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© Mike Thompson

I’m noticing that the wing-nut crowd isn’t making fun of climate change very much recently. I guess they are blaming it on God instead.

UPDATE: The Science Guy goes on Fox News to discuss climate change and Hurricane Irene, and explains slowly and carefully:



  1. No u wrote:

    I’ll be the first one to tell you that besides heating of the earth I dont know the other affects of global warming. I need warmer warmer means stronger hurricanes and other storms that venture through oceans. I’d imagine it messes with El Nino and La Nina as well, but what most people dont see to know/understand is most of the natural disasters are due to the magnetic poles switching. If the people knew about this I’d imagine there would be alot of panic, but the poles switch every 600,000 years, and we’ve been over due for awhile now. A key sign of the poles switching are more natural disasters. I believe it was last year they confirmed that the poles are indeed beginning to switch

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 6:48 am | Permalink
  2. ThatGuy wrote:

    More severe droughts, more precipitation and warmer temperatures in general have a lot of branching effects. Growing food, seasonal industries and anyone in the (growing) path of storms like tornadoes and hurricanes will all feel, or have already felt, the effects of climate change.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 7:58 am | Permalink
  3. starluna wrote:

    The local effects of climate change vary by climate, as you might imagine. Climatologists have only recently started really working with others to understand what those local effects might be. UNH produced a study a few years ago that discussed what New England can expect. I sat on one of the subcommittees for MA’s climate change adaptation and mitigation committee which made some recommendations to the state legislature on how to prepare. I was amazed at the wide range of impacts that were being predicted for MA. In addition to things we already knew about (sea level rise and the related storm surge risks as well as more frequent storms), we will also have more precipitation; less snow; more ice storms; and more frequent, longer, and hotter heat waves. All of this creates risks that we have to prepare for. Warmer weather + more precipitation = more allergens and more insects (which are also disease vectors). Worse heat waves = more deaths (heat is the #1 weather related cause of death in the US) and more strain on the electricity grid. More ice storms = increased/more frequent damage to utilities and more injuries.

    In one of my urban courses and in my EJ course, I now have them work on proposing adaptation policies and programs to prepare for climate change. I expected to have be prepared to deal with climate change skeptics but that has not (yet) happened. The only real challenge I have is the lack of science knowledge to be able to fully understand what is going to happen and how it will vary across the country. I do have spend an entire class period going through the science and clearing up misunderstandings (the ozone hole is not directly related to climate change; climate change is not related to earthquakes, etc) but the students (young and not quite so young) have never actually questioned the reality of climate change. I do wonder if that is the product of living in a place that has as much weather as we do. It seems like people here actually experience directly the changes in weather patterns to a greater degree than in other places.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 8:21 am | Permalink
  4. PatriotSGT wrote:

    What bothers me about the climate change conversation is there are alot of very smart people who are pushing a radical view of the change. There are also alot of really bright people who follow along without questioning. My brother is one of those. He’s got a law degree and a PHD and is a whole lot smarter then me in many things. He said to me a while back “well, all this really does’nt matter because in 200 years the only place that won’t be under water in the US is the Rocky Mountains”. I said where did you hear that bull. He replied at the university, where he is an asst Dean for the school of natural science, mathmatics and computers, a couple of really smart PHD’s, one a nobel laureate said so and they are a whole lot smarter then him so it must be true. I told him I was dissapointed in his blind belief.

    There are so many variables in this situation including lack of historical evidence to support the kind of global water rise he alluded to it was unconscienable to take verbatim what is put out on this subject. Other scenarios on climate change purport that as temps rise and polar ice melts it will change the salinity of the oceans and bring on some level of ice age and then the cycle of thaw, warming and freezing will begin again. I’m also not really sold on the data that predicts how much heat will or will not escape the atmosphere, which is a key component of the warming theorists, is correct and that more heat is actually escaping and thus slowing the warming more then predicted. If CO2 levels rise it should also create a boom for plant life, which is why dinosaurs got so big during the last global warming (also before we showed up). We only know a fraction of earths history and are speculating on a lot based on fossil records.

