Sunday, June 19, 2005

Is it getting warm in here?

Today I just happened to have the ABC TV Sunday news show on, hosted by Twerpanopolis, and lo and behold George Will actually had something worthy to say. He quoted articles from 1975 in the NY Times and elsewhere about the certainty of a resurgence of much colder weather in the future, with the possibility of, gasp, large scale glaciation occurring again in the northern hemisphere after a several thousand year rest. With the same certainty that COLD was touted to be in our future 30 years ago, HOT is now being trumpeted as our certain and obvious future.

How can ANYONE know this be a fact? The answer is: they can't. A lot of times when giving a science lecture people will ask me "how do we know what we know?" (basic epistemology) and I'll say "someone got grant money and they had to come up with something----if they ever intended to get any more grant money." People laugh at this reply but I sincerely think the search for objective truth in the postmodern age is often subverted by this need to please those putting the money on the table looking for a pre-determined answer.

A good example is "ecosystem management" which permeates the federal land bureaucracies and is just plain old bad and flawed science. It purports that ecosystems are specialized non-changing static environments that must be preserved from the "invasion" of non-Aryan, er I mean, "non-native" plant and animal species. Currently all federal agencies are instructed to wage a ceaseless war on these "exotics" regardless of their actual effect good or bad upon the landscapes they exist on, while zealously guarding the "rights" of insects, rodents and minnows to live undisturbed as nature intended before the onslaught of human "encroachment" and the introduction of "aliens" in their midst. The last time this type of science was widely believed was around the 5th century B.C. when Aristotle taught a young Alexander the Great that the universe was a fixed and static entity that would remain unchanged in perpetuity.

How can modern universities continue to get away with cranking out graduates imbued with such sloppy reasoning and the belief in out right lies? The colleges know where their bread is buttered and are simply following the funding formula which produces an agenda driven form of science that any sane and truly educated person can only laugh at. It then legitimizes the control and seizure of private property by the state to protect the "integrity" of a given ecosystem. Remember that power is always seized and liberties taken away for a "wider good", in this case for the maintenance of "pre-Columbian" plant and animal inventories whenever possible. Nothing is more ridiculous or brutally enforced than a government orthodoxy.

We all know that Hitler and Himmler were both vegetarian environmentalists who were only trying to rid Germany of those "polluting" non-native er, I mean "non-Aryan" elements that compromised the "pristine" ecosystem of the Fatherland, and then tried, sincerely, to clean up the untidy mess that is greater Slavdom so they could bolster the "integrity" of the Eurasian landmass. U.S. bureaucrats call it a general management plan (GMP).

I believe global warming is another sham designed to give the state even more far reaching control over our lives by "protecting" us from the consequences of a warming planet. They don't know any better than you or I, or the man in the moon, what will actually happen, but when has that ever stopped them from taking an opportunity to seize power from their subjects? Like everything else you need to ask yourself who produced a particular idea and why?

What the New York Times will be writing about in 30 years time is anyone's guess but I betcha' it'll be about a prolonged cold spell over the earth and what we can do to keep warm on this frigid and icy blue planet we call home. Again it's anyone's guess.


Dave said...

This biggest fraud in all this climate calamity has been Paul Ehrlich, who wrote The Population Bomb. He's been wrong about every prediction he's made, but people still listen to him for some reason. Check out this link for his famous bet with economist Julian Simon.

Audie said...

Re: your statement that you "sincerely think the search for objective truth in the postmodern age is often subverted by this need to please those putting the money on the table looking for a pre-determined answer":

That you believe this and zealously attack the scientific community as being compromised by this, while at the same time ignoring the fact that the biggest-name global-warming naysayers receive substantial funding from the likes of ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute, seems inconsistent. I know you fear governments more than you do corporations, but can you trust either to provide the truth, when, as you point out, someone's paying money for the answer?

Interesting, too, that the overwhelming consensus amongst scientists about global warming is to be found in thousands of studies published in peer-reviewed journals from around the world, whereas the skeptical view is to be found mainly in opinion pieces, blogs, petroleum industry releases, and Fox News.

If your argument is strictly against the *regulation* that concerns about climate change (real or imagined) might engender, well, that's one thing. (We all know where you stand on that, pretty much.) But disputes about the science make you seem like a crackpot (with all due respect, sir). I think that the fervency of your concerns about the former (regulation) are coloring your perspective on the latter (the science).

Virtually-direct responses to most of your post can be found in the articles at
The one titled "The Hockey Stick" is especially useful, I thought, in that it presents a first-person view of one of the climatologists involved in the debate -- and a view different from the demonized one portrayed in your post); and the one on the insurance industry is also interesting, especially given this blog's interest in "free-market" measures. (Yes, I know, Mother Jones is out to make money, too, but you shouldn't get all your news from one source -- thus the invitation.)


beamis said...

I still say it is an unknowable fact. I can quote plenty of academic scientists who agree with me. Why are you immediately taking my view and portraying me as an idiotic "crackpot" shill for big business interests?

I'm simply saying the fact of global warming occuring can't be KNOWN in any degree of context with man's very limited scope of scientific understanding. Just because some coal company agrees with me is not the outgrowth of a mutual agenda. I have no ideological axe to grind here-------science just ain't smart enough to know this one. They weren't 30 years ago when they said it would get cold nor are they now when they claim it's gonna be getting hotter.

Secondly why is the planet getting warmer a bad thing we as a species should try to collectively prevent?

Audie said...

I know you're not a (knowing) shill for the petroleum industry, honey, but did you just happen to *remember* that 30 years ago "science" said the world was going to be getting cooler, or did you get that from some current media outlet? I suspect the latter (if I'm wrong I will stand corrected). I also suspect that said media report was referencing a 1974 Time magazine article, eagerly latched onto by Senator Inhofe and other oil-industry apologists. Labeling Time magazine as the voice of science is a stretch, to say the least, and in any case whatever scientific concern it was reporting on at the time has little if any resemblance to the current consensus amongst climatologists the world over that human activity is responsible for a recent upward trend in global temperatures.

I am eager to see the names of some of the "plenty of academic scientists who agree with" you, and references to their work, if you can be so troubled as to provide such.

I'm going to leave the questions of epistemology largely untouched, cuz I might have flashbacks of Rice University and go into seizure here, but to dismiss arguments because "well, we can't *know* for sure" doesn't really cut it. What we mean by knowledge has never meant something absolute and static (unless you're a fundamentalist something or other). Science is not a body of knowledge, it is a process; and we go with the best we have at the moment.

Anyway.... Happy to be part of a record-breaking commentary!


beamis said...

Still not convinced we can know much of anything about the future of our climate, but it has been pointed out that the earth has been much hotter, at times, during the last 3,000 years.

I ask again why is a warmer planet necessarily a bad thing? What is the known danger?

I've sent some links along (via email---so all ya gotta do is click on 'em) which quote scientists opposed to this so-called theory. The last link is a readable short essay written by two chemists. Don't let the fact that it was printed by the Dow Jones Press taint your ability to see the worth of their arguments.

Science is not monlithically lined up on this one sweety.

Audie said...

Exactly as I suspected. Well, here's a little perspective on your scientific sources.

One of your links is to an article on, which is published by Steven Milloy, who is also a columnist for and who runs several facade organizations -- the "Advancement of Sound Science Center," the "Free Enterprise Action Institute," and the "Free Enterprise Education Institute," to name a few -- and each received tens of thousands of dollars from ExxonMobil in recent years. (And these "institutes" are registered to his home address -- they are not respected scientific organizations at all [or any other kind of organization, for that matter], but flowery names for shell organizations that are really just him and his well-paid-for opinions).

