Alibris Secondhand Books Standard

Thursday, April 08, 2010

bill gates as climate change spokesman

Bill Gates wants to talk about Energy and Climate:

I think Gates makes a good evangelist for the issue of climate change, a much better spokesperson than Al Gore. I say this, despite the fact that as a Democrat I like Al Gore, and as a Linux user for the past decade I'm no fan of Bill Gates.

But I think Bill Gates would make a better climate change evangelist than Al Gore for two reasons:

  1. This issue has been too politicized for too long, and having a politician as the nation's top evangelist for action on climate change actually helps obscure the science behind the issue.

  2. Both men bring their own unique backgrounds to the issue. Gore, the politician, speaks of political solutions; Gates, the technologist, speaks of technological solutions. And frankly, the problems caused by climate change will only be solved with technology. The world's politicians are not likely find the will to make the tough decisions that will be necessary to confront climate change, and are even less likely to craft policies that will make a real difference.

If Bill Gates is willing to put his foundation's money into research for climate change solutions, we just might find a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions before it's too late.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

does the washington, d.c. blizzard disprove climate change?

According to the legend, Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Last week, while a hundred thousand Washington, D.C. residents found themselves without heat or electricity in the aftermath of a massive blizzard that some have labeled the "snowpocalypse," climate change deniers rejoiced.

from my newly published article, "Snowpocalypse" and Global Climate Change, at Associated Content.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

on reducing global carbon emissions

Rachel Smokler and Gary Houser are no fans of carbon cap and trade. They outline their objections in an opinion piece for

There are two leading theories on how best to compel a reduction of global carbon emissions. The direct approach would be to levy a tax on carbon emissions. The idea behind this is to set a minimum price for pollution. Some progressives see a carbon tax as an opportunity to shift the tax burden or to increase revenues without raising income taxes.

A cap and trade system relies on market forces to reduce emissions. Every corporation whose factories emit carbon waste (essentially, every corporation) is assigned an emissions cap — an amount of carbon it is allowed to release into the air in a year. The company receives permits for this amount of carbon. A company that reduces emissions below its cap is allowed to sell the excess permits to companies that aren't able to reach their caps.

Unlike a carbon tax, a cap and trade system allows companies to profit from good environmental stewardship. This appears to be Smokler and Houser's first objection to carbon markets:

Many of these people, representing some of the most powerful institutions and industries in the world, will get together this week to see just how (and how much) they can squeeze out of the Earth's impending woes. On January 12th and 13th - within the conference rooms of the Embassy Suites Hotel in New York City - the Second Annual Carbon Summit will convene, bringing together representatives from industry, finance, government, and the corporate environmental groups.

Inside the summit, these monied interests will be enthusiastically discussing how to best take advantage of the emerging carbon markets.

I am just shocked, shocked to learn that representatives of for-profit institutions would gather to talk about making money. Who could have imagined such a scene?

But Smokler and Houser have a much more serious objection to cap and trade:

Unfortunately, theory and practice in carbon markets simply do not jive. We have plenty of evidence that marketing carbon doesn't work to reduce emissions.

Their evidence, though, is not so plentiful as they suggest.

The EU experiment with a carbon trade system has been soundly declared a failure.

Well, yes, it has been declared a failure — by advocates of carbon taxes. When the system was introduced in 2005 officials weren't sure at what level to set the emissions caps, so they started with a level that should have been achievable by most companies. Unfortunately, since most companies finished the first year under their limits, they were not able to sell the excess carbon permits as they expected.

What's more, between 2005 and 2007, more than half of the participating nations saw a net increase in their emissions. The caps were so permissive that companies were able to release more carbon and still meet their quotas. During these two years, the E.U. as a whole increased its emissions by nearly 2 percent.

Meanwhile, global emissions increased by more than 3% each year during this span, about 6.7% over the two years. Compared to the rest of the world, the EU under the cap and trade system exhibited much better restraint on emissions increases.

Compared to the status quo, then, cap and trade can't be considered a failure in carbon reduction. And compared to a carbon tax, a cap and trade system offers the tangible benefit of having been implemented.

Nonetheless, Smokler and Houser favor the tax. Yet the strongest argument they can muster is:

The issue of justice is central to the opposition to carbon markets. Protestors on the streets in Copenhagen called for "climate justice now" and "system change not climate change". With the gross inequities that leave billions starving in dire poverty, while a small portion of humanity gobbles resources and spews greenhouse gases, it seems unlikely that marketing carbon will resolve the problems. The power structures that have created those inequities, and made such a mess of our planet must be challenged if we are to have a chance at a liveable future. We will have to address the roots of the problem.

Granted, carbon cap and trade will not solve the problems of global inequality. But what it can do is give us a non-punative way to enforce reductions in global emissions. It will leave us with an economy that is strong enough that we will have resources for tackling other problems. Overturning the existing power structures would likely lead to greater poverty all around.

Nontheless, Smokler and Houser are optimistic about the prospects for a carbon tax:

We cannot spend, or consume, or manipulate our way out of this mess; We must take account of our behavior and make the radical shifts that the problem demands. As you will see exhibited again this week in New York, there is increasingly more wisdom, knowledge, and maturity outside on the cold streets than exhibited in the warm conference rooms of the world.

But don't hold your breath. A poll by the Pew Reserach Center in October showed that 1/3 of all U.S. residents don't even acknowledge the world is getting warmer. Don't look for radical shifts of behavior here. If carbon tax advocates join climate deniers in sinking cap and trade legislation, we'll have no mechanism for curbing carbon emissions. And if we don't cut emissions soon, we're going to have a host of other problems demanding our attention.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

john graham-cumming analyzes climate data

Mathematician and programmer John Graham-Cumming has taken a look at the climate data compiled by the Met Office, the UK’s National Weather Service.

He has reconstructed the temperature trends since 1850, found an error in the Met Office's data, examined the "very artificial correction" to tree-ring data, mapped a grid of global temperature data, and produced an explanatory video:

All in all, it's a very thorough and informative analysis.

Here are the papers referenced in his video and blogs (PDF files):

Uncertainty estimates in regional and global observed temperature changes

Hemispheric and Large-Scale Surface Air Temperature Variations

Trees tell of past climates: but are they speaking less clearly today?

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

where's the climate data?

In a late comment to my September post titled Has the World's Climate Date Really Gone Missing? William Shields asserts:

Well, this all looks very different in light of the released emails from CRU that show deliberate moves to block FoIA requests and then delete relevant data, which is actually a crime.

The problem with this allegation is the same weakness found in the original tabloid-style articles from the Register and the National Review which prompted that post. The Climate Research Unit (CRU) is not, and never has been, the world's sole repository of climate information. Furthermore, CRU is not the source of the raw data in question, and is not under any obligation to store this data.

Fortunately for us all, the helpful climatologists at RealClimate are busy gathering links to the many online sources of climate data. Whether you're looking for raw data, processed data, paleo-data, models, reconstructions, or analysis, they can help you find it.

But I wouldn't be surprised if the climate deniers ignore the data and focus on the stolen emails. Raw data is useful for science, but informal exchanges stripped from their original context make better conspiracy theories.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

giant jellyfish and global warming

It sounds like a scene from a low-budget sci fi/horror film:

A blood-orange blob the size of a small refrigerator emerged from the dark waters, its venomous tentacles trapped in a fishing net. Within minutes, hundreds more were being hauled up, a pulsating mass crowding out the catch of mackerel and sea bass.

But for Japanese fisherman, it's all too real:

This year's jellyfish swarm is one of the worst he has seen, Hamano said. Once considered a rarity occurring every 40 years, they are now an almost annual occurrence along several thousand kilometers (miles) of Japanese coast, and far beyond Japan.

The migration of giant jellyfish into Japanese fishing waters is just one of the many effects of the climate change. Around the world, entire societies are threatened as the land that has sustained them through centuries is rapidly becoming inhospitable.

East Africa suffers through severe drought while Southeast Asia endures record floods. Though it seems paradoxical, both of these can be attributed to global warming.

As the air temperature increases even slightly above its historical average, it is able to hold more water vapor; as a result, clouds grow larger before dumping rain. Some areas are bypassed altogether while others get hit harder. Droughts and floods, courtesy of our appetite for energy.

The painful irony is that many of the places hit the hardest are already the poorest nations on earth. They are simultaneously not responsible for their changing climate, and not able to do anything about it.

Meanwhile the industrial world continues to pump carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at levels unprecedented in the history of the earth. And many developing nations, China and India foremost among them, are gearing up to join the club.

This cannot continue forever. But what are we going to do about it?

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Monday, September 28, 2009

exelon severs ties with chamber of commerce

Exelon, the United States' largest public utility, has announced that it will sever ties with United States Chamber of Commerce because of the Chamber's opposition to climate change legislation.

