Friday, December 18, 2009

Inconvenient Facts:

In response to an earlier post, here, a friend assured me that Lord Christopher Monckton was a fool, to which I responded that he might be and that so might I be, but he seemed to have given the kind of attention to the fashionable global warming alarms that few others have. Here he is again at the global warming -- aka, climate change -- conference in Copenhagen:



Now that we have announced that the U.S. will donate 100 billion dollars to the cause of easing the effects of global warming -- the money going often enough and coincidentally enough to the global warming crusaders and to regimes whose history of political corruption is less than inspiring -- why be bothered with facts?

26 comments:

Gordon said...

What if Lord Monckton had managed to breach their entourage and ask these questions of any of our political and media elite, of Nancy Pelosi, Chris Matthews, Obama, Katie Couric, Frank Rich, Keith Olbermann? Who would be the fool then?

Al Gore might answer them, but not without lying.

Dean said...

Gil,

Indeed. Why be bothered by facts. You aren't. In order to be bothered by them, you first have to be exposed to them. Here are five video presentations, each in digestible 7-9 minute bites. I hope you will watch them. I'll be happy to keep posting them and addressing this issue until you do.

Sea Rise
Birth of a crock
Debunking the debunkers
Arctic sea ice update
Global warming or cooling?

Dave Evans said...

Monckton - a rightwinger too extreme for even Beck cannot be taken seriously by anyone with a memory. Remember how he claimed that Copenhagen was a way of ushering in a global government. Anyone who has watched any of the news to do with the chaos of Copenhagen cannot even remotely take such claims seriously.

Gil Bailie said...

If Monckton's calculations are dubious because he's a "right-winger," what does that tell us about the scientific debate?

Dave Evans said...

Gil - I sm going to presume that comment was aimed at me. His predictions are wrong because they could plainly never have happened. He predicted a one world government because he had seen the document but of course as everyone knew he hadn't seen it because we all knew it would go through many drafts before anything was signed. To mention just one absurdity.

Scientists would not dismiss something because it came from a right winger. But they might dismiss it if it came from a particularly ill-informed right winger who didn't understand basic science. My point was that he is such an extreme ideologue that it distorts his reasoning. Ideologues of the extreme left can also have this blindness - obviously.

Am really not clear how you came to your conclusions from what has been written.

Doughlas Remy said...

Gil, Dave described Monckton not just as a “right-winger,” but as “a right-winger too extreme for even Beck.” So Monckton’s “calculations” are dubious because he is an extreme right-winger. Extreme right-wingers like Monckton don’t have much use for evidence, except when they can distort it to serve their purposes. Note that Monckton once served as the assistant editor of a British tabloid magazine, “Today.” What does that say about his commitment to the truth? Tabloids are famous for printing doctored photos without identifying them as such. I notice that you have still not removed your doctored photo of Obama embracing Ahmadinejad. Have you been studying Monckton's techniques?

Monckton has been a politician, a business consultant, a policy advisor, a writer, a columnist, an inventor, and a hereditary peer. Very impressive. But nowhere do I see the word “scientist.” In fact, he has no training whatsoever in science.

When you debunk AGW, why don’t you cite the consensus views of some major scientific organization such as the U.S. Geological Survey or the IPCC or NOAA or the National Academy? Why on earth are you citing a politician who has no training in science and who has served as editor of a tabloid magazine? Monckton has no scientific credibility, and neither will you if you rely only on him for your information about AGW.

Gordon said...

Dean,

I got through most of those videos you linked. I’d heard about them; Peter Sinclair’s “Climate Crock of the Week” is popular entertainment among AGW skeptics. But it was more than I imagined (I’ll never forget the part where he cuts through the deniers’ subterfuge by Googling “Medieval Warming” -- science is so much easier than I thought).

All I can say is, why don’t take the links over to something like the “Watts Up with That?” blog. Despite the whimsical title, it’s overrun from posts to comboxes with scientists, engineers, and mathematicians. Good ones.

But not good enough. Go “bother them with the facts.” Be specific and condescending. Make sure to tell them you’re not leaving until they take you seriously. They would be oh so happy learn those "facts" you can't seem to communicate to those of us who lack true enlightenment. Do it now, the planet depends on it.

Gordon said...

Doughlas,

What exactly is “an extreme right-winger”? Give me a few examples, and maybe contrast them with just “right wing.”

In any case, I don’t have to tell you that to say Monckton’s “‘calculations’ are dubious because he is an extreme right-winger” is classic ad hominem. 2+2=4 no matter who says it.

Also, for the British “tabloid” refers to a compressed, niche paper (contrasted to the “broadsheets” like the Times). “Today” was an attempt at a British version of “USA Today.” Not the National Enquirer. Before chastising Gil for using a “tabloid” editor, do your homework.

I already supplied you with a sample of members and former members of the IPCC and NOAA who have dissented from what you call “the consensus.” Do you just see it a matter of majority rule in science? Should the Steady State Deniers (ie, Big Bang enthusiasts) have just shut up and accepted the settled science of an eternal universe? And remember the Big Bang started with a priest so it must be nearly Creationist.

I don’t think either of us knows how much Monckton knows about science. Will Happer from Princeton can carry some weight when he says that “the alarm over CO2 is mistaken” because of degrees, awards, and peer-reviews articles. But any of us can enter the public square and make an argument. Ultimately, it’s all about the truth of the thing.

Doughlas Remy said...

Gil, I wonder if you saw the Reuters story from earlier in the week (12/15/09) about Pope Benedict’s call for the industrialized nations to recognize their responsibility for the present ecological crisis, including climate change?

Do you think that the Vatican’s plans to become the first carbon-neutral state are misguided?

The story is easy enough to find, but I’ll send you a link if you’re interested.

I have read that Lord Monckton is Catholic. Do you think we might see him change direction about this now?

Doughlas Remy
http://thebentangle.wordpress.com/

Dean said...

Gordon,
It's an honor to bask in your scorn. Merry Christmas to you, too! As a principle member of the vast left wing, cloud sniffing, tree hugging, panda kissing conspiracy conceived specifically to force you into spending money and resources to save a world that doesn't need fixing, and to do so with a theological fervor that borders on misplaced cultic idol worship, I feel honored by your ridicule.

But let's not get the steps out of order. On the road to being taken seriously is first being listened to. As the old saw goes, "get your facts first, then you can distort them as much as you please". I've seen no evidence that anything Doughlas Remy, Dave Evans, Cheryl Maslow, Lloyd Davis or Kevin have said over the last couple of years has made the slightest impact on Gil Bailie's position. We have quoted an endless series of sources, articles and links to peer reviewed scientific organizations to back up our claims. It's not a question of "We're right! We won! You're an idiot!" It's more along the lines of "We're right, we all lose, let's change the course we're on while we still can, and get on the same page."

We all make value judgments about the quality of our sources, but with the caveat that you have to first look at them and evaluate the data before dismissing them outright. It's interesting that Peter Sinclair, whom you seem to dismiss because he had the effrontery to merely Google something, has actually made a concerted effort time after time to track down reliable information from multiple sources both on and off the internet. Sinclair has himself discredited Anthony Watts who runs the site you recommend as a bastion of "good" science. Who to believe? That depends on whether you're scrutinizing someone engaged in legitimate science, or looking at those who merely act as advocates and shills for corporate money and tobacco lobbyists like the Heartland Institute that financed the publishing of Watt's book on U.S. surface temperatures, which NOAA discredits. Here's what Sinclair says about him. Also notice if you will, that Watts has been a frequent guest on Glenn Beck's program. What better way to assassinate your own character then by agreeing to be interviewed by this sterling example of sane and rational judgment and keen insight who calls Obama a racist, and defends the founding father's decision to count African Americans as "three fifths of a person." Anyone whose so called scientific agenda is so transparently driven deserves to be discredited outright, or at the very least severely curtailed by an appeal to reality.

In your recent engagement with Doughlas in the Vaclav Klaus thread, the lion's share of one of your AGW rebuttals offered William Happer as a credible candidate. The esteemed Mr. William Happer is a trustee of The George C. Marshall institute, a conservative D.C. lobby funded by Exxon-Mobil and The American Petroleum Institute. Need I say more? It has been described by the Union of Concerned Scientists as a "clearinghouse for global warming contrarians" and by Newsweek as a "central cog in the denial machine." Historian Naomi Oreskes states that the institute has, in order to resist and delay regulation, lobbied politically to create a false public perception of scientific uncertainty over the negative effects of second-hand smoke, the carcinogenic nature of tobacco smoking, and on the evidence between CFCs and ozone depletion. Sounds a lot like Anthony Watts. There couldn't be a good reason for Gore bumping him, could there?

Gordon said...

Doughlas,

We're in an ecological crisis. The question is whether the addition of more plant food to the atmosphere the big problem, or simply something that many governments have realized they can tax, and big business and Wall Street realizes it can prosper from.

When the Pope calls you to take responsibility that includes being more intellectual rigorous, not less.

Doughlas Remy said...

Gordon, several months ago, blogger Mike O’Malley seemed shocked that any serious researcher would stoop to using Wikipedia. This was in response to my citing information from it to counter one of his claims. About a month later, he must have forgotten himself, because he cited three or four Wikipedia articles in succession.

What search engines and other research portals do you use? Wikipedia, of course, is a “portal” for research, i.e., it directs the readers in a variety of directions where they can then “drill down” for more detailed information. Google is also a portal, but of a different kind. If you don’t use Google, what search engine do you use? Yahoo? How do you get the link for the NOAA without using a search engine? I don’t see anything at all strange about Peter Singer’s doing a Google search in his video. Do you have any more substantive critiques of the video? In fact, I saw nothing substantive in your response to Dean. Did you disagree with any of the evidence presented in the videos?

