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CATEGORY: Science, Space

Greetings from the frontiers of science! Today’s assignment is a thought experiment involving “Active SETI” (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) which entails beaming powerful radio signals containing unmistakable proof that they emanate from an intelligent civilization out into the great void of space. The point of the exercise? To light earth up like a Christmas tree across the Milky Way galaxy so that any technological civilizations out there would have no trouble seeing us.

This method of actively seeking out intelligent life in our galactic neighborhood is the opposite of our SETI efforts to date where we use “Passive SETI” to try and listen for a message or beacon from another civilization. These passive programs date back to the 1970’s and have benefited from massive increases in our abilities to scan the radio spectrum for hints of life. Multi-channel spectrum analysis that allows us to listen to millions of “channels” from specific stars at one time has dramatically increased the chances of success – someday.

Alas, to date there has been no indications that anyone in the cosmos is interested in communicating with anyone else. We have found no beacon, no messages inviting us to make contact. And we haven’t stumbled across any inter-planetary communications networks that would prove the existence of alien life beyond earth.

But take heart. We have explored only a small piece of the sky so far and there are several good reasons why we may have even missed a message in past sweeps. We may not be technologically advanced enough to decode it. We may lack the imagination to recognize a message even though it’s been right in front of us. But the most likely reason we have yet to achieve success in our SETI efforts is that there just aren’t that many civilizations transmitting.

Does this mean that there are fewer advanced civilizations than we thought? This is a definite possibility. It could very well be that the deck is stacked against any intelligent civilization reaching our level of sophistication. Rouge asteroids or comets, an unstable sun or moon, a nearby supernova not to mention the possibility that the denizens of any technologically advanced society could blow themselves up all make it a distinct possibility that while intelligent life is abundant in the universe, it doesn’t necessarily stand to reason that it survives long enough to reach out and try and touch someone.

Then again, there could be another explanation for our failure to make contact with an alien race. And this reason is at the heart of the debate over the passive vs. active SETI programs.

Perhaps those alien civilizations know something about the neighborhood that we don’t; that calling attention to ourselves by lighting earth up like a flare in the blackness of space might bring unwelcome – indeed catastrophic – attention to our planet.

The question isn’t so much are there evil alien monsters out there bent on death and destruction of any planet luckless enough to come to its attention. The question is why take the chance?

Should it be our position that all alien races are benign and would mean us no harm? The more I think about that the less I agree with it. Not necessarily because aliens would be hostile. They may have the best of intentions. As Jared Diamond, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel points out in his book The Third Chimpanzee that any contact with an alien race is likely to resemble the contact made here on earth between advanced civilizations and primitive ones to the catastrophic detriment to the primitives. It may be best that until we have reached a level of technology more equal to our neighbors, we remain passive observers of their civilization.

And beyond that, there is the question of who decides whether escalating our SETI program to include active measures to make contact should be our policy?

Author, lecturer, scientist David Brin has thought about these issues of First Contact and other SETI matters for many years. He serves on a SETI subcommittee of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) charged with developing protocols and policies regarding our SETI efforts. It was this subcommittee that came up with the very First SETI Protocol: “Declaration Of Principles Concerning Activities Following The Detection Of Extraterrestrial Intelligence” – a great read if you are at all interested in this stuff.

This is from a piece Brin wrote two years ago about the controversy of active vs. passive SETI:

With that success behind us, we on the IAA subcommittee turned to a Second Protocol dealing with Transmissions from Planet Earth. The widely accepted draft contained articles asking that all of those controlling radio telescopes forebear from significantly increasing Earth’s visibility with deliberate skyward emanations, until their plans were first discussed before open and widely accepted international fora.

It seemed a modest and reasonable request. Why not present such plans, openly, before a broad and ecumenically interested community of experts in fields like exobiology, sociology, history and biology, at a conference where all matters and concerns could be honestly addressed? If for no other reason, wouldn’t this be common courtesy?

At first, the subcommittee drafting the Second Protocol deemed this to be obvious. Moreover, the core group at the SETI Institute seemed to concur. Indeed, this was not even a new document, but rather a revision of one that the Instituter’s own Jill Tarter presented to the UN six years ago — confirming that they once favored restraint and consultation before transmission. They are the ones who have changed their minds.

But recently… and after a draft appeared ready for submission to the IAA… several members of the IAA SETI Committee, including chairman Seth Shostak, abruptly balked and demanded alterations, abandoning even a collegial and moral call for pre-transmission discussions.

Indeed, suddenly all notions of pre-consultation or discussion — before making Earth dramatically more visible — were derided as paranoid, repressive of free expression and nonsensical. Almost no discussion of the matter was brooked; no questions were answered.

(HT: Instapundit)

I should add here for clarity that most of the scientists at the SETI Institute favor holding discussions on placing more emphasis on active search protocols. The balkers are a group of Russians for the most part who apparently have ideological reasons – among others – for not even allowing a forum for all interested scientists to participate.

Brin points out that the ideology grew out of the old Soviet model. The Russians believe any aliens receiving an active SETI message would be benign because they would be socialists! They figure any advanced intelligence would have developed along the socialist model of governing and would therefore, by definition, be peaceful.

On such stupidities might the fate of the world hang.

As I said, the question of whether or not to engage in active SETI research should hang on erring on the side of caution. This is especially true since what is driving the active SETI movement is impatience at the lack of progress in the passive SETI program. One can certainly understand the desire to reach out and attempt contact. But without examining all the ramifications by failing to invite other scientists and researchers into a debate before starting any active SETI search is not only foolhardy but unscientific.

It reminds me of the global warming debate. Scientists who will brook no opposition to their cherished beliefs vilify their colleagues who think differently. They are simply frozen out of the discussion, marginalized in the community. This has proven to be a huge mistake as more and more information challenging climate change orthodoxy is either dismissed out of hand or tainted with charges of coming from biased sources. It has had a deadening effect on scientific debate and thus has done a disservice to policy makers and the public who are groping for answers on who to believe and what to do – if anything – about climate change.

Recently, Brin updated his 2006 article with ominous news:

As of Summer 2008, Retired senior US diplomat Michael Michaud has resigned from the IAA SETI Subcommittee in protest over what he sees as continuing efforts to repress open discussion of these issues, and to disparage those who see anything wrong with METI. He was recently joined by Dr. John Billingham, one of the founding fathers of SETI and director of NASA’s long-running SETI program.

The METI folks make the point that in 20 years, anyone with a computer and a dish will be able to aim their own powerful signal at the stars so why oppose their efforts today? They make a good point while at the same time, obviating the need for active SETI research to begin immediately. There is time to discuss all of the issues surrounding active SETI before it becomes a reality.

Work on the Second SETI Protocol should continue and a consensus reached. For if we can’t come together on these basic questions regarding our potential role in a crowded universe where contact with other civilizations becomes a reality, we will be unprepared for any consequences that might arise from this success.

By: Rick Moran at 9:45 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (11)

The Pink Flamingo linked with Some Misc. Saturday "Science" and a Good UFO Yarn...
CATEGORY: Science, Space

No, my politically inclined friends not those kind of aliens. The kind of alien I’m talking about does not cut a hole in a border fence and sneak across with the help of a “coyote,” settling down in LA and immediately becoming a drain on government services.

At least, there’s no evidence to the contrary. Especially after reading this today:

The Denver man who is pushing a ballot measure to have the city form an “ET Commission” showed video of what he says is an alien Friday morning at a news conference. Reporters were allowed to view the video, but only a still image of it was released to the media.

Jeff Peckman said aliens visit his friend Stan Romanke all the time.

Romanke, who lives in Colorado Springs, allegedly recorded the alien video while living in Nebraska.

The pair has a deal with a documentary company for the rights to the video.

“Not all wrinkly like ET, the extraterrestrial, just youthful, smooth skin, large wide kind of eyes,” said Peckman.

Romanke has posted drawings of the aliens he reportedly sees on his Web site.

The video is grainy, in black and white, and shows what Peckman says is an alien peeking through a window a couple of times. As the Sainted Sagan tells us, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” And folks, this video just ain’t cuttin’ it.

This is the sort of alien you will be reading about today. It is the kind that many gullible people (and many who should know better) think visits the earth all the time and mingles with us earthlings, always managing to avoid the authorities who, we are told, are eager to get their hands on ET to perform all sorts of deadly experiments and autopsies.

These folks from another planet also seem to have a tremendous knack for avoiding cameras, DVR’s, and other recording devices. They are extremely adept at not leaving one shred of proof that they were ever here and wouldn’t you know it, instead of alighting here on earth and being eager to talk to scientists who would give their right arm to sit down with one of the beings for 15 minutes, these aliens always seem to end up talking to ordinary folk who, we are further told, wouldn’t lie or try and carry out a hoax to save their life.

Now, I should say at the outset that I believe there are intelligent civilizations somewhere out there. I also believe there are space faring beings whose civilizations are so old that they have probably toured the universe at least once.

I am also quite certain that there are many, many more of the former than the latter. So do the folks at SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) who have been searching nearby stars in a so far fruitless quest to glean an intelligent signal from a civilization that may also be looking for some company. But their quest is a longshot at best given all the variables that must be met and no one is very optimistic that they will succeed.

The question isn’t whether or not there is intelligent life in the universe. The question is has it ever visited earth. The idea that one necessarily follows the other is absurd. There are many forms of intelligence as we know from just studying the animal world here on earth and it could very well be that other intelligent species either have little interest in what’s beyond their little world or are simply incapable of grasping the complexities of the universe the same way that we do.

Perhaps they aren’t toolmakers. Perhaps their intelligence is of a collective variety and original thought is something rare. There are a thousand reasons an intelligent society would not be reaching out to us and few reasons why they would.

And what about an alien race taking a cosmic jaunt in a spacecraft to visit earth? The question is not how arrogant you think I am for not believing but rather how arrogant you are for thinking there is anything a civilization hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, or millions of years more advanced than we would find remotely interesting enough to expend the huge effort it would take to build a ship that could traverse the stars. If nothing else, these advanced aliens would be eminently practical beings and the return on an investment of that size would be so extraordinarily small if they came to places like earth that they would have to be crazy to undertake such folly.

The fact is, all this speculation is, in and of itself, ridiculous. There’s a very good chance, exo-biologists tell us, that we wouldn’t even recognize alien life as being alive. Their thought processes would be so, well, alien that communication would be extraordinarily difficult. Our problem is that our imaginations are limited to our earthbound experiences. We simply can’t picture what a real alien would look like because it is probable that the way life developed on other planets would be radically different than the way it developed on earth.

But what about UFO’s? Clearly, there are unexplained sightings of flying objects tha cry out for investigation. But as the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) – a “scientific” group that has lost much of its standing among skeptics in recent years due to its slipshod methods and “UFO’s are alien spacecraft” boosterism – tells us, more than 93% of these sightings are easily explained and credible, earthbound explanations are usually available for those few incidents where proof is scant. If people realized how few of these sightings weren’t hoaxes or meteors, or the planet Venus, the idea that we are being inundated by aliens and that earth is some kind of Grand Central Station for extraterrestrial spacecraft would disappear.

There are many explanations for why there may be space travelling civilizations in the universe but never make it here. The biggest obstacle is time – not just the journey itself but the ticking clock of extinction that faces all species we know of. How long do intelligent civilizations last? How many succeed in not blowing themselves up or poisoning themselves? How many avoid being pulverized by asteroids or comets? There are a million ways for a civilization to die and the law of averages says that precious few would advance far enough and fast enough to be capable of building a ship to the stars before being destroyed.

Another problem with time is that our universe is 13 billion years old and that during that time, millions of civilizations would have risen capable of space travel. But the earth is only 4 billion years old with intelligent life an incredibly recent phenomena. It is a given that only a certain number of space faring civilizations exist at any single point in time so the chances are that relatively few star ships are traversing the universe as I write this. This is assuming that the problem of special relativity effects can be overcome – a given for practical space travel.

This means that in all the tens of billions of galaxies with uncounted numbers of stars, these comparatively few spacecraft would need to 1) Discover that there was intelligent life on earth; 2) Have a reason to travel to the boondocks of our galaxy to see us; and 3) visit us without leaving a single piece of credible evidence of their coming here.

This goes beyond longshot and enters the realm of fantasy.

I would love to believe we are being visited on a daily basis by beings from another world. But common sense and the evidence doesn’t support that theory. Couple that with the quaisi-religious aspect to UFOology – that the aliens will come and save us from ourselves, clean up the planet, get rid of nukes, and bring peace and harmony to mankind – and what you’re left with is a bunch of silly people making equally silly claims that aren’t supported by the facts.

There is as much evidence that UFO’s are from the future or from another dimension or some place of which we are totally unaware as there is evidence that they are from another planet. And that evidence is zero. Until there is credible evidence to the contrary, UFO’s and alien visitation will fall under the rubric of faith and not of science.

By: Rick Moran at 8:11 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (9)

CATEGORY: Science, Space

                                 NASA’s Mars Phoenix Lander

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration may have had to endure some justifiable criticism for its shortsighted and unimaginative manned space exploration program. But when it comes to its unmanned planetary exploration achievements, the scientists and engineers at JPL and their affiliate programs at universities and other space agencies around the world can still “Wow!” us all every once and awhile.

The Phoenix Mars Lander successfully touched down in the north Polar region of Mars at 6:53 central time today as scientists and engineers at JPL and the University of Arizona cheered the culmination of ten years of enormously stressful work. The spacecraft landed after a harrowing re-entry where a 60 feet per second nose dive is cut by two thirds less than 300 feet above the surface of the red planet by 6 small rocket thrusters.

The last Mars lander to try this trick – the Mars Polar Lander – didn’t make it and plowed ignominiously into the surface. The descent engines cut off too quickly when a sensor in the landing bag was jarred loose and mistakenly told the rockets they had already landed.

Phoenix was put through the wringer with as many tests as the engineers could think of throwing at her. In the end, the ship proved herself tough enough and the landing couldn’t have gone better.

Now comes the fun part. The Phoenix is not a rover so it won’t be wandering around looking for interesting things to examine. The Phoenix is a stationary scientific lab encompassing several disciplines including chemistry, biology, and geology. Having made a jaw droopingly accurate landing (like aiming an arrow from the pitcher’s mound at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and hitting home plate at Wrigley Field in Chicago was the way it was described on the Science channel), Phoenix is positioned to do a little digging into what we think is the tundra region of Mars.

