A Few Things Ill Considered

Q&A Fun with candidate for congress

The question:

Do you believe that human-caused global warming exists? If so, how do you propose reducing the amount of carbon that enters the atmosphere. If not, please explain why you do not believe it exists.

And Tom Mullins’ answer:

No. Carbon is organic and carbon is the basis of all life. Our federal government is attempting to regulate not just the breath we exhale, but is also infringing upon our very livelihood. Affordable energy is a critical component of New Mexico’s economic development. The residence of CO2 in the troposphere is about 5 years, rather than the 50 to 200 years assumed by many regulators. The science is not settled regarding climate change, temperature records have been falsified, and the assumptions used in computer models have large degrees of error. I believe that politicians who advocate climate change taxes and regulations, merely want greater power and control of our daily lives. As a professional engineer, I will be a voice of scientific reason on this very emotional subject.

So the challenge for us is just how many errors, factual, expository or logical are packed into this one paragraph?

I’ll start us off with a couple of easy ones: The second sentence is a total non-sequitur and exhaled CO2 has nothing to do with rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

Comments

  1. #1 M
    August 20, 2010

    Its amazing how well Segalstad and Essenhigh have managed to corrupt the skept-o-sphere with the “5 year lifetime” meme. One of these days I’ll get around to writing my Essenhigh rebuttal, though I don’t know if the journal will take it this long after the original…

    (not that CO2 lifetime is 50 to 200 years either: CO2 doesn’t decay as a simple exponential, so there really isn’t any single lifetime that captures the CO2 lifecycle… one can use the Bern cycle carbon approximation, which divides CO2 up into portions that decay over something like 5 years, 20 years, 100 years, and infinite (based on my recollection – not going to look up the precise values), but even that is just an approximation for a pulse of CO2 in a system at equilibrium which is far from the current state of reality…

    -M

  2. #2 Daniel J. Andrews
    August 20, 2010

    He’s an engineer. This is becoming a real stereotype.

    Be nice if he pointed out exactly which temperature records he thinks are falsified. And how he knows this. And why the “real” temp data hasn’t made it into journals. And why scientists haven’t jumped all over this discrepancy to show how a handful of other scientists have falsified records and engaged in fraud.

    Follow the questions and you’ll end up down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories, which is a place far too many engineers go.

  3. #3 jim
    August 21, 2010

    It would be interesting to rephrase the question:

    As an engineer and Congressman, do you believe your constituents should be compensated by the federal gov’t for the costs (health, environmental, business expenses, etc.) incurred by climate change?

  4. #4 adelady
    August 21, 2010

    Jim, that is brilliant!

  5. #5 Chris Winter
    August 23, 2010

    Somewhat related: An essay in Saskatchewan’s Prairie Dog magazine.

    http://www.prairiedogmag.com/archive/?id=317

    Their “Global Warming Skeptic’s Declaration” is worth a look too.

  6. #6 DreamQuestor
    August 24, 2010

    An equally pertinent question would be: “As a professional engineer, would you accept advice and/or instructions from someone who has no absolutely training as an engineer and cannot even grasp the fundamentals of your profession?”

  7. #7 MarkB
    August 26, 2010

    “Affordable energy is a critical component of New Mexico’s economic development.”

    Sure. And?

    “The residence of CO2 in the troposphere is about 5 years, rather than the 50 to 200 years”

    What the science says:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/co2-residence-time.htm

    “Assumed by many regulators” – funny

    “The science is not settled regarding climate change”

    Very ambiguous, since he doesn’t get specific. Here’s what scientists agree on:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus-intermediate.htm

    RealClimate deconstructs the standard denialist phrase above.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/12/unsettled-science/

    “temperature records have been falsified,”

    Um…I believe the burden of proof would be on Mullins here. Cite an academic study, please.

    “and the assumptions used in computer models have large degrees of error.”

    Odd phrasing. Uncertainties swing both ways, and is not the friend of the science denier. Even on the low end, there’s plenty to be concerned about.

    http://www.iac.ethz.ch/people/knuttir/papers/knutti08natgeo.pdf

    “I believe that politicians who advocate climate change taxes and regulations, merely want greater power and control of our daily lives.”

    This libertarian ideology and paranoia is the root cause of most global warming denial. I’m not sure Mullins really believes the nonsense he’s spewing. It’s more of a reflection of his ignorant constituency. There hasn’t been much movement overall in public opinion regarding global warming science and support for mitigation, but among Republicans/conservatives there’s been a notable shift, owing mainly the susceptibility of the group to disinformation following being swept out of power, to an anti-science media blitz, and to cold/snowy local weather in populated areas over the winter. It would be interesting to see if public opinion has moved following a hot spring/summer in those same locations. Odd that plenty of global warming polls are conducted in winter but not so much in summer. Political rhetoric from Republican politicians has moved to reflect these factors. Note the flip flop with McCain, for example.

    While most Americans support GHG reductions, it’s not at the top of their list (as most long-term problems aren’t), and those opposing it tend to be zealous fanatics screaming about the end of the world if carbon pricing is implemented. So Mullins is able to get away with it among the general population and energize his base, giving them warm fuzzy feelings about him. He sees through that dirty governmental liberal Al Gore scam and he’s one of them. Tell your friends and family.

    “As a professional engineer, I will be a voice of scientific reason on this very emotional subject.”

    Yikes!

  8. #8 Jack Savage
    September 2, 2010

    I should answer as follows:

    “Do you believe that human-caused global warming exists?”

    Yes. It would be extraordinary to believe that the heat produced by the amount of energy humans use was not having a net heating effect on the planet when contrasted to our other activities, few of which would appear to have a cooling effect.

    “If so, how do you propose reducing the amount of carbon that enters the atmosphere.”

    Er…Is there some connection between this part of the question and the the first part? If there is, you have not made it clear. However, if I proposed reducing the amount of carbon that enters the atmosphere I would try and wean the Third World off wood, coal, dung and other soot (“carbon”) – producing fires.

    “If not, please explain why you do not believe it exists.”

    How could anyone not believe in the existance of the atmosphere?

    As my science teacher used to say: “Ask a stupid question and you will get a stupid answer.”

    My guess as to what the questioner meant to ask is:

    Do you believe that human caused fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions are causing a net heating effect on the planet which will lead to a net deterioration in the state of our global weather, environment, living standards and health?
    If so, how to you propose effectively to mitigate such deterioration?
    If not,do you not think that actively seeking some way to reduce our fossil fuel consumption in as much as it can be reduced without causing such deterioration in the process would be a good idea, and if not, why not?

  9. #9 coby
    September 2, 2010

    Jack:

    It would be extraordinary to believe that the heat produced by the amount of energy humans use was not having a net heating effect on the planet

    The net average climate forcing from heat as a by product of all humnan activities is on the order of 100 times smaller than the radiative forcing from the elevated levels of greenhouse gases in the air today.

    0.028 W m2 from waste heat (source)

    2.9 W/m2 from GHG (source)

  10. #10 mandas
    September 2, 2010

    No Jack, that is not what the questioner meant to ask, and his original series of questions was pretty clear. I am damned confused how you managed to turn a question that asked whether Mullins believed in human caused global warming into whether he believed in an atmosphere. Are you really that dense, or just being obtuse?

    And your solution to reduce carbon in the atmosphere???? Reduce third world wood, coal and dung fires?? Now I do know you are being obtuse, because no-one could really be that dense. How much coal do you think the third world uses in ‘fires’, by comparison to how much carbon the developed world pumps into the atmosphere via elecricity generation and automobiles?? (Just checking, you do understand that carbon is a fundamental consituent of carbon dioxide, right? (hence the name)).