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September 23, 2003

THE POSTMODERN WHITE HOUSE....Remember a few months ago there was a minor storm because the EPA had deleted a section on climate change from its Report on the Environment (ROE) before releasing it? The section was eliminated because the White House had tried to force changes contrary to accepted science and the EPA eventually decided to quit fighting and just delete the whole thing.

David Appell has a copy of the internal "Issue Paper" in which the EPA outlined its options for responding to the White House, as well as some good background information, but since not everyone is going to click the link and read the PDF file, I'm going to reproduce the most important part here.

At the time the memo was written, the White House had made "major edits" to the climate change section and then indicated that "no further changes may be made." Here are the options the EPA considered:

OPTION 1: Accept CEQ [Council on Environmental Quality] and OMB [Office of Management and Budget] edits.

Pro: This option is easiest in terms of EPA-White House relations. It ends a multi-month negotiating process that has regressed substantially with the last round of comments.

Con: EPA will take responsibility and severe criticism from the science and environmental communities for poorly representing the science. EPA will have to decide who will respond and how to questions. This will undermine the ROE and the EPA for an extended period. It also undercuts key science assessments, such as by the National Research Council and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This option also provides specific text to attack and the potential to extend the period of criticism. Early review drafts were circulated to other agencies, States and Regions, and can be expected to surface for comparison.

OPTION 2: Remove climate change section from the ROE.

Pro: This provides little "meat" for attacks on EPA's science. It may be the only way to meet both White House and EPA needs. It does not expend more EPA resources on the product. EPA can explain the omission by pointing to the scientific disagreements and explaining that it is inappropriate for EPA to create its own version of the science.

OPTION 3: Do not accept "no further changes" and try to reach compromise.

Pro: This is the only approach that could produce a credible climate change section in the ROE. It may antagonize the White House more than the other two options.

Con: It is likely not feasible to negotiate agreeable text. It will expend more resources on the section and possibly delay the ROE further.

This, I think, displays the Bush White House at its most typical. Genuine problems simply don't matter to them. The only thing that counts is advancing their political agenda, and anything that doesn't fit that agenda is vigorously brushed under the carpet and ignored — in the apparent belief that problems genuinely don't exist if they are inconvenient to the administration's goals.

As the memo says, the only approach that could produce a "credible" climate change section was also "not feasible." That tells you everything you need to know about the Bush White House's approach to the real world.

Posted by Kevin Drum at September 23, 2003 07:47 PM | TrackBack


Comments

As the memo says, the only approach that could produce a "credible" climate change section was also "not feasible." That tells you everything you need to know about the Bush White House's approach to the real world.

That about says it all. Thanks, Kevin.

Posted by: exgop at September 23, 2003 07:57 PM | PERMALINK

Ideology trumps the facts yet again.

Posted by: Dave at September 23, 2003 08:00 PM | PERMALINK

Bush might look into ditching the EPA when he's trying to make up for the budget shortfall. He's not using it for anything. Since the White House has already figured out what the administration's assessment of the science is going to be, the EPA doesn't seem to serve any useful function. All it does is generate potentially embarassing memos.

Posted by: Stentor at September 23, 2003 08:01 PM | PERMALINK

Just another sad example of the Bush administration's aversion to pesky facts and pesky reality.

The lesson to take?

Bush White House: Incredible. Uncredible. Anything but credible.

Posted by: Adam in MA at September 23, 2003 08:03 PM | PERMALINK

That is some memo.

Posted by: JakeV at September 23, 2003 08:09 PM | PERMALINK

Welcome to the era of the instantly propagated leak.

Posted by: squiddy at September 23, 2003 08:22 PM | PERMALINK

Well, it's hardly unscientific. I'm sure that there were advanced, rigorous studies that went along with the following questions:

(1) "Do trees and glaciers vote?"; (2) "Will some sort of Christie Whitman-looking cyborg be immune from the human emotion 'humiliation'?"; (3) "Does the 18-40 independent voter react more negatively to a rugged lumberjack, or to a dirty hippie with a tie-dyed Phish T-shirt?"; (4) "Can we replace actual ecologists with Liberty University-trained 'scienticians' without causing a panic in the general populace?"

Posted by: Norbizness at September 23, 2003 08:30 PM | PERMALINK

Damn the facts; full ideology ahead.

Posted by: peter jung at September 23, 2003 08:32 PM | PERMALINK

"Genuine problems simply don't matter to them. The only thing that counts is advancing their political agenda, and anything that doesn't fit that agenda"

Applies to every administration, and applies especially when the administration has different goals than the observer. Understanding the relativity of viewpoint is why some have intellectual honesty.

I thought the relative position of the observer and the observed was a generally accepted theory of both the right and left. Now, behold, Kevin claims this simple principle no longer holds.

I fully expect Kevin's candidate to brush geniune problems aside when they don't fit Kevin's agenda.

I fully expect, without reading the posts, that most of Kevin's supporters will agree that his observation holds now, but when their candidate is in office, this condition will go away.

Posted by: Matt Young at September 23, 2003 08:39 PM | PERMALINK

Matt Young: you can't have that promotion. Can't have it. Fergit it.

There. I've taken something away from you. Mad? Hope so. Your little umbrage is so...nice.

There's no position here, lad.

D

Posted by: Dano at September 23, 2003 08:46 PM | PERMALINK

Matt,
It will go away because we will not support a horrible President.

Posted by: theCoach at September 23, 2003 08:47 PM | PERMALINK

Understanding the relativity of viewpoint is why some have intellectual honesty.

The Postmodern Blog Comment.

Posted by: Nick at September 23, 2003 08:51 PM | PERMALINK

Well well well, you have those pesky little things over here too do you? Not quite as much of a potty mouth as the Fremlin troll at least but the idea is still the same.

Tell me Mr. Young, are you aware that the defense of "Everybody does it" still must meet objective criteria of comparison? For instance, if President Clinton had forced an agency to supress scientific data it didn't like and you were able to present evidence of that fact you would then have made your point. This attempt to prognosticate a similar behaviour for an unknown person in the future, however, is just not going to fly. This is really bush league (pardon the expression, or don't) of you. To quote Atrios "Smarter monkeys, please."

Posted by: catalexis at September 23, 2003 08:57 PM | PERMALINK

Matt Young is Kevin Drum's very own PoMo Colonel Blimp.

Posted by: David W. at September 23, 2003 08:59 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for the excerpt, Kevin. You are one hard-working blogger these days.

Let's politely lay off young Matt, tacitly conceding that science isn't his thing.

EPA lives to fight another day. Sad, but arguably a responsible thing to do, if they get to keep their budget and at least some people working to protect the environment.

Posted by: Bruce Green of Death at September 23, 2003 09:07 PM | PERMALINK

This reminds of an old computer programmer's joke:

"If a program's behavior does not reflect reality, change reality. It's easier."

Posted by: Charles at September 23, 2003 09:13 PM | PERMALINK

Right away, I can tell you that Clinton brushed aside important political and economic issues. I can find many more who will tell you that Clinton brushed aside security issues. Even Clinton will tell you he brushed aside foreign policy issues in Rwanda.

All of these areas of "brushing aside" fall under the category of science. In fact, even on the global warming issues, there are plenty of scientists that claim Clinton brushed aside important evidence.

It's very odd that the brushing aside issue appears on Kevin's blog and is supposed not to happen under his favorite candidate. The more intelligent liberals and populists, Maxspeak for example, readily acknowledge "brushing asides" of their favorite party or candidate. Maxspeak has no reason to abandon intellectual honesty.

Posted by: Matt Young at September 23, 2003 09:14 PM | PERMALINK

"There are plenty of scientists that claim Clinton brushed aside important evidence."

Would you care to name a few of them, Matt?

Posted by: trout at September 23, 2003 09:28 PM | PERMALINK

We're still waiting for an example Matt.

I have no doubt you could find one, but I'm fascinated that you're too lazy to try.


But, increasingly the "clinton did it too" defense causes me to giggle. After all, wasn't Clinton history's greatest monster? Is this what Bush aspires to be?


smarter monkeys please indeed.

Posted by: Atrios at September 23, 2003 09:29 PM | PERMALINK

Sweep, sweep, sweep....

The sound of Clinton "brushing aside."

