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June 25, 2007

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Joan A. Conway,

PR.

LAK

Why did you post this Professor Sunstein? This isn't even a half hearted attempt at an argument agaianst GW. You must get far better arguments sent to you. It seems to be written by someone who doesn't think very much, or very well. I'm confused.

Frederick Hamilton

Agree with LAK. Total gimmerish. Prof Sunstein better get over to the U hospital for a stat brain MRI. Either tumor or Alzheimer's. This is not the work of a well functioning brain.

Erasmussimo

I am sad to confirm that there in fact plenty of people who seriously believe this flapdoodle about climate change being a hoax. Most are little-educated and refuse to discuss the matter with any intellectual integrity. There is quite a merry-go-round of basic stories that go round and round the web, with one site repeating the story found on another site, is in turn quoted by a third site, and so on until it comes back to the original site, more strongly confirmed in the minds of the skeptics because so many other people are carrying the story.

I have spent some time dealing with these people and they are profoundly anti-rational. While there are lots of things to quibble about in the whole global warming brouhaha, the basic hypothesis that human activities are going to impose gigantic economic costs (on the order of trillions of dollars) are no longer in question by fair-minded people. Only the die-hard ideologues now challenge this perception.

Political Umpire

I'm certainly not an idealogue of any sort with regard to climate change, nor a scientist, so my own views count for little. But I am aware that there are some reasoned arguments against it, not simply the dross Prof. Sunstein quotes or the idiots who've been annoying Erassimo. See for example:

http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/financialpost/comment/story.html?id=597d0677-2a05-47b4-b34f-b84068db11f4&p=4

in Canada’s National Post by R. Timothy Patterson, professor and director of the Ottawa-Carleton Geoscience Centre, Department of Earth Sciences, Carleton University.

The fact is that less than forty years ago there was a broad consensus among scientists that global cooling was the true threat to the planet from human activities.

Either way, however, it seems to me that pollution/energy consumption has to have many detrimental effects (never mind global temperatures) and for that reason is worth addressing.

Erasmussimo

"The fact is that less than forty years ago there was a broad consensus among scientists that global cooling was the true threat to the planet from human activities."

No, that is not a fact. There were a couple of scientists who put together an argument in favor of that hypothesis, and Newsweek magazine seized upon their paper as a way to sell some magazines. The broad consensus among scientists for the last hundred years has been that the greenhouse effect is a solidly established phenomenon, that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and that mankind is dumping lots of CO2 into the atmosphere. The first attempts to measure the effect began with the International Geophysical Year in 1958; by the mid-60s we had solid data that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere was indeed increasing. In grad school in the 70s, I was taught that the theoretical foundations were sound, that the long-term outlook was definitely in favor of increased planetary temperatures, but that no experimental confirmation had yet been obtained.

The tale about scientists believing in global cooling is one of the lies perpetrated upon the public by global warming deniers.

Yes, there are scientists who are not part of the broad consensus about climate change. There are scientists who deny evolution, and scientists who deny that smoking causes cancer. For any give extreme claim about the Constitution, you can find a few legal scholars who will support that claim. The existence of a handful of dissenters does not mean that the consensus is wrong -- it means that the community is healthily diverse. Nobody should place their trust in one scientist or a handful of scientists.

To address this issue, Congress created the National Academy of Sciences in the 1860s. The NAS is charged with providing reliable scientific judgements on matters of public policy. Informally speaking, the NAS is to science as the Supreme Court is to law -- with four exceptions.

First, membership in the NAS is in no wise affected by political considerations. Members are nominated and voted upon by the membership, with strict standards of excellence required for membership.

Second, the NAS has much higher standards of consensus-building than the Supreme Court. It relies on far more than a paltry nine decision-makers in rendering its judgements, and requires a much higher standard than a simple majority to render a decision.

Third, the NAS tackles fewer issues than the Supreme Court and so can lavish greater attention on each issue.

Fourth, the NAS has never been wrong. In its entire history, there is nothing for any modern member to criticize or regret; there is no stain upon its reputation for excellence.

The NAS has rendered judgement in this matter, and they have unambiguously stated that human releases of CO2 are causing temperatures around the globe to increase, and that this increase will impose a heavy burden on future generations.

The best way for any citizen to get a grip on the problem is to study the science and come to understand the scientific issues. The second best way is to trust the judgement of the NAS.

jimbino

I'm a physicist who is skeptical of GW.

More importantly, however, is that given the fact of GW, I still don't favor intervention. First of all, I'm more than skeptical of the assertion that man is chiefly responsible or that his activities contribute significantly to the effect. Obviously, if man is not contributing significantly to GW, there's probably little that Billions thrown against it will have any effect except to impoverish real humans, sicken and kill them, and lead to war and strife.

But, given that man contributes significantly to GW, I am still not convinced that warming is bad. It is undeniably good for the folks of Canada, Greenland, Finland and Siberia. Sure, it will cause disruption, but so did the computer. Anyhow, I favor change over the status quo!

And given that global warning is bad, on the whole, for the human race. So what? -- the animals and plants will benefit from the suffering, if not the disappearance, of the human race. Who says it's good to maintain the human hordes on this planet?

Furthermore, even given GW is a fact, given that man contributes, given that the effect is detrimental in the long term -- I still don't support any action, because such action as proposed will do nothing in the short term to make my world better, but will steal my wealth and opportunity for the sake of some breeder's kids.

I have personally voted against breeding and I already resent paying taxes to the breeders and their offspring. Proposing to steal from me and limit my life's opportunities I consider a call to war!

Erasmussimo

jimbino, regarding your skepticism about GW: what portions of the IPCC report do you challenge?

