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Climate Summit gets underway at Copenhagen

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The Climate-Change Travesty

By George Will

 

WASHINGTON -- With 20,000 delegates, advocates and journalists jetting to Copenhagen for planet Earth's last chance, the carbon footprint of the global warming summit will be the only impressive consequence of the climate change meeting. Its organizers had hoped it would produce binding caps on emissions, global taxation to redistribute trillions of dollars, and micromanagement of everyone's choices.

 

China, nimble at the politics of pretending that is characteristic of climate change theater, promises only to reduce its "carbon intensity" -- carbon emissions per unit of production. So China's emissions will rise.

 

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Barack Obama, understanding the histrionics required in climate change debates, promises that U.S. emissions in 2050 will be 83 percent below 2005 levels. If so, 2050 emissions will equal those in 1910, when there were 92 million Americans. But there will be 420 million in 2050, so Obama's promise means that per capita emissions then will be about what they were in 1875. That. Will. Not. Happen.

 

Disclosure of e-mails and documents from the Climate Research Unit in Britain -- a collaborator with the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- reveals some scientists' willingness to suppress or massage data and rig the peer review process and the publication of scholarly work. The CRU materials also reveal paranoia on the part of scientists who believe that in trying to engineer "consensus" and alarm about warming, they are a brave and embattled minority. Actually, never in peacetime history has the government-media-academic complex been in such sustained propagandistic lockstep about any subject.

 

The Washington Post learns an odd lesson from the CRU materials: "Climate scientists should not let themselves be goaded by the irresponsibility of the deniers into overstating the certainties of complex science or, worse, censoring discussion of them." These scientists overstated and censored because they were "goaded" by skepticism?

 

Were their science as unassailable as they insist it is, and were the consensus as broad as they say it is, and were they as brave as they claim to be, they would not be "goaded" into intellectual corruption. Nor would they meretriciously bandy the word "deniers" to disparage skepticism that shocks communicants in the faith-based global warming community.

 

Skeptics about the shrill certitudes concerning catastrophic manmade warming are skeptical because climate change is constant: From millennia before the Medieval Warm Period (800 to 1300), through the Little Ice Age (1500 to 1850), and for millennia hence, climate change is always a 100 percent certainty. Skeptics doubt that the scientists' models, which cannot explain the present, infallibly map the distant future.

 

The Financial Times' peculiar response to the CRU materials is: The scientific case for alarm about global warming "is growing more rather than less compelling." If so, then could anything make the case less compelling? A CRU e-mail says: "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment" -- this "moment" is in its second decade -- "and it is a travesty that we can't."

 

The travesty is the intellectual arrogance of the authors of climate change models partially based on the problematic practice of reconstructing long-term prior climate changes. On such models we are supposed to wager trillions of dollars -- and substantially diminished freedom.

 

Some climate scientists compound their delusions of intellectual adequacy with messiah complexes. They seem to suppose themselves a small clerisy entrusted with the most urgent truth ever discovered. On it, and hence on them, the planet's fate depends. So some of them consider it virtuous to embroider facts, exaggerate certitudes, suppress inconvenient data, and manipulate the peer review process to suppress scholarly dissent and, above all, to declare that the debate is over.

 

Consider the sociology of science, the push and pull of interests, incentives, appetites and passions. Governments' attempts to manipulate Earth's temperature now comprise one of the world's largest industries. Tens of billions of dollars are being dispensed, as by the U.S. Energy Department, which has suddenly become, in effect, a huge venture capital operation, speculating in green technologies. Political, commercial, academic and journalistic prestige and advancement can be contingent on not disrupting the (postulated) consensus that is propelling the gigantic and fabulously lucrative industry of combating global warming.

 

Copenhagen is the culmination of the post-Kyoto maneuvering by people determined to fix the world's climate by breaking the world's -- especially America's -- population to the saddle of ever-more-minute supervision by governments. But Copenhagen also is prologue for the 2010 climate change summit in Mexico City, which will be planet Earth's last chance, until the next one.

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can someone be real persuasive about climate change being something that we can do something about? i really dont want to agree with mr. will unless i absolutely have to

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Obama is a failed president. He is too weak to get anything accomplished.

 

Isn't that what you wanted? Would you really advocate significant action to combat climate change? Or is this just some convenient way of having and eating your cake?

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can someone be real persuasive about climate change being something that we can do something about? i really dont want to agree with mr. will unless i absolutely have to
Agreeing with George Will's piece here is a sign of a critical thinker. Arguments with intellectual integrity don't need ad homs, or any other fallacious constructs to keep them safe from their detractors. The debate over climate change has become so grossly divided and political that there is really no practical way for a layperson to make a rational position.

