Archive for Monday, September 24, 2012

Letter to the Editor: Look at science

September 24, 2012


To the editor:

I don’t consider myself one who goes to the extreme over the environment. But grant me time to share a few thoughts with any who refuses to accept the possibility that man is having an adverse effect on our environment. 

We enjoy the luxury and convenience of microwave ovens, computers, cell phones, air-conditioning, flat-screen TVs, preserved and pasteurized foods, and the science of medicine. We marvel about man on the moon, exploring Mars and beyond. GPS and weather-related satellites bring us information about where we are and how hot tomorrow will be.

Science made all those things possible. I doubt we would give up many of those marvels.  

We buy insurance policies on our cars, houses and bodies. We spend billions of dollars defending our country in case someone decides they don’t like us very much, insurance for ourselves and country. Insurance is our fall-back position against the unexpected.

Given the millions of benefits we all enjoy through science, why would we deny the findings of hundreds of people with PhD’s in environmental science warning us that man is negatively affecting the climate of the very place we live. Did we object to the science of microwaves or cell phones?

 I don’t relish paying for insurance, but with the environment, it’s not just your life you are gambling with – it is mine and every other living thing on Earth. If you reject the findings of environmental science, show me your research and PhD in that field. 

I have one question for you: What if you are wrong?


Richard Heckler 5 years, 8 months ago

Union Of Concerned Scientists

The Earth is warming and human activity is the primary cause. Climate disruptions put our food and water supply at risk, endanger our health, jeopardize our national security, and threaten other basic human needs. Some impacts—such as record high temperatures, melting glaciers, and severe flooding and droughts—are already becoming increasingly common across the country and around the world. So far, our national leaders are failing to act quickly to reduce heat-trapping emissions.

However, there is much we can do to protect the health and economic well-being of current and future generations from the consequences of the heat-trapping emissions caused when we burn coal, oil, and gas to generate electricity, drive our cars, and fuel our businesses.

JohnBrown 5 years, 8 months ago

First off, let's not blame Republicans. For most of my life, Republicans have been pretty level-headed. Today's so-called Republicans are actually an amalgam of the John Birch Society, gold-standard bearers, the Know-nothings, and religious despots (aka American Taliban). Let's call them RINOs: Republican In Name Only.

RINOs deny global warming because it does not fit with their beliefs. The American Taliban believe that god controls the climate, and how arrogant to believe that mankind could possibly vie with the power of their god. The Know-nothings can easily deny stuff they don't know's easy...just deny it. The JBS and the gold-bugs want completely free enterprise, with no strings attached. Unfettered greed is good. Taking responsibility for global warming means PAYING for it (i.e. more government oversight and government taxes and government regulations, ugh!).

You dare to ask "But what if you are wrong?"

That's a question they never ask themselves, that's why they are so sure they are right.

But....what if they ARE wrong?????


Ken Lassman 5 years, 8 months ago

Put another way: you take your car in to the local shop and they hook it up to a computer, look over the readouts and check it over, listening to it, and conclude that the front suspension is getting loose enough that you are going to need new parts. Thinking about it, you've noticed that when you are going 75 on the turnpike, you get a little rumble when you are going on curves.

Now, it could just be the road ripples on that stretch of curve, and it could be that the mechanic is just trying to make a buck, so you take your car to 9 other shops (I know, this is a bit of a stretched metaphor). All but one shop comes up with the same conclusion: your suspension is worn and if you don't do something, your car could lose control unexpectedly when you were driving at 75 some day on the turnpike.

So are all of these shops selling you the same scam? Is it really just the road? If you wait and the majority is right, you'll end up having to get a new set of tires too, and run the risk of catastrophic failure. But if they are wrong, you end up with some new parts that you didn't necessarily need. What kind of chance are you willing to take? Are you willing to take that chance while driving your grandkids to Colorado?

Frankly, climatologists are getting pretty clear signals on this issue, and it's getting clearer with each study and each passing year. The politicians are happy enough to have us turn up our radioes to mask that noise, since they're afraid that they'll get fired when they have to take that repair bill to their boss. But even the politicians are in this car, and if the front end goes out, everyone, politicians and all, will be headed toward the ditch.

Chris Golledge 5 years, 8 months ago

DougCounty's analogy is closer to reality than yours is. First, it's 97 or 98 out of 100 researchers/mechanics that have been consulted, and second, the solution is an transfer of investment in energy production from fossil fuels to alternatives, and I don't know of any climate scientists who stand to make a huge profit from wind/solar/nuclear, etc.

Also, the climate scientists who say that we are responsible and there is a problem have been right way more than the small percentage that say otherwise.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 8 months ago

Don't pull out that old dead horse about the polar ice cap prediction. I've shown you at least 3 times how that was NOT the conclusion of the study that your bad journalism article reported on. The truth is that the polar ice cap continues to melt at a rate much faster than predictions made as recently as 2007, and Antarctica is losing its glacial mass at unprecedented rates as well. I'd be happy to provide you with the references --again--upon request.

The difference between my metaphor and reality is that with a car, as the owner, you can decide whether you don't want to trust the 9 mechanics' vs. the one mechanic at your own peril (though if you lose control, others may be affected). With the planet, we're all in the same car, so the consequences are shared. Even the Berkely group of climate skeptics headed by Muller recently concluded that the planet is warming and it's due to human activity. You certainly have the right to your opinion, but you give no compelling reason why we should ignore the massive amount of data to the contrary, or why we should disregard the climatological community. Even tho a mechanic will make money on a repair doesn't mean that the repair isn't needed.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 8 months ago

So you're denying that the arctic ice data is false, that it is not melting at faster rates than earlier models predicted? Deny this:

Showing the average summer ice melt, the record 2007 ice melt, more than 2 standard deviations lower, plus this year's shocker melt

Showing the average summer ice melt, the record 2007 ice melt, more than 2 standard deviations lower, plus this year's shocker melt by Ken Lassman

Or do you deny the fact that the GRACE satellite measurements indicated that the world's glaciers and ice caps lost around 150 billion tons of ice per year between 2003 and 2010? Really? Check this out:

Your question about an ice-free arctic ocean belies your apparent ignorance about what data is and what science is. The ice free-arctic ocean prediction is not the data, it's a conclusion based on analysis of the data. Predictions make the models testable, and refinements of those models are at least partly based on their ability to backcast as well. There are a number of models out there predicting the year to expect an ice-free arctic summer, and there is yet no total consensus as to when that will occur, although the eventual outcome of an ice-free arctic ocean in the summer is agreed upon by all. If you care to read where things are at currently, I suggest you start here:

Ken Lassman 5 years, 8 months ago

Which article are you referring to specifically? And is it a scientific paper or a journal reporting of a journal article? Since you excel at squirming away from being pinned down, now's your turn to step up the the plate and say exactly what you mean.

And, by the way, ignoring all of the data that I provided does not make it go away.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 8 months ago

Fudge smudge: if you bothered to read the Nature journal article link I provided you above, you would have seen that the entire planetary totals are decreasing big time. It's hard to cherry pick that away!

Chris Golledge 5 years, 8 months ago

And that is where you believe second hand information instead of first hand.

I remember there was a person who said several years ago that the Arctic might reach an ice-free state as early as 2013, but a) his estimate was more pessimistic than everyone else's, and b) that is not the same as saying it will be ice-free.

In any case, maybe you haven't heard, but the Arctic ice is in rapid decline, and that was a prediction that has been more accurate than anyone who has been saying that the ice has been in recovery, or not in decline.

dontsheep 5 years, 8 months ago

What about all of these?

What about the 1970s global ice age prediction? There is a pretty good list of studies, headlines and articles here.

Mr Burgess, your camp has been wrong once and now they want the world to spend trillions of dollars on ineffective technology, bankrupt companies with overzealous regulations, seize more control through Agenda 21 initiatives, and steal taxpayer money to bailout failed companies. They are ruining lives now.

