How to Talk to a Climate Change Zealot

If you don’t have time to read a 2000 word blog post, here are the basics of talking to a Climate Change Zealot (don’t continue the conversation if the CCZ can’t complete a step):

  1. Agree that the climate changes
  2. Ask for one specific policy proposal
  3. Ask how much that specific policy proposal will cost
  4. Ask how much doing nothing will cost
  5. Ask for peer-reviewed journal articles supporting the hypothesis that this specific policy proposal will have the desired outcome
  6. Contact me if you meet a CCZ who completes step 5!

But really, it’s a good post…

Who Are You and What is a Climate Change Zealot?

Great questions.  Hi, I’m Debbie, and I am not (nor have I ever been) a climatologist.  I was also not paid to write this blog post, so put that conspiracy theory back in your pocket as well.  I recently retired from the US Navy, having served for just over 20 years as an instructor at Naval Nuclear Power Training Command (1996 – 1999), a weather forecaster and ship router (2002 – 2003), a hydrographer (2003 – 2006), Navy’s Geospatial Information & Services Officer (2006 – 2009, and yes, this is where I admit that the first ever convention I attended at the San Diego Convention Center was not, in fact, Comic-Con, but was actually the ESRI User Conference), and finally as an assistant program manager (2009 – 2015, both at the Pentagon and finally in San Diego).  For my full résumé, including details on my three MS degrees (Mathematics, Meteorology and Physical Oceanography, and Hydrographic Science), please refer to my LinkedIn profile.

Climate Change Zealots, like art and pornography, are hard to define, but we tend to know them when we see them.  For the purpose of this blog post, I am referring to people who can be characterized by five basic behaviors:

  1. They do not differentiate between climate change (i.e. Earth’s climate has always been and will always be changing, regardless of human activity) and Climate Change (i.e. the amount that humans are adding – which may or may not be negligible – on top of the lower case climate change that was already happening).
  2. Anything bad that happens, from a hurricane to a plane crash to a bad date, can and will be tied to Climate Change.  Here is just one example:  Why Climate Change and Terrorism are Connected
  3. Nothing in the world is more important than Climate Change!  Here’s a great example from Twitter:
  4. Environmentalism is their religion and not believing in Climate Change is a heresy. Since they don’t differentiate between climate change and Climate Change (see number 1 above), your heresy of daring to question Climate Change will be ridiculed in a manner that would make both Torquemada and Alinsky proud.
  5. Last and most important, WE MUST DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!  By “we,” they mean government, and by “do something about it,” they mean spend money on it.  So properly translated from Climate Change Zealot into English, GOVERNMENT MUST SPEND MONEY ON IT!

But I’m Not A Scientist!

OK, so now  you know who you’re dealing with, but you’re worried that since you’re not a scientist you won’t know how to talk to a Climate Change Zealot.  Trust me when I tell you:  this should be the absolute least of your worries.  Not being a scientist has certainly never stopped a Climate Change Zealot from having an opinion, and it shouldn’t stop you.  All you need to know about science are the basics, and the most basic of basics is the scientific method, which I’ll review for you here.

The Scientific Method

The University of California Riverside has a nice little slide show about the scientific method.  The Science Buddies website presents the scientific method as a flowchart.  Regardless of how you visualize it, the scientific method boils down to four very basic steps:

  1. formulate a hypothesis
  2. design an experiment to test the hypothesis that isolates only the thing you are testing
  3. analyze data from the experiments (usually with statistical tests)
  4. determine whether your data support your hypothesis or not

To illustrate how the scientific method works, I will use my son’s fifth grade science fair project as an example.  He had heard that batteries kept in the refrigerator and then used at a later date lasted longer than batteries kept at room temperature, so he formulated the following hypothesis:  “AA batteries kept in the refrigerator will power a small motor longer than AA batteries kept in the kitchen drawer.”  He then used a model train motor to push the = button (having first entered 1 + 1) on a calculator until the battery powering the motor ran out.  By looking at the number after the motor stopped running, he could tell how long the battery had lasted.  He repeated the test 20 times, ten with batteries that had been kept in the refrigerator for a month, and 10 with batteries that had been kept in the kitchen drawer for a month (yes, I know, ideally they would have been kept in those locations for a year or two, but kids only get a couple of months for their science fair projects).  After analyzing the data, he found that they did not support his hypothesis.  That doesn’t mean putting batteries in the refrigerator isn’t a good idea, there just wasn’t a statistically significant difference between how long the refrigerator batteries lasted and how long the kitchen drawer batteries lasted.  As a consumer of batteries, you probably wouldn’t put them in the refrigerator without additional information.

