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More Mass v. EPA Commentary:

For those who want more commentary on the Supreme Court's decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, I have an op-ed-style commentary about the case on National Review Online.

For those who want still more, SCOTUSBlog is posting commentary and analysis by various folks. Among those up so far are posts by Mark Moller of the Cato Institute and Tim Dowling of Community Rights Counsel. Although my sympathies are with Mark, I lean toward Tim's assessment of the practical implications of the case. CRC has also launched a "warming law" blog here.

UPDATE: Want still more on the case? Here are some worthwhile reads:

Grist's David Roberts has also posted this excerpt about the case from yesterday's White House press briefing.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jonathan Weiner at the UChicago Faculty blog and Roger Alford on Opinio Juris.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Justice Stevens' Scientific Mistake:
  2. More Mass v. EPA Commentary:
Robert Schwartz (mail):
I think Mr. Dowling was feeling his oats excessively. It may have been a victory for his side because they will now get their attorney's fees paid, but in terms of GW, it is a bump in the road. EPA will now begin an administrative process to define the parameters of GW and the amount of Effect that CO2 has on it. Then they will have a process to seek remedies. There will be much litigation and the parties will lobby congress. In the end the only thing that will happen is that litigators and expert witnesses will grow fat and taxpayers will grow lean.
4.3.2007 2:44pm
Hans Bader (mail):
If the EPA's response to this decision results in regulations even half as inefficient as most energy-related federal legislation, it will force industry to move to unregulated Third World countries like China or India rather than comply with those regulations, harming our economy while doing little to remedy greenhouse gas emissions.

That casts doubt on whether Massachusetts really had standing to sue, since the injury it alleges may not be redressable through agency action.

Federal agencies spent billions on alternative energy sources such as "synfuels" in the 1970's and early 1980's, with no discernable successes or benefit for the environment.

Federal ethanol mandates done in the name of the environment and energy efficiency increase corn prices for the poor in neighboring Mexico to the point of causing political unrest, and consume vast amounts of environmentally-fragile farmland.
4.3.2007 2:44pm
Woodstock (mail) (www):
Why do you think that this case will necessitate the court's involvement in the global warming debate for years to come? I think that is unlikely. I think it will just prod Congress to write better laws that are more clear and specific to the problem of global warming.

This was a one-off case that was grounded in the law (whether you agree with the decision or not). It was not a policy decision.
4.3.2007 2:46pm
Robert Schwartz (mail):
I think I should add that this lawsuit began almost 7 years ago, and no one should expect anything out of this process other than paperwork in less than a decade. I am willing to wager that GW will have become GC, before the EPA adopts final administrative rules:

Russian Scientists Forecast Global Cooling in 6-9 Years

25.08.2006

Global cooling could develop on Earth in 50 years and have serious consequences before it is replaced by a period of warming in the early 22nd century, a Russian Academy of Sciences' astronomical observatory's report says, the RIA Novosti news agency reported Friday. ...

"On the basis of our [solar emission] research, we developed a scenario of a global cooling of the Earth's climate by the middle of this century and the beginning of a regular 200-year-long cycle of the climate's global warming at the start of the 22nd century," said the head of the space research sector.

Khabibullo Abdusamatov said he and his colleagues had concluded that a period of global cooling similar to one seen in the late 17th century — when canals froze in the Netherlands and people had to leave their dwellings in Greenland — could start in 2012-2015 and reach its peak in 2055-2060. ...

"The global temperature maximum has been reached on Earth, and Earth's global temperature will decline to a climatic minimum even without the Kyoto protocol," Abdusamatov said.
4.3.2007 2:53pm
ROA:
Does this mean the EPA can regulate water vapor? If so, can they set limits on the permissible humidity for locations such as Houston and Corpus Christi?
4.3.2007 3:10pm
Snacktime (mail):
This "global cooling" stuff and global warming denialism is just plain sad. A couple faddish studies and articles said something about global cooling in the 1970s. Now Robert Schwartz digs up some random assertion by some random Russian scientist. As if this anecdotal nonsense in a single stroke destroys the incredible breadth and weight of existing climate science.

The major science organizations of every major country in the world agree on the strength of global warming science. The IPCC is an organization with no parallel in any other field of science.

It would be like arguing that "in 1890, some folks thought smoking was good for you, so why should we believe the scientists now saying smoking is bad?"

The science is not partisan. You do not get to believe whatever science you want.
4.3.2007 3:19pm
Eric Rasmusen (mail) (www):
I was going to write a parody of the syllabus of this case, changing Massachusetts to Rasmusen and "motor vehicle emissions," "emissions by mothers carrying children," and coastline damage to damage to my comfort in the summertime. Going through the syllabus, though, I found there were so few things I would have to change that it wouldn't have been humorous.

I think that's true of the decision, too. If Massachusetts has standing, why not me? If a negligible effect on a harm whose existence is uncertain works for shore erosion, why not for my sweat? If a car's emissions of a particular chemical are a pollutant, why not a human's? (I had the mothers carrying babies, though, just so they'd be vehicles.)
4.3.2007 3:20pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
I agree with these statements by Professor Adler in his NRO article (my emphasis):

"The Court's decision in Massachusetts v. EPA makes federal regulation of carbon emissions a near-absolute certainty, and not just from cars and trucks."

"Given the Court's opinion, and the EPA's own prior statements about global warming, the agency is left with little choice but to begin the process of regulating greenhouse gases."

"If Justice Stevens's arguments are correct, many of the provisions added to the Clean Air Act in 1990 were surplusage, as the EPA already had ample authority to address emerging concerns such as stratospheric ozone depletion and acid rain. Clearly Congress felt differently. Every time in the past that Congress sought to regulate such regional or global pollutants, it recognized the need to enact new provisions, and that is precisely what it did. Moreover, Congress has repeatedly rejected the authorization of regulatory controls on greenhouse gases, explicitly denying the EPA authority to expend taxpayer funds on preparing to regulate greenhouse gas emissions when some feared the Clinton Administration would try and do just that. As recently as 2005 the Senate adopted a resolution calling upon Congress to adopt measures to limit emissions of greenhouse gases. If Congress had already delegated authority to regulate greenhouse gases to the EPA, such resolutions would be wholly unnecessary."


It is clear that this 5-justice majority no longer believes at all in judicial restraint. Congress today could not pass legislation to that effect due to political disagreement snd presidential vetoes. Such a law could never have been enacted in the past 35 years.

So this 5/4 majority just by-passed the legislative and executive branches to enact judge-made legislation.

This is the epitome of judicial activism.

So I have a prediction on an unrelated matter. I had earlier thought that Supreme Court would not grant cert in the D.C. Circuit 2nd Amendment case, and would "grandly ignore" the conflict between the circuits as to whether the 2nd Amendment creates an individual right to possess firearms.

I've changed my mind on this point due to the ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA. I now believe that the Supreme Court will grant cert on the 2nd Amendment conflict between the circuit courts, and will reverse the D.C. Circuit ruling.

IMO the same 5-justice Supreme Court majority in Massachusetts v. EPA will do this due to the hubris they have just demonstrated.
4.3.2007 3:23pm
Snacktime (mail):
As for standing Eric, let's say a power plant in the city in which you live is violating the Clean Air Act's regulations for smog-related chemicals. Can you sue them for violating the Clean Air Act because you have asthma breathe the air in the city?

The answer is yes, you can. Your standing would not be in doubt. But of course, the power plant only contributes a tiny fraction of the pollution in your city. There is no way at all for you to prove that the power plant's marginal emissions are worsening your asthma or that cleaning up the power plant's emissions would redress your harm. This would not at all remove your standing.

Can you explain why standing in my example is reasonable, but not in the Massachusetts v. EPA case?
4.3.2007 3:25pm
James Dillon (mail):
Tom,
Repeating the same arguments you made in comments to a previous post doesn't make them any more valid. The Clean Air Act defines "air pollutant" as

any air pollution agent or combination of such agents, including any physical, chemical, biological, radioactive (including source material, special nuclear material, and byproduct material) substance or matter which is emitted into or otherwise enters the ambient air.

