Traverse City Record-Eagle


The Frog in the Pan

By Robert GilbertSeveral things have finally prodded me to address climate change. Until recently, I had been content to let the continuing revelations from the scientific community speak to the issue. I thought the debate was essentially over, given the overwhelming scientific consensus that human-caused climate change is real and dangerous. But an April 18 op-ed in the Record-Eagle reprinted from the (Andover, Mass.) Eagle-Tribune which sneered at climate change concerns as “climate change religion,” in addition to the recent passage by the House of Representatives of an amendment to the annual Defense Department funding bill, have made me realize how naive I have been.

First, the op-ed. It attacks a University of New Hampshire climate study which predicts that “the summer of 2100 in Southern New Hampshire may be as much as 11 degrees warmer.” The op-ed correctly notes that forecasting climate is not the same as forecasting weather, but then criticizes the prediction thusly:

“Now that’s precision! We’d be a little more impressed if the boffins of UNH could tell us accurately how many degrees we’ll see tomorrow, let alone in the summer of 2100.”

I haven’t read the study they criticize, but this sarcasm seems misplaced on its face. First, with massive data collection and sophisticated computer analysis, climate scientists are better able to predict a range of average temperature trends over an 86-year period than weather forecasters are able to precisely predict a day’s temperature one month from now. (Unlike the op-ed, I think that forecasters do a pretty good job with “tomorrow.”) Moreover, the reference to “precision” doesn’t make any sense, if the op-ed accurately quotes the study. “Maybe as much as 11 degrees warmer” is scarcely a precise prediction!

Worse for me is that the op-ed simply shrugs off the fact that dire climate change predictions have the support of the overwhelming majority of climate scientists who have carefully studied and re-studied the issue knowing full well that flacks for the fossil fuel industries will jump on any weaknesses. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently re-examined the research on climate change and produced a strongly worded report which, in the words of USA Today, declares that “a rapid shift to less-polluting energy will be needed to avoid catastrophic global warming because worldwide emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases have accelerated to unprecedented levels.”

The sad truth is not just that predictions about climate change are coming true, but there is evidence that past predictions have been too cautious. You can find a lengthy executive summary of the report online. I believe you find it careful, supported by the data, and scary.

I should also note that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) just released a report which comes to essentially the same conclusions as the IPCC report. Speaker of the House John Boehner dismissed this report as “alarmist.” He should have said “alarming.”

The op-ed bases its denial on a single climate scientist, Richard Lindzen, who in its words “has endured scathing criticism from his fellow climate researchers for being what they call a ‘denier.’” Lindzen’s arguments have been carefully considered and found unconvincing by the vast majority of climate scientists. The IPCC report was a carefully constructed analysis written by 235 climate scientists from 57 countries who were fully aware of Lindzen.

The op-ed would have you believe that climate change has become a religion which will not tolerate heretics, of which Lindzen is a brave, lonely, example. Not so. Lindzen’s views simply don’t accord with the best scientific research. But they do accord with what is in the best interests of the fossil fuel industries.

Bad as the op-ed is, climate change denial recently reached new depths in the U.S. House of Representatives. For several years the U.S. Military — scarcely a bastion of muddleheaded hysteria — has been engaged in long range strategic planning which assumes that the world is going to be severely affected by climate change. The result, the military feels, could be wide-spread social disruption and famine, which will create an even more unstable world. So they wish to develop contingent responses accordingly.

But a few weeks ago Rep. David McKinley, a West Virginia Republican, succeeded in having the House of Representatives approve an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill which forbids the Defense Department from taking into account in its planning and actions the IPCC climate assessment. I can understand why this astounding legislation could be introduced by a legislator from a major coal producing state. But the overwhelming Republican support for it is shameful and should be embarrassing to all sane Republicans.

I will be the first to concede that it is possible that the scientific consensus on climate change could be wrong. As deniers are quick to point out, there are examples where scientific orthodoxy has proved erroneous. But ask yourself two questions:

1. What if we do nothing and the scientific consensus is correct?

We will experience rising oceans, much more violent weather throughout the country, even more severe drought and forest fires in the West, disruption of agriculture and, eventually, the extinction of many species and at the least a miserable existence for humankind. Do you have children or grandchildren? How will you face them if the climate scientists are correct?