And by the way, comparing the science of microwaves and cell phones to climate change is a ridiculous. It sets up a false argument. One you can prove, the other you can't. Try comparing to religion...there are many more parallels.

melott 5 years, 8 months ago

I actually looked at your link. I see you have ONE scientist claiming cooling was imminent, and lots of Time and Newsweek. We don't rely on journalists for science. You mention the National Academy, but only quote them to say what would happen IF climate cooling were happening. The usual con.

dontsheep 5 years, 8 months ago

Read the articles, not just the headlines. The level of investigation you demonstrated is a large part of the problem today.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 8 months ago

You need to see the sequence of events to understand what really happened: incomplete information available in the early 70s indicated the possibility of global cooling, which attracted a lot of attention. The NAS decided that we didn't have enough data to understand the mechanisms of climate to confirm or deny the hypothesis, and as a result, federal funds were allocated to get a better understanding of the climate system. Data pouring in from this subsequent effort is how scientists realized that we should be worried about warming, not cooling, and that's been the case ever since.

So you see, scientists change their opinions based on the data, not just on pure speculation.

dontsheep 5 years, 8 months ago

Ohhh...incomplete information. Which just happened to lead to the exact same conclusions and ways to "fix it". That's very convenient.

So the question above, "what if you're wrong?", only applies to the other side. Cause yours has already been wrong, but only due to incomplete data. The last 30 years of better data (and funding, media control, gov't/academic integration, and philanthropic "donations") has now sewn the case shut.

Hard to argue with logic like that.

Chris Golledge 5 years, 8 months ago

It sounds to me that you have swallowed hook, line, and sinker of the fossil fuel industry position, which is basically, "Bad things will happen if you quit buying what we are selling."

Predictions of cooling were a) based an a mistake (since corrected) about how aerosol effects, b) actually outnumbered by predictions of warming. (scroll down for references) Nobody is suggesting that we wreck the economy, or that we have to, in order to wean ourselves off of fossils fuels. (With the exception of those selling the same.)

Actually, you can prove that CO2 causes the earth to reduce its energy outflow, but you have to understand a bit of physics to understand the proof.

If you haven't noticed, 10s of billions of dollars have been lost in the US this year and last due to increased heat and drought. That is part of a world-wide trend, and it is just getting warmed up.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 8 months ago

No, actually, continue to follow the science. And study after study indicates the sources of climate change being human activities, especially driven by the release of carbon that has been geologically sequestered for millions of years and injected into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels at a rate that exceeds natural systems' abilities to absorb it, resulting in rising greenhouse components which have the proven ability to raise global temps.

Similarly, science tells us the rates of reabsorption and gives us a good idea of how long that will take, giving us clear evidence that the longer we persist in releasing CO2 to the tune of 100 volcanoes a year, the longer it will take to reabsorb the surpluses, the more intense will be the warming, and the more extensive will be the consequences.

It takes politics to either persist in our current habits in light of the increasing consequences of climate change, or to change those habits to mitigate the consequences. Either way, politics is how we as a species build our nests and live in them.

Chris Golledge 5 years, 8 months ago

I don't know Doug. An executive for an oil or coal company has a lot more money and political influence than, say Jim Hansen or Phil Jones. So, it might be an accurate assessment that the reason there is still an argument is because the ones with power and money stand to loose it.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 8 months ago

Well, of course you're right: read the link to the Bill McKibben article I gave Moderate in the post below for an expansion of your point. But still follow the science!

Paul R Getto 5 years, 8 months ago

Those who chose to reject science for any reason should reject it all, including all modern conveniences and medicine. Do not pick and choose based on politics and ignorance.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 8 months ago

Didn't the oceans stop rising on Jan. 20, 2009?

George Lippencott 5 years, 8 months ago

Here again I feel a need to observe as I did with Mr. Pitt’s tome yesterday, that maybe some acknowledgement for distance travelled should be presented

Last year we (US) emitted the smallest amount of carbon in 20 years. That is right our emissions were at the 1993 level. Is this permanent – who know but it is real and it is in the right direction

Last year the federal government spent more than $100 billion on climate change matters (Report to Congress). I was unable to find any data summarizing corporate or private spending. I would observe that curly bulbs are doing well and Kansas is spending quite a bit on renewable energy.

It is striking that one can find a gazillion articles postulating the costs of addressing or not addressing climate change but one can not find (at least I could not) documentation on how much we are actually spending right now. Perhaps one of you could offer a number?

