I disagree with Hightower.

What you will find here is: a centrist's view of current events;
a collection of thoughts, arguments, and observations
that I have found appealing and/or amusing over the years;
and, if you choose, your civil contributions which will make it into a conversation.

He not busy bein' born, is busy dyin'. - Bob Dylan

Please refer to participants only by their designated identities.

suggestion for US citizens: When a form asks for your race, write in: -- American

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Settled Science

The Senate just staged a Climate Change all nighter.  I did not watch and I saw only a few selected clips on the news, most proclaiming the science is “settled”.

The results of a NASA study on how the carbon cycle works was widely published in the media today.  The results indicate that the science is far from “settled”.  The article below is a report on the study from Climatescience.com

Politic and science seem to be very dubious partners from both sides of the political fence.


  1. I would take your last sentence one step farther and say that politics and anything else make dubious partners. I was reminded recently that Ronald Reagan once famously said that, and I paraphrase, "politics is the second oldest profession and there's not much difference between the two." I would assume that he meant that both professions are bad, although some would argue that there is more integrity and honesty in the first.

    But to the point about "settled science". This seems to me to be a new designation, this "settled science". What exactly is the definition of settled science? I hear the phrase thrown around as if everybody knows what it means but I sincerely doubt that scientists really think there is any such thing. I doubt that the word "settled" is used as a scientific measurement of any kind. Of course I am no scientist so I could easily be wrong. But I think that the very nature of science is dynamic and fluid and organic.

    Surprisingly I agree with much of what Krauthammer had to say in the article linked below, except for the blatant partisan attempts at making the President look either a liar or a fool on this issue. But when he was sticking to the topic I thought his analysis was good.

    On the other hand, at what point should we take heed of evidence that DOES clearly point to a future hostile environment, even if it's not clearly indisputable. Even as Krauthammer admits it just doesn't make sense that pouring tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere isn't a bad thing, even if you don't know exactly HOW bad it is. If you watch any of the video from the tsunami a few years ago, and I guess pretty much any tsunami, you can see people standing quite a ways off shore looking at the water thinking, I guess, "well I have no indisputable evidence that the water is going to get this far so I'll just stand here and watch...oops".


    1. WRT when to take action. Actually I think that is THE question - If you are playing the game of “blackjack” you hit on 15 and stand on 16 because that is what the mathematical odds favor. When to hit (take additional or more drastic actions) in an attempt to address climate change is a much tougher call made much tougher by the misuse of “science” by champions of a particular ideology.

      If Obama blamed the current California drought on climate change then the criticism shoe fits and Charles’s is justified in pointing that out.

      I did find Charles’s article a little less precise that I would like because he made no clear distinction between the discussion of climate change and the discussion of global warming, particularly global warming due to anthropogenic causes. I believe that “climate change” (void of the cause) is really close to settled science.

      I have no global answer for your question on when to take further or more drastic action except to say that I am in favor of taking reasonable actions. My definition of reasonable does not include the blanket demonization of (and ceasing to use) fossil fuels. If only we could all agree on reasonable.

      As you and Charles both point out, the spewing of millions of tons of waste into the atmosphere cannot be a good thing. Still, the NASA study referenced in my original post indicates that the science on the planet’s resiliency to increased carbon emissions “may” indicate an environmental impact below that we would intuitively expect. Not a reason to not act, but perhaps a reason to act with restraint.

    2. I'll say just one more thing because I know you have said your peace and I have said my peace and I don't think we disagree that much on this issue except I'm a lefty and you're a righty so we're seeing the same thing from different vantage points. But I think, from what you say, that you want exactly what I want on this issue, productive action. The only thing I fear is complete paralysis due to the silly partisan arguments. I am good with reasonable and I can even buy into restraint. But I can't go along with doing nothing. The polar ice caps and glaciers are melting. That's a fact that pretty much all reasonable people agree on. The continued melting of the polar caps and the glaciers is going to cause horrific damage down the road. I think that is a fact that pretty much all reasonable people can agree on. If there are steps we can take to slow the process and even stop it (I know, science fiction, right?) then we should take those steps. Of course it's highly likely that you and I will not see the ultimate consequences of not taking action or aggressive enough action. But it's just as likely that our children/grandchildren will. Meanwhile let's just sit back and watch the tsunami. I don't think there is any reason to think the water will get this high.

      OK, 2 more things. Take a look at what Obama said in California and see if you think he said what Krauthammer said that he said. I don't think he did, but then I'm a lefty and you're a righty, so different vantage points. I don't want to be an apologist for Obama, so I leave it to your good judgement. If people are going to be critical of what someone said then they should at least look and see what they said. Then, blast away.


    3. I agree that perspective is everything. Where you fear “inaction” my greater fear is “inappropriate action”. By inappropriate action I mean inappropriate action by the government based on politics or misuse of science. An example would be the ethanol program which makes good sense for weaning the US from foreign oil, but greatly increases transportation costs, increases the cost of all food products with corn ingredients, increases the cost of raising all livestock that are fed corn, and when all factors are considered (increased agriculture, reduced vehicle mileage, seasonal blend changes + tailpipe emissions) does not make sense for the reduction of green house gases.

      p.s. To go completely business conservative on you the cost/benefit analysis on the ethanol program should have eliminated it from consideration/implementation - I blame Bush 43.

      A quote from the movie “Lawrence of Arabia” as Damascus falls and burns
      Colonel Brighton: “Look, sir, we can't just do nothing”.
      General Allenby: Why not? It's usually best.

    4. A quote from Kris Kristopherson seems to me to sum up the right's view of on this issue. "Nothing ain't worth nothing, but it's free."