2. What if we engage in remedial efforts and the scientific consensus is incorrect?

We will have developed new sources of energy and the industries which sustain them. It is indisputable that eventually the energy needs of the Earth’s billions of people will outstrip the ability of fossil fuels to supply them. The fossil fuels industries, which are subsidized by us through tax breaks, claim that the economy can’t sustain the effort to create non-carbon energy resources on the necessary scale. This ignores the fact that even without taking into account the enormous cost of climate-related catastrophes, the development of new energy technology will create new industries. This — many economists believe — will actually help, not hinder, the economy over the long run. And eventually we simply won’t have a choice as carbon-based fuels fail to keep up with demand. The only question is when, not whether, this will occur.

But let us assume that the optimistic economists are wrong; that a shift to other energy sources will be an expensive proposition with little economic benefit. After the loss of three thousand lives in the 9/11 terrorists attacks, we proceeded to spend over a trillion dollars on the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the development of an enormous national security apparatus. The expenditures for our fight against terrorism continue apace. As outrageous as 9/11 was, it pales by comparison with what is at stake in fighting global warming. Literally tens of millions of lives will be at stake if the long-term predictions are correct. And all of us will be impacted.

I am reminded of the story of the frog and the pan of water. Apparently, if you drop a frog into a pan of boiling water it will immediately hop out. But if you place a frog in a pan of warm water which gradually heats to a boil the frog will remain in the pan until it is boiled to death. Sometimes I wonder if we aren’t just like that frog.

  • CathyStripeLester

    It’s the duty of the military to assess situations and prepare for what might be threats to our safety. How dare the House of Representatives interfere with our safety? I agree, Republicans should be ashamed of their colleagues.

    I suppose it would be a lost cause to insist that no congress critter be allowed to vote on any subject he or she is ignorant about….

  • Troy Keith

    Most believe the frog in a pan story to be a known fact but after researching it for a blog piece several years ago, I found it to be untrue.. much like most of what’s perceived to be ‘climate science’ these days. The weakness of an accepted consensus is usually only discovered after the ‘fact’.

    • jeff4

      this might help explain global warming.

  • henry klugh

    Troy, the frog story is an allegory; whether a frog would
    really sit in water as it slowly heated to the boiling point is totally
    irrelevant. The point is that small incremental changes can build, unnoticed,
    until the result is an overwhelming catastrophe. The “Good Samaritan” story is similar only
    there it is called a parable. Whether there really was an injured person
    bypassed by the orthodox and ministered to by a hated Samaritan is totally
    irrelevant. I believe most people recognize that the literal truth of allegories
    (parables) is unimportant.

    As to climate change: I think we might ask who benefits from
    the enormous hostility to the notion that humans are causing the change and
    perhaps humans could do something about it. The answer is obvious; the oil,
    coal and gas industries are the most powerful influences in the country. In
    spite of their huge profitability (probably because of it) they still receive “special
    treatment” through tax write-offs and subsidies to the tune of billions of
    dollars annually. Do you really believe they aren’t pushing the right wing “warming
    denier” agenda which benefits them?

    I would guess that most of the commentariate here who fancy
    themselves climate experts could not, for the life of them, tell you why weather
    systems spin in opposite directions in the northern and southern hemispheres.
    Understanding the Coriolis effect is beyond them but still they’ll pontificate on
    why human caused global warming is a liberal plot.