    Now all that said, I am definately for reducing pollution, making our air, water and soil cleaner. The human race does add to the warming, but are we the only factor? Can we, without the up and coming industrialized nations in on it, really effect the climate enough to avert the climte armeggedon theorists that spell doom and gloom? We could cease all air, car and truck travel, but who really believes thats going to happen or would be willing to start walking or buy a pair of horses and a wagon.

    I agree with Starluna – we need to focus on adapting to the climate (some places will experience colder, dryer, wetter, hotter, better, or worse climate), not necessarily change what we really can’t.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink
  5. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    Patriot, funny post. I could replace a few key words with evolution, and biological sciences, and I imagine right wingers would flock to it just the same.

    To the original post, the reason that you haven’t heard much about it lately is because of the summer heat and especially the heat waves. There is an inverse relationship between increasing temperature and conservative news stories about it being nonsense.

    Just wait till winter. It will snow again somewhere and they’ll splash a winter montage together with “GLOBAL WARMING? WHAT GLOBAL WARMING?” underneath it. Monkeys will drool and clap their hands. Rinse, repeat.

    Earth just keeps turning, man.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 11:03 am | Permalink
  6. atwork wrote:

    PattriotSGT, I like how you think – questioning the blind followers of extreme ideas.

    Of all the speculation, there is one component that is completely true and verifiable – air pollution.

    I can’t see how anyone can ignore the simple fact that since the industrial revolution and discovery of oil that we have been dumping millions of tonnes of not only carbon but toxic pollutants into the atmosphere.

    Regardless of whether this causes climate change, it is simply bad practice to pollute our air. To me this is similar to historically recent revelations that dumping industrial chemicals into rivers and the oceans has a negative effect.

    I can’t see how this continual dumping into our air won’t have an impact on our lives.

    One other way of looking at it is that all the oil we are burning was produced millions on years ago when our atmosphere was very warm and the earth was one huge tropical zone. Hence oil in arctic regions and deserts. If we put all that carbon back into the atmosphere, eventually conditions will become what they were. Just a common sense theory, not sure if it is borne out in research.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 11:27 am | Permalink
  7. Don wrote:

    No U, here’s a link to a Guardian article discussing what you suggest about the poles switching:

    For Starluna: the loss of ozone over Antarctica has impacted climate. Here’s a link to an interesting article from Science News from earlier this year:

    And to my friend PSgt: Rising CO2 doesn’t necessarily benefit plants. Most plants react positively to increased CO2 in both overall growth as well as food production (increased food production at a lower rate than biomass production). Initial research, though, shows a reduction in nitrogen levels while CO2 levels increase in these food products. What does this mean? It means a lowering in nutritional value for humans as well as domestic animals which logically leads to an increase in the amount of feed needed to produce the same effect of lower CO2 foodstuffs. (A side note to this is that it very well may increase the amount of biomass crop pests need to survive, hence reducing the amount of biomass/foodstuffs available for harvest and a commensurate increase in the use of poisons to control the insects.) Bottom line is simply not as clear as plants will grow more and that’s a good thing.

    Oh, and PSgt, I’m sorry but a PhD simply means piled higher and deeper. It doesn’t change the recipient into a master of all subjects and doesn’t reduce the all too human trait of believing those we trust without questioning goofy statements. Stories like yours about your brother always remind me of my first day in my first graduate seminar. One of the senior professors in the department made what, to me at least, was a very questionable generalization. I asked where he got his data and he had to admit that he really had none. Several of my fellow grad students chastised me for questioning a professor in such a manner. Later in a conversation with the professor in the hall, he admitted that he shouldn’t have made the comment at all and bemoaned the fact that grad students seemed unwilling to call their professors to task. This was in 1984. He ended up serving on my graduate committee and became a strong supporter of my research even when my findings started to contradict many of the general assumptions in my area of study.

    Bottom line on climate change: it is an amazingly complex field with huge assumptions built into it that are slowly being evaluated through empirical science.

