Maybe I'm just irritable

Boy, am I finding myself irritated a lot this week. I'm not enjoying the book I'm reading, the chairman of the Augusta Golf Club is making me roll my eyes, and the Times continues to annoy me with its Style section. (I will defend my right to find the Times Style section impossibly irritating until my dying day.) And now The New Yorker has gone and done it. This was the first thing I read last night when I started to leaf through the most recent issue:
Joe Bastardi, who goes by the title “expert senior forecaster” at AccuWeather, has a modest proposal. Virtually every major scientific body in the world has concluded that the planet is warming, and that greenhouse-gas emissions are the main cause. Bastardi, who holds a bachelor’s degree in meteorology, disagrees. His theory, which mixes volcanism, sunspots, and a sea-temperature trend known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, is that the earth is actually cooling. Why don’t we just wait twenty or thirty years, he proposes, and see who’s right? This is “the greatest lab experiment ever,” he said recently on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News show.

Bastardi’s position is ridiculous (which is no doubt why he’s often asked to air it on Fox News). Yet there it was on the front page of the Times last week. Among weathermen, it turns out, views like Bastardi’s are typical. A survey released by researchers at George Mason University found that more than a quarter of television weathercasters agree with the statement “Global warming is a scam,” and nearly two-thirds believe that, if warming is occurring, it is caused “mostly by natural changes.” (The survey also found that more than eighty per cent of weathercasters don’t trust “mainstream news media sources,” though they are presumably included in this category.)

I go off the Good Liberal reservation on global warming. (Cue boos.) This is in large part due to the skepticism of a very smart person who happens to be an expert in energy issues, and who I know very well. (He may or may not be related to me.) He's skeptical, and he's done a big heaping ton of research on the issue, and thus I am skeptical. If we are expected to accept global warming on the strength of the authority of a bunch of scientists we don't actually know, then I feel like I am free to question it based upon the authority of a particular scientist I happen to know very well.

Thus, I get very irked when people who question the legitimacy of anthropogenic climate change are dismissed as charlatans or idiots. Just like Elizabeth Kolbert does above.

I will concede that part of Bastardi's argument is ridiculous. A major part of the argument for climate change legislation is that we are at a critical period to prevent further worsening of the problem. Simply waiting and seeing how things go for the next 20 years or so is not a neutral recommendation, no matter how blithe Bastardi may be about it.

However, the way Kolbert writes about "weathercasters" is also too clever by half. It is impossible to know from what she writes what qualifications the people surveyed have, but presumably a great many of them are meteorologists (like Bastardi). Meteorologists are, in fact, scientists. (I checked.) And while the American Meteorological Society does seem to generally endorse anthropogenic climate change, that does not mean that members of said society ("weathercasters" or otherwise) are not free to dissent. Such dissent is not a de facto negation of their right to be taken seriously, any more than my scorn at the AAP's recommendation that hot dogs be re-engineered voids my certification as a pediatrician.

These people spend their days talking about and studying the weather. Isn't it worth at least a moment's pause to consider if maybe their opinion about the weather is worth being taken the least bit seriously? But no. Instead, Kolbert writes them off because they don't trust "mainstream media news sources." (For what? Information about the climate? I don't trust the mainstream media news sources for information about medicine, either.) Idiots, apparently, every one of them.

As God is my witness, I would rather superglue my fingers together than defend Fox News, but maybe Bastardi chooses to air his views there because only Fox News will give him a say. (I know, I know. This is only because he already tells them what they want to hear. I won't argue that they're airing his views because of a sincere belief in intellectual honesty.) Maybe if "mainstream media sources" hadn't decided that all dissent on climate change is the work of frauds and morons, more of them would express their views in non-Fox media sources.

You know. Like The New Yorker.


  1. Meteorologists are not Climatologists, their field is different. Why would I give any particular credence to a Podiatrist at the conference on Pediatrics? Weather and Climate are not the same.
    The Polar ice sheets are melting. I have seen pictures in National Geographic which document this quite well. In addition, glaciers in Europe which have existed for all of the recorded history of mankind are retreating at an alarming rate (with interesting anthropological discoveries as a result). Something must be causing this. Now let us say it is not mankind it is x. OK, but what I don't understand is even if it is the case what is the rationale to continue pumping tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere if we can devise an alternative? Are you so in love with pollution? Beyond that, are you so in love with Saudi Princes funneling billions of petro-dollars to Al Qaeda and organizations that are out to kill American soldiers?
    Fossil fuels are a dead end for countless reasons (pollution, terrorism, limited supply, climate change etc.) We all know this but are too stupid, too greedy, and too shortsighted to do whatever it takes to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels. Even if every Climatologist tomorrow proved that greenhouse gases do not contribute to global warming I would still want to lessen our dependence on them. Frankly, Bastardis views are utterly irrelevant as to the concerns of most Americans, which should be striving to energy independence using renewable resources. Do Podiatrists go on Fox news to discuss Pediatrics? Of course not. The only reason Bastardi goes on air is to allow those who profit from fossil fuels to continue on.
    This controversy, from our interests, should be as irrelevant (from a National security standpoint) to Americans as what killed the Dinosaurs, and that is only if he were right. If he is wrong (as is likely) then it is another reason to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels.
    And yes, there are many, many things we can do. France gets 70% of its electricity from Nuclear power as one example.
    As to myself, all my electricity in my home is from Wind power, and the hot water in my house is from the sun. I ride my bike to the store.
    I am no eco-nut but I am happy to have saved thousands of dollars the past few years. And yes, everyone can do it. No one needs Central air conditioning, etc.


  2. To be fair, Doc, he was also on Colbert.

    I think Charo is right, though. While the science of this often goes over my head, and I can't accurately judge it, I do think that meteorologists are far more concerned with the short-term, and tend to see things in that scope. And hey- if you aren't sure if it is going to be raining tomorrow, how can you be sure of 100 years? So there is that mentality. Again, this doesn't make them wrong, but it helps to explain why there is such a difference.

  3. A couple of follow-up points to make:

    1) I am not nearly facile enough with the particulars of the science to defend my views cogently. For what it's worth, the general public is asked to believe in anthropogenic climate change based upon an appeal to authority, in this case scientific. As a rule, I don't have a beef with this approach. We can't possibly know enough about all the various complex issues that swirl around us to to make truly informed decisions about all of them, so "scientific consensus" has to do. However, in this particular case I actually have access to a specific scientist who I know to be acting in good faith, very bright, and paying attention. I do not hope (or plan to try) to persuade anyone to believe what I believe on this issue, but it is the reason why I, myself, am skeptical. On that note, while I cannot provide good evidence to refute much of what charo says, I know someone who could.

    2) I am not arguing that meteorologists are equivalent to climatologists, or that their views should be held in equal esteem. However, neither do I feel that the views of the former can be dismissed so easily because they do not comport with the prevailing wisdom on the left. Their training is science-based, they do attend closely to changes in weather patterns, and thus I do not think their views are worthless, or (at very least) do not deserve more than a snide throw-away comment from the likes of Kolbert.

  4. DrDan, the troubling thing about this is not the dispute, scientists argue about what killed the dinosaur for instance, but the political ends that people use the climate change deniers for, which is the perpetuation of the fossil fuel industry. There are simply far too many reasons outside of global warming to do something about it.

    And beyond this, even if your friend is right, so what? What can be the worst that happens if everyone believes incorrectly that there is man made global warming, we will be marginally less rich? Yet, of course, we will also be marginally safer and living in a cleaner environment. The best that can happen is we attain energy independence and become far richer than we would otherwise be.

    Of course we (average citizens) should dismiss this meteorologists since his claims are at best irrelevant and at worst a needless distraction to our own national security.


  5. I side with Dr. Dan. I remain unconvinced with the efforts to date of the climate catastrophe clique, I remain unconvinced that we won't be in far better shape to deal with the effects of warming should they be ill -- and they may very well be for good -- and I'm absolutely opposed to hairshirt environmentalism as a philosophy of life. I am adamantly opposed to letting the third world remain in poverty to keep the carbon haters happy.

    I agree with charo that we should not be sending squillions to the unstable regimes in the Middle East. Nuclear power for the next 100 years while we develop fusion or orbiting solar makes good sense.

    Let's all join hands and sing kumbaya!

  6. I am fully in favor of energy independence on its merits, not because of fears about global warming.

  7. If you will forgive the correction to Charo's initial comment, while it is quite easy to go up to Alaska and take a photo of glaciers spalling ice, that does not in itself prove anything.

    For example, while there were a couple of years when the total ice in the Arctic fell below average levels, it is now returning to them .

    When folk comment about glacier retreat they suggest that this is relatively new, but most glaciers have been retreating for over 150 years, since the end of the Little Ice Age, and this has been extensively documented around the world by scientists such as Jean Grove. In the process, in the Alps, there is some evidence that many glaciers were not present in Roman times, and that as the glaciers retreat at present they are exposing Roman ruins of construction.

    There are a couple of hundred glaciers in the Himalayas that are growing instead of retreating. The state of Maine has had a relatively constant increase in average temperature now since 1895, while the average temperature for Missouri shows no significant increase over that time period.

    Calling us deniers is perjorative, as it is meant to be, and it reflects the problem that this particular debate has become much more political than the science reflects. Sadly, as the Climategate e-mails show, and other evidence confirms, those who advocate the influence of AGW are not above trying to quash the debate, or hide the inconvenient facts.

    1. It's inappropriate to refer to Jean Grove's work in this way without also observing that she accepted the evidence for the greenhouse effect: call yourself a denier, but don't try to build authority for your self-identification by asserting that somebody more authoritative than you shared your views. She didn't.

  8. heading out, what I don't understand is why you remotely care. Are you so involved in other interdisciplinary disputes? There has been a long running dispute about the nature of neanderthal and Homo sapien interaction in Europe. Does this make Fox news ever? Of course not, the deniers, for the most part, are not interested in the science but in the politics and their agenda, which is to concern themselves only with oil company profits. I am not saying that many believers are not, but it just so happens that the political agenda of the believers is undeniably correct because it co-incides with our own national security. Who really is in favor of pollution and financing global terrorism (and mining accidents, etc.)?
    Simply put the inconvenient facts that are ignored is how much money people like you are funneling into the pockets of Al Qaeda every time you fill up your tank. This debate is the one that gets quashed.
    Don't get me wrong, I hate Liberals on this issue almost as much what with their nimby attitudes towards offshore windmills or nuclear power, and their central airconditioning, etc.


  9. Careful, charo, with that "people like you" line.

  10. Dan, hey, that is people like you as well. I am talking about everyone in the US should be aware that every tankfull of gas they fill out some percentage of it goes into terrorists hands. I am really sickened that 9 years after 9/11 the US has done so little towards movement towards energy independence.

    The only reason I said people like you and didn't include me is: I don't own a car, and I live in Mexico where all the gas that is sold is Pemex and domestically produced, and I get all of my electricity from the windmill farm in La Ventosa. I also got solar heating for my hot water. I really don't know what more I personally can do so because of all this I saw no reason for saying "people like us" beyond false modesty.


  11. "Most people" would, perhaps, have been a less inflammatory manner of phrasing your point.