Skip

“People are asking questions of the science that science can't answer.”
January 31, 2007 7:55 PM   Subscribe

Climate change a 'questionable truth'. Margaret Wente looks beyond the hysteria surrounding the climate change debate. Hysteria her own newspaper has been contributing to.
posted by loquax (85 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Last fall, Professor Mike Hulme, the founding director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Britain, wrote a damning condemnation of climate alarmism: “Over the past few years, a new environmental phenomenon has been constructed in this country — the phenomenon of ‘catastrophic' climate change,” he wrote. “The increasing use of this term and its bedfellow qualifiers ‘chaotic,' ‘irreversible' and ‘rapid' has altered the public discourse, [which] is now characterized by phrases such as ‘irreversible tipping in the Earth's climate' and ‘we are at the point of no return.' ”

Prof. Hulme is no climate skeptic. He was the co-ordinating lead author of the chapter on “climate-change scenarios” for the last IPCC report in 2001.

posted by loquax at 7:56 PM on January 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


"It's not a trend, it's just a collection of slightly warmer measurements! Shut up!"

"It's a short trend, but that's just by random chance! Shut up!"

"OK, the earth really is getting warmer in a significant way, but that's just natural and we can't do anything about it! Shut up!"

"Humans are partially responsible for climate change, but that doesn't mean we should care! Shut up!"
posted by rxrfrx at 8:01 PM on January 31, 2007 [5 favorites]


Margaret Wente takes a position contrary to what is commonly believed and/or to the position of The Globe & Mail on just about everything. What's new here?
posted by winston at 8:09 PM on January 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


I hear Greenland has some new real estate opening up.
posted by FormlessOne at 8:09 PM on January 31, 2007




"Why, look - a deck chair! Might as well move it about a bit, seeing as there's nothing else to do while the ship sinks."
posted by FormlessOne at 8:12 PM on January 31, 2007


Includes comments from:

-Kevin Vranes, a climate scientist who specializes in ocean/climate physics and water-resources management.
-Professor Mike Hulme, the founding director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Britain.
-Carl Wunsch, a leading climate and oceans expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
-Robert Mendelsohn, an environmental scientist at Yale who specializes in modelling the regional impacts of climate change.
-Roger Pielke Sr., professor of climatology at Colorado State University and the state's official climatologist.
-Mark Jaccard, a professor of resource and environmental management at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

But I wonder if anyone's actually going to read the article and comment on it. The only thing Wente and these experts are skeptical about is the abuse of the issue in order to sell books and newspapers (to say nothing of rescuing faltering political fortunes). Looks like her characterization of public obsession with apocolyptic prognostications as being religious in nature is spot on thus far.
posted by loquax at 8:16 PM on January 31, 2007


DLOE!
posted by liam at 8:18 PM on January 31, 2007


Wente is a contrarian. And not in an interesting way.
posted by unSane at 8:19 PM on January 31, 2007 [3 favorites]


Encouragingly, Margaret Wente is doing nothing here but clinging with every last bit of strength in her dessicated fingers to the last tiny bit of support for the glib dismissals of the problem she's thrust upon us for many years, in the hope that it'll allow her to live out the rest of her embittered days on her pastoral hobby farm in smug comfort.

She's desperate. That's a wonderful thing.

Sorry, I generally try to avoid the ole ad hominem, but Wente's credibility on this issue is less than zilch, and the fact that she deigned to address it like a well-intentioned skeptic is grotesque testimony to the disingenousness of the breed of journalism she's grown rich on. And the hobby farm is not hypothetical - I could drive you to it in an Escalade if you'd like. And the "embittered" part comes on good authority as well.

And on preview: Bite me, loquax - I dutifully waded through that turgid mess. I'll concede authority to Wente on this issue the same day she admits I'm better read in supply-side economics.

posted by gompa at 8:20 PM on January 31, 2007 [4 favorites]


But tell me, am I the only one who clicked on the Rex Murphy: And now politicians will fix the weather? link?
posted by furtive at 8:22 PM on January 31, 2007


Hysteria surrounding climate change? That would come from the loony right-wing in America and their talk-radio overlords.

Most adults realize it's an important issue worth dealing with sooner rather than later.

Crap post in terms of framing. You're usually more interesting than this loquax.
posted by bardic at 8:22 PM on January 31, 2007


I just haven't been able to get that worked up about global warming since I had that hysterectomy.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:25 PM on January 31, 2007


As a long time reader of the Globe and Mail, I can say that Margaret Wente is sort of like Judith Miller, a suck up to the right-wing all the while thinking that she is more observant than everyone else. Yawn.
posted by bhouston at 8:27 PM on January 31, 2007


“Nobody can really tell you what the probabilities are,” says Carl Wunsch, a leading climate and oceans expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “The probability of another metre of sea-level rise in the next 50 years isn't zero, but it isn't 90 per cent, either. And if you pinned me down to tell you what it really is, I couldn't do that.”

Well shit boy, maybe with your degree you can mathematimacate me some sort of curve for my pea brain to comprehend. Nobody is pinning anyone down for an exact number.
posted by furtive at 8:30 PM on January 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


Q: Exactly what shape is the Earth if it's flat? Square or circle?

A: Circle, like in the UN logo

Q: "Why doesn't water run off the Earth?"

A: There is a vast ice wall that keeps the water where it is. The ice wall is roughly 150ft high. This also explains why you can find a vast plane of ice when you travel south.

Antarctica as a continent does not exist.

Q: "How does global warming affect the ice wall?"

A1: Global warming is melting the ice wall, but the government isn't doing anything because cutting carbon emissions would damage the economy, and they only care about making money.

A2: Global Warming doesn't happen. It and its counter-theory (Global Cooling) are effects that cancel each other out. Remember, these "greenhouse gasses" can reflect heat back out into space as well as keep it on Earth. Yes, there are recorded rises in temperature, but the only records we have go back, at most, around 150 years. This is very likely an occurrence that happens every [x>150] years, that's happened before (perhaps many times), and that the Earth has thus survived before.

Q: "What about tides?"

A: The tides exist due to a slight see-saw effect on the earth. As it goes back and forth, the water rushes to the side that is lower. Note, this is a very slight wobble. Remember, these wobbles are created by very minor earthquakes. They keep the tides in check. Notice that large earthquakes result in large tides or "tsunami".

Q : "Why is the North pole colder than the equator?"

A: The sun circles over the equator, not the North pole
Welcome to the Flat Earth Society!
posted by y2karl at 8:30 PM on January 31, 2007 [6 favorites]


USLOE?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:40 PM on January 31, 2007


The only thing Wente and these experts are skeptical about is the abuse of the issue in order to sell books and newspapers.

Oh, right, and they're the only side using the issue to sell books and newspapers. You might want to look into that a bit further, loquax, because there's also a pretty well funded, and profit making industry that's sprung up to promote the idea that everything's just fine and we should ignore the "hysteric" scientists and environmentalists.

And what's with that word, "hysteria", anyway? "Shrill" and "Hysteric" are words increasingly adopted by the extreme-right to paint any kind of public discourse on an issue as insanity.

