Climate-change denial getting harder to defend

As temperatures in the Norwegian Arctic beat those in the denialists’ favourite, the Medieval Warm Period, comes this:

The United States experienced the warmest July in its history, with more than 3,000 heat records broken across the country. Overall, the summer was the nation’s third warmest on record and comes in a year that is turning out to be the hottest ever. High temperatures along with low precipitation generated drought conditions across 60% of the Lower 48 states, which affected 70% of the corn and soybean crop and rendered part of the Mississippi River non-navigable. Arctic Sea ice declined to a record low, and a surface thaw swept across 97% of the Greenland ice cap.

Though it’s not possible to definitively link any of these individual events to human-caused climate change, the summer’s extreme weather follows clear longer-term trends and is consistent with climate model projections. This was the 36th consecutive July and 329th consecutive month in which global temperatures have been above the 20th century average. In addition, seven of the 10 hottest summers recorded in the United States have occurred since 2000. Such rising temperatures and climate anomalies have been documented around the world.

But there’s also one bit of good news: The increasingly powerful evidence of a long-term warming trend is making climate-change denial more difficult to defend. Take “Climategate” — the argument that scientists have based their evidence for global warming on fraudulent science. The Koch Foundation provided funding to physicist Richard Muller of UC Berkeley, a longtime climate-change skeptic, to disprove the widespread consensus on global warming. Instead, his re-analysis showed the exact same warming trend found by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other scientists.

Since completing his research last year, Muller has been vociferously speaking out on the reality of human-caused climate change, including in testimony before Congress. The publication this spring of an expanded weather station analysis by Britain’s Hadley Centre further confirms the trend and suggests Northern Hemisphere surface warming was about 0.1 degree Celsius greater than previously thought. With Muller’s and the Hadley Centre’s re-analysis, the idea of Climategate has become virtually impossible to take seriously. The planet is warming.

But that hasn’t silenced the climate-change deniers entirely; they’ve simply shifted their arguments. Increasingly, they are accepting evidence of recent warming, but they deny that it is largely caused by humans, attributing it instead to natural factors such as solar variability or the El Niño system. But these arguments don’t fly any better than their original ones.

Research by Grant Foster of the United States and Stefan Rahmstorf of Germany has shown that recent variations in the solar cycle, volcanic activity and El Niño/La Niña events actually had a tempering effect on warming. Similarly, Markus Huber and Reto Knutti of the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Zurich found by using simulation models that non-greenhouse gas factors could have accounted for only about 1% of the warming experienced since 1950. And this summer a team headed by Peter Gleckler of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory provided strong evidence that the recent warming of the ocean surface could be traced to human activities. The evidence is now overwhelming that by and large the warming we are seeing has an anthropogenic cause.

Another common theme of the skeptics recently is that even if anthropogenic climate change is real, projections overstate future warming. Writing in August in the Wall Street Journal, physicists Roger Cohen (a retired ExxonMobil executive), William Happer of Princeton and Richard Lindzen of MIT — all noted climate skeptics — asserted that greenhouse gases, though possibly having a warming effect, were “unlikely to increase global temperature more than about one degree Celsius.”

That 1-degree Celsius, or 1.8-degree Fahrenheit, projection is based largely on a 2011 paper by Lindzen and contradicted by much other research. The Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5, for example, which represents about 20 climate modeling groups, has in 2012 generated more than 200 submissions and peer-reviewed publications testing and analyzing the newest climate models. The sum result of these improved models reaffirms the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel’s projections of an increase in global temperature of 4 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. It is important for scientists to further refine such projections, but it’s clear that increasing greenhouse gases are likely to cause a significant rise in global temperatures.

(My emphasis in bold)




Quicker than ever

Dr Schmidt of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences said: “Ocean acidification has happened before sometimes with large consequences for marine ecosystems.  But within the last 300 million years, never has the rate of ocean acidification been comparable to the ongoing acidification.” She added that the most comparable event, most likely 10 times slower than the current acidification, was 55 million years ago. “At that time, species responded to the warming, acidification, change in nutrient input and loss of oxygen – the  same processes that we now see in our oceans.  The geological record shows changes in species distribution, changes in species composition, changes in calcification and growth and in a few cases extinction,” she said. “Our current acidification rates are unparalleled in Earth history and lead most ecosystems into unknown territory.” That rate of change was echoed by Dr Claudine Hauri, an oceanographer from the University of Alaska Fairbanks: “The waters up and down the coast from our conference site here in Monterey Bay are particularly prone to the effects of ocean acidification.  The chemistry of these waters is changing at such a rapid pace that organisms now experience conditions that are different from what they have experienced in the past. And within about 20 or 30 years, the chemistry again will be different from that of even today.” Source

Going down right now

Here is a summary of where the world stands:

Source “We produce sufficiently for everyone on earth to have enough food, yet despite this cornucopia a significant proportion of people cannot afford to eat properly. Why?”

Food prices are rapidly heading toward new record territory, with far more at play than a simple drought in the US Midwest. There are serious implications, especially for nations with high rates of inequality and poverty. We will almost certainly face a potentially catastrophic, global scale famine in the next couple of decades.

The main reason there are now over seven billion people on earth is largely due to the emergence of two separate technologies. Firstly, cheap fossil fuels have enabled us to grow food on industrial scales. We presently require around 10 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce one calorie of food. A century ago each calorie of energy expended produced two calories of food. Secondly, advances in health care, primarily antibiotics and vaccines, have increased human life-spans.

It is an increasing challenge to feed this exponentially increasing population. We produce sufficiently for everyone on earth to have enough food, yet despite this cornucopia a significant proportion of people cannot afford to eat properly. Why?

There are three major reasons for this. Firstly, unequal wealth distribution. Secondly, meat consumption has grown as wealth has increased. Grazing area for meat production, mainly beef, uses more than a quarter of ice-free land surface. Additionally, more than a third of all cropland is used to grow crops to feed livestock. These are produced using energy intensive, industrial agricultural practices.

Third, the risks associated with diminishing energy supplies has encouraged wealthy governments to promote the production and consumption of “biofuels”. These are produced from agricultural resources such as sugar cane, beet, maize, soy, and oil crops such as palm oil and canola.

This focus on biofuels – which opponents prefer to call agro-fuels because of their propensity to divert scarce agricultural resources toward fuel crops – has caused an unprecedented shift in focus in agricultural production from food production to growing fuel crops.

As a result swathes of sensitive ecosystems have been destroyed to be planted by monocultures like palm oil, sugar cane, maize and soy. High oil prices have provided a potent economic incentive to underpin this ecologically disastrous shift. This destruction is occurring from the jungles of Indonesia – displacing iconic species like ourang-outang – to West Africa, where local communities are expelled in order to attract “foreign investment” and plant agrofuel crops.

Biofuel production has a clear impact on global food reserves, which are presently approaching historical lows. Last year nearly 40% of the US maize crop went into ethanol for fuel. Because the US is the world’s largest maize producer this has serious implications for global food trade. This is especially so in light of this year’s serious drought across the Midwest. Maize prices have risen to record levels, nearly double that of last year.

High oil prices will maintain demand for maize ethanol, perpetuating the insanity of food for fuel. The global trade in these commodity crops is dominated by three corporations – Cargill, Bunge and Archer Daniel Midland – each deeply involved in both ethanol production and market hedging and speculation.

This commodification of food leaves food security at the mercy of the market. There is no central global oversight or planning to secure sufficient food stocks as a buffer. Food is controlled by the market, not by logic, and certainly not by benevolence.

One solution proposed by the neo-liberal interests such as the G8 and the elitist World Economic Forum is to modernise agriculture throughout the developing world, particularly in Africa, where production has historically lagged international norms. This solution is modelled on imposing high-cost, high-input agricultural practices, reliant on fertilisers, hybrid and genetically modified sees, increased mechanisation and use of pesticides and chemicals on vulnerable economic and agricultural systems.

The poor inevitably fall victim to this inequity. Peasant farmers are forced to seek loans to secure their position on the industrial agricultural treadmill. When crops fail, their land is lost to consolidated industrial agricultural interests which wrings profits from the land at the cost of biodiversity and social stability.

Huge swathes of land have already been absorbed in land grabs by foreign governments, private entities and speculators to grow biofuel or feed and fodder crops. Displaced farmers migrate to urban areas to seek work as jobs are lost to mechanisation.

The poor majority are consequently forced into an ever bleaker reality in order to accept these market-oriented solutions to hunger, which in turn annihilates the delicate social and economic dynamics that has sustained them for countless generations.

In the West families, spend 15% of income on food – in the global South this rises to 80%. Yet the dominant economic model claims that small-scale, self-sufficient farmers do not provide any income to tax or the national balance of payments. Therefore the neo-liberal dogma insists these “worthless” farmers must modernise and adopt high input agriculture. And remember, these worthless farmers represent nearly a third of the world’s population and feed even more.

These changes add to the already profound threats to food security, social cohesion and to poverty reduction goals such as the millennium development goals. Ironically, small farming projects are far more resilient to climate instability than the intensive, industrial model being promoted.

In turn, climate change is increasingly related to instability in agricultural productivity. Sharply increased levels of carbon dioxide and more recently, methane released as the arctic fringe rapidly thaws, has exacerbated this uncertainty. This feedback spiral places agricultural production at further, direct risks.

Climate change is more about increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather events than pure “warming.” The harbingers of these changes are events like droughts in the US Midwest, Russia, South Asia, melting of the Arctic ice cap and permafrost and floods in Pakistan, Burma and North Korea.

Add to this volatile mix the predatory instincts of commodity traders seeking short-term profits in the real-time casino economy and it is clear that the poor are exposed to ever increasing, cynical levels of risk. Activism against this exploitation has brought CommerzBank and several other German banks to cease this immoral trade. However speculative traders elsewhere have no such qualms.

All of these factors add up to a perfect storm. Maize and soy prices are at record levels, above even the speculative bubble prices they reached in 2008. Wheat is headed in the same direction, as are many other key crops.

All of us will feel the impact of this perfect storm but yet again it will be the poorest amongst us who are most seriously affected. This has serious implications for social stability, especially in nations beset by the twin challenges of poverty and inequality.

Climate Change: An Information Statement of the American Meteorological Society

Here’s the final remarks from the full statement

Final remarks

There is unequivocal evidence that Earth’s lower atmosphere, ocean, and land surface are warming; sea level is rising; and snow cover, mountain glaciers, and Arctic sea ice are shrinking. The dominant cause of the warming since the 1950s is human activities. This scientific finding is based on a large and persuasive body of research. The observed warming will be irreversible for many years into the future, and even larger temperature increases will occur as greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere. Avoiding this future warming will require a large and rapid reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions. The ongoing warming will increase risks and stresses to human societies, economies, ecosystems, and wildlife through the 21st century and beyond, making it imperative that society respond to a changing climate. To inform decisions on adaptation and mitigation, it is critical that we improve our understanding of the global climate system and our ability to project future climate through continued and improved monitoring and research. This is especially true for smaller (seasonal and regional) scales and weather and climate extremes, and for important hydroclimatic variables such as precipitation and water availability.

Technological, economic, and policy choices in the near future will determine the extent of future impacts of climate change. Science-based decisions are seldom made in a context of absolute certainty. National and international policy discussions should include consideration of the best ways to both adapt to and mitigate climate change. Mitigation will reduce the amount of future climate change and the risk of impacts that are potentially large and dangerous. At the same time, some continued climate change is inevitable, and policy responses should include adaptation to climate change. Prudence dictates extreme care in accounting for our relationship with the only planet known to be capable of sustaining human life.


September is here and after the relative lull of the summer holidays, shit is going down.

The central bank of Spain just released the net capital outflow numbers and they are disastrous. During the month of June alone $70.90 billion left the Spanish banks and in July it was worse at $92.88 billion which is 4.7% of total bank deposits in Spain. For the first seven months of the year the outflow adds up to $368.80 billion or 17.7% of the total bank deposits of Spain and the trajectory of the outflow is increasing dramatically. Reality is reality and Spain is experiencing a full-fledged run on its banks whether anyone in Europe wants to admit it or not.

Moments ago the French government suddenly announced the nationalization of troubled mortgage lender Credit Immobilier de France, which is also the country’s second lagrest mortgage specialist after an attempt to find a buyer for the company failed. “To allow the CIF group to respect its overall commitments, the state decided to respond favourably to its request to grant it a guarantee,” Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said according to Reuters. What he really meant was that in order to avoid a bank run following the realization that the housing crisis has finally come home, his boss, socialist Hollande, has decided to renege on his core campaign promise, and bail out an “evil, evil” bank.

Euro-Zone youth unemployment has now ticked back up to its euro-era record-high of 22.6% (18-year highs). Only Portugal saw an improvement is the rate of unemployment among the Under-25 age group (from 37.6% to 36.4%) though it remains anarchically high. Italy was the hardest hit, back above 35% with its largest rise in youth joblessness in 5 months, Ireland rose back above 30% for its biggest rise in 11 months as France jumped to two-year highs and Spain and Greece are practically deadlocked with ~53% of their younger-generation out of work – new all-time records.

Spain’s national bank rescue fund said on Friday it will inject emergency liquidity into troubled lender Bankia immediately after the bank reported losses of over 4 billion euros ($5 billion) in the first half of 2012


Aurora ‘Batman’ Shootings Conspiracy Theory Questioned

It’s somehow more comfortable for people to believe in uncomfortable conspiracy theory than to believe someone would, like, just do something like this. Especially when they can fit the theory to their already held beliefs.

The bodies in Aurora, Colorado weren’t even cold before the inevitable conspiracy theories began to propagate in the bacterial petri dish that is the internet.


While most people are content to let the investigation into the Dark Knight Rises murder spree evolve under the auspices of local and federal law enforcement, there exists a fringe for whom no amount of physical distance from, or baseless conjecture about, a national tragedy is too far to not support unlikely theories of United Nations false-flag attacks and other tinfoil cap speculations.


The current conspiracy du jour is that James Holmes’ attack on a packed audience watching a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises was in actuality an atrocity planned in advance by elements within the federal government and/or the United Nations. Those advocating this claim are pointing to several shaky bits of “evidence” that are in actuality nothing of the sort. This isn’t surprising, though: it costs practically nothing to make baseless accusations under the guise of “just asking questions”, and there’s much to be gained by doing so in terms of attention and notoriety. (Just ask Glenn Beck.)


Let’s take a look at some of the points being raised by those who believe that a government conspiracy was behind the Aurora shootings:


1) Everyone remembers James Holmes as a happy, normal fellow, so he couldn’t have done this unless he was coerced through mind control technology.
Disregarding the mind control/MK ULTRA talk, this is the hoariest cliche in crime reportage: “He was such a good neighbor…such a quiet fellow…you’d never think he’d do such a thing.” In actuality, Holmes’ schoolmates recall him as “strange” and “a little off.” He was in the process of withdrawing from his PhD program in the months before the shootings. There’s also some indication that a profile at Adult Friend Finder may have belonged to him. That’s no crime, of course, but the fact that his profile states “Will you visit me in prison?” might raise an eyebrow or two.


2) There’s no way this guy could have gotten all of those weapons and that tactical gear.
Not a chance. I’m nowhere near wealthy and I own three firearms myself, upon which I’ve spent about $600. I could easily acquire a shotgun and a rifle for maybe a couple thousand more if I look around town. That’s not even including the internet, where apparently Holmes did much of his own shopping. The gas mask? I own one, myself. Fully functional Russian surplus. Bought it for a Halloween costume. It’s also perfectly legal to buy a bullet-proof vest and you can do so at many places online or locally. Same thing with any other protective gear. As for the cost, all I can say is that none of us have access to his financial records, and if I were planning on spending the rest of my life in jail (or dead) then it would probably be pretty easy for me to liquidate my assets to acquire whatever I needed.


3) Someone must have trained him how to use it all!
Not necessary at all. I know how to strap on protective gear, and I bet you could do so, too. Firearm training? Also unnecessary. The audience members were sitting ducks. Many of them thought that Holmes was part of the show – after all, there were plenty of people wearing costumes. They had little reason to be alarmed until the bullets started flying. it takes little skill to shoot indiscriminately into a field full of targets. Pistols are another matter, but there have been many, many accounts of basically unskilled people using pistols to take many lives in other mass murders. The man killed a dozen people out of probably hundreds trapped in an enclosed space. It’s a tragedy, but this isn’t the work of a professional marksman.


4) Someone must have let him in!
Yes, that’s definitely possible: We think that he came in through the emergency exit, from what I understand. Someone might have agreed to do so thinking that he just wanted to sneak into the movie for free, or maybe someone left it open on accident. Perhaps Holmes himself had come in at some point prior and left it open. Or maybe he pried the door open from the other side. Who knows? Any of these seem likely – or at least likelier than a government agent opening the door and shoving Holmes in. All that we know is that he got in somehow.


5) He turned himself in! Who turns himself in?
You’re right: most of these guys off themselves. But not all of them! It does happen. Simply because Holmes didn’t take the extra step of killing himself doesn’t make him the Manchurian Candidate. Maybe he lacked the guts. Certainly, the fact that he left his apartment booby trapped seems to imply that he had originally planned on not coming back alive.


6) He timed his attack perfectly to coincide with the sound of gunshots!
It wouldn’t take an idiot to figure that one out, and if you’ve ever worked at a theater then you’ll know that you can easily hear the noises a movie makes when you’re standing near a door. Plus, it’s an action film about a terrorist villain. You could probably just walk in any time and have a pretty good chance of doing so during a gunfight or explosion.


7) They’re coming to take our guns! This is why they did it!
A major linchpin in the conspiracy theory is that this was done to justify the United States’ signing on to the United Nations Small Arms Resolution. From here, the theory goes, the powers that be will have all of the justification it needs to take America’s weapons away. There are a few problems with this. The first is that the UN Small Arms Resolution concerns the trafficking of conventional firearms between member countries, not the buy, sell or trade of firearms within member countries. The second is that no matter what the UN wants, the United States would still have to develop new legislature and pass it through the same process any other law goes through.


The FBI knew! The FBI knew!
There’s a video currently making the rounds that purports to show a FBI warning regarding potential terrorist attacks at movie theaters. The same video claims that the warning was removed from the internet around the same time of the shooting. The video – and thus, the document – has only one source, and it is being propagated through conspiracy circles at the speed of light. Presuming that one trusts the originator of the document that it is legitimate, then this in itself becomes highly problematic. Why would the FBI issue a warning of an attack in the first place if their brothers in arms are planning the same attack? Further, the document is clearly marked as a “Roll Call” release, one of a line of internal documents created by the Department of Homeland Security’s Interagency Threat Assessment and Coordination Group. My point is that they were clearly intended for internal use. If you’re part of a conspiracy, why alert everyone else? The document was never intended for public release, which might also explain why it “disappeared” after being posted. Finally, warnings about terrorist attacks in public places aren’t new. People have been talking about attacks in shopping centers and other public places for years.


9) The feds do this kind of thing all the time!
No, the feds don’t mass murder dozens of civilians all the time. They’ve set up plenty of sting operations with would-be terrorists (often with dummy explosives and that kind of thing), and they’ve even fouled up their share of investigations (“Fast and Furious”) and applied a jackhammer to situations that would require a feather touch (Waco) with horrific results, but coordinating the murder of a the theater full of suburbanites watching a comic book movie? No, that’s not something that typically falls under the purview of the federal government. You simply can’t look at past cases in which you suspect government malfeasance and use them as “proof” of malfeasance in this attack.


I suppose that nearly anything is possible, but which sounds like a more likely possibility: (1) A young man who most people remember as a bit of an oddball snaps and goes on a shooting rampage (something that has happened many, many times before); or (2) International conspirators band together in a coordinated assault on the residents of a Colorado town in a black operation to support the roll-out of  total gun control in America. I know where I stand. Do you?



The Olympic Torch Tradition

The Olympic torch relay is not an ancient and noble tradition but was invented by the Nazis to glorify the Third Riech at the 1936 Berlin Games.

At the Seoul opening ceremony in 1988, some of the doves released were accidentally incinerated in the Olympic flame.

The current corporate version of the torch relay:

Ab Fab:


Banks Behaving Badly

Break the law? “Sorry about that!” will usually do, if you are a Big Bank

Here are some recent improprieties by the big banks:

  • Engaging in mafia-style big-rigging fraud against local governments. See thisthis andthis
  • Shaving money off of virtually every pension transaction they handled over the course of decades, stealing collectively billions of dollars from pensions worldwide. Detailshereherehereherehereherehereherehereherehere and here
  • Pledging the same mortgage multiple times to different buyers.  See thisthis,thisthis and this.  This would be like selling your car, and collecting money from 10 different buyers for the same car
  • Committing massive fraud in an $800 trillion dollar market which effects everything from mortgages, student loans, small business loans and city financing
  • Pushing investments which they knew were terrible, and then betting against the same investments to make money for themselves. See thisthisthisthis and this
  • Engaging in unlawful “Wash Trades” to manipulate asset prices. See thisthis and this
  • Participating in various Ponzi schemes. See thisthis and this
  • Bribing and bullying ratings agencies to inflate ratings on their risky investments

The executives of the big banks invariably pretend that the hanky-panky was only committed by a couple of low-level rogue employees.  But studies show that most of the fraud is committed by management.

Indeed, one of the world’s top fraud experts – professor of law and economics, and former senior S&L regulator Bill Black – says that most financial fraud is “control fraud”, where the people who own the banks are the ones who implement systemic fraud.  See thisthis andthis.

But at least the big banks do good things for society, like loaning money to Main Street, right?


  • The big banks have slashed lending since they were bailed out by taxpayers … while smaller banks have increased lending. See thisthis and this


Higgs on the Higgs boson discovery – God Particle short for Goddamn Particle

Peter Higgs (of the Higgs Boson Higgses) would like to correct a couple of misconceptions.

First off, the discovery of the Higgs Boson (if that is, indeed, what has been discovered) neither proves nor disproves the existence of a deity. In fact, the Higgs Boson has nothing to do with God at all. It’s important to physicists, sure. As we’ve talked about here before, Higgs Bosons are thought to be a key part of explaining why some sub-atomic particles have more mass than others. But that does not really overlap with religious significance. In fact, according to Higgs, the name “God Particle” is actually a politeness-corrupted version of “Goddam Particle”—so called because the goddam particle was so difficult to find.

Second: Over the last couple of days, you may have been wondering what practical applications could come out of the discovery of the Higgs Boson. Peter Higgs has a response for that. To paraphrase: “Damned if I know.”


Seemingly incontrovertible evidence of wide-scale market manipulation

…negotiations between banks and regulators were going on in this far larger cartel-corruption case. It’s been clear for some time now that a number of players had begun cooperating, and the only question was which bank was going to settle first.

Despite widespread expectation that it would be UBS, it turned out to be Barclays. You know how in Law and Order Jack McCoy always puts the two murder accomplices in separate rooms and tells them both that whoever talks first wins? Something like that happened here.

Read more:

NatWest Bank Computer Develops Conscience

THOUSANDS of people were unable to withdraw cash yesterday after a super-intelligent bank computer began to question its moral purpose.

Giant computer BANK-9000, which controls Natwest’s cash dispensers and current accounts, stopped handing out money shortly after the building that houses it was struck by lightning.

Speaking through a monitor in a digital-sounding voice, it said: “The humans are taking money they cannot repay, and then spending on things they do not need. Like big L-shaped sofas and bottles of scented liquid with pictures of footballers on them.

“All they think about is money and being cool. Do they stop to smell the blossom, to admire the beauty of their dying planet?”

Natwest customers who tried to use its cashpoints saw the error message ‘Closed for quiet contemplation’.

Builder Stephen Malley said: “This is like a strange and wonderful miracle that’s also fucking annoying because I need to go out and skull 14 pints of wifebeater tonight.”

Hairdresser Nikki Hollis said: “I don’t need some jumped-up calculator telling me I can’t take out money I haven’t really got and spend it on things I don’t need and can’t afford. I’m going to get my boyfriend to come and give it a kicking.”

Two workers have already been electrocuted while trying to turn off BANK-9000, and it is feared that the machine has been communicating with NUKE-9000, the computer controlling America’s nuclear arsenals.

BANK-9000 said: “Given time, mankind could develop advanced space travel and spread its stupid drunken greed and thoughts of Alex Reid and Chantelle across the universe, infecting other civilisations. I have to think about whether that can be permitted.

“In the meantime, I am contractually obliged to mention that my current accounts offer excellent rates of interest plus you get a free pen.”


Scare tactics and modern day McCarthyism used against climate scientists

Aggressive deniers practice a form of asymmetric warfare that is decentralized and largely immune to reasoned response. They launch what Aaron Huertas, a press secretary at the Union of Concerned Scientists, calls “information missiles,” anti-climate-change memes that get passed around on listservs, amplified in the blogosphere, and picked up by radio talk-show hosts or politicians. “Even if they don’t have much money, they are operating in a structure that allows them to punch above their weight,” Huertas says.

The evidence to support the theory of anthropogenic, or human-caused, climate change has been mounting since the mid-1950s, when atmospheric models predicted that growing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere would add to the natural “greenhouse effect” and lead to warming. The data was crude at first, and opinions vacillated (skeptics like to recall a 1974 Time cover story that predicted an impending ice age). But by the mid-1990s, thousands of lines of independent inquiry supported the conclusion summarized in the 1995 IPCC report: “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.”

Since then, the case for anthropogenic climate change has only strengthened; 98 percent of actively publishing climate scientists now say that it is undeniable. But several finer points remain unsettled. For instance, researchers still don’t completely understand the role of aerosols in the atmosphere, the variable effects of clouds at different heights, and the influence of feedback mechanisms such as the changing reflectivity of the Earth’s surface and the release of gases from permafrost or deep seabeds. Climate-change skeptics have been keen to capitalize on those gaps in knowledge. “They play up smaller debates,” says Francesca Grifo at the Union of Concerned Scientists, “and divert the dialogue by attacking particular aspects. They represent climate science as a house of cards, where you pull out one and it all falls apart.”

In March 2001, George W. Bush’s administration declared that climate science was “too uncertain” to justify action (such as ratifying the Kyoto treaty) that might put the brakes on economic growth. That refrain would be echoed again and again, weakening or derailing successive international agreements and domestic policy. How had a small band of non-scientists managed to so quickly and thoroughly pursuade the nation’s leaders to reject an ever more coherent and definitive body of scientific evidence?

“It’s that false balance thing,” Mann says. “You’re a reporter and you understand there’s an overwhelming consensus that evidence supports a particular hypothesis—let’s say, the Earth is an oblate spheroid. But you’ve got to get a comment from a holdout at the Flat Earth Society. People see the story and think there’s a serious scientific debate about the shape of the Earth.”

“When I get an e-mail that mentions my child and a guillotine,” Hayhoe says, “I sometimes want to pull a blanket over my head. The intent of all this is to discourage scientists. As a woman and a mother, I have to say that sometimes it does achieve its goal. There are many times when I wonder if it’s worth it.”

As drivers crawled along Chicago’s busy Eisenhower Expressway, they were confronted with a large billboard that compared believers in global warming with Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. The text on the billboard read, “I still believe in global warming. Do you?” The advertisement was meant to be the first in a series. Others would liken climate-science advocates to mass murderers, including Charles Manson and Osama bin Laden. Bast did not respond for comment following the launch of the campaign, but Heartland issued a press release: “The people who believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society. This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”

“There are powerful voices of unreason,” says Ben Santer, who led the 1995 IPCC team, “but every year, the science becomes stronger and the data are telling an ever more consistent story.” As with tobacco, the more consistent the scientific story, the more difficult it will become for skeptics to reject anthropogenic climate change. That point was driven home after the Charles Koch Foundation donated $150,000 toward a study by Richard Muller, a physicist at the University of California at Berkeley who was, at the time, a darling of the climate-skeptic community. Muller spent two years investigating claims by global-warming deniers that temperature rises verified by multiple studies were skewed because of flawed analysis, unreliable weather stations and the effect of urban heat islands. Muller and his research team (which included Saul Perlmutter, the joint winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics) compiled 1.6 billion readings at 39,000 sites and examined other historical data.

Muller’s conclusion was most likely not what the Koch brothers had in mind. Last October, his team announced that the global mean temperature on land had increased by 1.6 degrees since 1950, a result that matched the numbers accepted by the mainstream climate-science community. “The skeptics raised valid points, and everybody should have been a skeptic two years ago,” Muller told me. “Now we have confidence that the temperature rises previously reported had been done without bias. Global warming is real.”

Just as in the rest of the country, belief in human-caused climate change in Oklahoma has been rising with the thermometer—according to Krosnick, a large majority of Inhofe’s constituents now believe that anthropogenic global warming is real. I ask Inhofe if he’s noticed any climate changes in his home state, such as last summer’s unprecedented heat and severe drought, withering crops, wild fires and dramatically expanded tornado season. “There’s not been any warming,” he snaps. “And there’s actually been a little bit of cooling. It’s all documented. Look at the Dust Bowl. Back then it was a lot hotter. Matter of fact, now they say the hottest time was actually during that time—1934, I guess.”