Posted by: trout at September 23, 2003 09:35 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I happen to like Kevin Drum and Max Sawicky, and think they are both a credit to the blogosphere.

I think they ought to trade places for a day though, just for the hell of it. Max might like a sunny day in virtual Orange County, and Kevin might enjoy a virtual power lunch inside the Beltway.

(BTW, I once as an atheist traded places with a Catholic woman and we argued our respective positions on Jesus. We both learned a lot as it turned out and it was a worthwhile exercise. As well as a lot of fun.)

Posted by: David W. at September 23, 2003 09:47 PM | PERMALINK

One agency memo showing the Clinton WH ordered scientific data scotched, thats all it will take and I'll say "Matt was right!", that's all it would take and catalexis shall have to humble himself and admit error. Come on Mr. Young, such an opportunity....

But the point of my original objection to your original post was that you couldn't predict the future actions of Kevin's or anyone else's candidate.

That having been said, I find myself highly amused that you feel free to assert that "brushing aside" (meaning what?) "political or economic issues" (again meaning what?) is equivalent to declaring scientific data to be unwelcome and not to be published. What gives you the idea that scientific data is or should be as malleable as a policy statement? ppm of SO is ppm of SO, there is no wiggle room, no spin, no viewpoint, no attitude, no opinion, no agenda, no take on it, no vision, no focus, no slant, no position that alters it. Do you see the difference yet?

Posted by: catalexis at September 23, 2003 09:48 PM | PERMALINK

There are 2 people in the ShrubCo administration who seem to enjoy a nice thick coating of Teflon-
Christie Whitman (former EPA), and Colin Powell.

Whitman's EPA was a goddam disaster, and Powell is long overdue for some media abuse for his role as Shrub's Iraq war enabler and shill.

Posted by: peter jung at September 23, 2003 09:51 PM | PERMALINK

Out of curiosity, has Matt ever backed up any of his claims?

There's this thing called "science," Matt. You should consider looking into it (and so should the Bush administration).

Posted by: PaulB at September 23, 2003 10:29 PM | PERMALINK

Matt, it is one thing not to act on a piece of evidence and another to actively keep it from the public despite growing scientific consensus.

Posted by: Katie at September 23, 2003 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

To satisfy the existence condition, I searched,
"Clinton ignored scientists" on google, and took the first reasonable hit, there are many more, and I am sure we could sit here all night and prove nothing, except all administrations do the same.


http://www.afpc.org/rrm/rrm598.htm

February 22

"The Clinton administration's effort to help Russia adapt weapons technologies to nonmilitary uses may be supporting scientists working on weapons of mass destruction," Reuters reports, citing a new General Accounting Office (GAO) study. "The GAO report said it was uncertain how much of the funds actually went to scientists to encourage them to work on peaceful civilian projects instead of potentially more lucrative weapons projects."


"Instead of reaching Russian institutions and scientists [to keep them from working on advanced weapons of mass destruction and proliferating the technology abroad], about $40 million has gone to U.S. Energy Department laboratories to administer the program," Reuters continues. "That is most of the money spent on the program so far." Less than a third actually gets to the intended recipients, and little of that can be accounted for.


The effort "may cost more than $600 million over the next five years," according to Reuters, and "'likely will be a subsidy program for Russia for many years.'"

Posted by: Matt Young at September 23, 2003 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

Here is another, which proves nothing.

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=33241

By Paul Sperry
© 2003 WorldNetDaily.com


WASHINGTON - Former President Clinton took four years to react to a 1994 intelligence briefing detailing "the devastation AIDS was causing in Africa," a U.S. intelligence official told WorldNetDaily.


Clinton lists fighting the African AIDS epidemic among the "accomplishments" posted on his presidential library website. And earlier this month, he gathered reporters at his Harlem office to spotlight his continuing efforts to help African nations battle the disease.

Posted by: Matt Young at September 23, 2003 10:56 PM | PERMALINK

Now you got me going.

http://www.earthisland.org/eijournal/new_articles.cfm?
articleID=483&journalID=58

In September 1995, despite an 18-month review producing a negative assessment of foreign arms-sales, President Clinton ignored pleas to limit the arms trade and became the first US leader to state explicitly that arms sales were a "legitimate instrument" of national policy. Halting arms sales, Clinton indicated, would risk US jobs and the country's industrial base.

Posted by: Matt Young at September 23, 2003 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

Matt--read the post before your last series. It is one thing not to act on scientific evidence. It is another to actively hide it from the public. Can't you see the distinction? Look for examples of that if you want to convince anyone--and please, not from WorldNet Daily of all places.

Posted by: Katie at September 23, 2003 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

OK, this is my last proof of nothing really.

http://www.awionline.org/pubs/Quarterly/
winter2001/sanctions.htm

Clinton Decides Against Sanctions


Before leaving office, President Clinton decided against imposing trade restrictions on Japan under the Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen's Protective Act for expanding its so-called "scientific whaling" to include Brydes and Sperm whales. The Act authorizes the President to impose sanctions on any government that "diminishes the effectiveness" of international fisheries treaties. Although the US has joined the majority of International Whaling Commission member countries in criticizing Japanese "scientific" whaling as thinly disguised commercial whaling, Clinton ignored the recommendation of his Commerce Secretary, Norman Mineta, and worldwide criticism of Japan's actions. The outgoing President did not believe that "import restrictions would further our objectives at this time."

Posted by: Matt Young at September 23, 2003 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

What on earth do Russian weapons programs, foreign arms sales or Japanese import restrictions have to do with suppressing scientific evidence?

Posted by: Flory at September 23, 2003 11:36 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin:
Great post, but:
"in the apparent belief that problems genuinely don't exist if they are inconvenient to the administration's goals."

I think you give them too much credit. This administration isn't deluding itself about the existence of problems - they know they exist, they simply don't give a s*&t. As long as the friends and family are raking in the bucks, that's all that matters.

Posted by: Flory at September 23, 2003 11:40 PM | PERMALINK

Matt:
You really need to read either Kevin's blog entry or the posts that followed it on this thread, because your examples aren't providing any sort of refutation at all. Kevin is blogging about suppression of a scientific viewpoint within an official government report. Your examples are from unsuppressed reports, and deal mainly with policy differences, not science. I think you'll agree that there is a difference between ignoring scientific opinions for political reasons (bad) and actively suppressing them (bad and dangerous).

It's possible that you consider weapons control a science. You're entitled to that viewpoint, but you really can't expect that many people are going to agree with you on that. Bill Clinton certainly deserves some criticism for his failure to act more aggressively on AIDS, but greater criticism would then go to George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. The jury's still out on George W. Bush. As for whaling, I don't know of any science that Clinton ignored at all on this issue, and certainly none that he suppressed.

Care to try again?

Posted by: Keith at September 23, 2003 11:42 PM | PERMALINK

Don't bother.

In Matt's bizarre world (wherein Kevin himself is personally responsible for liberalism and taxation. Look up the threads. . it's fun), a statement that discredits Clinton is functionally and logically equivalent to truth, regardless of its relevance to the topic at hand.

I hereby make the bold prediction that if(when) Dean/Clark wins the next presidential election, criticism of their prominent goofups will not be universally responded to by the left with comments like 'Well yeah, but Bush did it'. . a fact which, if true, highlights the political asymmetry and overall disturbing immaturity of the current conservative polity.

Posted by: sidereal at September 24, 2003 12:14 AM | PERMALINK

MY hijacked another thread. We're going to have to learn to deal with it, it seems.

Bush has been fuzzy about science and math since at least the presidential debates. As president he has relentlessly debased the contribution of actual science to policy, subjecting professional appointments to political litmus tests. Everything is subject to the ideological agenda it seems, but the point of that agenda is as hard to define as our casus belli with Iraq.

In other words, business as usual, and if you want your grandchildren to have a life worth living it is your responsibility to do whatever you can to oust these bozos ASAP.

Posted by: bad Jim at September 24, 2003 12:57 AM | PERMALINK

You kind of can't help answer Matt. It's like a traffic accident; you just have to slow down and look over it. He's so out of touch with reality that it's fascinating. What's even more fascinating is reading posts like the above where he actually thinks he's proving his point. Sad, really.

Posted by: PaulB at September 24, 2003 01:19 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, and rubbernecking leads to more accidents.

Don't feed the trolls.

Posted by: epist at September 24, 2003 01:44 AM | PERMALINK

If this report and its implications get enough play what do you want to bet the republicans pull out of new york and shift the whole convention somehwere else for "security reasons?" I think they thought it would be a triumphal moment to hold their convention in new york, but that was months ago when they thought everythign was going to go well. Now that they know how pissed off New yorkers are, do they think they can turn the whole city into a "not first amendment zone" and ship everyone out of the way for the convention? Do they think they will still fully control the press enough not to have story after story of new york protests (I imagine signs hanging from every openable window)? Do you think they can just move the convention to crawford figuring its too far away for anti-bush people to get to, and more easily controlled?

Anyone want to guess what the excuse will be? I vote for "president bush needs to cut more brush".

PS: I feel sorry for MY, he must be living in a very depressing world in which the best he can say for his chosen leader is that he is as corrupt, venial, and incompetent as the guy whose policies and actions he hated.

aimai

Posted by: aimai at September 24, 2003 04:00 AM | PERMALINK

"Understanding the relativity of viewpoint is why some have intellectual honesty."

I get it.

Scientific relativism = GOOD
Moral relativism = BAD

Posted by: Tripp at September 24, 2003 06:34 AM | PERMALINK

Matt,

Your point that "everybody does it" is a very strange defense. Are you suggesting that one cannot criticize a president for some fault unless he is the first president to suffer from that fault? Or that you can only critize a Republican if it is for some fault that no Democrat ever suffered from that fault?

I think that the system where we criticize dishonesty where we find it works much better. Democrats might find it more often in Republicans, and vice-versa, but so what?

Posted by: Daryl McCullough at September 24, 2003 06:53 AM | PERMALINK

I can find many more who will tell you that Clinton brushed aside security issues.

And I can find even more who will tell you Clinton eats babies.

But so what? Clinton is gone, his day is done. Sure he was an a-hole, but that doesn't matter right now because right now its Bush feeding us a line of crap.

If you want to defend your man, defend him. If you have no way to defend his actions admit it, don't hide behind craven whinging about the past.

"But Billly diiid it tooo.... wahhhh!"

Frankly though, this kind of childish whining is about all you guys have left and, unfortunately, its about as intellectualy complex as you seem to get.

Posted by: Harry Tuttle at September 24, 2003 06:58 AM | PERMALINK

I'm feeling frisky.

We've been keeping track of temperature for what...100, 150 years? How could the EPA possibly have any evidence on "climate change"?

Posted by: Ron at September 24, 2003 07:20 AM | PERMALINK

Let's also not forget that this kind of ignore-the-unpleasant-facts attitude also led us into the mess we're in in Iraq...

Posted by: Gregory at September 24, 2003 07:34 AM | PERMALINK

Ron--
We've had our economic indicators for less than a hundred years. How can treasury possibly have any evidence on economic change?

Posted by: kokblok at September 24, 2003 07:42 AM | PERMALINK

Ron:

We only have temperature readings for about 150 years, but there are lots of other ways to look at climate over a longer period. Test cores taken in river deltas show deposits of silt from spring runoff. The thickness of the layer of silt is related to the amount of snow that fell. Layers of pollen also collect there, and can indicate how trees and plants were faring in a particular year--this is how a climatologist found a likely reason for the failure of the Jamestown colony.

The same thing can be done with glaciers--if you can still find one. There's a bay in Alaska (a fjord, really) where there wasn't one two hundred years ago, because the glacier that filled it has retreated forty-six miles. A big chunk of the Artic ice cap broke up yesterday, too. There is absolutely, 100%, no question that our climate is changing. Get used to it.

Now, is human activity responsible, or is it a natural process of climate change (i.e. the sun warming up a bit) that we have no control over? That one is still up for debate.

I'm all over the scientific method, but I'm a bit dubious about using the entire planet for the experiment--it's not like we have a spare place to live. This isn't an argument for a return to subsistience agriculture, by the way, but I do think we could maintain our standard of living while polluting a great deal less. It wouldn't be cheap, but what we're doing right now isn't cheap either. We're just used to it.

Posted by: alex at September 24, 2003 08:03 AM | PERMALINK

"We only have temperature readings for about 150 years, but there are lots of other ways to look at climate over a longer period. Test cores taken in river deltas show deposits of silt from spring runoff. The thickness of the layer of silt is related to the amount of snow that fell. Layers of pollen also collect there, and can indicate how trees and plants were faring in a particular year--this is how a climatologist found a likely reason for the failure of the Jamestown colony.

The same thing can be done with glaciers--if you can still find one. There's a bay in Alaska (a fjord, really) where there wasn't one two hundred years ago, because the glacier that filled it has retreated forty-six miles. A big chunk of the Artic ice cap broke up yesterday, too. There is absolutely, 100%, no question that our climate is changing. Get used to it."

And there's absolutely, 100%, no question that our climate has been changing all along. And, there's evidence to suggest that human populations tended to benefit from warmer temperatures than we have now, and suffer when global temperatures were cooler.

Which means that, even if humans are contributing to a warming trend, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Even if warmer temperatures have drawbacks, the best bet for humans is to become as wealthy as possible; the wealthier we are, the better we are able to solve any problems presented by the natural environment. Nature is already quite hostile to human beings, and we live good lives to the extent that we are able to insulate ourselves from the ravages of the natural world.

Posted by: Ken at September 24, 2003 08:10 AM | PERMALINK

kokblok says
We've had our economic indicators for less than a hundred years. How can treasury possibly have any evidence on economic change?

Economic cycles are considerably shorter than climate cycles. Although I'm pretty sure that we don't have a good handle on economic cycles either.

And alex
Now, is human activity responsible, or is it a natural process of climate change (i.e. the sun warming up a bit) that we have no control over? That one is still up for debate.

Took the steam right out of my stride. I would have eventually ended up right at this point. I'm also in complete agreement with your statement but I do think we could maintain our standard of living while polluting a great deal less. In fact, I agree with your whole post.

Now, the article linked by Kevin said ...a long section describing risks from rising global temperatures has been whittled to a few noncommittal paragraphs.

Without knowing the specifics of what was in the "long section" or the "few noncommittal paragraphs", it seems real possible that the White House changes were not a case of having climate change ...vigorously brushed under the carpet and ignored... but rather having it accurately represented that we don't really know what is happening.

Posted by: Ron at September 24, 2003 08:18 AM | PERMALINK

"We only have temperature readings for about 150 years, but there are lots of other ways to look at climate over a longer period."

If memory serves, ice cores from Greenland have been used to infer climate changes for the last some 15,000 years.

Posted by: raj at September 24, 2003 08:30 AM | PERMALINK

Ken,

Yes, you're right to think the vast majority of biological scientists in the world (who think human activity is contributing to unnatural climate change) are cranks because, yes, the world is either going to be warm or cold and cold is bad. After all, "Global warming" isn't a slightly misleading lable, it's the entire argument in two words, right?

A child of 8 with a curious mind would easily have a better grasp of the issue than you.


I really, really need to remember to stay away from Kevin's comments, they're so fucking depressing I can't stand it.

Posted by: Tim at September 24, 2003 08:46 AM | PERMALINK

Ken wrote: "Which means that, even if humans are contributing to a warming trend, that's not necessarily a bad thing."

Any time we muck with something where we do not understand the full consequences of our actions, that is indeed a bad thing.

Ron, the science on this is far more clear and far less controversial than you (and the White House) are pretending. Read the EPA memo again.

Posted by: PaulB at September 24, 2003 09:08 AM | PERMALINK

PaulB
I tried the link, something shelled out and I never did get it. But unless it specifically mentions the before and after changes, it is a "he said/she said" argument. You want to claim the Bush Administration does not care about the environment and I want to claim that the EPA houses a bunch of alarmists that do not have data to back their position.

Unless we know the actual edits we do not know the answer. (And please remember that I have agreed that the planet is getting warmer, but we don't know if it's a normal occurance or if we humans have caused it. Also please remember that correlation is not causation.)

Posted by: Ron at September 24, 2003 09:22 AM | PERMALINK

Ron:

I agree that without reading the two versions of the report there's no way to know if there were political motivations for the editing, though the EPA memo makes it sound like there were. The Bush administration's past actions at the CDC and HHS make it easy to believe the worst, though.

Ken:

Becoming very wealthy is an excellent plan. One should remember, however, the basic rule of supply and demand--the less there is of something that everyone wants, the higher the price is. How much will you pay to ensure that your children eat uncontaminated food? Go and do a quick google on "bromine in breast milk" and come back and answer that, please.

Posted by: alex at September 24, 2003 09:22 AM | PERMALINK

This is one-sided nonsense--the anonymous EPA staffer is no more dedicated to pure science than the White House. His primary complaint is that the ROE "no longer accurately represents scientific consensus on climate change." He lists as a specific example: "natural variability is used to mask scientific consensus that most of the recent temperature increase is likely due to human activities." Which is taken from the spin-laden foreword of the NAS report on climate change:

"The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability."
http://books.nap.edu/books/0309075742/html/1.html

But if you bother to read the actual report, the verdict is a bit different:
"Because of the large and still uncertain level of natural variability inherent in the climate record and the uncertainties in the time histories of the various forcing agents (and particularly aerosols), a causal linkage between the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the observed climate changes during the 20th century cannot be unequivocally established."
http://books.nap.edu/books/0309075742/html/17.html

When CNN hyped this as a "consensus," one of the participants demurred:
"As one of 11 scientists who prepared the report, I can state that this is simply untrue. For starters, the NAS never asked that all participants agree to all elements of a report, but rather that the report represent the span of views. This the full report did, making clear that there is no consensus, unanimous or otherwise, about long-term climate trends and what causes them." --Richard Lindzen, MIT

Like the misleading 1000-year temperature variation chart, and the EPA memo?s claim there is no uncertainty, this is pseudo-science at best. It has become unfortunately widespread among ecological advocates, and it?s hurting their credibility.

Posted by: Cecil Turner at September 24, 2003 09:28 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, anyone remember that unusual heat wave in Europe that killed thousands?

Oh they were mostly (poor old) Frenchies, so global warming is definitely a good thing. [sarcasm]

Posted by: Librul at September 24, 2003 09:39 AM | PERMALINK

PaulB
I have gotten to the memo, and I see it does list some specific changes. I will agree that some of the changes support your argument.

The White House change that I will pick on says:
Natural variability is used to mask scientific consensus that most of the recent temperature increase is likely due to human activities

First, I don't see a problem with looking at what would have happened absent an event when determining the effects of the event (for example: control groups in statistical experiments)

Second, I am amazed that "scientific consensus" would NOT have taken natural variability into account.

However, without knowing specifics, we cannot judge who is right.

Posted by: Ron at September 24, 2003 09:40 AM | PERMALINK

right, you gotta trust the energy industry on this one, after all they have all the scientists, and nothing to gain by deregulation, while the enviros are just looking to get rich on the wind-powered cars they all build.

Posted by: davebanjo at September 24, 2003 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Copied from the incomparable Jim Norton correcting anti-environmental myths website.

Posted by: Anon at September 24, 2003 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Listen Ron,
The fact that economic cycles are shorter than ecological cycles has nothing to do with the ability of scientists to describe either. Do you have any notion of how climatologists work? They aren't like your local weatherman standing in front of a blue screen--there are technical ways of finding out about the history of climate change before the keeping of records. And some economic data deals with quite long term events, such as the continuous increase in productivity that has been going on since th agricultural revolution. Even though governments did not keep economic records in 1200, historians of the economy have methods of finding this out...

Posted by: kokblok at September 24, 2003 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

First, the global warming skeptics here should really go to the web site for the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC):

http://www.ipcc.ch/

In particular, the syntehsis report and the scientific basis provide a good overview of the statusof climate studies, and the appendices give direct references to the literature and details on the nitty-gritty aspects.

Kevins' underlying point is, unfortunately, valid. The science of climate studies has undergone considerable progress over the last few years, and a fairly compelling consensus on global warming really has emerged. The Bush admin is attempting to create the illusion of scientific controversy in areas where there isn't much; analogies with creationism spring to mind. This process sometimes goes the other way - e.g. nuclear winter did not survive scientific scruntiny, and I've always been skeptical of the supposed evils of nuclear power.

To answer some questions here: yes, natural variability is included in the models; and no, it doesn't explain the changes that we've seen. See figure 2-4 in the synthesis report.

There are a number of links in the chain of reasoning that are, essentially, facts rather than theories; in the legal sense, proven beyond a reasonable doubt. There is legitimate discussion on the future magnitude of global warming, both because it depends on what people do over the next 50 years and because there are still some detailed issues in the predictive power of the theoretical models. There is not much controversy about the
ideas that

1. The composition of the atmosphere is changing, and much of that change is caused by human activity;

2. Increases in greenhouse gasses will cause global warming, although there are some feedback effects that can reduce the magnitude of this warming;

3. The planet is getting warmer.

This can be honestly addressed in a scientific sense, and it is unfortunate that the current administration is not interested in doing so.

Marc

Posted by: Marc at September 24, 2003 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Alright, let's get this said right now:

Humans causing global warming is not, repeat, NOT controversial among scientists. If you ask the people who spend their days, and make their livings, studying the climate, the atmosphere and such, the overwhelming majority feel that humans are contributing, significantly, to global warming. (By controversial I mean evenly split, or no consensus. There are some scientists that don't believe evidence of the links is strong enough, but they are very much in the minority. The overwhelming majority of climate scientists concur).

The idea is only controversial among those who know as much about climate as the average joe knows about brain surgery. This is an extremely alarming trend in America -- the complete laymen now feels qualified to debunk claims which he really knows absolutely nothing about. Our President is one of those laymen. Most of us on this thread are probably layem on this subject, too.

But really, if you do just a few minutes of research, you can answer claims like the above, about only having recorded temperature readings for a century or so. Yet that is a very common rallying cry among folks that don't like the implication of human contribution to global warming. The fact that they have not even done enough research to answer that easily answered question shows you where they are in the debate.

(I'm not really trying to pick on Ron, he may have just been asking an honest question).

Posted by: Timothy Klein at September 24, 2003 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

Nuclear winter partially survived scrutiny--it became nuclear autumn.

To be a bit more explicit, Carl Sagan was (in my opinion) politicizing the science a bit by consistently arguing for a nuclear winter effect as bad as he could plausibly claim it to be. Better computer models showed the temperature drop to be considerably less than what Sagan and his colleagues claimed in their TTAPS paper. But there's still likely to be a serious effect on the average temperature if one burns most of the cities in the Northern Hemisphere, or that was the state of the science last I read.

A bit off-topic, but no more so than much of this thread.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at September 24, 2003 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Ron, you have to take into consideration one other factor, as well. As far as I know, this was the political arm of the White House interfering with the scientific arm of the EPA. If this is the case, then this was not a matter of competing science, but a clear politicization of a process that the White House shouldn't even have had a say in.

Posted by: PaulB at September 24, 2003 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

"the apparent belief that problems genuinely don't exist if they are inconvenient to the administration's goals"

You don't have to be a recovery and 12-Step Program junkie to see a relationship between Dubya's dry drunk alcoholism and this kind of ignore-it-and-it-will-go-away thinking.

Posted by: Chuck Nevitt at September 24, 2003 01:19 PM | PERMALINK

kokblok
When I say climate cycles are longer than economic cycles, I don't mean by a few years. The last ice age was 4 million years ago, the previous one 250 million years ago. Need I go on? The 15,000 year core sample from Greenland is a drop in the bucket. Yes they can "guess" at the cycles, but just look at the chart from the PDF file, the error margin is huge, and this was over a short time frame!

The folks predicting the weather are probably as accurate as the climatologists over time frames like this.

Timothy and PaulB
Would I get myself into a lot of trouble if I pointed out that most environmentalists tended to the left and that we may be looking at an agenda here?

I wouldn't even disagree that humans have an impact. Automobiles alone introduce pollutants in quantities that the planet has never had to deal with. But with the (relatively) short amount of data we have for climate cycles, there is no way to determine the amount of impact. It may be large, but it may be small.

Remember the hole in the ozone layer? The one that is shrinking? Was that from our reduction in the use of flourocarbons or does that hole naturally fluctuate?

A big chunk of the Artic ice cap may have recently broke off, but I also remember an article that the temperatures in the interior of Antartica are dropping.

I want to reiterate that I am in favor of keeping the planet clean and healthy. But I am not anywhere near ready to get alarmed about global warming.

And Timothy, no I'm not an expert (just an opinionated SOB). But if the EPA put out an overly alarmist report, and if the White House just toned it down, there is no problem here. We can't see the full changes and we must rely on an "EPA Internal Memo" and since it was their document to start with, of course they were irritated about changes.

Posted by: Ron at September 24, 2003 02:39 PM | PERMALINK

Ron, you have a few misconceptions.

"Remember the hole in the ozone layer? The one that is shrinking? Was that from our reduction in the use of flourocarbons or does that hole naturally fluctuate?"

It fluctuates with the seasons. On average year by year, it has grown consistently and dramatically over the last 20 years, far, far more than the drop that was recorded in the last 2 years.

Quite a few researchers believe that that drop is in fact due to global warming - since CFC-related ozone depletion is slowed by heat - or a temporary effect of chaotic weather patterns which are also spurred by global warming. As far as I know, no one has seriously suggested that the effects of CFCs are being reversed yet.

http://www.epa.gov/ozone/science/hole/size.html
http://www.cnn.com/2002/TECH/space/09/30/ozone.holes/
http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/met/jds/ozone/


"But if the EPA put out an overly alarmist report, and if the White House just toned it down, there is no problem here."

How, pray tell, are White House political advisors supposed to know whether the EPA's scientific conclusions are "overly alarmist"? Are the EPA staff not hired specifically on the basis of knowing more about this stuff than the rest of the government? Should Karl Rove also be second-guessing the Fed's economic forecasts and the FBI's terrorism investigations, based on a general feeling that they're not optimistic enough? Or are you saying that any really bad news can't possibly be true, and is therefore alarmist by definition?

Posted by: Eli Bishop at September 24, 2003 03:20 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, I'm glad to see everyone here agruing with Matt Young, and forcing him to reafirm realtivism and postmodernism. Generally speaking, Rightists are not realtivists, they are dogmatists: They allready KNOW the truth, and don't need any skeptical science to tell them any different. Unfortunately, for a couple of decades the "left" has been hijacked by a bunch of Humanities proffessors who claim there are no objective truths and science is a tool of Western capitalists. Next to such realtivism, dogmatism looks downright scientific. I think most people trust science, and the identification of the right with science has, I think, been a major reason for the pendulum swing in ideology to right.

This, by the way, demonstrates how leftish postmodernism fails on its own standards. The leftish postmoderns claim that there are no objective truths, and that what should be believed is whatever is useful to the leftist cause. Yet postmodernism itself has been devostating for the Left. According to postmodernism, postmodernism should be abandoned in favor of science.

If we take back science and force people like Matt to publicly argue for realitivism and against science, it might help move the pendulum back in our favor.

Posted by: Decnavda at September 24, 2003 03:25 PM | PERMALINK

The question is to what degree climate change is dependent on human activities. It hardly makes sense to hamstring industry (and cause huge economic hardship) in order to produce minimal changes to the warming rate.

And with all due respect to the posters here, I quoted one of the lead authors of the IPCC study who specifically stated there was no consensus. Besides, the essence of the scientific method is proving an hypothesis with reproducible results. If your proof is to ask people working in the field, I'd have to point out that's not science. I'd have a lot more sympathy for the EPA guy if he were quoting a study instead of "scientific consensus."

Posted by: Cecil Turner at September 24, 2003 03:28 PM | PERMALINK

"I wouldn't even disagree that humans have an impact. Automobiles alone introduce pollutants in quantities that the planet has never had to deal with. But with the (relatively) short amount of data we have for climate cycles, there is no way to determine the amount of impact. It may be large, but it may be small."


"I wouldn't even disagree that throwing all our garbage into our living room and setting it on fire has had an impact. The burning paint cans alone introduce pollutants to a degree that our apartment has never had to deal with. But with the (relatively) short amount of data we have on previous tenants, there is no way to determine the amount of impact. It may be large, but it may be small."


"I wouldn't even disagree that pointing this gun at my head and pulling the trigger has an impact. But without knowing whether it's loaded, there's no way to determine the amount of impact. It may be large, but it may be small."

Posted by: Eli Bishop at September 24, 2003 03:32 PM | PERMALINK

Let me ask another question: if the EPA were to determine that there was no global warming, would the impact of the EPA lessen? Would they loose some of their "fifedom"? The first goal of every organization is survival. I'll accept that the White House has an agenda, but let's not pretend the EPA is as pure as the driven snow.

I went out to Marc's URL, and I found a report where the apparent goal was to implicate humans as a cause of global warming. Yes they had a lot of snifty data (collected over 1,000 years of our 200,000,000 year cycles) but there was no attempt to look at "normal" variations, no control groups, no time series, no error factors, only the desired conclusion of warming over the last few years that just must be attributed to humans.

Eli
Welcome aboard. I'm being backed into a corner where I won't have time to read all the informational links provided :)

I am assuming that the political wing of the White House at least asked some environmental experts (probably experts that didn't particularly agree with the EPA report). If I'm wrong, then the White House goofed.

And after stirring up this hornets nest, I will now crawl back under my rock for this evening. But, in the words of the next governor of California: I'll be back. (Ron grins maniacally as he shuts his computer off)

Posted by: Ron at September 24, 2003 03:45 PM | PERMALINK

The last ice age was 4 million years ago, the previous one 250 million years ago.

Good grief, Ron. Seriously -- do you just assume no-one is going to check?

The last ice age was between 70,000 and 10,000 years ago, as a few seconds with Google could have told you.

Perhaps what you were thinking of is the Quaternary Period, which began about 2.5 million years ago, and has included at least four major glacial episodes.

Posted by: Canadian Reader at September 24, 2003 03:47 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure the Clinton Administration NEVER did anyting for political reasons. . . . Seems to me the reaction here has everything to do with whose ox is being gored.

Posted by: Ben at September 24, 2003 03:54 PM | PERMALINK

Cecil: "Besides, the essence of the scientific method is proving an hypothesis with reproducible results"

I think you left out the part about extrapolating those results, to predict what might happen in more complicated or more dangerous cases in which you cannot or SHOULD NOT wait for reproducible results.


A skeptic argues with the Atomic Energy Commission:
"These requirements for safety monitors on nuclear reactors are alarmist. You don't really know what would happens if you turned off all the monitors and threw in a few hand grenades. It might even have a good effect - hand grenades produce energy, don't they?"
"...nuclear engineers, schmuclear engineers. They're just people working in the field. That's not science. Science would be a controlled experiment, where you turn off all the monitors and throw in a few hand grenades and see what happens."
"...yeah well, Chernobyl doesn't prove anything. There could've been contributing factors we know nothing about."
"Just try my approach. Look, I've got an open mind. I'll give you 100 years to prove me wrong."

Posted by: Eli Bishop at September 24, 2003 03:54 PM | PERMALINK

Okay Eli, good argument (in risk management theory, that's commonly known as the "precautionary principle," IIRC). And if the EPA guy stuck to that, he'd be on firm scientific ground.

But if he's going to claim a scientific basis for human activity being responsible for the majority of global temperature increase, he's supposed to have something to base it on--not an empty claim of consensus without even a poll to back it up. And showing a correlation on a model (or quoting a study that in fact says the case is not proven) isn't getting it.

Posted by: Cecil Turner at September 24, 2003 06:10 PM | PERMALINK

The IPCC report is a review of the refereed literature. It was peer reviewed and represents a collaborative effort involving a wide cross-section of the community. It isn't just a statement of opinion. It represents a synthesis of the results of a large number of papers in the primary literature.

This really does represent a scientific consensus to the extent that you can ever have one. That is why the arguments against this are so utterly frustrating for scientists like me (I'm an astronomer with expertise in solar models, among other things). There really were basic questions a few years ago about global warming (for example, whether different indicators agreed on temperature trends as a function of time). The community answered them, and as a result most of the persuadable skeptics have been won over. You always have a few diehards who will never agree, which usually says more about human psychology than it does about the subject at hand. This is not to say that the most alarmist readings of this are correct, but it does say that the phenomenon is real.

