For perhaps the first time ever in his radio career, Rush Limbaugh has spotted an environmental problem.
He talked about how bad publicity thanks to Hurricane Gustave could hurt the image of the Republican convention on Wednesday. He asked former Republican candidate Mike Huckabee a question about it live on the air on Wednesday:
LIMBAUGH: If this hurricane bears down on New Orleans while the Republicans are in St. Paul, I can just see Obama and Biden in New Orelans with sandbags going down, handing out bottled water. You know half the media would decamp down there…what do you think the Republican Party would do, do you think?
HUCKABEE: I think they would call in Pat Robertson to pray it off the coast.
This hilarity brought a chuckle or two, and then some half-hearted Limbaugh shots at Fidel Castro and the media. (Available here, via TP.) It sounds like a joke that went sour.
But it’s notable because Limbaugh does freely concede that three scientific models that predict hurricanes’ likely travel path are "coalescing" around the possibility that Hurricane Gustave will hit New Orleans as a "Cat Five"
(Actually, that’s a big fat exaggeration, as the hurricane has usually been pegged at the Category Three intensity, and the location of landfall is said to be very uncertain, according to Jeff Masters’ Wunderblog.)
But it’s a striking contrast to Limbaugh’s usual knee-jerk denial around issues of science and his claims that anthropogenic global warming is "a hoax." Frequently he scoffs at the idea that some scientists not known by him might with confidence be able to predict the scope of a disaster to come.
In this instance, when the fortunes of the Republican party are at stake, he obviously believes them.
In other news, sort of, it’s good to see mention of the Permian-Triassic Mass Extinction outside a scientific conference, thanks in part to a spectacular lede from from Robert Boyd of the hard-hit McClatchey newspapers chain (here).
WASHINGTON — It was the greatest mass murder of all
time — poison everywhere! billions slain! — but the killer or killers
have never been positively identified.
Boyd explains that the National Science Foundation is spearheading a huge international study on the apparent cause of this unfortunate event, which turns out to have been a very bad case of global warming.
The end-Permian catastrophe is an extreme version of the
consequences of global warming, said Lee Kump, a geoscientist at The
Pennsylvania State University. "It reminds us that there are unexpected
consequences of CO2 buildup, and these can be quite dire, indeed."
lessons of the P-T massacre are "directly applicable to the present,"
said John Isbell, a geoscientist at the University of Wisconsin in
Milwaukee. He said the world today is in danger of exceeding a CO2
"threshold" that could set off an environmental upheaval as great as
the one 251 million years ago.
Isbell said CO2 levels in the
atmosphere at the time of the P-T catastrophe reached 1,000 to 1,500
parts per million (ppm), far higher than today’s level of 385 ppm.
(That means there are 385 carbon dioxide molecules for every 1 million
total molecules in the atmosphere.)
CO2 levels are now rising by
2 ppm a year, and that’s expected to accelerate to 3 ppm a year. If
carbon emissions aren’t reduced, some researchers fear that by the end
of the next century, the CO2 level could approach what it was during
the P-T period.
The lava eruption in Siberia that set off this cataclysmic disaster is of a scope almost impossible to comprehend, of vast landscapes covered in burning lava. The good news in the story, as near as I can tell, is that after a few hundred million years, the earth has healed the site tof his disaster in Siberia rather nicely, according to the photograph by Jon Ransom: