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As part of President Barak Obama's speech at the White House Correspondent's dinner, as part of his speech, the President introduced his anger translator who expressed -- forcefully -- perspectives that many in the reality-based community feel (and believe are pent up in many) and wish were part of the general and open dialogue across our society. A bit more than halfway through this routine, things shift ... when it comes to climate change.

See video here:

At the three minute mark, President Obama shifts the discussion from money in politics to "the need to focus on big challenges: like climate change". For nearly a minute, the routine continues with President Obama speaking in the 'acceptable' zone of somewhat banal political language even if straightforward in laying out that

The science is clear.
But, then President Obama begins to lean in forcefully.
OBAMA: The science is clear, the science is clear. Nine out of the 10 hottest years ever came in the last decade.

LUTHER: Now I’m not a scientist, but I do know how to count to ten.

OBAMA: Rising seas, more violent storms…

LUTHER: You got mosquitoes, sweaty people on the trains stinking it up. It’s just nasty!

OBAMA: I mean, look at what’s happening right now. Every serious scientist says we need to act. The Pentagon says it’s a national security risk. Miami floods on a sunny day and instead of doing anything about it, we’ve got elected officials throwing snowballs in the Senate.

LUTHER: Okay, I think they got it, bro.

OBAMA: It is crazy! What about our kids? What kind of stupid, short-sided irresponsible bull —

LUTHER: Whoa, whoa whoa, whoa!

OBAMA: What?


OBAMA: What!

LUTHER: All due respect, sir, you don’t need anger translator. You need counseling.

For years, those understanding of climate change risks and challenges have expressed strong concern over "climate silence". From inadequate media coverage, to absence in the 2012 Presidential debates, to gaps in OFA calls for action, to commentators' failures to associate climate when discussing things like California's drought to ...., there was a prolonged period of stunning and distressing inadequacy of discussion of climate change -- including from the Oval Office's Bully Pulpit.

This has changed.

This has changed significantly.

President Obama has been speaking forcefully on climate change.

President Obama has been confronting forcefully science denial.

President Obama has been working forcefully to encourage those with a basic respect for science to move toward more meaningful action.

President Obama has been issuing forcefully executive orders and directing Agency moves (such as EPA regulations under the Clean Air Act).

Last night, President Obama let his anger shine forth in what some are calling his most forceful statement yet on climate change.

Last night, President Obama hammered forcefully the nail in the coffin any claims of the White House engaging in Climate Silence.

That is a coffin we need to bury across all of society.

President Obama's anger against those who deny climate science and who are impeding movement toward a prosperous, climate-friendly society is anger that we all should share.

While everyone who has understanding of climate science implications requires some form of counseling (let's be honest, this is pretty overwhelming and depressing ...), perhaps we need to emulate President Obama and let our anger shine forth.

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The Australian government has given The Smiling Dane, Bjorn Lomborg, a major reason to smile.  It seems that Bjorn won't have to headquarter out of a post office box any more.  While imposing draconian cuts on higher education, the climate-change denial dominated Australian government has given Lomborg $4 million (Australian $) to set up a variation on the 'lies, damned lies, and statistics' Copenhagen Consensus Center.

What does the Center say its about?

research that analyzes the optimal ways to combat the biggest problems facing the world.

We promote the use of sound economic science – especially the principle of prioritization – to make sure that with limited resources, we achieve the most ‘good’ for people and the planet.

In series of deceptive piece after piece after piece after piece after ..., Lomborg and proponents have leveraged effectively half-truths to support misleading conclusions and dangerous recommendations. This has enabled them to assert that climate-related investments simply don't pass the muster of their "sound economic science".  Yet, as highlighted at Climate Progress years ago, what did the very economists involved in Copenhagen Consensus research conclude back in 2008?
[I]f the net benefit (total benefit – total cost) were compared for each policy proposal, the climate policy packages would most likely be ranked higher than most if not all options considered.” (Yohe et al.,The inappropriate treatment of climate change in Copenhagen Consensus 2008, submitted, emphasis added)
For some reason, I suspect that advocacy of "prioritization of climate policy packages" isn't what motivated the Australian government to give Bjorn four million reasons to smile.

