The Island of Doubt

It’s hard to know just when George F. Will parted ways with reality. Some argue he abandoned respect for historical accuracy years ago. But it’s only in the last year or so, thanks to a series of bafflingly misinformed column on climate change, that it became clear to all but his most loyal readers that he no longer cares about getting it right.

Still, you have to appreciate his way with words. In this past weekend’s affront to the traditions of evidence-based commentary — a column that has been eviscerated by most of the better science-oriented bloggers who pay attention to such things — he assembles this marvelous string of English nouns, verbs and metaphors:

Next came the failure of The World’s Last — We Really, Really Mean It — Chance, a.k.a. the Copenhagen climate change summit. It was a nullity, and since then things have been getting worse for those trying to stampede the world into a spasm of prophylactic statism.

Prophylactic statism. You have to admire the guy for coming up with that one. It sounds so creepy, evoking as it does the allure of the sex trade and fear of communism, and yet implying a degree of scientific precision. What could be more American?

Like Will’s misleading reference to Phil Jones’ much-misrepresented interview with the BBC, however, the phrase doesn’t really mean what Will wants it to. Prophylaxis is all about preventing disease, which is a good thing. And who among us, besides Ron Paul and Sarah Palin, perhaps, has a problem with the state doing its bit to prevent disease? It’s almost as if Will is trying to slip in a negative reference to current efforts to reform health insurance. Maybe that was a Freudian slip?

As Hendrick Hertzbert writes in the New Yorker blog:

It is true, however, that the global warming problem probably cannot be addressed (let alone solved) without vigorous action by governments, acting separately and together, to reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions that economists classify as externalities

This is axiomatic. And it’s hard to believe that even Will would take issue with the notion that if anthropogenic climate change is real, there isn’t a role for government in addressing the challenge. Indeed, it’s precisely because the problem will require global cooperation among nations that Will has chosen to attack the scientific basis for the existence of the crisis.

Unfortunately for Will and his pseudoskeptical colleagues, one can’t wish away a 150-year warming trend by dismissing arbitrary short-term periods as “statistically insignificant.” Not and still make sense. The Will’s editors at the Washington Post understand this.

So the question is, how long will the Post continue to pay Will to produce columns that are at variance with the basic principles of informed and thoughtful commentary? Is his indisputable way with words that much more valuable?

Comments

  1. #1 Erasmussimo
    February 23, 2010

    James, here’s a thought that I’d like to hear your reactions to:

    One fundamental source of journalistic mishandling of AGW is confusion over its nature. Climate change is a scientific issue, not a political issue, the greatest triumph of the deniers is to convince journalists to treat it as a political issue. If it were regarded as a scientific issue, we wouldn’t see journalists trying to achieve balance by getting input from opponents — instead, they’d just go to the most reputable sources and ignore crackpots. If it were regarded as a scientific issue, we wouldn’t get political commentators writing columns about it.

    It *is* a scientific issue, of course, but the deniers have managed to bring scientific matters into the realm of political debate. Anybody want to take a vote on the theory of punctuated equilibrium? Dark matter? Does George Will agree that Peking Man was really just Homo Erectus or an entirely separate species? Should Congress resolve the question of Neptune’s axial tilt through a bill (with riders attached providing funding for additional rest areas on Interstate 80 in Nebraska)?

  2. #2 dhogaza
    February 23, 2010

    It *is* a scientific issue, of course, but the deniers have managed to bring scientific matters into the realm of political debate. Anybody want to take a vote on the theory of punctuated equilibrium?

    I live in the United States, so “punk eek” is a bad example. Evolutionary biology has been politicized in a way that’s very similar to what’s happening with climate science, and “punk eek” has been invoked as “proof” that Stephen Jay Gould “didn’t believe in evolution”, etc etc.

    The only difference between the politicization of climate science and evolutionary biology is scale. The Christian Right has enough influence so that, say, the Texas Board of Education is capable of driving good material on evolution out of high school biology books, to harass our public school systems in attempts to force them to teach that creationism is on the table with evolution, etc.

    Fossil fuel interests have far more resources. Fighting them vs. creationists is like invading China vs. say, Costa Rica.

  3. #3 StartAllOver Without Faking up the Data
    February 23, 2010

    Britain’s Weather Office Proposes Climate-Gate Do-Over
    By George Russell.

    At a meeting on Monday of about 150 climate scientists, representatives of Britain’s weather office quietly proposed that the world’s climatologists start all over again to produce a new trove of global temperature data that is open to public scrutiny and “rigorous” peer review.

    After the firestorm of criticism, the British government’s official Meteorological Office apparently has decided to wave a white flag and surrender.

    aaaaaahahaHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA BWAHAAHAHAHAHAHAhe he he heh heh heh snort LOL What a joke.

  4. #4 Erasmussimo
    February 23, 2010

    Mr. SAOWFUTP in #3 greatly misrepresents what happened. This is understandable, given that his source is the executive editor of Fox News. Allow me to straighten out a few points:

    This is a *proposal* submitted by the UK Met Office, not a final conclusion. It is being considered.

    The proposal says:

    The current surface temperature datasets were first put together in the 1980s to the best standards of dataset development at that time; they are independent analyses and give the same results, thereby corroborating each other.

    It is important to emphasize that we do not anticipate any substantial changes in the resulting global and continental-scale multi-decadal trends. This effort will ensure that the datasets are completely robust and that all methods are transparent.

    There are three centres which currently calculate global average temperature each month… These groups work independently and use different methods in the way they process data to calculate the global average temperature. Despite this, the results of each are similar from month to month and year to year, and there is robust agreement on temperature trends from decade to decade

    All existing surface temperature datasets are homogenized at the monthly resolution, and are therefore suitable for characterizing multi-decadal trends. These are adequate for answering the pressing 20th Century questions of whether climate is changing and if so how. But they are fundamentally ill-conditioned to answer 21st Century questions such as how extremes are changing and therefore what adaptation and mitigation decisions should be taken.

    Let me summarize these results for you: The UK Met Office is saying that the existing temperature records are all quite good, and, if I may use a cute phrase, “the science is settled” when it comes to whether temperatures are increasing over the long run. They have now turned to the next stage: what should we do about it? To answer these questions, we need more detailed and precise data. That’s what they are proposing. They are not in any manner suggesting that the existing datasets are unreliable. They’re saying that the existing datasets aren’t good enough for moving beyond the resolution of basic AGW hypothesis.

    It would appear, Mr. SAOWFUTD, that the joke’s on you.

  5. #5 Dunc
    February 23, 2010

    So the question is, how long will the Post continue to pay Will to produce columns that are at variance with the basic principles of informed and thoughtful commentary?

    As long as they think it sells papers.

  6. #6 Uh Oh! bongo!
    February 23, 2010

    Time for the AGW scam criminals to Lawyer up. The proverbial sheep $&!# is hitting the fan.

    SENATE EPW MINORITY RELEASES REPORT ON CRU CONTROVERSY

    Shows Scientists Violated Ethics, Reveals Major Disagreements on Climate Science

    Washington, D.C.-The Minority Staff of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works released a report today titled, “‘Consensus’ Exposed: The CRU Controversy.” The report covers the controversy surrounding emails and documents released from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU). It examines the extent to which those emails and documents affect the scientific work of the UN’s IPCC, and how revelations of the IPCC’s flawed science impacts the EPA’s endangerment finding for greenhouse gases.

    The report finds that some of the scientists involved in the CRU controversy violated ethical principles governing taxpayer-funded research and possibly federal laws. In addition, the Minority Staff believes the emails and accompanying documents seriously compromise the IPCC-based “consensus” and its central conclusion that anthropogenic emissions are inexorably leading to environmental catastrophes.

  7. #7 dhogaza
    February 23, 2010

    Yeah, well, Republicans lying about climate science, nothing newsworthy about that.

  8. #8 Ivan Yurkenov
    February 23, 2010

    Erasmussimo, you have it backward, “[c]limate change is a scientific issue, not a political issue”. Climate change is NOT science!!! It is, in fact, a RELIGION, complete with a prophet — Al Gore — and a holy book — Earth in the Balance; it has its pharisees — the collection of “pseudo-scientists” willing to falsify data to support their secular beliefs — and its adherents –> you tools.

    Anthropomorphic Climate Change requires your blind faith, such as every religion does, and it requires you to deny all other religions as irrelevant. And it, like Islam, requires that you take your belief and codify it into the legal system, which makes it POLITICAL!!!

    Erasmussimo, the jig is up; we are onto your game — game OVER!!!

    Ivan

  9. #9 Ivan Yurkenov
    February 23, 2010

    Now, here’s an idea whose time has come!

    Let’s have “Nuremberg-style trials” for AGW Hoaxers!!!

    Ivan

  10. #10 Erasmussimo
    February 23, 2010

    Mr. UOB, I don’t think anybody is even slightly concerned that the Republicans issued a minority report making absurd claims. They are welcome to their opinions, but they are nothing more than opinions, having no intellectual substance and certainly zero legal significance. If you wish to continue parroting this nonsense, go right ahead, but there’s nothing of any significance in those stolen emails.

    Ivan Yurkenov, if you think that there is no scientific basis for climate change theory, then please tell me what statements in the IPCC AR4 WG1 report (the scientific basis for climate change theory) you find incorrect. Why just shoot the breeze when you can be explicit? Just provide any quote from IPCC AR4 WG1, cite chapter, and show why you think it false.

  11. #11 Marco
    February 23, 2010

    Ah, science on trial! How wonderful. It will be the end of all the Galileo references of the denialists!

  12. #12 Ivan Yurkenov
    February 23, 2010

    Erasmussimo, if you think for one minute, that I am going to waste my time debunking a report – whose authors admitted publicly to falsifying the data on which they relied in putting together said report – you are as crazy as the authors are liars. ‘Nuff said on that.

    Ivan

  13. #13 Ivan Yurkenov
    February 23, 2010

    Gee, who to believe on the topic of anthropomorphic global warming? Oops, I forgot, we changed the name to anthropomorphic climate change in keeping with the changing reality. But I digress. Who should we believe? A “freelance” — read, “unemployed” — journalist with an unusable degree in an obscure science discipline, or a professional meteorologist who is regarded as the best long-range predictor — read forecaster — of weather in the business? I’ll go with the latter, thank you.

    Just last night, February 22, 2010, Joe Bastardi of AccuWeather made the compelling case in dressing down Bill Nye the Science Guy — that’s a laugh — see the exchange here.

    The money quote from Joe Bastardi: “What you have to believe, folks, is this: That the Sun plus the Ocean plus the Volcanic Activity plus Natural Reversal has less effect than the yearly human contribution equal to the width of a hair on a 1 KM bridge of a trace gas needed for life.” What that means is that NATURE is more powerful than the sum of us poor mortals. Whoda thunk it?

    For those of you who still want to believe that man can warm or cool the Earth, don’t look up because the SKY IS FALLING!!! AH-HA-HA-HA-HA. Only self-important narcissists, who think they are god-like could be so conceited as to believe such nonsense!!!

    Ivan

  14. #14 Erasmussimo
    February 23, 2010

    Ivan Yurkenov, I think it likely that you refuse to attempt to address the science because:

    a) you haven’t even read IPCC AR4 WG1;
    b) if you have read it, you didn’t understand it;
    or
    c) if you did read and understand it, and know perfectly well that you can’t debunk it.

    The fact that you refuse to discuss the science is proof enough that you are not cognizant of the scientific issues. I strongly suspect that you are motivated by tribal loyalty to right-wing politics, and therefore reject the science because it leads to conclusions that you find politically unpalatable.

    Who should we believe? A “freelance” — read, “unemployed” — journalist with an unusable degree in an obscure science discipline, or a professional meteorologist who is regarded as the best long-range predictor — read forecaster — of weather in the business? I’ll go with the latter, thank you.

    Actually, I don’t think that anybody is asking you to believe a journalist. Since you are so enamored of experts, however, I offer for your consideration the National Academy of Sciences, founded 145 years ago by an act of Congress with the responsibility to provide sound scientific advice to the government regarding scientific issues that have public policy implications. Membership in the NAS is confined to the elite of American science, and the reports they prepare are subjected to very careful consideration. Thus, the NAS in science is analogous to the Supreme Court in law — with these exceptions:

    1. The Supreme Court has only nine justices. NAS has hundreds of scientists.
    2. The Supreme Court must decide an issue with a simple yes-or-no vote; the NAS can issue reports as nuanced as it thinks necessary.
    3. The Supreme Court must decide its cases within nine months; the NAS takes as long as necessary.
    4. The Supreme Court has made numerous decisions that legal scholars now consider to be mistaken; but in 145 years, the NAS has *never* issued a report later shown to be incorrect. Not once — its track record is perfect.

    And guess what? The NAS says that AGW is real and poses a significant threat.

    So what are you going to do now? Reject scientific experts, thereby contradicting your claims regarding Joe Bastardi; or accept what scientists are saying about climate change?

  15. #15 Ivan Yurkenov
    February 23, 2010

    Debunking the myth that man can control weather - Suppose you can determine the hemisphere with the largest mass of human life-form here on Earth; and you could pick a certain hour on a certain day when the critical human mass of that hemisphere is facing the Sun; and you communicated to every man, woman and child who are experiencing daylight — everything from dusk to dawn — on that date and at that hour to jump up and down for ten solid minutes. Could this concerted activity possibly knock Earth out of orbit? Could it? I didn’t think so. Likewise, we don’t have the ability to alter climate. If we could, we would have a long time ago.

    Prior to making demands that will off-balance global economic ativity, why don’t you AGW freaks try something a little more modest first; like maybe bring rain to the Sahara Desert or Death Valley?

    There’s an idea: Manipulate physical nature sufficiently to convert Death Valley into something akin to the Salinas Valley; make the Sahara Desert a “bread basket” for Africa and Anatolia — that would be Asia Minor, for you over-educated pin-heads — to feed the impoverished indigenous; and while you’re at it, make Mexico a paradise so that her displaced peoples will return home. What’s that? Oh? Mexico is already a paradise? It’s just that it’s an untapped, under-utilized paradise? I see…

    Just sayin’.

    Ivan

  16. #16 Ivan Yurkenov
    February 23, 2010

    I read Alice in Wonderland, but that does not mean that I believe that the Queen of Hearts is anything more than one of five cards that can comprise a royal flush.

    Your holy document, the IPCC, has by the admissions of the fiction writers who authored it – those high priests of your AGW religion – been rendered useless. Don’t you read the newspapers?

    So, go on relying on your precious IPCC, and I will quote you Lewis Carroll.

    Ivan

  17. #17 Erasmussimo
    February 23, 2010

    Ivan Yurkenov, it’s obvious to me that you misunderstand the science involved here. Your very first clause is:

    Debunking the myth that man can control weather

    You confuse *control* with *influence*. There are lots of natural phenomena that we can influence but not control. There are also, of course, lots of natural phenomena that we can’t even influence. The way to figure out the difference is to analyze the scientific principles at work.

    Your basic argument is that climate is too big for humanity to influence. And you’re right that the impact of CO2 on climate is tiny. We can actually come up with a pretty good set of numbers to describe exactly what is at work. The term is “radiative forcing”. The total radiative forcing from the sun is about 1365 W m**-2. The radiative forcing from anthropogenic CO2 is about 1.6 W m**-2. Hence, you are correct that the effect of human release of CO2 is about 0.1% as large as the sun’s light.

    However, there’s this scientific law called the “conservation of energy”: energy isn’t created or destroyed. If we add even a tiny amount of extra heat to the earth, that heat slowly, steadily increases the temperature. That’s exactly what we’re doing with CO2. Nobody is predicting that temperatures will soar overnight. We’re talking about perhaps 5ºC over a hundred years. That’s a tiny change (in absolute terms) over a long period. But for humanity a change that small could still be very destructive.

    Your holy document, the IPCC, has by the admissions of the fiction writers who authored it – those high priests of your AGW religion – been rendered useless. Don’t you read the newspapers?

    Actually, I prefer to read the technical reports and the actual sources. You are quite mistaken — the IPCC is most assuredly NOT retracting any of its core findings. If you think that the IPCC has declared that AR4 has been “rendered useless”, why don’t you provide us with a quote from one of the primary IPCC AR4 WG1 authors?

    I note with satisfaction that you have dodged my question regarding whether you trust scientists.

  18. #18 Spinnerhead
    February 23, 2010

    “Mr. SAOWFUTP in #3 greatly misrepresents what happened”
    ___

    SPIN BABY SPIN.

    aka business as usual for the Hoax believers.

  19. #19 John P
    February 23, 2010

    At this point, I half expect Will to tell us that cigarettes don’t cause cancer, and that plate tectonics is still in question. The evidence supporting the safety of cigarette smoke hypothesis is just as compelling as that which disproves AGW, and an opinion piece discussing it would be just as interesting, scientifically speaking.

    I’d love to see Will debate Jim Hansen.

  20. #20 Duane
    February 23, 2010

    Overeducated pinheads?

    Good grief, why bother with this website if that is how you feel? Why would any anti-rationalist, anti-education, anti-science person of ANY political persuasion waste their time here?

    And yet so many seem to be doing it.

  21. #21 Ivan Yurkenov
    February 23, 2010

    Hypothesis

    A hypothesis is an educated guess, based on observation. Usually, a hypothesis can be supported or refuted through experimentation or more observation. A hypothesis can be disproven, but not proven to be true.

    Theory

    A scientific theory summarizes a hypothesis or group of hypotheses that have been supported with repeated testing. A theory is valid as long as there is no evidence to dispute it. Therefore, theories can be disproven. Basically, if evidence accumulates to support a hypothesis, then the hypothesis can become accepted as a good explanation of a phenomenon. One definition of a theory is to say it’s an accepted hypothesis.

    Law

    A law generalizes a body of observations. At the time it is made, no exceptions have been found to a law. Scientific laws explain things, but they do not describe them. One way to tell a law and a theory apart is to ask if the description gives you a means to explain ‘why’.

    Anthropogenic Global Warming…Climate Change — whatever you call it today — does not even pass the smell test as a theory.

    My hypothesis, uh-hem, educated guess, is that, for the past several years, annual average temperatures have been getting progressively colder. Prior to that, going back to the 1980′s, annual average temperatures were progressively warmer. Ergo, we went through some 10-15 years when we were enjoying winters more and summers less, and for the past 10-15 years we have been enjoying summers more and winters less. On what do I base my hypothesis? My own personal observations.

    So, my theory is that the Earth goes through cycles, unrelated to human activity, where temperatures go up and temperatures go down. Make the best of each cycle and enjoy the ride.

    Ivan

  22. #22 Erasmussimo
    February 23, 2010

    The deniers are out in force this morning; apparently it was mentioned in one of the denier blogs and they’re here to accomplish by quantity what they cannot achieve by evidence and logic.

    Spinnerhead gives us a typical denier drive-by shot, denying without any logic or evidence. Typical denier behavior.

    Duane, your comment has some ambiguities; would you expand on your point?

  23. #23 Erasmussimo
    February 23, 2010

    Anthropogenic Global Warming…Climate Change — whatever you call it today — does not even pass the smell test as a theory.

    Ivan Yurkenov, perhaps your nose needs some further education in scientific matters. It certainly convinces the great majority of relevant scientists. Do you think that you’re smarter than they are?

    And your hypothesis regarding temperature cycles is way too simplistic. There are indeed some oscillations in weather due to changes in ocean temperatures. There is also a general increase in temperatures — yes, including the last ten years — over a time scale of about 30 years, which is about the time scale we need to discern climatological phenomena. The 30-year figure is based on the heat capacity of the oceans.

