It’s Personal

Katharine Hayhoe and Andrew Dessler, professors of geoscience and atomospheric science respectively, write that science has spoken.

On Feb. 2, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its fourth assessment report on the science of global warming. The report was written by hundreds of climate scientists from 130 countries. It has been reviewed by thousands of other climate scientists and hundreds of government agencies, and it has been opened for public review as well.

This IPCC report is perhaps the most thoroughly vetted document in the history of science. For this reason, its assessments are widely regarded as the most authoritative summaries of what we know about global warming.

So what does this new report tell us?

In short, after many tons of study and evaluation, science has reached consensus, and that consensus is “The Earth is warming, and most of that warming is very likely due to human activities.”

But the American political Right says that science can take its consensus and shove it.

Last week it was widely reported that the American Enterprise Institute, a rightie “think” tank (more of an anti-think tank, actually), offered $10,000 to scientists who would refute the report. Now, Steven F. Hayward and Kenneth P. Green of AEI write in the Weekly Standard that these stories are inaccurate. Sorta. If you read their rebuttal carefully, you see that they take umbrage at the AEI being called a “lobbying group” in some stories. And yes, AEI has received more than $1.6 million from Exxon Mobil, but that was over a seven-year period.

But what about the $10,000?

The AEI just wanted to help, say Hayward and Green. IPCC had identified some “uncertainties,” and the AEI is looking for “scientists, economists, and public policy experts” who would write essays “analyzing” the IPCC’s work. “We couched our query in the context of wanting to make sure the next IPCC report received serious scrutiny and criticism,” they said, clearly implying previous reports had received insufficient scrutiny and criticism. People writing these essays would receive a $10,000 honorarium.

Our offer of an honorarium of up to $10,000 to busy scientists to review several thousand pages of material and write an original analysis in the range of 7,500 to 10,000 words is entirely in line with honoraria AEI and similar organizations pay to distinguished economists and legal scholars for commissioned work.

Andrew Dressler, a professor of atmospheric science at Texas A&M, wrote on his blog,

Also note: they’re willing to pay $10,000 to the authors. That’s A LOT of money for this type of activity. It was enough that it made me think, “maybe I should get involved with this.” Then I snapped back to reality.

[note added 7/31: My wife read this blog, saw the figure of $10,000, and asked me sweetly, “Are you SURE that climate change is real? We could really use the money.”]

To anyone in academia, $10,000 to write a 7,500- to 10,000-word essay is huge. Most academics are not going to make $10,000 on all of their papers, books, and essays combined in their lives. It’s like offering the ten-year-old next door $1,000 to wash your car. Jackpot, dude.

But Dressler points out that AEI was asking scientists to render a subjective opinion, not a scientific analysis. He quotes the letter AEI sent to scientists and boils the inquiry down to the question What’s the policy value of climate models? And that’s a subjective judgment. It’s fairly obvious that AEI was fishing for someone who would say that there was too much uncertainty about climate change to know precisely which remedies should be applied, which could then be spun into “it’s too soon to change policy.” But of course the AEI was careful not to say that explicitly.

The game the anti-science Right is playing is simply to exploit any cracks in the consensus. Since never in the history of science have all the scientists in the world been in 100 percent agreement on any theory or model of anything, that’s not hard to do. And this lack of 100 percent certainty equals doubt, and doubt soon becomes a reason not to bother about policy change. Until there is 100 percent agreement (which will never happen), then we can’t even think about policy.

We can only wish the Weekly Standard had applied the same principle to the story that Mohamed Atta met with Saddam Hussein’s agents in Prague.

What really struck me, however, is the paranoid tone of the Weekly Standard piece. It is titled “Scenes from the Climate Inquisition: The chilling effect of the global warming consensus.”

The “climate inquisition”? Yes, Hayward and Green allege they are the victims of a campaign to stifle dissent on the part of Climate Nazis.

