Skip to content
Grist home
Support nonprofit news

Articles by Kit Stolz

All Articles

  • In a word, yes

    In recent years right-wingers in this country, including the president, have scoffed at the idea of global warming and ignored those who expressed concern and called for action. But even among Republicans and conservatives, the need to act to reduce the risks of climate change is looking increasingly like the new conventional wisdom.

    The obvious example is in California, where a Sep. 1 story in the Wall Street Journal [$] rightly predicted that a high-stakes deal between a Republican executive and a Democratic legislature "to cut emissions tied to global warming is likely to boost a resurgence in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's popularity." In fact the "halo effect" from this deal has remade Schwarzenegger's image among independents and Democrats, which -- baring an act of God -- will easily carry him to victory on November 7.

    But the California electorate has long supported environmental regulations for the sake of clean air, clean water, coastal protection, and parks and wild lands.

    How is global warming seen in the right-wing media in this country?

  • Not going so well

    The political pundits haven't noticed, probably because they habitually put the health of the planet at the bottom of their list of concerns, but this week on national television, David Letterman pointed out that the Current Occupant of the White House is trying to present himself as an Environmental President.

    It's a struggle, as you can see:

  • Vote!

    A great story in the now-threatened L.A. Times focuses on a heroic small business in Rancho Dominguez in Southern California called Advanced Cleanup Technologies.

    This 14-year-old firm can get 30 calls a day, to clean up every kind of toxic spill you can imagine.

    They've long pioneered new clean-up and pollution-control methods, and now they're trying to scrub the fuel-oil smokestack emissions from ship engines that have been fouling air at ports for years.

    A Port of Long Beach official is calling their new barge-based system a potential "major breakthrough."

    All that's great, and what Ruben Garcia and his team have done is admirable, and maybe even incredible.

    But that's not what this post is about.

    This post is about a word -- the word used to describe our movement and people like us.

    At the very end of the story, an engineer for the company declares that because their technology can reduce 90% or more of emissions of three major pollutants, "if you're an environmentalist, you're going to want this."

    True. I do want this. And, more fundamentally, I expect that anyone who breathes and lives or works near or at a port will surely want this pollution control, and as soon as possible.

    But what did you just call me?

  • Plain speaking from an expert

    To a layperson, the world of climatology can be an intimidatingly foreign land. Denizens of this world -- scientists -- speak a daunting, often-impenetrable blend of acronyms (AGW, IPCC, WPAC, ENSO), Latinisms (anomalies, coterminous, precipitation deficits), and math (confidence limits, regression-based, boundary knots).

    Besides the sheer complexity of global climate systems, the dreariness of this jargon may be one of the big reasons the general public has been slow to awaken to the seriousness of the threat of global warming. In fact, a conference on climate change organized by Yale last year called for "training scientists to speak in language that is understandable to different audiences."

    Bill PatzertOne scientist who needs no such training is Bill Patzert, an oceanographer and meteorologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., an institution closely linked to NASA. In the world of science, Patzert is known for his work matching TOPEX satellite weather data to the actual behavior of the Pacific Ocean and its weather systems, especially El Nino and its less-well-known counterpart La Nina. In the media world, he is a go-to guy for comments on weather patterns for the L.A. Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune, and CBS News, in part because he has a sense of humor.

    Patzert, who has briskly guided my reporting on climate questions for years, generously agreed to an extended email interview for Grist. Since he has become known for his work with the media, and even won medals for his outreach efforts, I thought I'd begin with a question about why the rhetoric of climatology is so turgid and difficult. His answer was more than I bargained for: