The Official Forecast from the IPCC Weather Experts

Because I have nothing but respect for the “science” being furthered with the latest release of the IPCC second working group report (released in the last couple of days and being digested by a lapdog media desperate for a story), I would like to share with you the official science-driven forecast for global weather and climate in the next century.  We’ll break this into categories so that you can get a better feel for exactly what these people are all about.

WINTER WEATHER:

The global models predict a gradual northward migration of the common tracks for extratropical cyclones as the arctic warms.  This will lead to warmer winters overall and increased likelihood for winter time droughts in the southern temperate regions.  However, because the arctic is warming, there will be an increased likelihood for the negative phase of the so-called “Arctic Oscillation” – leading to blocking highs over the polar regions and periodic severe cold with southward displaced storm tracks and more snow.  While all of this is going on, expect an increased likelihood for the El Nino pattern over the La Nina pattern, as shown by GCM simulations of the past in the Pacific.  Despite the fact that this El Nino pattern is linked to heavy winter rains in California, expect an increased chance of long-lasting droughts in the Golden State.

SEVERE WEATHER:

In the last 150 years, there has been an observed decrease in the frequency of tornadoes and a similar drop has occurred when looking at hail reports from the past 50 years.  However, as the planet continues to warm, this trend should reverse as regions exposed to wind shear patterns due to terrain experience more atmospheric water vapor and more instability.  Meanwhile, despite the aforementioned risk of more El Ninos, expect the bread basket of America to become a giant dust bowl with heavier individual rain events but rapid diminution of the total amount of rainfall as the storm tracks lift north.  This change will lead to worldwide famine and some of the worst dust storms (simultaneously occurring during severe flooding no doubt) in living memory.

(readers note: there has been no observed increased in atmospheric water vapor since the dawn of the satellite era, but the climate models never lie…it’ll happen eventually, just keep giving us money to make better climate models so we can tell you when)

TROPICAL CYCLONES:

Earlier research projecting a gradual increase in the number of tropical storms, hurricanes and severe hurricanes has been discredited by updated modelling, which now suggests that tropical storm intensity will increase, but with fewer overall tropical cyclones.  More Katrinas, less helpful rain-makers for the subtropics.  Storms will also increase in size, until eventually, they will cover entire ocean basins, spin in both directions at the same time, and cross the equator.  Just ask Al Gore.  Also…they might start picking up crazed sharks and spitting them into cities.

ICE COVER:

Arctic sea ice made a bit of a comeback this winter, but we assure you, this is temporary.  As noted above, this brief pause in global warming (WHICH ISN’T EVEN REAL…BUT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT IT SO WE HAVE TO EXPLAIN!!!!) will give way to more warming, and eventually we will hit a tipping point (or have hit already despite the recent reversal) and lose all of our summer time sea ice.  On top of that, the Greenland ice sheet continues to dissipate, which will increase sea levels by up to a meter.  And I hope you all enjoyed the days of widespread mountain glaciers, because not even Mt. Everest will have glaciers on it by the time this warming runs its course.  Even though we were caught lying about the disappearance of glaciers, the latest papers should be trusted.

BIOSPHERE:

Climate change will not only lead to billions of human climate refugees and mass migrations…but will result in the deaths of thousands or even tens of thousands of species of life.  Even though our best scientists can find no evidence whatsoever that global warming has altered the web of life by so much as ONE species…it will totally happen soon.  For realz.

(Readers note: pay no attention to the fact that biosphere productivity as measured by satellite has increased by 14% since 1979)

SEISMIC ACTIVITY:

We know it seems strange to talk about GEOLOGY in a CLIMATE report, but it terms out that melting land-based ice decresaes the natural pressure on tectonic plates allowing for increased plate movement around the globe and thus…more earthquakes and volcanic eruptions…and this may help to explain the recent (NOT REAL!!!) pause in global warming.  Although the USGS says there’s been no increase in earthquakes or volcanic activity globally……………………..

