Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A consensus full of hot air
All of you out there who are still 100% confident in the "scientific consensus" that the planet is warming as a result of man's actions, I invite you to read to discover why some of us still have our doubts about the whole thing.

And please, read to the end?


Richard said...

Let's see if I have your logic correct.

The evidence for man-produced global warming, while not significantly contradicted, is not rock-solid to the extent that it is incontrovertible. Right-wing reaction? We might just as well continue along, fat-dumb-and-happy without taking any action to head off the possiblity until the real disaster occurs.

In Social Security there is similarly no rock-solid evidence that the sytem is in trouble, just hints that someday, far in the future, it might be. Right-wing reaction? Destroy it! Destroy it! Destroy it! (in the tone used by Daleks on Dr. Who as they cry "Eliminate them!") We have to take actions NOW! Today! Do not wait to act until the evidence is in! Every day we wait, the cost gets higher! (not true, by the way. The cost of delay does not cause it to get more expensive.)

What's the difference between the two situations? It's not about the facts. It is all right-wing ideology and their rejection of working with others. Nothing else.

RFTR said...

You know, it's really easy to defeat my logic when you entirely mischaracterize it.

Allow me to rephrase it in the terms the article produces?

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that global warming may not be at all caused by man, and it hasn't been explored sufficiently. As such, we should avoid severely restrictive measures like the Kyoto protocols that will impoverish us with no definite benefit. This is not to say we should ignore the possibility of global warming all-together, but there is a difference between taking steps to reduce pollution and radically restricting business in a wild attempt to live up to unproven science because politicians have found a way to categorize it as a "consensus."

Now, on Social Security—no one, and I mean NO ONE denies that the system will one day collapse, there's just quibbling over the date when it will happen. The reason the Republicans want to change the system, by in large, has nothing to do with the fact that the system will collapse, it has to do with the fact that many think it's a stupid system.

You know that. So, are you trying to say that Global Warming in fact has nothing to do with science, and it's all about ideology? If you're ready to come clean on that, I'll be a very happy man.

Richard said...

I am really fascinated at your confusion on Social Security. Other than having a politician destroy it, why should it collapse? It is a strong system and probably will not face the alleged problems in 2041.

The fact is, no honest person with an understanding of the system seriously accepts your statement "no one, and I mean NO ONE denies that the system will one day collapse, there's just quibbling over the date when it will happen."

Brian, you have been hoodwinked. Just go look at Robert Ball's proposal (Century Foundation Issue Brief. (pdf)). While you are at it, remember that Bob Ball is probably the most knowledgeable man alive today about the Social Security System.

The assumptions of American productivity in the projections are too low, and the assumptions of immigration are equally too low. Higher values on either would produce projections that do not include a shortfall in payments with respect to revenue.

But let's assume that the conservative assumptions do pan out. Robert Ball has offered a plan Century Foundation Issue Brief. (pdf) that accepts those assumptions and easily corrects for them, while placing Social Security onto a sustainable path into the infinite future. His are minor tweaks in what is a well-operating system.

The plan offered by the renegade Democratic Congressman [RDC] the other day also totally solves the problem. It isn't as good as Bob Balls' solution either politically or tax-wise, but it is massively better than private accounts with a $3 to $14 addition to the federal debt to finance the changeover. Both plans (B Ball's and the RDC) involve minor changes, a great deal less then the ones in 1983, and set the program up for long-term sustainablity at the future programmed benefit levels (based on replacing a percentage of lost earnings)

Or, assume that the worst assumptions in the projections (not predictions, by the way) come true. Then what? By law, the Social Security benefits in 2041 are reduced automatically to match the revenue from takes. That means approximately a 25% reduction (worst case) across the board in all benefits. This is the same as the plan Bush just offered, except that he cuts benefits even more and esepecially on high and middle income wage-earners. He also starts the cuts immediately while the program still has a surplus of revenue coming in rather then waiting until a real shortage of revenue occurs.

But Bush still demands that America borrow many trillions and switch to private accounts that do nothing to help the system and nothing to help America.

In other words, if approached reasonably there is a strong probability that there is no difficulty with the Social Security. If some difficulty does occur, it will be small and easily dealt with. Just always remember, any projection is totally swamped by reality after about ten years. The 75 year projections are designed to do nothing more than line up the possible future scenarios. Except by actuaries and theoreticians, they are not to be taken seriously. Anyone else considering those projections and predicting doom and gloom is doing a "Chicken Little" impersonation, usually as a prelude to sell you some form of overpriced insurance that you will never need. He will probably also sell you a broken used car while he is at it.

So. Back to Global Warming as a man-made phenomenon.

There is [1.]a lot of evidence to suggest that global warming may not be at all caused by man, and [2.] it hasn't been explored sufficiently.

For [1.] there is also a lot of evidence that indicates strongly that the recent changes in climate are related or associated with outputs from industrial society. [2.] Is completely correct.

