Image Credit: Chicago Tribune

You have to be OK with a lot of awful stuff to vote for Donald Trump

You don’t have to believe everything Donald Trump does to vote for him, but you do have to be OK with everything he believes and everything he’s done.

Image Credit:

Image Credit:

You don’t have to be a liar to vote for Donald Trump, you just have to be ok with lying.

You don’t have to be a hypocrite to vote for Donald Trump, you just have to be ok with hypocrisy.

You don’t have to enjoy mocking the disabled to vote for Donald Trump, you just have to be ok with other people mocking the disabled.

You don’t have to be a narcissist to vote for Donald Trump, you just have to be ok with narcissism.

You don’t have to be an adulterer to vote for Donald Trump, you just have to be ok with adultery.

You don’t have to be a misogynist to vote for Donald Trump, you just have to be ok with misogyny.

You don’t have to be a sexual assaulter to vote for Donald Trump, you just have to be ok with sexual assault. Continue reading


Two Senators and three supposed climate experts repeat errors or lies about the Global Warming Petition Project

Senators Michael Crapo and Orrin Hatch have implied that they agree with the Global Warming Petition Project’s false, anti-consensus narrative while climate “experts” J. Scott Amstrong, Kesten C. Green, and Patrick Moore gave wrong and misleading testimony on the subject.

Comparison between total Bureau of Labor Statistics 2013 employment and Global Warming Petition Project data derived from the Qualifications of Signers page (accessed 8/22/2015)

Comparison between total Bureau of Labor Statistics 2013 employment and Global Warming Petition Project data derived from the Qualifications of Signers page (accessed 8/22/2015)

For other posts in this series: click here for data and debunking, here for GWPP mentions by US politicians, and here for conservative/libertarian media references.

Up until now, S&R has focused on the members of Congress who have explicitly mentioned the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine’s (OISM) Global Warming Petition Project (GWPP) in the course of their official duties or their reelection campaigns. But there are other, less obvious ways to indicate agreement with the GWPP’s false narrative that the signers represent a counter-consensus against the reality of industrial climate disruption (aka human-caused global warming or climate change). S&R found that two Senators, Michael Crapo of Idaho and Orrin Hatch of Utah, have indicated that they agree with the false narrative without explicitly saying so.

In addition, three men have given testimony to Congress that the GWPP’s signers disprove the many peer-reviewed studies that have found an overwhelming consensus that climate change is occurring, that the changes are largely a result of industrial emissions of greenhouse gases, and that the changes will be disruptive to global ecosystems and human society. Those three men are J. Scott Armstrong, Kesten C. Green (who testified together), and Patrick Moore. Continue reading


Tom Harris – hypocritical peddler of deceitful climate change editorials (corrected)

Eight related commentaries written by Tom Harris of the International Climate Science Coalition since mid-December are packed them with distortions, errors, hypocrisy, and more.

Tom Harris, Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC)

Tom Harris, Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC)

For the other posts in this series, click here.

[Update 2/21/2014: A word in one of Tom’s commentaries was confused by the author – “censure” was confused for “censor.” Since the entire section was based on this error, it has been struck from the post]

Starting in the middle of December, 2014 and continuing through February, 2015, Tom Harris, Executive Director of the industrial climate disruptionA denying International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC), wrote at least eight nearly identical commentaries. They were published mostly in small local newspapers and websites around the United States, Canada, and South Africa. The stated purpose of the commentaries was to call for scholars and philosophers to engage in the public argument over climate disruption (aka global warming or climate change), and Harris wrote that “philosophers and other intellectuals have an ethical obligation to speak out loudly when they see fundamental errors in thinking6.” As S&R hosts an occasional feature called “Climate Illogic,” we accepted Harris’ invitation and looked through his own commentaries for illogical arguments as well as other issues of concern.
Continue reading

Heartland's Unabomber billboard

Bast responds to Laden et al’s criticism of The Heartland Institute

Joseph Bast of The Heartland Institute

Joseph Bast of The Heartland Institute

In late December a group of climate journalists, bloggers, and scientists led by Greg Laden generated a list of the top 19 climate stories of 2012. Superstorm Sandy, sea level rise, and a new record low for Arctic sea ice topped the list, but down at #19 was a brief mention of The Heartland Institute. Specifically, Laden et al wrote that Heartland “suffered major damage” in 2012 because of funding revelations from the unauthorized publication of confidential Board meeting documents and because of Heartland’s billboard comparing authentic climate realists to the Unabomber.

In response, Heartland’s president Joseph Bast wrote a post for Heartland’s Somewhat Reasonable blog where he erroneously claimed to correct Laden et al’s statements. Several of Bast’s claims are at odds with documented facts while others are deceptive, continuing both Bast’s and Heartland’s habit of dishonest, deceptive, and hypocritical behavior.

