Resurrection of Global Warming

A couple of weeks ago the Republican-controlled house Science and Technology committee put together a “blue-ribbon” panel to demonstrate their side of the now highly politicized climate change debate.  Their intent was to continue to introduce fear, uncertainty, and doubt into the scientific claim that the earth is warming at an alarming rate and humans are the cause of that warming.  This was part of the larger Republican efforts to block EPA efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The panel was stuffed with anti-regulatory advocates.  One called for called for the end of all government funding for climate change research, as well as support for all “global organizations” working toward agreements on reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.  Another said the US should not rely on the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and needs a second opinion from a “non-activist” scientific team.

Richard Muller was supposed to be the lynch pin of this orchestrated attack on the EPA and the Obama administration’s support for restricting greenhouse gases.  He is a UC Berkeley physicist and long time critic of government-led climate studies.  He created The Berkeley Earth Science Project to challenge the scientific consensus on global warming.  His project’s largest private backer is the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.   This foundation is one of the charitable funds set up by oil billionaires and tea-party funders, Charles and David Koch.

A funny thing happened on the way to forum.

Professor Muller took a statistical approach to analyzing the scientific data that has already been published on global warming.  He was the first to speak and dropped a bombshell on the panel.

Instead of finding some variance in the results which would suggest that the data as well as the interpretations of the data suggesting global warming was suspect, he told the hearing that the work of the three principal groups that have analyzed the temperature trends underlying climate science is “excellent…. We see a global warming trend that is very similar to that previously reported by the other groups.”

Other members of the scientific community applauded Muller’s courage in recanting his previous views.  Ken Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, which contributed some funding to the Berkeley effort, said Muller’s statement to Congress was “honorable” in recognizing that “previous temperature reconstructions basically got it right…. Willingness to revise views in the face of empirical data is the hallmark of the good scientific process.”

Unfortunately, some global warming skeptics reacted differently to Muller’s conclusions.

Anthony Watts, a former TV weatherman who runs the skeptic blog WattsUpWithThat.com, made a name for himself through his efforts to show that weather station data in official studies are untrustworthy because of the urban heat island effect, which boosts temperature readings in areas that have been encroached on by cities and suburbs.  Muller has praised Watts for his work in the past, but leading climatologists said the previous studies accounted for the effect.  The Berkeley analysis confirmed that. “Did such poor station quality exaggerate the estimates of global warming?” Muller asked in his written testimony. “We’ve studied this issue, and our preliminary answer is no.”

Watts responded that the Berkeley group is releasing results that are not “fully working and debugged yet…. But, post normal science political theater is like that.”

The realities are that this particular scientific issue has become so politicized that researchers are faced with the very real challenge that the result of their work may affect their future access to research funds.  If we really DO want unbiased scientific research, we have to insulate researchers from the political effects of their findings.  Professor Muller represents the best of what we should expect from our scientific community.  When the data did not agree with his previous public position, he changed his position rather than continue to question the data.

Unfortunately we don’t seem willing or able to hold our politicians to the same high ethical standards as we expect from our scientists.  The reality is that our politicians often represent what is best for their largest donors.  Here are a couple of examples.

Sen. Jim Inhoffe is famous for saying,  “man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.”   Inhofe has accepted $1.2 million from oil and gas interests over the course of his career, making the industry far and away his most generous contributor.  He voted to preserve $35 billion in oil and gas subsidies last year.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) is a strenuous opponent of the Endangered Species Act because the economic consequences “would be utterly devastating”.  Over the past few years, oil and gas companies have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Wyoming Republican.

This really comes down to a question of trust.  If we trust our scientists, we have to force our politicians to respond to the guidance we are receiving from them.  If we would prefer to trust our politicians, we leave ourselves vulnerable to those special interests who clearly are attempting to influence the political agenda for their own gain.  Three quarters of the American people want to eliminate oil and gas subsidiesMore than half call global warming a “major problem” and feel that the government is “doing too little”. It will be interesting in this next election cycle to see how long conservative Republicans can continue to hold out against both science and popular opinion.

13 Responses to “Resurrection of Global Warming”

  1. Keith says:

    Congratulations to the president, he finally released his birth certificate. He should have done this immieadtely as you or I, or anyone else for that matter, would have done. Interesting it took Donald Trump to get it done…..

  2. Jeff Beamsley says:

    keith,

    If you recall, he DID release his birth certificate in June of 2008 when the issue first came up. The same one you or I would have had an opportunity release if we were born in Hawaii. The same one the state of Hawaii uses to issue a driver’s license. The same one that the State Department uses to issue passports.

    Since that time there have been numerous other factcheck organizations including most of the national media and even lately Bill O’Reilly who have said that all of the evidence that any credible investigation can uncover supports the fact the Obama was born in the United States.

    So the question remains, why did he release the “long form” document that the “birthers” and Donald Trump have been clamoring for?

    I think you are right that it is Donald Trump, but not for the reasons that you think.

    The longer Donald Trump stays in the Republican race, the better it is for Obama. His “birther” stance, while it helped him with the loony fringe of the Republican Party, was starting to wear a little thin even in the right wing echo chamber. By putting that particular issue to bed, Trump can now move onto to his “to the victor belongs the spoils” strategy to bring down the price of oil. Just like the “birther” strategy, all of the other Republican candidates are going to have to take time to position themselves relative to Trump rather which leaves them less time to position themselves against Obama.

    That’s good news for Obama, because as long as Trump hangs around and continues to spout his own brand of New York media whore insanity, the rest of the Republican field has to keep reminding the American people that not all Republicans are crazy. But every day Trump dominates the media, which he is very good at, his sound bytes remind most voters how crazy Republicans can be.

  3. Keith says:

    Nice answer, BUT….Obama, for what ever his reason, DID NOT release his birth certificate, just the “certificate of live birth. He did yesterday and he could have two years ago. I have always believed if he were not born in the U.S. Mrs Clinton would have nailed him with it on the way to HER becoming President.

    As to Trump, if you listened to him carefully you’d know he never said Obama wasn’t born here, he just wanted to see the proof. I take no issue with that. Was it political on his part, you bet. He’s a guy NO BODY want s to deal with as he has nothing to lose and will say whats on his mind. I’m tired, as I’m sure you are as well, of these guys who just get up and talk…..Trump at least says things to think about.

  4. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Thought you might find this interesting.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/01/AR2008050103224.html

    McCain had “birther” issues too and couldn’t find the records supporting his birth certificate. If he had won the election, do you think he would have faced the same unreasoning lunacy on this issue that Obama has?

  5. Keith says:

    Yes, it do.

    Bush to this day is STILL not regarded as the legitamately elected President of the United States by many and they spent years making as much noise about it as “birthers” have about Obama. The difference is Obama could have ended it himself….as he did the other day.

  6. Jeff Beamsley says:

    At least there is some basis in fact for the Bush controversy since it was the first election decided by the Supreme Court.

    In this case there is and was nothing to the controversy.

    And, by the way, it is NOT going away.

    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2011/apr/27/birthers-obama-certificate-live-birth/

  7. Keith says:

    “Basis in FACT?” If you can say that then you of all people should understand why the birther thing won’t go away?

    Trump got under his skin…..so he produced a birth certificate.
    Trump now wants to see his grades….wonder if he’ll cough them up.
    Where was the media, who’s job it is to do such things, when the vetting
    should have been done. When many were saying “this is the smartest guy around” the media should have gone out to see if that were true.

    This is the difference between someone who’s “done things” as in
    dealt with people and got what he wanted, verse someone who didn’t.

  8. Jeff Beamsley says:

    The undeniable FACT regarding the Bush Gore election is that it was decided in the Supreme Court.

    This was the first election ever decided in the Supreme Court.

    The vote in the Supreme Court also happened to be along party lines, even though Justices are supposed to be above politics.

    In the case of Obama, there are no facts that support any claim that he had the legal right to run for president. He didn’t HAVE to show anything more than that he had a passport.

    As far as Trump, he is going to continue to pander to the racist elements in this society as long as he continues to get media attention.

    http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/04/28/calls-for-obamas-academic-records-blasted-as-nonsense/

    While I agree that this is annoying to Obama, it is also doing serious damage to those who could be serious Republican candidates. They can’t get any traction with the media right now because Trump is dominating the conversation.

    Obama graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard Law School and was an editor of the Harvard Law Review and elected President of the Law Review. He later taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. Clearly he is a smart guy.

    In comparison, our previous President had a legacy appointment to Yale and by his own admission was an average student. As an average student he somehow got accepted to Harvard Business School and graduated with an MBA without any honors or other distinguishing contributions (see how easy that is).

    The bottom line from a political point of view is that those who take any of Trump’s various claims seriously are:

    1. A minority of voters
    2. Likely not going to vote for Obama regardless of who the Repubican’s nominate.

    Trust me that the rest of the country is not going to be swayed by these sorts of character attacks and frankly are embarrassed by the whole spectacle.

  9. Keith says:

    Wow….i underestimated how much you should understand the birthers. Your comments about FACT and Bush’s election remain blinded. If someone had taken Obama’s birth question to court and a judge ruled for him then the same agruement that you make about Bush being elected by the supreme court could be made of Obama. As to party lines, and suppost to be above them, it take two parties to vote along party lines. So who was guilty the dems or repubs on the court. A closer look would reveal that one justice appointed by a republican voted in the minority…..how many appointed b the dems voted in the majority? Also lets not forget the overiding issue that was voted in favor of 7 – 2 to STOP the illegal recount…. hardly along party lines. leaves one to wonder the extreme bias of the two justices who voted in the minority. I’m certain a blog could be written about them and their partisan vote.

    Why racist Jeff? Why can’t someone disaggree with Obama and not be called a racists?

    You also aren’t listening to Trump very closely….he isn’t accusing Obama of anything. NEVER accused him of not being a citizen, just wanted to know….the MEDIA should have done that. OBAMA should have done that long ago. Trump IS getting under Obamas skin, clearly. He’s getting under all of their skins….he said Romneyh had a nice job where he made a little money but doesn’t have enough money to be president. He said “I like Ron Paul but he can’t win,” at CPAC. Jeff this is how some people operate. You demisnish the other guy. NOT saying I agree with him in that stratigy or that he can win like that but it is a stratigy. In other words, its politics.

    Obama did a great job of pulling the trigger on bin laden. Super job!

  10. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Keith,

    You are going to need to do a little more history reading. It wasn’t the 7-2 decision that decided the election. All that decision did was confirm that the way that the recount had been handled violated the Equal Protection clause of the constitution because the standard set out by the Florida Supreme Court wasn’t being applied consistently throughout the state. At that point, the court had not decided the election. They only said that the recount process was flawed.

    Several options remained on the table, the most logical of which was to remand the case back to the Florida Supreme Court and require them to create a recount standard which COULD be applied consistently throughout the state.

    What decided the election was the second 5-4 vote, which was strictly along party lines (5 conservatives 4 liberals). That decision was that a constitutional acceptable recount could not be completed by the deadline imposed by the Republican controlled state legislature even though the same Supreme Court by the same vote had suspended the original recount a week earlier to make sure that it didn’t finish and declare a winner.

    Justice Stevens wrote a scathing dissent to this decision which closed with the following:

    “What must underlie petitioners’ entire federal assault on the Florida election procedures is an unstated lack of confidence in the impartiality and capacity of the state judges who would make the critical decisions if the vote count were to proceed. Otherwise, their position is wholly without merit. The endorsement of that position by the majority of this Court can only lend credence to the most cynical appraisal of the work of judges throughout the land. It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law. Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today’s decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.”

    As far as the birther’s time in court, there are plenty and they have all gone NOWHERE because there is nowhere for them to go.

