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Denying the Reality of Climate Change

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Many people with a serious illness have trouble accepting it; they'll deny it and ignore it for as long as possible. Global warming produces a somewhat similar reaction in some people. This continued doubt has a parallel in the 1964 Surgeon General study that established the link between smoking and cancer.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report last week is unequivocal in its warning about the impact of rising global temperatures. It is as certain about the human cause of global warming as the Surgeon General's report was about the connection between lung cancer and smoking. And, as with the Surgeon General's report, there will be numerous efforts to counter and confuse the IPCC's findings.

Following release of Surgeon General's report, its critics – mostly the tobacco companies – sought to challenge its underlying science with their own industry-backed research. There was a public relations effort as well to muddy the issue with claims that, for instance, stopping smoking increases weight and creates another health risk, heart problems. Pick the lesser of two evils.

Newspapers, especially during the 1970s, would often get quotes from the Tobacco Institute to “balance” a story about smoking, even in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence. The Tobacco Institute today exists as a court-ordered document site. 

Doubt-casting reports about the hazards of smoking were life rafts for people who didn't want to come to terms with the habit. It provided cover for people who refused to act responsibly. And for those who argue that smoking is somehow a “right” – an argument still championed by tobacco companies – I would say that the only reason children take up smoking is because adults continue to influence their behavior. That alone should provide strong moral reason to give up smoking.

This denial of science will be true for global warming as well. Industry-backed groups will do all they can to provide cover to lawmakers and others to do less than what is needed and buy time and profit for special interests.

Acceptance of the science of global warming and its conclusion that human activity is responsible for it is necessary for real action. Otherwise, the response may be little more than a series of false half-steps similar to those taken by so many smokers who couldn't or didn't want to give up their habit.

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About KOB

  • Aku

    This article compares apples to oranges. Let me explain why.

    The scientific method consists of three steps.

    1. Observe a phenomenon
    2. Formulate a hypothesis
    3. Create an experiment to test the hypothesis

    Where global warming falls short is #3, and as long as it does the “reality” of climate change can and should be questioned. There were many experiments over time that proved that smoking causes cancer. The best they can do for global warming is severely flawed computer modeling.

    Why are flawed? Perhaps most prominently, the Butterfly effect implies that small actors can influence large, chaotic systems, like the global environment. These small influences should be integrated into a proper model of climate change. This is practically impossible both from a hardware (too many variables to process in a simultaneous fashion) and software (how do we code trillions, perhaps more, independently functioning variables, from candles to campfires to smokestacks, to individual cigarettes, BBQs, cows, etc.)

    Second, experiments are formulated using the theories of the formulator because there is so much in a computer model that is guess work. Is it any wonder someone that supports global warming would come up with a model that shows global warming?

    Third, how often do claims made by a community of scholars have to be proven wrong before we disbelieve them? Looking over the history of environmental claims about the supposed coming of an environmental disaster, how many have been right? Practically none of them have happened. Why should we still believe this community that is so consistently wrong?

    When such strong claims, such as “there is no debate,” are made on such an unsure, scientifically unproven claim (remember, no experiment=no scientific claim of truth), one can not help but to wonder if the clams are influenced by science or ideology.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    is unequivocal in its warning about the impact of rising global temperatures

    Providing four different severity scenarios as the basis for your discussion of the outcome of global climate change would be the very definition of ‘equivocal’ on that issue.

    Dave

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    See KOB, your “thinker” has decided to believe in this climate change business, so your “prover” has of course proven it beyond any reasonable doubt. Why, it says so right in this government report!

    But it’s not at all even vaguely proven, and that some scientists agree doesn’t make it true. Scientists are humans too, with the same propensities for talking themselves into believing fashionable crap like anybody else. As Paul Simon would say, proof is the bottom line for everyone.

    That you and Al Gore declare something most emphatically does not therefore make it true. The Earth MIGHT be warming up a bit – or not. I’m not really convinced of even that based on the data, which seems to indicate average readings maybe increasing part of one degree in the last century. But of course, even if that’s true, is that natural fluctuation that we just have to live with, or is it perhaps caused or partly caused by human activity.

    But of course, global warming hysteria is a religious belief, and not really scientific at all. Oh sure, you CLAIM to have proof, and you’ll throw up all kind studies supposedly proving your point – but they seem to be about as convincing as the infamously lame Josh McDowell book of Christian apologetics, Evidence That Demands a Verdict.

