Independent Advice for Players in Climate Science and Policy

In the climate-change brouhaha, I stand not with the alarmist “warmists” or the intransigent “deniers”, but instead, off to the side, a “third party” observer of sorts, watching the missiles lobbed back and forth, rather disgusted with the overpoliticization of it all. Some politiczation is unavoidable in any controversial topic, but this has gotten insane (mostly, but not completely, from one side). Similar to my 2016 Presidential election’s third-party vote, I’ve seen the same logic-defying rubbish from both polarized camps of the debate, as when they say: “A third-party vote is a vote for Trump!” “A third-party vote is a vote for Hillary!” Both can’t be right. Indeed, both are full of crap!

The same goes for those who call me a “flaming liberal” because I acknowledge that element of pure and numerical science with well-documented, over-arching observational basis showing average thermal warming of the troposphere across many decades. The same goes for those who think I am a “denier” because I don’t support their unoriginal, predictable, hackneyed, pro-government-expansion, socialistic, anti-free-market “solutions” — regardless of the fact I don’t literally deny the observed warming. Indeed, both are full of crap!

From an earlier entry on the hypocrisy of a specific subset of climate-policy advocates:

    I have no horse in the climate-change rodeo and refuse to get involved or take a position, either in support or opposition. I follow no herd regarding what to “do about” a warming climate. I stand tall in defiance of those on both the political left and the right who insist I must take a stand. To both, I say: No. I am my own man and you do not dictate what I must think! The overpoliticization and borderline cult status of it all just turns me off. It’s not worth more than this much of my valuable time, and I have other bigger priorities in life.

    I just don’t care one way or another about “global warming” and that’s the brutally honest truth. If we warm a lot, we’ll either adapt or die as a civilization. So be it. That’s also the brutally honest truth. If my lack of concern about this issue gives you discomfort — your problem, not mine.

I still feel that way, and that free-market solutions must exist to the extent any solutions at all are needed. I simply have decided to allot just a bit more of my valuable time to the issue, for what I hope is the last time.

What does concern me is hypocrisy, the self-righteousness, the conceit, and the passive-aggressive (and sometimes simply aggressive) my-way-or-highway attitude of many involved in these debates who essentially are saying “f*** you” with a smile — if not overtly looking down upon others. Who is the source for most of those attitudes? Overwhelmingly, it is the sociopolitical left. That’s right: the left, whose dominant message is: “If you don’t agree with us, you are a fake-Christian planet-killer and hater of others.” How does that help to win friends and influence people?

And then the same leftists act aghast when backlashes happen, as if thoroughly ignorant of the possibility that : 1) others can have legitimate reasons to disagree with the policy “solutions” and 2) they may be wrong to some extent about both science and policy. Even science itself is never “settled”. New data and findings can, and have, overturned scientific theories-turned-dogmas; don’t be so pompous as to think it cannot happen again.

I’ll now waste no more than this one sentence on the (largely) far-right ignoranti who deny climate change outright, for their numbers are so puny as to be of no practical significance in these arguments.

To the extent observations are representative, yes: the best current science indicates that the troposphere has warmed largely in tune with carbon dioxide increases. Until that changes, it’s the known state we roll with, if we are not irrationally in denial. Of course climate is changing. Very seldom throughout geologic time has it stayed static for long, and it ain’t static now. Of course we are experiencing average thermal warming, with higher rates in the Arctic. Duh. It’s pointless to browbeat the unconvinced with that in every news story on everything happening in nature, as it simply evokes defensiveness and turning away. Readers of this BLOG, by in large, don’t need to hear it either; I simply make that point to clarify, on and for the record, that I am no “denier”.

Regardless, individual weather events, including the most recent California fires, cannot be attributed to “global warming” (see Cliff Mass masterfally call BS on such claims).
The IPCC itself (hardly populated by right-wingers sociopolitically) has stated this, repeatedly; yet agenda-driven left-wing media outlets erroneously and disingenuously insert “climate change” or “man-made global warming” into almost every weather-event story now, as if the story authors are preprogrammed bots instead of critical thinkers. I’ll excerpt from another of Cliff’s posts (related to bipartisan approaches to climate):

    Houston has had a number of floods during the past few years and it is clear that lack of planning for heavy rain and abysmal infrastructure has been the primary cause of the problems.