Last year Exelon launched its Exelon 2020 strategy to reduce its carbon footprint by 15 million metric tons by the year 2020.

Exelon CEO John Rowe explained in a speech at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) that a cap-and-trade system is the most efficient way to transform the world's energy supply:

The carbon-based free lunch is over. But while we can’t fix our climate problems for free, the price signal sent through a cap-and-trade system will drive low-carbon investments in the most inexpensive and efficient way possible. Putting a price on carbon is essential, because it will force us to do the cheapest things, like energy efficiency, first.

Exelon joins California utility PG&E and New Mexico utility PNM in severing ties with the Chamber of Commerce.

As more energy companies get on board with cap and trade, deniers like the Chamber of Commerce will be increasingly isolated. The United States just might join the rest of the world in tackling climate change before it's too late.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

has the world's temperature data really gone missing?

The climate change deniers are raising another stink. Global Warming ate my data, frets Andrew Orlowski in the Register. The Dog Ate Global Warming, pines Patrick J. Michaels in the National Review.

What exactly has been eaten here?

Michaels asks us to:

Imagine if there were no reliable records of global surface temperature. Raucous policy debates such as cap-and-trade would have no scientific basis, Al Gore would at this point be little more than a historical footnote, and President Obama would not be spending this U.N. session talking up a (likely unattainable) international climate deal in Copenhagen in December.

Orlowski, on the other hand, gets right to the point:

The world's source for global temperature record admits it's lost or destroyed all the original data that would allow a third party to construct a global temperature record. The destruction (or loss) of the data comes at a convenient time for the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) in East Anglia - permitting it to snub FoIA requests to see the data.

On the face of it, this sounds preposterous. Could it really be true that all the world's historical temperature records from thousands of measurement sites were stored in one location only, and have suddenly been destroyed in one fell swoop?

Michaels is a little more careful; he's not making such absolute statements without some hedging:

Steel yourself for the new reality, because the data needed to verify the gloom-and-doom warming forecasts have disappeared.

Or so it seems. Apparently, they were either lost or purged from some discarded computer. Only a very few people know what really happened, and they aren’t talking much. And what little they are saying makes no sense.

What data are they talking about, and where did it go?

Much of what we know about climate change is due to the efforts of two organizations that have spent decades collecting and aggregating temperature measurements from around the world. The Climate Research Unit, headed by Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, has been collecting climate data from around the world since 1978. The Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), a division of NASA headed by James Hansen, has been gathering climate data since 1961.

Apparently the data controversy began in 2004 (per Orlowski) or 2005 (per Michaels), when one Warwick Hughes — a "free lance earth scientist" (his own description) — requested raw climate data from Phil Jones. According to Michaels:

Jones’s response to a fellow scientist attempting to replicate his work was, “We have 25 years or so invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?”

If the question sounds harsh, it's perhaps because Warwick Hughes has a long history of antagonism toward Phil Jones. On his website and his blog, Hughes devotes numerous pages to criticism of Jones. For example, in an Ongoing review of 1986 Jones et al papers compiling global temperature trends that now define "IPCC global warming", Hughes calls on Jones to "measure global temperature trends using data that does not include many hundreds of temperature records contaminated by local urban heat islands."

The underlying issue here is that buildings, roads, and other human-built structures trap heat during the daytime. At night, these structures release the heat back into the air. The result is nighttime temperatures that are warmer than the surrounding countryside. A true picture of global temperatures must either measure both urban and rural temperatures, or adjust the urban temperatures to account for the urban heat island (UHI) effect.

Hughes's website also includes an open letter to all authors of the Jones et al 1986 papers and DoE documentation books. In this one, Hughes objects to the inclusion of temperature data from a station in Atlanta:

Personally, I would have thought there was an abundance of evidence in the early 1980's that Atlanta was UHI affected and that evidence has compounded since with NASA web pages portraying satellite thermal imagery defining the Atlanta UHI which they characterise as Hotlanta.

Hughes includes the reply he received from Phil Jones. Dr Jones states, in part:

The Atlanta station you refer to is one of 22 sites within the grid box (30-35N, 80-85W) where Atlanta is located. So even if the data have become more urban affected through time, the effect on the grid-box average would be minor. For the 1985/1986 papers/reports you refer to all the stations were assessed for homogeneity problems.

UHI appears to be a major issue for Hughes. He seems not to be satisfied with the adjustments to the climate aggregations to account for the UHI factor. In fact, Hughes gives his game away in his "ongoing review," where he insists that CRU not adjust, but eliminate, any measurements "contaminated by local urban heat islands".

Perhaps it is the UHI issue that drove Hughes to request the raw data from Jones, or perhaps it was something else. Either way, Jones was unable to supply it.

The problem is, the raw data does not belong to Jones. What Jones and CRU have produced over the last quarter century are a series of aggregates of monthly temperatures collected from more than 3000 sites around the world. The most current dataset is known as CRUTEM3, and is available for download from the CRU website. CRU has obtained these temperature readings from a variety of sources, some of whom are happy to share their data with anyone who asks, and some of whom have strict policies concerning its reuse.

There is nothing sinister about either the agreements CRU signed to obtain the data from disparate sources, or the way CRU has built their aggregation of the measurements. And certainly CRU is being open in sharing its own data.

But the spark lit by Hughes was kindled in 2007 when statistician and mineral exploration expert Stephen McIntyre filed a Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) request for the raw source data. Jones again refused; his curt explanation for not having to supply the data was, as Orlowski's article notes:

Information accessible to applicant via other means. Some information is publicly available on external websites.

In plain English, the data does not belong to CRU, but can be obtained from the original sources. Some of it is quite easy to obtain; just go to the appropriate websites. What Jones leaves unsaid is that some of the data may be difficult to obtain from the sources. But he has gone to great lengths to gather as much data as he possibly could, and anybody else who wants to put forth the effort can obtain the same data.

Jones alludes to some of the difficulty in his later remarks, also reported in Orlowski's Register article:

We are not in a position to supply data for a particular country not covered by the example agreements referred to earlier, as we have never had sufficient resources to keep track of the exact source of each individual monthly value. Since the 1980s, we have merged the data we have received into existing series or begun new ones, so it is impossible to say if all stations within a particular country or if all of an individual record should be freely available. Data storage availability in the 1980s meant that we were not able to keep the multiple sources for some sites, only the station series after adjustment for homogeneity issues.

This is in no way inconsistent with his reply to the FoIA request. Again, all the data should be retrievable from the sources, and some of the sources make it quite easy to do so. Some don't, and obtaining their data could be difficult.

Michaels grouses in his National Review article that keeping the data shouldn't have been that difficult for CRU, even with the limited storage available in the 1980s.

The statement about “data storage” is balderdash. They got the records from somewhere. The files went onto a computer. All of the original data could easily fit on the 9-inch tape drives common in the mid-1980s. I had all of the world’s surface barometric pressure data on one such tape in 1979.

But Michaels misses the point. CRU, in fact, did merge the records to fit everything into the available storage. But in merging, CRU lost the distinctions among the original sources. It's not, as Michaels insinuates, that the temperature data has been lost or destroyed. CRU has processed the data and kept the results. The original data can still be obtained from the original sources.

Furthermore, Jones and CRU are not the only ones who have collected and aggregated all this data. In the United States, GISS has been keeping independent climate records since before CRU was established. GISS also makes their data available from their website, so even if CRU had destroyed their data, we would still have global temperature datasets for review. And if GISS and CRU can do it, others can build their own data collections if they are willing to put forth the effort.

The problem is, the climate change deniers don't want to do the work. They simply want to criticize and complain. Because they are too lazy to go to all the sources of temperature measurements around the world, they question whether the measurements even exist. And because organizations like the Register and the National Review give them a free platform for making allegations, they just might confuse a lot of people into thinking there is still some controversy over the reality of global warming.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

personal change, social change, and climate change

Derrick Jensen asks, in his article Forget Shorter Showers from Orion Magazine:

WOULD ANY SANE PERSON think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

And yet, Jenson observes, many of the most-publicized remedies for global warming focus on changes in personal habits.

Consumer culture and the capitalist mindset have taught us to substitute acts of personal consumption (or enlightenment) for organized political resistance. An Inconvenient Truth helped raise consciousness about global warming. But did you notice that all of the solutions presented had to do with personal consumption—changing light bulbs, inflating tires, driving half as much—and had nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations, or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet?

Suppose every individual in the United States started taking shorter showers, bicycling to the grocery store, buying compact fluorescent light bulbs, using cloth shopping bags, and recycling all our trash. We might feel like congratulating ourselves, but aside from good feelings we wouldn't have accomplished much:

Even if every person in the United States did everything the movie suggested, U.S. carbon emissions would fall by only 22 percent. Scientific consensus is that emissions must be reduced by at least 75 percent worldwide.

