Tag Archives: climate change

A climate change discussion that won’t bore you to death.


So what should scientists do when politicians make provably false statements about climate change (see: Rick Perry) and other scientific issues? My employer, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, is hosting a pretty good/lively/funny roundtable on this very question. And I’m not kidding; humor is included. In today’s entry, former scientist and current Hollywood filmmaker Randy Olson (who’s also the author of the book Don’t Be Such a Scientist*) gives the public opinion battle between climate change scientists and climate change deniers a name: “Cub Scouts versus the Mafia.”

You really might LOL. Take look.

* Here’s the opening paragraph of a review of Don’t Be Such a Scientist from The Times Higher Education site:

OK, here goes. I’m going to write this review in the style suggested by Randy Olson. This means that I’m going to use my penis. Not literally, you understand – that would be exhausting, anatomically complicated and likely quite illegible. Blame Olson for that mental image, by the way. I’m only following his advice – for this is the opening gambit of Don’t Be Such a Scientist: the suggestion that scientists should stop intellectualising everything they communicate. Sometimes you need to stop using your head and just get it out there, he suggests. For good communicators, the power of expression comes from the heart, from the guts and yes, sometimes even the “lower sex organs”, if I understand him correctly.

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Updated wedges. (Climate change, not golf.)


Enviro friends will all know about Robert Socolow and his paper back in 2004 (with Steve Pacala) about the seven categories of action that could be taken with existing technologies to stabilize the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in 50 years. These categories, or wedges, of mitigation of global carbon emissions became famous and have largely defined the climate change discussion ever since–at least among the fact-based folks who have rational discussion about climate change as science, rather than a liberal political plot.

Today, Socolow reaffirms and updates that original wedges paper–and provides suggestions for improving the terms of climate change debate–in an essay simulaneously published by my employer, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and Climate Central. (Socolow, a Princeton University professor, is also a Bulletin Science and Security Board member.) Comments by something of a Who’s Who of major climate scientists are appended to the essay.

This is not just important thinking. Professor Socolow can write, too. This one is worth your time.

Update on the wedges update: Over at the NY Times Dot Earth blog, Andrew Revkin has a lengthy take that includes a lot of wedges background that will be interesting for less-than-fanatic followers of the climate change debate. And even enviro insiders will likely find something of value here; that Revkin is one walking and writing environmental encyclopedia.

Update #2 on the wedges update: The Atlantic‘s inimitable Jim Fallows wrote about Socolow’s essay as well today, along the way providing the usual trove of Fallowsian added value, including a link to a past story of  his, “Dirty Coal, Clean Future,” that is sure to enrage environmentalist coal-haters–or, perhaps, to make them think. After linking to the Bulletin and Climate Central postings, Fallows mentioned this blog, which was unexpected. Thanks, Jim.

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Bulletin: senior editor wanted


The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has an opening for a senior editor to lead a rather interesting international project. The description is below. It’s a full-time, telecommuting gig that will be a joy for the person with the right background. This won’t be advertised til next week, so if you’re a journalist, you know–right this instant–the value of reading my blog: Maybe a few days’ head start.

If you’re a friend, feel free to ask questions via email or Facebook. All others must use comments.

The gig:

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is searching for an organized, creative, and committed senior editor to develop, organize, and implement a monthly Roundtable, an essay forum on nuclear disarmament, energy, and development. This Roundtable will draw on experts in developing countries and inform policy leaders and civil society organizations worldwide.

For each monthly Roundtable the senior editor will identify and commission three international writers to tackle a Roundtable question. The goal of this feature is to encourage the participation of developing country governmental and nongovernmental experts in international discussion and action on disarmament and nonproliferation in the context of economic and political development.

The successful candidate is an efficient, detailed, and talented editor capable of identifying international experts, commissioning them to write for the Roundtable, and working with them to create copy that is strong in language and provocative and insightful in thought. The editor must have experience working with international authors and be comfortable pushing authors to hit deadlines. The senior editor will also oversee three translators, so the successful candidate must be highly organized, as he/she will be juggling six schedules in potentially six different time zones. This position is a three-year commitment, so we are looking for someone who can take ownership of this project and make it into something truly spectacular. In addition to the Roundtable, the senior editor will also assist in commissioning and editing articles on nuclear weapons, nuclear energy, biosecurity, and climate change for the Bulletin’s website and, on occasion, for the digital journal.

