Free [George F.] Willy!

Now, I know the Fox News experts have no intent ever to better understand the phenomenon of anthropogenic global warming, but I would expect that some of the world’s truly accomplished journalists would at least try to get it right once in a while.

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I am talking about George F. Will, and his latest bungled attempt to prove he is smarter than everyone else in January 25th’s Washington Post [“Recipe for a Conservative Revival”].  Mr. Will pretends to be talking about ill-founded ideals and challenges mentioned by President Obama in his inauguration address, but skids dangerously into science, cherry-picking facts about forest fires and global warming that once again (Will has a habit of doing this) fail to tell the whole story – a very different story.

What’s up, George? Are you a propagandist masquerading as a fact-bound journalist?

My issue is that despite his clearly conservative viewpoint, Will is generally respected, so his transgressions are not questioned by a large reading base that may (even secretly) admit the Fox-folks are off their rockers.

Let’s look at two items in his missive and decode them:

1. Will doubts Obama’s assertions of climate change impacts:

“He says that “the threat of climate change” is apparent in “raging fires,” “crippling drought” and “more powerful storms.”  Are fires raging now more than ever? (There were third fewer wildfires in 2012 than in 2006.)”

Colorado Springs wildfire

Yes, George, there WERE a third fewer fires in 2012 than in 2006.  2006 was a record-breaking year with 96 thousand individual fires torching 9.87 million acres – a real outlier – but a quick look at some real statistics show that since the 1990s, the number of acres burnt per fire has been extraordinarily high compared with the last half of the 20th century.

Global warming doesn’t mean each year gets hotter and hotter or that the fires grow in number from the past year.

Rather than allow real science to speak, Will cuts the debate at its knees so as not to have to acknowledge the possibility that warming really can affect us.  This is a tired, impoverished play at journalistic authoritarianism:  “Listen to me! I am a writer, and I know the politicians are lying to you!”

2. Will says temperature data shows warming isn’t really happening, so we can ignore Obama anyway:

“Obama’s vow to adjust Earth’s thermostat followed the report that 2012 was the hottest year on record in the contiguous 48 states. But the Wall Street Journal’s Holman Jenkins … has noted that although 2012 was 2.13 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than 2011, “2008, in the contiguous U.S., was two degrees cooler than 2006.”

(I should note that Mr. Jenkins, of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, is not trained in atmospheric physics, meteorology, or radiative transfer.)

Will continues, noting that other years of the new millennium were not as hot as 1998 (Correct again, George! 1998 was a screamer of an El Nino year and stands out as a strong outlier in the 1990s) and concludes with this idiotic tag:

“Such is the rigor of many who preen as devotees of science that they declared the 2012 temperatures in the contiguous states (1.58 percent of the Earth’s surface) proof of catastrophic global warming”.

There you go again, George.

By casually putting words into the mouths of climate scientists Will helps his conservative adherents keep their heads firmly planted in the sand.

He ignores the real story which is that global temperatures confirm the recent decades of warming – not just the temperatures of those steamy lower-48 states of the US of A.

Will seems convinced that the fallacy of warming is allowing Obama and the American liberal thought police to take us down the road towards hell and stupidity – though George doesn’t tell us which is worse.

Let’s offer to liberate him.

I am calling on real climate scientists to visit Mr. Will in DC before the baseball season begins (he gets rather occupied then…) and help him escape the bonds of convenient adherence to his comfortable position as know-it-all.

FREE WILLy!

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Jumpin’ Jupiter!

Quick!  Take a look at the sky tonight before it’s too late!

At about 10:00 PM Eastern time the gibbous moon will be in conjunction with Jupiter – only a finger’s-width apart on your outstretched arm.jupmoon

How coincidental that this celestial phenomenon occurred on Inauguration Day.

But, no one died because of this.

No one born tonight on Earth will have supernatural powers from this astral phenomenon.

Our perch in space allows us to witness the conjunction and many others like it each year. It happens with no apparent impact on the lives of Julius Caesars past or future, on or off the steps of the Senate.