The problem, Jensen says, goes to the very core of Western civilization. Our consumption-based culture is slowly choking this fragile earth that we all must share. Industrial forces beyond any one person's control cause more damage than any one person can mitigate. And we can't avert the problem by opting out:

So if we choose option one—if we avidly participate in the industrial economy—we may in the short term think we win because we may accumulate wealth, the marker of “success” in this culture. But we lose, because in doing so we give up our empathy, our animal humanity. And we really lose because industrial civilization is killing the planet, which means everyone loses. If we choose the “alternative” option of living more simply, thus causing less harm, but still not stopping the industrial economy from killing the planet, we may in the short term think we win because we get to feel pure, and we didn’t even have to give up all of our empathy (just enough to justify not stopping the horrors), but once again we really lose because industrial civilization is still killing the planet, which means everyone still loses.

This is a sobering realization for those of us who make a conscious effort to live simply. Though we may gain personal benefits from cutting back, we cannot turn back the tide of industry that is etching a permanent scar on the face of our planet.

As stark as this picture is, Jenson's solution is just as stark:

We can follow the example of those who remembered that the role of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much integrity as possible, but rather to confront and take down those systems.

But Jenson fails to recognize that these same systems have also brought major improvements to our quality of life. More children than ever survive into adulthood. More people overcome diseases that killed our ancestors. More people have enough food to eat. More families have their own homes. More people earn enough money to keep themselves out of poverty, and to save for a comfortable retirement.

We are hooked on the horns of a dilemma. We can't destroy our industrial systems without destroying the good they have brought us. Yet our industrial systems are pushing us over the edge of sustainability. Where do we go from here?

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

the challenge of climate change

Recently, the Cato Institute published an ad (pdf) in some of the United States' remaining newspapers, taking issue with President Obama on climate change.

The ad quotes Obama as saying, "Few challenges facing America and the world are more urgent than combating climate change. The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear."

This quote apparently came from a speech the then President Elect gave to the Governors' Global Climate Summit hosted by Arnold Swartzenegger last November.

The full text of the speech, and a YouTube video, can be found here.

The Cato ad does not pull any punches. The response begins:

With all due respect, Mr. President, that is not true.
We, the undersigned scientists, maintain that the case for alarm regarding climate change is grossly overstated.

…and continues with a rant about surface temperatures, property values, and computer models. I'm not going to discuss the Cato Institute's specific climate claims; I'm not a climate scientist. But the folks at the Real Climate blog are, and they have provided a point-by-point reply.

The thing is, the Cato Institute's criticisms in the ad had nothing to do with President Obama's actual speech. Here, in context, are his words:

Few challenges facing America and the world are more urgent than combating climate change. The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear. Sea levels are rising. Coastlines are shrinking. We’ve seen record drought, spreading famine, and storms that are growing stronger with each passing hurricane season.

Now that last phrase is not accurate. Maybe "each passing hurricane season" was meant as rhetorical flourish, but one thing it is not, is a statement of fact. In the past three years we have seen nothing to match the intensity of the hurricanes of 2005.

The rest of Obama's statement, however, is true. Sea levels are rising and coastlines are shrinking. We've seen record drought and spreading famine. And, as a general trend, hurricanes are growing stronger. The Cato ad did not dispute any of these facts.

Obama continues:

Climate change and our dependence on foreign oil, if left unaddressed, will continue to weaken our economy and threaten our national security.

This is taken from a report titled National Security and the Threat of Climate Change, and prepared for the U.S. Department of Defense by the CNA Corporation in 2007. Again, these facts are not disputed, even in the Cato ad.

And while the Cato ad states clearly that there's no reason for alarm, President Obama is not advocating alarm. Instead, he vows to provide leadership:

My presidency will mark a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change that will strengthen our security and create millions of new jobs in the process.

He then goes on to outline the basics of his plan. Now perhaps the Cato Institute would like to take issue with the specific solutions the President is proposing. But with this ad, they missed their opportunity. By focusing on disputes over computer models and property values, they have cut themselves out of the policy discussion. It's their choice, and it's their loss.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

altering the environment

In a recent Question of the Day over at the Zeray Gazette, John asked, Do you think that anthropogenic global warming is real?

The majority or respondents said no for various reasons, most of which sound specious to me. Today I want to address one curious claim that a few people mentioned, the idea that we as human beings don't really have as big of an impact as we want to believe.

