How Climate Change Works

Most things in your life contain carbon. You contain carbon. Plastic contains carbon. Food contains carbon. Gasoline contains carbon. Air contains carbon.

We burn carbon fuels like gasoline, oil, natural gas, and coal to produce energy and heat. The combustion process causes the carbon molecules to break apart and combine with oxygen to form mostly carbon dioxide and some carbon monoxide.

We are a major force on the earth, building skyscrapers, a dizzying number of cars, a swarm of air travel, lots of trade and shipping. All these activities put carbon dioxide into the air.


If you’ve ever eaten peanuts or sunflower seeds in the shells, you know how much waste there is. That’s a lot like carbon pollution: we are getting the energy out from the carbon-chained molecules, and it leaves the carbon afterwards. Over the years, we have all these extra carbon gases around. Some of them get eaten by plants to grow, but the plants only eat so much every year. Others end up in the ocean, where they turn the ocean more acidic. If you have ever put an egg in a carbonated soda, you know it will slowly dissolve the shell of an egg!

Eggshells are made out of the same stuff as sea life like corals and clams and some types of plankton use to protect themselves. Having an acidic ocean is bad news for the ocean ecosystems.


The air filling with carbon dioxide makes it absorb and emit more infrared radiation. You can think of this like being in a dark-painted room or a light-painted room with the same lamp. The dark room is darker, because the dark walls will absorb more light. If we live in a world with more carbon in the air, it will mean we live in a hotter world.

But, just like you can read under the lamp in the dark-painted room, you can still find cold places and seasons on a hotter world.


What can we do to not add so much carbon in the air? We can make choices about what we buy, and we can tell the government we want them to work on the problem. We have had pollution problems before, and dealing with them did not destroy the economy. It has saved lives, and it makes us healthier. In the case of carbon pollution, the health impacts are not as direct as things like mercury and lead, but the long-term trends are clear.

Living in a world with too much carbon in the air will make the oceans less productive, which will make human life harder. It will make storms and droughts and forest fires worse. It will add to disease, famine, and social unrest that will bring war.

We have to choose to reduce the carbon in the air.

Economic Infrastructure

There are several sectors that constitute economic infrastructure. Some are real infrastructure like roads, the electric grid, but others are not typically seen as infrastructure. The housing market, for example, is not typically seen as infrastructure, but it is part of the economic infrastructure—a necessity to building economic prosperity.

Other examples of economic infrastructure are healthcare, education, and media. In order to build economy, people need health, they need a knowledge base, and they need to filter new information through that knowledge base to keep it healthy and current.

The importance of economic infrastructure is two-fold. First, it provides the same support role that traditional infrastructure provides: it girds the other social and economic activities of a society. It allows commerce to operate efficiently and with routine expectations that fade into the background of life, letting those engaged in other activities focus on their local problems and challenges. Second, just like traditional infrastructure, it creates a base of economic activity to itself. This base activity furnishes a minimum and continuous economy that can cushion the dynamic economy that sits atop it. Even when downturns occur, children continue to go to school, medical practices continue to operate, and housing is still needed for all inhabitants.

Those that argue, for example, for Medicaid expansion in the states, are arguing for improvements to the economic infrastructure. As with traditional infrastructure, more developed societies should expect and require advanced economic infrastructure. A modern society could not function without a network of paved roads, nor should it attempt to function without schools, universal healthcare, and other robust forms of economic infrastructure.

Even the Internet, while built of physical infrastructure, also includes volumes of economic infrastructure in the forms of protocols and software, much of it open source, which allows for interoperability that supports massive economies.

In seeking to shore up traditional infrastructure, it is important to do the same with these institutional, economic structures that are as important to the modern economy.

Media and Political Bias Isn’t Binary

Nor is it just news media bias. As we saw with the recent revelations in the New York Times story, it extends to (anti-)social media as well (see The New York Times: 14 November 2018: Sheera Frenkel, Nicholas Confessore, Cecilia Kang, Mathew Rosenberg, and Jack Nicas: “Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis”). It also happens in non-news programming.

There is a tendency to believe that if the media is biased against conservatives, it can’t also be biased against progressives. This is clearly false, as bias is anchored on difference, and the media has its own political culture to defend.

The media is biased against conservatives in some ways, and some of those biases are reasonable; for example, being pro-environment and therefore biased against those who are indifferent, at best, to the environment. But the media is also biased against progressives, seeming to believe that math works differently when it applies to money, and therefore that a universal healthcare system is rainbows on roses and whiskey-toting kittens.

The right-wing uses this effect as a handy political signal. They made hay of the IRS looking for political groups in social welfare clothing. They made hay of (anti-)social media having a bias. But we know in both cases that the IRS also targeted progressive groups and that Facebook has a bias against progressive criticism.

The constancy of the “Democrats in Disarray” narrative is such that you could set your watch, if you still wore one. The media dutifully revives the notion of the “fiscal conservative” like it’s a civilian costume on a superhero. Poof! Where did the tax-slashing big-spending party go? Nobody here but us arch-penny-pinching conservatives.

We saw the ultimate absurdity of this media tendency on several occasions in Trump’s first year or so. He would read a speech, and the media actually thought it was worth pretending he was presidential. They still give enough gravitas to him, merely for occupying the oval office, that they’ll print his lies as headlines.

