Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Climate Gore

I’ve been maintaining blog-silence this month while I get this year’s Index of Leading Environmental Indicators in the can (bonus: this year’s edition will include a short film on DVD starring Yours Truly), but a couple of things compel me to pop my head above the parapet to comment.

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal carried an op-ed column (not available to non-subscribers so I’m skipping a link) from Bjorn Lomborg recounting how Al Gore had ducked out of a previously arranged interview with a Danish newspaper when he found out that Lomborg would be doing the interview. As chance would have it, I spent the afternoon with Lomborg just last week in Zurich going over questions he should ask Gore. (What were you doing in Zurich?--Ed. Lomborg and I were stuffing our Swiss bank accounts with all the ExxonMobil moolah they’ve been shoveling our way. . . Just kidding. I couldn’t resist the thought of NLT trolls heads exploding. Bjorn and I were speakers at a conference sponsored by this Swiss think tank.)* I’m not surprised Gore backed out; he is not very good at answering challenges to his extreme climate gore, so he ducks more debates than Jimmy Carter.

Word around Hollywood is that "An Inconvenient Truthiness" is a shoe-in for the Oscar for best documentary. Which leads me to wonder: rumors are going around Washington that Gore is quietly contacting key Democrats to sound them out about running. Might Gore use the Oscar microphone to announce his candidacy? Where can you have a bigger audience aside from American Idol? Think of how the Hollywood crowd would go nuts if Gore did it. It would also be a way of eclipsing Obamamania. I’d almost be willing to quote odds on this idea.

Meanwhile, Rich Karlgaard points to a possible problem for Gore: his involvement in whitewashing Apple’s options backdating problem. Now, this is one of those lovely "hoist-by-their-own-petard" situations, since the people who froth the most about this problem are Gore’s constituencies. Couldn’t happen to a more deservedly unctuous person.

Finally, is Al Gore actually a harbinger of a new ice age, or is he the Real Mr. Freeze of Batman comics? Several journalists have noted that everywhere Gore goes, he seems to bring record cold temperatures with him. There’s now even an entry about "the Gore Effect" in The Urban Dictionary (a kind of alternative Wikipedia), defined as "The well documented phenomenon that leads to very low, unseasonal temperatures, driving rain, hail, snow or all of the above whenever Al Gore visits an area to discuss global warming’."

*P.S. I regaled my Swiss hosts with Robin Williams’ old jokes about how wonderful it is that the basic weapon of the Swiss army--the famous knife--comes with a corkscrew. (Their marching chant goes: "I don’t know but I’ve been told/Chardonnay should be served cold.") I was archly told that only officers are issued Swiss army knives with corkscrews. Which makes it even funnier if you ask me.

Discussions - 21 Comments

Did Al Gore visit Oklahoma? Because the snow here is really making people loose their cool... What in Ohio might have brought about a 2 hour delay on the first day...has instead kept school canceled with talks of canceling spring with more snow on the way Oklahomans are starting to think that it is a sign of the end times. There is even snow and freezing rain in the forcast in Nothern Texas.

Oil company money? I knew it! I KNEW IT!

-Loyal troll, happy to oblige.

Nice pre-emptive attack on the "trolls" (aka "anyone who disagrees"), Steven. I guess if you were to seriously concede even the POSSIBILITY that some of your AEI compensation originated from Exxon, then it might raise my brow, and I might be surprised, but I doubt my head would explode.

I had noticed the here-and-gone press accounts (and thought this might account for your low profile of late). I also took a look at UCS’s report, and noticed that you are working or have worked for at least 3 of the groups which have been funded by Exxon (Heritage, AEI, and Pacific RIPP) - at least 4 if Fraser Institute is included. And global warming skepticism has been integral to a lot of your output.

But I’m sure you’ve maintained plausible deniability throughout the entire term of Exxon’s campaign, which, if this account is to be believed, could be coming to an end, at least for "five or six" of the groups they’ve been funding (that still leaves a good number of groups). Odds are that your paychecks come from AEI and whatever other groups, and don’t say "Exxon" at the top, and a "Thanks, Steven, for helping us flim-flam Americans on this one!" on the memo line at the bottom. I’m sure you simply do the work that interests you, and AEI is happy to release it...for whatever reason. But Bjorn Lomborg, Steven? He’s a semi-interesting scientist - a political scientist - but not real credible.

Who needs a hook, line and sinker when big fish like Craig jump willingly into the basket. Well, at least you’re reading NLT, which is good.

