Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Another Greenie romanticizer
It's not easy to tell what would be the ideal state of affairs for a Greenie -- probably because there isn't one. There is no such thing as a happy Greenie. They have antipathies rather than goals. Insofar as they do have goals, however, the leading candidate would be "sustainability" -- but what that means is not at all clear. Modern industrial civilization would have to be regarded as highly sustainable because of the way it goes from strength to strength and creates new resources all the time. A lot of the oil and gas presently in use was not a resource until fracking made it so. But one does get the rather strong impression that modern industrial civilization is NOT sustainable from a Greenie viewpoint.
But with its kneejerk opposition to anything that is modern, Environmentalism does give the strong impression that some sort of primitive rural economy from the distant past would be the Greenie ideal. And that ideal goes back to 19th century Germany. And in the early 20th century it found a vigorous exponent in the world's first Green party -- Hitler's Nazi party. And other Fascists such as Benito Mussolini and Australia's B.A. Santamaria were also rural idealists.
So the appeal of a romanticized rural past is obviously great, particularly to Fascists of various kinds, with the modern-day Ecofascists now being the prominent exponents.
But what this ideal past is like is very unclear. It seems to correspond to no known period in any civilization. It is a blurry dream rather than an historical reality. Usually, however, some sort of primitive farming seems to be the dream.
But there is an even more extreme faction that even disrespects farming. The hunter-gatherer life is the ideal. The fact that modern day hunter gatherers have a rather thin time of it seems to be dismissed with a wave of the hand.
Every now and again, however, someone does attempt a systematic exposition of what a more primitive life would entail -- and presents arguments for its desirability. And a recent book that idealizes the hunter/gatherer life has recently appeared. It is reviewed by historian Martin Hutchinson below.
Hutchinson refers below to the recent discoveries at Gobekli Tepe -- in modern-day Turkey -- which have been held to suggest that it was religion not farming that gave birth to civilization.
[Some] Modern commentators, including Yuval Noah Harari in his interesting book “Sapiens – a brief history of humankind” (Harper, 2015) believe that the coming of agriculture around 10,000 years ago was a disaster for humanity, forcing people to work much harder than the previous hunter-gatherers for a less stable and reliable subsistence. Yet when you look at the transition in depth, it was rational for those who undertook it, as well as being to the immeasurable benefit of their descendants. The hunter-gatherer existence was not some Arcadian paradise, and without leaving it, civilization’s advance would have been impossible.
Harari, whose writing is elegant and witty yet whose attitudes are a dreadful intolerant blend of the Millennial (for which chronologically he does not quite qualify), the leftist, the militantly secular and the urban, describes the transition to agriculture as “History’s Biggest Fraud.” He points out that, although agriculture enabled the planet to support many more people, the living standards of the early farming peasants appear to have been far inferior to those of the hunter-gatherers who preceded them. He rhapsodizes about the good fortune of the first hunter-gatherers who crossed the Bering Strait about 12,000 BC, and had the entire continent of North and South America to forage from, filled with beasts that had never seen humans, and therefore became easy prey to their Stone Age weaponry and cunning.
That’s all very well, but the transition to agriculture did not first occur on the American continent; indeed it had still not fully occurred there when Columbus arrived 10,000 years later. According to Harari, it first occurred near the village of Gőbekli Tepe, today in southern Turkey. By 8,000 BC, that wasn’t virgin land, full of juicy prey, it was among the planet’s most heavily populated areas.
A little application of Thomas Malthus will tell you that the hunter-gatherers around Gőbekli Tepe were not enjoying an idyllic existence of plentiful prey and easy living. Population expands until it comes up against the constraints of the food supply, at which point starvation prevents it from expanding further. By 8,000 BC humans had been living around Gőbekli Tepe for tens of thousands of years and the population had therefore reached its theoretical maximum, so the locals were living on the edge of starvation. Theoretically, they could migrate to a more fertile, less populated region, but with Gőbekli Tepe at the center of humanity’s overcrowding problem, the nearest area that was not overpopulated was several thousand miles away – too far for the locals even to know about, let along migrate to in a single lifetime.