SUMMARY FOR POLICY-MAKERS:

Global warming is confirmed scientific fact – humans are 99% certain to be the cause and if you disagree with us, you’re a mass murderer and denier of truth and should be jailed or shot.  Governments should give us billions more dollars because although you should totally trust our models, we need money to make them better.  Governments should also begin sterilizing the population so that we can stop being so bad for mother Earth.

That is all.

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The Dirty Jobs Curriculum

Are you also an addict?

I apologize, first of all, for suddenly turning this blog into an education and parenting blog, but as an educator and an aspiring parent, these things have been very much on my mind. What do I wish to give to my future children? A strong grounding in math and science? Yes! A well-rounded exposure to the liberal arts? Absolutely! (As I’ll discuss next week, everyone needs to know how to read and write widely and well, and that can only come through accumulating a lot of basic background knowledge in history, literature, art, music, philosophy, etc.) A solid understanding – and, dare I hope, a love – of my Catholic Faith? Obviously!

But any educational program will have many less-appreciated facets that go beyond the academics. Some education writers call this the “hidden curriculum,” though it is not exactly “hidden” if you know where to look. I would say, for example, that the “hidden curriculum” of the public schools very clearly teaches students to be compliant and to respect authority. In order to speak, you have to raise your hand. In order to go to the bathroom, you have to ask permission and get a pass. When your teacher – or the bell – says it’s time to move on to math class, you have to move on to math class even if you were completely absorbed in what you were just learning in science. Now, don’t get me wrong — this training isn’t 100% pernicious. Children do need to learn to listen and obey.  But if, like me, you’re vaguely libertarian and fiercely counter-cultural, you should still hold this Prussian regimentation somewhat suspect — not because it teaches obedience, but because it often teaches obedience to authorities who are practically and/or morally off track.

But I digress. Suffice it to say that I believe giving my children a decent education will go beyond the purchasing of books and curricular guides — that it will also require conscious thought regarding the intangibles. Hence, my reflection last week on Heinlein-ian self-reliance. Hence, this post, which will explain how my plans have been influenced by Mike Rowe.

For those of you who don’t have cable and/or aren’t obsessed with the Discovery circuit of channels, Mike Rowe was the host of a show called Dirty Jobs in which he apprenticed under people around the country – like, for example, sewer inspectors and septic tank specialists – who make a living doing things the popular culture considers unpleasant. In the course of shooting roughly 300 of these jobs, Rowe discovered the Skills Gap – i.e., the fact that despite this time of high unemployment, there are millions of jobs in industry that have been left unfilled because there is no one around who is both willing and able to do the work – and made it his personal mission to help close it by promoting the virtues of hard work and vocational education.

As he has stated in several venues – including his website, Profoundly Disconnected – Rowe thinks it’s nuts that the entire education establishment is pushing a traditional four-year college degree like it’s the only true path to success, and he further observes that such propaganda is a sign that our society has become completely divorced from the very things that keep our civilization functioning. “I think we’ve simply forgotten about the underlying industries upon which all else depends,” Rowe writes in one article on farming, “and as a result, created for ourselves a vocational identity crisis. Our collective definition of a ‘good job’ has evolved into something that no longer resembles Work, and that had detached us from a great many things, including our food and the people who provide it.”

Rowe is right. As a college-educated professional who works what is essentially a desk job in an affluent suburb, I have – unconsciously – taken many things for granted. When I go to the grocery store, I expect it to be well supplied. When I flush the toilet — well, I don’t generally think about what happens next. I don’t need to because the vast majority of the time, things operate as they should thanks to millions of people doing jobs that, sadly, have been systematically marginalized by Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the dominant political faction in DC. And many people who live in my area are just like me. They reveal the level of their disconnect by the things they champion. They are food faddists who have no concept of what it actually takes to nourish 300 million people. They believe we should reinvent the entire energy industry — because, of course, no matter what we do, the lights will still stay on. And, of course, they think people should be allowed to “follow their passion” on the public dime; when the CBO announced that the new health care law is likely to encourage people to work less, they considered it a feature rather than a bug.

