Open Thread

A cyber-penny for your thoughts (on any subject, not just the cartoon).


36 Responses to Open Thread

  1. Rebecca says:

    I am just a regular gal in Louisiana thinking of taking my husband and two kids to DC for the Nov 6 Keystone XL Pipeline protest. What can I expect? Is that crazy? Joe, will you be there?

  2. cervantes says:

    What this country needs is a better class of plutocrats. That they would (secretly, of course) finance a movement that wants to undo the Enlightenment and lead the country back to the 12th Century, in the process destroying the economy and ravaging the biosphere, in the service of their short-term greed, is actually kind of hard to believe. But that’s what they are doing. These Republican pols are just marionettes, and the Jesus talk is just a trick. What it’s really all about is nihilistic avarice on the part of people who already have more than they can possibly use. We are in the thrall of psychopaths.

  3. Joe Romm says:

    It is a great idea. I’ll ask McKibben to do a post on what to expect. I don’t know yet if I’ll be there.

  4. Jeff Huggins says:

    Discomfort Zones

    Over the last five or six years or so — less time than many folks here, but still enough to get a sense of things — I’ve “engaged” with folks from a very wide range of disciplines, professions, and institutions regarding the question of what can (should, must, etc.) be done to address climate change.

    Among all the folks who are deeply concerned about climate change, that characteristic (being deeply concerned) is the most common characteristic, i.e., the characteristic that they share in common. (Of course, this is true by definition, the way I’ve stated it.) But what is the second-most-common characteristic that they share? In my experience, it’s this:

    In my view, the one or two things that it would be most helpful for any given profession, discipline, or institution to do, in order to help society begin to wake up and address climate change, are the things that the profession, discipline, or institution is least willing to do because they fall outside their specific comfort zone.

    In other words, each profession, discipline, and institution has a comfort zone attached to how it defines itself and to its conventional and self-limited role in society. These comfort zones are all different. But it is the staying-within all these comfort zones that enables, and indeed fuels, climate change and our inability to address it. In many cases, the single thing that would be most helpful for profession, discipline, or institution X to do, is the thing that profession, discipline, or institution X is uncomfortable doing, given how it sees itself.

    So everyone stays within his/her conventional and institutionalized comfort zone — his/her “adopted and habituated behavioral niche” within society == and nothing changes; together, we enable the problems of public confusion and climate change to proceed and grow. My point here is NOT that only oil company execs and Republican politicians have comfort zones that they stay within, that fuel the problem. No. Instead, the point is that most scientists have comfort zones that they aren’t willing to reconsider and stretch, or step out of; that most members of the media have comfort zones that they aren’t willing to reconsider and stretch, or step out of; that most academics do too; that most management consultants do too; that most theologians and religious leaders do too; and even that most climate change bloggers do too; and (admittedly) we all do; and together these comfort zones all result in a perpetual status-quo machine, more or less.

    Long ago, in the free speech movement at Berkeley, Mario Savio said something about throwing your body into the gears of the machine to keep it from working. To stay within one’s adopted, habituated, institutionalized “comfort zone” is to be part of the gears of the machine, as it currently works — to be part of the climate-change creating, status-quo perpetuating machine. On the other hand, to step out of one’s comfort zone, and to do the one or two things that members of your discipline, profession, or institution probably ought to do, and will need to do if we’re to address climate change, but are least comfortable doing, is (figuratively speaking) to begin to throw one’s body into the gears, at least to get the gears’ attention and start them moving in different ways.

    This is not some made-up idea, and I realize that I could be much more concrete if I spent more time writing. I’ve met and corresponded with scientists, reporters, a range of academics, philosophers, business folks, and etc., and almost invariably this is the case (with very few exceptions): the thing that would be most helpful for the person to do, given his/her concern about climate change and (indeed) his/her platform and expertise, is often the very thing that his/her profession, discipline, or institution makes it deeply uncomfortable to do according to its own self-definition and conventional parameters. And I’m not “merely” talking about the risk of losing a job, clients, or money in other ways. I’m talking about the ingrained ideas about what is “appropriate”, or “not appropriate”, for a scientist (or academic, or reporter, or Democratic pundit, or think-tank person, or etc. etc.) to do. Together, those ingrained ideas — and our robot-like willingness to accept and follow them, even as the world heats up — are part of the problem and undermine our ability to face and address it.

