Saturday, January 3, 2009

S1. Why this is not The Oil Drum

Back in February of 2007 I attended an Energy Conference in California and on the way out I bought a book called “Unstoppable Global Warming – Every 1,500 years” by authors Singer and Avery. At the time I was not that well informed about the facts behind the Global Warming debate, and was sort of curious as to what the arguments against it might be. And looking for something to post about while waiting for the Conference to start, I drafted a post and put it into the review bin.

The consequent furor ended up creating a somewhat bigger story than I had expected. One of the other editors at the time threatened to write a lengthy and detailed response, explaining why it was all wrong. I encouraged that, since the whole point of the exercise was to explore some of the issues of the debate. There was, however, also a somewhat significant threat in one of the comments I received, and this was quite disconcerting – and so I went along with the post, but in the process did a little more checking and expanded what I had planned into a longer post. And that is where the trouble began.
The result of the post in the form of comments was even more of an eye opener. I am a scientist and an engineer and in almost every forum I have been engaged in where we debate scientific fact, people are delighted to air their results and their conclusions and to debate them, often far into the night. I was sort of looking forward to something of such a debate, and thus learning what was wrong with what was in the book. Unfortunately that is now how the Global Warming Debate works, as I have learned in the two years since then.

Out of the original comments when I tallied them up (there were a total of 262 comments) the ratio of adverse comments were about 55 ad hominem or “you’re an idiot” type of remarks and only 5 that addressed the issues that I had brought up, in what I had not thought, at the time, was not a very favorable review of the book.

And so, being curious, I started reading more, buying more books, visiting web sites, such as Real Climate as well as sites such as Climate Audit and trying to work out where some of the truth might lie. And every so often I would stick one or two of my findings into a post that popped up on The Oil Drum, usually as the last post after a conference. And the results were virtually always the same, lots of negative rhetoric about what an idiot I, or whoever I was writing about was; or how the whole world was already in total disagreement, but virtually no discussion of the facts that I was putting up and trying to work out how they fit into the picture.

As I read more and more it appeared that there really was a Medieval Warming Period and a Roman Warming Period, and one before that etc, and that the cycle was reflected in the advance and retreat of glaciers in such disparate places as the Alps and Patagonia. Further, while the evidence for the “hockey stick” model of global temperatures over the past millennium was based on proxy data based on tree rings, among other things, there were whole civilizations that were affected by the climate changes of yore. The Mayan Civilization collapsed, Alaskan natives migrated to Greenland, the Anasazi Indians left their cliff dwellings, and the Mound people in Illinois flourished (to name but a few).

Yet as I found these facts, there was a total unwillingness to debate them, or even increasingly an intolerance about having them even brought up. It is a debate that we have seen increasingly quashed at the national and international levels.

Now you might have thought, in the days of Bernard Medoff and his Ponzi scheme that apparently defrauded supposedly very wise folk of all their savings and investments that people might become a little less credulous of folk whose main argument seems to be “trust me.” At a time when having been sold by brokers and bankers (not to mention Presidents) that investments were the way to provide one with a pension, only to reach retirement and see the nest eggs shattered, that a little doubt about the “absolute authority” of pronouncements might be in order. Nope not a chance.

We are told we have to believe in this, and most of the stories in the MSM and on the major channels will happily point out all the signs that global warming is happening, often with small caveats at the vey bottom of the story that say – well it may not be global warming, but just in case . . .

So what has all that to do with this site. Well the intention is that on Saturdays I will now put up posts that highlight some of these issues of concern, and that I will also in the Pick Points of that day review what has been going on in some of the Climate Change blogs (pro and con) over the previous week. It was something I planned to get into in a significant way today – unfortunately given that there is a financial crisis, so that University budgets are being cut and new faculty thus not hired, while there are still lots of students that have to be taught, and research that has to be done, my time today ended up belonging to someone else.

So that it the intent for Saturday posts – for those who would rather not discuss the subject come around any other day of the week, and we will be talking about the Energy supply issues – unfortunately with the debates over carbon emissions looming large in the future for coal power, it is unlikely that the two topics can be completely separated, but we will start off with that aim.

It was, after all Jefferson who said “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government . . .” and trying to keep folk well informed is what got me into blogging in the first place, and, in case you missed it the key word in the quote is well.

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