Sunday, April 05, 2015

In case you were feeling blue: here is your Easter Day commentary on climate change! … by gimleteye

During soccer season in Europe I listen to a weekly podcast sponsored by the UK Guardian. The Guardian is one of the most forthright voices in journalism on climate change. The podcast it supports is very entertaining (if you are a soccer fan), with a handful of blokes who are erudite and funny.

Funny is important because funny keeps us listening. There is no part of climate change that is funny.

In the normal course of comedy, we can laugh at gallows humor because we are safely in our seats. When climate change unfolds in its magisterial awe, no one living will be in their seats.

Here is an example of what I mean, from another radio podcast I listen to. An agricultural expert was talking the other day about the massive amounts of water used by California's almond growers and the prediction that the continuation of the historic drought will likely end the state's almond industry -- a multi-billion dollar crop -- and put a serious dent in food production serving the nation's appetite for vegetables. The good news, the expert said, is that more food will be grown locally -- even in northern states like Minnesota. Really? How do we know that agricultural production can be reliably shifted and rapidly too, or, that the climate will consistent and not rage at extremes as we are witnessing today?

Humanity has never experienced, anticipated nor adapted to changes of the scale presented by climate change. Something interesting happened on the soccer podcast this week.

The pundits kept up their lively banter straight to the commercial break. The break provided the sponsor, the UK Guardian, the time to tout its global warming coverage. The Guardian spokesperson said, exactly: "Climate change is the biggest story in the history of the world." In the blank pause between the end of the promo and the soccer pundits picking up merrily along, there might as well have been eternity.

It is hard to pick yourself up off the floor when you imagine, as scientists are urging us to contemplate, that the next generation of soccer enthusiasts are going to be dealing with the consequences of sea level rise. Climate change makes us want to look away. We know, but we don't want to hear. We listen, but our minds are inclined to watch balls bounce toward the goals.

When we turn our minds toward climate change, we are forced to consider how and why, in the United States, it is the so-called political party of big business -- the Republican Party -- that is transfixed by denial, or, finding ways to shift the attention from the man-made causes of global warming. Is there anyone who doesn't understand that top GOP funders are directing hundreds of millions in political money to Republican candidates and thereby buying the result that climate change continues to drag along as the single biggest point of contention between limited government advocates and those who believe that we are doomed unless our political leadership gets off its ass and changes the way we do business in order to drastically limit carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels?

Climate change denial against the backdrop of accumulating science and fact are like positive and negative charges providing an electrical stimulation to the Republican base.

A few weeks ago I wrote, "The GOP's Ten Commandments of Climate Change." The Koch Brothers didn't write them, but they will find nothing to argue in their merits from the Republican leadership and denial point of view. To review the Commandments:

1) Climate change is like the weather: there is nothing we can do about it.
2) We are top predator. Others must adapt to us or die.
3) It doesn’t matter if climate change is man-made: whatever happens is God’s will.
4) Since our God in the only God, we know what is best for you.
5) As the party of limited government, any effort to strengthen environmental regulations is cutting our own throats.
6) As the party of capitalism, we are against any climate-driven protectionism unless it serves our interests.
7) If climate change requires subsidies, existing subsidies will be protected, first. Any additional subsidies will have to adapt to ours.
8) Dissenters on climate change within the party are psychological deviants, to be dealt with and isolated from decision-making.
9) If there is a dispute on climate change between constituencies the GOP represents, the leadership will side with that person who concentrates our political power.
10) We will adapt our behavior to impacts of climate change as they happen, not before.

Easter morning is as good a time as any to offer a commentary on the Third and Fourth Commandments describe the certainty of GOP leadership: denial of climate change is an affirmation of God's will.

Although there are many places in the Bible where care for creation is explicit, those aren't the places that the radical right goes in search of justification for climate change denial.

In 2012, on the Voice of Christian Youth America’s radio program Crosstalk, US Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) promoted his book, "The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, where he repeated his frequent claim that human influenced climate change is impossible because “God’s still up there.” Inhofe cited Genesis 8:22 to claim that it is “outrageous” and arrogant for people to believe human beings are “able to change what He is doing in the climate" ... As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease." ( During the Bush terms, Inhofe had been the chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. With the election of Obama and return of the US Senate to a Democratic majority, he was relegated to the jeering section where he continued his tirades against global warming advocates.

