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Monday, December 4, 2006

They Crushed Darwin, And Now They’re Going to Get Al Gore…

posted by on December 4 at 11:06 AM

Seattle’s very own Discovery Institute is hosting a talk on global warming by a “scholar” from the right-wing Hudson Institute. And guess what? This scholar believes—according to the press release—that “global Warming is inevitable and it’s also natural.”

For years Americans have been told that human consumption of fossil fuels is the primary cause of global climate change. But what if this hypothesis is flawed or simplistic? What if human activity is not the primary cause of global warming? Hudson Institute agricultural economist Dennis Avery will present the other side of the climate change debate at Discovery Institute in Seattle on Tuesday, December 5, 2006 from 4:30 to 6 p.m…. Discovery Institute’s offices are located at 1511 Third Avenue Suite 808 in downtown Seattle. There is no cost to attend this event. To register, please contact Annelise Davis at adavis@discovery.org or call (206) 292-0401, ext. 153.

Yeah, what if the global warming hypothesis is flawed? What if we reduced our reliance on fossil fuels, developed alternative and clean sources of renewable energy, cleaned up our air, and cut back our carbon emissions all for nothing? Of course you could argue that the damage climate change will do to our world and our economy is so massive that we should err on the side of caution and side with the overwhelming majority of the science community on this one. And if it turns out they were all wrong and Avery and the creationists at the Discovery Institute were right? Well, then we’ll just have to live with the consequences of their error, I suppose—you know, cleaner air, cleaner water, less dependance on foreign oil. Won’t that be awful?

RSS icon Comments

1

Dan, stop being such a Chicken Little. "Oh, the sky is falling! The sky is falling! The earth is warming!" Don't you realize you're putting the oil companies in danger with talk like this? How will they ever pay their bills when we're getting all our energy from saltwater and wind?

Posted by david | December 4, 2006 11:20 AM
2

I'm sure this has already been answered numerous times, but I'm curious why the Discovery Institute is trying to make an issue of global warming. Are they getting funding from ExxonMobil, or is there some inner nuttiness that's driving them? I guess a similar question could be asked (and has been asked) of their whole "intelligent design" thing.

Posted by cressona | December 4, 2006 11:32 AM
3

Cressona, ask yourself "what do evolution and the theory of global warming have in common?" They both displace humans from the center of creation; they both advocate for responsibility; they both come from scientific thinking; and they both were and are developed in the academy. There's your answer: The DI is trying to blow away the academy. They hate higher education, and their agenda is ultimately Christian and the libertarianism of unfettered business.

Posted by Fnarf | December 4, 2006 11:53 AM
4

While I'm certainly no friend of the Discovery Institute, and I whole-heartedly agree with your final sentiment, I really need a clarification here. Several Sloggers have used phrases like "overwhelming majority of the science community" as if we all know what said majority says. Well, I, for one, don't know what the hell you're saying.

What, exactly, does the "overwhelming majority of the science community" agree to? Sources would be nice, too.

Posted by BC | December 4, 2006 12:13 PM
5

BC,

Try Google.

Thank you.

Posted by Andrew | December 4, 2006 12:19 PM
6

Dan, I agree with both you and the DI. We should work to cut our pollution for a variety of reasons... yet I don't see it stopping the inevitable global warming and aftereffects.

Posted by Gomez | December 4, 2006 12:25 PM
7

Dan, I agree with both you and the DI. We should work to cut our pollution for a variety of reasons... yet I don't see it stopping the inevitable global warming and aftereffects.

Posted by Gomez | December 4, 2006 12:30 PM
8

Andrew,
I got two results. It amused me that one was about Intelligent Design. The other one said: Coca-Cola fully embraces the view of the overwhelming majority of the science community that “…the increased amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (such as HFCs) in the atmosphere from human activity is strengthening the greenhouse effect, contributing to the Earth’s surface temperature becoming even warmer.”

Basically, Coke believe that scientists believe that human activity increases world surface temperature. Is that what Dan's saying here?

Or is Dan really saying more that Google won't tell me?

Posted by BC | December 4, 2006 1:11 PM
9

BC, at an international conference of atmospheric scientists, it was unanimously agreed that the global warming was both real and caused by human activities. The money quote:

‘The question is not whether climate will change in response to human activities, but rather how much, how fast and where. It is also clear that climate change will, in many parts of the world, adversely affect socio-economic sectors, including water resources, agriculture, forestry, fisheries and human settlements, ecological systems (particularly forests and coral reefs), and human health (particularly diseases spread by insects), with developing countries being the most vulnerable.’ - Dr. Robert T. Watson, Chair of the IPCC, addressing governments at the UN climate change conference, The Hague, 13 November 2000

Posted by Gitai | December 4, 2006 1:44 PM
10

There.

