Monday, May 21, 2007

The Big Lie

DiCaprio follows Gore on climate change

Now an all-out environmental activist, DiCaprio has followed Gore's lead by bringing a climate change documentary to the Cannes Film Festival. DiCaprio co-produced and co-wrote "The 11th Hour," which explains how humans have changed the climate and how to fix the damage.
A rather loaded word, no?

DiCaprio said the environmental movement owed a great debt to Gore, whose "An Inconvenient Truth," was shown at Cannes and won an Academy Award for best documentary feature.

"I think that movie, through the cinematic format, was able to convey science to the public and to the media in a way that it had never done before," DiCaprio said.
Yes, it had never been done so dishonestly before.

Here, a purportedly 15-year-old girl put together climate change research as a school project, and does a far better job at weighing the strength of the evidence than Gore's movie.

It's everything you need to know.

And here she takes apart Al Gore's movie, point by point, and concludes:

It’s easy to see why Al gore’s movie should not be shown in schools. An Inconvenient Truth is a political commercial that misrepresents a whole area of science. He admittedly uses scare tactics to get people to listen then shows them a professional slide show that blames every thing bad on so called man made global warming.

Al did not make and publicize this movie because he cares; something obvious when you consider his own lifestyle. He did not make this movie to run for president. This movie has grossed over 60 million dollars to date and it hasn’t even made it to cable. Al charges over $100,000 per slide show. But the real money that Al will make is through his new company, Generation Investment Management, a company that seeks to establish the rules and licensing for the new carbon-trading scheme. We have all heard of politicians who lie for money and power; it looks as if Al did not retire after all.
But that won't stop the True Believers!

While "An Inconvenient Truth" laid out the science behind global warming and its impact, DiCaprio's film doesn't try to prove that global warming exists — it accepts that it does and goes from there. It asks and responds to philosophical questions such as, how did mankind let nature deteriorate to this point?
How Convenient...

I love how they're all demanding now that there be NO MORE QUESTIONING!

The matter is SETTLED!

And to disagree is IMMORAL!
Dr. Brown, who is at the Rock Ethics Institute at Pennsylvania State University, said the moral and ethical issues that accompany rising sea levels or widespread crop failures will be matters of life and death for many people.

"How much warming should we tolerate?" he asked. "What is the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases that the world should identify as a target? There is no more obvious moral and ethical issue than this issue. It will literally determine who lives and who dies, whether Tuvalu survives, whether the Marshall Islands survive."

Such issues, Dr. Brown said, will force multilateral institutions like the United Nations to rethink international law and norms.
Too bad more real scientists are speaking out. Found via Brits at Their Best, here is a posting at the U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works:
Climate Momentum Shifting: Prominent Scientists Reverse Belief in Man-made Global Warming - Now Skeptics

Growing Number of Scientists Convert to Skeptics After Reviewing New Research

Following the U.S. Senate's vote today on a global warming measure (see today's AP article: Senate Defeats Climate Change Measure,) it is an opportune time to examine the recent and quite remarkable momentum shift taking place in climate science. Many former believers in catastrophic man-made global warming have recently reversed themselves and are now climate skeptics. The names included below are just a sampling of the prominent scientists who have spoken out recently to oppose former Vice President Al Gore, the United Nations, and the media driven “consensus” on man-made global warming.
Many examples of real scientists studying the issue and changing their minds towards skepticism or even mockery of human-caused global warming being significant are detailed at that article. Here is one typical case:
Mathematician & engineer Dr. David Evans, who did carbon accounting for the Australian Government, recently detailed his conversion to a skeptic. “I devoted six years to carbon accounting, building models for the Australian government to estimate carbon emissions from land use change and forestry. When I started that job in 1999 the evidence that carbon emissions caused global warming seemed pretty conclusive, but since then new evidence has weakened the case that carbon emissions are the main cause. I am now skeptical,” Evans wrote in an April 30, 2007 blog. “But after 2000 the evidence for carbon emissions gradually got weaker -- better temperature data for the last century, more detailed ice core data, then laboratory evidence that cosmic rays precipitate low clouds,” Evans wrote. “As Lord Keynes famously said, ‘When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?’” he added.

Evans noted how he benefited from climate fears as a scientist. “And the political realm in turn fed money back into the scientific community. By the late 1990's, lots of jobs depended on the idea that carbon emissions caused global warming. Many of them were bureaucratic, but there were a lot of science jobs created too. I was on that gravy train, making a high wage in a science job that would not have existed if we didn't believe carbon emissions caused global warming. And so were lots of people around me; and there were international conferences full of such people. And we had political support, the ear of government, big budgets, and we felt fairly important and useful (well, I did anyway). It was great. We were working to save the planet!
The Believers always cry "tainted science!" and imply the skeptics are all out for oil-company money

Yet somehow the other side is "pure." As if they didn't have to get published and get research money from somewhere themselves!

What, money grants just fall out of the sky?

During my career as a scientist I saw for myself exactly how the need for budget money drove scientific conclusions. Not to the point of fraud or deception, but there was definitely an disincentive to say outright that "this is dumb and will never work and isn't worth pursuing (on public money)", to "well, maybe we could, you know, study it for a year or two before really coming out and saying that..."

Scientists are people with bills to pay like everyone else.

And I also saw how clubby niche fields could be, and how they can easily be dominated, in terms of who got career accolades and papers published, by a small group of strong personalities with big egos. Ultimately over time Truth wins out, but in the short run, there can definitely be institutional resistance.

