Monday, February 12, 2007


The "Boston Globe" article excerpted below will be widely read. What is interesting about it is that an article with some sensible points to make is preceded by an attack on free speech via a spurious "Holocaust" comparison. It seems that an equation of climate-skeptics with holocaust-deniers has now become routine on the Green/Left. Claims that conservatives are Nazis or neo-Nazis are by now so routine (Bush=Hitler etc.) that this version of the claim is unlikely to do much more than give Leftists themselves a little spurt of self-righteous satisfaction.

Taranto has a comment on the article -- where he makes at some length the basic logical point that doubting a prediction about the future is in any case totally different from doubting an historical fact. We CAN know the past. We CANNOT know the future. And prophesies about the future are usually wrong -- sometimes spectacularly so. Doubting ANYTHING about the future is therefore categorically different from doubting anything in the past

By every measure, the U N 's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change raises the level of alarm. The fact of global warming is "unequivocal." The certainty of the human role is now somewhere over 90 percent. Which is about as certain as scientists ever get. I would like to say we're at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let's just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future.

But light bulbs aside -- I now have three and counting -- I don't expect that this report will set off some vast political uprising. The sorry fact is that the rising world thermometer hasn't translated into political climate change in America.

The folks at the Pew Research Center clocking public attitudes show that global warming remains 20th on the annual list of 23 policy priorities. Below terrorism, of course, but also below tax cuts, crime, morality, and illegal immigration. [Nice to hear that the average American is more in touch with reality than Green/Left columnists are]

One reason is that while poles are melting [Even the IPCC says that the South Pole is NOT melting] and polar bears are swimming between ice floes, American politics has remained polarized. There are astonishing gaps between Republican science and Democratic science. Try these numbers: Only 23 percent of college-educated Republicans believe the warming is due to humans, while 75 percent of college-educated Democrats believe it. [And close to 100% of conservative bloggers are skeptical to some degree. Al Gore has done skepticism a great favour by associating global warming faith with the Left.]

This great divide comes from the science-be-damned-and-debunked attitude of the Bush administration and its favorite media outlets. The day of the report, Big Oil Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma actually described it as "a shining example of the corruption of science for political gain." Speaking of corruption of science, the American Enterprise Institute, which has gotten $1.6 million over the years from Exxon Mobil, offered $10,000 last summer to scientists who would counter the IPCC report.

But there are psychological as well as political reasons why global warming remains in the cool basement of priorities. It may be, paradoxically, that framing this issue in catastrophic terms ends up paralyzing instead of motivating us. Remember the Time magazine cover story: "Be Worried. Be Very Worried." The essential environmental narrative is a hair-raising consciousness-raising: This is your Earth. This is your Earth on carbon emissions. This works for some. But a lot of social science research tells us something else. As Ross Gelbspan, author of "The Heat is On," says, "when people are confronted with an overwhelming threat and don't see a solution, it makes them feel impotent. So they shrug it off or go into deliberate denial."

Michael Shellenberger, co author of "The Death of Environmentalism," adds, "The dominant narrative of global warming has been that we're responsible and have to make changes or we're all going to die. It's tailor-made to ensure inaction." [Good to hear. Apathy has always been a help to conservatives]

American University's Matthew Nisbet is among those who see the importance of expanding the story beyond scientists. He is charting the reframing of climate change into a moral and religious issue -- see the greening of the evangelicals -- and into a corruption-of-science issue -- see big oil -- and an economic issue -- see the newer, greener technologies .

In addition, maybe we can turn denial into planning. "If the weatherman says there's a 75 percent chance of rain, you take your umbrella," Shellenberger tells groups. Even people who clutched denial as their last, best hope can prepare, he says, for the next Katrina. Global warming preparation is both his antidote for helplessness and goad to collective action.

The political economy of global warming

The din to do something about global warming appears to be deafening. Article after article in the media. The UN report. An Oscar nomination and maybe a Nobel Prize for Al Gore. A deafening din. A groundswell of concern. Unrelenting pressure to do something to save the earth. But I don't think much is going to happen in the policy arena, other than a few symbolic gestures. Here's why.

The average American doesn't really mind global warming. Remember those mild temperatures last month? It was in the 60s here in the DC area. People loved it. They certainly like those days better than yesterday when the temperature was in the single digits. People like cocaine, too. Most of us avoid it, though because we're worried about the short term consequences. But the short term consequences of global warming are tiny. Most of the serious consequences are at least 90 years away and even 90 years from now, a rational person is probably pretty optimistic that we'll cope with a sea level that's 23 inches higher. A rational person is also pretty skeptical about the ability of scientists to forecast sea level in 90 years. So there's no pressing demand by the average person to push politicians to pursue policies that lower our income today in return for something a century or more from now.

It's one thing to convince people that the earth is getting warmer. It's another thing to convince people that human actions are the cause of global warming. But it's a much harder thing still to convince people that the results of global warming will be something other than a more pleasant winter in Minnesota and a less pleasant summer in Arizona. You've got to convince people that we're making the earth less hospitable for human and other life forms. We all know that the earth goes through big climate swings. So how likely is it that we're actually going to destroy the earth? On top of all that, you've got to convince people we can actually do something about the problem. As Robert Samuelson points out, there's not that much we can do.

