Roger Ebert On Climate Change

Ebert: “I have watched with a kind of petrified fascination in recent years as the world creeps closer to what looks to me like disastrous climate change.”

Roger Ebert, the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize, died yesterday from cancer at the age of 70. He had remained astonishingly prolific even after complications from surgery in 2006 left him unable to speak.

Ebert had become the most famous and perhaps most influential film critic in the country thanks to the popular TV series, Sneak Previews, originally launched with rival critic Gene Siskel.

You may not be aware that Ebert was also a strong progressive voice, as Think Progress relates in its piece, “The Five Best Things Roger Ebert Said About Politics.”

Shortly before he died, Ebert posted a piece about global warming, “New seasons with new names.”  Here is an extended excerpt from that piece, with the image that accompanied it:

I have watched with a kind of petrified fascination in recent years as the world creeps closer to what looks to me like disastrous climate change. The poles are melting. Ocean levels are rising. The face of the planet is torn by unprecedented natural disasters. States of emergency have become so routine that governors always seem to be proclaiming one. Do they have drafts of proclamations on file?
The political responses to this condition seem to fall along party lines. Democrats think legislation is needed Republicans don’t want the feds interfering with private enterprise. Vested interests weigh in. Pork barrel projects are protected by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Washington fiddles. Earth burns.

I get stirred up more than many people, because I see so many documentaries. Yes, they’re “biased.” There’s much less motivation for an “unbiased” documentary. Docs are usually made by people who have something they think you should know. There is little motivation for objectivity, something people forget when yet another doc comes along. And there are so many causes! Genetically modified crops! Chemical fertilizers! Trademarked genomes! The downside to wind power! An explosive-blowing doc like Chasing Ice comes along, and hardly causes a stir.

I write an entry. It rounds up the usual comments. We’re stuck. Just today, however, a glimmer of hope shone on the political front. I read on Bloomberg:

“President Barack Obama is preparing to tell all federal agencies for the first time that they should consider the impact on global warming before approving major projects, from pipelines to highways.”

“Consider.” Not the most electrifying word I can imagine. Yet consider the response. I read on: “It’s got us very freaked out,” said Ross Eisenberg, vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, a Washington-based group that represents 11,000 companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and Southern Co. The standards, which constitute guidance for agencies and not new regulations, are set to be issued in the coming weeks, according to lawyers briefed by administration officials.

“Freaked out.” You know what has me freaked out? I consider it a real possibility that millions now living will die as a result of the interests of the National Association of Manufacturers and its 11,000 members….

This time the enemy, if we can use the word in this context, is an American lobbyist group. They seem focused on maximizing profits and shareholder benefits, at the cost of any environmental conscience. It seems possible that their policies will lead to a different kind of seasonal calendar. Instead of Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall, this new generation will know Blizzard, Flood, Heat and Fire. Month follows month as the seasons tear themselves apart.

Roger Ebert will be missed.

50 Responses to Roger Ebert On Climate Change

  1. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Mr Ebert stated things pretty succinctly, and identified humanity’s enemy, the business caste, quite tellingly. However, where did his opinions appear? Why does the nauseatingly falsely labeled ‘Free Press’ suppress this sort of truth, but publish huge festering mountains of moronic untruth?

  2. Superman1 says:

    President Obama is doing, and will do, exactly what the electorate want on climate: nothing!

  3. M Tucker says:

    Yes, Roger Ebert will be missed and he is absolutely correct. Million, many millions, will suffer and die because of the interest groups that represent a tiny fraction of the world’s total. A slim minority hold billions hostage. It is too bad Ebert’s voice will no longer be added to those who are trying to keep Obama honest about considering the global warming impacts of Keystone.

  4. Lou Grinzo says:

    I’ve said it many times, and will continue to say it: We will not deviate significantly from our business as usual/self-destructive course until something makes us do so. Call it factor X.