Personally, as a scientist, 99% of what I read on the issue comes from peer-reviewed research. I'm not going to assume you haven't read any of this yourself, but I can tell you, there's no "hysteria" in it, but I can also tell you there's no claims that it's a non-issue, either.
posted by Jimbob at 8:42 PM on January 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


Wow, half an hour and 11, wait, 15 comments dismissing this as loony nonsense. Still not one actually addressing let alone refuting one point made. More from the article:

By the way, Prof. Jaccard and other climate economists agree we should have started taking this type of action years ago, and they blast both business and governments for not getting off the dime.

Other experts have different (but not incompatible) takes. “We need to break out the challenges of energy policy and adaptation into many tens of thousands of parts,” Roger Pielke Jr. says. Despite the many uncertainties, we don't need to wait to act, if only because many of the things we should do are worth doing on their own. For example, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels from unstable parts of the world — through substitution, conservation and new technologies — is a no-brainer.

...
So what can a worried citizen do? “Lobby the politicians to put policies in place immediately that put a value on the environment,” he says. “Drive your car to Ottawa if you have to. The most important thing is to get policies in place that are intelligent.” And go ahead and ride your bike to work. At the very least, it will be good for your health.

Clearly the hand of George Bush at work here. Please, this article isn't denying climate change, or even that humans are causing change. It is quoting the very scientists that are forming policy as being alarmed at the sensationalization of the issue in the media, the misuse of the issue in partisan politics, and the detrimental effect public ignorance about the realities of the issue can have on actually doing anything productive about it.

As for the science - in their own words, these people are saying that while climate change is happening, it's impossible to accurately predict what exactly will happen where, when, and how bad (or mild) the effects could be. When you have the public believing that cold snaps, or a particular hurricane, or a block of ice melting is the direct result of immediate, irreperable, inevitable and catastrophic climate change, you are doing a disservice to the truth and ignoring realistic responses to the problem. I'd rather deal in reality than book of revelations science-fiction based fantasy.
posted by loquax at 8:43 PM on January 31, 2007


Personally, as a scientist, 99% of what I read on the issue comes from peer-reviewed research. I'm not going to assume you haven't read any of this yourself, but I can tell you, there's no "hysteria" in it, but I can also tell you there's no claims that it's a non-issue, either.

Personally, as a non-scientist, I can tell that you didn't read the article.

Accusing the media and politicans of abusing an issue does not deny the very existence of that issue. Do I really have to explain that to you?
posted by loquax at 8:46 PM on January 31, 2007


This is a junky OpEd it's not even worth pointing out its logical fallacies, contextual errors and ironies.
posted by stbalbach at 8:47 PM on January 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Over dramatizing climate change, if that IS what is happening, may be for reasons other than book selling and political career rescuing. People who are well off are very hard to shift. Americans, and other "1st world" citizens are all well off comparatively. You really expect people to change behavior if they are told "well it isn't so bad, don't worry about it things will workout we have a long time to fix the problem"?
Hells bells when all is said and done these are six people going against a slew of other people. In ANY situation you are going to find people across the spectrum from deniers, to equivocators to admitters. The climate change deniers all appear wacky, so they have to go to the equivocators to get any slack now. They have the degrees, but I can also show you neuroscientists and biologists who are avid supporters of Intelligent Design.
posted by edgeways at 8:48 PM on January 31, 2007


Fine, then. The issue comes down (as it so often does) to (1) journalists being dreadful at reporting science, as always, and (2) the issue being ideologically loaded, as it has been for years, but a culture of non-expert climate change denying "pundits".

Face it. These pundits have, for years, been both attacking scientists, and bringing along their own (often fringe, or non-field) scientists to stand on their side of the issue.

This "hysteria" isn't the result of some vast left-wing environazi consipracy. It's the result of ill informed journalists reacting to non-scientific climate change denying publicity from vested interests.
posted by Jimbob at 8:50 PM on January 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Read the article, wasn't impressed.

It's another "yep, everyone agrees it's happening, nope, no one knows to what extent, so if you're really worried about it you're an alarmist" article, with a nice "just let industry sort it out, don't worry about it" touch.

"Alarmist?" It's too late to even refer to it as "alarmism." It doesn't matter who's to blame ("Is it a cyclic process? Is it an unusual spike? Is it human-caused? Is it natural? Is it real? Is it hyped? Is it right-wing? Is it left-wing?") because it's affecting us, all of us, right the hell now, regardless of ideology, beliefs, evidence, or politics. It's not a theoretical discussion on a vague scenario that may occur in the future.

That's the part that kills me about all of it - we're already feeling the effects of something that will continue for quite a long time, even if we committed huge amounts of time and resources right now to mitigating it. That's not "alarmist" - that's simply the reality of the situation.

Wente is, truly, rearranging deck-chairs on the Titanic by pushing this tired bit.
posted by FormlessOne at 8:51 PM on January 31, 2007


By which I'm saying, what are the solutions to the problem you present us with?

(1) Encourage the public to read the scientific literature. Unlikely.
(2) Encourage journalists to understand science and report it properly. Almost as unlikely.

What do you propose?
posted by Jimbob at 8:52 PM on January 31, 2007


Please, this article isn't denying climate change, or even that humans are causing change. It is quoting the very scientists that are forming policy as being alarmed

. . . cherry-picking research

. . . using reasonable scientific doubt to foil a mostly straw-man "hysteria" (tell you what, we've reached "hysteria" on this issue when we're doing the renewable-energy equivalent of seriously considering the construction of a nuclear plant to extract oil from the tar sands)

. . . trucking out the dented canard about "benefits," as if a longer growing season is much use if rain falls in deluges that wash away topsoil and seeds

. . . suggesting that the impacts are being overstated without noting that the general thrust of the phenomenon has been that it keeps exceeding even the pretty gloomy scenarios of a few years ago (look at how the melting of Arctic ice was "discussed" by "reasonable" observers like Wente ten years ago, and get back to us, will ya?)

. . . glibly dismissing with no evidence the idea that there are reasonable, indeed even desirable, alternatives to a fossil-fueled hyper-consumptive social order.

I've spent the last two years nearly bankrupting myself researching that last one. Margaret Wente spent a couple of days making some phone calls.

Fuck her and her sloppy self-congratulatory commentary.

Loquax, I look forward to yet another shrill defensive attempt in which you suggest you're the only one wise enough to get what she's driving at. It's cute.
posted by gompa at 8:55 PM on January 31, 2007 [3 favorites]


From the article:
“The increasing use of this term and its bedfellow qualifiers ‘chaotic,' ‘irreversible' and ‘rapid' has altered the public discourse, [which] is now characterized by phrases such as ‘irreversible tipping in the Earth's climate' and ‘we are at the point of no return.' ”
I cannot understand Professor Mike Hulme's concerns.

All these terms have specific meanings. Chaotic? Yes. It's likely to be highly variable in time and space, and non-linear in it's impact. Irreversible? That's a no brainer, I haven't seen anyone argue we can reduce CO2 levels to pre-industrial levels. And we don't yet realistically know how to counterract it in other ways. We can't reverse it. We can only attempt to moderate it. Rapid? Once again, I've read plenty of papers comparing the rate of recent climate change to previous, non-anthropogenic shifts in climate, and the current change is extremely rapid in comparison.
posted by Jimbob at 8:55 PM on January 31, 2007


Still not one actually addressing let alone refuting one point made.