Desperation is the chief cause for this campaign of intimidation. … The relentless demonization of anyone who does not fall in behind the Gore version of the issue–manmade climate catastrophe necessitating draconian cuts in emissions–has been effective

According to Hayward and Green, the “media frenzy” that surrounded the $10,000 honorarium story, plus the fact that the IPCC announced its findings a full three months before their complete 1,400-page report will be published suggests that something’s not kosher in Science Land. “There appear to be some significant retreats from the 2001 IPCC report,” they sniff. In the Weekly Standard‘s alternative universe, principled scientists are brewing a backlash against the inquisition. They conclude:

The climate inquisition is eliminating any space for sensible criticism of the climate science process or moderate deliberation about policy. Greenpeace and its friends may be celebrating their ability to gin up a phony scandal story and feed it to the left-wing press, but if people who are serious about climate change hunker down in their fortifications and stay silent, that bodes ill for the future of climate policy and science generally.

The hundreds of climate scientists from 130 countries who participated in the IPCC are, of course, not serious about climate change. They are stooges of the left-wing press, and the left-wing press is out to destroy the AEI and all it stands for, just because. That a huge majority of the earth’s scientists believe we have only a limited time to save the planet is not, to Hayward and Green, the reason the IPCC and the left-wing press are out to get them.

As reality closes in on the Right, righties are retreating into deeper and more pathological levels of denial. This week a report by the Pentagon inspector general concluded that Douglas Feith and his team at the Pentagon “cooked” intelligence to support invading Iraq (the New York Times calls this the “build a war workshop“)

And how does the Right respond? Yesterday, Hot Air latched on to a retraction in the Washington Post. It appears a Post story attributed quotes to the inspector general report that had actually been said by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.). Therefore, Hot Air concludes, all of the allegations against Feith were fabricated by Levin and were not the conclusions of an independent report.

Except there was an independent report by the Pentagon inspector general, and it did conclude that Doug Feith fed false information to the White House. The inspector general, Thomas A. Gimble, testified about this to the Senate last week. And Gimble said,

We found that the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy developed, produced and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on Iraq and Al Qaida relations which included conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the intelligence community and these were presented to senior decision-makers.

But in Rightie World, the allegations against Feith have been retracted. And you know they will believe Feith is the innocent victim of a leftie inquisition as long as they live.

To righties, the concerns of the Left are all about them. It is beyond belief that some people might be legitimately concerned about the conduct of the nation, or the survival of the planet. No; it’s personal. Those loony lefties want to destroy the Right because, you know, they are haters who want to destroy everything that’s good and pure and decent that comes with big profit margins.

Meanwhile, Republicans are dredging the nation’s asylums scientific community looking for anything that will cast doubt on the IPCC report. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week “For twelve years, the leadership in the House of Representatives stifled all discussion and debate of global warming. That long rejection of reality is over.” I believe the Speaker is wrong.

Update: Bill Kristol says Obama would have been pro-slavery. These people are a bleeping freak show.

Update update: The freak show continues — Mark Steyn, “don’t ruin economy because of tiny temp rise.”

More updates: Andrew Sullivan Nigel Calder explains that scientists don’t understand how science works (and he does). Angry Bear, whom I hope is not a polar bear, rips up Mark Steyn (ouch). Ron Chusid tells us how conservatives determine the truth.

12 thoughts on “It’s Personal

  1. “lefties. . . want to destroy everything that’s good and pure and decent that comes with big profit margins.”

    Good stuff, maha! Nothing like a cup of coffee – and a blog post angering up the blood because the Rethugs and other miscellaneous Righties are screwing us all for their own personal profit – in the morning. Thanks for the kick start!

    Have you seen this video of Anthony Weiner (D-NY):

    Also good stuff! Keep speaking truth to power, sister!

  2. I’m really tired of the corporate think tank AEI running all of government. We have government by AEI . No other opinions are allowed.

  3. Meanwhile, Republicans are dredging the nation’s asylums scientific community looking for anything that will cast doubt on the IPCC report. (No line-throughs in comments, apparently. Kinda ruins the joke.)

    Ah, Sunday mornings would be a real drag without you, maha.

    Say, why can’t Michael Crichton write some highly-speculative fiction, and claim that $10,000 prize?

  4. William Kristol must have been dropped on his head numerous times in his first year of life. For some common sense, check out the Op-ed in The Washington Post by William E. Odom, a retired Army lieutenant general, was head of Army intelligence and director of the National Security Agency under Ronald Reagan. Now, there is someone who makes sense.

