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Climate-Change Denial: Aren't We Past That?

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New Planet Atheism blogger Tom Stelene (Al-Kafir Akbar!) seemed promising, but he moved quickly from some initial rational posts into full-bore “wingnut” climate-change denial.

  • what a delusion environmentalism is
  • what politically-motivated junk science is behind it
  • how it is a secular religion
  • how it is more destructive collectivism

Even Ronald Bailey at Reason, author of the 2002 Global Warming and Other Eco Myths: How the Environmental Movement Uses False Science to Scare Us to Death, isn’t buying it anymore. Al Gore just won the Nobel Peace Prize. Arctic ice in 2007 was at its lowest recorded level, and Greenland’s ice-sheet is breaking off in mile-sized chunks that are so heavy they cause earthquakes when they slip. What will it take for the denialists to get the memo, personal drowning in rising seas? What more evidence do they need? Rhetorical question–clearly theirs is not a supportable position.

Stelene continues:

In addition to excuses to raise taxes, congressmen are using climate change hysteria to funnel money into their districts. Rep. David L. Hobson, R-Ohio, secured $500,000 for a geothermal demonstration project. Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., got $500,000 for a fuel-cell project by Superprotonic, a Pasadena company started by Caltech scientists. Money for similar boondoggles is being called for by members of both parties

As if carbon-neutral energy development was some kind of pork-barrel pipe-dream, instead of a business opportunity or vital necessity. Let’s look at the nature of our situation: Aside from radiation coming from the sun and other parts of space or the occasional meteorite coming in, and whatever heat is reflected or re-radiated into space going out, Earth is a closed system. Each of the 6.5 billion people who live here therefore have the right (an inherent human right as opposed to an arbitrary legal right) to fully use 1/6,500,000,000th of its resources and atmosphere, which are decidedly finite. If Stelene or Matt Drudge or Michael Crighton want to use more than that share of atmosphere or non-renewable resource, they need to purchase it from the people whose share they are consuming. That’s the free-market, right? It’s a classic problem of the commons, and even smart libertarians recognize this. They usually recommend privatization, which is one potential solution (carbon-trading markets). The other is regulation or Pigovian tax (carbon taxation).

If humans spew more CO2 into the atmosphere, it will get hotter. Empirical data, theoretical extrapolation and computer models all prove this point. Not to mention heat induced tipping-points and cascades that could release even more potent methane. Not to mention the reality of 700 degree temperatures on C02-shrouded Venus. Anthropogenic Global Warming is just about the most extensively studied phenomenon in human history, and the conclusions are in. Yet the denialist machine runs full tilt. Why? To make a few bucks. Make that about $100 trillion bucks. Pity they don’t realize there’s even more money to be made in green tech.

But even if there weren’t, if there is a threshhold beyond which the environment begins to destroy human life, then we humans have a moral obligation to each other, and to other animals which will be affected, to prevent the damage from happening. If we fail to do so, it’s morally equivalent to murdering the people who will be affected, not to mention whole ecosystems.

Atheist Ethicist Alonzo Fyfe has posted extensively on the subject. U.N. Secretary Ban Ki Moon has called the Darfur conflict the first climate war. I’m sorry I have to single Mr. Stelene out like this, but as a participant in Planet Atheism, he has a responsibility to the facts. So I’m not just talking to him, but to anyone–ever–who tries to casually throw down this ridiculous denialist agenda. It’s an insult to all our intelligence.

While atheism is simply a lack of god-belief and has no other prerequisites, a strong corollary is rationalism, which includes paying attention to what science has to say.

If you want to deny climate science, it’s not enough to come up with a few fringe papers to support your position, or to cite link-farms pointing to right-wing propaganda mills, or to quote “free-market” rhetoric (so-called Capitalism magazine) to justify stealing other people’s rights to the atmosphere or resources. Current government policies are far from the free-market. They represent a legacy of heavy continuing and historical subsidies of fossil-energy, and a complete contempt for the concept of unpaid externalities or protection of the rights of the disenfranchised in the developing world.

I posted the following comment on Mr. Stelene’s blog, which has comment moderation enabled.

Your blog seemed promising at first. But now you want the carte blanche to piss in the public reservoir (atmosphere) and wonder why people want you to pay for the cleanup.

Denialists such as yourself have no concept of equitable allocation of shared resources, or the finite nature of resources and natural capital. You think you can do whatever you want and you have zero responsibility to the other 6.5 billion people on the planet.

It’s not about the government, it’s about ethics and personal responsibility.

