Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Global Warming Comes to Markham and Steeles

Saturday morning, I was hanging around the parking lot of the Canlan Ice Complex on Markham Road, near Steeles Avenue (in TO), waiting for the wife to finish her skating class, and I noticed a gray bird forcibly depriving a robin of its worm. The bird was about the same size as the robin, but longer and thinner, and with a lengthy tail bordered by white feathers. Furthermore, when the beast flew off with its stolen worm, I noticed a prominent white bar running across the underside of the wings.

As this was something I hadn't seen before, I spent a half hour watching the little beast, and discovered that a pair of them were working on a nest in a stand of trees between the ice-rink and Markham Road.

When I drove away on Saturday morning, I had no idea what species I had been watching. My best guess was a Shrike, or maybe a Grey Jay, but nothing really matched up with what I was seeing in my Peterson's guide, so the mystery remained.

...until Monday when I stumbled across this article in the TO Star:

They evoke Spanish moss and magnolias — their crazy, copycat arias providing a signature song of the south.

The mockingbird, after all, is the state bird of Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas.

So what were these three plump young Dixie chicks doing stuffed into a nest near Eglinton Ave. W. and Black Creek Dr. in west Toronto last week?

Now, the article only showed a picture of the three chicks, but here are a couple of pictures of adults from the web. The first shows the wing-pattern, and the white tail-feathers:

The next one is a close-up:

So, bingo! I had been watching a pair of nesting Mockingbirds, or Mimus polyglottos!

Now, why have these animals have been advancing North from their traditional range? Answer:
...global warming [...is...] being pegged as a prime suspect.

"Absolutely," Royal Ontario Museum ornithologist Mark Peck says of the climate-change theory.

"And there has been some modelling to that effect, which talks about birds moving northward and what we expect to find."

The idea is this. As the planet warms, Southern birds will move North. Meanwhile, Northern Birds move further North, and Arctic birds will get squeezed and die out.

So when people ask you for empirical evidence for Global Warming, it's easy to show them, because it is absolutely everywhere, in the way the animals in the fields and trees in your own town or city have changed over the years.

For example, in the GTA, it isn't just how Mockingbirds have come North, its the way Jays and Crows have almost disappeared since the arrival of West Nile Fever (and the local Cardinal population seems to have exploded to fill the ecological niche that has been vacated).

Of course, I think GW skeptics have moved on, by scientific necessity, from denying the bare facts of the matter, to at least trying to account for them, usually via theories which have already been discredited (like blaming Global Warming on Solar Variation).

But that is the subject of another post.

As for my little grey buddies up on Markham, I'm gone for a couple of weeks and then I'll take my new digicam up there and see if I can't get a few pictures.

Unwelcome visitors though they are, they are quite striking, and have a very pretty song.


Anonymous said...

That is a nice bird..... a few weeks ago, I saw another "stray" from the South, but not as far down..... the reddest bird I have ever seen.... a Scarlet Tanager, in Stratford, Ontario.

Anonymous said...

the new Prince of Humbug.

Gore’s Global Warming Snow Job
June 27th, 2006

Phineas Taylor Barnum, the greatest 19th Century showman and huckster, taught the world that by craftily combining equal parts entertainment, science and sensationalism, our natural sense of wonder and curiosity can be exploited to convince the gullible masses of almost anything. Albert Arnold Gore, Jr., the 21st Century showman and huckster, employs a similar recipe to achieve equally misleading results.

Barnum journeyed the world discovering and creating all manners of oddities – some human, some animal, some both. He liked to refer to himself as the “Prince of Humbug.” Being a modern-day snake-oil salesman, Gore enjoys the benefits of technologies unavailable to his earlier counterpart. While modern “sensibilities” have marginalized the side-show, modern capabilities have greatly enhanced Gore’s slide-show. Of the two men, Barnum was the better wordsmith, and some of his classic aphorisms are employed here as section headings.

