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Climate change, under our noses

Temperature data for Greensboro, NC, June 2011

If the American people were rational, rather than cracked up on right-wing propaganda, they would suspect that the same people who are lying to them about climate change also are lying to them about other things. But there is something about right-wing minds that makes it easy to deny what is right in front of their noses if it conflicts with some belief or prejudice.

Just over a week ago, NOAA released new 30-year temperature normals, revising average U.S. temperatures up by .5 degree F. These 30-year averages are kept lower by data that is up to 30 years old, of course. We’re actually, on average, even warmer than that now. “The climate of the 2000s is about 1.5 degree F warmer than the 1970s,” NOAA’s director of climate data said. We’re not talking about models, or predictions. This is official observation data.

The chart at the top of this post shows temperatures for June 2011 in Greensboro, NC. That’s the station closest to me with official weather data. If you do some scouting on the NOAA web site, you’ll be able to find similar data for your state.

There were those who thought I was just being subjective — and just plain wrong — about this summer’s weather being much hotter than when I was a boy. But look what the chart above shows. There were 24 days in June when the temperature was above normal — often far above normal. There were 12 days when the temperature went above 95. There were only three days during the entire month of June when the high temperature was in the normal range. There were only five nights in June when the temperature went below normal, and only slightly below normal at that. So far for July, every single day the temperature has been above normal.

Not only is this miserable, it is making dry weather and droughts much more dangerous to crops and other growing things. A drought with normal temperatures is one thing. A drought when temperatures are running 10 degrees above normal is deadly.

Anyone who is not terrified by this is in a state of denial. This changes everything, for ourselves and for our children.

And we’re doing nothing about it, because of greed, denial, and the right-wing mind.


  1. Gary J. Smith wrote:

    David, I agree with the science, but left-wing rantings about right-wing rantings do nothing to bolster your case.

    The climate-gate email controversy made the public question the data on which the science is based, and to the average Joe who doesn’t have a degree in meteorology, a temperature change of 0.5-1.5 degrees does not seem calamitous.

    As long as you accuse people who disagree with you as being greedy, in denial, and right-wing idiots, they will not be inclined to listen to your well-reasoned arguments. Instead you’ll come off as a left wing ideologue trying to impose your politics on everyone else, much the same as you accuse the right wingers as doing.

    You are the one with editing credentials, but I think your post would be stronger and more effective without the first paragraph and last sentence.

    Saturday, July 9, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Permalink
  2. admin wrote:

    Hi Gary…

    You are a nicer person than I am. If everyone was rational and compassionate like you, I would agree with you. But that’s not the case.

    Something like 28 to 30 percent of the population of this country are at a more or less medieval level. I’m sorry I can’t cite the survey I have in mind — it was a while ago. But it measured levels of superstition, degrees of ignorance, gullibility, etc. This 30 percent are simply not reachable by argument and evidence. They make up most of the base of the Republican party, and they are the target of Fox News, Limbaugh, Beck, etc. The votes of this 30 percent are necessary for the right wing to win elections in this country, so the right-wing media constantly stoke them and feed them. Republican candidates have to pander to them to win primaries. The right wing wins elections by getting the votes of this 30 percent, plus some so-called “independents” (who, studies have shown, are a pretty ignorant group who know much less about issues than so-called partisans), plus some rational, real-world conservatives (who unfortunately seem to be in very short supply these days and who have been neutralized as a political force).

    Without this 30 percent, the right wing would not be able to win elections, and our democracy might have a chance against the corrupting power of corporate money. Rational discourse and rational policy in the public interest might be possible. So what’s to be done about this 30 percent? If they were reachable by rational, civil discourse, then I would be all for rational, civil discourse. But they are not thus reachable. Everyone in the mainstream media is terrified of being shrill, or offending part of their market. If you’re a media person in Washington (I know lots of those), you’ll be instantly condemned and ostracized if you’re shrill, though it’s perfectly OK to be catastrophically wrong — there’s no penalty at all for being wrong, or even any accountability for being wrong. To be shrill is the greatest of stigmas.

    So our media pretend that this 30 percent are to be taken seriously, and there is never any real challenge to the constant stream of lies and angry talk that feeds the 30 percent. We’re all supposed to be nice and pretend that there’s no elephant in the room and that these medieval types and the propagandists who feed them are somehow to be taken seriously.

    That’s the pattern that I want to see broken. You can’t be reasonable with them. It does no good to correct them on mangled facts or their fevered imaginations (even if anyone had the patience). They must simply be told what they are — fools who are being duped by propagandists. For allowing themselves to be duped and dragging us all down with them they must be marginalized, condemned, ridiculed, laughed at. This will not make them less medieval, but I believe it’s the only way of neutralizing the propaganda that makes them necessary to the right wing. The only lesson the 30 percent need to learn, really, is not an impossible one — to vote in their own economic and political self-interest — as they used to do before they got really pissed off about civil rights in the Lyndon Johnson era and before right-wing propaganda became so highly sophisticated and highly developed, starting in the ’80s with politicized televangelists and continuing in the ’90s with Fox News, Karl Rove, etc.

    I’ll put it more bluntly. If this 30 percent, most of whom are lucky if they have a pot to piss in because their skills are not very much in demand in the modern world, and who either are or will be totally dependent on progressive innovations like Medicare and Social Security, were regularly ridiculed for believing lies and nonsense and for voting for the interests of the rich and powerful, they’d stop doing it. I really don’t see any other way. If I could think of a nicer way I’d be all for it.

    In my own small grass-roots way, I’m trying to encourage other people to stop pretending that fools are to be taken seriously, even at the risk of being shrill.

