Some Liberals To Applaud on Climate

In my column today, “Climate Change Jumps the Shark,” I take aim at the old “no-enemies-on-the-left” mentality that will extend a free pass to the lunatic rantings of Naomi Klein and “Little Bobby” Robert F. Kennedy Jr. So when a liberal does step up and object strongly to this kind of infantile leftism, it is worth noting and praising.

No surprise that it comes from our center-left friends at the Breakthrough Institute, which is making a serious project of what it calls “Eco-modernism,” comprising an embrace of technology, progress, and economic growth—things most liberals used to stand for as a matter of course until they adopted a limits-to-growth mentality back in the 1970s. While shedding none of their left-leaning egalitarian and environmentalist sympathies, the “Breakthroughvians” (as their growing circle of reformist liberals is starting to be called) see the world without illusions.

Will Boisvert, who writes for Dissent, the New York Observer, and other left-leaning publications, gives Klein a good smacking in a new Breakthrough essay “Why Progressives Should Reject Naomi Klein’s Pastoral Fantasy—and Embrace Our High Energy Planet.” It is a long piece, and the whole thing is worth a read, but here are a few short highlights:

Her trademark blend of light wonkery, sardonic prose, sharp-eyed reportage and fist-waving militance appeals to every left constituency from academics to Occupiers. Most important, her penchant for tying absolutely anything she can think of into her thesis du jour feels tailor-made for climate change, the most omnipresent and multifaceted of subjects.

Her new manifesto, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate is a wide-ranging synthesis of Left-green doctrine on the entwinement of ecology and economy. . .

Unfortunately, the result is a garbled mess stumbling endlessly over its own contradictions. Her understanding of the technical aspects of energy policy — indispensable for any serious discussion of sustainability — is weak and biased, marked by a myopic boosterism of renewables and an unthinking rejection of nuclear power and other low-carbon energy sources. Having declared climate change an “existential crisis for the human species,” she rules out some of the most effective means of dealing with it. . .

[H]er uninformed, dogmatic treatment of the substance of that problem, so typical of the Left’s approach, generates only confusion and misdirection. To make a useful contribution to changing everything, the Left could begin by changing itself. It could start by redoing its risk assessments and rethinking its phobic hostility to nuclear power. It could abandon the infatuation with populist insurrection and advance a serious politics of systematic state action. It could stop glamorizing austerity under the guise of spiritual authenticity and put development prominently on its environmental agenda. It could accept that industry and technology do indeed distance us from nature — and in doing so can protect nature from human extractions. And it could realize that, as obnoxious as capitalism can be, scapegoating it won’t spare us the hard thinking and hard trade-offs that a sustainable future requires.

Hear, hear.

In Iowa Senate debate, Braley’s neighbor’s chickens come home to roost

Joni Ernst and Bruce Braley held their first debate last night. Immigration was front-and-center, which is probably not a bad thing for Ernst.

Braley tried, however, to spin the issue into an advertisement for his “bipartisanship.” He invited Ernst to “join John McCain and Marco Rubio in calling on Speaker Boehner to bring this immigration bill to the floor of the House so we can pass it.” Ernst declined the invitation.

She stated that Congress should “secure the border [and] enforce the laws on the books,” and then move to “modernize” the legal immigration system. Ernst added that she doesn’t support “amnesty” and that she opposes President Obama taking executive action to “grant amnesty.”

Braley countered that “Sen. Rubio and Sen. McCain did not vote for amnesty” by supporting the Senate immigration bill. He hopes to gain mileage by invoking the names of the two Republican Senators.

But to my knowledge, McCain has never been particularly popular in Iowa, and Rubio says he no longer wants the House to pass his immigration bill. His current position appears to be about the same as Ernst’s.

