Monday, March 26, 2012

A Review of Where I'm Coming From

Lest I get branded a skeptic or denier, let me take a moment to review where I'm coming from:
  • My mention of Anthony Watts mother was a metaphor. A literary device. Nothing more, nothing less. I don't know the first thing about his mother, and hardly that she was dead (unfortunately, so is mine). Watts obviously just saw an opening to score a point and so pretended I was slandering her and hence him, and continues to pretend that, which is childish and, in any case, not convincing.
  • I firmly believe humans are affecting the climate, and I believe the science shows that.
  • I believe projecting future climate change is the most difficult calculation ever attempted, and it still has a lot of uncertainties, especially the handling of clouds, aerosols, and deep ocean dynamics.
  • Inability to calculate precisely is not a reason to brush away the problem.
  • Climate change has become a proxy war for fights over lots of other issues.
  • I believe that fossil fuels have great value (and, at the same time, that their pollution causes great damage), and that we need to get off them, but not at the expense of using less energy, because energy makes life better. Right now the cost of their pollution is socialized: From each according to their smokestack, to each according to their lungs.
  • The way to get off fossil fuels and onto alternative fuels is via a massive R&D program, incentivized by a price on carbon (I'm not sure of the price -- perhaps something like Australia's -- and I'd prefer to give it all back to everyone on an equal per-capita basis) that develops alternative fuels and/or ways to remove carbon from the air or from the energy production process.
  • Affluent people like most of us can afford to pay for some of the damage our fossil fuels cause, because we're paying anyway for its pollution, especially in higher health costs (an average of $400 per person per year, at least). 
  • Poorer people, both in the US and especially around the world, deserve the chance to have better lives via fossil fuels, if necessary, without paying the costs of their damages. Then they can use alternative fuels when the rich countries (who have put most of the carbon into today's atmosphere) step up and develop them.
  • I believe climate scientists are honest people trying their best to do honest jobs, like almost all of us*. They're not frauds or liars or data manipulators, but they are human and some of them make the same mistakes as any other human, including me and including you. In my experience, as a class scientists are the most intellectually honest people I've ever met, and as a result in the last 400 years civilization has made nearly incomprehensible strides forward. The personal attacks some of them have been under are terrible, and will be looked back on as a shameful time in the history of science.
  • For some reason I'm not completely sure of myself, I was very bothered by the revelation that Michael Mann was looking for an investigative journalist to investigate Steve McIntyre. Lord knows Mann has been unfairly attacked like few other scientists in history, and I have no idea what that must be like. But it bothered me. 
  • Though I can only aspire to be the half the journalist he is, what Andrew Revkin wrote crystallized my thinking:
    "Do I trust climate science? As a living body of intellectual inquiry exploring profoundly complex questions, yes.

    "Do I trust all climate scientists, research institutions, funding sources, journals and others involved in this arena to convey the full context of findings and to avoid sometimes stepping beyond the data? I wouldn’t be a journalist if I answered yes.
  • I believe a lot of people are making immense starships of money off fossil fuels, and as a result denigrate the science or spread money around to assist others do that.
  • The U.S. isn't moving forward on lots of problems, including climate change, because large corporations buy our politicians. In relation to its size, power, and reach, the U.S. may be the most corrupt nation in the history of the world.
  • I don't really believe people who say we should be concerned about the people of the future when so many of us accept and tolerate the great poverty being experienced around the world by billions of people who are alive today. 
  • I work hard to inform my opinion, as do lots of others, and change it when I find good reasons to have a different one.
  • I don't ban people from my blogs without a very, very good reason, which is that they've continually stepped way over the rudeness line. (Doing so while remaining anonymous is especially cowardly, in my opinion.) I've only done it 2 or 3 times, and I can't ban people since going on Blogger since it doesn't have that functionality. I don't even moderate comments, except those over 7-days old, and that's only to prevent spam. 
  • Some commenter, probably from Watts' site, still owes me $10. My email address is on the right.
* Except Joe Bastardi, who is either scientifically incompetent or intentionally dishonest -- I can't figure out which. Until there is more evidence I will default to the former.

11 comments:

NnN said...

"Watts obviously just saw an opening to score a point and so pretended I was slandering her and hence him, and continues to pretend that, which is childish and, in any case, not convincing."

That. Or maybe he's so dumb he actually doesn't understand metaphors.

Look at what Milloy does re racism and how Watts pretends to shake his head about it. These people are pathetic.

Denier Lies and the Conspiracy Nuts Who Spread Them
http://nailsandcoffins.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/denier-lies-and-conspiracy-nuts-who.html

Anonymous said...

i agree with you except: a) you forgot Dr.Peter Glieck and b) a country more corrupt than Argentina? Impossible!!
jorge c.

charlesH said...

David,

I would like to suggest that for those who believe in CAGW and that policy (higher energy costs) need to be adopted have a challenge when prof like Dr. Hopper go public with views like this in today's WSJ.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304636404577291352882984274.html

"Frustrated by the lack of computer-predicted warming over the past decade, some IPCC supporters have been claiming that "extreme weather" has become more common because of more CO2. But there is no hard evidence this is true....."

..........

"We need high-quality climate science because of the importance of climate to mankind. But we should also remember the description of how science works by the late, great physicist, Richard Feynman:

"In general we look for a new law by the following process. First we guess it. Then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right. Then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience; compare it directly with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment it is wrong."

The most important component of climate science is careful, long-term observations of climate-related phenomena, from space, from land, and in the oceans. If observations do not support code predictions—like more extreme weather, or rapidly rising global temperatures—Feynman has told us what conclusions to draw about the theory."

charlesH said...

David,

"In relation to its size, power, and reach, the U.S. may be the most corrupt nation in the history of the world."

Are you serious?

Nazi Germany?
Stalinist Russia?
North Korea?
Fundamentalist Muslims (esp regarding women)?

......... the list is long.

David Appell said...

Charles: It's Happer, not Hopper.

Do you happen to know how much money he makes as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the George C Marshall Institute? Or an Academic Advisor to the Global Warming Policy Foundation? Those organization exist to deny climate science on the part of its funders, so I'm sure Happer is getting something.

I notice he didn't declare that on his WSJ article.

David Appell said...

By the way, Charles, alternative energies actually have *lower* costs than fossil fuels, not higher costs.

charlesH said...

"Do you happen to know how much money he makes as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the George C Marshall Institute? Or an Academic Advisor to the Global Warming Policy Foundation? Those organization exist to deny climate science on the part of its funders, so I'm sure Happer is getting something."

No I don't but I bet it's a lot less than Mann or Hansen have taken in.

If we have to disregard any scientist with a financial interest in CAGW then we will be left with a rather short list.

What is your trust level in the UN? IPCC?

charlesH said...

"By the way, Charles, alternative energies actually have *lower* costs than fossil fuels, not higher costs."

I assume you are talking about the health cost of burning FF. I am open to this idea if the evidence is really strong. It might be wise for CAGW supporters to emphasize this point more and not focus on co2 so much.

Dano said...

That charles is an interesting Internet Performance Art character, surely: spreading FUD is such fun these days!!!

Best,

D

David Appell said...

Charles: I believe the evidence is strong. I recommend two documents:

Muller, Nicholas Z., Robert Mendelsohn, and William Nordhaus. 2011. "Environmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States Economy." American Economic Review, 101(5): 1649–75.
http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/aer.101.5.1649
http://nordhaus.econ.yale.edu/documents/Env_Accounts_052609.pdf

To summarize that paper's findings: for every $1 in value that comes from coal-generated electricity, it creates $2.20 in damages.

Total damages: $70 billion per year (in 2012 dollars).

Petroleum-generated electricity is even worse: $5.13 in damages for $1 in value.

The National Academy of Sciences estimates that fossil fuel use causes damages of at least $120 B/yr to health and the environment:

“Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use”
National Research Council, 2010
http://books.nap.edu/catalog/12794.html

T said...

"I believe a lot of people are making immense starships of money off fossil fuels, and as a result denigrate the [climate] science or spread money around to assist others do that."

FOR EXAMPLE? Not really Heartland Institute. By comparison, look at the donor list to the advocacy outfit in the DC area, The Climate Institute: Ford Motor, Toyota, Shell, Rockefeller Foundations (two of them), a power company (and several US government agencies).

David, I think your claim does not stand up to the evidence. Corporate talent draws more exclusively from our most elite institutions and rarely fails to reflect those values and prejudices - whether right or wrong. (My step-father was a VP for 3M company and would support this claim.)