Science and social conservatism don't go together. They just don't mix, what with all the critical thinking.

Posted by Pascal | December 4, 2006 1:49 PM
11

BC: From the journal Science:


"The 928 papers were divided into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position."

There is not a single peer reviewed scientific publication contesting the existence of climate change. Not one.

Posted by golob | December 4, 2006 2:16 PM
12

The consensus:
'In its most recent assessment, IPCC states unequivocally that the consensus of scientific opinion is that Earth's climate is being affected by human activities: "Human activities ... are modifying the concentration of atmospheric constituents ... that absorb or scatter radiant energy. ... [M]ost of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations"'

Posted by golob | December 4, 2006 2:20 PM
13

Remember, Christ died on the cross so you could profit and destroy the earth in your lifetime.

And he loved the moneychangers in the temple.

Posted by Will in Seattle | December 4, 2006 2:37 PM
14

So, the net impact of human activity is agreed to be an increase in global temperature. Perhaps even outweighing other factors over the last 50 years.

How, exactly, does this conflict with the opinions expressed by the speaker at the Discovery Institute?

Posted by BC | December 4, 2006 2:39 PM
15

To quote from the press release Dan posted:
"But what if this hypothesis is flawed or simplistic? What if human activity is not the primary cause of global warming?"

Both of the statements I placed in bold are in direct contradiction with the scientific consensus. Adding a question mark doesn't make these claims any less ridiculous.

This is the Discovery Institute's MO: Don't bother to prove either of these statements, because scientists around the globe through careful experimentation have shown them to be false. Just add a question mark and pretend that is "science." Not careful experimentation or observation. Not empirical reasoning.

Just "well, couldn't this be wrong?"

It is the antithesis of scientific thinking.

Posted by golob | December 4, 2006 3:01 PM
16

If only every person who rejects what science tells us about global warming would invest their money in prime beachfront property in southern Florida.

I think things are going to get quite bad sooner than most people imagine, even the pessimists.

Well at least, unlike with the afterlife thing, those of us who were right about global warming will be around to laugh at those of us who are drowning.

Posted by A in NC | December 4, 2006 3:18 PM
17

The reported consensus presented by the IPCC is that the majority (meaning some amount more than half, for the math challenged) of global warming over the last 50 years is probably human-caused. Global temperature has been increasing for the last 100-200 years.

Sorry, golob, plenty of room there for "human activity is not the primary cause of global warming" to be correct. Lately, sure. But overall, probably not.

This is not to say that reducing carbon emissions would be a bad idea. I think it will be great, for lots of reasons. I just get really tired of this "Humans are destroying the ecosystem, and all scientists agree with that, so if you disagree with me, you're for planetary destruction!" bullshit.

Posted by BC | December 4, 2006 3:41 PM
18

I for one, wish the debate was a simpler one - why are these unpatriotic slime encouraging Americans to send our money to Saudi Arabia where it will promote terrorism, when it could be invested in building American energy supplies (which also happen to be good for fighting global warming)?

Time to ship the Discovery Institute folks to GITMO for some extraordinary rendition waterboarding ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | December 4, 2006 4:25 PM
19

Fnarf: Cressona, ask yourself "what do evolution and the theory of global warming have in common?" They both displace humans from the center of creation; they both advocate for responsibility; they both come from scientific thinking; and they both were and are developed in the academy. There's your answer: The DI is trying to blow away the academy. They hate higher education, and their agenda is ultimately Christian and the libertarianism of unfettered business.

Thanks for the answer. Of course, this is just one view of what it means to be Christian. It is, as Andrew Sullivan would say, "Christianism." I think ultimately any serious effort in the United States to combat global warming is going to have to be, in part, a religious movement. You're already seeing stirrings from some major evangelical leaders like Rick Warren ("The Purpose-Driven Life") and Richard Cizik. I think Al Gore is the perfect leader to bridge the secular environmentalists with the religious ones. And by the way, the evangelicals have already been a pretty powerful force in the fight against AIDS.

The sad thing about the Discovery Institute's idea of a global warming "debate" is that we are so far beyond that particular debate, and we need to be so far beyond it. The things we ought to be debating now are (A) how to most effectively combat global warming and (B) what effects global warming and climate change will really have.

For one thing, I'm curious to know: have sea levels risen already? They're supposed to have risen in places like Tuvalu in the South Pacific, but what about along our own North American coasts? Have we seen any sea level rise yet?

Posted by cressona | December 4, 2006 4:28 PM
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cressona, I do hope you realize you have your questions reversed.

If you try to combat something before you even know what it does, you are much more likely to do harm than good. You're also not going to have an exit strategy so you know when to stop fighting it.

No, really, this did not magically turn into a post about Iraq, no matter what Will might want.

