Archive for November 3rd, 2009


Down the Line

November 3, 2009

How is it that when Angela Merkel signals that “we all know we have no time to lose” on climate change the polarity in our congress somehow becomes all the more apparent?

While the entire Democratic side gave those remarks a standing ovation, most Republicans — including key swing voters, such as Sen. Richard G. Lugar (Ind.) — remained in their seats. When Merkel added that curbing greenhouse gas emissions would spur growth in “innovative” jobs worldwide, the same partisan divide marked lawmakers’ reaction.

I can understand how there might be objections over the jobs question, as policy differences map roughly onto party differences. But on the question of the magnitude of the problem, why is there an equal political split there? Shouldn’t that cut across parties differently? Are we correct to infer that the differences aren’t about prioritization of policies, but rather about agreement on the climatic state of affairs? I find that very hard to believe.

I have no answers for my questions, except that if ever there was evidence of politicization in the climate change discussion, this is it.


Reaching No Consensus

November 3, 2009

The New York Times wrote today of a recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences [original study here] on how the Mt. Kilimanjaro ice cap has declined 26% since 2000. The author of the NYT article, Sindya N. Banhoo, goes on to say the following in the second paragraph:

Yet the authors of the study, to be published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reached no consensus on whether the melting could be attributed mainly to humanity’s role in warming the global climate.

The pretty green is my contribution. Even after prettying it up, I think the language remains deceptive and fallacious. To that, then, I dedicate this post.

I don’t usually go to the source on news articles, but for some reason I felt the urge to do so in this case. One thing the NYT article doesn’t emphasize — it is mentioned later in the piece, but it isn’t the focus of the story — is in the abstract of the NAS study. To quote the authors:

The Northern Ice Field has persisted at least 11,700 years and survived a widespread drought 4,200 years ago that lasted 300 years. We present additional evidence that the combination of processes driving the current shrinking and thinning of Kilimanjaro’s ice fields is unique within an 11,700-year perspective. If current climatological conditions are sustained, the ice fields atop Kilimanjaro and on its flanks will likely disappear within several decades.

So first, it is important to note that the original NAS study is limited in scope to a discussion of the Mt. Kilimanjaro ice cap. What I think got me to look at the source was the implication by the NY Times that the authors of the study “reached no consensus” on whether the melting could be attributed to humanity’s role in global warming. It would strike me as outrageous if the authors of a narrow study on Mt. Kilimanjaro ice caps did reach such a consensus, so I had to see for myself.

Here’s what the original piece has to say on anthropogenic forcing…

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