Politics

Pseudoscience

The sad state of Bush’s science advice

Most science advisers have taken as their job to inform the president and his administration, as well as Congress, the media, and the public, of the thinking of the scientific community on key science issues of the day. Bush's advisor, John H. Marburger III, takes the opposite view. He believes his job is to inform (misinform? disinform?) the scientific community, as well as Congress, the media, and the public, of the "thinking" of the Bush Administration on key science issues. In 2006, he summed up the "technology, technology, blah, blah" strategy of Luntz/Bush: It's important not to get distracted by chasing short-term reductions in greenhouse emissions. The real payoff is in long-term technological breakthroughs. Don't get distracted by actions to save the climate from destruction. The real payoff is in never doing anything. Realclimate has a good report on Marburger's lecture at the huge American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, titled "Reflections on the Science and Policy of Energy and Climate Change":

CNBC energy bill debate with Dan Weiss

The economic benefits of going green

Earlier this week, senior fellow and director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress, Dan Weiss, went on CNBC to discuss "the economic benefits of going green" as it relates to the energy bill currently in Congress. Weiss, a strong advocate of the clean energy provisions, went head to head with Max Schultz of the Manhattan Institute, whose sole platform was costs.

Elephants in the room

Greenpeace India points out the obvious

The taxi driver that took me from the Bali airport to my hotel in Nusa Dua, the secure "green zone" where the climate negotiations are taking place, didn't speak much English. Just well enough to say, haltingly, that he was "too stupid" to have a better job, he didn't drink, and he was very depressed because he was lonely, but too poor to get married. Oh, and that the Westin, where I was not staying, was the "best" place. Very "luxury." Very "Western." Now, about a week later, I've been in lots more cabs. I can report that Third World beach resorts are very strange places. And that the negotiations are running in their usual courses: bitterness, bad faith, recriminations, pulling teeth, and rising tension. The Bush people, despite promises to play a constructive role, are making destructive interventions in a number of working groups. But the Bush people aren't what they used to be. And -- hope against hope -- the developing world is rising to the occasion.

Corn ethanol to the max

Bush to ethanol industry: don’t worry, you’re gonna get your fat mandate

The stock market is a glorified casino, and I’m no betting man. Plus I’m broke. But if I were flush and even a bit of …

U.S. and allies are, as expected, stick-in-the-muds at Bali conference

Bali update: The latest draft of negotiations is said to still contain text saying that developed nations should cut emissions by 25 to 40 percent …

Hillary and Big Meat

HRC taps a CAFO champion as co-chair of Rural Americans for Hillary

"A lot of pig shit is one thing; a lot of highly toxic pig shit is another. The excrement of Smithfield hogs is hardly even …

Is the competence of CBS News overblown?

Presidential candidates answer dumb question about global warming

I have complained a number of times — even on CNN! — that the mainstream political press is ignoring the issue of global warming, particularly …

Al Gore is so wrong

There is no comparison between Chinese and American GHG emissions

Al Gore's Nobel Prize speech, as reported by the NY Times: ... he singled out the United States and China -- the world's largest emitters of carbon dioxide -- for failing to meet their obligations in mitigating emissions. They should "stop using each other's behavior as an excuse for stalemate," he said. Much as I love him, Gore's sentiment here is far too generous to the good ol' U.S. of A. There is simply no fair comparison with China. We're not equally responsible for the problem. Not even close.

Dealing with uncertain risks

Jim Manzi replies to Ryan Avent

The following is a guest essay from Jim Manzi, CEO of Applied Predictive Technologies (APT), an applied artificial intelligence software company. He writes occasionally for National Review and blogs at The American Scene. ----- Last week on this site Ryan Avent presented a thoughtful response to my recent article at The American Scene arguing against a carbon tax. Grist has graciously invited me to reply. As I understand it, Ryan had three basic criticisms of my logic: the impacts of global warming will be more messy, unpredictable, and heartbreaking than I let on, I don't understand the economic trade-offs that make a carbon tax an elegant solution to the problem, and the technology-focused approach to the problem I propose is insufficiently conservative. I'll try to address each of these in turn, all with a spirit of open-minded inquiry. The first objection highlights the fact that productive global warming debates almost always hinge crucially upon predictions of the future. Consider three generic types of predictions: deterministic ("If I let go of this pencil, it will fall"), probabilistic ("If I flip this coin, it has a 50% chance of coming up heads and a 50% chance of coming up tails"), and uncertain predictions, for which we can not specify a reliable distribution of probabilities ("There will be a military coup in Pakistan in 2008"). Economists will immediately recognize the distinction between probabilistic and uncertain forecasts as, in essence, Knight's classic distinction between risk and uncertainty. Strictly speaking, all predictions are uncertain, but as a practical matter we treat different predictions differently based on the observed reliability of the relevant predictive rules used to generate them. No serious person believes that even the physical science projections for climate sensitivity (i.e., how many degrees hotter the world will get if we increase atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration according to some emissions scenario), never mind our predictions for how fast the world economy will grow or the economic impact of various degrees of climate change, are deterministic. This is why climate modelers and integrated climate-economics modelers spend so much time developing probability distributions for various outcomes and combining possible outcomes via odds-weighting to develop expected outcomes. When we hear a modeling group say "the expected outcome is X," it doesn't mean they've assumed only the most likely scenario will occur; it does mean, however, they assume their distribution of probabilities is correct (not being idiots, of course they constantly work hard to try to test and improve this distribution of probabilities). For the moment, let's assume that predictions of global warming outcomes are probabilistic. I go into all this in my posts and articles in much greater detail, but if we take Nordhaus's DICE modeling group at Yale as a benchmark, we can make the following observations about global warming: