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Archive for October, 2009

An Uphill Battle

Display Case of Stolen Artifacts Seized from Visitors, Chaco Museum

Display Case of Stolen Artifacts Seized from Visitors, Chaco Museum

The AP has an interesting article talking about some studies of the way ARPA prosecutions tend to go.  The basic gist is that only a small number of people convicted end up being sentenced to prison, and of those that do most get less than a year; one study found that in ten years 83 people were convicted, 20 were sentenced to prison time, and of those only 7 got more than a year.  Cases that do end up being prosecuted are generally successful in getting convictions, but prosecutors are unable to pursue about a third of the cases they get for lack of sufficient evidence.  Another study of the same period found that about 94% of violations only resulted in misdemeanor tickets, although many could likely have been prosecuted as felonies if the agencies involved had the resources to do so.  About 840 looting cases on federal land are reported each year on average, and many more are certainly not being reported, but the resources to go after this stuff are just not there.  As we’ve seen in the recent cases centered on Blanding, these investigations can get very complicated very quickly, and it takes a lot of time and money to follow through on them.

White Ware Potsherd near Casa Rinconada

White Ware Potsherd near Casa Rinconada

This should put the remarkably light sentences that Jeanne and Jericca Redd got in some perspective.  Given how these things go, they actually ended up with rather more severe punishment than usual.  Perhaps the unfolding investigations throughout the Southwest will lead to some changes in how the government handles these cases, but if so it’ll take a lot to counteract the current situation.  I think part of the problem, though surely not all of it, is that so few law enforcement personnel are experienced with and focused on this sort of investigation.  The AP article mentions that efforts by the Park Service to train federal prosecutors in handling antiquities cases have not been very successful.  One option might be to set up (and adequately fund) a special police force, perhaps a branch of the FBI, to handle crimes related to antiquities and other cultural resources.  This is what Italy does, and it’s been much more successful in combating looting and art theft than the US authorities have.  Something to think about, anyway.

Kelso Jail, Mojave National Preserve

Kelso Jail, Mojave National Preserve

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Natural Gas Pipeline, Farmington, New Mexico

Natural Gas Pipeline, Farmington, New Mexico

This is a slightly edited version of the proposal I wrote up for the term paper I am writing for my environmental economics class this semester.  While this may seem rather disconnected from archaeology, I think it’s important to note that Chaco Canyon is located right in the middle of the San Juan Basin, which as noted below is the main area of coalbed methane production in the US.  While most of the attention Chaco gets has to do with its past, I think the present is important too.  Oil and gas production has been the mainstay of the economy of northwestern New Mexico for decades, and coal and uranium mining have also played key roles.  This has shaped the area in a variety of ways relevant to its substantial archaeological resources, perhaps most obviously in spurring numerous salvage projects in advance of energy development.  The artifacts and data recovered by these projects have made the San Juan Basin one of the best-documented archaeological regions in the country, which has set the ongoing arguments over its prehistory on a much firmer empirical base than is often the case.  In addition, of course, energy development is directly and obviously relevant to climate change and other environmental issues which are both of grave importance for current policymaking and of increasing interest to me personally, as shown by the trend in that direction evident in my recent posts.

Natural gas occupies an odd and ambiguous place in the public discussion of anthropogenic climate change and the evaluation of policy options for addressing it. On the one hand, natural gas, which is composed primarily of methane combined with small amounts of other hydrocarbons and varying amounts of carbon dioxide, is unquestionably a fossil fuel with many similarities to petroleum and coal. The supply of natural gas is finite, although the exact amount of reserves is not known, which makes it a nonrenewable source of energy, in contrast to renewable sources such as wind and solar. Burning natural gas releases carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas and main contributor to global warming that has been the focus of most policies intended to combat climate change.

On the other hand, however, the amount of carbon dioxide released by burning natural gas is vastly smaller than the amount released by coal and oil, which makes gas a much cleaner fuel than either. Since it is still a hydrocarbon, natural gas nonetheless stores a large amount of energy, which makes it much more cost-effective than solar or wind power, both of which require enormous amounts of land to produce significant amounts of energy. A gas-burning power plant, on the other hand, takes up no more land than a coal plant, and many recently constructed coal plants are in fact designed to also be able to burn gas if necessary. Many environmental advocates and policymakers have therefore applauded the increased use of gas as a crucial step in reducing (though not eliminating) carbon emissions.

