Tuesday, August 04, 2015

THE TIDE OF HISTORY FLOWS LEFT


By James A. Haught (provided by Edd Doerr) 

Tribune News Service (TNS)

One of my history-minded friends has a long-range political view summed up
in three words: Liberals always win. Complex social struggles may take
centuries or decades, he says, but they eventually bring victory for human
rights, more democratic liberties and other progressive goals.

Look how long it took to end slavery. Generations of agitation and the
horrible Civil War finally brought triumph for liberal abolitionists and
defeat for conservative slavery supporters.

Look how long it took for women to gain the right to vote. In the end,
liberal suffragettes prevailed, conservative opponents lost.

Look at the long battle to give couples the right to practice birth control.

Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger was jailed eight times for the
crime of mentioning sex - but she eventually transformed U.S. society. A
Supreme Court victory in 1965 struck down contraceptive bans for married
couples, and a follow-up victory in 1972 struck them down for unwed ones.
Liberals won, conservatives lost.

The same pattern applies to the struggle for Social Security pensions for
retirees - and unemployment compensation for the jobless - and equality for
blacks - and Medicare and Medicaid - and equality for women - and food
stamps for needy families - and expanded health insurance under the
Affordable Care Act - and equality for gays - etc. These stormy social
conflicts ended the same way: Liberals always win. Conservatives always
lose.

Of course, history doesn't move in a clear, predictable manner. Germany was
advanced and modern - yet it sank into the horrors of Nazism. Other setbacks
occur. But the overall tide of civilization flows in a progressive
direction.

In his landmark book, "The Better Angels of Our Nature," Harvard
psychologist Steven Pinker concludes that all sorts of human evils - war,
genocide, murder, rape, torture, dueling, wife-bashing, attacks on
minorities, etc. - have faded enormously from the Western world.
International warfare has virtually vanished. Pursuit of such humane goals
lies at the heart of the liberal agenda.

When I first became a news reporter in the 1950s, conservative Bible Belt
morality was enforced by laws. It was a crime for stores to open on the
Sabbath. It was a crime to look at the equivalent of a Playboy magazine, or
to read a sexy book. (Our mayor once sent cops to raid bookstores selling
"Peyton Place.")

Back then, it was a felony to be gay, and those who were caught were sent to
prison under old sodomy laws. Back then, it was a felony for a desperate
girl to end a pregnancy. It was illegal for an unmarried couple to share a
bedroom. Divorce or unwed pregnancy was an unmentionable disgrace. Jews
weren't allowed into Christian-only country clubs. Public schools had
mandatory teacher-led prayer. It was a crime to buy a cocktail or a lottery
ticket.

That world disappeared, decade after decade. The culture slowly evolved.
Sunday "blue laws" were undone. Teacher-led prayers were banned.

Gay sex
became legal. Liquor clubs were approved. Abortion became legal. State
governments became lottery operators. Censorship ended. Other conservative
taboos gradually disappeared.

Within my lifetime, morality flip-flopped. Conservative thou-shalt-nots lost
their grip on society. Liberals won - yet it happened so gradually that
hardly anyone noticed.

For several decades, the strongest indicator of politics was church
membership. White evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Mitt Romney. People
who don't attend worship voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. The latter
became the largest group in the Democratic Party base.

Today, survey after survey finds American church membership fading, while
the young generation ignores religion. Sociologists think the secular trend
is unstoppable. People who say their faith is "none" already comprise
one-fourth of the adult population - 56 million Americans - and they seem
destined someday to be the largest segment. The social tide is flowing away
from conservative fundamentalism and its Puritanical agenda.

All these factors support my friend's maxim that liberals always win. The
progressive worldview is called humanism - trying to make life better for
all people - and it's a powerful current. In 1960, John F. Kennedy said in a
famed speech:

"If by a 'liberal' they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone
who welcomes new ideas without rigid reaction, someone who cares about the
welfare of the people - their health, their housing, their schools, their
jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties - .then I'm proud to say
that I'm a liberal."

Amid all the chaos and confusion of daily life, through a thousand
contradictory barrages, the struggle for a safer, fairer, more secure, more
humane world never ceases. Thank heaven for progressive victories that keep
on prevailing.
---
ABOUT THE WRITER:  James A. Haught is editor of West Virginia's largest
newspaper, The Charleston Gazette.  Readers may reach him by email at
haughtwvgazette.com or phone at 304-348-5199.
This essay is available to Tribune News Service subscribers. Tribune did not
subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer
and do not necessarily represent the views of Tribune or its editors.