Our authors are leading scientists and experts in their fields.  The senior editor works closely and collaboratively with the editor and with these experts to create compelling articles that are accessible to lay audiences. All candidates must have an interest in disarmament issues. Successful candidates will come prepared with solid ideas for Roundtable questions, as well as a list of writers who could tackle the proposed questions. All candidates must have excellent editing skills, experience editing writers who speak English as a second language, as well as the ability to work with high-profile writers and experts.

Requirements: Candidate must hold a degree in journalism or other relevant discipline or profession, have at least five solid years editing experience, understand basic HTML, and have experience with Drupal or a similar CMS. This position requires not only coordinating a Roundtable each month, but also overseeing three translators and ensuring these translators hit their deadlines. Salary is commensurate with experience, in the range of $47-$57k. This is a full-time, telecommuting position with benefits.

What to send: If this sounds like a good fit for you, please send your résumé, cover letter, three (3) published samples of your editing work (before and after), and Roundtable ideas to mbricker@thebulletin.org; please type “Roundtable Editor” in the subject line. What do we mean by “Roundtable ideas”? Send us three proposed Roundtable questions, along with the authors who you think could tackle each Roundtable—that’s three questions and 9 author suggestions (three authors per Roundtable). Keep in mind that a successful Roundtable is as much about the stellar essays as it is showing off your journalistic instincts of what personalities and perspectives would work in each Roundtable. We will not consider candidates without editing clips and Roundtable ideas.

Your cover letter should tell us about your experience, your editing abilities, and your understanding and interest in the issues that we cover.

What to know: Due to the volume of resumes, we will not respond unless we are interested in interviewing you. Please refrain from sending multiple emails, and please do not call.

Who we are: The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which was established in 1945 by scientists, engineers, and other experts who had created the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project, informs the public about threats to the survival and development of humanity from nuclear weapons, climate change, and emerging technologies in the life sciences. Through an award-winning digital journal, our website, and the Doomsday Clock, we reach policy leaders and audiences around the world with information and analysis about efforts to address the dangers and prevent catastrophe.

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When will President Obama confront the climate change denialists?


For some time, I’ve been planning to write a long, ultra-serious post about the repeat failure of the establishment press to deal with complex, “dangerous” stories. This problem first smacked me in the forehead when I lived in Texas and the national press just flat missed the commercial-and-condo construction bubble that led to the multihundred-billion-dollar collapse of the savings and loan industry. Even after the fact, the major newspapers couldn’t seem to step up to the plate and assign blame to any of the major financial and political interests that had caused the catastrophe. Pathetic as it was then, this inability to face down powerful interests doing things dangerous to the Republic has only grown into an entrenched habit over time, as the major media have dealt glancingly, if at all, with complicated and major story after story. I was going to use Al Gore’s current (wordplay intended) piece in Rolling Stone, “Climate of Denial,” as the starting point for a lengthy, erudite excoriation of Fourth Estate failure to 1) puncture the obvious lies used as justification for invading Iraq and 2) warn of a mortgage bubble and derivatives nightmare that almost crashed the world economy. In my brilliant post, I intended not just to address the false equivalence the media have generally drawn between essentially the entire assembled scientific infrastructure of the civilized world and a few ideologically driven, industry funded hacks charged with creating some illusion of doubt about climate change, but also to wax eloquent about the bankruptcy of the he-said/she-said journalistic approach in general.  Unfortunately, Gore did all this and more in his Rolling Stone piece, which (h/t to my friend Ryan Blitstein) deserves to be read in entirety. If you can’t be bothered to put out that much effort, take this part of the article away with you:

The scientific consensus is far stronger today than at any time in the past. Here is the truth: The Earth is round; Saddam Hussein did not attack us on 9/11; Elvis is dead; Obama was born in the United States; and the climate crisis is real. It is time to act.

Al Gore is very gentle with President Obama, understanding his various political dilemmas over the course of many boring paragraphs. For his care, the former vice president is being attacked by Beltway media critics who don’t seem even to have tried to understand his argument. (Jack Shafer has written an especially beside-the-point piece that is very good at expressing the contempt in which Shafer holds Gore — and, to my eye, nothing else.) But careful as he is in getting there, Gore comes to the proper conclusion: The president has, for political reasons, backed away from confronting the most important issue of our time — and a very real and very direct threat to the future of life on Earth. All the money Big Oil and Big Coal can muster cannot change a simple truth: Burning fossil fuels threatens the future of life. Mr. President, isn’t the planet more important than a reelection?

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