Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Week in Denialism


We live in an age of miracles. Not only does the sun come up each day like clockwork, but George Will has been caught lying about the current state of climate science.

TPM thinks Will should issue a retraction. He probably won't, and it wouldn't really matter if he did. Will's column has always been a bit like the Canal Street storefronts that serve as a conduit for bootleg electronics and jewelry. It's where conservatarian lies go to get a pedigree and a page number. Whether Will corrects himself or not, his claim will live on forever, as surely as hundreds of wingnut bloggers will link to Henry Payne's post on Debra J. Saunders' summary of Fred Barnes' column on the argument Gregg Easterbrook based on it.

Which is fine. Tse-tse flies and filarial worms have their trade, and George Will has his. What bothers me is not that he's a professional liar in a job that calls for one; it's that his lies -- like Will himself -- lack a certain verve and panache. If Martin Durkin is Lemmy, Will is Ed Ames.

In the end, though, they're both relics. Inactivism is where it's at, naoadays. For instance, a new column by the geoscientist Thomas Crowley explains that "tales of our environmental demise are greatly exaggerated" because "coal reserves are dwindling, and lower emissions will follow."

It'll be interesting to see how this argument flies with right-leaning inactivists. Normally, the theory that it's possible to exhaust a natural resource is almost as controversial in conservatarian circles as AGW itself. But we've reached a point where virtually any theory is preferable to AGW; if we found out tomorrow that the earth is warming from the effects of a Ganymedean death ray, Iain Murray would present the news as a rebuke to the "alarmists" who claimed that human industry was to blame, and there'd be cigars, cognac and bwahahas all around.

Anyway, Crowley gets his figures from a paper by Prof. David Rutledge at CalTech (who is not an inactivist by any means).

He concluded that reserves (resources that can be economically produced) – widely assumed to be sufficient for energy use for centuries – are far smaller than usually assumed....

Since coal is almost entirely responsible for the projected rise in CO2 beyond mid-century, the implication is that neither CO2 nor the climate consequences from its use may be nearly as severe as usually assumed by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change.
Crowley acknowledges that Rutledge's findings have not yet been confirmed. But that doesn't stop him from hinting that they're being suppressed:
Have the implications of Rutledge's work just not sunk in, or are some scientists having difficulty disengaging from a fundamental assumption that has been in the community mindset for a quarter of a century?
The latter, most likely. After all, Rutledge's theory changes everything:
Even if his calculations are further substantiated and widely accepted, the planet will continue to warm in the interim and concerns about, for example, drought and rising sea level will still be legitimate. And the need for alternate energy sources would become even more urgent in the near-term than it would be if coal were available in the vast amounts previously assumed.
I feel better already!

Obviously, Crowley is correct that Rutledge's work is pertinent to the debate over AGW. But he ignores three points: First, the economic shock of peak coal, coupled with a temperature rise that will result in "drought and rising sea level," is a fairly troubling scenario; if Rutledge is correct, then "urgent" is a very polite way of describing our need for alternative energy. (That this scenario actually does constitute grounds for "optimism," of a sort, says all one needs to say about modern planetary management. Still, calling it "mild" is a bit much.)

Second, Rutledge estimates that the coal shortage will cause CO2 to peak at 460ppm in 2070, which is roughly what the IPCC has been shooting for, in terms of a stabilization target, for better or worse. If there's more coal than he projects (or even if there isn't), the assumption that we can safely burn what we have could turn out to be a very bad one. (And again, that is not Rutledge's assumption; he'd prefer to phase out fossil-fuel production on federal lands, among other things.)

Third, Rutledge's calculations don't seem to include emissions relating to tar sands and oil shale, which I'd assume will magically seem more "economical" as coal and oil get scarcer.

As a geoscientist, Crowley presumably knows all of this and much more besides. But for some reason, his column is rather short on arguments for caution and against complacency (though I guess it's possible they were edited out due to lack of space). In any event, he's performed a welcome service for the more flexible denialists, who can now argue that climate change has been canceled due to lack of coal, and that there's more than enough coal for the next thousand years, and that we'll need to burn every grain of it in order to stave off a Super Ice Age.

Bjorn Lomberg has a new column. The gist of it is that "swift growth" in China and India is lifting people out of poverty, which will enable them to buy more goods and services, which will lead to even swifter growth, which will continue until everyone everywhere is happy and healthy, world without end, amen. Also, global warming will make China's weather nicer: "Warmer temperatures will boost agricultural production and improve health." (How could they not?)

Lest you think Lomborg's out of ideas, he does recommend "developing low-carbon energy." Wish I'd thought of that!

Frank Tipler -- esteemed author of the silliest book I've ever read in my life -- asks "What counter-intuitive predictions have the Global Warmers ever made?" Depends what you mean by "counter-intuitive," I guess. Most denialists still seem to think AGW is disproved whenever there's a snowstorm (see illustration, above).

Tipler's message, as far as I can tell, is that we must look at what people in the sciences have actually accomplished, instead of being dazzled by their fancy schools and their degrees, and their woefully noncounterintuitive papers that simply rehash what everyone else has already said about CO2 and heat and ice and stuff. Once we do this, we'll understand that the IPCC consensus is meaningless, because one of these days, it's going to be blown out of the water by some barefoot amateur who will check fashionable theories about "warming" against the stark physical fact of the snow that's falling on his driveway.

On that note, you'll have to excuse me...my dentist told me I need a root canal, so I'm going to walk over to the gas station and get a second opinion from the guy who repairs tires.

UPDATE: The Washington Post argues that there's no need for Will to issue a retraction, because there are sources that agree with his claim, even if the specific source to which the claim was attributed denies it vehemently. As Tim Lambert says:
[U]nder this policy Will, can attribute any statement at all to any organization he wants and no correction would be necessary, no matter how much the organization denies the statement. For example, next week Will could write that the Smithsonian had concluded that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, and he would not have to correct this no matter how fiercely the Smithsonian denied it, as long as he could find a Creationist web site that said that was the Smithsonian's conclusion.
Behold the abject capitulation of the MSM to the irrational dogma of the Warming Cult.

(Illustration: zOMG we can haz snow!!1 ttly sux 2 b algore lol)

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm just wondering why you say Will is Ed Ames? I've never heard of the guy Will but I know Ed.

Phila said...

Choose whatever reason you like.

James Redford said...

Regarding the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming (A.G.W.), as Prof. Tipler points out, this is a hypothesis which has been repeatedly experimentally disproven. Recall that it only takes a single experiment to disprove a theory (so long as the experiment and its data are correct). For more on that, see "The ETS: Completely unnecessary," David Evans, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), December 19, 2008. http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/stories/s2451051.htm

As its supporters do a good job of pointing out, A.G.W. theory is an irrational dogma. Those heretics who insist upon actual scientific empiricism will be accused of engaging in "denialism," with mendacious criticisms made against them.

The reason why A.G.W. theory has become such a virulent dogma is due to the political power that it's being used to justify. If government and its connected interests could find a way to get as much power out of which sock, the left or the right, a person puts on first in the morning then we would never hear the end of the alleged horrors brought about by putting socks on the wrong foot first, and that if the government doesn't step in to save humanity from itself then it could well mean our extinction. Anyone who doubted the sock-crisis and pointed out that it's disproved by the empirical evidence would be accused of being party to "denialism." Later on they would be charged under state edicts which threaten loss of their tenure (such as A.G.W. heretic Bjørn Lomborg). And if the government's anti-sock-on-wrong-foot-first efforts managed to actually cause humanity's extinction, then this result would be cheered (before their own deaths) by those who consider humanity as a cancer, with the sock-crisis regarded by them as merely being one example of mankind's cancerous ways.

A.G.W. theory attracts etatists of multifarious stripes. They see in it a means of empowering the government and micromanaging people's lives. The theory of A.G.W. is a collectivist's wet dream, as not only do they have their misanthropy confirmed (to the effect that mankind is a cancer), but so also they have a pretext for social engineering.

It's very unfortunate that A.G.W. isn't true, as life loves a warm, carbon dioxide-rich Earth. It would be quite a life-giving boon to humanity and the other critters if A.G.W. had been true.

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."--H. L. Mencken, "Women as Outlaws," A Mencken Chrestomathy, p. 29 (1949); first published in The Smart Set, December 1921.

grouchomarxist said...

A.G.W. theory attracts etatists of multifarious stripes. They see in it a means of empowering the government and micromanaging people's lives. The theory of A.G.W. is a collectivist's wet dream, as not only do they have their misanthropy confirmed (to the effect that mankind is a cancer), but so also they have a pretext for social engineering.

Sounds like you've got some right powerful hobgoblins there yourself, J.R. Who's to say yours are any less imaginary than mine?

Oh, that's right: The overwhelming consensus among climate scientists, which is based on mounds of data, as collected and analyzed by ever-more-powerful sensors and computers.

Incidentally, I'm a bit unclear on just exactly how one goes about socially engineering a cancer, much less why. I mean, I thought the whole point of identifying a cancer was to destroy it.

Toby Petzold said...

"Naoadays"?

WTF?!

Phila said...

WTF?!

5:10 PM


As always, your razor-sharp mind cuts to the heart of the issue with deadly accuracy.

WTF indeed.

Phila said...

Regarding the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming (A.G.W.), as Prof. Tipler points out, this is a hypothesis which has been repeatedly experimentally disproven.

I'm amazed to learn that someone who doesn't believe in AGW believes it's been disproven. Repeatedly, no less.

Perhaps you should inform the NAS, the AGU, the NOAA, NASA, and the rest of the scientific organizations that don't have your grasp of the facts.

Once you've convinced them, you can come back and rub my face in the dirt.

And please, be sure to tell them what Prof. Tipler thinks. The opinions of the author of The Physics of Immortality will be of great interest to them, I'm sure.

For more on that, see "The ETS: Completely unnecessary," David Evans,

AGW is a fraud 'cause David Evans says so, eh?

Wow. Hooray for the scientific method.

A.G.W. theory is an irrational dogma.

Right. As opposed to your theory of a multi-decade, worldwide conspiracy to falsify scientific evidence in service of world communism.

Nice double standard you've got there, pal.

Those heretics who insist upon actual scientific empiricism will be accused of engaging in "denialism," with mendacious criticisms made against them.

No, they'll be accused of "denialism" when they trot out incoherent and illogical claims that have been debunked more often than you've had hot meals.

And also when they lie outrageously, as George Will recently did. Or do you "deny" that?

(such as A.G.W. heretic Bjørn Lomborg).

Lomborg believes the earth is warming due to human activity, and has said so many times. Perhaps you should address your clever criticisms to him?

The reason why A.G.W. theory has become such a virulent dogma is due to the political power that it's being used to justify.

Oddly enough, most governments have refused to take most of the steps recommend by experts over the last 20 years, on the grounds that they're unnecessary or economically unfeasible or both. As socialist plots go, it's pretty lame.

In any case, you're indulging in sheer speculation, based largely on confirmation bias. There's nothing "scientific" about that, as far as I know.

A.G.W. theory attracts etatists of multifarious stripes. They see in it a means of empowering the government and micromanaging people's lives.

When you have one tenth of the hard evidence for this theory that the scientific bodies of the world have for AGW, let me know.

The theory of A.G.W. is a collectivist's wet dream, as not only do they have their misanthropy confirmed (to the effect that mankind is a cancer), but so also they have a pretext for social engineering.

I see lots of situational ad hominem, opinion, and speculation here...but not much evidence. Shouldn't your claims have to meet the same strict standards you demand for AGW?

It's very unfortunate that A.G.W. isn't true, as life loves a warm, carbon dioxide-rich Earth.

Life loves water, too. I suppose you won't mind if I stick a hose into your house and flood it to the ceiling? I mean, if a little is good, a lot must be better, right? That's just common sense!

