Climate Change is Kreplach!

As the young year’s second deep-freeze chills the country, there are plenty of skeptical musings about whether climate change is a real thing. This is nothing new: it happened in 2010 when Senator James Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and vocal denier of global warming, built an igloo on Capitol Hill during what weather-wimp Washingtonians called the Snowpocalypse. If it’s snowy outside, the Inhofe crowd reckoned, then climate change, at least the speedy anthropogenic kind, must be a fraud.

But it’s not a fraud. It’s kreplach.

(This column was first posted on Debby’s blog site: Hungry Thirsty World)

Kreplach is an image-challenged dumpling of Eastern European origin, not so different in composition from tortellini, gyoza or wonton. It’s a thin dough wrapped around a meaty filling, a good way to extend leftovers and add some heft to a winter soup. Unlike any of its more popular culinary cousins — I’m looking at you, dim-sum — kreplach has never caught on. In fact, it is so famously reviled, there’s a joke about it.

Part of it has to be the name, which sounds like a dog upchucking. Another part of it is the irrational fear of something different — the same problems climate change has had for the last seven years or so: bad PR and a well-fanned flame of doubt in the face of overwhelming evidence.

And both climate change and kreplach have individual components that are easy for detractors to accept: meatballs in the case of kreplach, rising seas and weird weather for climate change. It’s only when the whole thing is put together that they run screaming from the room.

Don’t take it from me, listen to Michael Mann. So far, 2014 has been a pretty good year for Mann, the climate scientist who came up with the so-called hockey stick graph showing the suddenness of atmospheric warming, correlating it with the rise of the industrial age. He doesn’t make a big deal out of it, but he’s suffered a lot for telling this scientific truth: protesters with hockey sticks showing up on his lawn, numerous challenges to the veracity of his research and an accusation of fraud against him and his former academic home, the University of Virginia, launched by then-Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli (Cuccinelli lost, twice).

A few days ago, Mann won approval to go forward with a defamation suit against a publication and a conservative think-tank that called him a fraud and likened him to Penn State child molester Jerry Sandusky. Earlier in January, he pinpointed the difficulty for those who want to do something to combat the effects of climate change in a New York Times op-ed.

For example, should we go full-bore on nuclear power? Invest in and deploy renewable energy — wind, solar and geothermal — on a huge scale? Price carbon emissions through cap-and-trade legislation or by imposing a carbon tax? Until the public fully understands the danger of our present trajectory, those debates are likely to continue to founder.

To make the public understand, he wrote, it’s time for scientists to speak out. Explain what climate change, what’s causing it, put the facts and the possibilities together in one tidy little dumpling — and then DO SOMETHING.

Mann isn’t alone in offering information to get folks off the dime. At the World Economic Forum’s Davos meeting of alleged movers and shakers, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon beat the drum for business leaders to act to curb climate change impacts. NOAA found that 2013 tied for the fourth-warmest year on Earth in the modern record. Blogger Greg Laden offered a smart and funny answer to the denialist question, “If global warming is real, then why is it so cold?” The Daily Climate site tracked down the Newsweek reporter who wrote a nine-paragraph story in 1975 that discussed global cooling.

The story was accurate at the time, the reporter said, a short-term trend likely due to the build-up of soot and aerosols in the atmosphere from 1940 though the 1970s. By now, the long-ago article has become a touchstone for the likes of Inhofe, Rush Limbaugh and others who deny the link between human behavior and a changing climate. “I just hope people don’t think I think that way,” Peter Gwynne, the former Newsweek reporter, said in a post on January 10.  “When I wrote this story I did not see it as a blockbuster … It was just an intriguing piece about what a certain group in a certain niche of climatology was thinking.”

There’s a reason it’s so hard to get people to consider climate change as the whole kreplach. Since 2007, when the science of human-fueled climate change was much more widely accepted, there has been a concerted effort by those interested in keeping things just as they are, with no change in human behavior that might alter the changing climate’s course.

Don’t feel too gloomy. You’ll feel better if you have a kreplach or two.

(Want to make some? See recipes and photos, including the one above, at )

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