Colbert on Republican climate-change denialism: “We’re not scientists”

If you click on the screenshot below, you’ll go to a short clip of Stephen Colbert taking apart Republican climate-change denialists as only he can. (Note: I’m not sure whether this clip can be seen outside of North America—or even in Canada). If it’s slow, try clicking here.

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 6.43.50 AM

I am so sick of denialists’ claim, “I am not a scientist.” Indeed they’re not, but they could give some credence to the scientific consensus, which is overwhelmingly that human activities are a major contributor to global warming. After all, these Republicans and other denialists trust the consensus of scientists on other matters, like the efficacy of antibiotics and of GPS devices.

h/t: Daveau ~

114 Comments

  1. Posted November 7, 2014 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    And atomic bombs! Science deniers love them some A-bombs … !

  2. Posted November 7, 2014 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Brilliant — one of the best comedic takedowns I’ve yet seen of Republican science denialism concerning AGW.

  3. reasonshark
    Posted November 7, 2014 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Aw, I can’t see it. Damn the monarchy! 🙂

    I’m not giving up my silly accent, though. I’ll try elsewhere.

    • Posted November 7, 2014 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      If you want to see a TV programme globally, load tunnelbear.com. There is a free version, just load the app. For example, on an iPad go to “settings”, click VPN, tick the country where the programme is broadcast from, activate the app then you are good to go. So in the case of the Colbert Report, click TunnelBear (United States), return to this “Why Evolution Is True” site and see the clip. Simple! If the app stops working, which it sometimes does, just launch it again.

      • Posted November 7, 2014 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

        Oops, I should have added after “click TunnelBear (United States),” activate the app by clicking VPN at the top to get the little green icon to show.

      • Posted November 7, 2014 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

        🐻-y cool!

        /@

      • Marella
        Posted November 7, 2014 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

        Yay, thank-you.

  4. steve oberski
    Posted November 7, 2014 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    And you never hear them saying “but I am not a gynecologist” when they are busy trying to take away women’s rights to control their own bodies.

    (I think I heard this on John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” show, which I can’t recommend enough).

    • still learning
      Posted November 7, 2014 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      Oooh! Excellent point!

    • Gerorge Martin
      Posted November 7, 2014 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      And likewise, when asked about something related tp the economy,they don’t say “I’m not an economist.”

      George

      • Posted November 7, 2014 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

        And to cap it all, when they’re asked about gay rights they don’t say, “I don’t know anything about sex.”

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted November 7, 2014 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

          So, basically, the only thing they actually do know how to do is to stir up people’s fears and hatreds of blacks, gays, poor people, environmentalists, and atheists.

          • Posted November 7, 2014 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

            …and, of course, profiting handsomely from the manufactured outrage….

            b&

  5. Posted November 7, 2014 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    “I’m not sure whether this clip can be seen outside of North America—or even in Canada”

    It can be seen in Italy.

    • Posted November 7, 2014 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      But not in the UK, sadly.

      /@

    • Gamall
      Posted November 7, 2014 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      Worked in France.

    • Scientifik
      Posted November 7, 2014 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      The video works fine in Poland too. And it’s a great one!

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted November 8, 2014 at 1:31 am | Permalink

      OK in New Zealand.

  6. Randy Schenck
    Posted November 7, 2014 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    I believe the math works like this:

    Stupid American public = Ignorant politicians

    • Posted November 7, 2014 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      I don’t know about stupid. Alienated, for sure. Misinformed, largely. And I’m not sure ignorant is what the politicians are, either. Somebody pays lots and lots of money to get that misinformation out there. They likely do not understand science, but that oil and gas money is awfully persuasive.

      • Timothy Hughbanks
        Posted November 7, 2014 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

        As a person gets older, willful ignorance morphs with stupid so as to become the same thing for all practical purposes. And a significant fraction of misinformed in America are willfully misinformed.

  7. Posted November 7, 2014 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    There is this meme floating around the internet:
    Scientists: ‘Don’t worry about ebola.’
    Everybody: ‘Everybody panic!!’
    Scientists: ‘Do worry about climate change!’
    Everybody: ‘LOL! Pass me more coal.,

  8. gluonspring
    Posted November 7, 2014 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Given how little public action on this has advanced in the last twenty years, I find it difficult to imagine a scenario where humans leave a single drop of extractable fossil fuel in the ground. These guys are idiots, to be sure, but they are put there by voters who want to engage in that kind of wish thinking. I can’t imagine that anything short of decades long catastrophe will change voter’s desire to be told what they want to hear, and even then only if the catastrophe hits them personally.

    Is it fatalistic or just realistic to think we should be focusing more on how to deal with a post-climate change earth?

    • Posted November 7, 2014 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      Given how little public action on this has advanced in the last twenty years, I find it difficult to imagine a scenario where humans leave a single drop of extractable fossil fuel in the ground.

      The economics are actually pretty much guaranteeing that we’re not going to keep mining petroleum that much longer, and coal and natural gas will eventually follow.

      You see, there’s still lots of petroleum left in the ground; about half of what there originally was at the start of the Industrial Revolution. But, naturally, we’ve dug up all the high-quality easy-to-get stuff…and, now, long gone are the days when you had to be careful with a pickaxe in Texas lest you set off a gusher. Rather, our most productive wells are several miles deep, with wellheads a mile or more below the surface of the ocean. And that’s not cheap, and even those wells are going to run dry sooner rather than later. We’re even to the point of extracting the stuff from Canadian tar sands, the proverbial joke of low-quality difficult-to-extract fossil fuels.

      As the cheap good stuff gets more and more scarce (and it’s almost all gone already), we’ll be increasingly left with the expensive bad stuff, and prices will inevitably rise as a result.

