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Michael Winship: From the Annals of Sno-Cone Science

(Photo by Robin Holland)

Below is an article by JOURNAL senior writer Michael Winship. We welcome your comments below.

"From the Annals of Sno-Cone Science"
By Michael Winship

There's a vintage Bob and Ray radio sketch in which Bob plays "Mr. Science," a parody of TV's "Mr. Wizard." He's trying to explain to his young protégé Sandy "the miracle of gas refrigeration."

"Doesn't it seem paradoxical to you that a refrigerator is made cold by a flame?" Mr. Science asks.

Sandy exclaims, "Holy cats! Wait 'til I tell the gang at school that! I thought it was made cold by the ice cubes, Mr. Science!"

Sandy's slippery grasp of physics and Mr. Science's increasingly convoluted explanations characterize the debate over climate change that was taking place in Washington and the media this week. As the capital and much of the Eastern seaboard were digging themselves out from two big snow events, climate change deniers were pointing to the frozen tundra on the Potomac as evidence that global warming is a fraud.

Virginia's Republican Party used the blizzards to put out a snarky ad attacking two of the state's Democratic congressmen who voted for the cap-and-trade bill last year: "Tell them how much global warming you get this weekend," the spot chortled. "Maybe they'll come help you shovel."

Right-wing Senator Jim DeMint sent out a Twitter tweet: "It's going to keep snowing until Al Gore cries 'Uncle!'" And the daughter and grandkids of Republican Senator James Inhofe built a six-foot igloo on Capitol Hill with signs announcing "Al Gore's New Home" and "Honk if you [heart] Global Warming." Once again, the GOP mines comedy gold.

Granted, debating global warming while stuck in a snowdrift can seem a little counterintuitive, especially if you tend to willfully deny scientific evidence and prefer to limit your knowledge of the cold to such things as sticking your tongue on the schoolyard flagpole and enjoying the occasional Sno-Cone. And scientists didn't do themselves any favors when the phrase "global warming" was coined. Compared to "climate change," it's much too easy to misinterpret, intentionally or not. (As some have suggested, "global weirding" might be more accurate and helpful.)

In truth, and to get way too basic, warmer air holds more moisture and when temperatures get colder it falls from the sky as a lot of snow. Not to mention that short term weather phenomena, like blizzards, don't necessarily reflect overall climate trends which are measured over decades and more.

And by the way, as the progressive Web site Media Matters reports, if we can momentarily shift our East Coast-centric eyes from our own icy weather, note that they're having trouble getting enough snow at the Olympics in Vancouver and Rio de Janeiro is wilting from its worst heat wave in half a century.

One big fact that convinces me of the reality of climate change is the seriousness with which America's defense and intelligence agencies are taking it as a worldwide threat. The American Security Project, a Washington think tank, reported last month that the Central Intelligence Agency has relaunched a program "to share surveillance and other data with scientists monitoring climate change," including satellite photos. And in September, the CIA announced it was creating a Center on Climate Change and National Security that will study "the effect environmental factors can have on political, economic, and social stability overseas."

The Chief of Naval Operations has established "Task Force Climate Change" to "assess the Navy's preparedness to respond to emerging requirements, and to develop a science-based timeline for future Navy actions regarding climate change." Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has set the year 2020 as a deadline for the Navy cutting its use of fossil fuels by half.

On February 1, the Pentagon issued its Quadrennial Defense Review, which establishes defense strategy and priorities and evaluates potential international risks. It cites intelligence assessments that "climate change could have significant geopolitical impacts around the world, contributing to poverty, environmental degradation and the further weakening of fragile governments. Climate change will contribute to food and water scarcity, will increase the spread of disease and may spur or exacerbate mass migration.

"While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world."

Among its other findings, the review cites a 2008 National Intelligence Council report that more than 30 U.S. military installations were "already facing elevated levels of risk from rising sea levels. DoD's operational readiness hinges on continued access to land, air, and sea training and test space. Consequently, the department must complete a comprehensive assessment of all installations to assess the potential impacts of climate change on its missions and adapt as required."

Consider yourself warned and, one hopes, suitably chastened. As Sandy tells Mr. Science, "I'm never going to throw an ice cube from a moving car again. Boy, Smokey the Bear's got enough trouble as it is!"


Please note that the views and opinions expressed by Michael Winship are not necessarily the views and opinions held by Bill Moyers or BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.


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I think that we should pull back are troops from the war in Afganistan.

Flying a plane has usually been a dream of mine, enjoyed reading your website.

Anna D wern't dat ole Tennessee Ernie Ford that sang "You load 16 tons and what-da ya get? Another day older and deeper in debt?"

The Vanderbilts & Rockfellers & Bushs, have understood your math for decades.

"St. Peter don't ya call me 'cause I can't go, I owe my soul to the company sto." (store)

Guess for Christians that could be problamatic.

Billy Bob Florida where Sno-Cones don't melt any more

It might be time to throw the bums out both Republican and Democrat. A center est non military third party who looks after the middle class would be nice.