Posted by BC | December 4, 2006 4:53 PM
21

Hey BC, while we're at it, why should we go through the pain of trying to prevent the federal budget from exploding once all the baby boomers are retired and collecting Social Security and Medicare? I mean, how do we really know that's going to happen? It's just a bunch of really smart and really boring, uncool people who are experts in their field telling us that.

But you know what, you're right, taking some real measures to combat global warming probably would do more harm than good -- for the oil companies, Iran, Saudi Arabia, defense contractors, the Pentagon's civilian establishment, highway builders across the land. Hey, instead of having compassion for the millions of people that are going to die and be displaced by global warming, or the thousands of species that will be driven into extinction, maybe it's time we had a little pity for the suffering of ExxonMobil stockholders and Saudi sheikhs and Iranian mullahs. BC, thanks for putting everything into perspective.

Posted by cressona | December 4, 2006 5:38 PM
22

The funny thing about the Iraq war comparison is that the evidence and experts overwhelmingly say global warming is a real threat; the experts and evidence overwhelming said Iraq was not connected to al Quaeda and was not a nuclear threat, and yet Bush and Cheney and gang chose to ignore that evidence.

The really funny thing is the principle alluded to by the Ron Suskind book "The One Percent Doctrine." Basically, that was Dick Cheney's idea that if there's even a 1% chance that Iraq is a real threat, we have to act as if the threat is a 100% certainty. The great irony is that, for the same people, even if there is a 99% chance that global warming is a real threat, we have to act as if it is an entirely vague, remote, hypothetical uncertainty.

Posted by cressona | December 4, 2006 5:47 PM
23

Well, here I am wanting to have a real discussion about climate change and I get sidetracked into a pseudo-debate that's the equivalent of debating whether the Holocaust or the Armenian genocide actually happened. But hey, for any of you who find this stuff entertaining, I guess that Discovery Institute event is for you.

Posted by cressona | December 4, 2006 5:52 PM
24

So, address my core concern then: Every time mankind has tried to "stabilize" the environment, it's actually turned out worse than before we started.

We still use relatively high-carbon energy sources. Any gung-ho effort to reduce future carbon emissions will require significantly increased energy input. How do you know that massive exertions of energy now to produce low-carbon energy sources ahead of their time, won't accelerate catastrophic climate change due to the increased short-term carbon output?

Posted by BC | December 4, 2006 6:08 PM
25

BC: So, address my core concern then: Every time mankind has tried to "stabilize" the environment, it's actually turned out worse than before we started.

Wow, BC! So this is your core concern? Who knew? Why suddenly start talking like a sane person now when all the nuttiness up to this point was so entertaining?

This is a bit like repeatedly denying the Holocaust ever happened and then saying, "Well, address my core concern that the people of Germany were oppressed by the sanctions after World War I." Well gee, what does that have to do with denying the Holocaust?

Posted by cressona | December 4, 2006 6:15 PM
26

Cressona: "And by the way, the evangelicals have already been a pretty powerful force in the fight against AIDS."

Really? Have they been a powerful force via getting teens to sign abstinence pledges or is it when they discuss how ineffective condoms are at preventing AIDS so the only real choice is abstinence before marriage?

Posted by Dianna | December 4, 2006 6:22 PM
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Posted by treacle | December 4, 2006 6:43 PM
28

My point is that we don't know everything that's causing global warming. And if we try to take drastic actions to reverse it when we don't understand its causes or effects, then we're just as likely to make the problem worse.

I never denied that global temperatures have risen. Neither does Dennis Avery. We're (not that "he" and "I" are a "we") just trying to make it clear that the situation isn't as cut and dried as so many people want it to be, and the consequences of treating it like it is are potentially devastating.

So, address my concern. What's going to happen when we dump so much energy into creating green technologies, that carbon levels spike?

Posted by BC | December 4, 2006 8:28 PM
29

How about showing us the numbers first?

While we're waiting, I'll water my trees.

Posted by rodrigo | December 4, 2006 10:44 PM
30

My point is that I have as much proof that will happen as you do that it won't.

How much energy was spent to process that water? Does the tree need it, or does watering it more just make you feel like you're doing something?

Posted by BC | December 5, 2006 12:32 AM
31

Well, in a way you have a point. It turns out that reductions in particulate emissions may be making the problem worse, because fine particulates encourage cloud formation, which reflects more sunlight out into space. The result is that particulate pollution reduces the amount of sunlight that hits the surface of the earth by about 10%, slowing down global warming. (Nova just did an episode about this.)

Unfortunately, particulates also contribute to a lot of health problems, so trying to pollute our way into a cooler climate is probably a non-starter.

Posted by Orv | December 6, 2006 11:05 PM

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