Braley is wise, nonetheless, to attempt to appear “bipartisan.” But Ernst had a good counter. She ridiculed her opponent’s claim to be a “bridge builder” by bringing up a feud Braley had with a neighbor over chickens:

Congressman, you threatened to sue a neighbor over chickens that came onto their property. You’re talking about bipartisanship; how do we expect as Iowans to believe that you will work across the aisle when you can’t walk across your yard?

I wonder whether, at the end of the day, Braley is nice enough to win a statewide race in a state as friendly as Iowa.

The Des Moines Register’s account of the debate is here.

To support Joni Ernst in this crucial race, please go here.

Marie Harf explains: ISIL Was Too Fast For Us!

With the dissolution of the Obama administration’s foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere, President Obama is talking as fast as he can. Obama set some kind of a land speed record for double-talk in his interview with Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes last night, highlighted by Obama’s passing the buck for his misunderestimation of ISIS to the Director of National Intelligence et al. That hasn’t gone down too well, in part because it conflicts with what one could learn from following the headlines over the past year or two. Empirical reality belies Obama’s buck-passing. Moreover, those who have seen the intelligence reports, such as House Intelligence Committee member Michele Bachmann, have found Obama guilty of nonfeasance at best. Michele says that Obama is not being — what’s the word? — forthcoming.

Obama’s performance on 60 Minutes calls for some kind of explanation. Who better to provide it than State Department spokesman Marie Harf? Appearing on CNN with Wolf Blitzer, Harf explicated the presidential text: “The president said, for a long time we’ve known about the serious threat from ISIL, but everyone — us, the Iraqis, even ISIL itself probably — was surprised by how quickly earlier this summer they were really able to take territory in Iraq.”

Noah Rothman comments: “You see, even the Islamic State was shocked by their own capabilities. Th[ei]rs was a wondrous journey of self-actualization in the form of a campaign of crucifixions and beheadings.”

“They moved more quickly than anyone could have imagined,” Harf added, rewriting the history that is spelled out by Peter Foster in the Telegraph and David Martosko in the Daily Mail.


Via Noah Rothman/Hot Air.

Modern Science Refutes Global Warming Alarmism

It isn’t quite true to say that the science is settled–climate science is in its infancy, and we have only a poor understanding of the Earth’s climate. Just about every proposition is controversial. But we are very close to being able to say that, as to global warming alarmism, the debate is over and the alarmists have lost. (I mean, of course, the scientific debate, not the political one, which never had much to do with science in the first place.)

One fundamental question in the global warming debate is, what is the Earth’s equilibrium climate sensitivity? That is, how much will the Earth’s average surface temperature rise, ceteris paribus, on account of a doubling of the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? Global warming hysteria is predicated on the belief that average temperature will rise by up to 6 degrees C as a result of doubling atmospheric CO2. All of the scare headlines you see about polar bears, droughts, flooded cities, etc., rely on that assumption.

The problem for alarmists is that contemporary research doesn’t support any such scenario. The most recent nail in the alarmists’ coffin is a paper by Nic Lewis and Judith Curry titled “The implications for climate sensitivity of AR5 forcing and heat uptake estimates,” which concluded that the best estimate of equilibrium climate sensitivity is 1.64 degrees C. Lewis describes the paper’s methodology here, and you can follow the link to the paper and read it for yourself.

The Lewis/Curry paper is consistent with recent scholarship, which pretty universally finds that the UN’s IPCC projections are far out of line. This Cato post by Pat Michaels and Paul Knappenberger illustrates the findings of recent studies, compared with the politically-motivated IPCC projections. As you can see, science doesn’t support the alarmism of politicians and their Michael Mann-style minions:


If a good estimate of climate sensitivity is 1.64 degrees, what is the significance? That figure is well within the range of natural variability. It will be swamped by other factors that continuously act on the Earth’s climate, and we may never know whether, or to what extent, CO2 had any impact on the Earth’s temperatures. That shouldn’t be too surprising: to the extent that historic temperatures and CO2 concentrations can be reconstructed, there is zero apparent correlation between the two.

