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Mon, 2011-08-08 08:33Chris Mooney
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Here Comes the Atlantic Hurricane Season

gulf of mexico sea surface temperatures

This has been a year of dramatic disasters and weather extremes. From tornadoes to droughts to heat waves, the U.S. has been battered.

Unfortunately, the hurricane season that’s about to get firing may not go any easier on us.

Nobody can say in advance where storms are form to strike or whether they are going to make landfall—but everything is lining up for there to be a lot of them in the Atlantic region, and some very strong ones. As you can see from the figure here, we’re just starting the climb towards the peak of the season, which occurs on September 10.

Sea surface temperatures in the main development region for Atlantic hurricanes (pictured above for the Gulf) are the third hottest they’ve been on record. Everything is lining up for there to be a lot of action: 9-10 hurricanes, and 3-5 major ones, NOAA predicts. There have already been 5 tropical storms, but that’s child’s play compared with what’s likely coming.

Wed, 2011-08-03 08:19Chris Mooney
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The Bias Trap: Are We All Just A Bunch of Motivated Reasoners?

There were a ton of great responses to my last post about conservative white men and climate change denial. Perhaps most notably, some savvy respondents called into question whether there is anything unique about these “CWMs” when it comes to being biased in favor of supporting their own beliefs and identities. 

For instance, risk assessment guru David Ropeik had this to say:

May I note that the “identity protection” theories Riley and Dunlap cite are relevant not just to CWMs. The underlying worldviews of how we want society to operate drive selective perception of the facts by all of us. It’s the same phenomenon that fuels leftist denialism re:GM food or nuclear power, for example. We believe, or deny, so our views agree with OUR group, so OUR group will be stronger and the group will accept us as a member in good standing. This is important for the survival of an animal that has evolved to be social and rely on the group for health and safety. And this is true of all of us, not just CWMs. Your post, and ‘Cool Dudes’, feeds the polarization around climate change, by singling out one group (which does happen to be the group the most clearly refuses to accept the overwhelming evidence on climate change) for doing what we all do on various issues.

Meanwhile, Dan Kahan of Yale wrote the following:

Tue, 2011-08-02 05:44Chris Mooney
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What’s Up With Conservative White Men and Climate Change Denial?

They come at you at public events, wanting to argue. They light up the switchboards whenever there’s a radio show about climate change. They commandeer your blog comments section. They have a seemingly insatiable desire to debate, sometimes quite aggressively.

They’re the conservative white men (CWM) of climate change denial, and we’ve all gotten to know them in one way or another. But we haven’t had population-level statistics on them until recently, courtesy of a new paper in Global Environmental Change (apparently not online yet, but live in the blogosphere as of late last week) by sociologists Aaron McCright and Riley Dunlap. It’s entitled “Cool Dudes: The denial of climate change among conservative white males in the United States.” Among other data, McCright and Dunlap show the following:

— 14% of the general public doesn’t worry about climate change at all, but among CWMs the percentage jumps to 39%.

—   32% of adults deny there is a scientific consensus on climate change, but 59% of CWMs deny what the overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists have said.

—   3 adults in 10 don’t believe recent global temperature increases are primarily caused by human activity. Twice that many – 6 CWMs out of every ten – feel that way. 

What’s more, and in line with a number of post I’ve written in the past, McCright and Dunlap also find among these CWMs a phenomenon I sometimes like to call “smart idiocy.”

Thu, 2011-07-28 20:14Brendan DeMelle
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EIA Head Objected to Politically Dictated “Garbage” Subsidy Report, But Delivers it Anyway

Stephen Lacey from ClimateProgress on Tuesday detailed a letter sent to the Energy Information Administration (EIA) by three GOP House members asking the EIA to use loaded assumptions in running its models to show that fossil fuels are a better taxpayer investment than renewable energy sources.

These members, each of whom has received campaign funding from fossil fuel interests, essentially requested a report designed to suggest that renewables get huge public subsidies (they don’t) and that government handouts to fossil fuels and nuclear energy are a better deal for taxpayers (they aren’t). It was a blatant attempt to defend oil industry subsidies, and it put EIA in the unenviable position of lending its credibility to the talking points used by the oil, gas and coal industries.
 
Lacey reported that in a rare moment of sanity in Washington, the report was halted before it was turned over to the GOP requestors. Lacey’s report says that EIA cited “quality assurance” concerns, and would revisit the report to ensure it gives a “full picture,” accurate account of energy subsidies, not a politically driven result.
 
But “quality assurance” was the kindest way to portray what really happened.

Mon, 2011-07-25 23:51Steve Horn
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Chesapeake "Declaration of Energy Independence": NAT GAS Act Embodied

This article has been cross-posted with permission of the Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch.

On July 11, Chesapeake Energy, the second largest methane gas corporation in the United States, announced its  “bold new plan”: a “Declaration of Energy Independence” for America’s energy future. (“Natural gas” is the public relations term the industry uses for methane gas, because it sounds so much more appealing than the real name.)

The plan is double-pronged and will no doubt lead to increased levels of fracking, the process drilling companies use to extract methane gas in areas like the Marcellus Shale and other shale deposits throughout the country. Fracking is a dirty process, as covered in-depth by DeSmogBlog in an April 2011 report titled, “Fracking the Future: How Unconventional Gas Threatens our Water, Health, and Climate.”

