Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Dining Outside Without Heat Lamps; or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Global Climate Change


What is it about Al Gore, and his uncanny ability to be 100% FUCKING RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING that drives the media crazy? Is it because they’re always so wrongity-wrong-wrong about everything?

Witness this piece of excruciatingly disingenuous fluff from Emily Yoffe at WaPo:

It was a mild January evening, and people had filled the restaurant's outdoor patio. As our group walked past the tables, one of my friends said, "This terrifies me." I don't know if she was reassured later by the chilly April, but we are all supposed to be terrified of the weather now.

Oh, we are, huh? How about your ignorant friend, Yoffe, and her third-grade level of understanding of scientific theory? Am I supposed to be terrified of her, too? Because when you quote her in an article like she has something meaningful to say in what is perhaps the second-most-read newspaper in the country, that, um, scares me a little.

In "An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore tells us that unless drastic global changes are made, our cities will be inundated and those of us who haven't drowned will face a world wracked by cataclysmic weather and swarming with pestilence…

Hm. I saw that movie, and I don’t remember the “swarming with pestilence” part, but I suppose a writer for the Washington Post is to be allowed a certain amount of literary license.

…I, however, refuse to see the apocalypse in every balmy day.

Well, that’s a step in the right direction, Yoffe, because 1) no one is asking you to, and 2) it’s not an accurate perception.

And I think it's wrong to let our children believe they'll be swept away before they get a chance to fret about college admissions. An article in The Post this spring described children anxious, sleepless and tearful about the end; one 9-year-old said she worried about global warming "because I don't want to die."…

Holy red herring, Batman! If you follow the link in the above paragraph, you will see that the article Yoffe references, while somewhat smarmy and superior in tone, is not about kids becoming paralyzed with fear for their future (unlike, perhaps, those of us who grew up learning to duck and cover), but about kids who are mobilizing to DO SOMETHING about global warming.

…And a recent New York Times profile of Gore tells that we are to be flooded with "An Inconvenient Truth." It is going to be shown in schools; book versions for children and young adults and a children's television show are planned. The global Live Earth concerts scheduled for July 7 are expected to raise millions, going to a three-year public relations effort, headed by Gore, to deluge us with bad news.

Yes, that’s exactly the point of all this effort, Yoffe, is to deluge us with bad news. I can’t believe you’ve seen through all the scientific jargon and the climate models and charts and the graphs, and exposed Gore and those scientists for the buzz kills that they really are. Good job! It's going to take more than a few thousand intelligent people and their facts to ruin your day, clearly.

All this is not to say that it's not getting warmer and that curbing our profligate environmental ways is not a commendable and necessary goal.

Aw, come on, Yoffe, don’t back down now! Proceed apace to thy moronic and stupifyingly self-centered point!

But perhaps this movement is sowing the seeds of its own destruction -- even as it believes the human species has sown its own.

Get it? Humans are sowing the seeds of our own destruction by slowly making our environment uninhabitable for our own species, while the environmental movement is sowing the seeds of its own destruction by…talking about the movement? Wait, that can’t be right. They are destroying themselves by…saying facts and stuff? No, shit. Anyway, there’s a parallel in there somewhere, you’ll just have to trust Yoffe on that.

There must be a limit to how many calamitous films, books and television shows we, and our children, can absorb.

Well, there’s certainly a limit to how many Yoffe can absorb: 0

It doesn't seem sustainable to expect people to remain terrified by such a disinterested, often benign -- it was so nice eating out on the patio! -- and even unpredictable enemy. (I understand we're the enemy, but the executioner is the weather.) Recall that the experts told us last year would be a record-setting hurricane season, but the series of Katrinas never materialized.

The above paragraph is such a mess I’m not sure where to begin. Maybe I should start by pointing out that the object of the movement is not to “remain terrified.” Also, I believe it is a rather dangerous simplification of the concerns of global climate change to simply label “weather” as our “executioner.” Thirdly, yes, climatologists might look at ocean temperatures, and weather patterns, and cold and warm fronts, etc., and predict weather events, like hurricanes, that actually do not always come to pass. Do you think Yoffe has just recently figured this out? And lastly, what I think our Miss Yoffe is really upset about is that like many people who dislike and level unfair criticism at Al Gore, she doesn’t care for feeling guilty about things that she likes. Some people don’t like Al Gore because they want to keep driving their Hummers; apparently Miss Yoffe is upset that Al Gore might be standing over her table on the outside patio at her favorite restaurant in January, silently judging her for enjoying the fact that its not freezing.

