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Risk and climate change

By Ezra Klein

I'm glad to hear the "top kill" is working to plug the BP leak, and also that Barack Obama has rediscovered the term "climate change." The case I, and others, have made to illustrate the connection between the two is that there are huge costs to relying so heavily on oil, and particularly huge costs to oil that's increasingly hard to reach, as in the case of the deep-sea drilling that led to this catastrophe. But there's another, arguably more important, reason that the BP spill should be the final push needed for us to seriously address climate change.

The last few years have been an ongoing seminar on the reality of serious risk. Very bad things that look likely to happen eventually do happen. The financial crisis, the Massey coal-mine disaster, the Greek debt crisis, the BP oil spill. The last few years have also been an ongoing seminar in the many ways that we ignore risks that we don't like to think about, and the role that our evasions play in making the eventual catastrophes worse than they needed to be.

There's a group of folks out there who have taken a principled position against science and against Al Gore and against things that academics consider to be problems and they're not going to move on this issue. The rest of us, however, get that global warming stands some chance of being a major problem, even if it's not a major problem we can really understand. But complicated as the issue is, a swing in temperatures larger than the one that separates our current climate from the Ice Age seems like a problem. And what we've learned in recent years is that when a lot of experts think that something is going to be a serious problem and then we ignore it because, well, that's easier than doing hard things preemptively, the eventual reckoning can be very grim indeed.

By this point, we should have learned that a risk ignored is a risk compounded, and right now, we're compounding the risk of global warming by delaying action. It's time to get on the ball. And if we don't, the one thing we'll never be able to say is that we had no way to know.

By Ezra Klein  |  May 27, 2010; 11:42 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change  
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Comments

"There's a group of folks out there who have taken a principled position against science and against Al Gore and against things that academics consider to be problems and they're not going to move on this issue."

They haven't taken a position against science, but rather the consensus of climate scientists on this specific issue. There is a difference.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 27, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

"I'm glad to hear the 'top kill' is working to plug the BP leak"

I guess you know more than BP spokespeople:

"BP spokesman Tom Mueller said the effort that started Wednesday to plug the blown-out with mud, called a top kill, was continuing.

Mueller said BP PLC doesn't anticipate being able to say anything definitive on its success until later Thursday."

Klein's "I'm glad to hear" proclamation sounds a little "Mission Accomplished"-ish if'n you ask me.

Posted by: jc263field | May 27, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

James Carville: Where's Obama? We're DYING down here!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lO1lO1CVkTE

Things Obama Is Doing Instead of Going to Gulf: Duke Photo, Lunch with
Bill, Vacation...
http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2010/05/the-presidential-planner-17.html

Why does Obama hate Black People?

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | May 27, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Best. Video. Ever.

http://doug.seiler.us/2007/06/awkward-cover-of-video-killed-radio.html

Posted by: paul65 | May 27, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Kevin

They indeed are against science.

The oil companies pay people to give speeches about the need to increase C02 because the plants like it and need more.

GOP politicians use outlying data to claim the scientists are wrong that the planet is warming and instead claim the planet has been cooling since 1998 (though scientists disagree).

GOP scientists claim the oceans are cooling and that sea ice is increasing and that polar bear populations are increasing, etc..

You are either lying or ignorant to claim climate change skeptics aren't anti-science.

Posted by: Lomillialor | May 27, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

It is interesting to contrast the risks involved in energy production, specifically oil, gas, coal and to some extent nuclear and how we treat them with two other somewhat comparable situations where low probability events can have severe or even catastrophic consequences.

The first is terrorism. Remember Cheney's "One Percent Doctrine" as set forth in Ron Suskind's book of the same name? If something terror-related had a one percent chance of happening, Cheney thought it should be treated as if it was probable and resources allocated accordingly. This was paranoid nonsense in retrospect, and it led us to the Iraq and Afghan Wars and down various rabbit holes, resulting in a significant loss of our liberty and great waste of life and resources.

Contrast that with Cheney's view of oil production and its environmental consequences. Remember when he described conservation as a matter of "private virtue" not public policy? Many of us can now see that energy profligacy and lack of regulation and oversight of production have already had and are going to have great adverse consequences to our national security that are at least as serious as the threat of terrorism.

