Friday, December 29, 2006

Forsythias in Bloom

Sell the kids for food
Weather changes mood
Spring is here again…

—Nirvana, “In Bloom”

Spring is here again, at least in one small corner of New England: our forsythia is, as Nirvana sang, in bloom.

I am not making that up.

Just yesterday an odd, misplaced flicker of yellow in an otherwise brown and bare back yard caught my eye. Upon further inspection I discovered half a dozen flowers blooming on the tip of a few slender branches of the forsythia, something I've never seen before March, at the very least.

Forsythia, as any gardener knows, is a harbinger of spring—not New Year’s Eve. It’s even defined that way in the gardening texts:

a shrub belonging to the genus Forsythia, of the olive family, native to China and southeastern Europe, species of which are cultivated for their showy yellow flowers, which blossom on the bare branches in early spring.

I knew it had been a mild winter, but not that mild.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration is finally acknowledging that global warming is, in fact, here and now, by proposing to add polar bears to the list of threatened species. Said our Secretary of the Interior, “the polar bear’s habitat may literally be melting.”

It’s about time somebody charged with our land resources figured this out—too late though it may be to benefit anybody, let alone the polar bears.

In “So, What if the Browns are Wrong?” this past August I raised the point that even the Wall Street Journal, whose editorial page is routinely filled with anti-Green rants, had carried the following headline as far back as December 2005:

“Is Global Warming Killing the Polar Bears?”

Putting polar bears on a mere list will, of course, do nothing to stem their demise. We will dither, and we will debate, and with every cold spell that hits some part of the country the Browns will scoff—all science aside—at the notion that 600 million cars, hundreds of thousands of factories and millions of trucks have anything to do with it.

Yet in the meantime, the forsythia have, for now at least, been fooled into thinking spring is coming.

For they are in bloom. In southern New England. In December.

Jeff Matthews
I Am Not Making This Up

© 2006 Jeff Matthews

The content contained in this blog represents the opinions of Mr. Matthews. Mr. Matthews also acts as an advisor and clients advised by Mr. Matthews may hold either long or short positions in securities of various companies discussed in the blog based upon Mr. Matthews' recommendations. This commentary in no way constitutes a solicitation of business or investment advice. It is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader, and the author.


A said...

Jeff, in Northern New England, too! And there are new green leaves on some shrubs, and in Moscow there was no snow all December, which is about as unusual as having snow in New York in July.
Small Investor Chronicles

buckeye1 said...

The end is clearly near, with Stephen Hawking validating that point. I just hope Jeff Bezos can save the human race by colonizing space. Of course we'll probably find a way to destroy the Universe as well.

Its_strange said...

Imagine how confused the insects are ?

whydibuy said...

Here in Michigan, the first 10 days of January are predicted to be in the low 40's. I love it. If this is global warming, bring it on. Those on the coasts of the Great Lakes won't like it since it'll cause a continuing drop in water depth causing the shoreline to move out into the lake. No winter freeze to stop evaporation and buildup a mass of snow to replentish 'em. Mother nature just cycling warm eras and cold eras throughout history. On the good side, warmer weather is alot better for plants than cold and thus food production will continue to be abundant. Furthermore, historians have shown that after the mini ice age that hit the Earth about 500 years ago when the temps mysteriously dropped and the flue ( chinmey ) was invented to draft harmful fumes from homes, economic, social and scientific advances surged since people were not as house bound as they had been. Conclusion, wamer periods are good for human interaction with ideas, knowledge, travel and food production. So stop the gloom and doom and show the positives of this warm cycle era happening now. Nevada was once a huge lake as proven by the fish fossils found there. Now its a desert. Should we be all hysterical about that change? Scientist have discovered microrganisms that layer the bottom of the oceans. Certain varieties like cold times and others like warm times presenting a fossil thermometer. Cores drilled from the bottoms show that this planet has cycled many times up and down in temperature over hundreds of thousands of years. IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH HUMANS.

Jeff Matthews said...

No, of course it has nothing to do with humans: 600 million cars--how could they possibly influence the evaporating Great Lakes and the melting Arctic ice cap?

Trent said...