    Many more people will need to be willing to stretch their comfort zones and enter their discomfort zones, if positive change is to take place.

  5. John Levering says:

    What if the Occupy Wall Street nationwide protesters would channel their focus which includes concerns on global warming into an even larger force for change – Americans Elect and nominate a third party presidential candidate? He or She could give their issues a much larger national audience and impact including getting the details out.

  6. My friends and family are largly resigned to the end of the world as we knew it.

    Hunger among the poorer of us, due to the rising costs of food, especially for those who have no access to community gardens.

    Middle class will struggle to pay for gas to go to work.

    An economy that persistently fails to thrive because it depends on growth… and because the buying class (as opposed to the job creator class) has no money to buy anything but necessities.

    More banks fail when people walk away from their homes in droves, because the home is worth less than they owe, and will be for a decade or more.

    Resilient communities will crop up everywhere… but there will be more who wish to join than room to accommodate them.

    Those left out? Well, we can guess.

  7. Peter Mizla says:

    The GOP may appeal to those living in a twisted world of denial- or in states that will be decimated by climate change in years to come.

    In both cases it will end up as a very unhappy ending.

  8. cervantes says:

    In other words, you want to try to throw the 2012 election to whatever refugee from the 12th Century the Republicans manage to nominate. Great idea.

  9. Tim says:

    Now, now, let’s not exaggerate. They don’t intend to take us back any further than the 14th century – feudalism was still flourishing that “late”.

  10. DRT says:

    Here are statements of the obvious. First, the/an/one of the ultimate goals of the environmental and climate movement is to maintain a livable climate for the plants, animals and humans that ‘grew up’ in the pre-anthropocene. Second, to achieve this we need a price on negative externalities, i.e. a tax on carbon, a fee on GHG pollution… .

    There are a myriad of environmental and climate organizations, institutes, groups, blogs, etc.. The organizations represent various constituencies and have various goals whether its save the pandas or promote green jobs or raise awareness or stop the XL pipeline or save coral reefs or promote green energy or raise energy efficiency or protect winter for snow sports or whatever. All these are excellent and worthy goals but they all fall under ‘maintain a livable climate’, and it seems there is a lack of coordination amongst all these organizations. If we are all in a boat tacking generally towards ‘maintain a livable climate’ some of us are rowing, some are paddling, some are trying to hoist sails, some are trying to fire up the bio-diesel engines, and some are putting up solar panels to power the highly efficient electric motors.

    So it seems like we are generally moving towards various goals that are more or less in the same direction but, not efficiently or in a well organized fashion. And I think that putting a price on negative externalities is at least in synch with, if not subsuming of other goals. I believe its been stated many times in this blog that we need a price on carbon and that is a prerequisite for progress.

    So….Joe, Bill McKibben, Dr. Hansen, Lester Brown, Auden Schendler, Fred Krup… there coordination amongst the various organizations? Obviously you Joe communicate with many of these folks. But do EDF and WWF and NRDC and Nature Conservancy and Earth Policy Institute and Rocky Mountain Institute and Blue Sky and etc. etc. talk to each other? Is there coordination going on behind the scenes?

    All this rambling is to say that if the various organizations could agree on the message: “Climate change is real. We need a price on carbon” As you’ve said many times Joe, in order to get a message across you have to repeat it and repeat it and repeat it, and then you might begin to get heard. So if all the various organizations could agree on and repeat the same message it might get heard sooner and we might make better progress.

    If this coordination is not happening, and it doesn’t seem like it is, how do we make it happen?

  11. david g swanger says:

    Joe, I’d like to ask for or about three things:

    1)I’d like to see your comments about a piece in National Journal online about retired Republicans such as George Schulz working behind the scenes to make the party less anti-science on climate issues. First hopeful note on this point I’ve heard in a while. Do you think it might make a difference?

    2) Though peak oil is not the primary focus of this site, there’s been interviews with Daniel Yergin and publicity about his new book (there’s an interview at Salon for instance)in which he denies that peak oil is a problem, though thankfully he thinks that global warming is a very serious one. What do you think of his comments (or book, if you’ve had a chance to look at it)?