Oo, oo, I can refute one! From the article:
many scientists say the average global surface temperature (which is the most popular way to talk about global warming) doesn't tell us very much at all about what's going to happen in any given region of the globe

That's because it's an average, silly. The average height of a group of people I'm in doesn't tell me much about my height either, but that doesn't make the figure meaningless. (Alright, doesn't exactly go to the core of the article, but it still struck me as nonsense. As did much of the rest of the article.)
posted by bakerybob at 8:58 PM on January 31, 2007


Can you even dent a canard? Shit, I need a drink . . .
posted by gompa at 8:59 PM on January 31, 2007


As for the science - in their own words, these people are saying that while climate change is happening, it's impossible to accurately predict what exactly will happen where, when, and how bad (or mild) the effects could be. When you have the public believing that cold snaps, or a particular hurricane, or a block of ice melting is the direct result of immediate, irreperable, inevitable and catastrophic climate change, you are doing a disservice to the truth and ignoring realistic responses to the problem. I'd rather deal in reality than book of revelations science-fiction based fantasy.

Jeezus. Obviously the point is lost yet again. Let me frame the article a bit differently. "Yep we know the threater is on fire the scientists all agree it is but what they don't agree on is how fast this fucker's going to burn..." Yep we can all sleep soundly now that that's sorted out no cause for alarm here.

Wake up, just because they can't definitively tell you exactly how bad it will be doesn't mean everything is peachy. There is a continuum of bad that they are prediciting here and there are no rosy outlooks in the science community or in this heavily spun op-ed.

This wait and see shit is only going to get more people killed...oh wait I can't tell you how many people will get killed exactly so oh well go ahead and ignore what I'm saying.
posted by aaronscool at 9:00 PM on January 31, 2007


Sorry Loquax, it's Margaret Wente. I've read enough of her work in the past to know she can't be taken seriously on any subject.

The whole article is based on the premise that "the science is very far from settled." Of course it is, it's science, which is a process, not a proclamation.

And I'm sick to death of hearing the argument that just because we don't have all 3000 (or whatever) scientists agreeing that the temperature will rise exactly 4.5 degrees at precisely noon on November 18, 2009, that there's room for doubt as to whether we should be doing anything at all about climate change. The earth's climate is an incredibly complex system and it will take us decades, if not centuries to figure out exactly how it works, if we ever do. Meanwhile, yes, goddammit, you've got to give up your SUV.
posted by Zinger at 9:02 PM on January 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


The central thesis of the article – near as I can tell – is that cutting emissions by a large amount now will not help very quickly, so smaller regulatory measures are all that's needed, and we should find ways to deal in the meantime. But there is no comparison at all between the possible effects of these two approaches. We just hear, this won't work instantly, so let's try that, because I like it. There's no support included for the positions the author or quoted experts favor at all, just sort of a reflex centrism.
posted by furiousthought at 9:10 PM on January 31, 2007


Sorry guys, I thought this was a relatively benign look at what is obviously a media-fueled immediate-term overreaction to the issue. It doesn't deny climate change, it doesn't deny humans are causing it. It quotes scientists who are firmly behind cutting CO2 emmissions and lobbying governments. It only attempts to check some of the excesses and exagerations that have been selling copy lately. I really don't think this is the sort of thing Pope Urban would have written.

I'd love to really get into this, but I really don't think there's any point, at least with the comments made so far. So I'll bow out. As the only one wise enough to see the truth, of course.

PS: I'm shocked at the hate for Wente. Really? Whatever, I forget sometimes this is metafilter.
posted by loquax at 9:13 PM on January 31, 2007


Main Entry: dis·in·gen·u·ous

: lacking in candor; also : giving a false appearance of simple frankness : CALCULATING
posted by gompa at 9:16 PM on January 31, 2007


let me summarize.

Long time opponent of global climate change, faced with incontrovertible scientific consensus contrary to her longstanding position attempts to show that although she has been disastrously wrong for the greater part of two decades, the people she has in the past disagreed with are not completely correct.

Her primary technique to ameliorate her complete and utter complicity in decades of disastrous chicanery relies upon cherry picking select quotes from scientists and the scientific community, whose testimony, evidence and theory, prior to this very moment, has not been worthy of her serious consideration.

give me a break.
posted by Freen at 9:21 PM on January 31, 2007 [3 favorites]


Another person who hates Wente here. She seems to enjoy being the only person in the room saying (fill in the blank). Accordingly, this doesn't really surprise.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:25 PM on January 31, 2007


loquax, Margaret Wente's credibility is bunk and has been for years. She's an op-ed writer for god's sake. If you found a peer-reviewed Nature or Science paper contradicting or pointing out massive flaws in the UN sponsored process and other global initiatives then people would take it seriously. And if so many people are wrong, more credible people than Wente are going to publicize it. Thus Wente just doesn't matter one way or another, no more than the crazy homeless people matter that you see ranting as you walk past them.

I'll tell you a secret... Newspaper Op-Ed writers aren't hired because they have insights but because they appeal to specific newspaper reader demographics, they attract readers. One way to attract readers is to appeal to what they want to read, in fact no testable insight is really needed, you just need to implicitly tell your readers they are right and they are better than those that disagree with them. It's the same whether you are on the left or the right. That is why Op-Ed writers are not generally credible.
posted by bhouston at 9:30 PM on January 31, 2007 [3 favorites]


Irreversible? That's a no brainer

I guess I have no brain, then. I can't rule out a reversal of global warming because I know the earth has generally experienced warming and cooling trends, and I think the problem of excess carbon emissions will be solved at some point. I don't know if that will be during my lifetime or afterward. But I will continue to have faith in the possible while acknowledging that the next 50 years or so may suck, climate-wise.
posted by bugmuncher at 9:33 PM on January 31, 2007


I'm not sure what you hoped to accomplish here, loquax. This is Metafilter, as you say, and this is one of the subjects where deviations from the orthodoxy, however small, are not permitted. Hivemind indeed.

'I don't have to read the article. Isn't Margaret Wente a 'right-winger'? Fuck her and the SUV she rode in on!'

I love this site, but there is a growing current of intolerance here. Passionate adherence to a viewpoint -- even a cause -- is one thing, and often an admirable thing. But, to reflexively dismiss the putative 'other side' in the debate with such vitriol and contempt is to be fully indoctrinated into an ideology, and that is an ugly thing, no matter what the cause.

The 'other side' cares nothing for the common good, saith the hivemind. The 'other side' cares nothing for the truth. They will use any means necessary to win. The 'other side' will never see reason. Therefore the 'other side' can and should be ignored. The 'other side' must be beaten. Converted by force, and if not, eliminated. We will use any means necessary to win.

Leave me out of this crusade. I'll move up to cottage country with Ms. Wente instead. It'll be a Contrarian Commune. I hear the weather's supposed to be warm.
posted by Urban Hermit at 9:42 PM on January 31, 2007


I read the article. Her main 'evidence' that global warming is overhyped is that climatologists aren't willing to commit to specifics around the long term impact of global warming.

So, a climatologist can't tell me exactly how many inches the ocean will rise, or which coastal cities will be hardest hit, but that doesn't refute the well established consensus that THE OCEANS ARE RISING and that's because of GLOBAL WARMING which is caused by HUMAN ACTIVITY not random chance.

