Houston, We Have a Problem

Some of you lucky people can go about your everyday lives paying only occasional attention to the sideshow that is current American government. Some of us aren’t so lucky–by virtue of our jobs, we have to follow the various shenanigans and embarrassments that sometimes seem to dominate our efforts at self-government. If you fall into this latter category, as I do, it’s hard not to despair of the human condition–hard not to entertain the possibility that our technological talent will not be sufficient to overcome our fear of change and stubborn resistance to unwelcome facts.

These aren’t new themes for this blog, as regular readers know. What brought them to mind again was a brief item from Talking Points Memo identifying what have emerged as the top three priorities of Obama’s second term: guns, immigration, and climate change.

What caught my eye was this observation about climate change.  “The question is what Obama can do on the issue given that the House’s top ranking Science Committee members are still not sold on evolution, let alone climate change. This isn’t a new problem: Obama couldn’t even get a cap and trade bill to his desk when Democrats had big majorities in both chambers of Congress. Instead he focused on regulations that could bypass Congress — for example, improved fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks.”

Think about that. These are people we have elected to Congress, to the most powerful legislative body we have–people who have been assigned to the freaking science committee–who do not believe in evolution. People who dismiss the reality of climate change in the face of overwhelming and mounting evidence. People who are unable to distinguish between science and religion, or to define the scientific method.

It’s one thing to look at a problem and disagree about the best way to solve it. It’s quite another to insist that the problem is imaginary and thus no solution is necessary.

Unfortunately, it isn’t only the reality-impaired who will bear the consequences of perverse and intentional ignorance. We all will.

There are times when I really don’t think the human animal is equipped to survive over the long term.


  1. I am totally sold on “climate change.” After all, the climate on this planet has been changing for 4.5 billion years. What has not even remotely been proven is that man is more than a bit player when it comes to a warmer planet or that a warmer planet somehow be cataclysmic for mankind. There are so many problems with the theory. This simply isn’t the forum to get into the problems with the “science” of anthropogenic global warming, er climate change. I’m afraid I have already gone too far in leading the discussion off track and I apologize if I did that.

    Evolution, unlike climate change, does not rest on future projections based on selective data entered into computer models, but is based on actual study of how man and animals have developed over the years. Darwin didn’t claim the “science is settled” and scoff at all challenges. He welcomed them as scientists are supposed to do. The theory of evolution is about science done the right way, the honest way. It’s unfortunate science today has become so politicized. Scientists should never involve themselves in political advocacy. It can’t help but tarnish their objective approach to scientific issues.

  2. This is an example of why I feel so strongly about politics being a TEAM sport. There may be a good Republican out there (I am sure there are) but if by voting for him or her, I put them in the majority and they have some Kooky Krazy Kristian in charge of each committee, I did not help the overall cause of progress by that vote. I have to vote for the TEAM that believes in SCIENCE, Women’s rights, Civil Rights and Voting rights for ALL Citizens and so on. If one team is lead by nut jobs (or at least controlled by them) then I must do whatever I can to be sure that the OTHER team takes over.

    One more thing…..

    I PRAY that someone will bring the crime scene footage and still photos(From the latest NRA Success slaughter) to congress and make EVERYONE look at them before they vote again on gun issues. They need to SEE how a child’s head explodes when impacted by 3 supersonic killer bullets. MAKE them LOOK at this. Then they can vote.

  3. Re: Politicians and science – “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” — Upton Sinclair.

  4. Here’s a very simple analogy. If I go into my garage, close the door and turn on the car, I will die of carbon monoxide poisoning. Now think of the millions of cars on the planet spewing the same poison into the atmosphere and what it must be doing to us.