The first of your other two links references an article by Donald Miller, who rests his case primarily on a study by Soon and Baliunas, whose work was partly funded by the American Petroleum Institute and who are 'scholars' for organizations funded by ExxonMobil, including the Marshall Institute,, and the Frazer Institute. Miller also cites Sherwood Idso, from Tempe, AZ, whom I recall as being largely exposed as a fraud during my years in Tucson -- an ASU prof who took money from oil companies in exchange for putting a PhD's stamp on the dubious claim that human-influenced global climate change isn't happening.

Three editors, including the editor-in-chief, of *Climate Research*, the journal in which Soon and Baliunas's study was published, resigned in protest over the deficiencies in the journal's review process that led to their study being published therein. And yet, Miller cites it, and then you cite Miller citing it. So, it may not be as much of a mere coincidence as you think, that your views match those of 'big business.'

Besides all that, Miller's agenda is evident right at the beginning of his article, when he implies that the global warming issue is a concoction of "(some) government-funded scientists, anti-technology environmentalists, and the media." Like I said before, it's all too obvious that some people's fear of "government" and "environmentalists" predisposes them to holding certain opinions, and so they look for information to support the views they've already decided upon (easy enough to find). And, if that information comes from "PhDs" who are heads of fabricated and/or oil-company-funded "Institutes" and "Centers for This and That" and who have published books complete with covers and sound-bite titles that say it all already, then great. Maybe otherwise-non-crackpot types will accept these "reports" and pass on these ill-founded views even further. Seems to be working.

(This isn't the first time this debate has seemed eerily similar, to me, to the debate over evolution: fundamentalists love to point out the "flaws" of science, and yet they yearn and stretch for authenticity by looking high and low for *scientists* who will support their claims. Can you have it both ways?)

Oh well, I didn't look at the other link, cuz I've seen enough to confirm my earlier claims. This "lack of clear consensus" cited by global warming naysayers is hardly that -- they just mention the same handful of industry mouthpieces over and over. I thought maybe you had somethin' new for me.

As for why we should be concerned,I quote Lyle Lovett, who sings, "[Because] penguins are so sensitive to my needs."


Max said...

Wow. Beamis and Audie, thanks for an awesome debate.


Dave said...

Here are some of my thoughts on the global warming debate. I don't know the answers and welcome feedback.

1.) Has it even been confirmed that the globe is indeed warming? Some reports from NOAA show little or no warming from the low atmosphere temperature readings they record. Others take temperatures on the ground and in urban areas which could be skewed by "urban heat effect."

2.)I would guess that solar activity, i.e. the 11 year sunspot cycle and solar flares play a part in global temperatures, but don't know if any studies have ever confirmed this.

3.) If in fact greenhouse gasses work to trap heat in at the surface, wouldn't those same gasses prevent heat from reaching the surface in the first place and thus provide a regulating effect?

Talk amongst yourselves.

beamis said...

Are penguins really your biggest concern, because so far you have dodged my question twice. Again: what is the inherent harm of a warmer planet? What do your "experts" forsee as being the negative consequences of this trend? Is it to be dreaded over the return of a much cooler planet?

I earlier used "ecosystem management" as another example of this kind of faulty thinking and planning, what I call legislating the unknowable. Why can't we stick to what we already know and maybe remedy those things first? Like starting with dams destroy rivers, wars incur harmful destruction and huge costs, military bases and oil refineries leak harmful chemicals into the ground and leaving your engine running (all you cops out there) causes un-necesssary air pollution and ground ozone.

I'm not a skeptic about global warming because I consume Fox News, I don't, or other right wing thinking. You keep bludgeoning me for the sources I use so I will stop right now from citing anyone and stand on my own two feet and say as a scientist (of sorts) I can't know this to be true. It is unknowable at the human level of consciousness. In the same way I don't believe the Vikings were the first white people to land in North America, that the universe started with a Big Bang or the dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid. Look dude we can barely understand the dynamics of a single ocean basin much less the whole 74% of the Earth's surface that is liquid. It is pure hubris to say we can predict the future of this planet's climate. That's all I yam saying.