    Oh, and your smoking thing is a little weak too. I’m sure it’s bad for you, but that shit’s about 10 times overblown as well. You might ought to read a little of this temperate and rational JOE JACKSON ESSAY.

  • Keith

    The global warming hysteria is interesting. Does anyone remember that there was a cold snap from 1400 to 1900? It was called the “little ice age.” Of course it is getting warmer than it was then. The earth was warmer than it is now during the time from Moses until Mohammed. The Chinese sailed around the north pole a few thousand years ago, because the arctic ocean was an ocean and not an ice cap. There has been a constant fluctuation in the earth’s climate for the past 500 million years. Our current temperatures are a little lower than the average over this period. Fight global warming? Why not spend the money to fight desease, hunger and overpopulation?

  • http://www.friendlymisanthropist.blogspot.com alessandro nicolo

    KOB, enjoyed this. It’s not denial. Some just don’t buy into the hysteria. We don’t question the knowledge presented but the wisdom to how to solve this – assuming there is a solution. I agree with Keith. The earth was supposed to die out, what, four times since 1968? Millions will be spent, bad feelings fostered and for what? The earth will cool when Mother nature decides it. I’m not saying we can’t do our part (and heaven knows we exaggerate at times) but this Kyoto thing seems like part scam and part good intentions gone awry. I’ll continue to listen with interest. It’s a fair debate. But is it an honest one? I’m not sure. We should never conclude something to be ‘unequivocal’ when it comes to nature; to science. That in itself is an error in judgement. Here’s yet another interesting take. Please take in mind this site is a libertarian but it should not make the idea any less valid: http://www.quebecoislibre.org/07/070128-5.htm

  • Clavos

    Alessandro,

    Thanks for the Quebec citation. It is well thought through and very well documented. A worthwhile read.

  • moonraven

    Well, all you sweathogs that are not “buying into hysteria”, while your heads are….in the sand, I am busily investing in beachfront property in….Nebraska….

    In the 50s, Pogo said: We have met the enemy and he is us.

    Well, it’s YOU, for sure.

  • http://www.dcblogs.com kob

    Thanks for the comments.

    I think the IPCC’s work is impressive, comprehensive and inclusive. What follows, the course of action, is a matter of choice. All things are.

    But I do know that at some point you need to make a decision based on the information before you and I’ve decided on my plan. I will vote for candidates who take climate change seriously and I’ll try to do my best to conserve.

    Even if I disagree with most of the commenters here, I think you are engaged on the issue and to me that’s a positive thing. I worry that many will avoid considering it at all and never open their minds to it.

    But there also reaches a point where doubt is just an excuse for inaction, and in my mind we have crossed that point.

  • driveby

    Global warming is a good thing. It will extend our growing season and produce bountiful crops, reduce the price of snow peas, tomatoes, spinach, okra and rudabegers. Burial costs will be less in cold areas because of less time to dig a grave. Snow plows will become a thing of the past. Lets just get a great tan and enjoy.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    What I have to ask is why we have to wait for government to do something or be forced to do something by a global treaty or organization?

    We can take initiative on an individual or local level to make an enormous difference in the environment. You can start by buying a hybrid or alternative fuel vehicle.

    Dave

  • http://www.dcblogs.com kob

    Dave, I’ve already started and this particular report doesn’t represent a personal tipping point.

    But government reports are important because without them, governments are unlikely to take concerted actions. And some of the actions that a government takes may improve the range of alternative energy options for individuals. Increased government investment in basic science, for instance, in finding ways to lower the per watt cost of solar energy is something that is probably needed.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Increased government investment in basic science, for instance, in finding ways to lower the per watt cost of solar energy is something that is probably needed.

    That would indeed be nice. I’m trying to figure out how to solarize my house and right now it’s not terribly cost effecitve for private homeowners. Of course, any government program which would encurage more people to go solar would likely bring prices down, so long as it wasn’t just a straight subsidy which would encourage prices to remain inflated.

    dave

  • Joe

    Dave NalleWe can take initiative on an individual or local level to make an enormous difference in the environment. You can start by buying a hybrid or alternative fuel vehicle.

    I’ll think about that as soon as all the bigwigs, all our leaders, at this fancy IPCC summit forgo their private jets, helicopters, and limos. When all the cult-of-Gaia egos in Hollywood and Washington change their behavior I’ll know it’s for real.

  • Clavos

    Joe has a good point…

  • ProfEssays

    Climate change ia reality. However there is no unanimous opinion about its causes.

  • http://http//www.friendlymisanthropist.blogspot.com alessandro nicolo

    Clavos, glad you liked it. Joe does make a good point. ProfEssays, amen. KOB, this is my kind of debate. Nice and calm. Moonraven, whatever.

  • moonraven

    Any debate that’s “nice and calm” is not about anything worth bothering to debate.

  • Nancy

    I disagree, Joe; more often that not, causes get taken up by the ‘bigwigs’ because they’re so widespread among the grassroots, that our ‘leaders’ hasten to jump on the bandwagon before the public passes them by. Remember that old joke about the leader watching a large group of people run past him: ‘There go my people – I must lead them!’ Lol, like the Duke of Plaza-Toro, they lead their regiments from behind. Even ol’ Dubya has finally had to come out & grudgingly admit there might possibly be a tad of truth to this global warming stuff after all. At least, he now feels it would be politically inexpedient to either continue denying it or ignore it as he has in the past, because it would make him look like ALMOST as much of a fool as he already does by acknowledging it late.

    I read over a list of Living Green items the other day & was gratified to see I’ve already been doing a good many of them, being energy-efficient, combining car trip errands, walking more, recycling, not letting water run, etc.

    There are always going to be a percentage of those who just don’t care & have enough money to continue abusing the environment, but sometimes even they can be brought to heel through social pressure, in that it’s not fashionable to drive lo-mileage cars, etc. And of course we must continue to keep up pressure on our congressmaggots. Sometimes even they get the message.

  • http://www.antequeravillarental.com Christopher Rose

    moonraven: Debate can be wonderful and passionate but the endless trading of fixed positions coupled with humourless personal insults is simply boring and tedious.

  • Martin Lav

    “#9 — February 4, 2007 @ 21:55PM — driveby
    Global warming is a good thing. It will extend our growing season and produce bountiful crops, reduce the price of snow peas, tomatoes, spinach, okra and rudabegers. Burial costs will be less in cold areas because of less time to dig a grave. Snow plows will become a thing of the past. Lets just get a great tan and enjoy.”

    Is this you Dave Nalle?

  • http://www.dcblogs.com kob

    Global warming good for spinach? Hopefully spinach will soon be as cheap as Florida beachfront property.

    The nice thing about global warming debate is it is happening slow enough to allow someone to take a really stupid position (i.e. global warming is all natural goodness) and not have to worry.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    I have to admit I like Driveby’s subversive sense of humor. I’m glad he stuck around.

    As for global warming helping Spinach, I don’t see it. Spinach likes to grow in relatively cold weather. It might also be hard on cabbage.

    Dave

  • http://www.friendlymisanthropist.blogspot.com alessandro nicolo

    I like heated debates but Christopher explained it better than I.

  • driveby

    Spinach and cabbage will endure with adaptation. Must drink my V8. Global warming is a fact. Have not seen one polar bear in Nebraska this year. Them white hairy fucks ate all my snow peas last year. Tomatoes are doing great this winter.

  • Dan

    The data I’ve seen shows most of the 1 degree average increase occuring in the first half of the 20th century, then an actual decrease for 10-15 years, then a more pronounced increase in the last 10 or so years.

    The graph isn’t very convincing, to me, that there is a human correlation to the increase. But I’m open to the possibility.

    My skeptical side wonders why Mars is also experiencing global warming, and also the unexplained natural tendencies of the Earth to have gone through more dramatic climate changes in the past. Such as Greenland being an agriculturaly viable temperate zone around 900 -1400 AD.

    Those natural phenomena coupled with what I see as a a tendancy toward political motivation on the part of some contemporary scientists leaves me agnostic.

    If the current trend of rapidly rising temperatures in the last 10 – 15 years continues however, it certainly is worth more investigation.

  • driveby

    DID YOU MEAN TO SAY STUPID PRICK WHOM EATISH SHIT OR STOOPID SHIT EATING DOG? DONT MAKE A HENS EGG DIFFERENCE. THAT WOULD BE ME. THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMMENT AND PRAISE BE ALA. ZIP-A-DEE-DOO-DAH, ZIP-A-DEE-AY, MY, OH, MY, WHAT A WONDERFUL DAY.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    I’ll think about that as soon as all the bigwigs, all our leaders, at this fancy IPCC summit forgo their private jets, helicopters, and limos. When all the cult-of-Gaia egos in Hollywood and Washington change their behavior I’ll know it’s for real.

    If we have to wait for the hypocrites to show us the way we’re never going to get anything done. They’re almost as slow and unlikely to do the right thing as government.

    If we want change it has to start now and with each and every one of us doing his or her part individually. It will eventually add up.

    Dave

  • Doug Hunter

    I agree Dave. As long as the answer to our supposed problem is paying credit taxes to third world countries to borrow their pollution I’ll know this is not serious and just a method to redistribute wealth. If the carbon tax American citizens pay goes to American researchers and technology companies it’ll be a sign that we’re at least serious about a solution and I’d be much more likely to support it.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    It does seem to me that it would make a lot of sense for third world nations to start off on the right non-polluting foot rather than being encouraged to repeat our mistakes through what is essentially a carbon subsidy. Probably much cheaper in the long run for them to not pollute from the start, as well.

    dave

  • Ann NYC

    “I think the IPCC’s work is impressive, comprehensive and inclusive.”

    Are you talking about this report?

    “The first phase of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is being released in Paris next week. This segment, written by more than 600 scientists and reviewed by another 600 experts and edited by bureaucrats from 154 countries, includes “a significantly expanded discussion of observation on the climate,” said co-chair Susan Solomon, a senior scientist for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She and other scientists held a telephone briefing on the report Monday.

    Solomon and others wouldn’t go into specifics about what the report says. They said that the 12-page summary for policymakers will be edited in secret word-by-word by governments officials for several days next week and released to the public on Feb. 2. The rest of that first report from scientists will come out months later.”

    Are you privy to the full report? Please tell us what was in it before it was edited in secret by government officials. Citing 600 scientists is meaningless unless you include their experiments, their method, their conclusions, how they came to their conclusions, and what materials they actually contributed to the report. Furthermore, the credence supposedly gained by citing “numbers of scientists” is a sad combination of two logical fallacies, appeal to authority and appeal to popularity, two immediate disqualifiers of the argument from honest discussion. And 600 scientists? Do you know how many, scientists around the world work in these fields? I’m married to an experimental physicist and I’ll tell you first hand, true science is not conducted in secret and edited by government officials. This is not a peer reviewed science paper, it is a heavily edited policy piece with no transparency. This is only a “science” report if you live in the Soviet Union, other than that anyone who isn’t skeptical is either a political hack or doesn’t understand science at all.

    And to add to what Aku said, here’s a quote from Freeman Dyson on the models:

    “But I have studied their climate models and know what they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics and do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields, farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in.

    The real world is muddy and messy and full of things that we do not yet understand. It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models than to put on winter clothes and measure what is really happening outside in the swamps and the clouds. That’s why the climate model experts end up believing their own models.”

  • Joe

    Dave NalleIt does seem to me that it would make a lot of sense for world nations to start off on the right non-polluting foot rather than being encouraged to repeat our mistakes through what is essentially a carbon subsidy. Probably much cheaper in the long run for them to not pollute from the start, as well.

    It’d be better had we ALL started off on the right foot but asking South Africa to go straight from grass hut to Prius is asking too much.

  • Joe

    Ann NYCThe real world is muddy and messy and full of things that we do not yet understand. It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models than to put on winter clothes and measure what is really happening outside in the swamps and the clouds. That’s why the climate model experts end up believing their own models.”

    I think it’s worse then that. I’ve seen many reports from the mass media, bloggers, commentary, etc. hooting that “the debate is over” yet the report hasn’t been released yet.
    IPCC is just another fancy show with a targeted outcome. They got the results they intended to get.
    That’s why so many are already touting the report – they “know” what it’s going to say.

  • Clavos

    It’d be better had we ALL started off on the right foot but asking South Africa to go straight from grass hut to Prius is asking too much.

    As probably the most advanced country in Africa, I’m sure SA already has its share of Prius cars.

    There are, unfortunately, far more people living in slums like Soweto than in grass huts-most South Africans, Black and White, are city dwellers.

  • moonraven

    Now, driveby, you stay away from all that Nebraska beachfront property I am buying on the cheap.

    I don’t want you driving up the prices.

  • http://feb.8,07 vanity saddler

    yall are crazy this is whats about, climate change is not good for us and not good for people that are sick, okay .oeriod!