I would suggest an ATABOY for accomplishments to date is warranted in addition to our daily reminder that we are not going fast enough for the zealots.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 8 months ago

I agree that we've made some progress and are poised to make more progress, primarily in the area of energy efficiency, in shuttering a number of existing coal fired plants and scrapping plans for a bunch of other ones on the drawing board. We have also set higher mileage standards for automobiles, and are expanding our renewable energy source base. All of these are real gains and you're right: we should congratulate each other for those accomplishments.

However, folks also need to realize that in order to prevent accelerated global climate change, we need to do much, much more. We're not just talking about "zealots" saying that either, unless you are suggesting that the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, the National Academies of Science and many others are zealots.

Bill McKibben, an admitted low carbon future advocate, does a nice job of summarizing the seriousness of the situation in the following article:

It's a long, in-depth article, and has lots of references to back him up, but the long and short of it is that our current energy policy specifically and our economy in general is NOT geared to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. It instead is primed to pump out even more and more of it in ever increasing amounts, and those fossil fuel producers responsible for it are counting on doing just that in order to survive and thrive. They will not give it up willingly, and the fight over extending production tax credits for wind turbines is just the opening salvo.

So read it and let us know what you think.

George Lippencott 5 years, 8 months ago

Doug County

I am not a Luddite. I do think there needs to be more honesty in this whole process.

You are correct that more needs to be done. How fast we do it determines how much we hurt innocent people. The choices need to be framed clearly for the citizenry and not just for the experts. The idea that we just turn the problem over to the experts and sit back and take the hits is naive at best.

I am still looking for the authoritative article equating action with result so that rational decisions may be discussed and made. To start we should capture all the activity and costs that are ongoing. This issue is not going to be solved with federal money alone. We need an agreed to national plan.

Way too many dictatorships have started out with a call for the trust me card.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 8 months ago

A lot of folks like Robert Socolow's definitely non-luddite approach of "carbon wedges" as a way to reduce carbon emissions. It starts by calculating the amount of carbon emissions needed to be reduced to turn the warming around and then calculates the amount of carbon that could be reduced by doing certain actions, such as increasing building energy efficiency 20%. Folks then choose from these possible carbon "wedges," adding up to a total of 11 wedges to accomplish the overall goal. This way folks can create various scenarios to see what such a future might look like. Here's a link:

George Lippencott 5 years, 8 months ago

Doug County

That was refreshing - a framework for discussion. One could add "segments" or restructure them so as to increase choice.

I lack the ability to sort but the assumption is that major good comes from maintaining the status qua. It might be a bit optimistic on the timing.

I would love to see more of these and a plan that starts on the process. Trying to reach any form of consensus on a total program would delay progress by years.

I am wlll aware of the argument by many of the third world countries that we should pay them for what has been wrought. That argument will likely delay any progress for a long time as it is hard enough to convince American taxpayers to pony up for the costs to fix our own problem without essentially holding them responsible for the past.

Perhaps there should be a program of mitigation to address our own needs as a counter to demands we pay the full freight. Consider the uproar over the flat performance of our economy and think what it would be if we had to direct major resources to more expensive world wide infrastructure at an accelerated pace?

Maybe Mr. Obama will try to address this "third rail" in his second term.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 8 months ago

Thanks, Mod., I like the carbon wedge approach for the same reasons you find appealing. It might be a very fruitful way for a state, region or nation to develop an energy plan for itself, knowing that there are many ways to get to the desired outcome as long as the outcome is kept front and center. The key for this approach, as with so many other issues, is to be able to keep the discussion as non partisan as possible, seeing this a planetary health issue where everyone wins or everyone loses depending on our willingness to work together even if we may not share many other values.

As far as the rich vs. poor redistribution issue, it seems to me that whomever comes up with good solutions will benefit financially during the transition, and there's no reason why the USA can't be a leader in developing those solutions. We know the low carbon technologies of the future will be developed, so why not utilize our superior research/marketing/distribution knowhow to position ourselves well? We all know how Detroit was left in the dust when they chose not to read the writing on the wall. Bottom line: if poorer countries are subsidized by richer countries to develop low carbon futures, shouldn't we be ready and waiting to develop market and distribute our low carbon products to a worldwide market?

Armstrong 5 years, 8 months ago

Global warming, the best science money can buy.

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