Our current deficits are another situation where some people fret endlessly about consequences that may or may not come to pass in some time in the medium to distant future while we currently have very high unemployment, lack of demand because of lack of income and stable prospects, social mobility is nonexistent to regressive, and most experts believe we face another finacial seizure in the near or medium term becauae we have not addressed the root causes of the last one.

My point is that we really, really need to be able to evaluate and mitigate risks based on something other than our own and our leaders' ideological preferences and psychological deficiencies or most surely we are going to have a very unpleasant future.

Posted by: Mimikatz | May 27, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

I wish you were wrong and Kevin W was right, but I see little evidence that conservatives are in any way pro-science. In just about every controversial issue facing the nation, the conservative position is profoundly anti-science.

I hope that the GOP leadership is simply posturing, but we can only rely on their positions and voting behavior, not what they "really think."

Posted by: danimal1 | May 27, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Kevin Willis,

I'm not so sure. The problem is that the same group that disputes climate change (and does so reflexively, not based on an analysis of data), largely overlaps with the group that lashes out against government regulation and "elites," which largely overlaps with the group that doesn't want evolution taught in schools, etc.

The core conservative base isn't arguing the science of issues, they're arguing philosophy. I've had conversations with very intelligent people on climate change that just fall back on blanket skepticism as a reason for denying action, rather than any positive reason. That's not something that you can fight with facts. The critics who oppose climate change legislation on cost benefit analysis are few and far between, and as we learned from the recent attacks on Jim Manzi, no one on that side listens to them.

Posted by: etdean1 | May 27, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

@Lom: "You are either lying or ignorant to claim climate change skeptics aren't anti-science."

Well, I can't dispute a rational, modulated argument like that.

Still, we'll see. "GOP politicians use outlying data to claim the scientists are wrong that the planet is warming and instead claim the planet has been cooling since 1998 (though scientists disagree)."

Although some scientists disagree. Do all scientists disagree? I've heard that some scientists in fact do agree, but argue that the cooling trend is an artifact of other factors, and does not indicate that the overall trend is towards warmer temperatures. Perhaps I've been misinformed, but disputing a particular bit of data is not anti-science, it's rejecting a particular bit of data. Even if that objection is emotional or non-rational, it's not a rejection of science, any more than the rejection of particular brand of beef jerky is a rejection of the grocery store where it may be purchased.

"GOP scientists claim the oceans are cooling and that sea ice is increasing and that polar bear populations are increasing, etc.."

GOP scientists? The GOP has their own scientists? I've heard all the claims you mention. I think some of the disputes are credible, but even if they aren't, it's an argument over a specific set of data in what has become a highly-charged political issue, not a rejection of science generally.

"The oil companies pay people to give speeches about the need to increase C02 because the plants like it and need more."

A: I'm pretty sure plants do need C02. B: What oil companies pay people to give speeches about has nothing to do with whether or not anthropogenic climate change skeptics are universally anti-science.

I'm sure you want them to be. And I respect that. It's very "Either your with us, or against us" of you. A kind of cowboy liberalism. I like it.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 27, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Carville is just being Carville. Obama shouldn’t be surprised by Carville’s outbursts. What concerns me is that what we’ve seen in the last 38 days may be Obama just being Obama. If that’s the case, all of us should be concerned.

I voted for Obama and still consider myself a supporter, but his actions during the initial healthcare reform debate and this disaster in the Gulf trouble me. I didn’t think this is what I voted for.

Posted by: KBPrez | May 27, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

etdean1: "I'm not so sure. The problem is that the same group that disputes climate change (and does so reflexively, not based on an analysis of data), largely overlaps with the group that lashes out against government regulation and "elites," which largely overlaps with the group that doesn't want evolution taught in schools, etc."

That's a good point, and I understand the value of generalizations. But I think specificity has value to. It's entirely reasonable to say that people who are actively opposed to the teaching of evolution in science class are anti-science (or anti-evolutionary-science; they may, in fact, be big fans of nuclear physics). However, you could, in theory, say, that most of the anti-evolution crowd is white, so it's reasonably to assert that white people are, generally speaking, opposed to teaching evolution and anti-science. Or most of them are over 40, so people over 40 are anti-science.