    • Troy Keith

      Henry, I wouldn’t suggest that you live in a cave, allegorical or otherwise, but the incremental changes that Mr. Gilbert speaks of are indeed noticed by the frog and he (or she) then jumps out of the pan. That is not the issue. I will concede that big oil stands to benefit tremendously from a status quo arrangement on climate change but in all fairness, Mr. Gore and many of the UN carbon credit crowd, stand to gain equally from a warming hysteria mentality. The hypocrisy thrives on both sides of the thermostat dial. I’ve debated this at length in the past and would argue that the science on this matter is anything but settled. Studies are slanted, measurements are flawed, agendas are pushed and most importantly, there is absolutely no conclusive evidence that anthropogenic warming exists. Eric the Red, the Vostok ice cores, Siberian tree ring studies, the Medieval warming period.. Despite the fact that global temperatures have stabilized or actually decreased over the last 15 years, how is it that recorded temperatures were higher during periods in our history that were devoid of any fossil fuel exploitation? When I was a lad, we were told that we were in for another ice age by this time. The climate does indeed change, it has since the earth was formed. Sometimes it’s hot, sometimes it’s cold.. sometimes, it’s just right.

      I’m all for alternative energy. As soon as a commercially viable option presents itself, I’m sure the market will see it to fruition. Wonder whatever happened to Bush’s big hydrogen push or Tesla’s free energy machine..

      • jeff4

        personally, i’d love a blogspot on autism causes. how about this DEFINITIVE graph for an answer to the cause!!

        • Bobdisqus

          Jeff I seem to remember you indicating a preference for
          scientific method, even if you did have a tendency to calls to authority, correlation
          is not causation.

  • Dennis Rodzik

    Sadly,it appears that mainstream climate science models, infected by leftist politics and ideology, are currently experiencing an embarrassing condition properly diagnosed as Climate Dysfunction or CD. This condition can very well be linked to Low T (lower global average temperatures than predicted). (Note that CD is not to be confused with
    RD or Reptile Dysfunction, which is easily cured by provision of a new terrarium.)

    The actual global average temperature trend has been rather flat for quite some time (about 17 years, in fact). The problem is that this flaccid condition was not at all predicted by vaunted climate models.

    Finally, a warning: For CD lasting more than 14 years (which it already has), seek attention to reality… Immediately!

  • GenePH

    Here is ‘scientist’ Al Gore presenting his climate change thesis;

  • Troy Keith
    • Henry klugh

      Here is a little something on your boy Steven Goddard. You referenced a piece about him but I don’t
      think you did a lot of research on his colorful history. I guess he
      misrepresented one British scientist’s work and the guy called him on it. To his
      credit he acknowledged his mistake and issued a retraction; very rare behavior
      for a “true believer” denier: From “The Register” a British technology and
      opinion website…

      One of his pieces posted on Friday 15th August 2008
      called ‘ “Arctic ice refuses to melt as ordered: There’s something rotten north of Denmark” he attacked the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

      But after being contacted by Dr. Walt Meier at NSIDC he was forced to issue a

      Steven Goddard writes: “Dr. Walt Meier at NSIDC has convinced me this
      week that their ice extent numbers are solid…. It is clear that the NSIDC graph
      is correct, and that 2008 Arctic ice is barely 10% above last year – just as
      NSIDC had stated.”

      It might also interest you to know that “Stephen Goddard” is
      a pseudonym. He admits this on his blog. Of course we have many pseudonymous
      posters on this site too. I’m sure they worry about government assassin teams led by Al Gore
      coming to get them for denying the existence of human caused global warming.Most
      recently you deniers will have to deal with this recently released bit:

      Hottest May in Recorded History

      The globe just experienced the hottest May in recorded
      history, according to reports from multiple organizations. Ocean and land
      temperatures rose 0.74 degrees Celsius (1.33 degrees Fahrenheit) over the 20th
      Century average, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
      Administration (NOAA). That makes May 2014 the warmest May since the agency
      started tracking those figures in 1880. Both NASA and Japan Meteorological
      Agency came to the same conclusion — this was the warmest May ever recorded. Overall,
      this was the second warmest spring ever, trailing only the March-May period in
      2010, according to the NOAA.

      Yes, yes, I know these are “government agencies” and of
      course they are not to be believed….and
      so it goes! (Who needs a comedy hour?)

      • Troy Keith

        Henry, I’ll say it again.. sometimes it’s hot, sometimes it’s cold and sometimes, it’s just right. Where is the conclusive evidence that anthropogenic warming exists? We have numerous credible examples of warming and cooling trends throughout history. Even many of the AW crowd use graphs showing steady warming since the 1800′s – less people, less industry, more forest, healthier oceans, yet the earth is still warming?