"It is undeniably good for the folks of Canada, Greenland, Finland and Siberia."

No, it is quite deniable that it is good for folks in northern latitudes. There's a village in Alaska that is sinking into the ground because the permafrost is melting. What used to be solid ground will soon be a mudflat. They'll have to relocate the entire village. The US Army Corps of Engineers estimates that it will cost $400 million to move this one village. The villagers dispute that figure; they think it can be done for much less. But either way, we're still talking about enormous amounts of money -- and that's for a single village. Permafrost melting is also creating huge problems for the Alaska pipeline and all the oil facilities.

The people in the far north have established lifestyles based upon their climate, and have built infrastructure accordingly. Change the climate and the infrastructure and lifestyles have to change. Sure, it might indeed be nicer for the guy who hunts caribou to instead become a beach lifeguard -- assuming he can retrain and they can build the roads to the beach and attract the tourists, etc. There are huge costs associated with shifts of such magnitude. Who'll pay them?

"Anyhow, I favor change over the status quo!"

Good. Quit your job and live under a bridge. That'll be a big change.

"And given that global warning is bad, on the whole, for the human race. So what?"

You may not care, but I suspect that members of the human race might have some preferences on this matter.

"I still don't support any action, because such action as proposed will do nothing in the short term to make my world better, but will steal my wealth and opportunity for the sake of some breeder's kids."

Here we get to the nub of the problem. What do we owe to posterity? You say, "Nothing". OK, that's your value system. My value system is completely different; I measure my value as a human being by how much better I make things for the future. We just have to vote and see how many share our opposing views.

LAK

I find the argument strange that curbing greenhouse emmissions will be some kind of economic death knell. It's funny how similar arguments were made about fuel efficiency standards in the 70s, and are often made about any economics equilibrium shift casued by regulation. Sure there are costs to changing rules and upsetting equilibriums, but in the long run after the market has responded and adjusted to the new set of rules, things often work out for the best economically. Think of the energy efficiency marketplace that will spring forth when energy consuption is reigned in, hopefully by pricing people out of consumption. My only economic worry is that the Europeans are so much farther ahead of us when it comes to creating products that use less energy that we might have cost ourselevs a lot of economic gain in the inevitable shift that will be occuring in American energy consumption in the enxt half century.

I too ama physicist. And I certainly am not skeptical about golbal warming. Thos efancy models we build aren't perfect, but the vast majority of them come out with similar resulst. We know we are releasing energy that took millions of years to build up in hydrocarbon bonds in an instance when we burn them. That is for sure. We know carbon dioxide is a result of burning/oxidizing hyrodcarbons for sure. We know that CO2 is a greenhouse gas that casues warming. We know the planet is warming. We know that when you add energy into a dynamic complex system, say, heat to a fluid system, low probability outcomes happen with more frequency, the system becomes more volatile. And then we have all theses imperfect but very useful models which all come out with similar outcomes when you start injecting CO2 into the system. Hell, it ain't the heat waves and incredible freezes, violent storms and droughts that I'm worried about, it is a major ecological breakdown and a massive period of extinction that freaks me out. being in the middle of a massive ecological and species equilibrium shift would not be fun, whether our coal fired power plants and hummers are to blame or not. If the enviornoment becomes hostile to species at the bottom of the food chain, we are all in trouble.

jimbino

Erasumssimo says:

"Here we get to the nub of the problem. What do we owe to posterity? You say, "Nothing". OK, that's your value system. My value system is completely different; I measure my value as a human being by how much better I make things for the future. We just have to vote and see how many share our opposing views."

Quite right. If you want to leave something to posterity, nobody is stopping you. But if you want to leave MY wealth and opportunity to YOUR posterity, get ready: There are alternatives to the peaceful use of nuclear physics, and I intend to exploit them in self-defense.

Erasmussimo

Mr. Jimbino, we live in a society in which decisions of this nature are made by democratic political processes. If you reject the legitimacy of democratic political processes, I will not attempt to change your mind, but I will dismiss you as a nut case. I hope that's not what you're saying when you threaten violence.

As to the difference between your posterity and mine, I take it that you regard posterity exclusively in genetic terms. I do not regard posterity in that way. I am a citizen of the world; my concern is for all humanity, not any particular family, township, county, state, or country.

Nic Cruickshank

I live in Canada and the benefits of global warming on our communities will be huge. We still do things to lessen our impact but the issue remains that in Canada and in colder climates like Russia and Greenland their is a net benefit to warming. During the last warm up our climate was warmer and the indiginous people and few european settlers who were here at the time flourished and did well. In Canada the vast majority of the population is concentrated in major cities and the southern parts of our provinces and territories. There are for many in the world net negative benefits to warming, but don't speak for us like you know our demography and situation. We know we will benefit and yet we still fight to halt it. Jimbino does have a point about skeptics. One of our largest is our foremost expert on climatology and the founder of the oldest climatology department in any of our Universities. It is a complex issue that I do not pretend to understand. In truth even the experts cannot properly understand this either. It is natural to have skeptics given the info we are running off of. The IPCC just released their final part of their report last Thursday ofr Friday including the vast dissent within the IPCC from the scientists that it was highly alarmist given the scientific evidence. The point is that if you believe you can help then please do, and if you do not, such is your choice in a free society. Skepticism and apathy are the price of freedom.

Paul Beach

There is no theory or experimental verification of the greenhouse gas hoax. CO2 levels are slightly elevated because of thermal pollution. This is calulated here:

http://www.climatehoax.ca/

The problem is not the end of the world; rather, an abhorence of basic physics and simple arithmetic.

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