Yup, even today's scientists cannot give me an exact answer on anything that will occur in the future. This demonstrates nothing. No doctor can tell me for sure that I will die at a particular age because of smoking. Some smokers get lucky and live to 100. But we know that smoking damages the lungs and heart of every smoker, and we know that most smokers live shorter lives than most non-smokers. I don't need to know the exact temperature earth will reach in 2050 to convince me that global climate change is not going to be a good thing for us. Shit, the polar bears have me convinced already anyway.
posted by serazin at 9:52 PM on January 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Urban Hermit, I think the issue is more Wente. There are a handful of columnists who are disingenious, both on the left and the right. Wente is one of these.

As I wrote to loquax above, big claims require significant proof. An article by an op-ed writer with a poor reputation claiming that thousands of scientists are wrong is pretty questionable in itself. Now if Nature or Science has a peer-reviewed article on the topic, then probably most people would take it more seriously.

The anti-climate change side has discredited themselves a lot recently by their reliance on funding from petroleum companies, and bringing up a single crappy Op-Ed piece isn't going to change many people's minds, and to think it could (and to fault others when it doesn't) is to demonstrate a disturbing loss of perspective on your part.
posted by bhouston at 9:53 PM on January 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is Metafilter, as you say, and this is one of the subjects where deviations from the orthodoxy, however small, are not permitted.

Perhaps only if the orthodoxy is questioning single-link, op-ed posts of demonstrably dubious origin and anti-science content.

And, yes, I have read the article. It boiled down to, "My hand-picked scientists don't know what's going on, but I'll assert Al Gore is wrong several times and hope my readers are too dumb to use their logical faculties."
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:08 PM on January 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


This is Metafilter, as you say, and this is one of the subjects where deviations from the orthodoxy, however small, are not permitted.

Perhaps only if the orthodoxy is questioning single-link, op-ed posts of demonstrably dubious origin and anti-science content.

And, yes, I have read the article. It boiled down to, "My hand-picked scientists don't know what's going on, but I'll assert Al Gore is wrong several times and hope my readers are too dumb to use their logical faculties."
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:05 PM on January 31, 2007


[Full disclosure; didn't read the article.]

I've had an idea fomenting in my brain for a while and it's been bothering me a lot. I've considered posting it in several global warming threads, and I've hesitated because it never seemed fully appropriate. I think that this is as close as I'll get.

[Shocker headline to get angry mob's full attention]

I think global warming might be the atheistic equivalent of religious dogma.

[Backstory]

I remember reading somewhere that learned theologians, in centuries past, spent honest man-hours debating the possibilities of how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. Seriously, they used all the science and knowledge of their era to come to rational conclusions about something that was an imponderable. They didn't have the scientific method to guide them (which is probably for the best, since the scientific method would have given the entire 'angel' thing some grief), but they used the best in logical reasoning that their culture might have had to offer (In those pre-scientific days, many intellectuals were drawn to the Church as a way to pursue their learned efforts, so it's not unreasonable to believe that there were really intelligent people making arguments on this subject.)

[How this is relevant]

And here we are today. And by 'today' I mean the last 30 or so years of 'left wing hippie types predicting worldwide doom because of Global Warming'.

And I start to wonder about today's smart people with no where to go, looking to have their own (non-religious) version of Revelations. I mean, any atheist will tell you that the 'end of the world' meme is built into our subconscious. Apparently we need to believe that something will end us.

And then I start wondering about how many of our modern influencers have looked at the science, which they may or may not understand and just took the numbers on faith. And there is the crux of my concern. The scientists all agree that something is happening, but few will be the guy to come out and say that 'This is a world ending event!'. Not so with the believers, they are willing to look at the very proved numbers and draw their own conclusions. Often with results that sound very much like the Biblical believers that they make fun of.

[Poorly wrapped up conclusion and summary]

And this is my problem with global warming. I am a believer. I have seen the glaciers that should be, but aren't there anymore. I have watched the hurricanes decimate regions that no one figured would be affected. But as a cynic and an non-believer, I have to question any kind of dogma that is, at it's core, similar to the logic that was spent in the days of old on calculating the number of angels who could dance on a pin.

The problem with this argument is that I could go on for pages and pages with this idea. But that would just be useless overkill.

I imagine that someone will shortly smack this concept down. And I will be happy for that. But at the end of the day, it bugs me that so many smart people just hop on to a concept and run with it. It just seems too much like a dogmatic response with no real understanding behind the reality of what is happening with our world beyond what the papers have reported.

posted by quin at 11:12 PM on January 31, 2007


This is Metafilter, as you say, and this is one of the subjects where deviations from the orthodoxy, however small, are not permitted.

Perhaps only if the orthodoxy is questioning single-link, op-ed posts of demonstrably dubious origin and anti-science content.

And, yes, I have read the article. It boiled down to, "My hand-picked scientists don't know what's going on, but I'll assert Al Gore is wrong several times and hope my readers are too dumb to use their logical faculties."
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:14 PM on January 31, 2007


Leave me out of this crusade. I'll move up to cottage country with Ms. Wente instead. It'll be a Contrarian Commune. I hear the weather's supposed to be warm.

Your extraordinary courage in defence of the status quo has been duly noted. The rest of us will just carry on here in the reality-based world dismantling the linked horeshit argument on its own dubious merits with a relentless barrage of actual evidence and the withering contempt it deserves, if you don't mind, Captain Contrarian.
posted by gompa at 11:18 PM on January 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


What gompa said. If this piece of hackery is a worthy defense of non-standard, "outside the box" thinking, I'd hate to see something wingers consider to be of borderline credibility.
posted by bardic at 11:20 PM on January 31, 2007


loquax, I read the article. I am familiar with almost all of the scientists she is "quoting" but do not know Ms Wente's journalistic quality and record. I have the following comments to make:

Point 1: Ms Wente chose to speak to some scientists who are known to use the less forceful language in the climate change discourse. Either because they are not climatologists (Wunsch) or because she did not really look hard enough for their full opinions (Hulme). All of them believe that there is Global Warming and it is anthropogenic. They are part of the consensus.

Point 2: Her editorial commentary has nothing to do with what the scientists told her (even though I doubt she talked to any of them directly, she probably compiled their answers based on out-of-context quotations from other interviews/articles/presentations).
As an example of the many blunders:
Beyond that, the science is very far from settled. Scientists themselves are deeply split about how alarmed we should be, the nature of the threats we face, how imminent those threats are and what to do about them.
This sentence is one example only of how totally unwarranted her "understanding" is and I am certain none of the "interviewees" would endorse it.

Point 3: The majority of climate scientists today accept Global Warming as a human made effect. The same majority (as well at the scientists she quotes) objects to the catastrophology that is mostly perpetrated by non-scientist, nefarious groups or those who refuse or have no gain from climate change mitigation. Ms Wente could have possibly written a great article on this but she is either incapable or unwilling. Other Mefi members before me seem to know the answer to that.
posted by carmina at 11:31 PM on January 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


And I start to wonder about today's smart people with no where to go, looking to have their own (non-religious) version of Revelations. I mean, any atheist will tell you that the 'end of the world' meme is built into our subconscious. Apparently we need to believe that something will end us.

And then I start wondering about how many of our modern influencers have looked at the science, which they may or may not understand and just took the numbers on faith. And there is the crux of my concern. The scientists all agree that something is happening, but few will be the guy to come out and say that 'This is a world ending event!'. Not so with the believers, they are willing to look at the very proved numbers and draw their own conclusions. Often with results that sound very much like the Biblical believers that they make fun of.


