Sunday, September 01, 2013

Too Socialist to Speak?

Recently I had a Facebook conversation with some friends. I quote the conversation (more extensive than most in that forum) below, with names removed, since I did not ask their permission. I will post to them that this is going up, so if I take it down, it will be because they prefer not to have this discussion posted on my blog.

I found it interesting that the conversation moved from global warming (the presenting topic) to the implication that we should not listen to Obama (implying also thus to others who advocate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions) because he is a Socialist.

My location in Canada makes this conclusion ironic: We have a “Conservative” government that is more socialist than the “Socialist” government south of us. Obama is more “conservative” than Harper! In any case, I present the long discussion below without further comment.

Page owner (PO): “We … know that the climate is warming faster than anybody anticipated five or ten years ago.” - Barack Hussein Obama, May 29, 2013. Actual temperature change since “ten years ago” (May 2003 - May 2013): 0.09 degrees Farenheit of COOLING.

Reader 1: Once again, my friend . . .

PO: Once again I present scientific data.

Reader 2 (Me): Working on the assumption that not all climatologists are crooks, why do you think they do not read the data the same way as you do? I have watched non-specialists interpret data in my area of training (faith and culture) and they usually get it wrong, even when what they say is plausible. You may have seen the same in your own area of specialization. So why do you think they don’t simply abandon the models of “climate change” or “global warming”. Conspiracy theories are usually wrong. I need something more in tune with reality. (Just as you want explanations of temperature readings that are in tune with reality.)

Reader 3: Just because most so called scientists have bought the schpeel, does not make them right either. Both sides are allowed to make mistakes, but why is it that ONLY the skeptic side of the argument is poo pooed, put down, defamed, ridiculed.... ? Isn’t it passable that the majority of scientists could be wrong?

R2: It happens that since PO is my friend, I hear the majority view held up for scrutiny. I accept that the scientific community can be wrong. Scientists do too. That’s how science works—present a theory, examine it, keep it if the data fits; discard it and try another if the data doesn’t fit. So why haven’t they discarded it? I’m quite sure they have looked at it. Perhaps it fits the model better than we think. So I’m back with my question: Why do you think they have “bought the schpeel”?

PO: Many of the best climatologists do indeed read the data much as I do and reject aspects of CAGW. Notable among these are the two men credited with the first successful development of a satellite temperature record. (Dr. Roy Spencer and Dr. John R. Christy). I'll give you a list of others if you are interested. The oft-quoted 97% consensus simply does not exist. Here's a good discussion of that point: Few scientists have abandoned the climate models because few ever gave them any credence in the first place—other than those whose employment or grants were derived from the models. Some conspiracy theories represent actual conspiracies (e.g. Watergate and the 9/11 attack). Having read much of the Climategate papers, I believe that a CAGW conspiracy is entirely plausible, especially since there is political gain to be had.

R2: 1) I accept (readily) that a hard consensus does not exist. (I note that you say “aspects of”, which weakens your point significantly.) For example, I agree that solar activity and other long-term factors may account for much of the change that we experience. That makes sense—and has made sense for a long time. 2) I haven’t taken note of a supposed 97% consensus. What I have observed is that many scientists hold that human activity has shaped the physical health of the planet negatively. I suspect that there is a strong consensus on that point. The question is “how negatively?” 3) There is, I think, a political and social orthodoxy that wants to shape all policy as if we already understood what is happening—perhaps that is the “conspiracy” that you refer to. I applaud your continued efforts to shake up that orthodoxy. 4) I do not believe that the scientific community as a whole is engaged in such a conspiracy. Money talks, but only for so long. Sooner or later the data speaks louder. It bothers me not at all if the scientific community abandons what most people think they are saying now in favour of a better theory. It bothers me significantly when most people decide they don’t trust scientists ... just because.

Here’s my own viewpoint. I am not a scientist. I am a Christian. God’s command in Genesis 1 and 2 is to take care of the garden that he has given us. We haven’t done that. We have destroyed more than we have taken care of. I believe in the judgment. And I believe that God will judge each of us—especially those who call themselves Christians—for how we treat his good creation. The oil pits of Nigeria (formed by the action of Big Oil) and the tar sands of Alberta are just two examples. Fracking may or may not be—the evidence is not in, but it’s troubling enough to hesitate before doing it.

And finally, I hear your evidence against a simplistic Global Warming. I agree that the evidence requires scientists to work with their theories and either refine them or come up with new ones. I hear you also implying that conservationists in general are crackpots and that we should dismiss their efforts as a waste of time. That implication is deeply troubling. Whether you meant that or not, presenting only one side of evidence over a long period of time makes that implication. I am equally guilty (especially in forums like this) of implying a whole bunch of stuff that I don’t actually intend to. That’s why I have made this extended reply—to try and find out what’s behind the repeated presentations of one line of evidence only.

PO: 1) I also approach issues as more Christian than scientist. I regard honesty and truth as central Christian values, so when I hear a false statement coming out of Washington, I feel that it is appropriate to point it out. Although I am not a scientist, I do have a BA in mathematics, which gives me some minimal credentials to evaluate scientific data. I am painfully aware that a vigorous debate, not a bad thing in itself, easily begins to sound unchristian in its tone. I often make my comments very brief in the hope of avoiding this unchristian tone; but I am not always successful. I apologize if this has happened.
2) There probably is a consensus that human activity has had some negative effects on the planet. There is not a consensus that fossil fuel use has been a NET negative. The nations that use the most fossil fuels generally have longer life spans, less disease, higher standard of living, and so on.
3) When two groups of well-credentialed scientists present two opposite views, it is wise to not fully trust both groups (unless you want your head to explode). That’s why I present data, not the opinions of scientists (or, worse, the opinions of political types).
4) I can’t imagine what I might have said that implies that conservationists are crackpots. I am a conservationist. I might be persuaded that politicians in conservationist clothing are generally crackpots; but even then, most of them are just listening to advisors who have their own agendas.
5) I don’t present both sides of the argument because the one side has been presented so extensively already. A good debater does not try to make his opponent’s case for him.
6) If you want to know more about what I believe about CAGW, you can request my book “Anthropogenic Global Warming Skeptic's Guide”.
7) Here are some good web sites/articles that have influenced my thinking:

R2: Under #2, the use of fossil fuels has helped human life; it has not necessarily taken care of the garden, which God gave us in trust, and for which God will take an accounting. To use an example that I know better from experience, in Zimbabwe there has been large-scale deforestation as people try to get fuel to cook. Replacing wood with coal (mined in western Zimbabwe) doesn’t help. Re-forestation does. But we (as a species) are better at mountain-top removal for coal and de-foresting for wood than we are at restoring anything. God has placed wonderful recuperative powers in creation; we should regularly promote the use of those powers. I don’t hear that case being made by most who speak against global warming. I hear rather, “Don’t mess with my standard of living.”

Under #5, what persuades me most is listening over a long period of time and hearing balance. I understand your effort to promote balance in what you see as a forum dominated by one side. But we’re not in a debate. We’re in a search for truth, and if we do not acknowledge truth in what our “opponent” says, you can be sure that we will not find truth even in ourselves. Most (not all) of the people on both sides of the “debate” are people of good will. Accusations (whether made by Al Gore et al or by conservatives of various stripes) don't usually help us find truth. (That, btw, is why I give less credit to Al Gore and Michael Moore than some people I know.)

#6: My book list is already immense. I teach for a living! If I get a chance I will check this out. For my part, I am satisfied that we do affect the environment around us; that is I think incontrovertible. And God's judgment on his people is sure.

Blessings, PO!

R1: Here are some links about scientific consensus.
And here is a brief (and chilling - if things getting all of a sudden significantly hotter chills you) of why the year after year air temps have been flattening.

R3: R1, that is one side of the argument/theory, I want you to hear and investigate the other side of the consensus. Then tell me what you think is good/correct about what you have not believed in the past.

R1: R3, I don’t understand your second question. As to the first, about 5 years ago a fellow in the congregation challenged me on the climate change thing. So I decided to dig in and prove him right. Life would be a lot easier if he were right and we didn't have to worry about this stuff. And, so I was trying to prove myself wrong. That is science and the scientific view point, scientists are always trying to poke holes into each other’s theories. It is an academic rivalry that has worked to move science forward. If you read the two pieces I posted above, you will see that there is an overwhelming majority of scientists who are very concerned about climate change. And after all my work looking at this, well, you see what I came up with. I devote a good portion of my life to attempting to move our world away from the disaster we are creating/have already created. I’m unpaid, by the way. (I know a lot of people, now, who are working on this, including some casual interaction with actual climate scientists. No one is making any money off of this except Exxon and the other corporations you and PO support.)

When PO posts data, I take time trying to see what he's saying. I look at his data and where it comes from. He is not good at giving me context for his data so I have to figure it out. (Actually, I’ve really benefited from doing all the research in response to Keith.) I’ve been to web sites where he’s taken a page of data, yet there are many other pages which give context to his page, these other pages he’s ignored, and the very site he sent me too had clear conclusions which sync with what I am saying about climate change. I do look at other sites which deny climate change. I find lots of things like “Al Gore” this or that. But no real proof that Gore is wrong on the essential problem. Ad Hominem attacks are not scientific proof, but they can sway many people politically.