OK, now you’re as smart as a fifth grader, and probably smarter than a Climate Change Zealot.  Let’s start the conversation.

Agree That the Climate Changes

Remember, Environmentalism is the religion of the Climate Change Zealot and you won’t even be able to have a discussion if you are found guilty of the heresy of being a Climate Change Denier.  One of my favorite mantras when dealing with CCZs is “the climate changes, the climate has always changed, the climate will always change.”  Sometimes they make it easy for you and ask “Why don’t you believe in climate change?” The answer is simple: “I do believe in climate change.”  Here are some great examples.

Drought is not a modern phenomenon.  Human and animal populations have been moving to find water since there were humans and animals.  A great example of the impact of (lower case) climate change on humans is how drought contributed to the collapse of Mayan society over 1000 years ago, well before Climate Change can be blamed (unless time travel is equally to blame).  This article is from the Washington Post, lest you be accused of citing a right-leaning source:

More evidence Mayan civilization collapsed because of drought

Rising sea levels are also nothing new.  Once upon a time, you could walk from London to Brussels.  Ask your friendly neighborhood Climate Change Zealot if he or she has heard of Doggerland.  If not, invite them to read this informative primer from National Geographic:

Doggerland – The Europe That Was (The British Isles were once neither British nor isles)

The human race survived the rising sea levels following the Last Glacial Maximum, we survived the droughts of 1000 years ago, and we will survive whatever changes the future holds.

The climate changes.

The climate has always changed.

The climate will always change.

Ask the Climate Change Zealot What, Specifically, They Want to Do

Now that you have both agreed that the climate changes, don’t let the Climate Change Zealot argle bargle at you ad infinitum with nonsense.  Ask for specifics.  Be blunt.  Tell the CCZ that you really want to agree on something, so ask what one specific thing they want to do differently.  At this point, most CCZs will throw a link at you, and it will probably be to a 100 plus page Climate Change study from at least five or ten years ago.  Thank them for the reference and ask what page you should look at for the specific policy proposal they are recommending.  Just one specific policy proposal.  If they can’t offer a single specific policy proposal, continue the conversation later when they can be more specific.

Ask the Climate Change Zealot How Much It Will Cost

Wow, if you’ve gotten this far you have found a truly special Climate Change Zealot.  Remember, and this is very important, don’t argue the merits of the specific policy proposal.  Just ask how much it will cost.  If they say it doesn’t matter, tell them that you are very interested in being won over to their cause, but as a fiscally responsible working adult and taxpayer, you are interested in the cost.  If they do manage to come up with a number, find out if that is the total cost or an annual cost.  Most government budget proposals aren’t straightforward, and they have hidden sustainment tails that aren’t always obvious.  For example it may only cost $100 million to set up a program, but that doesn’t include the sustainment costs of keeping the program going for the next 5 or 10 or 50 years.

Ask the Climate Change Zealot How Much It Will Cost to Do Nothing

A great example here is rising sea level.  I live literally (and I mean literally literally) a stone’s throw from the ocean.  I do not say this idly as someone speaking from Lebanon, Kansas (the geographical center of the contiguous United States, for those of you not in the know).  Humans know how to deal with rising sea levels.  We simply move away from the ocean.  Yes it costs money and causes heartache, but at some point reasonable people have to consider whether it makes more sense to try to stop the whole f***ing ocean or to just move a mile or two away.  Just a thought.  But seriously, you really should ask the CCZ for the business case analysis of DOING SOMETHING versus doing nothing.  In the unlikely event that the analysis has even been done, it may turn out that it is more cost effective to react to climate change than to try to change the climate.