    This strategy that I propose has precedent. It took a very long time for someone to finally talk back to Joseph McCarthy. Finally, Joseph Nye Welch did, in a Senate hearing. It was Nye’s shrillness that exposed McCarthy for what he was and led to the end of the McCarthy nightmare. It was watched by 22 million people on television:

    Nye: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty, or your recklessness.”

    McCarthy: [Tries to interrupt]

    Nye: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

    I wish I could have found a shorter way to say all this, but it boils down to: When dealing with the right wing, you can’t be nice. You must hit them back, hard and smart, and expose them for what they are.

    Sunday, July 10, 2011 at 12:02 am | Permalink
  3. Trish wrote:

    Why, why, why do these people, the 30% who are unreachable, allow themselves to be duped in this way? I know some of them, and they are not unintelligent. I am known for my more liberal views, although I do not often engage in debate, and rarely start it. My conservative friends, however, don’t hesitate to try to bait me with their weird information. For example, one such person is really sensitive about climate change and told me that much of the pollution in St. Louis (which is close to us) comes from trees in the ozarks. I calmly replied that I had studied plant physiology in graduate school, and never did I come across any info relating to pollutants released by trees.

    Another person is doing his best to convince me that plastics can be broken down by microbes in the soil. He claims to have gotten this info from a book called ‘Secrets of the Soil’, which I haven’t read,but I can’t believe this claim. He says he is ‘no longer worried about landfills’ because of this ‘fact’. Oh, yeah, I took a few soil science courses, and I don’t remember this being mentioned either in my college career.

    Then there is my brother-in-law, who works in public relations in Washington, D.C. He scoffs at the idea of eating locally and seasonally. ‘When we get fruit from Chile, it’s in season there’, he says, missing the point so widely there is no chance for a retry.

    So why are these people, otherwise intelligent and successful, so ready to believe obscure factoids (which the rest of us haven’t even heard)? Are they so concerned for the success of big business that any potential for more regulations triggers in their brains an irrational acceptance of things they MUST know can’t be true? Why hasn’t there been public service announcements saying ‘stop recycling plastics, create your own landfill and you will be enriching your soil’. or ‘we can stop pollution by cutting down trees in the ozarks.. I feel stupid even writing that.

    oh, and my brother in law works for the National Chicken Council. He was in the movie Food, Inc., briefly, on the ‘other side’.

    Sunday, July 10, 2011 at 7:53 am | Permalink
  4. admin wrote:

    Just a couple of hours ago, actually, I came across a good example of the kind of counter-propaganda strategies I have in mind, while following a link from the Crooks and Liars blog. It’s a podcast from two people who call themselves “Professional Left.” The episode is called, “Are We Too Hard on Republicans? Don’t Ask David Brooks.” They’re not afraid to be shrill and coarse in heaping ridicule on nonsense and hypocrisy. Like me, they make the point that it’s important for liberals to stop trying to be nice and to slam back at nonsense from right wingers. The quality of their dialogue is a bit sketchy, but at least it’s a start.

    Here’s a link … at least I hope I can paste a link into the comments box:

    The podcasters point out something that is very true. Right-wingers rarely hear backtalk from liberals, because liberals are too nice and too politically correct about being “respectful” of other people’s opinions, too averse to friction. As the podcasters say, the right-wing rank and file never really hear what liberals have to say. They only hear what Rush Limbaugh says liberals have to say. That has to stop. Liberals need to declare open season on that kind of political talk. I’m afraid we also need to seriously consider breaking another taboo: commenting on people’s religion. Much right-wing nonsense is all tangled up in religious notions and is encircled with claims of religious freedom and accusations of religious persecution. When religionists go too far in hiding right-wingery behind religion, that too needs to be countered, I’m afraid.

    I encounter right-wing types everywhere I go. After all, I’m not in San Francisco anymore. I never intrude on the conversations I overhear. I grit my teeth. But when someone throws a slam at me, I have learned to immediately slam back.

    Here’s the dialogue from an encounter at some gas pumps a couple of months ago when gas prices were very high, four or five miles up the road from here:

    Man number 1, to me: “It just keeps going up.”

    Me: “It sure does.”

    Man number 2, to both of us: “Obama!”

    Me: “It’s not Obama. It’s the oil corporations, and speculators on Wall Street. Obama doesn’t have anything to do with it. And we’re running out of it.”

    Man number 1: “We’ve got enough oil for 2000 years.”

    Me: “That, sir, is propaganda and disinformation.”

    Man number 1: “That’s what they said on television.”

    Me: “As far as I can tell, there’s nothing on television BUT propaganda and disinformation.”

    I ended the conversation at that point by walking into the store. There obviously was nothing to be gained by any more talk. Those two guys clearly were shocked, as though they’d never heard anyone talk like me before, and I got a rather scary hate look from one of them, which is another reason that liberals hesitate to slam back.

    Sunday, July 10, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink
  5. Trish wrote:

    I do have a problem with confrontation- scared of it-but the bigger problem I see with the 3 right wingers I mentioned is their inability to let go of their dogmas. No way are they going to change their minds.

    When I go to the grocery store I never waste an opportunity to tell the cashier how evil I think plastic bags are. When I see someone throwing away something that could be recycled I step up and say something- much to the chagrin of the young grocery store employee I caught throwing away expired milk- I am willing to be known as the crazy environmental lady in these cases. But I do not see any way to change the minds of many of my right wing friends. I just follow what I believe, hoping to lead by example, hoping to chip away at their beliefs little by little.

    Are you familiar with the ravings of James Inhofe, senator from Oklahoma? Yuck.

    Sunday, July 10, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

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