I give up. How does “warm” water flow down to levels deep enough to eat away at the bottom of Antarctic ice shelves?

Shouldn’t warmer water be at the surface?
Jamin Greenbaum, of the University of Texas Institute of Geophysics, explains.

From the UK “Fully Charged’ series.


Alberta premier-designate Rachel Notley

Imagine if Texas elected Bernie Sanders governor.

This week we’ve seen a stunning turnaround in Canadian politics, with big implications for fossil fuel extraction, and indeed, for democracy in our northern neighbor, which had begun to look more and more like a third world petro-state.

It’s tangible evidence that the unexpected, and continuing crash in oil prices is playing havoc with the plans and projections of the fossil fuel barons, and the promises of unlimited prosperity based on an extractive, exploitation-based economic model have frayed as the oil-patch droop continues.

Also, perhaps a lesson for those of us in this country who despair at making the kind of political change we need to see. Things like this can indeed happen.

Make sure you read the unrelated but very much relevant piece from the Wall Street Journal at the bottom.

The New Republic:

On Tuesday night, the near-unthinkable happened here in Canada when the New Democratic Party (NDP) stormed to a commanding majority in Alberta’s provincial elections. To explain this in American terms: Imagine that Texas just overwhelmingly elected a legislature dominated by a left-wing party that opposes major oil pipeline projects; promises a core review of the obligations that oil and gas companies have to their communities; and favors fundamentally rethinking the tax structure toward large-scale redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor. Oh, and it’s going to insist that climate change is real, man-made, and should bear on any policy that involves burning more hydrocarbons.

Even this comparison is tough, because Americans don’t support a mainstream party as unabashedly left-wing as the NDP. (The Greens would be a decent analog. Or a breakaway party of Bernie Sanders acolytes.) Publicly NDP members say they’re “social democrats,” but most of its members, like Canadians at large, use that term interchangeably with “socialist.” Alberta has traditionally been unyielding soil for the NDP. The province is defined by its vast fossil fuel reserves, comparable to Saudi Arabia in its oil underfoot. Once oil was discovered there in the 1940s, actual Texans rushed up to establish companies and, concomitantly, a pro-capital, pro-religion, pro-firearm style of politics that the rest of Canada regards as distinctly American. For 44 years before Tuesday night, a span of twelve straight elections, Alberta has been run by the Conservative Party, a decent analogue to the Republican Party. Before that was nearly 40 years of even more conservative rule under the Social Credit Party.

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I’ve posted in the past that anti-science politics and racism have gone hand in hand. The same is true in regard to  homophobia. Homophobia in particular, long a staple in the dog-whistle politics of conservative America,  hasn’t had quite the reliable appeal in more recent months.

Mike Pence is the current governor of Indiana, and got a lot of press a few weeks ago when the state’s new anti-gay law created an unexpected national brouhaha, surprising the Guv, who formerly was considered dark horse presidential timber.  In a party that is trying to shake its image for bigotry, he has now become radioactive.  When Chris Mathews grilled him on his party’s anti-science positions in this 2009 interview,  Pence predictably restated boilerplate climate denial talking points. and was unable to say whether he thinks the earth is 5000 years old, or not.

Let’s be precise.  Mike Pence will protest that he’s not a homophobe.  The point is, he is someone who is willing to pander to anti-gay bigotry, as well as racial animosities, in order to gain, and keep power. It’s a strategy that has been the founding principle of his Party’s base for the last 40 years,  but is not as bankable today as it was 10 years ago.
Below, Lee Atwater, the legendary-for-brutality Reagan campaign consultant, gave an infamous interview in 1981, outlining how the “Southern Strategy” works in matters of race.  Warning: He uses the “N” word liberally.

In recent years, Atwater disciples like Karl Rove worked to move climate change into the realm of dog-whistle social issues, – like bussing, “welfare queens”, abortion, and gay rights, that would keep the most passionate part of the socially conservative base reliably in line.  With Fox News and Talk radio megaphones broadcasting disinformation regularly, the strategy had some traction.

The blow-up around Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” showed that gay-baiting is no longer a cost-free strategy. The same dynamic is at work in the area of climate change.

Des Moine Register:

The issue that shows the widest gulf between Iowa registered voters and the GOP is man-made climate change. Among registered voters, 58 percent find a candidate acceptable who believes climate change is man-made and that action should be taken to combat it. Only 42 percent of the potential GOP electorate finds that position acceptable and only 34 percent of registered Republicans.