 

What I do know is that if the scientific community were being taken really seriously with the more extreme scenarios (and those are the ones used to convince you, if you don't have a degree in Meteorology, climatology, geology or some field which gives you better than average insight) then the discussion would not be restricted to reducing greenhouse gases. If those severe predictions were where the consensus exists, there would be serious discussion about relocating a billion people. The people in the AGW industry (and George Will is right, it is an industry) can't have that be a part of the discussion, because if such a proposition were to be central to their political aims their supporters would look more closely. If sea levels are going to rise and deserts expand as much as they claim, it would be a part of the debate. It's not (or at least it's a small fringe who are willing to discuss it).

 

The very basis of science is skepticism, and this may well be the most important scientific issue since Galileo was accused of heresy. It's a travesty that anyone who takes a skeptical view is being attacked in the public sphere by people claiming to be on the side of science. The fact that it's being done in such an intellectually questionable manner makes me wonder if Al Gore's new clothes are as nice as y'all think they are. His errors are transparent to me, and I won't say otherwise to be a part of your club.

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Also, about the CRU emails, I think this person hits the right note:

 

I don't read this stuff because I meant it when I swore off arguing with climate change denialists. (I also meant it when I swore off arguing with libertarians. My traffic has halved, but I will not be an internet cliché.) But The Poor Man linked the type of post I don't read, so I saw it anyway. A sample:

[T]here is no way I am going to buy into global warming as anything but a blatant attempt to control industry, take freedom away from the people and put political power into the hands of a bunch of elitist wimps who would like nothing better than to tell America what to do, how to think and how many trips they can make to the bathroom every day.

 

People, this is nothing but a bald faced power grab using flawed science and scare tactics aided by a lap dog media and opportunist politicians and globalists who see a way to squeeze America a little more.

Whatever. Sure. But here's the thing I wonder. How do people who deny climate change reconcile that with guys like this, who are spending entire careers on teasing out really non-dramatic aspects of climate change? This guy is not measuring carbon concentrations in oyster shells for the glory. There are thousands of these people, dorkily and steadily piecing out the causes and predicting effects.

 

If it is all a conspiracy and nothing is happening, how do denialists conceive of these guys? Do they think these monotonous nerds who talk in jargon (don't take that the wrong way. I'm sexually attracted to every one of them.) are making it up to promote the conspiracy? Like, they spend the morning thinking up esoteric ways of measuring wave energy by sand lost at different gauges around the state, and the afternoon faking their data so they can please Al Gore? They've done this now for ten years and they plan to make an entire career out of making up the detailed groundwork for fake climate change? All of them? On nothing? Imagine the secret conferences they must hold to synchronize their stories and settle on an allowable variance between the made-up river data, the made-up precipitation data and the made-up ocean data. Besides the groupies, WHAT FOR?

Edited by TheScuSpeaks

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Just because climate change is real, Scu, is not indicative that there are not a lot of unscrupulous people overstating the dangers. The real question about the e-mail controversy is why the side which claims that there is no debate (a laughable proposition in science of this kind) feels the need to keep secrets, impugn detractors and engage in generally dishonest behavior? It's clear evidence of a lack of confidence in the science (which is in turn indicative only of sanity) and the belief that the ends justify the means.

 

And I refuse to take seriously anyone who calls skeptics denialists, deniers or any such garbage. There are a lot of people with considerably more sophisticated understandings of the climate than Rush Limbaugh who have significant doubts about the political side of this debate, as anyone with a brain and a memory should. The "is it happening" debate may well be over (for the attentive), but the "how bad is it" and "how much is the human influence" and "can we stop it" and "what should we do" debates are very much alive.

 

In 20 years of watching debates (competitive, academic, political), i have learned to doubt heavily anyone who uses intellectual dishonesty, fallacious argumentation and character assassination as tactics, regardless of how many PhDs they may have behind them. Dismissing the e-mail controversy as irrelevant is a sign of faith, not intelligence.

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Brett, let's keep this simple. I am not making any arguments about if people need to be academically disciplined (including drummed out the academy) over at CRU. That the dog bites man part of the story, I am not making any claims about (though, it is clear there were some improprieties, the extent to which I haven't yet really bothered to research).

 

My point is that even if we removed every bit of data from the CRU from the climate debate, we would still have hordes and piles of evidence that the world is getting warmer, that it is human made, and that ignoring it will lead to catastrophic consequences. The degree and time frame of which is, of course, up to some debate. If all of that is true, why should I care about what academic wrongdoings went on at CRU? Outside of being opposed to academic wrongdoings in and of itself as a separate issue.

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We have hordes of evidence that the world is getting warmer...sure.