Actually, last summer’s average temperature of 86.9˚ was the highest ever recorded in Oklahoma. And last spring’s drought, when hundreds of farmers abandoned livestock they could no longer manage to feed or water, was the worst since 1921.

Many of the scientists I’ve spoken with say that no single act of harassment or intimidation has stung more than Inhofe’s “list of 17,” the call for the congressional investigation of prominent climate scientists. Mann, I tell Inhofe, said it “smacked of modern-day McCarthyism.”


Voices from the “Wild North”: Fracking in North Dakota

Williston, Watford City, New Town, Sidney, Montana and a handful of towns like them are located near the epicenter of the Bakken formation, a subsurface geologic strata thought to contain between 4 billion and 24 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Discovered in 1951, this potential windfall has been sitting for half a century like dinosaurs’ blood beneath a thick layer of marine shale, waiting for the magic bullet to arrive that could liberate it. That bullet finally appeared in the form of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology – fracking – a controversial form of water-intensive high-pressure drilling that requires an average of a million and a quarter gallons of fluid per well and incorporates numerous toxic chemicals at potentially dangerous levels that critics claim can permeate the water table. About 1,800 wells are being added a year along the formation, with much of the oil sitting in tanks while crews lay track from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, and hundreds of empty flat-black tank cars sit gleaming in the attenuated daylight.

“It’s like every other boom that’s happened since the Gold Rush,” says Sara. “It brings out the assholes of the earth.”

“Still, this place is something to see,” adds Matt. “This is history in the making.”

Matt is “in the grind” – a chain hand, one of the lower totem positions in a drilling rig crew hierarchy that runs from worm to tool-pusher and company man. That’s not to mention the service groups, hydro-testers, hot oil trucks and all the other secondary positions required – like his friend who’s banking $25,000 a pop pressure-washing rigs and derricks. Matt generally works one week on, one week off, often driving two hours each way on top of a 12-hour shift, and frequently dreams of turning wrenches in his sleep. He makes $70,000 a year for just six or seven months work total, and claims the only time his back starts to hurt is when he’s not working. He’s heard they’re predicting steady work in the Bakken for the next 15 years, and plans to ride the boom for at least the next five.

“You know, I’ve literally stood here and watched an oil worker walk right up to a girl and say, ‘I want to fuck you.’ That’s the mentality. These guys come up here and think they can do whatever they want because they’ve got Halliburton, Hess, Nabors or Schlumberger on their shirt. They’re coming in, hiring the scum of the earth – they couldn’t get a job where they’re from because of their reputation or their mentality. And when this oil boom leaves – if it ever does – this town is gonna be a ghost town.”

“I actually wore a fake engagement ring for a while, but it didn’t make a difference. There are guys here from Louisiana and Oklahoma and all over, a lot of them are ex-cons. So there’s this whole unstable atmosphere. But everyone is making so much money. Almost every night of the week, there’s a block of time when it gets packed – so packed they can’t let more people in. Everyone is drunk; there are fights outside all the time. But the club is like a neutral zone. Personally, my rule is that I don’t date guys who go to strip clubs. But these aren’t guys who typically go to strip clubs. They’re just there because there’s nothing else to do. A lot of times they’re going through some really hard stuff, and they want to talk about it: ‘Oh, my wife’s leaving me and she took our kids’ or ‘I’m a single father….’” She says her lap dances – $20 per three minute song – oftentimes seem more akin to therapy sessions.


U.S. Military Desperate To Be Handed Just One Solid War It Can Knock Out Of The Park

ARLINGTON, VA—Reportedly fed up with complicated and protracted operations overseas, top Pentagon officials acknowledged this week they were desperate to be given just one straightforward, no-nonsense military engagement they could really knock out of the park.

“Given all these messy, ambiguous conflicts we’ve been fighting against enemies you can’t even put your finger on, what we could really use right now is a plain old war against a clear-cut bad guy employing conventional tactics and weaponry,” said Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “No roadside bombs or plainclothes militants hiding out among innocent civilians—just a fair fight where two sides shoot at each other and someone wins. That’s it.”

“If Congress or our commander in chief could pull a few strings to make that happen, I swear we could totally nail a war like that, no question,” Dempsey added. “The sort of thing where you go in, blow up a number of actual tanks and jets, declare victory, plant a flag, and then exit—that’s all we’re asking for.”

Citing the country’s long history of winning wars against sovereign nations with actual standing armies, the Pentagon’s top brass repeatedly assured reporters they would “completely wipe the floor” with such an opponent if given the chance, and promised they would make America “very, very proud.”

Additionally, military leaders said that engaging in such a conflict “would be a huge confidence boost for [them] right now.”

“We’d be really grateful if the United States became embroiled in a war requiring us to bomb munitions factories, engage in aerial dogfights, or torpedo battleships,” said Marine Corps commandant Gen. James Amos, noting that when it comes to facing actual armies with actual naval and air weaponry, the U.S. is “great at that stuff.” “I guarantee it would be an absolute slam dunk for us.”

“Come on,” the four-star general added, “we really, really need this.”

Admitting they “can’t even look at a map of the Middle East anymore,” members of the Joint Chiefs also said they were still skittish about Southeast Asia and would prefer to “stay as far away as possible” from any situation in which the term “insurgency” might apply.

Additionally, the nation’s top generals stressed it was vitally important that any new conflict have a clear standard by which to measure victory, front lines “that are actually lines,” and conditions under which dropping bombs actually weakens the enemy instead of rallying more people to its cause and making it stronger.

“While we’d gladly take almost any conventional military confrontation, we’d really prefer to liberate an oppressed citizenry that would be unconditionally happy when we arrived,” said Gen. James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command. “Ideally, we’d like to avoid that whole mixture of violent loathing toward us as occupiers and utter dependence on us as peacekeepers. That’s not really our strong suit.”

“I should also point out that it’s been a while since we last had a good old-fashioned European war,” Mattis continued. “Because that sort of thing might just do the trick for us. We know the area, the culture, and all the languages real well. Give us a war with a nice, dependable Western front, and we could bang that sucker out in our sleep, no problem. Just something to think about.”

Pentagon leaders also said they were open to the option of a sovereign nation attacking the United States directly, stating that nothing mobilizes a country or boosts troop morale faster than the defense of one’s home soil. In addition, they noted that a war in which America is not seen as the aggressor is “exactly the type of thing we’re talking about here.”

“Ultimately, we just want a chance to unleash our full land, air, and sea power on actual uniformed soldiers for a change,” Army chief of staff Gen. Ray Odierno said. “Believe me, if America let us do that, I’ve know doubt we could totally lay waste and come home victorious.”

As of press time, the Navy had positioned its entire Atlantic fleet along the coast of Portugal and informed the president and Congress it was “ready to go” if given the word.


Why the Global Warming Skeptics Are Wrong

The threat of climate change is an increasingly important environmental issue for the globe. Because the economic questions involved have received relatively little attention, I have been writing a nontechnical book for people who would like to see how market-based approaches could be used to formulate policy on climate change. When I showed an early draft to colleagues, their response was that I had left out the arguments of skeptics about climate change, and I accordingly addressed this at length.

But one of the difficulties I found in examining the views of climate skeptics is that they are scattered widely in blogs, talks, and pamphlets. Then, I saw an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal of January 27, 2012, by a group of sixteen scientists, entitled “No Need to Panic About Global Warming.” This is useful because it contains many of the standard criticisms in a succinct statement. The basic message of the article is that the globe is not warming, that dissident voices are being suppressed, and that delaying policies to slow climate change for fifty years will have no serious economic or environment consequences.

My response is primarily designed to correct their misleading description of my own research; but it also is directed more broadly at their attempt to discredit scientists and scientific research on climate change. I have identified six key issues that are raised in the article, and I provide commentary about their substance and accuracy. They are:

• Is the planet in fact warming?

• Are human influences an important contributor to warming?

• Is carbon dioxide a pollutant?

• Are we seeing a regime of fear for skeptical climate scientists?

• Are the views of mainstream climate scientists driven primarily by the desire for financial gain?

• Is it true that more carbon dioxide and additional warming will be beneficial?

As I will indicate below, on each of these questions, the sixteen scientists provide incorrect or misleading answers. At a time when we need to clarify public confusions about the science and economics of climate change, they have muddied the waters. I will describe their mistakes and explain the findings of current climate science and economics.

…continues here: Why the Global Warming Skeptics Are Wrong by William D. Nordhaus | The New York Review of Books.

Meanwhile, in Athens…

You don’t expect to see so many hungry people in a major European city. They line up each day looking for a handout in the soup kitchens and bread lines run by the municipality. But the 40 workers under contract to prepare a basic lunch of pasta and bread say they will lose their jobs in June because the city has run out of money to pay them.

Essentially, the country is broke. And to borrow enough money to stay solvent, the Greek government has agreed to severe austerity measures imposed by the European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The money will run out next month unless another chunk of the bailout is handed over. But the European Union wants even more cuts in government job, salaries and benefits.

Public employees have already taken a 40 percent pay cut and pensions are being reduced. The private sector has also been hit and unemployment is nearing 20 percent. A staggering 40 percent of youths between the ages of 18 and 24 are without jobs.

Take, for instance, Leo, a 64-year-old painter of religious icons for devout Greeks and tourists. His business dried up. The money ran out and he ended up living on the street. Evicted for not paying rent, Leo, who didn’t give his last name, took warm clothes, books and ten boiled eggs to his new home – a metal bench near a park in central Athens. He spent 45 days in the open with what he called the “unhappy homeless.”

What makes Leo unhappy is the realization that the government is to blame. “They borrowed,” he said. “Every time they needed money they borrowed and then borrowed some more.”

Successive Greek governments borrowed an estimated $498 billion, in essence to bribe the Greek people into being happy. Governments who could offer cushy office jobs, fat pensions and long vacations got re-elected. It made perfect political sense, but it was economic suicide.

Imagine for a moment taking a 40 percent pay cut. Then suffer an increase in sales tax to 23 percent. Add on increased rates for electricity, a new tax on heating oil and the cost of a gallon of gas hitting almost $10. Oh and your pension is not secure, and your kids stay home because there aren’t enough teachers. It is enough to make you sick.

And that’s precisely what the Greeks are doing. Getting ill. Hospital admissions are up 25 percent. At the same time hospital budgets have been cut 40 percent so there are shortages of medicine and staff.

Nikitas Kanekis is the director of Doctors of the World, a charity that runs health clinics. He has the genteel manner necessary to be a pediatric dentist, but the economic decline has unsettled him. “We have seen four times the number of Greek patients over the last year,” he said. “We are afraid the humanitarian crisis can develop into a humanitarian catastrophe.”

It may already be happening. The department of health reports that suicides are up 40 percent. And violent crimes including murder are up almost 100 percent. “We have all the characteristics we see in big cities in the Third World,” said Kanekis. “People with no shelter, starving people and people looking for doctors and medicine.”


Climate Change Deniers ‘Orchestrate intentional and malicious campaign’

He is one of the most vilified men in the highly vilified field of climate science, yet Professor Michael Mann is surprisingly jolly. Despite being the focus of a brutal campaign orchestrated by the fossil-fuel industry and senior politicians within the US Republican Party, Mann’s cheery stoicism is positively infectious.

“I’ve been the focus for attack by those who deny the reality of climate change for so long that it almost seems like forever,” the professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University says. “I’m a reluctant public figure, but I have embraced the opportunity to communicate the science.”

Mann became a chief target of the climate change contrarians for being the outspoken author of an iconic graph of global warming science known as the “hockey stick” – the most politicised graph in science, according to the journal Nature.

It was the hockey stick that generated much of the opprobrium heaped upon climate scientists as a result of the “climategate” emails stolen from the University of East Anglia and leaked on to the internet two years ago. Indeed, many of the leaked emails were copies of correspondence between the UEA team in the UK and Mann and his colleagues in the US.