Actually, I think the 1.64 degree estimate may be high. Dr. Curry, on her own web site, explains why that may be true:

Is this paper the last word on climate sensitivity estimates? No. The uncertainty analysis in the Lewis and Curry paper relates only to the uncertainty in external forcing, surface temperature and ocean heat uptake. There remains considerable meta uncertainty in the determination of climate sensitivity, including how the problem is even framed.

In particular, the energy balance approach does not account for factors that do not directly relate to the energy balance, e.g. solar indirect effects and natural internal variability that affects forcing (although an attempt has been made in the Lewis and Curry paper to make some allowance for uncertainty associated with these factors) . Further, there was ‘something else’ going on in the latter 19th and early-mid 20th century that was causing warming, that does not seem to relate directly to external forcing. The paper does attempt to factor out the impact of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation through the selection of base and final periods, but this is by no means a complete account for the effects of multi-decadal and century scale internal variability, and how this confounds the energy balance estimate of climate sensitivity.

In other words–as I understand what she and others have said–the Lewis and Curry paper accepts most of the alarmists’ assumptions, and shows that their conclusions are still wrong. I think that when the dust finally settles, perhaps not in our lifetimes, the alarmists’ predictions will be even more discredited. To quote Dr. Curry one more time:

At the heart of the recent scientific debate on climate change is the ‘pause’ or ‘hiatus’ in global warming – the period since 1998 during which global average surface temperatures have not increased. This observed warming hiatus contrasts with the expectation from the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report that warming would proceed at a rate of 0.2 degrees C/per decade in the early decades of the 21st century. The warming hiatus raises serious questions as to whether the climate model projections of 21st century have much utility for decision making, given uncertainties in climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide, future volcanic eruptions and solar activity, and the multidecadal and century scale oscillations in ocean circulation patterns.

One parting comment: contrast the intelligence and technical skill manifested by Lewis and Curry with the borderline psychopathic ramblings of climate alarmists like Robert Kennedy Jr., and Michael Mann trying to sue his critics into submission, and you get a pretty good idea of who is winning the climate debate.

Netanyahu’s timely reminder

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the United Nations this afternoon (video below). The prime minister’s office has posted the text here.

As is just about always the case, everything he has to say is worthwhile. In part his speech responds to Mahmoud Abbas’s imputation of “war crimes” and “genocide” against Israel in the same forum this past Friday. Of most interest, however, is Netanyahu’s discussion of Iran in the context of our current focus on the Islamic State terrorists:

The militant Islamists believe in a master faith. They just disagree about who among them will be the master… of the master faith. That’s what they truly disagree about. Therefore, the question before us is whether militant Islam will have the power to realize its unbridled ambitions.

There is one place where that could soon happen: The Islamic State of Iran. For 35 years, Iran has relentlessly pursued the global mission which was set forth by its founding ruler, Ayatollah Khomeini, in these words: We will export our revolution to the entire world. Until the cry “There is no God but Allah” will echo throughout the world over… And ever since, the regime’s brutal enforcers, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, have done exactly that. Listen to its current commander, General Muhammad Ali Ja’afari. And he clearly stated this goal. He said: Our Imam did not limit the Islamic Revolution to this country… Our duty is to prepare the way for an Islamic world government… Iran’s President Rouhani stood here last week, and shed crocodile tears over what he called “the globalization of terrorism.” Maybe he should spare us those phony tears and have a word instead with the commanders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

He could ask them to call off Iran’s global terror campaign, which has included attacks in two dozen countries on five continents since 2011 alone. To say that Iran doesn’t practice terrorism is like saying Derek Jeter never played shortstop for the New York Yankees. This bemoaning of the Iranian president of the spread of terrorism has got to be one of history’s greatest displays of doubletalk. Now, Some still argue that Iran’s global terror campaign, its subversion of countries throughout the Middle East and well beyond the Middle East, some argue that this is the work of the extremists. They say things are changing. They point to last year’s elections in Iran. They claim that Iran’s smooth talking President and Foreign Minister, they’ve changed not only the tone of Iran’s foreign policy but also its substance.