---
C2015 James A. Haught
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency - Aug. 1, 2015

In addition to the info at the  end of the piece, Haught is also a fellow
columnist for Free Inquiry. -- Edd)

Monday, August 03, 2015

Clerical Sexual Abuse

a review by Edd Doerr

 Clerical Sexual Abuse: How the Crisis Changed US Catholic Church-State Relations, by Jo Renee Formicola. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, 279 pp, $105.

No Longer on Pedestals, by Carol A. Kuhnert. iUniverse, 2014, 385 pp, $23.


By now the clergy sexual abuse scandals, worldwide and of long duration, are out in the open. In the current issues of Free Inquiry and the ARL journal, Voice of Reason, I reviewed Kieran Tapsell’s book, Potiphar’s Wife: The Vatican’s Secret and Child Sexual Abuse. The two reviewed here are just the latest in a long stream on the subject, many of them by Catholic authors, such as Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea’s Perversion of Power: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church (2007); Leon Podles’s Sacrilege: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church 2008); Lucinda Almond’s Child Abuse (2006,  to which I contributed a chapter);  and two in Spanish by Spanish psychologist Pepe Rodriguez, Pederasty in the Catholic Church: Sex Crimes by the Clergy against Minors: A Drama Silenced and Covered Up by the Bishops (2005) and The Sex Life of the Clergy (2002).

Jo Renee Formicola, a professor of political science at Seton Hall University, a Catholic institution, starts off on page 1 noting that the abuse scandals in the US alone have so far cost the Catholic Church over three billion dollars to settle lawsuits. She makes clear that internal progress to deal with the abuse mess has been agonizingly slow, a matter of “too little and too late,” with church officials in the US and the Vatican far more concerned about protecting their image and covering up the abuse than about the vast numbers of minors who have been victims of clergy sexual abuse. She also touches on the scandals in Belgium and in Ireland, which, with only one percent of the US population, the 2006 Ryan Report showed that over a period of 70 years there were over “over 14,000 sexual abuse victims of priests and nuns.” She notes that the 2004 John Jay College of Criminal Justice study, “The Nature and Scope of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States, 1950-2002,” found that “4,392 clergymen were accused of abusing 10,667 people between 1960 to 1984 at a financial cost of $573 million,” that “most of the victims were males between the ages of 11-14.”

Formicola’s well documented book details the legal and canon (church) law complications involved in dealing with the problem and concludes that church officials have consistently sought to shield the scandals from public scrutiny and civil law enforcement.

Carol Kuhnert is a devout Catholic woman in the St Louis area whose older brother was a priest who abused numerous minors. Her book is a courageous, detailed, well documented account of one abuser and the author’s years long though fruitless efforts to get her church to clean up the mess. She makes clear that the cover-ups and indifference toward the abuse were/are every bit as bad as the abuse itself.


Both books mention Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who was a bishop in St Louis who seemingly was of no help there, who was then archbishop of Milwaukee where he tried to move church assets around to avoid their being used in compensate victims, and who now as archbishop of New York had been campaigning to have the New York legislature divert public funds to his church’s private schools through vouchers, which would of course be contrary to the state constitution’s Article XI, Section 3.

Both of these books merit five stars. Too bad the list price of the Formicola book is so unreasonably high.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Vatican hypocrisy

by Edd Doerr

The Vatican and top church leaders have a strange, even pathological obsession with pelvic matters. They are all bent out of shape over same-sex marriage, homosexuality, contraception, abortion, and clerical celibacy. The vast majority of ordinary Catholics, however, have no problem with contraception and the Catholic abortion rate is about the same as for non-Catholics. As for same-sex marriage, just look at what happened in Ireland in May. By 62% to 38% Irish voters approved of same-sex marriage, an obvious slam at the church hierarchy. And Ireland is probably the most Catholic country in the world.

Incidentally, we might note that Ireland has produced two hilarious comedy television series, “Moone Boy” and “Father Ted”, that scoff at Catholicism in ways that even the brashest American producers are too timid to attempt.

But to the point. If you have not already done so, you need to read Leah Mickens’s article “Theology of the Odd Body: The Castrati, the Church, and the Transgender Moment,” in the August/September Free Inquiry. Mickens brings to our attention the “castrati,” the 6 to 9 year old little boys in Italy who were castrated so that they could be trained to sing as adult sopranos in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel choir and other Catholic churches throughout the Papal States from the 16th century to the end of the 19th century. Of course many of the kids did not even survive the ugly, disgusting, inhumane procedure. All this was approved and encouraged by the top echelons of the Vatican and ended only when Italian nationalists took over the Papal States in 1870.

Then we have the ongoing worldwide clergy sexual abuse of minors scandals, only seriously exposed to light in the last 30 years or so in a flood of books in the US, Spain and other countries. See my review of lawyer and canon law trained author Kieran Tapsell’s 2014 book, Potiphar’s Wife: The Vatican’s Secret and Child Sexual Abuse, in my column in the August/ September Free Inquiry and in the current issue of Americans for Religious Liberty’s journal Voice of Reason. Tapsell concludes with citing a  2014 UN report showing that thr church hierarchy has long been involved with covering up the widespread abuse and shielding the clergy abusers. My review of Seton Hall University political scientist Jo Renee Formicola’s 2014 book, Clerical Sexual Abuse: How the Crisis Changed US Catholic Church-State Relations, will also appear shortly.

So the Vatican’s sustained attacks on contraception and abortion should be taken as clericalism at its worst, not only seen as attacks on women’s rights of conscience, health and religious  freedom but also contributing to the world human overpopulation that is driving climate change and environmental  degradation.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE - A UUA statement

Edd Doerr notes that the the Unitarian Universalist Association have releases a statement issued  , approved by the UUA General Assembly in late June --- 2015 UUA Statement of Conscience - Reproductive Justice. ARL board member Ken Sandin was a delegate at the General Assembly in Portland, OR,  this year.

The UUA has long been supportive of reproductive choice and was involved from the beginning in 1973 with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, on whose board I served from1973 until 2004.

By the way, in 1982 I was the author of the UUA General Assembly resolution on “Public Education, Religious Liberty and the Separation of Church and State”, which passed unanimously. Below are the relevant sections  ---

“Whereas, the constitutional principles of religious liberty and the separation of church and state that safeguards liberty and the ideal of a pluralistic society are under increasing attack in the Congress of the United States, in state legislatures, and in some sectors on the communications media by a combination of sectarian and secular special interests;

“Be it resolved: That the 1982 GA of the UUA  affirms its support for these principles and urges the Board of Trustees and President of the Association, member societies, and UUs in the US to:

“1. Defend the democratic, pluralistic public school, opposing all forms of direct and indirect public aid to support sectarian private schools, such as tuition tax credits or vouchers;

“2. Uphold religious neutrality in public education, oppose all government mandated or sponsored prayers, devotions, and religious indoctrination in public schools; and oppose efforts to compromise the integrity of public school teaching by the introduction of sectarian religious doctrines, such as ‘scientific creationism,’ and by exclusion of educational matter on sectarian grounds.

“3. Uphold the principle of judicial review, and oppose all efforts to deny the federal courts jurisdiction  over school prayer, abortion rights, or other church-state disputes.

“4. Uphold the principle enunciated by the US Supreme Court that all levels of government must remain respectfully neutral with regard to all religions.

“5 Uphold the constitutional privacy right of every woman, acknowledged by the Supreme Court in 1973 in Roe v. Wade and other rulings, to plan the number and spacing of her children and to terminate a problem pregnancy in collaboration with her physician, opposing all efforts through legislation or constitutional amendment to restrict that right or to impose by law a ‘theology of fetal personhood’; and

“6. Support all efforts to preserve and strengthen church-state  separation.”




[NOTE: In 1981 humanist leaders Edward Ericson and the late Sherwin Wine founded Americans for Religious Liberty. In 1982 was asked to be ARL’s executive director. ARL’s positions match those of the UUA resolution. All issues of ARL’s quarterly journal and other material may be accessed on our website – arlinc.org. ARL appreciates the support of all who share these positions.]

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A review of "Christianity without God"

a review by Edd Doerr of  Christianity without God: Moving beyond the Dogmas and Retrieving the Epic Moral Narrative, by Daniel C. Maguire. SUNY Press, 2014, 226 pp, $24.95.