        The current agenda and funding based ‘science’ is all over the place these days but even if they can occasionally get together to agree on something, it still doesn’t make any sort of connection between human activity and naturally occurring cycles on the earth (or the sun for that matter). Of course that means that I must be pro pollution and a gov’t skeptic – I guess you’d be half right on that one. Let’s recycle, keep reasonable pollution laws in place and generally be good stewards of the earth without living under the thumb of a new carbon bureaucracy that only serves to line the pockets of those on the team while keeping the rest of us penitently bowing at the green alter with our wallets open and our minds closed.

        • Henry klugh

          Troy, you’d would make a splendid politician! You absolutely ignore my comment about this AGW denier “Stephen Goddard” and his “misunderstanding” of a British scientist’s work.
          You posted that reference, remember? Good politicians ignore what they find embarrassing; instead you harp on not finding “credible ” evidence of human caused GW. Actually, finding any evidence that would convince you would be equivalent to finding “credible” evidence of evolution (or an earth older than Bishop Ussher’s estimate) for a fundamentalist. Neither is doable I’m afraid.

          • Troy Keith

            Well geesh Henry, nothing like waiting nearly a month to respond – thought we were done with this? As a fan of tu quoque (and the Ruy Lopez opening), I must point out that you neglected to respond to my points as well. Perhaps we’ll meet again in Congress at some point in the future. The link you mentioned was simply provided as an after thought to a previous conversation and I didn’t think it merited further discussion – certainly not the focus of the question I was attempting to raise. Given what’s being proposed, it seems reasonable to ask for some degree of proof before turning our lives upside down and relinquishing so much control to a central authority. Not sure AGW is on par with the theory of evolution or the age of our planet. Some might argue that both sides of this debate could have members belonging to the flat earth society. Please see my previous comments for further points that I could make.

          • Henry klugh

            Just a couple of points: Your very prompt response to my post suggests that you monitor this blog with much more regularity than I do. I hope you don’t feel that I’ve neglected your comments; it’s just that I have a lot of other demands on my attention.
            I’m not sure how the Spanish opening, a vey common initial chess move, relates to the discussion. I’m sure you’ll explain that.
            Actually, AGW is more important than either evolution or the age of the earth for the obvious reason that we can do absolutely nothing about them, but we can do something about AGW. Of course I was talking about the difficulty of changing the minds of people who have positions on these topics; not about the importance of the topics themselves. Perhaps I was not clear enough.
            In about two hours I’ll have a new blog post up. I’ll follow Bob Gilbert’s excellent example and refrain from answering any comments about it.

          • Troy Keith

            I simply subscribe so comments directed towards me are forwarded via email.. other than that, I really don’t have any idea what’s going on around here as we’re far too busy to keep up with such diversions these days. I was just sitting in bed watching the Rockford Files (RIP James Garner) the other night and got the notification of your reply and it struck me that our ‘conversations’ are more like a chess game than a productive exchange of ideas. Unfortunate, but definitely symptomatic of the political divide that currently exists in our country.

            As to AGW, I believe there is far more evidence that casts doubt upon our ability to affect global temperatures – that’s not to say that reasonable measures should not be in place to safeguard the environmental health of our planet. We’ve certainly made great progress since the 70′s but I see carbon regulation as a means of control (and profit generation) rather than a realistic solution to naturally changing climate patterns.

          • Henry klugh

            Yes Troy, I ,too get these notices of responses to my posts and comments. I just don’t always see them as mandates for action. Frankly, I find the majority of comments irrelevant, inane or insulting; rather like an invitation to a ten-year-old’s peeing contest! I believe much of the problem lies in the R-Es policy of allowing comments from anonymous sources. People are willing to do and say amazing things when they can hide behind any type of anonymity from a white sheet to a fake name.

        • jeff4

          Guys, its NOT CO2 or any “greenhouse” gas. ITS PIRATES. WE NEED MORE.

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