Friday, August 22, 2014

Waking the Frog Before We Boil

Waking the Frog: Solutions for Our Climate Change Paralysis

By Tom Rand
ECW Press, 2014 
245 pages, $29.95

You've probably heard the story before.

A frog leaps into a pot of water that happens to be sitting 
on a stove. Being coldblooded, he lazes away, oblivious as the temperature creeps up from cold, to warm, to hot. 

Only as the water nears the boiling point does he register danger. But by then his muscles have been paralyzed by the heat.

The water boils. The frog dies in agony. End of story.

That's the gruesome metaphor that frames Canadian climate activist Tom Rand's analysis of the pot we're stewing in as a civilization thanks to climate disruption – the result of anthropogenic (we did it) global warming – and the froglike fallibilities of human psychology, our destructively “free” markets and our ineffectual political systems.

Rand chooses the expression “climate disruption” in favour of the familiar “climate change” hoping it will bypass the frog's powerful denial mechanism. “The term,” he explains, “helps circumvent the nonsense that this warming is part of a natural cycle and emphasizes our contribution to the coming changes and the speed at which they are approaching.”

Rand brings a versatile skill-set to a subject usually tackled by more specialized writers (climate scientists, environmentalists, science writers).

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Heat is On (still) — and here's how scientists know it is

The following short essay was published this May in the Summer issue of The Aquarian. I've revised and adapted it for this blog, with many more hyperlinks and graphics. 

A Cold Winter in a (Still) Warming World

When you look at the big picture, there's been no “pause” in global warming

By Syd Baumel

It was Winnipeg's coldest winter since 1898. Throughout most of North America, the deep freeze broke records, made headlines and (inevitably) provided fodder for global warming doubters, deniers and disinformers.

So where did the global warming go this winter? Answer: nowhere.

While we were freezing like it's 1898, across the Atlantic Europe was enjoying one of its warmest winters on record. Witness those not-so-wintry Olympics in Sochi.

Even here in North America, it was an unusually warm winter out west – the warmest on record in California where the heat was so parching that by April the state was fully engulfed by drought. Up the road a piece, Alaska basked in its eighth warmest winter ever.

But, as the proverb goes, when a whole bunch of blind men examine an elephant, a tusk, a trunk and a big floppy ear at a time, it can lead to a comically distorted picture of the whole.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

CFACT + Lovelock = Climate Confusion

The Denialsphere has a new meme:

And as usual, it would be charitable to call it a half-truth.

It took me less than five minutes to find that out.

Yes, the irrepressibly outspoken originator of the Gaia theory of our planet, James Lovelock, did say what CFACT (the “Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow,” as Stephen Colbert might have named it) triumphantly says he did. Without even fact-checking, I'm willing to believe another climate change obfuscation outfit on that one, because at least the Global Warming Policy Foundation is responsible enough to publish the 94-year-old scientist cum natural philosopher's words in partial context – a context that includes other tidbits you won't see in any disinfographic from CFACT.

Lovelock's quote is loosely taken from a BBC Newsnight interview broadcast on April 2, just a few days after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its massive Working Group II report on Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability.

Early in the interview, Lovelock opted to illustrate his point that we're not as smart as we think we are, and that we're cruising for a bruising with extinction, by opining:
Take this climate matter everybody is thinking about. They all talk, they pass laws, they do things, as if they knew what was happening. I don’t think any of them really know what’s happening. They're just guessing it. And a whole group of them meet together and encourage each other’s guesses. 
(I'm using my own transcript now that I've watched the interview myself. It corrects some errors in the transcript by the GWPF and adds a few more lines of context.)

So there it is. The get, the ripe cherry to be picked, the quote to be mined, tweaked and decontextualized by CFACT, Friends of Science, Watts Up With That? and all the other climate confusionists dedicated to pulling the wool over the people's eyes in the guise of enlightening them, ensuring the fossil fuel companies will live to profit another day and keeping the bogeymen of “Big Government” and global governance away.

And here's the context.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Tiger not-so-direct: Adventures in comical customer service

It began with a message from me to, submitted via their website. I had been checking out the Lenovo Yoga 10.1 tablet – including on 

For days afterward, ads from for the Lenovo tablet (among others) followed me around the web. These two-frame GIFs flickered between the implied regular price with a slash through it and the implied sale price. 

But the regular price the ads gave for the tablet was inflated by 20% above Lenovo's list price. And the implied sale price was ... the list price. 

Even Lenovo was discounting it below list at the time (the 2013 Christmas holiday season). 

I wanted Tiger Direct to know. 

Instead I would become an unwitting straight man in a comedy routine that would involve some 11 emails. 

(NOTE: I've removed redundant text from the email transcript below in order to minimize discomfort and maximize amusement.)