Blogs > Liberty and Power > At Least Papal Sales of Indulgences Produced Beautiful Monuments

Apr 29, 2007 4:39 am


At Least Papal Sales of Indulgences Produced Beautiful Monuments



Alexander Cockburn asks Is Global Warming a Sin?

"In a couple of hundred years, historians will be comparing the frenzies over our supposed human contribution to global warming to the tumults at the latter end of the tenth century as the Christian millennium approached. Then, as now, the doomsters identified human sinfulness as the propulsive factor in the planet's rapid downward slide."

"Then as now, a buoyant market throve on fear. The Roman Catholic Church was a bank whose capital was secured by the infinite mercy of Christ, Mary and the Saints, and so the Pope could sell indulgences, like checks. The sinners established a line of credit against bad behavior and could go on sinning. Today a world market in 'carbon credits' is in formation. Those whose 'carbon footprint' is small can sell their surplus carbon credits to others, less virtuous than themselves."

"The modern trade is as fantastical as the medieval one. There is still zero empirical evidence that anthropogenic production of CO2 is making any measurable contribution to the world's present warming trend. The greenhouse fearmongers rely entirely on unverified, crudely oversimplified computer models to finger mankind's sinful contribution. Devoid of any sustaining scientific basis, carbon trafficking is powered by guilt, credulity, cynicism and greed, just like the old indulgences, though at least the latter produced beautiful monuments. By the sixteenth century, long after the world had sailed safely through the end of the first millennium, Pope Leo X financed the reconstruction of St. Peter's Basilica by offering a 'plenary' indulgence, guaranteed to release a soul from purgatory."

Some years ago in the pages of the Nation Cockburn expressed skepticism about the human contribution to global warming. Here at Counterpunch Cockburn summarizes the arguments of Dr. Martin Hertzberg that the increase in atmospheric CO2 does not stem from human burning of fossil fuels. Trained in chemistry and physics, and a combustion research scientist for most of his career, Hertzberg explains that "the greenhouse global warming theory has it ass backwards," and concludes, "It is the warming of the earth that is causing the increase of carbon dioxide and not the reverse." Indeed, he points to "[s]everal new papers that show that for the last three quarter million years CO2 changes always lag global temperatures by 800 to 2,600 years."




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Gus diZerega - 5/4/2007

Sudha-
Of course. No problem.

What annoys me about many of the deniers, however, is that their real reasons for taking sides seem to me ideological/religious and based on beliefs about human society or God's plans that are utterly disconnected from atmospheric science. And so they attack the scientists who have evaluated the evidence in ways they do not like as if the basis for the disagreement was really money or 'politics' or anything but honest scientific judgment.

My own position here is not based on evaluating scientific evidence but on evaluating the direction the scientific consensus is moving and the relative advantages and disadvantages of being right or wrong on the issue. My reasoning is prudential, not scientific.


Shop A Thonic - 5/4/2007

Yes--Al Gore's entire film is based on hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific articles on this subject, as you would have known had you seen the film--which you obviously have not. Gore cites the fact that the more than 600 peer-reviewed articles on this subject agree on the seriousness of global warming and the human contribution to it (with no skeptics or dissenters), whereas all the "doubters" and "dissidents" voice their views in publications that are NOT peer reviewed. The IPCC reports on this subject are unequivocal and represenst the overwhelming consensus of the vast majority of the world's most accomplished and authoritative climatologists. If you knew anything about this subject--and the science behind it--you would know these things. But all you seem to know about is misleading, nonscientific right-wing propaganda, not serious peer-reviewed science.


Shop A Thonic - 5/4/2007

First of all, there are vast areas of scientific theory and practice that are far more refined in application--and hence less certain--than basic principles of physics such as gravitation or establishing the speed of light, etc. Those basic principles are susceptible of precise mathematical modeling--long-term climate trends, along with most of the phenomena scientists examine in the real world--cannot be as precisely rendered. That does not mean there can be no science about them. For example--the basic laws of Newtonian/Einsteinian physics are well established and noncontroversial--but does that mean a physicist can predict, based on known physical laws, exactly when I will get up from this computer? Does that mean that all physical phenomena in the world can be predicted with exact certainty? Not even Newtonian laws unfold precisely on earth--they presuppose ideal conditions that exist nowhere in pure form on earth. So your notion that climatological science should approximate the certainty of the law of gravitation shows that you understand almost nothing about the theory and practice of science--or basic distinctions between theoretical and applied science.
That being said, there are degrees of likelihood that can be applied to earthly physical phenomena that allow, with a reasonable degree of variation, understanding of physical/chemical activities here on earth. Climnatology can not, in principle (given current states of knowledge) approximate the degree of certainty of the basic precepts of theoretical physics, but it can and does project with REASONABLE statistical certainty long-term trends in the climate and their relation to earthly activity. Now the VAST MAJORITY of the best-educated and most highly trained climatologists in the world--whose views are represented in the IPCC reports--agree on two basic ideas: the earth is warming at an alarming rate and this warming is due preponderantly to human activity. THERE ARE NO PEER-REVIEWED PAPERS OR ARTICLES THAT SUBSTANTIALLY DISPUTE EITHER OF THESE THESES. To say that an isolated scientist has had peer-reviewed articles published at some point or another is not the same as saying that he or she has had a peer-reviewed article published that disputes these two basic and well-established precepts of contemporary climatology. If, on the other hand, you want to bet the future of the planet and the survival of the human species on the random natterings of a few marginalized non-peer-reviewed right-wingers, that seems like a very poor bet to me, and one that is based more on an ideological preference for untrammeled corporate plunder than on a rational calculus of scientific realities.


Shop A Thonic - 5/4/2007

First of all, there are vast areas of scientific theory and practice that are far more refined in application--and hence less certain--than basic principles of physics such as gravitation or establishing the speed of light, etc. Those basic principles are susceptible of precise mathematical modeling--long-term climate trends, along with most of the phenomena scientists examine in the real world--cannot be as precisely rendered. That does not mean there can be no science about them. For example--the basic laws of Newtonian/Einsteinian physics are well established and noncontroversial--but does that mean a physicist can predict, based on known physical laws, exactly when I will get up from this computer? Does that mean that all physical phenomena in the world can be predicted with exact certainty? Not even Newtonian laws unfold precisely on earth--they presuppose ideal conditions that exist nowhere in pure form on earth. So your notion that climatological science should approximate the certainty of the law of gravitation shows that you understand almost nothing about the theory and practice of science--or basic distinctions between theoretical and applied science.
That being said, there are degrees of likelihood that can be applied to earthly physical phenomena that allow, with a reasonable degree of variation, understanding of physical/chemical activities here on earth. Climnatology can not, in principle (given current states of knowledge) approximate the degree of certainty of the basic precepts of theoretical physics, but it can and does project with REASONABLE statistical certainty long-term trends in the climate and their relation to earthly activity. Now the VAST MAJORITY of the best-educated and most highly trained climatologists in the world--whose views are represented in the IPCC reports--agree on two basic ideas: the earth is warming at an alarming rate and this warming is due preponderantly to human activity. THERE ARE NO PEER-REVIEWED PAPERS OR ARTICLES THAT SUBSTANTIALLY DISPUTE EITHER OF THESE THESES. To say that an isolated scientist has had peer-reviewed articles published at some point or another is not the same as saying that he or she has had a peer-reviewed article published that disputes these two basic and well-established precepts of contemporary climatology. If, on the other hand, you want to bet the future of the planet and the survival of the human species on the random natterings of a few marginalized non-peer-reviewed right-wingers, that seems like a very poor bet to me, and one that is based more on an ideological preference for untrammeled corporate plunder than on a rational calculus of scientific realities.


Shop A Thonic - 5/4/2007

It is necessary, as part of the process of scientific judgment and verification, that his views and "scholarship" be submitted to and deemed worthy of publication by peer-reviewed scientific journals in the relevant fields. Hertzberg's natterings on this subject do not meet that minimum requirement of scientific discourse.


Shop A Thonic - 5/4/2007

What real value is the judgment of the most highly trained and expert peers in a given scientific field? Of course, this counts for nothing--not nearly as much as the random jottings of right-wing ideologues and marginal "scientists" whose work somehow can't get published in serious, relevant scientific journals--peer-reviewed journals. This has nothing to do with one's views on creationism or God or any other such irrelevant matter--40 percent of scientists believe in God. What matters is whether the work meets basic standards of theoretical and empirical rigor for a given field. On this score, of course, the views of an obscure, retired chemist are MUCH more likely to command the attention of a threatened planet than the massed expertise of the world's leading climatologists who make up the IPCC. Better yet, I'll put my money--and the fate of the human species--on feral ranters like Hannity and Limbaugh any day--and whatever unqualified dissidents they can scrape up from the bottom of the academic barrel. Isn't it hilarious what thorough contempt the far right has for the protocols of scientific inquiry--indeed, for reason itself?


Shop A Thonic - 5/4/2007

"You and them"? You don't know elementary grammar, and you want people to accept your disconnected fantasies as being on a par with the painstaking life's work of the world's leading climatologists? Welcome to the Twilight Zone.

No one is telling you to be quiet. We're merely trying to point you to the relevant scientific literature--and, in your case, to the relevant third-grade grammar text.


Shop A Thonic - 5/4/2007

Your questions are really bizarre.

The IPCC represents the vast majority of the world's leading climatologists--people who spend years getting doctorates, doing scientific research, publishing articles in PEER-REVIEWED JOURNALS (the only ones that contain real science), and applying known methods of scientific inquiry to the problem of climate change. To this extent, the IPCC represents the most advanced outcropping of scientific knowledge in this area. Clear enough?


Shop A Thonic - 5/4/2007

Sudha Shenoy hunts and pecks for the odd dissenter. But THE OVERWHELMINMG MAJORITY of the world's leading climatologists posit two hypotheses: (a) the earth is warming at an alarming rate and (b) humans are contributing substantially to this trend through industrial carbon emissions. Shenoy would prefer that we subscribe to the theses of a handful of marginalized dissenters, ignore the findings of the preponderance of scientific authority in this area, and, I suppose, do nothing. If the dissenters are right, then doing nothing--and giving free reing to the the corporate pirates and right-wing ideologues who think so little of the protocols of contemporary scientific inquiry and its preponderant findings--will be vindicated. BUT--if the IPCC is right, and we do nothing, the human species--perhaps all life on this planet is doomed. If we sharply cut back on carbon emissions over the next fifty years and the IPCC turns out to be wrong, we still end up with a much cleaner, more energy efficient planet. Which course seems the more prudent one given the weight of scientific opinion and the possible consequences--doing nothing or following the IPCC recommendations? The biggest drawback of the latter is a sharp curb on the economic "freedom" of large-scale polluters, with the addeed benefit of a much cleaner planet. The biggest drawback of doing nothing--if the IPPC is right--is the end of the world. Only a moron would choose the latter course. And there are plenty of morons out here in cyberspace, apparently.


Shop A Thonic - 5/4/2007

If you get a good horselaugh reading about corporate pirates and right-wing ideologues, it's probably because you haven't traveled much around the world and beheld the appalling poverty that results from the combined rapacities of these latter-day barbarians.

