“Rush Limbaugh, more than any other individual, is responsible for shifting conservative opinion to deny the existence of global warming.”

 -John K. Wilson, author of The Most Dangerous Man in America: Rush Limbaugh’s Assault on Reason.

Climate denier, and fatally, tobacco denier, Rush Limbaugh, died this week from lung cancer.
Yeah, made me think back to that time I talked to him.

Some time later in the nineties, maybe ’97?
I had been following climate science for 20 years, and Jim Hansen’s work since 1981, and I understood, in a rudimentary way, what the mainstream science was telling us.
Scientists, as of 1995, had detected a “discernible” human influence warming the planet.
Hansen’s model had accurately predicted the planetary response from the Mt Pinabubo eruption, a major validation of the (by today’s standards) primitive climate models Hansen relied upon. Still lots to discuss, but it looked like this mechanism was real, and the process was happening.
I knew, as someone that grew up outside, on snow and water, that things were certainly changing in my upper-midwest neck of the woods.

On that particular day, Friends of the Earth had published a full page ad about climate change in USAToday, with a speculative “weather map” for the 2020s. It depicted a heat wave with a shocking temperature of 124 F in California.
(This past summer the temperature hit 130 in the desert, and an insane 110 F in LA, near the ocean.

Ridiculing the ad, Limbaugh launched into a climate denial rant, listing the most popular nonsense memes that we are all familiar with. And anyway, he said, even the most extreme eco-nuts were only talking about a few degrees rise in global temps, so obviously this ad was just more over-the-top scare tactics, he fumed.
Taking a breath, he invited “any environmentalist out there who can defend or explain this, to call in. I want to talk to you.”

Hunched over my keyboard, and listening as I struggled to nudge along a barely-alive communication business – I took up the challenge, and – incredibly – got through.
A voice asked me if I was indeed, the environmentalist Rush was asking for – I assured him that was me.
“Hold on for Rush” the voice said.

A few minutes went by, while I took some deep breaths and stretched.
Suddenly, the familiar voice was on the line.
“Ok, we have Peter from Midland, Michigan. Are you a greenie? an enviro?”

“Well, I often wear sandals, I hug trees when I’m climbing them, but not, you know, in a weird way.
And I’ve been known to order the tofu in my veggie stir fry.”
That was good enough.
“Alright, so explain this ad to me. The claim is made here that in the 2020s, we’ll see temperatures of 124 degrees Fahrenheit – but even Al Gore says the planet is only warming by a degree or so. So this is more scare tactics, right?”

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Science Alert:

The stretch of Arctic ice between Greenland and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago is known as ‘the Last Ice Area’, thought by scientists to have the best chance of surviving the climate crisis – but new research suggests it could be more vulnerable to disappearing than previously thought.

It’s the oldest and the thickest stretch of ice in the Arctic region, and up to this point it’s managed to survive even the warmest summers on record. There are even hopes that it will eventually act as the foundation of a spreading Arctic ice region, if we can get the planet to begin cooling down again.

Maybe not, according to a new analysis of satellite data looking specifically at ice arches along Nares Strait, which is 40 kilometres (25 miles) wide and 600 kilometres (373 miles) long.

Ice arches aren’t traditional arches at all, they’re key patches of ice that form seasonally and prevent other pieces of ice from entering a body of water. The Nares Strait and its arches could play a crucial role in whether or not the Last Ice Area survives through the peak of global warming.

“The ice arches that usually develop at the northern and southern ends of Nares Strait play an important role in modulating the export of Arctic Ocean multi-year sea ice,” write the researchers in their published paper.

“We show that the duration of arch formation has decreased over the past 20 years, while the ice area and volume fluxes along Nares Strait have both increased.”

Simply put, the Nares Strait ice arches that effectively hold the Last Ice Area in place are becoming less stable. The risk is that this old ice will not just melt in place, but also break up and drift southwards into warmer regions, speeding up the melting process.

The ice arches look like bridges on their sides, blocking the movement of ice from north to south. The problem is that the arches are breaking up earlier in the year than they have previously, allowing more ice to flow through the Nares Strait.

Every year, according to observations, the ice arches are breaking up a week earlier than before. The ice blockage is becoming thinner and less of a barrier, and that is leading to changes further north – it’s estimated that ice movement in the Last Ice Area is increasing twice as fast as it is in the rest of the Arctic.

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2020’s Will Be Great

December 31, 2020

Optimism is often seen as naive, but I choose to believe that, properly exercised, it is a force multiplier.