At the same time that gas has gained this popularity, however, known reserves of conventional gas have been declining in productivity, and discoveries of new reserves have not kept pace with increasing demand. This has stirred interest in so-called “unconventional” gas sources the extraction of which involves technological challenges beyond those posed by conventional gas, which is usually trapped in easily accessible underground rock reservoirs often associated with petroleum deposits. There are various types of unconventional natural gas sources, but one of the most promising is known as coalbed methane.

As its name implies, coalbed methane is associated with coal rather than oil deposits. There are two main ways coalbed methane is produced.  Certain bacteria that feed on coal produce methane, which adheres to the surface of coal molecules and is held in place by pressure from water percolating through fractures in coalbeds.  This is known as “biogenic” methane.  Methane can also be produced by high temperatures in coalbeds, generally caused by intrusions of igneous rock, stimulating similar reactions in the coal.  This is known as “thermogenic” methane, and it is held in place by the same water pressure.  In either case, coal mining disturbs this delicate balance and releases the gas, which historically has been viewed primarily as a safety risk to coal miners due to its combustibility. For a long time the gas was simply vented from the mines and left to dissipate in the atmosphere, which is not only economically wasteful but environmentally disastrous, since methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. In recent decades, however, coal companies have begun to capture the gas from their mines and feed it into the conventional natural gas distribution system, turning a safety crisis into an economic opportunity.

Along the same lines, the natural gas industry has itself begun to notice the potential for directly mining the coalbed methane deposits in coalbeds not being mined for coal. This helps to supplement declining supplies of conventional gas, and unlike extracting many other alternative sources is also easy to do. Coalbed methane deposits tend to be much closer to the surface than conventional natural gas reservoirs, so the wells required to reach them are shallower and can be drilled more easily and rapidly. Coalbed methane deposits are present in coal-bearing sedimentary basins all around the world; most US deposits are in the western states. As of 2002, coalbed methane accounted for 7% of US gas production, and 80% of the coalbed methane produced in the US came from the San Juan Basin of northwestern New Mexico and southwestern Colorado, although there has recently been more development further north, in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana.

The effects of increased production and use of natural gas on greenhouse gas emissions are complicated and not predictable by theory alone. Bills under discussion in the US Congress to establish a cap-and-trade system for the abatement of greenhouse gas emissions in the US add another complication both economically and environmentally. I propose an analysis of the probable effects of these attempts to put a market price on carbon dioxide and other gases (including methane) on the production of coalbed methane, focusing on the San Juan Basin. Areas of policy concern include the economic effects of pricing carbon on the supply of and demand for both gas and other fuels for which it is a substitute (especially coal), the effect on total emissions of the substitution of gas for other fuels, the effect on emissions of methane leaks in the gas production and distribution system, and the possible use of coalbed methane extraction as a method of carbon sequestration through the injection of carbon dioxide into deposits to ease the release of methane. Other environmental concerns include local air quality concerns from the drilling process and the effect on water quality and quantity. Coalbed methane production generally involves the extraction of large amounts of the water that holds the methane in the coal aquifer. This water is of varying quality, and while in some areas it can be used for watering livestock or other productive uses, in the San Juan Basin it is usually injected back underground.

Methodology will be along the lines of a literature review, evaluating recent studies of the effects of cap-and-trade systems such as the European ETS on the production and prices of fossil fuels along with studies of issues more directly relevant to gas production and distribution to determine what, if any, conclusions can be drawn about the likely effects of a cap-and-trade system on coalbed methane production. When appropriate and feasible I will attempt to evaluate the applicability of previous studies through comparison of the data used in those studies with EPA emissions data and EIA data on US fossil fuel production and pricing, with a focus where possible on data specific to San Juan Basin coalbed methane production.

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Speaking of Coal

Coal Avenue, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Coal Avenue, Albuquerque, New Mexico

In comments to the previous post Fred Dawson draws my attention to the Hopi Tribal Council’s recent ban on activism by environmental groups who have shut down some (but not all) of the coal mining on Black Mesa by Peabody EnergyNavajo Nation President Joe Shirley has praised the Hopi action, although it’s noteworthy that he said nothing about the possibility of the Navajo Nation doing the same, and he also praised some recent cooperation between the Navajos and some of the same environmental groups.

Hopi Buttes from Homol'ovi Ruins State Park

Hopi Buttes from Homol'ovi Ruins State Park

The backstory to all this is long and immensely complicated, but suffice it to say that there’s a lot going on here.  The coal mining on Black Mesa has been an environmental disaster in a lot of ways, especially in its effect on water supplies, but it also brings in a lot of money and jobs to both the Navajos and the Hopis.  Both tribes are very divided over these issues, and Hopi politics in particular is notoriously contentious and factional; note that the article on the Tribal Council’s action quotes a former Tribal Chairman in opposition to it.  Shirley is a mercurial figure, and in this case he seems to be focusing on supporting the proposed Desert Rock coal plant as an economic development initiative for the tribe.  In this context the environmental groups are opposed to him, but he acknowledges that they have in the past partnered with him to oppose the resumption of uranium mining on tribal lands.

Beclabito Dome Sign

Beclabito Dome Sign

The point of all this is mostly just to say that these things are complicated.  There’s a tendency in a lot of environmental circles, I think, to assume that indigenous groups are necessarily on the side of environmental protection and against the exploitation of natural resources on their lands by outside corporations.  There is certainly a lot of sentiment like that among the southwestern tribes (just look at the wording in that press release on the uranium), but it’s important to realize that these are very poor people, with a lot of social problems tied directly to their poverty, living in an area with enormous amounts of energy resources.  In this context there often really is a trade-off between environmental protection and economic development, and it’s not surprising that many people, especially elected officials, are inclined to choose economic development.

Recent Housing Development, Kayenta, Arizona

Recent Housing Development, Kayenta, Arizona

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Adapting to Circumstances

Pictograph of a Kachina Painted by One of Neil Judd's Zuni Workers

Pictograph of a Kachina Painted by One of Neil Judd's Zuni Workers

I’ve been pretty busy with school lately, and I haven’t had much time to spend writing for the blog.  I do want to keep it up, though, and I think I’ve figured out a way to.  I’ll be writing term papers for some of my classes, and I’ve deliberately chosen topics that are at least somewhat relevant to what I talk about here, so I’ll be doing occasional posts discussing the research I do for the papers, and at the end I’ll put the final papers up as posts themselves.  I think this will give me the opportunity to both keep up the blog and organize my thoughts as I read things and reflect on how to incorporate them into the papers.  Anyway, stay tuned for exciting posts on coalbed methane and the kachina cult.  (Those are two separate papers, but wouldn’t it be cool if I could somehow combine them into one?)

Fajada Butte with Green Vegetation

Fajada Butte Showing Coal Seams

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Claudia Taylor Johnson Hall, Austin, Texas

Claudia Taylor Johnson Hall, Austin, Texas

Dan at Archaeopop has an interesting post on the recent discovery in Rome of a round room alleged to be Nero’s rotating dining room.  Dan is skeptical, and points out that this illustrates one of the problems with classical archaeology: “the frantic desire for ancient texts to be physically true,” stemming from “its roots as a discipline that started as the study of literature and took centuries to turn its attention toward excavation.”  This can certainly be a problem, and my understanding is that it’s considerably worse in biblical archaeology (which is hardly a surprise).  On the other hand, I do think that in some ways this isn’t that bad a problem to have.  Knowledge of the texts can distort interpretations of the physical record, but it can also illuminate it.  I have no idea if this room is Nero’s rotating dining room, but if it isn’t, what is it?  Without the text no one would have any clue, since it seems so bizarre that no amount of ethnographic analogy is going to shed any light on its possible function.  Suetonius may not be a reliable source, but he’s a source nonetheless.

Reconstructed Great Kiva, Aztec Ruins National Monument

Reconstructed Great Kiva, Aztec Ruins National Monument

In southwestern archaeology, which started with excavation and has basically never moved in any other direction (and in which, by the way, round rooms fifty feet in diameter are not unusual things to find), the problems are different.  Anything and everything gets interpreted in terms of ethnographic analogy: to the modern Pueblos if possible, and if not, to whatever else looks reasonably similar anywhere else.  When it comes to places like Chaco, which despite being obviously part of the Pueblo cultural tradition are difficult to interpret by comparison to the modern Pueblos, interpretations become very tricky indeed, which is one reason Chacoan archaeology is so contentious.  Some texts would be nice, and I’ve actually thought at times that classical archaeology might provide a good model for trying to integrate the traditions of the modern tribes into archaeological interpretation.  There has been a little bit of this, but since the traditions are known only from a significantly later period and not always completely, archaeologists in the southwest have generally either ignored them entirely or used them only to confirm interpretations arrived at through other means.  If classical archaeology is too dependent on its texts, though, it may not be the best model. Perhaps something like Assyriology or Egyptology, where the texts are for the most part derived from the excavations and are thus not prior sources of bias in interpretation, would provide a better place to look.