“Today” was in fact a tabloid, not a broadsheet, and it was embroiled in more than one controversy regarding misuse or mislabeling of photos, according to information I gleaned from Wiki. If it was a cut above “The National Enquirer,” then I would encourage Gil to emulate it, not the “National Enquirer.” Using doctored photos of prominent political figures without identifying them as such is a practice that is condemned by watchdog organizations such as the Center for Public Integrity.

I haven’t studied your list of former IPCC and NOAA dissenters yet. Have you yourself done your homework? Have you fully investigated each of the quotations you supplied and do you stand by them? Are you sure that none of the scientists is associated with the “Manufactured Doubt” industry that I told you about earlier—e.g., the think tanks like George C. Marshall Institute? Is any of them associated with the oil, gas, or coal industries? Might there be any “conflicts of interest” involving Catholicism and population control or Fundamentalist end-times theologies? Are the quotations recent (e.g., last ten years)? Were they quoted in context? Is there any chance that they were misquoted, as you saw Mojib Latif misquoted in one of Peter Singer’s videos? I am asking all this because you cited Steve McIntyre of ClimateAudit.org in one of your earlier comments, and McIntyre had a long career in the fossil fuel (mining) industry in Canada.

Concerning extreme right-wingers, Dave did not say that extreme right-wingers are mistaken about everything but only that they should not be taken seriously. Indeed, how can we ever again take them seriously after what we witnessed this year—the wild and unsubstantiated “birther” and “deather” claims, among others? When the same person is insisting that Obama was not born in this country and that AGW is a hoax, what are we to conclude about that person’s standards for judging the truth? I said that Moncker’s calculations were dubious, not that his every statement is untrue. But we are not talking about 2+2 here. We are talking about issues that may involve a radical reordering of our economies and our society. The stakes are very high and the vested interests are acutely aware of them.

I believe that when every major scientific organization in the world has declared AGW to be a reality, then we need to take them seriously. And then we need to carefully scrutinize the findings and conclusions of any individual scientists who disagree with those opinions and ask the kinds of questions I asked just above—about possible conflicts of interest, quotations out of context, etc. Consensus does count for something, unless you’re either a committed contrarian or you’re simply in denial.

Doughlas Remy said...

Gordon,

The Pope’s words were pretty clear to me. He was calling for action. He said that “technologically advanced societies must be prepared to encourage more sober lifestyles, while reducing their energy consumption and improving its efficiency.”

Do you suppose he is part of the big government conspiracy?

Doughlas Remy
http://thebentangle.wordpress.com/

Doughlas Remy said...

Gordon, I just read Dean’s most recent comment after submitting my own most recent one. Astonishing, isn’t it? And how timely! I was just asking you about the credibility of your sources, and here Dean has answered the question for me. Were you aware of these connections, e.g., between William Happer and the George C. Marshall Institute, which is funded by Exxon-Mobil and the American Petroleum Institute?

Were you aware of Watts’s connection with the Heartland Institute? I hope you viewed the video about this that Dean linked to. What did you think of it?

Did you think I was just making up what I said about the “Manufactured Doubt” industry in our discussion following the “The Media is the Massage” post of 12/1? It appears to be very well-documented and very real. Big oil and coal have been very busy, and they’ve flooded the Internet with misinformation and managed to convince a lot of people that AGW is a hoax.

The Pope no longer believes AGW is a hoax. Do you?

Doughlas Remy
http://thebentangle.wordpress.com

Gordon said...

Dean,

You’d know it if you were getting my scorn. In any case, I’m trying to get your attention not insult you. I abhor rudeness and only risk it when I think you’re being disrespectful to someone who doesn’t deserve it. That’s Gil, not me. You seem to ignore the possibility that someone could listen to everything you say and walk away unpersuaded. And that’s what I’m taking umbrage at. (BTW, I’m not worried about you forcing me to spend “money and resources to save a world that doesn't need fixing,” since I’ve already burned through most of my money -- actually my retirement savings -- to move home and take care of my mother, since I promised her she wouldn’t die in a nursing home. So save your “heartless capitalist” cliches for someone else).

And I didn’t dismiss Sinclair because he Googled something, I dismissed him for suggesting that his opponent’s position is wrong because any idiot could Google and find the right answer (And Google sorts out right answers from wrong? ). This is the fallacy called Appeal to Ridicule. And I simply returned the favor.

Dean, I wasn’t “rebutting AGW” in citing Happer. I was rebutting the suggestion that all scientifically literate people consider significant AGW settled science. I made the point separately drawing attention to the hundreds of first-rate scientists who dissent from the AGW orthodoxy.

And swatting away every unassailably qualified scientist (from Lindzen to Happer) with “he’s a shil for big oil” is not the way to argue this. While I lead a life of voluntary poverty now, I once traded stocks for a living and can tell you that the idea that AGW are the idealistic scientists opposed by the oil funded sell-outs doesn’t work in the real world. That’s the place where GE’s spends more money lobbying for Global Warming money in one year than Exxon has spent on conservative think tanks (in which AGW is a minor issue) in the last 20 years. No matter how many evil conservatives you find under the rug, they’ll never put up a fraction of the tens of billions that the government and big business and charitable foundations have invested in AGW. Circumstantial ad Hominem is not your friend in this scenario.

