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I follow environmental news quite closely, and picked up this one today:

Saving dying lake is priority for Iranian leader

So read just a few sentences into the story and you see this:

Lake Oroumieh, one of the biggest saltwater lakes on Earth, has shrunk more than 80 percent to 1,000 square kilometers (nearly 400 square miles) in the past decade, mainly because of climate change, expanded irrigation for surrounding farms and the damming of rivers that feed the body of water, experts say. Salt-covered rocks that were once deep underwater now sit in the middle of desert.

So, the climate warmed by 0.7 degrees centigrade from about 1880 to the mid-1990s according to measurements reported by all kinds of scientists. As far as I can tell from this story, the lake was fine during all of this time. And as several folks know, average temperatures around the globe, while 0.7 higher than “pre-industrial times” (not all time of course, just according to some baseline) have been flat for the time period over which the author claims this lake is dying.

And when the possible causes for the destruction of the lake are given, what comes up #1? Yup, you got it. Climate change. If this is not evidence of the absolutely sorry state of basic scientific understand, of basic journalistic competence, of the sensibility of people that obviously this stuff is being written for, then I can’t possibly figure out what other evidence could be provided. I had intended to tone down my attitude and writings, but when this sort of stuff is front-page news, we’re doomed.

Climate change.

Seriously?

EVEN IF the temperatures had increased an additional degree over a decade in Iran where this lake is, is there ANY way that could explain anywhere near EIGHTY PERCENT reductions in the water level of a lake? For fun, go check out the latest (5th assessment report) report from the policymaker/advocate/scientists on the IPCC and find out what their “catastrophic” expectations are for more than 5 degrees warming over a century and how many lakes will lose 80% of their volume. Extra credit points if you do.

Climate change.

Is there some sort of requirement that the term “climate change” be included in any article about anything having to do with elements? And one wonders why when people who are actually knowledgeable about climate change are increasingly not being listened to, and why folks who want to work up reasonable strategies to protect us from some of the uncertain tail risks that are involved with climate change are giving up or not being listened to – this is why. It’s not just that there is fear-mongering exhaustion, or that our behavioral biases get us comfortable with risks that we are aware of, but that it’s now impossible to tell who has what agenda, who is spouting nonsense, and who is actually being sincere. There’s more reason to be depressed about this too, but we’ll save that for a future post. I have never been privy to an intellectual “discussion” about anything that has been as heartbreakingly fruitless as dealing with global climate issues. I’ve basically stopped lecturing on anything related to it to – it’s not like people are actually trying to be analytic about any of it.

UPDATE:

This is in the same genre:

The biggest lease holder in Canada’s oil sands isn’t Exxon Mobil or Chevron. It’s the Koch brothers.

About the only thing the headline is missing is a “… MWAAAAHHHH AAAAA, MWAAAAAHHHHHH!” Maybe I’m an idiot but:

  1. It would never have occurred to me that the biggest leaseholders in the oil sands were Exxon or Chevron. I know they’re big oil companies and all, but they’re not the biggest in the world, for one, and second, I am familiar with the leases for gas rights by me and it is not unusual for small/independent holders to be quite large interests in certain regions.
  2. Should one bother to examine the history of Koch Industries, they would find that they got their start by developing innovating cracking processes for refining oil. While their major business today is much more diversified, they are very much an oil products firm. So while they are not drilling everywhere for oil, is there even ANYTHING newsworthy about their company having lease rights to hundreds of thousands of acres of fields that are suspected to have oil? Another major business line, I recall, was commodities investing, or something similar. Would it be equally newsworthy to report that, “Harvard University is investing heavily in online software companies who are capable of helping teachers deliver content electronically?” When I saw the lede I did not see Koch in my feed reader, and I was actually expecting to see something like, “Walt Disney!” Or something like that.

But nope. It’s clandestine, evil Koch brothers all the time. I used to read Wonkblog when Klein ran it. He didn’t do too much writing like that despite his need to feed his audience a few treats every so often. But if this is what that site is becoming, I’m sorry for that website, it used to be quite good. Once again, we’re doomed. Or maybe we’re doomed because I even bothered to waste blog space on it.

11 Responses to “We’re Doomed, Episode 37578293”

  1. Harry says:

    I wonder whether the geography lesson we have been getting with the lost Malaysian 777 has given anybody in the environmental debate any scientific humility.