In any event, perhaps it would make sense to leverage some "sound economic science ... to make sure that with limited resources, [the Australian Government] achieve[s} the most 'good' for people and the planet."

Within the Australian higher education, for example, Lomborg's "host" university could provide 100% free ride scholarships to almost 600 Australian students (average annual tuition of $6829).  In a country with zero sun resources (sarcasm), that $4 million could pay for 4 megawatts of solar installation which, based on Australia's range of solar pv productivity, would mean somewhere between 5,110 to 7,300 megwatts a year of production.  At 29 cents per kWh (Australia's average 2013 retail price), that would translate to between $1,481,900 to $2,117,000 in value per year.  Hmmm, not bad on a $4 million upfront investment.

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There is an old adage: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics.  With an advocacy piece, with heavy over tones of analysis and citations with reams of numbers, it is hard to work through a series of statistics to understand whether the basic material is truthful or contrived and manipulated to support a preconceived notion.  This poses a real challenge to an editorial staff: how do they judge thought pieces in terms of fact checking?  Is it enough that the reference says what is said or do the editors owe the readers more?  Should basic asserted facts be accepted without examination or do the editors owe the readers more?  And, if basic facts are wrong should the overall article be published or do the editors owe the readers more?

A pause for basic truth: wind power is providing tremendous value, around the world, with lower polluting energy that is helping to restrain (if not drive down) energy prices.  Fully-burdened cost benefit analysis shows great benefits from supporting wind power.

Simply put, I am far from the only one who believes "the editors owe the readers more".  Recently, The New Yorker's editors failed their readers by publishing Jonathan Franzen's Birds-Climate without -- it seems -- giving a serious look at assertions and basic failures.  Newsweek's editors have done a similar -- if not more serious -- disservice to their readers with the publication of Randy Simmons' broadside attack on wind power. Simmons, in short, argues that government subsidy of wind power (such as the Production Tax Credit) is counter-productive and too costly.

As with Franzen's piece, books could be dedicated to dissecting this one article and providing more accurate discussions to support public debate and discussion. This article gets things wrong on so many levels: from misstatements on basic facts, to misrepresentations, to playing with statistics, to not addressing fundamental issues to ... Follow after the fold for three examples.

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Many Americans recognize that the introduction of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards was a key tools to reduce US oil demand in face of OPEC's emergence and the various oil embargoes.  While today liquid fuel (oil) and electricity have minimal overlap in most of the developed world, few recall thatoil once provided a major share of U.S. electricity production and that "increased reliance on coal was a crucial part in the Carter Administration energy program" as part of the effort to reduce oil import requirements and the risks of foreign disruption of our fuel supplies.

With this in mind, on 3 April 1980, "the most trusted man in America" spent a few minutes exploring the implications of coal burning and its carbon dioxide for global warming.

Video here. [someone able to help with the coding ... my embedding not working ...]

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The New Yorker has been a bright spot, in many ways, in the media disaster that has been global warming reporting. Elizabeth Kolbert is not just a beautiful writer, a pleasure to read, but insightful and thoughtful about the climate crisis and energy issues. (See, for example, her wonderful The Island in the Wind.)  From exposure to great literature, to amazing looks at societal issues, to insight on foreign policy, to great science report, it remains legitimately on the reading list. Sadly, on occasion, the editors chose to put out pieces that stain the quality that Kolbert (and other) bring to its pages on climate change and many other science issues.

Yesterday, I received an email entitled "Load of codswallop in the New Yorker" from a trusted acquaintance. With a link to an article entitled "Carbon Capture: has climate change made it harder for people to care about conservation?", my acquaintance commented:

In a supremely shitty piece, Jonathan Franzen shows inadvertently how the conservation community (heavily weighted toward hyper-wealthy landowners and extractive-industry billionaires) is overrun with a twisted form of climate denial.
That doesn't indicate that I headed to the (long) article with the most open of minds.

