Fracking Off

October 13, 2009

posterpgHere’s an interesting article in the Colorado Independent on the public policy impacts of a film about fracking — hydraulic fracturing.  I’d be curious to hear reviews of Split Estate.  Might be worth going out of one’s way to see, particularly for local Colorado folks.


  1. This is extremely sloppy science and journalism: “Some physicians agree people are being poisoned by fumes and undisclosed chemicals in groundwater supplies. They say there are simply too many cases of breathing problems, dizziness, unexplained achiness, nausea, bloody noses and eyes, neurological disorders and tumours to discount as coincidence”.

    Has an epidemiologist looked at this cluster in a scientific manner? Time and time again clusters are investigated and found not to be real; occasionally they are real. This looks like a cluster of syndromes for which the etiology is always hard to nail down. Maybe they just need better doctors.

  2. Don’t know. Haven’t seen the film. One of my grad students did an extensive term project on fracking, and she seemed pretty persuaded that the human health risks were substantial. I don’t have the research on me, but I recall that her paper and presentation were quite well documented.

  3. Not one of those syndromes is rare; how about a little quantification of ‘simply too many cases’?

  4. Check out pubmed if you’re curious. It’s a film, not a journal of epidemiology.

  5. Oh, so it being a film excuses the sloppy science. Let’s nominate it for an Oscar. Give the producer a Nobel. How about the Heisman?

  6. It being a film _blurb_ just means that you don’t have enough information to judge whether the science is sloppy.

  7. Ah, I see. I was just going by the quote in the article, which is not supported.

    I’d like you to pardon my occasionally angry tone. If the slumbering sun is presaging a new Grand or Lesser Minimum, we are facing a catastrophic global cooling, with much crop failure and mass starvation. Even if it isn’t so presaging, we probably face two to three decades of mild cooling from the cooling phases of the oceanic oscillations, which will be no picnic to get through, particularly if we are wrong-footed into mitigating a warming that isn’t happening instead of adapting to a cooling that is happening. Casual acceptance of sloppy science has gotten us into this dangerous pass, and I’ve little tolerance for it. The stakes are too high.

    • You need not apologize for tone. Like you, my expectations for this blog were somewhat high. I was, and am still, interested in having an intelligent outsider and agnostic be a living witness to this remarkable process.
      To understand how we got here Ben needs to understand the role of faith in scientific story-building. And this role is vehemently denied by both the scientists in question and the policymakers that they feed.

      • ‘Remarkable process’ indeed. This broken paradigm that CO2=AGW and the hoax of the hockey stick are going to be the subject of numerous doctoral theses in the history and philosophy of science. I note we haven’t heard a whole lot from Naomi Oreskes, lately.

      • What is a “hoax”? I don’t know the answer. But it is my current hunch that it is too strong a word for the scientific proposition co2=agw. Too easily argued against (e.g. co2+bc=agw). But it may not be too strong a word for the alarmist proposition of planetary socio-ecological meltdown. It may not be too strong a word for the belief that there are simple solutions that won’t have equally costly unintended consequences. I would never use such a word, myself. But then again I’m not seeking to be provocative the way kim is.

      • whoops, I see now kim applied the word “hoax” to the hockey stick, not the co2=agw proposition. sorry, kim. On that point I would have to agree: tree ring based hockey stick reconstructions are pure bunkum. Sometimes the source of the bunkum is a math-based hockey-stick picker (e.g. Mann et al 1998). Sometimes it is outright, old-fashioned, undocumented cherry-picking (Briffa’s Yamal substitution). In the latter case the bunkum is far easier to debunk.

      • Heh, no need to apologize for that, bender. I’m sure I’ve characterized CO2=AGW as a hoax somewhere, but it is really just a failing paradigm. It is too simple, and is now yielding to orders of magnitude better understanding of the complexity of climate regulation.

        The earth is a huge analogue computer processing thermodynamically untold numbers of forcings and feedbacks. It is possible that it is beyond human understanding, but I’m doubtful of that. Predictability may be beyond our ability ever, though.

      • What’s strange to me is how the black-carbon-on-white-snow albedo forcing seems to have dropped off the agenda in favor of CO2. There is not as much tropical tropospheric warming as predicted in the models. But the Arctic warming exceeds what’s predicted in the models. Not just today, but in the 1930s as well, this puzzled Hansen. Does this not point to a possible estimation error in the relative strengths of co2 vs BC? I don’t know if the paradigm is broken, or failing, or if it’s just not working as advertised.

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