“In these pages,” Dan Maguire  writes as he begins this important book, “I argue against the existence of a personal god, the divinity of Jesus, and the belief that continued living is the sequel to death. I find no persuasive arguments for any of these hypotheses,” these assumed foundations of Christianity. “What would be refreshing,” he adds, “is a moratorium on god-talk so that together we could explore alternatives to earth’s current social, political, economic, and ecological distress.”

Maguire, Professor of Ethics at (Jesuit) Marquette University and a former priest, is a longtime supporter of women’s rights regarding contraception, abortion and overpopulation. (See my review of his book, Sacred Choices, in Voice of Reason No. 80 in 2002 at arlinc.org.) In this brisk new book, brimming with humor and common sense, Maguire eviscerates the myths and supernaturalism of the Bible and traditional Christian theology but says that there are gems of wisdom and ethics to be found in those sources, though, one cannot help but note, those gems are buried under mountains of muck that require a patient, careful geologist like Maguire to unearth. The book reminds one of the Jefferson Bible or Bernard Shaw’s quip that as his followers did not understand Jesus’ religion, they made him the religion.

Maguire pokes fun at the Vatican’s “pelvic zone orthodoxy” and highlights the importance of dealing with climate change and its concomitants: “deforestation and  habitat destruction, soil erosion and salinization, water management problems, overhunting, overfishing, foreign species affecting native species, human population growth, and increased per capita impact of people,” a litany similar to the one I have long been chanting.  He concludes: “No deity will come to save this gifted and generous earth. It’s a challenge for humans not for gods. . . . The hour is late; some damage is irremediable. But it is not too late to start reversals.”

Further: “We are a spoiled species that seems hell-bent on wrecking the earth that cradles us and we are well on in that demonic suicidal project. It is an alluring temptation for the likes of us to imagine a superbeing with parental passions who is both omnipotent and all merciful who will make everything right ‘on earth as it is in heaven’. Such delusions are typical of adolescence. And adolescent is what we are.”

Maguire’s humanism shines brightly through in this terrific book, though he does not use that term. And it bears out what I wrote in this haiku: “Labels may conceal / far more than they may reveal / they can mask what’s real.”

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Scott Walker & Public Education

by Edd Doerr

We continue to have newly announced candidates for Prez.  The news recently was all about Scott Walker’s announced run for Prez. Here is the response I posted re the Washington Post’s 7/14 editorial on the matter. My comment left out that Walker signed a bill promoting “abstinence only” sex ed in schools.  



Scott Walker has made it abundantly clear that he is an enemy of public education, women's rights of conscience, religious freedom, and our constitutional heritage of church-state separation.

He has worked overtime to undermine public education by increasing the diversion of public funds to special interest (mostly faith-based) private schools, a plan that has been a manifest failure in Wisconsin and other states, while cutting back on public school funding. He strongly supports having government force all taxpayers to support religious institutions that divide kids along religious, class, ideological, ethnic and other lines. He has attacked the University of Wisconsin, whacking its budget.. He has been working hard to shrink women's rights of conscience on abortion, seeking to impose his own narrow values on all women. He has made clear that he has no respect for the rights of working people. He seems unfamiliar with his own state's constitution.

To top it off, Scott Walker says that "My relationship with God drives every major decision in my life." Walker claims that "I needed to be certain that running [for President] was God's calling. I am certain: This is God's plan for me."

This unhinged college dropout evidently wants to turn our country into something resembling Ayatollah Khomenei's Iran or a fundamentalist caliphate. Walker would turn the Oval Office into the Offal Office. 

Arctic Methane

by Don Wharton

The state of scientific knowledge on arctic methane is profoundly disturbing. The scientists talk about how much they don't know but then the seeming consensus is that that there a high confidence that there is no risk of a substantial game changing Artic methane release. This is on its face contradictory. If they don't know then they don't know.

Topics to be covered:

1. Current sharp rise in methane from pre-industrial times.
2. Extreme lack of current information on Arctic methane release.
3. Thermal shock to climate system preceding at unprecedented rate.
4. Known mechanisms that can significantly increase transport of ocean methane to the atmosphere.
5. A known mechanism that can significantly ease the release of land methane deposits.
6. A known mechanism which can significantly magnify the impact of methane that is released.