    3) Several weeks ago (can’t seem to find it at the moment), you mentioned you had been talking to scientists about important new data that indicated things were worse than ever, and you would do a major piece about it soon. Was that the one that appeared earlier this week, or is there more to come?

    Thanks in advance for your attention, Joe.

  12. David Smith says:

    Has anyone ever considered the idea that we should charge rent or make a lease arrangement with polluters for their use of the commons (the air, water & soil)? The lease would be based on how much and for how long the polluter would require storage. The how long would be based on the length of time that it would take for the system to return to its pre-pollution state. If the commons belong to all of us by definition then we should be reimbursed by individuals or other legal entities who use it for their own personal gain.

    Nobody likes to pay taxes. Cap & Trade seems complicated and easy to manipulate by powerful interests. Everyone understands paying rent for use of things that they do not own.

  13. Mark says:

    Youre forgetting Newtons 3rd law. If nothing pulls the opposite direction from the Tea Party, a good chunk of the left get dragged across what USED to be the center. If left unchecked, Dems and Repubs differ mainly by how far to the right they are. Which is why Ive always felt they are all lemmings headed for the cliff, just at different rates of speed.

  14. Clark Meyer says:

    Okay, a couple of simple science questions:

    1) I’m confused about how the oceans can simultaneously be absorbing CO2 and acidifying but also releasing CO2 as they warm, constituting a positive feedback cycle. Both are worrisome, but can they somehow happen simultaneously? I’m trying to wrap my head around this one.

    2) I keep hearing about how methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 but has a relatively short lifespan in the atmosphere. Where does it “go” at the end of its lifetime? How does it degrade, and what does it turn into?

  15. Will Fox says:

    Time history of atmospheric CO2 (2011 update)

    Joe, any chance you could feature this video on your blog? It’s one of the best visualisations I’ve seen in terms of showing humanity’s impact, as the CO2 correlates perfectly with the growth of industry since 1800.

  16. dick smith says:

    Following up #1 on Keystone. This week some Madison and Milwaukee tar sands activists met with Obama’s Milwaukee office staff. I was asked to pass along my impressions of how it went to the national group for their information.

    Regrettably, as you can see, below, I used your idea(get educated/get political) to set up mine, but without any attribution. It my opinion, it is the best advice I’ve heard on GW and I wanted to pass it along to others who might benefit most from it.

    MY summary follows:

    There are two parts to this tar sands/global warming fight. First, get educated. That’s the easy part. Second, get political. That’s a little harder for most folks. But, put your foot in those waters, and you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise.

    On a Wednesday afternoon in late September, 16 Madison and Milwaukee tar sands activists–most of whom only knew each other by e-mail exchanges–organized a visit to Obama’s Milwaukee campaign headquarters. Six had been arrested in Washington. One coordinated the overall effort. Another put together the e-mail scheduler that helped select the date and time. Someone else coordinated carpooling to Milwaukee. Others drove. Several brought extra signs. Most wore their Obama pins from 2008. One brought the balloons that we were planning to slowly deflate–to show our deflated view of Obama. (Interestingly, we forgot to deflate them until the TV reporter asked us when we were going to do it; clearly, that visual was something she wanted.) And, one person drafted a letter that was circulated by e-mail only the evening before. For dozens more who couldn’t atttend but wanted to sign, their names were typed onto the bottom. The rest of us signed it just before going into the Obama office.

    The Obama staff had misunderstood the nature of the visit…and kept trying to get us to come back another day when we could speak to the “right” people. But, collectively (and with some ad hoc firmness) we insisted that our message to them was more important than the “important national conference call” that they had to attend to “in 5 minutes.” They stayed. They listened. The TV camera rolled.

    You know the message: “we’re Obama’s friend…but here’s WHY he needs to do the right thing on this issue…AND the level of our support in the future will be strongly influenced by what he does on the tar sands, etc.” Not everyone spoke, but most said something.

    The Madison group and Milwaukee group met about 2:15 p.m. near the Obama office. By 3:30 p.m., we were done and on our way back to Madison. We agreed it beat our expectations by far.

    The point is, as loosely organized as we were, it worked out very well. The Obama staff grabbed their cell phones to get instructions from higher ups. (They know we were there.) They also know we’ll be there when they open in Madison. And, Milwaukee’s CBS affiliate ran their story about it that evening. It’s not accurate to report, as they did, that we threatened to vote against him, but that’s quibbling.

