Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Global Warming Brown Shirts

The current issue of Vanity Fair has pictured on the cover Al Gore, Julia Roberts, George Clooney, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., as part of a cover story concerning their crusade against global warming. Which beckons the question: of the four, who has the biggest cause for complaint about being pictured with the other three losers? Answer: it is a trick question, because it is a four way tie.

In the wake of a series of catastrophic hurricanes, which are often offered as supportive evidence for global warming, the global warming topic is once again hot (no pun intended). That is why I read with interest an interesting article on global warming last week on The Wall Street Journal website The author, a professor of armospheric studies at MIT, explains that fewer tropical storms would result from global warming:

If the models are correct, global warming reduces the temperature differences between the poles and the equator. When you have less difference in temperature, you have less excitation of extratropical storms, not more. And, in fact, model runs support this conclusion. Alarmists have drawn some support for increased claims of tropical storminess from a casual claim by Sir John Houghton of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that a warmer world would have more evaporation, with latent heat providing more energy for disturbances. The problem with this is that the ability of evaporation to drive tropical storms relies not only on temperature but humidity as well, and calls for drier, less humid air. Claims for starkly higher temperatures are based upon there being more humidity, not less--hardly a case for more storminess with global warming.

The author smells a conspiracy in the air:

"Ambiguous scientific statements about climate are hyped by those with a vested interest in alarm, thus raising the political stakes for policy makers who provide funds for more science research to feed more alarm to increase the political stakes. After all, who puts money into science--whether for AIDS, or space, or climate--where there is nothing really alarming? Indeed, the success of climate alarmism can be counted in the increased federal spending on climate research from a few hundred million dollars pre-1990 to $1.7 billion today. It can also be seen in heightened spending on solar, wind, hydrogen, ethanol and clean coal technologies, as well as on other energy-investment decisions.

But there is a more sinister side to this feeding frenzy. Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis."

Granted, it is not the type of conspiracy that would have George or Julia running out to produce a movie showing the seedy, greedy underside of NSF funding for climactic research. If anything, they'd be rushing to produce a movie in support of the libel that dissenting scientists are industry stooges, the tools of some greedy polluting CEO who is bent on world domination.

Now, in general I am not much in favor of theories that explain the behavior of adversaries by appeal to their greed motive exclusively, because such theories smack so much of Marxism. When such theories are offered, it is rarely admitted that the same behavior might be explained by less malignint interests. But in this case I like it - what's good for the goose is good for the gander!

And it is also important to remember, in the anti-scientific climate created by the Bush administration and Republicans in general, that any article supporting global warming is to be treated with the same authority the Jews granted to the Ten Commandments brought down by Moses - that is, supported without question:

So how is it that we don't have more scientists speaking up about this junk science? It's my belief that many scientists have been cowed not merely by money but by fear. An example: Earlier this year, Texas Rep. Joe Barton issued letters to paleoclimatologist Michael Mann and some of his co-authors seeking the details behind a taxpayer-funded analysis that claimed the 1990s were likely the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year in the last millennium. Mr. Barton's concern was based on the fact that the IPCC had singled out Mr. Mann's work as a means to encourage policy makers to take action. And they did so before his work could be replicated and tested--a task made difficult because Mr. Mann, a key IPCC author, had refused to release the details for analysis. The scientific community's defense of Mr. Mann was, nonetheless, immediate and harsh. The president of the National Academy of Sciences--as well as the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union--formally protested, saying that Rep. Barton's singling out of a scientist's work smacked of intimidation.

All of which starkly contrasts to the silence of the scientific community when anti-alarmists were in the crosshairs of then-Sen. Al Gore. In 1992, he ran two congressional hearings during which he tried to bully dissenting scientists, including myself, into changing our views and supporting his climate alarmism. Nor did the scientific community complain when Mr. Gore, as vice president, tried to enlist Ted Koppel in a witch hunt to discredit anti-alarmist scientists--a request that Mr. Koppel deemed publicly inappropriate. And they were mum when subsequent articles and books by Ross Gelbspan libelously labeled scientists who differed with Mr. Gore as stooges of the fossil-fuel industry.

One of my favorite quotes is one by Schumpeter: "The first thing a man is willing to do for his ideology is lie." Not sure how that applies to this next paragraph, but it is a great quote:

And then there are the peculiar standards in place in scientific journals for articles submitted by those who raise questions about accepted climate wisdom. At Science and Nature, such papers are commonly refused without review as being without interest. However, even when such papers are published, standards shift. When I, with some colleagues at NASA, attempted to determine how clouds behave under varying temperatures, we discovered what we called an "Iris Effect," wherein upper-level cirrus clouds contracted with increased temperature, providing a very strong negative climate feedback sufficient to greatly reduce the response to increasing CO2. Normally, criticism of papers appears in the form of letters to the journal to which the original authors can respond immediately. However, in this case (and others) a flurry of hastily prepared papers appeared, claiming errors in our study, with our responses delayed months and longer. The delay permitted our paper to be commonly referred to as "discredited." Indeed, there is a strange reluctance to actually find out how climate really behaves. In 2003, when the draft of the U.S. National Climate Plan urged a high priority for improving our knowledge of climate sensitivity, the National Research Council instead urged support to look at the impacts of the warming--not whether it would actually happen.