There is a great many discussions about anomalously high methane readings from the modest tracking that is done. Readings of 200 to 900 ppb above normal readings seem to be given the charming term dragon breath. The standard readings for methane seem are now approaching 1900 ppb which is over 2.5 times the 721 ppb assumed for pre-industrial times. This can be seen from the graphs included here:

There is a current five year program to fly planes over Alaska, called CARVE. There seems to a gross discontinuity between the initial reports that were disturbing and the initial final report which is sanguine:
Quoting one paragraph, “Some of the methane and carbon dioxide concentrations we've measured have been large, and we're seeing very different patterns from what models suggest," Miller said. "We saw large, regional-scale episodic bursts of higher-than-normal carbon dioxide and methane in interior Alaska and across the North Slope during the spring thaw, and they lasted until after the fall refreeze. To cite another example, in July 2012 we saw methane levels over swamps in the Innoko Wilderness that were 650 parts per billion higher than normal background levels. That's similar to what you might find in a large city."

Of course, with the radically increased warming in the Arctic during the summer we are seeing many more small lakes being formed which can nourish the methane brewing bacteria that feed on the massive amounts of organic material in the permafrost. It is easy for the frozen water from the permafrost when thawed to migrate to the slightly lower levels and form these very shallow swamps/lakes.

There are recent maps posted by NASA on these CARVE flights which show the significant differences in CO2 and methane levels along the flight paths for the planes:

Compare the disturbing evidence above with the formal announcement,
NASA: Alaska Shows No Signs of Rising Arctic Methane:

The title conveys the very sanguine message. However, read especially the last paragraph in the following quote from news release:

“Alaska composes about one percent of Earth's total land area, and its estimated annual emissions in 2012 equaled about one percent of total global methane emissions. That means the Alaskan rate was very close to the global average rate.

"That's good news, because it means there isn't a large amount of methane coming out of the ground yet," said lead author Rachel Chang, formerly at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and now an assistant professor and Canada Research Chair in Atmospheric Science at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Charles Miller of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, the principal investigator for CARVE, noted that results from a single year cannot show how emissions might be changing from year to year. "The 2012 data don't preclude accelerated change in the future," he said.

Vast amounts of carbon are stored in undecayed organic matter -- dead plants and animals -- in Arctic permafrost and peat. Scientists estimate that there is more than twice as much carbon locked in the frozen North as there is in the atmosphere today. The organic material won't decay and release its carbon as long as it stays frozen. But climate change has brought warmer and longer summers throughout the Arctic, and permafrost soils are thawing more and more. If large amounts of undecayed matter were to defrost, decompose and release methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the impact on global temperatures would most likely be enormous.

//end quote//

In fact the message in the title of this news release reflects ignorance. Since the researchers did not know the prior rate of methane release they can say that there are no signs of methane increase. That clearly does not provide evidence that there is no increase. The fact is that there is massively greater organic material being thawed each year and the starkly high “dragon breath” readings are unlikely to have existed in a past when permafrost actually remained frozen.

The rate of increase in global warming gasses is preceding at a pace that has never been equaled in the history of our planet. This may provide a thermal shock to the climate that has never occurred in the past. Even during the very extreme Permian extinction it is unlikely that the rate of climate change equaled what we are going through now.

David Archer is a respected climatologist and is seen as someone who does an excellent job in debunking climate change deniers. He very much supports the majority of climate scientists who do not see any catastrophic release of Arctic methane. I have read over 100 pages of his detailed discussion on the topic including this one:

My recollection is that many dismissive discussions of methane rising from the ocean floor talks about how most of the methane will dissolve in the water and be eaten by bacteria. However, Archer discusses a research piece that calculated a 50 year half life in the ocean. Quoting from the above link:
“Rehder et al. (1999) inferred an oxidation lifetime of methane in the high-latitude North Atlantic of 50 years.
An oxidation lifetime of 50 years leaves plenty of time for methane gas to evaporate into the atmosphere. Typical gas exchange timescales for gas evasion from the surface ocean would be about 3–5m per day. A surface mixed layer 100m deep would approach equilibrium (degas) in about a month.
Even a 1000-m thick winter mixed layer would degas about 30% during a three-month winter window. The ventilation time of subsurface waters depends on the depth and the fluid trajectories in the water (Luyten et al., 1983), but 50 years is enough time that a significant fraction of the methane dissolving
from bubbles might reach the atmosphere before it is oxidized.”