Now let’s put an end to this ad hominem nonsense once and for all. For the record, no single donor (that means Exxon) accounts for even 1% of AEI’s budget, so you can do the math about my salary. More precisely, I am the F.K. Weyerhaeuser Chair at AEI, paid entirely by an endowment from Fred Weyerhaeuser back in the 1970s, so technically speaking I get nothing from Exxon (and I now longer draw a salary from PRI in San Francisco). Before you whoop and holler about Weyerhaeuser (and I little or no work on forestry issues, by the way), there is also an F.K. Weyerhaeuser Chair at Yale, set up at the same time, so I assume that any allegations of corruption will be applied equally to Yale University.

Lomborg? Not credible? Must come as news to Cambridge Univeristy Press, which sent out his book to four peer reviewers before publication, all of whom found it perfectly credible. Also a surprise to the four Nobel Prize winners who endorsed his Copenhagen Consensus finding that climate change ranked low in the scale of sensible global policy priorities. Lomborg, by the way, describes himself as a vegetarian homosexual socialist. Just what does a fellah have to do to make you guys happy, anyway?

For the record, IF the computer models are right (a big IF), we can expect about 2 degrees further warming at the end of this century, probably less. There. I said it. How is that denial? What does the "consensus" science of the IPCC say about this much warming? Their 2001 report says that damages outweighing benefits don’t begin until temperature change rises above 2 degrees. Read it for yourself. I have. (Rumors are, by the way, that the next IPCC report, due in full in November, is going to LOWER both its temperature forecast and the proportion of human influence on climate change. Heh.)

We know that the world’s climate has changed, fluctuated, over the centuries - a once flourishing viniculture in England, then crushingly cold winters that killed it, for a small and bloggable example out of many. How do we come to decide that man is a factor in global climate change when there are so many other, bigger and surely therefore more likely, natural factors? I have heard of the possible effects of sun spot activity, or undersea volcanic activity that might just be the hot core of the earth venting itself (surely a good thing) and warming the Pacific Ocean, or wobbles in the Earth’s orbit of the sun, all sorts of big things that would seem to have more effect on climate than aerosol spray cans or freon escaping from refrigerators. If Al Gore (I did read the article in the WSJ) is citing micro-climate changes (John Lewis, Ohio had an amazingly temperate winter until this week) as if they were pandemic problems where they do not really apply, then what is he doing that for, except, perhaps for self-aggrandizement? It seems to me that a guy who would drag the country through those stupid election challenges of 2000 might claim ANYTHING of his own foregone conclusions.

Ouch! The Craigtroll takes a torp amidships! I do like your style, Steve...a man after my own heart.

It is likely that we have influenced the global climate, but then again, so did cyano-bacteria! So do tropical rainforests. So does all life (anyone ever heard of the Gaia hypothesis...crazy stuff, but a grain of truth). The real fight is what to do about it. Sensible people (i.e., many people on the right) think that a gradual phase-out of fossil fuels would probably be a good thing (not just environmentally, but politically as well), and the best way to do that is the marketplace (perhaps with a nudge or two from government). The radical environmentalist agenda...backdoor socialism, forced deindustrialization, massive government nutty (Al Gore’s speciality).

Now here’s a fun factoid: According to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, the warm winter temperatures have lowered energy consumption in the US by 13.5 percent. See the fifth paragraph of this NOAA site. Go global warming??

So, if we use less fossil fuels, we redress the issue and global warming will stop? Earth in (forget "the") Balance?

Why do we still call them "fossil fuels"? Hydrocarbons are everywhere and I’m sorry, that I can’t (or don’t want to, needing to get on with things today) find anything better or more recent to make the point.

Not quite, but it is an interesting paradox often left out of account in the modeling of these things.

As I understood it, the biggest threat to mankind was ManBearPig (half-man, half-bear, half-pig).

I’m not sure if you’ve really disproved that you’re operating at the bidding of Exxon and co. there, but, sorry, whether you do it for money or do it for free doesn’t make your analyses any more worthwhile, believable, or trustworthy than any other non-scientist’s.

The question is, who are people going to trust? The book from Lomborg, a political scientist statistician, elicited this from the Danish Committee for Scientific Dishonesty, which Lomborg himself describes as "a national review body, with considerable authority":

"the publication is deemed clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice" and "there has been such perversion of the scientific message in the form of systematically biased representation that the objective criteria for upholding scientific dishonesty ... have been met"

While Lomborg doesn’t really cut it as a scientist of anything but the political kind (Lomborg himself admits in his preface, "I am not myself an expert as regards environmental problems"), certainly you would be at least as far removed from the realm of scientific expertise, if not more so. Yes, of course, Al Gore is not a scientist either (and believe it or not, I’ve never seen "An Inconvenient Truth"). But the vast majority of climate scientists are in strong disagreement with your and Mr. Lomborg’s views, and back up Mr. Gore’s evaluation (from what I’ve read of things), whatever flaws he may have personally. An introductory skewering of Lomborg’s book, for example, written by a real scientist, (the guy who actually edited The Encyclopedia of Climate and Weather!), said this:

"Before providing specifics of why I believe each of these assertions is fatally flawed, I should say something about Lomborg’s methods. First, most of his nearly 3,000 citations are to secondary literature and media articles. Moreover, even when cited, the peer-reviewed articles come elliptically from those studies that support his rosy view that only the low end of the uncertainty ranges will be plausible. IPCC authors, in contrast, were subjected to three rounds of review by hundreds of outside experts. They didn’t have the luxury of reporting primarily from the part of the community that agrees with their individual views."

and, this too, is quite interesting:

"For such an interdisciplinary topic, the publisher would have been wise to ask natural scientists as well as social scientists to review the manuscript, which was published by the social science side of the house. It’s not surprising that the reviewers failed to spot Lomborg’s unbalanced presentation of the natural science, given the complexity of the many intertwining fields. But that the natural scientists weren’t asked is a serious omission for a respectable publisher such as Cambridge University Press."

Continuing with the "who should be trusted?" question, it is not ad hominem to point out that some types of expertise are relevant to an issue and some aren’t. I trust I needn’t get into further details.

Also, whether Lomborg describes himself as a "vegetarian homosexual socialist" or as a lampshade has no bearing on the question of whether he’s done serious science to reach valid scientific conclusions.

KATE - You might be interested in this fairly recent article about the significance of past English viniculture (written by....a climate modeller at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies!). There are more vineyards in England now than ever before. I’ll leave it to Steven to evaluate their flavor and greatness, or lack thereof.

Craig Scanlon, Thank you, I did like that article. It was a very pleasant read: the article, his links and the comments that followed. All of those argued the point pretty thoroughly, but did not exactly disprove natural climate change.

There are vineyards in Northeast Ohio, which can have brutally cold winters. Some grape varieties do very well in this climate and some wineries up here make good wines. The vintners up here say it is not just a question of climate, but also one of proper soil.

Kate - Glad you liked the article on English wine production. Whether or not it disproved natural climate change (and I don’t think that was the author’s intention; few climate scientists DO dispute that natural climate changes occur, and Schmidt himself points out 4 major periods of (natural) global warming in his article, so he’s not in denial about natural warming), I’m still at a loss as to why you made a claim for "a once flourishing viniculture in England, then crushingly cold winters that killed it..." (Was England ever known for "crushingly cold winters", at least, has it been since the ice age? - it certainly isn’t known for them now) The article’s author, Gavin Schmidt, said it best:

"If they [English vineyards] are a good proxy [for long term temperature trends], then England is warmer now, and if they are not.... well, why talk about them in this context at all?

There is a bigger issue of course. For the sake of argument, let’s accept that medieval times were as warm in England as they are today, and even that global temperatures were similar (that’s a much bigger leap, but no mind). What would that imply for our attribution of current climate changes to human causes? ....... Nothing. Nowt. Zero. Zip."

Hey, trollboy, instead of the blanket condemnation, how about a couple of examples of how Lomborg made egregious errors? I own his book, and I’d love to see some honest critique (for a change).

As far as his credentials, I doubt that matters. Even when someone has the appropriate credentials, if he/she doesn’t sign off on global warming he/she is branded a "maverick" or worse. I might also note that hundreds of these climate scientists are pumping the Federal Govt for grant money to study GW...the thing is a massive cash cow for the scientific community. How come you Lefties don’t ever accuse them of "vested interests?"

[Perhaps Mr. Bramaged should read the Scientific American article that I linked to previously. I suppose there may also be a scientist somewhere who, in his spare time, argues that the Sun revolves around the Earth. He/she should not be lauded (branded??) as a brave, bold "maverick" any more than Lomborg and his handful of disciples, who get disproportionately more ink and attention - from the "liberally-biased MSM" - than the thousands of actual scientists who study the global warming phenomenon.]

Fact: Climate Change is happening.
Fact: We are beginning to feel the effects of climate change now and "Generation Next" is going to have to deal with it.
Fact: The Ozone hole is fixing itself.

Debated: Nature or Man is to blame?

Now, yes, studies show that the climate of the world has changed before, usually on small, gradual scales. Nearly every study also shows that man’s actions and innovations in the 20th century also added to pollution and have added to the warming of the planet-- we just don’t know if it will effect things like most of the scientific community warns us it will, or if the changes will be on a smaller scale.