Hey, everybody’s got some kind of boogeyman. And if Yoffe wants Al Gore to be hers, that’s fine, I just object to her personal neurosis being presented to me as some kind of spunky objective skepticism.

Since I hate the heat, even I was alarmed by the recent headline: "NASA Warns of 110-Degrees for Atlanta, Chicago, DC in Summer." But I regained my cool when I realized the forecast was for close to the end of the century. Thanks to all the heat-mongering, it's supposed to be a sign I'm in denial because I refuse to trust a weather prediction for August 2080, when no one can offer me one for August 2008 (or 2007 for that matter).

August 2007? Here ya go, Yoffe, courtesy of the heat-mongering Farmer’s Almanac.

There is so much hubris in the certainty about the models of the future that I'm oddly reassured. We've seen how hubristic predictions about complicated, unpredictable events have a way of bringing the predictors low.

Yoffe’s Word-a-Day Calendar word of the day: hubris.

Doesn't an explanation of the concept of hubris involves some malarkey about people who are so confident in their own worldview and their own personal abilities that they either cannot see, or in fact even assist in, their own downfall?

Maybe Yoffe’s word for tomorrow will be “irony.”

It's also hard to believe assertions that the science on the future of our climate is settled when climate scientists can't agree about the present -- or the past (there is contention about the dates, causes and even the existence of the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age that followed).

Scientists argue about the facts of some past climate events, therefore, no one can say with any confidence that CO2 levels in our atmosphere will eventually bring about climate changes that will radically affect our ability to survive on Earth. Get it? It’s just logic, is all. You can’t deny her awesome logic.

Now, Gore and others say that Katrina was a product of global warming and that we can expect more and bigger storms. But there is actually brisk scientific debate over the role global warming plays -- if any -- in the creation of hurricanes.

Okay, well here I got to call “liar liar pants on fire” on poor Miss Yoffe. Gore most certainly has not, and would not, say that Katrina, or any other hurricane, was a product of global warming. Miss Yoffe, it’s like you slept right through An Inconvenient Truth. Or you had your fingers in your ears. Or like you never saw it. But that couldn’t be. Making fun of films they haven’t seen is something pathetic whacked-out bloggers like me do. It’s not something a columnist at the Washington Post would do. Right?

A study from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution last month, looking at 5,000 years of Atlantic hurricanes, found "large and dramatic fluctuations in hurricane activity, with long stretches of frequent strikes punctuated by lulls that lasted many centuries" -- with the stormier periods occurring during cooler ocean temperatures. But talking about Earth's constant, and still inexplicable, climate changes and cycles is not useful if you're trying to shock.

Actually, whether you’re trying to shock, or whether you’re trying to spur people into life-saving action, talking about climate cycles is apparently quite useful to Al Gore:

“Here's what I think we here understand about Hurricane Katrina and global warming. Yes, it is true that no single hurricane can be blamed on global warming. Hurricanes have come for a long time, and will continue to come in the future. Yes, it is true that the science does not definitively tell us that global warming increases the frequency of hurricanes - because yes, it is true there is a multi-decadal cycle, twenty to forty years that profoundly affects the number of hurricanes that come in any single hurricane season. But it is also true that the science is extremely clear now, that warmer oceans make the average hurricane stronger, not only makes the winds stronger, but dramatically increases the moisture from the oceans evaporating into the storm - thus magnifying its destructive power - makes the duration, as well as the intensity of the hurricane, stronger.”

In his new book, "The Assault on Reason," Gore denounces what he sees as today's politics of fear. Yet his own campaign of mass persuasion -- any such campaign -- is not amenable to contradiction and uncertainty. It's about fright and absolutes. But just because something can be plotted on an X and Y axis does not make it the whole truth.

Miss Yoffe, before you go, I’d like to excerpt just one more thing from Al Gore’s speech that I quoted from above:

“A hundred years ago, Upton Sinclair wrote, ‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon him not understanding.’”