Every crowd has a silver lining

Gore’s indulgent exercise in doomsaying has morphed from a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation into the feature film, An Inconvenient Truth. While the man who would be President deftly handles his self-portrayal of a con-artist and the Main Stream Media eagerly accept the role of his shills, we, the crowd, get to pay our silver to be mystified and astounded.

With the adept skills of a carnie 3-card-monte dealer, he flashes melodramatic compare-and-contrast photographs of Mount Kilimanjaro gradually losing its famous snows over three and a half decades before the eyes of the eager onlooker. But this fast-talking conman isn’t telling you to “find the queen to win the green,” but rather to heed the green and accept the scene that:

“Within a decade, there will be no more ‘Snows of Kilimanjaro.’”

Of course, he attributes this shocking loss to global warming, imposed by Homo-Sapiens’ selfish exploitation of Terra. Not surprisingly, he states that the U.S. contributes over 30% of the CO2 and other “Greenhouse gases” which “cause” this dastardly and deadly phenomenon.

And, while this African snow-job is but one of many dubious “truths” he hawks, this one has a particularly interesting history associated with it.

Without promotion something terrible happens… Nothing!

A 02/26/2001 New York Times editorial gave “A Global Warning to Mr. Bush,” adding a Hemingway reference to heighten the gullible reader’s visceral sense of wonder and loss.

“Scientists meeting in San Francisco a week ago heard a startling prediction: the seemingly indestructible snows of Kilimanjaro that inspired Ernest Hemingway’s famous short story may well disappear in the next 15 years. To most mainstream scientists, the rapid erosion of Kilimanjaro’s majestic ice cap, along with the steady retreat of mountaintop glaciers elsewhere, is further dramatic evidence of a relentless warming of the earth’s atmosphere that cannot be explained by normal climate shifts and is at least partly traceable to the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil.”

The opinion appears to lay the foundation for Gore’s subsequent parable. To be sure, the Times and Gore are well practiced in crowd psychology, which teaches that the key to a successful scam is an utterly convincing shill.

More persons, on the whole, are humbugged by believing in nothing, than by believing too much

In a letter to the New York Times (published March 1, 2001), Dr. S. Fred Singer, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia, responded to the editorial. Doctor Singer had devised the satellite technology currently used for measuring stratospheric ozone, was the first director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service, and is internationally known for his work on energy and environmental issues:

“Before putting pressure on the White House to act …shouldn’t we be asking whether global warming is really happening? The Kilimanjaro ice cap is not a thermometer. It may well be melting, but this is simply a delayed consequence of a natural climate warming during the early part of the 20th century. Moreover, it will continue to melt as long as the climate doesn’t return to the temperatures of the Little Ice Age of past centuries.”

Dr. Singer then concludes his letter with this paragraph of particular interest in light of recent NAS proclamations:

“The National Academy of Sciences published a report last year that defines the geographic regions of warming and cooling during the last 20 years. Surface measurements of East Africa show no warming trend. Weather satellites show a pronounced cooling trend of the atmosphere there. No one has questioned these data.”

Do I detect some sleight-of-hand? Is this death of a literary icon “at least partly caused by gases released by human activities” or is this “simply a delayed consequence of a natural climate warming?”

You can fool some of the people all of the time…

Perhaps another opinion will help clarify matters. In her 11/24/2003 article for Nature Magazine, “African Ice Under Wraps,” Betsy Mason states:

“The celebrated ice cap on Africa’s loftiest peak could vanish within 20 years, taking with it a unique scientific resource. Although it’s tempting to blame the ice loss on global warming, researchers think that deforestation of the mountain’s foothills is the more likely culprit. Without the forests’ humidity, previously moisture-laden winds blew dry. No longer replenished with water, the ice is evaporating in the strong equatorial sunshine.”

So, while the problem is, indeed, anthropogenic, it is not a byproduct of our combustion, but rather of our consumption?