First, Chesapeake will pour $150 million into Clean Energy Fuels Corporation (CEF). Energy tycoon and hedge fund manager T. Boone Pickens sits on CEF’s Board of Directors and owns a 41 percent stake, according to the company’s March, 2011 10-Q filing. That money will go toward funding methane gas fueling stations along federal highways spanning the country.

Second, Chesapeake has purchased a $155 million, 50 percent stake in Sundrop Fuels, Inc.  Chesapeake’s CEO, Aubrey McClendon, is also the CEO of Sundrop Fuels.

While superficially a “bold new plan,” the reality is that the plan serves merely as the embodiment of the vision outlined in House Resolution 1380, the NAT GAS Act of 2011 (New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act of 2011), with all of the same key players still in the fold.

Mon, 2011-07-25 08:42Chris Mooney
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Forget Tornadoes. Lets Talk--Unendingly--About Heat Waves and Global Warming

Earlier this year, I grew uncomfortable with attempts to link the massive tornado destruction that we saw in the U.S. to climate change. As I explained then—based on an interview with Harold Brooks, one of our top experts on tornadoes and climate—the evidence just doesn’t support this assertion. We can’t show that tornadoes have gone up, or gotten worse. Nor can we show that the theory or models predict that they should in a warming world.

However, we’ve just experienced a staggering U.S. heat wave (visual here), and that makes it seriously time to talk about the link to climate change, and not shut up any time soon.

First, let’s review the heat wave, thanks to the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang:

Fri, 2011-07-22 11:13Emma Pullman
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Could News Corp. Double Agent Neil Wallis Be Behind Climategate Hacking?

As if this week’s Rupert Murdoch Phone-Hacking Scandal wasn’t enough, it now appears that the University of East Anglia CRU email hacking scandal (a.k.a. Climategate) might actually be the work of the same News Corp henchman who helped to feed insider information from a Scotland Yard police investigation directly to Murdoch’s News Corp.

Neil Wallis, one of the key figures in the hacking of the phones, voicemails and electronic communications of anywhere from 4,000 to over 12,000 people, was essentially a double agent working by day as Executive Director of News of the World, and simultaneously as a public relations consultant during the police investigation into the scandal. Wallis conveniently reported back to News Corp on Scotland Yard’s investigation. 

While Murdoch’s henchmen were getting the skinny on the police investigation, the police were convincing other news organizations not to cover the story.

After the November 2009 hacking of the computer server at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, the victimized climate science unit sought public relations guidance to help fight back against allegations of scientific misconduct.  

Guess who they hired - Neil Wallis and his PR firm Outside Organisation.

Wed, 2011-07-20 07:53Chris Mooney
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Light Bulb Madness: A New Case Study in Right Wing Misinformation

The examples of conservative misinformation—devoutly believed by followers, repeatedly asserted by ideological leaders and media outlets—are growing too numerous to count. I seriously cannot keep track any longer, and this is an area where I specialize.

A new one has cropped up: Call it light bulb madness. My sometime co-blogger Jon Winsor, FrumForum, and Joe Romm/Media Matters have all you want to know about it. Brief summary: Many conservatives, and conservative media outlets (Rush Limbaugh, Fox News) are claiming that a 2007 law about to take effect banned incandescent light bulbs, and thus rammed compact-fluorescents down our throats.

It’s the kind of cry virtually assured to make individualist-slash-free market conservatives angry: How dare the government  touch my freedoms? And it has even led to legislation to reverse the “ban,” sponsored by Texas’s Joe Barton.

Trouble is, there is no “ban.”

Mon, 2011-07-18 07:32Chris Mooney
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Say Brother, Can You Share My Logic? The Climate Debate and “Talking Past Each Other”

I’ve previously written about University of Michigan business professor Andrew Hoffman’s insightful work on the underlying motivations behind climate skepticism. Now, I’ve come across a more detailed recent paper, in Organization and Environment, that advances the case.

Hoffman’s strategy this time is to examine newspaper editorials, op-eds, and letters to the editor from both sides of the issue—795 of them, published between September of 2007 and September of 2009. Hoffman combines a look at these opinion pieces with an examination of the rhetoric at last year’s Heartland Institute climate denial conference.

His conclusion is that the two sides of the debate simply argue past each other. The Heartland folks, of course, think climate science is ideological and corrupt, and action on this non-existent problem will hurt the economy—and that, basically, it’s all an environmentalist power grab. They even detect hints of socialism or communism at the root of the movement for climate action.

But this we know already. What’s more interesting is the newspaper writings.

Wed, 2011-07-13 08:06Chris Mooney
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Watts Up With the Internet? Motivated Bias on Climate Skeptic Blogs

Recently, I’ve become aware that the prominent climate science skeptic blogger Anthony Watts has been challenging a number of my posts. Maybe it’s because in my most recent book Unscientific America, I made a big deal about a site that attacks climate science, like his, winning a “Best Science Blog” award.

Anyways, Watts has gotten me back. Based upon my photo, he has taken to calling me a “kid blogger”  (see here and here). And it’s true: I’m 33, obviously too young to be fooling around on the Internet.

The attention is flattering—but I’ve also grown intrigued by what happens on Watts’ blog when he criticizes something or someone and his many commenters then follow suit. Because it does indeed show what a dangerous place the Internet is for kids like me.

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