Enh. I think it's far more likely that people are willing to put some faith--yes, faith--in the consensus of the scientific community. This is an understandable position. Not everyone has either the ability or the time/desire to understand the subtle mechanics of scientific theory (how much knowledge they have of such topics varies, of course). That said, it's not all that difficult to review the layman's version of contentious scientific issues and form some sort of conclusion about where consensus seems to lie.

Gloabl warming, however, isn't even one of these contentious issues. It's not even really an issue in the scientific community, outside of a few crackpot right-wing thinktank types. It's only a media issue because the mainstream American media kowtows to the right-wing caterwauling about perceived "liberal bias". It's a shameful bit of cowardice, but not altogether unexpected.

Your basic point about people taking scientific "fact" on faith is not a new one, however. Nietzsche, when arguing about the death of the Christian God, also argued that modern man would replace his devotion to God with an unthinking devotion to science. So it's certainly something people have been thinking about for quite some time.

That said, I don't think it's all that alarmist to suggest that there may very well be dire global consequences if current trends continue, especially when you consider how much of the world relies on glacial runoff for fresh water (one of the most salient points in Gore's film, I think).
posted by The God Complex at 11:36 PM on January 31, 2007


bhouston: bringing up a single crappy Op-Ed piece isn't going to change many people's minds, and to think it could (and to fault others when it doesn't) is to demonstrate a disturbing loss of perspective on your part

I was not saying that this op-ed should change people's minds about global warming. Op-eds distill, simplify and often distort ideas. And they don't come with footnotes. I would be suspicious of anyone who had their mind changed by a single op-ed. What I was decrying was more of a general state of affairs on Mefi (and elsewhere) that dissenting arguments no longer even give pause, let alone convince.

Blazecock: And, yes, I have read the article. It boiled down to, "My hand-picked scientists don't know what's going on, but I'll assert Al Gore is wrong several times and hope my readers are too dumb to use their logical faculties."

If this is a serious attempt at a summary, you are looking through a very distorted lens, and have placed your reading comprehension skills in severe doubt. But of course it is not a serious attempt, and that is my larger point.

gompa: Your extraordinary courage in defence of the status quo has been duly noted. The rest of us will just carry on here in the reality-based world dismantling the linked horeshit argument on its own dubious merits with a relentless barrage of actual evidence

Relentless barrage? Exactly one comment in this thread has linked or referred to any evidence whatsoever. This again is my larger point about the nature of the discourse that goes on around this issue. I'm starting to agree with quin's view of things.

And, for the record, I have no interest in defending the status quo of environmental exploitation and over-consumption. However, I also have no interest in winning arguments -- or, more accurately, avoiding them -- simply by belittling and bullying opponents who are not "true believers". This article, for example, makes many of the same points as Wente's (imprecision of models and forecasts, inappropriateness of certain rhetoric), but would likely have been far better received here because of the author's supposed bona fides in the war on climate change.

In short, I agree with the majority here about the dangers of global warming, but I find the prevailing mode of argument supremely distasteful. Hence my contrarianism.

(Thanks for the handle, though -- If I ever need a sockpuppet, I'm going with "Captain Contrarian")
posted by Urban Hermit at 11:54 PM on January 31, 2007


If this is a serious attempt at a summary, you are looking through a very distorted lens, and have placed your reading comprehension skills in severe doubt.

You might consider RTFA, then, because the last sentence pretty much summarizes her agenda.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:05 AM on February 1, 2007


I find the prevailing mode of argument supremely distasteful. Hence my contrarianism

I'll defer to Stephen Colbert on this one who, in an interview "out of character," said that it used to be that everyone was entitled to an opinion. Now, people think they're entitled to their own facts.

Sure, let's all be nicer to one another when expressing a different point of view. But there's a point at which people expressing opinions that are not based in reality are no longer allowed into the conversation. Two people arguing politics over a beer? Sure. Be polite. Non-scientists telling scientists how there is no such thing as global climate change? No. Sorry. You get kicked out of the building and aren't allowed back in.

Which is kind of a derail -- loquax framed this FPP in a crappy manner ("hysteria"?), but the article itself is worth reading to note a perfect example of "normalizing" non-science as something deserving of being considered as science. Same thing with Intelligent Design. Same thing all over the place. So I try to be nice, but not because I have to. Or should.
posted by bardic at 12:23 AM on February 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Blazecock, I respectfully disagree (and I apologize for my earlier somewhat disrespectful disagreement, which was hypocritcal of me). I think Wente's aim was less to slag Gore in particular than to argue that "the global-warming debate has become so shrill, so political and so polarized that it's impossible for even a reasonably well-informed person to figure out who or what to believe. Only one thing is for sure: Science isn't all that is driving this debate. Politics, ideology and scaremongering are too." She then tries to make the case that there is a solid scientific consensus around certain "middle ground" conclusions, and that these conclusions suggest certain broad kinds of policy responses. You can disagree with any (or all) of these points, but there is an argument there, and it is certainly not encapsulated in the last sentence.

bardic, I have probably chosen a poor hill to make my stand on, but my point is not about civility or politeness per se -- it's about the general danger of saying, as we increasingly do, that some people are no longer allowed into the conversation. Perhaps this should be the case for issues where incontrovertible science can be brought to bear, but it is all-too-often the case in other political debates as well. And, more importantly, science can often tell us what will happen in particular circumstances, but science alone can never tell us what we should do about it -- this requires balancing priorities and interests, as well as arbitrating various common and individual goods. I don't think we should be excluding people from that conversation.

For instance, you say: Non-scientists telling scientists how there is no such thing as global climate change? No. Sorry. You get kicked out of the building and aren't allowed back in. Wente did not say anything of the kind, but many people here are all-too-eager to 'kick her out of the building' anyway.

Another columnist (yes, a 'right winger') makes a similar point about the nature of the political conversation here:
Consider how many non-catastrophist views are available to a person who is completely, utterly convinced that the Earth is warming. He could conclude, for starters, that it is a good thing on balance; perhaps it's no coincidence that the Medieval Warm Period coincided with the intellectual and economic fertility of the High Middle Ages. He could believe that it is bad for the world as a whole, but good for his own country, adopting a posture of personal or national selfishness. He could look at the climate extremes in the European historical record, still clearly wider than those experienced by any living person, and deduce that mankind will adapt without large-scale organized effort. He could foresee significant pan-global costs from warming, but believe that the available solutions are even more expensive, or that other threats are more urgent.

He could be an optimist who prefers to delay policy action and bet on the arrival of a simple, cheap technological solution to warming. He could decide, like some economists, that the costs of warming should be borne mostly by future generations, who are likely to be wealthier than us. He could even think that the damage we have already done is irreversible, or that future damage is practically unpreventable, and that nothing remains for us but to go on enjoying the final decades before the global kablooie.

None of these positions, not one, involves any "skepticism" about climate change or its causes. Most are reasonable enough to have already been espoused publicly by distinguished figures. They all share the same climatological premise, but schemes for planned economic contraction like the Kyoto Protocol are scarcely consistent with any of them. This ought to be a strong hint that climate catastrophism isn't a pure scientific point of view, but a crude world-picture, one that divides our species neatly into the damned and the elect, and bifurcates the future into heaven and hell. In short, a dogma. It is no coincidence that the dissenters are being called "heretics."
With that, Captain Contrarian must be off to bed. But in the morning I'm definitely getting a cape of some kind...
posted by Urban Hermit at 1:06 AM on February 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Some notes:

On top of that, many scientists say the average global surface temperature (which is the most popular way to talk about global warming) doesn't tell us very much at all about what's going to happen in any given region of the globe. “It's almost useless for what people care about, which is their growing season and how they live,” says Roger Pielke Sr., professor of climatology at Colorado State University and the state's official climatologist.