They believe Rouhani and Zarif genuinely want to reconcile with the West, that they’ve abandoned the global mission of the Islamic Revolution. Really? So let’s look at what Foreign Minister Zarif wrote in his book just a few years ago: We have a fundamental problem with the West, and especially with America. This is because we are heirs to a global mission, which is tied to our raison d’etre… A global mission which is tied to our very reason of being. And then Zarif asks a question, I think an interesting one. He says: How come Malaysia [he’s referring to an overwhelmingly Muslim country] – how come Malaysia doesn’t have similar problems? And he answers: Because Malaysia is not trying to change the international order. That’s your moderate.

So don’t be fooled by Iran’s manipulative charm offensive. It’s designed for one purpose, and for one purpose only: To lift the sanctions and remove the obstacles to Iran’s path to the bomb. The Islamic Republic is now trying to bamboozle its way to an agreement that will remove the sanctions it still faces, and leave it with the capacity of thousands of centrifuges to enrich uranium. This would effectively cement Iran’s place as a threshold military nuclear power. In the future, at a time of its choosing, Iran, the world’s most dangerous state in the world’s most dangerous region, would obtain the world’s most dangerous weapons. Allowing that to happen would pose the gravest threat to us all. It’s one thing to confront militant Islamists on pick-up trucks, armed with Kalashnikov rifles. It’s another thing to confront militant Islamists armed with weapons of mass destruction.


[I]magine how much more dangerous the Islamic state of Iran would be if it possessed nuclear weapons. Ladies and Gentlemen, Would you let ISIS enrich uranium? Would you let ISIS build a heavy water reactor? Would you let ISIS develop intercontinental ballistic missiles? Of course you wouldn’t. Then you mustn’t let the Islamic State of Iran do those things either. Because here’s what will happen: Once Iran produces atomic bombs, all the charm and all the smiles will suddenly disappear. They’ll just vanish. It’s then that the ayatollahs will show their true face and unleash their aggressive fanaticism on the entire world.

There is only one responsible course of action to address this threat: Iran’s nuclear military capabilities must be fully dismantled. Make no mistake – ISIS must be defeated. But to defeat ISIS and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power is to win the battle and lose the war. To defeat ISIS and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power is to win the battle and lose the war. Ladies and Gentlemen, [t]he fight against militant Islam is indivisible. When militant Islam succeeds anywhere, it’s emboldened everywhere.

You can see why Netanyahu is such an annoyance to Obama.

Bill Maher and Me (with Comment from Steve)

As Scott wrote here, TV comedian Bill Maher decided to try to flip one Congressional district from the GOP to the Democrats this year. And, as Scott put it, of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world, Maher chose our district–Minnesota’s Second–to try to unseat a Republican incumbent. That incumbent, of course, is our friend John Kline, who, before Maher’s money entered the picture, appeared to be cruising toward easy re-election.

Last week I got a phone call from a producer for the Bill Maher Show. Bill is coming to Minnesota on October 7, she told me, and intends to do a public event at an as-yet-unknown venue. (I assume the event will be in the Second District, perhaps on a college campus.) Bill will head up a panel that includes two conservatives, one old and one young, and two demographically-similar liberals. The producer told me that they have already lined up my old friend Ana Marie Cox as the senior liberal, and they very much wanted me to participate as the senior conservative. The event will not be televised live, but it will be filmed. The producer told me that Maher will use clips from the program on his television show and will post them on YouTube.

I had misgivings–the last thing I want to do is act as a foil for the likes of Bill Maher–but she argued persuasively that it would be helpful for me to take part, and that we conservatives would get an even break. I said I would think about it overnight and call her back in the morning.

