Littwin: The real climate hoax

 
[dropcap]I[/dropcap] ALWAYS used to feel uncomfortable writing about climate change because I don’t really know much about it.

But it turns out, I had it all wrong. When discussing climate change, ignorance is apparently the default position.

And that’s where I discovered I had the advantage: At least I know that I know nothing. And that little piece of knowledge puts me far ahead of the non-scientists who pretend that they know more.

Yes, I mean you, Marco Rubio. And not just you, but you’re the latest, so we’ll start with you.

If anyone missed it, Rubio went on one of the Sunday morning shows to hint that he’s running for president. He got the climate-change question, of course. It has been a hot topic since the White House released the National Climate Assessment, which judged that climate change is already here — and that we’ve got about 15 years to do something about it. (That was before the latest news — that a large chunk of the Antarctic ice sheet is melting and that there’s nothing we can do about it.)

And here’s what Rubio told Jonathan Karl on ABC’s This Week: “I don’t agree with the notion that some are putting out there, including scientists, that somehow there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what’s happening in our climate.

[pullquote]When Rubio was asked two years ago how old the Earth was, he said, “I’m not a scientist, man.” Now, apparently, he knows more than the scientists, man. [/pullquote]

“Our climate is always changing. And what they have chosen to do is take a handful of decades of research and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that’s directly and almost solely attributable to man-made activity, I do not agree with that.”

OK. He doesn’t “agree” with the scientists because … uh, well, because a handful of decades.

Not because he’s studied the issue. As Jonathan Chait points out in New York magazine, when Rubio was asked two years ago how old the Earth was, he said, “I’m not a scientist, man.” But now, apparently, he knows more than the scientists, man.

Does Rubio really think he knows more than the experts? Or does he believe that pandering to the anti-science, pro-hoax wing of the Republican Party is the best way to get nominated? He has already crossed the streams on immigration. Is this how he wins back the Tea Partiers?

These are the really tough questions. If you look at the polls, the science of climate is all about belief, which is, if you think about it, the opposite of science. You “believe” in climate change according to your politics — as if science were something you put to a vote. I wonder how Einstein would have fared in an election. I know that Darwin is losing even today.

What Rubio could have said is that although he’s no scientist, he’s smart enough to know that when 97 percent of the people who study this stuff say there’s a real problem, there might just be a real problem. That was the John McCain position, circa 2008: that even if the science is wrong, the worst we could do by attacking the problem is to help clean up the environment.

And Rubio probably saw the New York Times story on how Miami Beach is already knee deep into climate change — and figured that as a senator from Florida, he really ought to look into this. But that’s not how you run for president these days in the Republican Party. You dodge, feint and deny. Ask Cory Gardner. It’s exactly how he’s running for the U.S. Senate.

And it’s not how you discuss climate change if you’re, say, George Will. As a columnist, I know just enough to know there seems to be a major problem. I read the articles. I watch the documentaries. I wonder if Al Gore’s carbon footprint is natural or man-made. But the more I read and the more I watch, the more I accept that I topped out in geology in college and majored in English.

I know Shakespeare on climate. “Honesty now endur’d all weathers.” I don’t know how to judge all the claims in the National Climate Assessment, except to honestly say they’re hard to ignore.

That’s not how Will sees it. Will is not a scientist, either. He is proud to be called a climate change denier. But he has read up on the matter and has crunched the numbers and has developed his own theories on whether the planet is warming and whether human activity is involved. Because he doesn’t have to be a scientist to know more than the scientists.

And besides, he says, climate scientists can’t be trusted because there’s money in climate change — as if, you know, there weren’t money in climate-change denial. It takes a strange turn of thought to determine that scientists around the world are involved in a conspiracy. But if it’s not a conspiracy, what else could it be?

As Will said on Fox News recently, “A moment ago, we had a report here on our crumbling infrastructure, gave it a D, emergency. Who wrote it? As we said on there, it was written by civil engineers, who said, ‘By golly, we need more of what civil engineers do and are paid to do.’ Again, there is a sociology of science, there is a sociology in all of this, and engaging the politics of this, we have to understand the enormous interests now invested in climate change.”

It’s not an easy matter, of course. There’s no obvious solution. It’s a worldwide problem, and the world, you may have noticed, doesn’t agree on much. We’ve actually been cutting carbon emissions in the United States, and the EPA is about to propose stricter rules on coal-powered power plants. But here’s where the scientists also agree: That’s not nearly enough.

But these scientists are probably in league with those in the renewable-energy crowd, who are, after all, a bunch of Obama cronies. You have to believe that. Otherwise, you’re stuck believing that the National Climate Assessment scientists might just have a point when they look at Colorado and see more wildfires, more droughts, more floods and so little being done about it.

[ Image: “Banksy is a climate change denier” by Matt Brown. ]

11 COMMENTS

  1. The National Academy of Sciences is charges with advising Congress on matters of Sciences, but Republicans ignore them on climate science. Their website says over 97% of climate scientists say climate change is manmade.

  2. Mike, you give yourself too little credit. “And that’s where I discovered I had the advantage: At least I know that I know nothing. And that little piece of knowledge puts me far ahead of the non-scientists who pretend that they know more.” this is exactly the problem right now – no one is willing to admit “I don’t know,” and often scientists are being forced to take on this weird, unscientific position. The expectation is that they should be prophets of their chosen discipline. The fact is, not even scientists have a hold on their entire field, and that’s fine!

    What scientists (job title) do is find a gap in the data or a promising direction to take, find a way to examine it, and make conclusions based on the related information. If those conclusions are faulty because of data they’ve overlooked, it’s supposed to be caught by peer-review.

    A faulty conclusion can be challenged at any point after a paper has been published, and it happens often! This is why you get people thinking that science is guesswork, because, y’know, they can guess things and be wrong too, so the people studying the issue and in communication with other people studying the issue must be full of shit.

    In collaboration and from the input of other scientists, they then begin to piece together a broader picture of a system. It works the same way as it does in particle physics, or biology, or any field you can imagine. I think you would have done well in science :)

  3. Good article, Mike. As a scientist (geologist) I have always been uncomfortable when the word “believe” enters a discussion about scientific issues. Yet upon further reflection, interpretation of the data is really a statement of belief, particularly when the data projects into the future. It is rare at scientific meetings for someone to present graphs showing a series of relationships and leave it at that. So, having said that, I “believe” the data collected by scientists demonstrates that anthropogenic CO2 is a significant driver of global warming. Beliefs to the contrary are not based upon scientific data, or at best shaky scientific data. I also firmly believe that man has not evolved enough to ever act in harmony for the greater long term good, so I would like to see more economic sturdy of the very long term detriments and benefits of global warming. Particularly what it will do where.

  4. Actually, a well informed lay person knows as much about climate change as any scientist from any other discipline. And, I expect Rubio to be pretty well informed, at least as well informed as anyone represented here, including the author, who admits to not being informed at all. Of course there is a “consensus” and of course it will be proven wrong, that is, after all the objective of scientific research. In this case, the consensus is getting weaker as each day progresses and more and more climate scientists come out of the AGW closet. Currently, it’s the ones whose reputations and funding don’t depend on the weak AGW hypothesis but as the data gets more and more obviously against the hypothesis and pseudo scientific rationales begin to look more and more foolish, others will realize just how wrong the hypothesis is and get back to the real research to determine the actual processes that drive climate change. When this happens only the false prophets and religious fanatics will be left and they will be viewed with the same contempt that they view creationists today.

  5. “A well informed lay person know as much about climate change as any scientist”. Then of course we have those “climate scientists” coming out of the AGW closet. Baffling to say the least.

    I suppose it’s safe to assume the Creationist crowd is doing the “real research to determine the actual processes that drive climate change”. Fancy that. Hallelujah!

  6. I give Mr. Littwin an A+ for honesty and here’s why:

    “I always used to feel uncomfortable writing about climate change because I don’t really know much about it.”

    “At least I know that I know nothing.”

    “I don’t know how to judge all the claims in the National Climate Assessment, except to honestly say they’re hard to ignore.”

    “It’s not an easy matter, of course. There’s no obvious solution. It’s a worldwide problem, and the world, you may have noticed, doesn’t agree on much.”

    “We’ve actually been cutting carbon emissions in the United States, and the EPA is about to propose stricter rules on coal-powered power plants “

    This may be the most honesty he’s ever displayed in any column. I wish he’d have been this candid when he wrote about sports.

    But how, then, does Mr. Littwin write a column about climate change after admitting:
    – he doesn’t know much about it
    – he doesn’t know how to judge the claims made by the NCA
    – it’s a worldwide problem
    – it’s not an easy problem with no obvious solution
    – the US has cut carbon emissions

    Well, he doesn’t. Mr. Littwin simply uses climate change as an opportunity to ridicule Republican Senator Marco Rubio and how, exactly, that moves forward the discussion on climate change is known only to Mr. Littwin.

    I do wonder how Mr. Littwin feels about Democrat Senator Mary Landrieu who, according to mnn.com is “on record urging President Obama to stop making the fight against global warming a focus of the Democratic party.”

    And, according to a March 12, 2014 Gallup poll, climate change ranked next to last in a list of 15 issues Americans consider important.

    Next to last.

    “The White House says it has surpassed its goal for people enrolled in Obamacare. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you make something mandatory and fine people if they don’t do it and then keep extending the deadline for months. It’s like a Cinderella story. It’s just a beautiful thing. You make everyone do it. If you still haven’t enrolled, you might have to pay a penalty called the ‘Individual Shared Responsibility Payment,’ which is 1 percent of your salary. Then Americans said, ‘hey, good thing I don’t have a job.”
    Jimmy Fallon

    http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org

    May is Military Appreciation Month

    Memorial Day – May 26, 2014

    For love of country they accepted death… James A. Garfield

  7. In another anemic offering Mr Lopez says Mike bad mouthed Marco Rubio. Mr Lopez adds a quip concerning Senator Mary Landrieu’s feelings about the President’s views on Global Warming. It’s the usual Lopez pabulum.

    Landrieu is up for re-election this year representing a state dripping red white and blue teabags. She has to appear half assed repub to sooth the rednecks. Rubio gets an A+ for his asinine comments on ABC. Write on Mike.

    Mr Lopez loves polls to back his flimsy conclusions. Here’s a couple of more Gallup polls he didn’t mention.

    March 18 poll. 57% blame humans for global warming while 40% say it’s natural causes.

    April 20 poll. One in four Americans are solidly skeptical of global warming. 66% are men. 34% are women. 58% are 50+. 80% are repubs. We can conclude it’s aging repub men who are skeptical. Landrieu’s state is swarming with these guys. Rubio loves them.

    March 20 poll. 50% of Americans say protection of the environment is more important than economic growth. 41% say economic growth more important and again it’s repubs going for the money.

    Don’t you love it. Repub delirium and denial. Don Lopez to the rescue.

  8. Don,
    I’ve been waiting to see if you’d write. You took your time. I guess you were trying to figure out what to do about the Will problem. I have read George Will on climate change. I have watched him on TV talking about climate change. I can assure you I know as much about it as Will does, which is, of course, next to nothing. The difference is that I don’t pretend to be able to argue the science. It’s the most obvious symptom of talking-head syndrome — the need to appear to be an expert on all subjects. Landrieu is a long-time defender of the oil bidness. I don’t think she’s a denier, though. And interestingly, Rubio denies he’s a denier. Could it be that he’s not a denier, but just plays one on Sunday morning TV?

  9. Hey ScreenSniffer,

    Hope you had a nice Mother’s Day.

    I read your comment to Mr. Littwin’s May 9th column.

    It was easy to spot because it was the only one there.

    One minor correction: The 2009 deficit was 1,413 billion not 1,413 trillion.

    And one 2009 – 2014 economic indicator you didn’t mention was the national debt. In 2009 it was 11.9 trillion. Today it is almost 17.5 trillion.

    Just sayin’.

    “The White House says it has surpassed its goal for people enrolled in Obamacare. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you make something mandatory and fine people if they don’t do it and then keep extending the deadline for months. It’s like a Cinderella story. It’s just a beautiful thing. You make everyone do it. If you still haven’t enrolled, you might have to pay a penalty called the ‘Individual Shared Responsibility Payment,’ which is 1 percent of your salary. Then Americans said, ‘hey, good thing I don’t have a job.”
    Jimmy Fallon
    http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org

    May is Military Appreciation Month

    Memorial Day – May 26, 2014

    For love of country they accepted death… James A. Garfield

  10. Mr Lopez is “just sayin”. He’s probably upset posting hogwash no one understands. It no doubt helps him deal with his problems and the need to post attention seeking recognition.

    Wounded warrior? Fancy that!

  11. Mr. Littwin,

    This may shock you—and if it doesn’t, it should—but on climate change we actually agree on a few things. More on that later. Let me again restate my appreciation for your candor.

    I never took your swipe at George Will seriously because it came after your admission that you knew little about climate change/global warming/anthropogenic global warming. And if, as you claim, George Will has “talking-head syndrome”, he certainly is not alone. Or are you suggesting he is?

    I know this is not the only difference of opinion you’ve had with George Will and I was surprised you chose this particular one to highlight. Just last month Mr. Will told the Daily Caller “Global warming is socialism by the back door”. You ignored it.

    George Will has a Ph.D in politics from Princeton, a Pulitzer Prize, a nationally syndicated column (approximately 400 papers) and, as an author, has appeared twice on the New York Times best sellers list. I’m sure he’ll survive this column.

    I think your frustration on climate change doesn’t stem from George Will but rather polling (see: Gallup, March 12, 2014) which suggests Americans don’t believe climate change is an important issue. In that poll climate change is eclipsed by 14 other issues Americans consider more important including the economy, federal spending and the budget deficit, unemployment and the size and power of the Federal government.

    I found your defense of Senator Landrieu (“I don’t think she’s a denier”) puzzling since she views climate change legislation in almost the same light as Senator Rubio.

    But, like you, I believe climate change is a global problem which will require a global solution and,as you pointed out, the world “doesn’t agree on much”.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.