— Chris Mooney, with an Important News Update by Joe Romm
Washington, D.C.—In a move that came as a shock both in this city and throughout the planet on which it is located, Standard & Poor’s late Monday downgraded Earth from its unique HHH rating—the only one in the galaxy—to HH+.
The coveted HHH rating—meaning, “extremely habitable”—has become indefensible, the ratings agency said, due to continuing failures to balance the atmospheric carbon budget and an increasingly toxic political debate that renders better policies unlikely any time soon.
“Atmospheric carbon inputs continue to outweigh carbon outputs (or sinks), leading to a growing and unsustainable carbon ‘surplus,’” wrote S&P. “Unlike fiscal surpluses, this surplus is very dangerous and is already triggering rising temperatures, heat waves, droughts, and extreme weather patterns.”
Under the new HH+ rating, the Earth is still considered “highly habitable” for humans. However, S&P also changed the planet’s outlook to “negative,” suggesting the possibility of further downgrades.
Critics Cite Dearth of Spaceships
Criticism came fast and furious. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change agreed with S&P about the threat of global warming, but made numerous obscure and highly technical criticisms of its carbon calculations, and then sent these to American journalists who don’t understand the word “albedo” and can’t even convert Celsius to Fahrenheit.
“This is not their area of expertise,” said the IPCC in a written statement. “However, we cannot explain ourselves further without peer review. Our next report will be out in about five years.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was even more scathing. “Even as S&P downgraded Earth, investors—those who choose to live here—are proving the silliness of this action,” said Chamber spokesman Terry Form. “If the Earth had really become less habitable, market forces would kick in, and we would see a booming spaceship industry. That’s just not happening.”
One rare supporter of S&P’s decision was the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute, popularly known as SETI, located in Mountain View, CA.
“Look, there’s only a snowball’s chance in hell that we’re going to hear from another intelligent civilization,” said SETI senior astronomer Carly Sagan. “But we’re going to keep trying, and thanks to S&P we’ll probably get more funding. As this action shows, Earth’s residents need something to pin their hopes on right now.”
The search for extrasolar planets also proceeds apace, but so far no planet orbiting any star has received a rating close to Earth’s. The next closest is Mars at “-H,” meaning habitable only after vast improvements.
Mars itself was downgraded during the 1990s, once S&P realized that the Face on Mars was merely an optical illusion (a flub that some charge has significantly undermined the agency’s credibility).
Denialism Blamed, Blame Denied
In a recent interview, S&P senior director Troy Easter gave rare insight into one critical factor behind his agency’s action–citing a group of so-called carbon budget “deniers” who have become increasingly prominent in Washington and on the world stage.
“These people are willing to hold a gun to the planet’s head,” Easter said. “Without them, no carbon balancing can happen. And they don’t even think escalating atmospheric carbon dioxide is a problem.”
“This is not the kind of rhetoric you expect to find on triple-H rated planets,” Easter said.
So-called climate skeptics and their political supporters quickly fired back at S&P—even as they also blamed U.S. President Barack Obama for the ratings downgrade and the carbon budget gap, and also for continuing to try to reason with them and showing inadequate leadership.
“Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased dramatically during his term,” said Republican Rep. Michele Badlands, who display a chart comparing the Obama administration’s emissions with those of the George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan governments. “And anyways, planets have shown a remarkable ability to ‘breathe back in’ carbon, when not weighed down by Big Government.”
For that reason, Badlands said, even though she blamed Obama for the ratings change, she wasn’t actually worried about it. “Carbon is good for life,” she said, reiterating a familiar campaign slogan. “Plus, it’s my favorite color.”
S&P’s Easter responded to Badlands’ comments with uncharacteristic bluntness. “We downgraded the planet because of Looney Tunes like her,” he said. “We weren’t explicit enough in explaining our last downgrade—of the United States—so read my lips: Carbon budget deniers are to blame. That’s ‘B-L-A-M-E.’”
At the end of his interview, Easter waxed philosophical.
“In a way, we’re glad that SETI is getting involved,” he said. “They should start the hunt for terrestrial intelligence, too.”
Markets Party on News
Responding to the downgrade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average clocked its best day ever, soaring 1,000 points to 12,200.
Some male residents of Earth, dressed in suits, were observed performing chest bumps on the floor of the New York Stock Exhange.
China, meanwhile, announced billions in new investments in clean energy, and a ramping up of its space program.
Just in case you missed it, this is a spoof, inspired by this article, “S&P: Debt default skeptics fueled ratings downgrade.”
— Chris Mooney
“Humanity is the only species that gets to name all the species including itself, an obvious conflict of interest, as if say, rating agencies could rate the credit of countries whose credit ratings they themselves had destroyed through bad ratings…. Uh, where was I? Oh, yes, we have for a long time called ourselves ‘wise’ twice, dressing it up in Latin to show how doubly clever we supposedly are. But where is the proof? Since we are destroying the planet’s livability, our very own habitat, we are dropping one of the sapiens. Provisionally, we are also recommending putting the other one in quotes, so we are Homo “sapiens,” at least until we see whether we are in fact smart enough to save ourselves from self-destruction.”
- Is the global economy a Ponzi scheme?
- A stunning year in climate science reveals that human civilization is on the precipice
Below are old comments from the earlier Facebook commenting system:
- Paul Magnus · Top Commenter
Has anyone wondered…. Is Rick Perry an alien?
Paul Magnus · Top Commenter
“…suggested that some Republicans “do not want to see this economy get better” because they know continuing misery will likely improve their election prospects.”
David Metzger · Top Commenter
From Deutche Welle..
Climate Consciousness at the Melt! Festival
Utilizing rail transport, solar panels, and electricity-producing bicycles, and communal phone charging stations, young people from across Western Europe have converged on the German industrial museum of Ferropolis for the annual Melt! music festival. http://www.newslook.com/videos/339784-climate-consciousness-at-the-melt-festival?autoplay=true
otte_17 (signed in using Yahoo)
“In a way, we’re glad that SETI is getting involved,” he said. “They should start the hunt for terrestrial intelligence, too.”.
That quote was the icing on the cake for me. This article was too funny.
all clever methods of the polluters/plutocrats.
are they becoming nervous?
Jeffrey Davis · Top Commenter
Junk bonds on habitability? monetizing our demise? The Koch brothers are waaaaay out ahead of satire on that one.
LOL. Thanks for the morning half-smile, half-frown.
Never go to sea in a boat you would not be proud to have as your coffin.
LOL, yes, please submit to The Onion!
James Hwang · Top Commenter (signed in using Hotmail)
This could be a great Onion article.
Paul Magnus · Top Commenter
Lifeboats and tinned food will be the next growth industry the way we are going. For a breath of sanity can I recommend David Fleming and his book ‘Lean Logic’.
IPCC Scientists are stuck on the idea that since a chemist was awarded the Nobel prize 100 years ago for an experiment on greenhouse gases, they are never going to doubt his results for planet Earth. First of all, the atmosphere of earth is not a chemistry lab. 2nd. CO2 is the final stage of carbon in its oxidation state meaning that it has little energy to change anything. 3rd. It takes the miracle(cant be duplicated by science) of photosynthesis to convert CO2 + H2O to sugars. 4th Take all the evidence gathered to support the CO2 greenhouse theory and apply it to Organic Carbon compounds and you have a useful theory. Humus has many H bonds and plenty of energy to supply marine bacteria. 5th Just think about what happens when water is polluted with sewage (organic carbon mostly), the BOD is increased and the fish die from Oxygen deprivation. 6th CO2 is a minor problem compared to the loss of soil from farms and deforestation causing leaching of soil into the Ocean. 7th Of course S&P are going to Downgrade the national governments who do not cooperate with the Carbon tax. They profit nothing from Conservation of natural resources like the Soil. What they want is for the People to pay taxes on the use of fossil fuels. They believe that is a step in population control but they are dead wrong. 8th Reforestation is the solution. Fossil Fuel Corporations should be taxed to pay for Reforestation.
WAter vapor absorbs far more IR radiation than does CO2 and it forms clouds, CO2 does not and loses energy quickly thus dissapating. Yes chemists can convert CO2 into sugar but not as efficiently as plants, it takes a lot of energy, which is my point. All the evidence should be pointed at DOM (dissolved organic matter) since it has far more energy to input the ecosystem. Learn your thermodynamics before you leap into a pseudoscientific discussion of your own making.
CO2 has a narrow absorption spectrum and low heat capacity, does not form clouds and can not trap heat of any great volume in the atmos to affect a climate change. You read too many old text books, Earthling. Cosmic rays make the difference between the Cambrian Age and Our Modern Age with Oxygen. There has been a great amount of evolution since then with phytoplankton.
“Has anyone wondered…. Is Rick Perry an alien?”
He’s worse than that. Hick Perry is a Seven Mountains Dominionist.
Dear Eaarth people;.
Read this for a new view of your planet.
With love form conversations with a star.
The Republicans — the party of burn baby, burn.
This article is hilarious. Michele Badlands…lol
More like “homo sap” I would say…
You have to laugh to keep from crying…
John McCormick · Top Commenter
Lauren, could you please expand on that thought. I’m beginning to wonder what is your major.