Marc

Posted by: Marc at September 24, 2003 07:26 PM | PERMALINK

Cecil, Ron, etc.:
There really isn't that much disagreement within the scientific community about global warming, and only slightly more disagreement about human contributions to the phenomenon. Most of the disagreement tends to be over the degree of change, with even the "skeptics" agreeing that there's probably some change taking place now, and that humans probably contribute significantly. In essense, the opinions fit on a spectrum, with a large middle range that agrees there is unusual warming taking place, and human activity is a significant contributing factor. And no, printing a review that outlines the consensus opinion is not going to help the EPA protect its "fiefdom" as that agency spends much more of its time on other projects.

So what are some of the doubts? Well, a large number of climate scientists (probably a majority) would agree that the changes observed over the past century or so can be accomodated by cyclical variation. However, it can barely accomodate the changes -- they are just about at the point where even the most extreme cyclical variation can itself no longer account for the changes. There are also a few doubts about the carbon levels in Greenland ice, because it's possible (but very unlikely) that they were affected by local events that we don't know about. Other than that, pointing to things like the nuclear winter scenarios of the 1980s is kind of silly, because those were based on much less sophisticated computer models, and much less data, than we now have available.

What about Ken's point about the beneficial effects of global warming, and the best answer being to make people wealthier? I can't answer the second point, because I don't understand it; it's almost never more efficient to fix damages than to prevent them in the first place. As for warming (or cooling), only part of the problem would be due to higher (or lower) average temperatures. One of the things that happens during the shift to a new climate regime is changes in weather patterns. Instead of the temperature rising by 5 degrees, what you get is a transition period where the temperature is 10 degrees hotter some years, 5 degrees hotter other years, and unchanged in some other years. You also get less predictable weather, which would be very damaging for agriculture and for coastal cities.

One other point to keep in mind is that just as temperature changes would probably not be linear, neither would the effects they have be so. There is a large capacity in the climate/ecosystem to absorb changes. However, like any such system, this can be pushed to a point where changes can no longer be accomodated. Think of this as the straw that breaks the camel's back. It's quite possible that average temperatures could rise 3 degrees, or 5 degrees, or 8 degrees without producing massive changes. However, at some point you're going to see a massive set of changes after some marginal temperature change. That's what would happen in your car engine, and that's what could happen in the climate engine. We don't know exactly what these changes would (or could) be, but we know that they have happened in the past, and could happen again in the future if the temperature rose beyond a certain point.

Obviously, rising water levels would affect a large percentage of the U.S. population, since so many people live within a few feet of sea level, and a change would obviously be severe in places like Miami, New Orleans and New York. Less obviously, desertification could take place in low lattitudes and in now-temperate regions, like the southern part of the area between the Appalachians and the Rockies. More speculatively, the Gulf Stream could shift course if water temperatures between Greenland and Newfoundland rise (it has done so in the past).

The fact that winters would be warmer in Chicago would hardly offset any of these changes.

Posted by: Keith at September 24, 2003 07:49 PM | PERMALINK

Again here is a page with lots of information on the global warming fight.

http://info-pollution.com/warming.htm

If you peruse it you will find, for example, that Foes of global warming theory have energy ties including Soon & Baliunas

And what is the Bush Administration's remedy for global warming? Why buy more air conditioners of course. Does that sound like a responsible suggestion from an intelligent person? Does that not sound more in line with someone who is trying to protect the interests of his Big Oil buddies?

Note the following from a open letter from the State Attorneys General of Alaska, California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jerse, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont

Despite conceding that our consumption of fossil fuels is causing serious damage and despite implying that current policy is inadequate, the Report [U.S. Climate Action Report 2002] fails to take the next step and recommend serious alternatives. Rather, it suggests that we simply need to accommodate to the coming changes. For example, reminiscent of former Interior Secretary Hodel’s proposal that the government address the hole in the ozone layer by encouraging Americans to make better use of sunglasses, suntan lotion and broad-brimmed hats, the Report suggests that we can deal with heat-related health impacts by increased use of air-conditioning. Report at 82. Far from proposing solutions to the climate change problem, the Administration has been adopting energy policies that would actually increase greenhouse gas emissions. Notably, even as the Report identifies increased air conditioner use as one of the “solutions” to climate change impacts, the Department of Energy has decided to roll back energy efficiency standards for air conditioners.

http://www.cleanair-coolplanet.org/information/testimony/t_020718_letter.php

Posted by: Anon at September 24, 2003 08:06 PM | PERMALINK

It's quite possible that average temperatures could rise 3 degrees, or 5 degrees, or 8 degrees without producing massive changes

If I may quote:

"Consider that during the last ice age when much of the world was covered by glaciers, the earth was only 3-5 degrees Celsius (5-9 degrees Fahrenheit) cooler than it is now. If, as the IPCC projects, temperatures rise by approximately 1 to 3.5 degrees Celsius within the next century, the world could be facing climatic changes of a similar magnitude."

http://www.climate.org/topics/green/impacts.shtml

Posted by: Anon at September 24, 2003 08:34 PM | PERMALINK

It's really not that difficult. Green plants and trees once cleared the air
(over a long period of time) of carbon dioxide (which was bound and buried)
and substituted an atmosphere with much more oxygen, beneficial to many life
forms.

Now, by the burning of fossil fuels, we are reinstalling that very same
carbon RIGHT BACK into the atmosphere, carbon that represents many millions of years of filtering and burial. The double whammy for the earth and
life on it is that at the SAME TIME that we are releasing this carbon back
into the atmosphere, we are SIMULTANEOUSLY cutting down earth's largest
remaining air filters, forests, as fast as we can (the Amazonian forest
being just one example; this also is having the side effect of contributing
to the greatest mass-extinction since the end of the age of dinosaurs, 65
million years ago).

This puts a greater burden of cleaning the atmosphere onto tiny plankton.

The thing about antropogenic greenhouse gasses is that while thyey are not the majority of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere most of which, like water vapor, are indeed normal and necessary, the current gasses we are pumping into the skies are well over and above the normal balance. Enough, the great majority of climate scientists say, to push earth over the brink to a much less friendly climate for us.

I really cannot understand people who insist that are actions will have no consequences. It's basic science that to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. It's cause and effect and it's the law.

Posted by: Anon at September 24, 2003 08:58 PM | PERMALINK

Anon:
I think you either misunderstood my post, or didn't read it carefully. It is possible that a temperature rise of a few degrees will make no significant difference. It is also possible that a small temperature increase will at some point have catastrophic effects. The same is true of a temperature decrease, which I take it is the point you are making when you write about the last ice age. The fact is that we don't know where the tipping point is, but it's certainly there somewhere.

Posted by: Keith at September 24, 2003 09:38 PM | PERMALINK

Marc:
Again, I quoted an IPCC author who doesn't think there's a consensus, and he's vastly more qualified than either of us to comment. The NAS report points up some minor issues in the IPCC assumptions and is, IMHO, more authoritatitve. To my reading, Keith's point is exactly correct: it could just barely be natural variation, but that isn't likely.

But to Keith's main issue, again the question isn't whether humans contribute, but how much. A rational national policy requires a quantitative analysis, and the research is simply not there yet--and even then, the corrective action is not obvious. Although much maligned, Lomborg made some obvious points about cost-benefit analysis. Marginal greenhouse gas reductions are extremely expensive, and probably not effective. Coupled with realities of increased energy demand and population growth, it doesn't make sense to propose a new Kyoto treaty--it won't pass and wouldn't help much if it did. And the same groups who scream the loudest about global warming are the same ones who block the only reasonable alternative: increased reliance on nuclear power and research into fusion. (Coincidentally, two of the major points of the now stalled energy bill.)

You can claim only one side is playing politics, but I'm unconvinced. And as long as the debate is centered on finding a new way to beat up on the administration, instead of looking for a solution, it's not very convincing.

Posted by: Cecil Turner at September 24, 2003 09:38 PM | PERMALINK

Cecil:
I actually know several environmental and climate scientists, including a few who are politically right-of-center. They're as qualified to comment as your IPCC author, and they think there is a basic consensus.

There are, as you say, serious questions about whether Kyoto-style greenhouse gas reductions would do much good. That being said, why does that mean that the ROE report on climate change somehow equates with "beating up on the administration"? The admin did not attempt to introduce some sort of dissenting opinion into the report, they simply chose to ignore what their panel told them.