Heartland does deny industrial climate disruption

Bast took umbrage at Laden et al for calling the Heartland Institute a “climate denial ‘think’ tank,” writing that “no Heartland spokesperson ever denied the existence of the climate, or even climate change.” It’s unrealistic that Bast is unaware of the fact that “climate denial” is rhetorical shorthand for “human-driven climate change denial.” For that reason, Bast’s response is a disingenuous attempt to distract the reader with a false appearance of candor. Bast’s statement does not address Laden et al’s statement in any way because Bast does not actually say whether or not the Heartland Institute denies that human industry is largely responsible for climate disruption.

For the record, at least two Heartland spokesmen do deny that climate disruption is dominated by human causes – Joe Bast and James M. Taylor. Bast wrote in a deceptive blog post that “natural variation in climate readily explains the small changes in temperature that occurred in the twentieth century.” And Bast and Taylor co-wrote an error-filled primer that “the more we learn, the less likely it becomes that human greenhouse gas emissions can explain more than a small amount of the climate change we witness.”

Accounting of Heartland “experts” doesn’t support Bast’s claim

Laden et al also wrote that Heartland suffered major damage in 2012 as a result of the Unabomber billboard debacle. Bast disagreed, writing that they

more than doubled the number of policy advisors (to 237), and set records for press attention and online traffic for our sites.

Heartland’s own website suggests that Bast is either lying or is grossly misinformed about the number of policy advisors that Heartland gained in 2012. As of 1/7/2013, the total number of “policy advisors” identified on the Heartland website is 162, not 237 as Bast claimed. If Bast actually meant to include every category of expert instead of limiting his statements to just “policy advisors,” then the number is 307. Furthermore, there is at least one documented example of Heartland listing someone as an “expert” without permission.

In addition, as of 5/4/2012 (just after the start of the Unabomber billboard controversy) there were 279 total experts identified on the website, compared to 307 as of 1/7/2013. This is an increase of 28 total experts, about 10%, not the 100% increase Bast claims. And the Unabomber billboard controversy resulted in a net loss of six “Global Warming Experts” including Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen, Bjorn Lomborg, and Roger Pielke Jr, among others. In the weeks following the billboard a total of 18 experts were removed from the ranks of Heartland “experts.”

Not only did Heartland lose some prominent “experts” from their rolls last year, but Heartland was forced to spin off an entire section of their organization too. The Heartland Institute’s Center on Finance, Insurance and Real Estate was spun off directly as a result of the Unabomber controversy. Insurance companies are one of the few United States industries that has largely accepted the overwhelming scientific data underlying industrial climate disruption, and journalists reported at the time that the billboard was essentially the straw that broke the camel’s back.

As for website traffic, such metrics say nothing about whether or not an organization is healthy or in decline. Controversy generates traffic, after all, and Heartland was at the center of several controversies in 2012. Just because topless photos of Lindsey Lohan might generate lots of attention doesn’t mean that it’s good attention. A far more realistic metric by which to determine the health of a think tank is total donations (revenues), and on that account Bast also makes a number of deceptive claims.

Increased “receipts” does not mean total dollars donated increased

According to Bast, Heartland “increased receipts by about 15% from 2011” and “increased the number of donors nearly four-fold,” while admitting that Heartland lost “a few” corporate donors. These claims are curious, given that nowhere in his response to Laden et al does Bast claim that Heartland’s total revenues increased in 2012.

Bast claims that the number of donors increased by nearly four times. While this claim can be taken at face value, the claim itself is irrelevant to whether or not Heartland suffered “severe damage” in 2012. It’s entirely possible to increase the number of donors by a factor of four without increasing the actual dollars donated.

Similarly, the use of the word “receipts” in reference to donations is strange, as “receipts” means different things to different people. To accountants it means “cash payments,” while to the IRS it’s an alternate word for revenues. To use such equivocal language is misleading and deceptive.

Furthermore, as with the increase in the number of donors to Heartland, it’s possible to increase the number of receipts by 15% without also increasing the value of those receipts. As an example, if a retail store has 15% more customers from one year to the next, but each customer spends 25% less money, the store increased its receipts but still lost 10% of its revenue in the process. Heartland’s 2012 IRS Form 990 (expected to be released sometime over the summer – the 2011 Form 990 was available in August 2012) should clear up this confusion. And in January, 2012, when Peter Gleick published Heartland’s 2012 fundraising plan, Heartland expected a 66% increase in total donations from 2011 to 2012. Even if Heartland increased their revenues by 15% (something that is ambiguous given Bast’s use of the word “receipts”), that’s still a reduction in expected donations of 51%.

In addition, Heartland lost about 45% of their major corporate donors (21 of 46), which is more than just “a few,” as Bast claimed. This is especially true given that those corporations accounted for about 30% of the total corporate donations expected (and about 17% of total projected fundraising, according to the published 2012 fundraising plan) expected in 2012.