I decided to participate in the event and do my best to support John’s candidacy, but on one condition: that I be given a copy of the video promptly after the event so that I, too, can post clips on Power Line and on YouTube. After all, if you have an hour or two of video to work with, and you want a 15 second clip that will make you look good or the other guy look dumb, you will surely find it. If I had a copy of the video, not only could I post useful footage, but I could also–to some degree–keep Maher honest. I also intended to promote the event and try to get Power Line readers and others to attend so that the crowd reaction would be balanced.

The next morning, I called the producer and conveyed that offer. It got a rather icy reaction. The producer said that giving me a copy of the video could be a problem; she would look into it and get back to me by the end of the day. The day came and went with no call from her, as did the day after. Finally, at 5:19 on Friday, I received this email:

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 1.54.43 PM

I found this episode revealing. Guys like Bill Maher are essentially bullies. They interact with conservatives for one purpose only: to make them look bad, and serve as foils for their leftism. The last thing they want is a real debate on a level playing field. The mere threat of being kept honest by not being the only possessor and editor of the video is enough to send them scurrying in a “different direction.”

Coincidentally, while this was going on I read (via an InstaPundit link) Megan McArdle’s Don’t Ever Appear On “The Daily Show.”

[H]ere’s a guide for people who do not share [The Daily Show's] politics but are considering going on it anyway:

1. Don’t.

2. If you must, bring two tape recorders, a video camera and a witness. Announce at the beginning that you are going to record this and reserve the right to release the entire recording to the public. When they tell you that they will not do the interview under those conditions, prepare to leave. There is no ethical reason that a reporter requires the ability to ask you questions without having those questions recorded. The reason they don’t want unedited audio is that you might release it and be revealed as a normal decent person, rather than a horrible fool. …

4. Seriously, don’t go on “The Daily Show.” They control the format, the questions and the editing process. There is no way you can win. Your purpose is to look like an idiot on the show, and they have all the tools they need to make sure you fulfill that purpose. There is a reason that you have never seen a video clip of someone who “beat” Jon Stewart — or Bill O’Reilly, or any other host of a show that pits professional interviewers against ordinary subjects.

Based on my experience with Bill Maher, I would say that is good advice.

STEVE adds: Good for John for demanding a complete tape of the event. Too bad they didn’t accede: I wanted John to hammer Maher on why he campaigns for the very same people who are always the first to condemn as politically incorrect his own recent comments on Islam.  More to the point, what does Maher have to say about Minnesota’s “toleration” for radical Islamists in their midst?  Could have been an uncomfortable moment.

My one and only interaction with Maher’s show came a long time ago, when he was still on ABC, and was similar to John’s experience.  A producer called wondering whether I’d be willing to go on paired up with Julia Butterfly Hill, the goofy woman who spent two years living in a redwood tree in northern California to prevent it from being logged by its private owner.  It made her a big celebrity, of course.  Lifetime even made a TV movie about her.

What, the producer asked, would I say about her?  I erred and told the truth: “I think I’d point out that there are several hundred highly trained wildlife biologists camped out in the trees of the central American rainforest right now, trying to catalogue species and figure out ways of protecting truly endangered species and habitat, rather than redwoods that are not in any peril.  But for some reason, no one ever invites them on TV talk shows, or makes gauzy feature films about them.”

After a long pause, the producer said: “We’ll get back to you.”

I never heard another thing.  Clearly I was going to embarrass them by not conforming to a particular stereotype they wanted for their “show.”  Clearly I made a mistake.  I should have mumbled some pablum, and then gone on the show and smacked them around for their superficiality.

The case of the mysterious disappearing comments

We have heard from many readers who have been unable to access the comments on our posts. We share your pain, but we are dependent on Facebook software that is not under our control. Power Line publisher Joe Malchow advises that “there is definitely a webkit browser issue related to updates that Facebook recently made to the comments app.”

I don’t know what that means either, but there is an issue. Joe reports that he is working with other developers who use Facebook’s comments platform to learn about the problem. If you are experiencing the problem and haven’t written us yet, please let us hear from you at Joe thinks your messages are helping him narrow the problem down.