  5. In response to Mr. Ogden, apparently you understand very little of what the scientific community has observed in the world. That isn’t a big deal as most of us, including myself, know little of this as well. In fact, scientific knowledge has become so plentiful, and yet still not plentiful enough, that nobody can really have a complete worldview of all the areas of science or even a select few. However, when you start acting like you know more than is actually present within the neural connections of your brain, your opinions start to hurt the rest of our society. For example, you claim that “what has not even remotely been proven is that man is more than a bit player when it comes to a warmer planet or that a warmer planet somehow be cataclysmic for mankind.” First off, anyone with some scientific awareness will shy away from using words like “proven” in a scientifically geared sentence. What does it mean to prove something? we technically can’t prove gravity, and yet, I don’t see you jumping off high rises. Although, in all fairness I don’t see you at all to begin with, but I’ll make a reasonable assumption that you haven’t jumped off said high rise considering that your commenting on this blog. Regardless, good scientists aren’t making such assertions that they have “proven” these consequences you speak of, they are merely observing the world around them and conducting experiments to see what will most likely happen if we continue on this consumerist, fossil fuel driven path. Furthermore, we have strong evidence that greenhouse gas fluctuations have caused considerable damage to the richness of life communities in past fossil records, specifically in the mass extinction events of the Ordovician–Silurian and Cretaceous–Paleogene transition periods. Of course, these were millions of years ago, so it’s hard to pin-point the causes but we have mounting evidence that greenhouse gases played a big role. Also, it’s important to note that analytical chemists have become so proficient, they can detect quantifiable increases in the presence of heavy metals in ice cores at depths that correspond to the onset of the bronze age, just as they can test a corpse and tell you whether or not the person lived in the pre or post atomic era. It’s not like these people know what they’re doing or anything. Anyway, the point is that scientists may not be able to prove things to you but they understand reasonably well that we are observing concentrations of greenhouse gases increasing faster than naturally (do you think all of that carbon just magically disappears when we take stocks that took hundreds of millions of years to accumulate and burn them over a few centuries?), we are observing the rapid acidification of the oceans, rapid increases in extinction rates, rapid decreases in population diversity (what do you think will happen as populations become more and more homogenous? maybe you could use your knowledge of immunology to make a hypothesis.), and rapid decreases in soil fertility. It is a travesty to civilization that you would continue denying such observations wholeheartedly and all the while keep shilling out the messages of men whose pockets are lined by the fossil fuel industry. At least be a responsible person, for the sake of your children’s children, and move forward with reasonable doubts as opposed to unwavering opposition.

  6. I do question if humanoids will survive. If I had to bet I would say some adaptation will survive until the next great extinction, perhaps even survive in some form beyond that extinction.

    As a species humans have demonstrated the ability to tease out reality from the unknown, despite pervasive human myths. However as a group, or society we do seem unable to accept or act intelligently on our acquired knowledge.

    In my view the most troubling human situation occurring on planet earth today, and a major contributor to global warming, is overpopulation. There is little if any doubt in the scientific community studying population that our current population of approximately seven billion is far beyond the carrying capacity of natural resources available on planet earth. I will post an interesting video on the subject at the end of this comment.

    Beyond that, and more to the essays point I would agree humans demonstrate limited ability to recognize or more importantly act positively on poisons in the environment till they reach a killing level, Love Canal being a recent case to study in that regard. CO2, ie a potent greenhouse gas, being the current poison denied. (poison definition 1. A substance that causes injury, illness, or death, especially by chemical means. 2. Something destructive or fatal.) In this case the poison is known to change the heat balance of planet earth, altering the temperature of the atmosphere, changing weather and water carrying capacities. Current scientific projections are these changes will reduce fresh water supplies and land mass available for human occupation. Thus reducing human population by starvation if by no other way.

    Obviously, or at least obvious to scientists, engineers and logical humans, the planet is burning too much fossil fuel to allow the climate to exist as we have known it for many centuries.

    In addition to climate change process, in my view, and perhaps as important, humans are generating nuclear waste at a rate that is beyond manageable with any known or foreseeable technologies. Plutonium, the worst of worst poisons to humans and most mammalian life forms, is being generated in tons per year when only a few pounds are required to extinguish life on the entire planet. This poison will exist for hundreds of thousands of years due to the natural decay cycle of plutonium. Currently we have no known way to handle this waste safely for a hundred years, let alone the quarter million years required for its natural elimination/degradation.

    Personally I no longer question if humans will make planet earth uninhabitable for our species, I only question when we will do it and what method/poison we will do it with.


  7. Fix a large Cocktail and stop worrying about it.

    We know that certain politicians are crazy, since they want
    more regulations on vaginas than they do on assault weapons.

  8. I share your concerns, Sheila, but remember, even here in Indiana the Senate stopped itself from legislating the value of pi as 3.2, although I believe it did pass in the General Assembly.

    I have already reminded our friend Paul Ogden that science doesn’t prove anything, including anthropogenic global warming. As time goes by, the evidence mounts. In my same post over at Indy Vanguard I reminded him that rather than spout phrases like “junk science” or bemoan the politicization of science, a true critic, UC – Berkeley’s Richard A. Muller engaged in further research, as is fitting for a critic of a scientific model. Sadly, for those with whom he had previously agreed in questioning anthropogenic causes, he found that the evidence strongly supported that notion – and that effects looked worse than previously reported.

