Ethics in climate science: How do we know what we know?

August 12, 2011

It’s almost an arcane fight, but it’s an important one — if you’re going to discuss climate science and the policies required to clean up pollution that causes destruction of our planet, can we at least agree to stick to the facts, the real facts?

John Mashey is a computer smart guy who jumped into the fray to point out that most opponents to doing anything to stop the destruction have a social or economic interest in stopping the action and continuing the destruction, something Mashey determined from looking at the networks linking the people involved.  There’s a lot of howling about Mashey’s pointing out that the emperor is a crook.  So far he’s been proved correct.

An academic group you probably never heard of, the National Association of Scholars, has an elected leader who decided to take after Mashey, rather than clean up the house.  Peter Wood writes a column for the  Chronicle of Higher Education, and sadly, their editorial mavens appear not to have fact checked it.  To their credit, they allowed Mashey’s response.

Comments are brutal.

Here’s how Tim Lambert described it at Deltoid:

John Mashey and Rob Coleman have a guest post at The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s blog replying to Peter Wood’s hit piece.

Wood’s article misused the platform of CHE. Its relevance to the concerns of CHE was minimal. It had little purpose but to damage the reputation of one of us, John Mashey, and the climate scientist Michael Mann, whom Wood has often denigrated elsewhere. The political false-association tactics were obvious. Climate scientists are under incessant attack, a fact strongly decried the day before Wood’s article by the AAAS Board. The muddy battlefield of blogs and media has now arrived on the CHE premises, easily seen in the comments.

If one tells the truth in climate science, one needs thick skin.  Go read Mashey’s piece before you read the comments.  More background from Lambert, here.

And the context you need:  Only one study on climate change has actually been retracted over the past couple of years — no, not any of those noting that warming occurs, not any of those that use the graph famously described as “a hockey stick,” but the piece that pulled together all the criticism of the science, at the behest of Republicans on the environment committees in the U.S. Congress, called the Wegman Report.  And it was John Mashey who assembled the extensive and sometimes elegant case that the Wegman Report was plagiarized and wrong.

This is, indeed, a case of trying to kill the messenger’s reputation.

Am I the only one suspicious that the National Association of Scholars may have been named to foster confusion about the authority of reports, say from the National Academy of Sciences, the long-time science advisory group to presidents whose reports urge action to stop climate change?  Notice their acronyms are the same.


Will any Republican stand up for America?

August 12, 2011

Ezra Klein’s on-line column this morning worries me more — will any Republican stand up for America?

No, I don’t mean  lip service, I don’t mean flag lapel pins.  I mean, will any Republican stand up for the policies we need to steer through the shoals of economic woe we face in the next 60 months?

At Wonkbook Klein said:

The most telling moment of Thursday’s GOP debate wasn’t when Michele Bachmann cooly stuck a knife between Tim Pawlenty’s ribs, or when Rick Santorum plaintively begged for more airtime, or when Mitt Romney easily slipped past questions about his record on health-care reform. It was when every single GOP candidate on the stage agreed that they would reject a budget deal that was $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases. Even Fox News’s Bret Baier couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing. He asked again just to make sure the assembled candidates had understood the question.

Primary debates are usually watched for what they say about the candidates, but they’re generally important for what they say about the party. This one was no different. With the notable exceptions of Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman, the candidates didn’t disagree over policy. They disagreed over fealty to policy.

Bachmann didn’t attack Pawlenty’s policy proposals. She attacked him for past statements suggesting he might believe in other policy proposals, like the individual mandate and cap-and-trade. Pawlenty’s assault on Romney took the same form. This debate wasn’t about what policies the candidates believed in. That was largely a given. This debate was about which of the candidates believed in those policies the most.

The best policy in this debate wasn’t the policy most likely to work, or the policy most likely to pass. It was the most orthodox policy. The policy least sullied by compromise. A world in which the GOP will not agree to deficit reduction with a 10:1 split between spending cuts and tax increases is a world where entitlement reform can’t happen. It’s a world where the “supercommittee” fails and the trigger is pulled, and thus a world in which $1 out of every $2 in cuts comes from the Pentagon. It’s not a world that fits what many in the GOP consider ideal policy. But it is a world in which none in the GOP need to traverse the treacherous politics of compromise.

Policies discussed weren’t mainline, capitalist economic policies, either.  They’re so far out in left field they can’t even see the pitcher’s mound from where they are.  Plus, they’re looking the wrong way.

Over and over again, [Michelle] Bachmann misstated basic facts. She said that Tim Pawlenty “implemented” cap-and-trade in Minnesota. He did no such thing. She said “we just heard from Standard Poor’s,” and “when they dropped our credit rating what they said was we don’t have an ability to repay our debt.” Simply not true.

S&P has never questioned our ability to repay our debt. That’s why we remain AA+. They have questioned whether political brinksmanship will stop us from paying our debt. The downgrade “was pretty much motivated by all of the debate about the raising of the debt ceiling,” said John Chambers, head of S&P’s sovereign ratings committee. That is to say, it was motivated by political brinksmanship from the likes of, well, Michele Bachmann.

It’s fitting that the candidate best able to resist compromise is the candidate who seems least able to correctly explain the policies at issue and the choices we face. It’s a lot easier to take a hard line if you don’t understand the consequences of your actions, and a lot simpler to belt out applause lines if you’re not slowed down by the messy complexities of the issues. But where Bachmann is leading, the other candidates are following. Mitt Romney knows perfectly well that a deal with $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases is a great deal for conservatives. What he probably doesn’t know is how he’s going to explain why he pretended otherwise when he was vying for the nomination.

Winners in the debate?  Unclear.  Losers?  You, me, and every American.

Can any Republican explain where in the world they got these nightmare economic policies?  Are they being made up on the spot?


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