  24. #24 Ivan Yurkenov
    February 23, 2010

    I apologize if I offended any “over-educated pin-heads” here. The indictment would be more palatable to your feelings if you were to read it as “rich in education but completely lacking in worldly experience”. Does that make you feel better? Again, knowing that self-esteem is your generation’s greatest trait, I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings.

    Having cleared that up, let me address science: I have the highest regard for science; but I abhor MANUFACTURED SCIENCE. You know, science that is built on falsifying or altering or manipulating in order to reach a desired outcome. In this case, sensors were selectively placed where they would report intentionally skewed data which provided the desired outcome. You’ve read the reports; sensors placed on non-shaded asphalt; sensors placed next to air conditioning exhaust vents; etc.

    And the incriminating emails? Thank God for Russian computer hackers! What about the suggestion that data was deleted and/or destroyed to avoid FOIA requests?

    Your “science” is as sound as that which was used in the Salem Witch Trials.

    Ivan

  25. #25 Ivan Yurkenov
    February 23, 2010

    In reading the posts from you “enlightened” gents, it dawns on me that I have ingested my annual allowance of smug arrogance, all in one day.

    When history plays out, and you are ultimately proved foolish for your belief that “the Earth is flat”, remember one thing: Ivan tried to tell you so.

    Ivan

  26. #26 Erasmussimo
    February 23, 2010

    Ivan Yurkenov, you certainly haven’t hurt my feelings; my purpose here is to demonstrate to lurkers that deniers are ignorant of the science, and you are playing your role perfectly. It would seem that you regard any education higher than a high school diploma as too much; if that is truly your attitude, well, that’s fine with me, but I would suggest that scientific judgement be made by educated scientists, not uneducated ideologues. And as to “worldly experience”, I have a great deal of that, too — I’ve been around the block a great many times now.

    I have the highest regard for science; but I abhor MANUFACTURED SCIENCE.

    This reminds me of the classic Peanuts quote: “I love humanity, it’s people that I hate.” If you had the highest regard for science, then you’d pay heed to what the great majority of the world’s scientists are saying. But you reject their conclusions. Why? It’s certainly not for any scientific reasons.

    You refer to “alsifying or altering or manipulating in order to reach a desired outcome”. I challenge you to give one example of such a case in anything used by the IPCC AR4 WG1 report. I don’t think you can meet my challenge.

    Indeed, you continue to shirk from answering my questions regarding your willingness to accept the conclusions of the National Academy of Sciences as well as your knowledge of climatology compared with that of the authors of the NAS and IPCC reports. That in itself speaks volumes.

  27. #27 Jonathan Vos Post
    February 23, 2010

    It’s an elastic terminology. Like rubber.

  28. #28 Duane
    February 23, 2010

    My point was a followup to one of the deniers calling someone explaining why climate change was supported by the scientific evidence an “overeducated pinhead.”

    It just seems to me that if you think one can be overeducated the last place you would want to hang out is where educated people hang out. If you also don’t like science why hang out at a science website? There are plenty of non-science websites to hang out at.

    Personally, I don’t have a fraction of the knowledge needed to debate the conclusions of 95% of the trained climate scientists on Earth. But, I do have a certain belief in the scientific method and that if that nearly absolute majority of climate scientists are wrong eventually science will correct itself. So what is it? I don’t see how anyone who doesn’t accept the evidence of global climate change could be accepting as an explanation anything other than a global conspiracy among climate scientists.

  29. #29 Erasmussimo
    February 23, 2010

    Thanks for clearing that up, Duane. I agree that calling people “overeducated” is no different from calling oneself “undereducated”.

  30. #30 Tacroy
    February 23, 2010

    I just don’t understand why denialists like Ivan think that pointing out the name change from “global warming” to “global climate change” means anything.

    Look, the globe is warming on average. All the data points to that fact. However, douchebags like Ivan took the name “global warming” to mean “it will never snow ever again”, and whenever a particularly cold season happened took the opportunity to claim that global warming wasn’t happening.

    In the interest of clarity, scientists started referring to it as “global climate change”, because that’s also what’s happening – a general increase in global mean temperature will definitely change the climate.

    So basically, Ivan’s argument boils down to “I misinterpreted it when it was global warming, and now that you’ve changed the name to something slightly clearer, I’m going to hold that against you even though it’s my fault that you changed the name in the first place”.

  31. #31 Mal Adapted
    February 23, 2010

    Ivan Yurkenov, you certainly haven’t hurt my feelings; my purpose here is to demonstrate to lurkers that deniers are ignorant of the science, and you are playing your role perfectly.

    Yeah, Ivan’s just jerkin’ off (nice blognomen, Ivan). If he’s not a Poe, then he’s a conspicuous victim of the Dunning-Kruger effect. He won’t respond positively to having that pointed out, because resistance to recognizing his own incompetence is itself a feature of D-K. Lurking non-climate-experts, however, may acknowledge their own lack of expertise, and consider carefully whom they’ll choose to believe.