It is a tenet of public relations that you trumpet your successes and downplay (or spin) your failures. If total donations in terms of dollars had increased from 2011 to 2012, then Bast would have said so using plain, unambiguous language. He wouldn’t have needed to rely on a vague term like “receipts” to downplay the impact of the loss of $1.315 million worth of corporate donations.

Bast’s equivocations about “receipts” and donors continue his long history of deception.

Heartland's Unabomber billboard

Heartland’s Unabomber billboard

Bast continues to defend Heartland’s indefensible Unabomber billboard

In response to Laden et al, Bast wrote about Heartland’s Unabomber billboard that it

did not “equat[e] people who thought the climate science on global warming is based on facts and is not a fraud with well-known serial killers.” The billboard simply pointed out that Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, still believes in global warming, and asked viewers if they do, too. We know why lefties went nuts over it – Kaczynski, after all, is one of their own – but it wasn’t inaccurate or offensive. (emphasis added, link original)

In that short paragraph, Bast lies three times, demonstrates his own hypocrisy once, and tries to deceive the reader while also doubling down again on his error-ridden claims about the billboard,

It’s true that Heartland ran only the one billboard and only for one day, so technically speaking Heartland publicly compared authentic climate realists to only one serial killer. However, Bast dishonestly neglects to mention that Heartland planned on making similar comparisons to serial killer Charles Manson, mass murderer Osama bin Laden, and communist strongman Fidel Castro using other billboards. So Laden et al are correct that Heartland did compare climate realists to “serial killers” – it’s only the uproar over the Unabomber billboard that prevented Heartland from doing so in full view of the general public.

Bast’s also incorrectly claims that the billboard was accurate. S&R did a search of the Unabomber’s manifesto and found that “greenhouse effect” was mentioned exactly twice,

one of which is a general statement, the other of which asks (without providing an answer) what the impact of the greenhouse effect will be. There are no uses of “climate change,” “global warming,” or “carbon” either. In fact, the word “climate” is used exactly once, in reference to having the right kind of clothing necessary for a given climate.

As S&R documented in May of 2012, Bast has been repeating his false claim about the Unabomber “believing” in industrial climate disruption since at least 2006. It’s not plausible that Bast is still ignorant of the facts seven years later.

Bast also knows that his billboard was offensive, his claims to the contrary notwithstanding. As mentioned above, Heartland lost 18 “experts” over the issue, many of whom left after BigCityLiberal emailed Heartland’s experts asking if they supported the billboard. Ross McKitrick, an industrial climate disruption denier associated with Steve McIntyre and the website Climate Audit, backed out of Heartland’s International Climate Change Conference in May, climatologist Chris Landsea said that the billboard was “not in good taste,” and entymologist Paul Reiter wrote that he was “more than appalled, I am disgusted.”

Furthermore, Bast continues to apply a hypocritical double standard to his and Heartland’d behavior compared to the behavior of others. Bast is on record accusing authentic climate realists of playing “a disgusting rhetorical trick” in order to “inflame” emotions by using the term “deniers.” According to Bast, the phrase “climate change deniers” is meant to invoke Holocaust denial (a claim that Bast make both at the Santa Fe New Mexican link above and here, and Heartland’s communications director Jim Lakely does the same thing here, just for starters). Bast is claiming that his billboard merely asks a question, but that question isn’t meant as an implication – yet he’s complaining about the alleged implications of the phrase “climate change denier.”

It doesn’t help that Bast’s claims about the Unabomber are factually wrong, while the claim that his organization is devoted to “climate change denial” is correct given several dictionary definitions of the word denial:

  1. refusal to admit the truth or reality (as of a statement or charge)
  2. refusal to acknowledge a person or a thing
  3. a psychological defense mechanism in which confrontation with a personal problem or with reality is avoided by denying the existence of the problem or reality

Finally, Bast deceptively ties the Unabomber Ted Kaczynksi to all liberals (“lefties” according to Bast) and links to approving comments of Kaczynski made by ecoterrorist group EarthFirst! Bast’s implication here is no different than the implication that he made originally with the billboard he’s defending – all liberals are terrorists and serial killers. And this comparison is just as offensive as the original billboard was.

It’s understandable that Bast wouldn’t want to passively accept Laden et al’s criticism of The Heartland Institute for its behavior in 2012. But there comes a point when you have to admit you messed up and try to move forward. Heartland still hasn’t done that with respect to their billboard and the massive financial fallout from it. And rather than admit his many errors of judgement over the years, Bast has chosen to continue doubling down on his factually deficient, offensive claims.

Bast wrote that he expects Heartland “to play an even larger role in 2013.” S&R will be here all year too, documenting Heartland’s behavior. Based on the first week of 2013, it looks like we’re in for more of the same.