    The climate change problem is so broad, so deep, and so complex that X can’t be a single tech. breakthrough. It will have to be a push from the voters and consumers, and by “push” I mean a primal scream so loud that it drowns out the ideologues and those with a financial or political or other interest in burning fossil fuels as fast as we can.

    What will trigger that scream, that furious, incessant, howling demand for change? There are only two possibilities:

    1. The pain from CC impacts grows to awful levels that can no longer be ignored by the masses.

    2. We find a way to reach out to all those currently-unengaged consumers and voters, show them what’s at stake and how urgent the situation truly is, and help organize them.

  5. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Yes, the seasons are tearing themselves apart. It’s the ‘squabbling season’ here, a very noisy period where the migrating birds sort it out with the permanent residents. However, by my reckoning, it’s about a month late. It’s far too warm, my tomatoes are still growing, ripening and even flowering and the ants show no sign of retreating to the nests, ME

  6. Chris Winter says:

    “Now cracks a noble heart…”

  7. Steve in Miami says:


    In a previous comment, you mentioned 3 papers that made you appear “optimistic” (IIRC). I have read your posts and you are about as pessimistic as they come, so I’m curious if you could paraphrase what you read for us.

  8. Merrelyn Emery says:

    I think the whole world would cheer if you could get your compatriots to howl like a pack of dingos Lou. Keep it up, ME

  9. Superman1 says:

    ‘Pessimistic’ would be to interpret reality worse than it is. I interpret reality as it is. That’s known as ‘realistic’.

  10. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Please Steve, just ignore him, ME

  11. Superman1 says:

    Look at any post at NatureBatsLast. Look at Arctic News, 12 March, Aaron Franklin.

  12. Superman1 says:

    Arctic News, 12 March, Aaron Franklin.

  13. Superman1 says:

    Detailed response is blocked.

  14. Superman1 says:

    “We will not deviate significantly from our business as usual/self-destructive course”

    That’s all that needs to be said.

  15. Lou Grinzo says:

    Bull. That’s not what I said or meant.

    We will have our epiphany and we will take action. I have zero doubt on those two points. The only question is how long will it take and how much pain will we inflict on ourselves through delay.

  16. Joe Romm says:

    Not that I can see.

  17. prokaryotes says:

    Test trial convicts fossil fuel bosses of ‘ecocide’

    Top lawyers put fossil fuel bosses on trial in the UK’s supreme court in a mock case to explore if ecocide – environmental destruction – could join genocide as a global crime

  18. Sasparilla says:

    You speak the truth so eloquently Lou, good reply there as well.

    I’m hoping (for #2) the movement continues to gather strength and power in the coming years so that when the initial arctic melt out occurs (a rather historic event) we will be large enough and engaged enough to force things to happen (as in millions in D.C. led by students)…to me that looks like the next big opportunity on the foreseeable train tracks to make a serious push at change, depends on alot of course (although something sooner would be nice).

    I’m already looking forward (2016?) to getting handcuffed at the WH with Dr. Hansen…late September/October is always a nice time of year in D.C..

  19. Sasparilla says:

    Very, very, very nice…great link prokaryotes.

  20. Sasparilla says:

    Fantastic article Joe and what a message…Ebert was extraordinary…

    Now on to making sure his words / message was not in vain.

  21. Steve in Miami says:

    I think I got it, thanks Joe and ME.

    Reality is bad enough as it is….there is no need for any of us to exaggerate for effect.

  22. Jacob says:

    Bingo. A lot of people don’t know the difference between the two.

  23. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    This is excellent and long overdue. The Big Business genocidists and their political and MSM stooges must be made aware that the human beings, when they finally gain power and set to repairing the planet’s biospheres, are not just going to ‘forgive and forget’ the greatest crime in human history. Not by a long chalk. Hopefully it will ‘concentrate their minds’ and provoke a steadily increasing stream of defectors and whistle-blowers.

