Not-Quite-Lost Fish

August 18, 2011

I’ve always liked fishmarkets, so I was a cinch for this book when I saw it at our hotel on Shelter Island.  The illustrations are beautiful color reproductions of prints from Comte De Lacépède’s natural history of fish, and it includes a brief snippet of his writing.  The shapes of fish are fascinating to me, and measuring the discrepancy between what we suspect is the reality and the artistically arranged images on the page is part of the charm of it.

The title, however, refers to the usual grim, apocalyptic, man-is-sinful and an industrialist schtick that has become spiritual dogma among the ‘educated’.  I would not comment on it except that the text itself indicates that of the nearly 200 fishes shown in the book, about twenty are listed as endangered, threatened, or seriously threatened.  Not even extinct!  And that’s only 10% of this small sample of fish that were known in the 1830s.  Not a very strong piece of evidence for environmental catastrophe, Al Gore’s flypage quotation notwithstanding.  Being on the bandwagon sells books.

Another favorite natural history compendium here.


Climate Change & the Whitebark Pine Apocalypse

July 28, 2011

Today’s editorial in the NYTimes, Climate Change and the Plight of the Whitebark Pine is a fine example of how a scientific fad (call it a meme if you like) gains and keeps traction.  In this case, the fad is global warming.  The editorial describes how the whitebark pine, a crucial element of high altitude mountain ecosystems, is in danger of extinction, and what will be the serious consequences for wildlife and vegetation if that comes to pass.  The editorial clearly links the situation to global warming by way of the mountain pine beetle:

Historically, the pine’s defense against the beetle is living where conditions are too cold for it — at high altitude or at high latitudes. But as the climate warms, that defense has failed catastrophically… The tragedy is the ongoing demise of an ecosystem, one for which humans are culpable.

Looking into the scientific investigations of this issue, the link to climate change, not to mention climate change caused by human activity, is not at all clear.  A study by the Canadian government quoted in the editorial concluded:

[the threats] include an invasive, foreign fungus and the suppression of forest fires, which are important in establishing pure stands of whitebark pine. But the most important threat is the spread of the native mountain pine beetle, which tunnels into the tree and lays its eggs under the bark.

The fungus is ‘blister rust,’ introduced from Europe.  Note that climate change is not directly linked to the problem, and that the threats cited are well-known, long-standing, serious, and similar to threats faced by many ecosystems today:  exotic species; human intervention in the eco-dynamics; local pests.

A Google search for whitebark pine and climate returns a lot of hits, but most of them are from the popular, environmental press.  The logic of their statements is consistent and revealing.  Warmer winter temperatures during the last decade have supported a vigorous growth in the beetle population, and that has decimated the trees.  But what caused the warming?  And how much warmer has it been?  There is no discussion of this.  Only statements such as:

So as long as temperatures keep rising and the beetles continue to be driven to higher-elevation habitats, their assault on the trees will continue. To save the species, a massive and immediate reduction in greenhouse gases is necessary.  Source 

Certainly there were outbreaks of mountain pine beetle in Whitebark in the ’30s and ’70s, but nothing like what’s happened in the last decade. Moreover, Dr. Logan’s climate models predicted this outbreak long ago. Very simply, warmer winter temperatures and longer summers have created overwhelmingly favorable conditions for a widespread pine beetle infestation in a high alpine tree species that used to be able to rely on cold temperatures to keep beetles at bay. Source

So, what do we actually know?  We know that the whitebark pine is important for western ecosystems.  We know that the trees are dying at a great rate.  We know that they are dying because of a variety of factors, several of which have nothing to do with anthropogenic climate warming (AGW), and we know that one factor, the beetles, is extremely important and that it has been encouraged by warmer winters over the last several years.  The link to AGW is assumed, as usual.

Climates, local and global, vary.  There is no evidence that this forest catastrophe is more than a conjunction of several negative factors, several of them associated with human activity (importation of fungus, suppression of forest fires) and recent weather.  Simply because the events are consistent with the hypothesis of AGW, it is automatically assumed that the proof is given, and the press goes to work.  They are totally separate issues.

