Abraham: Smarter This Time Around

November 23, 2011

Daily Climate:

When news broke earlier this week that another cache of emails had been released purporting to show that climate scientists had “cooked the books,” parties around the world looked carefully, this time with a doubtful eye. They had a right to doubt. Two years ago, almost to the day, similar emails had been released just before the United Nations’ climate change conference in Copenhagen – the last best hope to take meaningful action to halt the warming climate.

The original 2009 release caught the world by storm and created an uproar that successfully put climate science on the defensive for nearly two years. Whoever is behind the release of these stolen emails was clearly hoping the same play would work again.

It won’t.

A few things are different this time around. Most importantly, many journalists now realize they were played the fools. They were told that these emails showed scientists “hiding declines in temperature” and conspiring against others. These same media outlets had a lot of work cleaning egg off their face when it became clear that the correspondence said nothing of the sort. In a “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” manner, the media is largely ignoring these new emails, or they are reporting the real story: The emails are taken out of context, the science is robust and has been upheld by every investigation of the 2009 release, and that climate change is already underway.

9 Billion Dollar Drought 

That last point is the real story behind this new email leak: The science is so solid, the denier camp can no longer argue an alternate theory. In past years, that camp would promote their own “scientists” whose work, they said, called into question climate change. In the past few years, the evidence of climate change has become so apparent that denial is no longer valid. As Texas sits through a $9 billion drought and other parts of the United States suffer from either record droughts or flooding, even skeptical citizens are starting to realize that climate change is real, and it affects them and their pocketbook.

In addition, the dwindling number of “scientists” that have represented the denialist camp have seen their research crumble like a deck of cards. These scientists have no one to blame. They are one-man wrecking crews of their own reputations. They have regularly published work that reportedly shows climate change either isn’t happening or is inconsequential. And just as regularly, their work is shown to be seriously flawed and is roundly rebutted and criticized.

Unwitting Accomplice  

So the denialists are left with little but impugning the reputations of climate scientists. They need an accomplice, and last time an unwitting mainstream media lent a hand. This time around, the accomplice has learned its lesson and has wised up. This time, trumped-up charges against scientists will not stick.

Not only is this good news for scientists, it is good news for the rest of us. Maybe now the conversation can shift to how to handle this dilemma in a way that not only fixes the environmental problem, but also increases job growth and improves national security. Maybe now we can finally come together and work on solutions to turn this obstacle into an opportunity. Let’s have faith and confidence in ourselves and in our scientists and engineers to solve this problem. That faith and confidence is true patriotism. Personal and unfounded attacks against climate scientists?

That’s so 2009.

Dr. John Abraham is an associate professor of Thermal Sciences at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minn. He teaches and carries out research in the areas of thermodynamics, heat transfer, fluid mechanics, and climate monitoring. He is co-founder of the Climate Rapid Response Team. 

35 Responses to “Abraham: Smarter This Time Around”

  1. Nick Palmer Says:

    BTW I hate this “reply system on WordPress – it seems a bit random as to where comments get threaded.

  2. Nick Palmer Says:

    Seeing as you don’t seem willing to understand direct refutations of your “arguments”, perhaps an argument by analogy might work?

    You argue that the ethanol initiative is “killing people”. It was driven by financially motivated corn producers in the US heartland putting enormous pressure on their congressmen to channel taxpayer’s money to them to subsidise them. I think you’ll find the birth of it well pre-dated Obama’s election – which is not very surprising as the aforementioned congressmen tended to be Republicans.

    I was not happy about Obama’s continued lip service, that you linked to (watch however, how his tone will change over time) but in the horse trading that is involved in big government he may have decided to stick with the EXISTING historical support (for the corn ethanol part of the economy) because of the economic activity it generates in politically important parts of the country. These would suffer more severe recession if the existing subsidies were cut off at a stroke. To be in charge you have to be in power, and Obama would not want to lose the agricultural heartland lobby’s votes.

    You blame the “climate movement” for any deaths or difficulties from mitigation moves without acknowledging that the costs of not mitigating emissions in deaths and difficulties would be orders of magnitude more in the near term. Worse yet, because the climate, once destabilised/changed won’t be restabilising/changing back for hundreds or possibly thousands of years, the long term too. Do all the math if you’re totting up cumulative deaths and difficulties from any particular policies.

    My argument from analogy is this. A long time ago I was running the local branch of Friends of the Earth UK. We were doing a campaign to get the lead out of petrol because lead tetraethyl was accumulating in the environment; some science reckoned there was enough to be reducing kids’ IQs/changing their behaviour patterns. The campaign succeeded and lead additives were removed but some time later we got environmentalism deniers making a lot of noise because lead free petrol gave slightly reduced miles per gallon compared with the previous leaded petrol. They basically sneered at what we’d called for and their rhetorict went like this:

    “these stupid naive greens called for reducing petrol consumption and look what happened – their demands ended up increasing it. Aren’t they dumb! Never listem to them again!” They then expanded this twisted blame-game and used this result to imply that all things that environmentalists campaign for are dumb and always have unintended consequences that properly sceptical people would have foreseen.

    Now, daveburton, the way that you argue is exactly the same as that. You present your selective cherry-picked and quote-mined arguments like that. But what is wrong with that rhetoric? Surely the environmentalists were responsible for the problems of reduced petrol mileage because it was their demands for a change in policy that started it off?

    You would argue that they were and, seemingly oblivious of the facts that toxic lead had been building up in the environment and starting to poison kids (that wasn’t worth considering or bringing up was it Dave?), what environmentalists actually called for was for the petrol companies to get the bloody lead out of the fuel. We didn’t say how. I will repeat that. We didn’t say how. The people who chose how to do it were the petrol companies responding to government and public prressure. They could have used alternative methods that preserved or enhanced gas mileage but they didn’t. Instead they chose a method that created difficulties for people with older cars because the softer valve seats in older engines were not up to using unleaded petrol and also reduced mileage obtainable slightly. They were responsible for that effect. Totally.

    Similarly, any deaths or difficulties caused by the ethanol boondoggle is entirely at the door of those who promoted the way it was done – which was not the climate movement, environmentalists or anybody else who is just trying to save idiot humanity from the serious consequences of its short sighted actions. Any historic environmental calls for biofuel to be looked at as a partial solution to fossil fuel use were just that. The “climate movement” and environmentalists didn’t say how. Repeat. We didn’t say how. In fact, if you look back, you’ll see that the suggestions to look at using biofuels most often contained the qualifiers that studies should be done to see how useful it would be. I can tell you that no environmentalist I knew, or had heard of back then, expected the Yanks to divert corn from food production – that was just too insane to be imagined. Environmentalists back then were perfectly well aware that modern agribusiness uses vast quantities of fossil fuels!

    So, the petrol companies were wholly responsible for the reduction in mileage, yet endless nasty minded deniers and political liars mendaciously blamed the environmentalists and characterised us as inept. They traduced us. They continue to traduce us. Similarly, the relatively small numbers of deaths and difficulties that you focus your microscope on, while remaining blinkered to the much vaster contrary evidence out there, are the direct responsibility of those who chose short term profit over long term consequences. The agribusiness lobbyists, the politically venal congressmen are guilty of the crime you “useful idiots” seek to put at the door of innocents. Shame on you.


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