    Finally, back to that “pleasant surprise” I mentioned. We were an odd mix of 16 mostly strangers. For some people, that sounds intimidating. But, if you “get political” on this issue, the experience has a lot of parallels to the movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

    You’re among strangers, but they really do understand you. They’ve recently been through the same educational process you’ve been through. They’ve developed the same shared (unfortunately, rather apocalyptic) “vision” of what might happen. And, unlike some of your closest friends, these strangers don’t find your recent passion for saving the world from global warming even a wee bit strange. Like you, they’re motivated by a desire to drive 100 miles to Milwaukee (OK, it’s not Devil’s Tower) on a Wednesday afternoon to protest at our the offices of the our friend, Obama.

    For those of you in other cities who are considering it, but haven’t yet comitted to get off the computer and out the door…trust me. This small exercise will build your sense of community in a way that all the e-mails and letters you’ve sent just can’t match.

    Dick Smith
    Madison, Wisconsin

  17. Lisa Boucher says:

    Or … Republicans go over the cliff at 100 mph, while Democrats go over at the posted speed limit.

    So where does that leave us? It seems that electoral politics is a broken tool. I think we need to search the “toolbox” for other tools to solve the climate crisis.

  18. dick smith says:

    It’s hard to improve on a former mayor of Boston who, according to Lawrence O’Donell, said: “Don’t compare me to the almighty, compare me to the alternative.”

  19. Rebecca says:

    Wow. Thanks. Loved reading this. I think we are going to do it! Our DC hosts (my best friend from high school) thinks we’re crazy and will be a football game on Nov 6 but said they’d come bail us out afterwards if need be. ;-)

  20. Will Koroluk says:

    A new report tells us of a huge hole that has opened in the ozone layer over the arctic, affecting Canada, Russia and other northern countries. This comes at a time when the Canadian government is closing out its ozone-layer monitoring efforts and muzzling its climate scientists.
    Read it and weep.

  21. Lisa Boucher says:

    Clark — This post by Eli Rabett explains the chemistry of atmospheric methane decomposition.

    The basic idea is that free radicals are formed by solar energy, and those radicals attack methane.

    If only it were as easy for radicals to break down Koch Industries …

  22. Colorado Bob says:

    Important minerals that many of us are only vaguely aware of, like molybdenum, cadmium and selenium, are also becoming scarce and expensive.

    Of all the copper ever mined in the history of the world, half has been pulled out of the ground just in the last 25 years, he said. And of all the oil humanity has ever burned, we’ve consumed half of that in that same quarter-century — and the pace is increasing, said Matthews.

    Coal, one energy source the U.S. has in abundance, has tripled in price in the past couple of years.

    The U.S. has large reserves of coal and natural gas, but China wants to tap into those, too, he said.

    Between 1990 and 2010, China doubled its coal consumption. China produced all its own coal up through 2006, but no more, he said. “They are looking to buy coal throughout the United States,” he said.

    China’s consumption of iron ore, copper, concrete and many other resources has climbed astronomically over the past two decades; for many resources, the Asian nation is now both the No. 1 producer in the world and the No. 1 consumer.

    “The numbers in China are just astounding. I can recite them, but I can’t really comprehend them,” Matthews said.

  23. Tim says:

    I’d love to see a critical review of Dow Chemical’s new Solar Shingles. They’re supposed to be available later this year, but perhaps one of Climate Progress’s people can get them now for a review of their performance.

  24. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Start preparing your kids for “No hat, no play”.

    That’s what our littlies got used to years ago when the Antarctic hole opened up, ME

  25. Michael Hillinger says:


    You may have seen the news items on this. I had a chance to ask Rick Perry about his sources for evidence at a NH town hall meeting last Friday. I posted the question and links to his response (as reported in the press) as well as a C-Span video of the entire exchange at my FB page “Climate Change and the Presidential Primaries”

  26. webwires says:

    I’m beginning to think that climate change will actually be good for humanity. It will finally put an end to the right wing ideology. That side of the debate will officially and utterly discredited forever. It will also forever change our economies and force us to create a sustainable future. Finally, it will force humanity to finally work together because fixing the problem will be a global effort.

