Friday, December 11, 2009

Climate Change


Before we get to the substance of this post, I'll have to ask your indulgence in a short digression into armchair psychology.

I've been trying for over a week now to put together a response to your (now 4) posts on what you are calling "Climategate". As I've mentioned before, I use writing for this blog as a means of educating myself and organizing my own thoughts - so the process is fairly time consuming. However in this particular case I find I have pretty much lost all my motivation, and just this morning I realized why. The reason is that I have been preventing myself from actually saying what is on my mind.

Therefore, in keeping with the Anything Goes spirit on which Professor de la Paz founded this blog (with able assistance from you and me), I've decided to stop dithering over the details and get a few things off my chest. So just make sure you are tightly strapped in and your toupee is firmly glued on. Here goes...

First up, the notion that climate scientists the world over are all part of some vast conspiracy is childish and ridiculous. It isn't supported by the facts and an insult to anyone with a grain of common sense. It is a bizarre, crackpot assertion that relies on two of the worst weaknesses of human nature: unreasoning fear of the unknown and the uneducated man's irrational distrust of the academic.

2500 scientists in several disciplines across 130 countries were involved in putting together the latest of 4 IPCC Assessment Reports. It is part of a gradual, systematic process which has been going on now since 1988. And that process not only stands out as a shining example of international cooperation, but also of mankind's potential to set aside petty, regional differences and come to grips with the incredibly difficult challenge of understanding his environment.

Have there been flaws, missteps and inaccuracies along the way? Well of course there have! No undertaking of this scale can possibly avoid them. Have all of the professionals involved been innocent of political bias or intellectual arrogance? It would be down right stupid to claim they have not. These are, after all, imperfect men at the very frontier of science. They have disagreed repeatedly on the details. So what? To their lasting credit, they have hashed out and overcome these disagreements and personal prejudices according to the only rules which make sense: those being the merciless canons of the scientific method.

More importantly, because they have arrived at a consensus view which much of the general public plainly doesn't want to hear, they have been constantly hounded and attacked. Pundits, politicians - even priests and pastors have denounced them as hucksters and charlatans. Steve, largely these are men and women who decided, at an early age, to study hard and eventually excel in what most of us would consider the boring science of Climatology. Now as luck would have it they are standing at the focal point of possibly the most crucial issue of our time. And how do we repay their hard work and dedication? By calling them liars and cheats. What utter, contemptible crap that is! And shameful. We ought to be thanking them.

And who do we turn to for alternatives? What collection of sagacious experts is telling us the theory of anthropocentric global warming is a bunch of malarky ("Just move along folks, there's nothing here to see...")? We turn to one of the most flaky, biased, ignorant collection of kooks and oddballs imaginable, nearly none of which have any relevent academic credentials.

Gentlemen, I give you Dr. Klaus-Martin Schulte, the famous endocrinologist, Lord Christopher Monckton (3rd Viscount of Monckton), who earned a degree in journalism at Cardiff, Marc Morano, the former producer for Rush Limbaugh with no degree in science, and Anthony Watts, who has no college degree in anything. Then we have Sallie Baliunas, the astrophysicist, who famously argued before congress that banning CFC's would cost 20 to 30 million lives world wide and 2 trillion dollars to the U.S. Economy, and Arthur B. Robinson, whose "Oregon Institute" consists of a pole barn outside of Cave Junction, which lists 5 non-family faculty members, none of which actually teach there (two of them because they are currently dead)... give me a break.

I know; just because a person has little or no training in a particular field of study doesn't mean what they are saying about that field is wrong. But if you had a brain tumor, wouldn't you want advice from a neurosurgeon? And by extension, if thousands of credentialed climate scientists are telling us that humans are making a dangerously high contribution to global warming, why would we ignore them and turn instead to a motley collection of non -credentialed skeptics? I'll tell you why.

Because the skeptics are telling us what we want to hear. We are, in a word, afraid. Scientists are telling us we have to change the way we have always done things and that makes us so uncomfortable that we will grab at any straw, no matter how flimsy, so long as it denies what they are saying. We are willing to believe in the most idiotic, cockamamie conspiracy theory, just so we don't have to face the hard questions which global warming poses.

Now Steve, you point out the billions our government has spent on studying climate change and compare that to the paltry millions Exxon-Mobil has spent to deny the findings of the science altogether. Off hand, I can't think of a more meaningless example. Our government spends billions on cancer research. Would that then exonerate Phillip Morris for spending a few million trying to prove cigarettes don't cause lung cancer? And by the way, Fred Singer, one today's most prominent climate skeptics, was paid by the tobacco industry to do just that.

Just about all of the money this country spends on climate change goes towards genuine research. It pays NASA for weather satellites, which by the way aren't cheap, and the NOAA for climate monitoring sites. It funds research into alternative fuels and technologies which would be worthwhile even if there were no such thing as global warming in the first place. On the other hand, just about every penny of the Exxon-Mobil money has been spent, not to fund or foster scientific research, but to influence public opinion. A few more licks:

The oil and gas industry spent over half a billion dollars in the last 20 years in political contributions alone. That doesn't even count the millions the industry has spent in the same period on so called "think tanks", advertising, and efforts to recruit any scientist who is willing to disagree with AGW. But now even that failed effort is being jettisoned by Exxon, along with other big hitters like Duke Energy, Chevron and GE, who are lining up to sign on with the EPA's Combined Heat and Power Partnership.

But more to the point, where are all these millionaire climatologists who you claim are cashing in on government spending? The truth is, they are no different than all the rest of the teachers and researchers who earn a decent living at this country's schools and other institutions, by doing what they were trained for and are paid to do.

I have on the coffee table in my living room the November, 09 issue of Scientific American. You can borrow it if you want. In this issue is an article: "A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030", by Mark Jacobson and Mark Delucchi. Some facts from that article: The maximum world consumption of power at any given moment is 12.5 trillion watts. By 2030, that figure is expected to rise to about 17 trillion. By contrast, according to detailed studies, the maximum energy available from wind alone is 1700 trillion watts. From solar, this amount is 6500 trillion watts. Even when you subtract from these figures the amount of power which cannot be feasibly recovered, as from such locations as mountains or the open seas, you still come up with well over 600 trillion watts of commercially recoverable energy from wind and solar alone. Steve, that's over 35 times what peak demand will be in 20 years. If any of this is even close to being true, we are absolutely surrounded by a virtually unlimited source of clean, renewable power. What exactly is so scary about that?

I want to end this post with a comment from one of your favorite people.

"...we're putting 90 million tons of it into the air today and we'll put a little more of that up there tomorrow. The physical relationship between CO2 molecules and the atmosphere and the trapping of heat is as well established as gravity, for God's Sakes.

But the basic facts are incontrovertible. What do they think happens when we put 90 million tons up there every day? Is there some magic wand they can wave on it and presto!—physics is overturned and carbon dioxide doesn't trap heat anymore? And when we see all these things happening on the Earth itself, what in the hell do they think is causing it? The scientists have long held that the evidence in their considered word is "unequivocal," which has been endorsed by every national academy of science in every major country in the entire world."

I feel better now.



  1. After your long boring rant I need to say this: the majority of the public now believes that humans are not responsible for changing the climate. So you lose.

  2. Well, I can't agree that my rant was boring. However if you are correct as to public opinion, I freely admit that I, along with the public itself, have lost.


  3. No, the rant was *not* boring. It was nicely presented, in fact. Good work.

    And I disagree with Anon's "you lose" statement, although he's correct about recent opinion polls, but simply because - as I have said too many times - IT'S NOT ABOUT COUNTING NOSES!

    - Steve