And Speaking of Trying to Change the Climate…

Well hopefully you won’t get this far (most people don’t), but if you do, this is where that little lesson on the scientific method will be helpful.  Let’s assume for the moment that your CCZ has a specific policy proposal in mind, knows the price tag, knows how much it will cost to do nothing, and the quoted price tag is significantly less than the cost of doing nothing.  Now you must ask the Climate Change Zealot about the science behind his pet policy.  Ask for specifics on how he knows it will work.  Ask for peer-reviewed journal articles supporting the hypothesis that this policy will have the desired impact on the climate.  The CCZ will almost certainly not be able to provide these, but in the rare case that he does, please do get in touch.  I would be very curious to both read such an article and meet the one Climate Change Zealot who actually understands the scientific method.

In Summary

It is entirely possible that there are one or two policies out there that make both scientific and fiscal sense.  The best way to effectively combat the Climate Change Zealot is to think of yourself as Indiana Jones and to think of a scientifically feasible and fiscally responsible environmental policy as the Holy Grail.  Be genuinely curious when you engage with a CCZ.  If you ask this series of questions with the honest intent of finding this proverbial Holy Grail, you will have a much more meaningful exchange with the Climate Change Zealot, you will (hopefully) not be branded a heretic, and through your patient questioning you may just win over a rare convert.

Bob (Not His/Her Real Name) the Netflix Intern Has the Worst Day Ever

Earlier this week, Bob’s supervisor, let’s call her Joan, brought him a list of streaming movies to promote on the official Netflix Twitter account.  Joan suggested that Bob look for trending phrases and hashtags that might be relevant to the movies on the list.  After reviewing the list, Bob noted that one of them, Iron Sky, might be particularly difficult to promote, especially since it only had a 6.0/10 rating on IMDb and a 36% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  He was “thorough” in his research, however, and “read” (looked at keywords in) every reference he could find about the movie, hoping something relevant would come up.  Here is an excerpt from the Iron Sky entry on Wikipedia:

The film opens in 2018 with an American manned landing mission returning to the Moon. The lander carries two astronauts, one of them a black male model, James Washington, specifically chosen to aid the President of the United States [a parody of Sarah Palin] in her reelection (various “Black to the Moon” word-play posters are seen in the film, extolling the new Moon landing).

When Bob saw that the hashtag #SarahPalinFilms was trending on Twitter, he thought he had found the perfect opportunity.  Unfortunately, he had not taken the time to read all of the tweets in the hashtag game.  If he had, he would have seen that they were overwhelmingly negative (rather than what Bob may have very naively thought – an innocent game about movies with Sarah Palin characters):



 Not all of the comments were negative: 

While still others, like Bob’s, were completely clueless about what was going on:

Did Bob intend to insult Sarah Palin?  Probably not.  Was Bob implying Sarah Palin is a Nazi (as many outraged commenters – who had never seen the film – assumed based on the image Bob included with his tweet)?  Also probably not.

Iron Sky promotional image from Netflix

Should Bob have reviewed the tweets being used in the hashtag game to see how his participation might impact his company?  In hindsight, it seems like a good idea.  Should Bob (and by extension Netflix) be blamed for the fact that a European film used a character resembling Sarah Palin to portray the President of the United States in a movie about Nazis from the moon invading Earth?  I’m going to stick with no on that one.

Twitter Basics For Beginners: @ Versus .@

This morning on Twitter, Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) retweeted the following from HarperCollins Children’s Books (@HarperChildrens):

I clicked on the link, which gives the following instructions for entering the contest:

  1.  Follow @HarperChildrens on Twitter so we can DM you if you win.
  2. Click here to tweet the following message using #ChusDay for a chance to win: @HarperChildrens This tiny panda stole my heart. Read CHU’S DAY to that special little one in your life. #ChusDay

When I clicked on the “Click here” link, it created the following Twitter message:

In an attempt to be a good Twittizen, I immediately tweeted HarperCollins Children’s Books to let them know that by starting their tweet with the @ symbol they were limiting the number of people who would see it:

I then received several responses claiming that I had provided erroneous information, so I provided a link to Twitter’s advice on the subject:

  • People will only see others’ @replies in their home timeline if they are following both the sender and recipient of the @reply.

