Archive for the ‘Climate’ Category


Global Warming Weather Report

January 5, 2011

Fox Boss

December 15, 2010

Media Matters has the scoop on an issue that should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the environmental discourse. The head honcho at Fox ordered his people to question climate change.

From: Sammon, Bill
To: 169 -SPECIAL REPORT; 036 -FOX.WHU; 054 -FNSunday; 030 -Root (FoxNews.Com); 050 -Senior Producers; 051 -Producers; 069 -Politics; 005 -Washington
Cc: Clemente, Michael; Stack, John; Wallace, Jay; Smith, Sean
Sent: Tue Dec 08 12:49:51 2009
Subject: Given the controversy over the veracity of climate change data…

…we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies.

Best part about this memo? The ambiguity in the final sentence. So they finally agree that their view is that journalists are to play the role of asserting such notions as facts.

Almost done with the book, which means that I’ll soon be blogging a little more frequently.



SBSTA Plenary

November 30, 2010

Got off to another late start today, about 45 minutes late. Travel to the conference center was considerably easier, though still not the efficient mapping accomplishment that gives mathematicians the giggles.

Listening now to Christiana Figueres give the opening to the plenary. and now, the Chair of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBTSA) is laying the groundrules of the discussion. He’s just stated that he won’t allow any of the discussions to go beyond 6:00 PM. Gotta get out and enjoy the beaches, of course. More on the SBSTA event as it unfolds…

Meanwhile, let me recount my experience last night, which will eventually fall below this.

Yemen is speaking now, arguing for a party solution. Australia follows; want an effective global climate agreement. Grenada up; Korea now; lots of introductory le’ts-do-something talk.


The Climate Game

November 2, 2010

This new climate change video game strikes me as a ridiculous idea. The game, Fate of the World, “is a dramatic global strategy game that puts all our futures in your hands. The game features a dramatic set of scenarios based on the latest science covering the next 200 years. You must manage a balancing act of protecting the Earth’s resources and climate versus the needs of an ever-growing world population, who are demanding ever more food, power, and living space. Will you help the whole planet or will you be an agent of destruction?”

Let’s see. Every game ever made, with the possible exception of SimCity and Leisure Suit Larry is oriented around destroying the hell out of things. What do you suspect the kids will do when they get their hands on this game?

I know what I would’ve done. Saving the world just isn’t much fun. I suppose there probably is something kinda interesting in trying to destroy the world through stupid policy interventions, but it’s gonna take a mighty sophisticated game player to make sense of this thing.

I’ll be curious to see how it sells. I’m not a gamer, so what do I know?


Lying = Bad

October 25, 2010

Don Brown has “published” another “article” up on his blog. Every time he does this, he announces the post as if it’s a true-to-life article, or a paper, or some such peer-reviewed document. Here’s how he made the announcement on the Climate-L list:

A new article is available that encourages serious reflection on the harm and damage by well-financed scientific disinformation campaigns that goes far beyond reasonable skepticism and spreads utterly false scientific laims such as that the science of climate change has been completely “debunked” or that there is “no evidence”of human causation. This is not skepticism but utter distortion.

The paper argues that those who want to claim no evidence of huge damages from human induced climate change are violating ethical responsibilities and that this is a serious problem calling for further reflection about how to classify such irresponsible behavior. The paper argues that there are ethical responsibilities that climate skeptics must follow. The article asks if this behavior should be classified as a new type of crime against humanity.

I don’t want to pick nits with Don, but really, this is a blog post. It’s not an article. It’s not a paper. It’s not published. It’s posted on a website that he controls. He can write about his infatuation with the sweat glands of badgers and mule deer for all we care, and it will still somehow make it into the public discourse.

And his point in this “article” is one that, I take it, is the obvious underlying normative claim of Merchants of Doubt, which is the book from which he starts his post: lying and fabricating information are unacceptable. Except that, Brown wants to classify this sort of fabrication as a crime against humanity. (No kidding.)

Here’s his conclusion:

The international community does not have a word for this type of crime yet, but the international community should find a way of classifying extraordinarily irresponsible scientific claims that could lead to mass suffering as some type of crime against humanity.

Yeah, so…that’s crazy. But, hell, what’s a little hyperbole and embellishment between friends? As long as we’re criticizing hyperbole and embellishment, might as well have a taste from the punch bowl.


Beauty and the Beetle

October 24, 2010

Colorado’s own Dan Sturgis has a really nice post on the beauty of beetle kill. Worth stopping by for the full post:

So putting those premises together, if you appreciate the beetle killed forests for what they are: an integral part of the forest ecology then you should find it aesthetically positive.  This is not to say that you’ll find it pretty, it’s an acquired taste.  However, it seems worthy of all sorts of positive attributes: interesting, dynamic, surprising (in some ways), and powerful.