How, exactly, is the majority opinion's conclusion that

Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and hydrofluorocarbons are without a doubt "physical [and] chemical ... substance [s] which [are] emitted into ... the ambient air."

the "epitome of judicial activism," or an abandonment of restraint? Do you deny that CO2 is a physical and chemical substance that is emitted by motor vehicles into the ambient air? And what does the fact that the Clean Air Act could not be passed by today's Congress have to do with anything? My understanding of the way the law works is that the text of the statute that was actually passed by Congress is controlling, regardless of whether the same law could be passed today. Are you suggesting that the Court should delve into some hypothetical inquiry as to whether any given federal statute could be approved by the presently sitting Congress before deciding whether to enforce it? How is that not an abandonment of judicial restraint?
4.3.2007 3:34pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Mr. Dillon,

You could try reading the third of the three paragraphs I quoted from Professor Adler's article. Or you can continue to avert your eyes from things which contradict your preconceptions.
4.3.2007 3:45pm
James Dillon (mail):
Tom,

I fail to see what the third paragraph of Professor Adler's article has to do with the point I raised, and in any event, I further fail to see why the actions of subsequent Congresses have any relevance on the issue of statutory interpretation presented in Massachusetts v. EPA. I believe the majority opinion in that case pointed out that none of the subsequent acts (small a) of Congress relating to questions of climate change are inconsistent with the position that the EPA is authorized to regulate greenhouse emissions under the CAA, but instead might reasonably be viewed as simply expanding upon the authorization already created by the CAA. As Justice Stevens writes, "[e]ven if such postenactment legislative history could shed light on the meaning of an otherwise-unambiguous statute, EPA never identifies any action remotely suggesting that Congress meant to curtail its power to treat greenhouse hases as air pollutants. That subsequent Congresses have eschewed enacting binding emissions limitations to combat global warming tells us nothing about what Congress meant when it amended s202(a)(1) in 1970 and 1977." (slip op. at 27.)

In any case, why should the interpretations of subsequent Congresses with regard to the scope of the CAA trump that of the Court? The last I checked, federal courts, not Congress, are charged with the responsibility of interpreting federal statutes. Even if a subsequent Congress did believe that the CAA does not authorize the EPA to regulate greenhouse emissions, how is that remotely relevant to the intent of the legislative body that actually drafted and passed the law? Once again, the text of the statute, rather than the actions taken by subsequent Congesses who lack any authority to interpret the law, would seem the clearest and most authoritative indication of that intent. So to return to the thrust of my previous comment: Do you deny that CO2 is a physical and chemical substance that is emitted by motor vehicles into the ambient air? If it satisfies that definition, and I can't fathom how it might not, then it seems to me that the Court's construction of the CAA is clearly right, regardless of any postenactment statements or actions taken by Congress.
4.3.2007 3:57pm
Colin (mail):
Or you can continue to avert your eyes from things which contradict your preconceptions.

Wow - that's powerfully ironic. You've established very clearly that you don't like the Court's result, and that you think that Congress today wouldn't pass legislation reaching the same result. But what Congress today would do isn't the question. What are your substantive disagreements with the Court? Can you respond to James' question?
4.3.2007 3:57pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Snacktime, science is not conducted by polling scientists, or even "the major science organizations of every major country in the world." Global warming science, like other science, is valid when it makes verifiable predictions. Telling us how much scientists pat each other on the back about their models isn't science. Telling us that those models made predictions -- about the future, not the past -- and that those predictions turned out to be accurate is the way to prove that the science is valid.
4.3.2007 4:01pm
Fury:
I'm more than a little concerned about methane.

Livestock account for a significant amount of methane production via enteric fermentation - see http://www.epa.gov/methane/sources.html and http://www.epa.gov/methane/rlep/faq.html

I don't want to seem pessamistic, but one wonders if more regulation of livestock operations may be considered in light of yesterday's decision.
4.3.2007 4:10pm
Colin (mail):
Telling us that those models made predictions -- about the future, not the past -- and that those predictions turned out to be accurate is the way to prove that the science is valid.

That's not quite accurate; scientific theories can be validated by making consistent "predictions" about past events. See, i.e., most of geology and astronomy.
4.3.2007 4:31pm
Mark Field (mail):

Global warming science, like other science, is valid when it makes verifiable predictions.


That's a contentious, and not universally shared, description of science. Most people think science exists to explain phenomena, not to make predictions. Requiring that the predictions be about the future, as you do a sentence later, is even more problematic since that would rule out much of cosmology and paleontology as science. And economists would die.
4.3.2007 4:35pm
Snacktime (mail):
Nieporent, even by your standard, the fact is that global average temperatures have been rising for the last thirty years quite noticeably and fairly in line with all the best computer models.

At the end of the day, I just don't understand why non-scientists would trust the scatterings of doubting scientists rather than the bulk of mainstream scientists in charge of organizations like NOAA, the NSA, NASA Godard, and their equivalents worldwide.
4.3.2007 4:36pm
Mark Field (mail):
Damn my work distractions, which allowed Colin to beat me to it!
4.3.2007 4:37pm
Colin (mail):
I have very little to say about climate change, which makes it easy for me to zero in on those specific elements about which I have something meaningful to say.

Also, I'm quick like a cheetah.
4.3.2007 5:02pm
James Dillon (mail):

Global warming science, like other science, is valid when it makes verifiable predictions. Telling us how much scientists pat each other on the back about their models isn't science. Telling us that those models made predictions -- about the future, not the past -- and that those predictions turned out to be accurate is the way to prove that the science is valid.

That's a bit of a misstatement, for a couple of reasons. The position that a truly scientific theory must make predictions is a bit of a corruption of Popper's work, particularly The Logic of Scientific Discovery, in which he argued, for reasons having to do with the internal inconsistency of inductive reasoning identified by Hume, that the distinction between science and metaphysics is that a scientific theory must be falsifiable (not "verifiable!")-- i.e., there must be some identifiable observation which, if made, would render the theory false. The general manner of testing scientific theories is by observation of experimental results based on predictions drawn from the theory about future events, but it isn't strictly necessary that the observation be based on a future event. Cf. Haldane's famous response to a question about what would falsify Darwin's theory of evolution: "fossil rabbits in the Precambrian!"
4.3.2007 5:12pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Snacktime,

Junk science is junk science. The premier American atmospheric physicist of the past 50 years is S. Fred Singer, and he has an exceptionally dim view of global warming alarmism. His most recent book is Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years.

Singer has been debunking junk science for a long time now. He started doing so with the nuclear winter hoax (I worked with him on that), and also on the second-hand tobacco smoke hysteria, which he called a "scam".

You might also read Michael Cricthton's speech, "Aliens Cause Global Warming" for an overview of the impact of junk science in these matters:

"... I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.

Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period.

...The late Philip Handler, former president of the National Academy of Sciences, said that "Scientists best serve public policy by living within the ethics of science, not those of politics. If the scientific community will not unfrock the charlatans, the public will not discern the difference-science and the nation will suffer." Personally, I don't worry about the nation. But I do worry about science."

4.3.2007 5:13pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Mark, that's not the case. (And now I see Colin's point, which clarifies my point and responds to yours.) Yes, science can make predictions about past events -- but not the past events used to develop your model, which is what I was getting at with my statement.

As for explaining phenomena -- that doesn't distinguish science from pseudoscience or theology for that matter. The way we know that we've got real science and not pseudoscience is that can we verify those explanations are accurate by using them to make predictions.

Snacktime, that data was used to build the models, in part. If I get to verify the model with the same data used to build it, I can always 'prove' my model accurate.
4.3.2007 5:19pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
James, Popper was defining what science was. I'm not disputing Popper at all. I'm discussing a different issue: I'm distinguishing correct science from incorrect science. A statement has to be falsifiable to be scientific, but a falsified statement is (by definition) falsifiable. So such a statement would be scientific, but it wouldn't be correct.
4.3.2007 5:28pm
jp2 (mail):
Speaking of predictions . . .

The most embarrassing part of the majority opinion is Stevens's footnote 18, where he almost appears to embrace the idea that Hurricane Katrina (a sample of 1) had some probative force regarding GW:


MacCracken's 2004 affidavit -- drafted more than a year in advance of Hurricane Katrina -- was eerily prescient. Immediately after discussing the "particular concern" that climate change might cause an "increase in the wind speed and peak rate of precipitation of major tropical cyclones (i.e., hurricanes and typhoons)," MacCracken noted that "soil compaction, sea level rise and recurrent storms are destroying approximately 20-30 square miles of Louisiana wetlands each year. These wetlands serve as a 'shock absorber' for storm surges that could inundate New Orleans, significantly enhancing the risk to a major urban population."
4.3.2007 5:36pm
James Dillon (mail):
David,

I'm not entirely sure what you mean; I took your statement that global warming science "is valid when it makes verifiable predictions" to mean that science that fails to make such predictions is invalid, which I took to mean "is not real science." If, as you apparently believe, climate change models are falsifiable, the extent to which they have been "verified," or more precisely, have been not-falsified by subsequent observations, might render them more or less compelling, but I don't see how it might render them invalid or incorrect.

In any event, I don't think we're really in disagreement here; I agree with your 4:19 comment that a theory can't be supported by reference to the same observations from which the theory was derived. The extent to which global warming models are guilty of that sort of bootstrapping is not one upon which I am qualified to hold an informed opinion.
4.3.2007 5:42pm
Colin (mail):
he almost appears to embrace the idea that Hurricane Katrina (a sample of 1) had some probative force regarding GW

I agree that he almost appears to embrace the idea - that is, that he does not in fact appear to embrace it. I'm not sure why you think that's embarrassing.
4.3.2007 5:45pm
jp2 (mail):
I think it's embarrassing because it doesn't advance his argument and seems to be included simply as a cheap attention-getter.
4.3.2007 5:48pm
Mark Field (mail):

Mark, that's not the case. (And now I see Colin's point, which clarifies my point and responds to yours.) Yes, science can make predictions about past events -- but not the past events used to develop your model, which is what I was getting at with my statement.


Even this is overstated. In fact, known past events can be the subject of retrodictions. There's nothing wrong with that as long as those events are not programmed into the model, but instead develop naturally out of general principles.

For example, any physical explanation of the origin of the universe must account for the known phenomena which followed the origin (e.g., the smoothness of the cosmic microwave background radiation). Those phenomena, in turn, provided much of the evidence for the physical laws which went into the "retrodictions" of earlier times.


As for explaining phenomena -- that doesn't distinguish science from pseudoscience or theology for that matter.


Sure it does. The explanations offered by science are falsifiable. Those offered by theology and pseudo-science are not.
4.3.2007 5:55pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Mark Field,

Chrichton's speech has the following pertinent comment on your most recent point:

Cast your minds back to 1960. John F. Kennedy is president, commercial jet airplanes are just appearing, the biggest university mainframes have 12K of memory. And in Green Bank, West Virginia at the new National Radio Astronomy Observatory, a young astrophysicist named Frank Drake runs a two week project called Ozma, to search for extraterrestrial signals. A signal is received, to great excitement. It turns out to be false, but the excitement remains. In 1960, Drake organizes the first SETI conference, and came up with the now-famous Drake equation:

N=N*fp ne fl fi fc fL

Where N is the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy; fp is the fraction with planets; ne is the number of planets per star capable of supporting life; fl is the fraction of planets where life evolves; fi is the fraction where intelligent life evolves; and fc is the fraction that communicates; and fL is the fraction of the planet's life during which the communicating civilizations live.

This serious-looking equation gave SETI an serious footing as a legitimate intellectual inquiry. The problem, of course, is that none of the terms can be known, and most cannot even be estimated. The only way to work the equation is to fill in with guesses. And guesses-just so we're clear-are merely expressions of prejudice. Nor can there be "informed guesses." If you need to state how many planets with life choose to communicate, there is simply no way to make an informed guess. It's simply prejudice.

As a result, the Drake equation can have any value from "billions and billions" to zero. An expression that can mean anything means nothing. Speaking precisely, the Drake equation is literally meaningless, and has nothing to do with science. I take the hard view that science involves the creation of testable hypotheses. The Drake equation cannot be tested and therefore SETI is not science. SETI is unquestionably a religion. Faith is defined as the firm belief in something for which there is no proof. The belief that the Koran is the word of God is a matter of faith. The belief that God created the universe in seven days is a matter of faith. The belief that there are other life forms in the universe is a matter of faith. There is not a single shred of evidence for any other life forms, and in forty years of searching, none has been discovered. There is absolutely no evidentiary reason to maintain this belief. SETI is a religion.

4.3.2007 6:08pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
James Dillon,

It depends on whether the term "pollutiin agent" is deemed synonymous with "emission". See the three posts of markm, you and me here (my emphasis):

markm (mail):

"The term "air pollutant" means any air pollution agent or combination of such agents, including any physical, chemical, biological, radioactive (including source material, special nuclear material, and byproduct material) substance or matter which is emitted into or otherwise enters the ambient air."

Does "air pollution agent" in the first phrase limit the entire definition. If so, it's circular (unless air pollution agent is defined elsewhere). If not, then the EPA should regulate breathing, evaporation from lakes, etc...
4.3.2007 11:50am

(link)James Dillon (mail):
markm,

I don't think it's circular, just perhaps a bit redundant. "Air poullutant" = "air pollution agent" = "any physical, chemical, biological, radioactive (including source material, special nuclear material, and byproduct material) substance or matter which is emitted into or otherwise enters the ambient air." It's not clear to me why we need the term "air pullution agent," but I don't think that it renders the definition unintelligible.
4.3.2007 11:55am

(link)Tom Holsinger (mail):
markm,

IMO we need to look somewhere in the EPA for the term, "pollution agent", as I agree with you that, absent some limiting definition of "pollution agent", the Act creates regulatory authority over just about everything. And as I said, makes the Environmental Protection Agency a super-agency which is required to regulate everything and everyone. Paraphrasing George Orwell,

"All federal agencies are created equal, but some are more equal than others."
4.3.2007 6:45pm
Justin Levine:
Prof. Adler -

Why no analysis of Scalia's dissent in your article? Section I(B) of his dissent seems particularly forceful.

As Scalia writes -

…[T]he Court gives EPA the option of determining that the science is too uncertain to allow it to form a "judgment" as to whether greenhouse gases endanger public welfare. Attached to this option (on what basis is unclear) is an essay requirement: "If," the Court says, "the scientific uncertainty is so profound that it precludes EPA from making a reasoned judgment as to whether greenhouse gases contribute to global warming, EPA must say so." Ante, at 31. But EPA has said precisely that- and at great length, based on information contained in a 2001 report by the National Research Council (NRC) entitled Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions:


"As the NRC noted in its report, concentrations of
[greenhouse gases (GHGs)] are increasing in the atmosphere as a result of human activities (pp. 9-12).
It also noted that '[a] diverse array of evidence points
to a warming of global surface air temperatures' (p. 16). The report goes on to state, however, that '[b]ecause of the large and still uncertain level of natural variability inherent in the climate record and the uncertainties in the time histories of the various forcing agents (and particularly aerosols), a [causal] linkage between the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the observed climate changes during the 20th century cannot be unequivocally established. The fact that the magnitude of the observed warming is large in comparison to natural variability as simulated in climate models is suggestive of such a linkage, but it does not constitute proof of one because the model simulations could be deficient in natural variability on the decadal to century time scale' (p. 17).

"The NRC also observed that 'there is considerable uncertainty in current understanding of how the climate system varies naturally and reacts to emissions of [GHGs] and aerosols' (p. 1). As a result of that uncertainty, the NRC cautioned that 'current estimate of the magnitude of future warming should be regarded as tentative and subject to future adjustments (either upward or downward).' Id. It further advised that '[r]educing the wide range of uncertainty inherent in current model predictions of global climate change will require major advances in understanding and modeling of both (1) the factors that determine atmospheric concentrations of [GHGs] and aerosols and (2) the so-called "feedbacks" that determine the sensitivity of the climate system to a prescribed increase in [GHGs].' Id.

"The science of climate change is extraordinarily complex and still evolving. Although there have been substantial advances in climate change science, there continue to be important uncertainties in our understanding of the factors that may affect future climate change and how it should be addressed. As the NRC explained, predicting future climate change necessarily involves a complex web of economic and physical factors including: Our ability to predict future global anthropogenic emissions of GHGs and aerosols; the fate of these emissions once they enter the atmosphere (e.g., what percentage are absorbed by vegetation or are taken up by the oceans); the impact of
those emissions that remain in the atmosphere on the radiative properties of the atmosphere; changes in critically important climate feedbacks (e.g., changes in
cloud cover and ocean circulation); changes in temperature
characteristics (e.g., average temperatures, shifts in daytime and evening temperatures); changes in other climatic parameters (e.g., shifts in precipitation, storms); and ultimately the impact of such changes on human health and welfare (e.g., increases or decreases in agricultural productivity, human health impacts). The NRC noted, in particular, that '[t]he understanding of the relationships between weather/climate and human health is in its infancy and therefore the health consequences of climate change are poorly understood' (p. 20). Substantial
scientific uncertainties limit our ability to assess each
of these factors and to separate out those changes resulting from natural variability from those that are
directly the result of increases in anthropogenic GHGs.

"Reducing the wide range of uncertainty inherent in current model predictions will require major advances in understanding and modeling of the factors that determine atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosols, and the processes that determine the sensitivity of the climate system." 68 Fed. Reg.
52930.

I simply cannot conceive of what else the Court would like EPA to say.

[End excerpt]
4.3.2007 7:03pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
> Requiring that the predictions be about the future, as you do a sentence later, is even more problematic since that would rule out much of cosmology and paleontology as science.

To be evaluated, the predictions must concern events that happened before the evaluation. The predictions themselves must also be made before the evaluation.

However, it's perfectly reasonable for the "predicted" events to have happened before the predictions were made so long as the prediction process doesn't consider data that wasn't available when the event was predicted to happen.
4.3.2007 9:12pm
Jonathan H. Adler (mail) (www):
Mr. Levine --

I don't find Scalia's dissent particularly persuasive. I explained why in my prior post on the subject.

JHA
4.3.2007 9:26pm
Mark Field (mail):

Chrichton's speech has the following pertinent comment on your most recent point


There's a reason Crichton writes science fiction.
4.3.2007 9:27pm
EricRasmusen (mail) (www):
Snacktime, in response to your comment way above: I should have no standing in a global warming case because the connection between the EPA not regulating human exhalation of carbon dioxide and my discomfort from the heat is too tenuous. I don't think someone with asthma should be able to sue the EPA for not enforcing air pollution rules either (in fact, the majority opinion in the present case says somewhere that the courts stay out of enforcement cases). Someone with asthma should be able to sue only if they can plausibly claim the particular emitter caused them harm, and then they should be able to sue regardless of whether the emitter is in compliance or not, I suppose. I haven't thought that through, though--- it would cause people with asthma to go live near power plants so as to collect the lawsuit money.
4.3.2007 10:21pm
James Dillon (mail):
Tom,

Though you seem fond of the tactic, I don't find your approach of throwing a long block quote into a comment and hoping something sticks terribly persuasive*, but in any event, it seems to me that this portion, rather than the part you highlighted, of your previous commentary is the most relevant to our discussion:

IMO we need to look somewhere in the EPA for the term, "pollution agent", as I agree with you that, absent some limiting definition of "pollution agent", the Act creates regulatory authority over just about everything. And as I said, makes the Environmental Protection Agency a super-agency which is required to regulate everything and everyone.

Are we to take it, then, that you agree that a literal reading of the Clean Air Act's definition of "air pollutant" would include carbon dioxide and the other greenhouse gases discussed in Massachusetts v. EPA? If that's the case, can you please explain how a judicial opinion that gives effect to the most plausible reading of the plain language of a federal statute could possibly be an instance of "judicial activism"? Once again, it seems to me that you simply don't like the outcome of this case and are under the impression that that in itself is sufficient to establish this opinion as an "activist" one.

I suspect that your problem here is not really with the Court, but with Congress for passing the CAA with such intentionally vague wording in the first place. There may well be something to that objection-- it seems at least superficially plausible to question Congress's wisdom in delegating such a large chunk of policy-making authority to a federal agency (though the flip side of that argument, of course, is that Congress has neither the time nor the institutional expertise to continually revise environmental statutes in light of developing scientific information, so it arguably was rational in making the high-level judgment, "Air pollution bad," and leaving it to the EPA to work out the details). Regardless, any blame for the EPA becoming a "super-agency" rests appropriately with the Congress that passed the Clean Air Act, not with the Court that gave effect to the clear intention of Congress as expressed in that Act.

I should note for the record that I finished reading the opinion early this afternoon, and while I believe the majority was clearly right on the merits, it seems equally clear (at least, without having done any independent research on my own) that Chief Justice Roberts was right on the standing issue, in which case the debate about statutory construction becomes, to me at least, a purely academic one, since the case was wrongly decided regardless of whose interpretation of the CAA is the right one.

* I hesitate to even address this, since the lengthy Michael Chrichton speech you quoted is utterly irrelevant to the subject at hand and to any of the points Mark was discussing earlier, but the only point that I take from that quotation is that Chrichton, quite characteristically, has no idea what he's talking about. There's nothing "religious" about saying, as the SETI project essentially did, that "All of our theories of cosmology and biology suggest that there ought to be other life forms out there in the universe somewhere, so let's set up a listening station for the purpose of trying to collect some observational evidence to support that hypothesis." I also noted with some amusement that Chrichton seems to think that forty years is a long time to spend looking for evidence of extraterrestrial life; he is apparently oblivious to the fact that forty years is much less than the blink of an eye in the immensity of cosmic time. In fact, the best criticism I've heard of SETI is that, given the enormity of space and time, even if there are other intelligent civilizations that have arisen in the universe, our chances of their being in sufficient proxmimity for us to ever find evidence of them is vanishingly small. But there's still nothing faith-based about looking for a needle in a haystack, however bad the odds of success may be.
4.3.2007 10:24pm
Wayne Lusvardi (mail) (www):
The effects of Mass. v. EPA might be more along the lines of what happened in the California Energy Crisis of 2001. In 1996-the Clinton-led EPA mandated air quality improvements by 2000 in California or face a cut off of Federal highway and education funds. The fastest way to reduce air pollution fast was to mothball all the old, fossil fuel polluting power plants. The problem was that many of these old polluting power plants had unpaid stranded debt (mortgages or bonds) on them. Who was going to pay them off became a hot potato between investers of Investor-Owned Utilities or ratepayers/taxpayers. If investors had to pay, the whole bond market might collapse. So what government did was intentionally induce a fever in the energy market that would spike prices to pay off the stranded debts. This was done by tacking on a "competitive transition charge," price caps, and blockading interstate power trades which forbade energy companies from buying cheap out-of-state power and then wheeling it into California to reduce the cost to consumers. Enron got snagged in this game as it was trying to reduce, not inflate, costs to consumers by creative trading maneuvers. When Gray Davis got elected Governor the Democratic-controlled legislature and CPUC invoked price caps which pulled the rug on Enron. To compound the crisis, the Snohomish Public Utility District in Everett, Washington, and the State of California stiffed Enron for power already delivered by Enron. We can look forward to the private sector being vilified for huge investment wipeouts caused by government regulation if Mass v. EPA resembles anything like the California Energy Crisis of 2001.
4.3.2007 10:24pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Mark Field,

Crichton was a Harvard M.D. and medical research scientist before discovering that writing was more fun and rewarding.

Did you ever wonder why Carl Sagan left the profession of science and took up writing? His book title, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, was an especially rich choice given just why he had to leave science.

It was a really messy scandal. Piltdown Man type messy. Misrepresenting, in print, the views of scientific colleagues was professional suicide. His TTAPS (nuclear winter) co-authors Turco, Toon, Ackerman and Pollack had to take Sagan out to preserve their own reputations.

Other scientists stopped working with Sagan, his grant applications were denied, etc., and he had to leave the science profession to take up a second career as a science-fiction writer. And he was pretty good at that. I know, and knew, a bunch of them starting with Philip K. Dick when I was a boy, and Sagan compares with many.

Notice this part of Crichton's speech:

"But Sagan and his co-workers were prepared, for nuclear winter was from the outset the subject of a well-orchestrated media campaign. The first announcement of nuclear winter appeared in an article by Sagan in the Sunday supplement, Parade. The very next day, a highly-publicized, high-profile conference on the long-term consequences of nuclear war was held in Washington, chaired by Carl Sagan and Paul Ehrlich, the most famous and media-savvy scientists of their generation. Sagan appeared on the Johnny Carson show 40 times. Ehrlich was on 25 times. Following the conference, there were press conferences, meetings with congressmen, and so on. The formal papers in Science came months later.

This is not the way science is done, it is the way products are sold."


Sagan said in his October 1983 Parade article that his colleagues (Turco, Toon, Ackerman &Pollack) supported his opinions there. But they didn't.

They didn't as to his (fallout) radiological model, which was based on a Lawrence Livermore Laboratories study which assumed that ALL the nuclear reactor fuel rods in the entire world, including all the spent rods awaiting reprocessing, were irradiated and vaporized as if they were the U-238 casings on "hydrogen" bombs (really fission-fusion-fission devices).

The other TTAPS authors had specifically told Sagan that they disagreed with that model, and not to use it. But he did, and claimed that they agreed with him. So, to protect their own professional reputations, they inserted a footnote in the formal December 1983 TTAPS "nuclear winter" article in Science which specifically denounced the Lawrence Livermore study Sagan had said they agreed with.

And I spotted it. Actually I had spotted Sagan's whopper in Parade the instant I read it. The amount of radioactive energy in fallout from mass use of strategic nuclear weapons is an ascertainable amount based on the total yield (megatonnage) of the weapons used. It's complicated and I won't go into it here.

The radioactive energy in Sagan's Parade radiological model exceeded the radioactive energy released by the weapons yield of his nuclear war model by several to many orders of magnitude (23 years later I forget by how much, but it was a lot).

But I said at the time, when first reading Sagan's Parade article, "Where is all that energy coming from?" The energy budgets for his fallout and weapons yield models were obviously out of whack to anyone familiar with the subject.

Not to mention the energy budgets for the "nuclear winter" atomospheric model. So I waited with bated breath for the Science article, whipped through it to find the footnote denouncing Sagan's Parade article. Then I got copies of the Lawerence Livermore study AND the first draft of the TTAPS article (the "Blue Book",) and sent my findings to someone who could use those to good effect. Which he did.

With the result that the nuclear winter fuss entirely dropped off the charts a month later. All of a sudden the doomies and lefties stopped using it to promote their various causes, such as the "nuclear freeze", or mentioning it at all. Nuclear winter was a big issue from November 1983 through about April 1984. Then sudden silence.

There were lots of errors and outright intentional lies in the TTAPS atmospheric model - I found a truly comic decimal point error in a critical computation. The nuclear winter concept was definitely a hoax.

But what killed it was Sagan lying about his colleagues supporting his radiological model. That scandal was so awful - the destruction of Sagan's career by his own colleages protecting themselves from his lies - that the doomies and lefties dropped the whole subject to avoid the Sagan scandal becoming public.

I took it as a win. And kept my peace until after Sagan's death.

I am familiar with junk science, having helped destroy a well-known scientist for indulging in it, and promotion of MAN-MADE global warming is junk science.
4.3.2007 10:38pm
Robert Schwartz (mail):
I wrote:

I am willing to wager that GW will have become GC, before the EPA adopts final administrative rules: Russian Scientists Forecast Global Cooling in 6-9 Years


And Snacktime got his knickers in a twist:

This "global cooling" stuff and global warming denialism is just plain sad. ... Now Robert Schwartz digs up some random assertion by some random Russian scientist. As if this anecdotal nonsense in a single stroke destroys the incredible breadth and weight of existing climate science.


Snacky: Lighten up. I was offering a sporting proposition. If you are so sure of the science, then give me an amount, odds, and a date.

Look, I am not a scientist, I don't know if current GW theories are right or not, but I do know what any race track tout knows: you can't make money betting on favorites.
4.3.2007 10:50pm
justanotherguy (mail):
I can't put it any better than Tom Holsinger did:
junk science is junk science.

The reason we see more and more politicians and political bodies such as IPCC pushing GW is that there are now fewer and fewer scientist (but not 0) who will emphatically claim with 90 % certainty that GW is man-made. The more evidence we find, the less and less likely GW is man-made and more and more lilkely sun related in a cyclic fashion.

There is too much evidence for non-man made causes for such grandiose pronouncements as the politicians are making.

For a new area where this nation and others have poured $B, of course there is a constituency. But grants do not equal solid science.

What the Supreme Court did by wading into a political-scientific dispute about control and direction of the industrial economy (severe regulation of energy is pretty much regulation of the industry in a global world) was ensure that over the next couple of decades, any remaining industry that can leave will accelerate moving from the US to overseas.

The EPA will have to regulate greenhouse gases, and the next democratic administration has cover to do things the Clinton White House refused to do wrt GW.

Unless something unexpected happens, the utopians/socialists have won and our costs of producing anything in the US will go dramatically up in relation to the rest of the world as we attempt with typical American ernestness to actually reduce or greenhouse gas footprints.

The rest of the world will smile and continue to ignore their own regulations and gain a tremendous competitive advantage.

Kyoto was economic warfare through the UN, and now through the US courts. This opinion is not only the next Scrap, but the next Smoot Hawley.

Stevens by buying into the whole GW hysteria is now the Junk Science Justice.
4.3.2007 11:52pm
Mark Field (mail):
Tom, I often find myself agreeing with your posts in these threads. This is not one of those times. Crichton simply has no idea what he's talking about when it comes to climate.

I'm really not sure what Sagan has to do with this (nor SETI either). Sagan's failures, whatever they were, can't logically rehabilitate Crichton. As for the TTAPS study and ensuing controversy, I'm quite familiar with it for both personal reasons I can't disclose and from having read it and studied the issue when it first appeared.
4.3.2007 11:59pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Mark Field,

Then you are aware of the relationship between pages 4 (note 4) and 14-15 of Joe Knox's Livermore study, and Sagan's statement on page 7 of Parade (my emphasis):

"We found for the baseline case that roughly 30 percent of the land at northern midlatitudes could receive a radioactive dose greater than 250 rads, and that about 50 percent of northern midlatitudes could receive a radioactive does greater than 100 rads."

Paraphasing Turco, Toon, Ackerman &Pollack in the fatal TTAPS Science footnote, "What do you mean, we, White Man?"

Now we see many of the usual suspects from the nuclear winter hoax, and the same familiar tactics, engaging in the man-caused global warming hoax.

Crichton describes it well, quoted below to further inspire your wonderful vampire-to-garlic reaction and defensive credential games ("Mommy, look - the Emperor has NO CLOTHES!"):

I would just remind you of the now-familiar pattern by which these things are established. Evidentiary uncertainties are glossed over in the unseemly rush for an overarching policy, and for grants to support the policy by delivering findings that are desired by the patron. Next, the isolation of those scientists who won't get with the program, and the characterization of those scientists as outsiders and "skeptics" in quotation marks-suspect individuals with suspect motives, industry flunkies, reactionaries, or simply anti-environmental nutcases. In short order, debate ends, even though prominent scientists are uncomfortable about how things are being done.
4.4.2007 12:55am
Ken Arromdee:
Do you deny that CO2 is a physical and chemical substance that is emitted by motor vehicles into the ambient air?

By this reasoning, they could regulate all living creatures, since CO2 is emitted by people into the air and oxygen is emitted by plants. They could even regulate everything which produces water vapor.

Obviously, the intent was that substances that are already in unpolluted air, such as CO2 and water vapor, don't qualify as pollutants just because their quantity goes up.
4.4.2007 1:33am
Andrew Okun:
There are a couple of distinctions between the Sagan case and the theory that we are causing global warming by emitting ghgs.

First, the Sagan case and the GW case can't, as Crichton seems to claim, be part of the same "now-familiar pattern." Tom describes how the scientific community cast the previously well-known Sagan from their ranks because his work was crap. The nuclear winter thesis was dead within a 12-month. If that is the pattern, what's the problem? The junk science died on its own merits and if it is the same science community and the same standards being applied now, it reflects well on the GW hypothesis that, 28 years after the Charney report said it'd get warmer, we're still talking about this.

Second, while the nuclear winter hypothesis was junk from the start (based on Tom's account of misplaced decimal points and energy balances that didn't balance) the GW hypothesis is perfectly plausible. It is driven by simple physics ... the energy is showing up and not all being emitted and has to go somewhere. There are certainly huge uncertainties ... it could all be sucked up by oceans or counteracted by plant growth or something else, but the idea that the amount of warming we see is caused by changes we have made is not orders of magnitude away from possible, it is possible.

Third, while the nuclear winter hypothesis could not withstand criticism, the GW hypothesis has, repeatedly. Scientists have, quite properly, scrutinized and found flaws in each others work. Every time, satellite readings, aerosols, whatever, it gets trumpeted by some people as "see, the whole thing is a crock and a hoax." But when the next round of calculations and studies are done, the theory is, unfortunately, pretty undamaged. (Unfortunately, cause I'd be overjoyed if it really were a hoax.)

Fourth, and I'd think this would have to count for a little, the predicted consequences seem to be happening. I know it's complicated and it may be a coincidence, but a plausible and robust theory that says something might happen, which then does, does not seem like junk science to me. When the Charney report came out and said there could be a 3 deg C rise by 2100, there was no warming. We were at the end of a several decade slight cooling. When the first IPCC report came out in 1991, it concluded that while the prediction of warming was sound, it was impossible to attribute what warming there then seemed to be to ghgs and such attribution was probably a decade away. Since then, lots of warming observed, glaciers melting, tundra belching and the rest.

Fiction seems to be a theme here. Sagan was better at science fiction than science, and now we're supposed to take Crichton seriously for something? Plus, I read above how the number of scientists who "believe" manmade gw is happening, while not quite zero yet, is plummeting by the minute. Seriously?

Meanwhile, Sagan was properly criticized for doing promotion instead of science, but science is being done now and is being done by scientists. Gore and his movie are definitely promotion, promotion and politics. That's fine, because Gore is a politician, whose business is to recommend policies and drum up support for them. He is certainly no more doing promotion then Lomborg or Limbaugh or Inhofe when they claim Gore's policies would be bad. We have no choice as non-scientists but to try to judge the science as best we can and that's what they are all doing, some badly.
4.4.2007 5:15am
James Dillon (mail):
Ken,

By this reasoning, they could regulate all living creatures, since CO2 is emitted by people into the air and oxygen is emitted by plants. They could even regulate everything which produces water vapor.

No, they couldn't. The definition in question applies to the regulation of "the emission of any air pollutant from any class or classes of new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines, which in [the EPA Administrator's] judgment cause, or contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare." 42 U.S.C. 7521(a)(1). We're not talking about living creatures here, we're talking about things that are emitted from motor vehicles and motor vehicle engines.


Obviously, the intent was that substances that are already in unpolluted air, such as CO2 and water vapor, don't qualify as pollutants just because their quantity goes up.

It seems pretty obvious to me that the intent was to permit the EPA to regulate the emissions of any physical or chemical substances that is emitted by motor vehicles into the ambient air, and which, in the EPA's judgment, cause, or contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare. I see no indication that the question whether the substance in question is already present in some quantity in the ambient air is at all relevant to the inquiry.
4.4.2007 9:29am
WHOI Jacket:
So, Michael Crichton, a Harvard MD, a Salk Foundation Fellow and Visiting Writer at MIT probably knows nothing about climate or science.

Yet, Al Gore, a carrer politician is now the topic's main advocate, has umimpeachable authority.




Go figure.
4.4.2007 11:27am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
What amazes me is how much energy is being devoted to suppressing economic activity, when about 4% of carbon dioxide production is coming from underground coal fires (mostly in China, but some in the northeastern U.S.) These are completely unproductive, and some of the big fires in China are contributing to serious air pollution and health problems.

Yet the global warming types seem completely unconcerned about research to figure out ways to stop these fires. It does lend credence to the idea that the primary focus of the global warming crowd is economic warfare directed against the United States.
4.4.2007 11:42am
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Clayton Cramer,

It's the power. They like power.
4.4.2007 11:46am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

It's the power. They like power.
Yup. I would be curious to know how much of the global warming crap is being funded indirectly by China, who benefits tremendously from seeing the U.S. declining as a major power.
4.4.2007 11:52am
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Andrew Okun,

There are varieties of junk science. Litigators deal with one variety constantly. Then there are the ones originating in political and social causes, which do follow rather similar patterns and are here.

You mistake disagreement about the CAUSES of global warming with disagreement that it is happening at all. Singer and Avery contend that the current warming trend is a naturally occuring cyclical event, with the cycle averaging about 1500 years over the past million years.

And there are many, many different natural cycles affecting global warming and cooling - the earth's orbital distance from the sun, precession of the earth's rotation, flucuations in solar output plus sunspot cycles, and even the solar system's progression around the galaxy.

The big dispute here is whether human factors have a non-negliglible role in global warming. On this one there is considerable scientific disagreement. Lots of us see this dispute as being based far more on faith than reason.
4.4.2007 11:59am
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Clayton,

No - they want the power for themselves, particularly unaccountable power. IMO it's the same factors driving the EU.
4.4.2007 12:00pm
Mark Field (mail):
Andrew Okun made substantially the same points I would have made. I'll just add two related considerations.

First, it's important not to confuse Sagan and his personal views with the nuclear winter study in its entirety. The basic science of Turco et al. was and remains legitimate. In no way was it or is it junk science; Turco and others continue to publish in Science and other highly respected journals.

Second, Sagan was a single person who contributed to a cutting edge paper. Global warming has been the subject of study for roughly 40 years by hundreds, if not thousands, of scientists and involves thousands of studies. The real comparison, if there is one, is between Sagan and Fred Singer, not between Sagan and the scientific community as a whole.


So, Michael Crichton, a Harvard MD, a Salk Foundation Fellow and Visiting Writer at MIT probably knows nothing about climate or science.

Yet, Al Gore, a carrer politician is now the topic's main advocate, has umimpeachable authority.




Go figure.


Crichton has no expertise in climate studies; whatever his credentials are, they aren't germane to the specific issue. He is entitled to no more credibility outside his area of expertise, assuming he has one, than anyone else.

Gore does not claim to be an expert, nor is he himself the "source", unimpeachable or not, of the data he presents. Gore's sources and data, however, represent the scientific consensus.
4.4.2007 12:26pm
Woodstock (mail) (www):
Are the people on this blog funded by oil companies or something? The assertions about global warming being a giant hoax are just preposterous. They have to be shills for somebody or else they have just lost it.

No one can say that the greenhouse gas theory is 100% certain, but again, referring back to Popper, that cannot be said of any theory. The only certainties in life are those theories that are proven false. The most you can ever say of a good theory is that it is likely to be correct, which is all that science has done with the greenhouse gas theory.

So, given that the greenhouse gas theory best fits the trend of global warming, the onus is on denialists to come up with a better theory. These random assertions about sun cycles and impending global cooling are just not credible. The hypocrisy is just so rich that I don't know if these people are stupid or just spoilers inserted into the debate by interested parties. As if the consensus theory of global warming is to be thrown out the window because of a few random alternate theories. There will always be alternate theories, but unless those theories somehow fit the evidence better than other theories, there is no reason to give them special attention.

Therefore, even though the greenhouse gas theory of global warming is not and never will be proven, the important question is a qualitative judgement of whether it is a strong theory, and what are the implications of it being accurate. Given the high expected costs to the earth of dealing with continued warming, and more importantly, the MASSIVE uncertainty about what those costs are, the only rational approach is to attempt to mitigate the problem. The opposite position--that because of the massive uncertainty (read risk) we should do nothing to mitigate the problem--just doesn't pass the test of basic reasoning.

The shills on this board rave like lunatics about the massive costs to GDP of implementing emissions regulations. The fact is, those costs are minor (were it not so, I would oppose efforts to reduce emissions). Oil is becoming more expensive anyway, and sooner or later we'll have to face the music. It is not as if we don't have a dynamic free-market system that is built specifically for the purpose of adjusting the economy to changing cost of resources. There are countless SIMPLE solutions that will be on the market as soon as regulations go into effect (more energy efficient vehicles, emissions filters, new energy sources, etc.). The alarmists on this board have no faith in free markets, no faith in science, and only faith in the least reliable of all faculties: their own reasoning.

P.S., also lawyers must overrate the significance of analogies, because I see way too many worthless analogies being thrown out here. Breathing out CO2 may be the similar to auto-emissions, but anybody who can't understand the practical difference from a policy/legal perspective is just retarded.
4.4.2007 12:42pm
Andrew Okun:
There are varieties of junk science. Litigators deal with one variety constantly. Then there are the ones originating in political and social causes, which do follow rather similar patterns and are here.

Nuclear winter may have originated in a political or social cause, I'm guessing here, because its authors didn't like the idea of nuclear war and were trying to counteract some of the "war-fighting" theorizing happening under the Reagan administration. Nuclear winter, were it a valid theory, would be a reason that contemplating prevailing in such a conflict would be irrational. So they theorize nuclear winter and politics drives junk science.

Global warming was repeatedly theorized about absent the politics and has been picked up by pols because it has political and social implications. Legitimately. It does have political and social implications and pols, Gore and Inhofe alike, feel rightly compelled to study it.

You mistake disagreement about the CAUSES of global warming with disagreement that it is happening at all. Singer and Avery contend that the current warming trend is a naturally occuring cyclical event, with the cycle averaging about 1500 years over the past million years.

Forgive me for sometimes losing track of who is saying "the causes are unclear" and who is saying "see, it's snowing here in Buffalo, so there's no warming." Yes, there is disagreement about causes, there are a range of factors, none of which are denied or ignored by climatologists, which raise uncertainties. Scientifically, there are open questions about this. That is a far, far cry from it being junk science. Far from being junk science, the science is good enough to raise the policy question strongly. The IPCC's 90% level is perhaps not a strong as our confidence that cigarette smoking is unhealthy, but it is not that different that what is needed before we approve medicines as effective.

The big dispute here is whether human factors have a non-negliglible role in global warming. On this one there is considerable scientific disagreement. Lots of us see this dispute as being based far more on faith than reason.

I won't attribute motives to you with regard to the faith idea, but most of the people who tag scientific and political ideas with the "religion" label do so as basis for arguing that they should be ignored without worrying about the merits. If environmentalism or evolution or liberalism are faiths, rather than science or politics, than you needn't worry about the details, because the proponents are not rational. The science in the case of GW is legit and predictive and, sadly, appears to be valid. Slam Greenpeace or Al Gore if you like, but they are not generating this science.

If global average temperatures turn around and head down for a decade or two, glaciers grow again and so on, then the GW hypothesis will take a hit. It doesn't predict that. Is there some standard you have for when it's proven to your satisfaction for policy purposes? Is there some level of warming that could take place that would cause you to form a conclusion about the significance of the role of ghgs? Or do you think that the science is so bad that its output doesn't constitute predictions? Or that the field is so fundamentally uncertain that we can never know cause and effect, at least not anytime soon?
4.4.2007 1:17pm
Andrew Okun:
What amazes me is how much energy is being devoted to suppressing economic activity, when about 4% of carbon dioxide production is coming from underground coal fires (mostly in China, but some in the northeastern U.S.) These are completely unproductive, and some of the big fires in China are contributing to serious air pollution and health problems.

Yet the global warming types seem completely unconcerned about research to figure out ways to stop these fires. It does lend credence to the idea that the primary focus of the global warming crowd is economic warfare directed against the United States.


Dang, it's hard to keep up. Last week, the only possible practical solution to carbon emissions was nuclear power, and the fact that we enviros weren't pushing for 500 new nuclear power plants was the proof that we know man-made global warming is not happening. This week, it's coal fires in China that prove that we don't believe in man-made global warming, but instead are trying to destroy our country. "lends credence," indeed. This kind of thing makes the nuclear winter theory look like quantum mechanics.
4.4.2007 1:33pm
WHOI Jacket:
Can I get on the evil oil companies payroll, being as I'm supposedly "shilling"? I've got taxes coming up in two weeks that I'd love some help on.

Look, I'm an environmental science major, I know how the scientific process works. I've been privilged to have taken classes from Dr. Judith Curry (Georgia Institute of Technology) Dr. Ronald Prinn (MIT) and Kerry Emmanuel(MIT).

What we are losing is the difference between "global warming" = incrimental changes in overal climatic trends as we collectivly enter the anthropocene, to "global warming" = zOMG!1 we're all going to die.

Am I no longer allowed to hold the first view without being branded a heretic?
4.4.2007 2:10pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Lots of us find this dispute to be theological in nature, and you don't win arguments over religion. Here's an excerpt from a William F. Buckley column today:

Not Since The Inquisition

"... Critics are correct in insisting that human enterprises have an effect on climate. What they cannot at this point do is specify exactly how great the damage is, nor how much relief would be effected by specific acts of natural propitiation.

The whole business is eerily religious in feel. Back in the 15th century, the question was: Do you believe in Christ? It was required in Spain by the Inquisition that the answer should be affirmative, leaving to one side subsidiary specifications.

It is required today to believe that carbon-dioxide emissions threaten the basic ecological balance. The assumption then is that inasmuch as a large proportion of the damage is man-made, man-made solutions are necessary. But it is easy to see, right away, that there is a problem in devising appropriate solutions, and in allocating responsibility for them ...
"

And I am very, very disappointed in you people. No one has yet said that the obvious solution to global warming is to have a nuclear winter.
4.4.2007 2:42pm
Andrew Okun:
What we are losing is the difference between "global warming" = incrimental changes in overal climatic trends as we collectivly enter the anthropocene, to "global warming" = zOMG!1 we're all going to die.

No, we're not losing the difference. We're discussing the difference. We just happen also to be discussing other things too. If you see people arguing "warming is happening," it is not because they think that is the only point or that you in particular are heretical, it's because they're going at it with people who claim "there is no warming going on" or "no warming has been measured." If see people yelling, "we're causing global warming" it's because they are arguing with people who don't believe we are entering the anthropocene, at least not where climate is concerned.

Having had those discussions, we get to the alternatives of (a) incremental warming as we enter the anthropocene v (b) we're all going to die! People are having that discussion all over; everyone recognizes the difference. My question is, what basis have to believe that anthropogenic forcing of the climate, the defining characteristic of the anthropocene, will cause incremental changes in overall trends? One of the interesting results of recent paleoclimatological research is that the climate does not always change in nice, smooth, gradual ways, but sometimes changes quite abruptly. The climate might change smoothly and it might not, and there are legitimate reasons to think it might not. Surely your conclusion of smooth change is as open to criticism about the uncertainties that accompany current predictions as is the conclusion that there is a significant risk of dangerous change.
4.4.2007 2:53pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Andrew Okun,

You left out the possibility of abrupt dangerous change. One of the results of having science-fiction writers as friends is that they've educated me about various awful possibilities that they've used as plot devices.

The one which really concerns me here is methane release from the melting Siberian tundra. John Barnes used a sudden release of sea bottom methyl clathrates as the vehicle for his novel, Mother of Storms, and we had a really scary email discussion about a possible abrupt but not so catastrophic climate change from release of the methane trapped in Siberian tundra.

Here is one article on the subject.
4.4.2007 3:09pm
Andrew Okun:
Lots of us find this dispute to be theological in nature, and you don't win arguments over religion.

Exactly my point ... you don't win arguments over religion. So when your opponent makes a claim, just say that you "find the dispute to be theological in nature." End of discussion.

Nothing about this resembles religion and nothing about the debate resembles an inquisition. (Buckley neatly dodges the danger of Godwin's Law, by only comparing environmentalists to Torquemada and not a more notorious measure.) Scientists have made a theory, generated models, made predictions, withstood criticisms and done it all in legitimate published fora. That they criticize people who disagree with them is not news and is not an inquisition. Y'all reacted rather severely when Sagan strayed into loopy territory. Was that an "inquisition" because Sagan strayed from your dogmatically held catechism? No, he took his chances and was badly wrong. People similarly have trouble when they claim HIV doesn't cause AIDS, that smoking doesn't damage health, that the earth is flat and so on. When legitimate scientists comes up against people who argue that all their work is a deliberate hoax, done in the hunt for secret Chinese subsidies and research grants, and that it constitutes at best a false religion whose scientific content is utter garbage, and they respond "you're wrong about that," that's an inquisition?

If you want to look for an inquisitor, Inhofe fits the bill.

The political side of this debate is pretty heated, I'll grant. That is not unique to this issue. For some years, Gore et al. have been claiming, rather calmly, that this is a legitimate concern and deserves a policy response. What they get in response, sometimes from the same people, is that (a) warming is not happening (b) but its causes cannot be determined (c) but ghgs are definitely not a cause and (d) the consequences of the warming cannot be predicted (e) but will all be minor or good and (f) the warming is inevitable now, so why bother trying to change it. Vigorous debate against that garbage is neither religious nor inquisitorial.
4.4.2007 3:19pm
Andrew Okun:
The one which really concerns me here is methane release from the melting Siberian tundra.

Tom, you're confusing me. I'm concerned too about methane release from melting tundra, particularly since melting tundra is a quite measurable thing happening now. But why are you concerned about it if the entire theoretical construct in which this feedback loop matters is junk science?
4.4.2007 3:24pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Andrew,

Perhaps I was not clear in saying:

"You mistake disagreement about the CAUSES of global warming with disagreement that it is happening at all. Singer and Avery contend that the current warming trend is a naturally occuring cyclical event, with the cycle averaging about 1500 years over the past million years."

I agree global warming is happening. I dispute that anything humans have done to date has a material effect on global warming. This does not in the least reduce my concern about possible abrupt climate change from methane released by melting Siberian tundra.
4.4.2007 3:43pm
Woodstock (mail) (www):
WHOI Jacket, you are of course allowed to have the first view. In fact, that is the view I have. But regardless of your expectation, there is a risk that the consequences could be severe. No one can say anything with absolute certainty about future events.

But given that we don't know the future and there are large risks, we should exercise precaution in our actions. Should we shut down world economic output to deal with it? Of course not. Should we be willing to sacrifice 1% of global GDP as an insurance policy? Possibly. In any case, the debate should center on the second question...not on the question of whether we should do anything at all.
4.4.2007 4:07pm
Andrew Okun:
I agree global warming is happening. I dispute that anything humans have done to date has a material effect on global warming.

The scientists who have concluded that human activity has had a material effect on global warming, do you put them in the same category as Sagan?
4.4.2007 7:47pm
Brett:
Andrew Okun, come on: you're seriously trying to claim with a straight face that Al Gore and his allies have been claiming rather calmly that global warming deserves a policy response? I have merely to open my mailbox to find reams of polemical fundraising solicitations from Greenpeace, WWF, and virtually every other environmental group on the planet prophesying global catastrophe, mass extinctions, and so forth, all within a few decades time, unless SOMETHING IS DONE RIGHT NOW. I actually sat through An Inconvenient Truth; there was nothing remotely "calm" about it.

Global warming may or may not be happening; humans may or may not be contributing to it; and directing national policy towards addressing it may or may not be a good idea. But the argument that greens have been cool, calm, and collected in presenting their case, and/or are only ever provoked to use quasi-religious tones by their critics, doesn't even pass the giggle test -- not when, for instance, perjoratives like "denialist" are being hurled by greens at climate change skeptics such as Lindzen.

Get over yourself; your crowd has no monopoly on virtue.
4.4.2007 7:52pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Andrew,

Not yet. I had the expertise to spot Sagan's radiological lie, and the gross exaggerations of the full TTAPS atomospheric model. I don't about global warming, but Lomborg and Singer clearly don't need my help.

I do recognize the similarities between the promotions of nuclear winter and man-made global warming. Apparently that was also true of the second-hand smoke "scam", borrowing Singer's term for it.

The attempted character assassination of Bjorn Lomborg is convincing proof of the weak evidence for man-made global warming. The same thing was being done to skeptics of nuclear winter until I gave Singer the "smoking gun" about Sagan.

On global warming, the character assassination and refusal to discuss the issue on the merits are all being done by one side. There is a reason for that. They've got nothing.

"When the facts are on your side, pound on the facts. When the law is on your side, pound on the law. When neither the facts nor the law are on your side, pound on the table!"

I close with Crichton again - he has the "credentials" to talk about the profession of science, and the relationship between science and policy:

"... And so, in this elastic anything-goes world where science-or non-science-is the hand maiden of questionable public policy, we arrive at last at global warming. It is not my purpose here to rehash the details of this most magnificent of the demons haunting the world. I would just remind you of the now-familiar pattern by which these things are established. Evidentiary uncertainties are glossed over in the unseemly rush for an overarching policy, and for grants to support the policy by delivering findings that are desired by the patron. Next, the isolation of those scientists who won't get with the program, and the characterization of those scientists as outsiders and "skeptics" in quotation marks-suspect individuals with suspect motives, industry flunkies, reactionaries, or simply anti-environmental nutcases. In short order, debate ends, even though prominent scientists are uncomfortable about how things are being done.

... In recent years, much has been said about the post modernist claims about science to the effect that science is just another form of raw power, tricked out in special claims for truth-seeking and objectivity that really have no basis in fact. Science, we are told, is no better than any other undertaking. These ideas anger many scientists, and they anger me. But recent events have made me wonder if they are correct. We can take as an example the scientific reception accorded a Danish statistician, Bjorn Lomborg, who wrote a book called The Skeptical Environmentalist.

The scientific community responded in a way that can only be described as disgraceful. In professional literature, it was complained he had no standing because he was not an earth scientist. His publisher, Cambridge University Press, was attacked with cries that the editor should be fired, and that all right-thinking scientists should shun the press. The past president of the AAAS wondered aloud how Cambridge could have ever "published a book that so clearly could never have passed peer review." )But of course the manuscript did pass peer review by three earth scientists on both sides of the Atlantic, and all recommended publication.) But what are scientists doing attacking a press? Is this the new McCarthyism-coming from scientists?

Worst of all was the behavior of the Scientific American, which seemed intent on proving the post-modernist point that it was all about power, not facts. The Scientific American attacked Lomborg for eleven pages, yet only came up with nine factual errors despite their assertion that the book was "rife with careless mistakes." It was a poor display featuring vicious ad hominem attacks, including comparing him to a Holocaust denier. The issue was captioned: "Science defends itself against the Skeptical Environmentalist." Really. Science has to defend itself? Is this what we have come to?

When Lomborg asked for space to rebut his critics, he was given only a page and a half. When he said it wasn't enough, he put the critics' essays on his web page and answered them in detail. Scientific American threatened copyright infringement and made him take the pages down.

Further attacks since have made it clear what is going on. Lomborg is charged with heresy. That's why none of his critics needs to substantiate their attacks in any detail. That's why the facts don't matter. That's why they can attack him in the most vicious personal terms. He's a heretic.

Of course, any scientist can be charged as Galileo was charged. I just never thought I'd see the Scientific American in the role of mother church.

Is this what science has become? I hope not. But it is what it will become, unless there is a concerted effort by leading scientists to aggressively separate science from policy. The late Philip Handler, former president of the National Academy of Sciences, said that "Scientists best serve public policy by living within the ethics of science, not those of politics. If the scientific community will not unfrock the charlatans, the public will not discern the difference-science and the nation will suffer." Personally, I don't worry about the nation. But I do worry about science."

4.4.2007 9:50pm
Woodstock (mail) (www):
I agree with Crichton's point, but just because the science is being presented in a policitized manner doesn't mean it is bad science. I don't think that Crichton's primary point is that we should do nothing about global warming. He is more concerned with preserving the noble mantle of science. The policy question of developing a response to global warming should not overlap with the science, as he argues. But that is not a recommendation for doing nothing.

But Crichton doesn't mention that it cuts both ways. Policy-makers shouldn't try to manipulate the science for their own ends, like Dick Cheney personally editing the national report on global warming. I think science's increasing desire to involve itself in policy ends is largely the result of government abusing science in the first place to achieve its own objectives (which are really the objectives of special interests).
4.5.2007 6:42pm