  5. Bill Kristol says Obama would have been pro-slavery.

    Hopefully, Obama will have a response to this nonsense very soon. If he doesn’t come out with a rebuttal right away he’ll lose ground against these right-wing whackjobs. This is “swift boating” at its very worst.

  6. A rightie co-worker tried to get me to read Michael Crichton’s book on this. This was even after said rightie begrudgingly admitted, after years of Rush-induced denial that global warming was probably real. He was now just uncertain about what to do about it, and I assure you that “Nothing” or insane ideas like mirrors in space were high on his list.

    The point of the rightards’ insistence that I read Crichton was less about global warming, and more about how the novel depicts environmentalists as crazed or conspiratorial. In other words, it was about joining in on a personal attack, demonizing an “enemy” even though said enemy might be correct after all. It was about getting my blood rushing, getting high on the kind of fix that Rush supplies to legions of dittoheads every day.

    You got it right when you depicted AEI as an “anti-think” tank. It’s classic rightie behavior to waste everyone’s attention on nitpicking details, looking for tiny faults, which in their tiny minds invalidates the big picture. Like monkeys in a cage they then dance up and down, shouting “See? See?” These twits need to have their megaphone taken away from them, and the world will rejoice when that finally happens.

  7. Steyn made me laugh out loud.

    Paragraphs loaded with minutia and quibbling about various individual scientific reports, then, suddenly, based solely on a number for US GDP in 2010 from one source, he suggests that by taking global warming seriously “we could destroy the planet’s economy, technology, communications and prosperity. And ruin the lives of millions of people.>/em”

    Perhaps Mr. Steyn believes people are blowing individual reports way out of proportion because that’s what he does?

    It is conceivable that a determined and focussed national effort to develop conservation techniques and technologies to maintain standards of living while cutting greenhouse gasses would become a huge engine of economic prosperity. Maybe WE could be the ones selling the Chinese and Indians high-efficiency technologies. The anti-warming position seems so short on imagination. Even when they suggest finding technological solutions, it’s meant as a way of delaying action, not seen as an honest opportunity for both saving the planet AND staying filthy rich. Fools.

    BTW, Kristol needs to do some more research into Lincoln, and how he came, and when he came, to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, and what it actually covered at the time. Oh, but I forgot, he’s not really interested in making valid points.

    I loved your comment about skepticism on Mohammed Atta.

  8. I’ve been trying to figure out why it matters (to the bozos) so much whether humans are at fault (don’t take that wrong – we are). Apparently the logic is “if it’s natural, it must be good”. Oh yeah, you mean like how nudity is natural and good? No, I didn’t think so. Or is it just total denial that we humans could ever do anything wrong? Wow, then who invented spanking and why? (Hint: it wasn’t the Bushmen of Africa.)

    Biggerbox: yes, I was amazed that Kristol apparently knows nothing about Lincoln – that while he abhorred slavery, he was a unionist (even ran on the Unionist ticket for his 2nd term) and not an abolitionist (and why don’t the Repubs ever acknowledge that their 2 mythic heros, AL and TR, both dropped the Republican label? Sorry, dumb question).

  9. I truly think that the mega-corporation types (a lot of righties in the bunch) have become so isolated and insulated from reality that they believe global warming/climate change will not affect them. Perhaps living in gated communities, they have come to believe that their air is “gated” and global warming won’t affect them because they’ll just turn their air-conditioners up.

    How else to explain their seeming disconnect from a coming reality which will be disastrous for all human life, including their’s.

  10. Mark Styne says: ” So, faced with a degree rise in temperature, we could destroy the planet’s economy, technology, communications and prosperity. And ruin the lives of millions of people.

    Or we could do what man does best: adapt”.

    ADAPT: Does that mean Righty now believes in eveolution?

  11. The scientific community needs to announce that they WELCOME debate on the issue of global warming based on factual evidence. BUT they ought to warn their colleagues that anyone who accepts the 10K ‘prize’ will have their work mocked and rejected, and they will be considered professional whores for putting science up for sale.

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