Now I'll grant that human beings, as a species, have an inflated sense of our importance within the universe. Still, if we look at our history, we can see many ways in which human beings have made significant changes to our world, for better or worse.

  • We've created the domestic dog, a subspecies of wolves, and further refined it into hundreds of breeds.
  • We've eradicated the smallpox virus globally through effective vaccination
  • We've reduced the effects of flooding through numerous Army Corps of Engineers projects, and created lakes where none existed before
  • With large-scale dams we've brought water to formerly dry areas, and have dried up rivers
  • Factory pollution has created rain with the acidity of vinegar, capable of destroying all life in lakes into which it drains
  • Enough oil was dumped into the Cuyahoga River that the river caught on fire several times between 1936 and 1969
  • We've sent tons of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) into the stratosphere, where they are steadily depleting the protective layer of ozone
  • We've introduced invasive species into new environments where they have displaced or threatened native species
  • We've disrupted entire ecosystems by eliminating one or more species deemed to be pests
  • Through deforestation in tropical rainforests we've sent thousands of species to extinction

It's a big world, but we've managed to alter our environment in many ways. Is it really so hard to believe that the burning of fossil fuels, which at current levels produces 21.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year, also has an effect on this fragile earth?

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

pascal's climate

Tim O'Reilly has some interesting thoughts connecting the issue of climate change with Pascal's wager.

In my talks I've argued that climate change provides us with a modern version of Pascal's wager: if catastrophic global warming turns out not to happen, the steps we'd take to address it are still worthwhile. Given that there's even a reasonable risk of disruptive climate change, any sensible person should decide to act. It's insurance.

Some of the benefits of taking steps now to avert potential climate change include:

  • Major new sources of renewable energy at an affordable price
  • New jobs related to renewable energy will stimulate the economy
  • Reduced dependence on oil from potentially unstable or hostile nations
  • Reduced costs related to pollution
  • Industries better prepared to compete in the future

The downside? O'Reilly can't think of one, and I can't either. If we take climate change seriously and act accordingly — even if we're wrong, we'll still end up with several benefits. If we don't take it seriously, and we're wrong, we have everything to lose.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

both sides do it

In response to recent post a look at uncommon descent, commenter gleaner63 said:

A few months ago an interesting exchange took place on the Neil Cavuto Show (Fox News). The debate was between a Global Warming advocate and a skeptic. The advocate, a member of Greenpeace said (paraphrased); "...look, you *are not* a climatologist so no one should take what you say seriously...". Cavuto stepped in and asked the Greenpeace rep what his feild of study was; " training I am an economist...".

Aside: What I find puzzling about this is why Fox News presented a debate about climate science without inviting a climatologist. But I guess there's more than one way be "fair and balanced".

gleaner63 continues:

The point is both sides engage in this. When Dawkins or Sagan or Asimov condemn Christianity, a lot of non-believers take their opinions as gospel, although none of the aforementioned have any credentials in theology or anything closely related.

I don't like the phrase "both sides," with its implication that there can be only two possible positions to take. Still, gleaner63 raises an important point about atheists and theology.

I've written repeatedly about Dawkins' failure to grasp even the basics of Christian theology. It's not just a matter of having no credentials -- I'm no theologian myself -- but of willfully ignoring the contributions of those who do know somthing about the subject.

When Richard Dawkins speaks about religion while dismissing the insights of theologians, and when William Dembski speaks about evolution while dismissing the research of biologists, they are being willfully ignorant. And when Fox News presents climate change as merely a debate between environmentalists and skeptics, it's being willfully ignorant.

Sadly, willful ignorance is currently in fashion in the United States. We see it in politics, where most people get their information second hand, from sources that pre-spin it into sound bites. We see it in television news, where the sound bites are welcomed because the half hour news format does not allow time for in depth analysis of any topic.

Laypeople can become knowledgeable about almost any subject, but it takes some effort. You won't learn annything by watching Fox News or reading a popular book by a pontificating expert-in-another-field. Go directly to the people who know the most about the subject, and you'll get the best information.

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

pat robertson feels the heat

I've been critical of Pat Robertson in the past, and I'll likely be critical of him in the future. But right at the moment, I'm pleased to report something positive: Pat Robertson has become convinced that global warming is a fact. This summer's weather has been a decisive factor.

Robertson is one of a large number of conservatives who are finally acknowledging the reality of climate change. His change of heart is particularly notable because he had criticized other evangelicals who announced last fall that they supported efforts to curb global warming.