Above, Reuters has a clear eyed view of the unprecedented moment we are at in the energy transition.
Below, Keith Schneider, the Sage of Benzonia, Michigan, looks forward.

Keith Schneider in ModeShift:

There really is not a way to hit on a word, or even an assembly of words, to adequately encompass the tough, dangerous, and ultimately exceptional year that 2020 has been.

Next year will be better. And the 2020s promise to be a decade of real progess. During this decade technology and ecology will marry more firmly than ever to produce pathbreaking achievements in sectors that really matter— energy, transportation, agriculture, climate, resources, and manufacturing.

With Trump gone, a new era has opened. The United States is again seriously considering how to construct a true green new deal — the melding of ecological values to investment and industrial practices to build a fairer and more just economy.

The foundation is in place. Black fuels, for instance, are in retreat as investors move capital to less expensive and cleaner alternative energy sources. In 2018, according to an assessment by Tim Buckley, an Australian analyst, 31 significant financial institutions abandoned coal. In 2019 the list was longer, with 46 major investment banks and institutions announcing coal exits. In 2020 so far there have been 68 such actions around the world.

Oil companies evaporated as sound investment options. Oil and natural gas prices are near historic lows. Drilling activity has diminished. A proposal to build a monumental gas storage hub in West Virginia is slipping closer to irrelevancy.

On the other side of the energy sector, carbon-free power is seizing command of the electrical sector. Electric vehicles are poised to lead the market by the end of the decade, if not sooner. Responding to climate disruption is a top tier political issue, and not just in the United States. Energy, water, soil, and community-conserving food production practices are being adopted as central tenets of mainstream agriculture.

American companies’ commitment to ingenuity, science, and manufacturing prowess just delivered two COVID-19 vaccines in under a year. Amazon is remaking how the world operates with the same era-changing influence that steam engines had on sailing schooners. The same is true for Tesla and Google. Look at Linkedin’s news page. It’s a scrolling compendium of trends that convey hope for the world.

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Markets starting to respond to climate reality.
Insurance companies are getting hammered. The way they adjust will affect our perception of climate change.

A few months ago, I posted a piece, based on interviews with leading permafrost experts, that pushed back, hard, on the “we’re all gonna die and there’s nothing we can do” catastrophism around the so-called “methane bomb” in the arctic. (I’ll repost that one below if you have not seen it)

That’s not to say that we don’t have a problem. When people tell me that the world is about to end, my response is that we’re not getting off that easy.
Above, more from the same researchers, looking at a little more fine grained data from the permafrost – and observations of a phenomenon that is coming into sharper focus.
As the planet warms, permafrost is softening, causing microbes to awaken and begin feeding on the organic matter therein – releasing more CO2 and methane. Good enough – but a lot of folks don’t understand that THAT process alone is not a world breaker – in fact, as more vegetation springs from softened permafrost, photosynthesis is kicking in – carbon is being stored, and in some models, actually sequestering more carbon.

The more pressing issue coming into focus is that the permafrost does not melt uniformly, and tends to collapse here and there into thousands, maybe millions, of lakes – that break through the surface “active layer” of the permafrost, and into the reservoir of more deeply stored carbon.
These lakes are hot-spots of carbon and methane release, and could add substantially to the total output in coming centuries.
It’s not the sudden catastrophic impact of disaster movies, but, as one of the experts, Katey Walter Anthony, told me, “..it’s a strong headwind.”

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Flogging the Scientists

March 15, 2010

As a nonscientist, it’s daunting for me to work thru the huge volume of information on global climate change. I’ve found that the most reliable scientific information comes from respected peer reviewed science journals .

But journals have lots of big words, and lots of small print, and very few illustrations to make it easy for me. You can see why climate deniers don’t like them. But that’s where the facts are.

How can you tell a good science journal?

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Birth of a Crock

October 6, 2009

The observation that natural climate variability exists is not a new one.

Early in September 2009, at a gathering of experts on global climate change, one of the world’s most respected and experienced climate modelers, Mojib Latif, made some observations on climate, media and human nature.

The message seemed clear-
natural variations in the long term warming might be misinterpreted
by the media. out of ignorance, or malice.

Climate deniers were quick to take Latif’s remarks, and begin
doing exactly that.

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One of the enduring myths of climate denialism is that global warming stopped sometime in the last decade. I see it in the blaring headlines of pseudoscience websites, in comments on my videos, even some of our most “distinguished” journalists have been taken in.