The Parrot and the Igloo Notes

The Parrot

451   getting himself arrested: Andrew Revkin, “Hansen of NASA Arrested in Coal Protest,” The New York Times, June 23, 2009; Scott Finn, “Hannah, Hansen Arrested in Mountaintop Removal Protest,” West Virginia Public Broadcasting, June 23, 2009; Ken Ward, Jr., “About that Big Debate,” West Virginia Gazette & Mail, June 23, 2009. Jeff Young, NPR, “Living On Earth,” March 6, 2009. NPR’s Jeff Young: “NASA scientist James Hansen has been sounding the alarm on global warming for more than 20 years. But even for him, this was new. The renowned climatologist has risked his reputation at congressional hearings and scientific gatherings, by pushing his view of what rising CO2 levels could bring. But now he’s risking something else. Arrest.” Per a 2013 Times roundup, half a dozen encounters on his jacket. Justin Gillis, “Climate Maverick to Retire From NASA,” The New York Times, April 1, 2013.


451   in these news images: For example, Elizabeth McGowan, “Amid Cheer, NASA Chief Is Arrested at Oil Sands Pipeline Protest,” Inside Climate News, August 31, 2011.

Accessed 8-15-22.

Jeff Goodell, “NASA Scientist Hansen Arrested at Tar Sands Protest—A Grim Sign of the Times,” Rolling Stone, August 31, 2011.


451   “It’s a myth!”: The Simpsons Movie, Twentieth Century Fox, 2007.


451   The “climate crisis”: Second Presidential Debate, Sen. John McCain and Senator Barack Obama, October 7, 2008, Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee.


451   “moral challenge”: Keith Johnson, “At Clinton Powwow, McCain, Obama Echo Each Other on Energy,” Wall Street Journal, September 25, 2008. “No single issue sits at the crossroads of as many currents as energy,” is what Senator Obama said. “This is a security threat, an economic albatross, and a moral challenge of our time.”

Abby Phillip, “Barack Obama’s Evolution on Climate Change: A Brief History,” ABC News, November 2, 2012.

Accessed 8-15-22.


451   “Health care is priority number two”: Second Presidential Debate, Sen. John McCain and Senator Barack Obama, October 7, 2008, Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee.


452   “Celebrating with one happy voice”: Zadie Smith, “Speaking in Tongues,” The New York Review of Books, February 26, 2009. Collected in Changing My Mind, Penguin Press 2009.


452   “Even as we celebrate tonight”: Barack Obama, “Election 2008: Transcript Of Barack Obama’s Victory Speech,” NPR, November 5, 2008.

Accessed 8-16-22.


452   “moist eyes during his Election Day speech”: James Hansen, Storms of My Grandchildren, Bloomsbury 2009. Preface, x.


452   “Denial is no longer an acceptable response”: Brian Knowlton, “Obama Promises Action On Climate Change,” The New York Times, November 18, 2008.


President-elect Barack Obama pointedly confirmed on Tuesday that he planned to stick to the aggressive targets he had set earlier for fighting climate change and for spurring the development of clean-energy technology.


John M. Broder, “Obama Affirms Climate Change Goals,” The New York Times, November 18, 2008.


Mr. Obama repeated his campaign vow to reduce climate-altering carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent by 2050, and invest $150 billion in new energy-saving technologies.

“Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all,” Mr. Obama said. “Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response.”


452   the newspapers called a climate Dream Team: For example, Editorial, “Mr. Obama’s Green Team,” The New York Times, December 13, 2008. Bryan Walsh, “High Hopes For Obama’s Green Dream Team,” Time, December 16, 2008.

The science press got it on it, too. Andy Coghlan, Peter Aldhous, “Obama’s Science ‘Dream Team’ Prepares For Business,” New Scientist, December 30, 2008.


Dr. James Hansen wrote later it taught him to trust policy, not personnel. Hansen, Storms of my Grandchildren, Afterword, 276:


The problem with governments is not scientific ability—the Obama administration, for example, appointed some of the best scientists in the country to top positions in science and energy. Instead, the government’s problem is politics, politics as usual.


452   entitled to list “Nobel Prize”: Charles Homans, “The Experiment: How Steven Chu Lost His Battle With Washington,” The New Republic, January 25, 2012.

Understood to be a difficult job.


Shortly after the election, Obama asked Chu if he would come to Washington as his energy secretary. “I didn’t know him before that,” Chu told me. “He said, ‘A lot of people all over the place are recommending you.’ All I said was, ‘Who are these former friends of mine?’”

It was a good joke, but, by the time Chu told it to me in December, it had acquired some poignancy. The last several months have been the worst of his three years in Washington. Chu had arrived in town as one of Obama’s most celebrated appointees, with one of the new administration’s most ambitious missions.


452   “A signal to all”: Jim Tankersley, Tom Hamburger, “Scientists Cheer Latest Obama Picks: As a Nobel laureate is named to Energy post, some expect an end to what they see as policy driven by ideology,” The Los Angeles Times, December 16, 2008.


452   “You see this smile on my face”: Bryan Walsh, “High Hopes For Obama’s Green Dream Team,” Time, December 16, 2008. “To say that the environmental community is pleased with President-elect Barack Obama’s newly appointed green team would be an understatement.”


452   “Obama Means What He Says”: Frances Beinecke, “The Environmental Appointments: Obama Means What He Says,” December 12, 2008.


President-elect Obama’s choices for top environment posts reveal something very important: they tell us that Obama means what he says. He means it when he says he wants to protect the planet and tackle global warming.

Plenty of politicians say they want to save the environment. Even President Bush campaigned on a promise to cut global warming pollution. But then his environmental appointments and Cheney’s Energy Task Force told us the real story: Bush had no intention of honoring his commitments.

But Obama is putting his words into action.

Accessed 8-15-22.


453   “Winning the election”: Jodi Kantor, The Obamas, Little, Brown 2012. Chapter Eight, “The Biggest Marriage on Earth,” 188.


453   “The plan was to throw”: Ryan Lizza, “As the World Burns,” The New Yorker, October 11, 2010.


453   “Obama’s ‘stepchild’”: Ryan Lizza, “As the World Burns,” The New Yorker, October 11, 2010.


453   “It’s like choosing between two of your children”: Jonathan Alter, The Promise: President Obama, Year One, Simon & Schuster 2010. Chapter 15, “Tyrannosaurus Rx,” 255.

The House leader was California’s Henry Waxman, who had led the investigation into Bush administration climate change policy and super-editor Phil Cooney two years earlier. Waxman was dedicated—also Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. “He looked like an accountant,” Alter writes, “but wielded as much power as anyone in the House.”


453   at the local Chinese restaurant: Mark Bowen, Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming, Dutton 2008. Chapter Eight, “The Veil of Venus,” 211–12.


453   Obama aides called it “Hillary’s thing”: Glenn Thrush, Carrie Budoff Brown, “Obama’s Health Care Conversion,” Politico, September 22, 2013.


454   “And just wants to go back to the barn”: Ryan Lizza, “As the World Burns,” The New Yorker.

It even made PBS’ annual list of the ten worst climate change remarks. Under the mocking headline, “Passing health care was too hard.”

Now the weird item we’ll remember. Osama Bin Laden turns out to have been a climate advocate.


File under unhelpful allies

“Talk about climate change is not an ideological luxury but a reality. … All of the industrialized countries, especially the big ones, bear responsibility for the global warming crisis.”

– Osama Bin Laden


Erin Chapman, “Climatespeak 2010: The Year’s Most Outrageous Quotes,” Need to Know,, December 30, 2010.

Accessed 8-15-22.


Here’s what PBS is quoting. I went; I was curious:

Christina Larson, “Osama On Climate Change,” Foreign Policy, January 29, 2010.

Accessed 8-15-22.


. . . And a further expansion, three years later. Bin Laden—convenient for a fugitive—felt the world was fighting the wrong war.


“The world should put its efforts into attempting to reduce the release of gases,” said the undated, unsigned letter to someone identified as Shaykh Mahmud that U.S. intelligence officials said they believed was written by bin Laden.

“This is a struggle between two of the largest cultures on Earth, and it is in the shadow of catastrophic climate conditions.”


Jonathan Landay, “Bin Laden Called For Americans To Rise Up Over Climate Change,” Reuters, March 1, 2016.

Accessed 8-15-22.


454   “missed their best chance”: Ryan Lizza, “As the World Burns,” The New Yorker, October 11, 2010.


454   “Obama grew timid and gave up”: Ryan Lizza, “As the World Burns,” The New Yorker, October 11, 2010.


454   Mr. Obama invested most”: Coral Davenport, “Obama’s Legacy At Stake In Paris Talks On Climate Accord,” The New York Times, November 28, 2015.


454   “seemed to make little impression on him”: Coral Davenport, “Obama’s Legacy At Stake In Paris Talks On Climate Accord,” The New York Times, November 28, 2015. The “failure in 2010 appeared to make little impression on him. Environmentalists complained that Mr. Obama had done little to promote the measure as it languished in the Senate.”


454   “The Obama administration has accomplished next to nothing”: Sharon Begley, “The Reality of Global Climate Change is Upon Us,” Newsweek, May 29, 2011.