So I'm also asking: how do you know what you know? I don't think I am able to truly know in this instance nor are any of us. It is unknowable.

As for evolution---it is a fact and the bedrock foundation of modern biology. Where would all of those wonderful pills come from, dispensed so freely at the Oral Roberts Hospital in Tulsa and all the other Christian medical centers throughout the land? Evolution brings to fervent Jesus chirpers everywhere their much needed doses of Prozac, Cialis and Botox. Ain't secular humanism great for what ails ya?

Max said...

Beamis, you are a true epistemologist when most people do not even know the meaning of the word (I looked it up this morning).

I have long felt that the most intelligent people amongst us are the ones that know they have the questions rather than the ones that think they have the answers.

Thanks again for your enlightening posts.


Audie said...

I'm planning a trip to Tucson in August. I'd better take my parka, since I don't KNOW that it won't be cold there then.

Penguin hater.


beamis said...

Glad these her posts move ya Max. And yes bundle up dear skinny no fat Audra, you could easily freeze your cute little twinks down there in 'Zona.

Thanks to DD for the support and encouragement on my new blog site.

Audie said...

Sorry, bro, I don't mean for you to feel bludgeoned.

I have "dodged" your question, partly because I think that your asking it has been a way to dodge *my* question -- which was to bring to light the fact that your accusation of academic scientists' work as being "agenda-driven" and influenced by the source of their funding applies *at least* as much to the "scientific" output of private "think tanks" who are funded by narrow, special interests -- something your initial post failed to mention and that I felt bore mentioning. That is all, as a re-read of my initial comment should show.

Having spent ten years in higher ed, and even despite my ultimate disenchantment with it, I believe that most people doing work in academia are people of integrity. I find it incredulous that "global warming is a sham designed to give the state" more control over us, as you believe. For one thing, this would require a level of integration and coordination that I find profoundly improbable, given what I know firsthand of the academic community (such as it is). For another thing, this also implies a bed-sharing relationship between the state and academics (and by "academics" I am referring to the people actually doing the work, not to university administrators), which I know to be almost anything but. It is a relationship more accurately characterized as strained and contentious. When, in spite of this, near unanimity on an issue is reached amongst scientists worldwide, I think it is fair to ask the very question you later asked: "Is this something to be concerned about? What might the consequences be?"

The *science* stops there, if it even goes that far (and if you have read any of the basic science on this issue and not just synopses of it by [agenda-driven?] people such as Donald Miller, you will have seen this for yourself). Whether or not policymakers and lobbyists take this information and do something with it is a completely separate question, and is not really relevant to my point of contention with your initial post, as I said in my initial comment, and which is why I have not engaged with you on your "what's so bad about it?" question.

I do, however, take issue with your use of "Nobody knows what will happen" as a reason to dismiss obvious trends. True, trend is not destiny, as Ehrlich's extrapolation of population trends in the 1970s showed, but does this mean that population, or a spike in global temperatures, is not something to pay a little attention to? Trends sometimes do, after all, pan out. I'm all for humility when it comes to the extent of human knowledge, but to say we KNOW that something can't be known -- especially in the face of striking evidence -- seems not so unlike the kind of epistemological hubris you elsewhere speak against. Global-warming naysayers construct a straw man when they say that scientists are claiming to KNOW more than they, in fact, DO claim. A scientist studies global temperature trends, publishes his results, and the next thing he knows he's being accused of being a "Hitlerite, vegetarian, anti-technology environmentalist in bed with George Bush." It's fucking ridiculous.


P.S. Devastatin', as for your question #3, the very reason greenhouse gasses are called "greenhouse" gasses is because they work very much like a greenhouse -- letting in heat but then trapping it. So, no -- no regulating effect. But good question, and I'll probably have more to say about your other two points another time.