I don’t want my children to be so oblivious. I don’t want them to be typical DC elitist snobs who think they can just play with the whole system to enforce their own personal moral sensibilities without causing it to crash around our ears. Consequently, in my school room, Rowe’s “Work Smart AND Hard” poster and his “S.W.E.A.T. Pledge” will both be prominently displayed. (By the way, “S.W.E.A.T.” stands for “Skill & Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo” — a pretty clever acronym.)  Further, whenever possible, I’m going to expose my kids to kind of work that under-girds the prosperity we enjoy. I’m going to take them to farms, factories and electrical plants and openly discuss how food and other consumer items get to our houses and our tables. I’m going to try to have them shadow plumbers, carpenters, welders, and other skilled tradesmen so they can develop an appreciation for what these people do. And overall, I’m going to emphasize that bad jobs are actually vanishingly rare and that God intended us to exert effort to get the things we need and/or want — that there is a profound dignity in sweating and getting dirty and slowly working your way up from nothing that you can’t get from sitting on your tush and letting “entitlements” come to you.

After such a program, it is my hope that my children will be prepared to sign Rowe’s pledge and start looking for ways they can contribute. Not only does America need enterprising self-starters, but it also needs people who are unafraid of discomfort and grime.            

The Dr. Russell Approach to Parenting

As of yet, I don’t have children, but one of my major life goals is to become a mother — and if I ever find a husband with whom I can share this enormous responsibility, I intend to parent like Dr. Russell.

For those of you who aren’t well-versed in the works of Robert A. Heinlein, Dr. Russell is the father of the protagonist in Have Space Suit, Will Travel, a juvenile science fiction novel that begins with the following exchange:

“Dad,” I said, “I want to go to the Moon.”

“Certainly,” he answered and looked back at his book. It was Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, which he must know by heart.

I said, “Dad, please! I’m serious.”

This time he closed the book on a finger and said gently, “I said it was all right. Go ahead.”

“Yes… but how?”

“Eh?” He looked mildly surprised. “Why, that’s your problem, Clifford.”

The students at my day job are good kids, by and large; I run into genuine attitude problems very rarely.  Still, many collapse when faced with even a mild challenge. If it takes more than an instant to figure out how to solve, say, a geometry problem, they give up and ask for help. They don’t look back through their notes. They don’t start writing information down. They just — stop. Indeed, grappling with a difficult problem on their own will bring some of my students to tears.

What these kids are manifesting here, I feel, is the impact of helicopter parenting. When we wrap our children in cotton wool and shield them from adversity, we don’t get young adults who are happy and self-sufficient. On the contrary, we get young adults who are perpetually anxious and afraid of failure — hardly a recipe for success in either college or the working world, where self-motivated risk-takers are more likely to be rewarded.

So if and when I have kids, I’m going to adopt “Why, that’s your problem, Clifford” as my own personal motto. Once I teach my kids the critical basics – i.e., the three R’s and some basic research and self-help skills – any and all questions and requests will be handled the Dr. Russell way:

  • “Mom, what does [insert word] mean?” “How can we find out?”
  • “Mom, I don’t understand this math problem.” “Did you try looking at your notes in your math notebook?”
  • “Mom, I’m hungry.” “Hmm. What can you do about that?”
  • “Mom, I don’t have any clothes to wear!” “Well, you have this big pile of dirty laundry you can do something about…”
  • “Mom, can we get the new [insert cool YA series] book for my Kindle?” “Sure. Do you have the money to pay for it?” [beat] “Hmm. Guess you have to go out and do a little yard work for the neighbors.”

