February 26, 2007

Uncracked: wisecrack that was begging to be cracked.

I was TiVo-blogging the Oscars last night after my long trip home, and there was all this material about Al Gore's movie about global warming, and I kept throwing in comments and photographs about the giant load of snow that fell on Madison in the two-and-a-half days I was out of town. It never even occurred to me to connect the two subjects. Now, I think it's dumb to believe that what happens on any particular day proves anything about climate change -- as I've noted here -- but I'm not above the occasional wisecrack that pretends to believe such a thing -- or at least I wasn't back in 2004 when it snowed in May. But I can't take credit for resisting an easy source of humor. I really didn't put 2 + 2 together. Too frazzled by the weather or too dazzled by the celebs.

43 comments:

George said...

Laugh now, but three of my four kids (in middle and elementary schools) have asked me why I don't believe in global warming.

It's being taught to the next generation of voters.

k_d said...

If the "global warming is real" crowd can use polar bears on melting icebergs to say it exists, I figure I can use a snowy day to "prove" it doesn't. Seems fair to me, all wisecracking aside.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that a true believer would possibly retort that all this cold weather is because the climate has become more chaotic as it warms. I haven't been keeping up on this, but Denver seems to have had its second longest stetch of snow this year, and would have blown the record away because there was maybe one day of snowlessness before it snowed again.

I become quite cynical and suspicious when kids are being taught something as established fact, while it hasn't been fully accepted in the requisite scientific community - not that you would know that it hadn't from the press.

I did catch the humor of the situation that Ann missed due to being so tired over on, I believe, the Freakonmics blog last night. But part of the problem is that even if the Earth is heating up slightly, that isn't necessarily an overall problem. Rather, there will be winners and losers (and overall, the polar bears are probably winners). Possibly more farmland and energy as we can work, farm, and live farther north, but parts of NYC and NOLA possibly going underwater. And, yes, some species may die off, as others flourish.

One other question I have is that while it may be possible to measure some warming, how do we know how much of that is a result of other factors, such as solar energy output, which seems to be peaking right now (and apparently resulting in Global Warming on other planets w/o a CO2 buildup). So, we have correlation, but maybe not as much causation as many believe. Of course, this later phenomenon, if truly peaking, should head the other way, and the effect of CO2 in the atmosphere become more readily apparent.

The other reason that I am somewhat cynical is that 17 years ago, I had to suffer through former CO Senator Tim Worth give his Global Cooling speech three times in one year. And a bit over a decade later, everyone (presumably including Mr. Worth) has now reversed course.

Christy said...

Automatic writing I think the Victorians called it. Exhaustion put you in a state where it flowed. Why was it so important to simublog, almost, the Oscars?

I'm with George in that I'm more than a little angry at what is being accepted as truth with very little evidence. It is as though everyone suddenly accepted intelligent design as truth.

Ann Althouse said...

Christy: It's a mistake to take blogging as a measure of how important any given thing is. Especially around here!

DCWilly said...

while it hasn't been fully accepted in the requisite scientific community

Bruce: Okay, find for me a credible organization or scientist that claims it isn't true. You won't because you can't. The fact is, at this stage, no serious climate scientists have any remaining skepticism.

Also, your skepticism about what sceintists thought 17 years ago as a basis to challenge what we know now is patenty absurd. A lot happens in 17 years. Let's see......the internet, major cures to diseases, mapping the human genome, etc. 40 years ago the medical community thought smoking was good for you..........so, things change in light of new evidence and technology.

MadisonMan said...

while it hasn't been fully accepted in the requisite scientific community

You would be very hard-pressed to find a credible meteorologist who doesn't agree with the facts that support global warming. But because they are good scientists (and meteorologists), they will couch their opinions in caveats. To non-meteorologist, I think that sounds too much like doubt.

The arguing for/against the existence of Global Warming remind me very much of the arguing for/against the anthropogenic nature of the Ozone Hole back in the early 80s just after its discovery. On one side, if you will, were meteorologists and atmospheric chemists who submitted the thesis that chloroflourocarbons caused the Ozone Hole. But because the observations/facts could not show things conclusively then (like they can now), that doubt was seized upon and used to argue against the anthropogenic nature of the Ozone Hole by many people who were of course quite wrong, it turns out.

Richard Fagin said...

DCWilly, you want a credible scientist that isn't on the global warming doom train, well here's one, an MIT professor. He's been widely cited as advocating a more cautious approach.

Richard S. Lindzen
Dynamical Meteorology, Climate
Email: rlindzen@mit.edu
Phone: (617)253-2432, Office: 54-1720

DCWilly said...

Bruce:

One more thing.......your neat little "some winners, some losers, who cares" approach to global warming is a little naive. When Bangladesh gets erased from the map, where are those 200 million folks gonna go? That's not going to cause any disruption, no, none at all. Not in that area of the world. Thanks, Bruce, I feel good knowing you have the winners and losers all figured out.

DCWilly said...

Yes, Professor Lindzen who, charges oil and coal interests $2,500 a day for his consulting services; the same guy whose trips to testify before the Senate have been paid for by Western Fuels and a speech he wrote, entitled 'Global Warming: the Origin and Nature of Alleged Scientific Consensus,' was underwritten by OPEC. Real objective.

The Drill SGT said...

MadisonMan said...
while it hasn't been fully accepted in the requisite scientific community

You would be very hard-pressed to find a credible meteorologist who doesn't agree with the facts that support global warming. But because they are good scientists (and meteorologists), they will couch their opinions in caveats. To non-meteorologist, I think that sounds too much like doubt.


When one says "Global Warming", one is concatonating 2 or 3 things together, any one of which a given person may believe or reject.

1. The Earth is getting warmer!!! There is some evidence that it is getting warmer right now, just like there was evidence that it is getting colder a few years ago. Is this provable in a scientific sense? Certainly, but in order to avoid leaping to conclusions from very short term data sets, you need to do some smoothing.

2. Are CO2 levels rising? Absolutely. Were they higher millions of years ago? absolutely. Did the earth burn up? No, it was colder then.

3. Is man the cause of the CO2 rise this time? absolutely

4. Is there a connection between CO2 rise and global temperature? Maybe? some models say there is, others do not, but models can be made to say anything. I'm a modeler. We talk about "big knobs" because all models depend on numerous data inputs and assumptions, some matter and others don't.


5. If Man's creation of CO2 is making the earth warmer, Does it matter? some say yes and others no.

6. If man's CO2 is making the earth warmer, is there much that can be done to change things in the mid term? Most economists say no.

Fen said...

See, when they say "credible" scientist, they mean one of theirs. Because everyone who questions the Religion of Climate Change is on some oil & gas payroll....

Its the debate is over line that makes me a sceptic. If the evidence was that overwhelming, there wouldn't be a need to silence debate.

Yes, the climate is changing. Its cyclical. No, human activity cannot "correct" it. We went through the same hysteria in the 70's with The Coming Ice Age that never appeared. Its about global socialism - redistribution of wealth through energy consumption and production, with a bunch of Eurocrats dictating economic policy. They need a new con after having their Oil for Food scam outed.

Bottom line: if there was any truth behind Al Gore's hysteria, they wouldn't need to employ dishonest tactics to convince me.

k said...

DCW, are you being intentionally funny? How does pointing out that things we KNEW 17 years and 40 years ago, turned out to be maybe not so much, years later... how does that prove your point? In fact, I would submit it refutes your "point." Isn't skepticism all about refusing absolute statements about what we KNOW about the future? In fact, isn't science all about such skepticism?

MadisonMan said...

2. Are CO2 levels rising? Absolutely. Were they higher millions of years ago? absolutely. Did the earth burn up? No, it was colder then.

It was colder depending on when in the Milankovitch cycling you're looking. Millions of years includes many cool periods.

I will note that the Earth in general is colder now than in the past because of mountains. Large mountain ranges -- Himalayas, Rockies -- lead to a colder globe.

I disagree with the statement that models can be made to say anything. Bad models, yes. Good models, not so likely. The various ways a good model handles radiative forcing and air-sea interactions (for example) will affect the details in a good model, but not the overall feel of the output.

k said...

DCW ... One more thought. Has anyone, anywhere stated that climate change will be an instantaneous, one-shot event - a la tornado or flash flood? Or haven't most of the doomsayers called this a gradual process of many years? If that is so, which I believe it is, I have a lot of faith in humankind's being able to adapt. If the coastlines begin to sink, inches each year, won't people figure out that they can't stake out their beach umbrellas at the same spot each year? And move? Where will they go? I think people have a pretty good knack for making new living spaces. Althouse has pointed out some really tiny living spaces that some wealthy people seem to be having a great time living in! Think how many of those we could build! Sippican could help!

Warning to Joke Impaired: It's a joke.

MadisonMan said...

If the coastlines begin to sink, inches each year, won't people figure out that they can't stake out their beach umbrellas at the same spot each year?

Possibly. Say you are fortunate enough to live on Maldives. You know the oceans are rising, but you figure there's still time. Then a very strong hurricane moves over the island. It's extra strength (maybe? related to Global Warming -- I'm very unconvinced about that at the moment, FWIW) and the rising sea levels combine to generate a surge that kills you. Oops. I guess you waited too long.

The people affected by the rising sea levels won't be those who can afford to fly somewhere for a vacation.

David said...

Wasn't it the disaster du jour in the 70's that we were facing a global freeze? World starvation, people migrating to the equator?

I don't believe the doomsayers because they conveniently overlook the the effect of volcanic eruptions on climate variations throughout millinea. I would enjoy reading the effect of Mt. St Helens, Mt. Pinatuba, Kilauea, the Pacific Rim of fire, and the list goes on.

It will take some serious discussion to persuade me that this latest bogeyman to weaken the U.S. economically is anything but politics as usual. Even the left-wingers at the normally staid Weather Channel are jumping on the bandwagon.

Until then, this latest junk science is another measure of the "We are the world" mentality of left-wing arrogance. It is insulting to us, the supposed unwashed masses who apparently have no common sense.

The Drill SGT said...

MM,

I'm not a climate scientist. My academic training is is operations research (e.g. applied math, e.g model making)

I disagree with the statement that models can be made to say anything. Bad models, yes. Good models, not so likely. The various ways a good model handles radiative forcing and air-sea interactions (for example) will affect the details in a good model, but not the overall feel of the output.

I don't disagree that there are good models and bad models. My points are that Scientific use models should follow a process such as:

1. observe nature
2. develop a hypothesis
3. build an experiment or model to test the hypothesis.
4. observe the experiment or use the model to predict the future.
5. Did the model accurately predict the future? Refine the model
6. repeat.
7. reach a conclusion about nature

we are at step 4, building models. But any idiot or charlatan can build a model that predicts the past. In order to move science forward, you must build a model that predicts the future. and then watch the prediction unfold, then adjust the theory.

The global warming guys are making exaggerated claims about modeling, if all they do is model the past.

Fen said...

If you really beleive in Global Warming and want to make a difference:

1) dump the carbon credit ponzi scheme and Kyoto hoax. They are static solutions that limit innovation. Instead, motivate the private sector to reasearch & invest in clean fuel techs.

2) give that tech to China & India for mass production. Really, nothing we do is going to make any difference unless we get those two on board.

3) Nuclear Power

Naked Lunch said...

This thread is where the myopic social groomers come to gather and pick Al Gore fat jokes off each other, pausing only to ask 'this is a hoax....... right?

Look, it's snowing! And Al Gore invented the internet!

MadisonMan said...

But any idiot or charlatan can build a model that predicts the past.

A most interesting way to test a model that predicts the future, however, is to set the time step negative and see how it does in predicting the past. That's a question I always ask climate modelers. It's often not a question they like to answer.

fen: Total agreement Re: Nuclear Power, which puts me in a distinct minority here in Madison, I wager. There are 4 power plants within 5 miles of my house. (Who among the commenters here can also say that -- well, besides the Professor) I'd replace those 4 (2 coals, 2 natural gas) with 1 big Nuclear Plant in a NY Minute if I could.

Richard Fagin said...

How about former Greenpeace member Bjorn Lonborg.

It wouldn't matter to the greenies how many scientists on the doubting side of this issue get named, or how "pure" the source of their funding. There's no arguing with religious fanatics.

Global warming long ago ceased being a scientific inquiry. It's now a religious canon.

cokaygne said...

It is not about global warming. It is about the Kyoto treaty as "the" solution to the problem. Gore negotiated that treaty and 95/100 US senators found it wanting. They could not grasp the idea that the US would prevent global warming by cutting its CO2 emissions while China and India increase theirs. Gore's crusade (whoops, non-PC term these days) is about personal vindication, and he is putting in a lot of jet miles to pursue it.

There is a consensus of relevant scientific opinion that human activity is causing global climate to get warmer. The solutions are going to involve reduction, adaptation, and mitigation. The cause is the activity of individuals, not governments. Governments are going to have to find a way to get individuals to reduce their GHG emissions, adapt to the coming change (e. g. no more bailing out people who build houses on barrier beaches), and mitigate the effects of GHG reductions and climate change itself on the people, such as Bangladeshis, who are most affected by it.

It is fair, if silly, of you to use Madison's recent snow storm against Kyoto advocates. You can bet the next time the temperature hits 90 Fahrenheit in Madision your local media will dig up some of your colleagues at the university who blame the hot weather on global warming.

BTW while it has been snowing in Madison and NYC and Boston, it has been sunny here in Maine with temperatures in the upper 30s Fahrenheit. Global warming for Maine but not the midwest or southern New England.

The Drill SGT said...

MM,

I think we agree about models.

A most interesting way to test a model that predicts the future, however, is to set the time step negative and see how it does in predicting the past. That's a question I always ask climate modelers. It's often not a question they like to answer.

Build your model and test against the past, but to be valid and useful, a model must
predict the future successfully

Anthony said...

Here's another one, Bob Giegengack from Penn.

Although I will admit that it's impossible to find a "serious climate scientist" who doesn't by the AGW scare, because, according to the AGW crowd, not buying AGW precludes one from being considered "serious".

Criteria for being a legitiate GW skeptic: Must have a PhD in climate science, have been doing climate science for many years, be involved with no organization that has received money from oil or auto companies ever, and be a hard-core liberal Democrat. (Which actually more or less describes Giegengack above, I think).

Criteria for being a legitimate GW expert: Repeat whatever Al Gore tells you.

Anthony said...

This is also a useful link regarding models.

Zeb Quinn said...

The concept of man-made global warming exists primarily as a political construct that has the upturning of the US economy as a basic tenet. It's no mere coincidence that global warming emerged as a leftist rallying cry at the same time that the Soviet Union tanked and that the ChiComs trended capitalistic. Western Marxists needed a new home, and they found it.

Paul Zrimsek said...

I'd rather eat a bug than watch Al Gore deliver a PowerPoint show-- but from what I've heard, the stuff he's trying to scare us with goes a bit beyond anything you'll find in the UN IPCC's assessments. If the science has in fact been settled, that's where I'd expect to see it summarized.

bill said...

Matt Welch:
Here's the deal -- I live in East Hollywood. I do not like that Bush fellow. I'm worried about Global Warming. I really liked An Inconvenient Truth (except for the horror bits where Robot Al whispering his haunted memories about some river, his son, Katherine Harris, whatever). I'm really happy that lesbians rock the mic and get married and make babies with evil David Crosby's sperm; I'm on that team (well, not David Crosby's, but you get the point). But watching these people congratulate each other for their enlightened views, their activism, their spreading of "awareness," kinda makes me want to do one-handed pushups with Brent Bozell, or at least lick my hand & slap that Guggenheim kid on the back of his Gore-loving neck. It is also possible that I have a bad attitude.

Patrick said...

I am bothered a little by the fact I'm not bothered by all the hoopla about global warming. I guess because I don't see environmental awareness as being the bogeyman others see it. Thank God we have cleaned up factories spewing all sorts of junk in the air, and while doing it have advanced technologies that aid in other ways. Wealth implies a cleaner society, in my opinion.

Does this mean I buy into all the hype? Of course not, because that's what it is entirely. It's hype. It's hyperbolic pleading used because genteel policy debates don't affect anything.

Imagine, for instance, the state of the world if in the 1970s everyone began the process of moving away from oil. If by now, because of that policy change there was a significantly lower use of oil, everything would be different. So, in that case it would have been useful to worry about running out of oil, even though we really weren't, so that it brings needed changes.

What's sad is that in today's political climate you have two sides, both almost religious in their zeal. One is a 'do absolutely nothing', the other is a 'oh no! the world is crashing down!'. What will happen, though, is what needs to happen. There will be a re-thinking about what we toss into the air, which inspires scientists and engineers to do what they do best, and we'll all benefit.

I don't like Gore at all. Not in the least bit, but it's not the Left that makes Gore necessary. He's a creation of the Right's own stubbornness and rejection of anything environmentally responsible.

Which, appropriately, makes me think of Gore as more of a Frankenstein monster in this debate. Outlandish, artificial, and hyperbolic -- but useful as an illustration.

So useful he makes me want to vote for all things reducing the supposed Global Warming just to get him out of the public spotlight once and for all.

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

We all know that weather does not right? That's why snow in May is not disproof of Global Warming.

So why is unseasonably warm weather proof of it?

And, just for the record, how many days of weather does it take to make a climate?

dix said...

For the sake of argument, let's stipulate that man's output of CO2 will cause the global temperature to rise X degrees in the next 50 or 100 years.

How much will it cost to reduce CO2 output sufficiently to cut that temperature rise in half so that say, Bangladesh disappears in 2125 rather than 2075?

What will we be willing to forgo in terms of economic growth and benefits to do the above? Would Bangladesh agree?

Isn't that the crux of the whole argument?

Paul Zrimsek said...

It would be if Bangladesh were actually expected to disappear in 2075. But even allowing for a bit of poetic overstatement, the science-- which, let no one forget, is settled-- says nothing of the sort.

dix said...

Paul Z, my point wasn't that Bangladesh was going to disappear but that given the economic cost of solving global warming (again, stipulating that it is human caused) would Bangladesh be better served with greater economic growth.

A higher standard of living translates to better health care, cleaner air, longer lives, etc. How much of that are we willing to forgo to prevent a sea level change over the next 50 years (21" according to UN report, 20' according to Al Gore, but let's not quibble over details).

XWL said...

I was disappointed that we didn't get a historically significant cold blast when Al Gore blew into town.

He's losing his mojo.

He totally screwed up my prediction, the bastard.

Also, we have to stop talking about Global Warming (true believers capitalize both words, always) soooo much, it's for the children afterall.

You can justify all sorts of stupid stuf if it is, "for the children", and turns out if you believe this survey all these global warming warnings are keeping children up at night with worry.

And if the Global Warming is an existential threat crowd were honest with themselves and believed their own hype, then they'd follow my modest proposal on the subject.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Sorry to have misunderstood you, dix. Your question, shorn of its unfortunate example, is indeed the crux of the biscuit. All the more so since the cost of prevention is likely to fall hardest on the poorest-- which likely explains much of its popularity in Hollywood.

Revenant said...

It's being taught to the next generation of voters.

Yeah, but it isn't going to matter. Americans throw a temper tantrum when the price goes up ten cents a gallon. When it goes up a dollar a gallon, politicians start losing their jobs. The idea that we're going to accept paying *several* dollars more per gallon (or the equivalent amount on non-petrochemical fuels) is just silly.

Maybe forty or fifty years from now the populace will be so "green" that they'll accept that sort of cost. Odds are that by then it won't even be an issue anymore, though, one way or another.

Revenant said...

I disagree with the statement that models can be made to say anything. Bad models, yes. Good models, not so likely.

The problem, of course, is that we've no way of knowing at this point if the climate models for global warming are good or bad.

MadisonMan said...

The problem, of course, is that we've no way of knowing at this point if the climate models for global warming are good or bad.

If by we you mean the General Public, yes that's true. Most meteorologists really do have an inkling of which climate models are worth looking at and which aren't. Honestly, that's part of any good climate modeler's job. GIGO models just aren't believed, and neither are their pushers.

downtownlad said...

Typical conservative ideologues ignoring actual evidence, because it happens to contradict their beliefs.

Just like evolution - it contradicts the Bible so it can't be true, screw what the actual scientists say.

And if that means they have to cherry pick one geriatric scientist from MIT, then so be it.

How lame.

downtownlad said...

The graph below is meaningless, because it snowed in Madison this weekend.

http://www.ecobridge.org/content/g_evd.htm

(I know that's not your argument Ann, but it is the argument of your commenters).

dix said...

The graph below is meaningless, because it snowed in Madison this weekend.

http://www.ecobridge.org/content/g_evd.htm


I'll ask the question again. How much economic growth are you willing to forgo to avoid the dire consequences listed in the above website? Once that is established we can directly compare lives lost due to global warming to lives lost due to reduced standard of living.

Fen said...

Typical conservative ideologues ignoring actual evidence, because it happens to contradict their beliefs.

No. We are skeptical because the "evidence" does not stand up to scrutiny. Look at Mann's "Hockey Stick"

1) Disparate data sets were used to prove one result, leading to false results. Its like determining the best NFL team in history by using "points scored" as a measure for the first 40 years and "games won" for the next 40.

2) The "Little Ice Age" was competely ommited from the graph, most likely b/c it would invalidate the conclusions the author was seeking.

And this tripe passed a peer review...

Go sell your snake oil somewhere else.