Jeb Fiddles while California Burns

You may have seen headlines that Jeb Bush is once again admitting that climate change is happening (how many times has he changed his tune?) but 1) still insists that nobody knows how much of it is due to mankind, 2) insults as “arrogant” those who tell him that yes we do know, 3) refuses even to suggest something we might do about it other than “use more natural gas,” and 4) slams President Obama’s Clean Power Plan — that would be actually doing something about it.

Here are some clues for you, Mr. Flippy-Floppy: 1) we’re responsible for it, the vast majority of it, probably even all of it. 2) Yes, on that topic the science is settled; calling that “arrogant” so you can refuse to accept what the scientists say while admitting you’re not a scientist, that’s what’s really arrogant. 3) Natural gas is cleaner than coal, but it’s still a fossil fuel. And 4) President Obama’s clean power plan is the right thing to do, but even if you understood that you wouldn’t admit it. You’re too arrogant.

Meanwhile, thousands of people were evacuated from their homes because the “Rocky Fire,” a wildfire described as “unprecedented” by firefighters, now covers 60,000 acres — 93 square miles, bigger than the city of San Francisco — while it tears through northern California. Remember California? The state suffering through the worst drought in over 1,000 years?


A month or so ago, a terrible heat wave scorched the Pacific Northwest, right here in the U.S.A. But it wasn’t just America getting blasted by the heat; there were killer heat waves in Columbia, Spain, England, Pakistan, India — at one time, on four continents at the same time. The one in Pakistan literally killed over 1,000 people. The one in India, over 2,000.

Last year, 2014, was the hottest on record. This year, 2015, is well on its way to breaking that record — not by a little, but by a lot. A helluva lot.

It’s not just at earth’s surface that temperature is breaking records; ocean heat content, not just at the sea surface, is at an all-time high. For that matter, the sea itself keeps reaching new heights as sea level continues to rise.

And why is all this happening? Because the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere keeps going up. Yes, we know it’s the reason behind climate change, and the reason for rising CO2 is us buring fossil fuels. Like coal, oil, and yes you bet, natural gas. It’s no longer up for debate, any more than the cancer-causing effect of smoking is up for debate. Unless you’re Jeb “Flippy-Floppy” Bush. The guy who says that accepting the science is “arrogant.”

That’s the thing about Jeb. He doesn’t want to get pinned down to admitting it, but doesn’t want to get branded for what he really is: a denier. So he keeps his statements as ambiguous as possible, admitting it’s happening with one face and insisting “nobody really knows” with the other. Saying we should do something about it but never saying what, other than to “protect the economy” and to burn more fossil fuels, just of a different kind.

How arrogant of you, Mr. Flippy-Floppy.

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20 responses to “Jeb Fiddles while California Burns

  1. I posted this (in addition to a bit more) at Greg Laden’s yesterday, but it’s worth repeating here:

    “Contrary to [the] statement that “the science is not settled” the experts have no doubt that it is. Take Nathan Bindoff for example, a well-known and highly competent lead author for many of the assessment reports. He says at 1:05:00-1:05:30 here:

    …the science of climate change is unequivocal – the Earth is warming. If you go and think back to the 1950s actually we can formally demonstrate that all of the changes observed since the 1950s can be attributed to human activity – all of the changes, not some fraction… all of it.”

    If Jeb Bush is so ignorant/incompetent that he doesn’t know what the world’s best scientists are saying about climate change, he has no place running for the presidency of a local stamp collecting club, let alone for one of the biggest economies on the planet.

  2. Gosh, this summer is not over. Fall hurricane not yet here. Late winter tornadoes, and then all of next summer. Plenty of time.

  3. Don’t hold back. Tell us what you *really* think!

  4. What amazes me as an Australian from Victoria who has lived through a 13 year drought which commenced with a (until then relatively rare fatal fire) in 1996/7, which then lead to fires in NSW in 2001/2, and Victoria 2003, 2006, 2007 and terminated after the hottest and most lethal fires we ever have had in 2009; is that California is now showing the same pattern. And while this is happening there, and I have friends fighting fires in Canada, we now have fires in NSW – during our wet! The El Nino ought to be damping things there, and I hope it does – soon – but I fear that this one is going to be weird.
    If this was only natural variability, and the PDO was the main driver in this then this year might have more resembled 1976/7 (on the basis of the same change of sign), but it’s not the case is it?
    I’m seeing astonishing extensions of seasonality for wild fire, and fires in places clearly unprepared for them.
    I cannot say God Bless, but to all affected, and to all who one day will be, courage.

