This week in the PowerBlog’s Global Warming Consensus Watch: A final pass at the Sheryl Crow/Toilet Paper controversy, just to ensure that the issue is wiped clean; The fight against climate change goes to 11; Global warming causes everything, and we’ve got professional athletes to prove it; and finally, what – if anything – are those carbon offsets offsetting? (more…)
Whoever wrote this deserves an award for managing to keep all of the various threads together. It’s almost a perfect storm of public policy ineptitude:
Just in case you lost track of the bouncing ball, here it is: Virginia has finally put the crisis-ignoring haters of truth in their place by passing a roads package to encourage the use of cars that are destroying the planet, so people can reach their sprawling subdivisions that Virginia is trying to keep in check with tax-subsidized conservation easements that will grow less popular as corn grows more expensive thanks to ethanol mandates from a federal government that is also mandating a cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay whose pollution will be made worse by corn farming.
I’m almost positive that there’s a really powerful moral to this story having to do with good governmental intentions going awry or something, but I’m laughing too hard to tease it out and I really need to get to bed, so go ahead and figure it out for yourselves.
HT: Planet Gore
An entire nation breathes a sigh of relief today, as Sheryl Crow has claimed that her proposal to restrict toilet paper usage to one square per restroom visit was a joke, as this blogger suspected. Unfortunately, Crow had no further comment on the status of her “dining sleeve” device.
You can count on the PowerBlog to bring you the latest news and updates on this important story as they occur.
More: Iain Murray at Planet Gore notes that all things considered, it was relatively easy to take Crow’s ludicrous suggestion seriously:
The reaction to it should tell her something about the environmental movement. People thought it was a serious suggestion because they are used to hearing equally ludicrous things coming from environmentalists. Even The Daily Show took her at face value last night. Until green environmentalists square the circle of modern life with their concerns about it and their proposed statist solutions, they’re going to face exactly the same problem.
Welcome to the first edition of the PowerBlog’s new
- Another scientist off the reservation: Somebody has to start doing something about all these “scientists” who openly question the unshakable, indisputable consensus on global warming. Like this guy, for instance. What in the world could he be talking about here?
Spencer contends there is not yet enough known about the Earth’s atmosphere to understand exactly what occurs naturally to stabilize the earth’s climate.
“I don’t think we understand what happens. We can watch it happen on the (climate) models, we know it happens, but we don’t know for sure how it happens…”
Nonsense. Didn’t he see Al Gore’s movie?
- Thank you sir, may I have another? Why certainly. Here’s Dr. Timothy Ball, a retired Canadian climatologist, on those climate models we hear so much about:
As I have said for years, climate models are a useful but severely limited tool in the laboratory that must meet scientific responsibilities. Unfortunately, they are clearly not doing this, which is why we need an independent audit.
When you go public and allow the output of the models to become the basis of global, national and regional policy there is a different set of responsibilities and these are definitely not being met.
Worse, they are deliberately being manipulated and misused.
- Balance = Bias: The potential catastrophe of global warming is too important to allow dissent on the issue in the media, according to Al Gore. And the major media seems to agree:
Al Gore has complained that the media are biased against the inconvenient truth of global warming. “I believe that is one of the principal reasons why political leaders around the world have not yet taken action,” Gore told a “Media Ethics Summit” at Middle Tennessee State University back in February. Gore lectured journalists that any coverage of views opposed to his own was irresponsible, calling it “balance as bias.”
It’s impossible to imagine the big TV networks actually accepting an edict from a conservative politician to report only their side of a major public policy issue, but a new Media Research Center study of ABC, CBS and NBC’s global warming coverage finds the networks are giving Gore practically everything he demanded. Not only does nearly every global warming story exclude any contrary voices, but the coverage of Al Gore personally has been exceptionally positive as well.
It’s amusing to think that Gore could claim that his position on global warming hasn’t gotten a fair shake in the big media without being laughed out of the room. I think it’s much more in line with reality to say that the reason Al Gore even has a career these days is because the media has long ignored his calls to rid the world of the internal combustion engine or the fact that one can barely tell the difference between Gore’s environmentalism and the Unabomber’s (I scored a 25% on that quiz, by the way – you’re invited to drop your score into the comments).