Nor did I tell you to go to Watts’ site to discredit Sinclair. I said throw your ideas out in a forum that is directly concerned with them rather than browbeating someone who has made a rational decision to go in another direction. See, as much as we could argue about tree proxies and core samples all day, on this blog it’s more about how Global Warming has become a substitute religion, one that shuts down otherwise rational discourse. Perhaps also why the same people who find AGW so appealing are so frequently, but not always, wedded to what JP II called the culture of death.

At the very least, you have to consider the fact that, even if it turns out to have some scientific basis, it’s become a story about sin and redemption, with a molten hell if we do wrong, carbon indulgences to cleanse our sin, etc. Bracket off the scientific aspect and look at the anthropological (as I did when I thought AGW more scientifically credible). That’s what this blog is about.

Dean said...

Gordon,

Thanks, but your insider view of realpolitik from your former life as a trader doesn't really explain why from 1998 to 2005, ExxonMobil directed almost $16 million to a group of 43 lobby groups in an effort to confuse Americans about global warming. After being criticized by the Royal Society in 2006, Exxon promised to end funding to groups questioning climate change. In May 2008, Exxon again issued a public mea culpa and pledged to cut funding to groups that “divert attention” from the need to develop and invest in clean energy. Yet, in 2008, while cutting contributions to the most extreme groups, Exxon still funded the National Center for Policy Analysis, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, all groups which publicly question or deny global warming.

If by idealistic scientists you mean those whose reputations are on the line and at risk for abusing their own professional credibility, then you also know they have the most to lose by being less than vigilant about their findings. This concerns us all. They are well financed because their contributors take it seriously too. That doesn't mean scientists can never be wrong, or even misguided, but it does mean they have a powerful incentive among their peers to check their data carefully before drawing conclusions about its impact, there is too much at stake to blow it. That's why peer review and academic protocols are so essential in the information that filters down to the general public. Having them be aware of how those decisions are made is essential, especially when they're investing heavily in it. When you have a majority of people in the sciences who are in large scale agreement about their findings, it's the nay-sayers who must be scrupulous when challenging them, and whose facts must be under a greater burden of proof. There are certainly scientifically literate people on both sides of this debate, that's not the issue. It's whether the remedial actions we take, which will be expensive both in terms of lifestyle and economics, are founded on a consensus crafted on the best available data, or contradicted by minority opinion, which has been shown, at least in the case of global warming, to have been generated more often than not by misinformation, hidden motives or private agendas in attacking the dominant view.

" Swatting folks from Lindzen to Happer" Whoa! You make it sound like I was knocking cans off a fence. I don't know who Lindzen is. The only scientist I took issue with in your response to Doughlas was William Happer by virtue of his associations with the petroleum industry. One doesn't have to be much of a cynic to see a suspicious connection there. What are his real motives? The "heartless capitalist" remark was certainly not directed at you, and yet you took it personally. Why? We barely know each other. I'm talking about people who drive their own agenda, the lobbyists and special interests and corporations who are trying to continue with business as usual by clouding or obfuscating an issue that requires our serious attention while they worry about their bottom line being impacted.
(continued)

Dean said...

Part II

I am certainly not unsympathetic to those who will be hit hardest by this. It is a frightening prospect for many. But it will not be the wealthy industrialized nations that takes the brunt of the initial damage, as Copenhagen is already discovering. There's a plentiful supply of evil distributed fairly evenly among the population. I'm not convinced that liberals are any freer from temptation per capita than conservatives in that respect. But when we work together, the sum value exceeds its parts in reliable information. People are people. I don't expect to persuade very many, any more than I expect my miniscule efforts at conservation to do much.

I don't accept the idea that global warming is a substitute for religion, or its fickle handmaiden. I don't draw any comfort from disaster scenarios, or the major apocalyptic harbingers of doom and triumph in St. John's Revelation, any more than I like to see scientists having the last word on issues of faith and moral choice. Apparently, the culture of death is equally divided between believers and the poorly convinced. If global warming is real, we'll soon have a much bigger culture of death that will be hard to ignore. If the book of Revelation is real, and not just the ravings of some beloved hermit chewing Jimson weed in a cave, we might get to dovetail our cultures of death into one grand schema. But when it comes to practical, quantitative, measurable data, I expect the scientists to have first dibs on the facts, and leave the incantatory mysticism up to those who can profit most from it. As for global warming becoming an anthropological conflation of metaphysics or an allegory of sin and redemption, hey, whatever floats your boat. We're all fools for Christ sooner or later. I'm opting for sooner. Why do we need a substitute religion to shut down rational discourse, when the genuine article can do such a splendid job all by itself?

