CATEGORY: EnvironmentNature

Heartland’s Taylor fails to discredit authors of National Climate Assessment

On January 11, 2013, the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) published its draft National Climate Assessment for public comment. The first paragraph of the Executive Summary found that

Climate change is already affecting the American people. Certain types of weather events have become more frequent and/or intense, including heat waves, heavy downpours, and, in some regions, floods and droughts. Sea level is rising, oceans are becoming more acidic, and glaciers and arctic sea ice are melting. These changes are part of the pattern of global climate change, which is primarily driven by human activity.

Given these findings, it is not surprising that individuals and organizations who deny that global climate change is “primarily driven by human activity” would attack the report.

Yesterday James Taylor of The Heartland Institute wrote a blog at Forbes attacking the Assessment by questioning the objectivity of seven of the scientists involved in writing the report. However, Taylor’s entire argument is based on the false assertion that being associated with an environmental organization automatically biases the scientists’ judgement. This is known as the “guilt by association” logical fallacy and it’s an attempt by Taylor to defame the character of the scientists.

Taylor asserts, without proof, that scientists James Buizer, Jerry Melillo, Suzanne Moser, Richard Moss, Andrew Rosenberg, Donald J. Wubbles, and Gary Yohe are all supposedly “crooked” because they have current or former associations with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and Second Nature. This assertion is absurd. Is Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winning economist, inherently biased simply because he works at Princeton? Is commentator David Brooks inherently biased because he writes for the New York Times? Is Richard Lindzen, the contrarian MIT climatologist, inherently biased because he teaches at MIT? Are all registered Democrats inherently biased against drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge because most environmentalists are Democrats? In every case the answer is clearly “no” – any individual may well be biased, but simple association does not and can not prove bias.

If we applied Taylor’s own poor logic to Taylor himself we could automatically dismiss everything he writes on the subject of industrial climate disruption simply because he’s a Senior Fellow at The Heartland Institute.

When we look at the professional experience and scientific expertise of the seven scientists that Taylor names, the fact that Taylor is attempting to smear their reputations becomes clear.

And most of these seven scientists have also been asked to work on climate reports by the National Academy of Sciences and other expert panels just like the USGCRP itself. These seven scientists have nearly two centuries of cumulative experience in climate-related science and public policy. As such they can legitimately claim to be authorities in their climate-related fields.

Taylor, on the other hand, has a background in law and government, not science. There is no evidence that Taylor has written any peer-reviewed scientific papers or been intimately involved in crafting regulations relating to climate policy in the way that Moss and Rosenberg have. Taylor’s Forbes bio indicates that he “studied” atmospheric science while getting his government degree from Dartmouth, but he certainly hasn’t worked as a scientist or maintained any scientific expertise since.

More damning, however, is that Taylor has a habit of distorting scientific studies and taking other peoples’ words out of context. S&R found in early 2010 that Taylor had incorrectly applied the results of a small small self-selected poll of broadcast meteorologists to all scientists. In February 2011, S&R found that Taylor had incorrectly accused scientist Mark Boslough of lying and criticizing former astronaut Harrison Schmitt when Boslough did neither. S&R found in late 2011 that Taylor had dishonestly claimed that so-called “skeptics” merely question the source of industrial climate disruption – to not know that many of his fellow so-called “skeptics’ would require that Taylor be incompetent. In addition, S&R found in mid-2012 that Taylor deceptively took quotes out of context in ways that dramatically changed their meaning and implications.

Taylor_Heartland_NCA

Percentage of authors of the Assessment affected by Taylor’s fallacious criticism (Climate Nexus)

And Taylor continues his habit of distorting facts in this Forbes blog. While Taylor mentions that there are 13 senior scientists engaged in guiding the report (one chairman, two vice-chairmen, and 10 members of a “secretariat”), he fails to mention that the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee led by these 13 scientists was actually composed of 60 scientists and policy experts. And he fails to mention that the Committee “engaged more than 240 authors in the creation of the report.” As the graph shows, Taylor’s illogical and deceptive criticisms apply to only a small percentage of the report’s authors. Even if they had merit, Taylor’s criticisms would have insignificant impact on the Assessment’s science and data-based conclusions.

Taylor’s Forbes blog is a failed attempt to distract readers from the overwhelming data and objective facts documented in the Assessment. And those facts demonstrate the reality of industrial climate disruption, namely that it is “primarily driven by human activity” and that it is “already affecting the American people.”

Nota Bene #122: OWStanding

“When I lie on the beach there naked, which I do sometimes, and I feel the wind coming over me and I see the stars up above and I am looking into this very deep, indescribable night, it is something that escapes my vocabulary to describe. Then I think: ‘God, I have no importance. Whatever I do or don’t do, or what anybody does, is not more important than the grains of sand that I am lying on, or the coconut that I am using for my pillow.'” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #120: Crazy Ivan

“If you can make a woman laugh, you’re seeing the most beautiful thing on God’s earth.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #119: Think! It Ain't Illegal Yet

“My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #103: Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse

“To take people from the music world and give them the same kind of credibility that you give me, Morgan Freeman, Laurence Fishburne, Forest Whitaker—that’s like an aberration. I know there’s some young actor sitting in New York or L.A. who’s spent half of his life learning how to act and sacrificing to learn his craft but isn’t going to get his opportunity because of some ‘actor’ who’s been created.” Who said it? Continue reading

An open letter to America’s progressive billionaires

Dear Mr. Buffet, Mr. Gates, Mr. Turner, Mr. Soros, Ms. Winfrey, and any other hyper-rich types with progressive political leanings:

If this essay has, against all odds, somehow made its way to your desk, please, bear with me. It’s longish, but it winds eventually toward an exceedingly important conclusion. If you’ll give me a few minutes, I’ll do my best to reward your patience.
_______________

In the 2008 election, Barack Obama won a landmark political victory on a couple of prominent themes: “hope” and “change.” He has since been afforded ample opportunity to talk about these ideas, having inherited the nastiest economic quagmire in living memory and a Republican minority in Congress that has interpreted November’s results as a mandate to obstruct the public interest even more rabidly than it was doing before. Reactions among those of us who supported Obama have been predictably mixed, but even those who have been critical of his efforts to date are generally united in their hope that his win signaled the end of “movement conservatism” in the US. Continue reading

Time for the art and science of tough decisions

by Sara Nora Ross, PhD

The new Obama administration is still in flux on its stance toward investigation of war crimes of U.S. torture. Public opinion is likely in flux, too. Decisions will be made. I think it’s time we grow some new skills at decision analysis to support the wisdom and endurance of public decision making processes. With an administration committed to transparency and explanation, the ideas here are meant to support it as well as the public at large to assess the adequacy of decisions. Every decision begins with a question or proposition. Whether well or poorly framed, its adequacy should be tested during the decision making process, at least if we are game to outgrow our childish ways, my chief hope in writing this. In other words, Einstein was right, and we need to educate ourselves about what it means to solve problems at a higher order of complexity than the thinking that created them.   Continue reading

Krugman to Democrats: do you want Phil Gramm to have Paulson's new powers?

There seems to be an unspoken rule in politics that the Republicans have broken at least a couple of times over the course of the Bush Administration – don’t create precedents and new powers that you don’t want used against you when you next fall out of power. The failed idea of a permanent GOP majority was probably the reason for the Republicans’ crossing of this particular line, but nonetheless it’s useful to remind all politicians every once in a while that you really don’t want to give your ideological opponents tools they can use against you.

This morning I stumbled across a blog post Paul Krugmam made to his Conscience of a Liberal NYTimes blog on Tuesday. In it he says that he’s been pointing out to liberals that Paulson’s dictatorial powers could well fall to Phil Gramm, John McCain’s unofficial economic adviser, in a little over four months. In case you don’t know why this should be downright terrifying, Phil Gramm was responsible for the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 that eliminated Depression-era laws requiring that banking, insurance, and brokerage activities be kept separate. In other words, it’s some of Phil Gramm’s work in the Senate that’s responsible for today’s financial meltdown. Continue reading

Nota Bene #35

Scholars & Rogues’ world-famous hot links!

In, “Dear World, Please Confront America,” Naomi Wolf writes: “I had thought that after so much exposure [to revelations about US torture], thousands of Americans would be holding vigils on Capitol Hill, that religious leaders would be asking God’s forgiveness. . . . And yet [there] is no crisis in America’s churches and synagogues. . . . I asked a contact in the interfaith world why. He replied, ‘The mainstream churches don’t care, because they are Republican. And the synagogues don’t care, because the prisoners are Arabs.'” Continue reading

The Weekly Carboholic: anti-oil speculator resolution useless political theater

carboholic

On June 26, the United States House of Representatives passed HR 6377, a resolution that requires the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to use all of its authority, including emergency powers if appropriate, to manage energy commodities. The resolution passed the House 402-19.

This resolution is political theater. Not only are resolutions in general effectively meaningless, this resolution tells the CFTC to use its regulatory powers to stop illegal activities it’s already supposed to be blocking (“excessive speculation, price distortion, sudden or unreasonable fluctuations or unwarranted changes in prices, or other unlawful activity…”). Continue reading

The candidates don't care about our children

Probably every candidate who has ever run for President has claimed to be running to improve the future. This is especially true about this election cycle because so much has gone horribly wrong over the last eight years. The idea that our children should have better lives than we ourselves have is part of the American mythos. Unfortunately, Robert J. Samuelson of the Washington Post points out in today’s commentary (Promises They Can’t Keep) that the candidates in this election are talking the talk, but singularly failing to walk this particular walk. The reason? Not a single electable candidate has proposed any solution to the coming tax increases and/or budget cuts. Continue reading

Ruth Marcus takes on Paul Krugman – and wins this round.

NYTimes commentator Paul Krugman is an economist who tackles all sorts of issues beyond just the economy, and I’ve been reading him since the early 1990s when I first discovered the New York Times. While I find I agree with him on a great many issues, I cannot understand his recent downplaying of the problem of Social Security. Last week he ripped Senator Barak Obama a new orifice for having the audacity to suggest that the Social Security problem was actually a “crisis,” and while I agree that Sen. Obama could have chosen a better word, the fact of the matter is that it’s easier and cheaper to fix Social Security’s various problems sooner rather than later.

And, as the Washinton Post’s Ruth Marcus pointed out in her commentary today, even noted commentator and economist Paul Krugman agrees with me. Continue reading