It may be too much to ask of luck that we have landed within reach of some Martian snow. If so, call it Jackpot and celebrate our good fortune. More likely, we’ll have to find some moisture in the form of frost or permafrost below the surface. The experiments on board the lander are incredibly sophisticated. While searching for life is not the primary concern (past life on Mars is considered much more probable) the hard, permafrost will be ground down by a special tool attached to a scoop on the robotic arm. The loose material will be heated and a very sensitive gas spectrometer will determine the chemical makeup. In addition, a small but very powerful microscope will examine the contents for micro-fossils and other information.

Phoenix will not last long in the super cold. Within a few months, she will be covered in carbon dioxide ice and stop working. But as long as she is sending pictures back with her stereoscopic camera, the view should be awesome.

So credit where credit is due – to the engineers and scientists at NASA who once again have shown the remarkable reach of the human spirit and its ability to overcome almost any obstacle to satisfy our thirst for knowledge.


Rand Simberg drolly observers “The Cosmic Ghouls Missed One” referring to several Russian and American planetary missions that have come a cropper in one bizarre way or another. The Russians especially have been plagued with bad luck on their Mars landers. Just goes to show how far we are from being able to hurl ourselves out into the void and not ask for volunteers for a suicide mission.

Bob Zubrin’s infectous enthusiasm aside, we ain’t going any time soon so you can cancel your reservation at the Mars Hilton. Until we can figure out how to bring live human beings back from Mars and not dead or half dead boneless (long term space exploration may take up tp 80% of our bone minerals making them as sturdy as balsa wood), heartless (perhaps 80% of the heart muscle gone), kidneyless (ditto kidneys), and God knows what the psychological problems of living and working with 5 or 6 other humans for 3 + years in an extraordinarily small workspace/habitat – until the problem of living without gravity or creating artificial gravity can be overcome, we are stuck here.

So pass the popcorn. Watching from a distance is the best we can hope for – at least in my lifetime.

By: Rick Moran at 7:54 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (4)


In 1911, the great English physicist Ernest Rutherford brought forth a model of the structure of the atom that revolutionized science. He did it with 20 research assistants (including some of the greatest minds in 20th century physics) in the basement of a rambling old stone house known as the Cavendish Laboratory.

Conditions in the lab were appalling. The roof leaked. It was cramped beyond belief. And Rutherford was a notorious skinflint when it came to paying his assistants.

But between 1907 and 1932, one by one the secrets of the atom gave themselves up to Rutherford and his “boys.” Using simple, handmade experimental apparatus for the most part, Rutherford unlocked “the mind of God” as Einstein put it. Considering his funding came from the Royal Society and not the government and his stipend per year was usually around 15 thousands pounds, Rutherford probably advanced human knowledge of the universe more by doing with less than any other scientist in history.

That was then. This is now.

The Large Hadron Collider is the largest collaborative scientific effort in history. It involves more than 2000 scientists from 34 countries as well as hundreds of universities and laboratories. It has taken 14 years to build at a cost of $8 billion and is scheduled to begin serious research work later this year.

And that work is mindboggling. The Collider seeks to accomplish nothing less than giving us a view of what the universe was like about one trillionth of a second after the Big Bang when the 4 fundamental forces in the universe – electromagnetism, the strong and weak nuclear forces, and gravitation – first split apart. By sending particle beams in opposite directions along a 17 mile underground circular track and accelerating them to near light speed while directing the particles with superconducting magnets to points where they are likely to collide, scientists hope to unravel some of the basic mysteries of the universe. Dark matter, extra dimensions, the nature of gravity, perhaps the fate of the universe itself could be revealed by these collisions and the subatomic particles they leave behind.

This kind of research cannot be done in the basement of a leaky house. It requires massive government funding to accomplish. The same can be said for virtually every other scientific discipline – space exploration, gene and DNA research, and climate change are no different. The days when a Rutherford or Edison could set up a lab and run it on a shoestring while making seminal discoveries about the universe are behind us.

Government funding means taxpayers are footing the bill for these research projects. As such, we should have a say when the potential exists for cataclysmic effects to occur as a result of experiments. We are very careful not to allow some altered genes outside of very tightly controlled labs because no one knows what the effects of that gene mixing with the biology that already exists on planet earth would be.

And as far as the Hadron Collider is concerned, very serious questions have been raised about some of the effects of the research on the planet – questions that we taxpayers need to have answered even if the possibility of disaster is extremely remote.

The world’s physicists have spent 14 years and $8 billion building the Large Hadron Collider, in which the colliding protons will recreate energies and conditions last seen a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. Researchers will sift the debris from these primordial recreations for clues to the nature of mass and new forces and symmetries of nature.

But Walter L. Wagner and Luis Sancho contend that scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, have played down the chances that the collider could produce, among other horrors, a tiny black hole, which, they say, could eat the Earth. Or it could spit out something called a “strangelet” that would convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called “strange matter.” Their suit also says CERN has failed to provide an environmental impact statement as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Although it sounds bizarre, the case touches on a serious issue that has bothered scholars and scientists in recent years — namely how to estimate the risk of new groundbreaking experiments and who gets to decide whether or not to go ahead.

Scientists believe the possibility is very small that either scenario involving the strangelet or the mini-black hole will come to pass. But the fact that they are looking carefully to make sure they won’t would seem to indicate that it is not an impossibility.

It hearkens back to the Trinity explosion in 1945 where a couple of scientists theorized that the detonation of the first nuclear bomb would set the atmosphere on fire. It didn’t, of course, but the tiny chance that it would didn’t stop the experiment from going forward.

In this instance, because taxpayers are footing the bill (and have been able to follow developments in the unclassified program) these questions are getting more than a fair and thorough airing:

Physicists in and out of CERN say a variety of studies, including an official CERN report in 2003, have concluded there is no problem. But just to be sure, last year the anonymous Safety Assessment Group was set up to do the review again.

“The possibility that a black hole eats up the Earth is too serious a threat to leave it as a matter of argument among crackpots,” said Michelangelo Mangano, a CERN theorist who said he was part of the group. The others prefer to remain anonymous, Mr. Mangano said, for various reasons. Their report was due in January.

This is not the first time around for Mr. Wagner. He filed similar suits in 1999 and 2000 to prevent the Brookhaven National Laboratory from operating the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. That suit was dismissed in 2001. The collider, which smashes together gold ions in the hopes of creating what is called a “quark-gluon plasma,” has been operating without incident since 2000.

The fact that scientists are not laughing at the idea of destroying the earth as a result of an experiment shows the wisdom of taxpayers like Wagner questioning everything – even though his expertise and knowledge may fall short of those he is criticizing. I would hope the same holds true for some bio-medical research that has the potential to loose upon the planet something that could destroy life as well as those working in the artificial intelligence field who some have theorized could end up being quite unfriendly to their creators.

We are entering a new age of scientific exploration where the basic mysteries of the universe have a chance of being unraveled. From studying the smallest sub-atomic particles to discovering the fate of the cosmos, taxpayers will be asked to fund ever grander, more expensive research projects in our quest to understand ourselves and the natural world around us. It is the purest of pursuits, this quest for knowledge. And deciding not only whether it is worth it but also if it is safe must become part of the debate when setting priorities for our governments.

By: Rick Moran at 8:56 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (18)

CATEGORY: Politics, Science

In Religion News today, we learn that there’s nothing we can do – except perhaps getting naked and dancing around an Oak tree worshipping Gaia – to save the planet from rapacious capitalists, gas hungry gear heads, electrical power gluttons, and lawnmower fanatics.

Basically, we’re toast:

The task of cutting greenhouse gas emissions enough to avert a dangerous rise in global temperatures may be far more difficult than previous research suggested, say scientists who have just published studies indicating that it would require the world to cease carbon emissions altogether within a matter of decades.

Their findings, published in separate journals over the past few weeks, suggest that both industrialized and developing nations must wean themselves off fossil fuels by as early as mid-century in order to prevent warming that could change precipitation patterns and dry up sources of water worldwide.

Using advanced computer models to factor in deep-sea warming and other aspects of the carbon cycle that naturally creates and removes carbon dioxide (CO2), the scientists, from countries including the United States, Canada and Germany, are delivering a simple message: The world must bring carbon emissions down to near zero to keep temperatures from rising further.

This is fantastic news – for those who consider industrialized civilization just a crazy interlude in human evolution and that our true calling is to root around with the pigs digging up truffles while at the same time, breaking our backs plowing the back forty with a horse drawn prairie sodbuster.

No, really, 19th century farming can be fun. And for those of you in industries that would be hard hit by this return to yesteryear – which includes just about everybody – have no fear. There will be work enough for all once we get into the spirit of the adventure.

Are you pretty good with animals and don’t mind getting scorched every once and a while? Blacksmithing is your trade then, my man.

I’ve got just two words for you: Wheel Wright. The future is yours. Grab it.

Do you like working with your hands and can lift several hundred pounds all day long? I’m sure there will be plenty of calls for Wagoneers.

Attention pizza delivery drivers. Take a correspondence course in how to drive a stagecoach.

Parents, enroll your child immediately in the Steamfitters Guild.

With trains about ready to make a comeback, lineman and gandy dancers will be in tremendous demand. Maybe we can even bring back the Non Partisan Anti-Chinese League.

Chim-Chiminey, Chim-Chiminey, Chim-Chim-Cheroo - If you need a good job, cleaning chimney’s for you.

I wonder if burning whale oil gives off CO2? Probably a better alternative than burning wood. If I were a young, unattached man, I’d move to Nantucket a go a-whalin’. I’d even have a white whale to pursue.

Of course I’m being facetious. But what I was trying to do was show that there is indeed a sizable, vocal minority of climate change alarmists who are only using the issue of global warming to advance another agenda – political, economic, and social – that is inimical to the free market, injurious of human liberty, and desirous of controlling our lives in minute ways. And what they wish to accomplish is nothing less than the destruction of western industrialized civilization.

The study, which may or may not indicate that there is little we can do to stop from warming the planet, will be seized upon by those who wish to impose draconian “solutions” that would have the effect of severely curtailing industrial activity thus causing massive disruptions in our society. These are people who talk of “sustainable development” in a world with fewer people, fewer, opportunities, and fewer dreams.

They are not a majority of climate change advocates. But not acknowledging that they are present and working to achieve their goals is ignorant.

I don’t know the motives or the history of the scientists who completed the studies mentioned in the post article but I would think that, as with anything else, more study as well as careful peer review of these studies will be necessary before any action should be taken. That might be especially appropriate since one of the authors mentioned in the article – Andreas Schmittner – wrote a paper back in 1997 predicting rising CO2 levels would lead to global cooling in Europe.)

By: Rick Moran at 3:38 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (9)

Maggie's Farm linked with Tuesday Links...
CATEGORY: Politics, Science

I’m no scientist. Neither is Nobel Prize winning global warming alarmist and hypocrite Al Gore. Nor are the legions of global warming deniers who are pointing to a stretch of cold weather as “proof” that global warming is a myth.

We are, most of us, not qualified in any way, shape, or form to make any kind of technical or scientific judgment on most of the evidence relating to climate change unless we happen to hold an advanced technical degree and are able to examine that evidence in its totality and not pick and choose headlines that bolster one’s political position on the issue.

The idiocy inherent in the prospect of myself or 95% of internet commenters – right and left – trying to hold a scientific debate on a subject where almost all of us are not scientists and where most of the evidence is couched in the arcane and mysterious language of scientific disciplines for which the overwhelming majority of us barely realize the parameters of study is self evident.

Not that this matters because at bottom, we who are unable to examine the evidence on the same plane as climatologists, meteorologists, atmospheric physicists, environmental scientists, and a hodgepodge of chemists, archaeologists, anthropologists, and other scientists end up simply believing one side or the other. Like religious fanatics, the two sides argue dogma while rejecting the other’s “beliefs” as apostasy.

Considering the stakes, this is madness. And scientists are not helping matters any. Likening those who question the conclusion that global warming is caused largely by man and that it threatens civilization to Holocaust deniers is far beyond the pale of rational discourse. Similarly, those who use the term “climate Nazis” to describe global warming advocates have no place in this debate.

But because of the monumental importance of the issue, all of this matters little. Even though our opinions are half baked and ill informed, we scream at each other, accusing one side of being in the pocket of big business (or in thrall to the anti-science element in the Republican party) or the other side of blindly following a “scam” that seeks to destroy the American economy and promote a one world government.

Both sides have been guilty of laughable exaggerations. Every heat wave during the summer is trumpeted to the skies by warming advocates as “evidence” that the world is warming up. The ebbing of ice packs, glaciers, and snow pack on mountains, is fodder for the alarmists while every shred of evidence that might contradict the global warming scenario including core samples and faulty CO2 models becomes “proof” that global warming is a lie.

Case in point:

“Earth’s ‘Fever’ Breaks: Global COOLING Currently Under Way,” read a blog post and news release on Wednesday from Marc Morano, the communications director for the Republican minority on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

So what is happening?

According to a host of climate experts, including some who question the extent and risks of global warming, it is mostly good old-fashioned weather, along with a cold kick from the tropical Pacific Ocean, which is in its La Niña phase for a few more months, a year after it was in the opposite warm El Niño pattern.

If anything else is afoot — like some cooling related to sunspot cycles or slow shifts in ocean and atmospheric patterns that can influence temperatures — an array of scientists who have staked out differing positions on the overall threat from global warming agree that there is no way to pinpoint whether such a new force is at work.

And lest you think only one side can’t tell the difference between “climate” and “weather,” here’s an oldy but goody from 2003:

NBC Blames Global Warming for European Heat Wave

It was inevitable. Whenever someplace in the world gets hot for a few days, sooner or later a network story will blame it on global warming.

NBC’s Patricia Sabga won the contest on Wednesday night when she warned that “scientists attribute the extreme temperatures to what’s been described as a dome of hot air hovering over Europe, a summer weather pattern that may become the norm.” Sean Seabrook, identified on screen as a “meteorologist,” then asserted: “Scientists appreciate now that global warming is taking place and I think these occurrences of heat waves will become more frequent, so this may be a sign of things to come.”

The climate is warming. This is indisputable. It has been warming since the end of the last ice age nearly 20,000 years ago. During that time we’ve had rapid warming spells that last centuries and cooling periods as well (the “Little Ice Age” in Europe from 1300-1800 had a huge impact on politics and society).

But overall, for this last post-ice age epoch the temperature has been rising. No one disputes this. The problem, of course, is the last 100 years or so of human industrial activity and the burning of fossile fuels. Many scientists see the “spike” in average temperature of .75 degrees C as directly related to the increase in CO2 emissions resulting from the burning of hydrocarbons. Others point to a peak of sunspot activity or ice core samples that show past rapid warming periods where there has been an increase in CO2 in the atmosphere.

I have no clue who has the upper hand in this debate. Flat statements like “global warming is real” or “global warming is a scam” mean nothing when each side is contradicted by sound scientific evidence. This despite efforts by some in the global warming crusade who seek to end debate on the issue for political, not scientific reasons by trying to postulate that there is a “consensus” that catastrophe is ahead unless we reduce our emissions.

Whoever heard of ending debate on a question of science when there is credible evidence that challenges what has become conventional wisdom? What reputable scientist would agree with this nonsense? No one knows or can accurately predict what the weather will be like 100 years from now. Models that attempt to show a correlation between specific levels of carbon dioxide and temperature have been shown to be useless. No one knows what effect increased temperatures will have in the future. No one even knows if reducing emissions will effect the rise in temperatures one iota.

Closing off debate on climate change is not a question of science but of politics.

It is inevitable that politics would dominate the global warming debate because the solution proposed – reducing emissions – impact ordinary people’s lives enormously, perhaps even catastrophically. For some, whose agenda includes what can only be interpreted as the downfall of the capitalist system, the climate change debate is secondary to imposing their ideas of socialism and reduced influence of the nation state. Others may see a loss of profit and influence unless global warming is “debunked.” And when the cost to the US economy is measured in the trillions of dollars to “play it safe” and proceed as if global warming is the calamitous threat some say it is, the arguments for and against take on an urgency the demands attention.

And then there is the vast bulk of ordinary citizens – you and me – who are caught somewhere in the middle, forced to try our best to understand the debate by reading flawed analysis of both sides in a scientifically ignorant media. Even those few general interest science publications that lay people can read and understand are usually tainted by bias for or against anthropogenic climate change.

In the end, we are left believing one side or the other based largely on our political leanings and not on our scientific acumen. In a way, I envy those who can follow the debate on a technical level and are able to keep the spark of scientific inquiry alive by listening to all sides in this debate and evaluating evidence based on the facts while leaving politics on the outside.

If the only thing you take away from reading this is to have a little more respect for those who don’t agree with you on global warming, I will be content. Because at the moment, speaking for myself, I just don’t know. And the price of ignorance – on both sides – may be too much for us to bear.


I thought about doing this days ago but just never got around to it.

Those who say we shouldn’t only take the word of scientists on global warming are correct.

The problem is any 3 year old chimp can understand the conclusions drawn by various studies and models. But only scientists can examine the evidence those conclusions are based on and make a judgement as to their accuracy and efficacy.

Cooking the books of a statistical study on temperatures or overstating some key piece of evidence can only be discovered by those with the knowledge and training to do so. That is why all legitimate studies undergo peer review.

Anyone who relies solely on the conclusions reached by scientists without examining the evidence from where those conclusions came from is talking throught their hat and need not be taken seriously. That was my point that was poorly made that I am now clarifying.

By: Rick Moran at 9:55 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (40)

CATEGORY: Politics, Science

Did Bill Clinton really say we have to “slow our economy” to deal with global warming?

In a long, and interesting speech, he characterized what the U.S. and other industrialized nations need to do to combat global warming this way: “We just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions ‘cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.”

At a time that the nation is worried about a recession is that really the characterization his wife would want him making? “Slow down our economy”?

I don’t really think there’s much debate that, at least initially, a full commitment to reduce greenhouse gases would slow down the economy….So was this a moment of candor?

A “moment of candor?” Or a journalistic faux pas? Here’s more from Bill:

“Everybody knows that global warming is real,” Mr. Clinton said, giving a shout-out to Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize, “but we cannot solve it alone.”

“And maybe America, and Europe, and Japan, and Canada — the rich counties — would say, ‘OK, we just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions ’cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.’ We could do that.

“But if we did that, you know as well as I do, China and India and Indonesia and Vietnam and Mexico and Brazil and the Ukraine, and all the other countries will never agree to stay poor to save the planet for our grandchildren. The only way we can do this is if we get back in the world’s fight against global warming and prove it is good economics that we will create more jobs to build a sustainable economy that saves the planet for our children and grandchildren. It is the only way it will work.

(HT: Sadly No)

Obviously, Clinton was not recommending that we unilaterally slow down our economy to cut emissions. He was saying that just because we did, others wouldn’t necessarily follow suit.

But just what the hell was he saying? He was saying that “the fight” against global warming will create more jobs and build a “sustainable(?) economy” that will save the planet so that Californians won’t wake up one morning a hundred years from now in desperate need of water wings and flippers.

Earth to Brad: I congratulate you on calling Tapper out for his idiotic take on Clinton’s speech. But you missed the real story. What Bill said was a lie. A great, big, fat, Clintonian truthbusting whopper of a fib.

As much as scientists all agree that global warming is “real” – and they do – economists are in agreement that cutting our emissions even modestly will entail a huge cost to our economy. How much depends on what model you’‘re looking at (ironically, exactly the same as trying to glean how much warming can be expected over the next century). From a low of $500 billion over ten years to a high of $1.8 trillion over a decade are current estimates published in peer reviewed journals.

In case you were curious about what effect that might have on the economy, imagine all the global warming advocates in the world gathering together in one place, each of them with a $100 bill. Then imagine a bonfire where all of those millions of hundreds are burned while the greens take off their clothes, cover themselves in body paint, and dance a dabke in celebration.

Well…maybe they wouldn’t cover themselves in body paint. Maybe they’d just smear honey on themselves or vegetable oil. But you get the picture.

Taking that much money out of the economy would if not be catastrophic, it would certainly cause a long, painful recession. I haven’t seen a recent study on the number of jobs that would be lost so I won’t give a number. But economists are in almost unanimous agreement that the effect on job growth would be severe.

Bill Clinton is lying through his teeth by trying to make dealing with global warming a painless process. It won’t be. It will involve massive disruptions in industry and labor with some regions being hit very hard. We would have to alter our lifestyles not just in how we use energy and generate emissions but in fundamental ways we are just beginning to grasp. There will be a cascade effect on our society that no one – and I mean no one – can foresee.

Clinton talks of “building a sustainable” economy. Just what does he mean? What exactly does “sustainable” mean? Not surprisingly, no one knows. But it sure sounds good, eh?

Population growth alarmists talk about “sustainable” economies being able to support 1-2 billion people on earth. Meanwhile, the United Nations – in true bureaucratic fashion – has perhaps the most confusing (and sometimes contradictory) sets of criteria for sustainability that encompasses all facets of society, not just the economy.

But contained in many of these “sustainability models” is a streak of Ludditism – anti-capitalist, anti-business, anti-property rights, anti-growth; in short, anti-people and anti-freedom. This is the true agenda of some global warming fanatics. And I believe it is telling that Bill Clinton has adopted their nomenclature to lull us to sleep about the true cost of cutting emissions.

Now let me say that if this is what it would take to save the planet, we would have no choice but to initiate the kind of draconian policies that would harm our economy most severely. Let me further say that I believe that anthropogenic global warming is a reality although man is probably not to blame to the degree usually ascribed.

The problem isn’t whether global warming is “real” or not. The problem is that there is not one iota of proof that reducing emissions will lower the temperature. Zero. Zip. Nada. Common sense would dictate that it would but some models show differently. This is a part of climate science that all can agree is not settled – not by any stretch of the imagination.

So in effect, we are being asked to drastically alter our economy and our lifestyle on a whim and a prayer. No thanks.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to lower emissions by developing new (and old) technologies that would generate less greenhouse gas while working to wean ourselves from foreign oil supplies. It does mean that Bill Clinton is a lying sack of rotten potatoes when he tries to sell “sustainable” economic growth as a painless panacea for reducing our carbon footprint.


Bryan at Hot Air is on pretty much the same wavelength I am:

He goes on to serve up pipe dreams about how green tech like 100-mile-per-gallon cars will create more jobs, which seems unlikely. He’s also off in the weeds when he declares that anything is “the only way it will work.” That’s classic Clintonian fallacy: A complex problem, if it’s even a real problem, requires a complex set of solutions, supposing it’s even something we could solve.

The bottom line is that, for whatever reason, ABC actually played Clinton’s “slow down the economy” line unfairly and ended up downplaying his argument against the far left on global warming. I’m sure that will be too much mental jujitsu for the Clinton-hating, “conservative media” nutroots to handle.

By: Rick Moran at 5:15 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (9)

connecticut mortgage refinancing rate linked with connecticut mortgage refinancing rate...

Counting civilian deaths in Iraq is a ghoulish business. Given the chaos in the country for much of the last 4 years and the breakdown of government record keeping, the job has devolved into a statistical morass where competing methodologies give entirely different totals.

At the center of the controversy have been two separate studies that were published in the respected British medical journal, The Lancet. The results from both studies were wildly at odds with other estimates and resulted in questions being raised about the methodology used to determine the findings.

What was always most controversial for me was the timing of these studies. In 2004, the first study was published on Friday, October 29 – a scant 4 days before the presidential election. The fact that the regular date for publication of The Lancet was the following week showed a monumental bias on the part of the Lancet and an eagerness to try and affect the election of an American president by dumping the results of this questionable study on the internet so close to election day. Whatever confidence people might place in the study’s conclusions was undermined by the obvious political agenda at work in using the numbers as a hammer to slam the administration of candidate George Bush.

Also, the raw data for that study was never made public as would normally be the case. Because of that, any peer review of the author’s methods and conclusions was out of the question – a curious way for a “scientist” to have their work vetted and affirmed.

The second study by the same research group was almost as bad. It was published on October 11 – less than a month before the midterms. If anything, its conclusions were even more controversial in that they purported to show upwards of 650,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Once again, the methodology was called into question. Once again bloggers with knowledge of statistical analysis tore into the findings and revealed them to be wild exaggerations at best. And just recently, the New England Journal of Medicine debunked the study’s findings once and for all by publishing a study showing that 151,000 Iraqis had perished from 2003-2006. Still a heartbreaking number but one that any fair minded person would agree is a damn sight less egregious than the 650,000 fantasy figure in the Lancet study.

Now we have evidence that there may indeed have been political motivations in doing the study and in reaching its controversial conclusions.

Half of the funding for the study came from the George Soros group the Open Society Institute:

A STUDY that claimed 650,000 people were killed as a result of the invasion of Iraq was partly funded by the antiwar billionaire George Soros.

Soros, 77, provided almost half the £50,000 cost of the research, which appeared in The Lancet, the medical journal. Its claim was 10 times higher than consensus estimates of the number of war dead.

The study, published in 2006, was hailed by antiwar campaigners as evidence of the scale of the disaster caused by the invasion, but Downing Street and President George Bush challenged its methodology.

New research published by The New England Journal of Medicine estimates that 151,000 people – less than a quarter of The Lancet estimate – have died since the invasion in 2003.

“The authors should have disclosed the [Soros] donation and for many people that would have been a disqualifying factor in terms of publishing the research,” said Michael Spagat, economics professor at Royal Holloway, University of London.

The Lancet study was commissioned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and led by Les Roberts, an associate professor and epidemiologist at Columbia University. He reportedly opposed the war from the outset.

His team surveyed 1,849 homes at 47 sites across Iraq, asking people about births, deaths and migration in their households.

Professor John Tirman of MIT said this weekend that $46,000 (£23,000) of the approximate £50,000 cost of the study had come from Soros’s Open Society Institute.

Roberts said this weekend: “In retrospect, it was probably unwise to have taken money that could have looked like it would result in a political slant. I am adamant this could not have affected the outcome of the research.”

My observation would be that the real figures are bad enough so why inflate them by using a methodology guaranteed to be closely scrutinized and found wanting? What the Soros study wanted to achieve was a political home run – a grand slam against the war that he hoped would cause such revulsion in the United States that it would sweep the Democrats to victory.

Soros may be a billionaire but he is a political dunce. (One need only look at the total failure of ACT and other Soros funded political ventures like who have done more harm than good to the anti-war cause.) Congressional Democratic candidates mostly ran on a war plank that referred vaguely to “changing course” in Iraq without much in the way of detail. And the only people who dared use the discredited Lancet numbers in debate were those on the far left.

The Democratic victory in 2006 was due to a wide variety of factors, not the least of which were caused by the Republicans themselves. Corruption, arrogance, profligate spending, and a sense that the GOP was a party of hypocrites when talking about “family values” what with a parade of Republicans caught in sex scandals were as much or more contributive to the Democratic landslide than the war in Iraq.

Essentially, Soros wasted his money.

Both sides of the political divide have moneymen with enormous influence. Richard Mellon Scaife, the Hunts, and a few others on the right probably give as much or more money to politicians and political groups as Soros and his crew.

But what makes Soros different is that he is trying to affect an extraordinarily radical change in this country that would lead to a loss of sovereignty and the realization of his dream of a one world government. To that end, he has proved himself as ruthless and conniving as any international criminal who threatens the security of the United States.

His network of activist groups, funding sources, think tanks, and do-gooder organizations are all working with this one purpose in mind. And he hasn’t been shy about stating his goals:

And since 2003, tearing down what he views as the “fascist” tyranny of the United States, as he has put it, is “the central focus of my life.”

Through networks of nongovernmental organizations, Soros intends to ruin the presidency of George W. Bush “by any legal means necessary” and knock America off its global pedestal. “His view of America is so negative,” says Sen. Joe Lieberman, who, like Gen. David Petraeus, has been a target of Soros’ electoral “philanthropy.” “The places he’s put his money are . . . so destructive that it unsettles me.” Soros’ aim seems to be to make the U.S. just another client state easily controlled by the United Nations and other one-world groups where he has lots of friends.

Best known among these groups is, a previously small fringe-left group to which Soros has given $5 million since 2004. Bulked up by cash, the group now uses professional public relations tactics to undercut the Iraq War effort, with its latest a full-page New York Times ad that branded Gen. Petraeus “General Betray Us.”

It ran Sept. 10 in the New York Times, the same day Petraeus delivered his progress report on the surge in Iraq. previously put out ads depicting Bush as a Nazi, something that certainly echoes Soros’ sentiment.

“We have to go through a certain de-Nazification process,” he told this year’s Davos conference in Switzerland.

We can look upon his funding of the pre-election Lancet hit piece in 2006 as just more of the same. But the question of how to fight him is an entirely different matter.

The only way to legitimately go after Soros is by exposing his connections to groups and organizations that work against American interests and go so far as to advocate a loss of US sovereignty. It’s no accident that Soros groups fund illegal immigrant rallies and push for legislation that would destroy our borders. Nor is it surprising that Soros would fund politicians who seek to emasculate the American military and seek to tailor our foreign policy not to promote and protect American interests but rather to kowtow to the United Nations.

Thankfully, his is still a minority viewpoint and all the money in the world is not going to bring his loony ideas of a one world government any closer to reality. But he is still a very dangerous, unprincipled, ruthless man who is determined to succeed. The only question is what won’t he do to make his agenda a reality.

UPDATE: John Tirman comments

John Tirman, the executive director and a principle research scientist at MIT’s Center for International Studies and the individual who commissioned the Lancet study denies any involvement by George Soros in the project:

I am reluctant to reply to this Soros Derangement Syndrome, but I will do so once for the benefit of the entire right-wing blogosphere. Yours is the first one I happened upon. Soros did not fund the Lancet 2 survey. MIT did. I commissioned the study. We did it with internal funds in October 05, with the hope of getting the results out by spring. Iraq being what it is, that proved impossibly dangerous, so there was a delay. The results were released when ready.

The Open Society Institute had no role whatsoever in the origination, conduct, or findings of the survey.

The new survey by the Iraqi Ministry of Health shows 400,000 excess deaths, 150,000 by violence, since the U.S. invasion. Their numbers are probably low for violence, but the larger point remains—-all surveys (Lancet 1 and 2, Iraq Health Ministry, and Opinion Business Research) show hundreds of thousands dead. The 4.5 million displaced, the 500,000 new widows, etc., underscore this catastrophe. We are trying to measure and understand it.

From the TimesOnline article quoted in the body of the post:

Professor John Tirman of MIT said this weekend that $46,000 (£23,000) of the approximate £50,000 cost of the study had come from Soros’s Open Society Institute.

How do you square his quote in the article with “The Open Society Institute had no role whatsoever in the origination, conduct, or findings of the survey…?” Yeah, but what about funding?

The good professor is saying that the OSI may have funded the survey but had no input into its findings. Why he couldn’t admit that in the comment is beyond me. Instead, he obfuscates the point by throwing up the strawman argument that OSI didn’t have any role in the findings – neglecting to mention that he told TOL that in fact, Soros partially funded the project (we must assume through MIT or perhaps a grant to the CIS - again Mr. Tirman is mute on the subject).

The problems with the Lancet 2 study were examined and found wanting by The National Journal - no bastion of right wing thinking by any means and one of the most respected political and government publications in the United States.

In fact, the Journal doesn’t just debunk the study. The Journal articile is an indictment – of Tirman, of Roberts, of the entire crew who tried to foist this propaganda on the American people.

The linked Journal article is long and extremely detailed. Not only are there problems with methodology that have been widely disseminated but I find it extraordinarily telling that, as with the first Lancet study, none of the underlying evidence has been released – as is customary and proper in order to allow peers to examine the evidence themselves and test whether the author’s conclusions can be duplicated:

Still, the authors have declined to provide the surveyors’ reports and forms that might bolster confidence in their findings. Customary scientific practice holds that an experiment must be transparent—and repeatable—to win credence. Submitting to that scientific method, the authors would make the unvarnished data available for inspection by other researchers. Because they did not do this, citing concerns about the security of the questioners and respondents, critics have raised the most basic question about this research: Was it verifiably undertaken as described in the two Lancet articles?

Tirman should not be wasting his time responding to me and my little blog. He should be responding to the National Journal. I would say that if what the Journal is writing is true (even half of it) Tirman is either a prevaricator of monstrous proportions or a self deluded ideologue who can’t recognize his own biases have clouded his academic and scientific judgement.

Given the deliberate obscurance of his comment, either is possible.


Bill Arnold points out in the comments that it is impossible to use the New England Journal of Medicine Study to “debunk” Lancet because the two studies cover totally different ground. Lancet deals with “excess” deaths while the NEJM study only deals with violence related deaths.

Mr. Arnold is correct and I have stricken that observation from the post.

By: Rick Moran at 7:53 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (11)


I have been something of an agnostic on climate change. The politicization of the issue has become so pronounced that it is impossible to have a rational discussion on the issue with either side. Every piece of evidence that emerges for or against global warming and its anthropogenic nature is dismissed or embraced, depending on one’s point of view.

Currently, those who believe the human race is doomed unless we do something about carbon emissions are in the ascendancy, largely as a result of a clever media campaign and a demonization of global warming detractors. But reading science publications – even those geared toward a general audience – reveals a still lively debate among scientists on many, many issues that those who seek to politicize the issue have already declared settled. How much is industrial activity to blame? Just how fast is the phenomena occurring? How bad will it get? Is there anything we can do about it?

Based purely on scientific evidence, there is no doubt that the world is getting warmer – something that has been occurring since the end of the last ice age. There is compelling evidence that human industrial activity over the last 100 years is, in fact, having an effect on temperature although there are still some responsible skeptics who attempt to make a case otherwise. I personally find their evidence less and less convincing as the years go by.

How much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses are actually making their way to a level in our atmosphere where they would raise temperatures? No one knows. Models trying to predict those levels of carbon dioxide in the upper atmosphere have not been very good. This is not because the phenomena is not occurring but rather because of a lack of raw data that would improve our modeling and allow us to glimpse the future.

Even if the climate is changing, is there anything we can do about it? No one is sure. Lowering emissions may indeed slow down or even eliminate excess global warming. Then again, it may not have any effect at all.

And here is where politics insinuates itself into the debate to the detriment of science as well as the debate itself. Scientists argue whether the Greenland glaciers are growing or shrinking, whether the Antarctic ice cap is melting, whether the cyclical nature of sunspots are to blame for the increase in temperature, even whether polar bears are at risk of becoming extinct or not. But it is politicians and advocates who argue about climate change “solutions” and charge their opponents with being mindless fanatics or anti-science zealots depending on whose ox is being gored.

Where does that leave rational, thoughtful science enthusiasts like you and me who may not have the technical acumen to judge the efficacy of scientific arguments but who try and follow the debate anyway?

On the outside looking in, I’m afraid. Not committing to either camp in this debate means that we are ignored, even ridiculed for not seeing “the truth” of global warming – as if it were some kind of religion that demanded obeisance to a set of beliefs rather than a hard eyed look at the evidence. Recognizing the danger of climate change while trying to maintain a certain skepticism about evidence coming from both sides is enough to drive those of us who respect the scientific method to distraction. But we can certainly examine the political climate in which the debate takes place.

And here is where you will find the most bizarre collection of anti-globalists, anti-capitalists, “sustainable growth” nuts, and population control fanatics allying themselves with Third World kleptocrats in order to soak the west with “carbon offsets” and other gimmicks without reducing emissions by one single molecule. This was the now defunct Kyoto agreement, the first attempt by this motley coalition to radically alter western industrialized civilization.

At least on the other side of the political coin with the most organized efforts to debunk global warming there is the rationality of promoting an anti-warming agenda based largely on economic interests. Lost profits may not be a very noble reason to oppose efforts to reduce emissions but at least it has logic so sorely lacking on the other side.

This then is the political atmosphere in which charge and counter charge is hurled back and forth, with the global warming cadres spewing nonsense about comparing skeptics with “Nazis” while the skeptics accuse climate change advocates of being Luddites.