Correlative overlaps, ironically, make for very unscientific conclusions.

"The core conservative base isn't arguing the science of issues, they're arguing philosophy. I've had conversations with very intelligent people on climate change that just fall back on blanket skepticism as a reason for denying action, rather than any positive reason."

I think that's true, and a very fair observation. And it's a very different point that saying these people are anti-science.

I mean, really. Global warming skeptics are opposed--in lockstep--to genetically engineered food? Nuclear power? Food irradiation as a method of preservation? Plastics? Computers? Digital television? Space exploration? Pharmaceuticals? Chemotherapy? Laser surgery? Digital watches? Particle accelerators? You want to say they are opposed to all those things? Or that they can be anti-science, but be completely supportive of the scientific method and complacent with 98% of the conclusions of modern science across every field?

Ever heard the argument about "consensus science"? That if it's consensus, it's not science? That you hear about a "consensus" on global warming but you never hear about a "consensus" on E=mc2?

That may be a philosophical or semantic rather than practical objection but, strictly speaking, it's a pro-science, rather than anti-science, position. The argument is that much of the language promoting the concept of anthropogenic climate change is, in fact, non-scientific.

Which is not to say there isn't a lot of evidence that would be consistent with anthropogenic climate change, BTW. Just that the objections tend to be more philosophical and semantic, and don't reflect much of an anti-science attitude, when analyzed objectively.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 27, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

"Do all scientists disagree?"

There are scientists who don't believe that HIV causes AIDS. Are you willing to infect with HIV to see if they're right?

Posted by: steveh46 | May 27, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

KBPrez: I voted for the Contract With America in 1994. I voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004. Each time, I was surprised and disappointed with what I got. Even when voting for Bush again.

Fortunately, I was mostly voting against Democrats, so the fact the Republicans disappointed me repeatedly wasn't my primary concern. The point being, most of us don't really get what we vote for when we vote for somebody (assuming they win). We are almost always disappointed

Except for JKaren, and good for her. :)

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 27, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

The only problem with Climate Change is if we buy into the lunacy of it all. Due to the environmental whack jobs we have over 50% of our electricity powered by Coal, the dirtiest means there is. We have wells like these off shore in extremely deep water. We have over burdened roads with cars sitting on them spewing noxious gasses because the environmental whack jobs stopped transportation expansion. And if we follow through with this false religion of Global Warming the only thing that will get better is the size of Gore's bank accounts.

Posted by: Pilot1 | May 27, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

@Steveh46: "Do all scientists disagree? There are scientists who don't believe that HIV causes AIDS. Are you willing to infect with HIV to see if they're right?"

That's an interesting, and entirely emotional, and completely unscientific argument. Very meta.

Why would I want to infect myself with anything, no matter how potentially innocuous? Frankly, even if there was a scientific consensus that HIV does not cause AIDs, I would not choose to infect myself with cap-and-trade--I mean, HIV--because a consensus is not 100% certitude.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 27, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

"They haven't taken a position against science, but rather the consensus of climate scientists on this specific issue. There is a difference."

Yeah. When scientists have a consensus on a specific issue, and when "a group of folks" choose to oppose that consensus, that does not mean that the "group of folks" is anti-science.

Instead it just means that they choose to oppose science they find to be inconvenient. There lies a big difference (to Kevin_Willis).

Posted by: Patrick_M | May 27, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Kevin Willis,

You make a strong point as to anti-science vs. anti-particular scientific thing. I would say that the reason skeptics are fine with so much of what science has done is because MRI machines and nuclear power don't pose any direct conflict with their beliefs. It's an unconscious support. As soon as science begins to upset their view of the world, whether by casting doubt on their beliefs or foretelling a crisis that will necessitate hard costs, then all of a sudden they don't want to hear about it. (I'll also note that liberals can get this way about genetically modified food and nuclear power, for fairness, although they generally tend to be more pro-science).

So I'm fine still using the label "anti-science," because I think ideology is defined where values clash. Religious conservatives may love antibiotics, but developing those drugs requires a sophisticated understanding about how bacteria evolve.

Or maybe they're pro-science, and just part of the anti-change movement that's existed for the entirety of the history of mankind.

