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Scam December 10, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics, Science.
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If you are tempted to question climate change because of the recent flap over hacked emails that are alleged to show scientists falsifying data, you should read Lee Fang’s article, “A Case Of Classic SwiftBoating: How The Right-Wing Noise Machine Manufactured ‘Climategate’ “. Fang shows how conservatives distort facts in order to discredit legitimate science:

…Polluter-funded climate skeptics, along with their allies in conservative media and the Republican Party, sifted through the e-mails, and quickly cherry picked quotes to falsely accuse climate scientists of concocting climate change science out of whole cloth. The skeptics also propelled the story, dubbed “Climategate,” to the cover of the New York Times and newspapers across the globe. According to a Nexis news search, the Climategate story has been reported at least 325 times in the American press alone.

…As the right attempts to use the Climategate story to derail the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference this week, arctic sea ice is still at historically low levels, Australia is still on fire, the northern United Kingdom is still underwater, the world’s glaciers are still disappearing and today NOAA confirmed that not only is it the hottest decade in history, but 2009 was one of the hottest years in history. But how did the right-wing noise machine hijack the debate?

And the media goes right along with the scam:

A right-wing echo chamber — including the Rev. Moon-funded Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, talk radio, and the constellation of various conservative front groups and think tanks — would then blare the scandal incessantly, regardless of the truth. But the more troubling aspect of this gimmick is the increasing willingness for traditional media outlets, from the Evening News to the Washington Post, to largely reprint unfounded right-wing smears without context or critical reporting.

One of the most successful coups for right-wing hit men was the “SwiftBoat” campaign, a well financed effort orchestrated by lobbyists and Bush allies to smear Sen. John Kerry’s (D-MA) war record. But “Climategate” is no different, with many of the same conservatives actors playing their respective roles…

Fang provides a detailed chronology of the media campaign to discredit global warming science.

Despite this nonsense, in fact, the scientific consensus on climate change has been achieved through the publication of thousands of independent peer-reviewed papers and field research.

The hacked emails show only that scientists are human and care about putting their data in the best light. Is that some kind of earth-shaking revelation? A scientific consensus such as that enjoyed by the global warming hypothesis is formed when competing scientists with an interest in making their own reputations can’t refute the data.

When data withstands repeated tests it becomes the consensus.

A few scientists dressing up their graphs does not threaten the underlying science of global warming.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

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No Patience With Fools December 10, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts, Science.
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Al Gore is fired up. In a recent Slate interview he lays into global warming skeptics.

“[W]e’re putting 90 million tons of it into the air today and we’ll put a little more of that up there tomorrow. The physical relationship between CO2 molecules and the atmosphere and the trapping of heat is as well-established as gravity, for God’s sakes. It’s not some mystery. One hundred and fifty years ago this year, John Tyndall discovered CO2 traps heat, and that was the same year the first oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania. The oil industry has outpaced the building of a public consensus of the implications of climate science.

“But the basic facts are incontrovertible. What do they [global warming deniers] think happens when we put 90 million tons up there every day? Is there some magic wand they can wave on it and presto! — physics is overturned and carbon dioxide doesn’t trap heat anymore? And when we see all these things happening on the Earth itself, what in the hell do they think is causing it? The scientists have long held that the evidence in their considered word is ‘unequivocal,’ which has been endorsed by every national academy of science in every major country in the entire world.

“If the people that believed the moon landing was staged on a movie lot had access to unlimited money from large carbon polluters or some other special interest who wanted to confuse people into thinking that the moon landing didn’t take place, I’m sure we’d have a robust debate about it right now.”

And on MSNBC:

“Well, you know, the global warming deniers persist in this air of unreality,” …. “After all, the entire north polar icecap, which has been there for most of the last 3 million years, is disappearing before our eyes. Forty percent is already gone. The rest is expected to go completely within the next decade. What do they think is causing this?

Unfortunately, the news media continues to publicize nitwits who want to gamble with life on earth.

book-section-book-cover2Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

Friday Food Blogging July 31, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, Food and Drink.
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Ezra Klein wants you to eat your vegetables. And I think that is good advice, not only because vegetables are good for you but because the consumption of meat makes a substantial contribution to global warming.

According to a 2006 United Nations report, livestock accounts for 18 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Some of meat’s contribution to climate change is intuitive. It’s more energy efficient to grow grain and feed it to people than it is to grow grain and turn it into feed that we give to calves until they become adults that we then slaughter to feed to people. Some of the contribution is gross. “Manure lagoons,” for instance, is the oddly evocative name for the acres of animal excrement that sit in the sun steaming nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. And some of it would make Bart Simpson chuckle. Cow gas — interestingly, it’s mainly burps, not farts — is a real player.

But the result isn’t funny at all: Two researchers at the University of Chicago estimated that switching to a vegan diet would have a bigger impact than trading in your gas guzzler for a Prius. A study out of Carnegie Mellon University found that the average American would do less for the planet by switching to a totally local diet than by going vegetarian one day a week.

I am not a vegetarian and don’t intend to become one; I love my meats. But cutting back to 1 or 2 meat meals a week is not much of a sacrifice, especially because chicken and fish contribute little to climate change compared to beef.

According to a recent study by Christopher L. Weber and H. Scott Matthews of at Carnegie Mellon University (funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Science Foundation):

The production phase is responsible for 83 percent of the average U.S. household’s greenhouse-gas burden with regard to food, while transportation accounts for only 11 percent, the new study found. The production of red meat, the researchers conclude, is almost 150 percent more greenhouse-gas-intensive than chicken or fish.

As Klein argues:

It’s also worth saying that this is not a call for asceticism. It’s not a value judgment on anyone’s choices. Going vegetarian might not be as effective as going vegan, but it’s better than eating meat, and eating meat less is better than eating meat more. It would be a whole lot better for the planet if everyone eliminated one meat meal a week than if a small core of die-hards developed perfectly virtuous diets.

Climate Change Deniers April 7, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts, Ethics, Science.
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Cross-posted at Reviving the Left

I’m curious. What makes people cavalier about making the earth uninhabitable?

Freeman Dyson is without question a brilliant physicist (although not a climate scientist). But, as this recent NY Times article reminds us, he continues to claim that we ought not do much about global warming?

The consensus among climate scientists that anthropogenic climate change is real is substantial. I understand that there are some scientists who question the models on which projections of global warming are based. But how confident can we be in these dissenting opinions given the substantial consensus? Scientific consensus is sometimes mistaken, but it isn’t typically mistaken, and is seldom entirely wrong about very settled beliefs. Getting on board with the deniers seems a risky bet. It is possible that our climate models are wrong but surely the probability is relatively low.

I understand that there is considerable uncertainty regarding the effects of climate change. How large the climatic effects will be, what parts of the world will be most affected, etc. cannot be known at this point, although we can make some highly educated guesses. But why would it be rational for any country to gamble that they won’t be affected given the potential for catastrophic outcomes?

And there is justifiable controversy over how much the mitigation of the effects of climate change will cost and who will bear these costs. There are clearly opportunity costs to spending lots of resources on mitigating climate change—the money could be used to alleviate poverty, for instance. But most current models of the effects of climate change predict significant disruption in agriculture and habitation patterns that promise substantially more misery than the disadvantaged experience today. If we ignore climate change, we are taking great risks with their lives.

Moreover, there is credible evidence that new green technologies will be a powerful stimulus to economic growth both in developed and underdeveloped countries.

My problem with global warming deniers is not merely that they are opposing the scientific consensus. Science often advances when qualified scientists challenge the consensus. There will always be scientists who devote their lives to showing an hypothesis to be false, if they can. That is their job. My problem is with the judgment that we ought to base policy on this aspiration to be iconoclastic.

Risking lives on the basis of a belief one knows to be probably false is a case of bad moral judgment. This is true even if one has doubts about the climate models. The issue is not so much a matter of science but of morality. It is morally wrong to risk great harm based on a hypothesis that is likely to be false.

Like Wall St. bankers, climate change deniers think they can make risky bets and someone else will pick up the tab.