Prominent Scientists

A little while ago I deleted a comment from Null, who took exception to my assertion that global warming is an established fact. Now I’m wishing I hadn’t. The WordPress dashboard doesn’t seem to keep trash — when it’s gone, it’s gone.

Null’s idea was that global warming is not an established fact because some “prominent scientists” disagree. This unsupported assertion got me thinking about why it’s not possible to have a rational debate with the terminally clueless. I could, and should, have left Null’s comment in place and said, “Okay, what scientists are you talking about? Point me to their articles on the subject.” But I already know, all too well, how that discussion would have proceeded.

To begin with, all rational people understand that global warming is an unarguable fact. The polar icecaps are melting. The only “scientists” who disagree with this would have, like, a degree in paleontology from Oral Roberts University or something. So the discussion would have unfolded in one of two ways. Either Null would have failed to come up with any actual scientific studies, or he would have succeeded in coming up with a couple, but the supposed “science” in them would prove, on analysis, to be pure hokum.

At that point, I would have to spend hours researching the subject in order to prove that the supposed science is hokum. And what would be the result of my effort? Would Null have said, “Oh, my gosh. By golly, you’re right — global warming is real after all! How could I have been so mistaken?”

Of course not. We can very reliably predict that Null would change the subject, misunderstand the terms of the discussion, attack my sources as biased because they appeared in publications of which he does not approve, or simply shut the door and slink away silently. His opinion would not have been altered one jot nor tittle.

So why should I put out all that effort? You can’t debate Republicans, because they are bound and determined not to deal with reality. Their minds are made up, and the entire sum of their mental effort is devoted to defending their bizarre views against what they view as attacks.

When you think reality is attacking you … didn’t Harlan Ellison write a story about that once? I think it was called “The Man Is Sitting in a Chair, and the Chair Is Biting His Leg.” It was a pretty good story. It could have been improved only if the publisher had let him use the word “fuck.”

It’s an interesting question why they view global warming as unproven. Could it be because the leadership of their party is entirely beholden to giant oil companies? Do you think that might have even a tiny bit to do with it? Gee, what an odd idea.

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9 Responses to Prominent Scientists

  1. Ron Greenman says:

    January 28, 2011
    To the Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate:
    The Importance of Science in Addressing Climate Change

    As you begin your deliberations in the new 112th Congress, we urge you to take a fresh look at
    climate change. Climate change is not just an environmental threat but, as we describe below,
    also poses challenges to the U.S. economy, national security and public health.

    Some view climate change as a futuristic abstraction. Others are unsure about the science, or
    uncertain about the policy responses. We want to assure you that the science is strong and that
    there is nothing abstract about the risks facing our Nation. Our coastal areas are now facing
    increasing dangers from rising sea levels and storm surges; the southwest and southeast are
    increasingly vulnerable to drought; other regions will need to prepare for massive flooding from
    the extreme storms of the sort being experienced with increasing frequency. These and other
    consequences of climate change all require that we plan and prepare. Our military recognizes
    that the consequences of climate change have direct security implications for the country that
    will only become more acute with time, and it has begun the sort of planning required across
    the board.

    The health of Americans is also at risk. The U.S. Climate Impacts Report, commissioned by the
    George W. Bush administration, states: “Climate change poses unique challenges to human
    health. Unlike health threats caused by a particular toxin or disease pathogen, there are many
    ways that climate change can lead to potentially harmful health effects. There are direct health
    impacts from heat waves and severe storms, ailments caused or exacerbated by air pollution
    and airborne allergens, and many climate-sensitive infectious diseases.”

    As with the fiscal deficit, the changing climate is the kind of daunting problem that we, as a
    nation, would like to wish away. However, as with our growing debt, the longer we wait to
    address climate change, the worse it gets. Heat-trapping carbon dioxide is building up in the
    atmosphere because burning coal, oil, and natural gas produces far more carbon dioxide than is
    absorbed by oceans and forests. No scientist disagrees with that. Our carbon debt increases
    each year, just as our national debt increases each year that spending exceeds revenue. And
    our carbon debt is even longer-lasting; carbon dioxide molecules can last hundreds of years in
    the atmosphere.

    The Science of Climate Change

    It is not our role as scientists to determine how to deal with problems like climate change. That
    is a policy matter and rightly must be left to our elected leaders in discussion with all
    Americans. But, as scientists, we have an obligation to evaluate, report, and explain the science
    behind climate change.

    The debate about climate change has become increasingly ideological and partisan. But climate
    change is not the product of a belief system or ideology. Instead, it is based on scientific fact, and no amount of argument, coercion, or debate among talking heads in the media can alter the physics of climate change.
    Political philosophy has a legitimate role in policy debates, but not in the underlying climate
    science. There are no Democratic or Republican carbon dioxide molecules; they are all invisible
    and they all trap heat.

    The fruits of the scientific process are worthy of your trust. This was perhaps best summed up
    in recent testimony before Congress by Dr. Peter Gleick, co-founder and director of the Pacific
    Institute and member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. He testified that the scientific
    process “is inherently adversarial – scientists build reputations and gain recognition not only for
    supporting conventional wisdom, but even more so for demonstrating that the scientific
    consensus is wrong and that there is a better explanation. That’s what Galileo, Pasteur, Darwin,
    and Einstein did. But no one who argues against the science of climate change has ever
    provided an alternative scientific theory that adequately satisfies the observable evidence or
    conforms to our understanding of physics, chemistry, and climate dynamics.”

    National Academy of Sciences

    What we know today about human-induced climate change is the result of painstaking research
    and analysis, some of it going back more than a century. Major international scientific
    organizations in disciplines ranging from geophysics to geology, atmospheric sciences to
    biology, and physics to human health – as well as every one of the leading national scientific
    academies worldwide – have concluded that human activity is changing the climate. This is not
    a “belief.” Instead, it is an objective evaluation of the scientific evidence.

    The U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) was created by Abraham Lincoln and chartered by
    Congress in 1863 for the express purpose of obtaining objective expert advice on a range of
    complex scientific and technological issues. Its international reputation for integrity is
    unparalleled. This spring, at the request of Congress, the NAS issued a series of comprehensive
    reports on climate change that were unambiguous.

    The NAS stated, “Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities . . . and in
    many cases is already affecting a broad range of human and natural systems.” This conclusion
    comes as no surprise to the overwhelming majority of working climate scientists.

    Climate Change Deniers

    Climate change deniers cloak themselves in scientific language, selectively critiquing aspects of
    mainstream climate science. Sometimes they present alternative hypotheses as an explanation
    of a particular point, as if the body of evidence were a house of cards standing or falling on one
    detail; but the edifice of climate science instead rests on a concrete foundation. As an open
    letter from 255 NAS members noted in the May 2010 Science magazine, no research results
    have produced any evidence that challenges the overall scientific understanding of what is
    happening to our planet’s climate and why. The assertions of climate deniers therefore should
    not be given scientific weight equal to the
    comprehensive, peer-reviewed research presented by the vast majority of climate scientists.
    The determination of policy sits with you, the elected representatives of the people. But we
    urge you, as our elected representatives, to base your policy decisions on sound science, not
    sound bites. Congress needs to understand that scientists have concluded, based on a
    systematic review of all of the evidence, that climate change caused by human activities raises
    serious risks to our national and economic security and our health both here and around the
    world. It’s time for Congress to move on to the policy debate.

    How Can We Move Forward?

    Congress should, we believe, hold hearings to understand climate science and what it says
    about the likely costs and benefits of action and inaction. It should not hold hearings to
    attempt to intimidate scientists or to substitute ideological judgments for scientific ones. We
    urge our elected leaders to work together to focus the nation on what the science is telling us,
    particularly with respect to impacts now occurring around the country.

    Already, there is far more carbon in the air than at any time in human history, with more being
    generated every day. Climate change is underway and the severity of the risks we face is
    compounded by delay.

    We look to you, our representatives, to address the challenge of climate change, and lead the
    national response. We and our colleagues are prepared to assist you as you work to develop a
    rational and practical national policy to address this important issue.

    Thank you for your attention.

    Sincerely,
    John Abraham, University of St. Thomas
    Barry Bickmore, Brigham Young University
    Gretchen Daily,* Stanford University
    G. Brent Dalrymple,* Oregon State University
    Andrew Dessler, Texas A&M University
    Peter Gleick,* Pacific Institute
    John Kutzbach,* University of Wisconsin-Madison
    Syukuro Manabe,* Princeton University
    Michael Mann, Penn State University
    Pamela Matson,* Stanford University
    Harold Mooney,* Stanford University
    Michael Oppenheimer, Princeton University
    Ben Santer, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
    Richard Somerville, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
    Kevin Trenberth, National Center for Atmospheric Research
    Warren Washington, National Center for Atmospheric Research
    Gary Yohe, Wesleyan University
    George Woodwell,* The Woods Hole Research Center
    *Member of the National Academy of Sciences
    Coordinated by the Project on Climate Science
    http://www.ProjectOnClimateScience.org
    Contact: Abbey Watson, 202-207-3660, Awatson@prismpublicaffairs.com
    Richard Ades, 202-207-3665, Rades@Prismpublicaffairs.com

  2. Null says:

    Serves you right for deleting my comment. I did provide an example of a dissenting scientist, and he doesn’t have “a degree in paleontology from Oral Roberts University or something”: he is a professor of Meteorology at MIT (Richard Lindzen).

