Sunday, April 09, 2017

17.10 - Clown Award: Pennsylvania state Senator Scott Wagner

Clown Award: Pennsylvania state Senator Scott Wagner

Now for one of our regular features, the Clown Award, given as always for meritorious stupidity. And oh my word have winner this week.

Start with the fact that globally, 2016 was the hottest year on record. It broke the record set in 2015, which broke the record set in 2014.

Add the fact that the 20-teens are well on their way to being the hottest decade ever, which would break the record set by the 2000s, which broke the record set by the 1990s, which broke the record set by the 1980s, and I assume you can see a pattern developing here.

As an illustration of what's happening, consider the two images to the right. The top one shows the extent of Arctic sea ice in September 1984. Just to orient you quickly, Canada is at the bottom of the image, Russia is at the top, and Greenland is the big island in the right center. Green is open water and the blue to white areas are ice, with the whiter the color, the older the ice. Okay? September 1984.

The second image is September 2016.

In the words of David Carlson, director of the World Climate Research Program at the World Meteorological Organization, "We are now in truly uncharted territory."

So it would seem incumbent on officials to have some notion of what they are talking about when they address our climate future, wouldn't it?

Apparently not. So the week the Big Red Nose goes to and no it's not Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, even though he doesn't believe that carbon emissions are "a primary contributor to global warming that we see," because coming from someone who spent a good part of his career suing the EPA on behalf of the fossil fuel corporations, that kind of slippery evasion - note the deployment of the weasel word "primary" - is to be expected.

No, what we have here goes beyond the greasily evasive to the downright stupid. So the winner of the Big Red Nose is Pennsylvania state senator and gubernatorial hopeful Scott Wagner.

In giving a talk favoring drilling for natural gas on state lands in Pennsylvania, Wagner allowed as how climate change is probably happening, but fossil fuel emissions are absolutely not a problem. Why? Because he knows the real source of global warming.

First he said
I haven't been in a science class in a long time
and then he immediately proved it by saying
the earth moves closer to the sun every year - you know the rotation of the earth. We're moving closer to the sun.
What's more, he said
We have more people. You know, humans have warm bodies. So heat comes off.
Scott Wagner
That is truly award winning facepalm stupidity. Now, the Earth's orbit is not a perfect circle so yes, we do get a little closer to the Sun part of the year - and a little further from it the other part of the year. But that's not what he meant and we all know it. He's saying that overall, over the course of a year, on average, we are getting closer to the Sun every year.

No, we're not. In fact, we are getting a tiny bit further from the Sun every year. And neither the annual variation nor the change in the overall average have anything to do with the Earth's rotation.

And what? Global warming is caused by increased body heat from a growing population? Are we really even supposed to take that seriously?

Assuming you wanted to, one physics fan did a calculation and determined that assuming a population of 7 billion well-fed people, on any given day the Sun delivers to the Earth over 120,000 times as much energy as the total all those people give off.

And if you want to be really scientific and thorough about it, if you trace it all the way back, you find that the source of all of our human energy is plants that themselves were built on stored solar energy, whether we got it directly from plants or from animals that ate the plants or from animals that ate other animals that ate the plants. Which means that all the heat energy our bodies generate is merely returning to the environment energy that we removed from it in the course of eating - so the net impact of our body heat on the warming of the environment is zero.

Now, you may not have known those details or the details about the Earth's orbit - but my gosh, we're slowly spiraling into the Sun? Body heat is what's changing the climate? Absurdity piled on top of inanity.

Scott Wagner- chief scientist and environmental instructor in the school of clowns

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