Monday, October 20, 2014

Owed an Apology

Clint Didier says a lot of buffoonish things. Most can be forgiven as inflated campaign rhetoric or echoes from the Glenn Beck playbook of conspiracy theories. But when Didier insists that global warming and human influence on it is a hoax, he is calling our family, friends, and neighbors frauds and liars. Many of the people contributing to climate science and the overwhelming evidence that human activities are warming the planet are scientists at PNNL, researchers at the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group, and at the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at Oregon State, as well as many other northwest universities and colleges. These are intelligent, dedicated people to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for enhancing our understanding of global warming and the threat it poses. Mr. Didier owes them an apology.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Communicating Climate Science

This is an interesting discussion in RealClimate on the Victor & Kennel article in Nature titled "Ditch the 2 °C warming goal."

Another interesting article is one in the September 20-21 WSJ Review by Steven E. Koonin, former DOE Undersecretary for Science in President Obama's 1st term. His article is headlined, "Climate Science is Not Settled." The crux of the matter for Koonin is not whether the climate is changing, nor whether human activities are influencing that change, but rather how the climate will change over the next century under both natural and human influences.

In my view, these articles and others I've seen on climate change herald a change in the dialogue from global warming isn't happening; through it's happening but it's not us; to it's happening, it's us, but we're not sure enough about it to make policy. A concomitant of the latter position is that the costs of doing anything about climate change outweigh the benefits.

This shift demands that those advocating for action on climate change promote a greater engagement of risk analysts and economic analysts in the discussion. The problem is that risk and economic analysts, much like climate scientists, write articles that are only read by their peers. Thus, the community needs people like Neil deGrasse Tyson as spokesmen. But there aren't enough of these people to cover the bases, so the scientists themselves need to become more proficient (and, of course, active) in communicating their research to lay persons. As it happens, there's a workshop on this in San Francisco, 15-19 December 2014. The deadline to apply is the end of this month, October 31, 2014.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A "Testy Exchange"

The Tri-City Herald (9/24/14) used the incident of a man brandishing a gun in a dispute over a parking space to highlight plans for expanded parking at the Kadlec Regional Medical Center. The photo accompanying the article was captioned, “Limited parking near Kadlec leads to testy exchange.”

“Testy exchange?” Have we become so inured to gun violence in America that brandishing a gun in a dispute over a parking space is labeled “testy?” Have we lost our collective mind? Or have we just lost heart over the seeming inability to do anything about America’s gun violence?

In the same week we read about the “testy exchange” in a hospital parking lot, we read about a Florida man who shot his daughter and six grandchildren to death, then killed himself. We read about a “weapons enthusiast” in Pennsylvania who shot to death a Pennsylvania police officer and wounded another in an ambush.

As of the writing of this piece, other “testy exchanges” since January 1, 2014, have resulted in 8,972 gun deaths and 16,293 injuries.

It’s time we overcame the pernicious influence of the NRA and the gun industry and did something about America’s gun violence, at least here in Washington. Pass I-594.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I-591 vs I-594

With no good reason for passing Initiative-591, and defeating Initiative-594, the gun lobby resorts to the well-worn but widely accepted NRA shibboleths; registry and confiscation.

Let’s get somethings straight. Despite the inflammatory rhetoric incorporated in Philip Watson’s 8/31/14 argument for passing I-591, the much needed Initiative-594 would not create or enable a gun registry, nor enable future confiscation of lawfully owned firearms. Firearms cannot be seized without due process, and I-594 does not change that. Law enforcement is not now permitted to “enter your home and search your bedroom...without a warrant or court order,” nor would they be so authorized under I-594, no matter what the object of the search. There is no sensible reason for not passing I-594, and no good reason to pass I-591, which would prohibit Washingtonians from determining their own future.
I-594 is straight-forward. “All firearms sales or transfers are subject to background checks unless specifically exempted by federal or state law.” This requirement applies to all sales or transfers in whole or in part in Washington, including sales and transfers at gun shows and online. There are numerous exemptions that serve to protect Second Amendment rights, including the fact that gifts between family members are exempt from the background check.

I-594 is a step forward in protecting us from gun violence by criminals and the mentally ill. I-591 is a leap backward.

Vote "YES" on I-594. Vote "No" on I-591.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Thin Blue Band

 Buena Pond-Pond 6 between Zilla and Union Gap off Hwy I-82 is stocked with catchable size rainbow trout, as well as crappie, and channel catfish. A state record 36.2 lb cat was pulled from Pond 6 in 1999. If you’ve driven to Pond 6 from Richland, you’ve covered the distance our atmosphere stretches from the earth’s surface to the edge of space. According to NASA, our atmosphere, the unique feature of the planet responsible for life as we know it, is a paper-thin 60 miles in depth.

For the most part, we humans take the planet and its systems and resources for granted. The crux of the problem is that we see ourselves standing apart from our planet’s interacting physical, chemical, and biological systems. That is a natural, but faulty perception of reality. Humans are an integral part of the Earth’s biosphere. As our numbers have grown and our technology progressed, we’ve had an outsized impact on the planet and its climate.

In pictures taken from space we see the atmosphere as a fragile, thin blue band between the Earth’s surface and the blackness of space. Be warned, that thin, blue band is what keeps us alive.