    One other thing: water levels rising? No question as the various global ice masses melt, sea levels will rise. No such past experiences on earth? Numerous. From AAAS: “Paleoclimatic Evidence for Future Ice-Sheet Instability and Rapid Sea-Level Rise”

    Jonathan T. Overpeck1,*,
    Bette L. Otto-Bliesner2,
    Gifford H. Miller3,
    Daniel R. Muhs4,
    Richard B. Alley5 and
    Jeffrey T. Kiehl2

    “…Corals on tectonically stable coasts from the last interglaciation period (LIG) provided strong evidence that sea level was 4 to >6 m above present levels during a sea-level high stand that likely lasted from 129,000 ± 1000 years ago to at least 118,000 years ago…” Pretty sizable rise, I’d say.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 11:41 am | Permalink
  8. starluna wrote:

    PatrioSgt- I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it. We actually know quite a bit of our geologic history, although there is much more to learn, for sure. You should know that the Great Plains was actually an inland sea during the Late Cretaceous. This was about 65-80 million years ago when the earth was warmer than it is now (about 4 degrees C warmer). So, the possibility of it reverting is not really all that extreme. Anything that has happened before can happen again.

    I haven’t heard that particular assessment that your brother heard. My guess is that it may be based on models that look at the most extreme worst case scenarios given certain assumptions about GHG emissions and other natural processes. Climatologists do this all the time as new data and new understandings come out. This is a quickly evolving science, so our knowledge changes a lot more rapidly than most people think.

    In my interactions with the gloom and doom types, they believe that political leaders will not make the kind of radical changes needed now unless they are convinced that there is a crisis. What they don’t count on is the other, very predictable, reaction to it as demonstrated by your brother: “Oh well, there is nothing to be done about it anyway,” which is not a very productive attitude either.

    But I don’t personally believe that going on a car diet is all that radical. Of course I live in one of the most walkable cities in the country. But there is a big challenge with making modifications to suburbia to promote more walking, biking, and public transit use. But I also do not believe that this is insurmountable either and every semester I see very feasible proposals put forth by my students.

    Indeed, many of the adaptive changes also contribute to long term mitigation. For example, distributed energy generation would deal with the issue of electric grid burden during heat waves (as well as winter heating, at least here in MA). The most sustainable forms of it that are ready to go now are solar and wind. This has the benefit of both reducing the loss of power during and after major storms (the adaptation) and reducing the reliance on fossil fuels, which are the primary source of additional GHGs (the mitigation). And there are new technologies in the works that will provide even more options in the future.

    With that said, I agree that some impacts will result in changes that aren’t bad, they are just change. Here in MA, we will likely no longer be able to grow cranberries in 50-75 years. This is a huge blow to the cultural identity of New Englanders, as well as the viability of the industry here in MA. Cranberry growing will have to move north, very likely into Canada. However, one very smart dude from the state department of agriculture found that the bogs that cranberries are now grown in could easily grow rice, after some very minor modifications. Given that Asians and Latinos are becoming larger proportions of the population locally and nationally, and given that rice is a staple in their/our diets, this is not a bad thing. It is just a change.

    Some of the changes will be bad for individuals. There will be considerable loss of shoreline, with all the homes and businesses that are currently on them. We will need to figure out how to deal with that. We may need to stop trying to create beaches where beaches shouldn’t be in Florida. We may need to restrict development, or redevelopment in certain areas. My concern, frankly, is with poor and vulnerable peoples. I couldn’t care less if rich people can’t build their homes on the Pacific Palisades. But I am concerned about appropriately compensating property owners who we may have to say can’t build/rebuild in the Lower 9th ward in New Orleans after the next hurricane. Or the Native Americans who may find that a portion of their reservation has been reverted back to an inland Sea. Although, who knows. Maybe they’ll make money on eco-tourism if that happens. Better than casinos.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 11:47 am | Permalink
  9. Don wrote:

    AtWork: You posted while I was entering my last comment or I would have responded in it.