Posted by: etdean1 | May 27, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

"The financial crisis, the Massey coal-mine disaster, the Greek debt crisis, the BP oil spill."

I'd add Iraq to this list.

The Reagan era really has been one of denial and wishful thinking. It's been one where people whose job it is to know better instead chose to believe their own spin. The country has been run by a gang of adolescents drunk on Ayn Rand's terrible fiction.

Look at this list: Deficits don't matter! Tax cuts increase revenue! Income inequality isn't a problem! Markets are self-regulating! Giving all the money to rich people makes our economy sustainable and strong! Cold-War level spending on the military is a good investment! We don't need to tax in order to educate kids or build roads and bridges, the free market knows best! Private provision of public goods is always more efficient and desirable--just look at healthcare!

We really need to let go of this juvenile libertarian fantasy that's dominated policymaking since the 80's. I mean, seriously, we have a guy running for office who seems to believe racism in the South in the 60's would have just disappeared due to market pressures! In an era where people were firebombing _churches_!

It's crazy.

Posted by: theorajones1 | May 27, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

When science addresses complex issues such as climate change, there is not going to be unanimity in the interpretation of data. It makes sense in such a case to give at least a limited presumption in favor of the "consensus" of the experts in the field, unless and until the presumption is rebutted.

Science is primarily an approach to understanding reality, minimizing the effects idealogical and psycholgical blinders. We all, on all sides of the climate change issue, need to do a better job of engaging the issue objectively.

Posted by: jduptonma | May 27, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Kevin

I meant to say GOP politicians instead of GOP scientists.

And regarding your question do all scientists agree? What bearing does that have unless you are suggesting significant numbers of scientists don't agree or that a broad consensus has not been reached. Neither is true.

Your arguments are intellectually dishonest.

Here's a wiki link with a summary of consensus, with supporting links therein.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change

"No scientific body of national or international standing has maintained a dissenting opinion since the American Association of Petroleum Geologists adopted its current position in 2007.[2][3] Some organisations hold non-committal positions."

Posted by: Lomillialor | May 27, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Theorajones is right on. Nixon and George Wallace railed against "pointy-headed intellectuals" because they advocated integration. Granted, there were liberals in the '60s and '70s who were happy to advocate for others what they did not necessarily practice themselves. But segregation had made the South a third-world country, and that wasn't going to change without an end to Jim Crow. The hostility was exetended to all manner of liberal ideas that actually benefitted working people.

Under Reagan the GOP assault on expertise as a basis for policy continued, and it was here that we saw the emergence of the kind of Libertarianism that theora describes. It is really a kind of selfish contrarianism, somewhat akin to some of the lefty radicalism of the '60s. It persists because like Social Darwininsm in an earlier age it validates the prejudices and position of its major proponents.

Let's face it. Not all GOPers are anti-science. But there are a large number of people in the GOP who really don't care what science shows, they just want the solution that will benefit their particular industry or constituency, and the consequences be damned. There are also a large number of people who believe in biblical literalism and so are hostile to science when it contradicts what they believe the Bible says. The GOP uses these people too to advance its pro-business agenda. Again, remember what Ron Susskind and John DiIlluio said about the role of expertise and science in the development of policy under GW Bush.

We are now reaping the consequences of those years, and that people could still adhere to the Libertarian dogma in the face of reality is almost as baffling as the fact that there are still adherents of Marxism (or Nazism) around after what happened in the 20th Century.

Posted by: Mimikatz | May 27, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Kevin

Your adoption of the word "universal" to imply that Ezra (or myself) meant to suggest that "all" skeptics are anti-science is particularly dishonest.

Ezra clearly said "There is a group..."

My comments were obviously in support of Ezra's.

Ergo, you willfully distorted the premise in order to comfort your own mind that you were wrong in any way.

Posted by: Lomillialor | May 27, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

president obama's press conference brought tears to my eyes.
i just pray that he will have the energy, strength, grace and courage to bear these super-human tasks.
i am glad he came out to connect with the american people.
he is a good person. an honest man.
and a great leader, through terrible events and circumstances.
i hope things will be going better soon.

