Startling news on the climate change front: The climate is changing, yes, but so is the way of getting the word out to those who don't go outdoors much.
It seems that a retired billionaire investor is making plans to spend as much as $100 million on attack ads during the 2014 election season, seeking to pressure politicians of various stripes to enact climate change legislation.
Or so says The New York Times, which identifies nature's benefactor as Tom Steyer, a Democrat and founder of one of the world's most successful hedge funds.
This month, he reportedly gathered two dozen rich, environmentally minded folks to his ranch in Pescadero, Calif., where prime grass-fed beef are raised, to seek their financial contributions for a campaign described as "hard edge."
Some critics will seize on the fact that cattle are notoriously flatulent, thus contributing to methane gas in the global atmosphere as well as making life uncomfortable for the poor cowboys downwind. Indeed, some naturalists believe that "moo" is a cow expression meaning, "Sorry, I stepped on a frog."
But I don't think the world needs to be free from cattle in order to be saved, if sensible choices are made in finding alternative energy supplies. Besides, are cattle any more flatulent than politicians? I think not. Certainly, there is plenty of bull in Congress.
The report of hard-edged attack ads is what concerns me. I am not one for ads with any kind of a political message.
When I sit down in front of the TV, it is be entertained. It is not to be lectured by groups with unlikely names -- Americans for Better Mannered Cattle, say -- who are funded by who-knows-who to further an agenda of who-knows-what.
Of course, a person like myself would not be the target of ads taking legislators to task for doing nothing on climate change. I am not a lawmaker (we are all blessed) and I believe in climate change because I must regularly shovel my driveway in a region that has received much more snow than usual this year.
Even as I shovel, California is in the grip of a terrible drought, while in England storms have brought devastating floods that have caused cases of mold on stiff upper lips as they form the desperate words, "I say, it is horridly wet today."
In Australia, where it is summer, the weather recently was so hot that thousands of bats fell from the sky. (Apparently they couldn't fly and fan themselves at the same time.) At the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, antiperspirants had to be put on the tennis balls so they wouldn't sweat. (The players were on their own.)
I exaggerate somewhat, but there is a popping kernel of truth in these observations. As even Little Nellie and her dog know, extreme weather is the new normal now.
Unfortunately, many Americans were away the day the teacher taught the difference between weather and climate. They see more snow outside, they think the whole world is getting colder. They don't understand that extreme weather -- hot or cold -- is one of the predicted symptoms of climate change, even as the greenhouse world grows hotter.
This is what the scientific community gets for calling it global warming for years -- true enough but a hard PR sell for someone with icicles up his nose. Still, there are worse things than having poor PR skills. Unfortunately, scientists are accused of those things, too.
Why do climate-deniers hate and mistrust scientists so much? My theory (unscientific) is that someone in a white coat gave the deniers a shot when they were young after saying, "This may hurt a little" -- and then it hurt a lot.
Whatever it was, I seriously wonder if hard-core deniers will ever be moved by an ad campaign -- hard-edged or otherwise -- to see the evidence of their own eyes without their ideological blinkers on.
I don't like to second-guess a billionaire, but if I had millions to spend I'd just a hire a team of large people to go out and start hitting deniers over the head with two-by-fours (don't worry, no chance of hurting their brains) until they realize something is happening.
Instead, the job will be left to hard-edged Mother Nature, who will try to get their attention with hundred-year hurricanes, droughts, blizzards, floods, snowfalls, heat waves and, with luck, a biblical plague of boils. That might do it if nothing else will.
Reg Henry is deputy editorial-page editor for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Email, email@example.com.
By REG HENRY