454   Carol Browner, Obama’s climate czar: Ryan Lizza, “As the World Burns,” The New Yorker, October 11, 2010.


Carol Browner had just three aides working directly for her. “Hey, change the entire economy, and here are three staffers to do it!” a former Lieberman adviser noted bitterly. “It’s a bit of a joke.”


454   never mention “climate”: Suzanne Goldenberg, “Revealed: The Day Obama Chose A Strategy Of Silence On Climate Change,” The Guardian (U.K.), November 1, 2012.

Per The Guardian, this meeting took place on March 26, 2009. So there were roughly two months—between the Bush departure and the C-Word ban—of free climate speaking in the White House.


But most of the environmental groups were inclined to go along. “When the White House invites you to a meeting and says: ‘here is how we are going to talk about these things’, it sends a very clear message,” said Erich Pica, president of the US Friends of the Earth Action, who was also at the meeting . . .

“I thought it was a mistake and I told them,” said Bill McKibben, who heads the group, who was one of the few people at the meeting to voice his misgivings. . . The stealth approach also gave the opposition an opening. The White House reluctance to even mention climate change allowed some in industry and on the right of the political spectrum to discredit climate science.


454   what Browner called the C-word: Petra Bartosiewicz and Marissa Miley, The Too Polite Revolution: Why the Recent Campaign to Pass Comprehensive Climate Legislation in the United States Failed, Prepared for the Symposium on The Politics Of America’s Fight Against Global Warming, Co-sponsored by the Columbia School of Journalism and the Scholars Strategy Network, February 14, 2013.


. . . Carol Browner, a Clinton-era EPA administrator who commanded respect in Washington among the green groups. After the election Browner was appointed to head Obama’s newly created Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, which would coordinate the White House legislative effort. But Browner, it became increasingly clear, did not have backing from either Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, or David Axelrod, Obama’s senior adviser, to push the climate agenda.

In the early weeks of the new administration, the green groups searching for direction went home empty-handed. “I begged, and many of us begged Carol Browner and others at the White House,” said [Environmental Defense Fund President] Fred Krupp. “If they weren’t going to put together their own bill, at least put together a one-pager of what they wanted.” The only guidance they eventually got, said 1Sky’s Betsy Taylor, came during a March 2009 meeting convened by Browner, where the green groups received a one-page set of talking points about how to communicate climate change legislation. Talk about the economy and jobs, the document said, but don’t talk about the climate.

Accessed 8-22-22.


454   “This is a mistake”: Chris Mooney, “Is David Axelrod Responsible For Climate Change Inaction?” Mother Jones, October 16, 2012.


454   “How can you call”: David Nyhan, “Back To Environmental Reality,” The Boston Globe, April 24, 1990. The same lexical disinclination was noted by Times editorial board.


Mr. Bush . . . didn’t even mention the words ‘‘greenhouse effect’’ or ‘‘global warming.’’ His foreign guests, under the impression they had been invited to discuss these subjects, were disappointed . . . President Bush disinvited the Chinese — a major producer of greenhouse gases — and manipulated the agenda to sidestep issues the White House wanted to avoid, declining even to utter the phrase ‘‘global warming.’’


Editorial, “Some White House Effect,” The New York Times, April 21, 1990.


455   “I think the Caribbean nations”: Dr. Steven Chu, “U.S. Officials Brief on Energy, Democracy Sessions at Summit: Energy Secretary Chu, Deputy Security Advisor McDonough brief reporters,” U.S. Embassy.Gov, April 18, 2009.

Accessed 8-15-22.


455      “very, very scary for all of us”: Glenn Thrush, “Locked In the Cabinet,” Politico, November 2013.


455      “And how, exactly,”: Glenn Thrush, “Locked In the Cabinet,” Politico, November 2013.


455      “You had this incredible green cabinet”: Eric Pooley, The Climate War: True Believers, Power Brokers, and the Fight To Save The Earth, Hyperion 2010. Chapter 42, “Obama’s Stealth Strategy,” 359.


455      “a virtual prime minister”: Peter Baker, “The Limits of Rahmism,” The New York Times Magazine, March 8, 2010.

Emanuel occupies a unique niche in Obama’s White House. He makes up the rules of the game that others are supposed to follow, and he gets away with what others cannot. Emanuel seems to serve as a virtual prime minister, the most powerful chief of staff since James Baker managed the White House during Ronald Reagan’s first term.


455      “Everyone in government believes”: Noam Scheiber, “The Chief: You think it’s so great being Rahm Emanuel?”, The New Republic, March 3, 2010.


455      “I guess if I can take care of Bill Clinton’s blowjobs”: Noam Scheiber, “The Chief: You think it’s so great being Rahm Emanuel?”, The New Republic, March 3, 2010.


456      next Speaker of the House: Matt Bai, “Taking the Hill,” The New York Times Magazine, June 2, 2009.

“ . . . a former House leader who was generally considered to be on a fast track to the speakership before he resigned to become chief of staff.”


456      Stabbed the table: Naftali Bendavid, The Thumpin’: How Rahm Emanuel and the Democrats Learned To Be Ruthless and Ended the Republican Revolution, Doubleday 2007. Chapter Two, “An Unstoppable Force.”

Lizza, “The Gatekeeper,” The New Yorker. “More than any other story about Emanuel’s tactics—and there are lots of them—the tale of the “dead-fish race” came to define his public persona as a Democratic operative.”


456      “hires the ultimate get-it-done insider”: Baker, “The Limits of Rahmism,” The New York Times Magazine.


456      one of the new president’s favorite shows: Ted Johnson, “Obama’s Favorite TV Programs,” Variety, April 10, 2009.


457      “Which lurches between pronounced curtness”: Noam Scheiber, “The Chief: You think it’s so great being Rahm Emanuel?”, The New Republic, March 3, 2010.


457      “I had never seen anybody in this business”: Hollywood Reporter Staff, “‘Entourage’: 10 Never-Told Secrets,” The Hollywood Reporter, July 20, 2011.


457      “and tell me what you have to say”: Alter, The Promise: President Obama, Year One, Chapter Ten, “Rahmbo.”


457      “He treats us all like we’re Lloyd”: Alter, The Promise: President Obama, Year One, Chapter Ten, “Rahmbo.”


Some aides found his senior staff meetings unpleasant or even toxic. Rahm would snarl and snap his fingers “Let’s go! Let’s go! I don’t want to wait. I’ve got shit to do,” as if he were Ari Gold, the superagent on the HBO series Entourage, conspicuously based on Rahm’s brother Ari Emanuel, the CEO of a big Hollywood talent agency. 


457      “Undersecretary for Go Fuck Yourself”: Ryan Lizza, “The Gatekeeper,” The New Yorker, February 21, 2009. For the nameplate.

Schrieber, “The Chief,” The New Republic.


And then there are the f-bombs, which Emanuel reels off like a verbal tic, sometimes embedding them in other words with Germanic aplomb. There is, for example, “Fucknutsville” (his pet name for Washington) and “knucklefuck” (an honorific bestowed on Republican opponents). In administration meetings, Emanuel will occasionally announce, “I think it’s fucking idiotic, but it’s your call.” (That would be Rahm-speak for: “You have more expertise than I do on this subject.”) He’s even been known to use the imprecation as a term of endearment, as when he signs off friendly phone calls: “Fuck you. See you later. I love you.” As Phil Kellam, one of Emanuel’s star recruits from the 2006 election cycle, recently joked to me, “If you could sum up Rahm Emanuel, it would be: big ideas, big mouth, big heart, little finger.” (Emanuel lost half his middle finger in a teenage accident.)


The President liked to tease about this. There had been a bad teenage workplace moment. (Arby’s, the meat slicer.) Obama joked that Emmanuel was such an devotee of F-bombs, the injury had left him “practically mute.”

Baker, “The Limits of Rahmism,” The New York Times Magazine.


457      “The only nonnegotiable principle here”: Matt Bai, “Taking the Hill,” The New York Times Magazine, June 2, 2009.


Obama’s White House is run by Rahm Emanuel . . .

Rather than laying out an intricate plan and then trying to sell it on the Hill, as Clinton did, Obama’s strategy seems to be exactly the opposite — to sell himself to Congress first and worry about the details later. As Emanuel likes to tell his West Wing staff: “The only nonnegotiable principle here is success. Everything else is negotiable.”


The problem with this approach is it means no argument will be won on the merits. It’ll be force of momentum—the momentum of the successful personality—or nothing. It also means no come-from-behind victories. This seems like power politics (get on comfortable terms with the winning side; stay) but is actually and functionally cowardice. Because how do you move a situation where you’re right but leaking popularity, because nobody wants the bill? By this standard you stay out of that situation: which means you can only pass what’s popular. Which means the strategy buys nada.

Here’s an example from The Too Polite Revolution:


The Obama administration remained publicly supportive of climate action but kept a distance from the negotiations, and it was well known that Emanuel considered climate change legislation fairly low on his political to-do list. “Whether we do the climate bill really depends on how we come out on the health care bill,” said Emanuel, according to NRDC President Frances Beinecke, who was present at the meeting. [Beinecke is the environmental leader who had written a year before, “Obama Means What He Says”] . . . “You need to get me some Republicans,” is what EDF’s Steve Cochran recalled hearing from Emanuel.