Large emissions of methane has been documented along the Siberian coastline. Coastal melting has resulted in 2500% supersaturation concentrations of methane relative to the atmosphere in Siberian shelf waters (Shakhova et al., 2005). With a supersaturated solution the rising bubbles cannot dissolve and will proceed unimpeded to the atmosphere.

I was astonished to note that ocean surface temperatures of over 60 degrees were being recorded in small areas of the Arctic and Alaskan Pacific. This is likely to substantially add heat to subsurface methane deposits. A massive fraction of the Arctic land mass is covered by small and medium sized lakes. It is likely that the surface water on those lakes will have similar increases in maximum and average temperatures. Arctic lakes typically never freeze at the bottom in the winter. The implication is that there is an area, called a talik, that remains unfrozen and penetrates deep into the permafrost.

An article on these taliks:
talk about how a significant minority of them already reach down below the zone of methane hydrate stability. Some of them are projected to have an unfrozen talik extending down 300 meters. What this means is that there is a mechanism that allows for easy release of methane from below the lake and perhaps easier movement of the increased surface heat to deep permafrost deposits. Obviously the rising methane bubbles will pull some of the water with them. To some extent the resulting partial reduction in fluid pressure will pull fluid from any source that can provide it. Almost certainly that will include some of the warm surface water. This will result in much more than the possible release of preexisting methane, There is massive amounts of organic carbon that has not yet been converted to methane combined with bacteria that likes to eat it and produce methane. In another study it was noted that the thawed area under one lake extended 8 feet in a single year.

Subsurface soundings very often document frozen methane hydrates by the methane bubbles below the methane stability zone. The bubbles cannot move upward because methane hydrate is cemented in all of the available pore space. What will happen when the majority of the taliks penetrate the stability zone instead of only 25% of them or less. The methane pressure near the talik is much reduced when the bubbles below and near the talik are released. The remaining bubbles can in principle move laterally because the pore spaces are not clogged with hydrate. In addition the oxidation of carbon by methanogenic bacteria will release some heat in the same way that oxidizing carbon by burning it releases heat. Obviously this mechanism will create heat at a slower rate than burning but we know that land dumps that are producing methane can become extremely hot because of this mechanism. I have seen no studies documenting this possibility in the Arctic but it is a very well understood phenomenon in domestic dump sites.

It is common knowledge in the waste industry that 5% of landfill fires are caused by spontaneous combustion due to bacteria digesting material. This can be substantially enhanced by any mechanism that adds oxygen to the mixture. However, even more heat is often generated without oxygen. In terms of the magnitude of the heat consider this article:

Quote:
“The maximum reported temperatures generally varied from approximately 40 to 65°C and were observed within the middle one-third depth to over one-half depth of landfills with total waste heights
of approximately 20 to 60 m. An exception was reported by Koerner #2001# where low temperatures between 10 and 20°C were measured for wastes with a maximum height of nearly 50 m in the long term #more than 9.5 years#. Temperatures up to approximately 30 to over 50°C were reported near or at the base of landfills #Dach and Jager 1995; Rowe 1998; Gartung et al. 1999; Yoshida and Rowe 2003#,”

Even modest generation of heat in permafrost or organic material near methane hydrates by this mechanism can vastly enhance a tipping point process that continues to a runaway human disaster.

The methane hydrates are a major risk because they are known to very unstable if the specific conditions required to maintain them are changed. However, the existing organic material in permafrost is also a risk. Quoting from the Archer article:
“Peat deposits are a substantial reservoir of carbon, are estimated to be 350–450 Gton C (Stockstad, 2004). With a thaw will come accelerated decomposition of this organic matter, increasing the flux of CO2 and CH4 (Liblik et al., 1997; Rivkina et al., 2000, 2004). Soil that has been frozen for thousands of years still contains viable populations of methanotrophic bacteria (Rivkina et al., 2004). The flux of methane from peat soils to the atmosphere also depends on the location of the water table, which controls the thickness of the oxic zone (Bubier et al., 1995, 2005; Liblik et al., 1997). If 20% of the peat reservoir converted to methane, released over 100 years, this would release 0.7 Gton C per year, doubling the atmospheric methane concentration.”