Captain Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation (CBS)

Libertarians and engineers should embrace industrial climate disruption, not deny it

CATEGORY: PoliticsLawGovernment3Part Five of a series

Industrial climate disruption presents challenges to libertarians and engineers. As we saw in Part Three of this series, the likely policy responses to industrial climate disruption represent a threat to libertarian values, specifically the moral ideal of “negative” liberty. And we saw in Part Four that many engineers consider industrial climate disruption a threat to their jobs and to their employers, and industrial climate disruption runs counter to many engineer’s psychological need for certainty (as discussed in Part Two). And we saw how cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, and motivated reasoning can lead both libertarians and engineers to deny the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting industrial climate disruption.

But not all libertarians or all engineers are industrial climate disruption deniers. Many have reviewed the evidence and concluded that greenhouse gases emissions by industry is the best explanation for all the facts related to climate disruption. Some have simply chosen to trust the experts. And others have concluded that it’s simply good personal and professional policy to plan for the worst – at least that way you’re prepared for whatever comes your way and any surprises are good surprises.

But these aren’t the only good reasons why libertarians and engineers, both as groups and as individuals, should embrace industrial climate disruption. Denying the reality of industrial climate disruption won’t get either group a seat at the negotiating table, but engagement might. There’s also a lot of money to be made adapting to industrial climate disruption and mitigating its causes. And the sooner we start working on the problem, the cheaper it will be in the long run.

Libertarians: fight, not flight

When something that you hold dear is threatened, there are essentially only two responses. You can stand and fight, or you can flee. Industrial climate disruption threatens the values and livelihoods of many libertarians, and many have chosen to flee to the perceived safety of denial. But that safety is illusory, as the crazy weather of 2012 (the increased incidence of extreme weather phenomena has been projected by climate models for years now) and the ongoing global temperature record demonstrate.

While the the threat to libertarian values could reasonably justify the denial of industrial climate disruption by a significant majority of libertarians, the best way to ensure that your values are protected is not to flee, but rather to confront the threat. Denial won’t prevent the enactment of policies that are a threat to the “negative” liberty valued by libertarians, but engagement might. At a minimum, engagement with liberals and conservatives who also accept the reality of industrial climate disruption will ensure that libertarians have a seat at the negotiating table, something that flat-out denial is unlikely to provide. After all, libertarians are only about 10% of the U.S. population – if the other 90% came to an agreement on their own, libertarians could find themselves, and their values, steamrolled.

There are all sorts of policies that are presently being considered as ways to adapt to and to mitigate the causes of industrial climate disruption. Most of them are potential threats to economic liberty, defined as the right of a person to spend his wealth however he sees fit. The Environmental Protection Agency has already put in place regulations to limit carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and the regulations have survived review by the DC Court of Appeals (and are likely to survive Supreme Court review as well). California has implemented a cap-and-trade scheme, and some economists and scientists are calling for outright carbon taxes. The cap-and-trade scheme is the least disruptive to libertarian values, but the other two have their proponents and both are more disruptive to people’s economic liberty. If more libertarians were involved in the process, a cap-and-trade system that minimizes economic disruption would become more likely than highly disruptive carbon taxes or regulations and the associated fees and fines.

With respect to being able to live your life however you see fit (lifestyle liberty), the costs of addressing industrial climate disruption will also have an impact. Any method that prices CO2 will necessarily increase energy prices. This will increase the costs of products, especially those manufactured overseas and/or trucked long distances as the price of marine bunker fuel and diesel increase. People will probably travel less for vacations as well. And the cost of living wherever you choose will also go up, as insurance rates skyrocket (or insurance simply goes away) for property near sea level, on floodplains, or in wildfire prone areas.

Industrial climate disruption will continue to threaten libertarian values so long as it threatens human welfare and the global economy. If libertarians want their ideology to survive the crucible of industrial climate disruption, they’ll have to engage. And the sooner that engagement happens, the less damage the libertarian ideology will suffer.

Captain Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation (CBS)

Captain Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation (CBS)

Engineers: engage

Engagement is also the best approach for engineers, and those engineers who are not also libertarians will probably find engaging easier than most libertarians will. Partly this is because engineering is a professional discipline rather than an ideology, but it’s also partly a result of the corporate environment in which engineers work and that inculcates them with many of its values.

Corporations value short-term profits more than anything else, with one notable exception – staying in business. If it’s a question between either providing dividends this quarter or investing in the company so that it’s still in business several years from now, smart companies always choose to invest in themselves. That’s part of why engineers are asked to design new products – markets change, and corporations who fail to provide what the new market demands risk going out of business.

Engineers working in product development are expected to adapt to new market realities all the time. Often the adaptation is as simple as updating a prior design to a new set of requirements – different temperature ranges, different operating voltages, different types of materials, etc. Occasionally adapting requires doing something completely new, and many engineers live for that kind of intellectually stimulating challenge. Most engineers will find engaging with industrial climate disruption no more difficult than updating their requirements and initial assumptions. Once that’s done, the engineers will pick up the new changes and run with them. The challenge will be convincing engineers that their experience and expertise may no longer be applicable (depending on the industry and engineer) and that they may have to change career paths in order to adapt professionally to a new, climate disrupted reality.

Ultimately, though, engineers respond to challenges, and just as industrial climate disruption is perhaps the most important issue that modern humanity has ever faced, so too is it one of humanity’s greatest challenges. Engineers who can move beyond denial and engage with the creation of solutions will likely find the process remarkably rewarding.

Mining profits from industrial climate disruption

Beyond needing to fight for their values or rising to meet new technical challenges, both libertarians and engineers should engage with industrial climate disruption because there is a huge amount of money to be made in the process.

Many libertarians are economic or financial types who make their money trading stocks, commodities, etc. Assuming that a cap-and-trade market system is implemented nationally or globally instead of carbon taxes or direct regulations, that market is going to be largely the same as any other commodity market. As such libertarians will be able to buy and sell carbon credits, creating carbon liquidity much as traders create financial liquidity in the financial markets today. But this opportunity only materializes if a cap-and-trade market is created instead of carbon taxes or direct emission regulations.

For those libertarians who work in other fields, the all-encompassing nature of industrial climate disruption will create opportunities for anyone who has the courage to grab them. Libertarians working in construction can make money insulating homes and installing solar panels on rooftops. Libertarian farmers can make money figuring out how to grow crops using less water and fertilizer and then marketing those methods to fellow farmers nationwide. Libertarians working in the energy industry can make money by financing new power lines to transport renewable electricity from where it’s generated to where it’s consumed. And libertarians in transportation can make money by providing new, low carbon emitting cars, trucks, tractors, aircraft, and ships to carry people and goods from one place to another. But each of these opportunities requires that the individual libertarians working in these industries stop denying the reality of industrial climate disruption.

Engineers have at least as great an opportunity to make money as libertarians do. After all, who do you think is going to design all those products for all those industries listed above? Engineers are going to be the ones figuring out how to get PCs to consume even less power than they already do. Engineers are going to be the ones figuring out how to turn small-scale carbon capture demonstration projects into full-scale installations at coal and natural gas power plants. Engineers are going to be the ones figuring out how to boost the efficiencies of solar panels by combining photovoltaic panels with passive solar water heating and at a price point that consumers can afford. And so on.

Engineers excel when given a problem to solve and a set of parameters within which to solve it. And the engineers who are the best at it will make a great deal of money in the process. But to do so, they have to move beyond denying industrial climate disruption. After all, just because an engineer will to work on a project he doesn’t believe in, that doesn’t mean he’ll be motivated to do his best work that way. But give an engineer a project that makes him think “this is going to be totally awesome” and he’ll figure out a way to move Heaven and Earth for you.

Pay now, or pay a lot more later

Not everyone can be lured by wealth and a good, high paying job with good job satisfaction into changing their mind about denying the reality of industrial climate disruption. For some, avoiding the anticipated economic costs of industrial climate disruption is a greater motivator. Economists have been saying for years now that it will cost less to mitigating industrial climate disruption than the damage done to the global economy by doing nothing (or delaying action for decades). Essentially, most economists believe that the cost of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable (and possibly nuclear) sources of energy is much lower than the cost of sea level rise on property values, rebuilding communities built in floodplains, losses to crops due to drought and pests, and the disruption of the global economy due to tens or hundreds of millions of migrating climate refugees, among others.

There are fundamental disagreements among economists about the “correct” way to account for multi-generational issues like industrial climate disruption, with some economists (Nordhaus for one) approaching the problem strictly from a utilitarian perspective while others approach the problem from a “minimal regret” perspective. The utilitarians tend to weigh the economic status of people who are alive today much higher than they weigh the economic status of unknown future generations. This can result in a situation where you could mathematically argue that it would be OK for humanity to go extinct ten generations from now so long as the people alive today aren’t inconvenienced by having to pay more for gasoline. It’s not a coincidence that libertarians tend find themselves among the utilitarians, given that Iyer et al found that libertarians are utilitarian and also value themselves more highly than they do “generic others” like hypothetical great, great, great grandchildren.

The “minimal regret” economists, on the other hand, tend to approach the problem more holistically, applying value not just to a standard of living, but also to the quality of that standard of living. They also tend to apply different discount rates to different aspects of human goods and experience, and they try to incorporate the needs of human survival and health into their economic models. But at the extreme end of this end of the spectrum, “minimal regret” economics can mathematically conclude that destroying the global economy today is acceptable to ensure that at least some of humanity survives ten generations hence. The inclusive nature of the “minimal regret” economic models makes their conclusions more likely to be robust than utilitarian models, and it’s the models of the “minimal regret” school of thought that indicate the costs of doing nothing are much higher than the costs of mitigating industrial climate disruption.

