Archive for October 1st, 2009

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Hockey Stick Redux

October 1, 2009

Before anyone reads any further, I want to offer up an extraordinary disclaimer: What I’m about to say should be taken as the view of a relative outsider.  I’m approaching the following issue as a philosopher, hopefully impartially, and looking at the reasons that are offered by (at least) two parties.  I want to discern who has the burden of proof, who has to demonstrate what, given the scientific state of affairs.  In particular, I want to respond to growing excitement in the community of those who are skeptical about the data on climate change (a.k.a. the Skeptics, Deniers, and Denialists).  I don’t want to introduce a discussion about the climate science itself, since I’m not really qualified to do so, except as a well-educated non-specialist.  Further, as a well-educated non-specialist, my tendency is to defer to established scientific record — which in this case is the IPCC AR4, as well as most of the climate science following from that — and to make judgments about the reliability of challenges to this record based on my understanding both that shenanigans happen in the peer review process and the scientific record is open to amendment.

I can’t give the whole back-story on the issue I’m responding to, as it’s way too convoluted.  Best to refer to my colleague Roger Pielke Jr. for his take on things, and then to refer to McIntyre’s original post, followed by Bishop Hill’s relatively straightforward, albeit extremely entertaining, accusation that some very famous climate data was cherry-picked (or insufficiently and unjustifiably employed, depending on your preference).  When you’re done with that treat, follow it up with a heavy shot of RealClimate.  Roger thinks RealClimate is unjustifiably bristly.  I’m not so sure.

Point being: I’m really stepping into the thick of things here.  Not sure why.  Sadism, perhaps.  Stupidity, maybe.  Too much wine, most likely.  This issue has just caught my attention.  Anyone who would like to fillet me should feel free, though they should know that even with my extraordinary disclaimer, my skin ain’t that thin and I can usually hold my own.

Now, on to it. Read the rest of this entry ?

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John Derbyshire is Hysterically Funny

October 1, 2009

Hah hah hah. (Well worth a listen: John Derbyshire on The Case Against Female Suffrage.)

And why not repeal a woman’s right to vote?  It’s not like they’re people.

My sides ache.

Apparently this is a standard confusion among conservatives.  Allow me to clarify.  People have the right to vote not because they’ll vote the right way (nor because you agree with them, nor because they’re so smart, nor because they’re right).  If that were the case, there wouldn’t be much sense in voting.  We could just identify people who had the correct views, give them the right to vote, and then sit on our hands confident that those correct views were then somehow expressed by the people we had selected as representative.  Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

People have the right to vote because they’re people.  It’s a basic right, adhering to their personhood, which pretty much isn’t determined by the size or shape of a person’s genitalia.  There’s a much longer derivation of this, but I’ll spare everyone the pain.  Best to defer to Horton for further clarification.

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EPA Moves In

October 1, 2009

One must question the political wisdom of yesterday’s move by the Obama administration to bring the EPA in as a regulator of greenhouse gases.   Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a fan.  The EPA should be regulating greenhouse gases, just as they regulate all pollutants.  In this case, I think it’s fair to say that GHGs are pollutants, no matter their effect on the climate.   A glass of tomato juice is a pollutant when dumped in the ocean, even though it doesn’t much affect the ocean.

But what concerns me is the extent to which the introduction of this as a tactic may be overplaying the administration’s hand.

The move was timed to come on the same day that two Democratic senators, John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and Barbara Boxer of California, introduced global warming and energy legislation that faces a steep climb to passage this year.

What has me swirling is confusion over how this may be interpreted.   What with Copenhagen coming up, the pressure’s on to deliver some climate bill, however symbolic, before December.  At the same time, the pressure’s on to deliver a public option as well.  Pushing too hard on climate regulation could cause health reform to fail, and vice versa.  At the same time, they could be mutually reinforcing.   I suppose that this is the administration’s strategy.

My suspicion is that this is something like the Rovian approach — assault the opposition with as much major policy stuff as possible, as fast as possible.  As it happens, I’m not a huge fan of Rove, and while I see the efficacy of his approach, I just don’t know if I feel terribly enthusiastic about its implication for democratic decision-making.

More substantively, the problem with this move is that EPA’s power to regulate will primarily be only on new sources of emissions, so it may offer an easy out for fence-sitting democrats who are concerned about looking too much like they’re marching in lock-step with the rest of the party.  In other words  EPA’s regulatory power is not sufficient to do the heavy lifting that’s needed to cut back emissions from US industry.  We need something really strong.  If EPA were to regulate in conjunction with the Kerry-Boxer/Waxman-Markey bill, in whatever form it passes, this would be considerably better.  So the question is whether this is jumping the gun.

It’ll be mighty interesting to see how things play out as health care and Kerry-Boxer wends its way through the senate.