City Hall, Colorado Springs, Colorado

City Hall, Colorado Springs, Colorado

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Highly Deteriorated Vertical Intramural Beams at Pueblo Bonito

Highly Deteriorated Vertical Intramural Beams at Pueblo Bonito

I’ve been talking about climate change more than about Chaco lately, which is a pretty big shift from the earlier days of this blog.  In part this just reflects the major changes in my life: while before I was living and working at Chaco, now I’m going to school and spending a lot of time learning and thinking about things like climate change.  I’ve also, frankly, been getting a little bored with Chaco and archaeology, so I’m taking a bit of a break from it.  I’ll definitely come back to it at some point, don’t worry, but for now it’s not among my highest priorities.

Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde

Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde

One of the major points I’m trying to make with this blog, however, is that climate change and other environmental challenges today are by no means disconnected from Chaco and the past.  This is true in various ways, some more abstract than others, but a major report just released by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization (via Keith Kloor) on threats to national parks from climate change points to one quite concrete connection.

Mesa Verde from Escalante Pueblo

Mesa Verde from Escalante Pueblo

Like many other parks, Chaco is threatened by the effects of global warming, effects that are starting to become apparent in changes to weather patterns and climatic trends.  It’s not listed as one of the parks most at risk, although Bandelier and Mesa Verde are, but the fact sheet for New Mexico does describe Chaco as being subject to the same pressures as other parks in the region.

Light Snowfall on Fajada Butte

Light Snowfall on Fajada Butte

The main effects of climate change on these parks are decreased snowpack, the closely related problem of reduced water supplies, increased erosion resulting from heavier and more frequent downpours, and loss of flora and fauna as a result of habitat changes.

Entrenched Arroyo

Entrenched Arroyo

These are indeed serious problems, and pretty unambiguously linked to global warming, but they are matters of degree, not kind.  Problems of this sort have always been major concerns in the southwest, where water supplies and the vagaries of precipitation are and always have been hugely important to human settlement patterns and decision-making.  The intensification of these processes due to climate change is of major concern, but it’s not very flashy and it’s unlikely to attract much attention in and of itself.  No major catastrophes to grab headlines and focus attention are likely to result from these changes, but they are serious threats nonetheless.  As so often in the southwest, natural disasters are long and slow, subtly and almost imperceptibly changing the landscape until the status quo become untenable and major, often painful, changes suddenly become necessary.

Tributary Drainage in Chaco Canyon

Tributary Drainage in Chaco Canyon

This gives ample opportunity for people to react and to minimize the damage, of course, but it also gives little incentive for them to do so until it’s too late, which is what makes it so pernicious.  Life in arid environments is always lived on the edge, and the margin for error is minimal, so adaptation to a certain environmental context is always very risky, a huge bet on a particular outcome with unknown odds.  There’s a lot more I could say here about gambling as a metaphor for economic and environmental decision-making, but I’ll just leave it at that for now.

Storm Clouds over Fajada Butte

Storm Clouds over Fajada Butte

On a lighter note, I was amused to see this in the New Mexico fact sheet:

In some parks, such as Bandelier and Chaco, snow does not linger that long, but with less snow in winter fewer visitors would get to see the parks at their scenic best.

Chaco’s definitely at its scenic best in the winter, but I can say from experience that very few visitors ever see it.  Winter at Chaco is a very quiet time of year.

Fajada Butte Obscured by Falling Snow

Fajada Butte Obscured by Falling Snow

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Reason for Hope

Chevron Station, Shoshone, California

Chevron Station, Shoshone, California

I think the main thing that came out of my back-and-forth with Keith Kloor in the comments to my post on science journalists’ attitudes toward climate activists was a very fundamental difference in how we view public opinion on climate change and the prospects for meaningful action to mitigate it.  Keith thinks that the question of whether anthropogenic climate change is happening has been effectively settled in favor of the environmentalist position.  In that context, the question becomes what to do about it, and making the perfect the enemy of the good, as some climate activists seem to do, becomes a trap to avoid, as does alienating too many people with overheating rhetoric, another trait associated with certain climate activists.

Freedom Fuels, Winslow, Arizona

Freedom Fuels, Winslow, Arizona

I, on the other hand, was operating from the assumption that public opinion on climate change was incoherent at best, with right-wing efforts at denialism having made inroads among the few people even paying attention to the issue.  In that context, getting the US government to do anything at all about climate change becomes an uphill battle against a formidable, numerous, and heavily armed enemy, and friendly fire becomes a major problem, even against people making extreme and poorly supported arguments.  In a fight like that, you need all the help you can get.

Sinclair Station, Blanding, Utah

Sinclair Station, Blanding, Utah

These perspectives were so different that I went looking for polling data to see which is right, since they can’t both be.  I’m pleased, and frankly somewhat astonished, to find that the data show that Keith was totally right and I was wrong.  A Bloomberg poll conducted from September 10 to 14 found that 40% think climate change is a major threat and 31% think it’s a minor threat, while only 27% think it’s “no real threat.”  An ABC News Poll in August found strong support for cap-and-trade and other Obama administration energy initiatives, even if they would raise energy costs.  It seems like the environmentalists really have won the day.

Exxon Station, Kanab, Utah

Exxon Station, Kanab, Utah

The fact that I find this so odd I think says more about me than anything else.  I’ve spent a lot of my time, especially recently, in the rural southwest, which is a very conservative area where environmental and energy issues are quite salient and the balance of opinion is not in favor of environmentalism.  Albuquerque isn’t a particularly conservative place, but Farmington is one of the most conservative towns in the country, and my relatives there are well within the mainstream of local opinion.  The idea that environmentalism could be a majority position nationwide, and that even policies that benefit the environment at the expense of economic growth could garner substantial support, seems very alien to me.  To me environmentalism feels like something educated elites and northeastern urbanites support, but not something that could possibly appeal much to the country as a whole.  Clearly that’s wrong, though, and a glance back at history shows that this is hardly an unprecedented situation.  Most of the major environmental protection laws we have now were enacted in the 1970s in the context of public support for environmentalism so overwhelming that even Richard Nixon didn’t dare stand in their way.

Halliburton Office, Farmington, New Mexico

Halliburton Office, Farmington, New Mexico

This situation, with public opinion firmly in favor of dealing with greenhouse gases and climate change, partly explains the Obama administration’s remarkably aggressive stance on the issue, especially in contrast with the administration’s odd timidity on the issue of healthcare reform.  The recent announcement of EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, which is widely seen as a strategic move to encourage passage of a strong climate bill through Congress, makes more sense in this context, as does the surprisingly robust bill recently introduced in the Senate.  It’ll be interesting to see how the process goes.

Gates Auto Sales, St. George, Utah

Gates Auto Sales, St. George, Utah

It’s not really that surprising that Keith Kloor, who has been following this issue intently, is better-informed on it than I am.  I’m still pretty new at this stuff.  In any case, I hereby concede that I was wrong in my assertions about public opinion.  Go ahead and criticize Joe Romm all you want, Keith.  It’s between you and him now.

Solar Panels at Natural Bridges National Monument

Solar Panels at Natural Bridges National Monument

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Hachured Potsherds at Casamero Pueblo

Potsherds at Casamero Pueblo

I haven’t said much about archaeology lately.  I’ve been busy drifting off into various other areas and picking fights.  I figure it’s about time to return to something a bit closer thematically to my main subject matter, though in spatial and temporal terms it’s still rather far.

Red Mesa Black-on-white Potsherds at Kin Klizhin Showing Some Hachure

Potsherds at Kin Klizhin

The Port Tobacco Archaeological Project in Maryland has a fantastic blog about their work, which is mostly historical archaeology focused on the near-defunct town of Port Tobacco.  Lately, however, they’ve also been doing a series of posts on the prehistoric material they’ve come across in the course of their work, mostly potsherds and chipped-stone tools.  These posts are short, readable, and good introductions to the various types of artifacts found in the northeast.  As anyone with detailed knowledge of southwestern artifacts will see, the differences are quite striking.  While Anasazi pottery is typically made by coiling and scraping and tempered with sand, crushed rock, crushed sherd, or some combination, these northeastern types have a variety of manufacturing techniques and tempers, including mica and crushed oyster shellsDecoration is very different, too: while the Anasazi tended to prefer either painting or corrugation, the northeastern people used much more texturing with cord, nets, and incising tools.  Stone tools are not as different, although the types seem to be rather poorly defined due in part to the coarseness of the stone available and the resulting difficulty of getting a point to come out as intended.