Posted by: jkaren | May 27, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Until 1967, all scientists were agreed that the marriage of a black man and a white woman would result in children with "white" hearts physically too small to support their "black" bodies. The work of such scientists faded in the early 1970's, replaced by global cooling science which predicted an ice age by 1990. National Geographic even offered pictures to help bolster the data -- and presented it alongside data from the moon missions.

Theories are not absolutes: the fact that a group -- even a large group -- of scientists might be wrong is actually one aspect that makes research interesting.

Posted by: rmgregory | May 27, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

rmgregory,

Your statement is pure wingnut mythology, all of which has been thoroughly debunked.

Your statement about scientific consensus on inter-racial marriage is just a sick lie.

As summarized at Wikipedia:

"Global cooling was a conjecture during the 1970s of imminent cooling of the Earth's surface and atmosphere along with a posited commencement of glaciation. This hypothesis had little support in the scientific community, but gained temporary popular attention due to a combination of press reports that did not accurately reflect the scientific understanding of ice age cycles, and a slight downward trend of temperatures from the 1940s to the early 1970s."

Disinformation is your game, but no informed person is playing along.

Posted by: Patrick_M | May 27, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

thank God it seems to be working. Now we can get down to Democrats blaming Republicans, Republicans blaming Democrats and Louisiana's residents getting screwed in the deal.

Posted by: visionbrkr | May 27, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Ezra,
No one is denying our nation should strive to become more energy independent. Some of the questions I pose are you suggesting we allow the government to dictate what type of energy resources we use and limit the usage of it? These bills would have increased every household's energy bills as well as create new taxes/increase other taxes. These are not the type of resolutions These bills are more detrimental to Americans as our nation is trying to pull itself out of a Recession. I support trying to find alternative energy sources which aren't going to break American's "piggybanks". I don't agree with how dependent our country is on foreign oil especially from the middle eastern countries....

Posted by: Rhonda5 | May 27, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

The risk of a fire burning down a house is low, yet most homeowners pay for insurance because the consequences of a major fire are so severe, even though they will likely never use it. The risk of a robbery or a broken water pipe is similarly small, yet most homeowners and many renters pay for insurance against such losses. Similar logic should apply to climate change. Not even considering the significant health benefits (e.g., oil spills, reductions in coal power plant emissions that kill thousands per year) and job creation ability, building a reduced-carbon economy is insurance against the worst effects of climate disruption.

Posted by: meander510 | May 27, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

"Do all scientists disagree? There are scientists who don't believe that HIV causes AIDS. Are you willing to infect with HIV to see if they're right?"
"That's an interesting, and entirely emotional, and completely unscientific argument. Very meta."

That's exactly the argument you're making Kevin when it comes to climate change. Not all scientists agree, so we shouldn't try to stop or reduce the infective agent (greenhouse gases). If you were wrong about HIV not causing AIDS, you'd harm yourself by being infected with it. If you're wrong about climate change, millions or billions of people will be affected.

Posted by: steveh46 | May 27, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

rmgregory : "Theories are not absolutes: the fact that a group -- even a large group -- of scientists might be wrong is actually one aspect that makes research interesting."

What you are having a problem with is that scientists don't just deal with theories. They also have facts to contend with.

They routinely make scientific observations, and their peers (other scientists) independently repeat the experiments or come up with new ones to verify observations.

In this case, scientists the world over, including nasa scientists and other American scientists, have been using this heretofore unknown (in your world) device called a "thermometer" to measure temperatures of air and water, etc, around the world.

So tell me, do you know what a thermometer is?

Have you ever used one to take your temperature? When you do, do you ignore the result (even if you've verified the result using multiple thermometers and perhaps tested your forehead with our hand) and say the thermometer was just a theory and that it's probably wrong?

So, let's assume for argument's sake your temp was a bit higher than average after reading it on a thermometer. Now, if your first instinct is to tell yourself that you have a fever, well, that would be a theory. You have guessed at the cause of your higher than average temp, and you might be wrong or you might be right.

Do you see the difference between a "fact" or scientific observation and a theory?

Do you now understand why, when scientists are reporting that the globe is heating, as observed by their millions of world-wide instruments, that that is a fact, and not a theory, and that when they then conjecture that human impact is the main cause, that that is a theory?

