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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

My kind of hypocrisy

Is better than the other kind.

A short (Twitter) debate on the subject of hypocrisy

Herewith, a long-past conversation between me and another party (I'll call her the Adversary) on Twitter:

Third Party:
.@Peoples_Climate @RobertKennedyJr @CherylHines @RachaelEHarris marching for @Waterkeeper

@christianhebel @RobertKennedyJr @Peoples_Climate @CherylHines how big is ur carbon footprint on private jets, multiple compounds, limos?

Do other celebs get a pass because they DON'T express concern about climate?

Limo liberals leaving giant carbon footprints but slamming everyone else have zero credibility.They r just too stupid 2 see it

Translated, I guess that means "yes," they get a pass. Interesting logic for a lawyer.

It's one thing to express concern while being a fraud. Silence probably best from the hypocrites. DiCaprio is a climate fraud

But, sounds as if you're good w/ silence from everyone on this issue. Or, disproving science by claiming celeb hypocrisy?

I'd rather silence from the idiot celeb faux activists than hear their inane and hypocritical comments. Silence can be golden

Thx, yes, got that, also that you're dodging the question. Think about it sometime when you have a few minutes.


A (very) simple thought experiment

I've been thinking about this exchange recently, for a couple of reasons:

1) The inability or unwillingness of the other party to respond to my point is pretty typical of the few debates I've had about climate change on Twitter (I generally try to avoid these, on grounds that they're a waste of time, as this example ... exemplifies).

2) Hypocrisy seems to be such a favorite accusation from those on the right. I suppose that is because it is so handy, especially on climate change. If you're going to say anything about that issue, you need to first prove that you are perfect (i.e., you're basically a net-zero-emissions person). That's almost impossible, so by definition, any celebrity calling for action is clearly a hypocrite. You took a bus to New York City for the 2014 Climate March? Stay home and stop using fossil fuels, you hypocrite!

I propose in response the following thought experiment:

Let us consider Celebrity A, who has the audacity to tweet that climate change is a serious problem and that action is needed to deal with it, and Celebrity B, who tweets only about his upcoming movie. Otherwise, Celebrity A and Celebrity B act exactly the same--they have similar houses, vacations, autos, etc.

It probably goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: 

          I prefer Celebrity A. 

And that's true even if Celebrity A is actually endorsing climate action as a way of attracting more fans, some of whom may go to see her movie. She's a celebrity, and hundreds or thousands of people are going to listen to what she has to say, and many of them will take it seriously, especially if it validates their own personal views or actions.

So, thanks to Al Gore, Leo DiCaprio, Daryl Hannah, Sarah Silverman, RFK Jr., Bill McKibben, and others who have been willing to use the glow of their celebrity to cast more light upon this most pressing issue of our time.

So what's the other kind of hypocrite?

Several sources I consulted say "hypocrisy" is a synonym for "mendacity" (lying). So when a politician lies about climate change and knows or should know better, that's the other kind of hypocrisy. One of my personal favorites is Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the Chair of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. After finding out last Election Night that she'd be the new chair due to Republicans taking a majority in the Senate, she called climate change a real problem, then said a recent volcanic eruption in Iceland had emitted the equivalent of 1,000 years worth of emissions from all of Europe's autos and manufacturing. Totally bogus, of course, but who needs to get basic facts straight in order to perform their responsibilities to the American public on an issue of overwhelming importance?

That's the kind of hypocrisy I cannot abide.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Excellent talk on abrupt climate change

I've been listening to climate change videos from YouTube while running recently, and came across an excellent one today. Its title is "Abrupt Climate Change: Past, Present, and Future," and it's the Nye Lecture from the Fall 2014 conference of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). Although it is 52 minutes long, it is well worth the time.

I especially wanted to pass it along because the presenter, Jim White, is an excellent communicator who uses simple, down-to-earth language and really succeeds in getting away from the wonkishness that makes so many scientific talks difficult to understand and listen to.

His message is straightforward:
- There have been extremely abrupt climate changes in the past (as science has advanced, it's become clear that some were more abrupt than anyone realized--up to 100 to even 1,000 times as fast as the global temperature rise observed over the past century).
- Our current emissions of greenhouse gases constitute an extremely rapid change in the climate system ("we're in a period of abrupt change now").
- We don't really know what caused abrupt changes in the past.
- Even the current rate of climate change can result in abrupt impacts on society, such as occurred when Hurricane Sandy caused just enough additional storm surge to flood parts of the New York City subway system and result in billions of dollars in damages.

The danger of this situation is aptly summed up in one of his examples--that of an early explorer paddling along the Niagara River and suddenly realizing there's a waterfall ahead, trying to get to shore, and failing. The "real tipping point," White explains, is not when the boat goes over the falls. It's the moment when it is no longer possible to get to shore first.

Mr. Nye, a geosciences professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder, was also interviewed last month on EcoShock Radio.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Letter: Boston's amazing, ominous winter

I'm currently involved in the Energy Independent Vermont campaign to establish a carbon pollution tax in Vermont. This letter, which appeared in the Valley News February 25, is in support of that proposal.

To the editor:

A recent New York Times opinion article described Boston's recent experience as the "winter from hell," with the author adding, "We are being devastated by a slow-motion natural disaster of historic proportions."

While no individual weather event can be attributed directly to global climate change, it's equally true to say that today, no individual weather event is completely unaffected by climate change. Anyone who understands basic physics knows that adding more carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas, to the atmosphere will warm our planet. In the case of Boston, this appears to have led to record warm sea temperatures offshore which in turn have made more moisture available for a biblical series of storms--totaling seven feet of snow in a mere three weeks.
With this in mind, it's important to note that Vermont's state legislature is currently considering a proposal that would put a price on carbon pollution in Vermont. More information about this concept, which aims to reduce Vermont's carbon pollution, benefit the state's economy and create jobs while treating low-income Vermonters fairly, is available at

I hope other Vermonters will join me in supporting this effort to make carbon polluters pay. Global warming threatens our future, and the time to take action is now.