Mind you, this doesn’t mean I will be completely hands-off. As G.K. Chesterton observed, we need boundaries to feel secure — especially when we’re young. I will be establishing rules and expectations that carry consequences if they’re not met. I will also be setting a baseline homeschooling curriculum because there are certain things I feel every child should learn. But beyond that? As soon as possible, I’m going to get out of the way.  

Admittedly, part of the reason this approach appeals to me is that, given my rheumatoid arthritis, I just don’t have the spoons for over-protective modern parenting. But more importantly, I think pulling back and allowing my kids to figure things out on their own sends the implicit message that I trust them and believe them to be fully capable — which, I hope, will encourage them to stretch themselves intellectually and become the personally responsible, enterprising citizens America desperately needs.  

In Defense of "SAT Words"

Brobdingnagian.

If your reaction upon reading the above word is to scratch your head, that’s okay! “Brobdingnagian” is not commonly used and certainly isn’t “career relevant.” It is, however, a word that delighted one of my sixth grade students when he heard it. When I explained what it meant – gigantic – and where it came from – Jonathan Swift – said student immediately recorded it on his smart phone and declared that he planned to use it in school the following day. (And hopefully, once he’s older and a more confident reader, the joy of discovery he found in “Brobdingnagian” will inspire him to read Gulliver’s Travels.)

This post is not a full analysis of the upcoming changes to the SAT. I’m reserving my final judgment until I see the framework the College Board is scheduled to roll out in mid-April. But I want to address something I’m seeing in articles touting the aforementioned revisions that I personally find troubling. Over and over again, I’m seeing variations on the following theme: “Hooray! Students will no longer be expected to study tedious flashcards covering words they will never use in real life and will probably forget once the test is over!” In my view, that attitude is profoundly misguided.

Granted, flashcards don’t foster long-term retention of new vocabulary. That requires multiple exposures in helpful contexts. Students often ask me how I happen to know so many “SAT words,” and the answer is really quite simple: I read. I read all the time — and what’s more, I read in a variety of genres. I read my mother’s Merck Manual, worked out that “hep” means liver and “cardio” means heart, and consequently discovered that other big, technical terms could be deciphered if broken down into their prefixes, suffixes and roots. I read fiction and learned multiple ways to describe a summer day. I pursued historical knowledge and, as a result, learned the meaning of “forge” and “churn.” At no point did I ever pick up a flashcard. I didn’t need to. My environment was saturated with words.

Unfortunately, while I do my best to build my students vocabulary through context rather than dry lists of words, when they prepare for the SAT, they are often forced by time constraints to rely on brute short-term memorization. But that’s not the fault of the SAT. If your seventeenth year was spent anxiously cramming, the people who educated you for the first sixteen years did it wrong — and changing the test is not going to change what is fundamentally broken in public education. It’s not going to get rid of the teachers who use reading as a punishment. It’s not going to get rid of curricula that deemphasize factual and cultural knowledge in favor of “critical thinking” and content-poor “skills.”

Honestly, it makes me sad to think that so many were not taught to appreciate the complexities of our language because five dollar “SAT words” are actually not as pointless as their detractors claim. English has multiple words to express, say, the concept of anger because those words are necessary to describe the many facets of that emotion — and the same goes for any other deceptively simple idea you can name. Remove the more “obscure” terms and what you have is Newspeak — a language devoid of humanity and nuance.  Further, as illustrated by the anecdote above, bizarre, grandiloquent words can excite children if they’re presented in the right way — as passports to a vast universe of knowledge.

And at any rate, what message are you sending to our kids when you imply that certain words are “irrelevant’? That education is a mercenary enterprise? That if it won’t make you “career and college ready,” it’s pointless? Folks, basic competency is important, but it’s only the start of education, not the end. The end should be to raise creative, curious, and (hopefully) morally-centered adults — and that won’t happen so long as we have Eustace Clarence Scrubb waiting in the wings to tell my sixth grader that a word that fires his imagination has no practical purpose and he should read a report from the EPA instead.