(Scott Ambler)

(Scott Ambler)

But even if you reject the economic models and instead ascribe to utilitarian economics, there is a business concept that makes the same basic argument. In business, the costs of making changes to a project is very low early in the project’s lifecycle. But as the project moves through its various stages, it becomes more and more expensive to make changes until, finally, making changes simply isn’t possible at any price.

Businesspeople and engineers who work in product development tend to understand this idea almost instinctively. During requirement definition, the cost of making a change is maybe a few hours to updated a few documents. Once the design is complete the cost of making a change includes a few hours for several people to update a lot more documents. Once something physical is created, the cost increases even more to include changing hardware, possibly even throwing out the original design and starting from scratch. And if a change is needed after the product has been delivered, it may need to be recalled or it may not even be possible to implement the change at all.

We can look at adapting to and mitigating the causes of industrial climate disruption as a set of projects not too different from any other. As an example, adapting New York City to rising sea level may require sea walls around the harbor, major filling of land and reconstruction of buildings on the newly raised ground, or even the partial abandonment of low-lying areas such as those that were most affected by Superstorm Sandy. The sooner this process starts, the cheaper it will be to implement. First, inflation means that the longer a major construction project takes, the more the construction materials will cost. Second, the longer the process takes, the more likely it becomes that another another storm like Sandy sweeps into New York City and does tens or hundreds of billions more dollars in direct and indirect damage – damage that could have been dramatically reduced had the adaptation strategy been in place.

On a smaller scale, this same business axiom explains part of why you shop around for the right solar panels to put on your roof. Not only are you looking for a good deal, but you’re also making sure that you won’t want to change your mind later. After all, if the wrong panels are already on your roof when you discover they’re wrong, you’ll be lucky to get away with only having to pay someone to come out to remove the wrong panels and then pay to have the right panels put back up.

According to national polls, about 84% of all libertarians deny the reality of industrial climate disruption, and while there’s no data about the number of engineers who are similarly in denial, there are a lot of people who identify themselves as engineers on major denial websites. While it makes sense that both groups would feel threatened by industrial climate disruption, albeit for different reasons, both groups should embrace the overwhelming science and data and work toward solutions instead of denying the problem. There will probably never be a greater challenge to solve, or a greater opportunity to make money from creative solutions, than the challenges and opportunities posed by industrial climate disruption. And the sooner the solutions kick in, the less damage will be done to libertarian values, business, and the global economy.

Over the last few weeks, we have in investigated why there are so many libertarians and engineers among the ranks of industrial climate disruption deniers. We’ve looked at the values and personalities of both groups and we’ve looked at how those values and personalities lead so many libertarians and engineers to deny the reality of industrial climate disruption. And we’ve looked at why, as a matter of pragmatism, both groups should embrace industrial climate disruption instead of denying it.

There are some known areas of contention in climate science, such as the effects of clouds on global climate. But those few remaining areas of contention are very unlikely to change the scientific conclusion – human industry is emitting greenhouse gases and those gases are and will be largely responsible for disrupting the Earth’s climate. However understandable it might be for a libertarian or engineer to hunt for and cling to the few scraps of data that confirm their existing biases, doing so is no longer rational. There are just too many other fields of scientific endeavor that would have to be largely incorrect for the conclusions of industrial climate disruption to be wrong.

MODIS-generated ocean chlorophyll-a map.

Corporate values lead engineers to deny industrial climate disruption

MODIS-generated ocean chlorophyll-a map.

MODIS-generated ocean chlorophyll-a map.

Part Four of a series

Industrial climate disruption – the disruption of the global climate as a result of human activity, especially our industrial consumption of fossil fuels – is more or less settled scientific fact. In order for industrial climate disruption to be incorrect, over a century of well-established science would have to be overturned. In addition, the operational principles of innumerable technologies derived from that well-established science would also have to be rethought. Some of the technologies that are derived from the same sciences that are responsible for the scientific certainty about industrial climate disruption include semiconductors, CCD-based cameras, microwave ovens, chlorophyll-measuring satellite cameras, nuclear energy, every model of thermal radiation ever performed, LED and fluorescent lighting, lasers, and nearly every modern communications system, just for starters.

While industrial climate disruption presents a clear threat to the libertarian values identified by the Iyer et al study discussed in Part One of this series, the threat to engineers is less obvious but no less real. As we learned in Part Two, engineers often come to value what their corporate employers value, namely short-term profits. Industrial climate disruption challenges the primacy of short-term profits and, as a result, engineers are also highly motivated to reject the reality of industrial climate disruption.

Industrial climate disruption threatens corporate profits

Engineers take on many of the values of the corporations where they work day in and day out. As a result, engineers reasonably conclude that what’s good for the company is also good for the engineer. By extension, what’s bad for the company is also bad for the engineer, and there is little doubt that industrial climate disruption will be bad for corporations that design, manufacture, and sell products, at least in the short term. It’s tough to get people to accept something that threatens their jobs, and that’s why so many engineers deny industrial climate disruption.