Your comments on scientific method are too stupid and ill-informed to merit much in the way of the reply. Only hard laboratory sciences such as physics and chemistry can rely on reproducible experimental results for certainty. It is impossible to experiment on long-term climate trends, so the consensus of expert scholarly opinion looms larger than it would in the case of harder sciences.

Moreover, your comment that peer-reviewed studies do not play a major role in contemporary sciences of any kind betrays an appalling ignorance. EVEN the hard sciences insist on peer-review procedures for publication to evaluate the soundness of reasoning, mathematics, and experimental procedures. And, I might add, only a COMPLETE IDIOT would even begin to compare the rigor and exactitude required of ANY natural science—even a less “hard” one like climatology—with the groping amiguities of a social science like economics, which is not really a science at all. The need to address such rank stupidities makes one regret ever sticking one’s toe in the fetid swamp of cyberspace. (By the way, this very William Stepp is the person who values scientific inquiry so highly that he blathers on about things that he knows nothing about—for instance, he cut a pretty broad swath through “An Inconvenient Truth,” even though his comments in an earlier thread made it abundantly clear that he hadn’t even seen the film! Such is the right-wing snorting bull’s idea of “scientific” analysis! Now there’s a GOOD horse laugh for you—a bloviating hypocrite, dancing for your pleasure!)

In addition--you do not want us to repose our confidence in the vast majority of the most qualified experts in the field of climatology. Who, then should we repose our confidence in?

Finally, in the typical cowardly cherry-picking style of the dishonest polemicist, you entirely ignore my challenge about the need to confront the implications of the choices before the human race. Here is it again, in case you were too busy horse-laughing to have
to have read the entire post:

Shenoy [and his Stepp-child] would prefer that we subscribe to the theses of a handful of marginalized dissenters, ignore the findings of the preponderance of scientific authority in this area, and, I suppose, do nothing. If the dissenters are right, then doing nothing--and giving free reing to the the corporate pirates and right-wing ideologues who think so little of the protocols of contemporary scientific inquiry and its preponderant findings--will be vindicated. BUT--if the IPCC is right, and we do nothing, the human species--perhaps all life on this planet is doomed. If we sharply cut back on carbon emissions over the next fifty years and the IPCC turns out to be wrong, we still end up with a much cleaner, more energy efficient planet. Which course seems the more prudent one given the weight of scientific opinion and the possible consequences--doing nothing or following the IPCC recommendations? The biggest drawback of the latter is a sharp curb on the economic "freedom" of large-scale polluters, with the addeed benefit of a much cleaner planet. The biggest drawback of doing nothing--if the IPPC is right--is the end of the world. Only a moron would choose the latter course. And there are plenty of morons out here in cyberspace, apparently.


Shop A Thonic - 5/4/2007

If you get a good horselaugh reading about corporate pirates and right-wing ideologues, it's probably because you haven't traveled much around the world and beheld the appalling poverty that results from the combined rapacities of these latter-day barbarians.

Your comments on scientific method are too stupid and ill-informed to merit much in the way of the reply. Only hard laboratory sciences such as physics and chemistry can rely on reproducible experimental results for certainty. It is impossible to experiment on long-term climate trends, so the consensus of expert scholarly opinion looms larger than it would in the case of harder sciences.

Moreover, your comment that peer-reviewed studies do not play a major role in contemporary sciences of any kind betrays an appalling ignorance. EVEN the hard sciences insist on peer-review procedures for publication to evaluate the soundness of reasoning, mathematics, and experimental procedures. And, I might add, only a COMPLETE IDIOT would even begin to compare the rigor and exactitude required of ANY natural science—even a less “hard” one like climatology—with the groping amiguities of a social science like economics, which is not really a science at all. The need to address such rank stupidities makes one regret ever sticking one’s toe in the fetid swamp of cyberspace. (By the way, this very William Stepp is the person who values scientific inquiry so highly that he blathers on about things that he knows nothing about—for instance, he cut a pretty broad swath through “An Inconvenient Truth,” even though his comments in an earlier thread made it abundantly clear that he hadn’t even seen the film! Such is the right-wing snorting bull’s idea of “scientific” analysis! Now there’s a GOOD horse laugh for you—a bloviating hypocrite, dancing for your pleasure!)

In addition--you do not want us to repose our confidence in the vast majority of the most qualified experts in the field of climatology. Who, then should we repose our confidence in?

Finally, in the typical cowardly cherry-picking style of the dishonest polemicist, you entirely ignore my challenge about the need to confront the implications of the choices before the human race. Here is it again, in case you were too busy horse-laughing to have
to have read the entire post:

Shenoy [and his Stepp-child] would prefer that we subscribe to the theses of a handful of marginalized dissenters, ignore the findings of the preponderance of scientific authority in this area, and, I suppose, do nothing. If the dissenters are right, then doing nothing--and giving free reing to the the corporate pirates and right-wing ideologues who think so little of the protocols of contemporary scientific inquiry and its preponderant findings--will be vindicated. BUT--if the IPCC is right, and we do nothing, the human species--perhaps all life on this planet is doomed. If we sharply cut back on carbon emissions over the next fifty years and the IPCC turns out to be wrong, we still end up with a much cleaner, more energy efficient planet. Which course seems the more prudent one given the weight of scientific opinion and the possible consequences--doing nothing or following the IPCC recommendations? The biggest drawback of the latter is a sharp curb on the economic "freedom" of large-scale polluters, with the addeed benefit of a much cleaner planet. The biggest drawback of doing nothing--if the IPPC is right--is the end of the world. Only a moron would choose the latter course. And there are plenty of morons out here in cyberspace, apparently.


Shop A Thonic - 5/4/2007

Unless you answer ALL MY POINTS in order--the discurisve same courtesy and honesty that I accord you--then this discussion is over. (For example, I expressly invited you to respond to the point on the cost-benefit analysis of doing nothing vs. following the recommendations of the IPCC, and TWICE you have dodged like a quivering little coward boy. Tsk, tsk.)