OH ions are needed to oxidize methane. High levels of methane will reduce the OH ions in the atmosphere and extend the half life of methane. This can substantially expand its warming impact. A formal model calculating this impact started with a base assumption of a 9.1 year half life now. With 4 times the methane it expands to 14.7 years. A seven fold increase would produce a 18 year life.
I saw one suggestion that a catastrophic methane release could produce a 40 year atmospheric life for released methane. Given that we have only 3GT of methane in the atmosphere now and there are possibly thousands of gigatons in various deposits, this big a release is certainly conceivable.

The study referenced in the last link above ended with:
“There is a possibility that the Arctic temperature increases could be followed by extensive permafrost
thawing, with enhanced CH4 emission from thermokarst lakes [Walter et al. , 2006], with later release of CH4 from gas hydrates that would eventually be affected by warming temperatures. Considering the large, nonlinear atmospheric chemistry feedbacks discussed here, future CH4 emissions from permafrost deposits could be a larger concern for climate warming than previously thought.”

The majority of mainstream climate scientists use this very careful language. However, they also are documenting categories of risk that are very inconsistent with the seemingly unconcerned IPCC summary judgment. The known science suggests that we at minimum need a massive investment in the science so that we can have confidence concerning what is happening now and make reliable predictions on the future. A 6 degree centigrade increase in planetary temperature will make most of the world profoundly miserable for humanity. This will not cause humanity to become extinct. However, there will be a massive reduction in human population combined with destabilizing war as people desperately fight for the resources required to survive.

We have no proof that we will have any catastrophic methane release from the Arctic. However, virtually every aspect of the current system has elements that are only partially understood and can vastly expand the release of methane beyond current assumptions. We need to do the research to either verify that the carbon and methane will remain stable or give us an understanding about the magnitude of our climate risk.

Monday, July 20, 2015

An Hypothesis on the Secular Vote in 2016

by Gary Berg-Cross


Bill Scher, the Online Campaign Manager at Campaign for America's Future, (and the executive editor of LiberalOasis.com), often blogs about the problems that the Republican Party & Conservative Pols face. Recent ones include "Why Republicans Can’t Stop The Iran Deal (And Shouldn’t Want To) and "Republicans On Track To Lose The Latino Vote, And The Election, Again." But the most recent one (JULY 20, 2015) to catch my eye was, "Republicans Can’t Win Without Solving Their ‘Secular Problem. ’

The idea is simple, the highly religious and fundamentalist vote is maxed out.  The less religious and nones are growing and up, like the Latino vote, for being grabbed.

Scher points out some trends starting with an 2006 exit poll data that showed that:
'Democrats crushed Republican among voters who went to church “a few times a year” (60-38 percent) and “never” (67-30 percent), while the Republican margin among those who attended church “weekly” was slashed from 16 points in the previous midterm to seven."
'…In 2008, Sen. John McCain received 39 percent support of voters who seldom attend religious services, and 30 percent from those who never go. Both numbers represent a 6-point drop from what Bush received in 2004…
…Obama received 43 percent of the vote from voters who attend religious services weekly or more than weekly. For Kerry, those numbers were 41 percent and 35 percent…'
The idea here, which jives with the type of things we see among the current crop of GOP candidates  is that conservatives are aiming at keeping their Evangelical base.  The battle is for the more casual religious.

Scher reports that in 2012 an openly religious Obama did no better than Kerry among the  42 percent of voters who said they were regular worshipers. (The secular vote is also about 42%) Although a very religious Mitt did worse than Bush's 2004 results among the 57 percent who "never went to services or who went irregularly."

President Obama carried Religiously Unaffiliated voters 70% to Mitt Romney’s 26% according to a report from The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life exit poll data of the 2012 election. Although the President’s percentage was lower than in 2008, it still continued a trend of the nones supporting the Democratic candidates. The exit poll numbers were larger than a similar election poll in September when the President held a 65 to 27 lead on Romney. (from  President Obama Wins A Landslide From The Religiously Unaffiliated)

So 2016 shapes up in this view to having a new swing vote group he call the Secular. Candidates need to speak to them on secular topics. Renouncing “religious freedom” laws
that would permit discrimination is one he sites along with women's freedom to choose. Supporting equal rights for the LGBT community is obviously one that appeals to young seculars in particular based on their experience.  Even if they are not persuaded by a liberal candidate they find offense in how a socially conservative candidate  panders to the Conservative base on these and other Judeo-Christian inspired topics that do not respect the separation of Church and State. 
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