Meanwhile there are blizzards in Colorado, which no more disprove global warming than your forsythias offer evidence in support.

Like the stock market, weather has been known to fluctuate.

Ryan said...


You attribute global warming, at least in part, on human activity.

Fair enough.

What's your explanation (scientific or otherwise) for temperatures dropping from roughly 1945 to 1975?


Opinion Guy said...

The earth warms and cools typically in 1,500 year cycles (give or take 500 years). This has been verified by ice core samplings at various locations throughout the earth.

It is human hubris to believe that we can impact the earth so dramatically. Do you know the largest contributor to CO2 gases is cow flatuation? How do we stop that?

I fear the hysterical conclusion that we are doomed by the same guys who gave us "Global Cooling", Death by Killer Bees, Thomas Multhus' extinction by starvation and disease, must I go on.

What I really fear is Senators like Snowe and Rockefeller who have threatened Exxon if they do not discontinue debating and funding opposition to their belief that global warming is manmade. If the facts are in their favor, why threaten opposition?

This is a direct afront to free speach is is more frightening than a few flowers in January.

supplysider said...

C'mon, you are all too smart to be seriously suggesting that one warm winter provides ANYTHING AT ALL in terms of evidence of possible climate change. I seem to recall last winter was pretty chilly here in the NY area.

Jeff, as for your sarcastic query as to how 600 million cars could possiby influence the climate I'll quote the late Jude Wanniski who liked to remind readers that "the earth is big. We are small." Its true, the earth is LIKE HUGE, MAN. Maybe 600 million cars simply isn't that many.

At any rate, its long been a fact disregarded by the Greenies that COW FLATULENCE is a MORE SERIOUS contributor to any possible "greehouse effect" than automobiles. And I suspect cows have been around and farting a lot longer than we've been driving cars. Cows produce metahne of course, which the UN describes as "23 times more 'warming' than carbon dioxide."

Metroplexual said...

I have mostly lived in the NYC metro area in my life of 40+ years, and the only time I remember a fall and winter like this is when I lived in Atlanta.

Red said...

Yup, it's really warm here in Chicago too.

Nirvana = my favorite band. Glad you have good taste too.

Chips Whitesugar said...

Unfortunately, the "solutions" the politicians are coming up with involve
new and creative means of taxation, most of which will have no environmental effect other than increasing the size of government coffers. Investment in any real solution is the last thing that the powers that be want to happen.

Brad Meikle said...

I think the key issue to focus on is CO2 levels, not just the temperature. How about the data recently presented which suggests CO2 levels are significantly above the range of the last 800 years, going parabolic at the moment.

The only scientists who doubt the validity of these trends are the ones being paid by Exxon, Chevron, BP...

Rubin made a good point about this debate. The downside of being wrong is so immense (no more life as we know it), isnt it reasonable to err on the side of caution and conservatism? The profits from the oil business are so addicting that they dont want to do anything to jeopardize them. Moreover, a portion of the profits are channeled to lobbyist groups and pr firms to shape policy and public opinion.

We seem to be moving into an era where there will be an actual negative value placed on companies for the amount that they polute. The only way to drive changes is to create disincentives. The EU and particularly the Nordics are leading the charge in this respect, and as the data becomes more convincing it seems the world will follow.

If the dems win the presidency in 08 the public policy towards green energy could change drastically in the US and set up great investment opportunities in alt energy.

Robert Baer wrote three books on this topic recently, one of which was the book that Syriana was loosely based on. Id highly recommend them, as well as Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins.

thepartnerspeaks said...

I think there is something to this global warming threat. The AP ran the following story just this week:

A giant ice shelf the size of 11,000 football fields has snapped free from Canada's Arctic, scientists said. The mass of ice broke clear 16 months ago from the coast of Ellesmere Island, about 497 miles south of the North Pole, but no one was present to see it in Canada's remote north. Scientists using satellite images later noticed that it became a newly formed ice island in just an hour and left a trail of icy boulders floating in its wake.

Here's the full version:

cargocultinvestor said...