    • Jiminy, I think you’ll find that el Nino’s are associated with less rain in (parts of) Australia – rather than damping things.

      From Bureau of Meteorology ENSO tracker page –
      “El Niño is often associated with below-average rainfall across eastern Australia in winter and spring, and also warmer-than-normal daytime temperatures over the southern half of the country.”
      (I would add link but I’m using an iPad and I struggle to get it to do some of those basic things like copy and paste a web address.)

      • Ken, Yes I agree. But I expect they ought to dampen things in the US – I see I had a dangling, misleading, “there” there.
        Where I am in Victoria has been way too damp for fires; although the fire season in general starts earlier going Northward, for mine, it’s pretty early for a NSW fire.
        I’m under the impression that the coming El nino is going to be the first for a while that comes with an eastern warm pool in the North Pacific. It’s hard to find what I want in a hurry but basically for Northern Pacific, eastern warm pool is PDO warm phase, and western warm pool is PDO cool phase (which I think we’re just switching from). I’m interested in El ninos on the PDO cusp here. If the coming one is as extensive as the 1997/8 one, then it will differ in the warmth off western US.
        The corresponding switch in PDO and eastern warm pool was 1976/7, but the corresponding El nino was classified as weak (but there were a triple of them). The strong one was 1972/3, at the closing part of a cool phase PDO. (maybe 2010/11 corresponds)
        What scares the pants off me is the notion (based on analogical thinking) that we may get a combination of 1997/ and 1996/7; a super El nino plus a few years dominated by subsequent ones.
        I cannot vouch for this table but here is a link http://ggweather.com/enso/oni.htm

        I guess, more than anything else I simply have problems with people treating uncertainty as if it was good news. “We don’t know for sure, so it’s gotta be good – right?”

  5. David B. Benson

    Humans are responsible for all the excess carbon dioxide and then some.

    Here in the dry land farming portion of Washington state the heat wave ruined the barley crop and the wheat crop is of second and third rate quality but still good enough to harvest.

    And there are currently 4 wildfires burning east of the Cascades.

  6. In an incredibly disappointing hat-toss-into-the-ring, ex-Representative John Kasich of Ohio is very much similar. My take is, if they cannot get behind a physically verified phenomenon, why should I trust or respect them on anything more ethereal? After all, if you are capable, the popularity of a point oughtn’t affect your assessment of it, even if it affects your response.

    The same is true of all the candidates for the Presidency, including Hillary Clinton, possibly excluding Webb and Sanders.

    Sorry, despite what government can potentially do on climate change mitigation — and I darn sure hope they do more — they and politicians at all levels, state and local, are so captured by their electorate, they cannot express what they think, even if they do think. Accordingly, my present hope is that greed will win out — in this case, the greed of saving money through zero Carbon energy, and all-electrified vehicles, and all-computerized vehicles. And thereby the titans of the present age will find their doom, as is told in the annals of free market capitalism.

    [Response: I disagree with your evaluation of Hillary Clinton. She has never denied, or even failed to admit, the reality, human causation (none of this “nobody really knows” shit), and seriousness of the problem. Most important, her recent proposal to expand renewable energy — massively — is an actual plan to do something actually useful, in fact tremendously useful.

    From my point of view, Hillary ain’t perfect but she’s realistic, has a plan, and is clearly willing to work with other nations. And she has an advantage over Webb and Sanders: both the experience and the will power to fight the congressional republicans who will do their best to sabotage action. She ain’t perfect, but it’s time for us to stop letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.]

  7. I just want to correct one little thing: without detracting from the main thrust of your argument, there was no ‘killer heatwave’ in England. For a week or so in late June/early July it was a bit warm and a couple of records were broken at specific sites, but it didn’t add up to much.

    [Response: From the BBC:


    The UK has seen the hottest July day on record, with temperatures hitting 36.7C (98F)… The Met Office said the reading had been registered at Heathrow – breaking the previous record set in 2006… A level 3 “heatwave action” heat-health alert has been declared for all parts of England… Hot weather may have been a “contributing factor” to a large fire which consumed about 30 acres of Thetford Forest… Motorists on the M1 in Derbyshire faced delays after a lorry carrying batteries burst into flames, causing the motorway to be temporarily closed in both directions… Meanwhile, five people were taken to hospital from the Royal Norfolk Show as temperatures rose to 31C (88F) in Norwich… Network Rail instructed train companies to slow down at vulnerable locations where tracks could buckle because of the heat.

    ]

    But an event worth mentioning is the current ‘heat dome’ in the Middle East, which raises the spectre of some hotter areas of the globe becoming uninhabitable in the not-too-distant future. This could become a game-changer. It only needs high heat to coincide with high humidity and if you don’t possess an external means to cool yourself down, you’re dead within a few hours. While people are concerned about economic migration into Europe (and especially the UK) today, we can imagine the impact if immigration becomes a matter of life and death. It’s difficult to deport people in such circumstances unless you’re completely lacking in empathy. Clearly politicians don’t realise what a political bombshell climate change is set to unleash.

    • Pete Dunkelberg

      Death by wet bulb applies to mammals generally. There goes dinner.

    • michael sweet

      How can farm animals survive long term in such heat? You cannot air condition all the barns and they cannot be bred for resistance to such extreme heat.

    • I’m hoping that the 202 World Cup is not taken from Qatar, and that the event is an unmitigated disaster in the face of the extreme temperatures that are likely to pervade.

      I doubt that it would result in much additional action that would be effective at this point, but it might move people to actively stamp on further denialism and inaction and give the future at least some capacity for a less-than-fully-disasterous existence.

  8. How the right could [with a little effort] do the right thing.

    Support the free market- withdraw the 250 odd schemes that give tax breaks, cheap loans, guarantees, health care tab, clear up costs that amounts to $billions each year to the coal industry in the US.

    The polluter pays and old mature business can stand on its own legs should be what Republicans should be about.

    Innovation is the American dream- just as the horse and buggy were over taken by the auto new technology is new business and ‘small’ government can give incentives to support new business.

    Protect American jobs- a carbon tariff on imported goods would fix those Chinese! and would be legal under international trade agreements.

    Power to the consumer- the choice to do the right thing, which means making it easier to switch to alternative energy suppliers- with the true cost of coal and gas many may prefer solar [and solar pv].

    Accept science- countries fail when they return to a medieval outlook on the universe.

    Perhaps as a pinko Briton I don’t understand US politics but clearly corporate crony capitalism [bankrolled by the tax payer] is not free market or small government.

  9. Pete Dunkelberg

    JEB!’s home state has flooding problems, but that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to other places.

  10. I have to admit a deep ongoing dismay at how incapable Conservative politics – here in my native Australia and in the globally influential USA – are of grappling with this issue.

    In my view the persistent rejectionist/obstructionist position of such a large section of mainstream politics delayed and diluted and compromised every attempt at policy intended to address the problem head on. Whether it turns out to be a good thing or bad, I think it undercut the impetus to commit to nuclear energy as an emissions reduction option by undermining public acceptance of a serious climate problem and deprived nuclear of the strength of support that only that ‘side’ of politics most supportive of nuclear could give. The notion that, but for anti-nuclear activism, conservative politics would willingly and easily fix things with nuclear just doesn’t convince me.

    I don’t know to what extent renewable options were given enough rope in the expectation that they would utterly fail, but I don’t think many people could have foreseen how far and fast they could lift themselves with that little bit of rope. Still not enough, yet, but so far there’s not been much enduring policy commitment that goes beyond populist ‘no regrets’ levels into the realms of doing the minimum that’s necessary.

  11. It’s called INDIRECT ARGUMENT and it’s meant to confuse…

  12. There’s a difference between denial – it’s not happening, and “I’m not a scientist” – I don’t know. The latter provides one with a certain degree of wiggle room. The similarity is that both tactics enable one to ignore the science, pander to powerful economic interests, and condemn efforts at mitigation.

  13. Jeb!’s strategy does not demand that he be right, only that he not be demonstrably wrong. He’s more than willing to settle for “not even wrong”, because his constituents don’t understand that is worse than wrong.

  14. In the UK we seem to suffer from the next stage of denial from government. They don’t actively deny global warming, but their policies would indicate otherwise. For example trying to block the development of wind and solar farms, scrapping schemes to improve the energy efficiency of existing housing, relaxing standards for new homes, pushing fracking for natural gas etc.

    They are encouraging and pandering to ignorance by making people believe that much or even most of the increase in fuel bills is because of “green crap” (to use Cameron’s revealing phrase) rather than the world prices of fuels and the cost of upgrading ageing infrastructure.

    Add to that pandering to a vocal and influential minority in Tory constituencies who seem to think wind turbines and solar panels are the most hideous things ever (when national polls indicate a large majority in favour of these technologies), that are “ruining the countryside”. An honest government would be clear that what will really ruin the countryside if nothing is done, is climate change and sea level rise.