Climate-change scientists have been very careful to separate fact from theory. When speaking of facts, they provide the PROOF of their observations. When they postulate theories, OTOH, they use words like "human activity has probably caused this current temperature trend".

So you see, scientists are almost unanimous when speaking of the proven facts of rising heat in the Earth's biosphere, and most will say they are confident that human activity is causing it, and then they provide bunches of reasons and other "facts" to explain their theories.

Hope this helps.

Posted by: Lomillialor | May 27, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Kevin_ Willis says:

"I voted for the Contract With America in 1994. I voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004. Each time, I was surprised and disappointed with what I got. Even when voting for Bush again."

Rita Mae Brown says:

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results."

Posted by: Patrick_M | May 27, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Patrick,

what can i say. Sometimes its the lesser of two evils.

Posted by: visionbrkr | May 27, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

visionbrkr,

Virtually always. But where's the surprise in that?

Posted by: Patrick_M | May 27, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

@steve: "That's exactly the argument you're making Kevin when it comes to climate change. Not all scientists agree, so we shouldn't try to stop or reduce the infective agent (greenhouse gases)."

Where, exactly, did I make that argument? Because I don't think I said that. Your making an extrapolation, not addressing anything I actually said.

@Patrick_M: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results."

Touché.

etdean: Great points, BTW. I meant to say that earlier.

@Lom: "Your arguments are intellectually dishonest . . . Your adoption of the word 'universal' to imply that Ezra (or myself) meant to suggest that 'all' skeptics are anti-science is particularly dishonest. Ergo, you willfully distorted the premise in order to comfort your own mind that you were wrong in any way."

Well, I guess that settles that, then. You've got me pegged.

visionbrkr: Sometimes it's the different flavor of two evils which are otherwise similar in terms of calorie and fat content. In my case, I alway go with the donut.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 27, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Let's see...We don't assess or try to avoid risk very well. We certainly don't put a premium on the conservation of anything. We don't look forward. We don't look back. We don't - individually or as a group - take responsibility for our behaviors.

Is this what we mean when we call ourselves a "right of center" nation?

Posted by: slag | May 27, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

--"By this point, we should have learned that a risk ignored is a risk compounded"--

Hey, Klein. Have you considered the risk that your stupid collectivist schemes will kill more people this century than the 100 million or more people killed by stupid collectivist schemes last century?

Posted by: msoja | May 27, 2010 10:49 PM | Report abuse

"Hey, Klein. Have you considered the risk that your stupid collectivist schemes will kill more people this century than the 100 million or more people killed by stupid collectivist schemes last century?"

While the Iraq and Afghanistan wars may be considered "stupid collectivist schemes", I don't think they can be entirely credited to Ezra.

Posted by: slag | May 27, 2010 11:03 PM | Report abuse

--"Instead it just means that they choose to oppose science they find to be inconvenient."--

That's fairly ignorant, even for you, Patrick. A consensus on anything can be plumb wrong, and opposing such a consensus would be right on the merits, and have nothing to do with finding the consensus "to be inconvenient". Your logic is about on a par with Klein's take on risk. He heard the sky fell once, so he's sure climate change is real.

Posted by: msoja | May 27, 2010 11:10 PM | Report abuse

--"[T]here are huge costs to relying so heavily on oil"--

Yet not so huge that you didn't want to not fly to China over them, eh, Klein? Those kinds of sacrifices are for the little people to whom your altruistic and kindly meant policies (delivered at the point of a gun) will be applied, and by whom the costs will ultimately be borne.

Posted by: msoja | May 27, 2010 11:35 PM | Report abuse

"A consensus on anything can be plumb wrong, and opposing such a consensus would be right on the merits, and have nothing to do with finding the consensus "to be inconvenient"."

Oh thanks so much for enlightening me about that, anarchist msoja.

The only thing you left out is the reason why you, the anarchist msoja, know that the consensus of the worldwide community of scientists is "plumb wrong."

Posted by: Patrick_M | May 28, 2010 12:02 AM | Report abuse

Obama is indeed wasting this crisis. He is still tentative in his approach and is not going for an effective tax policy which will enable America to move quickly to non-carbon economy.

Obama is still caught up with 'oil as the bridge' until we reach the state of non-carbon economy. Very frustrating and essentially failure of Leadership.

Posted by: umesh409 | May 28, 2010 12:06 AM | Report abuse

I think the levees in the Sacramento Delta region falling because of an earthquake has to be added to that list of catastrophes waiting to happen.

And with California's budget problems, when will this get addressed...

Posted by: JS63DOD | May 28, 2010 1:33 AM | Report abuse

--"The only thing you left out is the reason why you, the anarchist msoja, know that the consensus of the worldwide community of scientists is 'plumb wrong.'"--

So, NOW the collectivist Patrick_M wants to debate 'the science' on a policy blog, but what I did was point out the rife nonsense in Klein's policy argument and the dim illogic of Patrick's own defense of it, which neither has defended against, unless you count Patrick's ad hominem amidst his changing the subject.

For your wonderful skeptic-type reading, try Warren Meyer at Climate Skeptic, Mark Alger at Baby Troll Blog, Anthony Watts at Watts Up With That, and follow links, or try the bifurcated Climate Debate Daily where it's fun to see which side overwhelmingly appeals to emotion and which debates the science.

Posted by: msoja | May 28, 2010 8:22 AM | Report abuse

msoja: The mass murder (and work camp, work-to-death) of 20th century collectivism happened in a complete vacuum of information. Stalin and Mao were pre-internet and cell phone cameras. It's unlikely that pushing America towards European-style socialism is going to do anything like kill 40,000,000 people. Because that's no longer a convenient way to advance the cause of building utopia.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 28, 2010 8:27 AM | Report abuse

--"Obama is still caught up with 'oil as the bridge' until we reach the state of non-carbon economy. Very frustrating and essentially failure of Leadership."--

I am sorry to inform you that the idea of a "non-carbon economy" is pie in the sky nonsense at the present time. If you have been told otherwise, you have been lied to. All the endeavor in the world, government directed or otherwise, *might* shave a percent or three off world oil requirements, but short of just shutting down whole economies and living in the dark and going back to crockery and stone knives (which, as you might or might not be capable of imagining, would cause a lot of people to divorce themselves from their flimsy, annoying corporeality), there is not a lot that dear Obama or anyone else can demonstrate that allegedly missing leadership on in such regards.

And certainly, fining and charging people for using energy will be completely counterproductive, as those most likely to find solutions to any alleged problem are those who freely choose to take up the matter with their own resources, and being fined and charged in the name of government redistribution tends to leave one poorer and with fewer resources with which to explore and invent. As I've said elsewhere, our dependence on oil is a necessary adjunct of the great, huge, unbelievable progress humanity made as a result of the Industrial Revolution, said revolution almost entirely driven by individual initiative, and if I had to place my trust on solutions for new exemplary solutions to new problems, I'd rather the decentralized, efficient body of individuals be working on them, than a bunch of demagoging, glad-handing, empty-headed politicians, bureaucrats, and policy dimwits in the swamps of Washington D.C.

Posted by: msoja | May 28, 2010 8:42 AM | Report abuse

--"It's unlikely that pushing America towards European-style socialism is going to do anything like kill 40,000,000 people. Because that's no longer a convenient way to advance the cause of building utopia."--

I'm sure there's a little tongue in cheek in there, but it's a serious concern. The human frailties have not changed because we have cell phone cameras and the Internet. In fact, billions of people are now dependent upon a highly technical infrastructure that didn't exist seventy five years ago. If European economies collapse and that infrastructure isn't useable, people will die, in large numbers. It's precisely why the relentless push toward government consolidation should be opposed at every turn. Governments that get too big become too big to fail, and yet, they will fail as they run out of other people's money. It's happening now, and it isn't a joking matter.

Posted by: msoja | May 28, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

--"And with California's budget problems, when will this get addressed..."--

Too bad the businesses and individuals with a direct stake in the worthiness of the Sacramento delta levees have outsourced that stake to people whose only concern is playing Mr Big with other people's money and using a portion of those monies to buy the votes to do it.

Find a history of levee and water control projects in the United States and you'll be amazed at the amount of waste, incompetence, and negligence carried out over the last one hundred and fifty years in the name of such things, most of it perpetrated by stupid government.