    The mounting evidence will slowly win over doubting scientists and the public will slowly follow. Keep heart Sheila, however much the human animal makes us wonder how we made it this far, we seem to have the capacity for surprising progress. I truly did not believe that so much progress would be made for LGBT equality in my lifetime and look what is happening.

  9. Look, if you want to go all-in on climate change or global warming or whatever rebranding we haven’t come up with yet, that’s fine. However, when all I repeatedly hear in the face of “you have this study saying X, my study says Y,” is “that’s not how it works” skepticism seems the only logical conclusion.

    Jim Hansen saying global temperatures haven’t changed in 10 years? That’s not how it works. Climate changers say everything from drought to snowfall is a sign of warming, but when evidence shows that said drought and snow isn’t new, that’s not how it works.

    The mainstream environmental movement went all in on global warming just as they have every other environmental alarmist movement. They see it as a means to an end, which is understandable. However, there are numerous issues far more damaging to our world than man-made climate change. Unfortunately, many climatologists have become lawyers, they’re opinions are for sale to the highest bidder.

    How about instead of “investing” in our future, we start paying down our debt so my children won’t be saddled with the largesse of their grandparent’s generation?

  10. Bob’s got a great point, the world’s population is becoming an undeniable problem. However, I may disagree on the nuclear issue. Military nuclear waste is at least 10 times greater than nuclear energy waste. So, while it’s a problem, nuclear energy isn’t necessarily the problem. In fact, nuclear will probably be our only option as energy demands continue to increase (doubling every 20 years or so)
    Seems pretty obvious that people who continue denying the idea that human actions on the environment we live in can somehow change the environment we live in, like marco and paul, have very little grasp of statistical reasoning. Marco claims that “you have this study saying X, my study says Y” ergo the science isn’t in yet, skepticism is the only logical conclusion. But that’s not how it works. Why? Because you left out some pretty important details. What your quote should’ve said to accurately represent the situation is “you have 99.9% of studies saying X, my one study here and there says Y.” Oh, and it’s also of minor importance that your one study here and there is usually from someplace like the Heartland institute, no big deal. Who pays the bills at the heartland institute by the way? As far as Jim Hansen goes, when did he say that? The guy is pretty outspoken about his views. Fortunately, he looks to the available data before leaping to conclusions. You say that “many climatologists have become lawyers.” How many? Maybe you could provide some evidence for that claim. While you’re at it, maybe you can find a few peer reviewed publications that can sway my view on climate change. Obviously the vast majority of publications have findings that support environmental degradation (you know, because it’s a liberal conspiracy) so maybe you could show me these precious gems you have that will somehow invalidate the beliefs of 97% of published climate scientists.
    How about instead of “investing” in our military industrial complex, we start educating our youth to current day standards, paying down our debt, ensuring that our kids will have a place to exist, and asking the mega rich to sell one of their 10 mutli-million dollar houses to help out with the nation’s budget?

  11. RR, you’re vastly taking my argument out of context. The simple truth of the matter is that the introduction of non-native species as well as the pollution of things that are NOT in the air to begin with do and have done far more damage to our environment than global warming.

    I didn’t say that mankind couldn’t have an effect on the environment, I’m not sure where you got that in my previous post but if that’s your impression I apologize for misleading you. My point is on one side we have people saying yesterday was too late but if we act now we can save tomorrow (which doesn’t make sense, by the way). Their solution? Planting lots of pine trees. As if that will somehow empty our landfills, get rid of these Asian Carp, and bring back the American Chestnut. I understand the mindset, the environmental movement sees it as a means to an end. Unfortunately, they don’t realize this militant death-cult mindset is scaring away supporters.

    I beg your pardon, but we have FAR more pressing environmental issues in our world today than global warming or climate change or whatever people are calling it for a quick buck. When I was little it was acid rain, then it was the ozone layer, I was told before that it was global cooling. It seems like every 5-10 years there is some kind of environmental apocalyptic warning.

    You’re taking my lawyer comment too literally, I’m saying if you follow the funding it cuts both ways, that’s a push. A safe bet is to donate to organizations like the Nature Conservancy. Instead of bribing politicians they buy land and leave it alone. A far better way of operating, IMHO. We’re agreed on not saddling our children with debt, but unfortunately we’re too busy investing in green initiatives that are little more than kickbacks to campaign contributors.

    P.S: James Hansen said that yesterday. Not hard to find t’tall.

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