    Here’s a listing if you are interested.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barack_Obama_presidential_eligibility_litigation#Berg_v._Obama

    The gulf between this issue and the Bush Gore election is wide and deep. The ONLY similarity is that they both involve a president.

    The issue of racism isn’t because someone disagrees with Obama. It is because Trump is suggesting that Obama didn’t deserve his admission to Columbia and the only reason he was admitted was because he had an African father. That is a racist comment. Trump knew it. And it had the desired effect which was to get Trump more publicity.

    Just so that you have the context, it was also a racist act when a republican committee person in southern California circulated the following picture of Obama with the comment about why he couldn’t produce a birth certificate.

    http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/04/oc_goper_apologizes_for_obama-as-chimp_pic_says_i.php

    Suffice it to say that this one statistic speaks volumes. Threats against the President have increased 400% since Obama took office. Wonder why that is?

  11. Keith says:

    “Several options remained on the table, the most logical of which was to remand the case back to the Florida Supreme Court and require them to create a recount standard which COULD be applied consistently throughout the state.”

    In other words make/change the rules as you go?????
    The rules were already in place my friend…..

    Im wondering if the state of FLA has changed ANYTHING about “the rules”
    since this time.

  12. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Keith,

    You still seem to be having a tough time with history and how our government works.

    The election was too close to call, so per Florida rules an automatic recount of the machine vote started. When that ended two days later, Bush’s lead was 327 votes. Gore didn’t challenge the fact that 18 counties didn’t actually conduct a machine recount, but his campaign did request a manual recount in four strong democratic counties as was his right. The problem was that Florida law also required that counties certify their vote within seven days of an election. Several of the counties said that they couldn’t complete their manual recount in that time. The Florida Circuit Court ruled that the seven day limit was mandatory, but counties could amend their results after that time but it was up to the Secretary of State (Republican Katherine Harris) whether or not to accept those amended results. The Florida Supreme Court extended the date for filling amended vote totals to November 26. One of the counties completed on time, the other three submitted requests for extensions which the Secretary of State rejected. On November 26th, 2000 she declared Bush the winner by 537 votes. Gore contested the result and the Florida Supreme Court upheld that request and ordered a recount of the 70,000 machine votes rejected during the first manual recount as unreadable. The Florida Supreme Court also provided a set of guidelines that the local election boards could us to determine the intent of the voter. The US Supreme Court rejected that recount order because the Florida Supreme Court guidelines weren’t being applied consistently by all the local election boards.

    Then the conservative majority on the Supreme Court also voted 5-4 that the recount mandated by the Florida State Supreme court couldn’t be completed by the safe harbor date of December 12, 2000 set by the State Legislature. That meant that the election results certified by Secretary of State Harris on November 26th would hold. This decision was not signed by the Justices. That means that it was based only on the circumstances of this case and couldn’t be used as a precedent in any future legal case. In other words, if at some future time there was a liberal majority on the court and a similar contested election for President came before the court, they couldn’t use this case as precedent to support that decision.

    So in quick summary, the legislature created a set of rules about how elections and recounts should handled. That set of rules produced a flawed result because not all of the ballots from all the voters were counted. The State Supreme Court ordered a recount and provided a set of rules to insure that every vote could be counted. The United States Supreme Court ruled that the State Supreme Court rules violated that guarantee that every vote would be counted because it was not being uniformly applied by those conducting the recount. This is the point at which the US Supreme Court could have handed it back to the State Supreme Court which created the rules, telling the State Supreme Court that they had to do a better job in making sure that every vote get counted. Instead in a highly political vote, the US Supreme Court essentially said that this whole process has gone on too long, and it doesn’t really matter that voters are going to be disenfranchised (which was their basis for ending the recount to start with), we are going to call a halt to any future recounts and declare Bush the winner. The real question, which we will never know, is if the tables were turned and Gore had been declared the winner by Katherine Harris on November 26th, would the Supreme Court have taken the same action?

  13. Keith says:

    ….and all some people wanted was to see the birth certificate. for that they were called racists!!!!!

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