    New Orleans flooded during Katrina for many reasons, including inadequate, poorly constructed, and poorly maintained levees, destruction of protecting wetlands, and subsidence from the use of underground aquifers and drilling operations.

    In New York City during Hurricane Sandy, subways flooded due to inadequate watertight doors, power failed due to poor placement of electrical infrastructure, and homes located in inappropriate coastal locations were flooded.

    In Puerto Rico last week, massive power outages have occurred due to an irresponsibly neglected power system.

    In California, the Oroville Dam spillway failed after a heavy rainfall event. Poor construction and lack of maintenance were the key issues.

    There is a virtually an unlimited number of examples of this: lack of planning and poor infrastructure has made millions of people vulnerable to current extreme weather.

To that I’ll add, with regard to my specialty of tornadoes (a small-scale phenomenon with no direct, proved physical connection to “global warming”): the more stuff we build and people we house in their way, the more damage potential exists. We simply aren’t experiencing more strong or violent tornadoes. Instead, all one needs to do is compare long-tracked, violent-tornado paths of the pre-suburban era to the suburbs and exurbs occupying those tracks now. Or do the same exercise in reverse: plop any of the big, violent Moore tornadoes from 1999-2013 onto the same agrarian land use of the pre-WW2 era, and billions of dollars in damage goes away.

Quite simply: Disasters are man-made! Just not in the ways media and one side of the sociopolitical spectrum propagandize you to believe…

A conservative, libertarian, free-market ideology has stood the test of time and history, and it holds the following: technology and the marketplace, devoid of burdensome, stifling regulation and restriction, will foster the ingenuity needed to solve problems that threaten society–because they threaten markets for goods and services. Government science has done amazing things too, when staying in its lane and purely scientific. Private-sector and academic science have too, with or without government contracts and grants. The IRS and regulatory arms of big government need to get the hell out of the way and let the market work on solving those problems that are informed by science, and that threaten the people and infrastructures that enable the economy to thrive!

Given all of the above, from my obviously independent-thinking, side-view perspective on all this, I have some advice for three principals in the climate fracas. Ignore this at risk of your own credibility with (and ability to attract) the public listeners you so badly need:

ALL CLIMATOLOGISTS: Quit messing with climate policy, right now. You’re terrible at that, and it shows. Scientists like results, and the results are in: Truly I say, you suck at policy advocacy, with the doomsaying and threats of worldwide calamities requiring this tax or that fuel subsidy. Understand how much such behavior turns people off? Stop it! Otherwise the massive backlash will continue against your amateurish, shrill, melodramatic, streetcorner-preacher-style proclamations of world doom. Had you kept to your expertise, stayed in your lane, so much of this backlash wouldn’t exist, the issue of climate wouldn’t be so partisan and polarized, and reasonable bipartisan compromises for policies would have been in place by now, regardless of usual background levels of opposition that exist to almost any issue.

Please get this: you’re trained as scientists, not politicians or policy makers. Like it or not, far more goes into policy than just science, and that’s a good thing. Economics, social studies, military strategy, diplomacy, and many intangibles that can’t be integrated in differential equations or poured into beakers, all rightly influence policy. So humble thyselves! Don’t overstate your work or portray it as more important than it is. You’re math and computer geeks…not lawyers, lobbyists, White House officials or Senators. Moreover, if in government and not representing a union, it’s a conflict of interest (Hatch Act violation) to lobby over what pays your salary. In the private sector or academia, this conflict of interest may not exist in a legal sense, but it still does ethically.