In November 2014, American voters surrendered control of the US Senate to the Republican Party. Senator Inhofe came back to his chairmanship. In 2003, Inhofe he had said that global warming might help humanity. “It's also important to question whether global warming is even a problem for human existence. Thus far no one has seriously demonstrated any scientific proof that increased global temperatures would lead to the catastrophes predicted by alarmists. In fact, it appears that just the opposite is true: that increases in global temperatures may have a beneficial effect on how we live our lives.” In that same speech, he argued that an international body of climate change scientists “resembled a Soviet-style trial, in which the facts are predetermined, and ideological purity trumps technical and scientific rigor.” (

Climate change has the potential to be the great negator of human progress, an exponential contraction of horizons. Those who bear most responsibility in the halls of power and at the intersection of capitalism are most fiercely wedded to denial.

The paradox is that they are also wedded to a godly vision of the world in which power and business walk hand-in-hand. What political and economic chieftains are telling the public, directly or through message machinery as the case is for the radical right, is that God is on their side in the denial of climate change and man-made global warming.

Thus, the Third GOP Commandment on Climate Change: "It doesn’t matter if climate change is man-made: whatever happens is God’s will." There will be no wobbling. In a recent report on the likelihood of a major shift by the Catholic Church on climate change, the UK Guardian noted that "Calvin Beisner, spokesman for the conservative Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, ... has declared the US environmental movement to be “un-biblical” and a false religion."

Recently, Texas GOP senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz picked up the theme. Forbes Magazine, Steve Salzberg offered the following commentary on Cruz: "Let's not ignore Cruz’s scientific claim: that the Earth isn’t getting warmer. Here’s one of his quotes: “And many of the alarmists on global warming, they’ve got a problem cause the science doesn’t back them up. And in particular, satellite data demonstrate for the last 17 years, there’s been zero warming. None whatsoever.” Oh good. Ted Cruz has evaluated the satellite data and figured this out. ... Real climate scientists–who understand this issue far, far better than Cruz–disagree. For example, NASA and NOAA recently announced that 2014 was the warmest year on record. They also explained that “The 10 warmest years in the instrumental record, with the exception of 1998, have now occurred since 2000. This trend continues a long-term warming of the planet, according to an analysis of surface temperature measurements by scientists at NASA ’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) chairs the Senate subcommittee on oceans, atmosphere, fisheries, and Coast Guard, is responsible for NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Sen. Cruz (R-Tex.) leads the subcommittee on space, science and competitiveness, which covers NASA (The National Aeronautics and Space Administration). Both agencies are responsible for much of the studying of climate change, including the management of the nation’s weather satellites and climate data.

The Washington Post observes, "... NASA’s role in examining the climate is significant, with the agency spending more than $1 billion annually on Earth science, which includes programs to gather and convert data from Defense Department and NOAA satellites. NOAA’s role is no less significant, with the agency spending about $2 billion on its National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service last year. Last year, the Republican-controlled House passed a bill that would have required NOAA to dedicate more money on weather-forecasting than climate-change studies. ... Both Republicans have expressed doubts about climate change, or at least what can Congress can do about it. Cruz has outright denied climate change, while Rubio acknowledges the phenomenon but questions many of the proposals for dealing with it. Rubio said during an ABC News interview in May that he does not believe human activity is to blame for the issue in “the way these scientists are portraying it.”

The use of the word, "portrayal", by Senator Rubio is very important because it is, manifestly, what scientists don't do. Science is about fact. Portrayal is about faith in interpretation. The Fourth GOP Commandment follows: "Since our God in the only God, we know what is best for you."

The first part of this commandment involves the conviction of Man's primacy. Genesis 1:26 of the Bible is often cited by global warming deniers from the radical right, "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing." So, it is not just that it just that OUR God will do His work on the climate, but also that as his delegated representative, we have the right to command all other species -- whatever they are and wherever they are. Whether other species live or die is according to whatever rationale we discern, because our inventiveness comes from God.

There are many parts of the Bible that point in more humane directions, but climate change deniers in the Republican Party are like strict Constitutionalists: they pick and choose what they want. What they choose not only represents the whole, it is by Divine right entwined with American exceptionalism.

The GOP right-wing's standard bearer, William Kristol hit this conservative trigger point in a New York Times report of his meeting recently with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. Kristol, said, “the conservative belief in American exceptionalism is akin to Zionism.” (NY Times, "For GOP, Support for Israel Becomes New Litmus Test", March 27 2015) Not really. Zionism was, at first, a secular affair. The first Zionists in Israel were not primarily motivated by religiousity. American exceptionalism is wedded to religious certainty that a Christian God bestowed both human talent and ingenuity unconditionally on man. Furthermore, to the radical right American exceptionalism is rooted to patriarchal faith in natural resource exploitation by private corporations and shareholders-- on public lands as the case may be. "We know what is best for you," is exactly how GOP governors in Florida, Jeb Bush comes to mind, dispense public policy, whether shaming the husband of Terry Schiavo or plowing subdivisions into Everglades wetlands.

Jeb Bush will be running for president -- in the primary he is likely to face both Senator Cruz and his former acolyte, Florida Senator Marco Rubio -- and to highlight his Catholic faith. Florida is the state in the nation with the most at risk from climate change, yet its current governor, Republican Rick Scott, has banned the use of the term by state officials or agency staffers. Although legislators in Florida's capitol, Tallahassee, have found the Orwellian tongue-tying humorous from the dais and nothing to be taken seriously, it is worth noting that Pope Francis is preparing the first papal encyclical on global warming and climate change.

What the leader of the Catholic faith has to say in 2015 will most certainly not be a laughing matter, nor is the pope likely to curry favor with right-wing radicals in the U.S. or the fossil fuel lobby.

In December 2014, the UK Guardian reported, "In recent months, the pope has argued for a radical new financial and economic system to avoid human inequality and ecological devastation. In October he told a meeting of Latin American and Asian landless peasants and other social movements: “An economic system centered on the god of money needs to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rhythm of consumption that is inherent to it. “The system continues unchanged, since what dominates are the dynamics of an economy and a finance that are lacking in ethics. It is no longer man who commands, but money. Cash commands. “The monopolising of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth. Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness,” he said. (

Bearing witness requires both the assessment and communication of fact. This is where Commandments Three and Four get gummy.

The way the radical right is portraying climate change through the GOP's Ten Commandments has propelled other religious leaders to speak out. The Christian Science Monitor recently wondered aloud: "The head of the Episcopal Church in the United States says that addressing climate change is on a moral par with the civil rights movement. How many more religious organizations will follow suit?"

"The Episcopal Church is putting its foot down on climate change denial. One of the most powerful women in Christianity, US Episcopal church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, told the Guardian that climate change denial amounts to denying God's gift of knowledge. An oceanographer before being ordained, Bishop Jefferts Schori says she wants to use her influence as the head of a church to influence others to take action to stop climate change. “I really hope to motivate average Episcopalians to see the severity of this issue, the morality of this issue,” Bishop Jefferts Schori told the Guardian. “Turning the ship in another direction requires the consolidated efforts of many people who are moving in the same direction.” (

There is a cartoon going around of a split frame: on one side, the title is "What would Jesus do?" and on the other side, "What would a Republican Jesus do."

Meanwhile, the climate is not waiting. The American southwest is withering under the most severe drought in five hundred years. The extreme changes in climate are happening everywhere. According to the Huffington Post, "Scientists and meteorologists have voiced growing concerns that the winter season is disappearing across much of the northern hemisphere. Dr. Jeff Masters put it bluntly, "Mother Nature has fast-forwarded past spring and gone straight to summer over the Midwest."

Recently, the US Department of Agriculture issued a statement, "Warm temperatures in February contributed to further snowpack decline in the Cascades and Sierra Nevada, according to data from the third 2015 forecast by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Snowpack in Nevada, Utah and Idaho also fell further behind normal. “Nearly a third of our SNOTEL sites in the Cascades and Sierra Nevada are reporting the lowest snowpack ever measured,” NRCS Hydrologist Cara McCarthy said. “For the first time, some sites were snow-free on March 1st. These areas can expect reduced summer streamflow.” Recent storms helped relieve dry conditions in the Southwest. However, drought conditions persist in California, Nevada and Utah, as well as in parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. Areas in Washington and Oregon also remain in drought. In Western states where snowmelt accounts for the majority of seasonal water supply, information about snowpack serves as an indicator of future water availability." This depressing report only speaks to the issue of volume. The quality of snow that does fall at high Alpine altitudes in the American west mostly resembles moisture laden snowfall quality at low altitudes in the U.S. east.

While the GOP wages its disinformation campaign to reinforce its Ten Commandments of Climate Change, we are hostage to climate change deniers at the start of the great tragedy in human history. What would Jesus do, in deed? He would be a revolutionary and not in the idealistic sense of the word.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My new bumper sticker:
A bit smarter than Ted Cruz."