There is another problem with the Malthusian force in a hunter-gatherer society, as distinct from an agricultural society – it acts both ways. In an agricultural society once the land is fully cultivated according to the technology of the time, there is no more food and so the population begins to starve if it keeps growing. But a growing population doesn’t actually diminish the amount of food available (or not significantly – new laborers’ huts take up little land area) – it may even increase it somewhat, through switching to more labor-intensive crops.
However in a hunter-gatherer society, not only does population growth increase demand for food, it also decreases supply, as herds of prey become first depleted, then extinguished. Harari points out how many species were wiped out by our hunter-gather ancestors, even without population pressure; one can imagine that in the area around Gőbekli Tepe, where population had been close to capacity for millennia, the Malthusian population pressure must have been exceptionally severe, on both sides of the equation.
Switching to agriculture was not therefore an irrational decision in the short-term, destroying the lives of those who undertook it, but a decision rational in both the short-term and the long-term, that was essential to keep alive the people around Gőbekli Tepe as their traditional hunting grounds depleted even the smallest, least edible game. Harari describes with a sneer how Gőbekli Tepe is also the site of the first temple complex, built even before the inhabitants settled down to agriculture. Maybe this too was a rational response; these desperately hungry people, for whom further hunting was futile because of the lack of prey, asked the gods for help and the gods responded, providing them with the means and the know-how to feed themselves, free at last from the worsening Malthusian pressure that had blighted the lives of previous generations.
The long-term benefits of agriculture were immense; apart from enabling a gigantic population increase, from 5-10 million in 10,000 BC to 500 million by 1500 it allowed that larger population to develop civilization. As hunter-gatherers, they had no possessions; hence could develop little art, no writing (where would they keep the heavy scrolls or books?) and no significant music. Also, as Harari points out, without temples they could enjoy only the simplest of religions.
To see the long-term benefits of agriculture, I take you forward almost 10,000 years, to an ancestral portrait I have just inherited, which is of my great-great-great grandmother Mary Kenworthy, the wife of a modestly prosperous Yorkshire farmer, dated 1833. They were not by any means rich, but they were literate; Mary’s husband used to read the newspaper to the villagers in the kitchen every Sunday evening.
They had art – the portrait, painted by Mary’s cousin, is no masterpiece but it is very competent and clearly influenced stylistically by contemporary high culture, a long way after the fashionable painter Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830). They had a fair range of reading matter; I have Mary’s daughter’s childhood copy of John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” which I can recommend to those who haven’t read it. Musically they were luckier than us, being influenced by high rather than low culture, although apart from church hymns and anthems Mary’s exposure to professionally produced music was probably confined to the occasional touring performance of Handel’s “Messiah.” Religiously they were especially fortunate, attending their local parish church of St. Chad’s Uppermill, Saddleworth, a fine structure with a graveyard full of family headstones and a gallery erected by an especially prosperous Kenworthy ancestor in 1711.
In short, my Kenworthy ancestors, neither rich nor prominent, had a lifestyle that hunter-gatherers could not have enjoyed in their wildest dreams, at a far higher civilizational and cultural level, none of which would have been possible but for the move to agriculture (and which was only modestly touched by the more recent Industrial and Scientific Revolutions—the railways had not yet reached Saddleworth by 1833.)
They were of course on the cusp of another change. Twenty years later, with the family fortunes badly damaged by Sir Robert Peel’s economically suicidal 1846 Repeal of the Corn Laws, Esther’s daughter was compelled to join the Industrial Revolution, marrying a moulder, son of a spindle forger, unquestionably proletarian (albeit skilled proletarian) toilers in the textile mills of nearby Oldham. For fifty years the family was thereby proletarianized, before a subsequent generation managed to scramble its way back into the middle class around 1900.
Like the Agricultural Revolution of 8,000 BC the Industrial Revolution of 1800-1900 imposed unpleasant short-term costs. But I am today materially considerably richer than was Mary Kenworthy, and have already lived much longer than she did. Moreover, with TV, the Internet, cheap books, CDs and DVDs, my cultural and intellectual life is much richer than hers, provided I have the sense to avoid the culture imposed on me from below, whereas she could rejoice in the culture imposed on her from above.
The central conclusion is clear: the traditional 19th Century view is correct that hailed the advent of agriculture as a major advance in civilization, without which nothing else would have been possible. Whatever the short-term costs (which lessened only as agricultural technology began to improve) the switch was necessary for survival to the unfortunates attempting to be hunter-gatherers while their prey was becoming extinct.
More important, without the advent of agriculture we would by now have lost the orally transmitted Homer and there would have been no Aristotle, Shakespeare, Newton or Einstein. Far from being defrauded, the early farmers toiling all week and worshiping in their new temple at weekends could rejoice in their survival and in their contribution to the future of humanity.
NOAA gets it right on CA drought. Warmists buck
Natural weather patterns, not man-made global warming, are causing the historic drought parching California, says a study out Monday from federal scientists.
"It's important to note that California's drought, while extreme, is not an uncommon occurrence for the state," said Richard Seager, the report's lead author and professor with Columbia University's Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory. The report was sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The report did not appear in a peer-reviewed journal but was reviewed by other NOAA scientists.
"In fact, multiyear droughts appear regularly in the state's climate record, and it's a safe bet that a similar event will happen again," he said.
The persistent weather pattern over the past several years has featured a warm, dry ridge of high pressure over the eastern north Pacific Ocean and western North America. Such high-pressure ridges prevent clouds from forming and precipitation from falling.
The study notes that this ridge — which has resulted in decreased rain and snowfall since 2011 — is almost opposite to what computer models predict would result from human-caused climate change.
The NOAA report says midwinter precipitation is projected to increase because of human-caused climate change over most of the state. Seager said a low-pressure system, not a high-pressure system, would probably form off the California coast because of climate change.
Low pressure creates clouds and precipitation.
Some outside climate scientists criticized the report, saying it didn't take into effect how record warmth worsened the drought.
"The authors of the new report would really have us believe that is merely a coincidence and has nothing to do with the impact of human-caused climate change?" Penn State meteorologist Michael Mann wrote Monday in The Huffington Post. "Frankly, I don't find that even remotely plausible."
Mann said the NOAA report focuses primarily on the lack of precipitation, not the unusually high temperatures measured in the oceans as well as across California.
"This study completely fails to consider what climate change is doing to water in California," wrote Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. He said the work "completely misses" how hotter air increases drying by evaporating more of it from the ground.
Poor nations want U.S. to pay reparations for extreme weather
Poorer nations suffering from extreme weather disasters, so much so that their citizens are seeking refuge in safer terrains outside their borders, want rich nations like the United States to pay for reparations and to relocate populations.
Preparatory talks ahead of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change to be held in Paris in December has representatives from developing nations asking for more than an already agreed upon $100 billion per year for climate change mitigation measures. They want additional compensation for weather-related disasters as well as a "displacement coordination facility" for refugees. And they want all this to be legally binding as part of the larger anticipated Paris accord.
The U.S. and wealthier nations in the European Union are balking.
The rationale for the additional funds and refugee facility is based on donor country failures to follow through cohesively on aid pledges following weather-related disasters. For example, last March, Cyclone Pam devastated islands in the South Pacific but attention quickly turned to the massive earthquake in Nepal soon thereafter. That left small nations such as Vanuatu, which was devastated, to manage its own cleanup without much in the way of international assistance.
Poorer nations blame extreme weather-related disasters on climate change stemming from emission-polluting countries that have more developed and wealthier economies.
The U.N. Paris conference aims to reach an international, legally biding agreement on climate change that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thwart global temperature rise. A separate agreement is being eyed to address losses and damages from extreme weather events, thought to be a result of climate change.