    “I would have to spend hours researching the subject in order to prove that the supposed science is hokum”

    You can’t possibly know that “global warming as an unarguable fact” if you have to research it to “prove” it.

    “You can’t debate Republicans”…when you delete all their comments.

    If global warming is a proven fact, then give the proof. If you can.

    • midiguru says:

      Ooh, that’s interesting. I googled Richard Lindzen. Here’s a useful link: http://www.logicalscience.com/skeptics/Lindzen.htm. According to that page:

      a) Lindzen is rather well known for claiming that “there is no consensus on global warming.”

      b) “Every major scientific society on the entire planet with relevant expertise disagrees with him.” That would include the national academies of science in places like Germany, India, Brazil, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the U.K. They’re listed on that page. You can check it out.

      Null, kindly pull your head out of your ass. It’s not up to me to prove global warming; hundreds of well-educated scientists have done years of detailed, painstaking research on this subject. Yet you’re choosing to whine about it. Why are you whining? Is it because you flat-out enjoy whining? Does Ann Coulter give you blow-jobs? I really don’t understand where you’re coming from, but it can’t be pretty.

      • Null says:

        “It’s not up to me to prove global warming”

        Since you’re the one claiming it’s a “fact” it is definitely your responsibility to prove your claim. You don’t have to prove global warming yourself, but at the least you have to provide a proof using references from these “hundreds of well-educated scientists”.

      • midiguru says:

        I hope your grandchildren have lots of sunscreen, dude, because they’re gonna get crispy. You can tapdance a thousand miles an hour — that won’t change reality one whit. I don’t have to prove anything to you. When a whole bunch of responsible scientists from around the world say something is a reality, the shoe is on the other foot. If you don’t believe it, you’re the one who has to make a case, not me. The fact that you’re unwilling to acknowledge that is just one of your little cognitive difficulties. I’m sure there are others, but I’m not your doctor, so I’m not going to try to diagnose them.

        I’ve had enough. You’re off the air.

  3. ken says:

    My problem is with the global warming “fact,” mostly because Scientific Method was drilled into me in 7th grade. Isn’t the leap of faith the link between the data and it’s cause? (ex. If my foot hurts after I drink coffee, did the coffee cause the pain?) Plus, we’ve been measuring things for a relatively short time compared to the cycles of natural warming and cooling which have occurred over millions of years.

    I think that environmentalism is being leveraged by redistribution-of-wealth folks, but believe we can have a less intrusive government with a responsible environmental policy.

    • midiguru says:

      Let’s see if I can articulate this for you, Ken. Global warming is a fact. There remains, I believe, some question about the relative importance of primary and secondary causes thereof. In your comment, you’ve jumped from the first point to the second without noticing that you’ve done so, and that lapse of logic is significant.

      In your sentence, “Plus, we’ve been measuring things…,” you’ve contradicted yourself, and damagingly. How would you know that natural warming and cooling had occurred over millions of years if Earth scientists hadn’t developed good data on the subject? So you admit we have good data, and then, in the same breath, allege that we don’t have good data.

      Would you care to define what you mean by “a responsible environmental policy” with respect to the release of greenhouse gases? And having done so, would you care to explain how your proposed policy will be enforced by “a less intrusive government”? Or are you just slinging slogans?

  4. ken says:

    I haven’t contradicted myself- we are drawing a conclusion that we are the cause of climate change from a relatively small set of data compared to other trends. Are you saying the Ice Age didn’t happen? The Earth has gone through cycles… except for recently?

    It’s not science to say A happened at the same time as B, therefore B caused A. (I perceive this behavior the same way I think you interpret religion.)

    I’m not slinging slogans- one idea is ending tax incentives for companies that pollute.

    • midiguru says:

      You put quotes around the word “fact.” That indicates that you don’t believe global warming itself is a fact. You’re wrong. It certainly is a fact. And it’s certainly caused in large part by greenhouse gas emissions, which are overwhelmingly due to human activity. Yes, it’s also true that cycles of warming and cooling have occurred in the past due not to human activity but to other causes. Such causes may be, to some extent, at work today as well. But you conflated those two aspects of the question. You are now suggesting that I’m an idiot — but I’m not. I know the Ice Ages (there were several) happened.

      Religion is an entirely different subject, of course. I don’t bother to interpret religion. I reject it as pointless.

      All companies pollute. Ending tax incentives for all companies? Hmm … not a bad idea.

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