Potsherds and a Chipped-Stone Tool, Homol'ovi Ruins

Potsherds and a Chipped-Stone Tool, Homol'ovi Ruins

One thing I found rather surprising is that the earliest pottery type they’ve discussed, Accokeek Creek, apparently dates to as early as 900 BC.  The earliest pottery in the northern southwest, in contrast, seems to date no earlier than around AD 200, although there is evidence that pottery production began much earlier in southern Arizona.  I’ve been meaning to read up on the archaeology of the northeast now that that’s where I live, and the Port Tobacco blog has been a good source of questions and pointers to sources.  The next step is to follow up on those, of course, but in the meantime I figured I’d point out this useful blog for the benefit of anyone else interested in these things.

Potsherds at Casa Malpais, Springerville, Arizona

Potsherds at Casa Malpais, Springerville, Arizona

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Really Expensive Gas, Trinidad, Colorado

Really Expensive Gas, Trinidad, Colorado

I hesitate to get involved in this issue, since I don’t feel like I have nearly the necessary background, but I’ve noticed lately that the science journalists whose blogs I read tend to have a pretty disdainful attitude toward “climate activists” like Joe Romm and “overstating” of the risks of climate change by the likes of Paul Krugman.  Obviously overstating things is objectionable as a general principle, but I have been wondering what these journalists see as the problem with the sorts of things Romm and Krugman have been saying.  Is it that the science of climate change, as presented by the scientists themselves (with whom science journalists are presumably well acquainted), doesn’t back up the claims they make?  That’s surely part of it.  I don’t know much about the science myself; my background isn’t scientific at all, so I doubt I’d be able to understand much of the original research, but I should probably at least be reading some climate change blogs written by scientists, and I would in fact welcome recommendations of good ones.

Warrior Fuel, Bernalillo, New Mexico

Warrior Fuel, Bernalillo, New Mexico

On a more basic level, though, I think it’s pretty obvious what Romm and Krugman are doing: they think climate change is a major problem that policymakers need to address aggressively and soon, and they’re trying to get that message out to the policymakers who are in a position to do that and the public that can put pressure on them to do so.  But what are Fleck and Kloor doing?  Surely they agree that climate change is a major problem that needs to be addressed.  (If they don’t, then a very different sort of conversation is called for, but I can’t imagine that being the case.)  Do they think it’s counterproductive to say things likely to alarm people?  I can see that being a possibility.  Do they think the problem is probably not as bad as Romm et al. say, and that the policy solutions the activists are calling for are therefore misguided, even harmful?  That’s another possibility, although I would be more dubious about it.  Do they just object to the twisting of science for political ends?  That’s a noble stance, and one I certainly can identify with, but in this context I wonder about it.

Auto Dealership Plaque, Springerville, Arizona

Auto Dealership Plaque, Springerville, Arizona

After all, if one of the main problems facing climate advocates is the abstract nature of the global warming threat, and the lack of vivid images to catch the public’s attention, associating things like record flooding with global warming is a way to overcome that, even if the scientific basis for a connection is tendentious.  Isn’t it?  If hyperbole about very visible natural disasters is what it takes to get a cap-and-trade bill through the Senate, isn’t that a net positive?  Isn’t Paris worth a mass?

Nico Oil & Gas Distributors, Farmington, New Mexico

Nico Oil & Gas Distributors, Farmington, New Mexico

Not that the Romm approach is necessarily going to work, of course.  I haven’t seen any evidence that the climate activists have had any effect at all on public opinion.  Indeed, I don’t know that public opinion has really formed in any coherent way on this issue, but the signs don’t look very good.  While journalists and activists bicker, the conservative movement and the energy industry have been very effective in setting up a highly organized and well-funded noise machine pushing doubt, confusion, and opposition to any and all attempts to do anything about climate change.  Who’s the bigger obstacle to addressing climate change, Joe Romm or James Inhofe?

Convenience Store and Gas Station, Petrified Forest National Park

Convenience Store and Gas Station, Petrified Forest National Park

I don’t read Romm myself (his tone isn’t really to my taste), but I do read his CAP colleague Matthew Yglesias, who links to him approvingly from time to time, and in general my perspective comes more from the liberal blogosphere than from the world of journalism.  Which is not to say that Romm is necessarily right about this, of course; I really mean it when I say that I don’t know much about it.  But it’s been bothering me lately, and I’d be interested to hear responses.

Hollow Mountain Gas Station, Hanksville, Utah

Hollow Mountain Gas Station, Hanksville, Utah

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