  32. #32 Ivan Yurkenov
    February 23, 2010

    “Indeed, you continue to shirk from answering my questions regarding your willingness to accept the conclusions of the National Academy of Sciences…”

    Here is your answer: The National Academy of Sciences is an honorific membership society not unlike the American Medical Association. One joins only if one agrees with the orientation and the activities of the membership. The last time I checked, very few of my colleagues, the ones with whom I choose to associate, would care to bother to join. Likewise, my cousin who is well-considered and highly respected in his practice, would NEVER consider joining the American Trial Lawyers Association.

    Like the AMA and ATLA, NAS is populated with pompous, over-inflated, self-important, blow-hards. I’m guessing you belong to NAS?

    Ivan

  33. #33 HS
    February 23, 2010

    HS! It’s a classic libtard beatdown. A little common sense can go a long way.

  34. #34 Hank Roberts
    February 23, 2010

    > And it’s hard to believe that even Will would take
    > issue with the notion that if anthropogenic climate
    > change is real, there isn’t a role for government
    > in addressing the challenge.

    Will would say there is no role for government even if he believed that human actions are causing climate change.

    I agree with what you said, but is it what you meant?

  35. #35 Ivan Yurkenov
    February 23, 2010

    Mal, nice blognomen yourself, I took the D-K test; unfortunately, I must not have studied hard enough because I failed to measure up. But, I do exhibit a healthy level of ego, a slight deficiency of id, and only a moderate degree of super-ego. Thanks for the concern, though.

    Ivan

  36. #36 mandas
    February 23, 2010

    Dho / Eras

    I’m going to disagree with some of your earlier points here. I tend to believe that climate change is not a scientific issue, but is clearly a political issue now – just like the teaching of evolutionary biology (is there any other type of biology??).

    The science of climate change cannot be disputed by other science. It is clear, it is indisputable, and no real scientist with any credibility doubts it. There may be debate over some of the finer points – but that’s science. But the fact that the climate is changing, and it is largely the result of CO2 forcing from increased anthropogenic gases, is pretty clear to every scientist.

    However, what to do about it (if anything) is a political issue. And on this basis it is reasonable for there to be many different opinions. There is nothing wrong with an oil company attempting to block a tax on carbon, because it is against their interests for there to be one. And one of the principle weapons that such organisations use is to throw doubt and question the veracity of the science. It’s an old tactic – the cigarette companies have used it for decades – so its one we should be very familiar with. You can fight it by continuing to restate the facts of the science, which we are doing, but that is not enough.

    The fight against tobacco etc hasn’t been completely won (and I am not taking sides here), but the only major victories came not from science, but from politics. I believe the climate change battle can only be won the same way. Some people will never accept the facts of climate change, just as some people will never accept the facts of evolution, or will continue to believe in myths about deities and or creationism. You cannot convert them, because they are ignorant and refuse to see facts. But you can win in the political arena if you approach it correctly.

  37. #37 Ivan Yurkenov
    February 23, 2010

    I just don’t understand why denialists like Ivan think that pointing out the name change from “global warming” to “global climate change” means anything.

    Well, Tacroy, let me explain: I well remember the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. The occasion? To bring attention to the coming ICE AGE which would result from GLOBAL COOLING!!!

    The Chicken Littles have remained much the same over the past four decades, but the crises keep taking different and even counter-intuitive shapes and forms. First, we had GLOBAL COOLING leading to an ICE AGE, then we reversed course because we now had to save polar bears from extinction caused by GLOBAL WARMING and the coming hurricanes, floods and drought. Now, because Mother Nature just won’t cooperate, we have to fear GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE!!! Well, guess what. Climate has always been an agent of change, and climate will always be an agent of change.

    What our resident scientists can’t stand, is their inability to explain every phenomena; it is a source of cognitive dissonance for them. Note to scientists, there will always be phenomena that you cannot comprehend, therefore you will not be able to explain.

    I’ll send you my bill for explaining to you the obvious.

    Ivan

  38. #38 Ivan Yurkenov
    February 23, 2010

    I’ll try one last time:

    1) The climate is changing, no one disputes this.
    2) Since the beginning of time, the climate has been in constant change.
    3) Long before Chevrolet produced the first Suburban, Greenland was home to indigenous people who had a growing season and gardens, and humans world-wide were prospering; we refer to this as the enlightenment.
    4) Then we went through a period of cooling where human existence was negatively impacted with death and disease; we call this the dark ages.
    5) It has been a long, hard slog from the Dark Ages to where we find ourselves today; we have improvised, we have adapted, and we have overcome.
    6) A warmer climate would be a welcome thing; death from exposure to the elements would become less commonplace and crop cultivation would be expanded, geographically, further north and south.

    Change is a wonderful thing; embrace it.

    Ivan

  39. #39 Ivan Yurkenov
    February 23, 2010

    “I note with satisfaction that you have dodged my question regarding whether you trust scientists.”