To step back, for a moment, in a generous fashion, there is an interesting core element:  how can and should "traditional" conservation approaches coexist, interact with, reinforce, and benefit from climate mitigation and adaptation efforts?  That is an interesting and difficult issue ... but really is not where Franzen's energy and attention is devoted.

For a moment, I questioned the use of "climate denial" is used when Franzen wrote:

 As a narrative, climate change is almost as simple as “Markets are efficient.” The story can be told in fewer than a hundred and forty characters: We’re taking carbon that used to be sequestered and putting it in the atmosphere, and unless we stop we’re fucked.
Hmm ... that isn't bad a tweet summarizing the situation.

However, in reading the article this might remind one of the racist / sexist / xenophobe / etc who comments "some of my best friends are ..." before launching into an offensive diatribe.

In other words, sadly, the "Codswallop"  introduction was on the mark.

A fatally flawed article?

Franzen's piece is, again, long and books could be dedicated to debunking the illogic and misguided nature within it.

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Tue Mar 10, 2015 at 04:11 AM PDT

Inspiration from the Bronx

by A Siegel

To some, perhaps the idea that they should look to the Bronx for true inspiration likely seems foreign.  Here are three examples of Bronx institutions and people who take my breath away and inspire me with hope as to ways to solve problems and create opportunities ...

Sustainable South Bronx (SSBX) (and its founder, Majora Carter) is truly inspirational as to how to leverage a green economy and other paths toward social equity & strength, economic performance, and greening/cleaning up some of the nation's dirtiest streets.

The Bronx Community College's Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE) providing services NYC - Bronx: Hall of Fame for Great Americansranging from training for jobs in solar installations to being on a path to being a leading biodiesel research / development center. (Note: was a key note speaker at their annual 2014 conference which gave me to learn about their programs and plans and to visit something that I'd never even heard of before, America's first hall of fame ...)

And, something that I just learned about yesterday ...

Green Bronx Machine TEDxManhattan2014-035is both an institution and an individual:  Stephen Ritz. Ritz is a teacher in the poorest Congressional district in America with classrooms filled with children facing serious challenges to 'equality' in their opportunities.  And, as a teacher who any (sensible) parent would love to have their child to have, Ritz is doing more than his part to address and overcome these challenges.  

He has created a program focused on green -- on growing food (which ends up in his student's and community residents' bellies) and on vertical gardens. Moving from basic seeds to some leading edge urban agricultural technologies and techniques. But, the food is not the end state ...

For New York public school teacher Ritz and the students participating in his hybrid urban farming and workforce development program, the Green Bronx Machine, growing fresh produce in an unconventional inner city setting goes hand in hand with upward mobility and community revitalization.

My favorite crop is organically grown citizens — graduates, members of the middle class, kids who are going to college, ...

Social sustainability and a living wage is at the heart of innovation. The green economy — that represents jobs today, now and into the future.

For true inspiration, take some time to watch and listen to Ritz ... for example, his Ted talk. Or, the video that introduced me to Green Bronx Machine with an excellent article at Green Biz.

If inspired, Green Bronx Machine targets a National Health & Wellness Center in the Bronx  ... hard to imagine that Ritz and his team would not leverage any donation that you can make to achieve real results.

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Former Marine, Senator Jim Webb (D-VA)Former Secretary of the Navy, Former Senator Jim Webb is the first out of the box for the 2016 Democratic Party Presidential nomination hunt.  Here at DKos, Markos has a biting (and to me, generally accurate) review of Webb's announcement video in the context of Democratic Party primary politics and TeacherKen put up a sympathetic reflection on Jim Webb.  