Gil praised the comment threads early on by saying he approved of them and was learning from them. He also drove the engine of this debate by both bringing it up and renewing it constantly. He's not shy about expressing his disdain for global warming; I'm not shy about rejecting the ridiculous view that it is a religion for all who have a passion for a different order of truth that can be studied and observed.I'm pressing Gil on this because I know him, and because I think the refusal to even consider an alternative view is best challenged here, rather than preaching to a choir of people who are already convinced.

I would love nothing better than to drop this discussion and will do so the moment Gil stops putting in on the table. I'm thoroughly tired of it. In the meantime, I wish you and your mother well, and it is my sincerest wish that you have a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year, and that you are both blessed in the years to come.

Dean

Gordon said...

Dean,

“I don't know who Lindzen is. The only scientist I took issue with in your response to Doughlas was William Happer by virtue of his associations with the petroleum industry.”

Richard Lindzen is a prof of Climate Sciences at M.I.T. and has been the most prominent skeptic of AGW for many years. William Happer volunteers to be on the unpaid board of directors of a small science focused advocacy group that used to receive an average of $70,000 a year from Exxon. But I attend Mass at a church that received donations from Santos Trafficante; that doesn’t make me a mafia associate.

“There's a plentiful supply of evil distributed fairly evenly among the population. I'm not convinced that liberals are any freer from temptation per capita than conservatives in that respect. But when we work together, the sum value exceeds its parts in reliable information. People are people.”

See, now we’re speaking the same language.

“I don't accept the idea that global warming is a substitute for religion...”

Clearly it isn’t for you, but I would suggest that those would embrace the secularism and/or vague spirituality that pervades our culture are vulnerable to this sort of thing.

I appreciate how you ended that last post. I come from a tradition of lively debate, but if I didn’t listen I wouldn’t have changed my position on most matters of politics, culture, philosophy and religion. I once accepted AGW and got argued out of it, but not without a vigorous defense. You should try to reverse that, and expect the same from me. The truth is, I never changed my position in the midst of a debate. It’s in the afterglow when, even if you won, your own argument ceases to convince you.

In any case, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and happy new year.

Gordon said...

Doughlas,

First, I have no idea what you’re talking about with Google. You’re misreading my post to Dean.

“The Pope no longer believes AGW is a Hoax. Do you?” Is that a joke? I hear the Pope no longer believes in beating up kittens. Do you? Benedict XVI believes God has made man and the universe in such a way that rational investigation, science, is both possible and necessary, so do I. He believes we’re responsible for taking care of the earth using this rational faculty, ditto in spades.

BTW, I think you’re after the truth and I respect that. That’s why I’m going to be mildly confrontational when you insult someone without “doing your homework.” You’re better than that. And that said, I have no particular interest in defending Monckton -- except in his right to be heard. Right or wrong.

“Were you aware of these connections, e.g., between William Happer and the George C. Marshall Institute, which is funded by Exxon-Mobil and the American Petroleum Institute?”

I know Happer is on the board, like astronomer Robert Jastrow and series of other scientists before him. He probably gets his parking validated and a ham sandwich in return (cf. their entire budget below).

The American Petroleum Institute is not a donor. Dean mistranscribed Wikopedia. It should have read “funded by ExxonMobile and CHAIRED by a former official of the American Petroleum Institute.” I’m not objecting to this like I did Sinclair’s misuse. But I suggest multiple sources are in order -- they’re hit or miss on complex issues.

I know it sounds like big money when you hear “conservative think tank” and “oil” in the same sentence, but look at specifics and compare it to the other side:

Greenpeace says the Marshall foundation received $714,000 from Exxon-Mobile between 1998 and 2007. The funding stopped in 2008. Between 1985 and 2006 the Foundation’s total revenues were $7.18 million. Or $342 thousand a year on average. $900k last year, with less than half going to AGW.

From 2000 to 2006, Phil Jones at CRU received $19 million in research grants under his personal supervision from AGW research. Or $2.72 million a year. That’s just Phil.

It’s important to know who funds everybody. Bret Stephens, WSJ: “... The European Commission’s most recent appropriation for Climate Research comes to nearly $3 billion, and that’s not counting funds from the EU’s member governments. In the U.S., the House intends to spend $1.3 billion on NASA’s climate efforts, $400 million on NOAA’s, and another $300 million for the National Science Foundation.... And this is only a fraction of the $94 billion that the HSBC Bank estimates has been spent globally this year on what it calls “green stimulus” -- largely ethanol and other alternative energy schemes -- of the kind from which Al Gore and his partners at Kleiner Perkins hope to profit handsomely.”

It is as logically flawed to deny AGW because it has so much money driving it as to argue that it’s real because somebody pays an advocacy group to oppose it. Money and power create bias, but they don’t invalidate arguments. And hopefully the arguments will get some breathing room in the next few years, now that the political situation is taking the big payday off the table for a while.


“Were you aware of Watts’s connection with the Heartland Institute? I hope you viewed the video about this that Dean linked to. What did you think of it?”