Despite this, there was further consternation regarding whether Twitter treats a reply that starts with the @ symbol differently than a non-reply:

In order to test this hypothesis, @justingrammer (who I follow) sent a tweet to @arlothefuture (who I do not follow):

For comparison purposes, here is a screen capture of my timeline in TweetDeck v0.38.2 (in which I have the “Include @replies from your friends to others” box checked):


And here is a screen capture of the same time period from web Twitter:


Note that @justingrammer’s tweet to @arlothefuture appears between tweets from Ted Nugent (@TedNugent) and Jon Gabriel (@ExJon) in TweetDeck, while it does NOT appear between those same two tweets in web Twitter.

I hope this clears up the @ versus .@ “controversy” once and for all!

Breitbart, You’re My Hero!

I am nobody.

I am invisible.

Most people couldn’t pick me out of a lineup.  Not for a million dollars.  I don’t stand out in a crowd.  You wouldn’t recognize me if I sat next to you in a theater, or on a train, or in a restaurant.  You’ve never seen me on television or in a movie, heard me on the radio, or read anything I’ve written (unless, perhaps, you subscribe to some very obscure technical journals).

I’ve spent most of my life moving around more often than I care to think about (although I did actually sit down and count once), and as a result I ended up mostly disengaged from the world around me.  That all started to change when I finally decided to follow through on the recommendation of a, well, I guess I’ll call him an acquaintance (since I’m not all that great at making friends), and watch the show Chuck.  (Right now you’re probably thinking “What the heck does this have to do with Andrew Breitbart?”  Don’t worry, I’ll get to that.  All in good time.  Everything happens for a reason.  You came to Andrew in your way, I came to him in mine.)  I watched the first three seasons of Chuck between March and October of 2010, just in time to pick up with the rest of the world and watch the fourth season, if not in real-time, then at least as close to real-time as possible (NBC made episodes available on their website for up to three weeks after the original air date).

It wasn’t just the geekiness of Chuck that I enjoyed, or its similarity to one of my favorite childhood television shows (Greatest American Hero); I was fascinated by the similarities between Adam Baldwin‘s character, John Casey, and the course my life had taken.  John Casey, for those of you who don’t know, (at least at the beginning of the series) was an active duty O4 (Major to most of you, Lieutenant Commander to me) who had devoted his life to his career (with no friends, or family, or even high rank, to show for it).  Of course I know the difference between fantasy and reality, but the overlap between the fantasy that Adam Baldwin created with the character John Casey and my reality was striking.

So I did what any normal person does.  I logged into my (practically) unused Twitter account to see if Adam Baldwin was on Twitter.  And to my great delight he was not only on Twitter, but he was tweeting meaningful content (what I normally say to people when I’m telling this story in person is “it was at that moment I realized he wasn’t just some vapid actor”).  I didn’t agree with everything he tweeted, but to my further surprise, he responded to me when I asked questions about what he was saying.  I was so delighted by this fact that I actually wrote about it in my first ever blog post on November 15, 2010.

By following Mr. Baldwin on Twitter, I found a whole universe of people with whom I could interact in a way I never thought possible.  One of those amazing people was @thekelliejane, and one night she tweeted something along the lines of “I’m here, click to listen/watch”.  Clicking took me to The Stage Right Show on Blog Talk Radio, where Larry O’Connor, host of The Stage Right Show, was celebrating Dake-a-Palooza with several members of the Hollywood Chat Pack (to learn more about the show and the Chat Pack, check out my post).  I was hooked.  That night was the start of more nights than I care to think about spent staying up way past when a person who gets up at 0630 ought to be asleep.  It was during Larry’s show that I learned about the existence of Andrew Breitbart, but I was still mostly disconnected from the wider world.  I couldn’t really connect the lyric from The Army You Have’s Liberty Loves Company, played during Larry’s shows, to my personal reality.  “Breitbart, You’re My Hero!” still meant nothing to me.  I did start following Andrew on Twitter, however, and on on February 1, 2011, I sent the following tweet:

I just became @AndrewBreitbart‘s 32,000th follower and Twitter sent me a unicorn! #DoubleWin

Like many things on Twitter, and in life, I didn’t realize the significance of Andrew Breitbart not only retweeting my silly proclamation, but also following me for having made it.

