, not 16. Evidently, CFACT (“Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow”) – an aggressive climate science obfuscation machine, among other libertarian priorities – didn't read the fine print when it cribbed the chart from David Rose, the London Daily Mail columnist who unleashed it upon the world last October.

The birth of a meme: the Daily Mail's “no warming” graphic, October 2012. 
The story and the graph were prompted by the release of the latest global temperature data for August, 2012 by the UK's Met (meteorological) Office. The Met Office's Hadley Centre Climate Research Unit, or CRU, had recently updated its 152-year global temperature data set from version 3 to version 4. The new numbers seized upon by Rose came from the latter – aka “HadCRUT4.”

“The figures,” Rose wrote in the Daily Mail, “... reveal that from the beginning of 1997 until August 2012, there was no discernible rise in aggregate global temperatures.”

The story went on to emphasize that this apparent hiatus in global warming indicates climate scientists may need to throw out the models that have led them to predict steady and heady warming, full steam ahead.

But are Rose, CFACT (heavily funded by pro-fossil fuel foundations and at least one disclosed corporate donor: ExxonMobil) and all the other climate change consensus deniers who have seized upon this graphic like a religious icon (a denier's flattened “hockey stick”) right?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

No more global warming? Not so fast, says the WMO

It's true that the pace of global warming – as reflected by air temperature (a good long-term indicator but often misleading over periods less than 15 or even 20 years) – has slowed, even by some measures stopped, since the late 1990s.

A good example of how the impression of no warming has been hyped throughout the denialsphere is this graph produced last year by the conservative British tabloid, The Daily Mail:

Monday, July 8, 2013

Oops. Sun News interviews the "wrong" climate scientist

In an earlier post, I described how an interview with climate scientist Hans von Storch had been cherry-picked – quote-mined, to be precise – by the denialsphere to make it seem like a well-credentialled believer in the climate change consensus has lost his religion.

Well it seems that “ethical oil” promoter and leading Sun News Network (Canada's answer to Fox News) pundit Ezra Levant read the interview or, more likely, one of the quote-mined versions, because soon later – as von Storch, whom I had contacted with some questions, himself told me – Levant's show “The Source” asked the forthright scientist for an interview.

Now the interview is online and it is, in its own way, a howler. But not because of anything von Storch said.

Still from Sun News Network's not-quite-according-to-plan interview with climate scientist Hans von Storch.
Watch the whole thing here

Thursday, June 27, 2013

DO YOU #schadenfreuden?

I hope this disgraceful campaign blows up in Visa's face. My heart shall be filled with glee if the backlash sends those humourless asses into bankruptcy.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Denier's Pledge

The Denier's Pledge

Global warming and climate change are not happening. But even if they were, it would not, could not, be because of anything we humans are doing – with the possible exception of all that hot air coming from Al Gore, the IPCC and Big Government.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Denial Never Sleeps

Still from Obama's climate change video
In a White House video released on Saturday, President Obama announced he will unveil his second-term vision for fighting climate change in a major speech this Tuesday. More like a short and sappy infomercial, its content echoing the broad strokes released by his administration a week ago, the video has left me with that sinking feeling of too little, too late. Take these peculiarly out-of-touch lines (please):
“We'll need scientists to design new fuels and farmers to grow them. We'll need engineers to devise new sources of energy and businesses to make and sell them. We'll need workers to build the foundation for a clean-energy economy, and we'll need all of our citizens to do our part to preserve God's creation for future generations.”
When I first read them in CBS's story on the video, I was tempted to post them on Facebook, mock-attributing them to George Bush circa 2007. Hardly anyone is bullish on biofuels any more except the relevant agriculture lobbies, and we already have an abundance of increasingly affordable renewable energy sources. Obama himself has done plenty to scale up their utilization, considering.

So if I'm bracing myself for a letdown come Tuesday, surely the ubiquitous Greek chorus of denial – which, by subverting America's capacity for reality-testing and political problem-solving has long since turned climate hawk candidate Obama into climate chicken president – will sit this one out.

Not on your life. Not even on “liberal”

Friday, June 21, 2013

Cherry-picking an IPCC climate scientist's interview

Recently Der Spiegel interviewed climate scientist Hans von Storch about the question du jour: “Why Is Global Warming Stagnating?” – as the German newspaper headlined it.

I happen to know this because a climate change denial Facebook page I “like” was eager to trumpet it – well, to trumpet select tidbits, as we'll see:

Friends of Science · 2,078 like this
about an hour ago · 
  • UN IPCC Lead author, Hans von Storch: "Certainly the greatest mistake of climate researchers has been giving the impression that they are declaring the definitive truth" The short article is refreshing in that there are some prominent IPCC participants who value science over ideology.
To which I quipped:
Added Storch (who is one of many dozens, if not hundreds, of IPCC lead authors): "Similarly, space scientists should chill, cop a smoke, check their Facebook page, when an asteroid as big as the one that killed off the dinosaurs is hurtling toward our planet and assure people it's not definitively as bad as it sounds - there's up to a 5% chance the asteroid will miss."

Sunday, June 9, 2013

My God

I believe in God, but not in some “white-haired old man” with a “long robe” and “flowing white beard” kind of way ... 

The God I believe in looks more like Brad Pitt ... 

or Angelina Jolie.