If you have assets in any area that the government is somehow charged to protect, you better take stock of those things with a very sharp eye.

In this neck of the woods, we have the Tennessee Valley Authority and they are as negligent and irresponsible and unbeholden to anyone as can be imagined. In the wake of the Emory River ash spill of almost a year and a half ago, a judge recently ruled that, while some lawsuits could go forward, no one would be allowed to sue the government agency for punitive damages for the reason that it is a governmentally chartered agency. It's the standard TVA defense.

So, while Obama bloviates on TeeVee yesterday about how he's going to dog British Petroleum to "pay every dime", his TVA lawyers are working overtime, sucking constituent dollars at a rapid clip, to make sure the government doesn't pay a thing for its own negligence (which, of course, is a double edged sword, because to pay for government negligence the government has to go steal more money, another reason the Army Corp of Engineers and the TVA and other levee maintaining bodies should be privatized, so that real individuals can be held responsible for their mistakes.)

Posted by: msoja | May 28, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

"So, NOW the collectivist Patrick_M wants to debate 'the science' on a policy blog, but what I did was point out the rife nonsense in Klein's policy argument and the dim illogic of Patrick's own defense of it, which neither has defended against, unless you count Patrick's ad hominem amidst his changing the subject.

For your wonderful skeptic-type reading, try Warren Meyer at Climate Skeptic, Mark Alger at Baby Troll Blog, Anthony Watts at Watts Up With That, and follow links, or try the bifurcated Climate Debate Daily where it's fun to see which side overwhelmingly appeals to emotion and which debates the science."

The anarchist msoja believes that anyone who does not reject democracy as he does is a "collectivist."

The anarchist msoja takes the position that a consensus among scientists is wrong. When asked why he is convinced that he is right that the worldwide scientific community is wrong, the anarchist indicates that it is inappropriate to debate science on a blog, despite the fact that he challenged the science. Then (rather than answer the question), the anarchist names three persons and a group of blogs and websites.

Very powerful stuff.

Posted by: Patrick_M | May 28, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

It's a pathetic commentary on the psyche of the American electorate that every article on global warming summons a parade of discredited 'arguments' about the science. The scientific community still has heretics that argue that second hand cigarette smoking doesn't cause lung cancer, but no one takes them seriously anymore. Such is the case with global warming. From the perspective of the scientific community, this debate ended in 2007...3 years ago.

Their conclusions:

1. It's really happening
2. Human activity is the primary cause
3. It could imperil human civilization's survival within a century
4. We have the technology NOW to avoid catastrophe
5. There are procrastination penalties for delayed action
6. One of those penalties will eventually be that we're past the point of no return.

Let's assume for the sake of argument that there's only a 50% chance that they're correct. There's one inescapable fact that is not in dispute:

We have but one planet on which to conduct this experiment.

Would any rational person bet their children's inheritance with those odds? Would they risk condemning them to an environmental parade of horrors without a care? Just how asinine are we?

By the way, the historical origins of the entire strategy of casting doubt about scientific consensus for political purposes dates back to the founding of "The Marshall Institute" in 1984.

Their strategy was NEVER to debate fellow scientists in the halls of science. Rather it was to debate them in the mass media. In fact, they never sought to fund any scientific research. Their strategy was to sue media outlets that didn't give them equal time under the fairness doctrine.

Posted by: sdavis3398 | May 28, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

--"When asked why he is convinced that he is right that the worldwide scientific community is wrong, the anarchist indicates that it is inappropriate to debate science on a blog, despite the fact that he challenged the science."--

You're lying about what I said, which is typical of you, of late, Patrick. I was mocking *you* on the matter of science vs policy, as I'm sure you know, and as you also know, there are severe constraints to posting in this forum regarding length and content, so unless Klein himself gets specific on a particular point (unlikely, he's such a slimy swish) on the matter of which he is so convinced, the larger argument will have be conducted elsewhere.

Posted by: msoja | May 29, 2010 1:08 AM | Report abuse

shorter msoja:

I hereby announce that the consensus in the scientific community is plumb wrong, but space does not permit me to explain why. And slimy swish too.

Posted by: Patrick_M | May 29, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

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