From the EPA :

Please read. If you read it and can comprehend what you read, you will not make stupid comments like cows cause more greenhouse warming than burning fuels. In addition, if you do, and read a few of the other publications on this website, you will be about as knowledgeable about the subject as a college freshman taking an introductory ecology class. Continue to study the subject for another 8-10 years and you will qualify as an informed source worth listening to. Do you think that the climatologists lack your insights that “weather varies”, that “the climate goes through cycles”? Do you think that they ended up in climatology because they weren’t smart enough to trade stocks like all you really smart people do?

Jeff was a little glib on a very complicated subject, but he is echoing the opinion of the vast majority of people who actually know what they’re talking about. That is that human activity is significantly affecting the climate.

Ryan said...

The EPA study relates to the U.S. which produces copious amounts of CO2, yet is home to roughly 10% of the cattle population worldwide.

It should be noted that the increase in cattle population can also be attributed to mankind. So, it's essentially splitting hairs to divy up what source means more to the debate.

Its_strange said...

And to think this "debate" is really about keeping up with the Jones...2 cars ? Nope, I have 3 and my cars go 200 miles a hour . And this way i get to my vacation home with 5 bedrooms....which i keep at a 68 degrees...blah , blah , blah ....CNBC, blah , blah , blah...Donald Trump just can't help but compare what he has to what you have...He is a prisoner of what other people think. Something seriously wrong out there

PrivateInvestor said...

"human activity is significantly affecting the climate."

-- Surely the question is, so what? Not to be glib, but why not explore where this will take us?

David Corna said...

Jeff, I always enjoy the classic irreverence of your writings. It is the softer touch of a cynic. I am, however, perplexed with Bad Science and its associated logical fallacies that have arisen in regard to the hypothesis of global warming. I remember from student days, that the causality of florescence in angiosperms is the result of the length of the night or the amount of time the plant is exposed to light each day. This is why you will see a crocus bloom in the snow. Your forsythia was most likely fooled by an untimely full moon. The flower nurseries that cause roses to bloom throughout the year will control the amount of time the plant is exposed to light in order to cause it to bloom. The utilization of the classic "Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc" logical fallacy is not an article of the scientific method. Attributing the incorrect causality to a natural phenomenon is a common error of inductive reasoning? The same logical fallacy is the reason for many a loss in the stock market. The hypothesis of global warming is only a hypothesis not a theory according to the scientific method. Before we claim global warming is a theory, we have to establish scientific causality and coherence in order to satisfy the scientific method. Your implied causality for the forsythia blossoms cannot be repeated in a laboratory under your stated conditions, because it is a well established scientific and horticultural fact that daily exposure to light is the cause if florescence. The global warming question is as complex as chaos theory and we must fully understand all the variables and the consequences before we rush to judgment.

David Corna, a concerned Democrat

The Unknown Broker said...

I feel that I simply must do something to help in the alleviation of this critical situation.

I can't stop driving - it's my God-given right as an American to motor around for purposes of business, domestic need, entertainment, boredom alleviation, and poor errand planning.

I can't stop heating my house to toasty comfort in the winter nor cooling it to beer mug chilling levels in the summer. I'm elderly and my poor old body deserves the comfort. (Not to mention that it's just too darned much trouble to turn all of those lights off and not have a TV and radio and computer and and DVD player and a Tivo and an Ion Breeze in every room, and a sub-zero freezer, and and countless other pieces of current sucking gadgetry. There is nothing I can do about that.

What is an aged, already-consuming-just-as-little-energy-as-possible chap to do?

I am going to eat more beef. Oh, my cardiogist might frown and PETA might shudder. But I'm a bigger picture, self-sacrificing guy. If those darned wind-breaking cows are the problem, let's just show 'em what's what. Beef - it's not just what's for dinner, it's what every right-thinking, cares-about-the-future person will eat for breakfast and lunch as well. (And let's not forget those jerky packets for pockets and desks.)

And pigs? I haven't yet heard any specific mention that your gassy fat selves are in league with the bovines on this, but I passed by a pig farm once and it was mightily stinky. So just to be on the safe side, I'm thinking I need to eat more of you too.

Desperate times call for desperate actions.

That's me - I just give, give, give and never take.