Global warming? First, get the facts

In a move that is likely to panic climate change denialists (and others who claim not to be denialists, but oppose acting because they claim to be “skeptical”), federal agencies working under the new Obama budget might actually do some of the necessary research.  Bob Parks told the story in his weekly missive.

First there was the Bush Administration’s shameful cancellation of the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) launch in 2000.  The only fingerprints on the cancellation belong to Dick Cheney.  It would by now have settled the critical issue of the role of solar variation in global warming.  Then, on Tuesday, the $278 million Orbital Carbon Observatory, designed to measure greenhouse gas emissions, crashed shortly after launch.  The good news is that the Omnibus Appropriations Bill that passed on Wednesday provides $9 million for NASA to refurbish DSCOVR, which has been shut up in a Greenbelt, MD warehouse for 9 years.

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17 Responses to Global warming? First, get the facts

  1. Lela says:

    Hello! I’ve been following your blog for a long time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Lubbock Texas! Just wanted to tell you keep up the great job!


  2. John Mashey says:

    BTW: In April 2007, via Amazon I sent Camille Paglia a copy of Ruddiman’s “Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum”, which I would have thought might have been adequate to make her think further about this, but either she didn’t read it, didn’t understand it, or didn’t want to.


  3. John Mashey says:

    Actually I *don’t* claim to be a scientist, certainly not a natural scientist. [My PhD's in Computer Science, which is usually more engineering than science in practice, although some areas, including performance analysis, are somewhat similar to natural sciences, but with easier observations.] In high school and most of undergraduate school, I was planning to go into high-energy or fusion physics, and fortunately my high school was strong in math&science.

    However, my most valuable single class was probably AP American History (Junior year), which had:

    a) A superb teacher.

    b) Used multiple textbooks and references, often with conflicting viewpoints, with plenty of homework. This was very confusing, at first, to students who expected textbooks to have clear cut-and-dry answers. They even expected sympathy from the teacher, who instead told them to get used to sorting such things out.

    c) 5 75-minute classes/week, which mostly weren’t lectures, but were of the form “OK, student X, from your readings, which factors were the most important in causing the Revolution, and why?”

    and then “Student Y, do you agree with X?”

    followed by a long discussions in which students could say anything, but they’d better be able to back it up, or their fellow students would tell them why they were wrong. This was 1962-1963, i.e., leading edge of baby boom, in high school following Sputnik, i.e., intense, competitive students in an excellent school district.

    d) The tests were partly ferocious multiple-choice, but more essays, which required quickly sorting out what you thought about some open-ended question, marshalling any evidence you had, and then writing clear exposition under serious time-pressure.

    Obviously, very teacher-time-intensive.

    Our Senior year AP European History was also good, although the teacher was not quite as strong.

    My wife is British; our house has thousands of books, including two sets of history books. One set thinks that 1776 was A Big Deal. The other thinks there was a little trouble in the colonies sometime around then.

    Finally, I am also an active Trustee of the Computer History Museum, involved in selecting topics for our timeline exhibit, doing video interviews with computing pioneers, so I do technology-history stuff, and occasionally write computing technology development retrospectives.


  4. Ed Darrell says:

    I know you claim to be a scientist, John, but when you keep coming up with all these great history snippets, excuse me if I wonder where you got your history training . . .


  5. John Mashey says:

    1) Have no coordination with Ray C.

    2) The “Al Gore” thing fits the POL-1/POL-2 anti-science reasons in that list. POL-2 of course is one of the sillier possible reasons for being anti-science, especially as it is often not even in one’s own self-interest, but somebody else’s.

    3) No one should ever get their science solely from a politician. When I saw/read AIT, I didn’t learn any new science (except I hadn’t heard about the declassified Arctic ice records), and so I mainly watched to learn from the presentation, i.e., there is always this distinction between:

    a) Scientific knowledge, including the caveats, uncertainties, etc, usually written in accurate styles that will put most people to sleep.

    b) Communicating that both accurately and succinctly for a general audience is a different skillset. I thought Gore took the science I’d heard multiple times from Nobel physicists, members of the National Academy, etc, and did a pretty good presentation of it. In a few places, I’m not sure I would have picked the same examples, and there were a few places where just a few more words would have helped, but the departures from science into non-science (getting ahead of the proof, or over-simplification) were really pretty minimal. He could have done a similar talk from slidesets I’d seen before, like Nobel physicist Burton Richter:

    4) If someone is doing an accurate conveyance of science (and this is always hard), it is completely nuts to ignore what they say because you don’t like their politics. [What you do is go look at the actual science, of course, study it enough to have an informed opinion, and then figure out how to participate in the politics based on the real science. People who simply deny real science, long after the evidence is clear for people who study it, are simply going to lose any seats at the bargaining table, which is too bad for political balance, but that's what happens.]

    If someone says:
    a) If you step out of a 20th floor window, gravity will have its way with you.
    b) If you smoke 10 packs of cigarettes per day, your chances of illness will go up…

    Ignoring them because of political differences is probably not good for your health.

    5)Regarding the Internet, while no one person “invented” it, about the closest guys to doing so are Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf, who I talk to occasionally (just last week in Vint’s case). They wrote an email that got passed around when this first came up; I’ve lost my original, but there are many copies around:


  6. Ed Darrell says:


    Did you coordinate with Ray C. to get him to come in on cue like that? I think we’re on the same page, and Ray’s comment is a good illustration of what you said over at Deltoid in a couple of places.

    Ray C.,

    I like Al Gore a lot. I met him first when he was in the House, and I staffed the Senate. The first time we met he was pushing the law that made organ transplantation possible, and which tried to make a national system of organ registries to get the most organs to the most people in the best possible way. It was highly technical legislation — on our side we had Dr. David Sundwall, Dr. David Kessler, Dr. Toni Novello, and some real experts. My job was to stop Gore at the door of the Senate hearing and delay him long enough that the Republican senators could grab Gore’s ball and run with it. Pure politics.

    Gore and I had a fine chat for about six minutes. Then he quietly asked me if my job was to delay his getting into the hearing as he suspected, and before I answered, he laid out the entire political scenario. He put out his hand to shake, and said he’d complain to Sen. Hatch about my delaying him at the door (which was my job, and would help me out), but said that the bill was too important for partisanship, and he’d make sure Hatch and the Republicans came out as heroes if they deserved it.

    Al Gore’s bill got through, on Orrin Hatch’s name and bill number. Gore had the technical stuff in his proposal that worked. He also had the political moxie to let others take the limelight, in order to do good for people. I love that in a congressman, or any politician, or public servant.

    Gore has been right on more technical and scientific issues than most of us get a chance to touch in a lifetime. Organ transplants, orphan drugs, AARPANET (which became the internet — he didn’t invent it, but he threw himself in front of the axe when Reagan wanted to chop its head off, and we all owe him thanks for that). He was the chief sponsor of the Superfund.

    So, when you say “AAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLL GOOOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRE!” I think, wow, it’s great to have someone who can talk with the scientists and legislate with the LBJs and James Madisons. Praise God.


  7. Ray C. says:




  8. John Mashey says:

    My confusion in this came from a certain ambiguity.
    I though it unlikely that *you* would have considered her a climate scientist, but your post raised the possibility that somewhere, *someone reasonable* actually considered her opinions on climate science as worth anything, in which case, your notes would be mocking them. But I couldn’t find *them* (note the “reasonable” qualifier). Either :-) or :-( would have been adequate.

    But, whether or not your last question was serious, and using “expertise” rather than “qualifications” (as the latter, in some places, connotes formal degrees) … then no, I wouldn’t put her near the top, given that a cursory look shows no particular expertise in science-based reasoning.

    A while ago, I proposed an expertise scale:

    I’d guess about a -2 on that scale would be right.

    As for why: I proposed a set of reasons for anti-science:

    I’d guess maybe a bit of POL-2 and perhaps a few of the various PSYCH ones. In this particular case, maybe I need to add another one based on Snow’s “Two Cultures” or maybe one based on “I’m a pundit or philosopher, so I have opinions.”


  9. jonolan says:


    You might try thinking about the fact that not all skeptics are complete deniers of either Global Warming or its causes. Some, like my self are skeptical, but do not possess the fervor of belief that either the deniers or the warmists have.


  10. Ed Darrell says:

    Not just humor — sarcastic, snide humor. This is the internet, though, and if a thing can be misinterpreted, this is the place that it will happen.

    Darrell’s Law: No piece of writing can ever be so clear as to avoid any possibility of misinterpretation by innocents once it is published on the internet.

    I don’t know how to include a representation of Mr. Yuk, and a smiley didn’t seem entirely appropriate . . .

    But, John, in the debates on warming and climate change, isn’t Paglia near the top in qualifications as climate scientists among the “skeptics?”


  11. John Mashey says:


    Have you read even any current book by a serious climate scientist, say like David Archer’s “The Long Thaw”? (2008) or Bill Ruddiman’s “Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum?” (2005) if those are too easy, Archer’s Global Warming- Understanding the Forecast (2007) is more detailed. Of course, the IPCC AR4 material is pretty good, and with your background, they should be readable.

    re: Camille Paglia
    I assume labeling her a climate scientist was humor.


  12. Ed Darrell says:

    Ooooh, I love this: A report from “climate scientist” Camille Paglia:

    [Do the scare quotes help note my intentions here?]


  13. Ed Darrell says:

    When I worked with the federal wildlife, land management and environmental protection agencies, the general impression and consensus was that warming and climate change had developed into a serious problem.

    Of course, that was back in the 1970s and 1980s.


  14. jonolan says:

    John Mashey,

    My skepticism is based the information I received and helped research during a decade of working alongside: biologists, botanists, geologists, ecologists, marine biologists, oceanographers, and other scientists on projects for the USGS, SWFWMD, NOAH, EPA, and other government agencies.

    I’ve also worked with similar people in many other countries on similar sorts of projects.


  15. John Mashey says:


    Since you have a strong opinion, could you tell us your best information sources for that opinion?

    Books, preferably by climate scientists?
    Articles in peer-reviewed scientific Journals? Which?
    Talks by climate scientists? Who?
    Climate scientists you talk to regularly? Who?
    College courses? Where?

    This is a straightforward set of questions. I used to manage cognitive psychologists and I have a long-term interest in the ways in which people obtain information and from opinions.


  16. Ray says:

    Ed, have you seen the recent set of lies about GW coming from George Will? Seems he mirepresented a few scientific organizations regarding their research.


  17. jonolan says:

    Some will complain and some of those may have every right to complain depending on how objective or not the studies are. Others who are skeptics such as myself will not complain as long as the data is published along with the findings so independent research can be conducted.

    I’m a very strong skeptic when it comes to anthropogenic global warming because the findings – on both sides of the argument – refute each other and are likely based on partisan agendas as opposed to cold, hard, verifiable facts.

    I’d more than welcome object data.


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