- The First Cut Is the Deepest: Noted environmental expert Sheryl Crow (who has a career as a recording artist on the side) used to like to soak up the sun. But she’s changed her ways, and what she sees now is not a pretty picture. The consensus on global warming is strong enough that she’s ready to advise us all to make some cuts – and it’s true when they say that the first cut is the deepest:
Singer Sheryl Crow has said a ban on using too much toilet paper should be introduced to help the environment.
Crow has suggested using “only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required”…
…”I have spent the better part of this tour trying to come up with easy ways for us all to become a part of the solution to global warming,” Crow wrote.
“Although my ideas are in the earliest stages of development, they are, in my mind, worth investigating.
“I propose a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting.”
Now come on – this has to be a joke, right? No serious person would propose restrictions on how much toilet paper a person can use, right? It would be an understatement to say that this idea is “in the earliest stage of development.” For one thing, has she come up with a workable enforcement mechanism? The mind boggles. But this is a BBC article, not The Onion, so it at least has the faint odor of plausibility (no pun intended).
On the other hand, the article also includes this tidbit:
Crow has also commented on her website about how she thinks paper napkins “represent the height of wastefulness”.
She has designed a clothing line with what she calls a “dining sleeve”.
The sleeve is detachable and can be replaced with another “dining sleeve” after the diner has used it to wipe his or her mouth.
OK, there’s no way this is real. Unless somebody can point out to me evidence that Crow (or any other Hollywood celebrity) is actually using the “dining sleeve,” I’m just going to write this whole article off as a parody. After all, even climate change is trumped by vanity and hypocrisy in Tinseltown.
John Baird, Canada’s Minister of the Environment, says that following the requirements of the Kyoto protocol would lead to a deep recession in his nation’s economy. Mr. Baird claims that the 6 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions required by Kyoto would lead to a 25 percent increase in Canada’s unemployment rate by 2009. I haven’t researched John Baird, Canada’s economic status as influenced by global warming, or the accuracy of Mr. Baird’s numbers. I’m mostly amused by the close of the BBC article I just read on this matter.
Some opposition MPs and environmentalists countered that Mr Baird’s findings were based on assumptions chosen for their frightening conclusions.
Assumptions chosen for their frightening conclusions? Let’s not forget that we’re daily told that we’re all going to die in 25 years because of fill in the blank which is a direct result of global warming caused by human emission of greenhouse gases.
I wonder if there is a connection between terrorism and global warming. I’ve always imagined the Middle East to be a generally warm place – maybe terrorism is fueled by rising temperatures. I think if I lived in a generally warm place, I would have issues with the West for increasing temperatures too. As it stands, I live in Michigan (it snowed last week) and I don’t have that problem.
Here’s an interesting piece from the April 16 issue of Newsweek by Richard Lindzen:
Judging from the media in recent months, the debate over global warming is now over. There has been a net warming of the earth over the last century and a half, and our greenhouse gas emissions are contributing at some level. Both of these statements are almost certainly true. What of it? Recently many people have said that the earth is facing a crisis requiring urgent action. This statement has nothing to do with science. There is no compelling evidence that the warming trend we’ve seen will amount to anything close to catastrophe. What most commentators—and many scientists—seem to miss is that the only thing we can say with certainly about climate is that it changes. The earth is always warming or cooling by as much as a few tenths of a degree a year; periods of constant average temperatures are rare…
…Is there any point in pretending that CO2 increases will be catastrophic? Or could they be modest and on balance beneficial? India has warmed during the second half of the 20th century, and agricultural output has increased greatly. Infectious diseases like malaria are a matter not so much of temperature as poverty and public-health policies (like eliminating DDT). Exposure to cold is generally found to be both more dangerous and less comfortable.
Moreover, actions taken thus far to reduce emissions have already had negative consequences without improving our ability to adapt to climate change. An emphasis on ethanol, for instance, has led to angry protests against corn-price increases in Mexico, and forest clearing and habitat destruction in Southeast Asia. Carbon caps are likely to lead to increased prices, as well as corruption associated with permit trading. (Enron was a leading lobbyist for Kyoto because it had hoped to capitalize on emissions trading.) The alleged solutions have more potential for catastrophe than the putative problem.