I first met Larry O’Connor in person on the evening of Thursday, February 10, 2011.  The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was taking place in Washington, DC, but as I was preparing to leave for Guam early that Saturday morning, I was too busy to attend any of the events during the work day.  I was, however, able to slip away for just a couple of hours that evening to what was being affectionately referred to as “The Big Gay Party”.  A glance at the admission ticket may give you a clue as to why:









That night, I met a lot of people, including Andrew Breitbart.  At the time, I didn’t think anything of it.  To me, he was just one more person Larry was introducing me to.  Remember, this wasn’t my world.  The only thing I remember was being knocked over by all of the people trying to shake his hand or get a moment of his time.  What I took away from that evening was Dan Choi telling me he looked forward to seeing me become the first openly lesbian admiral (for the record, I’m not a lesbian, at least to my knowledge).  As a memento of that evening, I can be seen dancing like a lunatic in the background while Andrew Breitbart is being interviewed in this video (around the 45 second mark):


Time marched on.  I wrote the occasional blog post.  I got the (very) occasional reader.  Then two things happened almost simultaneously, at least in terms of the scale of my life.  Near the end of May 2011, I decided to buy a video camera.  And then there was this:


It all started to come together.  Love him or hate him.  Agree with him or disagree with him.  Andrew Breitbart had told the truth, over and over again, and was not shy about telling the world what had happened.  I finally understood the lyric.  I have always been an outspoken person, and have always been very polarizing because of it.  People almost instantaneously either really like me or really dislike me.  The world is mostly black and white to me, and (at least I have been told) I tend to speak without a filter.  I thought that meant I had to live the rest of my life (mostly) alone and friendless.  But no!  Here was Andrew Breitbart polarizing the world.  Speaking truth to power.  Wow.

About a month later, I was in southern California for work (did I mention that I travel a lot?) and Larry O’Connor just happened to be taping his show live from “an undisclosed location” (as he refers to it).  I had known that I might be invited to attend, so I came prepared with the cheapskate’s equivalent to challenge coins from the Office of Naval Intelligence to hand out to all of my Tweeps (not knowing how many Twitter acquaintances would actually be there, I freely admit that I was not willing to purchase $200 worth of challenge coins just to be sure I had enough).  Plastic or no, everyone seemed pleased with my little token from the Intelligence Community.  It was nice to finally put faces with names (and voices).  The best part, however, was when Larry (re-) introduced me to Andrew Breitbart and Andrew said, with utmost sincerity, “so you’re @mosesmosesmoses!”.  As one often says on Twitter:  Mind.  Blown.

I made it my habit not to go anywhere without my camera and video camera.  I made an effort to blog whenever something caught my attention (within the bounds of DoDD 1344.10 and still reporting for duty, of course), trying to focus my efforts on erroneous use of “the race card” as well as pointing out improper use of statistics because, as we all know, math is hard.  I knew I needed to temper my zeal for documenting the world around me just slightly, however, when I totaled my car on the way downtown to film Occupy DC protesters as they occupied an abandoned school.

The last time I saw Andrew Breitbart was at CPAC on February 9, 2012.  From the official listing in the CPAC program:

Citizens United Productions Hosts Blogger Briefing

CPAC Theater

Andrew Breitbart, Brandon Darby, Lee Stranahan, Stephen K. Bannon and Citizens United Productions President David N. Bossie preview their 2012 films including upcoming film exposing Occupy Wall Street, with short video presentation

Credentialed Bloggers Only

After making a grand entrance in Guy Fawkes masks, the panel members spoke, showed trailers for Occupy Unmasked and Hating Breitbart, then took questions.  I stood up to ask a question, and as is common practice in the military, introduced myself before doing so.  At the very beginning of this video, you can hear the very last part of that introduction, “…on Twitter” to which Andrew Breitbart responds “Hey, you defend me, that’s so nice.”


Now to be completely fair, he’s glossing over that one time where I questioned whether I should follow him at all because of all of the hateful tweets he was constantly retweeting.  But, hey, I’ll take it.  Also, for the record, the entire video is worth watching as Brandon Darby gives an excellent answer to my question (regarding the manipulation of well-meaning protesters) which Andrew interrupts by taking a telephone call in the middle of.

The next day, camera and video camera in hand, I blended in with the “protesters” outside the Marriott Wardman Park hotel.  I took photos and wrote a blog post about marching down Connecticut Avenue.  I found it especially interesting how the sponsoring organization, This Is Our DC, both grossly overestimated the numbers in attendance and saw nothing wrong with the irony of busing in a majority of the crowd on Mercedes-Benz buses.

And then, just a few weeks later, Andrew was gone.  No, I did not know him personally.  We never had dinner together.  I never met his family.  I do not share the personal tragedy that many of you are feeling right now.  I can sympathize (and I truly do), but not empathize.  The only thing I can do that is meaningful in any way whatsoever is tell this so that you may know how Andrew Breitbart and those around him changed my life.

I will carry my cameras wherever I go.  I will post photos.  I will post video.  I will blog.

I may be nobody.

I may be invisible.

But I will not be silent.

I am Andrew Breitbart.

From Hashtag To Broadway

On December 6, 2011, as I do every year some time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I watched Love Actually.  This year was a bit different for two reasons.  First, it was the first year I allowed my son, who is now fifteen, to watch the movie with me.  Second, I live-tweeted the movie (for those of you who know me, you know I pretty much live tweet everything I watch, including Howard the Duck), using the hashtag #LoveActually.  This was my opening tweet:

Live movie tweeting may depart from usual coherence for #LoveActually, mostly because #AlanRickman *sigh* *swoon*

After that first tweet, I clicked on both the #LoveActually hashtag and the #AlanRickman hashtag to see if anyone else was watching the movie with me.  To my delight, in the #AlanRickman column on Tweetdeck, I saw several tweets about a play called Seminar with links to the play’s website.  I finished watching the movie (with a total of 57 tweets; use Snapbird with my Twitter handle, @mosesmosesmoses, and the search term #LoveActually if you are interested in what I had to say) and immediately started researching when I might be able to see the play.  It turned out that the stars aligned for the evening of Tuesday, January 24, 2012.

But Twitter wasn’t done with me yet…

First, and again while live tweeting a movie (this time Truly, Madly, Deeply) and having clicked on the #AlanRickman hashtag, I noticed that another user (@coffeelover413) had posted photos with Mr. Rickman after the show.  I sent her a tweet asking what the protocol was, and she explained that all the actors come out after the show to sign autographs (I can confirm this is indeed true).

But wait, there’s more!

From the official Twitter account of the play (@SeminarOnBway) on January 19, 2012:

This Tues 1/24 @LeonardLopate @wnyc will chat with #AlanRickman and the rest of the cast of @seminaronbway after the show. Get your tix now!

At first I was a bit concerned that this might interfere with the usual practice of autographs after the show, but my worry was all for naught as the audience was invited to stay.  I even got an opportunity to ask a question (being in the front row and doing my best Arnold Horshack impression didn’t hurt).  I explained that I had found out about the play through Twitter (I mistakenly referenced Snow Cake, which I had watched around the same time), and asked the five actors how involved they were in social media and what impact it had on their relationship with the audience.  Jerry O’Connell was gracious enough to answer, explaining that he is active on Twitter (but not Facebook) and that it brings an element of real-time feedback from theatergoers who tweet about the experience afterward.  Outside the theater, he went on to explain that because the play is about the relationship between a teacher and his students, it naturally attracts many students and they are more likely to find out about it like I did.  Also, according to Mr. O’Connell, who goes by @ComingForMurdoc, I’m kind of a big deal on Twitter:

You're Kind Of A Big Deal

Thank you Mr. O’Connell, you’re kind of a big deal yourself.

I would also like to thank the rest of the cast, even though I already did so in person, for taking the time to answer questions and sign autographs after the show.  As far as I know, only Hettienne Park is active on Twitter, but a big thanks also to Alan Rickman, Lily Rabe and Hamish Linklater.

And of course I’d like to thank the person who got me those front row tickets and hung around taking pictures while I got autographs with a goofy grin on my face.  You know who you are.  You are definitely a big deal.

For my thoughts on the play itself, check out my other post, A Seminar On Time Travel.