To say that most conservatives fall into the latter category is a given. Their natural enemies are found in the NGO’s, the non-profits, and the UN offshoots who seek to undermine capitalism and free markets while strangling economic growth – all in a good cause, of course. And the fact that they want to carry out these draconian measures while much of the scientific debate still rages causes most conservatives to blanch when any proposals to fight climate change are proposed.

I believe this to be a shortsighted and wrongheaded approach to the political problems of climate change. There is something to be said for the global warming advocate’s argument that we simply can’t afford not to do anything. Simply ignoring the problem as Republican Presidential candidates are doing is not only bad politics, it’s bad science as well. As Tigerhawk points out, we risk much by not engaging in the debate over what to do about climate change:

The key is to separate the increasingly convincing scientific arguments substantiating the fact of anthropogenic climate change from the remedies for that change, which can take many forms and will shape the world in which we live for generations to come. In theory it should be easy to do so—after all, one can never derive what “ought” from what “is.” The fact of anthropogenic climate change does not tell us what we ought to do about it. Unfortunately, politicians, activists, lawyers, journalists, and other advocates specialize in claiming, falsely, that “what ought” follows inexorably from “what is,” no matter how intellectually dishonest those claims may be. My advice to conservatives, therefore, is that we stop arguing about whether human activity causes global climate change and start getting in front of solutions that will accelerate the creation of wealth over the long term.
(Hat Tip: MVG)

The fact is, there is plenty that we can do as a society to lower our emissions without experiencing the kind of catastrophic pain that would have been caused by following Kyoto dictates. Start with our automobiles – developing sensible timetables to drastically lower emissions from cars would be an excellent start. This would almost certainly force automakers to heavily invest in hybrid technology while improving the performance and lowering the price of those kinds of cars.

We could also start building nuclear power plants to replace the old, carbon spewing coal fired plants that have caused other environmental problems like acid rain. Small scale development of solar, wind, and geothermal power would also contribute to a lowering of emissions, despite the fact that industrial scale power production using those methods of generating electricity are extremely expensive and inefficient.

And doing what America does best – invent, improve, and innovate – spurred on by the free market will no doubt produce other solutions down the road. Hydrogen powered cars, more efficient public transportation, and things unimagined and unglimpsed will contribute in the future to reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases.

All of these are conservative alternatives to the bloated, government centered, confiscatory ideas advocated by Al Gore and his acolytes in the Democratic party as well as the even more draconian measures advocated by global warming advocates overseas or in the United Nations.

The political question is simple; can conservatives continue to ignore the implications of climate change? Or, as Tigerhawk writes, should we get out in front of the issue to advocate “solutions” that are mostly market based and not so damaging to our economy?

Color me a skeptic who thinks the time has come for conservatives to step up on this issue.

By: Rick Moran at 2:06 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (15)


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A spokesman for the Alfred E. Nobel Foundation announcing Al Gore’s Peace Prize.

Al Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize.

He follows a long line of illustrious humanitarians who have selflessly and with no thought of personal reward, served the needs of humanity through the sheer goodness and purity of their souls. Or, in Gore’s case, those who have shamelessly promoted themselves as saviors of the planet when they have been proven in a court of law to be nothing more than alarmist charlatans.

Dedicated peace activists like the Dali Lama, Nelson Mandela, and Mother Teresa have preceded Mr. Gore in winning the Prize. As have not so dedicated peace activists like Yassar Arafat (who could have been described as a “piece” advocate due to the condition of the bodies of his victims after they were blown to bits), Mikhail Gorbachev – the first time a Peace Prize was awarded to a dictator for not sending in tanks to crush liberty, and Kofi Anan whose contributions to the peace of such places as Rwanda and Darfur will long be remembered – at least by those lucky enough to be left alive following his spectacularly inept and corrupt leadership.

Yes, our Al is in good company alright. But never mind the Peace Prize. Will he or won’t he? Does the light of ambition burn bright enough that he would, once again, shoulder the burdens of a long, difficult campaign for the presidency of the United States?

Though Gore’s name has been frequently mentioned in presidential politics this year, potentially as a “draft” nominee, he has declined to enter the contest.

But the Nobel is a huge honor recognized worldwide and gives him even more stature. It gives him a moment to reconsider the race for the Democratic nomination, now led by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Gore has not completely ruled out running, saying in the past he had “no plans” to be a candidate and shying away from the fund-raising extravaganza that now is central to American politics. At one point, he even said that he is “not very good” at politics. Critics often lampooned him as wooden as a campaigner.

Let’s put it this way; I doubt whether Hillary Clinton is losing any sleep over a potential Gore candidacy. She’s way ahead, she has more money than God, and it’s just about 90 days to the New Hampshire primary – not enough time to pull an organization together, raise the money, and run any kind of a professional campaign. It’s not that his chances of success would be small. His chances of success would be zero.

All that aside, just what has the Nobel Committee done by giving the prize to a man a British Court called an “alarmist” just the other day? He is a man whose major achievement – his film Inconvenient Truth – has been debunked even by scientists who share his fears of climate change. Other scientists have called on the former Vice President to quit being such an alarmist.

The fact is, Gore’s major “contribution” to the global warming debate has been shown to be at the very least problematic and at worse, a shameless piece of propaganda. Yeah – but at least his heart is in the right place.

I can never decide whether Gore is being used by the Luddites, the one worlders, the NGO’s, the anti-globalists, and the anti-industrialists as a front man for the implementation of their political agendas or whether he actually agrees with many of their ideas. The fact is, it’s not about the science. It’s never been about the science. If it were about the science, those who do not believe in anthropomorphic global warming theories wouldn’t be branded as “Nazis” and would receive a fair hearing. Similarly, those who reject the idea that global warming, even if it comes to pass, would not have the catastrophic effects promised by the alarmists, would not be marginalized and shunted to the sidelines of scientific debate.

Global warming is mostly about politics which is why Gore has probably done so well in promoting it. It has left the realm of science and entered the world of religion – a belief system with dogma, sacraments, and penalties for apostasy. And standing above all others as the High Priest, Great Prophet, and number one snake oil salesman has been Albert Arnold Gore, Jr.

Our climate is changing and thank God for that. About 20,000 years ago, there was an ice sheet a mile thick where I am sitting right now. I daresay if I had been siting in the same place back then, it would have been a tad uncomfortable. But the earth warmed, the glacier receded, and the Great Lakes were created in all their beauty and splendor.

I simply don’t know if the scientists who posit catastrophe are right. I do know that every “sign” pointed to as “proof” their theories are correct by global warming advocates today is not indicative of long term climate change. But I do not reject out of hand the idea that greenhouse gas emissions must be cut in order to prevent (or mitigate) drastic changes in the climate.

In short, I’m an agnostic on the subject. I am not a scientist. I can’t examine the evidence the way a climate modeller or a atmospheric physicist can and reach an intelligent conclusion. We must base our beliefs on explanations of that data by scientists themselves.

No, I am not a scientist. But neither is Al Gore. And the Nobel Committee’s curious choice of the former Vice President for the Peace Prize is perplexing indeed. Global warming is a scientific phenomena. To give it to someone whose scientific acumen has been questioned both by scientists and the courts strikes me as incomprehensible.

But then, that seems to be par for the course as far as the Nobel Committee is concerned.

By: Rick Moran at 6:04 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5) Political News and Blog Aggregator linked with Could Nobel Prize Spur Gore To Run In '08?...