05 February, 2007

The Power Of Dissent

Via Brittney I read that today's quote is
"The global warming debate is odd in that it appears to be between climate scientists and rightwing pundits." --Clark Stooksbury


I agree that it is odd. I also agree that it is sad. The current Global Warming/Climate Change 'debate' reminds me a lot of the state of the War On Terror Debate circa 2001.

I believed then, and still believe now, that there were good reasons for going into that war. But I also recall that the "debate" was mostly between the dissenters and everyone else. Representatives on both sides of the aisle were caught up in war fever. Like the genteel ladies of Atlanta, hardly a one could wait to strip themselves of their family jewels for the sake of a Noble Cause.

There were a few dissenters here and there saying "quagmire" and "bad idea" and speaking truth to power. The Dissenters would tell you that yes, we had been attacked but was fighting back a good idea? Some dissenters, although I don't agree with them on every point, are still people I respect. None of them are generals or soldiers. But they dissented.

In the case of Global Warming/Climate Change, the right-wing punditry have been forced to assume the mantle of dissentership in the same way. Current science has fallen under the same war fervor as the Congress of 2001. GW/CC is the hip and now attitude. If you as a scientist want the funding, you go along with the current even though it may run counter to your natural instincts. Showing up at a climatologist conference and saying "maybe Man is NOT destroying the planet" is like speed-dating with spinach in your teeth. You will not go home with the girl and you will get laughed at behind your back.

So, like crazy Berkley love-in folk, we on the right are feeling the burden of dissent. We feel your mockery and your patronisation. We fully expect it, too. But we also see the power of dissent and the necessity of speaking truth to power. Although in this case "power" is not the Federal Government, but the claque of go-along-to-get-along climatologists who abjure the scientific method in favour of being well-liked by their peers.

Before one more person patronisingly tells me to 'dust off my Bible', I think this is also where I need to say that I do care deeply about the environment. There is a reason that we have one car and have spent the last 18 years doing everything possible to reduce our carbon footprint. I'm in no way saying that we should take our planet for granted.

But I refuse to be frightened into any course of action. And I also begrudge the hijacking of science by anyone with an agenda--whether that agenda is Creationism or Environmentalism. I see both as betrayals of the true nature of science.

So, yeah. I'm a "right wing pundit". But until the Climatologists start acting like scientists again, I'm going to claim the power of dissent. Feel free to point and laugh.

UPDATE:

Via Blake, I found this article. Good stuff from dissenting climatologists. I especially like the part where the man with the Ph.D. in Climatology says
Now, any scientist who dares to question the prevailing wisdom is marginalized and called a sceptic, when in fact they are simply being good scientists. This has reached frightening levels with these scientists now being called climate change denier with all the holocaust connotations of that word. The normal scientific method is effectively being thwarted.

14 Comments:

At 3:40 PM, February 05, 2007, Blogger Dan Trabue said...

I don't understand "conservative" folk trying to say that prudent action is a reactionist approach, and that to call for prudency is fearmongering.

We know beyond a shadow of doubt that humanity can and does have negative impacts upon the environment. Try eating fish from any major river and hope that you're not poisoned in the process.

We know beyond a shadow of doubt that a billion people driving cars throws all sorts of toxins into the air, water and ground.

Why is the fact that we've lapsed into bad habits (dependency upon finite, polluting fossil fuels) outweigh prudent and conservative action?

Ought not the burden of proof be on those who wish to make the case that throwing all these toxins and smoke into the air is NOT "too" harmful (we know it's harmful, that's not even debatable)?

Isn't it just prudent to say, "until you can demonstrate that proceeding with this radical plan to have hundreds of millions of people throwing their toxins in the air, ground and water all around the world WON'T have devastating results, we'll regulate it responsibly?"

Isn't what we're doing akin to letting folk dump oil and toxic waste in their backyards in the name of individual liberty?

 
At 3:45 PM, February 05, 2007, Blogger Slartibartfast said...

I may be coming out of a phlem-based delirium, but even so I think this is an outstanding post.

