Sunday, March 01, 2009

George F. Will and Global Smarmy

I'm temped to post about global warming and the recent torrent of pubic outcry out the last two columns by George F. Will of the Washington Post. I just posted a note on Grist, a very green blog, that they missed the point and inadvertently allowed George to win the argument.

We all think that George is something of a skeptic, although his antiquated views shouldn't be a threat to the effort to educate folks about climate change - which most everyone will say is happening. But his main point was that each side has a certain orthodoxy about what to think, and anybody who disagrees with them are considered insane. He brought up the media articles done back in the 1970s that in very alarmist terms, said the Earth was going to freeze over solid.

Naturally the "greens" responded with reams of information, studies, and "proof" that George F. Will was a lying, insane skeptic. Some of the responses such as by Joseph Romm were so rabid and over the top they were comical. The facts are, George F. Will might have a limited understanding of the science and got things slightly wrong in a citation (he proves where he got the information though), but his points about alarmism, extremism, and orthodoxy were pretty much right on target.

The mistake was the greens who went on the attack failed to convince anybody but themselves and only served to illustrate what George was saying. Instead of trying to work with folks to calmly educate them and lead them down the path to understanding how global warming works, they screamed, shouted, and revolted, nearly foaming at the mouth. It's almost like a "dictatorship of the nerds." It's was almost embarrassing to watch them struggle to reclaim the high ground.

This is important because while public opinion puts global warming at the bottom of the top ten national priorities, Americans are fairly divided about being for or against the concept of global warming, very similar to the recent Presidential election results. President Obama intends to float initiatives for low-carbon vehicle standards and a cap & trade program for large industries, ones that have to be voted up or down in Congress. That's why this fight is so important.

Perhaps things just aren't going very well for the greens these days. The economy dominates the media and a recession had put off some construction plans for clean power. Obama's plans for investing in mass transit and "green jobs" were drastically scaled back - which was as if it was a slap in the face. And George F. Will won the debate on his own grounds because he took the high road and acted calm.

I guess I'll leave you with my perspective. If you reduce energy consumption that will save you BIG BUCKS. If one can harness solar, wind, and water power and make that competitive, that will also save money, especially if fossil fuel costs race skyward again. The US could save about 30 percent of its power costs simply by improving efficiency and that saves a ton of money. Oh and by the way, when you do that, CO2 emissions will also go down about 30 percent, not a bad side effect. I think that's the right direction to go.


Rob Nixon said...

Great post Sam.

In my opinion, the argument over global warming gets stuck on the whole "man-made" issue and the term global warming. Of course, the hypocrisy of some activists such as Al Gore, their over the top predictions and statements and "do as i say and not as I do" attitude is not helping the debate either.

Using the term "man-made" initiates a defensive posture and turns eras deaf. Foe example one can not dispute and few if any will actually try to debate that there is sea level rise, that there has been since the last ice age and will continue until the next. However, as soon as "man-made global warming is even mentioned all dialog gets derailed and distracted over pointing fingers and who is responsible.

I think sticking to the term climate change and just using what we have been able to observe and prove is more beneficial than these doomsday prophecies that are being used.

Sam said...

It wasn't my intention to sound like a "denier" although I must admit I'm pretty skeptical about everything these days - I thing climate change and what is happening to the oceans is like wow, extreme. Remember the expert on small plastic trash in the oceans? It all comes together now.

Now 100 percent of that plastic was man-made, perhaps a bad example, but lots of things make CO2 and methane in addition to mankind - or "anthropogenic emissions" as we call them. Swamps decay, old forests and bushland burn because of lightning, and remember, even animals and plants give off CO2. Yes, even trees make CO2 when under stress and at night during respiration as opposed to photosynthesis.

One cannot deny, however, that the footprint of man-made CO2 emissions has grown humongously since the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s. Meanwhile we seemed to have partially denuded the planet of trees and did something horrible to the ocean. What that is, I don't exactly know in terms of causation.

Now we might not know much about how climate change works in terms of "causation" but I can tell you that about 20 to 50 percent of the ozone that forms is from completely natural causes. That's a lot. Perhaps climate change is the same? We just don't know my friends.

Rob Nixon said...

I didn't get the idea that you erer a naysayer. I was just trying to say that the term "man-made global warming" has gotten such a negative connotation to it that "climate change" seems to be the more neutral word when debating the subject. Maybe I got too wordy.

Everett said...

A lot of the stuff I read says that about 85% of the scientists that know about this stuff say there is no "global warming" other than the natural progression of the climate change (not induced by human intervention) and that the the other 15% are so invested in all the money that rolls in from scaring the shit out of every one, that they can't or won't see the forest for the trees! But WTH do I know?

Sam said...

Hey Everett - that black soot and the invisible stuff called "particulate" is what can kill ya. I've studied that for years. Guess what they did? They reduced all the coarse particulate so you couldn't see it ... but the number of particles increased!

Then there's toxics, such as the "Bhopal Effect." Small doses cause some weird things in the environment but how many people died in Bhopal, India when that chemical plant blew up? We're talking some nasty stuff here.

And then there's global warming. By itself it won't hurt anybody, and the serious side effects could be 50 to 100 years into the future. Way in the future? Not harmful? Whaaaaat?

That's a hard sell to the public but no matter the specific causes, if some of the science is right we could be in for a heap of trouble in the future - and some of it is happening already with early warning signals. I think it's something to take very seriously.

Since the 1940s we've come a long way, trying to make our air cleaner not just for us but our kids and the next generations. It was so smoky in some old towns in the 1940s they lad to light the street lamps during the day! That's about only 60 years ago.

And in about 60 years, who knows, the climate might be going kaflooie.

Mike said...

Read "State of Fear" by Michael Crichton...