In April 2011, at a private funders meeting in Chicago, Rahm Emanuel blamed the green groups, at least in part, for the failure of the bill. The green groups, said Emanuel, had told the president they had five Republicans in favor of cap and trade. “They didn’t have shit,” Emanuel told the gathering. “And folks, they were dicking around for two years . . . This is a real big game, and you’ve got to wear your big-boy pants.”


This is, it was the environmental groups’ job to lead, not the White House.

This is essentially the point Rep. Nydia Velázquez made to the Times. (Baker, “The Limits of Rahmism.”)


“There are strong feelings about Rahm Emanuel among members of the Hispanic caucus,” Representative Nydia Velázquez of New York, the head of the caucus, told me. “People feel Rahm Emanuel has not been helpful in moving forward. He’s always about the numbers. He’s always about being the pragmatist. He’s always about winning.”


Petra Bartosiewicz and Marissa Miley, The Too Polite Revolution.


458      “Success breeds success”: Carol E. Lee, “Obama Gains Steam, Plows Ahead,” Politico, March 28, 2010. “That success breeds success is the well-known motto of Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.”

Bob Woodward, The Price of Politics, Simon and Schuster 2012. Chapter Two. In Chapter Six Woodward gets off this good one. “Rahm Emanuel, the chief of staff and the eyes, ears—and some would say tentacles—of the White House.”

Jeff Gooddell, “Obama Takes on Climate Change: The Rolling Stone Interview | ‘I don’t want to get paralyzed by the magnitude of this thing. I’m a big believer that imagination can solve problems,’ says the President,” Rolling Stone, September 23, 2015.


And the key for Paris is just to make sure that everybody is locked in, saying, “We’re going to do this.” Once we get to that point, then we can turn the dials. But there will be a momentum that is built . . . Success breeds success.


458      “If the climate bill bogs down”: Eric Pooley, The Climate War: True Believers, Power Brokers, and the Fight To Save The Earth, Hyperion 2010. Chapter Nine, “The Path,” 360.


458      “Emanuel and the political team”: Eric Pooley, The Climate War: True Believers, Power Brokers, and the Fight To Save The Earth, Hyperion 2010. Chapter Nine “The Path,” and Epilogue “Copenhagen: December 2009,” 348, 392, 395, 392, 440, 348, 348.


458      “Look, the dolphins will be OK”: Mark Halperin, John Heilemann, Double Down: Game Change 2012, The Penguin Press 2013. Chapter Three, “Obama’s List,” 54.


458      “President Obama was silent”: Elizabeth Kolbert, “Uncomfortable Climate,” The New Yorker, November 22, 2010.

The Times reported the same. That note again from before: Coral Davenport, “Obama’s Legacy At Stake In Paris Talks On Climate Accord,” The New York Times, November 28, 2015.

“While Mr. Obama supported a bill pushed by congressional Democrats,” Davenport writes, “its failure in 2010 appeared to make little impression on him. Environmentalists complained that Mr. Obama had done little to promote the measure as it languished in the Senate.


458      “an obstacle to climate action”: Pooley, The Climate War. Chapter Nine, 360.


458      Hansen started getting himself arrested: In 2013 the Times provided his rap sheet:


Dr. Hansen had already become an activist in recent years, taking vacation time from NASA to appear at climate protests and allowing himself to be arrested or cited a half-dozen times . . . “At my age,” he said, “I am not worried about having an arrest record.”


Justin Gillis, “Climate Maverick to Retire From NASA,” The New York Times, April 1, 2013.


459      “This particular problem”: Elizabeth Kolbert, “The Catastrophist; NASA’s climate expert delivers the news no one wants to hear,” The New Yorker, June 29, 2009.


459      “The democratic process”: David Adam, “Leading Climate Scientist: ‘Democratic Process Isn’t Working,’” The Guardian (U.K.), March 18, 2009.


459      had “failed miserably” on climate change: Oliver Milman, “Ex-Nasa Scientist: 30 Years On, World Is Failing ‘Miserably’ To Address Climate Change. James Hansen, who gave a climate warning in 1988 Senate testimony, says real hoax is by leaders claiming to take action,” The Guardian (U.K.), June 19, 2018.


“All we’ve done is agree there’s a problem,” Hansen told the Guardian. “We agreed that in 1992 [at the Earth summit in Rio] and re-agreed it again . . . We haven’t acknowledged what is required to solve it . . . It’s a hoax that governments have played on us since the 1990s.”


459      But still nothing: Ryan Lizza, “As the World Burns,” The New Yorker, October 11, 2010. It helps here to know that James Buchanan was the final president before the Civil War; the one who thought decisive action could be postponed, fudged, finessed, avoided.


As the Senate debate expired this summer, a longtime environmental lobbyist told me that he believed the “real tragedy” surrounding the issue was that Obama understood it profoundly. “I believe Barack Obama understands that fifty years from now no one’s going to know about health care,” the lobbyist said. “Economic historians will know that we had a recession at this time. Everybody is going to be thinking about whether Barack Obama was the James Buchanan of climate change.”


459      2012, one shout-out: Maxwell T. Boykoff, “A Dangerous Shift In Obama’s ‘Climate Change’ Rhetoric,” The Washington Post, January 27, 2012.


What happened to “climate change” and “global warming”?

The Earth is still getting hotter, but those terms have nearly disappeared from political vocabulary. Instead, they have been replaced by less charged and more consumer-friendly expressions for the warming planet.


All this helps us understand the frustration in the complaint leveled by the environmentalist who begins Harvard political scientist Theda Skocpol’s celebrated 2013 study “Naming the Problem.” And its title. The nation seemed determined to continue the Phil Cooney approach. Edit the word, delete the evidence, and, somehow—sympathetic magic, the power of wishes—you’ve solved the problem.

The approach was forcing persuaders to work, campaigners to fight, with tongues tied behind their backs.


“I can’t work on a problem if I cannot name it.” The complaint was registered gently, almost as a musing after-thought at the end of a June 2012 interview I conducted by telephone with one of the nation’s prominent environmental leaders.


And then, three pages later:


Looking back at the fizzle in 2010, postmortems were penned and conferences convened to figure out what went wrong and what should happen next. Diagnoses and prescriptions have been all over the map, as we will see in the concluding section of this report. Meanwhile, political consultants and public relations wordsmiths urged environmentalists to redouble euphemistic locutions already deployed during the cap and trade battle — to talk about “green jobs,” “threats to public health,” and the need to “reduce dependence on foreign oil to bolster national defense,” anything but the threat of global warming and catastrophic climate upheavals.


Theda Skocpol, “Naming The Problem: What It Will Take to Counter Extremism and Engage Americans in the Fight against Global Warming,” Prepared For the Symposium On the Politics of America’s Fight Against Global Warming, Co-sponsored by the Columbia School of Journalism and the Scholars Strategy Network, Harvard University, January 2013.

Accessed 8-15-22.


459      “My promise is to help you and your family”: This was a direct response to the rather beautiful stuff Sen. Barack Obama said in Minnesota, June 2008, the night he clinched the Democratic presidential nomination.


I face this challenge with profound humility and knowledge of my own limitations, but I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people.

Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that, generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick, and good jobs to the jobless — this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.

Accessed 8-15-22.


Governor Romney’s speech was a sort of diss track:


As president, I’ll respect the sanctity of life. I’ll honor the institution of marriage. And I will guarantee America’s first liberty, the freedom of religion. President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans. And to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.

Fox News, “Transcript of Mitt Romney’s speech at the RNC,” August 30, 2012.

Accessed 8-15-22.


I remember watching this speech on a wall-mount flatscreen at the Welcome Center on the Massachusetts–New Hampshire border—then having to walk outside and flex my hands. One of those abrupt mood drops that makes the dog anxious—as if she’s somehow, with the best of intentions, committed a blunder. So, in this vicious humor, I had to cheer up the dog.


459      “It didn’t poll well”: Coral Davenport, “Obama’s Legacy At Stake In Paris Talks On Climate Accord,” The New York Times, November 28, 2015.


459      “not even close”: Justin Gillis, “Not Even Close: 2012 Was Hottest Ever in U.S.,” The New York Times, January 8, 2013.


459      This was the summer of the Big Heat: Elizabeth Kolbert, “The Big Heat,” The New Yorker, July 23, 2012. “Also last week, because of the dryness, the U.S.D.A. declared more than a thousand counties in twenty-six states to be natural disaster areas. This was by far the largest such designation the agency has ever made.”

The final tally more than doubled that.


In 2012, USDA designated 2,245 counties in 39 states as disaster areas due to drought, or 71 percent of the United States. At the height of the 2012 drought, the Secretary announced a series of aggressive USDA actions to get help to farmers, ranchers and businesses . . .


United States Department of Agriculture, “USDA Designates 597 Counties in 2013 as Disaster Areas Due to Drought,” Press Release No. 0002.13, January 9, 2013.

Accessed 8-15-22.


459      “It’s like farming in hell”: Jeff Wilson, “U.S. Corn Growers Farming in Hell as Midwest Heat Spreads,” Business Week, July 9, 2012.


460      “It’s hard just watching the crops wither”: Robert Siegel, Host, “Meat Producers And, Ultimately, Consumers Hurt By Drought,” NPR, July 25, 2012. I picked this one—there were two or three versions—because it has the report’s audio.


460      “what global warming looks like”: Kolbert, “The Big Heat.”


460      “all but fallen out of the national debate”: David Leonhardt, “There’s Still Hope For the Planet,” The New York Times, July 21, 2012.


460      “for the first time in a generation”: John M. Broder, “Both Romney and Obama Avoid Talk of Climate Change,” The New York Times, October 25, 2012.


460      “no debate moderator thought to ask”: Suzanne Goldenberg, “US Presidential Debates’ Great Unmentionable: Climate Change,” The Guardian (U.K.), October 23, 2012.


Amid unprecedented melting of the Arctic summer sea ice, new temperature records in the US and a historic drought, the last of three presidential debates wound up on Monday night without Barack Obama or Mitt Romney ever uttering the words climate change.

It was the first time since 1988, the year Congress was first briefed on the emerging threat by the scientist James Hansen, that there had been no mention of climate change in an election debate.


460      “the Great Unmentionable”: Elizabeth Kolbert, “Climate Change, The Debate’s Great Unmentionable,” The New Yorker, October 17, 2012.


460      “a sustained sense of urgency”: David Remnick, “No More Magical Thinking,” The New Yorker, November 19, 2012.

Remnick wraps up powerfully with, “But Obama must now defeat an especially virulent form of magical thinking, entrenched on Capitol Hill and elsewhere: that a difficulty delayed is a difficulty allayed.”

And we’re back with John Tyndall, the first scientist to identify carbon dioxide as a heating element in the Earth’s atmosphere, and what he announced in October 1877 to a roomful of Victorian optimists. That is, almost all the way back to the beginning. “It as fatal as it is cowardly to blink facts because they are not to our taste.”

John Tyndall, Fragments of Science, Longman, Green and Co. 1879, Chapter 14, “Science and Man.”


460      “You almost couldn’t design a problem”: Beth Gardner, “We’re All Climate-Change Idiots,” The New York Times, July 21, 2012.


460      “If you said, ‘Let’s design a problem’”: Michael Lemonick, “Heading For Apocalypse? A new U.N. Report says global warming is already under way—and the effects could be catastrophic,” Time, October 2, 1995.

The academic was Economics prof Henry Jacoby, Co-Director of M.I.T.’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.


461      “Climate change is the greatest challenge”: Justin Gillis, “U.N. Climate Panel Endorses Ceiling on Global Emissions,” The New York Times, September 28, 2013.


461      “Time is not on our side”: Justin Gillis, “U.N. Panel Issues Its Starkest Warning Yet on Global Warming,” The New York Times, November 2, 2014.


461      Also the optimism that draws a scientist: Which gives me the chance to include my favorite James Hansen remark. From Storms of My Grandchildren, Chapter One, “The Vice President’s Climate Task Force.”


Being an eternal optimist (what else can be effective?), I welcomed the chance . . .


A sentiment that’s beautiful and efficient, like science.


461      “At four, five, six degrees”: Steven Chu, “Steven Chu Presents ‘Energy and Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities.’” Stanford Graduate School of Business, June 4, 2014.


462      “We play Russian roulette with climate”: Wallace Broecker, “Unpleasant Surprises in the Greenhouse,” Nature, July 9, 1987.

A brilliant paper that’s worth reading, because so many of his guesses were dead-on. And the lede is of course another reboot — a restatement (whether it means to be or no) from the paper at the wayback, Roger Revelle and 1957.


The inhabitants of Planet Earth are quietly conducting a gigantic environmental experiment. So vast and so sweeping will be the consequences that, were it brought before any responsible council for approval, it would be firmly rejected. Yet it goes on with little interference from any jurisdiction or nation. The experiment in question is the release of CO2 to the atmosphere.


462      “federally sponsored climate research”: Justin Gillis, “Climate Maverick to Retire From NASA,” The New York Times, April 1, 2013.

Bill McKibben, in quoted remarks, went about as far as you can. It seems movingly right to this reader.


“He’s done the most important science on the most important question that there ever was,” said Bill McKibben, a climate activist who has worked closely with Dr. Hansen.


462      “able to make this story clear enough”: Seth Borenstein, “James Hansen Wishes He Wasn’t So Right About Global Warming,” Associated Press, June 18, 2018. “Hansen said what he really wishes happened is ‘that the warning be heeded and actions be taken.’ They weren’t. Hansen, now 77, regrets not being ‘able to make this story clear enough for the public.’”


462      “As we merrily roll along”: Elizabeth Kolbert, “Is It Too Late to Prepare for Climate Change?”, The New Yorker, November 4, 2013.


462      “even as they all have failed”: Elizabeth Kolbert, “Uncomfortable Climate,” The New Yorker, November 22, 2010.


462      “even as the insanity of doing nothing”: Elizabeth Kolbert, “The Big Heat,” The New Yorker, July 23, 2012.

Reboots: In a Rolling Stone piece Elizabeth Kolbert is unlikely to’ve seen, the former Vice President said almost exactly the same thing. “The truth is this: What we are doing is functionally insane.”

Al Gore, “Climate of Denial,” Rolling Stone, June 22, 2011.


463      “would have to migrate poleward”: Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction, Henry Holt 2014. Chapter Seven, “Dropping Acid,” 132.


463      “We in the U.S.A.,” she said: Dan Drolette, Jr., “Elizabeth Kolbert: Covering The Hot Topic Of Climate Change By Going To The Ends Of The Earth,” The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 2014, Vol. 70(4) 1–9.

Kolbert is so interesting to spend prose time with, I found a link to the piece.

Accessed 8-19-22.


463      October 5, 2012: World Climate Report, “The Web’s Longest-Running Climate Change Blog,” October 5, 2012.

Accessed 8-19-22.

There’s Desmog’s entry on World Climate Report. It’s also like a sequel to the first-gen deniers—Idso, Western Fuels, The Greening Earth Society—from the chapter about Mark Mills.

Accessed 8-19-22.


463      “Yes, if you like”: BBC, Storyville, “Meet the Climate Sceptics,” January 31, 2011.

Accessed 7-10-22.


464      “Sir Paul”: BBC 2, “Sir Paul Nurse Presents: Science Under Attack,” Horizon, January 24, 2011.

Accessed 8-13-22.


464      “most influential figure in British science”: Michael Brooks, “The Science Interview — Paul Nurse,” New Statesman, June 6, 2011.

A kind of round-up piece. The Sun, in its style, called him “the David Beckham of science.”


The Times recently judged him the most influential figure in British science. He has won a Nobel prize. Though he has been described as “brutal” when crossed, it is hard to find anyone with a word to say against him. “Everybody loves Paul,” says the Cancer Research UK biologist Tim Hunt, with whom Nurse shared the Nobel Prize. The Sun once called Nurse the “David Beckham of science”, but a better parallel comes to mind. He flies planes, drives a Kawasaki motorbike and is not the tallest of men; he’s Tom Cruise in Top Gun.


Quite a thing—maybe not even an entirely desirable thing—for a scientist.


464      “And this is I think one of the most”: BBC, Storyville, “Meet the Climate Sceptics.”


464      “the magisterial tearing-down”: This observation feels pre-Twitter. But absolutely speaks to what good TV Paul Nurse messing up James Delingpole was. “Hume argues that it is always better to engage with deniers and phobics and refute their arguments than simply to outlaw their speech. Anyone who has seen the magisterial tearing-down of the climate sceptic James Delingpole by the president of the Royal Society, Paul Nurse, would struggle to disagree.” Caroline Criado-Perez, “For Ever Hold Your Peace,” The Spectator (U.K.), June 20, 2015.


464      “We can’t sit by,” he said: Michael Powell, “A Redoubt of Learning Holds Firm,” The New York Times, September 3, 2012.


465      “a frenzied witch hunt”: James Delingpole, “The Curious Double Standards of Simon Singh,” The Guardian (U.K.), January 28, 2011.

Accessed 8-19-22.


Singh, a sort of celebrity mathematician—TV, documentaries, bestseller list—responded on his blog.


I accept that there is a very small minority of experts who do not accept the broad consensus, as is the case with every aspect of fairly solid science, from MMR [vaccinations; anyway, I didn’t recognize it without Google] to the Big Bang. As for non-experts, my views are clear from a piece I published previously on climate change: “However, those who continue to deny this conclusion (confirmed climate numpties) may wish to consider my revised version of an observation made by the technology journalist Kenneth Cukier in a different context. I would suggest that people who take part in the climate change debate are all intelligent, honourable and reject manmade climate change, but they never possess more than two of these qualities at once. For example, columnists who regularly reject climate change possess the third quality, which means they cannot be both intelligent and honourable. Next time you read a climate numpty columnist you might want to think about whether he or she is dishonourable or unintelligent. The divide is probably 50/50.”


Delingpole’s love for the miracle cure—homeopathy—and miracle diet (where do we store all our meat?) is interesting in this regard. Denial is the miracle cure for climate change.


465      “My health suffered”: James Delingpole, “Putting My Name On This Sick Headstone Won’t Stop Me Defying Climate Zealots,” The Daily Mail (U.K.), May 21, 2015. Delingpole adds, “For a while, I seriously considered giving up on writing about climate change.” And then the detail that always sticks in this reader’s head.


At a pop festival, my children dropped into the comedy tent, and found that a good part of the comic’s set was devoted to joking about what a stupid, ridiculous, climate change denier I was.


(a) The human fact of it; kids walk into the standup tent to find you there in spirit; and (b) Delingpole complaining—when on the global scale it’s what he’d done, over years and then all at once, to climate researchers. His policy on them was, “There aren’t enough bullets.”

Accessed 8-20-22.


465      Steve McIntyre cut back: The retired Georgia Tech climate scientist Judith Curry noted this same absenteeism. “Climate Audit has a very low level of activity.”

Judith Curry, “Legacy of Climategate — 10 Years Ago,” November 12, 2019, Climate Etc.

Accessed 8-22-22.


Steve McIntyre wasn’t torpid. He defended New England Patriots QB Tom Brady in the sporting-goods scandal known as Deflategate. He questioned the anti-Donald Trump bent in the testimony by former FBI director James Comey. He disproved the consensus attribution of pro-Donald Trump election meddling to Russia. He seems to have discovered that time-consuming hobby: he liked being in the news.

Stephen McIntyre, “Deflating Deflategate: Confusion About Basic Science Could Have Wrongly Smeared Tom Brady,” Financial Post (Canada), September 1, 2015.

Accessed 8-22-22.


465      “If I had never heard of climate”: Brendan Montague, “McIntyre’s Missing Millions or How Climategate Blogger Missed Out on ‘Deal of a Lifetime,’” Desmog UK, November 10, 2014.

Accessed 8-22-22.


465      by a former TV weatherman: Watts was among the 24 weather hairdos to sign S. Fred Singer’s Leipzig Declaration.


465      “Denial’s most popular surviving website”: Judith Curry, “Legacy of Climategate — 10 Years Ago,” November 12, 2019, Climate Etc. “Only Watts Up With That has maintained its pace of publishing and its influence.” Since Curry posts on WattsUp, this is an informed valuation.

Accessed 8-22-22.


465      He was also a climate skeptic: Westyn Branch-Elliman, “UC-Berkeley Researchers Say Climate Change Due To Astronomical Cycles,” University Wire, Daily Californian, November 18, 1999.


“Astronomy is responsible for almost all climate changes,” said project leader Richard Muller, a UC Berkeley professor of physics and a researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories.


In fact, Muller was a supporter of McIntyre and McKitrick—so an absolute safe bet for Antony Watts and the Kochs.

Richard Muller, “Global Warming Bombshell,” MIT Technology Review, October 15, 2004. “[McIntyre’s work] hit me like a bombshell,” Muller wrote. “Suddenly the hockey stick, the poster-child of the global warming community, turns out to be an artifact of poor mathematics.”

Fred Pearce, “Grudge Match; The crucial evidence for global warming is fatally flawed — or so we are told. Fred Pearce reports on the great hockey stick fight,” New Scientist, March 18, 2006.

Michael Mann, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, Columbia University Press 2012. Chapter Nine, “When You Get Your Picture On the Cover of. . . ,” 140.


One example was retired astrophysicist Richard Muller. Muller used his column in MIT’s prominent journal Technology Review to defend the deeply flawed Soon and Baliunas medieval climate study in late 2003. A year later, he echoed McIntyre and McKitrick’s claim that the hockey stick was an artifact of our PCA procedure—a claim that hadn’t yet been published, let alone subject to the independent scrutiny under which it would later wither. With the imprimatur of an MIT journal behind it, Muller’s piece helped the “hockey stick is a statistical artifact” view penetrate into respected academic circles.


465      from the mischievous, fuel-loving Koch Brothers: In fact, the Kochs were the project’s largest private backer. Margot Roosevelt, “Critics’ Review Unexpectedly Supports Scientific Consensus On Global Warming,” Los Angeles Times, April 4, 2011.

“The Koch brothers,” as Gavin Schmidt told the BBC, “who run a very large fossil fuel conglomerate. And they funded it [Muller’s work] presumably with the anticipation that it would undermine all the other work that had been done.” BBC, “Climategate: The Science of A Scandal,” BBC Four, November 14, 2019.


465      “can a group of scientists in California”: Ian Sample, “Can A Group Of Scientists In California End The War On Climate Change? The Berkeley Earth project say they are about to reveal the definitive truth about global warming,” The Guardian (U.K.), February 27, 2011.


465      “what needs to be done”: S. Fred Singer, “What do Climate Data Really Show? The Berkeley Climate Data Project,” American Thinker, February 2011.


465      “I’m prepared to accept whatever result”: Anthony Watts, “Briggs On Berkeley’s Forthcoming BEST Surface Temperature Record, Plus My Thoughts From My Visit There,” Watts Up With That?, March 6, 2011.

Accessed 8-22-22.


And, I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong. I’m taking this bold step because the method has promise. So let’s not pay attention to the little yippers who want to tear it down before they even see the results.


465      In 2011, Muller and his team: Margot Roosevelt, “Critics’ Review Unexpectedly Supports Scientific Consensus On Global Warming,” Los Angeles Times, April 4, 2011.

Ian Sample, ”Berkeley Team Announces Early Results From Global Warming Review,” The Guardian (U.K.), March 31, 2011.

Lauren Morello, “Experts Heat Up Over Berkeley Lab Scientist’s Quest to ‘Calm’ Climate Change Debate,” The New York Times, April 1, 2011.


465      Climate warming was caused by humans: “A number of physicists at the University of California, Berkeley decided to start again,” Climatic Research Unit Director Phil Jones explained to BBC. “And produce what they said would be the true record of temperature from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. Well, they did lots of this work and . . . still came out with the same answer.”

NASA’s Gavin Schmidt noted it too. “They came up with exactly the same answer that everybody else had come up with.”

BBC, “Climategate: The Science of A Scandal,” BBC Four, November 14, 2019.

For BBC, the Muller group’s results are the punchline to Climategate. The independent fact-check; the actual climate audit.


465      called the work “incomplete”: Leslie Kaufman, “Climate Study Does Not Placate Skeptics,” The New York Times Green Blogs, October 21, 2011.

Accessed 8-22-22.

Anthony Watts, “The Waxman-Markey Circus is coming to town – Dr. Richard Muller to showcase BEST under the big top,” Watts Up With That?, November 13, 2011.

Accessed 8-22-22.


The day of Muller’s testimony, Watts called it, “post normal political theater.”

Anthony Watts, “Clarification On BEST Submitted To the House,” Watts Up With That?, March 31, 2011.

Accessed 8-22-22.

Richard Muller, “I Stick to Science”: Richard Muller’s Statement to Congress about Climate Change [Web Exclusive],” Scientific American, June 6, 2011.

Accessed 8-22-22.


Commenters empathized “Condolences to you, Anthony. This must be a bitter pill.” Adding, “When I just now described this double-cross to…”

Accessed 8-22-22. 

466      When a journalist reported this story: Andrew Leonard, “Climate Skeptics Lose Their Cool: Friends become enemies as a scientist expected to cast doubt on global warming trends does the exact opposite,” Salon, April 1, 2011.

Accessed 8-22-22.


466      “Was your intent simply to add”: Andrew Leonard, “How To Make Climate Skeptics Angry. A Berkeley scientist’s sin: Coming up with the wrong answer,” Salon, April 4, 2011.

Accessed 8-22-22.


The two Paul Krugman Richard Muller pieces from 2011 are pretty funny. 

Paul Krugman, “The Truth, Still Inconvenient,” The New York Times, April 3, 2011; Paul Krugman, “More People Who Can’t Handle The Truth,” The New York Times Krugman Blog, October 21, 2011.


Now, as Andy Revkin and Joe Romm tell us, one prominent skeptic who actually believed that the data was being manipulated has reported in detail on his efforts to produce clean climate data. And guess what: his data overwhelmingly confirm what climate scientists have been saying.

Accessed 8-22-22.


Here’s Pulitzer-winner Chris Mooney on his own three Watts encounters, plus the various blogger injuries incurred therein. Plus a solid Watts photo, too.

Chris Mooney, “Anthony Watts and Defensive Reasoning: Three Episodes,” Desmog, November 16, 2011.

Accessed 8-22-22.


466      “Last year, following”: Richard Muller, “The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic,” The New York Times, July 28, 2012.


466      took only about ninety minutes: Max Kutner, “Trump Calls Global Warming a ‘Hoax.’ This Converted Skeptic Could Change That,” Newsweek, June 6, 2017.


466      a long gloomy postmortem: Nicholas Lemann, “When the Earth Moved: What Happened To The Environmental Movement?”, The New Yorker, April 15, 2013.


466      “The science of carbon emissions is there”: This is the same week the magazine ran: Ryan Lizza, “Has Obama Already Given Up On Climate Change?”, The New Yorker, April 12, 2013. “This new budget approaches the ambitions of 2009—with one glaring omission.”

Accessed 8-22-22.


466      his trophy for Most Neglected Topic: Nicholas Kristoff, “‘Neglected Topic’ Winner: Climate Change,” The New York Times, January 18, 2014.


466      was the warmest year on record: NASA, “NASA Research Finds 2010 Tied for Warmest Year on Record,” January 12, 2011.

Accessed 8-22-22.


466      clocked in as the second-warmest: Dana Nuccitelli, “2013 Was The Second-Hottest Year Without An El Niño Since Before 1850: 2013 Was Hotter Than 1998 Despite The Latter Being Warmed By A Powerful El Niño Event,” The Guardian (U.K.), February 6, 2014.

Without the El Niño considerations: Justin Gillis, “2013 Listed As One Of the Warmest Years On Record,” The New York Times, January 21, 2014.


467      “Playing out in real time”: Valerie Richardson, “Michael Mann, Scientist: Data ‘Increasingly Unnecessary’ Because ‘We Can See Climate Change,’” The Washington Times, June 27, 2016.

I thought it might be fun on this one to quote S. Fred Singer’s old alma mater. His old question of ideological outlook question rendered otiose.


467      “It is the first time in the modern era”: Justin Gillis, “Earth Sets a Temperature Record for the Third Straight Year,” The New York Times, January 18, 2017.


Marking another milestone for a changing planet, scientists reported on Wednesday that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016, trouncing a record set only a year earlier, which beat one set in 2014. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have blown past the previous record three years in a row.

The findings come two days before the inauguration of an American president who has called global warming a Chinese plot and vowed to roll back his predecessor’s efforts to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases.

In reality, the Earth is heating up, a point long beyond serious scientific dispute, but one becoming more evident as the records keep falling. Temperatures are heading toward levels that many experts believe will pose a profound threat to both the natural world and to human civilization.


467      nineteen out of twenty: This NASA page is a clearing house for annual climate data: Facts, Vital Signs of the Planet, Global Climate Change, NASA.

Accessed 8-22-22.


Nineteen of the warmest years have occurred since 2000, with the exception of 1998. The year 2020 tied with 2016 for the warmest year on record since record-keeping began in 1880 (source: NASA/GISS). 


The temperature graph in the screen’s right upper corner is mouth-drying, startling.


And the 2010s were the warmest decade in the temperature record. As had been the 2000s; also the 1990s; also the 1980s. Seth Borenstein, “Scientists Say 2010 Was Hottest Decade Ever Recorded On Earth: Recent Study Shows 2019 Was The Second-Hottest Year Ever,” Associated Press, January 15, 2020.


The decade that just ended was by far the hottest ever measured on Earth, capped off by the second-warmest year on record, two U.S. agencies reported Wednesday. And scientists said they see no end to the way man-made climate change keeps shattering records.

“If you think you’ve heard this story before, you haven’t seen anything yet,” Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said at the close of a decade plagued by raging wildfires, melting ice, and extreme weather that researchers have repeatedly tied to human activity. “This is real. This is happening.”

The 2010s averaged 58.4 degrees Fahrenheit worldwide, or 1.4 degrees higher than the 20th century average and more than one-third of a degree warmer than the previous decade, which had been the hottest on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


467      “400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs”: Justin Gillis, “Earth Sets a Temperature Record for the Third Straight Year,” The New York Times, January 18, 2017.


467      “predictions that scientists first offered”: Justin Gillis, “Earth Sets a Temperature Record for the Third Straight Year,” The New York Times, January 18, 2017.


467      “Human beings are now carrying out”: Roger Revelle, Hans E. Seuss, “Carbon Dioxide Exchange between Atmosphere and Ocean and the Question of an Increase of Atmospheric CO2 During the Past Decades,” Tellus Vol. 9 Issue 1, February 1957: 18-27.


And again, the online version of Weart’s masterful Discovery of Global Warming has a wonderful section on Roger Revelle and the 1957 paper.

Spencer Weart, “Roger Revelle’s Discovery,” The Discovery of Global Warming, Spencer Weart and the American Institute of Physics.

Accessed 8-22-22.


467      “all we’re willing to do is stand around”: Paul Brodeur, “Annals of Chemistry: In the Face of Doubt,” The New Yorker, 1986.


467      “It’s as if we didn’t know”: Brendan Montague, “James Hansen: ‘I Thought There Would Be a Rational Response,’” Desmog U.K., October 10, 2014.

Accessed 8-22-22.


“I wasn’t thinking, ‘Oh, this is really gonna happen out in the twenty-first century’, because I thought there would be a rational response.

“There has not been: it’s as if we didn’t know. We might as well not know. Our fossil fuel use wouldn’t be much different. By and large, the emissions have just continued to accelerate.”


467      Hansen was filmed for a video history: David Simonds, Director, Elizabeth Kolbert, Executive Producer, “Confronting Climate Change with Elizabeth Kolbert,” Williams College, Center for Environmental Studies, 2017.

It’s only twenty-five minutes, and beautifully done, and you can see that dignified shot of the zip-tied Jim Hansen around minute six. You’ll also, having read so much from her, get to see what Elizabeth Kolbert seem like in person, along with a never-more-glamorous Hansen. The former White House advisor and CNN contributor Van Jones says some sharp things about motivation and urgency, and Bill McKibben, looking both energized and slightly enervated by the large public things his stewardship of the issue have required him to do: McKibben started out like Kolbert, as a writer. And then caught Van Jones’ sense of mission.

So let me direct you to this one-two punch from Jones and McKibben, early on. Addressing the video title:


van jones: I think of confronting climate change as being the opposite of denying climate change. You have two kinds of people. You have the overt climate deniers. And then the rest of us, who are just denying it [laughs gently] in our hearts. Because we are continuing to act like we’re not in a planetary emergency.


bill mckibben: I thought for a long time that confronting it meant, If we just kept on writing more books, having more journal articles, that eventually the weight—sheer weight— of data and evidence and reason and logic would compel action from the people who run the planet. Because that’s what you would think: I mean, having been given a clear scientific warning, why would we keep stumbling blindly into it?


Hansen’s remark comes around the end of minute nineteen. You’ll see the joke cross his mind before he makes it. My thought was, I hadn’t realized he was a bit of a comedian.

Accessed 8-22-22.


468      “Well,” Dr. Hansen said, “the simple thing is”: Elizabeth Kolbert, “Listening to James Hansen On Climate Change: 30 Years Ago and Now,” The New Yorker Daily Comment, June 20, 2018.

Accessed 8-22-22.


This week marks the thirtieth anniversary of Hansen’s testimony, and it would be hard to think of a more lugubrious milestone. In the intervening three decades, nearly half of the Arctic ice cap has melted away, the oceans have acidified, much of the American West has burned, lower Manhattan, South Florida, Houston, and New Orleans have flooded, and average temperatures have continued to climb. Just last week, a team of scientists reported in Nature that the rate of melt off Antarctica has tripled in the past decade; as the Washington Post put it, “If that continues, we are in serious trouble.” (Were the Antarctic ice to melt away entirely, global sea levels would rise by two hundred feet; if just the more vulnerable West Antarctic Ice Sheet melted, sea levels would rise by about ten feet.) Also last week, scientists reported that most of Africa’s oldest baobab trees have died, probably because of climate change, and last month researchers showed that rising CO2 levels were reducing the nutrient content of rice, which is probably the single most important food source for people. Yet Washington continues to ignore the problem, or, worse still, to actively impede efforts to address it. How can this be?

A possible answer, which seems to be the one that Hansen himself, at least in part, subscribes to, is that scientists are to blame. Hansen is now seventy-seven and retired from NASA. He recently told the Associated Press that he regrets not being “able to make this story clear enough for the public.” Many climate scientists seem similarly to believe that they are not good at conveying information to lay audiences, and, as a result, dozens of Web sites and several whole organizations have been created to help them communicate better.


And how gallant of Jim Hansen to claim such a generous, wrong-headed thing.

It took, after all, decades and decades with cigarettes. It wasn’t that the scientists were so clumsy; it’s that the other side is so skilled. And because the deal has remained such a good one, until very recently. (All the benefits of an energized economy minus the brunt of any climate drawbacks.) So our disapproval is transferred to the deniers—how we scorn them!—without our feeling the pinch of having to do anything. An ideal contract, between the culture and everybody. What could Elizabeth Kolbert, an elegant communicator, or Jim Hansen and Roger Revelle, lauded scientists, have to offer against that?

Which is what Kolbert mordantly catches.


Instead of using this anniversary to lament the failures of climate scientists, I’d like to propose that we use it to celebrate—well, “celebrate” probably isn’t quite the right word, but maybe recognize—their successes. Three decades ago, led by Hansen, they made a series of predictions; for the most part these have proved to be spectacularly accurate. That we, the general public, have failed to act on these predictions says a lot more about us than it does about them.


And there's this compelling observation from Bill McKibben. The simplest answer. “It gradually became clear to me,” he tells Kolbert, “that we were not engaged in an argument, we were engaged in a fight. And that the fight, as all fights are, was about money and power. And that the other side was winning. They understood they were in a fight. They had lots of money. And that translated into political power.”


468      “tigers roaming about and gaudy parrots squawking”: Waldemar Kaempffert, “Science In Review: Warmer Climate on the Earth May Be Due to More Carbon Dioxide in the Air,” The New York Times, October 28, 1956.


468      63.5 degrees: Since officially exceeded, outwarmed, on February 6, 2020; accepted by the World Meteorological Organization on July 1, 2021.

WMO, “WMO Verifies One Temperature Record For Antarctic Continent And Rejects Another,” World Meteorological Organization, Press Release No. 01072021, July 1, 2021.


GENEVA, 1 July 2021 (WMO) - The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has recognized a new record high temperature for the Antarctic continent of 18.3° Celsius on 6 February 2020 at the Esperanza station (Argentina). However, it rejected an even higher temperature, of 20.75°C, which was reported on 9 February 2020 at an automated permafrost monitoring station (Brazil) on Seymour Island.

The previous record for the Antarctic region (continental, including mainland and surrounding islands] was 17.5°C (63.5°F) recorded on 24 March 2015 at Esperanza Research Station.

Accessed 8-22-22.


468      195 nations negotiated the Paris Agreement: Coral Davenport, “Nations Approve Landmark Climate Accord in Paris,” The New York Times, December 12, 2015.


LE BOURGET, France — With the sudden bang of a gavel Saturday night, representatives of 195 nations reached a landmark accord that will, for the first time, commit nearly every country to lowering planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions to help stave off the most drastic effects of climate change.

The deal, which was met with an eruption of cheers and ovations from thousands of delegates gathered from around the world, represents a historic breakthrough on an issue that has foiled decades of international efforts to address climate change.


468      “not the same old climate change”: Louis Jacobson, “Yes, Donald Trump Did Call Climate Change A Chinese Hoax,” Politifact, June 3, 2016.

Accessed 8-22-22.


469      “It’s a big scam for a lot of people”: Bill O’Reilly, “Donald Trump on Climate Change Policy,” The O’Reilly Factor, December 4, 2015.

Accessed 8-22-22.


469      “This is done for the benefit of China”: Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, Anna Kooiman, “Donald Trump Slams Iran Deal; The Heat Is On,” Fox & Friends, Fox News, January 18, 2016.

Accessed 8-22-22.


Jon Schwartz, “Trump’s Climate Views: Combative, Conflicting and Confusing,” The New York Times, March 10, 2017.


469      America’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement: Michael D. Shear, “Trump Will Withdraw U.S. From Paris Climate Agreement,” The New York Times, January 1, 2017.


469      “the United States as the only country”: Lisa Friedman, “Syria Joins Paris Climate Accord, Leaving Only U.S. Opposed,” The New York Times, November 7, 2017.


469      “This is the new normal”: Henry Fountain, Jugal K. Patel, Nadja Popovich, “2017 Was One of the Hottest Years on Record. And That Was Without El Niño,” The New York Times, January 18, 2018.

Another staggering graph: a hockey blade, with no fancy math, no Michael Mann, just the temperatures.


“This is the new normal,” said Gavin A. Schmidt, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the NASA group that conducted the analysis. But, he said, “It’s also changing. It’s not that we’ve gotten to a new plateau — this isn’t where we’ll stay. In ten years we’re going to say ‘oh look, another record decade of warming temperatures.’”

Accessed 8-22-22.


469      the sight of a highway overpass underwater: That first shot especially.

Anna Livesey, “Before And After: Images Show How Hurricane Harvey Swamped Houston,” The Guardian, August 29, 2017.

Michael Sheetz, “Underwater Metropolis: Photos Of Houston Before And After Historic Flooding,” CNBC, August 28, 2017.

Accessed 8-22-22.


469      matter out of place: This was Harvey, the single largest rainfall event in U.S. history.

Jason Samenow, “Because Of Climate Change, Hurricanes Are Raining Harder And May Be Growing Stronger More Quickly,” The Washington Post, May 8, 2018.


Harvey dumped more than 60 inches of rain in parts of Southeast Texas, the most ever recorded from a single storm in the United States in recorded history. 

The storm generated lots of news—with an almost pictures-of-Venus ring. Jason Samenow, “Harvey Marks The Most Extreme Rain Event In U.S. History,” The Washington Post, August 29, 2017; Christopher Ingraham, “Houston Is Experiencing Its Third ‘500-Year’ Flood In 3 Years. How Is That Possible?”, The Washington Post, August 29, 2017; Jason Samenow, “Harvey Is A 1000-Year Flood Event Unprecedented In Scale,” The Washington Post, August 31, 2017; Angela Fritz, Jason Samenow, “Harvey Unloaded 33 Trillion Gallons of Water in the U.S.,” The Washington Post, September 2, 2017.


469      Jazmín Méndez has lived much of the last year: Frances Robles, “Puerto Rico Spent 11 Months Turning the Power Back On. They Finally Got to Her,” The New York Times, August 14, 2018.


470      all five had hit since the turn of the century: Angela Fritz, “Harvey, Irma And Maria Now In The Top 5 Costliest Hurricanes On Record, NOAA Says,” The Washington Post, January 30, 2018.

Order, year, and box office.


(1) Katrina (2005), $160B

(2) Harvey (2017), $125B

(3) Maria (2017), $90B

(4) Sandy (2012), $70.2B

(5) Irma (2017), $50B

Accessed 8-22-22.


Eugene Linden, “How Scientists Got Climate Change So Wrong: Now we’re facing consequences once viewed as fringe scenarios,” The New York Times, November 8, 2019.

“In 2017, Hurricane Harvey gave Houston and the surrounding region a $125 billion lesson about the costs of misjudging the potential for floods.”


470      “Humanity’s response must start”: Editorial Board, “We’re Making Hurricanes Worse. We’re Also Not Preparing For Them,” The Washington Post, May 11, 2018.


Humanity’s response must start with heading off as much unnecessary warming as possible by cutting dependence on fuels that emit heat-trapping greenhouse-gas emissions. But Harveys are already happening, so local, state and national governments also must make better preparations for the extreme weather to come. “Houston has been beset with three 500-year floods in 3 years prior to Harvey, and Miami regularly experiences ‘sunny day’ flooding with high tides,” the researchers wrote.

It is still a matter of debate whether climate change will increase the number of hurricanes, but it is more and more clear that human-caused heating of the planet will boost their severity.


Re: sunny-day floods: they’re just what you think. Rain not required:


A decade ago, few had heard of “king tides,” much less waded through them in galoshes. Now, Miami regularly floods. So do Myrtle Beach, Charleston and other U.S. cities. And more than ever, groups of citizens are out there photographing the results, uploading the pics and debating what the future will bring.

“Coastal flooding is our new normal,” said Daniel J. Burger, who coordinates the King Tides Initiative for the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control. . . Over the last century, sea level has risen about a foot in Charleston. That’s one reason sunny day flooding has increased there and in other parts of the Carolinas, Virginia and Florida. With expected sea-level rise in coming decades — caused by melting of the ice sheets and expansion of warming ocean waters — Charleston could see 180 days of sunny day flooding by 2045. That means that current king tides could become the normal high tides.


Already, between 1970 and 2014, annual Charleston sunny-day floods had “increased from two to 14.” From basically never to more than once a month.

“Sunny Day Floods Become New Norm,” Tampa Bay Times, December 10, 2017.


470      “This would be difficult but not impossible”: Editorial Board, “The World Has Barely A Decade To Avoid Disaster. We Need To Combat Climate Change — Now,” The Washington Post, October 8, 2018.


470      “Mankind’s ability to protect itself”: Editorial Board, “The Air Supply,” The Washington Post, November 22, 1965.


470      “It’s now absolutely happening”: Somini Septgupta, “2018 Is Shaping Up to Be the Fourth-Hottest Year. Yet We’re Still Not Prepared for Global Warming,” The New York Times, August 9, 2018.


. . . The period between May and July ranked as the hottest ever, according to NOAA, with an average temperature of 70.9 degrees Fahrenheit (21.6 degrees Celsius) which was 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit (1.9 Celsius) above average in the period since record-keeping began in 1895.


It would also turn out to have been the warmest summer nights, the hottest lows, in U.S. history. Sean Breslin, “Summer Nights Have Never Been Hotter in the Lower 48,”, February 13, 2019.


  • The Lower 48 had its warmest average low temperature for any summer since 1895, NOAA announces.
  • Every state in the contiguous U.S. had above-average minimum temperatures from June through August.
  • It’s part of a long-term trend where average lows are warming much faster than average highs.


Released Thursday by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, the report found the Lower 48’s average minimum temperature for meteorological summer – June through August – was 60.9 degrees Fahrenheit, one-tenth of a degree warmer than the previous record, set in 2016. It’s the warmest average low temperature for the nation in 124 years of record-keeping, and 2.5 degrees warmer than average.

Accessed 8-22-22.


Michael Mann, “It’s Not Rocket Science: Climate Change Was Behind This Summer’s Extreme Weather,” The Washington Post, November 2, 2018.


471      “salt water to flow”: Time, “One Big Greenhouse,” May 28, 1956.


471      Britain’s second-wettest year on record: Katherine Rowland, “Flooding Is The United Kingdom’s Biggest Climate Threat,” Nature, January 26, 2012. “Severe flooding that could affect millions of people is the United Kingdom’s most pressing climate-change risk, says a study released yesterday by the country’s government.”

Matt Kivner, “Met Office: 2012 Was UK’s Second Wettest Year On Record,” BBC, January 3, 2013. It was the wettest on record for England proper. “The Met Office added that four of the top five wettest years had occurred since 2000.”

Accessed 8-22-22.

Damian Carrington, “2012: The Year Britain’s Weather Turned Dangerous. Record rainfall led to widespread flooding, killing nine people, ruining crops and costing the country billions,” The Guardian (U.K.), January 4, 2013.

Sarah Lyall, “Heat, Flood or Icy Cold, Extreme Weather Rages Worldwide,” The New York Times, January 10, 2013.