Let me remind you, my friend, I do this out of my faith in Jesus as my Lord. If I am wrong, please show me. Until I can see real scientific proof that CO2 does not act as a green house gas, or when we have several summers in a row that the Arctic does not continue to melt at frightening speeds, I will do what I can to save the world for my grandchildren.
PO: Online surveys represent the opinions of the subset of scientists who happen to stumble upon the survey and who care enough to bother filling it out. There are hundreds of prominent skeptical scientists, including two Noble prize winning physicists. They may not be a majority (yet), but they are no fringe group of crackpots either.

R3: There is data, I am told, that shows that climate change is cyclical and not completely man made. That is all I expect any climate change fanatic to accept...

R2: What I hope for all to accept is that we are responsible for the piece of creation given into our care. If that is accepted, it has implications for industrial farming, fracking, mountain top removal in coal mining, extraction of oil from the tar sands of Alberta, the size of houses we build today, the tendency to throw our trash out of the window as we drive, and on and on.

R3: We must have trees for homes, mining for brick and cement and iron and .... , something that will produce ENOUGH electricity for both homes and industry, methods for producing chemicals for drugs and more. There are lots of things that are necessary that environmentalists criticize that they do not realize the long term implications on life and productivity....

R2: I live in Manitoba, which means that I know the value of a good heating system. Europe has adopted a model of encouraging small family farms--that has one kind of impact on the Creation and on society. North America has adopted a model of industrial farming--which has another kind of impact. I don't know which is better. I do know that the usual American (and Canadian) response is purely monetary. That is wrong. The bottom line is not financial, but the judgment at the end of time (I am a conservative Christian, and I do believe in judgment!), in which God will ask: How did you use the Creation I gave you in trust for today? If I am honest, I will squirm when he asks me that question. I'm not better here; just raising the issues.

R3: What will God say to those who rely on the government (live off the government)?

R2: Not sure where your question is going—especially when discussing climate change. Sorry PO for hi-jacking your f/b comments section! If you’re noting that our welfare system is broken, that is I think true. If you're saying that we should not rely on government; well, I’m not a libertarian—Jesus did say at least, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar” alongside the capstone: “Give to God what belongs to God.” And Paul says that government is to be obeyed because it is there to bring justice on those who do evil. But this discussion carries us far from PO’s original post.

R3: I question everything this government is doing. If they are involved in climate change, I will question them. Since they are involved in welfare and dependency of the poor, I will question them. It is not for liberty nor freedom that our government is involved in many things, it is control. When our government controls the air, water, soil, production and consumption, I will question them....

R2: Question away! I have lived under a true dictatorship (in Zimbabwe, under Robert Mugabe), and I know what a truly oppressive government is like. The American government is not oppressive or corrupt, in comparison to some that I have direct personal knowledge of. In the 1980s I used to say that Ronald Reagan was dangerous (because of things like the Iran Contra stuff). I have changed my mind. I disagree with much that he did, but he was a good man seeking to his best for his country. Bush (Sr and Jr) took us into Iraq—both times I believe wrongly. But I believe that they also sought to do what was best for their country. Obama is in the same mould—seeking to do what is best, but (I think, especially in his foreign policy) making some bad choices in the process. Tea Party folk (vilified by many Democrats) are (I believe) trying to save their country. Democrats (hated by the Tea Party and by many Republicans) are also trying to do what is best for their country. There are bad people out there, but most of the real crooks are not those we say they are.

The only line I don’t listen to anymore is the one that tells me to hate those with whom I disagree (a line that I haven’t heard anyone here say. That’s bad politics, and bad governance, and for me as a Christian not one of the options. I’ll stop now. This is PO’s page, and I’ll let him have it back! Thanks for your (R1’s and R3’s and PO’s) input on these issues, helping me to understand more of what is happening in our world.

R3: R2, that is a good commentary of this topic. I do not believe Obama has the People’s best interests in his mind. He is more concerned with maintaining power through gifts to the people so they will continue to vote his direction. He is a SOCIALIST through ant through, and that is what is wrong with this president. Comparing a controlling government to a despot like Hitler would not gain any credibility. I do believe this country has better opportunities, but this government is messing that up, big time.


KGMom said...

While I understand your using code to identify each speaker (as opposed to names)--I found it confusing.
I saw this conversation on Facebook--and passed it by. I find I can't "argue" with folks in a particular mindset. There's no arguing with someone who is convinced, and is ready to label someone--e.g. the president--in such a pejorative way that allows no other assessment.

Climenheise said...

I know what you mean about confusing. I didn't want to argue so much as find out what was behind the presenting disagreements. I found, as I usually do in such cases, that people on both sides can show prejudice, and that people on both sides have thought through the issues more than the surface statements may appear. I agree with blanket statements about Obama (in this case). As I said there, the label of socialist is ironic to this Canadian, with a Conservative PM who is more socialist than your Liberal President.