Here's what I don't get. There are three components to the GW/CC issue that, for some reason, are never considered seperately:

1) That the earth is warming.
2) That man is causing it.
3) That the results will be catastopic.

Let's assume that #1 has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. As things stand today, if a layperson displays any doubts about number 2 or 3 (or both), he is lumped in with the "deniers" of #1. I say this is a false choice.

I have my doubts about number 2, and I am highly skeptical of number 3 (hence, my recent attempt at GW humor). AND, most importantly, I have not set my GW views in stone - I can be convinced one way or the other.

But I have no vested monetary interest in the subject.

Here's a question that comes from my position of ignorance: IF the icebergs melt, why will water levels rise? Have you ever left ice cubes in a glass of water and let them melt? Have you noticed that the water level in the glass stays relatively the same? SOOO - are the theories of rising water levels based on LAND-BASED melting? I'm just trying to figure out where this particular theory comes from. Or maybe I'm still delirious (hey-another Prince reference!)

 
At 4:45 PM, February 05, 2007, Blogger Kat Coble said...

Dan,

I think that you (and others) misconstrue the "conservative" reaction.

The defensiveness--and accompanying dissent--coming from those who seem to hold views similar to mine is that many of the things you appear to "know beyond a shadow of a doubt" have not yet been scientifically proven. While you may evince a certain faith in an as-yet-unproven outcome, asking us to take YOUR faith as scientific fact is as unfair as asking a public school system to teach 7-day creation in biology class.

Yet those of you on the other side of the debate repeatedly insist that--going on faith and false consensus--we institute punitive socioeconomic policies on the United States while failing to require the same standards from other sovereign nations. In essence, you ask us to use your faith to justify handing over the sovereingty of the United States to a foreign power.

Let's look at it from another angle. Let's say we elected another Catholic president who then insisted that since we "know beyond a shadow of doubt" that the Pope is infallible and life begins at conception and marriage is forever that the United States will now be a colony subject to Vatican rule where abortion and divorce are illegal. You would probably be against it. I could call your opinions reactionary and those Catholic States Of America measures as prudent. After all, with all our deficits and falling fertility rates, wouldn't it be prudent to shelter ourselves under the Vatican's wing and swell our population by banning birth control?

Every time I hear the Catastrophic Environmentalists speak, I hear rampant criticism of the U.S. policies and how we need more regulation.

I never hear them admit that many of the politicians and bioscience companies pushing alongside CE believers have large investments riding on corporations who stand to profit mightily from those increased regulations. I never hear them admit that Green Corps. have competitors who stand to LOSE money through stricter enviroregs.

It's like re-watching the birth of anti-marijuana legislation in real time. Someone who stands to profit from the ban on fossil fuel emissions works the Common Man into a lather about Fossil Fuel Madness and preys on that public sympathy to enact a largely mercenary agenda.

That's what I and others like me see happening. So try as you might to tar us with the brush of He-Man Planet Haters, we're merely watching the potential rape of our rights with a jaundiced eye.

 
At 4:56 PM, February 05, 2007, Blogger saraclark said...

Well said. I am tired and aggravated by Al Gore trying to guilt me into buying all these new(and more expensive products) to lower my environmental impact when all the huge, outrageous over the top emitters and polluters are developing third world countries with no controls whatsoever!

I became really irritated sometime in the 1990's when I was trying to work with a Textile Manufacturing company's EPA compliance rules. Basically I could release more toxins washing 1 rayon blouse at home than the Textile Company could doing industrial size die lots. Needless to say they got out of the Rayon textile dye niche and that business promptly went overseas to Japan and Korea, eventually the entire Textile Manufacturing Company moved to Mexico due to a "friendlier" economic climate.

I am generally green, cautious and aware of my environmental impact, but it is a scaled down model that I pick and choose for myself.