    “If we put all that carbon back into the atmosphere, eventually conditions will become what they were. Just a common sense theory, not sure if it is borne out in research.” The problem with your thesis is that the hydrocarbons we’re burning at an ever increasing pace and the release of the sequestered carbon, were created over the course of tens of millions of years and we’re releasing it in a couple of hundred years.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 11:48 am | Permalink
  10. Iron Knee wrote:

    PatriotSgt, your comment made me laugh. Since when is believing information from trained scientists “blind belief”? And then you respond by saying that there is “lack of historical evidence to support the kind of global water rise”. Um, did you get that tidbit from Fox News?

    Besides, haven’t you heard of Noah’s Arc? 🙂

    Of course, we don’t know what will happen because of climate change. There is no way to do large scale scientific experiments with the weather. All we know is what is happening NOW, and some of that is pretty bad (coral die-offs, sea-levels rising, melting of arctic ice endangering polar bears).

    So at what stage do we do something about global warming? How much proof do you need before you act? Do you really believe that the only way to stop climate change is to stop all air, car, and truck travel and go back to using horses? That’s silly. Germany has already managed to convert so that 20% of their energy comes from green sources.

    You say you are all for reducing pollution. Burning fossil fuels is not only the major source of greenhouse gases (like CO2) but is also a major source of pollution. So why can’t we all agree to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. We reduce global climate change, reduce pollution, reduce our need to fight wars for oil — everyone wins except the big oil companies!

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 11:55 am | Permalink
  11. westomoon wrote:

    I’m waiting patiently for the Michelle Bachmanns and Pat Robertsons to explain why God is busy baking Texas into a saltine. They seem to interpret all other effects of climate change as expressions of divine wrath, but this one somehow keeps escaping their notice…

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Permalink
  12. atwork wrote:

    Hi DON. That was my point, thanks for clarifying.

    “the hydrocarbons we’re burning at an ever increasing pace and the release of the sequestered carbon, were created over the course of tens of millions of years and we’re releasing it in a couple of hundred years.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. I didn’t mean to say that this was a good thing.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Permalink
  13. PatriotSGT wrote:

    I guess my point was when the climatologists suggest the extreme outcomes people just seem to ignore them or assume their theories are overblown. If they gave us more outcomes based in reality they might win over more believers. If people feel they can win the battle they’ll fight if all is lost they resign themselves to the predicted fate and just carry on (my brother).
    IK – Noahs ark? Now you can’t seriously quote the same souce that preaches creationism, can you?
    ALL – thanks for the in depth responses and well articulated rebuttals. For the record, I believe man has accelerated climate change. I also believe we can institute changes that slow the process, but we cannot do it alone. We do need the other 5 billion or so people to help. Lastly, I know there are fossil records of higher water levels and I know they occurred without man present, so my question is how much has man contributed and how much is the natural cycle. We cannot control mother nature at this time and it may not be wise to try. It is inevitable that we will become extinct at some time and most of our remains covered when the super continent is formed in a few hundred million years or so, unless we find a way to colonize other earth similar planets or can build some type of biospheres to house humanity in a few hundred years on a neighboring planet. Lets keep our precious resources as clean as possible in the meantime and hope we can survive just 1000 years more. That would be remarkeable in itself to sustain a population of 100+ billion souls on whats left of our beautiful planet. (buddy up for sleep time) 🙂

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Permalink
  14. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    I was going to link to that Bill Nye video in this thread but saw you had beat me to it!

    Watch it again, and simply pay attention to the tone of Bill and the tone of the host throughout the entire episode…that was the most enlightening thing about it. The tone of the host just makes him look incredibly absurd.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Permalink
  15. Iron Knee wrote:

    Especially that line at the end about still confusing their slow viewers. Sheesh!

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Permalink
  16. David Freeman wrote:

    For a nonpartisan look at practical solutions to Climate Change and energy independence, check out the Rocky Mountain Institute:

    especially their marvelous book:

    This guys are a big part of why the US Military is effectively reducing their reliance on oil.

