April 20, 2007

The Stop Global Warming College Tour

Filed under: Climate Politics

Last night (Thursday April 19, 2007) Laurie David’s self-professed brainchild (dreamed up over lunch with her rockstar girl friend Sheryl Crow), the “Stop Global Warming College Tour” blew into town. Apparently the previous stops on the tour must have seemed like global warming love-ins when compared to what Ms. David encountered here in Charlottesville. Maybe it was because Sheryl Crow wasn’t around for support, or that the crowd that was attracted to see Sheryl Crow’s replacement (a free concert by Robert Randolf and the Family Band) was less inclined to get a stern talking to about how they were destroying the environment, than are the followers of Ms. Crow. Or perhaps it was the copious beer. Or maybe it was that the temperature was about 15ºF below normal and a light rain was falling. But whatever the case, it didn’t go so well.

This is how Ms. David described the event while blogging on Arianna Huffington’s huffingtonpost.com:

Social Change is a Journey

Heading towards Charlottesville, it was emotional just entering the Virginia border. That weighed heavy on all of us all day.

The roller coaster continues. Sheryl couldn’t be with me tonight because of a previous commitment but luckily rock stars have rock star friends.

Tonight, I spoke outside the gorgeous Charlottesville pavilion, in front of a couple of thousand slightly inebriated college men (there to see the wonderful Robert Randolph and the Family Band) who were forced to sit through the opening act…me.

Truly, it was one of the most challenging 20 minutes of my life. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw guys yawning, I heard kids saying “where’s the music?”, and I think I heard the “b” word.

I rushed through the speech and when I walked off the stage I immediately burst into tears. Not because I took anything personally but because it was so clear how much work is still to be done. Tonight served as a stark reminder that social change is a journey and I learned tonight that not every stop is going to be easy. Tonight certainly wasn’t. But the lesson is that every step is necessary.

On the upside, within minutes, Chuck, our fabulous bus driver came over to tell me that there was a certain gentleman named Dennis out front who claimed to know me. When he told me who it was I flashed back immediately to the 7th grade and my first ever boyfriend. And there he was, sitting in the audience tonight with his wife and two kids and it was such a warm and wonderful moment. I asked the kids if they wanted to see what a rock-n-roll bus looked like and their eyes lit up, so I gave them “the tour.” The visit ended with our signature handing over of the “Stop Global Warming” bracelets and a DVD copy of “An Inconvenient Truth.” Time to take the next step….looking for the highway signs for Washington, DC.

As a member of the audience last night, and in light of her comments above, I thought that I’d share with her my opinion of her presentation in hope that perhaps if she removed some of the exaggerations and tightened the science up a bit, that she would have a more effective (and more truthful) presentation. I attempted to make my advice available to her through the Comment section of her blog. But thus far, and with the posting of many comments that were dated after my comments were submitted, I am starting to wonder whether they will make it through in their entirety. Just in case, and for those of you who don’t frequent huffingtonpost.com, I’ll post them here as well.

Dear Ms. David,

I had the opportunity to attend your presentation last night in Charlottesville. I am sorry that you felt the reaction wasn’t what you were hoping for. However, your delivery was a cross between a stern lecture and a scold…neither of which is liable to be particularly effective to the demographic group that largely made up the attendance.

As far as the content of you presentation, I found it to be lacking in scientific accuracy throughout. If you would like to send me your script, I would gladly go through it and point out areas where exaggeration and scientific inaccuracies are particularly obvious as well as suggest some more accurate descriptions.

For example, here are a couple that come to mind:

1) I think you would be challenged to find a climatologist who would blame this winter’s citrus-damaging freeze in California on global warming.

2) It is a bit dishonest to relate the damages from Katrina to the impacts of anthropogenic global warming. Climate change was the least of the problems involved in that tragedy.

3) Dr. Hansen basically believes that it is less than 2 degrees or bust. He believes that once we cross the 2 degree threshold that the process of rapid disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet will be initiated and catastrophic sea level rise will result. So the analogy of crashing at 5 mph or 55mph or somewhere in between isn’t appropriate. We either crash or we don’t—at least according to Dr. Hansen. So to use his views in one sentence, and then in the next to use a different analogy for effect, is not quite telling the truth.

Overall, that was my impression. You made an impassioned plea, but you just weren’t quite telling the full truth.

-Chip Knappenberger

PS. Oh yeah, you seemed to have left out the part about quantifying the kind of an effect on global climate we would make by everyone replacing a single incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent and unplugging their iPod and cell phone charger when not in use, as you suggested. If you want, I could help you make that calculation—but you’ll need a pretty sharp pencil because the impact on global temperature will be exceedingly small!

PPS. And finally, a suggestion: Why give out 40W bulbs when nobody uses 40W bulbs for virtually anything? If the people who got a bulb took them home and replaced one of the incandescent bulbs that they are currently using, they will be greatly disappointed. A 40W bulb puts out very dim light, not even enough to read by comfortably. As you certainly know through experience, you need to get the high wattage compact fluorescent in order for them to be useful as a light source. So if you are trying to initiate people to using the new bulbs (a great idea, by the way, I use them in as many places around my house as I can), you should spend the extra money and give out the 80W bulbs even if you have to give out less of them. Sending home half as many people to have a good experience (“hey, these new bulbs work great, I’ll get some more”) rather than sending everyone home where a bad experience awaits them (“these new bulbs are too dim, I’m not getting any more of them”), to me at least, seems a far better strategy!

I thought I was being helpful!

-Chip Knappenberger

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