What he said.

11 comments:

RandyLuvsPaiste said...

Michael Moore's Sicko comes out on friday. I'll bet the Right Wing water-carriers will leave Al alone for a while, and make up shit about MM for the next few weeks.

Larry Jones said...

Either she's taking money from Exxon or it's easier than I thought to get a job at a big-time daily newspaper.

Chris said...

Another beauty, Vikki. You completely dismantled poor Ms. Yoffe's argument (although I think she provided you with the wrecking ball). More people need to read the things you write.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Randy: If only you were right. And I don't know where WaPo digs up people like Yoffe (surely there must be more intelligent people waiting to be published there?!) but as long as dinks like her ARE out there, spewing opinions that are about as informed as the global warming equivalent of "if man evolved from apes, how come there's still apes?", then Al Gore will have to continue to defend himself against them.

Larry: I wouldn't say it's "easy," but obviously their standards are ridiculous.

Chris: Thank you! Is it the company of a good woman that has made you so liberal with the compliments of late? I don't care. I approve. And by advocating a wider audience for my pigheadedness, I hereby nominate you to my fan club. You may now join the ranks of such distinguished literary figures as my mother, my dad, my boyfriend, my sister, AND my brother.

GETkristiLOVE said...

I read the whole thing, just hoping for a good zinger at the end. Thanks for not disappointing me sis. Great post.

cheer34 said...

Upton Sinclair is so smart.

Viki; thanks for the post you are just as smart.

kiki said...

that closing quote is perfect

Johnny Yen said...

Great post.

They showed "An Inconvenient Truth" at my son's school. It had the effect of getting him interested in the environment and alternate energy technologies-- basically getting him as interested in them as I've been for years.

e 9-year-old said she worried about global warming "because I don't want to die."…

Yeah, big bad Al Gore is scaring 9-year-olds. Someone make him stop.

When Kim and her daughter moved in, my stepdaughter, then 8, was inexplicably scared that bats would somehow get in her room. They obviously need to stop teaching about bats at her grade school.

Miss Yoffe represented the "head-up-their-asses-ignorant" soccer moms' point of view very nicely, thank you.

dad said...

Vikki,

When I read this excellent post, my first thought was that one thing I won't have to worry about was that Lake Michigan will rise and sink Chicago in my lifetime.

When my spouse was a child,her grandmother would bring home these religous Jesus stories. One of which was about boy that was in dreadful pain as a result of a car accident and wanted to die because he hurt so much. He was told that Jesus visited the room of every child each night and if he went to bed with his hand raised above his head, Jesus would come and take he to heaven. Sure enough that is what happened.

So my wife went to sleep every night with her hands straight down to her side for fear somehow her hand would wander above her head and Jesus would take her to heaven even if she didn't want to go.

Yesiree, nothin' like a good ole Jesus story to help you grow up.

'Bubbles' said...

I love reading your pigheadedness, Vikki. This was another excellent post and I thank you.

When idiots think that not telling children about facts, theories, or even f'ing rumors about our world because it might scare them it makes me sick, sick, sick. If something a child hears scares them it is time to teach them about dealing with fear - a reality of life. The difference between paralysis from fear (pretty much being a professional victim) vs. the fear that brings us to action, makes us fight hard to survive.

How about tapping in to the kids' natural curiosity so that they can listen to the alternate viewpoints and, um, become critical thinkers? Gee, there's a concept.

Oh, wait. I forgot. Hummers make us look cool. Yeah, that's what we want to teach the next generation. I forgot. Hummers are cool and everything will be fine. Shall we dine on the patio?

You rock, Aunt Vikki! Clearly you learned a little about critical thinking somewhere along the line and it makes you great to read. (so where are those books people keep telling you to write?)

Megan said...

Okay, A) you are hands-down my favorite blogger and B) What I liked about An Inconvenient Truth was that it WASN'T terrifying. Sure, it was startling, but that was the point, along with the fact that it's not too late to DO something about global climate change. I showed it to my 10th graders and nobody ran from the room screaming. In fact, many of them pledged to make the small changes Gore suggested. Oooooh, so scary. . .