To The Victors…

Well…it’s time. We (some of us) fought the good fight. We really tried. We did everything we could. But in the end, all of our efforts were for naught. We’ve lost and it’s time to acknowledge the fact, congratulate the winners, and move on to the next set of issues. So…congratulations climate change deniers! You’ve won. You were successful in blocking and stalling any climate action that might have arrested the effects of the changing climate er, I mean, interfered with profits for some oil companies and now…well, there’s nothing anybody can do to stop what’s coming. Nice.

That’s the sportsmanlike response. I have to admit, I’m a little bitter about your victory. It’s not that I’m a poor loser. But the “prize” for your “victory,” in this case, is a planet increasingly unable to support human life. I feel like you made a poor choice and I have to suffer the consequences – right along with you. That sucks. It’s made all the worse for the certain knowledge that you used deceitful and underhanded tactics to achieve your “victory.” I suppose that was your only choice. You didn’t have any legitimate science behind you and you didn’t have any legitimate evidence. All you had was lies and obfuscations – but you made the most of them. And, really, you didn’t have to “win” the debate. You had only to not lose. It didn’t matter how often or how completely your claims were debunked. As long as you could keep talking, the “debate” raged. And you just kept blathering. (Technically, baffling with bullshit…)


Have you ever heard of the Drake Equation? It’s a mathematical formula that attempts to define the number of alien races in our galaxy that developed to a point where they could send signals into space. That doesn’t mean intentionally send signals into space. For example, we reached that point when we started broadcasting radio and television signals. They sometimes slip out of our atmosphere and travel off to unknown places. Since EVERY aspect of the Drake Equation is a variable one just…supplies, the numbers can hardly be called “solid.” One can make the thing work and show one civilization or 500,000 – or whatever other number makes you happy. BUT…

If there are 500,000 civilizations out there capable of sending signals into space – on purpose or otherwise – why can’t we ever hear anything? We ARE listening. There’s an entire program out there, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) that spends a great deal of time looking for signals. It’s been YEARS – decades, even. So far, ONE – exactly ONE “WOW” moment. It’s called the “Wow” moment because the scientist who discovered the pattern wrote “Wow” next to it. But the one moment never repeated and no one knows for SURE it was an organized signal. It could have been just space noise.

There was this physicist named Enrico Fermi who heard about Drake’s Equation and responded with, “Well, where is everybody?” It’s kind of a fun question. If 500,000 civilizations have developed that might have sent signals into space surely some of them developed long before humanity even crawled out of the sea. Even if they’re not coming this way for what we could only hope was a visit, they should STILL be sending signals – assuming they survived long enough to send signals on purpose. We do. We sent space probes with detailed information about finding Earth and what humans look like. We send signals into space to communicate with our space probes and stations. As I’ve already mentioned, episodes of ‘I Love Lucy’ and ‘The Honeymooners’ are well on their way to Alpha Centauri or where ever.

Do you know a common component of many of humanity’s wars? Something new. Maybe it’s a tactic. Maybe it’s technology but it’s commonly something new. The Mongol hoards used horseback speed to overwhelm their opponents. The Greeks perfected a formation called a phalanx. The Romans took over the world when they added their Gladius sword (it could thrust AND slice!) to the phalanx formation. The Nazis used the Blitzkrieg or “lightening war” – speed in the form of planes from the sky and soldiers and tanks racing across the countryside. The Europeans had rifles while the First Nations had only bow-and-arrows. Come to think of it, Africans had no technological equivalent to European weapons technology, either. There’s a physicist named Michio Kaku. He says we shouldn’t be sending signals into space because anybody who can receive them AND come to Earth would have the technological advantage and be free to do with us as they please. “To Serve Man,” anyone? I agree with him in principal but I think that ship actually sailed LONG before any of us had a chance to ponder the question. At this point, they’d just follow Lucy back to her point of origin…

Anyway, Fermi’s question, “Where is everyone?” is often answered with the supposition that civilizations DO develop to a certain point and then, basically, find some way to destroy themselves. It’s all theoretical, of course, except now we have some…immediate evidence. There’s no telling how many humans are going to die as a result of runaway climate change but the answer is a “non-zero number.” It’s already a “non-zero number.” Sure, the fires and the floods will kill but so will food shortages, forced migrations, violent clashes, and riots. Oh, and don’t forget the illnesses that will rear their ugly…um…spiky proteins as weather conditions become more favorable for them. There’s every possibility the Earth will just shake off humanity like a dog shakes off water.

Thanks to the efforts of the climate change deniers, it’s looking more and more like humanity is about to render itself nothing more than a cautionary tale to future developing civilizations. If you ask me, it was a stupid choice, destruction of the species in exchange for a dollar. Very stupid. But the question is settled now. We know what killed us; stupidity…

On Climate Change…

I don’t debate climate change anymore.  There are several reasons.  Among them is the basic fact that I’m not a climate scientist.  I don’t have the education to make determinations about the data – how it was collected, how it’s interpreted, what adjustments may have been made and why.  That’s all science stuff best left to climate scientists.

That leaves me to make determinations based on things around climate science.  For example, the US military makes adjustments for it.  They don’t make adjustments lightly.  Businesses are taking into account – even fossil fuel businesses.  Rising oceans have already caused the evacuation of at least one island nation and the water regularly encroaches on Florida, things like that…

But there are things, as well.  I was once in a Facebook “discussion” with someone who offered me a link to a blog post with what he claimed included 800 links to peer-reviewed, climate science denial papers.  I guess the sheer weight of such a post had run off many of his opponents in the past but I did something he apparently didn’t expect; I looked at the links.  Turns out, each link went to what is called a manual redirect page – with a link right back to the original post!  It wasn’t a post with links to 800 different papers, it was 1 link 800 times.

Think about that.  Somebody took the time to set up 800 fake blog pages, each with a link right back to the originating page.  I even noticed that the project had apparently fatigued its creator.  At first, each faked “blog” page had a paragraph or two.  Then the content dwindled to a line or two.  Then just a single sentence.  After awhile, only the circular link.  800 fake pages.  800 circular links.

That’s no “accident.”  It’s not an “honest mistake.”  That’s not somebody who “should have looked more carefully”.  That’s a clear intent to deceive.  (These are the same people who insist that the number of hurricanes hasn’t increased, all the while hoping you don’t notice what’s happening with the overall number of “Named Storms” – tropical and subtropical storms that don’t quite make it into the “hurricane” category.)

In a circumstances like that, I resort to my standing rule of thumb that says that the person who knowingly attempts to deceive is tacitly admitting foreknowledge that their position is false.  It’s a good rule.  It serves me well.

But probably the single most important factor, for me, is that whenever I’m talking to someone who denies climate science, I know I’m talking to a conservative.  That shouldn’t be the case.  Science doesn’t draw neat little lines between political positions.  Do you remember those graphs that show the intersections of two groups?  It’s usually two circles pushed together until they overlap with a little shaded area in the middle.  The circle on the left might be, say, the population of New York City and the circle on the right might be the number of people who speak French.  Push the two together and you can see, graphically, the number of people in New York City who speak French.

Well, if you label the left, red circle “Conservatives” and the right, slightly smaller, yellow, circle “People who deny climate science” and start pushing them together, the yellow circle will slide all the way into the red circle, leaving an orange circle with a slim red “halo” around the side (because not even all conservatives deny climate science).  Then we can see, graphically, that the population of people who deny climate science is made up entirely of conservatives.

But I’ll tell you this: that’s not how science works…