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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Let Them Eat Dust

Live in America's breadbasket? I've got bad news for you. Don't live in America's breadbasket? I've still got bad news for you. In fact, if you eat, I've got bad news for you.

USA Today:

Man examines drought-stricken soilThe Midwest will see the most dramatic temperature rise in upcoming decades due to global warming, according to a new analysis of U.S. climate data released Thursday by the Nature Conservancy.

In just the next 40 years, if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at their current rate, average temperatures are expected to rise by more than 5 degrees across much of the USA, with the greatest temperature increases expected in Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri and Illinois.

"The surprise was that the biggest changes were in the Heartland and the Great Plains," says Jonathan Hoekstra, director of climate change for the Nature Conservancy. So far, he said the western USA has been the area that has seen the most warming.

The changes will be even more dramatic by the end of the century. "In many states across the country, the weather and landscapes could be nearly unrecognizable in 100 years," he adds. By 2100, states such as Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota could see average temperature increases of more than 10 degrees.

The United States produces roughly 10% of the world's wheat, on average. Most of that comes from the midwest. Global warming is about more than just being hot, it's about your belly.

USA Today reports, "The analysis was based on data from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and was produced in conjunction with the University of Washington and the University of Southern Mississippi." The findings aren't pretty. "America's $200 billion agriculture industry could face serious threats as higher temperatures dry out soil and shift production patterns," we're told. "The dairy industry could suffer significant declines, since dairy cow productivity starts decreasing above 77°F."

What will that mean? Let's face it, this is America. We can buy our way out of a food shortage if we want to. What it'll mean for us is that food will get a lot more expensive. And, since the climate won't return to "normal," will continue to get more expensive. At a certain point, food production worldwide will fall and people will starve.

But not everyone will starve. There will be enough food for a smaller population and that population won't be chosen for their worth, but because of their money. The wealthy will be able to buy themselves out of crisis. So for the rich, there will be no crisis. They'll be fine. So what do they care?

Not much, it turns out. The LA Times reports that the US Chamber of Commerce has a plan to deal with climate change -- make it go away through the courts.

The nation's largest business lobby wants to put the science of global warming on trial.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, trying to ward off potentially sweeping federal emissions regulations, is pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to hold a rare public hearing on the scientific evidence for man-made climate change.

Chamber officials say it would be "the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century" -- complete with witnesses, cross-examinations and a judge who would rule, essentially, on whether humans are warming the planet to dangerous effect.

"It would be evolution versus creationism," said William Kovacs, the chamber's senior vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs. "It would be the science of climate change on trial."

Is a court of law the best place to settle a matter of science? Obviously not, since John Scopes was found guilty of the crime of teaching evolution. In the Scopes trial, truth lost. At least, initially.

Of course, Kovacs and the Chamber don't really care about truth. All they know is that reducing carbon emissions is going to cost money. "The goal of the chamber, which represents 3 million large and small businesses, is to fend off potential emissions regulations by undercutting the scientific consensus over climate change," the paper reports. "If the EPA denies the request, as expected, the chamber plans to take the fight to federal court."

The comparison to creationism is actually very apt. Both global warming denial and creationism are based entirely in a rejection of the facts -- neither offers evidence for their own position. All they really do is dispute the evidence that's presented. No creationist has ever presented evidence for creationism; for the obvious reason that none exists. The entire creationism industry is based entirely on "debunking" evolution. For their own case, they offer absolutely nothing.

And here's the global warming denying US Chamber doing exactly the same thing. The evidence is presented and summarily dismissed. We can take some comfort in the fact that denial in its purest form -- that global warming isn't happening at all -- is pretty much dead. The Chamber doesn't deny the warming itself, but the fact that humans are doing it or that it's even a bad thing. "The Chamber of Commerce cites studies that predict higher temperatures will reduce mortality rates in the United States," we're told. This is an insane argument.

"The need for urgent action to address climate change is now indisputable," heads of the top science agencies in 13 of the world's largest countries wrote to world leaders recently. The Environmental Protection Agency predicts that warming will result in "the increased likelihood of more frequent and intense heat waves, more wildfires, degraded air quality, more heavy downpours and flooding, increased drought, greater sea level rise, more intense storms, harm to water resources, harm to agriculture, and harm to wildlife and ecosystems."

In addition, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress issued a report in 2008 that found that an increase in infectious disease would be the "most immediate consequence" of a changing climate. Diseases that would flourish in a warmer world include "Lyme disease, yellow fever, plague, and avian influenza, or bird flu," in addition to "babesia, cholera, Ebola, intestinal and external parasites, red tides, Rift Valley fever, sleeping sickness and tuberculosis."

Tell, how will that "reduce mortality rates in the United States?"

But the point isn't to prove anything. The point is to sow doubt. Like creationists, climate deniers don't hold themselves to the same rigid logical framework that scientists do. As a result, they're free to cherry-pick data and intentionally misread findings. They can just make things up and declare them true. Dishonesty has an advantage over honesty, in that you can be as creative and strategic as you need to be. Science can't lie -- once you start lying, it's not science.

If the Chamber succeeds in slowing progress on global warming, what do they care? The consequences will likely occur after they die and they're pretty sure their kids will be able to spend a stupid amount of money for an apple. And, if they make even more money now, those kids will be able to afford even more expensive apples down the road.

I suppose the irony here is that they're using the same tactics as creationists to advance economic Darwinism. The rich will be able to adapt to a changing world -- at least, for a while -- and the poor will go extinct.


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Rob said...

How much of the evidence for warming comes from the melting of the Arctic ice (now attributed to a previously unknown volcano under the ice)? How much of it comes from the rising temperatures around cities (attributable to the blacktop effect)?

I'm not stating that temperatures around the world aren't going up. I'm also not arguing whether the volume of CO2 is going up or not. If both things are happening, I'm just wondering if the relationship between the two is as causal as has been stated.

Wisco said...

I suppose I should thank you for illustrating my point so well. At no point in your comment do you come close to defending global warming denial, you just attack the science. If the deniers' position is correct, you should be able to prove something -- show that increasing or decreasing atmospheric carbon has no effect on climate, for example.

But you don't, because you can't. You can't prove anything. All you can do is throw mud at the science.

Rob said...

Wisco: The scientific method is three steps:
1) Put forward a prediction about a physical occurrence
2) Collect data about that physical occurrence
3) Determine if the data supports or contradicts the prediction.

ALL science is conducted by this method. No exceptions. And, after the prediction is put forward and data collected, all of it is subject to scrutiny and criticism. This isn't "throwing mud" - it's a critical part of the process. If your data is suspect, your conclusions are necessarily suspect. If your conclusions make assumptions, they are necessarily suspect.

The hypothesis put forward by "global warmers" is "Increased CO2 in the atmosphere is the reason for increased global temperature." I'm not arguing that global temperatures have not risen. I'm not arguing that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has not risen. I will gladly concede that the data collected is absolutely correct.

What I am saying is that the next step - making the connection between the two - is suspect. Let's say that the main rise in temperatures recorded was that in the Arctic. Which is likelier by Occam's Razor - a vague explanation of global CO2 rise or local volcanoes?

As for "proving something", as you so eloquently put it, that's simply not true. As the new kid on the block, the onus is on the new theory to prove itself. Every new theory, from Newton's mechanics to Einstein's relativity to Bohr's quantum mechanics has had to prove itself. It is not up to the status quo to dis prove anything. I can come up with hypothesis after hypothesis asserting all sorts of things. Why should you be forced to disprove my insanities?

Wisco said...

It has proven itself. I can't find your bullshit "undersea volcano" on anything other than wingnut sites (and it'd have to be one helluva volcano, sun-like in it's intrensity, to melt the freakin' polar seas -- that's pretty ridiculous, look up the inverse square law). What it hasn't done is prove itself to your satisfaction -- and it never will, because you've already decided it's all wrong. If you want to find out what this is like from the other side, go on a creationist site and tell them all about evolution. There's never enough evidence and you wind up wasting your time with a bunch of loonietunes who can't be educated, because they refuse to be.

Again, you have nothing but sniping around the edges. It's like finding a spelling error in a news story and concluding that nothing in it is true. You can't demonstrate any other cause for global warming, because the sites you're going to don't bother. They aren't interested. All they want to do is get chumps to doubt.

Mission accomplished.

Rob said...

Why are you engaging in ad-hominem attacks? I have said nothing other than there are potentially other causes for some of the evidence used to support global warming. I've already conceded that the earth has gotten warmer and that the volume of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased. In other words, I have agreed with the "science" in every particular. What I have NOT agreed to are the conclusions.

And, let's talk about the CO2 for a minute. Do you know how the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere were measured before the 1970's? Some guy in Hawaii went out every few hours and filled a bottle with the air outside his house. He's been doing it since WWII. It wasn't until much later that more sophisticated ways of measuring the CO2 in the atmosphere were used. BUT, his values are used as a baseline.