    Don’t become too satisfied, skippy, because I don’t dodge challenges. In answer to your question: I trust no one when there is an agenda at play; in other words, FOLLOW THE MONEY.

    Unlike you, I don’t view “scientists” as being the same as high priests. Merely having the adequate credential to declare ones self a “scientist” does not make one a paragon of virtue; scientists are nothing more that mortal humans who have pursued a specified vocation, much like a physician is a mere mortal with the proper credentials to practice medicine. That makes one a scientist, does it not? So, I guess I trust scientists who have no agenda at play, which might make them untrustworthy.

    Ivan

  40. #40 mandas
    February 23, 2010

    Ivan

    “…Long before Chevrolet produced the first Suburban, Greenland was home to indigenous people who had a growing season and gardens, and humans world-wide were prospering; we refer to this as the enlightenment….”

    The ‘Enlightenment’ refers to a period signifying a period of French (and German and English) philospohical outlook, generally around the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

    First ‘anthropomorphic’, now the ‘enlightenment’. Your ignorance is truly breathtaking. I strongly suggest you stop trying to use ‘big words’ and stick to ‘see spot run’ in future, ok?

  41. #41 Erasmussimo
    February 23, 2010

    Ivan Yurkenov, you are wildly mistaken about the National Academy of Sciences. It is a huge honor to be invited to join, generally the culmination of a brilliant career. And you’re completely wrong in this claim:

    One joins only if one agrees with the orientation and the activities of the membership.

    The NAS includes a huge spectrum of opinion. Indeed, climate change denier Lindzen is a member of the NAS and I accord him the respect he has earned due to that honor.

    The last time I checked, very few of my colleagues, the ones with whom I choose to associate, would care to bother to join.

    That is truly an inane comment. I very much doubt that you have any colleagues that have been invited to join the NAS, and if they were invited, it would be insanity to refuse to join. It costs nothing and in fact there are lots of benefits that come absolutely free: special conferences, positions on committees that decide important scientific questions as they related to political issues, and so forth. You are talking through your hat.

    Like the AMA and ATLA, NAS is populated with pompous, over-inflated, self-important, blow-hards.

    Name one. You don’t know what you’re talking about, because you don’t know what the NAS is and you don’t know who belongs to it. You’re just denigrating them because their educated scientific judgements contradict your ignorant ideological opinions. I suggest that you visit the NAS website at http://www.nasonline.org/site/PageServer

    As to your summation in #38, you obviously don’t know anything about paleoclimate. Yes, it was warmer during the MWP than previously or shortly thereafter, but the primary evidence in favor of AGW is not the temperature but the rate of change of temperature, which is much, much greater than the maximum rate of change during the MWP.

    Yes, humanity has indeed improvised, adapted, and overcome — but always at a certain cost in lives and money. You are penny-wise and pound-foolish; to save a few hundred billion dollars today you would doom our descendants to spend trillions on mitigation measures.

    A warmer climate would be welcome for some people, but it would also impose serious problems on many other people. The American Midwest would lose much of its agricultural potential due to higher temperatures. The Central Valley in California, the source of billions of dollars worth of agricultural products, is already experiencing problems due to diminished water supplies, and those problems will only grow worse. As sea levels rise, every coastal installation on this planet — ports, seawalls, seaside buildings — will have to be rebuilt. Entire island groups — the Maldives, the Andaman Islands and most coral atolls — will be submerged. I’m sure that you’ll be willing to open your home to take in some of those displaced by your mistakes. And most river deltas — the Nile, the Mekong, the Yellow River, the Mississippi, the Ganges and Brahmaputra, will be swamped and rendered uninhabitable because of hurricanes or typhoons — although this won’t be obvious before tens of thousands die in such flooding.

    Sure, change is a wonderful thing; it’s also a terrible thing. It just depends on who and where you are.

    I well remember the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. The occasion? To bring attention to the coming ICE AGE which would result from GLOBAL COOLING!!!

    Jeez, your memory is slipping. The Newsweek stories publicizing the possibility of global cooling came in 1975, not 1970. And by the way, the National Academy of Sciences weighed in on the matter after requested to do so by Congress and their report said that there was no scientific basis to predict global cooling. (They also said that global warming was more plausible, but as yet there wasn’t enough data to support any conclusions.)

    I’d like to apologize to the general readership for my uncharacteristically intemperate language in addressing Ivan Yurkenov, but the hubris this man demonstrates is truly deserving of strong language. He is utterly ignorant of the most basic facts, and yet regales us with unsubstantiated opinions presented as truth. Note that he never cites any evidence supporting his claims. That’s because logic and evidence are unnecessary to somebody like Ivan Yurkenov, who has already decided the answers, and doesn’t need no stinkin’ facts to deter his mighty opinions.