    It may be sad that it will cost so many innocent lives but I’m just hoping that we can build something better when climate reality forces us to look in the mirror.

  27. David B. Benson says:

    It will become worse.

    Much worse.

  28. nyc-tornado10 says:

    Anyone here post about the koch brothers illegally doing business with iran? Here’s the story.

  29. Lisa Boucher says:

    It’s no coincidence that the ranks of vociferous climate deniers are dominated by aging white men. The necessary remedies to the climate crisis present a deep and abiding threat to their PRIVILEGE as a class with the most wealth and power. They derive the greatest personal benefit from the fossil-fueled status quo. Add calcified, entrenched cognition from old age, and the result is a classic obstinate reactionary.

    Fossil fuel and fossil thinking go hand in hand.

    But these are only the vociferous cranks. My sense is that most people fall into a category of “mild” climate denial. They are moderately open to reasoned argument, but there proclivity is to deny that there is a crisis.

    For denial such as this, psychologists offer useful insight. I have been especially impressed by the work of George Marshall.

  30. Lisa Boucher says:

    type correction: THEIR proclivity …

    And I forgot to include the three-part video of an excellent lecture by George Marshall:

    Part 1Risk Perception, Social Construction of Belief, Norms of Attention

    “Knowing or not knowing is a political act,” and Marshall found that “people defend their moral integrity against this information.”

    Part 2Competing Narratives and Worldviews

    Although AGW is arguably the greatest human rights issue of all time, Marshall found that organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have made a deliberate decision to ignore the issue.

    Part 3Distancing the Problem, Compartmentalizing, Framing the Issue, Ethical Offsets

    Marshall speculates that many people will eventually react with nihilism. “If the science starts telling us we are beyond the point of no return, I think we can open up the [Pandora’s] Box for a whole range of utterly aberrant responses … [including] aggressive scapegoating and projection.”

  31. Tim says:

    Not a chance. Even as the market was collapsing in 2008, right-wingers were spewing propaganda that blamed the financial collapse on everything and everyone but the idiotic deregulators, ideologues, and crooks to whom the blame belonged. By January 2009, I was seeing Cato institute videos spouting the lie that the New Deal worsened the depression, despite the fact that in the years 1933-1940, the US experienced highest average year-over-year economic growth in the last century. Two years after the worst financial collapse in 80 years – one precipitated by the victory of right-wing deregulators, Americans went to the polls and put enough Tea-partiers into office to paralyze the government.

    Fascists would undoubtedly try to exploit chaos engendered by climate change – fear and insecurity are like mothers milk to those guys. There is no guarantee that the right would not be successful in deflecting the blame, particularly since what passes for the “left” is so pitifully weak and vacillating.

  32. Pangolin` says:

    Increasingly I see communities, then regions, then nations focusing their efforts not on maintaining economic, political or military goals but on mere survival due to extreme weather. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Somalia are going to be early example but some (larger) area in the U.S. is likely to see collapse relatively soon.

    At some point climate change denial gets replace by panic in a large portion of the population. The panic will probably not be helpful.

  33. BenjaminG says:

    Clark wrote: “I’m confused about how the oceans can simultaneously be absorbing CO2 and acidifying but also releasing CO2 as they warm, constituting a positive feedback cycle. Both are worrisome, but can they somehow happen simultaneously? I’m trying to wrap my head around this one.”

    They do not happen simultaneously. Currently the oceans absorb CO2 and are acidifying. As they warm, they will absorb less CO2, so more of what we emit will stay in the air. At some point, we don’t know when, if they keep warming, they will stop absorbing CO2 and start emitting it.

  34. Mark says:

    Spoken like a true believer in the unified money machine trying to make us think there are two different parties in the USA. However, you can also say that the lesser of two evils is still evil.

    From a deep ecology perspective, the gap between the repubs and dems is a fiction, because their common foundation is nonstop economic growth, and because the corporations buy access to leaders from both parties the rest of the noise is windowdressing. Its a single money machine, with artificial flavorings to give the impression of substantive difference.

    Except NOTHING grows forever, and that includes the economy.

    Don’t compare me to the Almighty, compare me to irrationality. A vote for either repubs or dems is a vote for perpetuation of the global ponzi scheme.

    Lets see if I can make this work: