The Onion tribute: Using sex to sell climate science

Despite an overwhelming majority of countries, religions, companies, and scientists publicly stating that they are in favor of immediate action to help mitigate man made influences on climate change there are still pockets of powerful and influential people in the U.S. who oppose it.  Concerned about delays in action, Yale University commissioned the Paddleford Warren Research Trust (PWRT) to identify the demographics of this group and determine what could influence them to get on board.  PWRT found that the majority of those who did not believe in man-made global warming were white males between the ages of 45 and 65.  In researching that demographic they learned that the primary influencers of their climate science opinions were females like Sarah Palin, Megyn Kelly, Maria Bartiromo, Tomi Lahren, and other outspoken female climate science skeptics.

Yale University took this information and has partnered with other academic institutes and is in the preliminary phases of implementing a plan to bring more influential women to the scientific side of the discussion.  Wesley Thibodaux from the Peoples Grant Institute (PGI) is overseeing the financial help his organization is providing.  In an interview, Thibodaux stated “with no disrespect to the women in science today, we need to bring more overt sexuality to the table when it comes to discussing climate science.  Sex sells and action is long overdue”.  The grant process includes many common initiatives to get more women in science but in reviewing the grant application there are areas where it differs significantly.  The application asks for a headshot and video of the applicant talking sternly about anything climate science related.  It outlines the awards that an applicant can receive which include wardrobe vouchers, makeovers, and even plastic surgery.  Thibodaux defends this by saying “look at the TV today, big oil is spending money on $2300 shoes, tight white designer dresses, and requesting low camera angles for their legion of ladies to continue persuading inaction on combatting climate change, it is time to sex up science and get these dirty old men back to reality”.  He concedes that it is unclear whether this campaign will have any impact on climate change but says that his team can definitely influence public opinion, “what is the alternative, to wait for these old men to die, we simply do not have enough time for that”.

In a follow up with Yale University, they confirmed that they are partnering with the PGI and adding scholarships to the mix for “qualified female candidates”.  Yale stated that this process is no different than what is commonly done for athletics and is an important step in bringing science to the forefront.  Yale Human Behavior and Psychology professor, Dr. Kirk Frederic (PhD) adds “Studies have shown the providing old white men exposure to an attractive female with opinions makes them more likely to adopt those opinions as their own.  When it comes to scientific fact, it takes a little longer exposure but the same holds true”.  PGI holds up Kait Parker as one of their successes and a reason to continue to expand the program quickly and Thibodaux (PGI) is no stranger to the concept, his late father is a former music video producer from the 1980’s that brought Tawny Kitaen to the Whitesnake videos and produced Van Halen’s Hot for Teacher video which according to Thibodaux Sr. “increased young men’s school attendance at a critical time in their development”.

 

The following blog post was satirical in nature and some characters appearing in this work are fictitious.

Questioning Gods will

There are many things in life that we can attribute as “Gods will”. Often it is during a time of tragedy or loss where something profound happens that seems too choreographed to just be a coincidence. While I am certain I could find a recent example based in reality of this, my first thought on this subject is about one of my favorite movies; Signs. <Spoiler Alert> In the 2002 suspenseful movie, the Hess family finds crop circles on their farm and the story evolves from there. One of the core subplots is how Reverend Graham Hess’ (Mel Gibson) wife tragically dies as the result of a driver falling asleep at the wheel. That driver (played by writer and director M. Night Shyamalan who appears in all of his films like Hitchcock) talks about the tragedy and how “it was like it was meant to be” based on exactly when he fell asleep and exactly where she was walking. As the film unfolds, it becomes perfectly clear that the death of the reverends wife was Gods will and restores the reverends faith.

In my opinion having faith and believing in a higher power is a good thing. Where things often get tricky is when we hand over or excuse behavior and circumstances and say it must have been Gods will. Certainly there are constraints based on where and when you were born, but most people seem to be accepting of recognizing that they control their own choices and destiny. For example, if I eat tons of processed foods and never exercise it would be challenging for me to convince most people that being overweight was God’s plan for me. If I never change my furnace filter and my kids develop asthma, it is logical that I would need to take accountability as opposed to attributing a higher power.