Evans continues,
But starting in about 2000, the last three of the four pieces of evidence outlined above fell away or reversed,” Evans wrote. “The pre-2000 ice core data was the central evidence for believing that atmospheric carbon caused temperature increases. The new ice core data shows that past warmings were *not* initially caused by rises in atmospheric carbon, and says nothing about the strength of any amplification. This piece of evidence casts reasonable doubt that atmospheric carbon had any role in past warmings, while still allowing the possibility that it had a supporting role,” he added. “Unfortunately politics and science have become even more entangled. The science of global warming has become a partisan political issue, so positions become more entrenched. Politicians and the public prefer simple and less-nuanced messages. At the moment the political climate strongly supports carbon emissions as the cause of global warming, to the point of sometimes rubbishing or silencing critics,” he concluded.
Here is a fascinating review of an alarmist book on global warming that paints various scenarios of global apocalypse:
Measuring the political temperature

Today’s ‘global warming story’ – where the moral is always that we should calculate every bit of carbon we use – owes more to the anxious zeitgeist than scientific findings.
But there is another way to approach this question, which is to look at the political circumstances in which climatic science is produced, a process that also has its own laws and patterns. It is strange, at a time when the social construction of science is an established idea (Thomas Kuhn’s 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, in which he describes science’s progress through ‘paradigms’, is on every undergraduate’s reading list) that nobody thinks to look at the social construction of global warming theories. Global warming science is being produced in highly febrile times; and history tells us that the more the political temperature rises, the more science’s view of nature is distorted.
Fast forward to the early twenty-first century, when scientists decided that the climate system was fragile and subject to dramatic and irreversible shifts. In 2001, one academy declared: ‘Geoscientists are just beginning to accept and adapt to the new paradigm of highly variable climate systems.’ (5) The phrase everybody started to use was ‘tipping point’, meaning the point where the Earth’s system would reach its ‘limit’ and tip over into an irreversible change. (This was particularly the case after the 2004 Hollywood hit, The Day After Tomorrow, which envisaged the onset of a global freeze in a matter of hours.) The question many scientists started asking of nature was ‘what is its tipping point?’. At what point would the Arctic and Antarctic go into irreversible meltdown? At what point would the carbon cycle go into reverse? At what point would this or that ecosystem collapse? When would extreme weather events start to increase?

Scientists started to carry out impact studies, and they started to look at feedback cycles. These are loaded concepts: impact – showing the damaging effect of temperature rise on ecosystems – and feedback – the inbuilt instabilities that could lead to ‘runaway’ change. Nature was viewed as fragile, interconnected, and liable to spin away dramatically beyond our control. In 2005, one Russian scientist predicted an ‘ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climactic warming’ (6). It is these studies, then, that form the references at the back of Lynas’ book, and which provide the basis for his claims of the meltdown that will occur at two degrees.

You don’t have to be Thomas Kuhn to read the (mixed) metaphors here. We’re hitting the ‘ecological buffers’, says Lynas, ‘fiddling with the earth’s thermostat’. Once feedback starts, ‘the accelerator will be jammed, and there will be nothing we can do to cut the speed of climate change’.
The less self-reflective the science, and the more it is founded on political and moral campaigns, the less reliable it is likely to be. And in Lynas, we see how global warming science has become a foil for a whole series of political and moral agendas, a way of discussing everything from the sins of consumerism to human arrogance. Outlining the effects of a four degrees rise in temperature, Lynas writes: ‘Poseidon [God of the sea] is angered by arrogant affronts from mere mortals like us. We have woken him from a thousand-year slumber, and this time his wrath will know no bounds.’ Not only Poseidon and Gaia but also terms such as ‘Mother Nature’ and ‘nature’s revenge’ have slipped into everyday discussion about climate change. Darwin did not, so far as we know, give names of Gods to his finches. When scientific concepts start to be discussed in such emotional terms, it suggests that they say more about wish than reality.
To recap, it is perhaps political rather than scientific analysis that can help us to understand the bias that underlies today’s climate science. The notion of nature as fragile and subject to collapse is a relatively recent one, which is likely to owe more to the anxious zeitgeist than to climate realities. There are two more aspects of Six Degrees that are worth discussing. First, its notion that tackling climate change is an historic challenge; and second, its idea that global warming holds within it moral lessons, for humanity and for individuals. These help to explain why the idea of global warming is now so compelling and has come to dominate public life. For it provides, not just an expression of anxiety, but also a way out of that anxiety: a way of reframing the big issues of historical purpose and personal morality.
The campaign against global warming provides answers so that we no longer have to think about the questions. In Gore’s words, this is ‘the thrill of being forced by circumstances’. The certainty of planetary emergency seems to provide a cause that is solid, a cause that is not chosen and therefore beyond dispute and doubt. It is this relief of finding a point of ideological certainty that explains the grip of global warming on the contemporary imagination. Hence the missionary zeal of believers, and the fact that people now discover global warming in periods of doubt, just as they once used to find God in prison.
We need a new school of thought in the global warming debate, which is founded not on scientific facts but on political critique. It is only this that can explain the way in which the issue is framed, or its hold over social life and public debate. Lynas’ books suggest the attraction of the global warming issue has little to do with environmental problems. Instead, global warming appears to provide answers to life’s big questions, offering a new kind of historic mission and a new structure for personal morality.
That's just a small taste of a detailed analysis.


Blogger Manxome said...

Thanks TOS! I had been meaning to ask you for some analysis of global warming: the next 'cause' beging for scrutiny. The links provided are an excellent starting point.

- MTLchris

2:04 PM, May 21, 2007  
Blogger RDS said...

And I've got plenty more coming!

10:16 PM, May 21, 2007  

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