Just Links for Now…

I apologize for my relative silence recently. I am in the midst of studying for my first set of final exams. To tide you over until that has calmed down a bit, I will share some of the interesting pieces I have read and watched recently.

My study break today was spent watching a fantastic video that Peter Sinclair recently dug up. It’s an hour-long talk by Dr. Ben Santer (see my recent interview with him), with an introduction by the late Stephen Schneider and questions at the end. He tells a very troubling story about “science, non-science and nonsense”. Lots of great quotes in there – I highly recommend giving it a watch.

John Cook from Skeptical Science has compiled his articles and rebuttals into a gorgeous document about the evidence for anthropogenic climate change, written in accessible language with effective graphics on every page. It’s so effective, I would like to print out a few dozen of these booklets and hand them out at the university.

On RealClimate, Ray Pierrehumbert addressed the common policy option of focusing on cutting emissions of methane and soot in the short-term in order to “buy us time” to reduce carbon dioxide. In fact, because these emissions have such a short atmospheric lifetime, it doesn’t really matter whether we focus on them now or later – while concentrations of carbon dioxide, with a lifetime of centuries to millennia, highly depend on when we address it. Take a look at these projections comparing our options:

Michael Tobis, however, thinks that we should focus on non-CO2 emissions despite these realities. Short-term economic and population “crashes” due to sudden warming in the near term could conceivably be more damaging to human security, because it means that we won’t be able to afford any mitigation, further worsening the long-term emissions. Both articles are worth a read.

Well, off to go memorize organic functional groups. Enjoy!


9 thoughts on “Just Links for Now…

  1. Thanks and good luck on your exams!

    Also I’m writing to set the record straight on a minor confusion. Ray’s full name is Raymond T. Pierrehumbert. Here’s his home page. He signs his RC pieces Raypierre for reasons I can only guess at, but Pierehumbert is his name.

    Thanks, mt. I made that change. -Kate

  2. Thanks for the Ben Santer video.
    It is hard to retain any resepct for Steve McIntyre after watching it. At least, I had always given some respect for intellectual integrity to Mr McIntyre. Now I question if he has any.

    I have similar feelings. It is perfectly acceptable to figure out ways that individual papers, or entire fields, could be improved. It is less admirable when this exercise becomes one of harassment, and when every imperfection in a paper is held up as evidence of the authors having ulterior motives.

    I agree with what Dr Santer said about “no-go” areas of science, such as paleo or MSU, that young researchers are hesitant to pursue for fear of being targeted by McIntyre et al. I can even see this attitude in myself now that Santer has pointed it out, which I find worrying. -Kate

  3. That video is worth spreading. Most people would not realise the depth of harassment that is happening.

    You cannot be outraged about what you do not know.

  4. Regarding the FOIAs, Dr. Santer said they’re fishing expeditions (e.g. all emails that contain the word “delete”). I think another analogy is a trawling expedition, or just bottom trawling. Bottom trawling is equivalent to bulldozing an entire forest into a net looking for something that people want to eat. It is highly destructive. So those requesting all emails containing certain key words are engaged in a destructive exercise looking for something that someone somewhere might have done wrong or worded in a way that can be construed as wrong. As Dr. Santer said, this is chilling and may keep some people out of key areas of research.

    Good luck on the exams. Sounds like you have/had an organic chemistry exam.

    Just general chemistry, actually. -Kate

  5. I agree with what Dr Santer said about “no-go” areas of science, such as paleo or MSU, that young researchers are hesitant to pursue for fear of being targeted by McIntyre et al. I can even see this attitude in myself now that Santer has pointed it out, which I find worrying.

    “You must never be afraid to go there.”
    –Harlan Ellison

    One moral from Santer’s story is that you can do the scientific equivalent of standing on principle and withstand nearly anything. It won’t be easy – indeed, it won’t be easy until denialists marginalize themselves in the light of an undeniable observation – but it can be done.

    Best of luck on exams as well; I’m in the middle of them myself (although I only have one this year (statistics and research methods), I’m proctoring about fifteen different undergrad exams. It’s going to be a long two weeks).

    • Brian D:

      Nevertheless, for someone who has yet to enter the paleoclimatology field, I can imagine that the harassment by inactivists will be a significant factor.

      I expect that budding researchers will ask themselves, ‘Am I really so passionate, so interested, so burning with curiosity about paleoclimatology, that I’m willing to put up with metric truckloads of nonsense from inactivists, in addition to doing the extremely tedious work of begging for data, tidying up data, analyzing data, writing papers, and editing papers?’

      And I think it’s a reasonable question.


      • Indeed, and I’m also worried. I’ve seen the same intimidation tactics taken to the extreme before, and it most certainly isn’t pretty.

        I don’t want to spark a discussion on that particular issue here, merely the tactics, which should be abhorrent regardless of your stance. So far, climate rhetoric hasn’t quite hit this level in common “skeptic” discussions, for which we’re fortunate, but we have seen death threats in the wake of the SwiftHack, and Morano publicizes climatologist e-mail addresses (along with addresses of supportive non-scientists).

        …I can’t help but think there’s a larger view to be taken of the inactivist perspective. I don’t entirely know why, but thinking of this particular comparison reminded me that the extremists mentioned here frequently rely upon “greater good” / “imminent threat” ‘defenses’ in court, essentially placing enough emphasis on the importance of life that they feel murder is justified (along with intimidation (restriction of liberty) and vandalism (destruction of property), to round out offenses against the triad of “rights”). I can’t help but wonder if a similar distortion has occurred in right-wing activists, simply focusing on property instead of life. We’ve certainly seen evidence of that in the past – in fact, you’ve documented it yourself.
        (The missing distortion, focusing on liberty, could be inferred to apply to the extreme anarcho-capitalists, I suppose, but this is still a rather ill-formed notion)

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