 

It is human made? Um, I'll go with "it is partly, and probably significantly related to human activity." The idea that we alone are responsible for changing the entire climate of the globe is hubris. There is significant evidence that other forces have also generated warming, mainly the sun. (Mars is also warming, but we aren't burning any fossil fuels there)

 

"Ignoring it will lead to catastrophic consequences" Hold the phone. I didn't suggest ignorance as a solution to anything, and only the idiots (Beck, Palin, Limaugh et al) are making such claims. Moreover, the evidence on that is not as clear as many make it out to be, and not even close to what the popular perception is. Compare "An Inconvenient Truth" in its predictions of sea level rises. It depicts, in one of its few memorable visual moments, that the sea levels will rise 20 feet. (About 6 meters) The IPCC estimates are that sea levels could rise anywhere from 1-1.5 meters. I am not making this up. Yes, the estimates were reduced after the release of the film, meaning it probably wasn't pure lying, but only the most extreme estimates this side of a Kevin Costner dystopian fantasy show results worse than those depicted by Al Gore in his sci-fi thriller which got passed off as a documentary. And even mentioning that vast areas of the northern hemisphere, largely unusable for agriculture today may well be able to grow the food which will be lost at lower latitudes is tantamount to climate treason among the group-thinking crowd.

 

Ignoring it may lead to catastrophic consequences. Not questioning the validity of a scientific theory before re-inventing the world's economy on its predictions will be a precedent for irrational faith rather than reasoned public debate.

 

And the reason to care about the academic wrongdoings is because they are part of a pattern of irrational belief trumping the scientific method, academic principles and general good sense. In science, when someone is skeptical of your study, you publish it openly so it can be replicated. You make the data available, so other scientists can examine your method and results. You don't hide things. You don't label someone who expresses skepticism a "denier" and suggest they are somehow inferior based on the fact that their results do not support your theory.

 

If science and public debate have any meaning to you, you really should see this as something far more damning than the media (mostly) make it out to be, and not nearly as damning as Foxnews does.

 

EDIT: here's an example...a neg rep I got for my earlier post: "yeah the evolution skeptics are the real scientists too, right? uggggghhhhhh there is no sigh long enough for this stupidity"

Yep...I am skeptical about evolution. Nice Red Herring. Uh huh. I must also think taxes are theft, democrats are socialists and Barack Obama is Kenyan, right? I guess this person doesn't know enough to discuss the issue rationally. That hasn't stopped them from believing they know enough to have a valid opinion. And just for fun, they call me stupid. I guess Red Herring goes well with a side of ad hom, and a helping of poisoning the well.

Edited by brorlob

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How the Global Warming Story Changed—Disastrously

 

global_temperature_anomaly.jpgBy Chris Mooney

Back in 2006, the year of the release of An Inconvenient Truth, it felt as though serious and irreversible progress had finally been made on the climate issue. The feeling continued in 2007, when Al Gore won the Nobel and the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announced that global warming was “unequivocal” and “very likely” human caused. Mega-companies like General Electric were burnishing new green identities, and the Prius was an icon. The Bush administration was widely suspected of having deceived the public about the urgency of the climate issue, and journalists were backing away from their previous penchant for writing “on the one hand, on the other hand” stories about the increasingly indisputable science.

Then came the election of Barack Obama, boasting a forward-looking policy agenda to address global warming and a stellar team of scientists and environmentalists in his cabinet and circle of advisers, including climate and energy expert John Holdren and Nobel Laureate Steven Chu. The United States, it seemed, would finally deal with global warming—and just in the nick of time.

Who could have known, at the time, that the climate deniers and contrarians had not yet launched their greatest and most devastating attack? Certainly, it was hard to imagine how they might pull off such a strike: They had virtually nothing going for them, no raw scientific materials to work with. All the science pointed to a greater-than-ever urgency of addressing the climate issue and a quickly closing window of opportunity for action. Within scientific circles, it was even becoming commonplace to discuss planetary modification, or geoengineering, as an alternative last ditch solution if we couldn’t stop runaway greenhouse warming in time.

But the skeptics were lying in wait. They didn’t need good science to make another sally: Their strength has always been in communication tactics anyway, and not scientific exactitude or rigor. And the U.S. public, never overwhelmingly sure about climate change, has long been susceptible to their smokescreens and misinformation campaigns.

The new skeptic strategy began with a ploy that initially seemed so foolish, so petty, that it was unworthy of dignifying with a response. The contrarians seized upon the hottest year in some temperature records, 1998—which happens to have been an El Nino year, hence its striking warmth—and began to hammer the message that there had been “no warming in a decade” since then.

It was, in truth, little more than a damn lie with statistics. Those in the science community eventually pointed out that global warming doesn’t mean every successive year will be hotter than the last one—global temperatures be on the rise without a new record being set every year. All climate theory predicts is that we will see a warming trend, and we certainly have. Or as the U.S. EPA recently put it, “Eight of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001.” But none of them beat 1998; and so the statistical liars, like George Will of theWashington Post, continued their charade.

The public was quite vulnerable to such messages: Americans don’t know climate science very well, and the notion that temperatures aren’t actually “rising” after all must have spurred many doubts. Indeed, I suspect the “no warming since 1998” line of attack helped contribute to an alarming findingreleased in October by the Pew Research Center: the proportion of Americans agreeing there is “solid evidence the earth is warming” had declined to 57 percent, from 71 percent a year and a half earlier. And those attributing warming to human activities—the robust scientific consensus view—had dwindled from 47 percent to 36 percent over the same time period.

This blow, however, was nothing compared to the “ClimateGate” saga of November, in which a bevy of emails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom were illegally obtained and exposed, thus generating a dramatic scandal over the climate scientists’ alleged attempts to silence skeptics and thwart freedom of information requests. The truth is that, analyzed in their proper context, there isn’t very much that’s damning about the emails (though some of the scientists may have some things to answer for). But even taken at their worst, the emails do not change one whit the urgency of addressing global warming.

Scientists have pointed this out repeatedly, but to no avail: “ClimateGate” generated a massive wave of media attention, blending together the skeptics’ longstanding focus on undercutting climate science with a new overwhelming message of scandal and wrongdoing on the part of the climate research establishment. This story was not going to go away, and even as scientists put out statements (most of them several days late) explaining that the science of climate remains unchanged and unaffected by whatever went on at East Anglia, the case for human-caused global warming was dealt a blow the likes of which we have perhaps never before seen.

Whether we will recover some necessary momentum in Copenhagen—a formal United Nations venue for deliberation where scientific expertise is respected, and where misinformation will likely have less power—is up in the air. Nevertheless, there’s an important lesson here, for the climate issue and beyond.

In our mass media age, on any politicized scientific topic, there is no reason to assume a correlation between increasing scientific certainty about a problem and increasing public awareness, acceptance, or willingness to take action to address that problem. If anything, the two might well become anti-correlated, as in the global warming case. And that is because—to speak in a language that scientists will certainly understand all too well—the state of the science is only one variable affecting public opinion. And in the global warming debate, there has been an utter failure to control for any of the others.

If scientists, their allies, and their supporters want to better ensure the translation of scientific knowledge into action than we’ve seen in the global warming case, there is simply no choice but to work much, much harder to influence public opinion, and anticipate and thwart the skeptics before they can bring about another “ClimateGate.”

[Clarification: This post originally indicated that climate contrarians seized upon 1998 as the "hottest year in the global temperature record"; it has been changed to indicate that this is the hottest year in some temperature records.]

Chris Mooney is the author of several books, including The Republican War on Science and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. He and Kirshenbaum blog at “The Intersection.”

Posted by Chris Mooney | December 9, 2009 |

 

http://www.scienceprogress.org/2009/12/how-the-global-warming-story-changed-disastrously/

 

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blah...

there is simply no choice but to work much, much harder to influence public opinion, and anticipate and thwart the skeptics before they can bring about another “ClimateGate.”...

Science is not about thwarting skepticism. Sorry, but this has turned into a chip in a political battle, and the reporting of the science is mixed at best, lousy more often than not, and flat out fantasy at times. This is just as true for those of you with the faith in the IPCC as it is for those with faith in Glenn Beck. I won't pretend otherwise. Edited by brorlob

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Science is not about thwarting skepticism. Sorry, but this has turned into a chip in a political battle, and the reporting of the science is mixed at best, lousy more often than not, and flat out fantasy at times. This is just as true for those of you with the faith in the IPCC as it is for those with faith in Glenn Beck. I won't pretend otherwise.

 

I still am not sure what you are ranting about. This both/neither logic of what I am not sure.

 

Here is a pretty good article from a geologist in popular mechanics http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/earth/4338343.html?page=1

 

He points out that obviously science implies skepticism. But he also explains quite clearly there is a large and strong scientific consensus on many key issues, regardless of whatever unethical behavior occurred at the CRU.

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I don't think I am ranting. The CRU debacle is just the latest evidence of long-held contempt for open debate among many people who espouse radical, immediate, mandatory political action on climate change. Conclusions are held in contempt prior to investigation of methodology. Motives are impugned, characters maligned and positions misrepresented by the side that seems to have the evidence on their side. This is an alarming precedent in public debate. I can't imagine a well reasoned policy requiring such tactics.

 

There is a whole lot of group think going on. Anyone who disagrees with significant portions of the political agenda is immediately treated as an outsider and ostracized. Application of science to policy done in such a manner is unworthy of an enlightened people. Of course, that makes me less than shocked; but being an idealist, I speak my mind just the same.

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