  24. prokaryotes says:

    Yes but since repairing is probably not possible (it takes about 100k years to create a ecosystem) and we are still held hostage to the system which is profoundly changing our future planet habitability.

  25. Superman1 says:


    Because you were not specific about which comment you referenced, I gave other references. Relative to those three papers, the analysis and types of results obtained by David Wasdell would be closest, with the exception that the three people who sent them to me are credible trained and practicing scientists.

  26. Superman1 says:

    “Reality is bad enough as it is….there is no need for any of us to exaggerate for effect.”

    What about the originating statement above do you find an ‘exaggeration’?

  27. Superman1 says:

    The D-J Index is at record levels; why? The investors know that ‘all of the above’ is the code for unlimited fossil fuel until the last reserves are used up. This, in turn, will create the greatest growth industry civilization has ever known – climate adaptation – thereby ‘fueling’ greater profits. A perfect symbiosis! What’s not to like?

  28. Superman1 says:

    Forget about what Obama says. When we examine the ACTIONS of the leaders of e.g. USA, Canada, Australia, etc, and the insatiable DEMANDS of their citizens for the products that only cheap fossil energy can supply, we need to realize that the increasing fossil use projections by the major governmental, inter-governmental, and energy organizations far into the future are probably UNDER-estimates of what will occur. That’s real-world analysis, not fantasy or wishful thinking.

  29. Steve in Miami says:

    Here is what you wrote on March 11:

    “In the past month, I’ve received three emails from three different researchers addressing variations on Wasdell’s theme. I won’t cite/use them until they are peer-reviewed, but they all make my conclusions look like pure optimism.”

    You wouldn’t call that exaggeration for effect? Especially considering that Wasdell is no more pessimistic than you are (from what I can tell).

  30. Superman1 says:

    1. In his 2012 Istanbul paper, Wasdell presents a CO2 climate sensitivity figure of 7.8 C, and states, for present CO2 concentrations, “we are already committed to a further rise of 3.2 C (or 4.3 C if non-CO2 greenhouse gases are taken into account)”. I have been accepting the standard sensitivity of 3 C, but allowing for the possibility of higher numbers. I view that as a major difference, and far more pessimistic interpretation.

  31. Superman1 says:

    2. But, some of the papers I have received on this topic show even more radical numbers, and were written by scientists with impeccable credentials whom I respect. As soon as they have been peer reviewed, accepted, and posted, I can transmit them.

  32. Superman1 says:

    3. And, neither Wasdell’s nor these other computations take into account positive feedback mechanisms. I don’t believe it is an exaggeration to say that if any of these numbers have any basis in reality, there’s no way we will approach such temperatures without substantially accelerating positive feedback mechanisms. Wasdell proposes rapid drawdown to circa 300 ppm starting today.

  33. Jay Alt says:

    copy that.

  34. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    From what I have seen of the body habitus of our local plutocrats, they are anything but a ‘slim’ minority.

  35. Steve in Miami says:

    We all know the worst case Superman. The point is that you yourself believe that the worst case is the most probable case. AND you claimed that the papers that you were privy to make you look like an optimist.

    Again, seeing as you subscribe to the Wasdell/Arctic-News belief system, you are about as pessimistic as they come. So for these papers to make you look like an “optimist,” they would have to project a far worst outcome than you yourself are projecting.

    Now considering that you are predicting TEOTWAWKI in the next year or 2 (am I reading that correctly?), what possible conclusion could be so dire as to make your predictions appear optimistic?

    That is why I said you are exaggerating for effect.

  36. Superman1 says:

    “what possible conclusion could be so dire as to make your predictions appear optimistic?”

    The end point is the same; the references I quoted believe it will come sooner, my estimates add perhaps a generation or two. In neither case do we come out whole.

  37. Superman1 says:

    I am not exaggerating for ‘effect’ or any other reason. What you are seeing is my interpretation of the projected fossil fuel use data by major governmental/inter-governmental organizations, coupled with the major global climate model results and adjusted for the inclusion of positive feedback effects. I would be hard-pressed to come up with a different interpretation.

  38. Superman1 says:

    Now, I’ve given you my best estimate; what’s yours, and what is the technical/ sociopolitical foundation on which you base that estimate?

  39. Superman1 says:

    So, if I take an 8,000 mile flight for pure vacation, am I not guilty of contributing to ecocide? And, isn’t that the central problem; we are collectively responsible for this ecocide? Or, do we absolve ourselves of responsibility, and limit these laws to the suppliers?

  40. Steve in Miami says:

    My best guestimate?

    I think at this point everything comes down to the question of what happens in the Arctic and what effect will that have on the jetstream and the worlds weather.

    Over at Neven’s site, many of the experts including the poster “A-Team” (famous over there for his graphic wizardry) are predicting an ice-free Arctic this September.

    If they are right, then the question becomes “what then?”

    If you consider that last years historic drought, “summer in March,” historic floods in England and elsewhere were caused by the deformation of the jet stream, which in turn was caused by the warming Arctic, then one can only imagine what we may be facing once it goes ice-free, even for a short period.

    I’m not as concerned with the Clathrate gun as I used to be because all indications at this point are that so far it appears to be a chronic as opposed to catastrophic release. SO FAR.

    Of course then there is the problem acidifying oceans, over-fishing, over-population, peak-oil, depleting resources and on and on…

    So no, I am not optimistic, but I do hold on to some smidgen of hope that some black swan will drop kick our civillization out of it’s peaceful slumber and into meaningful action, and yes I realize it’s a bit late in the game. But without hope what do we have?

  41. Mark Belgium says:

    Superman,…(I’m tired, spend the best part of last night looking for my runaway dog) these ecocide laws could offer a platform for environmentalists to take action, create more awareness (media attention) and could end the limitless power of big industry. So, in the near future, they should arrest you if you fly 8000 miles. See you in court.

  42. FrankD says:

    Steve, as a once-frequent commenter at Neven’s (now rare due to real-world distractions), let me say that few there would claim to be “experts”. There is a growing group of “studious enthusiasts”, but only three or four regulars work in the field.

    I might add that recent polls there have been framed to elicit more dramatic responses, to the detriment of credibility, IMO. Arctic Sea Ice will be gone soon enough without having to be hyped out of existance.

    “Man proposes, nature disposes” as the saying doesn’t quite go.

  43. Steve in Miami says:

    Thanks for the welcome correction Frank. Well said.

  44. Superman1 says:

    1. Steve, Your recent post is very helpful. Now, we have something tangible to compare for commonalities and differences. At first glance, we do not seem to be far apart conceptually, although the words we use are very different.

  45. Superman1 says:

    2. I try to use the ‘hardest’ data presently available for my estimates, recognizing there are many ‘soft spots’ in this data. Given this ‘softness’, three black swans may be possible.

  46. Superman1 says:

    3. One black swan could be a collective epiphany among large numbers throughout the globe that the problem is real, the consequences are ominous, and some sharp reduction in fossil demand is necessary.

  47. Superman1 says:

    4. A second black swan could be that pricing is adjusted such that renewables actually start to cut down fossil fuels being used, rather than just add to increase the mix. Those fossil numbers need to plummet, not twenty years from now, but today. So far, they’re still growing. ‘All of the above’ from the White House does not give me a warm feeling.

  48. Superman1 says:

    5. The third black swan is that positive feedback mechanisms will not become self-sustaining until much higher temperatures are experienced. That will provide somewhat of a reprieve for us collectively to modify our behavior.

  49. Superman1 says:

    6. Finally, it’s one thing to hope for black swans when playing the Powerball Lottery. It’s far more unsettling to hope for black swans when the future of civilization is at stake this century. The statement I made to you above applies here as well, and cannot be repeated too often: ‘Pessimistic’ would be to interpret reality worse than it is. I interpret reality as it is. That’s known as ‘realistic’.