Yes, Yes, and not much.



“Did you think I was just making up what I said about the ‘Manufactured Doubt’ industry in our discussion following the “The Media is the Massage” post of 12/1?”

Yes. Did you read the final post in the series? Please do.

“Big oil and coal ...flooded the Internet with misinformation and managed to convince a lot of people that AGW is a hoax.”

Again, see the last post on the Media is the Massage thread. It's much cheaper to buy politicians than to change the peoples' mind.

Doughlas Remy said...

(Part one)
I have no idea what you’re talking about with Google. You’re misreading my post to Dean.

Gordon, I wasn’t “misreading” your first post to Dean about Google, where you write “I’ll never forget the part where [Sinclair] cuts through the deniers’ subterfuge by Googling ‘Medieval Warming’ –science is so much easier than I thought.” It seems to me that the most reasonable and obvious interpretation of that sentence is that you are ridiculing the idea of using Google for lay research on a scientific topic like AGW. In a later comment to Dean, which I had not yet read, you say that you dismissed Sinclair for suggesting that his opponent’s position is wrong because any idiot could Google and find the right answer. I don’t see that in what you originally wrote, but if you insist that’s what you meant, then of course no one can argue with you.

My question about the Pope is no joke, unless you don’t in fact believe AGW is a hoax. Maybe I have oversimplified your position and should have written, “The Pope is no longer skeptical about AGW. Are you?” Your explanation of the Pope’s words still does not map to what he said. There is more to his statement than the part about taking responsibility for care of the earth. He has said such things before. What is new is the linkage of the environmental crisis to climate change and the linkage of both of these to human activity. So I am asking if you could agree with the Pope that the “industrialized nations must recognize their responsibility for the environmental crisis,” which he breaks down as “climate change, desertification, etc.”

I am only pressing this point because you have twice dodged the most salient parts of the Pope’s speech, which acknowledges the connection between climate change and human responsibility. And I am asking because I am interested in how particular modes of religious belief (e.g., belief in the authority of an archi-prestigious religious leader) can affect one’s certainties, or at the very least one’s stated opinions. I don’t believe anyone is infallible, though I once came close to believing that of Rene Girard. Most Roman Catholics have a prodigious respect for the Pope—some even to the point of considering him infallible—so I will be interested to see what effect his recent pronouncement has on the climate debate among Catholics. Gil may be our local test case, but I’ll also be watching Lord Monckton.

Doughlas Remy said...

(Part two:)
You write, We’re in an ecological crisis. The question is whether the addition of more plant food to the atmosphere [is] the big problem, or simply something that many governments have realized they can tax, and big business and Wall Street realizes it can prosper from.

This is a curious statement. It suggests only two possibilities—(1) that the overwhelming scientific consensus on AGW is right, or (2) that the engines driving that consensus are big government and big business, working in partnership to create wealth from an imagined crisis. Collusions between government and business are nothing new, but you are talking about a collusion between government, Wall Street, and virtually the entire world’s scientific establishment—and a highly covert one into the bargain. Do you really see this as a realistic possibility? I certainly don’t, and I don’t think I’ll waste any time researching it. It is just too improbable.

Scientists may be flawed human beings like the rest of us, but one thing they are almost universally concerned about is their reputation, which can be severely compromised by sloppy or intentionally corrupted research. Scientists, unlike theologians, have objective measures for judging each other’s work, and the peer reviews and academic protocols that Dean mentioned are a powerful bulwark against wholesale co-optation by government and business interests. Soviet science was suspect because the Soviet government was widely recognized to be meddling in it. But that is not the case in the Western liberal democracies.

Obviously, this is not to say that scientists cannot be corrupted. Those who worked with the Heartland Institute to falsify evidence about the effects of smoking are a case in point. But such a large-scale corruption as you suggest seems highly unlikely.

In the paragraph I quoted just above, you confirmed that we are in an ecological crisis. But you apparently question whether AGW is a part of that crisis, and you are not persuaded by Peter Sinclair’s temperature charts, or polar ice melt, or rising sea levels, or any of the other evidence that supports the consensus view. I noticed that you ridiculed Peter Sinclair’s videos without actually refuting any of the claims made in them, and I still sense that you are not looking at the evidence. I asked you what you thought of the video about the weather stations, and you replied, “Not much.” I would be interested in knowing why you didn’t think much of it. One point of that report was that the data were virtually the same from Watts’s 71 cherry-picked weather stations and the 1221 weather stations whose findings he had challenged. Another point was that weather stations are not our only sources of data; NASA has collected 29,000 data sets of natural rhythms for bird migrations, blooming of flowers, spawning of fish, mountain snow melt, stream flows, etc., and 90% of the observed changes were in a direction that would be expected as a response to global warming. As Sinclair said, “Birds, rivers, lakes, fish, and glaciers have no political agenda.”

You seem concerned that climate science has become a substitute religion that shuts down otherwise rational discourse. Rational discourse is always under pressure from the left and the right, but I think it is far from being “shut down.” There is simply a lot of emotion around this debate because the stakes are so high. It’s important to “get it right” because our survival is in the balance.

Gordon said...

Doughlas,

I thought it was a joke because you framed it like the old trick question,“did you quit beating your wife?” It’s a question based on a false premise. Even if you answer “no,” you concede the premise that that you formerly beat your wife.

“The Pope no longer believes AGW is a Hoax. Do you?” Several false premises loaded into one sentence, both explicitly and implicitly: that the Pope has called AGW a hoax, that his recent speech is a change, that disagreeing with a Pope’s scientific judgment is a problem for Catholics.

First, that Benedict labeled AGW a hoax. Simply, no. In December 2007 he said the “dogma of the environmental movement” was obscuring what should be scientific judgments. He didn’t deny climate change (he referred to it as a vital issue in a press release following some unexpected flooding in Europe a few monts earlier) so much as suggest it was being overblown into apocalyptic “fear mongering.” But he was painted as an obscurantist, a denier, by the press.

While the first speech was about Climate Change and said it should be put in perspective, the 2009 speech simply did that: (paragraph 4) “Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions? Can we disregard the growing phenomenon of “environmental refugees”, people who are forced by the degradation of their natural habitat to forsake it – and often their possessions as well – in order to face the dangers and uncertainties of forced displacement? Can we remain impassive in the face of actual and potential conflicts involving access to natural resources? All these are issues with a profound impact on the exercise of human rights, such as the right to life, food, health and development.” There it is, one of the many serious issues that we have to tackle in caring for a common planet. If he’d put a colon after “climate change,” making all that follows a result, I’d question his scientific judgment. But that takes us to the third questionable premise: a Catholic can’t disagree with the Pope.

Explaining Papal Infalliblity is out of my pay grade, so let me quote Benedict: “The Pope is not an oracle; he is infallible in very rare situations, as we know.” Got that. No Pope has ever been considered infallible as a person. He is sitting in the chair of Peter, it’s a role not an intrinsic capacity. That rare instance considered infallible is when he speaks “from the chair” (ex Cathedra), and then it is limited to matters of faith and morals. On occasion authoritative teaching has obvious scientific implications. For example, monogenesis, the idea that all men descend from the same ancestor. The contrary view was popular because, among other things, it allowed to consider some races separately evolved and lower. The Church opposed this long before she was vindicated by genetics.

We are free to hold contrary positions on matters of economics, science, etc. (note: we are “free” to disagree about faith and practice, we just can’t disagree and call ourselves Catholic at the same time), as long as those positions don’t include assumptions of the nature and destiny of man that the faith assumes (i.e., it can’t be racist, or assume men are cogs in an impersonal system).

That said, I take everything the Pope says seriously. He is my pastor and teacher. Even though he doesn’t have authority in science, if he came out and called AGW the most important problem on the planet, I would at the very least re-think my position and read and re-read everything I could find about it. But, in the end, the Pope himself would call this a prudential judgment, one that I must make for myself.

This is obviously a much bigger issue than the space allows.

Gordon said...

Doughlas,

Pt. II


“... you are talking about a collusion between government, Wall Street, and virtually the entire world’s scientific establishment—and a highly covert one into the bargain. Do you really see this as a realistic possibility?”

Go back to Girard and Gil. This is anthropological. Politicians look for scapegoats to create new order. The Progressives of went along with Woodrow Wilson’s war were very conscious that it was for the greater good of creating a new social order. Post Vietnamn Progressives have been looking for the “moral equivalent of war” and found it in AGW. Since all industry is driven by energy, calling the fundamental residue of industry a danger against which we must go to war gives you an excuse to mold and control the whole economy, therefore the nation.

Sometimes things like this come together just because they fit with a natural set of interests. Glove meet hand. That’s the only possible explanation for a figure like Al Gore godfathering its political formation (and I watched him bully the scientists who didn’t agree with him on C-Span in the early 90’s -- it was like watching Tail-gunner Joe McCarthy in his glory days). Gore is many things, genius isn’t one of them.

As to Big Business. It’s the nature of business past it’s prime to look for ways of controlling it’s position -- it’s what Warren Buffett calls “building a moat.” They’re not conspirators so much as parasites. But it’s not all big business -- again, please read the last response to “media is the massage” threat of 12/1. That’s where I list the more entrepreneurial side (though the investment banks are pushing up these tulips) of the AGW business. If Cap and Trade passed they’d be as entrenched as defense contractors.

As to the academy. Read Eisenhower’s whole farewell speech. He warned not only of a military-industrial complex, but a degradation of science because University research was increasingly dominated by government funding. He thought the idea that science stays objective without concerted effort is naive.


“Birds, rivers, lakes, fish, and glaciers have no political agenda.”

But those who interpret them do.

I know you think I’m not being open minded. But I haven’t seen anything new or interesting supporting AGW for years. I watched the Sinclair videos to the end because I feel obligated to in the context of our discussion. But for God’s sake, it’s the same old same old.