How would you propose to limit carbon releases if not through regulation? Sorry, you’re not smart enough to claim we don’t need to; when thousands of the world’s top scientists say otherwise.

Dingell’s bill was actually a political satire to make carbon taxation even more unpopular. If you don’t already know, Dingell has one of the very worst records on the environment, and he never intended for his bill to pass.

The world’s premier scientific bodies including the IPCC and the Nobel committee obviously think the carbon situation is urgent. On the other hand, the global-warming denial peanut-gallery is as cynical, baseless, irrational and without the support of evidence as religion–or for that matter holocaust-denial.

Tom, even if you don’t post my comment, please do yourself a favor and get educated on this subject. If for no other reason, carbon-trading is projected to be the largest commodities market in human history. Get with the program or you’ll miss the boat.


Comments (12 comments)

Tom Stelene / October 15th, 2007, 4:14 pm / #1

There's new pictures posted for all to see at Gateway Pundit and a few other blogs, pictures of the Antactica ice sheet that is now larger than ever. Am I to believe that global warming caused that? Who is in denial of scientific evidence? I do not watch TV, so I've asked some people if this news was reported on the TV and they said it isn't – which doesn't surprise me! It goes against their agenda.

Thirty years ago global warming environmentalists like Paul Ehrlich and James Hanson were warning of the coming global cooling crisis! Obviously, there is something wrong with me for suspecting their claims today! And my mere disagreeing with you environmentalists makes me a Pinocchio-type liar? And if you are right about a handful of "wingnuts" in "denial," why should that bother you so much? So what? This intolerance of disagreement seems similar to being called a dangerous heretic for disagreeing with church dogma.

Please explain how more ice than ever at the south pole is proof of global warming and if you can I'll be happy to change my views. I follow evidence and reason – unlike the Ehrlich and Hanson types who make a living by pretending to do so.

BlackSun / October 15th, 2007, 5:11 pm / #2

Tom,

I have provided an http://www.blacksunjournal.com/climate-change-fac…entire page of general information regarding this subject, including debunking of the main climate myths. But the short answer goes like this:

You have to understand the nature of chaotic systems like planetary weather. The unprecedented heat entering the system can be seen as analogous to a unit-step function. Any system in equilibrium that is perturbed can have http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Image:Step_Response…. increased swings in both directions. Meaning that it is an entirely logical consequence that we will see local and temporary areas of more extreme cooling. It is also well known with respect to Antarctic ice that an increase in area is not necessarily an increase in total volume. There are also two man-made effects operating at cross purposes. According to http://environment.newscientist.com/channel/earth… this article in New Scientist:

So what is happening in Antarctica? The cooling is due to a strengthening of the circular winds around the continent, which prevent warmer air reaching its interior. The increased wind speeds seem to be a result of cooling in the upper atmosphere, caused by the hole in the ozone layer above the pole, which is of course the result of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) pollution.

Confusingly, it appears that one human impact on the climate – the Antarctic ozone hole – is currently compensating for another, global warming. If the ozone layer recovers over the decades as expected, the circular winds could weaken, resulting in rapid warming.

This raises the question of what is happening to Antarctica's ice sheets, which hold enough water to raise sea level by a catastrophic 61 metres, should it all melt. Contrary to what you might expect, the third IPPC report predicted that global warming would most likely lead to a thickening of the ice sheet over the next century, with increased snowfall compensating for any melting cause by warming.

In addition, your point about the short-lived prediction of global cooling from the 1970s misunderstands the process of how science is done. It is precisely the fact that scientists corrected themselves quickly that proves the efficacy of the method. From New Scientist once again:

One of the sources of this idea may have been a 1971 paper by Stephen Schneider, then a climate researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, US. Schneider's paper suggested that the cooling effect of dirty air could outweigh the warming effect of carbon dioxide, potentially leading to an ice age if aerosol pollution quadrupled.

This scenario was seen as plausible by many other scientists, as at the time the planet had been cooling (see Global temperatures fell between 1940 and 1980). Furthermore, it had also become clear that the interglacial period we are in was lasting an unusually long time (see Record ice core gives fair forecast).

However, Schneider soon realised he had overestimated the cooling effect of aerosol pollution and underestimated the effect of CO2, meaning warming was more likely than cooling in the long run. In his review of a 1977 book called The Weather Conspiracy: The Coming of the New Ice Age, Schneider stated: "We just don't know…at this stage whether we are in for warming or cooling – or when." A 1975 report (pdf format) by the US National Academy of Sciences merely called for more research.

