it’s all in yer heed, son

4/19/10

EyjafjallajökullErupts.jpg

My brother Kent wrote to me on Sunday, bringing up the global warming debates that reached a boiling point on this blog in mid-2008. It’s been a while since I approached the topic, since I gave up all pretense or hope around the subject two years ago – so for all I know, my conservative friends on here are now buying compact fluorescents and driving electric cars.

Silence doesn’t quell rage, however, and the report on Koch Industries that Kent mentions below made me wish there was some sort of superhero that could bust into the Koch Bunker of Hatred® and beat the shit out of them. But since I’m a knee-jerk hot-headed fuckshirt and Kent’s a Quaker, I’ll let him do the talking today:

****

Kent here.

I want to revisit an argument that has long raged in the comment section of this blog: the debate between global warming ‘alarmists’ — like me, and the global warming skeptics, represented ably by longtime commenter Matt. I can summarize the argument thusly: My view is that Global Warming caused by human activity – the so-called “Anthropogenic Global Warming” or AGW – is real, that it is a real danger to the continued survival and quality of life, and that we should do whatever we can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Matt’s view is that even if there is a global warming trend, there isn’t sufficient evidence that it is caused by human activity, or that the consequences of global warming will be as dire as is claimed by most climate scientists, liberals, et al (et Al Gore, as it were).

If you care to revisit the post, Matt cited links to articles supporting his side of the question. Then, the next day, I looked at the sources of the articles to which Matt linked. My conclusion after doing some Googling was that all the articles he cited had nothing to do with science, and everything to do with money being spent by polluting industries to raise doubts about AGW.

In my opinion (and the opinion of many others), these “raised doubts” are not peer-reviewed scientific critiques of the AGW literature, they’re opinion pieces, paid for by polluters. Sure, that’s free speech, but in the over-simplifying, sound-bite-spewing, attention deficit media world, it is harmful and dangerous. Media thrives on controversy, so they’re all to willing to accept a false equivalency between on the one side, conservative think tanks, and on the other, actual climate science.

This wasn’t an argument that was ever resolved. Matt is an AGW skeptic, and I’m a believer. I don’t dredge this up to stir more controversy, but instead, I have a more despicable motive: to say “I told you so.” And what I told you was that there was a deliberate effort by polluting industries to promote AGW skepticism. Furthermore I told you that often one skeptic “authority” would bolster their argument by citing other skeptic “authorities,” when in fact they all were paid hacks. Comes now this interesting report from Greenpeace, on the funding by Koch Industries of the AGW Skeptic echo chamber:

GreenpeaceKochArticle(bl).jpg

 

Now of course, it’s nothing that will convince Matt of anything, seeing as how Greenpeace is just another leftist organization that presumable benefits from climate change hysteria. But for anyone willing to look through the report, it’s pretty clear that Exxon, Koch Industries, the Petroleum Institute, et al (but not et Al Gore!), they have spent millions of dollars to try and create an AGW controversy, not with actual climatological research, but with an echo chamber of think tanks, TV pundits, and generalized attacks on the scientific establishment’s way of conducting research.

And just to show that Koch Industries AGW skepticism isn’t a monomaniacal obsession, consider this Talking Points Memo article:

TPMKochArticle(bl).jpg

 

In which Koch denies funding the astro-turf Tea Party Movement, even while acknowledging that they fund Americans for Prosperity, who funded the Tax Day Tea Party rallies around the country. Together with Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks (also a corporate-funded ‘astroturf’ organization), Americans for Prosperity has spent millions to inflame the passions of thousands of grammar-and-spelling-challenged “real americans.”

Given enough Fair Trade coffee, I can rant endlessly on this topic, but I think I’ll just point out another bubbling controversy of the moment, the concept of “Epistemic Closure.” Andrew Sullivan’s post is as good a place as any to start reading on this topic. But the crux of the discussion is this: conservatives in this country are willfully trapped inside an echo chamber of their own making: Conservative Blogs, Faux News, the Washington Times, the Weekly Standard, et al (but not et Al…).

The right wing refuses to admit facts that contradict their beliefs, and an entire industry has grown up with propping up their beliefs and discrediting any so-called ‘facts’ inconsistent with said beliefs. Stephen Colbert’s oft-repeated wisecrack that “Reality has a well-known Liberal bias,” comes to mind — anything outside the self-reinforcing circle of authority is dismissed as tainted by the opposing ideology.

I’m sure one can come up with examples from loony fringe of the left wing which can be construed to represent the same sort of epistemic closure, but we must resist the siren call of false equivalency here. I’m all for skepticism, but not the skepticism of knee-jerk dismissal; we need to examine everyone’s assertions in the light of the best information available, and be willing to change our minds when our beliefs run up against inconvenient facts. You are, as always, entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.

0 thoughts on “it’s all in yer heed, son

  1. craighill

    didn’t we have snow on the ground on every state at the same time in february of this year for the first time ever? did “faux news” make that up too? i’m so simple that i interpret that to mean it’s getting colder, not hotter. i’m sure there are myriad “scientific anomaly” excuses that can be thrown out there that will make me look like i have no clue what i’m talking about (which may be true) but to me snow is pretty fkn real.
    then again, the echo chamber (of my own making) may be getting bad weather reports, or the reverberation in said chamber may lead to misinterpretation of those reports.

    Reply
  2. T.J.

    craighill:
    I’m agnostic on the issue, but just because the ol’ USA was colder than usual doesn’t mean the rest of the world was. I know, for example, that NC was unseasonably cool last summer but Phoenix, if I’m not mistaken, had something like 80 straight days where the temp., even at night, didn’t drop below 80, or maybe even 90. So did Phoenix experience global worming, but North Carolina didn’t?

    Reply
  3. Ehren

    I am definitely a lefty, but I’m right between Matt and Kent on this issue. My training in physics makes me skeptical of any pseudo-science that gets whipped out by either side, and while I think that humans are definitely having a negative effect on the environment, most of what I read seems to indicate that the dire predictions of the Inconvenient Truth crowd are all wild exaggerations. I also believe that most green solutions being advocated by envirnomentalists will add up to exact one drop in the bucket if big business and the BRIC countries aren’t made to get on board. Because I think that will have significant effects on the economy, my Marxist tendencies actually have me on the side of the bulk of the republicans, as I would rather people have jobs and food right now than worry too much about the sea level in 40 years, especially since i think that technological solutions will materialize that will enable to fix this more cheaply and efficiently down the road.
    That being said, i recycle, I turn off the water while I brush, and I believe that we should all be more efficient whenever possible. It’s in our own best interest.
    But to your point, Craighill, I agree with T.J. When people talk about global warming, we’re talking about the average global temperature bumping up maybe a degree or so, max. Statistical fluctuations like an extra snowy week here or there are the equivalent of flipping a coin twice, getting heads both times, and then deciding that the tails side no longer exists.

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  4. dean

    I am a conservative, but I do not know what to believe anymore regarding climate change. There seems to be nothing but misinformation. On one side are non-believers who pay for crappy studies. On the other side are UN studies that admit cooking the numbers. On the other side are people who don’t give a damn about the environment. On the other side are former VPs who make documentaries filled with huge exaggerations.
    Enough to make my head swim

    Reply
  5. MarkC

    Seriously? We got a lot of snow last winter so, therefore, global warming must be wrong.
    I don’t know whether global warming or climate change is happening, but I am certainly going to think through the issue a bit more than looking out the window. Steven Levitt’s new book has some interesting perspectives on climate change by some fairly well informed skeptics (who don’t all agree which is nice), if anyone is interest.
    Addressing the question of the left having an echo chamber, I certainly think that there are some people who believe any thing on either side, but I found it interesting that Air America failed. I tuned in a couple times and it was awful. The people they had on were doing some the same lame things that Rush et al. do, i.e. calling people names, hyping marginal issues, acting angry all the time, etc…. I will admit I only tuned is a few times, so I may not have a representative sample but I could not be less interested in that style of entertainment no matter who is doing it.
    Now if the Daily Show and the Colbert Report count as a left wing echo chamber, then count me in.

    Reply
  6. Joanna

    craighill, I think you’re talking weather, not climate.
    weath·er : the state of the atmosphere with respect to heat or cold, wetness or dryness, calm or storm, clearness or cloudiness.
    cli·mate : the average course or condition of the weather at a place usually over a period of years as exhibited by temperature, wind velocity, and precipitation.

    Reply
  7. craighill

    jo-ann-a — you shouldn’t think so much. GENERALLY, the colder the planet is, the colder our continent is, and the colder our continent is, the more it snows. i’m talking about global warming, which clearly hasn’t been happening recently in our part of the globe.
    oh and go stick ur phonetic hyphens on our gradually increasing polar ice cap. smartass.

    Reply
  8. Lefty Reactionary

    It’s always my favorite conservative mantra. “You shouldn’t think so much”… “This, to me, is a no-brainer”… “You can cite studies to prove almost anything”…
    Oh and, by the way, those cooked books weren’t actually cooked. In the same way that ACORN didn’t actually provide help to a pimp. But we didn’t hear any of the retractions of those stories in the “liberal media”.

    Reply
  9. Andrew

    There can be no serious discussion of opinion until the facts are known. Currently, there is no consenses as to what the true set of facts is. Like Ehren above, I am “skeptical of any pseudo-science that gets whipped out by either side” given that both sides create their set of facts through spin and data manipulation.

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  10. MarkC

    Regarding the Internet – this technology, that we all enjoy, would not exist today if not for a lot of US government spending, which by definition must have been wasteful – and yes, Al Gore was one Senator who was instrumental in securing that original funding, but let’s keep making fun of him for that comment anyway

    Reply
  11. Rebecca

    Amazing photo!
    Craighill, it’s obvious Joanna copied the definitions from dictionary.com; I don’t think she was attempting to insult your intelligence with the dots between the syllables.