That's not an attempt to improve on a report they think was politicized, it's an attempt to rewrite the very discussion in a way that supports their opinion and completely misstates the issues at hand and some tentative conclusions. Whether or not you agree with the White House, the EPA scientists, or my uncle Fred, that's bad policy and it sets a bad precedent.

Posted by: Keith at September 24, 2003 09:53 PM | PERMALINK

And the same groups who scream the loudest about global warming are the same ones who block the only reasonable alternative: increased reliance on nuclear power and research into fusion.

Certainly nuclear is an alternative. Whether it's reasonable is another question considering the safety factor (one can assert they're safe, and yet U.S. nuke plants are now protected by missles - just in case. Makes me a bit nervous seeing as I live near one. A 9/11 on one would be catastrophic. Also the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island "incidents" did occur. The U.S. has 103 nuke plants. That's 103 chances for an accident. There's lot's more in the rest of the world. And the nuke industry has a history of hundreds if not thousands of lesser incidents - and coverups to go with it; consider Brookhaven for example). Note: that I am not anti-nuclear, I just don't know if I trust peple with so much power.

http://www.state.nv.us/nucwaste/news/nn10341.htm

Then there's the issue of nuclear waste. Bush ignored a warning that Science published about the safety of Yucca mountain and went ahead and approved the site on the California/Nevada border (over the stringent protests of the Republican Governor I might add) in his typical undemocratic style of rule by executive order.

No, alternative energy includes solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, tidal and ocean thermal, hydrogen and fuel cell.

http://www.nrel.gov/

Part of the problem is the current centralization of power so that a few can make big profits. It also makes it unlikely that a single renewable plant can suffice for a whole city. But if each home was outfitted with renewable it would be much more doable.

And finally there's conservation. Oops, Cheney is no friend of that either.

Posted by: George Bush at September 25, 2003 01:00 AM | PERMALINK

I read an article a while back about a fuel cell for your basement. It hooks up to a natural gas line via converter -- had the potential for hydrogen, I think, if you could get it, but the gas to enable to find an actual market. Its cost was like ten thousand or something. It generated a few kilowatts. In most American households, one could completely disconnect from the electrical grid with this thing.

We have the technology for alternative energy -- we simply choose not to pursue it. That is sad.

If we'd pursue things like this, we wouldn't need to have this debate about global warming.

Posted by: Timothy Klein at September 25, 2003 01:37 AM | PERMALINK

Keith, I disagree on the "not an attempt to improve a report they think was politicized" point. The EPA staffer wanted to spin the uncertainty as minimal, while the most authoritative study (NAS panel) conclusion was that the uncertainty (barely) outweighed the data. That is in fact the current state of the science--as you correctly stated earlier. The EPA guy was spinning, and when his spin was changed to something more palatable to the White House, he said "back off man, we're scientists." And decided to leak a memo. No political agenda here? Sorry, not buying any.

George Bush, Timothy Klein, you might want to read up on national energy distribution and do the math. We're barely meeting demand currently,and the demand is growing. IMO, the only energy sources with the potential for meeting near-term need is nuclear or burning more fossils. Rivers that can be dammed have been. Hydrogen cells are not a source: they require hydrogen, produced relatively inefficiently by electric or nuclear methods. The alternative methods proposed by most eco-activists aren't dense enough in energy production to make a practical difference (I forget which congressman had the charts showing you'd have to cover half of a state with mirrors or windmills to power the rest, but it was instructive). Like the fictional carburetor that allows a normal car to reach 100mpg but was suppressed by the oil industry, this is all nonsense. That science is well settled, and the most promising technological advance is fusion . . . we just aren't (quite) there yet.

Well gents, it's been a slice, but some genius at the school board decided my kids should have a fall break--so I'm going to get involved in some less advanced theoretical discussions. Cheers.

Posted by: Cecil Turner at September 25, 2003 05:11 AM | PERMALINK

Canadian Reader says
The last ice age was between 70,000 and 10,000 years ago, as a few seconds with Google could have told you.

I spent a few seconds on Google, I seem to have found the same site you did.
http://www.museum.state.il.us/exhibits/ice_ages

Then I clicked on the link for "When Did Ice Ages Occur"
http://www.museum.state.il.us/exhibits/ice_ages/when_ice_ages.html

I quote
These glaciations are not randomly distributed in time.Instead, they are concentrated into four time intervals. Large, important glaciations occurred during the late Proterozoic (between about 800 and 600 million years ago), during the Pennsylvanian and Permian (between about 350 and 250 million years ago), and the late Neogene to Quaternary (the last 4 million years). Somewhat less extensive glaciations occurred during parts of the Ordovician and Silurian (between about 460 and 430 million years ago).

During each of these periods, many glacial advances and retreats occurred. For example, over 20 glacial advances and retreats have occurred during the last 2 million years.

Do the math, this works out to an average interval of 200 to 266 million years between ice ages. I like typing 200 so I stuck with that.


Kevin says
There really isn't that much disagreement within the scientific community about global warming, and only slightly more disagreement about human contributions to the phenomenon. Most of the disagreement tends to be over the degree of change, with even the "skeptics" agreeing that there's probably some change taking place now, and that humans probably contribute significantly. In essense, the opinions fit on a spectrum...

As I commented back around 8:18 yesterday morning, we have agreed. There is disagreement, even if it characterized as "some". And my point is the same as it was:

Without knowing the specifics of what was in the "long section" or the "few noncommittal paragraphs", it seems real possible that the White House changes were not a case of having climate change ...vigorously brushed under the carpet and ignored... but rather having it accurately represented that we don't really know what is happening.

Posted by: Ron at September 25, 2003 05:47 AM | PERMALINK

Ron--
I would be more willing to give the administration more slack on this issue, if they hadn't shown a consistant disregard for environmental issues in the past.

The question is not "political spin": of course in some sense you can say that the EPA staffer was "politically" motivated, as any government action requires some kind of political posturing, especially actions of an agency whose job is (or should be) to lobby the other parts of the government for the nation's environment. The EPA has been making these kind of reports for years; it's the Bush team that is breaking precedent here, changing the rules of the game and the balance of power. If you think that's a good thing, say it, but dont pretend its not happening or that its not a significant development.

Posted by: kokblok at September 25, 2003 08:11 AM | PERMALINK

kokblok
I realize that Republicans do not pay the lip service to environmental issues that the Democrats do, it is simply not part of their platform. But I don't think there is a large spread in actions (there is some, Republicans are more pro-business and the Democrats have to cover the Greens).

There cannot be that much difference between people who are elected president. As I have pointed out before, Democrats vote Democrat, Republicans vote Republican, and presidents are elected by the middle. They cannot vary far from the middle. For example: in another thread somebody was pounding Bush over not ratifying Kyoto, but Clinton didn't either.

And hey, I come out here and argue so that *I* can learn. You'll never convince me that the EPA having their beliefs challenged is a bad thing. I do think it would have been appropriate for the White House to have allowed rebuttal instead of saying "no further changes may be made".

Posted by: Ron at September 25, 2003 08:38 AM | PERMALINK

Okay, okay it must be true that lots and lots of scientists disagree that AGW is a real phenomenon. After all there were the "17,000" that signed that paper right?

http://www.ecoethics.net/hsev/globe-art.htm

This is the ethics of the people we are dealing with.

Look, in science nothing by definition is ever "proven". As scientists like to say, proof is for math and alcohol.

Who are some here trying to kid. BushInc. has an antienvironmental, pro oil agenda and we all know it. His family and Cheney's has been involved in oil for a long time.

7.htm">Proposed Bush Budget Cuts Renewables and Energy Efficiency Programs

Bush energy budget boosts fossil fuels, cuts renewables

"In the AB 1890 negotiations, proponents of renewable energy supplies and
energy efficiency won legislated funding for energy efficiency renewable
resources. However, pursuing a competitive market structure, policy makers
made funding for these programs a low priority. The current funding for
these programs is almost 70% less than it was in the early 1980s. The
State's retreat from funding energy efficiency and renewable energy programs
occurred despite the demonstrated economic benefits that energy efficiency
brings to the California economy. RAND, for example, estimates that energy
efficiency in the past 20 years has provided $1000 in economic benefits to
each Californian.34"

http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/published/report/GOV_REPORT.htm

A Lost Opportunity That Worsened Crisis
Utilities and federal regulators shut the door on renewable power in California

The alternative methods proposed by most eco-activists aren't dense enough in energy production to make a practical difference (I forget which congressman had the charts showing you'd have to cover half of a state with mirrors or windmills to power the rest, but it was instructive).