Well, surely Mr. Lindzen is a bought-and-paid-for mouthpiece of Big Oil, right?
Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research has always been funded exclusively by the U.S. government. He receives no funding from any energy companies.
You’ll want to read the whole essay – it’s well worth your time. And here’s one more quote to consider, which is perhaps Lindzen’s most important: “the evidence for global warming thus far doesn’t warrant any action unless it is justifiable on grounds that have nothing to do with climate.”
I neglected this earlier, but a Hat Tip goes to my good friend Adam Barr.
German theologian and philosopher Michael Welker describes in his book God the Spirit (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994) the biblical relationship between the prophet and majority opinion:
The prophet does not confuse truth with consensus. The prophet does not confuse God’s word with the word of those who happen to hold power at present, or with the opinion of the majority. This is because powerholders and the majority can fall victim to a lying spirit—and this means a power that actually seizes the majority of experts, the political leadership, and the public (88).
He previously outlined some of these lying spirits that have dominated recent decades. Welker writes,
“Water and air are inexhaustible natural resources”; “Dying forests are not connected industrial and automobile emissions”; “With permanent armament we are making peace more secure!”—those were some of the many astoundingly public opinions of the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s that, as has become clear in the meantime, can be ascribed to a lying spirit (85).
But if we were to ask what is the increasingly dominant opinion of the experts, the political leadership, the media, and the public of the ’00s, what would the answer be?
I have little doubt that the answer is, “Human beings are causing global climate change.”
After last week, we even have a clear “consensus” opinion on human-induced climate change from the Supreme Court. But while Welker himself might be inclined to concur with this particular opinion rather than those of previous decades, his warning about the dangers of consensus are well-taken.
And those who have taken up the prophetic mantle of climate change, like Jim Wallis and Rev. Richard Cizik, would do well to heed Welker’s words.
What does it truly mean to be “prophetic” about the issue of climate change? Does it mean the partnering of the Evangelical Climate Initiative with the Union of Concerned Scientists?
Or might a “lying spirit” behind the “consensus” position on climate change? How are we to tell?
Scripture itself gives us a pretty good rule of thumb to discern the spirits. In Deuteronomy 18:14-22, we read the answer to the question, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?” Verse 22 contains God’s answer to the people’s question about discerning the true prophet: “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.”
So with this in mind we might have an avenue to respond to the sorts of predictions and claims about climate change popularized most notably by Al Gore. The advocates for government action to combat human-induced climate change ought to provide a specific set of predictions and criteria for the verifiability of their claims. Let them decide in which predictions they have the most confidence and which are the most easily provable. Give us a set of clear benchmarks for the next 1, 2, 5, or 10 years. Then perhaps we can begin to judge whether the prophets of climate change have “spoken presumptuously” or not.
But to demand such explicit and verifiable criteria is to expose what is perhaps the greatest weakness of the theory of human-induced climate change: its patent lack of testability. It is at once a theory that can account for any and all future climate contingencies, and is therefore really no theory at all. It is a theory of everything and of nothing.
In the most recent Interfaith Stewardship Alliance Newsletter (April 5, 2007), Dr. E. Calvin Beisner, adjunct scholar at the Acton Institute and spokesman for the ISA, links to a story that includes the following quote from an organizer of a mountain-climbing expedition intended to bring attention to the problem of global warming (which had to be canceled because of low temperatures): “They were experiencing temperatures that weren’t expected with global warming,” Atwood said. “But one of the things we see with global warming is unpredictability.”
Re-read that last paragraph and let its epistemological implications soak in. Now literally everything constitutes evidence for global warming. Something you predicted? It’s evidence for global warming. Something you didn’t predict? It’s evidence for global warming. Something you couldn’t possibly have predicted? It’s evidence for global warming. Can you spell tautology? American Heritage Dictionary gives as its second definition, specialized use in logic: “An empty or vacuous statement composed of simpler statements in a fashion that makes it logically true whether the simpler statements are factually true or false; for example, the statement Either it will rain tomorrow or it will not rain tomorrow.” Likewise tautological: “If what we predict happens, that’s evidence for global warming; if it doesn’t, that’s evidence for global warming.”