Moreover, nyone who thinks that ANY social "science"--which deals with all the imponderables of human action and free will and tries in vain to come with ANY valid theories or predictable regularities about them--is a COMPLETE MORON who has never studied the philosophy of science. It's hard enough to establish firm, predictable laws in PHYSICAL sciences such as meteorology and climatology, much less in human or social "sciences," which are regarded as sciences only by people who hope to gain tenure from them (witness the warring schools of thought about the MOST BASIC FOUNDING CONCEPTS in EVERY area of social science--real science could not proceed on such a basis.)

So answer EVERY POINT, horsey, or be gone, you dishonest creep.


Shop A Thonic - 5/4/2007

By the way, horsey--you aren't even honest enough that you've been spouting off about "An Inconvenient Truth" WITHOUT EVEN HAVING SEEN IT. And you're the phony lecturing everybody else about the exacting canons of scientific inquiry!

You're a blathering fraud.


Shop A Thonic - 5/4/2007

You're either an idiot or liar or both. The process by which climate change deniers--or deniers of the human contribution to climate change--is in no way political, and you do not--and cannot--specify a political component to it. IT IS PURELY SCIENTIFIC, based on time-honored protocols of scientific inquiry: the overwhelming majority of the most authoritative climatologists in the world, through peer-reviewed professional publications in the field, have passed a near-uninamous verdict that (a) global warming is for real and is a serious danger and that (b) humanly created carbon emissions are the main reason for this warming. If you're so averse to reason and science that the basic procedures of scientific judgment and analysis strike you as just another form of politics, then you've succeeded in branding yourself as just another Internet crank.


Shop A Thonic - 5/4/2007

The corporate pirates and right-wing ideologues are PRECISELY the ones, like you, who deny the results of scientific inquiry and instead promote propaganda from marginalized and often unqualified sources like Hertzberg. In other words, it is the global-warmingDENIERS who are waging propaganda and politics and turning their backs on science.


Shop A Thonic - 5/4/2007

I don't think anyone really cares about your views on decorum. If you really want to avoid ad hominem debate, you should lead by example.

Second, my tone is exactly appropriate to the lame posts to which I am obliged to reply.


Shop A Thonic - 5/4/2007

YOU IGNORAMUS--the members of the IPCC panel represent the consensus of 95 percent of the world's climatologists. Do some reading. You have zero idea what you're talking about.


Shop A Thonic - 5/4/2007

[Comment Removed by Administrator]


Shop A Thonic - 5/4/2007

The IPCC panel members were not chosen through any kind of political litmus test; if you have evidence of such an assertion, please provide it. The IPCC panel consists of the leading climate scientists of the world as judged by their standing among their colleagues, their position at their universities, and their record of peer-reviewed publications in their field. This is the standard protocol of science.


Shop A Thonic - 5/4/2007

The ad you saw in the Washington Post was not an official document of the IPCC and so was signed by people who were not professional climatologists. The IPCC is an entirely different story.

Do you make ANY effort to get your facts straight before making these preposterous assertions?


Shop A Thonic - 5/4/2007

In fact, members of the panel complained that their findings were sandpapered and moderated by politicians who reviewed their intial draft, not that their findings were exaggerated in the least.

You ought to consider a career as a write of fiction--based on the evidence of this thread, you have a very fertile imagination.


Shop A Thonic - 5/4/2007

Administrator removed by Shopathonic. He has been relocated to Oceana, where Big Brother censors are always welcome by a crowd of easily cowed sheep.


Shop A Thonic - 5/4/2007

Blah, blah, blah . . . diZerega dons his parson's robes and spews several paragraph's worth of dull sanctimony. So now we find out that, not only is he a boring pedant, but an even more boring scold and prig.

A weary world genuflects in gratitude for this shining revelation.


Shop A Thonic - 5/4/2007

Bizarre--we should all want to hear more lectures on decorum from Parson diZerega. It's good for the soul--his soul. Gives the poor man a patina of illusory self-importance lacking in his real, nonblog life.


Shop A Thonic - 5/4/2007

Some of the foregoing comments are truly staggering in their ineptitude and willful distortions. First of all, Martin Hertzberg does NOT have an advanced degree of ANY KIND in the sciences relevant to an understanding of global warming: meteorology, climatology, or astrophysics. Second, he is not a recognized authority in any of these fields and has ZERO peer-reviewed articles in any scientific journals on global warming. He's just as much of a dilettante on this subject as Cockburn himself and the oddball dissident "scientist" trundled out each week by Drudge--and, now Cockburn. Second, Al Gore based his film on the overwhelming consensus of the qualified scientists in this field--represented by the IPCC--as opposed to untrained, inexpert marginal dissenters from other fields like Hertzberg. Here's a letter I wrote to Cockburn on his appalling piece:

Mr. Cockburn:
Any article that purports to tell the big, bold truth about global warming ought
to contain at least a few footnotes to shore up its presumption to scientific rigor--something
more, at least, than aoff-hnded allusions to off-the-record communications from
exactly one dissident scientist (no longer active and not a currently recognized
authority in his field) to you--none of them peer-reviewed, evidently; something
more than a casual sneer at the IPCC report as a "jeremiad"; something
more like at least an effort to to bounce your views off a nonretired expert with
a substantial record of peer-reviewed publications on this subject.

Alas, we get none of the foregoing--and it's not as though your own credentials
in this field--which amount to zero--entitle you to dispense with such elementary
gestures of scientific and journalistic thoroughness.