    For example, talking heads often speak of metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted by coal-fired electric power plants, as in, “100 million metric tons [or the more sciencey sounding tonnes], a number that sounds big, especially if the only science course you took in high school was ecology. Or, IPCC “scientists” and Nye the Science Guy talk with assured certainty about the global climate, using tenths of a degree Celsius, as if that were better than Farenheit.

    Right now on television are talking about the South Indian Ocean, a place hardly near where anybody has been, near Perth, Australia, if you can call “near” a distance that requires your aircraft to be refueled mid-air. From what I gather, the weather down there is more severe than Buffalo.

    Live between Boston and DC and your perspective gets distorted. Open space is a hot political issue. If one is old enough, one remembers driving the New Jersey Turnpike and wondering whether the whole world was being deliberately poisoned by compounds ending in ane, ene, and ous. Those were the good old days for yuppie enviros, but those days are gone; now the villan is the odorless and benign CO2 molecule. The other villains are the Koch brothers, and of course, WC.

  2. Harry says:

    Fahrenheit. Believe it or not, we are singing Fahrenheit and Centigrade in a musical setting of Robert Frost’s “Choose Something Like a Star” this Sunday afternoon.

  3. Harry says:

    The area in question is nearer to the Kergulen Islands, southwest of Perth, and southeast of Johannesburg. They are part of France. The weather there has to be worse than Rochester.

  4. Harry says:

    If we close Guantanamo, would the French let us drop off SKM there?

  5. Harry says:

    I talked to a Delta pilot who said that Boeing gets from the engines heading, altitude, rpm, fuel consumption, and subtle changes in all data, and when that data is sent to a satellite, it sends it, not just pings the satellite to say, “I am here, please allow me to transmit.” So if the engines pinged the satellite, it made a call.

    As of this evening, we the news junkies have not heard from Boeing. A week ago Rolls Royce said there were no data, but I have not heard Boeing has said anything beyond their expectation that Villanova will be in the Final Four.

  6. Gabriel Wittenberg says:

    WC, I think you really hit the nail on the head a few weeks ago, when the “free market oriented” group showed that the environmentally friendly buildings aren’t so environmentally friendly (without even taking materials into account). There isn’t one a shred of academic honesty in mainstream media; honestly, I don’t really blame them. Krugman doesn’t get paid exorbitant amounts of money (1% anyone?) to “think”. He gets paid to pander to the “progressive” Americans who want to live in an echo chamber. To give some perspective, I have some fascist/statist cousins who call themselves liberals, and found myself losing control in a discussion we were having on something they knew nothing about. I gave them a copy of Human Action and told them to get back to me when they finish it. They told me to read Krugman. Not Keynes, not Say, but Paul freakin Krugman. In fact, they had never heard of the other two. This is not a fair fight, between us and them. No one wants to think anymore; they just want the good ol’ silver bullet.

  7. Harry says:

    I got stuck, sort of, on a Holland America cruise in January where the daily news digest of the NYT was the only printed news source. They did have the Sunday crossword puzzle, but also a half page of Paul Krugman. The other source of news was CNN International, which dwelled on Bridgegate in the US, and lots of face time with Christianne Ammanpour.

    In port I had the WSJ and The Unbroken Window, among other reliable sources. Not Paul f@&$!g Krugman.

  8. Greg says:

    Isn’t the main effect of climate change altered weather patterns? That’d been the story since before The Day After Tomorrow came out: patterns of drought and rain would change unpredicatably and in many cases become more extreme. Albeit over 50 years, not 5.

    • Harry says:

      Greg, the older you get, the more you are able to recount that today’s weather, however severe, was not nearly as severe back in the good old days. And if that is not enough, one can tell of stories one has heard third hand about Buffalo, Erie, and Rochester, where it really snows regardless of all climate change predictions.

      As BHO observed, climate change is a fact. That is a version of my Uncle Harry’s response to people who asked him what the stock market was going to do: “it will fluctuate.”

      BHO spoke the truth, Delphically, this time, and we are pleased with his truthfulness. In the speech that followed he argued that we should put an end to coal-fired electricity as soon as possible, and implied that deniers of Al Gore theories were on the wrong side of history.

  9. Greg says:

    As for the Koch brothers, Wonkblog admits they were deliberately attempting to stir outrage: http://m.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/03/21/why-we-wrote-about-the-koch-industries-and-its-leases-in-canadas-oil-sands/

    Whatever an admission is worth.

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