Media bias is a thing. It comes in many forms. Not all of them are unreasonable, but every one of them is acknowledgable, and those that aren’t reasonable should be discarded.

A Good Election: Reflections on the 2018 Midterms

Not a great election, but a good election.

Was it a blue wave? The Democrats made sizable gains facing headwinds of gerrymandering and a strong economy. Whether it’s called a blue wave is immaterial.

More women in the House than ever before, which we can all hope will become a springboard to even more equal representation. They will be able to offer their own perspectives and help erase the blind spots in thinking that contribute to poor decisions when representation isn’t diverse enough.

Democrats with control of a chamber in Congress means we can have oversight of the executive. There will be surprises as their oversight unveils things the media either couldn’t find or just missed. The people will be informed moving forward and in 2020 can make better decisions based on better information about how our government is operating.

Ex-felons in Florida got their voting rights back, which should mean that state will be more representative and responsive to the people living there. When more people vote, good things happen. We need people to vote, and we need the government to let them share their voice. It’s what makes America work.

Several states voted to expand Medicaid in their states: Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah. This is a strong issue that allows more people to have access to vital health services, but it also creates jobs. It’s good for the economy and good for people.


While a few results are still outstanding, we know that the Democrats taking the gavel in the House of Representatives marks a turning point for our troubled nation. Without good information, we are left to the gaslighting of bad-faith actors in the Republican party who failed to provide oversight of this administration. If the full truth of the misdeeds had been known going into this election, it’s safe to say that the Republican party would have done worse for it.

But that’s why information is so important: we don’t know what we don’t know. We need journalism. We need checks and balances. Without them businesses make poor decisions and state and local governments miscalculate. The whole system suffers from bad information and from information droughts.

By opening this one spigot of information, the American people will empower themselves to make better decisions in the future. Businesses and communities rely on knowing that they get a fair hearing, that their concerns are heard by the executive branch. But under Trump there has been this lingering question about how much abuse, how much fraud, was happening. We’ll finally know, and businesses that were short-changed on bidding, or otherwise misrouted by a bad administration, will seek redress in the courts and other venues of appeal.

The 2018 Midterm Election is Tuesday: ⓋⓄⓉⒺ✔

When you vote, you will be given a sticker. It’s a piece of paper with adhesive on one side and decorations on the other. You put the sticky side on your clothes. Also, you get to weigh in on who does what in the government. It’s fun! Will you elect a dog as dog catcher? A cat? A fox to guard the henhouse?! It’s up to you! Choose wisely!


Predictions for the Midterms

There is a lot of misery from the muralists’ failure to make any attempt to govern in an inclusive way. Trump stomps on the values of America on the regular. The Republicans sit at the table counting their money. They pause on occasion to look over at what the president is doing to the country but don’t do anything about it.

That is not a healthy dynamic. Everybody knows it, including the elected Republicans who keep following along, wayward elephants who think Trump’s their mother. They don’t want the music to stop. Keep dancing, Trump says, and nobody (who’s a Republican politician) gets hurt.

But the voters know. Even the Trump supporters know. They think it’s all a game. They think Jesus is coming soon to put them in the goat pile and that it’s too late to fix climate change or the crumbling bridges. But the rest of us, who plan to be alive through and after Day Zero, want good governance.

In the House things look good for the Democrats. They currently hold 193 seats (two vacancies) to the Republican party’s 235 (five vacancies). The magic number is 218, so they need 23 seats.

FiveThirtyEight: “2018 House Forecast” gives them a chance in the mid-80s of winning control, but where within that range they’ll fall is harder. The median and average are both short of a direct reversal of the numbers (a 40-seat swing), and in recent history the largest the Democrats gained was 2006 with 31 seats (in 2010 the Republicans had a 63 seat pickup).

Signs point to turnout exceeding 2006 and 2010, so I’m predicting the Democrats beat their numbers but fall short of the Republican record: 42 seats putting it 237 to the Republican party’s 198.

In the Senate, as anybody who’s looked knows, the Democrats have a rocky path. I will be very surprised if they can make the climb, but it could happen if there are enough draw races (like the gubernatorial election in Florida and some of the House races, particularly in red districts that might have gone uncontested in other years). Democrats should learn that contesting races (with reasonable candidates) always helps: if it gets just a few more people to get an “I voted” sticker, that can turn the tide for other races.

I predict a 50-50 Senate (net gain of one seat for the Democrats) with a very busy Vice President Pence (Mother will be pissed).


We should all have the luxury to vote by mail, but for those of us who don’t, it’s to the polls on 6 November 2018. Even if we don’t have vote-by-mail, we should vote as though we are post carriers:

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Because that’s what voting is: it’s sending a message, a signal, to our nation’s capital. And boy do we all have a message to deliver in 2018. We want America to be what e’s meant to be. Smart and ready for the rest of this century and the centuries to come. Self-improving steady and dependable. Welcoming and helping eir neighbors and strangers alike.

We do not want America back, as though we could own it. We want to share America again. To share it here at home, and to share the values of America with the world. We must be rid of the feeling this nation is held captive by those who want to possess and decide without hearing the thing out. They do not own America, and any who seeks to conquer her, internal or external, by force or by deception, will hear us all tell them exactly where they can stick that notion.


The midterm election is on Tuesday, 6 November 2018.

(The 2020 election is in about 104 weeks. hehe)