As it stands, the Warsaw Mechanism, adopted in 2013 at the U.N. climate conference in Poland, established a structure to address losses and damages associated with climate change impacts. However that mechanism is due to expire this year when a new climate agreement is reached. Poorer nations who say they are on the front lines of climate change and suffer the worst of its extreme weather ramifications aren't pleased by the expiration. They want loss and damage provisions to be extended and expanded upon.
Reports indicate a compromise will be sought whereby the Warsaw Mechanism is extended, yet carved out from any legally binding agreement.
Meanwhile, environmental groups are lobbying to make reparations even more punitive and require polluting companies in the private sector to step up and also pay for extreme weather-related damages.
Property and casualty losses have been a point of contention for years in climate-change discussions. How to handle refugee claims is a relatively new issue that comes at a time when Europe is facing a separate refugee crisis of its own, with hordes of people seeking asylum from war-torn countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Nine civil wars are raging in countries from Pakistan to Nigeria.
Adding climate refugees to those numbers may be too much for government representatives to take on at the moment. Without question, however, a refugee facility needs to be discussed if not negotiated, as do further compensation measures for poor countries.
The $100 billion-a-year-commitment by 2020 seems like a lot of money, but increasingly it isn't looking like enough funding. With extreme weather events on the rise, so too will be the costs of cleanup and the tolls on people's lives.
China cooling on "renewables"
China’s wind and solar developers are getting much less than they anticipated in handouts from the government because of a quirk in subsidy policies, threatening to stymie growth in the world’s biggest market for clean energy.
The issue relates to the support China pays power suppliers as enticement to develop clean energy projects. Surcharges slapped onto electricity bills to fund the subsidies are too low, leaving a gap between what was promised and what’s being paid out, said Meng Xiangan, vice chairman of the China Renewable Energy Society, an industry group.
Left to continue, the trend may foreshadow a reckoning for what has become the engine of growth in the global renewables industry. While China’s hunger for energy is un-sated, less money flowing to developers could ultimately constrain China’s capacity to generate power from nonpolluting sources.
“This will weaken enthusiasm for investment and go against the development of renewable power in the long run,” Meng said.
Additional delays could ultimately eat into cash flow at companies such as China Longyuan Power Group Corp., China Datang Corporation Renewable Power Co. and others.
About 30 billion yuan ($4.7 billion) to 40 billion yuan may be owed by the government to developers in unpaid subsidies, said Li Junfeng, director general of the National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation. Some developers have been waiting since before 2012 for payments they’ve yet to receive, Li estimates.
Global Warming Goes To Court
“No challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change” declared President Obama in his most recent state of the union address last January. Environmental activists applauded, but they are not satisfied. Despite the Obama Administration’s executive initiatives, including aggressive new limits on carbon emissions from power plants, there is widespread agreement in the climate action lobby that governments everywhere are not doing enough.
After years of testifying before administrative agencies and lobbying in legislatures with disappointing results, many climate activists see the courts as their last best hope. Over the past few years, lawsuits have been filed in almost every American state and in many foreign countries asserting that the judiciary has the authority and the responsibility to order the executive and legislative branches of government to take more aggressive actions to combat climate change.
Because the judicial role is generally understood to be that of law interpreter and enforcer, not law maker, plaintiffs in these climate change lawsuits must persuade the courts that existing law requires them to order their coequal branches of government to do what they have previously failed or even declined to do. In the United States, most plaintiffs have relied on the common law doctrines of public nuisance and public trust. Pursuant to both theories, the idea is that the public has preexisting rights that are being violated by government’s failure to adequately mitigate climate change. In other countries, climate change lawsuits are more often founded on alleged government obligations under international law and on public rights implicit in international legal principles.
The difficulty for plaintiffs in all of these climate change lawsuits is that their legal theories have little basis in positive law or judicial precedent. The common law theories relied on by U.S. plaintiffs require courts to make vast leaps from prior judicial rulings, while the international law claims made elsewhere require courts to extract concrete legal rules from vague principles like fairness, sustainability, and the precautionary principle.