    Mandas, I agree with you that climate change has become a political issue, but my complaint is that it should NOT be a political issue; the questions being argued are purely scientific. There is certainly a political dimension that should be treated politically: to wit, how we should respond to the problems imposed by AGW. But deniers attack the science as if it were political. I offer Ivan Yurkenov as an example. Here we have a completely ignorant person loudly making the most uninformed comments with absolute certainty. Clearly, politics has invaded science in this matter. Would that we could actually discuss the political issues.

  42. #42 John P
    February 23, 2010

    Einstein was right: “Gegen die dummheit kämpfen die Götter selbst vergebens” (against stupidity the gods themselves struggle in vain). Please don’t feed the trolls. It’s a waste of time. You’re giving them what they want. Negative attention is still attention.

    Rhetorical question: does Will believe this crap he’s writing? He seems smart enough to know it’s bullshit. I can’t help wondering if he has some ulterior motive. Or maybe he’s suffering from craniorectal displacement, as one of my chemist colleagues suggested.

  43. #43 Mal Adapted
    February 23, 2010

    Still Yurken’ ov:

    in other words, FOLLOW THE MONEY.

    Yes, please do.

  44. #44 David Drake
    February 23, 2010

    So Ivan “well remembers” the first Earth Day? I found this article from the New York Times, 23 April 1970, discussing Earth Day events and rallies from the day before. No mention of global cooling, or a coming ice age, or anything about climate. Instead, some talk about cleaning up litter and preventing oil spills, and mention that the main speaker was Sen. Jacob Javits, Republican from New York. Pres. Nixon reportedly “approved” of Earth Day, but didn’t get personally involved.

    Of course, it may be that the NYT, well-known for its liberal bias, has cleverly faked the old article, and Ivan’s memory is the correct version. Being an over-educated pinhead, I really wouldn’t know.

  45. #45 David Drake
    February 23, 2010

    Sorry, NYT article linked above was published on Earth Day (22 April, 1970), not the next day.

  46. #46 Opus
    February 24, 2010

    I think a couple of commenters, especially Erasmussimo, are failing to pick up on a critical fact: Ivan has won this debate! He has performed the four steps necessary to win any such argument in his peer group:
    1. He stuck out his tongue at you. (post 8)
    2. He called you a ‘poopy-head.’ (post 12)
    3. He stuck his fingers in his ears, (post 13)and
    4. He is now singing at the top of his lungs. (posts 37, 38 & 39)

    Your failure to acknowledge his victory is probably due to your reliance on using outmoded tactics like logic and facts.

  47. #47 Bird Harrasser
    February 24, 2010

    From Dr. Judith Curry, GIT, today –

    “No one really believes that the “science is settled” or that “the debate is over.” Scientists and others that say this seem to want to advance a particular agenda. There is nothing more detrimental to public trust than such statements.”

    crumble

    crumble

    crumble

    crumble

    crumble

    crumble

  48. #48 Russ Finley
    February 24, 2010

    For years I enjoyed reading Will’s column in Newsweek, not for its content, but to roll my eyes at his entertaining (to me) use of big words to make himself look more intelligent. Then one day he toned it down. I can only guess that someone (probably on a blog) pointed out that he had no clothes on.

    I for one am glad to see him return to his old ways!

    Politicians from the deep south are not elected despite being imbeciles, they are elected because they are imbeciles, by imbeciles. George’s column is marketable because it attracts readership from both the blog intelligentsia are not impressed by his verbosity and are being critical of his reasoning and facts, and from ah, others who think they have found an intellectual to call their own.

    The blogosphere however, is exposing him for what he is–a pundit who has always used eclectic and obscure words to create the illusion of intellect and wisdom. Comment fields may well be Will’s undoing. Punditry is one thing, science is another.

  49. #49 sidd
    February 24, 2010

    Mr. Will has a job. It is to sell copies of the newspaper, and to attract eyeballs to the website. I do not think you want to help him and his employers by including a link to his column.

  50. #50 mandas
    February 28, 2010

    Bird Harasser
    It is normal tactics of the denialist community to quote mine, cherry pick, and to take data and statements completely out of context. But even by these unethical standards, your latest post is a new standard in stupidity.

    To take a quote by Dr Judith Curry, a distinguished atmospheric scientist, from a letter she wrote regarding ethics, openness and engagment in the scientific debate, and to attempt to use that to claim that the scientific consensus on climate change was ‘crumbling’, is worse than stupid. It’s dishonest and downright moronic, because all it takes is 5 minutes research and reading to understand her real position (but I guess you don’t care about that do you?).

    How about you take a look at the WHOLE letter, then take a look at what Dr Curry actually has to say about climate change. For example:

    “….The earth is getting warmer, and scientists conducting research on global climate change overwhelmingly agree: most of the warming since the mid 20th century has been caused by humans, primarily through burning fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum. Climate model projections suggest that average global temperatures could increase from 3 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, the range reflecting the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that might actually be put into the air, plus uncertainties in the climate models…”
    (from: http://curry.eas.gatech.edu/climate/pdf/atlanta_rev.pdf )

    I could go on, but you could try to do some research yourself for a change. Have a look at her home page (just type her name into Google – easy isn’t it!!)

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.