By the time we know for sure whether man-made industrial products are strongly contributing to climate change, there is a good chance that irreversible changes will have occurred. The argument for taking actions to reduce likely by-products has a certain urgency that this administration is ignoring.

"we should avoid severely restrictive measures like the Kyoto protocols that will impoverish us with no definite benefit." Yeah, right. If we do nothing we can surely depend on our private industry to do research that lowers the contaminates. That is Bush's action, of course.

In 1994 when Bush became Governor in Texas he got the next legislature to extend the grandfather provisions in the Texas Clean Air act. All standards became voluntary and the industries involved all agreed that they would clean up their acts as they performed normal maintenance. By 2002 none of those companies had spend a dime or reduced emmission a bit. Exactly as they had not done after the initial federal clean air act and the initial Texas-granted grandfather provisions (for the same reason - too expensive to install scrubbers, etc.) were passed in the Nixon era.

Until forced, the auto industry in America did not improve gas mileage, safety engineering (like seat belts, air bags, etc.) or emissions improvements. Yet when required by the governbment, the American auto industry developed the current computer-controlled combustion system that is used around the world to reduce emissions.

Bush's withdrawal from Kyoto was exactly like his extension of the grandfather provisions in 1994 of the clean air act, and has done nothing to either improve the air or to improve the competitiveness of American industry.

The whine "we should avoid severely restrictive measures like the Kyoto protocols that will impoverish us with no definite benefit." is a severe overstatement of the policies that should be put into place immediately based on the admittedly incomplete information that currently exists.

Some things should be put into place just to try to make measurable changes in the climate. One reason most studies at the moment don't give any solid date is that they are almost all associative studies. We need to initiate some changes and measure the results just to add some real causal studies that will greatly add to the understanding of the huma effects on climate.

But the idea that anyone wants to "impoverish" business to "effect no known benefit" is merely political rhetoric by the businesses like our local untility, TXU, which has made the same whine for over 30 years at the local cement plant in Waxahachie. They have also promised to improve the air they put out all that time. It is worse now than it was in Nixon's era, and they are still fighting against doing anything.

The auto manufacturers have taken the same blinded attitude towards gas mileage, smaller cars, exhaust control, and safety. These businesses are failing, as is seen by the current junk bond status of GM and Ford. This is a failure of management. All they can do is manage cost control, and they can't build decent vehicles to compte with the ones built by the Japanese and soon the South Koreans.

The Bush administration could have worked with the Kyoto participants to obtain reasonable requirements. Instead they acted as normal, threw up their hands at the difficulty of actually working with and compromising with other.

That just isn't their way of doing things. They decide how eveyone will act, then strong-arm the recalcitrant or just walk away and quit as they did in Kyoto.

"there is a difference between [1] taking steps to reduce pollution and [2.] radically restricting business in a wild attempt to live up to unproven science..."

No one seriously suggests [2.]. The alternative for the Bush administration is to [3.] walk away and do frigging nothing.

Any rhetoric alleging [2.] is just that - baseless right-wing political rhetoric intended to lead to [3.]. That rhetoric is exactly like the silly rhetoric that tries to make anyone believe that Ward Churchill is somehow a spokesturkey for Democrats or Progressives.

By the way, OT, I have figured out how to add an "e-mail me" function to my blog. It is quite easy.

For [1.] a small consulting fee - or [2.] a public admission that I am completely totally and unequivocally correct on Social Security above, I'll be glad to help you put one in.

I'd guess [2.] is too high a price, right??

one-dimensional man said...

I thought you 'culture of life' types were all about erring on the side of caution?

Or does that only apply to severly brain dammaged people, and not the entire world in general?

(rinse and repeat with terrorism - ie, if there is a good chance that a terrorist attack might occur - though we can't prove it, are we not wise to take precautions against it?)

RFTR said...

I think the loss to the economy is going to squeeze out and cause a lot more people to suffer on an overreaction than environmental changes (that we might have control over) will.

Richard said...

OK, Brian.

So your assumption is that the changes in the environment are beyond any human control. Also you don't what the short-term profits of business to suffer from any reasonable efforts to control environmental change.

Why didn't you say so?

I disagree with you. I think that men can obtain an understanding of climatolical change and avoid the worst sides of it. You simply think it is beyond human undersanding, so why try to avoid the possible disastor?

I guess you will be praying to your god to save you from the likely coming disastor, right?

I'll be trying to understant it, measure it, and avoid the worst sides of it. I'll especially be stopping the actions of those around me who are adding to the problem.

What I won't be doing is putting my head in the sand and avoiding thinking about the problem.

Brian said...


I fear you've made a serious mistake. By which I mean, of course, that you chose to respond to the forced analogy between climate science (which studies and purports to make predictions about a system of nearly infinite complexity) and social security (the problems with which can be described with simple algebra).

It's hard to imagine a worse prototype for climate policy than social security policy, of course; the two have essentially nothing in common. You might've saved yourself a lot of trouble if you'd just pointed that out and moved on ;-)


Please note that I'm not the (tasetfully named) proprietor of this blog.