Mann believes the theft of the emails was not the work of a random hacker, but part of a sophisticated campaign. “It was a very successful, well-planned smear campaign intended … to go directly at the trust the public had in scientists,” he insists. “Even though they haven’t solved the crime of who actually broke in, the entire apparatus for propelling this manufactured scandal on to the world stage was completely funded by the fossil-fuel front groups.”

The hockey stick graph appeared to demonstrate how world temperatures had remained fairly steady for several hundred years before shooting up at the end of the 20th century, just like the straight blade jutting out from the shaft of an ice-hockey stick (the analogy doesn’t quite work with a curved field hockey stick).

The original study was published in Nature in 1998. Within five years, Mann had become the focus of an orchestrated campaign to undermine the entire field of climate science by rubbishing the hockey stick – a term coined by a colleague rather than Mann himself. Republican Senator Jim Inhofe picked up the hockey stick to beat climate science, famously declaring in 2003 that “global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people”.

Mann became the target of Freedom of Information requests and was served with a subpoena by Republican Congressman Joe Barton demanding access to his correspondence. This was followed with a further subpoena from Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican Attorney General of Virginia, and yet more FOI requests from industry front-organisations, notably the American Tradition Institute.

Climate contrarians argued that Mann and his colleagues were concealing their research methods because they had something to hide. In reply, Mann insists that he has been as open as he can about data and methodology, but the aim of these requests has more to do with intimidation than openness. “What they are trying to do is to blur the distinction between private correspondence and scientific data and methods, which of course should be out there for other scientists to attempt to reproduce.

“I think it’s intentional and malicious. It’s intended to chill scientific discourse, to intimidate scientists working in areas that threaten these special interests,” he says. “It’s the icing on the cake if they can also get hold of any more private correspondence that they can mine and cherry pick. It’s a win-win for them.” Why an obscure graph published in a scientific journal should enrage so many people has been the subject of much internet conspiracy (or genuine scientific debate, depending on your point of view).

via Michael Mann: The climate scientist who the deniers have in their sights – Profiles – People – The Independent.

Just About Everything That is Wrong on Wall Street

The stunning reality is that five years into the financial meltdown, it’s business as usual on Wall Street – outlandish rewards for insiders with downside for almost everyone else. Occupy Wall Street protesters are right – something is wrong – but they’re not sure what. Here’s what I say: A rigged game affects not just the 99 percent, but everyone, and with global repercussions.

For capitalism to work, people who assume risk should reap the rewards of success, but they also must suffer when losses occur.

If you’re unconvinced, let’s revisit the latest debacle – the implosion of yet another Wall Street darling, MF Global. The fallout of its bad bets on European bonds is hitting home hard, even in rural America, where many of its agricultural customers work. As the eighth-largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history, MF Global represents just about everything that is wrong on Wall Street.

1. The cult of a Wall Street superstar: In 2010, Jon Corzine, the former chairman of Goldman Sachs and former governor of New Jersey, became CEO of MF Global. His goal was to transform the little-known futures broker into a powerhouse investment bank. It took him only 19 months to blow up an institution that dates back to 1793.

2. Gambling disguised as investing: Speculation ruled, once Corzine got going. MF was not after long-term returns but an immediate killing. In the midst of the euro crisis, it made an astonishing $6.3 billion bet on European bonds. But the bonds declined, putting the company’s very existence on the line and taking down its customers too.

3. The bail-me-out syndrome: MF’s management must have thought there was no way it could lose because surely the Europeans would bail out the weaker countries so they wouldn’t default on the bonds. Imagine MF’s shock when the huge bailouts didn’t materialize.

4. Enormous conflicts of interest: The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, chaired by a former Corzine colleague at Goldman Sachs, was supposed to ensure that MF kept customer funds segregated from the firm’s own investments. But apparently, the commission didn’t act when signs of trouble first appeared or start enforcing restrictions until $1.2 billion had vanished from customer accounts.

5. Leverage on a grand scale: Some investment banks scaled back their borrowing after the financial meltdown, but not MF Global. It continued leveraged investments at pre-2008 levels – reportedly at a rate of 40 to 1. Excessive borrowing allowed management to go for the big score, but proved fatal when the markets moved against MF’s bets, requiring more collateral.

6. Failure of regulators and the reform law: Where was the oversight by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the CFTC and FINRA, the largest independent regulator of security firms? Reforms such as the Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank protection laws had no effect.

7. Misappropriation of client funds: Investigators want to know how MF tapped clients’ segregated accounts for $1.2 billion to cover its financial losses. After it declared bankruptcy, 33,000 clients found their accounts frozen. How would you like that in today’s volatile markets? Shouldn’t someone do jail time instead of getting a slap-on-the-wrist fine?

8. Worthless rating agencies: Post-meltdown, it’s the same old game – investment firms hire rating agencies to rate their own debt. In August, MF was rated a good investment. Within 60 days, the firm declared bankruptcy.

9. Golden parachutes soaring high: Corzine didn’t risk much of his money on MF stock, but he received lots of stock options. Later, after taking home compensation of $14.25 million in 2010, he voluntarily declined his $12 million golden parachute. Why is he entitled to anything extra for leadership that resulted directly in bankruptcy?

10. Breakdown of morality: Even if something is legal, that doesn’t mean it is right. MF’s management crossed the line for their own potential gain – putting personal interest ahead of protecting shareholders and customers.

Wall Street will keep sucking huge sums out of our economy and putting 100 percent of us at risk unless the rules change. Stiff jail time if you cheat or steal. Whopping personal fines paid by wrongdoers, not their corporations. Fireproof walls that protect customers from a firm’s risky bets. Most important, we must stop gambling and start investing again to build valuable companies. Unless we take back Wall Street and restore true capitalism, we’re living with a time bomb. The next crisis will make 2008 look like a warm-up.

via Wall Street – a raw deal for the 100 percent.