So what do you do? The answer is straightforward: do science! Science is what you’re the best in the world at, so do that! Focus your energy in it with passion for exploration and discovery — even if the resulting evidence and analysis doesn’t yield what you expect. Formulate those hypotheses, conduct tests and analyses, fully report uncertainty, and draw conclusions — all of it with complete reproducibility and transparency. Inform policymakers and media of your results, and just as importantly, of what you don’t yet know, in clearly communicated, plain-English ways (yes, including uncertainty!) and they shall take it from there. Do not overstate for effect. Just the facts, ma’am…

You are entitled to opinions, and to not like the resulting policy, but policy-making process itself is out of your league. That’s hard for big-ego scientists to admit (we were the smartest kids in high school and still think we know more than the popular kids and jocks, right?), but it’s the brutally honest truth. Let policy makers make climate policy. Do your jobs, give them results, and let them do theirs. And remember: humility is a virtue. You’re no better than anyone else as a human being; remember, we all bleed crimson and push smelly turds out of our bungholes.

CHRISTIAN CLIMATOLOGISTS: In addition to the above, stop portraying climate-change policy advocacy as a mission from God, or endorsed by Him, as some of you do. That’s presumptuous and conceited behavior, not befitting our marching orders to eschew pridefulness and arrogance. Do not engage in idolatry by making an idol of climate science. Surprise, surprise: Your views are not the only ones held by good Christians. Good Christians can and do disagree on what, if anything, to do about changing climate. Some good Christians advocate passive adaptation, some have free-market/libertarian ideals, some want full-out geoengineering, and others, anything in between. Know that. Accept that. Respect that.

Back off the holier-than-thou high horse of divine authority manifesting through your climate opinions. Remember this fact (and it is fact): while we are commanded to love our neighbor and be stewards of the Earth, Jesus never said, “Love thy neighbor using government as proxy”, or, “Steward Earth by using our rulers as monetary shakedown goons.” If you think he did…well, I used to live in Missouri, so…show me, those specific words, using any Bible translation you wish. I’ll not hold my breath waiting. Truth is, you cannot.

Instead, He was talking to you, and me — each of us, individually, loving our neighbor. Do your part to love your neighbor and take care of where you live. I’ll do mine, and it may not duplicate your approach. That’s fine. Let it be, and don’t be a busybody. God and God alone will judge us each, from the Book of Life. Don’t virtue-signal! Authentic virtue doesn’t need self-advertisement (though factual self-defense is fair game). Please avoid the passive-aggressive inferences I see so often that God is on your side. As Lincoln said, what matters is not whether God is on our side, but whether we are on His. Remember this.

POLICY MAKERS: Listen to and honestly try to understand what the climatologists are saying, as long as they are offering the facts about results. Tune out the doomsayers and deniers alike. Be objective and listen, partisan blinders off. Think independently!

Don’t treat scientists as flawless demigods who know more than they do, but also, don’t ignore what they’re telling you if it differs from your preconceived ideas. They are the climate experts, not you. Incorporate science into policy, albeit not to the exclusion of other important contributors (and I say this as a scientist who desires not to overstate our importance). Yes, I understand (first-hand!) that most atmospheric scientists personally lean sociopolitically left, and that will color your own view of their work, based on your own left/right leanings. So it goes, and it ain’t changing anytime soon. Regardless of all that: The atmosphere doesn’t care about your party affiliation.

As a conservative who is sociopolitically marginalized in an intensely left-wing scientific field, I understand your pain if you are also a policy-maker on the conservative side! Yet some world-class climatologists do happen to be politically conservative on a personal level. Please at least talk to them if you are too put off by the loudmouthed town criers on the left. Realize that some smart conservatives in your own profession, and in the military, have come up with really creative ways to deal with the highest-probability climate scenarios, while still adhering to small-government, low-tax, Constitutional ideals.

True enough, scientists don’t always agree, and as I noted above, consensus can be wrong — but you’re gambling against high odds by bucking that consensus. It’s up to you and your colleagues (not the scientists, whose job again is only to tell you what they do and do not know) to decide if that gamble is worthwhile. Be willing to consider ways to mitigate harm where technologically possible and economically feasible, when evidence of threat appears. The Navy already is formulating high-ranking contingencies against rising sea levels, for example, and that branch is hardly a bastion of radical leftism.

You’ve got a mighty responsibility to weigh all evidence (not just scientific, but also economic, technological, military, diplomatic, etc.). Use it wisely in service to your nation as you weigh the cost-benefit scales of assorted means of action and adaptation. It’s what we elected you to do.


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