Consider the abstract to this article that is linked to this topic in many online searches (my emphasis):

Forest insects and pathogens are the most pervasive and important agents of disturbance in North American forests, affecting an area almost 50 times larger than fire and with an economic impact nearly five times as great. The same attributes that result in an insect herbivore being termed a “pest” predispose it to disruption by climate change, particularly global warming. Although many pest species have co-evolved relationships with forest hosts that may or may not be harmful over the long-term, the effects on these relationships may have disastrous consequences. We consider both the data and models necessary to evaluate the impacts of climate change, as well as the assessments that have been made to date. The results indicate that all aspects of insect outbreak behavior will intensify as the climate warms. This reinforces the need for more detailed monitoring and evaluations as climatic events unfold. Luckily, we are well placed to make rapid progress, using software tools, databases, and the models that are already available.

The key statement has been underlined.  It is key to this abstract, and countless others like it, as well as the runaway assumptions made by popular journalism about the topic.  The statement should read this way:

The results of our examination of data and models, as well as our exploratory computer runs, indicate that if climate does warm, all aspects of insect outbreak behavior will intensify.

The conclusion of the study is actually unremarkable and rather trivial.  If climate warms, bad things may happen.  If it’s hotter, more people will be uncomfortable, there will be more heat stroke, ecosystems will be disturbed and will change, etc. etc.  If, if, if…

Now, back to those statistics and models to figure out if the climate is actually changing as they assume it is, and to figure out why…


More climate of fear…

July 20, 2011

Another few bars in the endlessly played dirge, The End is Nigh, from the NYTimes:

ENJOYING the heat wave?

The answer is probably no if you live in Abilene, Tex., where temperatures have been at or above 100 degrees for 40 days this summer. It’s been a little cooler in Savannah, Ga., where the mercury hit 90 or more for 56 days in a row.  How does this compare to business as usual, I wonder?  Those are hot places.

Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma are coping with their driest nine-month stretch since 1895I always wonder when I hear claims like this, was it hotter in 1895?  Is this the first year since 1895 that the ’95 record is surpassed?  Why was it so hot then, global warming?  How much hotter was it?

 Yes, it has been a very hot summer after one of the most extreme-weather springs on recordJust what does that last phrase mean?  Cold springs, hot summers, it’s all global warming!  Is she referring to the flooding?  

It’s time to face the fact that the weather isn’t what it used to beAlways a safe statement.

Every 10 years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recalculates what it calls climate “normals,” … climate of the last 10 years was about 1.5 degrees warmer than the climate of the 1970s, and the warmest since the first decade of the last century. Temperatures were, on average, 0.5 degrees warmer from 1981 to 2010 than they were from 1971 to 2000, and the average annual temperatures for all of the lower 48 states have gone up.   A barrage of stats in no particular order.  “All gone up,” how much?  0.5 degrees?  Not very much!  1.5 degrees warmer than the ’70s, but what about that “first decade of the last century.”  More clarity would be nice.  Seems like throwing a lot of stuff to see what sticks.

The numbers don’t take sides or point fingers. They acknowledge both powerful natural climate fluctuations as well as the steady drumbeat of warming caused by roughly seven billion people trying to live and prosper on a small planet, emitting heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the process.  Not much talk about natural fluctuation, but quite a drumbeat about AGW!  Where’s the link?

Even this seemingly modest shift in climate can mean a big change in weather.   This is having it both ways.  It’s modest, or it’s not.  Fact is, it is modest, but that doesn’t fit with the message.

Shifting weather patterns influence energy demand, affect crop productivity and lead to weather-related disasters. In the United States, in any given year, routine weather events like a hot day or a heavy downpour can cost the economy as much as $485 billion in crop losses, construction delays and travel disruptions, a recent study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research found.  Take out the word “shifting,” and you have a statement that is both true and unremarkable.  And weather is always shifting, i.e. changing. 

In other words, that extra 1.5 degrees might be more than we can afford. And while the new normals don’t point to a cause, climate science does. Drawing from methods used in epidemiology, a field of climate research called “detection and attribution” tests how human actions like burning fossil fuels affect climate and increase the odds of extreme weather events.   “Might be more than we can afford..,” and maybe they might not be.  Just throwing it out there…Maybe we should spend and plan more for how to deal with extreme weather events regardless of whether there will be more of them.  We do a pretty bad job of that now.  Please note the lack of discussion on just how these epidemiological methods work in the field of climate studies.

Heat-trapping pollution at least doubled the likelihood of the infamous European heat wave that killed more than 30,000 people during the summer of 2003, according to a study in the journal Nature in 2004.   Let’s assume that this claim is true, and that nobody else has published different results since 2004.  Certainly, this author will not tell us if they have or not.  Just what were the chances for the hottest summer in Europe since the 16th century?  Pretty small, I imagine, and double a small number is still a small number.  That’s the nature of a rare event.  As for the horrible death toll, that was largely due to the complete lack of preparedness for such events – alerting systems, cooling centers for senior citizens, public education on how to survive a heat wave – because such an event was unprecedented.  Government health agencies should have considered the possibility, but that’s not the fault of climate change.

And if we don’t ease our grip on the climate, summers like that one will likely happen every other year by 2040, the study warned.   People make warnings all the time.  The world was supposed to end in May 2011…

Using climate models, we can project what future Julys might look like.  Time to dust off my collection of crystal balls for sale…


Global Warming: Save the hypothesis!

December 29, 2010

Christmas Day delivered a special present to critics of the AGW (anthropogenic global warming) point of view:  an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times by Judah Cohen – Bundle Up, It’s Global Warming.  One couldn’t ask for a better example of an intellectual house of cards being passed off as science than this wonderful essay.  Like George W. Bush, for whom the answer to any economic problem – slow growth, budget deficit, budget surplus, whatever…  was always to cut taxes, for Mr. Cohen, all observations lead to global warming as an explanation.

Anyone who seriously thinks about climate change understands that weather and climate are not the same, and that  just as a few cold winters don’t disprove AGW, neither do a few hot summers prove it (although that latter point is not often heard from AGW advocates!)  Nevertheless, the record cold in Europe and North America seems to fly in the fact of the AGW theory.  Why the freeze if the Earth is getting warmer?  So, Mr. Cohen leaps into the fray to answer just that question…Of course, one wonders why he feels he must address this ‘question’ if weather is not climate..?

Mr. Cohen is a forecaster for a firm (AER.com) that sells information, or rather, data, to firms that need to estimate their exposure to climate-based risks.  Certainly a reasonable service, but it’s not the same as science.  And like all forecaster/modelers, he must have an explanation for everything, or his credibility falters.  In this regard, he is like a conspiracy theorist, the type of person who has a theory that explains everything!  To leave any question unanswered is to invite a withdrawal of confidence.

Cohen presents a complicated explanation for how the earth can be warming and yet experience colder weather in the northern hemisphere.   It’s very logical, and even plausible…but it’s all speculative.  There is no proof for any of it, and he offers none.  It also happens to be derived from his pet theory that he has modeled and flogged before.  Time will tell if the Earth continues to behave in a manner that could be explained by his notion.  Meanwhile, his ideas offer no proof at all for the AGW theory, but simply constitute an example of “saving the hypothesis.”

Saving the hypothesis is the tactic one takes when observed phenomena seem to invalidate one’s theory:  Construct another theory to “save” the original one!  Blaise Pascal exposed this tactic brilliantly in his epistolary debates on the vacuum, although he did not give it that name.  Aristotle, and centuries of his successors said that Nature could not “tolerate” a vacuum, so all evidence that a vacuum can be created was explained away with new substances, ethers, compounds, etc. that we can not see or measure, etc. etc.  No matter what evidence one presented from direct observation, there was always a reason why one was not observing a vacuum.  So, today, no matter what the evidence – and the recent weather is not evidence of much of anything either way! – it must support the accepted idea that AGW does exist.


Saint Augustine, Dunning-Kruger, and rules of debate

June 6, 2010

Smite the unworthy!