Fifteen years ago I considered it accepted science. Over time I came to see it as half-baked, over-hyped science. Now I see it as half-baked, over-hyped science caught up in the spiritual void of the West. And its that social function that interests me now. Unless better science shows up.

Doughlas Remy said...

(Part 1)
Gordon,
At the very least, the Pope’s recent statement urges us not to be “indifferent” or “impassive” in the face of climate change, desertification, pollution, and other “realities” of environmental degradation. He is no longer suggesting that the global warming issue is being “overblown into apocalyptic fear-mongering” (your words describing his 2007 position) or that “scientific judgments” are being obscured by the “dogma of the environmental movement” (your quotations from the 2007 statement). So the most recent (12/09) statement does in fact represent a significant shift from skepticism toward grave concern about the climate crisis. My earlier use of the word “hoax” in connection with the Pope’s 2007 opinion of AGW was a close approximation of his actual position as you have reported it. So my question was not similar to the old trick question that you cite, because (1) the Pope’s earlier position was approximately as I described it, and (2) his recent speech does represent a change. The third “false premise” that you claim to have found—that disagreeing with Pope’s scientific judgment is a problem for Catholics—was not in fact my premise. Note the question tag after “The Pope no longer believes...” (“Do you?) This is a question about your own view of the Pope’s authority on this issue. Both you and I know that many Catholics would accept that authority without question.

The Pope is not a scientist, so we should not be surprised that he does not rank these aspects of the environmental crisis or identify causal links between them. Desertification, for example, is both a cause and an effect of global warming, and tropical deforestation is a cause. Putting a colon after “climate change” and listing all the other environmental issues after it would have been highly misleading. But it would also be misleading to suggest that these are all separate issues with equal weighting. Deforestation is a matter of serious concern not only because it reduces biodiversity but also because it removes vast areas of vegetation that would otherwise absorb CO2. When we begin to address the encroachment of sea water on crop land in Florida and Bangladesh, we have to ask why it is happening and how it can be stopped. These questions cannot be answered without looking to the science of climate change. It should be obvious that the term “environmental crisis,” as Benedict uses it, encompasses climate change, pollution, etc. But it should also be obvious to anyone familiar with climate science that the term “climate change” encompasses several of the other concerns that Benedict raises, even if he himself does not make this clear.

Doughlas Remy said...

(Part 2)
To address your remarks about the anthropological aspects: I have no doubt that the politics around climate change will be extremely fraught and that there will be profiteering, misdirection of resources, and all the rest. I do not feel optimistic about humanity’s ability to protect the earth from calamity, and I dread the social disruptions that are going to occur. In the pressure cooker of climate change, our current cultural dysfunctions will only worsen. That is a given, in my view, and it is just one more reason why this catastrophe must be averted.

But there is no evidence that the catastrophe has been fabricated. Eisenhower was correct in identifying the danger that science might be degraded by government or corporate influence, but there is simply no evidence that the worldwide scientific consensus on global warming is the result of such a process. What he was describing has certainly happened any number of times, but on a vastly smaller scale than what we are talking about here. Any conspiracy that could enlist the cooperation of virtually every major geophysical, atmospheric, and meterological organization in the world (e.g., the American Geophysical Union, an international non-profit with over 50,000 members), as well as every major umbrella science organization (e.g., the American Association for the Advancement of Science, also a non-profit, with 127,000 members) would be diabolically powerful, and I don’t see that as a possibility.

The banks and the corporations and the military will do with this what they will do. That is not my concern in this discussion. My interest is to show that the science behind AGW is sound and that action is urgently needed. Once we have agreed on that, we can deal with the moneyed interests that will want to exploit the crisis.

I was surprised to hear you say you hadn’t seen anything new or interesting supporting AGW for years. So much new evidence is pouring forth now, and Peter Sinclair’s videos are fresh and up-to-date. I don’t understand why you thought they were just more of the “same old same old.” I pulled out some of the relevant charts and posted them on my own blog site. You can view them here. I also listed a few of the major scientific organizations that have weighed in on climate change, with some information about their membership and their funding. You can find that here.

I don’t hope to convince you about this. I am mainly interested in adding my voice to the discussions that have been going on for some time on Gil’s site, and I also want to judge for myself the quality of the discussions and understand what accounts for the differences in our points of view. The information you have provided has been very helpful.

Doughlas Remy
http://thebentangle.wordpress.com/

Gordon said...

Doughlas,

Thank you for your thoughtful reply. And indeed I appreciate very much your willingness to engage in vigorous debate. I can only promise to listen. That never happens in the heat of argument; instead, it’s in the quiet moments afterward. There were times I thought I won the argument but ended up changing my mind because the other fellow was really closer to the truth.

The difference in this debate is the presence of a possible "existential threat." But it goes both ways: ignoring real AGW could kill millions, but so will shutting down the world economy. So let's hope the truth wins out, whether or not you or I ever figure it out.

Be well and have a Happy New Year