In the U.S. and other countries with strong rule of law traditions, most judges, even if sympathetic with the climate activists’ concerns, are reticent to engage in the sort of creative interpretation required to reach a ruling favorable to the plaintiffs. Doing so feels uncomfortably like policy making, particularly in light of the extensive efforts over the past decades to get legislative and executive officials to take action. But in all things, including judging, there are exceptions—hence the climate activists’ strategy of filing a multitude of lawsuits in courts of all sorts. Sooner or later, a court will be persuaded that the alleged climate crisis justifies judicial intervention.
This scattershot strategy has recently borne fruit in the Netherlands. In a ruling dated June 24, 2015, the Hague District Court (Chamber for Commercial Affairs) ordered the government of the Netherlands to implement climate change mitigation measures sufficient to achieve at least a 25 percent reduction (from 1990 levels) in Dutch carbon dioxide emissions from all sources (public and private) by 2020. Current government policies are projected to achieve a 14-17 percent reduction by 2020, with an 80 percent reduction by 2050. Indeed, the government is in full agreement with the plaintiffs and the court that an 80 percent reduction by 2050 is necessary to assure that carbon dioxide concentrations do not exceed 450 ppm by 2100.
Given that the plaintiffs and the government agree on the ultimate goal while disagreeing only on how to get there, why isn’t this an issue properly resolved in the executive and legislative branches of the Dutch government? Because, says the Dutch court, that government’s policy choices violate the rights of Dutch citizens.
The plaintiff in the case is the Dutch environmental organization Urgenda, described by the court as “a citizens’ platform . . . involved in the development of plans and measures to prevent climate change.” As part of a global strategy to persuade courts that they have authority to trump the climate policy decisions of the legislative and executive branches of government, Urgenda’s lawsuit resulted in a rare but significant victory for climate activists. The ruling will now be cited as precedent in pending and future lawsuits not only in the Netherlands, but across the globe.
It was inevitable that sooner or later a court would be persuaded to declare that the threat of climate change requires judicial intervention. But whatever one thinks about climate change science and the severity of the threat to human populations, the Dutch court decision is a clear usurpation of the policymaking role of the legislature.
Recognizing the brazen nature of their mandate, the Dutch judges take pains to explain why they believe they are not violating the separation of powers as it exists under Dutch law. “The task of providing legal protection from government authorities, such as the State, preeminently belongs to the domain of a judge.” “With this order,” they proclaim, “the court has not entered the domain of politics.”
For that claim to be credible, the plaintiffs must have preexisting rights that are violated by their government’s failure to enact the policies favored by plaintiffs. How are the rights of Dutch citizens infringed by their government’s choosing policies that will achieve at best a 17 percent reduction in carbon emissions as opposed to policies that would achieve a 25 percent reduction, bearing in mind that these projections of future carbon levels are highly speculative? Would a projected 20 percent reduction in emissions be sufficient, or must the predicted reduction be at least 25 percent?
It turns out the rights found to be violated by Dutch climate policy are rooted in: (1) an assortment of international agreements and the statutory and constitutional responsibility of the Dutch government to provide a “healthy and safe living environment,” (2) previous Dutch policy projected to cut emissions by 30 percent by 2020, and (3) an international scientific consensus, with which the Dutch government agrees, that 450 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the maximum that can be allowed to assure that average global surface temperatures will not rise more that 2 degrees centigrade (from 1850).
Based on a lengthy review of all of this, and notwithstanding the court’s admission that it “does not have independent expertise in this area,” the court concludes that existing Dutch climate policy constitutes a negligent breach of a duty of care owed the plaintiffs and all Dutch citizens.
A sampling of the international norms on which this duty of care is based includes “fairness,” the “precautionary principle,” “sustainability,” the “principle of a high protection level,” and the “prevention principle” (whatever any of those mean). “With due regard for all the above,” write the Dutch judges, “the answer to the question whether or not the State is exercising due care with its current climate policy depends on whether according to objective standards the reduction measures taken by the State to prevent hazardous climate change for man and the environment are sufficient.”
In assessing the legal sufficiency of the Dutch government’s climate policies, a court might be expected to look to previous cases, if not the settled laws of the Netherlands. Instead, the court offers a long series of policy conclusions including, for example: “the costs of the measures ordered by the court are not unacceptably high,” “as a developed country the Netherlands should take the lead,” and “it [is not] evident that the State has insufficient financial means to realize higher reduction measures.” And just for good measure, the court declares that it “adopts an evolutive approach,” meaning “the Court is not bound by its previous decisions” because “the interpretation of the rights and freedoms is not fixed but can take account of the social context and changes in society.”
Coming from a court in a nation that purports to adhere to the rule of law and the constitutional separation of powers, these declarations are astonishing. The Dutch court takes upon itself the clearly legislative task of determining what costs are acceptable to the Dutch people and their government. Resources expended on carbon emission reduction are resources not available for other public purposes. Choosing among the alternatives is not a judicial function. And the court’s declaration that rights and freedoms are contingent on social context and changes in society as monitored by the judiciary is a transparent abandonment of the rule of law.
Americans and Europeans will ignore this Dutch court decision at their peril. The ruling will be cited widely as similar cases come before courts around the globe. It should be roundly dismissed for what it is—a blatant affront to democratic government and a dangerous departure from the rule of law.
‘Settled Science’ Is a Myth
Never trust a politician who quotes “settled science.” It used to be “settled science” that the universe was eternal and static, that fat makes you fat, and that the sun revolves around the earth. Before “global warming,” the scare was “global cooling” — a new Ice Age would end life on earth as we know it.
Recent events have confirmed that science is rarely settled. Last week, the journal Science reported that 62 of 100 psychology studies had been overstated — when the original studies were repeated, the results were far less remarkable than originally claimed. Similarly, “settled science” myths like the consensus on man-made catastrophic climate change and the gender pay gap have also been debunked.
One fundamental characteristic of science is that it can be proven wrong. The scientific method only guides us to truth if every theory is open to investigation. Often, the greatest scientific progress happens when one theory disproves another — and “settled science” gets thrown out the window.
Psychology and the Incentives to Exaggerate Results
In 2011, University of Virginia Psychologist Brian Nozek set up the Reproducibility Project to test the strength of studies across the field. He recruited 250 researchers and chose 100 studies published in 2008. Working closely with the original researcher, Nozek’s group reproduced each study, and published their results last month.
As the New York Times reported, the project “found no evidence of fraud or that any original study was definitively false,” but a majority were overstated. “Strictly on the basis of significance — a statistical measure of how likely it is that a result did not occur by chance — 35 of the studies held up, and 62 did not,” the Times reported.
Jelte Wicherts, associate professor of methodology and statistics at the Netherlands’ Tilburg University, admitted surprise at the results. “I think we knew or suspected that the literature had problems, but to see it so clearly, on such a large scale — it’s unprecedented.”
These new results mean it is far less likely that the psychology in these studies accurately describes human behavior in general.
“Scientists have pointed to a hypercompetitive culture across science that favors novel, sexy results and provides little incentive for researchers to replicate the findings of others, or for journals to publish studies that fail to find a splashy report,” explained the New York Times’ Benedict Carey.
The “publish or perish” mentality among many professors and scientific researchers leads to a frenzied rush to promote more exciting studies, and few reasons to go back and check the work of others.
“We see this as a call to action, both to the research community to do more replication, and to funders and journals to address the dysfunctional incentives,” Nozek said.
Motives Behind the Climate Change ‘Consensus’
Media outlets and politicians like Barack Obama and John Kerry like to point to a “scientific consensus” (98 percent!) that the climate is changing, fossil fuels are to blame, and that we need strict regulations on oil and coal in order to stave off a global apocalypse. As Forbes’ Larry Bell points out, however, a large number of scientists rejects this alarmism.
In fact, more than 31,000 American scientists have signed the Oregon Petition, opposing the “consensus” on climate change. The petition opposes restrictions on fossil fuels and flatly denies the global warming alarmism.