While Webb is far from the stage of having formal policy issue statements, he does have a record of action and statements to examine.   Over at Grist, Ben Adler put up a searing review of Jim Webb and climate/environmental issues:

in the Senate, Webb was a “climate curmudgeon,” [who worked to undermine Presidential authority to negotiate climate treaties, fought against the Environmental Protection Agency, and

on climate change, by far the most monumental environmental issue, Webb may be little better than the Republican Party to which he once belonged.

During his Senate term, Webb:

As Kate Sheppard put it,

Webb has emerged as a major pain in the ass for Democratic leaders on climate issues
As Ben Adler put it,
it’s a problem that Webb sucks on climate change. The next president has to be a climate hawk. We’re rapidly running out of time to stave off the worst effects of warming.
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The continental United States has been slammed byHistoric Lake Effect Snowstorm in Buffalo, New York Area cold temperatures and it is difficult to escape images of Buffalo's massive snowfall.  When there is a big snowstorm, climate science deniers gleefully crow "Where's Global Warming" and otherwise in a way that resonates with (sadly, too large) a segment of the population and is gleefully played by media outlets looking for shallowly amusing items to spread around.

al gore's houseA la Senator James Inhofe (R-ExxonMobil) dragging out his children to make an igloo on the Mall mocking Al Gore, the science denial community leverages what is going on in backyards and on TV broadcasts to confuse people about reality.

Yes, Buffalo is having a massive, massive snowstorm. (And, I do not envy -- sympathize greatly with -- those who are trying to deal with its impacts -- from shoveling massive amounts of snow, to worrying about whether your home will cave in, to ...)  For too many, that (beautiful) white stuff somehow is a disproving item when it comes to climate change science.  To try to explain that, in fact, the snow is related to climate change opens the door for ill-educated mockery. Yet, it is ...

And, well, there are times when Twitter catches it all.


'Nuff said?

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You are likely aware that the Bush-Cheney Administration put a fossil-foolish lobbyist in a position to edit and change material like Federal government climate change reports.  

The man -- the whistle-blower -- who brought this to our attention: Rick Piltz.

From 1995-2005 he held senior positions in the Coordination Office of the U.S. Global Change Research Program. In the spring of 2005, Rick resigned from his position to protest the Bush Administration’s political interference with climate change communication. His whistleblower documentation of politically motivated White House editing and censorship of climate science program reports intended for the public and Congress received front-page coverage in the New York Times and was widely reported in the media.

Rick's value and contributions cannot be constrained to 'whistle blower', as important as that was to our national conversation. Despite the vicious attacks he received from the climate science denial world, he persevered. He was a powerful climate thinker and communicator.  Here is Rick outside the White House at the 10/10/10 event.

Rick was also an incredible decent and pleasant person. As I phrased it to the person who let me know,

I regret not having ever taken the chance to tell him, directly, how much I respected him.  

We rarely had face-to-face discussions (walking climate protests together, before / after conference sessions, etc ...) and each time I regretted that I did have more time with him.  

Warm, thoughtful & insightful, mentoring, passionate (about the right issues), ...

Yes a loss for all ...

A man of deep integrity, of deep insight, of deep kindness ...

Rick knew, more than most, how serious the climate situation is.  

Rick knew, more than most, the internecine reality of the American political and bureaucratic environment that made progress so difficult.

Rick persevered in fighting for truth in climate science discussions and, based on that truthful understanding, for meaningful actions to address our challenges.

My world is not better for Rick's passing.

Our world is not better ...



Georgia Power announced the results of its 2014 solar solicitation.  

In April, Georgia Power asked for bids for 495 megawatts of solar capacity ... and just announced that they are contracting for 515.

The 'Big Deal', not just to me, in this announcement:

the average power price in the four PPAs with projects of less than 20 MW each was "less than 6.5 cents/kWh -- 2 cents below the cost achieved through the [utility's] 2013 solicitation" for solar power
Revisit the key points ...
  • "the average power price is "less than 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour"!
  • 2 cents -- nearly 25 percent -- below the 2013 costs

Yet another signpost on the solar revolution.

To provide a context, according to the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), Georgia has 138 megawatts of currently installed solar systems -- this deal alone will quadruple that number.