Corporations naturally value profits – without them the corporation will eventually fail and shut down. As we learned in Part Two, corporations who want to make more money prefer the certainty of cost cutting to the uncertainty and risk of raising prices. In addition, investors in the corporation tend to keep the company focused on short term return-on-investment (ROI) in the form of dividend payments and perpetually increasing stock value.

When we look at how industrial climate disruption is likely to affect corporations, it’s pretty clear that corporations will be forced by regulators and/or legislators and might be pushed by investors and customers to absorb substantial new costs in order to mitigate and adapt to industrial climate disruption. Mitigating greenhouse gas emissions could well require new regulations or taxes and certainly will require that the price of energy increase, all of which would directly affect corporate profits. There are also compliance costs that corporations have to pay in order to hire new employees and train current employees in how to conform to any new industrial climate disruption-related regulations.

Corporations will also have to adapt to increasing energy prices, especially the higher costs of transportation fuel. The offshoring of production that happened during the 1990s and 2000s was predicated upon cheap bunker fuel for containers ships and diesel for shipping products from ports across the country. Without cheap fuel, corporations will need to “onshore” the very production they offshored over the last 20 years, paying significant one-time costs in the process.

In addition, customers and certain types of investors (such as state pension plans who value long-term stability more than short-term ROI) are also likely to push companies to take on and track their emissions as a component of a larger corporate social responsibility (CSR) program. While this will be no big deal for the many corporations that already have CSR in place today, it will be a significant headache to those companies who don’t have CSR in their corporate DNA or that have been actively resisting calls for CSR. Adding CSR to their corporate plan could add significant costs and would involve limitations on the company’s behavior.

any corporations and a few entire industries would face lower profits and many unhappy investors if they have to comply with new regulations, pay new taxes, and impose restrictions on their own behavior as a response to industrial climate disruption. As we saw in Part Two, all of these factors that increase the cost of doing business result in additional cost-cutting pressure placed on the shoulders of engineers.

To paraphrase the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition: Regulations are bad for business. Taxes are bad for business. Restricting your own behavior is bad for business.

It’s no wonder then that engineers come to regard industrial climate disruption, which will absolutely be bad in the short term for most businesses, as something to be rejected. After all, it’s hard to get a man to accept something when his job depends on him not accepting it.

An example: engineers’ motivated arguments regarding natural climate variation

One of the more common arguments against the industrial causes of climate disruption is that the Earth’s climate has been varying naturally for billions of years, so the climate disruption that we’re experiencing must be a natural variation. This is a strong argument for engineers who are by their very nature resistant to change, used to being the expert on things, and who rely heavily on historical knowledge and personal experience.

Engineers who look at industrial climate disruption see the modern changes in temperature as played out against a backdrop of hundreds of millions of years of geologic history. They know that climate has varied wildly over that period and that those variations could not have been driven by human activity since humanity only started emitting significant amounts of greenhouse gases in the last few hundred years. So engineers look at industrial climate disruption and see something that is far more likely driven by some alternate natural source (such as the sun, another common argument against industrial climate disruption).

This argument is reasonable to a point. In engineering, if something behaved one way in the past, it’s a reasonable starting assumption to believe that it will behave the same way again. That’s the foundation of engineering experience, after all, and it’s entirely appropriate. The problem is that confirmation bias sends too many engineers off looking for alternate natural sources of the observed global temperature increases. What engineers should be doing instead is asking the following question: What’s different this time from the last time this happened?

In the case of industrial climate disruption, the answer to that question is “one hell of a lot.” There wasn’t a human civilization pumping gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere every year as it burned carbon-based fuels that have been slowly sequestered underground over the course of several hundred million years, for starters. There wasn’t six billion people that need to be fed and have their concentrated wastes processed either. Depending on how far back you look, the Earth might have been just coming out of an ice age, the continents might not have been in the same configuration they are today, or the sun might have been shining several percent less energy down onto the Earth’s surface.

But if engineers accept this, then that means they’re accepting that their own experience is wrong, or at least in need of some serious updating. And it means that their job might be at risk as their employer cuts jobs or drives them to work even longer hours for the same pay in order to increase efficiency and cut costs. None of those things are exactly pleasant for an engineer to consider. It’s so much easier for an engineer to simply deny that industrial climate disruption is a problem and then find reasons in support of that conclusion.

Engineers who have let their fear of losing their job send them off tilting at climate science windmills will be very hard to bring back to reality. The reason for this is simple – most engineers really don’t like being wrong. They’re used to being the experts to whom everyone looks for the correct answer. And they’re used to having people listen to them and take their advice, even on areas that are only tangentially related to . As a result, engineers who also deny industrial climate disruption will not want to admit that they had failed to do the necessary mathematical due-diligence because of their own personal biases.

There are a significant number of engineers among the ranks of industrial climate disruption deniers not because of some shared ideology among all engineers, but rather because many engineers share a common fear that industrial climate disruption will cost them their jobs. And it’s not an unreasonable fear – certain industries and types of corporations are going to be seriously affected by the various mitigation and adaptation strategies that are imposed upon them by regulators, politicians, insurance companies, and even some investors. If industrial climate disruption is merely a minor threat, and if enough people can be convinced of that fact, then it’s better for the engineer himself over the short run.

The problem is that the longer we wait to start mitigating and adapting to industrial climate disruption, the more it will cost and the more likely it is that the engineer loses his job in the long run. But as we saw in Part Two, most companies and engineers don’t focus on the long run any more.

In Part Five we’ll investigate why libertarians and engineers should embrace industrial climate disruption and how they could become powerful allies instead of ideological opponents.

Monckton gets testy with Auckland TV reporter

While Christopher Monckton, Viscount of Brenchley, was in New Zealand on a speaking tour, he was interviewed by Country99 TV News reporter Benedict Collins. Collins asked Monckton a number of questions related to his rejection of peer review and a detailed debunking of one of Monckton’s presentations by Prof. John Abraham of the University of St. Thomas. Monckton was not amused, as you can watch for yourself below.

Milloy's latest climate op-ed riddled with errors

Today, the Washington Times ran an op-ed by science-denier-for-hire Steve Milloy titled “2012 GOP guide to the climate debate.” Based on the number of errors and irrelevancies masquerading as serious concerns I discovered while reading it, the Washington Times should have titled the op-ed “How to lie to voters about climate disruption.”

Here’s a brief rundown of all the problems I found. I’ll be dealing with a few of the worse errors in greater depth in a follow-up post.


  1. “Al Gore and his enviros duck debating so-called ‘climate skeptics.'” – So debates like Dessler vs. Lindzen or Lambert vs. Monckton don’t count? It’s true that debates like these are rare, but that’s because debating a climate disruption denier is about as effective as debating evolution with a young-earth creationist or a proponent of “intelligent design.”
  2. Continue reading

Rep. Upton's business competition hypocrisy, exhibit A

Rep. Fred Upton, Republican chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, held a hearing yesterday on a piece of legislation euphemistically named the Energy Tax Prevention Act. This law seeks to overturn the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases. In Upton’s opening statement, he claims “I know American manufacturers can compete – but not if they are saddled with burdensome regulations that put us at an unfair disadvantage.”

On the surface, this is a completely reasonable thing for a Republican to say. After all, Republicans generally are against regulations on the laissez-faire premise that all regulation is bad for business. But Upton is also on record supporting repeal of last year’s healthcare law, something else that would put American manufacturers at an “unfair disadvantage.” Continue reading

Anthropogenic climate disruption: skeptics vs deniers

I’ve been struck repeatedly over the last few years by how fundamentally non-skeptical many self-proclaimed “climate change skeptics” actually are. Skepticism has a definition after all, and while I’ll have more to say on this later, today I want to introduce an analogy that I use to differentiate between a climate disruption skeptic and a climate disruption denier.

Let’s say that the state of modern climate science is like a piece of lacy swiss cheese – filled with small holes, but still pretty solid. There are no major voids in knowledge, although like any other scientific discipline, there are lots of places where we could know more. Continue reading

Oh Noes!!11! Glacirs not meltin. Mak IPCC bad!

In case you haven’t heard, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is dead, done in by the nefarious failure to check a single reference in a 3000 page report. Or rather, that’s what climate disruption deniers want you to think. Here’s what’s really going on.

Back in 2007, Working Group 2 (WG2) of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) put together a large list of what climate disruption was likely to impact around the world. One of the impacts was reduced availability of fresh water due to rapidly melting glaciers around the world, and especially in the Himalayas. One of the specific claims was that all Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035, an amazingly and likely unrealistically fast rate of melting. After an Indian government minister questioned this claim, scientists looked into it and found that the date was incorrect and that internal procedures for vetting references weren’t followed in this particular case. As as result, the IPCC has issued a formal statement of apology for the error.

And if this were about any other topic except climate disruption, that would be the end of it. Continue reading

I am no better than George Will. And it sucks.

by John Harvin

“If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it ought to be good enough for the children of Texas,” supposedly said Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, first woman governor of Texas, in opposing the teaching of foreign languages in Texas schools.  In fact, the college-educated Ferguson probably didn’t say it. But the misquote endures because it captures pretty well one particular segment of the American population – those who are almost always against learning and science, particularly when that science is “inconvenient.”

Whether it’s evolution or landing on the moon or daylight savings time or climate change, there is always a group of people who are just plain agin’ it. Continue reading