The unbearable lightness of climate denialist thought

December 28, 2009

Maybe “emptiness” would be a better description.

Carbon dioxide’s greenhouse gas functions were discovered in the 19th century.  The physics are beyond dispute by rational people.

But that doesn’t stop the hard-core denialists from searching for a way to deny the undeniable.  Anthony Watts hosts a guest post from a guy who says that because the atmosphere is complex, the physics of global warming do not apply.

The guest poster is Willis Eschenbach.  His argument?  Well, rivers don’t run straight to the sea; they meander.  Ergo, water doesn’t run downhill in a complex system.   Consequently, no global warming.  In another place he argues that humans are not metal, therefore, no global warming.

I mean — sweet Mother of Pearl! —  this guy even denies the existence of the Army Corps of Engineers, and river straightening:

The results of changes in such a flow system are often counterintuitive. For example, suppose we want to shorten the river. Simple physics says it should be easy. So we cut through an oxbow bend, and it makes the river shorter … but only for a little while. Soon the river readjusts, and some other part of the river becomes longer. The length of the river is actively maintained by the system. Contrary to our simplistic assumptions, the length of the river is not changed by our actions.

No wonder they place all their bets on stealing e-mails from scientists.  Somebody show that man the South Platte River through Denver, Colorado, or the Los Angeles River through Los Angeles, or the Mississippi from Arkansas to the Gulf.  Somebody give that man a paddle!

Here are a couple of clues:  First, water always runs downhill — capillary action being the exception.  Eschenbach doesn’t propose capillary action as a driver of river meandering.  Any hydrologist will tell  you, however, that even a meandering river runs downhill.  Second, human beings don’t conduct heat like metal blocks.  Even a dead human won’t conduct heat like a copper block, but especially a living human will radiate heat away through several different paths, so that heating the feet of a human will not cause a concomitant rise in temperature of the head.  But, heck, if you soak the human’s head in hot water, it won’t warm like a block of steel, either.  The examples offered in this piece get pushed past the brink of absurdity.  It’s impossible for me to believe that Eschenbach — or Watts — fails to understand the physics so greatly.  I can only imagine that they are driven by a fanatic devotion to an idea of the result they hope to see, and that blinds them to the errors they make.

Finally, water’s flow, downhill or up with capillary action, doesn’t negate global warming.  Human conductivity affects warming not at all, also.

(No, “constructal theory” doesn’t have much to do with itConstructal theory generally doesn’t apply to atmospheric conditions, since the air is, technically, not alive, but a dynamic fluid system already highly evolved for these purposes.  Even for those cases in which contructal ideas apply to non-living systems, constructal theory does not claim that laws of physics are suspended or held in abeyance, as Eschenbach claims at Watts’s blog.  The idea of constructal theory is that systems not in equilibrium, will, over time, figure out (evolve) more efficient means to get into equilibrium.  This has nothing to do with the fact of CO2 acting as a greenhouse gas.  Constructal theory would only suggest that, over time, the atmosphere would develop systems to get heat distributed better despite CO2, which means that warming would not be held in abeyance at all, but spread out further and farther.)

Watts is already hot that I posted science links at his place on another post.  Go see what other commenters can get away with.  Can the camel’s nose of real science push into the WUWT tent?

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Ranan Lurie 2009 cartoon winners – first place to Robert Ariail

December 28, 2009

My apologies for not being more timely.

The United Nations Correspondents Association and the UN Society of Writers and Artists announced the winners of the 2009 Ranan Lurie/UN Cartoon Awards earlier this month.  First place, and $10,000, went to Robert Ariail, cartooning in The State.

Ariail’s winner is a clever depiction of a commuter making the most of advertising for $4.00/gallon gasoline, becoming a bicycle commuter in the process.

Robert Ariail, First Place, 2009 Ranan Lurie UN Cartoon Award

Robert Ariail's First Place cartoon, 2009 Ranan Lurie UN Cartoon Award competition ($10,000)

Self portrait, Robert Ariail, cartoonist who won 2009 Ranan Lurie UN Cartoon Award

Ariail's self-portrait -- he is without portfolio at the moment

Sad news, too typical for cartoonists these days — Ariail was laid off from The State before the award announcements.  You can see Ariail’s work at his website. (This may be a better copy of his award-winning cartoon.)

Hey!  Mr. Murdoch! Want to do some public service and promote your news organizations?  Hire Ariail, and some of the other laid-off cartoonists whose visual opinions we sorely need in these complex and too-somber times.  (Anyone else who owns a newspaper, or edits one, should consider doing a favor for cartooning and the public, too.)

Go check out the other cartoons, all the way through honorable mention.  There are some spectactular, funny, and stinging works there.  I’ll post a few of them as we near 2010, but you can look now.