“There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”
A 2010 George Mason University survey of 571 media broadcast meteorologists found that 63 percent believe global warming is caused by natural, not human causes.
A 2012 survey from the American Meteorological Society found that only a quarter of scientists agreed with the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that humans are primarily responsible for recent warming. 89 percent accept that the planet is warming, but only 30 percent said they were worried about it.
In 2008, the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysics of Alberta surveyed 51,000 Canadian scientists. 99 percent of the 1,077 who responded said climate is changing, but only 26 percent blamed “human activity like burning fossil fuels.” 68 percent disagreed that “the debate on the scientific causes of recent climate change is settled.”
Bell explains that the oft-cited “98% of all scientists believe in global warming” comes from a 2009 American Geophysical Union survey sent to 10,257 scientists — 3,000 of whom responded. Of those, 82 percent answered “yes” to the question “Do you think that human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?”
Of this increasingly small group, only 77 scientists had been able to publish more than half of their papers in peer-reviewed climate science journals. 75 of them said “yes” to that question. 75 is 98 percent of 77, but that does not mean that a vast majority of all American scientists support the alarmist position. Those 75 scientists don’t even necessarily believe human activity has harmed the environment, since human impacts could make it better or worse.
In 2007, Congress gave the National Academy of Sciences $5,856,000 to conduct a study on climate change. The study concluded that Earth’s temperature has risen over the past 100 years (shocker) and that human activities have increased the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. The study could not prove a link between the two, nor that this constituted an imminent threat.
“Regardless of evidence the answer is predetermined,” explained Dr. Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “If government wants carbon control, that is the answer that the Academies will provide.”
The Gender Pay Gap
The liberal talking points also break down when it comes to the gender pay gap. Last week, The United Kingdom’s Press Association released a study showing that — contrary to popular belief — women actually make more money than men, until they reach their 30s. Only from that point on do men make more than women.
Ann Pickering, HR director at the telecom company O2, explained that “women are playing catchup when it comes to reaching senior well-paid positions.” In other words, the workforce is still biased towards men, but the results show up later.
Forbes’ Tim Worstall presented a much more cogent argument, however. “It’s obviously not gender discrimination because…women earn more than men before they have children. It’s thus the children, not the gender, which is the cause.”
Worstall calculates that, if a woman has two children during her 30s and takes the full amount of maternity leave available, she will spend 2 years — 20 percent of that decade — taking off work. This would certainly make her earnings seem less than a man’s, even if he was hired at the same rate.
Also, “it is well attested that many women with children think that the children are rather more important than the career,” Worstall adds. Women who voluntarily leave the workforce to care for children at home also skew the data.
Finally, Worstall follows the data to a third situation — that of unmarried and childless women, who make more money than their unmarried and childless male counterparts during their 30s.
In the United States, politicians like to cite the statistic that, on average, women make 76 cents for every dollar a man makes. CNN Money debunked this myth as far back as 2006, however. “All the wage-gap ratio reflects is a comparison of the median earnings of all working women and men who log at least 35 hours a week on the job, any job. That’s it,” writer Jeanne Sahadi explained.
This widely-cited statistic “doesn’t compare those with equal work, equal training, equal education, or equal tenure.” The author also acknowledged that the pay gap can easily be explained by women’s alternate choices, especially if or when they decide to have children.
Why Science Seems Unreliable
Each of these situations lead to skepticism about the results of scientific studies. If psychology has been overstated, global warming is not a consensus, and the gender pay gap is more complicated, these facts seem to warrant an investigation into why ‘science’ can seem so unreliable.
The answer lies in the nature of science itself. The scientific method — studying facts and coming up with theories to explain them, then testing those theories — has great explanatory power, but is never fully conclusive.
Science accepts or rejects ideas based on supporting or refuting evidence, which helps us understand how the world works. But no scientific conclusion is forever closed to further investigation, and new evidence or perspectives can bring down even the most accepted premises.
In short, if any politician tells you his program is supported by “settled science,” tell him that the only true settled science is that science is always open to further investigation.
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Posted by JR at 12:36 AM