      Rising prices will do a number of things. First, of course, it’ll quench demand. People will look for ways to do with less. But there’s not all that much flexibility in petroleum, so the economy will take an hit as larger and larger percentages of money goes to paying for harder and harder to extract petroleum. But, of course, that also means recession (and eventually depression), which will mean less leftover money available to be spent on petroleum extraction, resulting in something of a vicious cycle of inflationary petroleum prices.

      The future is bleak, but not hopeless. We’re not all that far away from petroleum prices at which alternative energy sources become competitive. Granted, these alternatives aren’t at all cheap; they might be twice as much as today’s prices…but we’re probably no more than a decade away from those price curves crossing. When they do, it’ll be just as expensive to keep mining petroleum as it will be to, for example, manufacture it from atmospheric CO2 in a process powered by solar photovoltaics. Yes, such things are expensive, and perhaps even more so than the economy can even bear…but they’ll still be cheaper than petroleum at that point, so people will go with the cheaper alternatives and leave the petroleum in the ground.

      So…all in all, we’re really at the end game of petroleum extraction. Our economy is definitely going to take a big hit no matter what. The only real question is whether we’ll be able to afford alternatives at all or if even those will be too expensive for our economy to survive. But those really are the only two options: spend a lot on non-mined petroleum alternatives, or total societal collapse with no petroleum nor equivalent.

      Coal and natural gas are both on similar trajectories, but their inflection points are decades away. But that’s somewhat moot, as our agriculture and economy are both dependent on petroleum. No (affordable) petroleum, and we have neither fertilizer nor pesticides to use on crops (without which yields plummet) nor equipment with which to tend and harvest and transport the crops. Imagine the only food being today’s organic boutique foods — what it would mean for the masses to have to pay that much today, what will happen to even those prices as demands skyrocket, and the inability to transition away from petroleum-powered agriculture at such scales.

      Fasten your seat belts, in other words….

      Cheers,

      b&

      • gluonspring
        Posted November 7, 2014 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

        I completely agree with this analysis.

        Even sans climate change, I’ve been rather terrified of the end of oil just in terms of it’s possible effects on civilization. I was a kid in the 1970’s but gas lines seared the message of finite oil into my mind. As a kid I assumed that everyone had learned that lesson, but I’ve watched in horror ever since as we’ve basically reverted to acting like oil is infinite.

        Clearly there is enough solar and other energy to supply our needs, it’s not a matter of can it work but of preparing while you can. It’s such an obvious, and even conservative, idea: you can’t wait until you’re out of gas to start looking for a gas station. My biggest fear for the future is that we’ll be stuck in the desert without enough fuel to get to the next station.

        • Posted November 7, 2014 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

          Clearly there is enough solar and other energy to supply our needs, it’s not a matter of can it work but of preparing while you can.

          Far more than enough.

          To a rough approximation, covering all residential rooftops in the US alone with off-the-shelf PV panels is enough to meet the entire planet’s current electricity needs. Obviously, if the rest of the world put panels on their rooftops, our own residential panels would be far more than productive enough to meet all our most lavish energy dreams.

          There will come a time when our descendants think we must be insane to use petroleum (asphalt) to cover our roofs rather than harvest the free energy that rains down upon them. For some of us, that time is now.

          And, no, I’m not making this up. Less than a third of my roof, probably about a quarter, is covered in panels, and I generate half again as much electricity as I use — enough to power the electric car I’ll soon be driving, in fact. That’s already all my personal direct energy consumption. Cover the rest of the roof and I’d more than generate what I use secondarily (manufacturing, farm equipment, telecommunications and information services, etc.).

          Cheers,

          b&

      • Kevin
        Posted November 7, 2014 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

        It was only eight years ago as a graduate student that I was told solar energy could never be competitive by at least an order of magnitude with fossil fuels. Those technologies are not as bad they predicted and theya improving. There is a lot of good research being done on nuclear, but infrastructure (social/security/safety) is a problem much more than technical.

        This is does not even touch on the side of usage. My computer use (half on smart devices costs a fraction of titanic tower computers I used to own. There continued advancements in battery, refrideration, heating, cooling, construction designs that make all of this not use as much energy as we used to.

        Silver lining: efficiency is driven heavily by the economy and is almost always good the climate change. If I can make a car go twice as far on electricity for the same resources (win). If I can grow a tomato with 50% less water (win).

        • Posted November 7, 2014 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

          “My computer use (half on smart devices costs a fraction of titanic tower computers I used to own.”

          Ah yes, but the power consumption of the Google, Facebook, Linkedin, Amazon, etc. data centers are now comparable to the use of power by medium-sized towns. And Exaflop computers (expected in 5-10 years) will require full-sized power stations to run them.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted November 8, 2014 at 1:39 am | Permalink

            “the power consumption of the Google, Facebook, Linkedin, Amazon, etc. data centers are now comparable to the use of power by medium-sized towns.”

            Yeah, but how many of them are there compared with the number of medium-sized towns on the planet? Those data centers serve our current computing needs adequately. Our current lifestyle could continue just fine with that level of service. Assume as the Third World catches up (that is, those countries that haven’t caught up already so far as personal computing devices are concerned), allow say a hundred times as many data centers as there are now – how would they compare with the number of medium-sized towns? I think their total power usage would still be just a fraction of the total human usage.

            • Posted November 8, 2014 at 7:42 am | Permalink

              It’s been a while since I read relevant articles and I didn’t pay any special attention to them, but the basic gist is as you’d expect: there’s more opportunity for efficiency gains in datacenters, but any such gains are dwarfed by simple growth.

              If you could cut energy consumption by half, that’d be damned near magical. But, at 7% annual growth rates, all those efficiency gains get wiped out in only a decade. Squeezing out even more efficiency isn’t likely an option at that point…and another decade later, another doubling, putting you at four times the original consumption….

              b&

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted November 8, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

                Yeah BUT – how much ‘data’ per person is anybody ever going to need or generate? There’s more internet right now than I can ever read. I don’t see how my consumption can increase much. Plus of course, connecting double the number of people doesn’t mean double the data since many of them will read the same stuff.

