Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hand Me The Prozac


With all due respect, this fantasy world of yours is growing more preposterous by the day.

It literally baffles me how a rational man with virtually unlimited access to information can persist in believing these bizarre distortions of fact promoted by a fringe group of unqualified amateurs, shallow pundits and political hacks. You need to wake up and smell the methane, my friend.

Just about every major university in this country (and many more internationally) involved in research on climate change has a web site with copious information on the state of the science, not to mention bios of the scientists involved, usually with helpful links to papers and reports on the research they are undertaking. In a single afternoon you can sort through the work of hundreds of well qualified scientists. This is not to mention the information available to you at the NOAA, NASA, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and The National Science Foundation.

Yet, with all this marvelous information available at your fingertips, you unquestioningly rely on shoddily researched and poorly documented tracts by the likes of Anthony Watts, Steve McIntyre and JoAnne Nova - none of whom have a degree in atmospheric science. As H.L. Menken once wrote, it is as if a man, confronted by a banquet, should turn his back and stay his hunger by catching and eating flies.

And what supports this behavior? A vast, ever widening conspiracy which involves nearly every qualified climate scientist on Earth. In your world, they're all just a pack of unprincipled opportunists - who would say anything to keep their jobs and paychecks. I reject that idea utterly.

The real casualty here in this pointless debate is the public's loss of faith in their institutions of science and the scientists who have dedicated their lives to understanding the world around us. This is something we cannot afford, especially now. For years, this country has been at the forefront of scientific research. But the rest of he world has already caught up with us. In the years to come, we're going to be facing important challenges and will need a healthy and vigorous scientific establishment to overcome them. But this isn't going to happen so long as the public has been conditioned to distrust, even despise scientists merely for saying things they don't want to hear.

A few posts back I wrote about the "BEE" episode, where a group in Colorado petitioned the local school board to offer an "anti-global warming" course. The course was prepared by one Lene Johansen, who, it turned out, has no college degree of any kind - who in fact, was a college drop-out - from a school of journalism no less. Are you seriously arguing that this is the kind of person you want teaching our kids about science? Have you lost your marbles? To me, this pretty much encapsulates the direction this whole anti-science debate is taking us. The moment we begin to promote scientific dilettantes to positions of authority is the moment we have lost our way, and from now on can just sit on the sidelines and watch as the rest of the world passes us by.

This year, China will become the world leader in the manufacture of wind power equipment, and I doubt if they like Al Gore in China any better than you do. All across the world, in places as diverse and dissimilar as Spain and Japan, countries are making substantial investments in the next generation of clean power technology. But here we sit - denying the consensus conclusions of qualified scientists in favor of the opinions of unqualified hacks - and unable to take even the first, relatively painless steps to lessen our reliance on a diminishing resource which pollutes the planet.

Steve, I'm old enough to remember the day when American solutions to technical challenges were considered to be synonymous with boldness and innovation. Have we become so timid and feeble as a nation that we will listen to anyone, no matter how bumptious or naive, who tells us we can continue to do things as we always have and the problems of the future will solve themselves?


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