Tom Smerling

ClimateBites founder
byTom Smerling, July 5, 2013
Beavers felled trees before humans.  So lumberjacks aren't real?
Brian -- Love this one! LOL, literally! Animal metaphors always get a good laugh... And their argument is so logically ludicrous, its better to ridicule it than start arguing. Right up there with "forest fires are often ignited by lightening, therefore arson doesn't exist." I'll make it a "featured bite" for sure...
byTom Smerling, November 1, 2012
You Can't Replace Iowa
So true.... In Minnesota, everybody knows why the soil is so fertile near the Iowa border, and so barren in the north. The glaciers scraped all the topsoil off the land, leaving bare rock, and dumped it in Iowa. That's why the topsoil there is so deep and productive. And that's why nothing much grows in rocky Northern Minnesota except hay, at best. Bottom line: So you can't just migrate the corn belt northward....unless you plan on bringing the all that topsoil with you. Good luck with that one.
byTom Smerling, June 12, 2012
U.S. Navy:  Computers were more costly than typewriters
Come to think of it, the first automobiles were a lot more expensive than horses. . .

One reason we switched -- besides speed and convenience -- and never went back to horses was a certain smelly type of pollution. Around 1900, NY City suffered from a major horse manure problem, as the uncontrolled droppings from 10,000 horses threatened to bury the city.

The Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894
byTom Smerling, June 1, 2012
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Dark last night, so the sun cannot not be real.
It's true, of course, that logic doesn't work with everybody. Neither does any other method of persuasion (humor, metaphor, storytelling, use of visuals, dialogue, shared values, moral appeal, irony, authority, "unusual suspects," etc. etc. )

So I agree that "it depends on the audience." Indeed, that's the challenge -- to find the best way to tailor the climate message -- including bites -- to a given audience.

(For further exploration of this question, by authors or others, please consider using the Forum.)
byTom Smerling, May 31, 2012
No single solution, there are millions of solutions
"Think Globally, Act Daily" -- Hey, that deserves its own bite, Brian!

keep 'em comin'!
byTom Smerling, May 28, 2012
We don't have to do it alone
Brian -- thx for flagging the rating error. I was able to change it to "4" for the impact on the bites overally rating. Haven't yet figured out how to change how it appears on your comment though....nothing is simple in this business!
byTom Smerling, May 22, 2012
Brian, this one knocks it outta the ballpark! And David Orr's quote (within the Gilding excerpt") is another real zinger! Go ahead and turn it into another winning bite (before I beat you to it! :) )
byTom Smerling, May 21, 2012
Denial: we all do it!
Great example of the universality of denial -- the last sentence on mortality.

'What La Rochefoucauld said in 1665 is still generally true: "One cannot look fixedly at either the sun or death.",9171,894658,00.html#ixzz1vSXaVCsd
byTom Smerling, May 17, 2012
Your child has worrisome symptoms.   97 doctors say 'treat.'
Based on the above comment, I moved what had been a very long parable into the "Notes" section, then tried to distill the core message into a bite. Not sure how successful I was, but at least it fits our format better.
byTom Smerling, May 14, 2012
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Do you miss the New England whaling industry?
Interesting indeed! If the above numbers are correct, then as a percentage of the total population, at the time of "peak whaling" in 1857, more Americans were employed in whaling than are employed in coal mining today.

Today's U.S. population is almost exactly 10 times greater than in 1857.

Population in 1860 census: 31,443,000
Population in 2010 census: 313,539,000

10,000 whalers / 31,443,000 total = 0.000318%
80,000 coal miners /313,539,000 = 0.000255%
byTom Smerling, May 6, 2012
Thanks for the new "bite," and nice catch on the cartoon. We've added the 'toon to our collection in Humor section.

Viewers: To view the cartoon enlarged: Right-click on the image, then select "view image." An enlarged version will pop up in a new window.

byTom Smerling, May 3, 2012
Too costly?   Is fixing your car's brakes too costly?
At some time in our lives, we've all been 'penny-wise but pound-foolish' about something. Those saying "it's too expensive" never consider the cost of business as usual.
byTom Smerling, May 3, 2012
Raise the basketball floor a bit => lots more slam dunks
John -- what a great bite! Original and useful for explaining how small changes can make a big difference.
byTom Smerling, February 24, 2012
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Deniers subject AGW to skepticism, but not their own position, which they are not often called upon to defend . So, their skepticism is selective and functions to maintain their existing beliefs, which they don't subject to any real scrutiny/counter-evidence. I like this phrase better than skepticism vs denial, but that's just me.-- Steve Reed (submitted by ClimateBites Forum "Suggestion Box")
byTom Smerling, February 5, 2012
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Skeptical of climate change?  So am I!
This is a good introduction to pointing out that true skeptics don't wear blinkers -- they cast a cold, skeptical eye on assertions from any side, and insist on seeing the evidence -- all the evidence.

Many who question climate science are not really skeptics at all. They are just one-sided ideologues who scrutinize scientific to find the tiniest error, then proclaim the whole body of decades of research invalid. Yet the same critics will accept even the most outlandish claims from fossil fuel enthusiasts and denialists -- e.g. 'don't worry, geo-engineering can save us' -- at face value. Hearing an argument that supports their pre-determined view, these 'one-eyed skeptics' suddenly become squishy soft and gullible, accepting glib generalizations and unsupported assertions with no questions asked.

When was the last time you ever heard a climate 'skeptic' demand to see the evidence from a somebody who argues that global warming isn't happening?
byTom Smerling, January 24, 2012
When in doubt, ask... the oil companies!
Larry -- for more "unusual suspects" (business, military, religious, conservative) supporting climate science and action, click on "Search by Type/unusual suspects" at bottom of left sidebar!

I think this is so important we're thinking of adding an "Unusual suspects" tab to our main menu, along with bites, humor and stories.....
byTom Smerling, January 24, 2012
I've pondered for decades why we find wild nature so healing, so restorative. Still pondering, but it seems to be something along these lines:

The boundaries of "self" are defined by contact with the "non-self", or the "other." Living only in a 100% man-made world is like living in a crazy-making Hall of Mirrors.

Deprived of contact with the "non-self," you become isolated, boundaries blurr, narcissism expands, and you get a bit crazy. The myth of King Midas, Martin Buber's I and Thouand Bill McKibben's End of Nature come to mind.

OK, that's my "Deep Thought" :) for the week!
byTom Smerling, January 5, 2012
With even 1% risk of catastrophe,  we buy insurance.
JR -- Hey, I'm glad you reminded me of that one. It's going "in the hopper" for a bite. I sheepishly admit to doing this all the time, especially with medical bills. . . better to face the bad news later. It's a great illustration of the universality of denial, which is important to giving people some face-saving "space" to end their climate denial.
byTom Smerling, October 3, 2011
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Ocean acidification:  the
Interesting how a "sticky message" spreads. The first use of the phrase I found was by Miyoko Sakashita, attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, in August, 2007.

But after it was picked up by NOAA Administrator Janel Lubchenco in 2009, it became much more widely used. Kudos to Dr. Lubchenco (a McArthur "Genius Grant" recipient, among other things) for using a sticky bite!

Google has a cool tool for tracking the historical usage of search words or phrases -- "Google Timeline"
byTom Smerling, September 16, 2011
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
When in doubt, ask... your insurance company!
Munich Re, the world's second largest reinsurance company, which provides insurance to other insurance companies, so they can survive catastrophic losses, recently stated:

"The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related is climate change."

(Sept 27, 2010, 9-14-11 webcast by the Climate Reality Project).
byTom Smerling, September 14, 2011
Reality doesn't go away when you stop believing in it.
Dan Regan, a writer for Hallmark, came up with this variation, following a recent (Sept 2011) nationally-televised debate:

There will be no more global warming if [candidate X] is elected president, under the theory that if you stop believing in something, it stops existing. And, as everyone knows, that theory is being backed by more scientists all the time.
byTom Smerling, September 3, 2011
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
The 'Copernicus' of Global Warming
Some would say that Guy Callendar's lonely stand -- in the 1930's -- against the prevailing scientific consensus at the time was climate science's "Galileo moment." As extensive research in the 40's, 50's and 60's produced more data, other scientists gradually came around and a new consensus formed.

In any event, the main thing that distinguished Galileo from the Church -- and, today, climate scientists from the skeptics -- is empiricism. Galileo drew conclusions from actual observations rather than starting with a priori truths (drawn the bible, the Greeks, etc.).

Today's climate scientists, following in Galileo's path, simply follow the evidence wherever it leads. Most climate skeptics, like the Church, seem to start with a pre-drawn conclusion -- "human-caused warming must be false, because we hate the solutions" -- then search for evidence to build their case.
byTom Smerling, July 18, 2011
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
If you haven't given birth you can't be pregnant!
You could carry it even further, pointing out that in both cases there's a time lag. . . between cause and effect!