When it comes to discussing man’s impact on the climate, God is often referred to as the ultimate keeper of the earth. The current chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, James M. Inhofe, is a very vocal opponent of the idea of man having any role in our changing climate. Inhofe has his own book on the subject, has given countless floor speeches, and the core of his argument can be summed up by one of his statements , “God’s still up there and the arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.” The notion that man cannot change the climate and only God has the power to do so is an interesting stance and one that is refuted by nearly every organized religion.

The core problem with the argument is that it removes accountability from mankind for caring for the earth. There are numerous ways to defeat this argument. One is to take a walk through history and look at the ozone hole problems. In the mid 1970’s there was widespread concern about the depletion of the ozone layer, the concerns were based in scientific fact that had proven that the use of manmade halogen atoms (halocarbon refrigerants, solvents, propellants, and foam-blowing agents) were destroying the ozone layer. It was and is also well understood that the ozone layer is what protects us from ultraviolet-B radiation and increases would lead to more widespread skin cancer and other health complications. Until 1987, there was strong opposition by the halocarbon industry to regulatory changes and the politicians they funded followed suit. After the discovery of the hole in the ozone and an EPA leadership change, the U.S. government’s attitude began to shift as well and in 1987 forty three nations signed the Montreal Protocol which phased out the use of most destructive halocarbons. So, in that example, we had a manmade substance which was known to cause destruction put a hole in the ozone layer which is still on the mend today. What if we had just argued that the use of halocarbons was our god given right and if the ozone layer goes away, it must be god’s doing?

I am on board with Inhofe talking about the death of his son in a plane crash while he was taking his first solo flight in 2013 being God’s will. But to throw our hands up in the air and pass accountability on to a higher power regarding the destruction of our climate is a disingenuous cop out. And when that person is the top recipient of funding from the oil industry, very little that they say should be taken seriously.

Tainted: North Dakota

First, I feel it is important to say that I have friends and family in North Dakota (ND) and I am confident that there are plenty of good people in the state doing good things. Hopefully tainting ND does not get me uninvited to an upcoming wedding. However, the way the fossil fuel industry is running portions of the state is not in humanity’s best interest. A recent L.A. Times article outlined the volume of natural gas flaring currently being done in ND. The picture above illustrates this well; in the Williston Basin where the Bakken oil fields are there is not a major metropolitan area and yet a picture from outer space depicts a different story, simply from all of the natural gas flares being burned and wasted. Currently $1 billion worth of natural gas is flared each year in ND, about 30% of total production. There are not too many industries where you can ‘throw away’ 30% of your product and still be highly profitable. But natural gas flaring and wasted energy are just the tip of the iceberg in Western ND. Portions of the state are neck deep in an “oil boom” which has helped lead to an incredibly low unemployment rate but has brought on numerous unintended consequences. ND has failed to get ahead of the needs surrounding infrastructure, crime prevention, and governance. This has led to overuse and erosion of infrastructure, a wave of illegal waste dumping and other crime, and disputes over land and mineral rights. There are examples where it appears as though the fossil fuel industry has politicians bought and paid for or perhaps have just been allowed to conduct business to make the most profit with little regard for the long term economic and environmental consequences. ND produces over a million barrels of oil per day and has 17,500 miles of pipelines. In September 2013 a spill released over 20k barrels and was only reported to the public after an Associated Press inquiry. It is a relief to know that while oil covered over 7 acres, officials stated no wildlife was harmed and no groundwater was contaminated <sarcasm>. Cleanup crews opted to burn oil on the surface and later dug ditches to collect and vacuum what remained. Starting oil on fire as a cleanup procedure is an interesting approach, let’s hope they do not begin doing that at local car repair shops. Further research revealed that there have been over 300 spills since January 2012 that were never reported to the public. Jim Fuglie, a ND native and former governor appointed Director of Tourism has a great blog outlining more of the issues here. If the oil ever does run out, ND has the single largest known deposit of lignite (coal) in the world and may choose to move from exporting one dirty fuel source to another. And a few final statistics on ND; the state’s energy consumption per capita is the 4th highest in the US, 79% of all electricity generation comes from coal, and wind farms have taken a back seat to oil despite the state being ranked 6th highest in wind energy potential with average wind speeds of 10-13 mph.