Britons may remember 2012 as the year the weather spun off its rails in a chaotic concoction of drought, deluge and flooding, but the unpredictability of it all turns out to have been all too predictable: Around the world, extreme has become the new commonplace.

Especially lately. China is enduring its coldest winter in nearly 30 years. Brazil is in the grip of a dreadful heat spell. Eastern Russia is so freezing — minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and counting — that the traffic lights recently stopped working in the city of Yakutsk.

Bush fires are raging across Australia, fueled by a record-shattering heat wave. Pakistan was inundated by unexpected flooding in September. A vicious storm bringing rain, snow and floods just struck the Middle East. And in the United States, scientists confirmed this week what people could have figured out simply by going outside: last year was the hottest since records began.

“Each year we have extreme weather, but it’s unusual to have so many extreme events around the world at once,” said Omar Baddour, chief of the data management applications division at the World Meteorological Organization, in Geneva. . . . Such events are increasing in intensity as well as frequency, Mr. Baddour said, a sign that climate change is not just about rising temperatures, but also about intense, unpleasant, anomalous weather of all kinds.


Reuters, “Wettest Winter in England and Wales for Almost 250 Years,” February 27, 2014. It was also, the story adds, England’s fifth warmest winter on record.

Clive Cookson, “Climate Change Takes Blame For Flooding: Meteorology: Record Rainfall; Scientists abandon caution in describing link between global warming and extreme weather,” The Financial Times (U.K.), January 9, 2016.

“Climate scientists are moving away from cautious statements made in the past that, while man-made global warming makes certain types of severe weather more likely, it cannot be blamed for specific events.” During the most recent flood one waterway, the Eden, had been hurling “the contents of an Olympic swimming pool into the Solway Firth every second—a record for any English river.”

Josh Gabbatiss, “UK Hotter Than It Has Been For 100 Years Due To Climate Change, Met Office Reveal. Over past decade average temperature increased 0.8c and rainfall up 20 per cent compared to 30-year period ending in 1990,” The Independent (U.K.), July 31, 2018.

All on top of England’s traditional damp. As Philip Larkin wrote in the fifties, “This is a wettish country.”


Grantham Institute, “How is climate change affecting river and surface water flooding in the UK?”, January 22, 2021.

Accessed 8-22-22.


Press Office, “Climate Change Continues To Be Evident Across UK,” Met Office, July 29, 2021.

“The UK has had its wettest February in 2020, December in 2015, April and June in 2012 and November in 2009 – five out of 12 months – in little over a decade.”

Accessed 8-22-22.


Laura Sharman, “London Flood Map Shows Areas Of City At Risk Of Being Underwater Within 10 Years,” Evening Standard, August 12, 2021.

Basically, the neighborhoods (this is on the piece’s map) nearest the Thames.


A London flooding risk map has predicted vast areas of the city could be regularly underwater by 2030. The image showed the entire bank of the River Thames could be at risk … as extreme weather becomes more frequent due to climate change.

Other vulnerable areas include the majority of east London — including Stratford, Canary Wharf and the Royal Docklands.

Accessed 8-22-22.


471      nine degrees above normal: Union of Concerned Scientists, “Hurricane Sandy Underscores Climate Change Threat to Coasts,” October 30, 2012.

Accessed 8-22-22.


Ezra Klein, “Al Gore Explains Why He’s Optimistic About Stopping Climate Change,” The Washington Post Blogs, August 22, 2013.

“If you look at superstorm Sandy on October 29, the ocean water east of New Jersey was nine degrees Fahrenheit above average,” Gore explains. “That’s what put so much more energy into that storm. That’s what put so much more water vapor into that storm. Would there be a storm anyway? Maybe so. Would there be hurricanes and floods and droughts without man-made global warming? Of course. But they’re stronger now. The extreme events are more extreme.”


471      warm water is hurricane food: Associated Press’s Seth Borenstein, in the hours before Sandy made New York landfall, offered another scatter.

“One reason Sandy may have stayed tropical so long was the unusually warm waters of the Gulf Stream, a river of warm water that flows from the Caribbean up into the North Atlantic. It was five to nine degrees warmer than normal for this time of year. And as a tropical system, Sandy fed on those warm waters and kept traveling north . . . That could account for the last-minute boost in speed, too, that Sandy had as it neared shore, accelerating to 28 mph.”

Seth Borenstein, “Sandy: Losing Tropical Nature, Gaining Girth,” Associated Press, October 29, 2012.


471      ninety miles per hour: Jesse Newman, “For New York’s Subway, Sandy’s Devastation May Be Just the Beginning,” The Atlantic, November 1, 2012.

Also in PBS’ Nova, “Inside the Megastorm,” October 2, 2013. (Episode 16 of Season 39, so S39E16.) PBS helpfully adds that the storm packed the force of “five Hiroshima bombs.”


And the storm surge, per NOAA, was an astonishing 13.88 feet high—“a record shattering tidal maximum the evening of October 29 of 13.88 feet at The Battery in New York City Harbor. The previous high tide record of 11.20 feet was set during the great hurricane of 1821.”

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, “State of the Climate: National Climate Report for October 2012,” November 2012.

Accessed 8-24-22.


471      “There were waves on Wall Street”: CBS News, “Four Weeks After Sandy, Lower Manhattan Still Hurting,” November 27, 2012. With a link to—as the site points out—”77 photos.” They’re wild: Roger Revelle’s 1956 Time Magazine vision.


The area, largely an evacuation zone, was swamped. “There were waves on Wall Street, and it all ended up here,” said Mike Lahm, a building engineer who rode out the storm at 120 Wall Street.

Nearly a month after Sandy, some high-rises that are home to investment banks, large law firms and luxury apartments have bounced back. But others remain dark and vacant.

Landlords have warned full power won’t be back for weeks, if not months, leaving businesses and residents uncertain about when — or whether — they’ll return. JP Morgan Chase, the Daily News and the American Civil Liberties Union are among tenants still operating in satellite locations after getting washed out of their headquarters.

Accessed 8-22-22.


The 77 photos. The transformer blowing out is right in the stack’s middle.

Sara Dover, Edecio Martinez, “Superstorm Floods New York City,” CBS News, October 29, 2012.

Accessed 8-22-22.


471      flooded the subways: Patrick McGeehan, Winnie Hu, “Five Years After Sandy, Are We Better Prepared?”, The New York Times, October 29, 2017.

Lorraine Boissoneault, Bailey Johnson, “Superstorm Sandy Anniversary: How the Subway Survived,” The Weather Channel, October 30, 2013.

Accessed 8-22-22.

Ted Mann, “Salt Water Puts the Subway ‘In Jeopardy,’” The Wall Street Journal, October 30, 2012.


471      Swells in Queens: NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, “State of the Climate: National Climate Report for October 2012,” November 2012.

Accessed 8-24-22.


471      “It’s like cancer to a rail system”: Patrick McGeehan, Winnie Hu, “Five Years After Sandy, Are We Better Prepared?”, The New York Times, October 29, 2017.


471      former headquarters of Edison Electric Light: Edison Electric Light Company, 65 Fifth Avenue, New York City.

Essentially, Fourteenth Street and Fifth Avenue; the Con Edison plant is on Fourteenth and C.

Accessed 8-22-22. 

471      exploded a transformer: The video—all that contained and expressed force—is a startler. You’ll regret clicking for the first twenty seconds. Then: shock. I remember what the politicians first said about the telegraph: What would Jefferson think, could he arise up and witness what we have just seen? What would Edison and Tesla think, witnessing that flash?

ABC News, “Hurricane Sandy: Video of Explosion at NYC Con Edison Plant,” October 30, 2012.

Accessed 8-22-22.


471      Manhattan into darkness: Dave Carpenter, Jeff Donn, Jonathan Fahey, “ConEd Prepared for Big Storm, Got an Even Bigger One,” NBC, October 31, 2012.


As water poured into the substation Monday night, the blinding flash of an explosion lit the most famous skyline in the world. A huge section of the city that never sleeps fell into darkness.

It’s exactly what a proactive ConEd hoped to avoid by shutting down three similar power networks in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn in advance of the storm surge.

However, the combination of circumstances, notably an extraordinary high tide, pushed massive amounts of water deep into the city. The underground infrastructure was suddenly vulnerable.

Accessed 8-22-22.


471      half a decade later on a French beach: Madeline Fish, “Jersey Sign Washes Up In France Years After Hurricane Sandy,” New York Post, May 31, 2018.

Andrew Newman, “Sign Washed Away in Hurricane Sandy Lands on Beach in France,” The New York Times, May 31, 2018.


471      the climate keeps its own time: Eugene Linden, “How Scientists Got Climate Change So Wrong: Now we’re facing consequences once viewed as fringe scenarios,” The New York Times, November 8, 2019.

The piece quotes one of those surprise polls. Sixty-two years after Roger Revelle, three decades since Jim Hansen’s famous announcement, and only 17 percent of respondents “correctly understand that almost all climate scientists think global warming is happening.”

Had a scientist in the early 1990s suggested that within 25 years a single heat wave would measurably raise sea levels, at an estimated two one-hundredths of an inch, bake the Arctic and produce Sahara-like temperatures in Paris and Berlin, the prediction would have been dismissed as alarmist. But many worst-case scenarios from that time are now realities.

The Parrot and the Igloo by David Lipsky