 
At 5:03 PM, February 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan,

I don't know of any fellow "conservative folk" who would deny that pollution is a bad thing and that pollutants have a detrimental effect on the environment and things living within it. But thanks for providing a stellar example of the kind of broad-brushed name calling and "if you're not with us you're a terrible person" approach that typifies the GW/GC camp's tactics. To paraphrase: If you don't agree with us, then you're environmentally tone deaf and probably out there pouring barrels of raw crude into your backyard. Not only are you trying to win the debate primarily by attacking the credibility of the people on other side, you're implying that anyone who argues that there might be another side is some kind of irresponsible eco-villain.

Your argument also illustrates another classic tactic of the GW/CC camp in that it implies that anyone who doesn't buy into the specific suppositions relating to GW/GC that it's advancing must not care about environmentalism on the whole. In fact, your comment, which was in response to a post that specifically addressed GW/GC, never once touches on that issue. Instead, it completely disregards the distinction between the two topics in favor of painting anyone who disagrees with you on the specific as being unconcerned and irresponsible as concerns the general.

The sooner that the GW/GC camp acknowledges that there are responsible, credible scientists doing sound science on the other side of the issue and make genuine attempts to engage them outside of the realm of politics and PR campaign invective, the sooner we'll be able to address real issues in a constructive manner. Until then, you can feel free to continue with the sanctimonious attitudes and we'll feel free to continue voicing our dissent.

 
At 5:59 PM, February 05, 2007, Blogger Casey said...

(Sigh)

I hate politics. It's a shame that with both of these issues, the war and the climate, were politics removed from the equation then we as a nation and a species could receive the truth, unfiltered by those running for office or pushing an agenda. For some reason if your a republican it's assumed your pro-war and global warming is a concoction invented by democrats to scare people into voting for them I guess. I don't know.

I posted this back in March, 2003 well ok it's Carl Sagan's writing, but my sentiment.

Pale Blue Dot

 
At 6:13 PM, February 05, 2007, Anonymous brittney said...

Good post, Kat. As a not-scientist, I don't know what to make of it all. I can't really contribute to a solution, so I just sit back and watch.

 
At 6:23 PM, February 05, 2007, Blogger Kat Coble said...

For some reason if your a republican it's assumed your pro-war and global warming is a concoction invented by democrats to scare people into voting for them I guess.

I think I have to make an important distinction.

I do not think GW/CC is a 'concotion'. I think it is real. I just don't think we can predict with any certainty what causes it or how bad it will be.

I think presumptions about its and its affect are the problem. The more dire the presumption, the greater the scare.

 
At 7:06 PM, February 05, 2007, Blogger dolphin said...

I'd never tell anybody to not stand up for what they believe even if it's unpopular (Gandhi said, "Even if you are a minority of one, truth is still truth.") I guess where I have the problem is that I think if you're standing up for something that nobody else agrees with you ought to have a reason.

You use the example of the War on Terror. Most of us who opposed the war on terror had REASONS to oppose it. Terror isn't something that can be fought in traditional war, and to trying to fight terrorism with traditional warfare makes about as much sense as trying to kill an elephant with a pea shooter; it's just not the right tool for the job.

It seems to me (and Dan if I read him correctly) that the "dissenters" regarding global warming are simply saying, "well we don't know for 100% sure so why don't we just do nothing at all and see what happens." That strikes me as a ridiculous bit of illogic. I don't know for sure that I'd have a burglary if I left the doors to my house wide open tonight, but I assure you that I'm going to shut and lock them just in case.

As opposed to "anonymous's" assertion, this isn't the same thing as claiming that all right-wingers hate the environment. I have a set of friends who always leave their front door unlocked 24 hours a day, whether they are home or not. I think they're crazy to do so, but I don't think they WANT their house broken into.

I'll note that while reading anonymous's statements about the supposed "with us or against us" mentality of the "GW camp," I kept mentally wanting to switch out "GW" with "GWB (George W. Bush)." After all, to my knowledge the "GW camp" has never made such a claim, and while GWB has. I suspect that most claims of "either with us or against" us coming from the GW camp exist only in the heads of those who disbelieve in Global Warming, As they are in anonymous's comment.