Those who waste their time with this blog know that I can be argumentative, but I do try to give the other person a chance to explain and defend alternate views.  Anyone who comments on blogs will certainly be aware that this is not the rule.  Venom, flaming, insult, and complete lack of interest in hearing any dissenting views are very common.  Well, it’s a free cyber-world, and if people only want to engage with those they agree with already, that’s their choice.

Since I am interested in the controversy over climate change – anthropogenic? proven? – I visit blogs that take the so-called consensus view, with which I disagree.  Sometimes I comment.  Generally, the response is anything but measured and polite, and a debate at the level of grade-schoolers ensues.  To be fair, the same has happened on blogs that I do generally agree with when I have begged to differ on some particular point.

How to conduct a rational debate with those you disagree with, even fundamentally, has always been a fascinating question for me.  What are the limits?  Reading Saint Augustine’s City of God, commenting on RealClimate, and following up on the Dunning-Kruger Effect [Full Text] has brought this all together!

If you follow the link to RealClimate, a premier pro-AGW blog, moderated by Gavin Schmidt of the Goddard Institute for Space Science (right around the corner from the Seinfeld diner) you can decide for yourself how well or badly I was treated if you have the patience to follow the thread that begins at comment No. 22.  One fellow suggested I was suffering from psychosis, others intimated that I was a nefarious troll, feigning real interest in the discussion, but intending only to sow dissent and distraction at the site.  (Really, they didn’t have to respond to me – are they that easily sidetracked from their great work?)  Many commented that despite their repeating the obvious logical case for AGW over and over, and presenting me with incontrovertible evidence, I remained recalcitrant.

I was reminded of accounts of witch trials and inquisitorial interrogations I have read – the sinner refuses to recant or confess, maintains innocence, despite being presented with indubitable evidence of his guilt.  His stubborness is further evidence of his sinful, heretical nature – burn him!

As in the period of the great religious wars of 17th century Europe, there is an unwillingness to accept that some matters cannot be settled definitively, at least not yet, and that judgement of men and women plays a part.  For the AGW crowd, it’s all settled, the evidence is in, to maintain that one’s judgement of the evidence leaves one unconvinced simply demonstrates that one is:  stupid; ignorant of science; a shill for the oil companies; psychotic; all of the above…OR, a victim of the Dunning-Kruger Effect!

Ah, now we are getting somewhere!  But before we dive into contemporary academic study of incompetence (I kid you not), let us give an ear to Saint Augustine.  Fine man, but he didn’t suffer fools gladly.  At least, not people he knew were fools!  Here is what he says at the opening of Book II, The City of God. [He was refuting pagan authors who laid the blame on Christianity for the recent sack of Rome.]  Anyone who has read AGW denunciations of skeptics, deniers, denialists, and other ‘crackpots’ will have a frisson of déja vu.

If only the weak understanding of the ordinary man did not stubbornly resist the plain evidence of logic and truth!  If only it would, in its feeble condition, submit itself to the restorative medicine of sound teaching, until divine assistance, procured by devout faith, effected a cure!  In that case, men of sound judgment and adequate powers of exposition would not need to engage in lengthy discussions on order to refute mistakes and fanciful conjectures.  But as things are, the intelligent are infected by a gross mental disorder which makes them defend the irrational workings of their minds as if they were logic and truth itself, even when the evidence has been put before them as plainly as is humanly possible.  Either they are too blind to see what is put before their face, or they are too perversely obstinate to admit what they see.  The result is that we are forced very often to give an extended exposition of the obvious, as if we were not presenting it for people to look at, but for them to touch and handle with theirs eyes shut.

And yet, will we ever come to an end of the discussion and talk of we think we must always reply to replies?  For replies come from those who either cannot understand what is said to them, or are so stubborn and contentions that they refuse to given in even if they do understand.  In fact, as the Bible says, “Their conversation is unrighteousness, and they are indefatigable in folly”  You can see how infinitely laborious and fruitless it would be to try and refute every objection they offer, when they have resolved never to think before they  speak provided that somehow or other they contradict our arguments.

Many of us have had the experience of arguing with someone in thrall to some weird conspiracy theory (men did not land on the moon!) and it is very frustrating.  At some point, you have to give up.  But at what point?  And how do you tell if you are arguing with a person uninterested in reason or someone who just completely disagrees with you?  A certain amount of trust in the good faith of the other is absolutely essential, and a willingness to bend over backwards to try and understand them.  This is rarely present in abundance.

And why bother when the Dunning-Kruger Effect (DKE) is handy?  (I’ve been it’s victim several times, according to some bloggers.)  The simple truth is that those who are incompetent in a field are the least able to judge their own level of expertise.  Moreover, their very incompetence is an obstacle to them realizing how little they know.  (Ignoramuses are famously confident.)

Having a dispute over a complex scientific question?  Your opponent refuses to accept your argument, claiming that your evidence is weak and your logic is full of holes?  DKE to the rescue!  Obviously, your gadfly is one of those who just doesn’t get what science is all about (The argument for AGW is basic physics, duh!) and it’s useless to engage because he hasn’t the mental  tools to  understand how ignorant he is!!  The simplicity, neatness, and unassailable logic of this riposte is simply beautiful!

What do Mssrs. Dunning & Kruger really say?  From the abstract of the article available at the link above (italics mine):

People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the meta-cognitive ability to realize it…Paradoxically, improving the skills of participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their abilities.

The article is a careful academic exercise in experimental social psychology.  I would be very surprised if the authors would endorse the free-wheeling use of their names to silence opponents in scientific disputes.  They are also careful to point out that self-overestimation of competence can have other sources as well.  Finally, their work was concerned with a rather narrow range of phenomena, for which they were able to develop fairly uncontroversial measures of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.  Even their measure of competence in humor, yes!, was based on a survey of professional comedians’ assessment of a fixed sample of jokes – surely they have a good idea of what’s funny!

The interesting thing about the misuse of this academic article is that it takes a study that assesses peoples’ self-awareness of competence in uncontroversial areas – logical deduction, grammar, etc. – and applies it to a…controversy!  The whole point of scientific controversy is to arrive at the truth, which will then be, perhaps, uncontroversial.

I did have another reaction to this paper, however.  It struck me as similar to saying, “The problem with poor people is they have no money.”  Sort of obvious.  Incompetent people don’t know they are incompetent.  Well, sometimes they do.  And why in heck is it paradoxical that giving people training and tutoring will improve their self-assessment of skill?  I would venture that the notion of competence includes the idea of self-awareness of skill level.  We used to call this wisdom or judgment.

The authors begin their article with the sadly comic story of a man who robbed a bank, thinking he was invisible because he smeared his face with lemon juice.  Obviously, not competent to judge  a lot of things.  They conclude with a cutesy remark:

Although we feel we have done a competent job in making a strong case for this analysis, studying it empirically, and drawing out relevant implications, our thesis leaves us with one haunting worry that we cannot vanquish. That worry is that this article may contain faulty logic, methodological errors, or poor communication. Let us assure our readers that to the extent this article is imperfect, it is not a sin we have committed knowingly.

Ha, ha.  So funny.  Maybe they suffer from the DKE…Boy, good thing they don’t do stand-up comedy.  These are professors at Cornell University by the way.  What do we learn about anything from this article?  Stuff like this is what makes academic a pejorative term.


Global Warming Dud

April 30, 2010

I went to hear Dr. Alan Robock, a climatologist from Rutgers University, speak at a local organization in my town last night.  He gave the usual slide show:  light on the science; heavier on the ‘predictions’ and scare stories; heavier on what we should do about it, i.e., alternative energy and all.  I was pretty disappointed, as he seemed like a reasonable guy, polite and energetic, and I was hoping for something new.

Instead, he presented an example of why the controversy is so hard to discuss rationally.  His remarks were overtly partisan.  True, he was speaking to an avowedly left-wing group, and I happen to agree with his swipes at Kissinger getting the Nobel, and other rhetorical jabs at the right, but I would have liked to have heard that stuff separately from the scientific talk.  No, it was all mixed up.

I asked him a question about how the average global temperature was computed and what was his opinion on the issue of bias in the surface temperature record due to station locations.  His answer was remarkably lame.  There are lots of stations on the land, and the 70% of the Earth that is ocean is covered by bucket samples taken by roving ships.  Not exactly a homogeneous record in my book, not to mention historical problems.  Then he said the problems with the urban heat island are “well understood” and that each station is paired with a rural station, and if a bias in an urban station is clear, they “throw out that record.”  That’s news to me.

One woman gave him a really hard time in a rather disjointed way, bringing in a raft of accusations and questions.   She mentioned several scientists who disagree with AGW.  His response was to claim that each of them was not an expert in climatology:  this one’s an expert in atmospheric dynamics, that one in tropical storm formation, etc.  She mentioned Lindzen, a prominent critic from his alma mater, MIT, and he said, “Lindzen lies to you.  He should know better.  I could talk a long time about Dick Lindzen.”  How do we know Robock doesn’t lie to us?  And of course, he repeated the claim that the “deniers” are funded by oil and coal corporations.

His remarks on the published emails from CRU were enlightening as well.  It was a crime to publish them.  This from a man who certainly supports Daniel Elsberg’s filching and publication of the Pentagon Papers.  What crime, I wonder?  The standard line – no evidence of criminal fraud was found, that’s a lie, so there’s no problem.  Conspiracy theory contra conspiracy theory. 

Inadvertently, he let the real cat out of the bag during his discussion of the emails.  Remarking on the “hide the decline” fracas over tree-ring proxies and 20th century data, he said (from memory, I quote):  “The proxy data for the latter 20th century showed a decline, and this data was contaminated for some reason, by pollution perhaps, so they threw out the bad data.”  Ahem…bad data?  Because it didn’t follow the projected uptick in surface temperature?

Is this the best they can do?  When Bush invaded Iraq, I remarked to a friend, “They better find those damn WMD or there’ll be hell to pay!”  They didn’t find them, and there wasn’t much hell to pay, so I was wrong.  I predict again:  If these computer models are shown to be off target in fifteen or twenty years, there’ll be hell to pay – the standing of science with the public will be seriously damaged.

For the record, I am not paid by fossil fuel corporations, and I voted for Al Gore and Barack Obama.


The Weathermen

March 30, 2010

Maybe you do need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing.

Today’s NYTimes:   Among Weathercasters, Doubt on Warming

 Also, see this earlier post by Super Mom:   “You don’t need a climatologist to know which way the wind is blowing.”

The Birds

March 14, 2010

The Birds, a Hitchcock film from 1963 with Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren – love that film!  But that’s not the subject of my post today.  It’s this report on The State of the Birds, 2010, issued by the Interior Department.  This is the press release headline at the link:

Secretary Salazar Releases New “State of the Birds” Report Showing Climate Change Threatens Hundreds of Species
Austin, TX–Climate change threatens to further imperil hundreds of species of migratory birds, already under stress from habitat loss, invasive species and other environmental threats, a new report released today by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar concludes.

Reading through this notice of key findings, I see that it is the same as many others I read in press releases and article abstracts.  Climate change is happening, and it’s having bad effects on our environment.  This seems to be a good example of climate bandwagon-ism. Everything is, and must be shown to be related to the threat posed by climate change.  Beat the drum loudly! Consider the key findings (emphasis mine):

  • Oceanic birds are among the most vulnerable species because they don’t raise many young each year… and they nest on islands that may be flooded as sea levels rise. All 67 oceanic bird species…are among the most vulnerable birds on Earth to climate change.

Okay, but what if climate predictions are wrong?  Fact is, these birds are threatened by a lot of things now!

  • Hawaiian birds … already face multiple threats and are increasingly challenged by mosquito-borne diseases and invasive species as climate change alters their native habitats.

The assumption is that global climate change has altered their habitat and will continue to do so, presumably at ever increasing rates.  I wonder how much worse the threats will be than they are already?

  • Birds in coastal, arctic/alpine, and grassland habitats…show intermediate levels of vulnerability; most birds in aridlands, wetlands, and forests show relatively low vulnerability to climate change.

Just for the record, this accounts for most species, not that those minority bird populations aren’t important!

  • For bird species that are already of conservation concern… the added vulnerability to climate change may hasten declines or prevent recovery.

Like the poor people of the world, the species that are in trouble now are the most likely to suffer most when anything changes and makes life a bit more difficult.

  • The report identified common bird species … that are likely to become species of conservation concern as a result of climate change.

Aren’t these species in habitats that are least likely to be affected?  So, from among these “safer” species, the report picks out the ones that have the  greatest likelihood of showing some stress, when that climate change kicks in as we all know it will…must!  Just wondering, how much of a risk is “of concern..?”  Have to read the report.

After the listing of Key Findings, there is this:

    “All of the effective bird conservation efforts already taking place to protect rare species, conserve habitats, and remove threats need to be continued,” said David Mehlman of The Nature Conservancy. “Additionally, they need to be greatly expanded to meet the threat climate change poses to bird populations.”

Bravo for that!  Yes, I am all for maintaining and expanding our efforts to conserve bird populations, bird habitat, and species diversity.  What does climate change have to do with it?  Why bring it in other than to try and build concern…hysteria?

Okay, they are bureaucrats, and they write reports.  So, let’s see what they’ve given us:

Many bird populations are threatened now by human settlement patterns.  Birds that have insecure populations now will be less secure if climate change occurs as predicted.  We may see birds that are common now show some stress if climate changes occur as predicted.  If climate change occurs as predicted, our present efforts to stabilize bird populations may not be as effective as hoped.

That’s it.  May, might, if…Now this report will start turning up in arguments that use it to prove that AGW is a clear and present danger to human and biosphere health!  We are already such a destructive force in the biosphere that computer models of climate change are the last thing birds should be worrying about.  They should be more concerned about how they will look in the planned remake of Hitchcock’s gem!


The inevitable backlash

March 4, 2010

Creationists don’t understand science, but they are not stupid.  According to the NYTimes [link below], they are now latching on to the controversy over global warming to promote their faith-based agenda.  The AGW folks brought it on themselves.

I have often said that one of the worst effects of the polticization of the science by the AGW backers is that they setting us all up for a massive backlash against science.  Perhaps it has begun here.  Once you get evolution and religion mixed into it, there’s no way out.

The IPCC fans have helped bring this on by turning a scientific debate into a battle between “science” and deniers, flat-earthers, and so-called conspiracy theorists.  This view is tacitly accepted by the NYTimes as well, as evidenced by the article yesterday about the rear guard protective action the IPCC/AGW folks are trying to ginn up.  (Such know-nothing attitudes are part of the screaming, but not the substantive debate.)

For the record:

  • Creationism and Intelligent Design do not meet any criteria for consideration as scientific hypotheses.  They are notions rooted in religious faith. 
  • Evolution by mutation and natural selection is a well-founded scientific hypothesis that has been so well supported over generations that it is dignified with the designation of “Theory.”  (Theory does not mean guess, or hypothesis!  More at this post.)
  • Antropogenic global warming (AGW) is a plausible scientific hypothesis that has, I think, a very weak supporting body of evidence.
  • The sceptical view on AGW is not a theory or competing hypothesis:  It is simply a recognition that one should not be convinced by the AGW case.  The null hypothesis, that our climate system is very complex and shows many historical examples of rather wide variation remains in force.  In addition I would say that humans probably do have a noticeable impact on regional climate, but not necessarily or principally as a result of CO2 discharges.  This is a long-standing view of many climatologists and geographers.
The fact that creationists don’t accept the AGW view does not mean that those who don’t accept the AGW view are creationists.  The fact that many good critics of the IPCC are libertarians or politically conservative does not mean that one is a conservative or right winger for criticizing the IPCC.  Let’s keep politics and science separate, despite the ramblings of those deconstructionist philosophes.

Critics of evolution are gaining ground by linking the issue to climate change, arguing that dissenting views on both should be taught in public schools.


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