                So there must be some natural limits. And even allowing for some huge increase in data, is the power consumption of processing it all ever going to be a significant percentage of the total?

              • Posted November 8, 2014 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

                It’s been a long time since text has been the dominant data usage of the ‘Net. YouTube and porn probably account for the bulk of the volume. And HD and “retina” devices use even more resources…and then there’s the whole “cloud” schtick, where the servers are doing the computationally-intensive tasks of (for example) photo and video processing that used to be done on desktops.

                Don’t forget the whole mobile Internet thing, either.

                Internet services are continuing their exponential growth, with no end or even slowdown in sight — short, of course, of the usual caveats of the economy and the like that might cause minor variations in the rate of growth.

                b&

              • Posted November 8, 2014 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

                At least these folks are now building their data centres in cold countries to reduce energy needs (and costs!) for cooling.

                /@

              • Posted November 9, 2014 at 9:26 am | Permalink

                If nothing else, computers make decent resistive space heaters…but still nowhere near as efficient as an heat pump….

                I seem to recall there being research into figuring out the break-even point for server room temperatures. The colder the room, the longer the life of the components…but warmer temperatures don’t reduce lifespans by all that much. By significantly upping the temperature on the thermostat, you can greatly reduce operating expenses at only a minor increase in maintenance expenses. And, of course, in so doing, you’ll also reduce the maintenance expenses on your chillers.

                If I had to bet, I’d go with server rooms as giant walk-in refrigerators rapidly becoming a quaint anachronism. Indeed, the future forecast may well be for “uncomfortably warm,” with the chillers generally turned off and only the fans kept running to ensure uniform temperatures. Places like Phoenix will still need active cooling, of course, but far less than is used today.

                b&

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted November 8, 2014 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

                @ben
                Yes I know ‘data’ comprises a lot more than text. I used ‘read’ as shorthand for ‘watch’ or ‘interact’. In fact I spend a lot of time looking at Youtube (not gonna comment on the other No 1 usage category 😉 and I’m amazed how much stuff is out there. I even found the Frost Report’s sketch on ‘Lord Privy Seal’ dating from the ?60’s?. And a dozen different versions of I Dreamed a Dream from Les Mis (I can now state conclusively to my satisfaction who is ‘the best Fantine’. I won’t do it here since massive digressions are sure to ensue). Point is, my intellectual life is now enormously richer than would have been possible a decade ago thanks to the Intertoobz.

                But even so, there’s a limit to how much I can watch in a day. So I don’t see that my demand for ‘content’ can grow very much.

                Probably the biggest increase in data/bandwidth demand will be, as you say, HD – and similar bandwidth-greedy technologies beyond that. OTOH, video processing and other ‘cloud’ stuff that’s being done online isn’t being done on a home PC, so I don’t see that as a change in power load.

                What I don’t know is how much – by what factor – data processing demand would have to grow before it is a significant percentage of total power demand. I’m sure the figures are out there.

              • Posted November 9, 2014 at 9:43 am | Permalink

                But even so, there’s a limit to how much I can watch in a day. So I don’t see that my demand for ‘content’ can grow very much.

                But, remember: you’re one of the relative newcomers. Lots of people are still working their way towards the usage levels you’re already at. And, by the time they’ve all caught up with where you’re at now, you’ll likely be streaming immersive 3-D virtual realities….

                b&

        • Posted November 7, 2014 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

          Silver lining: efficiency is driven heavily by the economy and is almost always good the climate change.

          Efficiency gains are good, of course, but they’re dwarfed by exponential growth. Even if you could double efficiency / cut usage by half (a dramatically unrealistic target across the board), that’d only offset a quarter century’s worth of a very modest 3% annual growth.

          Growth is the real killer, of course. If we keep up the historical 3% economic growth rate even with magic faery dust energy sources, it won’t be more than a few centuries before the oceans boil away simply from the waste thermodynamic heat of everything we’d do — never mind greenhouse effects (that merely trap more incident solar energy than historical).

          Fortunately, population growth seems to stabilize and even decline with a modern middle-class lifestyle. Whether it’ll decline fast enough organically to avoid resource exhaustion and pollution limits remains to be seen…with, of course, the other alternative being the Four Horsemen (and not of Gnu Atheism).

          b&

      • Timothy Hughbanks
        Posted November 7, 2014 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

        The chemical industry uses 8% of the world’s primary energy sources and of that, about 49% is for “energy” while the other 51% ends up as carbon-based products (i.e.., not really used as energy). If we stopped wasting reduced carbon sources like petroleum and natural gas as fuels, the amount we’d have available for pesticides, fertilizers, polymers & composites, etc. would give us plenty of time to adapt industrial chemical processes to use even coal as a source (to end up in products, not as a fuel). Electrochemistry is your friend. The chemistry can be done, and chemists and chemical engineers are reasonably confident it can without being too expensive. All of which depends on the energy coming from renewables or perhaps partly nuclear.

        • Posted November 7, 2014 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

          As Aidan so frequently observes, even his father said we’re nuts for burning the stuff.

          But the good news even there is that you can produce syngas readily enough from atmospheric CO2 with sufficient energy input, ad syngas is a suitable feedstock for all the other stuff we want from petroleum. In the short term, of course, it’ll still make sense to use solar for energy and mined petroleum for chemicals. If we survive long-term, we’ll first start using solar-generated syngas for chemicals, and later we’ll actually start pumping the stuff back underground in order to restore proper atmospheric balances.