Anonymous also says, "The sooner that the GW/GC camp acknowledges that there are responsible, credible scientists doing sound science on the other side of the issue..." I'd love to see some of that "responsible, credible" research. I'm not a climatologist so I can only rely on what scientists tell me. The problem is, every time thus far I've been pointed to global warming that discounts the theory, further research on the "scientist" in question inevitably turns up where they have either been discredited in a non-global warming related area or have ties big oil. In other words, they are either bad scientists, have a clear and obvious agenda, or both. Even most of those openly admit that by and large the consensus in the scientific community is that global warming exists and humans have at least something to do with it.

I don't know of any fellow "conservative folk" who would deny that pollution is a bad thing and that pollutants have a detrimental effect on the environment and things living within it.

I wish I could remember the name of the author then. I picked up a book who's cover identified itself as the conservative view on environmentalism. I flipped through it but put it down when I saw this statement: "Pollution does not hurt the environment."

Lastly, to answer Slart's question. As I understand it, in both poles (in particular) there is ice setting on top of ice, setting on top of ice. You're glass of water analogy (a favorite of conservatives) is in accurate. A more appropriate experiment might be as follows: Take a eight-ounce glass and fill it to the top with ice. Add 2 ounces of water and mark the water level. Allow the ice to melt and check the new water level.

 
At 7:45 PM, February 05, 2007, Blogger Kat Coble said...

I guess where I have the problem is that I think if you're standing up for something that nobody else agrees with you ought to have a reason.

I believe I've clearly and repeatedly stated my reason.

Most of us who opposed the war on terror had REASONS to oppose it.

Likewise, those of us who oppose things like the Kyoto treaty have reasons to oppose them. Reasons like inequitable curtailment for various countries that would be economically punitive for the United States. saraclark gives but one example of hundreds of jobs lost due to U.S. environmental policies.

It seems to me (and Dan if I read him correctly) that the "dissenters" regarding global warming are simply saying, "well we don't know for 100% sure so why don't we just do nothing at all and see what happens."

Then you are willfully closing your ears and eyes to what I and others like me are saying. We are not saying 'do nothing'. Rather we are saying to do what we can, but don't go so far overboard that it winds up costing us jobs or sovereignty.

One of the reasons that Wal-Mart is able to sell things so cheaply is that they do a lot of buying from China. China can produce goods more cheaply in part because they don't give one iota of concern for the environment. So we've lost jobs and economic parity in part because of self-imposed environmental controls that far exceed anything done in Mexico, Central America, Cote d'Ivor and the PRC. "The Environment" is not solely the concern of America. Yet we're pushing for harder controls in the U.S. than anywhere else, largely because those who are pushing the agenda have investments in American companies.

I don't know for sure that I'd have a burglary if I left the doors to my house wide open tonight, but I assure you that I'm going to shut and lock them just in case.

The more appropriate structure of your analogy would be that several of your neighbour's bikes came up missing. They may have been stolen, they may have been misplaced. The logical assumption is, of course, that they were stolen and that there is a theif in the neighbourhood. So you dig a moat around your house, put bars on all the doors and windows, install a sophisticated alarm system, buy a pack of wolves with bees in their mouths and hire a small army to guard your house. All your neighbours leave their doors wide open.

What this means is that now your house is an unlivable, unsaleable monstrosity that costs more to maintain than you can earn, but the entire neighbourhood is still at risk from the thieves. (Assuming that there was a thief to begin with.) You've perhaps changed or elimated all of your contribution to the neighbourhood's level of risk, but you haven't changed the neighbourhood's risk at all, and you've also painted yourself into a corner you can't get out of.

It would make more sense if everyone in the neighbourhood all agreed to lock their doors.

I suspect that most claims of "either with us or against" us coming from the GW camp exist only in the heads of those who disbelieve in Global Warming,

Funny, that you later on say this:

"I'd love to see some of that "responsible, credible" research. I'm not a climatologist so I can only rely on what scientists tell me. The problem is, every time thus far I've been pointed to global warming that discounts the theory, further research on the "scientist" in question inevitably turns up where they have either been discredited in a non-global warming related area or have ties big oil."

That's a fancy way of saying "you either agree with me or you are discredited. Sounds like "with/against" rhetoric to me.

I wish I could remember the name of the author then. I picked up a book who's cover identified itself as the conservative view on environmentalism. I flipped through it but put it down when I saw this statement: "Pollution does not hurt the environment."

I wish you could, too. As it stands right now, all we have is your hearsay. I can't offer a solid rebuttal to someone else's faint recollection of something they once flipped through hastily in a store or library.

 
At 8:30 PM, February 05, 2007, Blogger Ivy, the Great and Powerful said...

I do believe that global warming is probably real and a bad thing. On the other hand, my very smart-alecky deep down self thinks, "Cool, I always wanted to live closer to the beach". Sorry, North and South Carolina. ;)

 
At 9:32 PM, February 05, 2007, Blogger dolphin said...

That's a fancy way of saying "you either agree with me or you are discredited. Sounds like "with/against" rhetoric to me.

The rest was a fair rebuttal (though I disagree particularly on the theft analogy since as far as I'm concerned all I'm asking anybody to do is lock their doors), this line however isn't accurate, I presume because you misinterpreted what I was saying.

All I meant was exactly what I said. Thus far I have not had a conservative direct me to any scientific research on the matter that, upon looking up the name of the author, didn't reveal that they were either known for bad science on an unrelated topic, or had financial ties to big oil.

There may in fact be legitimate research out there that objectively reaches a different conclusion, I have simply personally not been able to find it, despite having been pointed to what was supposedly such a thing numerous times. I'd actually be VERY (earnestly) interested in the research you've read that makes you doubt man's impact on the environment.

If such research exists I'd posit that the fact that it's nearly impossible to find, despite so many people desperately wanting it to be true (myself included in that by the way), would indicate that it is SHARPLY in the minority. Which doesn't make it wrong, but does debunk the "false consensus" line you were toting earlier.

 
At 3:23 PM, February 06, 2007, Anonymous nm said...

On a side-note, Slarti, the melting that worries people isn't icebergs but ice-caps. As you correctly note, icebergs are already floating and displacing water, etc., and their melting won't raise sea levels. The ice-caps (there are two huge ones, over Antarctica and Greenland), though, mostly cover solid land, so if they melt (and the Greenland icecap has been melting for several years now) that will be extra water entering the oceans. Same with glaciers: they are on land, and their melting (or bits of them breaking off as they reach the sea and instantly [ta-da!] becoming icebergs) does affect sea levels.

I'd also like to go on record as saying that I think that only a tiny fraction of people on either side of the debate (and not the ones whipping the general population into a frenzy, either) are seeking to profit in any way from taking their respective positions.

 
At 6:10 AM, February 09, 2007, Blogger William said...

Kat Coble quotes an article by Timothy Ball - an example of a scientist she lionizes for bucking the scientific community and demonizing it for it's chastizing of GW/CC skeptics.

Timothy Ball has not published any new research in the last 11 years. None of his four papers specifically addressed the effect of CO2 on climate. Ball is listed as a "consultant" of a Calgary-based global warming skeptic organization called the "Friends of Science" (FOS). In a January 28, 2007 article in the Toronto Star, the President of the FOS admitted that about one-third of the funding for the FOS is provided by the oil industry. In an August, '06 Globe and Mail feature, the FOS was exposed as being funded in part by the oil and gas sector and hiding the fact that they were. Not only has Ball claimed "I've never received a nickle from the oil and gas companies" but he has repeatedly inflated his credentials. In a September 26, 2006 letter to the Royal Society, Dr. Tim Ball, the leading signatory, identifies himself as "Professor of Climatology, University of Winnipeg." Not quite. From 1988 until his retirement in 1996, Dr. Ball was a Professor of Geography at that university. He has not, since, had any official position at U of W or at any university. So, he is not now a Professor of Climatology at the University of Winnipeg and never was. He was a junior Lecturer who rarely published, and then spent 8 years as a geography professor. His work does not show any evidence of research regarding climate and atmosphere.

Find another hero Kat.

 

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