Lies, damn lies, and public policy

The last few months, I’ve been reporting on big, complicated chunks of public policy, things like property taxes, the cap-and-trade approach to curbing climate change, and economic development in the Adirondacks.

One of the things I’ve rediscovered is that explaining the complexity and nuance of these thorny, controversial programs is really hard.

But I’ve also been forced to wrestle yet again with the fact that people who want to short-circuit debate about these things can do so really easily.

Let me give an example.

Cap-and-trade is a very complex system designed to encourage polluters to reduce the amount of pollution they emit.

The system works not through old-school regulations, with bureaucrats measuring every drop that comes out of every exhaust pipe and smokestack.

Instead, C&C places an overall cap on the amount of pollution that an industry can emit, then uses market forces and commodity training to encourage innovation and efficiency.

Did you get all that?  The truth is, I haven’t really begun to touch the important details and fine points of the program.

But here, by way of contrast, is the version offered up by critics of cap-and-trade:  It’s a hidden tax.

See?  One sentence, simple, blunt, powerful, easy to understand and really inaccurate.  (Yes, cap-and-trade adds something to the cost of doing business, but usually far less than normal regulations.)

The same is true for the byzantine, flawed and in some ways really innovative health care reform bill.  It’s almost impossible to translate all the moving parts into an understandable narrative.

But opponents of the plan don’t need to.  They just talk about “death panels” and claim that IRS agents will knock down your door if you don’t obey the dictates of Big Government.

Conservatives, of course, aren’t the only ones guilty of this tactic.

(As an aside, I’ll mention that all these policies — cap-and-trade, health insurance mandates, and end-of-life counseling — were first proposed and championed by Republicans.)

When the right talks about curtailing illegal immigration — a legitimate and complicated debate — liberals often accuse them of racism or intolerance.  How’s that for a conversation stopper?

But the truth is that Republicans have had the luxury of late of being on the outside.

That means they’ve been more free to toss around snappy catch-phrases without having to take on the messy (and wordy) business of governing.

Even before taking their new majority in the House, the GOP is leaving that comfortable nuance-free territory behind.

They partnered with President Barack Obama on a controversial and complex tax compromise.  And like it or not, that’s how government works.

The devil, and the people’s business, are in the details, and not in the pithy one-liner.

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47 Comments on “Lies, damn lies, and public policy”

  1. Pete Klein says:

    Very true, Brian, but people are very angry on both sides and are not in the mood for compromise because they see compromise as the tool both Republicans and Democrats use to divide and conquer the general population.

  2. JDM says:

    The point is that you don’t have an answer to the main point, so you try to obfuscate the obvious by nit-picking the details.

    Cap-and-trade has several big problems. 1) The earth is not overheating because of man’s activities. 2) the “trade” part of cap and trade means that Wall Street firms love it because the rich fat-cats will be the benefactors.

    Why discuss the details when the primary issues are flawed? (actually, I can answer that, too). The answer is that assume #1 to be true (which it isn’t), and don’t want to deal with #2, because Obama, et.al. don’t want to appear to in bed with Wall Streeters (which they are).

    Obamacare is on its way to being declared unconstitutional (which it is). Death Panels is simply a short-hand way of saying, “once the money runs out for healthcare, someone in government will have to start rationing care”.

    You actually eluded to this in a previous thread, yourself, when you admitted that Medicaid costs are being dodged.

    How much more if Obamacare goes into full effect?

    Your inconsistencies are also fun to point out.

  3. john says:

    Actually, I think we all need to take some blame here. We are too easily satisfied with sound-bytes for answers instead of staying involved long enough to hear the explanation. We also don’t demand substantive explanations of ideas and events. The media feeds the beast and the beast is us! We all need to be much hungrier beasts!

  4. Brian Mann says:

    JDM –

    You illustrate my argument beautifully.

    I’ve spent long hours with the best scientists in the world, listening to them explain climate change, the chemistry, the variables, the remaining questions (which are significant), and the possible responses (which would be very, very costly).

    The best, most objective and independent minds argue convincingly (but also with a lot of nuance and “clutter”) that climate change is real, it is a chemical response to our industrial activities, and it will be severe.

    In sum, it’s a hopeless, depressing, complicated muddle of information.

    Your response, on the other hand (“climate change isn’t our fault”) is blunt, easy to understand, and unambiguous.

    It is also, in the view of the vast, overwhelming majority of scientists, hokum.

    –Brian, NCPR

  5. Notinthevillage says:

    I’ve spent long hours with the best scientists in the world, listening to them explain climate change …

    Argument from authority. Your response (climate change is our fault) is blunt, easy to understand, and a logical fallacy.

    The best, most objective and independent minds argue convincingly…

    There are no “objective and independent minds”. That fact is the purpose of the scientific method. To counter the fact that humans are by nature not objective.

    In sum, it’s a hopeless, depressing, complicated muddle of information.

    In the common mans language it is called “baffle them with BS”. The problem with the ‘climate change’ hypothesis is a very fundamental unproven assumption.

    First some background. In the literature climate sensitivity is defined as the temperature rise from a doubling of CO2 from pre-industrial levels. The major green house gas is not CO2, it is water vapor. Although estimates vary there is no debate about water vapor being the dominant contributor to the green house effect. On the other hand a doubling of CO2, all other things being equal, would contribute about 1 degree C increase in temperature. This is pretty straight forward physics and there is no debate about it. But all things are not equal. The climate system, as with any complex system, has feedbacks. These feedbacks conspire to alter the simple calculation for a doubling of CO2. The argument goes something like this. Increased CO2 causes an increase in temperature which leads to increased evaporation with a resulting increase in total water vapor. Sounds good eh? Well, water vapor is also the stuff that clouds are made of. Low clouds on average cause cooling (negative feedback) because they reflect incoming solar radiation. High clouds are generally a positive feedback.

    The IPCC places their estimate of climate sensitivity at 2 to 4.5 degrees C assuming a positive feedback. I say assuming because even after a couple of decades of research not even the sign (positive or negative) of the feedback is known. So in essence we have a consensus (herd mentality) built on an unproven assumption.

  6. oa says:

    Take that, Brian! And it was longer than one sentence. In other news, there was a tornado today in Portland.

  7. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    My sound bite: Corporations have been polluting OUR air and OUR water for FREE and it is time for that to end. (Unless the CEO’s and Boards of Directors let me pee in their morning coffee; then I’ll think about it.)

  8. George Nagle says:

    After reading JDM and Notinthevillage I wonder, what further information would convince them that climate change is at least in part a result of human activity?

    A related question is, what body or group would they consider authoritative on the issue?

  9. Notinthevillage says:

    After reading JDM and Notinthevillage I wonder, what further information would convince them that climate change is at least in part a result of human activity?

    Non sequitur. Please reread my post. Now either show where I said human activity has no effect or withdraw your accusation.

    A related question is, what body or group would they consider authoritative on the issue?

    I suggest you familiarize yourself with the scientific method. After doing that would you please point out where an authoritative “body or group” is part of the method. There is a reason science courses have labs. A student of science is not asked to believe the science based on authority. A student does lab work to demonstrate that the theory does in fact coincide with reality.

  10. Brian Mann says:

    NITV –

    Not to be trite, but again your posts are illustrating my argument perfectly.

    Scientists acknowledge and wrestle with all of the “noise” elements in their data that you cite.

    They peer-review, they double-check and correct one-another’s work, they are careful to point to outliers and variables in the data.

    They acknowledge as part of their method the influence of bias and human error.

    They try to balance being “the authorities” against the dangers of orthodox thinking.

    Which is why their narrative, and their information, is so complex and difficult — and why good policies based on their information is complex and difficult.

    On the other hand, it’s very easy to simply say, “Envirowhackos want to establish a new world order.”

    It’s even fairly easy to say, “the problem with the climate change hypothesis is that it is an unproved assumption.”

    Or, “there are no objective and independent minds” and therefore all of this data should be ignored.

    Those arguments are powerful and direct and unambiguous — simply put, they sound convincing.

    But again, when you go back and spend time actually talking to the people who understand the physics, the chemistry, the climatology of our world, they also appear to be flat wrong.

    –Brian, NCPR

  11. Peter Sayles says:

    NITV makes some good points, especially those about feedback systems. In fact, producing man made clouds is one proposed solution to slow warming.

    Unfortunately, NITV does not seem to understand the difference between a hypothesis and a theory. A hypothesis is an explanation for an observation or phenomenon – a guess that can be tested by experimentation. A theory makes predictions. If the theory is wrong, it won’t make many correct predictions. Climate change theory isn’t perfect. The cloud example is a good example because it is so complex and difficult to understand. If climate change theory is correct, the oceans will become more and more acidic. Easy enough to test. We only have to wait 50 or so years and see if it happens. Unfortunately, by then it will likely be too late to do anything and JDM will likely be safe in his grave.

    But what happens when you add increasing amounts of CO2 to water? It becomes acidic. Climate change theory predicts the oceans will become more acidic because the oceans are one means of sequestering excess carbon dioxide. It appears the oceans are becoming more acidic and will become increasingly acidic if climate change theory is correct.

    Methane is also a more important green house gas than CO2. What happens as previously frozen organic matter begins to thaw and releases more methane. Is there an adequate negative feedback system for that phenomenon?

    As for unproven assumptions……well, nothing is “proven” in science. The best we can do is disprove hypotheses.

  12. Bret4207 says:

    On climate change- Did you spend any time, long hours that is, talking with the scientists who dispute the claims of other scientists? To be clear, I don’t argue that climate changes or that reduced air pollution would be a good thing, not that CO2 is a pollutant in the traditional sense. I argue that the answers we’re given always seem to involve the first world nations, the US in particular, committing economic suicide while 3rd world nations and the big problem nations like China and India get a free pass. If the question were just limited to climate change and modification and how we can possibly alter it, I could at least give it a listen. Instead it’s a political power issue. That is the important nuance you gloss over Brian. That and the fact there is basically nothing we can do to alter the Earth climate in the short term.

    On the larger issue, people tend to boil things down and make them simpler to understand. I think that’s simple human nature. Makes it tough on you I suppose in cases where you’re trying to convince people or sway them to accept your view. But sometimes it is that simple. Abortion IS murder. So is State execution. Both right and left will defend one or the other to their dying breaths as being “right”. How do you stop that? You want people to think and assume when they think and listen to your argument they’ll “get it”. So do I. Ain’t always gonna happen bud, get over it.

  13. Brian Mann says:

    Bret –

    Yes, I have talked with a number of scientists who still have doubts about climate change, and a lot of researchers question various aspects of the overall model that most researchers have adopted.

    But within the very large, diverse, international effort at researching this issue, the number of qualified experts who dispute the idea has dwindled to a passingly small group.

    (One of our own premier researchers on this field — Dr. Curt Stager at Paul Smiths College — was a climate change skeptic for many years. He has since concluded that the evidence supporting human-caused warming, including his own research, is overwhelming.)

    Indeed, the most common thing that I’m hearing now from scientists who reject the widely accepted climate models is that they are too conservative — meaning that they believe the warming trend lines and impacts will be more severe than predicted.

    –Brian, NCPR

  14. TurdSandwich says:

    Is smog a naturally occuring event or is that the result of industrial activities?

  15. JDM says:

    Brian says,

    Your response, on the other hand (“climate change isn’t our fault”) is blunt, easy to understand, and unambiguous.

    It is also, in the view of the vast, overwhelming majority of scientists, hokum.

    This demonstrates your unwillingness to talk about the big issues.

    There is no “consensus” on your overwhelming majority of scientists. Quite the opposite. There is another overwhelming majority of scientists who deny man-made global warming.

    It’s a political argument at this point. There is no “repeatable scientific experiments” that support your view.

    That’s just climate change.

    Ditto on your other issues.

  16. JDM says:

    And for absolute clarity:

    “The climate is changing”

    “Man-made” is the non-scientific part.

  17. Peter Sayles says:

    Opinion: It is also, in the view of the vast, overwhelming majority of scientists, hokum.

    Fact: the above statement can be and has been tested. The vast majority of climate scientists agree the climate is warming and it is due to human activity. It’s easy to find this data. You can argue that they are wrong, but you can’t argue that there is not consensus about climate change among experts. Moreover, the vast majority of scientific bodies and societies also agree the climate is changing and it is due to human activity.

    Opinion: There is no “repeatable scientific experiments” that support your view.

    Fact: there are any number of repeatable scientific experiments that support climate change theory. Notice how NITV uses the statement “this is pretty straight forward physics”. Notice how NITV makes a scientific argument and uses terms like climate sensitivity, negative and positive feedback and greenhouse gases, to support his argument. These things can be measured, repeatedly over time. Experiments can be done, in the lab, with greenhouse gases. The laws of physics can be used to calculate effects of these gases on temperature. Mathmatical models can be constructed and tested for reliability using hindcasting.

    JDM, take a glass of water and measure its pH. Now take a straw, put it in the water and blow in it for 3-4 minutes. Now measure the pH again. Wow, you just did a repeatable experiment showing the effects of CO2 on increasing the acidity of water.

  18. Bill G says:

    I understand that positions have been drawn along political lines, but what’s not so clear to me is the constituency of those who believe climate change is strongly influenced by human activity. I take the critics of the supporting science on this site at their word (i.e., that they believe the science is unconvincing), but I do believe as a political issue there are powerful economic interests that embrace this argument for other than scientific reasons. What is less clear to me is the “non-science” motivation of those who support the proposition that the phenomenon is man made. I’m not trying to be contentious. I really would like to get some insight into that aspect of the issue.

  19. Peter Sayles says:

    Bill G makes an excellent point. Pew research indicates that only 6% of scientists claim to be Republican. Fifty-five percent of scientists claim to be Democrats. Fortunately, laws of physics are neither Democrat nor Republican. If you cheat in reporting results of your experiments, you WILL be caught eventually. That is the nature of science.

    Why do Republicans seem to be resistant to accepting climate change theory? Well because some think that attempting to prevent global warming will be the economic downfall of “first world nations”. On the other hand it seems reasonable to me that getting off coal and oil as energy sources provides an opportunity for the US to become a manufacturing powerhouse of alternative energy generating equipment. A good side effect of become energy independent is that we will stop supplying dollars to our enemies.

  20. JDM says:

    Brian’s original point ““Lies, damn lies, and public policy”

    Fact: 50% of people polled think man-made global warming is exaggerated, up from 30% [Gallup Mar 2010]

    “Man-made global warming” is losing it’s political base.

    No science here, just hype.

    20 years from now, we’ll see who was right.

  21. phahn50 says:

    JDM – we kind of already know who is right.

  22. phahn50 says:

    the most coherent Republican objection seems to be that if we try to do something about global warming, it will cost our GDP a percent or so. There is also the hope that if we wait a while (years and years), we may invent a much cheaper solution. But denying the science seems to be an easier political argument.

  23. Peter Sayles says:

    Fact: the Gallop March poll number is actually 48%

    Luckly, the results of scientific experiments do not depend upon polls or beliefs, they depend upon data and evidence.

  24. JDM says:

    phahn50: yeah. 30% and falling

    Peter – you are correct. By now, it is probably 50% +, however.

  25. Bret4207 says:

    Brian M, the problem I see is that those who want to believe one way or the other will do just that. You, I think, want to believe the guys saying it’s all man made and that’s all there is to it. I simply can’t get around the power and money involved, and the politics. And that’s where this ties in with Bills question and Phans comment. Anything that brings down the west, the USA, the corporate America, fat, dumb and happy Americans will be just fine and dandy with a certain percentage of the people here and elsewhere. Look at the answers to “global warming”- massive taxes and limits on the US, nothing on China, India, Africa, South America. Climate change is no longer about climate, if it ever was, it’s a tool to gain an advantage in a political agenda. No more, no less.

    I have no problem with alternative energy, solar, wind, whatever. I just prefer we move in that direction without having to become a 3rd world country to get there.

  26. Bill G says:

    RE the bigger issue of bumper sticker advocacy, the general populace and the electorate has to take the lion’s share of the blame. Congress justifiably has an approval rating of somewhere south of 15% in recent polls. However, I would like to see how the public at large rates itself.

    In an era of access to information never experienced before, John and Jane Q. Public have been proven to be lazy at best. The dialogues that appear on this site are clearly not representative of the general public’s engagement. Last month I saw a poll that indicated that over 40% didn’t know who John Boehner was. I found that disturbing but not surprising, and I believe it is typical of John and Jane.

    Pogo was right. We have met the enemy and they is us.

  27. phahn50 says:

    Bret et al. this shouldnt be a belief or religious issue. As Peter keeps pointing out these are measured events – facts on the ground. You can dis-believe American (and in this case world) science at your peril.

  28. JDM says:

    One reason not to get to excited about the “man-made global warming / change-the-name-to-climate-change” crowd is because it is the same crowd who:

    1) told us we were moving into an ice age in the 1970s.
    2) told us we were running out of fossil fuel by now, again in the 1970s.

    This, too, shall pass.

    Let’s not throw a lot of money in the meantime.

  29. Peter Sayles says:

    Myth: told us we were moving into an ice age in the 1970s

    Fact: The above statement can be tested. What proportion of published scientific papers in that period predicted global cooling? According to one study 10% predicted cooling and 62% predicted warming with the rest offering no stance (Peterson, Connolley and Fleck, 2008).

    Oddly, the most cited example of global cooling prediction in the 70′s were articles published in Newsweek in 1975 and Time in 1974. But what matters is what was published at the time in scientific journals, not in popular media.

  30. Brian says:

    JDM – I’m not being smart-alecky when I say that you are continuing to illustrate perfectly the actual point of my blog post.

    Thousands of scientists agree on something that is complicated and hard to understand and, also, really uncomfortable information.

    You respond by saying, “These are the clowns who got stuff wrong before.”

    They’re ethical, peer-reviewed, thoughtful, thorough, cautious and deliberate in their approach to the science of this issue.

    But you are, in many ways, more effective. And there lies our conundrum.

    Brian, NCPR

  31. JDM says:

    Brian:

    I understand that you think I am a poster-boy for your title:

    Lies, damn lies, and public policy.

    I contend that 20 years from now, the climate change hoax will be long forgotten (the “global warming” hoax already has gone the way of needing a name change, given the weather), and the next “scientific, smartest-guy-in-the-room, transfer-of-wealth plan, will be in the pipeline, and we can debate that.

    Let’s see. What will it be?

    Nuclear tainting of the air we breathe?

    Man-made climate change (formerly known as man-made global warming) represents exactly what your title states:
    Lies, damn lies, and public policy.

  32. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    JDM, what if you are wrong? Are you willing to bet everyone’s future that you are right?

    Maybe you enjoy playing a version of Russian Roulette with the climate. Most of the rest of us are not.

  33. JDM says:

    Here are a list of predictions (and the smartest-guys-in-the-room) who made them in 1970.

    (some of man-made global-warming fame)

    Let’s read them and laugh.

    “We have about five more years at the outside to do something.”
    • Kenneth Watt, ecologist

    “Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”
    • George Wald, Harvard Biologist

    “We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation.”
    • Barry Commoner, Washington University biologist

    “Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction.”
    • New York Times editorial, the day after the first Earth Day

    “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”
    • Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

    “By…[1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.”
    • Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

    “It is already too late to avoid mass starvation.”
    • Denis Hayes, chief organizer for Earth Day

    “Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions….By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.”
    • Peter Gunter, professor, North Texas State University

    “Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….”
    • Life Magazine, January 1970

    “At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it’s only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable.”
    • Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

  34. Pete Klein says:

    As the great scientist Chicken Little said, “The sky is falling.”
    Brian, as you know, in the news business, blood leads. So too does gloom and doom.
    News media loves to say, “Let’s you and him fight.”
    Global Warming or as they now prefer saying, “Climate Change,” is a fun topic no matter what you believe. And we are talking about belief. Science has become the new religion with its self ordained prophets.
    What do I believe? Who cares.
    Cap and trace is a tax. Is it a good tax? Maybe. Maybe not.
    Electric cars? Probably a really lousy idea, especially if they get their charge from coal burning power plants. Probably a really lousy idea if you live in the Adirondacks and have to travel 50 or more miles to the nearest hospital.
    Property tax cap? Another really lousy idea unless the state is going to eliminate all of its unfunded mandates and fat chance of that.

  35. JDM says:

    Here’s to the next 30 years!

    Say Goodbye to That Tropical Island Vacation
    Indonesia’s environment minister announced this year that scientific studies estimate about 2,000 of the country’s lush tropical islands could disappear by 2030 due to rising sea levels.

    Say Goodbye to Light and Dry Wines
    Warmer temperatures mean grapes in California and France develop their sugars too quickly, well before their other flavors. As a result, growers are forced to either a) leave the grapes on the vines longer, which dramatically raises the alcoholic content of the fruit or b) pick the grapes too soon and make overly sweet wine that tastes like jam. [Washington Post]

    Say Goodbye to Baseball
    The future of the ash tree—from which all baseball bats are made—is in danger of disappearing, thanks to a combination of killer beetles and global warming. [NY Times]

    Say Goodbye to Fly Fishing
    As water temperatures continue to rise, researchers say rainbow trout, “already at the southern limits” of their temperature ranges in the Appalachian mountains, could disappear there over the next century. [Softpedia]

    Say Goodbye to Ski Competitions
    Unusually warmer winters caused the International Ski Federation to cancel last year’s Alpine skiing World Cup and opening races in Sölden, Austria. Skiers are also hard-pressed now to find places for year-round training. Olympic gold medalist Anja Paerson: “Of course we’re all very worried about the future of our sport. Every year we have more trouble finding places to train.” [NY Times]

    Say Goodbye to Guacamole
    Scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory predict hotter temps will cause a 40 percent drop in California’s avocado production over the next 40 years. [Lawrence Livermore National Lab]

    Lies, damn lies, and public policy

  36. Bret4207 says:

    Brian says:
    December 15, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    “They’re ethical, peer-reviewed, thoughtful, thorough, cautious and deliberate in their approach to the science of this issue.”

    Saints, no doubt they are saints. But, in addition to all the things you mention they are also involved and invested int he climate change industry. IOW, their bread and butter comes from a continuing “crisis” that they can study. That in itself makes me skeptical. When you consider the vast sums of money in play it just adds to my skepticism.

    knuckleheadedliberal says:
    December 15, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    “JDM, what if you are wrong? Are you willing to bet everyone’s future that you are right?”

    And what if he’s right? What if the changes are eventually shown to be cyclical in nature and due more to sun activity than mans emissions? What then? Currently the “answer” is to hamstring the developed world, give a massive boost to Asia and to develop alternative energy sources…well, except for anything we can see, or hear or anything that might alter a micro climate or disturb a little known life form and we certainly don’t want anything nuclear or clean coal or any offshore exploration by US chartered companies. (Better we leave that to the Chinese.) But anything else, like pixie dust or moonbeam power is a GO!

    Seriously, get the money and power out of the equation somehow and you’d probably have a lot skeptics on both sides listening. Good luck with that.

  37. Notinthevillage says:

    Brian Mann Said:

    Not to be trite, but again your posts are illustrating my argument perfectly.

    You are being trite. In addition you completely avoided my argument concerning feedbacks which is easily verifiable. You do project a lot.

    Scientists acknowledge and wrestle with all of the “noise” elements in their data that you cite.

    Hand waving ignorance. It is not “noise” in the data nor did I cite noise. It is a very fundamental function where the sign of the function is not known. It is an enormously complex system where just sorting out cause and effect has proven to be a significant obstacle. If the bank told you they made a $1000 correction to your account you would certainly want to know the sign (positive or negative) of that correction. It would hardly be noise now would it?

    They peer-review, they double-check and correct one-another’s work, they are careful to point to outliers and variables in the data.
    Only in a Hollywood movie. In the real world science simply doesn’t work so neatly. Max Planck, the founder of quantum theory, said “Science advances one funeral at a time.” The late Dr. Thomas Gold echoed similar views. Google “Closed Minded Science” for an essay concerning this very issue by Dr. Gold. To put it in your words your statement is “one sentence, simple, blunt, powerful, easy to understand and really inaccurate”.
    Peter Sayles says:

    Unfortunately, NITV does not seem to understand the difference between a hypothesis and a theory.

    More hand waving. I presented a fundamental problem with climate science which you ignored.

    Climate change theory isn’t perfect. The cloud example is a good example because it is so complex and difficult to understand.

    What part of we don’t even know the sign of the function is so hard to understand?

    As for unproven assumptions……well, nothing is “proven” in science. The best we can do is disprove hypotheses.

    The problem here is there can be two hypothesis. Positive feedback or negative feedback. If you cannot disprove either I like to call it ‘we just don’t know’. Without some supporting evidence you have nothing. It is no more valid then a religious belief. At this point you cannot disprove that the feedbacks are negative or positive so neither possibility can be eliminated. In your words “the results of scientific experiments do not depend upon polls or beliefs, they depend upon data and evidence”.

    Fact: the above statement can be and has been tested. The vast majority of climate scientists agree the climate is warming and it is due to human activity.

    Fact: Throughout scientific history consensus arguments have never been a reliable indicator of the truth. Piltdown man and tectonic plates to name just two. The history of science is loaded with such examples.

    Notice how NITV uses the statement “this is pretty straight forward physics”.

    More hand waving. If you want to contest that statement do so but at this point you have not.

    Notice how NITV makes a scientific argument and uses terms like climate sensitivity, negative and positive feedback and greenhouse gases, to support his argument.

    I use the terminology that is used throughout the published literature. I don’t understand why you have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is your failure to address the merits of my arguments.

    Luckly, the results of scientific experiments do not depend upon polls or beliefs, they depend upon data and evidence.

    Correct. If you believe this is true then why resort to “the vast majority of climate scientists agree”? You expose the fact that you know nothing about the science with your statement above about the accepted terminology used in climate science. I presented a fundamental issue with climate change with relation to feedbacks with the only response I get is based on “polls or beliefs”.

  38. PNElba says:

    WOW! I thought I was being complementary to NITV. He made some very good points and actually talked climate change using scientific arguments rather than politics. I’m confused about why I’m now being attacked.

    More hand waving. I presented a fundamental problem with climate science which you ignored.

    Yes, you did. And I said “NITV makes some good points, especially those about feedback systems. In fact, producing man made clouds is one proposed solution to slow warming.”

    The problem here is there can be two hypothesis. Positive feedback or negative feedback.

    I agree and I pointed out that oceans act as a carbon sink but there is a limit to how much carbon they can absorb before they become too acidic to support life. The hypothesis is that oceans will become more acidic if levels of atmospheric CO2 rise (technically we would change it to reflect the null hypothesis). It’s a testable hypothesis and the oceans are becoming more acidic. There are several positive and negative feedback systems involved in climate change. My understanding is that there are not enough negative feedback systems to compensate for the positive feedbacks.

    The problem with the ‘climate change’ hypothesis is a very fundamental unproven assumption.

    It may be hand waving, but it is a climate change theory not a hypothesis. The climate change theory makes predictions, the hypothesis is an explanation for an observable phenomenon. The whole theory isn’t thrown out just because the science isn’t settled on the role of clouds in climate change.

    Yes, the vast majority of climate scientist do agree that the climate is changing. I’m being generous and assuming they agree based upon scientific evidence. But my comments about this were in reply to JDM’s post and not yours. So I’m not sure why you believe the only response you got was “based on polls or beliefs”.

    In any case NITV, I seem to have insulted you somehow and for that I apologize.

  39. Notinthevillage says:

    Indonesia’s environment minister announced this year that scientific studies estimate about 2,000 of the country’s lush tropical islands could disappear by 2030 due to rising sea levels.

    Unsupported nonsense.

    Reuters
    updated 1/29/2007
    JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia could lose about 2,000 islands by 2030 due to climate change, the country’s environment minister said on Monday.

    “It is very, very serious,” Rachmat Witoelar said at a media conference attended by Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the U.N. climate treaty secretariat.

    He said studies by U.N. experts showed that sea levels were expected to rise about 89 centimeters, or 35 inches, in 2030 which meant that about 2,000 mostly uninhabited small islets would be submerged.

    Problem is the IPCC 2007 has an estimate of 18 to 59 cm by 2100. Rachmat Witoelar graduated as an architect from Institut Teknologi Bandung.

  40. Notinthevillage says:

    PNElba I apologise also, I didn’t mean to offend. I was addressing one and only one part of the science. The feedbacks I was addressing relate only to global temperature change. If the feedbacks are negative then any predictions based on higher temperatures fail. As to your point:

    I agree and I pointed out that oceans act as a carbon sink but there is a limit to how much carbon they can absorb before they become too acidic to support life.

    During the Jurassic Period (200 million years ago) the average CO2 concentrations were about 1800 ppm and the oceans were teaming with life. Geologically speaking we are at a low point in CO2 concentrations not seen since about 300 million years ago.
    One of my favorite quotes:

    When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarely, in your thoughts advanced to the stage of science.
    — Lord Kelvin

    While “a limit to how much carbon they can absorb before they become too acidic” may be technically true it says nothing numerically to what that number is.

  41. Pete Klein says:

    When they say it’s not about money, it’s about money and that goes for both sides.
    The Global Warming argument makes money for both sides.
    The so called undeveloped countries want to become developed by taking money from the developed countries, using Global Warming as their excuse.
    Please help us. We’re going to drown.
    I do support cleaning up the air we all breathe, Global Warming or not.

  42. Myown says:

    Yes, follow the money. And research grants for a few professors is not where it’s at. It’s from large corporations financing the whole climate change denial to protect their short-term profits.

    For me the risk is too large if we do nothing and the scientists are right.

    This argument reminds me of the evolution/creation debate. It seems many of the same anti- evolution, anti-science, anti-intellectual folks are also on the climate change denial side. Maybe an over-simplification, just an observation.

  43. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    JDM, making a list of a few predictions that proved wrong didn’t answer my questions. Nor did they prove anything. Doing the things that reasonable scientists suggest–things like conserving energy and natural resources–are smart and reasonable to do whether or not man-made climate change is real or not. Why fight it?

  44. Pete Klein says:

    I agree with knucklehead. That was my point.
    There are two major problems with using Global Warming to get people to do the right thing.
    One – most people probably wouldn’t have a problem with the climate getting warmer. They don’t like cold weather.
    Two – if the science is wrong and the climate gets colder, then the argument to do the right thing is lost.

  45. Bret4207 says:

    The problem is that none of the answer proposed are from “reasonable scientists”! No one that I am aware of would argue that conserving energy or natural resources isn’t a good idea, as are clean air and water. How many ways can I say it? The answers all involve huge transfers of power and money from the US to other “more deserving” players. IE- hamstring the US, those evil capitalists. I am very sure that the global warming/cooling/climate change industry/UN would find a much more receptive audience if their true motives weren’t so apparent, if the answers offered applied uniformly across the board. This isn’t a right v left argument as much as it’s a capitalist/US v socialist/UN argument. Whatever the “truth” is, the issue has become no more than a tool to be used to achieve a political goal. That is so readily apparent that to deny it is simply lying.

  46. Pete Klein says:

    Bret,
    what you say above is true and I might add the cost is but another example of an unfunded mandate. This time coming from the Fed in bed with the UN.
    I truly believe all unfunded mandates (the good, the bad and the ugly) need to be eliminated or funded by those who mandate them.
    If your elected people feel so strongly about whatever, let them donate the money from their own personal wealth.

  47. Bret4207 says:

    Myown says:
    December 16, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    “Yes, follow the money. And research grants for a few professors is not where it’s at. It’s from large corporations financing the whole climate change denial to protect their short-term profits.”

    Yes, follow the money. And research grants for a few professors is not where it’s at. It’s from large corporations financing the whole climate change support industry to protect their long-term profits.

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