The calls for action to prevent further human-induced global warming, by contrast, are based on an enormous body of research by thousands of scientists over more than a century that has been subjected to intense – and sometimes ferocious – scrutiny. According to the latest IPCC report, it is more than 90% certain that the world is already warming as a result of human activity (see Blame for global warming placed firmly on humankind).

What is called for here is a measured response. The market must be put to work to solve the problem. Cost-benefit analyses must be done. The Stern Report has conducted just such an analysis and unlike Ronald Bailey's http://reason.com/news/show/122960.html article citing the Nordhaus study, Stern places the cost of inaction at 5 to 20% of GDP, while the costs of mitigation are about 1% of GDP. This also ignores the human costs of forced migration, wars and secondary effects. Clearly a strong case for action.

What is not called for are accusations that anyone who accepts the climate scientists' overwhelming consensus or accepts the sobering figures released by both Stern and IPCC is delusional or partaking of some kind of environmentalist "religion." It is this I'm referring to when I speak of "wingnut" climate change denial.

It is not mere "disagreement" for you to dispute such a strong global consensus. Given the weight of the consensus, it is incumbent on the challenger to bring an equal weight to the discussion. Given the facts, you can't.

Jorg / October 15th, 2007, 10:34 pm / #3

Excellent! I, for one, am tired of arguing with GW-denialists, just as I am tired of arguing with creationists. At this juncture the only reasons to hold their positions, it seems to me, are either colossal stupidity or serious conflict of interest/ulterior motives. Either way, their minds cannot be changed. I don’t mean to sound like a pessimist, but…we shall always have dissenters, and that is a good thing, and some of these dissenters are always going to be idiots and/or profiteers which is not such a good thing but one we have to live with…

TW / October 16th, 2007, 2:08 pm / #4

Excellent post. It just goes to show that not all atheists are rational!

It really irks me the way climate change denialists scream about odd things and claim the science is “not science” – as well as the mad “secular religion” claim.

When you read the rants, it looks just like the anti-evolution nutters but the subject is different…

Tom Stelene / October 16th, 2007, 3:05 pm / #5

Blacksun,

First, I know that there is no “overwhelming consensus” among scientists that there is global warming. Environmentalists and the media pretends there is, but that does not make it so. And appeal to authority is not evidence, nonetheless. The environmentalists’ consensus on alar and DDT are they are poisons to people but the facts are to the contrary. There are thus only two possibilities: greens are ignoramuses or liars. Consensus on something does not make it so.

As for the ozone hole – it is over an active volcano, but somehow all the man-made CFC’s from thousands of miles away just magically drift to that spot and deplete the ozone. Sure.

The environmentalists scare-story has not changed because it is science correcting itself. Look at the movement’s entire history and it consists of wild doomsday predictions that have not happened. It’s time to stop taking them seriously.

IPCC in its 1995 climate report decided it didn’t like the scientists’ overwhelming consensus that there is no evidence of man-made-GW, so IPCC then changed the report to say there is such evidence! I am to believe the IPCC?

I appreciate your lengthy comment to me, but I must strongly and respectfully disagree.

John B. (Evo Mid) / October 16th, 2007, 3:33 pm / #6

BlackSun; It’s a classic example of how people only accept the evidence that seems to confirm their beliefs, even if it means disregarding mountains of evidence to the contrary. What I would say is that the overwhelming majority of scientists around the world are in agreement, most governments are in agreement, and most of the educated people of the world are in agreement. So let’s just do what we need to do (which doesn’t necessarily include convincing every person whose mind is caught in a denial trap). As you point out, we are really beyond having to deal with global warming denialism.

Infidel753 / October 17th, 2007, 6:09 am / #7

Great post, and great reply in comment #3.

John B. is right that on any issue like this, you never reach a point where every last single denialist is convinced. If there were just a few of them grumbling on their own blogs, it wouldn’t matter. Unfortunately one group of global-warming denialists does matter very much: the ones currently running the executive branch of the US government. They may not be exactly denying the existence of the problem any more, but they’re utterly disinclined to do anything about it. Until they are removed from power, the US government will be a drag on efforts to deal with the problem, rather than a leader. So it’s important that at least a critical mass of voters understand the issue.

Engineer-Poet / October 17th, 2007, 9:25 pm / #8

Quoth Tom Stelene:

As for the ozone hole – it is over an active volcano, but somehow all the man-made CFC’s from thousands of miles away just magically drift to that spot and deplete the ozone.