Stanford’s Polling Expert Jon Krosnick interviewed in the LA Times:

In some ways, climate change is typical and in some ways it’s not. Pick any issue — gun control, defense spending, even terrorism — and a small group of Americans are very passionate about it: 5% to 15%, sometimes 18% or 20%. But no issue gets anywhere near a majority of Americans. During the Vietnam War, only about 20% of Americans were really passionate about that. Following the [Sandy Hook] shootings, only about 13% of Americans were passionate about [gun control]. Think of the American public as a patchwork quilt of issues where each person is passionate about only a handful at most.

How do you define passionate?

Where a person wakes up and says, “Another day, another opportunity to do something about [for example] gun control in America.” It takes a lot of emotion and cognitive energy to be in this category. Political scientists call this the “issue public.” Of those passionate people, about half are on each side: Half the passionate people want strict gun laws, half want no gun laws.

In what way is climate change different?

It’s weird in this regard: About 90% of the passionate are on what you might call the green side. They believe it’s happening, it’s caused by humans, it’s a serious problem, and government should do something about it. That’s unusual in that it allows candidates to win votes by talking about it. Democrats and Republicans will gain votes among independent voters if they take a green position. On most issues, anything a candidate says will annoy about as many people as it pleases, so there’s no net profit.

Many Americans, including people in Washington, do not realize how one-sided the public is on this. If they did, they would change their approach. I’ve been to Capitol Hill to talk to legislators and they’ve said: “You’re doing national surveys. I don’t think the people in my state feel that way.” So we’ve started looking at states and haven’t found a single state where a majority of residents are skeptical, but legislators think they are. West Virginia, Oklahoma, Texas — even in those states, large majorities are expressing green points of view.

Below, the deeply strange and disturbed former Reagan official, perennial candidate Alan Keyes careens between homophobia and climate denial.

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Not The Onion.
In an effort to defibrillate a moribund and morally bankrupt movement, the Science-Denial-for-Hire “Think” Tank Heartland Institute is advertising it’s next “Conference on Climate Change” in a style more fit for a remake of “West Side Story” by Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

Heartland promises:

Some of the policy questions the conference will explore and discuss:

  • Is the rising concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere a net positive or net negative for plant life, animals, and human prosperity?
  • What is the cost of restrictions on energy generation and consumption imposed by the Obama administration and the United Nations?
  • Is it moral to withhold affordable and reliable energy from poor people living in the U.S. and those in emerging countries?

The last bullet point ringing ever more hollow in the face of Pope Francis’ imminent Letter on Climate Change.

Bud Ward for Yale Climate Connections:

As reported by the National Catholic Reporter, the Ghanaian Cardinal Turkson pointed to 2015 as “a critical year for humanity,” a reference to the United Nations climate change conference scheduled for December.
The coming months “are crucial, then, for decisions about international development, human flourishing, and care for the common home we call planet Earth,” Turkson said. He said Pope Francis “has echoed the sense of crisis that many in the scientific and development communities convey” about the state of the planet and its impoverished populations.

Turkson was quoted as saying Pope Francis, in the upcoming encyclical, hopes to spread the “warmth of hope … in the midst of those he has called the ‘Herods,’ the ‘omens of destruction and death’ that so often accompany ‘the advance of this world.’”

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A is for Atom

May 6, 2015

Classic 50’s future-porn.  Worth the 14 minutes or so for perspective.

California is prone to droughts, and the historic record points to numerous long and severe dry spells.  The current drought is exceptional. A recent tree ring study shows no comparable dry spell in the past 1,200 years.

Climate change will not necessarily bring entirely new kinds of events: droughts, rainstorms, and tropical storms are not first-ever events. Rather, with the warming climate, such familiar events gradually become more intense and damaging. Current weather events now bear the burdens of a changed global atmosphere.

The California drought is part of a persistent atmospheric pattern that is also behind the extreme winter events in eastern North America in recent years – known to scientists as the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” over Alaska and Canada, and as the “Terribly Tenacious Trough” dipping into the eastern U.S.

This pattern may be enhancing ocean heating in the northeastern Pacific, a novel pattern scientists have dubbed “the Blob.” And it has consequences beyond just impacts on western industry and agriculture, extending to fisheries and the food chain itself.

Making the causal connection from this, or any particular drought or weather event, to climate change is not a slam dunk, but most scientists agree that it is the type of event that we expect to see in a warming, and already changed, world.

Fox News:

California regulators approved sweeping, unprecedented restrictions Tuesday on how people, governments and businesses can use water amid the state’s ongoing drought in the hope of enticing residents to conserve more water.

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Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.

– Albert Einstein

If somehow you missed the flurry around “Coal rollers”, see below.

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Now I have one more reason to like Game of Thrones.

You’ll get it about 30 seconds in.