You're talking about centralized power here. But as George brought out, if you were to decentralize it it would take away the big profits of Big Oil and it might not be absolutely perfect but it would take a huge burden off the need for the other dirty energies.

More on decentralized energy

http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/98jun/invest.htm
http://www.citact.org/effciency.html
http://www.irgltd.com/irgltd/EEM/IRG%20Specialization%20Energy2.htm
http://www.newrules.org/electricity/stlbushpr.html
http://www.newrules.org/electricity/stl.html

Posted by: Anon at September 25, 2003 09:20 AM | PERMALINK

Let's try that broken link again

Proposed Bush Budget Cuts Renewables and Energy Efficiency Programs

Posted by: Anon at September 25, 2003 09:24 AM | PERMALINK

Ron--
Its true that presidents tend to be more moderate (over a wide range of issues) than, say members of the house. However, you cannot say that there have not been administrations that *on particular issues* were actually quite radical. I think Bush really is radical on environmental issues, and he really has no need to "cover himself" here. Most people don't vote on the environment, so there isn't any kind of voter check accountability, especially considering that most of the damage done by Bush's policies won't be felt until long after he is out of office.

I also don't think there's any problem with people rebutting the EPA with counter-arguements. But what the Bush administration did was quite different, it was (as even you seem to admit) inappropriate meddling. It crossed a line...

Posted by: kokblok at September 25, 2003 09:35 AM | PERMALINK

anon
Thanks for the links, I found some interesting stuff; but some of them are 2 years old.

kokblok
I'm not willing to concede that Bush policies are rabidly anti-environment, because the Dems could use that to take away a portion of the middle (and yes, I think the middle is sufficiently concerned with the environment that it could be made an issue, if nothing else it would counteract the "compassionate conservative" label and cast him as being mean), and I think Bush is going to have a hard enough time getting re-elected (unless the economy really takes off or bin Laden and Hussein give themselves up :P)

And on the Bush/EPA squawk that this is all about, we don't have enough information to cast blame on either side.

Posted by: Ron at September 25, 2003 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Anon,
Electricity generation is currently: coal, 52%; nuclear, 20%; natural gas, 16%; hydro, 7%; oil, 3%; and renewables at 2%. Decentralizing is a great idea . . . as long as you're willing to do without 98% of current energy production. I'm sure you have a well thought-out plan and I just haven't seen all the particulars yet, but I'm a bit confused on where all those folks in Los Angeles are going to put their windmills. The sites you link to are typical, complaining about the status quo with absolutely no practical proposals for going forward.

The funny thing is that as long as activist groups block any realistic legislation, the industry folks will just continue to take the path of least resistance and burn more fossil fuels. Meanwhile, a perfectly reasonable energy policy (the report on which contains a long sensible chapter on renewables and incentives for developing them) languishes . . . with no competing legislation AFAICT. Seems to me some folks would rather have the issue than progress. It also seems to me that policy is a loser--and it's not going to take many more blackouts before that's readily apparent to the voting public.

Posted by: Cecil Turner at September 25, 2003 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Ron & Cecil

Sorry for the delay, had to go to work. I know the links are a couple of years old. I have had them saved on my computer when I was researching the subject awhile back. I'm sure I could find more up-to-date stuff if I were to look.

Cecil I get the feeling that you do not understand alternative, sustainable energies well. I am not suggesting that people in L.A. put windmills on their roofs. The appropriate energy for the particular site. Solar by itself would contribute to a large decrease in the need for dirty power. All combined we could greatly lessen our dependence on oil and coal. No one said it would be perfect either or be a 100% solution but My God why do people refuse to acknowledge that we could benefit from alternatives? To refuse to exploit a viable source of energy like renewables either to protect profits for the dirty energies or because they may not at present be perfect is just plain stupid. If you care to do a little footwork of your own you will find lots of info on alternative energies.

I mean even Boy George knows a good thing when it will benefit him personally. Did you know that he heats and cools his Texas ranch, a.k.a. the Texas White House and the Crawford ranch with geothermal energy?

http://www.msnbc.com/news/584176.asp?cp1=1

It's a pity that he and his Republican cohorts on the Senate have decided to reduce support for alternatives since this article was written.

http://www.enn.com/news/wire-stories/2002/03/03292002/reu_46809.asp

http://www.climateark.org/articles/reader.asp?linkid=8969

The sites you link to are typical, complaining about the status quo with absolutely no practical proposals for going forward.

I don't know how you came up with that statement. Here's a couple of the links again:

http://www.irgltd.com/irgltd/EEM/IRG%20Specialization%20Energy2.htm

http://www.nrel.gov/

Sure there's some valid complaining at some of the sites but solutions are offered.

And on Bush's environmental record in general I offer this news story:

http://ens-news.com/ens/jan2003/2003-01-17-06.asp

Posted by: Anon at September 26, 2003 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

Ron--
I hope you're right about Bush's chances for re-election.
I don't hear a lot of noise about the environment in this election, even less than usual. You can at least admit that in the current environment of intense focus on foreign affairs, Bush could possibly get away with more anti-environment policy at home?
Bush certainly is an environmental radical. I'm perfectly willing to admit that some on the Democratic side are also dogmatic environmentalists (certainly Kucinich could stand to take a course on economics), but please, more moderate republicans like Whitman have had all sorts of problems with this administration....many in his own party have admitted that they think Bush has gone way too far...I really dont think this is a controversial statement: Bush is as radical as his deputy Imhofe. Imhofe just happens to admit it.

Posted by: kokblok at September 26, 2003 08:53 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not all that depressed with Bush's chances :)

And yes, I'll agree that 9/11 put foreign policy out in front and that Bush will do everything he can to keep it there. But he still can't be a "rape and pillage the planet" guy without taking a beating over it.

Unfortunately, since environmental concerns do not increase company profits we will need some regulation. And there is no regulation that will make everybody happy.

PS I thought about this earlier, and it kinda struck me as humorous. We wouldn't tolerate our TV mechanics replacing a bad part in our TV, then returning it in pieces when they're done; but we have to regulate strip mining companies to put the planet back together when they are done.

Posted by: Ron at September 26, 2003 09:22 AM | PERMALINK

And, I haven't been following the Dem candidates very closely, but I haven't heard of them hammering Bush over environmental concerns.

Is it there and am I missing it?

Posted by: Ron at September 26, 2003 09:28 AM | PERMALINK

Yes it's there. Just look at the candidates websites and you'll see some. Even Clark has stated that he is "pro-environment".

Some have been hitting Bush on the issue in press statements too but it could and should be a lot louder.

Posted by: Anon at September 26, 2003 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

Anon,
None of those sites you list provide a national energy plan . . . or anything close. And while decentralized energy production may eventually provide some significant proportion of US energy needs, it doesn't currently. In fact, all of the renewables together provide 1/25th as much as coal. A quick glance at the demand curve shows they have no chance of meeting the near-term increase in demand, let alone allow a reduction in other sources. Also, they're expensive. Solar costs about 5x what wind does, and that requires government incentives and tax breaks to be competitive. Every little bit helps, but anyone who thinks renewables are about to displace coal obviously can't read a chart.

Meanwhile, on the national energy policy front, natural gas production is rising rapidly, while coal, nukes, oil, and hydro remain relatively flat. IMO this is a "bad thing," because of expense, greenhouse gas emissions, and competition for home heating. Expanding hydro isn't really feasible, expanding the fossils isn't desirable, so the logical answer seems to be expanding nukes as much as possible while working like hell on fusion. Maybe the decentralized stuff will take up some of the slack in the meantime. But if not, at least we'd control the increase in greenhouse gas emissions and work toward a clean energy source that can realistically meet the demand. YMMV.

Posted by: Cecil Turner at September 26, 2003 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

And then there's motorized transportation. U.S. transportation (you and I) put more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than any other sector of the U.S. economy. Close to 2/3 comes from automobilies and light trucks.

Ever think about how much pollution and warming is caused by the zillions of jets streaming the heavens? Tons, millions of tons. The atmosphere is a lot heavier now that it was before the internal combustion and jet engines were invented. A lot heavier.

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