    Reply
  12. littlerattyratratrat

    Track the atmospheric CO2 levels.
    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/
    There’s a conspiracy of thousands of climatologists (and Al Gore) who hate America, or there’s a disinformation campaign by some huge corporations who stand to lose big bucks. I know where I’d bet my money, but give it a few more years and it won’t make any difference.

    Reply
  13. Matt

    Interesting, but how can this blog entry be complete without an acknowledgement, at the very least, of Climategate? Just which side is cooking the books? Both, probably. Whatever credibility the global warmists had went out the window when the world learned they were manipulating data and blacklisting scientists who challenged them. There’s big bucks in carbon schemes and even more power for those who get to make the decisions.
    Wish I had more time to comment, but I’m knee deep in a prudence case AGAINST one of those fine energy companies named above. Have missed you all, take care.

    Reply
  14. Joanna

    from Clarence Page’s article, Yes, Global Warming Could Mean More Snow . . .
    “But, contrary to popular belief, a robust snowfall does not mean global warming is a myth.
    In fact, scientists have been warning for at least two decades that global warming could make snowstorms more severe. Snow has two simple ingredients: cold and moisture. Warmer air collects moisture like a sponge until it hits a patch of cold air. When temperatures dip below freezing, a lot of moisture creates a lot of snow.”
    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-02-14/news/ct-oped-0214-page-20100212_1_global-warming-term-climate-change-snow

    Reply
  15. Seriously?

    Seriously craighill? Seriously? do you really not understand the difference between weather and climate?

    Reply
  16. kent

    Matt> Climategate? Bullshit. Stolen e-mails quoted out of context so arrogant pusbags like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity can bloviate about it. If you actually look carefully at that whole debacle it has NOTHING to do with the status of Climate Science.
    There is no debate among actual scientists. They can’t say exactly what the average temperature or sea level will be in 20 years, but it’s a fool’s bet that AGW won’t have negative consequences.
    For fuck’s sake, they pushed northward the planting times on the back of seed packets! The coral reefs are dying all over the world because or rising ocean temperatures! What the fuck do you want for proof? Bengla Desh under water? Open water at the North Pole year round? The desertification of the midwest? The complete collapse of agriculture when the bees die off?
    I don’t even know why I waste my breath, climate change skeptic are fucking idiots, plain and simple, and I don’t care who I offend by saying so.

    Reply
  17. Caitlin

    I totally agree with Kent’s closing comment: “You are, as always, entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.”
    I was reminded of this when I heard this piece on NPR
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125917175
    specifically this section:
    “When it comes to taxes, the Obama administration has actually cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans through a federal income tax credit.
    But Varley [head of the Greater Boston Tea Party] says she doesn’t believe that — no matter what the government says.”
    It’s impossible to argue with people who refuse to accept evidence that contradicts their strongly held opinions.
    I think that is the difference between scientists and industry-funded climate-change opposition or, for example, vaccine-autism link proponents. If compelling studies contradict the consensus, scientists can and do revise hypotheses and are open to persuasion that will change their views — if the evidence is compelling. But the reverse is not true for the other side.

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  18. Matt

    Ok, with all due respect, if you think the scandal surrounding the release of the emails (confessions) and the public admissions of false data being published in the UN’s report on climate change, you’re the one who hasn’t a clue. I don’t know if you’re putting your own head in the sand or just don’t know better, but there’s no excuse for it. Facts are facts, indeed. You need to put down the Greenpeace propaganda and Mother Jones misinformation and inform yourself. Even the NYT covered this news (however reluctantly). There’s no ifs ands or buts about it. Data was deliberatley manipulated, falsely presented for political reasons– there are more lies in the UN report than truths– and the repercussions for the warmists was/is devastating. Look into it, folks (I understand Kent is incapable of an honest appraisal of the facts in this matter, he’s too emotionally invested, as were the scientists who were breaking every aspect of the scientific method in order to fool the public). You’ll find that Climategate is a shocking betrayal of the public trust. Even if warmists are right about AGW, they destroyed their credibility totally.
    BTW, my mantra with this whole thing has always been: I’ll begin to believe that global warming is a life and death matter when those who keep saying it is a life and death matter begin acting like it’s a life and death matter. If you truly believed your child’s life hangs in the balance by the consumption of carbon-based fuels, you wouldn’t be jetting around the country to watch basketball games. I’m sorry, but you wouldn’t. I don’t believe you. I may like you and think you’re a good person, but I don’t believe you on this one. I’m not calling out anyone in particular. ;)

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  19. John Galt

    Funny that you should post this with a photo of the erupting Icelandic volcano with the unpronounceable name… Anybody checking that puppy’s CO2 output?

    Reply
  20. dob

    Craighill: As has been pointed out to you already, weather != climate. While the United States was experiencing a cold winter, the North Pacific was experiencing an unusually warm one.
    More to the point, in the context of the earth’s climate, water is energy. The warmer the atmosphere is, the wetter it is, so an increase in snowfall in the winter is hardly a surprising result.
    John Galt, you can fuck off as always. Yep, the volcano is emitting huge amounts of CO2, but not as much as we are.

    Reply

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