Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Politics and Global Warming

One of my economic classes focuses on non-market decision making. For homework I decided to write my 2 page essay on the politicization of the global warming process. In light of recent entries, here’s some of what I have to say on it. The most interesting things about this probably are the links.

Despite Al Gore’s statements that global warming is “not a political issue, it’s a moral issue,” global warming is highly politicized. Because of the high feelings and emotional aspects of the topic, the organizational survival of agents involved is definitely political, not scientific.

James Hansen is known as “the Father of Global Warming” for his early attention to the subject. Recently he commented on the White House’s attitude towards global warming: “In my more than three decades in the government I've never witnessed such restrictions on the ability of scientists to communicate with the public.” Further he stated that “I object to the fact that I’m not able to freely communicate via the media.” Despite his claims of being oppressed, Hansen does not follow the proper guidelines and exaggerated science when he did interviews.

Hansen’s high profile status gives him a sort of free pass. Any action taken against him would be highly politicized. Yet others can’t survive the political organization as well. Dr. Roy Spencer was a Senior Scientist for Climate Studies at NASA and isn’t prone to doom and gloom predictions. On commenting on Hansen’s statements, he said that he was familiar with the restrictions since they were a “major reason” why he resigned from NASA. When testifying before Congress he had to dodge questions or he could have been fired for speaking his mind.

Spencer isn’t the only one to struggle for survival in the public square. Oregon state climatologist George Taylor is agnostic on anthropogenic global warming. But since this past president of the American Association of State Climatologists, faculty member of Oregon State University’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Science, and author of over 200 reports, symposium, and journal articles views on global warming don’t match that of the lawyer Governor, he is in line to be fired.

The IPCC report on climate change from the UN isn’t any better. Lawrence Solomon wrote about various “deniers” of the IPCC report for the National Post. The 10 that he highlighted were all highly credible and “reached the pinnacle of the scientific establishment.” Yet for disagreeing with what politicians wanted, most “have suffered for their scientific findings -- some have been forced from their positions, others lost funding grants or been publicly criticized.”

Dr. Julian Morris of the International Policy Network summed up the IPCC process. The “IPCC is not a scientific body: it is a consensus oriented political body. An examination of the IPCC process makes it clear that the choice of authors and reviews as well as the final review of its Reports is conducted by government officials, who may or may not be scientists.”

Chris Landsea of NOAA participated in the IPCC and was heavily quoted on his work in hurricanes. Yet he quit due to the politicization of the process. From his open letter where he announced his intention to quit: “I am withdrawing because I have come to view the part of the IPCC to which my expertise is relevant as having become politicized. In addition, when I have raised my concerns to the IPCC leadership, their response was simply to dismiss my concerns… I personally cannot in good faith continue to contribute to a process that I view as both being motivated by pre-conceived agendas and being scientifically unsound.”

Professor Paul Reiter, of the Pasteur Institute in Paris similarly left the IPCC. He disagreed with the report on malaria, and asked to have his name removed. It wasn’t until he threatened to use legal action, and called the panel a “sham.”

In order to survive in the public arena of climatology it’s important to follow what politicians want above all else. When people do disagree with what the politicians want, they are forced to quit, change their philosophy, or not speak their mind. When climatologists leave institutions, such as the IPCC, the void is filled with those who parrot the political platform. In turn the politicians state that they are espousing the views of science.

The skewing of science to promote doom and gloom aspects and ignore cooler heads is not a secret. Al Gore even admitted to skewing the discussion in an interview with Grist Magazine. “I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it [global warming] is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are, and how hopeful it is that we are going to solve this crisis.”

Gore uses Oscar speech to plug environmental cause

Rewriting the Science

Media Darling on ‘Global Warming’ Assailed by Colleagues

Global Warming Science, or Policy?

Climate change claims a victim

End the Chill

Quoted in The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming page 83

Chris Landea Leaves IPCC
Greenhouse effect is a myth, say scientists,%20say%20scientists/

Al Revere


JonnyF said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JonnyF said...

Don't you hate it when politicians, or even former politicians, say something like, "This is not a political issue." or "Let's not play politics with this."? (Don't you also hate it when you're pretty sure you're using punctuation incorrectly but don't know how to fix it?) The very fact that they, as current or former politicians, are talking about the issue is playing politics and makes it a political issue. In fact, in the case of the second one, saying it is itself a political play.

Apparently it came out a few days ago that Al Gore owns a significant portion of one of the major players in the carbon offset business. When he buys carbon offsets, they are from his own company. See article

I'm not surprised. In fact I see nothing wrong with him putting his money where his mouth is and using his money to advance a cause he believes in. Of course, given this he is not an idealistic observer nor a moral crusader as many view him. He is a businessman.

Also, I wonder about the whole idea of carbon offsets. The idea has been compared to the selling of indulgences by more than one conservative pundit. I disagree with that because the money is actually used to do something that should "offset" the carbon usage. Of course, I wonder how much money actually gets used for that purpose after it goes through the middlemen and I wonder about the effectiveness of the projects in which the companies invest. The field is, after all, unregulated. But even assuming the offsets "work" and the money goes directly to the projects in question, I'm not sure I like the incentives it creates. I mean, if a person feels guilty enough about their carbon footprint to actually pay money to offset it, maybe it would be better if there was no outlet for the guilt besides actually reducing your footprint. I guess in that sense it is a little bit like an indulgence.

Warren said...

Here's a look at carbon offsets:

More fun than chess

A tale of two markets

The Political Economy of Alternative Energy

Another stab at carbon offsets

Anonymous said...

Here is an url that you can send to friends and family that will direct them to the video "The Great Global Warming Swindle".

For more information on the documentary you can go here.