23 Aug 2011

Rejecting Junk Science Is Not Religion

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Jonathan Adler got himself quoted approvingly by Megan McArdle, in her Atlantic blog, for identifying conservatives outraged by NJ Governor Chris Christie’s recent public testimony to his belief in Warmism as being guilty of “anti-scientific know-nothingism.”

Last week, Christie vetoed legislation that would have required New Jersey to remain in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state agreement to control greenhouse gas emissions through a regional cap-and-trade program. The bill was an effort to overturn Christie’s decision earlier this year to withdraw from the program. Given conservative opposition to greenhouse gas emission controls, the veto should have been something to cheer, right? Nope.

The problem, according to some conservatives, is that Christie accompanied his veto with a statement acknowledging that human activity is contributing to global climate change. Specifically, Christie explained that his original decision to withdraw from RGGI was not based upon any “quarrel” with the science.

    While I acknowledge that the levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are increasing, that climate change is real, that human activity plays a role in these changes and that these changes are impacting our state, I simply disagree that RGGI is an effective mechanism for addressing global warming.

As Christie explained, RGGI is based upon faulty economic assumptions and “does nothing more than impose a tax on electricity” for no real environmental benefit. As he noted, “To be effective, greenhouse gas emissions must be addressed on a national and international scale.”

Although Christie adopted the desired policy — withdrawing from RGGI — some conservatives are aghast that he would acknowledge a human contribution to global warming. According to one, this makes Christie “Part RINO. Part man. Only more RINO than man.” [“RINO” as in “Republican in Name Only.”]

Those attacking Christie are suggesting there is only one politically acceptable position on climate science — that one’s ideological bona fides are to be determined by one’s scientific beliefs, and not simply one’s policy preferences. This is a problem on multiple levels. Among other things, it leads conservatives to embrace an anti-scientific know-nothingism whereby scientific claims are to be evaluated not by scientific evidence but their political implications. Thus climate science must be attacked because it provides a too ready justification for government regulation. This is the same reason some conservatives attack evolution — they fear it undermines religious belief — and it is just as wrong. …

[E]ven the vast majority of warming “skeptics” within the scientific community would agree with Governor Christie’s statement that “human activity plays a role” in rising greenhouse gas levels and resulting changes in the climate.

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McArdle refers to scientific “denialism,” then establishes a new confirmatory experimental principle: if three libertarians accept it, then it must be true.

I am quite convinced that the planet is warming, and fairly convinced that human beings play a role in this. (When you’ve got Reason’s Ron Bailey, Cato’s Patrick Michaels, and Jonathan Adler, you’ve convinced me). I reserve the right to be skeptical about particular claims about effects (particularly when those claims come via people who implausibly insist that every major effect will be negative) . . . and, of course, of ludicrous worries that global warming will cause aliens to destroy us. But generally, I think global warming is happening, and even that we should probably do something about that, though I’m flexible on “something.”

However. Even if you disagree, it is reprehensible to have a litmus test around empirical matters of fact.

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It is always difficult in addressing the enormous pile of rubbish and intellctual confusion that constitutes Warmism to decide exactly where to begin.

Megan McArdle tells us that she is “quite convinced that the planet is warming.” What does she mean exactly? If McArdle means that the climate is generally warmer today than in the 17th century when the Thames froze regularly in the winter, she is obviously correct. If she, on the other hand, thinks that the widely noticed warming trend that began around 1980 has continued uninterrupted to the present day and constitutes a meaningful pattern, she is obviously wrong.

It is generally accepted by everyone that mankind has been living for the last eleven thousand years in a period of Interglacial Warming. So, yes, Megan, the planet is warming. That’s is what happens during periods between glaciations.

The catastrophist statists allege that there is a grave danger of “climate change.” Climate change is a heads I win, tails you lose kind of proposition, as the climate is always changing. There is a major warming (or cooling) trend direction of the earth’s climate, and there are constant short-term variations of irregular interval.

Geologic evidence indicates that periods of glaciation have lasted as long as nearly two hundred million years. Climate change is an enormously long-term phenomenon and the earth’s climate has moved from extremes far beyond anything known in human history during times in which there was no possibility of human agency playing any role.

Human observational capabilities with respect to phenomena occurring over geologic periods of time is limited by the brevity of our life spans and also by the brevity of the existence of our species and our civilization. Anyone attempting to draw some kind of conclusions on the basis of temperature patterns going back three decades is an idiot.

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Warmism rests on unverifiable models and on one grand scientific metaphor, the notion that the earth’s atmosphere is like a greenhouse. But the greenhouse reference is only a metaphor.

A 2007 paper by Gerhard Gerlich and Ralf D. Tscheuschner argues, I think quite successfully, that the greenhouse model is incompatible with Physics.

The atmospheric greenhouse effect, an idea that authors trace back to the traditional works of Fourier 1824, Tyndall 1861, and Arrhenius 1896, and which is still supported in global climatology, essentially describes a fictitious mechanism, in which a planetary atmosphere acts as a heat pump driven by an environment that is radiatively interacting with but radiatively equilibrated to the atmospheric system. According to the second law of thermodynamics such a planetary machine can never exist. Nevertheless, in almost all texts of global climatology and in a widespread secondary literature it is taken for granted that such mechanism is real and stands on a firm scientific foundation.

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Mr. Adler’s accusation that aversion to Warmism amounts to “know-nothingism” is based on uncritical acceptance of the greenhouse metaphor and acceptance of the proposition that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide causes warming. Only superstitious savages would deny that carbon dioxide must be decreased.

Well, the role of CO2 in warming and the timing of increased CO2 is a seriously controversial issue.

There are good grounds for doubt that CO2 really is meaningfully increasing.

There is excellent data also showing that historically increases in CO2 occurred after planetary warming, not before.

Patrick J. Michaels may accept the Greenhouse model and claims of increasing CO2, but Mr. Adler and Ms. McArdle ought to delve a little deeper into these issues before climbing on board.

I will only mention in passing that it is possible, further, to dissent from Warmist Catastrophism by taking the view that a slightly warmer climate would not be an entirely bad thing, particularly if you happen to live in Canada, Scandinavia, or Russia.

And, even if one were to surrender completely and abandon critical science and skepticism, even if one were to simply accept that everything Al Gore says is true, human reproduction and increased energy use and industrial development will inevitably continue. The undeveloped world will not relinquish material progress and efforts to close the gap with the developed world, and no collection of treaties and international conferences will prevent everyone in India and China from wanting an automobile and a full assortment of electrical appliances. If human population growth and economic activity really dooms the planet, the planet is well and truly doomed, because government efforts will not succeed in preventing growth and progress.

The real Know-Nothings, the real parties guilty of a lack of seriousness and respect for science, are the people who accept the herd consensus of interested parties and the community of fashion as probative, and who are willing to accept on its say-so unverifiable models as established science.

Adler and McArdle are totally wrong. It would take a very thick book to discuss all the ways that Warmism fails to represent legitimate science, worthy of acceptance and suitable as a basis for public policy. Some of the issues are technical, but a lot of all this is basically pretty obvious.

To believe in Anthropogenic Global Warming, you have be an urban narcissist whose perspective on reality resembles Saul Steinberg’s 1976 “View of the World From 9th Avenue” cover. You have to be the sort of person who believes that human actions, the human world, biomass, and mental life absolutely dominate the natural world, that mankind could “destroy the planet” through nuclear war, or by further indulgence in materialistic consumption. You have to be a dualist and a fool, who believes that there is an essential disjunction between humanity and the natural world and that the key ingredient of the fundamental basis of life on this planet (photosynthesis) is a dangerous pollutant, and you have to be stupid enough to fail to notice that we are dealing with a popular theory based, at root, on a few years of warmer weather beginning in 1980 promulgated by the same people who were previously warning us about a New Ice Age.

Stupidity on this scale is incompatible with a role in the Conservative Movement. Sorry about that! That’s not religion. That’s just having intellectual standards.

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6 Feedbacks on "Rejecting Junk Science Is Not Religion"

Rejecting Junk Science Is Not Religion

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Jared Lobdell

Even if “greenhouse gases” cause a greenhouse effect, or at least shelter us less from the sun’s rays than other gases, it’s also true we get a dimming and thus cooling effect from putting gunk into the atmosphere, and the patchwork total may be some warmer weather-cell areas and some cooler and increased turbulence along the interfaces — which we do have. But long-term climate effects are in the winds and water-currents, and the effect of changing temp patterns on them hasn’t been worked out. Look for research coming on North Atlantic Current oscillations and longer-term shifts over the next years (partly from Max Planck partly from Columbia LDEO). As it is, we don’t know the truth about warming (and dimming) but alas! we don’t know that we don’t know.



LibertyorWhat?

Great, JDZ, this article should be required reading for all Warmists starting with High Priest Algore.



SDD

Thought experiment:

Imagine that the incentive to lower carbon-dioxide levels involved more private sector growth and lower levels of taxation.

Is there any doubt that liberals would be vociferously questioning the validity and seriousness of a warming climate?



Surellin

Back to Christie’s comments agreeing with Warmism: the dude is a politician in a blue state. Of course he throws the left a bone while he whacks one of their projects. There’s no need to infer anything about the state of his soul from these comments. Except, perhaps that he IS a politician, and a canny one.



CombatMissionary

Brilliant article. Given the economic incentives for the pseudo-scientific doomsday prophet political advisers and their masters in the world’s second oldest profession, blind faith in global warming has risen (read: fallen) to the status of membership in a religion (read: cult). How refreshing to see an ACTUAL analysis of the facts. Would that our politicians were so slow to emit buzzwords and catch-phrases.



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