It is a not infrequent theme of this blog that any theory presented as consensus truth from the scientific community will invariably have a mix of evidence in favor of the theory, along with a certain level of belief that is unconnected to the evidence. Thirty years ago there were consensus warnings about us entering the next Ice Age. So you can see that when it comes to climate studies, perhaps the ratio of belief to evidence tends to the high end of the scale among its leading lights. And as I said long ago in the paper version of Ideas Hatched, even if Al Gore is right, I'd rather die slowly like a frog brought to a boil in a pot of water than suffer through him as president. Of course I'd rather neither eventuality, and my guess is that I'll have my druthers. What we really have to worry about is getting hit by a comet.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mankind has faced doomsday events before and in most cases what happens is Mankind adapts or we have a technological break through. The Economist did a great article on how various mutations of wheat, the invention of the tractor, and better irrigation have helped the mankind and all creatures avoid passing the dreaded Malthusian limit, beyond which disaster will beset the earth and starvation will run amock. I really don't expect the Hatcher to cite the economist because those of us that know him, know he has fully sold his soul and intellectual value he ever possessed to the highest bidder. I believe Hatcher is now intellectual bankrupt and financially wealthy, we can all hope to be so lucky.


Unlucky but Well Read

10:33 AM  
Anonymous Jim O said...

Why bother finding how things work, when what is really important is to control the research money?

If we find out how things work, that benefits all mankind - controlling the research money benefits those in power RIGHT NOW.

How are you, as a research scientist, going to ever get a Porsche 911 if you don't get research money? And how will you ever afford the gas for it if you don't KEEP GETTING research money, regardless of your findings?

Sheesh, man!! Get your priorities in order. First you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the women.

10:46 AM  
Blogger Incredible Dirigible said...

The best book I've ever read on this topic was "Trashing the Planet", by Dixie Lee Ray. It's about 15 years old now, but AFAIK it still holds up very well.

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Global warming is nothing more than the crisis of the moment. In a few years, the Yahoos will move on to something else. Case in point, the other day, I was watching a really bad sci fi movie called "Freejack". It came out about ten years ago. There was no mention of Global Warning. Rather, the characters mentioned the Hole in the Ozone as the source of their dismay. You don't hear anything anymore about the ozone hole. Did it just fill up by itself?

The scary thing about Global Warning is that the solution, reduction of CO2, greatly limits industrial production. If the US signs onto the Kyoto Treaty, we give foreign countries the potential right to limit our industrial production. That cannot be good for anyone.

I have a better solution for Global Warming. The main culprit seems to be CO2. If everyone just holds their breath for an hour a day that would solve the problem. People could accomplish this goal by not breathing for one minute, sixty times over the course of a day. I think this would be easier and have less of an economic impact than allowing foreign powers the right to limit US industrial production. Than again, I am drunk on Chartreuse.

4:47 AM  
Blogger Professor Vic said...

The reason you no longer hear about the ozone hole problem is that scientific consensus about the problem and the cause of the problem was conclusively reached in the 1980s and worldwide plans to solve the problem were untaken culminating with the 1989 Montreal Protocol that initially called for a 50% reduction in ozone depleting chemicals by the year 2000. The Protocol was later revised eliminating esentially all ozone depleting chemicals five years ago.

Unlike the current Bush president, the Bush president of the time had the foresight to commit the country to becoming a global partner in solving this problem before it became a serious risk to people. (The current ozone hole is generally confined to only relatively unihabitied areas in the southern hemisphere.)

So the reason you don't hear about the ozone hole is not that it was just a threat made up by "Yahoos" but instead because the identified threat was taken seriously by governments and global action was taken to correct the issue.

5:46 AM  
Blogger Hatcher said...

Jeez Vic, at least acknowledge the comic genius of the hold your breath for a minute sixty times a day solution to global warming before making your serious point. Perhaps you were pressed for time, but this is disturbing evidence that you are losing more of your sense of humor every day Bush is on office, like many of your cohorts on the Left.

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words Hatch. More Chartreuse anyone? The buzz is even better if you do a shot while holding your breath. Plus, it helps the environment.

3:03 PM  

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