True. Except that An Inconvenient Truth, one of the screeds Wente rails against in her first few paragraphs, mentions that average global surface temperature actually hides much of the climate change phenomena because of the tendency of the poles to warm up at a much faster rate than the equator. So average global temperature, taken in isolation, says nothing—but that doesn't mean it's a completely useless figure.

The trend of ignoring phenomena just because it can't be precisely predicted occurs throughout Wente's piece. Can't tell you how much sea level will rise in the next century? Then what are we worrying about? If it turns out to be only half the extremist views, then perhaps we only lose a couple of islands in the Pacific, or only a few hundred square miles of coastline in New York, or whatever. Can't predict exactly where precipitation is likely to increase or decrease drastically? Then we may as well ignore it—after all, if we can't figure out whose crop yields are going to fall, or who's going to be flooded out, then who cares?

“ ‘Stop global warming' is a non-sequitur,” Prof. Pielke says. “Any emissions reductions won't have a perceptible impact on climate in our lifetimes. It's quite misleading, as Al Gore suggests, to say that if we drive a hybrid or change our light bulbs, we can reduce the risk from hurricanes.”

Except wait, I thought you just told us we couldn't predict the severity of climate change? And now you're telling us it's hopeless, it won't work no matter what we do?

Nothing we do to cut emissions will reduce the risk from hurricanes or rising seas in the short term. But there are other ways to reduce the risk. We can build storm-surge defences, stop building in coastal areas and make sure we protect our fresh-water supplies from salination. We also can develop crops that will do well in hotter climates.

These are all fair remarks. After all, the United States response to a recent UN report on climate change was that we should shift resources from meeting Kyoto targets and put them towards projects like building giant mirrors to block out the sun. But no one has suggested that we avoid so-called "adaptation" techniques; to the contrary, the general consensus is that we're going to need them no matter what.

He argues that the best way to cut down on emissions is to clean up fossil fuels — which, like it or not, will still be our main source of energy for the next few decades. Cleaning up fossil fuels is far more feasible than, say, imagining we can replace them any time soon with wind or solar or biomass or hydrogen.

Straw man. You can do both at the same time. Indeed, one of the new technologies with the most potential in terms of carbon capturing is clean-coal technologies that will trap CO2 underground. Of course, one of the problems with clean-coal technologies is the possibility of all that CO2 escaping at once due to containment failure. But it's still very promising and will likely serve as a stopgap measure.

Even in the so-called "alarmist" books about peak oil, there's a general consensus that alternative sources of energy aren't quite ready for widespread rollout—many of them don't scale well like fossil fuels do. But pretending that the only alternative to "everything as usual" is "blow up the coal plants and switch everyone to solar" is ludicrous. Again, it's a case of "We don't have the exact answer right now? Then you're full of shit."

Here's another thought from Yale's Robert Mendelsohn. “The mistake Al Gore and others are making is to look at the cumulative effects of all the emissions over the next 100 years if we do nothing. And they say that will be really bad. And they may well be right. But the economics of this is that the damage from emissions now is quite small. So what we ought to be doing now is relatively mild things that don't cost very much. You should start slow and get increasingly strict over time.”

Hey, wait a second, weren't you just telling us that we can't stop climate change, even if we put a lot of effort into it? So what's this "baby steps" approach supposed to solve?

Columns like these are very good at framing the debate in a way that privileges the writer's point of view above all others:
  • the attempt to re-center the debate by inventing an extremist view and attacking it;
  • the use of phrases like "it's not as sexy as X" or "it doesn't sell books like X" to make your POV sound reasoned and principled, versus the other side whose agenda is to make money and look good
  • the hedges to the other side, continually mentioning that all the people she talked to have great climate-change credentials, and they actually think things are kind of bad, and maybe they're really bad but we can't say for sure, and by the way I'll mention all this in passing so you don't notice and focus on my attacks;
  • the emphasis on reaching a "middle ground" in an effort to create a "compromise" that sounds oddly like the status quo.
On a side note, I'd like to mention that Margaret Wente is the same woman who wrote a scathing article about mass transit in Toronto, saying it was basically an unacceptable mode of transportation and that supporting it with tax dollars was a bad idea when we could be building more roads and highways instead. What was her solution for lower-income users that rely on transit to get around? Buy a used car. No wonder she doesn't take bikes seriously.
posted by chrominance at 1:17 AM on February 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


media-fueled immediate-term overreaction

That's not even interesting. Fortunately, some of the answers very much were.
posted by Listener at 2:26 AM on February 1, 2007


Is someone really suggesting that *over*doing it is a problem? Vis a vis global warming, doesn't there have to be some actual doing before the overdoing rolls around?
posted by mobunited at 3:17 AM on February 1, 2007


OHMYGOD! We must act now to stop the overreaction to the reality of Global Warming!
posted by srboisvert at 3:27 AM on February 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Who the hell is Margaret Wente and why do people care about her opinions on climate change? I mean, really? She's a journalist, not a climatologist. Do you care to know what your drycleaner has to say about your kid's cancer? Do you ask your Wester Civ professor to help you with your chemistry homework?
She's not being a contrarian for the simple fact that she is outside of the argument. Climatologists may argue about the interpretation of data, but they have actually, physically, went out and measured things. Thickness of ice here, water temperature there, etc. They actually typed in the software code for the computer models. She, on the other hand, has not done anything.
I don't think anyone would be surprised if she was kicked out of the operating room for offering her opinions on how exactly things should be done. How is this case different?

Loquax, you poor unappreciated soul, would you care to read my wife's thoughts on foreign policy or combat airplane design? She really has some. Should I start posting them here?

“ ‘Stop global warming' is a non-sequitur,” Prof. Pielke says. “Any emissions reductions won't have a perceptible impact on climate in our lifetimes. It's quite misleading, as Al Gore suggests, to say that if we drive a hybrid or change our light bulbs, we can reduce the risk from hurricanes.”

Oh, ok. So since it's not going to get better FOR US, fuck that shit. Who gives a damn about their kids and grandchildren, right?
posted by c13 at 5:10 AM on February 1, 2007


Let's see:

The Earth is, what, 5 billions years old?

We have, what, 100 years of climate data?

Call me when you have more of a trend please.

That is all.
posted by tadellin at 6:01 AM on February 1, 2007


Actually we have much much more than 100 years of climate data. Scientists have determined, for instance, that the Greenland ice sheet is about 100,000 years old - this tells us that is has been pretty cold, pretty consistently in Greenland for about 100,000 years. Here is a link to USA today with a nice 3rd-grade explanation of the methods used to determine the age of the ice sheet.

PS tadellin, If that was sarcasm, I shall immediately re-calibrate my sarcasmomatron.
posted by Mister_A at 6:46 AM on February 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


For God's sake Tadellin, educate yourself before opening your mouth would you? Like for example, try learning how to pronounce the word paleoclimatology before talking about us only having 100 years worth of data.
posted by Zinger at 6:50 AM on February 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Earth is, what, 5 billions years old?

We have, what, 100 years of climate data?

Call me when you have more of a trend please


The Earth will be fine. And it'll probably even develop some new species for whom the environment will be perfectly compatible. Human beings, on the other hand, have only been around for a small percentage of that time, like maybe .005 percent, and human civilization is only about .0001% as old as the planet (that is, one millionth of the time earth has been around, there have been people tracking their history, etc). So Earth won't hardly notice if we kill ourselves off.

But most human beings are a little more concerned about that aspect.
posted by mdn at 6:54 AM on February 1, 2007


The scariest thing about climate change is that we don't know. NYC will probably not be under water in 10 years... but we don't know. The Atlantic jet stream will probably not cease in the next 50 years, rendering the northern latitudes uninhabitable... but we don't know.

The possibility of serious negative consequences is enough for me, thanks. I don't need to know exactly how an oncoming train is going to hurt me to know that I should get out of the way, right?
posted by Mister_A at 7:04 AM on February 1, 2007


"I'll tell you a secret... Newspaper Op-Ed writers aren't hired because they have insights but because they appeal to specific newspaper reader demographics, they attract readers. One way to attract readers is to appeal to what they want to read, in fact no testable insight is really needed, you just need to implicitly tell your readers they are right and they are better than those that disagree with them. It's the same whether you are on the left or the right. That is why Op-Ed writers are not generally credible."
posted by bhouston

Nope.
That only explains why these sorts of US Op-Ed writers are so soul-destroyingly turgid.

And why Brits who live here - and love your country - find their eyes constantly swivelling towards the Brit Op-Ed writers - who are hired more for provocation and insights.

(Advertisers should appeal to the demographic, not Op-Ed writers!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 9:44 AM on February 1, 2007


I don't get it. Scientists agree that global warming is real, and that the ice caps will melt, etc., they're just do not agree on what will happen exactly afterward? So what?! The effects certainly aren't going to be anything good!
posted by xammerboy at 9:48 AM on February 1, 2007


the main problem here is when she uses the word 'debate.'
posted by 3.2.3 at 9:58 AM on February 1, 2007


One point made in the article seems to be pretty realistic. The probability of concerted international effort to reduce emissions (e.g. China and India) are not good. The best policy is likely to be local adaptation because global action ain't gonna happen.
posted by storybored at 10:03 AM on February 1, 2007


For Margaret Wente, actually conceding that the issue is real is progress. I remember reading something she previously wrote on the issue, last year or the year before, in which she smugly stated that "polar bears with adapt" to global warming, and that everything was just fine. More or less.

She's not the most annoying columnist in the Globe and Mail-- that would be Leah MacLaren-- but she's very close to it.
posted by jokeefe at 10:09 AM on February 1, 2007


^^ with = will
posted by jokeefe at 10:09 AM on February 1, 2007


....the word paleoclimatology....

That's a good article. An excerpt from it:

Qualitatively, the Earth's climate has varied between conditions that support large-scale continental glaciation and those which are extensively tropical and lack permanent ice caps even at the poles. The time scale for this variation is roughly 140 million years and may be related to Earth's motion into and out of galactic spiral arms (Veizer and Shaviv 2003). The difference in global mean temperatures between a fully glacial earth and ice free Earth is estimated at approximately 10 °C, though far larger changes would be observed at high latitudes and smaller ones at low latitudes....Evidence exists of past warm periods in Earth's climate when polar land masses similar to Antarctica were home to deciduous forests rather than ice sheets.
posted by storybored at 10:09 AM on February 1, 2007


Egads, there's a Wente Watch.

Critical or not, stalkerblogs are creepy.
posted by dreamsign at 11:26 AM on February 1, 2007


jokeefe:
"[Margaret Wente]'s not the most annoying columnist in the Globe and Mail -- that would be Leah MacLaren -- but she's very close to it."

Ha! I forget about Leah MacLaren. I read her a few times and it was usually fairly vapid Seinfeld-like columns - pointless self-involved topics. She was very proud of herself and her upper-class lifestyle and upper-class friends in all her columns. It was just strange reading her.
posted by bhouston at 11:52 AM on February 1, 2007


Loquax, what exactly did you expect when you posted this? Wente has a history of not only being deliberately contrary and inflammatory, she is also a pretty reliable anti-environmentalist. I read the article you posted in the Focus section of Saturday's Globe. I skimmed it again to familiarize myself with it, and I must say, it's pretty much the same old Wente.

First of all, perhaps you are forgetting why people are dimissing anything Wente says about the environment. To refresh your memory, it's because of past gems like these:
"But wait. Don't most scientists still believe in the perils of man-made global warming? "Sure," says Mr. McIntyre. "And most stockbrokers believed in Enron.

"He says that most scientists haven't analyzed the data, and that scientists, like everyone else, are subject to peer pressure and groupthink. "Just because everybody thinks something's true doesn't make it true."

-Wente from 2005, where she shows us that a mining consultant and an economist who confused degrees and radians are simply just more rigorous thinkers than all those stupid, gullible climate scientists.
"The other day, as I drove to my exercise class (yes, yes, I know there's a contradiction there), people on the radio were telling me to take the TTC. There was a smog alert, and I was contributing to the problem.

"The idea that people will use public transit to get to work ignores the fact that most people don't want to live near their work.

"The idea that public transit can replace the car in people's busy lives is a fantasy.

"As for lower-income people - supposedly the main beneficiaries of public transit - they have an alternative, too. It's called used cars.

"Mr. Bruegmann's comments about urban planners' war against sprawl are an apt description of the mindset behind Ontario's new master plan. 'Very few people believe that they themselves live in sprawl. Sprawl is where other people live, particularly people with less taste and good sense than themselves. Much anti-sprawl activism is based on a desire to reform these other people's lives.'

"If we really wanted to tackle smog and congestion, we wouldn't be fantasizing about massive new investments in public transit. We'd be investing in transportation infrastructure, less polluting fuels, more intelligent roads and vehicles with sensors to control traffic flows, peak-time user fees and more flexible forms of public and private transport, such as group taxis.

-Wente defending the poor, defenceless automobile against the transitistas.
"A few years ago, cities trucked their stuff to the nearby landfill and dumped it in. That was practical and cheap. In Toronto, it cost $12 a tonne. But then people got hysterical about landfills. Nobody wanted to live next to one. Environmentalists started warning that dumps were toxic. And so Canada, one of the emptiest nations on the planet, with millions of square miles of uninhabited wilderness, suddenly found it had a garbage crisis. How would we solve it? We would eliminate our garbage. We would recycle.

"If the garbage Nazis (oops, waste-management engineers) don’t like the way I’ve sorted our trash, they reject it. This is not only humiliating, but deeply inconvenient. Pickup for everything but organic waste has been cut back to every other week, which means that if we miss a day or flunk the garbage test, our porch looks like the village dump.

-Wente bravely confronting the recycling Nazi con artists that force her to recycle (or take her garbage to the transfer station herself, which I assume she also considers "humilliating" and "deeply inconvenient").
The theme of all of Wente's environmental writing is pretty much the same. It's all just an elaborate justification to asuage any guilt she might otherwise feel about the profligate waste she is accustomed to. She has as much credibility on climate change as the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

As for the article itself, the ultimate proof that we are not in the grip of climate hysteria is that newspapers like the Globe are still giving deniers cum equivicators like her a voice, and letting her write a feature article on climate change at that.