Top three:

  • First prize, $10,000 – Robert Ariail, The State (U.S.A.)
  • Second prize, $5,000 – Silvan Wegmann, Sonntag (Switzerland)
  • Third prize, $3,000 – Shlomo Cohen, Israel Hayom (Israel)

Citations for excellence:

  • Guy Badeaux, Le Droit (Canada)
  • Michael Kontouris, Eleftheros Tipos (Greece)
  • Agim Sulaj, Romagna Corriere (Italy)
  • David Pope, The Canberra Times (Australia)
  • Zhu Zizun, Jiaxing Daily (China)
  • Michael Keefe, The Denver Post (U.S.A.)
  • Xiaoqiang Hou, Cartoon Weekly (China)
  • Makhmud Eshonkulov, Himal (Republic of Nepal)
  • Rex Babin, The Sacramento Bee (U.S.A.)
  • Fruz Kutal, Amnesty International “Magasinet” (Norway)

Share these cartoons — keep cartoonists employed:

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Ugly when they pretend to care

December 28, 2009

Kids dressing up as adults are cute.

Adults dressing up as things they are not can be entertaining at a masquerade.  It’s generally pretty ugly when they dress up as things they are not, for purposes of deception.

Joe Carter, the superstar blogger of evangelical Christians, posted at First Things, pretending to be upset that Democrats and others who work to control and ameliorate global warming, are missing the boat (so to speak) by not complaining about air pollution from ships, especially super-sized cargo ships.

(Even the title of the thing is offensive, either in or out of context:  “Sink a ship, save a planet.”  Ah, the humor of the conservative, reality- and humor-challenged.  I’m sure al Quaeda would be happy to oblige Carter and the headline writers.)

Carter thinks he’s caught environmentalists in some sort of hypocritical stance, worrying about global warming and urging clean air everywhere but from the ships that bring us oil:  ‘If you’re so gosh-darn concerned about global warming, why not worry about the pollution from ships, smarty-pants?’ Joe laments.

You’d think he’d have bothered to Google the issue first, before pretending he’s the only one who noticed.

Joe wrote:

Changing the emissions regulations on the shipping industry seems like a modest, commonsense step toward reducing air pollution. So why doesn’t it get more political attention? Why do hypothetical concerns about potential catastrophic problems always trump those that are causing massive deaths right now?

With all the focus on man-made global warming, its easy to overlook the fact that man-made pollution is already killing millions of people every year.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Imagine the effect we could have on pollution if we spent as much time, energy, and money on solutions that make a difference for other people’s lives rather than those that merely make us feel good about ourselves.

Imagine, indeed.  The gall of those environmentalists, warning about global warming but letting their friends in the shipping business get off scot-free, no?

Reality is that the liberal environmentalists and federal regulators were on the issue earlier, sponsoring legislation to deal with the issue — and President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency got an agreement earlier this year to go at least part-way to resolving the problems.  EPA monitored air pollution from ships from long ago — at this 2001 EPA meeting in San Francisco, Fischbeck offered a .pdf PowerPoint summary of EPA’s work, the problems of air pollution from ships, the strategies to control the pollution and the benefits of such control.

Several Members of Congress introduced legislation to fix marine air pollution in the last Congress, and hearings were held on bills that didn’t quite make it into law.  These efforts were follow-on to an international treaty to control marine air pollution; according to the Congressional Research Service’s explanation of the bills and the issue:

In 1997, the United States and most countries signed an international agreement known as MARPOL Annex VI, setting extremely modest controls on air pollution from ships. The agreement did not enter into force until 2005, and the United States took until July 21, 2008, to enact legislation to implement it (P.L. 110-280). Negotiations to strengthen Annex VI accelerated in 2008, however, and discussions regarding GHG emissions have also begun. While awaiting congressional action and international agreement, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), port cities, and states have begun to act on their own. In the 110th Congress, legislation was introduced (S. 1499 / H.R. 2548) to require EPA to dramatically strengthen ship emission standards under the Clean Air Act. S. 1499 was reported, but no further action was taken.

I suppose it’s too much to expect hard-core rightists to pay attention to international news, but marine air pollution is a topic of international concern, obviously indicated by the MARPOL treaty, but with a lot of other indicators for anyone who chooses to look and study the issue.

Ships pour out great quantities of pollutants into the air in the form of sulphur and nitrogen oxides.

The emissions from ships engaged in international trade in the seas surrounding Europe – the Baltic, the North Sea, the north-eastern part of the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea – were estimated to have been 2.3 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide and 3.3 million tonnes of nitrogen oxides a year in 2000.

In contrast to the progress in reducing emissions from land-based sources, shipping emissions of sulphur and nitrogen oxides are expected to continue increasing by 40-50 per cent up to 2020. In both cases, by 2020 the emissions from international shipping around Europe will have surpassed the total from all land-based sources in the 27 EU member states combined.

Joe Carter is right that air pollution from ships should be of great concern.  He would be wise to listen to those like former U.S. Rep. Hilda Solis, who sponsored a bill in the 110th Congress to fight marine air pollution.

And, now that we’ve established that cleaning up marine air pollution is a good idea, and the liberals and environmentalists and Obama administration are already on the job, wouldn’t it also be great if the conservatives who  look at these issues, too, listen to these same people when they warn about the dangers of global warming, and of the dangers of failing to act soon to stop it?

Joe Carter identified a problem, and he’s discovered that the environmentalists and Democrats he wished to ding for not paying enough attention instead were there before him, and resolved much of the difficulty.

Anyone want to bet whether Carter will give credit to Obama, EPA and the Democrats in Congress for solving the problems?

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