Moron.

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

Which is why it's so vitally important for Americans to understand that AGW is part of a worldwide conspiracy to enslave humanity by forcing socialism down their throats, so that freedom will perish at last from the earth.

Perhaps you should limit your search for "imaginary hobgoblins" to the confines of your own skull.

In conclusion, please take your harebrained bullshit elsewhere. I don't have time for it.

James Redford said...

Hi, Phila. It is true that Anthropogenic Global Warming (A.G.W.) has been repeatedly experimentally disproven. The existence of forest fairies has a more solid factual standing than A.G.W., as A.G.W. requires physical effects which turn out to be disconfirmed by experiment, whereas a supporter of the existence of forest fairies could posit that empirical science is insufficient means for disconfirming their existence. For more on that, see "The ETS: Completely unnecessary," David Evans, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), December 19, 2008. http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/stories/s2451051.htm

And no conspiracy is needed for the process of favoring etatist agendas. Under a government system, this process takes place inevitably and inexorably (at least the tendency of this process) irrespective of the issue at hand, so long as that issue has political implications. All it requires is individuals in government and government-funded institutions (e.g., academia) each acting independently in their own interests (and the interests of their respective departments).

The nature of government is to vaunt and glorify itself. And those individuals who cry wolf in government and academia are going to be those who get the lion's share of attention and increases in funding. Those in said fields who say there's no problem (or that the process of natural Global Warming is actually a wonderful thing for life on the planet, which in fact it is, as the fossil record proves that life loves a warm, carbon dioxide-rich Earth) aren't going to be getting near as much attention and funding, so inevitably any such principled individuals are going to be pushed to the side in favor of those who can bring home the bacon.

This inexorable process has to do with the unavoidable incentives which obtain under governmental redistribution of wealth (which includes the very act of government funding its own operations).

But since you brought up the issue of conspiracy: conspiracies are ubiquitous (witness all the laws on the books against conspiracy, and how many people are routinely charged under said laws), and the most egregious perpetrators of murderously brutal conspiracies are governments upon their own innocent citizens. More than six times the amount of noncombatants have been systematically murdered for purely ideological reasons by their own governments within the past century than were killed in that same time-span from wars. From 1900 to 1923, various Turkish regimes murdered from 3.5 million to over 4.3 million of its own Armenians, Greeks, Nestorians, and other Christians. The Soviet government murdered over 61 million of its own noncombatant subjects. The communist Chinese government murdered over 76 million of it own subjects. And Germany murdered some 16 million of it own subjects in the past century. And that's only a sampling of governments mass-murdering their own noncombatant subjects within the past century. (The preceding figures are from Prof. Rudolph Joseph Rummel's University of Hawaii website at http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/ .)

All totaled, neither the private-sector crime which government is largely responsible for promoting and causing or even the wars committed by governments upon the subjects of other governments come anywhere close to the crimes government is directly responsible for committing against its own citizens--certainly not in amount of numbers. Without a doubt, the most dangerous presence to ever exist throughout history has always been the people's very own government. (This is also historically true for the U.S. govermment, as no group has killed more U.S. citizens than the U.S. government. Viz., the Civil War; etc.)

All of these government mass-slaughters were conspiracies--massive conspiracies, at that.

Recall that a conspiracy is simply when two or more people take part in a plan which involves doing something improper to others (of which plan may or may not be kept secret, i.e., secrecy is not a necessary component for actions to be a conspiracy). The inherent, unchangeable nature of government is colossal conspiracy. The mere fact that governments set for themselves double-standards is alone quite enough to logically demonstrate that governments themselves consider their own actions improper (i.e., if their same actions which they do to others were to be done to them). Thus, the conclusion that government itself is the largest corporeal conspiracy to ever exist or that could ever exist is logically unavoidable.

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."--H. L. Mencken, "Women as Outlaws," A Mencken Chrestomathy, p. 29 (1949). This essay was first published in The Smart Set, December 1921.