Posted by: Ronal Becker

Corporations, since Reagan, have been sticking the "middle class" with the bill - via taxes - for the international wars that increase and protect THEIR bottom line.

The "politicians" who have been in Congress the longest are HELL BENT on cutting off "entitlements" because if they don't, the corps WILL go bankrupt if the bill for the wars is put on THEIR account.

But look how crazy it is - they STEAL every DECENT job the "baby boomers" created, they steal "taxes", they steal your stock profits (short selling) now they want to steal your mattress money for dental work...

And now they finally came out of the closet and admit that they want it ALL

No more "entitlements" for you!

So that "trickle" of currency for LIFE MAINTENANCE is THE DEBT that needs to be cut back.

In their COSMICALLY INSANE grey matter:


I'm not kidding about the math formulas - when the MACRO "fuzzy math" is:

More misery for others =
More money for ME ME ME

then LABOR has to be re-calculated as a DEBT for corporations...

It is appalling that politicians choose to do what they feel is beneficial to themselves and not the Nation.
We have polluted and created huge toxic sites. Pay for it now or pay later but we will pay and the price tag continues to rise.
It might be time to throw the bums out both Republican and Democrat. A center est non military third party who looks after the middle class would be nice.

N Pelosi 1\435th = Control How the House of Representatives functions is determined by 1\435th of the membership--
How is that majority rule?

H Reid 1\50th = Control
How the Senate functions is determined by 1\50th of the membership--
How is that majority rule?

The SENIORITY SYSTEM is a work-around of the original Constitution!

Even Senators are quiting over the dis-functional SYSTEM!

No more SENIORITY Ruling how Congress Functions.

Billy Bob Florida Your OBAMA said my primary vote should be denied! The only color concerned is my RED face!!!! If you think that makes me a racisist then you are a racisist!

For every action there is an oposite, equal reaction.
All that frozen air fell out of the Artic down South & all our warm air went to the Artic and now all the glaciers & ice bergs are going to melt this summer, which will send the cooler water down South which will stop hurricanes & Florida will become a desert, unless it submerges & wow!... it never ends! How can we go on in the face of climate disaters that are up on us?

And I thought having my democratic primary vote denied by ya'lls president was the end of the world!
Guess it don't really matter amy more than Congress' Seniority System letting a little guy from a little western state determine how the Senate functions.

Senate math: 1\50th=control!

Billy Bob underwater in Florida

I live in NYS, home of fox news. I live 20 miles south of the Canadian border and about 40 miles from Lake Placid.
We have no snow on the ground.
Why does fox news think it is at the center of the known world?
Their lies sicken and disgust me. 20 years from now( if they last that long), they will be screaming that the Democrats did nothing to prevent global warming, forgetting the lies and deception they are responsible for

Here’s my spin (which, as usual, is off-topic) on why the Democrats are going to loose big-time in November. Someone has probably said this before, but what the hay, here it is again.

The polls from the Massachusetts election had clearly shown that the voters were mostly concerned with jobs and the economy. These concerns were the main reason to why Independents, who had voted for Obama and other Democrats in 2008, had this time voted for Brown or who had just stayed home. So, after the White House had initially pointed the finger at Coakley’s lackluster effort, they seem to have finally started to direct their focus towards creating jobs (notice I said “seem to”). But is this enough?

To me, the majority of Independents are more politically savvy than the majority of Democrats and Republicans (who stroll into the polls with their white-canes and blinders). These Independents are Independents because they pay attention to politics, and in my opinion, they know when an elected official, to whom they had voted for, has just lied to them (by how he or she votes or by who he or she appoints).

While Geithner and Summers remain in the Obama administration, how can Independents take the Democrats seriously? For the past year, or so, sane economists and economic journalists have been telling us that the advice from these guys is what had gotten us into this trouble in the first place. So, from what I can tell, the bad advice that the President has been receiving doesn’t start with Geithner and Summers, it starts with Axelrod and Emanuel. If these two Rove wannabes don’t want to throw Geithner and Summers to the curb (the Wall Street curb), then Obama needs to replace them as well, and hopefully with someone who won’t sell their own mothers for the right price.

Also, why are Dodd (AIG Bonuses, plus…) and Frank (green light for subprime loans) still the chairmen of the Senate Banking and House Financial Services committees? These guys are constantly telling us about what’s broke, but then they take money from bank lobbyists and never seem to do anything to fix the problems. I think, Independents have grown tired of their bullsheet lip-service, and if these kitties (Olbermann slang) won’t or can’t get the job done, then Congress needs to appoint someone who can.

Sure, creating jobs is great, but if Democrats really want to – and I mean, really want to – win Independents back, then they’re going to have to start cleaning house. And then after this happen, Obama can start playing with his Reid and Pelosi puppets to restore the pre-Obama-Bush-Clinton-Bush-Reagan regulations.

Believe it or not, but all this clever bullsheet that the Democrats are using to keep Democratic voters from straying away, is the same clever bullsheet that is pushing away the much needed Independent voters. I wonder if Axelrod or Emanuel had ever thought of that.

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