          …assuming, of course, we make it that far. And, honestly, I’d have to say that, while it’s certainly not hopeless that we will, you’d have to be a fool to be optimistic about our chances at this point. The time to have made all these transitions was a generation or two ago…once Hubbert published his now-infamous paper, that’s when we should have started planning how we’d bootstrap ourselves with fossil fuels to a solar economy. It’s not too late now to do that, but it is too late to do it without an awful lot of pain for everybody. Pain that could have been avoided…and, frankly, we’d be much more prosperous right now had we done the right thing back then….

          b&

  9. darrelle
    Posted November 7, 2014 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Colbert knocked it out of the park with that one. He is a gem.

    But, it is sad that the highest levels of integrity, decency, and accuracy in news reporting in the US these days is all on, or grew up at, Comedy Central.

  10. merilee
    Posted November 7, 2014 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    sub…not in Canada

  11. Democrat
    Posted November 7, 2014 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Great satire as always. Now when we understood danger of anti-science idiots can we start recognizing presense of anti-GMO activists on the left?

    • Anna
      Posted November 7, 2014 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      +1

    • Posted November 7, 2014 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      That is true. The left has its woo-meisters as well. But the anti-GMO crowd has done little to effect the use of GM crops in the U.S. Meanwhile the global warming deniers have pretty much always been in control over their issues in Washington.

    • Timothy Hughbanks
      Posted November 7, 2014 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      I recognize and rue their presence, but let’s be clear, they’re not nearly as dangerous.

  12. Posted November 7, 2014 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Thank you for posting this!! Saw it last night – so brilliant and perfect. This needs sharing. Lots of it.

  13. redlivingblue
    Posted November 7, 2014 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    If virtually ANYONE other than Al Gore had made “An Inconvenient Truth”, we as a nation would have had a shot at meaningful policies that could have had a meaningful, positive impact on our environment. America could be leading the way to more reasonable energy policies and the innovation that would make “greener” technologies viable. Unfortunately, Mr. Gore alienated much of his audience because of his political party. Almost without exception, in my experiences with climate change deniers, Al’s name is brought up early in the conversation. They outright dismiss the science because they disagree with the messenger’s political affiliation. It is a damn shame!

    • Posted November 7, 2014 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      If there hadn’t been Al Gore there as a focus for their stupid and irrational hatred, there’d have been some other, equally stupid and irrational reason for them to refuse to accept climate change.

      • microraptor
        Posted November 7, 2014 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, among conservatives, “environmentalist” has been a dirty word going back at least as far as Silent Spring.

    • Timothy Hughbanks
      Posted November 7, 2014 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      Baloney! realthog is right. Al Gore is an excuse – and nothing more. James Hansen is a fairly conservative guy. Michael Mann is no flaming liberal. I had the pleasure of meeting Bill McKibben and cohosting him as a speaker last Spring. McKibben made it quite clear that he’s a conservative for the most part. Climate deniers have demonized all of them – Michael Mann has been slandered and literally hounded by the right.

      • redlivingblue
        Posted November 8, 2014 at 10:59 am | Permalink

        Just pointing out that a large percentage of denier’s opinion of climate change have been made a priori because they are at odds with Mr. Gore’s politics. Don’t see how that’s baloney.

        • Timothy Hughbanks
          Posted November 8, 2014 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

          …and we’re pointing out that the claim that Gore somehow uniquely caused the alienation of conservatives is baloney. Anyone who might have made the movie would have been similarly demonized and political polarization of the issue is not Gore’s fault, irrespective of how self-aggrandizing Gore may or may not have been. If it hadn’t been Gore, it would have been someone else. Indeed, as I pointed out, the right has been happy to demonize everyone who dares to threaten their paymasters. I think you fail to understand the nature and tactics of your opponents if you believe that “we as a nation would have had a shot at meaningful policies” if Al Gore hadn’t made a movie.

          • Posted November 8, 2014 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

            I think you fail to understand the nature and tactics of your opponents if you believe that “we as a nation would have had a shot at meaningful policies” if Al Gore hadn’t made a movie.

            It’s also worth pointing out that, outside the US, in the two hundred or so countries where Al Gore had not somehow been painted as The Devil Incarnate, the fact that he was associated with the case gave it all the more traction. It wasn’t for nothing that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

            It seems a uniquely US characteristic that, whenever one of its citizens does something that has the potential for great good that’s recognized globally, the instinctive reaction is to slime and vilify that person.

            Make huge breakthroughs in climate-change modeling with the potential to save literally billions of lives? Well, let’s all piss on Michael Mann for that.

            Produce a brilliant piece of popularization on the subject of climate change? Well, let’s all piss on Al Gore for that.

            Devise economic theories that could have saved us from the Great Recession that we’re still trying to escape from? Well, let’s all piss on Paul Krugman for that.

            Risk their lives to try to help Ebola sufferers in Africa? Well, let’s all piss on all those heroes for that . . . or beyond “piss on”, in fact: in one forum I read several commenters expressed the view that uninfectious nurse Kaci Hickox should die hideously of the disease, preferably after having been gang-raped, because, after all, she’d gone out for a bike ride with her boyfriend.

            What is the matter with all these people? Why is it that they have the obsessive need to vilify all our best, most courageous and brightest? What in the hell has gone wrong with this country that so many of these wantonly defaming maroons have been voted into positions of power?

            I have no answer for this — and I do realize, redlivingblue, that you were merely pointing out a problem rather than being a part of it.

            And, yes, this is a long comment. My apologies, JC, but I’m so frigging angry right now with what’s happening in my adopted country.

  14. Randy Schenck
    Posted November 7, 2014 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    The marching orders for the Republican Party regarding climate change is that it does not exist any more than evolution for the religious right.

    The long standing motto is that the government it useless and can do nothing right. Just elect us and we will prove it. If they agreed with man made climate change then they would have to say government must do something about it. Sorry

    • microraptor
      Posted November 7, 2014 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      I’d say that the real marching orders regarding climate change are:

      It doesn’t exist,
      but if it does exist it’s a natural phenomenon and therefore Not Our Fault,
      but even if it’s our fault it will be too expensive to do anything.

      The Tea Party wingnut who was just (praise Basement Cat) defeated in last week’s election in my district actually said in a debate with his sane rival that the best way to prepare America for the effects of climate change was to increase the amount of coal and oil we produce in order to provide Americans with cheaper methods of heating their homes.

      And I don’t even live in a state with a serious fossil fuel industry.

    • Timothy Hughbanks
      Posted November 7, 2014 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      I think Bill McKibben correctly identifies the motivation for the GOP’s marching orders: fossil fuel companies current valuation: $27 trillion.

      • gluonspring
        Posted November 7, 2014 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

        That’s almost 2 US GDP’s. But we shouldn’t think this is an issue of unfettered companies. They are worth so much because we all deeply crave, and buy, cheep energy.

        I think the article gets it pretty right when it says:

        “Since all of us are in some way the beneficiaries of cheap fossil fuel, tackling climate change has been like trying to build a movement against yourself – it’s as if the gay-rights movement had to be constructed entirely from evangelical preachers, or the abolition movement from slaveholders.”

        And that’s what makes me so pessimistic about it.

        • Timothy Hughbanks
          Posted November 7, 2014 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

          This is true. But as Ben Goren and I can testify to from his personal experience, wind and solar energy are at or near parity for 80 – 100 million Americans today. (My electricity is 100% wind and I gather his is all solar.) It won’t be long until that number is of a majority of Americans. True, we may still need a nuclear or fossil fuel baseload to even its availability out for a while, but renewables are cheap enough to circumvent the fossil fuel industry from building much if any new power-generating infrastructure. And I become more optimistic every year about electric vehicles making the mainstream. I think for the most part, if we could clear away the propaganda of the fossil fuel industry, we could kick fossil fuels within a few decades without all that much sacrifice. Petroleum and natural gas should be used to make chemicals and polymers, not burned. Coal should stay in the ground.

          • Mark R.
            Posted November 7, 2014 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

            “I think for the most part, if we could clear away the propaganda of the fossil fuel industry, we could kick fossil fuels within a few decades without all that much sacrifice.”

            Sorry for my cynicism, but in America, that is one BIG “if”. I mean, not even the Mexican Gulf spill mega-disaster made any head way in the concerns of those who rule; nor any mega-storm (Katrina/Sandy) peeks any kind of lasting concern. If they build the Keystone pipeline and it burst and spewed tar-sands into the ogallala aquifer, I doubt those in power would do a damn thing. Except hide it with some chemical dispersant and say everything will be ok. The propaganda will continue as long as the energy billionaires own Washington. That will be a very long time I’m afraid. In fact, as the evidence continues to pile, they continue to double down.

            One day, oil will be too expensive to extract, and that may stop the madness. But by then, I fear it will be decades too late…it perhaps already is.

            • Timothy Hughbanks
              Posted November 7, 2014 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

              Sorry for my cynicism, but in America, that is one BIG “if”.

              Sadly, you’ll get no argument from me there.

            • microraptor
              Posted November 8, 2014 at 12:35 am | Permalink

              Of course those in power would do something if the Keystone pipeline burst and contaminated the drinking water of millions of Americans.

              They’d go to the oil companies and give them a very tearful apology over the inconvenience, then tell us that the company couldn’t afford to clean it up just as that company posts record breaking profits for the fifth straight year.

              • microraptor
                Posted November 8, 2014 at 12:37 am | Permalink

                And then when people started posting videos of the flammability of their tap water on YouTube, the politicians would probably charge them with theft.

          • Posted November 7, 2014 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

            Yes, mine’s all solar.

            And, though it’ll be quite a while before solar capacities are sufficient to provide overnight baseload production (through whatever storage means), it’s also true that none of the existing baseload plants are going away any time soon.

            There’s also a very natural transition to be had. Once we’ve got lots of surplus daytime (peak) electricity, we can use some of that to make syngas from atmospheric CO2. That syngas can then either be refined into any other petroleum product, or it can be burned at night to provide baseload power.

            Yes, such a process isn’t energetically cheap compared with today’s oil wells…but if you’ve got more electricity than you know what to do with, who cares?

            b&

            • Posted November 8, 2014 at 11:29 am | Permalink

              Ben, what’s your opinion on solar thermal v. PV?

              I read recently about the proposal to store heat from solar thermal power stations in *molten salt* for overnight production!

              /@

              • Posted November 8, 2014 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

                Solar thermal only makes sense for domestic rooftops for heating water, and it’s how I heat my own water. I’ve got a pair of collectors on the rooftop, not all that visually different from the 26 PV panels. I’ve got an almost-normal water heater in the laundry room. The upper element of the heater is a standard electric resistance doohickey, but the lower element is coiled tubing through which a glycol mixture circulates and gets pumped up to the collectors in a closed loop; whenever the various thermostats detect the right kind of temperature difference, the pump runs and the glycol gets heated in the panels and that heat gets transferred to the tank. For almost all the year, it provides far more than enough water heating than I actually need. And, on cold and cloudy winter days when it doesn’t, it still warms the water enough that the electric element only has to heat from, say, 90°F to 120°F rather than from 60°F to 120°F — a significant energy savings.

                The “solar thermal” you’re presumably referring to is one of a number of utility-scale designs, especially ones that use mirrors and the like the same way you’d use a magnifying glass to start a fire, only they’re concentrated on something like salt that gets heated to the melting point. That heat is then used to boil water and power a turbine, same as any other modern power generator, and there’s enough residual heat to keep running overnight. Other variations on the theme include mile-high chimneys and associated structures where the Sun heats surrounding areas causing updrafts that turn wind turbines, or thermoelectric couplers, or even more exotic designs that I’m not going to think of off the top of my head.

                I honestly think the future lies primarily in distributed domestic rooftop photovoltaics. There’s just no need for centralized production, and no significant economies of scale to be had.

                The utilities will still have a place in terms of managing the grid, of course, but even that role will diminish over time. Many electric vehicles have the battery capacity (but not necessarily the circuitry) to just about function as whole-house baseload providers; it’s not that much of a stretch to imagine either newer EVs with longer-range batteries that do have enough extra to serve in that capacity, or a battery appliance similar in size (and location) to the water heater that does the job.

                At that point, the grid doesn’t need to be anywhere near as stable as it is today, and it can be operated much more cheaply. Those who want to buy and sell electricity will welcome it, especially those with some extra panels on their rooftops or large industrial users of electricity. One of those large industrial users will eventually be those turning atmospheric CO2 into hydrocarbon fuels (and plastics), and those fuels will, in turn, be part of the baseload generation capacity.

                Of course, predictions are hard, especially about the future…but I really don’t see much other than a niche role for solar thermal. PV is already plenty good enough and theoretically superior. You can imagine it perhaps having a place at some type of industrial facility…but, even then, it’s hard to imagine it beating out simply covering the facility’s rooftop and parking lot with PV panels.

                …but, again, if the goal is to heat something, especially water, going straight to thermal may well be the best bet. I could see smelters using solar thermal energy rather than electric induction, for example, depending on what’s being refined.

                b&

              • Posted November 8, 2014 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

                Thanks, Ben; interesting.

                Btw, have you been to Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley? Nice 1930s solar thermal set up for hot water and electricity (steam-turbine generator http://ow.ly/E0UmZ ).

                /@

              • Posted November 8, 2014 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

                Still haven’t made it to Death Valley. Not much excuse, I know…it’s not all that far away. Now I have one more reason I should go….

                But, yeah…solar technology has been here in one form or another from the get-go. It’s just that fossil fuels have been so convenient and easy in comparison — especially when, as I keep noting, you once had to be careful with your pickaxe in Texas lest you set off a gusher. Petroleum is a great way to bootstrap a technological society, but it’s not possible to sustain one with it.

                b&

              • Posted November 8, 2014 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

                There’s quite tale there about the odd friendship between rich mining engineer who retired to DV for his health and the con-man that tried to swindle him.

                /@

              • Posted November 9, 2014 at 9:18 am | Permalink

                Now you’ve got me intrigued….

                b&

              • Posted November 9, 2014 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

                Sorry; I mislead you. The solar thermal was only for hot water; the generator was a *water* turbine, fed from a reservoir on higher ground. (A kind of mini Cragside; which is a C19 English country residence that made extensive use of water power.)

                /@

        • Posted November 7, 2014 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

          If it helps…enlightened self-interest might still save the day.

          If you’ve got any investment capital available, you’d be damned lucky to find a better use for that money than rooftop solar. Payback times are generally on the order of seven years, give or take; that’s about a 10% annual return on investment — practically unheard of in this economy. And it’s safe as houses and inflation-proof — energy-inflation-proof, to boot. If energy prices rise, your investment pays off that much sooner and your effective rate of return goes up as well.

          More and more people are realizing this. Why sink that $20K into a money market fund that you’ll be lucky to see 5% over the next decade when you could put it into your rooftop and get twice as good a rate of return and enjoy energy independence? Really, it’s a no-brainer.

          It also makes sense for those without available capital. Just get a loan at a rate less than the effective rate of return, consider your bank your electricity provider for the term of the loan, and enjoy reduced fixed rates for the duration plus lifetime free electricity once the loan is repaid. Or, contract with one of the many companies that offer exactly such a deal as a package with the installation.

          People generally aren’t complete idiots when it comes to money. A deal such as rooftop solar is too good to pass up, even for paranoid conspiracy lunatic Rethuglicans.

          b&

          • gluonspring
            Posted November 8, 2014 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

            You inspire me to look into my investment options.

            • Posted November 8, 2014 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

              “Mission accomplished,” as they say!

              b&

              • Mark R.
                Posted November 8, 2014 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

                Yeah, thanks for all the pertinent information Ben!

  15. Posted November 7, 2014 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Inhofe gaining more influence on US science and environmental policy is deeply disturbing.

    (the video was available to NZ)

  16. Jim Thomerson
    Posted November 7, 2014 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Off topic. Recently the site changed where photos do not come up, but rather a block where they can be clicked on. Can anything be done to get us back to the good old days?

    • Nick
      Posted November 7, 2014 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      Huh? I haven’t noticed any such thing; anyone else? I would suspect rather that something has changed in your personal pc setup that has caused this problem.

      • Mark R.
        Posted November 7, 2014 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

        Sometimes I don’t see the photos or videos when I first open the email, but if I click on the “comments” button, the photos/videos will appear on that page. Don’t know why this happens, but the frequency is about once a week for me.

  17. Posted November 7, 2014 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Well, try to be as unbiased as possible and notice how the reporter tries to pin the Republican by asking, “But you don’t doubt that human activity contributes to climate change…?”

    Now, if I go by the IPCC’s conclusion that human activity LIKELY caused climate change — then shouldn’t in infer that there is, in fact, doubt on the part of the IPCC???

    To flat out deny climate change would be stupid. But the “scientific consensus” is ADMITTEDLY to be doubted. The cause of climate change is uncertain.

    Shall I quote the IPCC for the 10 zillionth time, or is climate change skepticism incongruent with their conclusions for some reason I’m missing?

    • scottoest
      Posted November 7, 2014 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

      You seem to be confusing doubt, with reasonable doubt. There is doubt, in the sense that nothing is 100% certain. There is no *reasonable* doubt, however, when it comes to AGW. Science, by it’s very nature, doesn’t deal in absolute statements. It amasses data, and draws conclusions based on that data.

      Eventually, a consensus emerges – in the case of climate change, it’s something like 97% of peer-reviewed research specifically on the causes of it.

      Do you have reasonable doubt in the science that powers your microwave? The science in your cellphone? The science of flight? The science of gravitation?

      If not, is it perhaps because those technologies/theories don’t present you with an inconvenient reality, or contradict your own political beliefs? There’s no money to be made or lost by denying gravity.

      • Posted November 7, 2014 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

        Of course I agree — science doesn’t prove anything beyond doubt. And when Republicans use THAT standard they reveal how sick they are. Oh trust me, I totally get it.

        And I agree with your point about the laws of physics — many of which are expressed in probabilistic terms. I must concede: I even behave as if certain probabilities are, in fact, “known”.

        But like any good mathematician, I can boil it down to a coin-flip scenario:

        Consider the theory that tossing a fair coin results in heads 1/2 the time and tails 1/2 the time. I live by that theory, and it explains a lot of real world observations….

        (now you’re going to hate me for this)

        But that theory kind of suffers from the same problem: it actually can’t be tested, technically speaking. Now, since I’m a human being trying to get by in this world, I abide by the 50/50 rule and I trust the law of large numbers. But I don’t swallow the 50/50 rule as a universal truth as a pure mathematician.

        • compuholio
          Posted November 7, 2014 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

          Consider the theory that tossing a fair coin results in heads 1/2 the time and tails 1/2 the time. […] But that theory kind of suffers from the same problem: it actually can’t be tested

          Of course it can be tested, it just cannot be proven in a mathematical sense.

          But I don’t swallow the 50/50 rule as a universal truth as a pure mathematician.

          If that is the standard then you cannot claim to know anything for a fact. Mathematics is also based on unprovable Axioms.

          Now, if I go by the IPCC’s conclusion that human activity LIKELY caused climate change — then shouldn’t in infer that there is, in fact, doubt on the part of the IPCC?

          As already pointed out: Nothing is 100% certain. But if human activity is likely the cause of climate change is is stupid to bet against that.

          In your coin scenario: We have thrown a coin 100 times and determined that the coin is likely to be a fair coin (even though it cannot be proven definitively). At that point it would be stupid to accept a bet that relies on the fact that the coin is unfair.

        • Posted November 8, 2014 at 7:32 am | Permalink

          Consider the theory that tossing a fair coin results in heads 1/2 the time and tails 1/2 the time. I live by that theory, and it explains a lot of real world observations….

          (now you’re going to hate me for this)

          But that theory kind of suffers from the same problem: it actually can’t be tested, technically speaking.

          Oh, what nonsense.

          Grab yourself a coin. Toss it. Write down the result. Lather, rinse, repeat, as they say. If the coin is fair, you’ll see all the expected statistical results: totals of each possibility converging on the same number, consecutive streaks converging on the same Bell curve distributions, and so on.

          You want more proof? Keep tossing.

          b&

  18. LarryT
    Posted November 7, 2014 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    How many climate scientists do we have in this audience? I didn’t realize that only the Republicans have it wrong. I’m certainly not an expert but I have read volumes of information from many climate scientists, e.g. “Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide”, by Arthur B. Robinson, Noah E. Robinson, and Willie Soon from Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. My observation is that many members of the climate science community in the United States have not come to a conclusion. And that a high level of coercion has taken place in the community when it comes to research grants. Bottom line this discussion could go on and on…maybe that’s the problem “both” Republicans and Democrats have been having!

    Oh well…I guess that makes me not a supporter of the EPA

    • Timothy Hughbanks
      Posted November 7, 2014 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

      What a crock. Exxon has annual profits that dwarf the sum of the grants held by all climate scientists in the US combined. In fact, over the past dozen years, Exxon has spent far more just buying back their own stock (~$200 billion) than the combined sum of all climate scientists grants. If there was legitimate scientific evidence to cast doubt on consensus of the overwhelming majority of climate scientists concerning global warming, a consortium of fossil fuel companies could have funded the research from their pocket change. That isn’t what they’ve done. Instead, what they have done is hire “think tank” stooges to manufacture asinine “grant grubbing” conspiracies that people like you want to believe.

      I wonder, do you think that the consensus that cigarettes cause lung and esophageal cancer is a conspiracy of medical researchers?

      • Posted November 7, 2014 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

        Thanks, Timothy.

      • Posted November 7, 2014 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

        “If there was legitimate scientific evidence to cast doubt on consensus”

        well if the consensus says, “likely caused by… etc.,” then doesn’t that imply doubt?

        You’d concede that it stops short of certainty, correct?

        • Timothy Hughbanks
          Posted November 7, 2014 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

          There is no need to paraphrase – the IPCC is quite careful in delineating the nature of the consensus, including there best estimates as to which of their conclusion are highly certain and which are less certain. They spell it out so I don’t have too.

          • Timothy Hughbanks
            Posted November 7, 2014 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

            …have to.

        • Posted November 7, 2014 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

          The only justified absolute certainty is that absolute certainty isn’t justifiable.

          That writ, there are certain things that you’d have to be fucking nuts to doubt: that the Sun will rise in the East tomorrow; that things fall down; and that all the fossil fuels we’ve dug up and burned have pumped vast amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere that’s trapping an ever-increasing amount of heat.

          It doesn’t take fancy simulations to figure this out, either. A simple back-of-the-envelope order-of-magnitude estimation based on how many gigatons of fossil fuels we’ve mined over the past century will give you a prediction right on the mark for observed heat increases.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • compuholio
            Posted November 7, 2014 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

            It doesn’t take fancy simulations to figure this out, either.

            Absolutely correct. One of my personal heroes in this regard is Svante Arrhenius who already spelled out the connection between CO2 concentration and temperature in 1896.

            Of course he was off in his calculations but considering what data he had and that he didn’t have access to all of our modern day fancy equipment makes his work so remarkable.

            • Posted November 8, 2014 at 7:39 am | Permalink

              His calculations weren’t off. Not only were they well within the “order of magnitude back-of-the-envelope” estimation I suggested, they’re within the range currently estimated by the IPCC. He only went awry when he expected doubling of CO2 to take a few thousand years, rather than the century or so our exponential economic growth is causing it to take. But the consequences of such a doubling he predicted perfectly.

              Wikipedia has details:

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svante_Arrhenius

              Cheers,

              b&

    • microraptor
      Posted November 8, 2014 at 12:43 am | Permalink

      The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine is a Tea Party think-tank, not an actual research institution. Their publications are done with the express purpose of denying the effects of climate change. Art Robinson is a conspiracy nut who produces “home education” packets that teach Young Earth Creationism- on the loony scale he’s barely less of a wingnut that David Icke.

  19. Posted November 7, 2014 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    Well, the clueless polititians may have accidentally come to a well-founded conclusion, since the “global warming” models predict the current temperatures with less than 2% certainity. While the whole idea may (or may not) be true, the CO2 levels sensivity, and thus the human impact is reassessed towards much lower levels in the last years.

    • Timothy Hughbanks
      Posted November 7, 2014 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

      In a word: bullshit.

      • Posted November 7, 2014 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

        or hot air.

        • Timothy Hughbanks
          Posted November 7, 2014 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

          That’s two words.😃

      • Posted November 7, 2014 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

        Could you please prowide a link to a well-founded refutation?

        • Posted November 7, 2014 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

          I’m not sure we’ve first identified the theory to be refuted.

          That’s the problem with science-by-statistical-computer model: It’s just a summary of measurements, not necessarily a coherent, scientific (testable) theory.

          That’s not to deny that a set of climate data exists, and that it is what it is, or that I don’t notice certain correlations among the data.

          But so many other things could “cause” avg temps to change over decades that we don’t have an experiment with the proper controls. Or one that can be done in less than decades, or one that can speak to FUTURE decades.

          This same problem comes up in economics, behavioral finance and computer science. “Climate change” is not that well understood. However it IS well understood that computer models break down rather easily when it comes to predicting the behavior of a complex system.

          • Posted November 7, 2014 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

            > But so many other things could “cause” avg temps to change over decades that we don’t have an experiment with the proper controls.

            Do you mean that antropogenic CO2 emissions are not the dominant force beyond the modern Earth climate?

            While it can sound like blasphemy to a die-hard AGW alarmists, most scientists kind of agree with you. Read, for example, the famous Cook’s assessment of scientific consensus, and, more specifically its supplement that contains actual data.

            Most scientists are on either 3 or 4 level of AGW endorsement (see Table
            S5). It means that they admit only two facts:

            1) Humans emit some amounts of CO2
            2) CO2 is a greenhouse gas.

            Note that endorsement of the hypothesis that human emissions are somehow dominant is so marginal amount scientists, that Cook even did not include a number of them in Table
            S5.

            I cannot help wondering how many people shout about global warming withour reading any sources on it besides other alarmists’ blogs.

            • Posted November 7, 2014 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

              I cannot help wondering how many people shout about global warming withour reading any sources on it besides other alarmists’ blogs.

              Y’know, that is pretty profoundly insulting to a lot of the people here. I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but I’m sure many of us have done a lot more than read “other alarmists’ blogs.”

              What most of us have done is learn how to distinguish crap from the AGW-denialist echo chamber, with its endlessly recycled talking points, from the genuine science.

              • Posted November 7, 2014 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

                Do you claim that only IPCC does genuine science, and everyone else does crap? Check Cook’s work again (the first link is broken, here is the fixed link).

                For those who have no time, it means that according to IPCC itself, out of 539 papers, 264 are neutral to AGW, 206 implicitly endorse AGW, 38 explicitly endorse AGW and 0 claim that antropogenic factors are dominant.

                This is far for consensus.

                AGW is still a thing under research, not a well-proven truth. It may be true, and may be false.

              • Posted November 7, 2014 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

                By your own logic, you may be a shill for BP, or you may be a shill for ExxonMobil, or you may just be somebody gullible enough to swallow their propaganda. The question is still under research.

                b&

              • Posted November 7, 2014 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

                Well, I can claim too that AGW is a conspiracy of penguin people who want to hasten the next glacial period.

                Enough of humour, what is your evidence for consensus?

        • Timothy Hughbanks
          Posted November 7, 2014 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

          I would add that Gavin Schmidt is being too forgiving. The “pause” that is so popular among deniers is itself a result of cherry-picking a start date of 1998, but the pause itself only refers to surface temperatures and Gavin let’s her off the hook on that even though he knows that surface temperatures are the tail wagging the dog; 93% of the heat capacity of the geosphere (or of its thermal inertia) is in the oceans. Heating of the oceans haven’t paused at all. I would add that we’re talking about measurements, not modeling. As for whether this is anthropogenic, this is addressed by the IPCC thoroughly – but one thing is certain: there is no alternative hypothesis out there at all.

    • Posted November 7, 2014 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

      Oh, please, spare us this sort of stuff.

  20. Shwell Thanksh
    Posted November 7, 2014 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    Stephen Colbert is a national treasure, and makes me laugh every time.

    I keep waiting for one of those chuckleheads to follow up his “I’m not a scientist” dodge with, “Not only am I not a scientist, I can’t even begin to know how to tell the difference between an actual scientist and an obvious corporate shill paid to obfuscate the overwhelming consensus of actual scientists in order to sustain profits based on dumping CO2 into the environment!”

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted November 8, 2014 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

      Great comment! This seems like the right place to post a link to this cartoon.

  21. Posted November 8, 2014 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Hilarious video!

  22. Posted November 8, 2014 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    I’m no theologian, but I’m pretty sure the rising seas have 0 to 100% to do with God’s wrath.


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