That of course is the beauty of the favored phrase “climate change,” because that term doesn’t necessarily imply warming or cooling. It could be either. And perhaps in some places neither, since we are so consistently reminded that these changes are really regional phenomena.
As so many of our scientifically-minded friends have been more than ready to remind us in the context of other debates, this raises the question: If it isn’t verifiable, is it really science?
And the theory of human-induced climate change isn’t science, what is it and what are the implications for the political debate about action to combat climate change? Welker gives us fair warning that the answer to the former question might well be, “A lying spirit.”
Global warming could be heating Mars four times faster than Earth due to a mutually reinforcing interplay of wind-swept dust and changes in reflected heat from the Sun, according to a study released Wednesday.
Scientists have long observed a correlation on Mars between its fluctuating temperatures — which range from -87 C to – 5 C (-125 F to 23 F) depending on the season and the location — and the darkening or lightening of swathes of the planet’s surface.
The explanation is in the dirt.
Glistening Martian dust lying on the ground reflects the Sun’s light — and its heat — back into space, a phenomenon called albedo.
But when this reddish dust is churned up by violent winds, the storm-ravaged surface loses its reflective qualities and more of the Sun’s heat is absorbed into the atmosphere, causing temperatures to rise.
The study, published on Thursday by the British journal Nature, shows for the first time that these variations not only result from the storms but help cause them too.
It also suggests that short-term climate change is currently occurring on Mars and at a much faster rate than on Earth.
We’ve got it all – violent storms, rapid temperature change, receding polar ice. All we need is to pinpoint the source of all the martian CO2 emissions and send an emergency mission to start a carbon offset program, and we’re well on the way to saving the Red Planet as well as our own from the horrors of climate change!
Naturally, the article contains this caveat:
For Earth, global warming is mainly associated with human activities — notably the burning of fossil fuels — that release carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, trapping more of the Sun’s heat.
Once again, I’m left with questions about this whole thing. We know that the average global temperature on Earth has been creeping upward over the last little bit. We also know that climate change seems to be occurring on other planetary bodies in the Solar System (Jupiter, Saturn’s moon Triton, Mars, and even Pluto, for example). We also know that average temperatures on Earth have been much higher (there’s a reason that Greenland is called Greenland) and much lower (there’s a reason that Greenland was abandoned by its inhabitants) over the course of recorded history. Given these facts, why is it that Earth seems to be the only planet about which scientists have reached the untouchable conclusion that the climate change process isn’t natural?
It’s global warming media day at the NYT and elsewhere following the SCOTUS decision on Massachusetts v. EPA:
- Linda Greenhouse, “Justices Say E.P.A. Has Power to Act on Harmful Gases,” New York Times.
- Andrew C. Revkin, “Reports From Four Fronts in the War on Warming,” New York Times
- Editorial, “The Court Rules on Warming,” New York Times
- “The Global Warming Survival Guide,” Time (HT: Zondervan>To the Point)
- “Warming ruling squeezes Bush from both sides,” MSNBC
- David B. Rivkin, Jr., “Discussion Board: Thoughts on Mass v. EPA,” SCOTUSblog
- Editorial, “Jolly Green Justices,” The Wall Street Journal
- Mark Moller, “Discussion Board: Did The Court Raise a “High Bar”?,” SCOTUSblog
- Timothy J. Dowling, “Discussion Board: Mass v. EPA – A Major Victory,” SCOTUSblog
- Jonathan H. Adler, “Hot Times in the High Court,” National Review Online
The Supreme Court ruled today (5-4) in the case of Massachusetts v. EPA (05-1120) “that the federal government had the authority to regulate greenhouse gases that may contribute to global warming, and must examine anew the scientific evidence of a link between those gases and climate change.”
Toward the end of last year some were arguing that “this case is not about the science of climate change. There is no dispute that human emissions of greenhouse gases affect the global climate.” As we can see, the Court did find that the science of climate change is at issue.
Now that the Court has found in favor of the state of Massachusetts, affirming the state’s standing in the case, this may end up being a more important case than many, including myself, first thought. The “maze of procedural issues” ended up not preventing the Court from reaching this decision. More on this in coming days.
Update: The Court’s opinion can be read here (PDF).