    I believe that most questions about Climate Change are well addressed by the climate scientists at Realclimate:

    Anyone would benefit from a day perusing their site but it’s also a great resource for quickly finding answers. They are very thorough and very transparent on sources.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Permalink
  17. Dan wrote:

    I think even a Fox commentator could understand Nye. The argument over man made or natural is one that neither side will concede on before we all boil or the next ice age happens. Going green is good economics. Period. Renewable energy was recommended by a government commission in the 1950’s, so what are we waiting for?

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Permalink
  18. They ought to change the term “talking heads” to “yelling heads.”

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Permalink
  19. Patricia wrote:

    God Denies Hurricane Is Punishment for Anything
    Posted on August 25, 2011 by Your Intrepid Blogger at

    CHARLESTON, SC – In a widely-broadcast announcement earlier today, celestial spokespostle and gatekeeper Simon (“Saint”) Peter, speaking on behalf of well-known deity God, stated flatly that Hurricane Irene is not divine punishment for anything. “Sometimes a hurricane is just a hurricane,” the protoPope declared. “Nor will I answer any questions about how an all-powerful, all-loving God can allow things like hurricanes to exist. You guys have to work that out for yourselves. Oh, and the Creator and Sustainer of All has asked me to specifically tell Pat Robertson, ‘Knock it off.’”

    Robertson, religious gadfly and self-appointed divine mouthpiece, was unavailable for comment.

    Reaction to the divine pronouncement was swift and varied, ranging from an enthusiastic, “Told you!” from Episcopal Church USA Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, to “Oh crap,” from kingmaker and erstwhile radio personality James Dobson.

    Political figures have also weighed in on the pronouncement. “There’s nothing in my script about how to handle anything like this,” observed Representative and presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann (R, MN). “Let me get back to you.”

    “This is Obama’s fault,” opined Representative Eric Cantor (R, VA). “If he hadn’t been so annoying about God’s displeasure, Peter wouldn’t have had to take time out of his busy schedule. It is unconscionable that he would seek to twist people’s beliefs about God to his own political advantage.”

    “I’m sure we can find a bipartisan solution to this problem,” said the president.

    “It was kind of our Lord to send His spokespostle down to explain how the hurricane is God’s punishment for our nation’s tolerance of the Gay Agenda,” said Texas governor Rick Perry (R) without a hint of irony. “Which I, of course, have been saying all along.” When asked if he thought the long-running Texas drought was a result of God’s displeasure with his governorship, Perry replied, “Why would I think that?”

    “Well I think this just about puts the nail in the coffin of theism,” said British scientist and famed atheist Richard Dawkins. “Since it is an essential tenet of theism that God must punish wrongdoing, and we have just learned that this is not a punishment for wrongdoing, it must perforce follow that God does not exist.”

    The Dalai Lama was not available for comment, nor were we able to find any rabbis or imams who were willing to speak on the record.

    Copyright © 2011 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Permalink
  20. starluna wrote:

    Don – you are right that ozone depletion can influence certain regional climates. But ozone depletion itself is not, at least as far as I’ve heard, implicated in global warming. Even in the article you mentioned, the changes in climate are localized to areas (obviously very large areas) near the ozone hole itself.

    It is actually even more complicated than that. There are some GHGs that are also responsible for ozone depletion. These are not the GHGs that are believed to be having the biggest impact, but its there nonetheless. Many of the processes that impact our atmosphere have similar underlying mechanisms. That’s one of the reasons this is so complicated.

    Thank you for the article, though. I’m always looking for easy to read articles on this subject.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Permalink
  21. Don wrote:

    Starluna: Didn’t say global warming – simply that the ozone depletion over the southern hemisphere had changed the climate of a large area in South America. Major shifts in precipitation as well as the alteration of the mid-latitude westerly jet stream.

    Glad I could get you an easy to read article, too. I’m assuming you’re using these in the classes that you teach. ‘>D

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 10:38 pm | Permalink