What explains these uncharacteristic lapses in your dedication to ferreting out
the truth? What accounts for your Drudge-like reliance on exactly one retired, marginal
figure, as though his singular, privately communicated opinions count for just as
much as the peer-reviewed publications and consensus of the vast majority of the
world's foremost climatologists? I think you've been spending far too much
time making consumer-fetishist love to your vintage Chryslers. This wouldn't
be the first time a man "thought" with his heart rather than with his
head--although the fact that the object of your affections in this case is a couple
of rusting heaps of tail-finned steel is a sad spectacle indeed.


Gus diZerega - 5/3/2007

bizarre-
No reason to continue the discussion


Gus diZerega - 5/3/2007

Alas, Shop a Thonic is getting as quick to respond without reading carefully as people like Keith Halderman. If Shop a Thonic is uninterested in my views on decorum, fine. I didn't send them to him - but I will below. Had he read me carefully he would have seen I was objecting to statements he made about Sudha Shenoy that are simply not justified by the facts as I know them. New facts will change my mind, but I know of none. That is not an issue of decorum, it is one of accuracy.

In my view his vitriol weakens the persuasiveness of his valid points. That is a pity because many of his arguments are completely justified. (Some however are not accepted by most relevant scientists. I think his "doomed" statement is a bit of hyperbole unless he accepts Lovelock's views - a minority among all climate scientists so far as I know. But there are many degrees of substantial unpleasantness that fall short of 'doomed.') Now THIS paragraph has been a comment on decorum. he will be a more effective proponent of his views if he at least takes my argument regarding tone seriously.

Keith Halderman argues I accused him of character assassination somewhere or other. I just looked over my posts and see nothing that could rationally be interpreted that way. Given his slighting of the motives of most climate scientists his statement is a bit of chutzpah on his part, though.


Shop A Thonic - 5/2/2007

IDIOT--the ad in the Washington Post was not an official communique of the IPCC, which is composed EXCLUSIVELY of the world's most accomplished climatologists. You are a disgusting liar.


Keith Halderman - 5/2/2007

Gus di Zerega accuses me of engaging in character assassination and I would have to guess that this comes from my first post in this string in response to his first. But if it is character assassination to point out the narcissistic nature of the claim that human beings are destroying a planet that has been around for millions of years and too also point out the fundamental dishonesty of pretending that there will be no costs associated with fixing such an enormous problem then I guess I am guilty. Now I am not speaking specifically about Mr. di Zerega but rather his side of the argument. He also writes that my contention that the consensus on human endued global warming was arrived at by a political process is utterly ignorant. This could only be written by someone who does not know very much about the history of science, it is chocked full of political interference. His side puts great store on the findings of the IPCC panel. Well how were the members of that panel chosen, through a political process. I think the UN, a very political body who would benefit by the acceptance of global problem it could then fix, did the choosing and only people who were likely to come to the right conclusions were going to participate. Were Steven Miloy, Patrick Michaels, or any of those mentioned by Sudha Senoy consulted, no. Even then some of those on the panel claimed that their results were distorted and highly exaggerated in the first report. I remember some time ago seeing an ad in the Washington Post saying something had to be done about global warming that was signed by hundreds of scientific experts. Well I recognized one of the names and I knew he was an anthropologist who studied the ceramics of the Ming dynasty.


Gus diZerega - 5/2/2007

Three relatively quick points.

First, in response to Sudha Shenoy- of course laypeople are free to argue this issue. But the grounds we use to make our case are necessarily different from those used by practicing experts in the field. Regarding Richard Lindzen, for example, there are complex arguments at stake as to the albedo effect of clouds. I doubt any reader of this list has much to add to evaluating this issue. Some would not even know what the albedo effect refers to, but still cite Lindzen as an authority against global warming. That is legitimate. What is not legitimate is to ignore that he has failed to convince most of his peers - and then make character assassination attacks on his peers, as Halderman does below, for not being convinced.

(I think Shop-a-thonic, while often right on, is far too harsh in replying to Ms. Shenoy, who has done yeoman's work on behalf of liberty for many many decades and does not seem to me to be nearly as rigid in her thinking as the other two I discuss in this post.)

We laypeople can argue coherently on grounds of prudence, good judgment, and the like. We can explore alternative strategies as to how to deal with a problem. What we cannot do is make significant contributions to the growth of the body of knowledge that evaluates whether there is in fact a problem.

Second, Stepp argues I am not a libertarian. Quite perceptive. Took you long enough. Several years at this point. I am a former anarcho-capitalist and still an advocate for the underlying liberal insight that individuals are the ultimate ethical and moral unit in society. I use Hayekian theory as the core of my research and have published extensively in peer reviewed journals, libertarian oriented journals, and a book on thes issues. Stepp exemplifies one reason I am not a libertarian - most (not all) merge the virtues of the market with the logic and interests of instrumental organizations like corporations.

I have been asked to play on this list as a kind of loyal gadfly. I am loyal in ther sense that only (some) libertarians deserve any respect among market advocates for walking their talk after six years of Republican fascism.

When people write the silliness that characterizes so much of Stepp's work, gadflies are obviously badly needed and I try and do my job. Just one example - Stepp claims that a scientific theory is distinguished from a hypothesis because it has "been established beyond all doubt." No scientific theory is ever established beyond all doubt. They can be established beyond reasonable doubt, but as Newton demonstrated, reasonable doubts can later arise even in the most trusted and accepted theories. That is one way we distinguish science from scientism and political ideologues...

Third, Halderman needs quite a bit of evidence to back up his to me utterly ignorant contention that the reason the overwhelming majority of scientists studying this issue think it is human caused is due to "politics." Especially given the rather tidy sums of money Exxon along with CEI, and other hack jobs, offer to people who will support their line and the use of politics by global warming deniers in the Bush administration to discourage research in the area.