This short-run basic human pleasure most Americans get from warmer weather helps people feel good about being skeptical about the data and the science. How seriously can you take the scientific consensus when there's a debate about whether to use 90% or 99% as the likelihood that we're changing the earth's climate? That's not science. That's politics. How seriously can you take the scientific consensus when there are serious scientists suggesting the whole thing is a hoax. Jeff Jacoby lists a few here. And there are others. These folks aren't saying the estimates are off by 10%. They're saying the whole thing is a hoax. How seriously can you take the scientific consensus when you know that a lot of the experts are on the government and foundation funding gravy train and their livelihood depends on remaining on the right side?

But the biggest reason nothing is going to happen is that Al Gore Oscar nomination. Imagine ten years from now that the United States starts getting more protectionist. We start limiting imports and refusing to honor trade agreements. In response, George W. Bush does a brilliant documentary on the virtues of free trade. I don't care how brilliant and accurate and persuasive the documentary turns out. At least 40% of the American people (and maybe it will be a lot more than 40%) will decide that because it comes from George Bush, the whole thing must be garbage with a hidden political agenda. Well about 40% of the American people (and maybe a lot more than 40%) think that Al Gore has a political agenda and can't be trusted.

Having Al Gore as the most recognized advocate for action against global warming reduces the political likelihood of action. It politicizes something that should be pure science and reminds people that the solutions to global warming are going to come via the political process rather than from the experts.

The final reason we're not going to do anything about global warming is because the Chinese aren't going to do anything about global warming. If the Chinese don't do anything, our incentive is very small. We will have to take a big hit in standard of living to make up for the surge in the Chinese pollution that's coming. And I don't think the Chinese are going to do anything to reduce their march toward modernity.

A final thought: the experts on global warming bear little cost for making overly pessimistic predictions about the world in 2100. So they have an incentive to make overly pessimistic predictions. True, their reputations will be harmed. But right now they are all in the same boat. You don't look foolish predicting that Florida is going to disappear if almost everyone else with glowing credentials makes the same argument. So I'm a little skeptical of their pessimism given that the costs of pessimism is low and benefits in the form of being on the good side of the funding angels is high. But they could be right. Maybe the earth is headed toward a fiery end. But if I'm right about the politics, then we'll get to find out if the experts are right to be pessimistic. We'll find out, not because we'll all be alive in 2100, though many of us could be, but because we're going to get a lot more data in the next decade or two to see if the current pessimism is justified. So we'll talk again in 2020 and see whether the scientific consensus is as dire or direr than it is now.

That din we're hearing now is either going to keep getting louder or it's going to fade away. But because we're not likely to do anything serious, we're going to get a lot more data that will either enhance or destroy the current so-called consensus.



Predictions are cheap so let's have a positive one!

Climate change will boost the global economy and dominate financial markets over the next 25 years, a leading investment bank has predicted. In a new report, Barclays Capital challenges the conventional wisdom that global warming will have a devastating impact on economic growth. It believes the need to increase energy capacity by 50 per cent by 2035, while simultaneously reducing dependence on hydrocarbons, will spark an "energy revolution" reminiscent of the technology revolution which led to the boom. "If ever the time were ripe for such an energy revolution, it is now," said Tim Bond, global head of asset allocation at Barclays Capital, and author of the report. "And like all historical adoptions of general purpose technologies, the process should prove immensely stimulative to economic growth."

Mr Bond says that those who couch the climate change debate in terms of the cost to growth are underestimating the impact of an energy revolution. Last year's Stern Review concluded that if temperatures rise by five degrees celsius, up to 10 per cent of global output could be lost. "All of the historical changes in energy supply - from dung to wood to coal to oil - were stimulative for the economy concerned. Every major technological change was accompanied or followed by faster economic growth." he said. Like every revolution, there will be winners and losers, with the energy sector set to reap the biggest rewards.




From the "Environmental News Network": "Science Is Solid on Climate Change, Congress Told." "The science is solid," says Louise Frechette, deputy secretary-general of the United Nations. "The science is solid," says Sen. Dianne Feinstein. "The science is really solid," says TV meteorologist Heidi Cullen. "The science is very solid."

And at that point, on "Larry King Live" last week, Richard Lindzen, professor of atmospheric science at MIT, remarked: "Heidi says the science is solid and I can't criticize her because she never says what science she's talking about."

Indeed. If the science is so solid, maybe they could drag it out to the Arctic for the poor polar bears to live on now that the ice is melting faster than a coed's heart at an Al Gore lecture.


Australia's "drought" hits Canberra

Despite floods in North Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and Victoria, Australia is still apparently in "drought" -- caused, of course, by that wicked global warming. No-one seems to want to admit that Australian rainfall has always been erratic and that there is always some region that is in "drought"

Dozens of homes in Canberra were damaged by flooding overnight by a severe thunderstorm. Residents in suburban Weston Creek and Tuggeranong reported leaking roofs and collapsed ceilings after 50mm of rain fell. The house of an 87-year-old woman in Stirling was flooded and a woman with a six-week-old baby was unable to leave her home in Kambah because her driveway was under a metre of water. ACT State Emergency Service deputy chief officer Bren Burkevics said the service had 61 calls and deployed 41 volunteers to help residents.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is generally to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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