And still, nothing is being done. Emissions continue to grow unabated; our actions continue to accelerate climate change. A point Wente conveniently ignores while she drives to her workout, recycles nothing, and rails against the folly of mass transit and urban planning, free from any guilt whatsoever, because she knows all those softheaded alarmists are just in it for the money.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 12:20 PM on February 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


hmm, for some reason, my spellchecker didn't change anything. My apologies.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 12:23 PM on February 1, 2007


tadellin: 100 years of climate data?

weather data.

Climate.
Weather.
posted by Listener at 3:05 PM on February 1, 2007


Well, better than the usual stuff Wente gets paid to write. I must confess I am continually mystified that she manages to draw a pay cheque, but I think that the Globe publishers believe they need a few people who will get their readers' knickers tied up into knots. In the past, Marcus Gee, David Frum and Andrew Coyne played that role. (On the other side, I suppose Rick Salutin must draw a rise out of some readers).

To be clear: she's a columnist, not a journalist. Maybe that allows for weaker ethics, who knows? In any case, as carmina points out, she very much distorts the views and thinking of people like Wunsch. She also fails to put together much of a salvo against Gore: most reviews of the movie I have seen in venues like Science and Nature held that the movie was very good on the science. The worst problem is that she may simply be a plagiarist: am I the only one who thinks that her column has stunning echoes of this National Post piece by Cosh or this NYTimes piece by Revkin?
posted by bumpkin at 5:45 PM on February 1, 2007


Wente right now is painfully irrelevant. Only a few hours before the IPCC report is made public, the most definitive piece of text scientists, governments, journalists and the public is going to refer to for the next 5 years, the deliberations are fierce and merciless. From this article:
On Wednesday night, the same scientist, frustrated with efforts by China and the United States to avoid language that might box them in on policy options, e-mailed that "this is becoming an impossible process."
The things to watch for tomorrow are not the contents of the Chapters in the Report, which will include the science findings up until about a year ago, but the Executive Summaries and most importantly the Summary for PolicyMakers. Those are what the big fight is about.
posted by carmina at 6:04 PM on February 1, 2007


bumpkin, please correct your second link which points to Cosh's article. I am not sure which Revkin article you refer to. Thanks.
posted by carmina at 6:25 PM on February 1, 2007


“ ‘Stop global warming' is a non-sequitur,” Prof. Pielke says. “Any emissions reductions won't have a perceptible impact on climate in our lifetimes.

Yeah, and great grampy Sweetapple didn't find cod fishing off the Grand Banks to have a perceptible impact on fishing in his lifetime.
posted by furtive at 7:31 PM on February 1, 2007


Ach, did I screw up all the links?

OK, the NYT piece was early january. See here for the discussion on RealClimate.org (includes link to the article).

As for the Cosh piece in the National Pest, the link works for me.
posted by bumpkin at 9:20 PM on February 1, 2007


Scientists offered cash to dispute climate study by AEI an ExxonMobile funded think tank.
posted by adamvasco at 6:17 AM on February 2, 2007


Here is the question one should pose to climate change skeptics:
Can you guarantee that the climate will not change catastrophically? We, as a civilization, generally go to great lengths to forestall potential catastrophe. We build earthquake-resistant buildings, we engage in military and political posturing to forestall nuclear war, we search every person who gets on a plane to prevent a few thousand people from being killed. We're even taking steps to avert asteroid collisions. If there is even one hundredth of a percent of a chance that carbon emissions will lead to catastrophic climate change, isn't it absolutely worth it to spend the effort to prevent it?
posted by breath at 4:54 PM on February 2, 2007


U.S. government scientists Friday said the long-term outlook for global warming may be more dire than suggested by this week's United Nations' report, which they say doesn't fully address the impact of clouds and melting glaciers.

Recent evidence of accelerated melting of glaciers in Greenland and the Antarctic ice cap came too late to be included in the report released Thursday by the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Glaciers are among the largest sources of fresh water in the world and are contributing to rising ocean levels. Rising sea levels could expose population centers bordering the ocean to more storm damage and could require evacuation in some areas. But the computer models used for the IPCC report based their predictions only on the results of heating of the existing water in the world's oceans, causing the oceans to expand and sea levels to rise, said Tom Delworth, a climate modeler for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the government agency in charge of climate science and weather service.

The IPCC report predicts sea levels will rise by between one to two feet over the next 100 years. Mr. Delworth said there remains "much more uncertainty" over how much accelerated melting of glaciers might add to that.

A second area of continuing uncertainty has to do with the impact of clouds on climate change. Warming the ocean sends more water vapor into the air, and the resulting clouds accelerate global warming by trapping more of the sun's heat in the atmosphere and further warm the ocean. Jim Butler, deputy director of NOAA's global monitoring division, called this "a very scary feedback mechanism."

U.S. government scientists Friday said the long-term outlook for global warming may be more dire than suggested by this week's United Nations' report, which they say doesn't fully address the impact of clouds and melting glaciers.

Recent evidence of accelerated melting of glaciers in Greenland and the Antarctic ice cap came too late to be included in the report released Thursday by the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Glaciers are among the largest sources of fresh water in the world and are contributing to rising ocean levels. Rising sea levels could expose population centers bordering the ocean to more storm damage and could require evacuation in some areas. But the computer models used for the IPCC report based their predictions only on the results of heating of the existing water in the world's oceans, causing the oceans to expand and sea levels to rise, said Tom Delworth, a climate modeler for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the government agency in charge of climate science and weather service.

The IPCC report predicts sea levels will rise by between one to two feet over the next 100 years. Mr. Delworth said there remains "much more uncertainty" over how much accelerated melting of glaciers might add to that.

A second area of continuing uncertainty has to do with the impact of clouds on climate change. Warming the ocean sends more water vapor into the air, and the resulting clouds accelerate global warming by trapping more of the sun's heat in the atmosphere and further warm the ocean. Jim Butler, deputy director of NOAA's global monitoring division, called this "a very scary feedback mechanism."...
Global-Warming Report Gets U.S. Emphasis
posted by y2karl at 4:25 PM on February 3, 2007


y2karl, thank you for the link.

Actually clouds (water vapor in the atmosphere) and the sea level rise due to land-ice melting (glaciers, ice shelves etc) are some of the hardest problems to address numerically. This is the reason why these processes are not fully included already in the present climate models, the ones that were used in IPCC-AR4. Specifically and with respect to clouds, the problem becomes much more complex because we are talking about small scale processes (of the order of a few tens of kilometers) which are important and which the models cannot at the present state resolve adequately --the most sophisticated models average over 200km. Thus the "uncertainty" that accompanies the predictions.

In other words, I am am afraid we might not be able to reduce the uncertainties of the present estimates dramatically in the near future. We have to act on what we've got now. Which is pretty suggestive already.
posted by carmina at 10:12 PM on February 3, 2007


If there is even one hundredth of a percent of a chance that carbon emissions will lead to catastrophic climate change, isn't it absolutely worth it to spend the effort to prevent it?

The followup question and where it gets tricky is how much should we spend on doing it?

How would you weigh the spending of $100 billion on health care or education vs the same amount on reducing carbon emissions, given that the $100 billion will have immediate benefits whereas the $100 billion on carbon emissions may or may not have any?
posted by storybored at 12:41 PM on February 4, 2007


« Older Geo Info Postcards   |   I think I'm gonna Zarf. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post