You are very good with the straw-man argument (and using it proves that you are either grossly ignorant or grossly dishonest).  Here’s how it actually works:

There is no great difference in the amount of elemental (as opposed to ionic) chlorine in the stratosphere over Antarctica than anywhere else.  The difference is the temperature, and the effect this has on conditions for catalysis of ozone.  Chlorine in air has a small catalytic effect, but chlorine on the surface of ice crystals is many times more effective.  The stratosphere is extremely dry, so the only place it gets cold enough to form ice crystals is over the poles in the dark of winter.  Catalysis on the surfaces of these ice crystals destroys ozone until they are evaporated by the sunlight of spring.  Outside the polar zones, it doesn’t get cold enough for this accelerated process to work.

You no longer have an excuse for ever again spouting the ignorant nonsense you put forth above.

Bob Cormack / October 18th, 2007, 2:21 pm / #9

Engineer-Poet:
You do a pretty good job of describing the catalytic process discovered by Susan Soloman 20 years ago or so — but I have a question for you:
Ozone is continually being created (by UV radiation) and destroyed (by chlorine catalysis and other processes) everywhere over the globe. The half life of ozone in the stratosphere is thought to be about 3 days (this is what Soloman said when I asked the question at a seminar she gave at NCAR 20 years ago). The ozone is low at the poles due to two effects: 1)Generation is low due to low UV intensity (long slant range thru the atmosphere of the sunlight filters out most UV), and 2)Destruction by chlorine catalysis is especially effective over the poles during winter (as you explain). Hence, the equilibrium between creation and destruction of ozone results in low ozone concentrations only over the poles, and only during the polar winter (when chlorine catalysis is effective). If atmospheric circulation were to move the ozone hole to higher latitudes, the ozone concentration would return to normal concentrations (for that latitude) in a few days.

It is therefore easy to conclude that ozone depletion (due to chlorine) is only possible over the poles and can’t have any significant effect on temperate lattitudes. Why, then, have we been subjected to years of alarmism and catastrophic predictions about the “hole in the ozone” by the environmental lobbies? In line with the straightforward predictions from the science, UV levels measured at ground level have not changed significantly, yet anyone who gets their information from environmental organizations would have no idea that this is so.

All this information is easily available, but those who depend on environmental activists to give them the whole picture are fools. The scientists involved are also not motivated to paint the larger picture: I have a lot of respect for Soloman as a scientist, but she is also human — she has gotten a lot of grant support over the years studying this phenomena (and has done a lot of good science), but you really can’t expect her to publicly say that it is something we shouldn’t worry about, thereby cutting her potential grant money. (When I asked her the half-life question, it was obvious that she was reluctant to answer it — probably because it made the urgency of her research seem questionable — but she is honest.)

Engineer-Poet / October 18th, 2007, 4:33 pm / #10

Apparently you missed the ozone concerns related to the SST in the 1970’s; environmental alarm over depletion is not a new phenomenon.

Ozone may have a half-life of 3 days, but the atomic oxygen split off in the absorption of UV normally goes right back to make more ozone (it takes radiation shorter than about 200 nm to split molecular oxygen to make O3 from O2).  When catalysts like chlorine deplete the atomic oxygen, there’s nothing to replace it.

Ozone depletion over the poles is a concern because UV over inhabited areas goes up after the breakup of winter polar vortices (it takes a while to replenish the atomic oxygen once the air starts getting sunlight again) and because the primary productivity of the polar oceans is impaired by the excess UV.  All of these things have knock-on effects; the point is, it’s smarter to avoid them than to try to fix them.

All atheists aren’t bright » Why Dont You Blog? / October 18th, 2007, 5:31 pm / #11

[…] There’s a blog on the Atheist Blogroll called Al-Kafir Akbar Its site in the lower reaches of the mental gene pool became evident in a climate-change-denial post. This post has already been elegantly and eloquently savaged by Black Sun Journal. […]

Black Sun Journal » Archives » Al-Kafir Akbar: A Denialist Digs Himself In Deeper / October 19th, 2007, 9:11 pm / #12

[…] Recent Comments Aaron on Pastor Understands Atheist UpsurgeAll atheists aren’t bright » Why Dont You Blog? on Climate-Change Denial: Aren’t We Past That?Engineer-Poet on Climate-Change Denial: Aren’t We Past That?Bob Cormack on Climate-Change Denial: Aren’t We Past That?Engineer-Poet on Climate-Change Denial: Aren’t We Past That? […]

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