Now, I have to bring up the Ozone thing. We learned that we put a hole in the Ozone, and we banned the main chemical responsible for it and now the hole is fixing itself. It should be back to normal by ~2050 (I think). So there is an example of mankind putting things into the atmosphere and damaging it, then removing the things damaging it and nature fixing itself.

Now, Mr. Gore seems to maintain that climate change will probably lead to the destruction of the planet. I sincerely doubt that. While many would die and the planet be radically altered, the world will eventually fix itself as usual. He also maintains that if we start capping things now, we’ll "fix" the problem before it gets worse. Again, I disagree. IF mankind is responsible, our actions are probably irreversible by this point. IF nature is mainly responsible... well... In Mankind vs. Nature on a large scale, mankind doesn’t tend to be completely victorious.
So, either way, the climate is changing. What the government needs to do is stop bickering over who is responsible and start finding a way to prepare for it--- like some northern European government (can’t remember which) that recently took the seeds of hundreds of thousands of plants on the planet and stuck it in a bunker buried deep beneath a mountain as a "just in case." Also, climate change is going to cost us a LOT of money in the future. We need to find a way to prepare the global economy for that.

Actually, ROB, the most recent science show some terrifying abrupt climate shifts long before man had anything to do with the Discovery Channel.

Trollboy, you’re right, I missed that link. Well, upon reading it, I have to say that I’m not impressed. It’s exactly this kind of PC slam-job that forced me to drop my subscription...that and stupid social science articles.

So, let’s see...we have 4 reviewers, the most notable being Bongaarts and Lovejoy. Lovejoy’s biodiversity "critique" looks best of all...the others are of the "magnifying glass & tweezers" variety. Things like "he should have also added."

The Bongaarts’ critique is the most laughable. It’s true, having children retards economic growth, but I notice he doesn’t mention the large body of literature that demonstrates how labor force/adult population growth is ESSENTIAL for economic growth...not a word. He also slams population density in very Malthusian terms, but clearly clueless on real history. Let’s look at history, shall we TB? All the great civilizations, Greece, Rome, China, India...all had one thing in common: they were much more densely settled that the unorganized territories around them. Even today, where are the poorest places on earth? In Asia? No, they are in the desert, with very low population densities. It takes people to create wealth and its byproducts like art and science. Bongaarts is a typical demographer..couldn’t find his butt with both hands.

I’ll check out the biodiversity arguments, but I doubt they’ll hold water. Scientific American smeared Lomborg...standard operating procedure for the GW crowd.

Yes, thus I said "usually on small, gradual scales" because certain things like massive volcanic explosions and the like have caused more radical shifts in the past.

Craig Scanlon, I meant the href="">Little IceAge, and no, England has not been known for nasty winters since the mid 1800’s. They have the Gulf Stream to keep them warm, as they are actually as far north as Quebec, but are much warmer. They are further north than where I live, and as I said, we have some really cold winters here, though not this one. Grapes grew in England in the Medieval Warm Period, and then didn’t do so well in the Little Ice Age. Some winters were cold enough to freeze off the vines.

This is about New York, but neatly explains about how some plants flourish in an area when the climate is one way, and do not when the something like a Little Ice Age comes along.

I really like that Real Climate site as it gives me scientific articles to back up what I merely knew from art, history and literature. However, I do not see how historical and literary information about natural phenomenon can be discarded.

But I have more questions: Doesn’t mankind adapt to climate change? I mean, haven’t we in the past, just made to shifts in agriculture, preferring different breeds of farm animals over others, and so on, just changing gradually with the gradual climate changes? Why wouldn’t it be easier now, given what we know from the past, and with science? The focus in these articles I have been reading this weekend focus on stopping that which seems to be unstoppable. Why aren’t we simply looking to adapt? I suppose that’s R.O.B.’s point, and I like it.

Don’t you just hate it when you think you have some comment nice and tidy and then "add" it and find it is a mess?

Yes, that was pretty much my point. We need to stop worrying about stopping it and start preparing for it. There are things we know from history that we can prepare with (like you said, adapting agriculture to climate change), and then certain things we can predict that we can prepare for (like rising ocean tides that will cause a refugee crisis in southern Asia and slightly change the coastlines of most nations). I mean, we have the technology to do it now. Putting aside the ethical argument at the moment, if we wanted to save species of animals that will die due to global warming for future generations we can just get their DNA and save the genetic information to be cloned. Now, while some people may not be entirely for that, it’s just an example of what we can do to get ready for things, because at it is right, you people who have been in charge of things for a while now are leaving those of us who are going to inherit this thing without much to go on.

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