So why is the wonder of the natural sky itself eclipsed by soothsayers and the superstitious?

The fault that such a large portion of our populace believes in astrology lies not in our stars but in ourselves.

Take your kids outdoors tonight – or tomorrow. Learn just two or three facts about the sky. Talk to them. Show them something. The winter sky is especially wonderful…Let them wonder. Let them ask questions.

And “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer. You can look things up together.

The wonders of the universe – even the ones observable in a light-polluted suburban starscape – are far more magical than the fantasy imposed by an ancient superstition.

Get out there!

Here’s a great website to help you get started.

Warming Denial: Deceit 101 at the Washington Times

It’s simple.

Just take a sentence — a fragment, even — out of context from a scientific report and shout it from the pulpit to the choir of the faithful.

Today’s editorial in the Washington Times (“Global warming takes a vacation”) offers a conspicuous and bold example.  In it, the Times quotes – quite out of context – NASA’s James Hansen:  “The 5-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade, which we interpret as a combination of natural variability and a slowdown in the growth rate of the net climate forcing.”  The WT then proceeds to castrate the real story with this not-quite-false but blatantly incomplete extrapolation:

“Mr. Hansen has just acknowledged more than the lack of warming. His words confirm nature, not mankind, played the decisive role in directing global temperatures over the past 10 years.”

The WT then proceeds with the usual chorus of anecdotal pap (“Southern England is covered in snow. Los Angeles has been shivering…”), and piles on the liberal conspiracy charges.

Yet, a read of the real paper cited indicates Hansen said that, despite more frequent La Ninas  (large-scale cooling of the equatorial West Pacific), the globally averaged temperature in the past decade had not gone down. (Skeptical Science.com offers a taut video on this.)

The difference between what would have been short-term cooling and what is the tail of the hottest decade on record is almost certainly man’s increasing injection of greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide.

Think about it: take away the natural cooling induced by La Ninas and we’d see a more continuous rise.  The other forcing functions on surface temperatures (including increased CO2 and other greenhouse gases) continue to do their work.

2008-2012 temp visuals

(Click image for video of recent-year temperature anomalies.)

And the current decade is the hottest ever recorded. As were the 2000s.  As were the 1990s. As were the 1980s…

Yet the Washington Times decided not to tell the real story behind the article and the press releases by NASA and NOAA about 2012. 

Instead they decided to arouse the deniers who choose not to let the full explanation of  global warming signatures into their closed minds.  The distortion — the deceit — is pornographic.

And it’s simple.

Class dismissed.

Beware This Boy.

In A Christmas Carol Charles Dickens uses the ghost of Christmas Yet To Come to introduce Scrooge to twin allegorical children, Ignorance and Want.  They appear sordid and animal-like, and Scrooge is warned

“This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.”

ImageIn Dickens’ time, the ignorance of the boy may have been taken quite literally, in an education sense, given that fully half of London’s children were unable to attend school of any kind. All the more hands to work the mines and factories.

Today the Boy is still with us – in a far more universal sense.

He has grown.

He inhabits the halls of Congress.  He serves in state senates, school boards, and on councils in regrettably-influential think tanks.

He is still Ignorance, yet he is an educated adult.

He proclaims fact without evidence.  He brings about change to suit his long-seated notions.

He has a hard time unlearning, and will rarely pause to examine his motives, his zeal, or the totality of his understanding, however small that may be.

Beware this boy.

Unlearning.

A five year old boy, strolling with his father on a New Jersey beach, sees a large standpipe arcing from the packed sand near the high-tide line, spewing a slurry of sand and smelly water diverted from a pumping operation on the bay behind the barrier island.

“Daddy!  THAT’S where the water comes from!”

The ocean is impossibly large to a five year old.  The lifetime of learning ahead of him, larger still.

njbeach rep

If the father stops to explain the beach replenishment project to him, the Great Ocean Faucet Concept will disappear from the boy’s mind instantly.

Will he?