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George Marshall's Don't Even Think About It: Why our brains are wired to ignore climate change (first chapter in pdf) should be on the must read list for anyone concerned about communicating climate change (and -- as importantly -- who is open to reconsidering much of their thinking about what works and doesn't work).  In 43 short and highly accessible chapters, Marshall lays out how we mentally are not prepared to tackle climate change and, as revealingly, how most climate 'communicators' have failed to understand how their own biases impact how they communicate and undermine their ability to convince others.

For example, Marshall contrasts a highly successful anti-science advertisement with standard environmental approaches.

"Carbon dioxide: They call it pollution. We call it life." ... it leaves a lasting impression of the wonders of the life ahead for her.  ... It is devious, exasperating, and outright mendacious.  But it is also damned good communication. ... maddeningly good ... texbook example of how to speak directly to the emotional brain. ..."The video is an artful compilation of frames for life, civilization, health, hope, and salvation. And, by contrast, the image of Times Square and the children fading into darkness speaks equally well to metaphors for decay and death -- as it would in every culture in the world.

... the World Wildlife Fund uses the same metaphors at the core of its largest public engagement exercise around climate change, Earth Hour.  Every year it encourages us to turn off our lights ... WWF thinks it is a huge success ... but there is no avoiding the fact that, if one is going to play in the world of symbols, one had better get it right.  However you read it, a universal frame for decline, decay, and death is being promoted on a vast scale around the world as a symbol for climate change.

This was not a hidden issue, after all an anti-science blogger has a post showing North Korea from satellite with the caption "It's always Earth Hour in North Korea". I, however, have always felt vaguely (to strongly) uncomfortable with Earth Hour. Marshall has given me a studied explanation as to why that 'vague' discomfort was right.

As someone who has spent a reasonable amount of time and energy the screamworrying about how best to communicate on energy and climate issues, I opened the book with a decent amount of understanding and perspective on the issues. (One test of a book, when you know the field, is who the author cites -- Marshall's work is filled with references to, quotes from, and commentary on a broad range of the 'right' (and, sigh, Right) voices and experts.) In what is perhaps my top compliment to any author, the book is filled with marginalia (written comments in the margins), with many items marked "excellent" or "gem".

For example, a 'gem' from the concluding paragraph:

Climate change is a process, not an event, so it requires that we RECOGNIZE MOMENTS OF PROXIMITY that can demand attention.  These may be moments of political decision-making, collective action, or generated conflict.  ... the Keystone XL pipeline is a legitimate attempt to create a historic moment.  Those critics who argue that the pipline will only ever be a small part of overall U.S. emissions are missing the point.  Their complaint is like saying that the locations of seats at the lunch counter of the Greensboro Woolworth's or on the Montgomery buses were trifling examples of racial segregation.  Sometimes the act of CREATING THE SYMBOLIC MOMENT is far more important than its overall relevance.
Those arrested at the White House protesting Keystone XL are, in their own way, Rosa Parks -- challenging a specific element of a much larger societal challenge.
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Most people think and most analysis occurs in a stove piped fashion. Difficult in conception and more costly in resources (whether brain cells, time or cash), narrow and constrained thinking often fosters not just far from optimal but simply bad decisions.  This is true across virtually all of human existence. The energy arena is far from an exception to this problem. From not considering life-time electricity use when buying Christmas lights to using the 'commodity' price rather than delivered cost ("fully burdened cost of fuel") in military procurement decisions to only discussing energy savings returns off insulation or new windows without talking about comfort or health benefits in the house to ignoring the productivity benefits from greening workplaces (and schools), the limited nature of thinking when it comes to energy and environmental issues is hard to exaggerate. (And, of course, these are only benefits 'within the decision-maker' rather than all the externalities (both benefits and costs) that are left out of the economic transitions.) The all-too-often limited lens restricts us (all of us) to sub-optimal or simply wrong decisions.

Thinking about solar carports provides a window on this issue.

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