… and all of the people some of the time …

In 2004, as though to add further fuel to the global fire, The Royal Meteorological Society, in its International Journal Of Climatology, published “Modern Glacier Retreat on Kilimanjaro as Evidence of Climate Change: Observations and Facts”, which found that:

“A drastic drop in atmospheric moisture at the end of the 19th century and the ensuing drier climatic conditions are likely forcing glacier retreat on Kilimanjaro. Future investigations using the concept as a governing hypothesis will require research at different climatological scales.”

So then, the problem is, indeed, moisture related, as stated by Ms. Mason, but not, as she proposed, by any actions of mankind? In other words, the snows of Kilimanjaro have been retreating for more than 100 years, fundamentally due to declining atmospheric moisture, neither due to global warming nor any man-made industrial voracity?

… but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time

Finally, on the 8/20/2004 edition of CNN Daybreak, CNN Correspondent Jeff Koinange inadvertently managed to define the current state of our African climate consensus when he reported that:

“By the year 2020, there will be no snow left on Kilimanjaro, according to scientists, because of global warming, deforestation, human encroachment, all of that.”

Well, that’s that—All of that.

Now or Never

So let’s recap this shoddy flimflam which Gore is playing. Consider that each of these scientific entities holds a uniquely divergent opinion regarding the cause(s) of the Kilimanjaro melting:

• The scientists referred to the New York Times article;

• The scientist who was the first director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service;

• The National Academy of Sciences;

• The Royal Meteorological Society;

• Science reporter Betsy Mason.

And, yet, this grifter standing before those slides, himself lacking any scientific – let alone climatological – credentials, implores us to believe that he and he alone holds the truth, convenient or otherwise. Fortunately, while he does “fool some of the people all of the time,” he lacks the color, wit, imagination, and personality required to ever “fool all of the people some of the time.”

Still, whenever the show comes to town, crowds invariably gather and attract other eager charlatans.

If I Shoot at the Sun I May Hit a Star

The current saturation of parasitic junk science articles clawing their way through all modes of media, epitomizes the relentless launching of propagandistic material that Rush Limbaugh calls the “drive-by media.” Feeding upon the crowd generated by Ozone Al’s medicine show and further incited by the abovementioned, curiously timed report from the NAS, within the last few days:

• The Associated Press says “Earth Hottest It’s Been in 2,000 Years”

• The San Francisco Chronicle says “Study of data on global warming supports earlier findings that recent decades have been the hottest in 400 years.”

• The Canada Free Press contends, “Man-made Global Warming Fears Reach Hysterical Pitch”

• ABC News warns, “Extreme Weather Fits Global Warming Pattern”

• The Miami Herald declares “Warming World Stirring Storms”

There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute

Barnum later denied ever using the phrase which became his most famous motto, suggesting it more likely that he had said, “The people like to be humbugged.” No matter. In the fine tradition of the Barnum-style huckster, today’s junk science scammers are astutely aware of their audience, and that it truly is all in the presentation. They strongly believe that educationalism authorizes sensationalism, and that we, the crowd, want to enjoy both.

Moreover, they recognize that, while the spectacular will capture the attention of the patsies through shock and awe, contrarian intellectual positing is less compelling and, thereby, often remains unheard. The fact that this formula maintains the essentially unchallenged status of their rubbish most definitely does not escape them.

Global Warming is a far-reaching, hot button issue which is not likely to cool anytime soon. The fact that a consensus cannot be reached in the isolated circumstance of a mountain in Tanzania casts severe doubt upon the claims of any broader analysis which include the words “scientists agree.” What’s more, when those words are uttered by America’s Greatest Snowman, you would be wise to keep your eye on the ball and your wallet in your pocke

bigcitylib said...

I saw a Tanager once in New Brunswick, many many years ago. They're a beautiful animal, but I think that the one I saw (and the one you saw) were probably wanderers. The Northern Mockingbird is basically setting up shop in the 905 area code. (The one I watched was hauling nesting material to somewhere)

bigcitylib said...

Anon, you mean Rush Limbaugh, new poster boy for erctile dysfunction? I'm not sure I'd take that man's word for anything, as he is not quite a man.