So why do so many people think that beetle kills are ugly?  For the same reason that people think their children’s scribblings deserve to be put on display in a museum: ignorance.   With our temporal shortsightedness we see the dying trees and think “it will never be the same again.”  We get sentimental about dying things, and we think that dead trees are bad.  Dying aspen leaves are pretty because we are savvy enough to know that the trees don’t die and that the leaves grow back.   To worry about the lack of prettiness of a pine beetle forest is to appreciate it in the wrong way.  It imposes a landscape appreciation on nature and as such appreciates nature as art (not for what it is).


We deal with the same question in the climate change debate directly although environmentalists would like to pretend that we don’t.  That is, people who know, know that the earth has been hotter and colder than the range of changes predicted to come about from human caused climate change.  Said another way, the impending climate change is within the historic range of variation.  While the skeptics who point this out are scientifically correct they are morally obtuse.

Mother Nature is not responsible for her actions but we are.   We can do otherwise.  The people who know, know that humans are effecting changes that will cause (and maybe already are causing) harms to humans and other species.  We bear the responsibility for these harms.   So for climate change in general and the pine beetle outbreak in particular, it may look natural, but it isn’t.  It’s like “Fountain,” it may look like a urinal, but it’s not.

This then prompts the second hard question, how should this knowledge affect our aesthetic appreciation?   When we view the pine beetle outbreak we must view its naturalness but we must also view the heavy hand of humans which has likely extended it.  This mixed appreciation is worthy of mixed emotions.   It’s as if nature had created a beautiful stone arch and humankind decided that it was not round enough and so taken a chisel to it, or perhaps it’s like the beautiful sunset that we know has been enhanced by the particulate matter belched from industrial smokestacks.    Maybe more aptly, it is a case of poorly performed dynamics; a crescendo rendered too quickly and forte rendered fortissimo (o.k. it’s been since I was 12 since I played piano and knew –sort of- what these terms meant).   Perhaps as we learn more about the scope of our present effect on the outbreak we will learn more how to interpret and judge this event.   Given what we know at present, I think the human hand tarnishes the beetle kill’s beauty but does not dispel it.




Odenbaugh and Jamieson

September 30, 2010

Jay Odenbaugh and Dale Jamieson discuss climate change and ethics on teh philosophy teevee. Worth your time:

In this conversation, Jamieson and Odenbaugh discuss how climate change raises novel philosophical concerns and underscores traditional ones.  Climate change, they explain, poses a challenge for both consequentialism and its alternatives, and brings out questions about our obligations to future generations and about the moral status of non-humans. Further, the public controversy over climate science involves questions about the epistemology of testimony, the value-neutrality of science, and action under uncertainty.


Crazy Bear

September 11, 2010


Vodpod videos no longer available.


Adaptation, IPCC Style

September 1, 2010

Nature has a nice piece on the recent report on the IPCC process:

Founded in 1988, the IPCC’s task of providing climate information to the UN has grown in complexity — along with the overall size of its annual budget, which is underwritten by member nations (see chart). The IPCC’s chairman,Rajendra Pachauri, says that the review bolsters the IPCC’s reputation and demonstrates that the science it provides is fundamentally sound. “My hope is that the accumulation of so many investigations into climate science in such a short period of time will strengthen public confidence so that we can move forward,” he says.

Harold Shapiro, a former president of Prince ton University, New Jersey, who chaired the review panel, credited the IPCC with enormous successes, both in terms of assessing the science of climate change and garnering support from governments around the world. “But fundamental changes are necessary to ensure its continued success,” Shapiro says.


The report recommended that the IPCC strengthen its science-review process by encouraging review editors to use their existing authority to ensure that comments from reviewers are “adequately considered” when drafting assessments. The panel suggested that editors and authors could work together to rank reviewer’s comments on the assessments to help manage the huge workload (drafts of the last assessment received 90,000 comments). Procedures must also be clarified for using and labelling ‘grey literature’ that has not been peer reviewed, such as reports by government agencies and advocacy groups.

It will be interesting to see how these standards of judgment–“adequately considered,” for instance–play out in the broader political scene. As an academic, I don’t have a huge problem with them. It is clear that we must all use our judgment, and where the line of adequate consideration falls seems to me both about the best one can ask for and also a standard that is ripe for spitting on.

In other news, watermelons have seeds?? Who knew?


Cuccinelli Smackdown

August 31, 2010

The lawsuit against UVA and Michael Mann has been thrown out:

The University resisted the demand on both technical and broad constitutional grounds. Today Judge Paul M. Peatross, Jr. of the Sixteenth Judicial Court of Virginia issued a six-page letter completely dismissing the CIDs issued by Cuccinelli on the ground that he shown no objective “reason to believe” that the University in fact possesses any “materials relevant to a false claims law investigation” and that he also did not state “the ‘nature of the conduct’ with sufficiency to satisfy the requirement of the statute.” I.e., the Attorney General is not given power by the statutes of Virginia to enage in what is the equivalent of a sweeping general warrant based on nothing more than his own ideological zeal and belief (even if sincere) that something was amiss.