You are beginning to sound like the imbeciles who argue that "politics" is the reason evolutionary theory won out over intelligent design and other silliness.


Keith Halderman - 5/2/2007

Shop A Thonic on your May 1 post you write "Shenoy would prefer that we subscribe to the theses of a handful of marginalized dissenters." However you neglect to mention that they have been marginalized by a political process not a scientific one. And if you claim that it is not political then why are you talking about "corporate pirates and right wing ideologues?" Also, in the string above this one someone on your side of the argument is touting the fact that the CEO of Shell and numerous insurance company exeutives are now on board the global warming hysteria train.


Andrew D. Todd - 5/2/2007

Here's something curious. ExxonMobile apparently had one of its front men denouncing energy-saving lights. This man's business is normally to insist that every manufactured good is perfectly safe, but he suddenly turns around for no obvious reason and starts denouncing Compact Florescent light bulbs, on highly specious grounds. Of course, when significant numbers of CF bulbs are installed, and electric load is reduced, an electric utility company will shut down the gas-fired generating plants first, as a matter of economic practicality (the relationship between sunk costs and variable costs). That costs ExxonMobile money, and it also costs the King of Saudi Arabia money.

The Slashdotters gave the technical aspects of the question a pretty thorough debunking, with comparisons to oral thermometers, old-style tube florescent lights, and tuna fish.

http://science.slashdot.org/science/07/04/30/1557242.shtml
http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Steven_J._Milloy
http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/global_warming/exxon_report.pdf


William J. Stepp - 5/2/2007

Latter-day barbarians? Could you name one? Corporations are in the business of providing the goods and services that alleviate poverty and improve everyone's standard of living. They also employ people, which is another method of combatting poverty. Capitalism is far better than government hand outs in alleviating poverty.
I have traveled on four continents and have seen considerable poverty. I have also seen it in the U.S.

So far I'd say it's you that is ducking the issue of the morality of corporations.

Regarding the scientific method,
precisely because it's impossible to do laboratory experiments on climate, the consensus of opinion on climate and global warming is "softer" and more ambiguous than in the hard sciences. Therefore the consensus (consensus of opinion is redundant, as my grandfather liked to point out)
of scientists on this looms less large, contrary to your assertion.
You are 180 degrees wrong on this.

Not that you know how to read well, but I didn't say what you claim I did about peer reviewed studies. What I actually said is that the demand for peer review is not part of the scientific method. That's it.
To repeat my other point, the canonical scientific method demands that an experiment be capable of independent reproduction by another scientist, and that it be confirmable or disconfirmable. (Popper said the latter point was the important one and criticized the concept of verification.)

I didn't say that peer-reviewed studies don't play a major role in science. Clearly they do.
But the peer review process is not infallable, and non-peer reviewed science is not necessarily bad science.

I would argue that economics is a science, and I'm hardly alone in this. I do think lots of economics would qualify as junk science though.
It's a different type of science than physics, but that's why it has the adjective "social" in front of science.

Finally, I'm happy to learn that you know lots about my background, the extent of my travels and of my education in science.
Bloviator indeed.


William J. Stepp - 5/1/2007

A hypothesis by definition is not a scientific theory that has been established beyond all doubt. It always faces the possibility of being disconfirmed or refuted. Even if the majority of scientists believe the two global warming hypotheses, they are still hypotheses, and they might be disconfirmed eventually. A scientific consensus can also shift.

As for the Shopster's peer review fetish, it's actually not part of the scientific method. What is part of it is the possibility of independently reproducing a scientific result (e.g. an experiment) and confirming or disconfirming its conclusions.
Peer reviewed articles sometimes have errors and non-peer reviewed articles sometimes stand up quite well.
Besides, anyone is welcome to refute a non-peer reviewed scientific conclusion any time, and to expose its errors.

The Keynesian consensus was built on a lot of peer-reviewed stuff, which has long since crumbled to dust.
Ludwig von Mises, one of Keynes' great critics, probably never published a peer-reviewed article in his career, at least one that would have satisfied the Keynesians.

You are very keen on the argument from authority, in this case that of the "world's leading climatologists." This is more akin to a religious view than a scientific one.

I got a good horselaugh out of your use of "corporate pirates" and "right-wing ideologues" in the same sentence. I love the irony! Care to define "corporate pirate" and give some examples? Exxon? What about the billions in taxes it paid to a real pirate (and mass murderer)--Uncle Sam? Gus sees nothing wrong with the pirate part!
(And he's a libertarian? Not on this planet.)


Sudha Shenoy - 5/1/2007

Gus:

There are very large numbers of lay people -- notably Al Gore -- who transmit the IPCC consensus. What about the minority view? Can lay people transmit that too?


Gus diZerega - 5/1/2007

Regarding Ms. Shenoy’s comments.

First, I don’t think they are equivalent to those who claim the earth stands still in the universe or that it is flat. Ditto regarding the germ theory, which has built up an impressive body of empirical evidence, with countless lives saved due to work based on it. This does not mean it is absolutely correct – but the hurdle facing skeptics seems to me insurmountably high.

The global warming problem is different. It is a current problem not one regarded as settled. Because it is new I imagine not a lot of research into new areas has spun off from it.

It is also vastly complex to study competently and requires some of the most powerful computers of our time to crunch relevant numbers. About two thousand years ago the Greeks figured out the earth was round, and close to its real size, by observing shadows in the bottom of wells in different places on the same day.

The shift in the scientific community’s point of view regarding global warming, from many regarding the issue as pretty open whatever their own weighing of the evidence was, to most thinking the biggest questions are now closed, has happened only in the past few decades. Unlike the theory of evolution, it is still possible to be a respected scientist in a relevant field and doubt the argument.

And this brings me to her second post. Roughly 90% is not all. Scientists on both sides are human beings, and so subject to psychological predispositions in interpreting the evidence that exists. Two people can look at the same data and where one sees clear evidence another sees murky evidence. Scientific procedures seek to minimize this, but can not eliminate it. We in the social sciences should be particularly aware of this problem.

To repeat myself yet again – I make absolutely NO comments on any particular set of research for the same reason I make no comments as to what is the best way to build nanotubes. Ignorance.

Given the importance of the issue the task we face as laypeople is how to evaluate arguments when we cannot contribute meaningfully to the research and often cannot understand in any detail the papers making important contributions to the field. I have argued the ONLY rational means we have is to examine the relevant scientific community as a whole. 90% with a trend to increase is a pretty clear statement that at present the vast majority of competent scientists agree the phenomenon is real, has a human caused component, and is possibly catastrophic in its implications.

Nonscientists who attack the scientific community as to the validity of its empirical findings at this point are little more than ideological hacks because of their professional incompetence. Scientists who attack it MAY be right – and they have the professional right to be taken seriously - but the test is whether in time the community comes around to accepting their point of view. Sometimes this happens. More often it does not. Right now among atmospheric scientists global warming skeptics are a small and diminishing minority.


Gus diZerega - 5/1/2007

Trus but not really relevant. I recommend reading the book


Sudha Shenoy - 5/1/2007

, For information (for those interested):

1. A peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal, Energy & Environment, with academic editors, which publishes articles questioning various components of the IPCC consensus.

2. Roger A Pielke Sr (already mentioned, above) is an academic meteorologist at the Univ of Colorado. As already mentioned, he lists & summarises (inter alia) peer-reviewed articles that disagree with component parts of the IPCC consensus.

3. Other academics/ senior scientists from a variety of scientific disciplines relevant to climate study, who question at least part of the IPCC consensus: Prof Ian Plimer, Univ of Adelaide; Prof R M Foster, James Cook Univ; Prof August Auer, Univ of Wyoming; Prof Freeman Dyson, Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton NJ; etc. -- See the open letter to the Canadian PM from 60-odd scientists (on the web.) -- Incidentally, there are a few IPCC reviewers amongst these names.

Hannity & Colnes are not scientists & therefore are easy targets. It also makes things easier if only cranks are named as opposing the IPCC.


Sudha Shenoy - 5/1/2007

1. It is established that the earth is round & that it goes around the sun. As against this, there are the flat-earthers. Is IPCC climate science analogous to the rotundity of the earth etc & those who are sceptical the equivalent of flatearthers?

2. before the discovery of germs, people believed in (inter alia) the miasma theoryof disease. Is IPCC climate science the equivalent of the germ theory of disease, while those who question it are like those who believe in the miasma view of disease?


Keith Halderman - 5/1/2007

If you are not part of this particular consensus you do not get funded, it is hard to get published, when you do get published it is ignored by most of the mainstream media, some people want to criminalize the work you do, you are accused of having the same scientific integrity as the creationists and you are depicted as toll of the rightwing oil companies. So I ask you of what real scientific value is this consensus?


Keith Halderman - 5/1/2007

The scientific question is whether or not an increase in temperature will cause an increase in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Martin Herzberg does not need to be an expert in global warming theory to answer that question. Expertise in chemistry and physics is sufficient.


Anthony Gregory - 4/30/2007

Some oil interests benefit from war like this and some don't. It depends on the particulars.


Gus diZerega - 4/30/2007

Consensus is an ideal – and is the value reflected in the basic scientific values of testability, measurement, and so on. They all seek grounds for agreement independently of our desires. Science seeks reliable knowledge – and is the best means we have found to achieve it because all reasonable people are impressed by prediction, measurement, experiment, and the like. See M. Polanyi and J. Ziman here. The range of phenomena about which science has a consensus tends to grow over time – but any consensus is always tentative. If there were no important public policy issues at stake there would be no controversy outside the halls of the scientific community – and as we know from research in physics, science can do just fine in the absence of consensus.

Global warming is one of the most complex issues to study because the earth is such a complicated system of positive and negative feedback affecting climate. We cannot conduct planet wide experiments and we have no knowledge of other planets that can unambiguously be applied to ours. Richard Lindzen, for example, argues that warming increases cloud cover and therefore albedo, counter acting warming effects. Clouds do reflect heat and light. Do they do it enough? Some who have examined Lindzen’s work say the evidence suggests he is wrong. http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Study/Iris/iris2.html It is hardly surprising that consensus is elusive especially since if it is happening we are in its initial stages and the initial stages of any change are always ambiguous.

But given that the implications of global warming for human well-being might be quite serious if it is happening, and given that the earth is probably more like the Titanic than a speed boat in terms of how quickly it responds to new inputs, what should we do?

Here is where I think the direction of scientific consensus can give aid to us lay people who are not competent to do the research or critically read the original papers. Prudence dictates that when the costs of inaction can be extraordinarily high and the costs of effective action can be much lower, acting is wise.


Sudha Shenoy - 4/30/2007

1. Why is it necessary to repeat that 'the science is settled', 'there's a consensus'? That isn't done in areas of science that _are_ agreed upon: eg, the theory of gravity..

2. In fact, there are serious scientists who _do_ have serious scientific problems with the so-called 'consensus' science. They have published in peer-reviewed journals, etc. See for instance, Roger Pielke Sr's website/blog: climatescience; http://climatesci.colorado.edu.

Also see (eg) J NonEquilibrium Thermodynamics June 2006, article by Essex, McKitrick, Andresen on the notion of a global average temperature. Etc. etc.


Gus diZerega - 4/30/2007

Oooops, my bad. The previous post serves as a partial reply to Halderman above, not to Stepp.


Gus diZerega - 4/30/2007

Most of my reply is with my response to Stepp. But I will add that it is not my job to reply to these people. The scientific community seems well enough equipped to do a far better job than I since they are experts.


Gus diZerega - 4/30/2007

Neither I nor anyone else has ever said Gore was a climate scientist. But had you really read my blog you would see that I gave links to real scientists.

Here to save anyone the trouble of going back to the blog, is a link from the pre-eminent genral scientific magazine in the US: Science:

http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/306/5702/1686

So your going on about Gore is irrelevant and a smoke screen.

At the risk of repeating myself ad nauseum, the issue for lay people people like us is do we root for the side that is most in keeping with our wishful thinking? (In that case I would be a global warming skeptic.) Or do we look at the long term trend in scientific opinion. You of course never mention this, what I believe to be the most important part of my argument.

This reply will serve as a response to your earlier criticism above.

As to Hertzberg, Shop A Thonic said it all, and said it very well. When I googled Hertzberg I noticed the same rather strange resume for someone claiming expertise in the subject.

That he would be listed on this blog is powerful evidence in my opinion for the truth of my analysis.


Gus diZerega - 4/30/2007

One good source is Howard Phillips' American Theocracy. He is scarcely alone in his analysis. One relevant fact: why was the oil ministry and its maps the first building we protected in Baghdad once invading?

I do not necessarily endorse everything in Philips' book - but I do a lot of it, and his analysis of oil and Iraq is one part where I think he makes a good case. he, of course, is scarecely alone.

My heart bleeds, really bleeds, for Exxoin;s taxes.


William J. Stepp - 4/30/2007

Does Al Gore have any peer-reviewed articles or scientific expertise that would be relevant to the study of climate?
Speaking of dogmatism, what about Al Gore's statement that the "science is settled"? Not very Popperian is it?
As for what the "vast majority" of scientists think, fifty years ago the vast majority of economists thought that Keynesianism was the final word in macroeconomics. That was before Milton Friedman and other skeptics, aided by some inconvenient facts, punctured lots of holes in it.

I have not seen similarly dogmatic remarks by Lindzen and other scientists who are (properly) skeptical of global warming.
I say properly because that is consistent with a scientific outlook, which Al Gore and his Hollywood acolytes clearly do not exhibit.


William J. Stepp - 4/30/2007

Gus,

In the post you link to, you make it sound like the sketics consist only of Lindzen, Limbaugh, and Crichton.
There are many others, including Ian Castle, Bob Carter, and William Kininmouth, a climatologist and author of _Climate Change: A Natural History_. The list could also include Bjorn Lomborg, author of _The Skeptical Environmentalist_.

You state that "war amounts to a massive subsidization of Exxon and similar oil companies...."
Could you provide some hard data?
I read Exxon's 2006 10K (including the footnotes). Its operating revenues for the three fiscal years ending in 2006 combined were $1,015,097 million (a bit over $1 trillion). On these revenues it paid $210,097 million in taxes, about 21%. These include royalties to state-owned oil companies, as well as to the U.S. government. (Btw, state-owned oil companies control about 85% of the world's known oil reserves; and state-owned oil firms make less than half the return on capital that private firms do.)
Exxon's taxes included $503 million paid to the U.S. government on its non-U.S. operations, a burden foreign oil companies don't bear on their non-domestic operations.

If Exxon and its U.S. competitors are in fact being subsidized by the war in the Middle East, then I assume this should be fairly easy to quantify. I await your evidence with interest.


Keith Halderman - 4/29/2007

One thing I forgot to mention is that the theory involving cosmic rays, which I posted, is in no way incompatible with the arguments Dr. Hertzberg is making. The first seeks to explain why it is getting warmer and the second seeks to account for the increase in carbon dioxide. There is no reason why they cannot both be true and neither you nor Al Gore nor any of his experts have put forth any reasons why they are not . You and them just tell people who bring up the subject to be quiet.


Keith Halderman - 4/29/2007

It is not Mark Brady or Alexander Cockburn or HNN that is attacking human induced global warming theory it is Dr. Martin Hertzberg "trained in chemistry and physics, and a combustion research scientist for most of his career" who is making the statement.

The reason we have to talk about his arguments on Liberty and Power is because they will most likely never be discussed on television or appear in mainstream media publications.

Now if you want to take the issue seeking Al Gore's word over this scientifically trained specialist I would normally say that is your business, however, you also want to take people's jobs away from them and partially impoverish the rest of us for no better reason than the narcissistic idea that anything bad that happens on earth must be modern mankind's fault.

I find it interesting that you complain about the fact that some of us are challenging the idea of human induced global warming here when it is now contested in so few places these days. That says to me that you can brook no dissent and that your position despite its current popularity is in reality a weak one.


Gus diZerega - 4/29/2007

I notice that ANY time a theory arises suggesting global warming either does not exist or if it does, that human caused CO2 increases are not responsible, someone here rushes to promote it. This is so despite their having no more obvious expertise in atmospheric science than I. For that reason alone I do not take global warming discussions at HNN very seriously. The real criteria for some is that if global warming is human caused it challenges orthodox libertarianism, THEREFORE it cannot be true.

Remarkably akin to fundamentalists and evolution.

Earlier on this blog it was a theory involving cosmic cays. Now it is a different theory. Presumably whenever another one arises it will be trotted out as well.

I have tried to discuss problems faced by laypeople such as ourselves in confronting complex issues like global warming that require extensive scientific analysis to evaluate, an analysis that can always be wrong in light of later discoveries. Here http://www.dizerega.com/?p=58#more-58 is where you can go to see – just scroll down past the Capitalism 3.0 review.

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