There's only one problem with that - he lives on a volcano.

Here's the crux of my problem with the global warming movement - there are a lot of people who are not educated scientists using this potential crisis to make some rather outrageous claims. Climatology is a very very young discipline. There is not a single model of the climate that has been successful in predicting how the climate will change to any reasonable measure. Not a single one.

Now, let's use the scientific method here. You go and find a counter-example to my prediction and prove me wrong. If that happens, I correct my worldview and come up with another prediction.

Remember - science can never PROVE something. Science can only state "To the best of our knowledge, we don't have a counter-example." The theory of global warming is the best understanding of a lot of very smart people. My concern is that the margin of error is much higher for climatology than it is for, say, relativity or electromagnetism. Yet, a lot of governments are willing to make public policy despite that margin of error. Why is that when they refuse to make public policy based on science in other cases such as medicine or economics?

Wisco said...

You know, they would be ad hominems if they weren't so obviously true.

What is it with you and volcanoes? Yeah, there was only one person in the entire freakin' world who'd ever measured CO2 before 1970 and he was floating around in a volcano or something. Too bad we don't have ice cores or tree rings or trapped geological carbon or things like that -- we absolutely have to rely on the flawed data supplied by your sole human volcano god.

Jesus! Do you even think about these things before you post them? That's a rhetorical question, I guess. You obviously don't. With every comment, it becomes more and more apparent that you have absolutely no idea what the hell you're talking about.

Please, tell me more about your giant underwater supervolcano that's melting the ice along the edges, not the point source of the heat. It'd be absolutely fascinating to find out how on earth you think that's possible.

Rob said...

I keep bringing up volcanoes because they emit lots and lots of CO2. If the guy measuring CO2 happens to be around a volcano, maybe those measurements aren't entirely representative of the world's CO2 concentration.

As for ice cores, let's look at the data from - specifically, the Law Dome data. It shows that the CO2 concentration as measured from the ice cores dipped sharply around 1600. Why? There are some explanations on that page, but those explanations use the word "probably" a whole bunch. Why? What does "probably as a consequence of some natural variation of the carbon cycle" mean? Could this mean that there is a lot we don't know about the carbon cycle and its natural variations? Maybe that means that up to 10-30% of the current carbon dioxide run-up is completely natural?

Your response to that might be "We'd have seen that cycle by now - there's hundreds of years of data". To that, I could respond "Ice ages are on a much longer cycle than that." Or, I could respond with - a proposed 62 million year cycle based on the solar system's wobble.

Is that enough thinking for you? Or, is it only thinking when it agrees with your biases?

Wisco said...

I could knock those down. For example, the rate of CO2 dipped in the 1600s because of the little ice age -- more ice, more trapped CO2. It's not a huge mystery. My god, it says so right at the link you gave me!

But the question I've got to ask is why the hell should I even bother? You're obviously married to your ignorance. I could shoot down point after point after point and you'd keep coming back for more. You're impossible to convince, because you don't want to be convinced. You're right and that's the beginning and the end of it for you. Again, go to a creationist site and try to educate them about evolution -- you'll be looking in a mirror.

It's a free country and that means you can be just as stupid as you feel comfortable with. But don't be surprised that not everyone's willing to hop on the stupid-wagon with you.

I'm done here. If you want to have the last word, you go ahead and knock yourself out. I'm done trying to teach calculus to a toaster. Just try not to make an ass of yourself.

SMG said...


Wisco has an agenda and will always gravitate towards the conclusions that support his agenda. Reasonable people all seem to agree that greenhouse gases are problematic and should be limited to the best of our ability. True believers like him don’t want to hear about urban thermal islands or interglacial periods. They refuse to look at the inverse relationship between atmospheric CO2 and temperature. Ice core data reveals that rising levels of CO2 follow global temperature increases as opposed to preceding it. When you point out that the temperature of the planet has varied drastically over the life span of the earth with no human presence you should expect to be called a “denier” or “flat earther”

The extreme left demands ridged adherence because they are the guardians of truth. You are never allowed to question the truth.

M said...

Rob says: I'm not stating that temperatures around the world aren't going up. I'm also not arguing whether the volume of CO2 is going up or not.

How much of it comes from the rising temperatures around cities (attributable to the blacktop effect)?

That's a great point. Another man-made contributor to climate change.

Poor urban development, industrial emmissions and radioactive waste, deforestation, coral bleaching, overfishing, are all symptoms of the problem.

So, Rob isn't stating that temps aren't rising, or CO2 isn't going up, he's just saying that humans are invariably contributing to the problem once you discount volcanos.

Everyone other than the 31000 petro-geologists polluting the skies in this debate agrees with Wisco.

M said...

SMG says: Wisco has an agenda and will always gravitate towards the conclusions that support his agenda.

That agenda revolves around actual credible science and the origin of fact, cause and effect, and common sense.

You're hilarious.

The extreme left?

They're the last line of defense against self-destruction.

It's a demonstrable fact that Rightwingers, or Conservatives, reject science, and science in turn rejects them.

Rob said...

M: It's not that cut'n'dry. Let's say that we agree completely that every single bit of warming over the past 100 years has come from human activity. WHICH human activity?! Is it CO2 emissions? Is it the heat-island effect? Something completely unconsidered?

What about SMG's point that increases CO2 concentration have historically lagged temperature increases? That hasn't been addressed at all.

So, let's say that it is human-based CO2 emissions. Is a cap'n'trade system the best way to reduce CO2 emissions? Maybe a Manhattan-project style push towards another way to generate energy is more appropriate. Maybe a law against CO2 emissions is be more appropriate.

Maybe the federal government should pay for every single car on the road to be converted to electric. According to wikipedia, there are roughly 250M vehicles on the road. According to, let's estimate the cost of a conversion kit to be $10k. That's $2.5 trillion dollars to convert every single car, truck, and other vehicle on the road today. $250 billion dollars per year for 10 years. That's roughly the cost of maintaining all our foreign bases.

By removing every single foreign base, we can convert every vehicle to electric in 10 years. Completely revenue neutral and avoids the problems with cap'n'trade. Two left-wing policy goals in one fell swoop.

SMG said...


You know what is really funny? I support aggressive programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I think pollution, both corporate and private needs to be curtailed dramatically to improve our quality of life and assure the long term survival of mankind. I voted for Obama. I have a daughter and I want the world to be a better place for than it has been for me. I AM NOT A REPUBLICAN!!!

You can’t seem to grasp a world where people don’t believe the same things you do. I am not closed minded; I have just seen computer modeled science turn out to be wrong too many times to go all Chicken Little on this subject. The climate of this planet is not a stagnant system, it has been warming and cooling and changing since day one. We only have theories as to why that has happened in the past. Now because a group of people say they know the reason absolutely (based on their computer models) I guess I should just quit asking questions and step in line.

I suppose petro-geologists are the only people in the world that are self serving. We would never see an environmental climatologist interpret data in such a way as to guarantee his or her funding for the next ten years. Wake up man, everyone lies, everyone spins and everyone is selfish.

M said...


You said: "Is a cap'n'trade system the best way to reduce CO2 emissions? Maybe a Manhattan-project style push towards another way to generate energy is more appropriate. Maybe a law against CO2 emissions is be more appropriate."

If C&P regulates industrial emissions while creating a tangible market to encourage innovation into more solar-based alternatives, then yeah. But if it's used primarily as a kickback to pollute, then no.

The Supreme Court has already ruled that CO2 is a pollutant and the EPA is beginning to respond.

NASA, the EPA, IPCC, numerous universities and studies have submitted that climate change is primarily manmade.

And your best-guess-smoke-and-mirrors-volcano-theory neglects the fact that changes in volcanic activity took a 100,000 years to change the global temps. We're changing the environment in 100 years what it took 100,000 years to happen naturally, through violent volcanic activity.

You said: "WHICH human activity?!"

Most credible sources I subscribe to indicate that changes need to take place in several areas of envirnomental protections and re-think the way we produce and manufacture energy, agriculture, transportation, and urban development.

CO2 regulation is an obvious first step to breaking old bad habits.

M said...


You said: "You can’t seem to grasp a world where people don’t believe the same things you do."

If I'm choosing sides, I'll stick with NASA, The EPA, the IPCC, and several credible university studies that have, for long enough, been censored and suppressed by the insidious wretch of petro-geologists and their ideological servants carrying their diseased water in the polluted body of politic.

Your idea of "differing ideas" lends benefit of doubt to notorious liars and polluters.

Think about the differing motives.

Who has more to lose?

Rob said...

An interesting discussion

I understand that Wisco will take offense at this link. I just want to hear what the response will be.

Rob said...

Evidence that Global Warming models are seriously flawed

This won't be the end of it, but there is actual data refuting many of the computer models used to forecast global warming.