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Daily Archives: July 6, 2011

So much for the myth that only the uninformed and ignorant are skeptical of AGW

Powerline’s Steven Hayward brings us the results of a revealing  paper by Cultural Cognition Project at Yale University.  It attacks one of the popular myths that only dummies reject the “consensus” because they are ignorant of the science.  Not so says the CCP:

The conventional explanation for controversy over climate change emphasizes impediments to public understanding: limited popular knowledge of science, the inability of ordinary citizens to assess technical information, and the resulting widespread use of unreliable cognitive heuristics to assess risk. A large survey of U.S. adults (N = 1540) found little support for this account. On the whole, the most scientifically literate and numerate subjects were slightly less likely, not more, to see climate change as a serious threat than the least scientifically literate and numerate ones.

Hayward points out that these results validate an earlier finding from the journal Risk Analysis (2008):

By examining the results of a survey on an original and representative sample of Americans, we find that these three forces—informedness, confidence in scientists, and personal efficacy—are related in interesting and unexpected ways, and exert significant influence on risk assessments of global warming and climate change. In particular, more informed respondents both feel less personally responsible for global warming, and also show less concern for global warming. We also find that confidence in scientists has unexpected effects: respondents with high confidence in scientists feel less responsible for global warming, and also show less concern for global warming.

Now one could conclude that it is actually the least informed who buy into the AGW because they’re less likely to seek out explanations to the underlying “science” that supports the theory.  Instead they accept it whole cloth and defend it instead of taking a skeptical point of view – a view which science demands.  Questioning the theory would also indicate intellectual curiosity instead of the rote acceptance of what is presented.

There’s a bit of irony to had here.  Hayward:

Whoa there: The more science you know about climate change, the less likely you are to think it is a crisis?  This suggest that all the money environmentalists have spent (I think the Environmental Defense Fund has spent $300 million alone on climate change) has had a negative effect on public opinion, and it offers the ironic possibility that the best thing Al Gore could do to advance his cause is shut up and grow his beard back in a Tibetan monastery.

It makes the case that a) the public isn’t stupid, b) propaganda is still mostly recognized as propaganda and c) the intellectually curious are more likely to be “skeptical” than the less intellectually curious.

Not a particularly flattering portrait of the AGW crowd, is it?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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Union discontent? Could it be a big factor in 2012?

Interesting story from Fox News about labor unions and their approach to 2012.  Fox describes their relationship to Obama as “wedded but wary”. One of the most interesting points is found in this paragraph:

Federal records show labor unions spent close to $100 million in the 2010 midterm cycle – over $20 million more than what they spent in 2008 – but nonetheless saw their share of the electorate drop from one cycle to the next, from 21 percent to 17 percent.

That’s a significant drop in 4 years.  Also worth noting is more money was spent than previously (and spent in an off-year election to boot) and the results were less than stellar.  In fact, they were disastrous.

As the article describes, there also seems to be some fracturing within the union ranks.  You recall that yesterday it was announced that the NEA (teacher’s union) had again endorsed Barack Obama for president.  For most that was “yeah, so what’s new” news.  The news was contained in the vote:

…[T]he National Education Association (NEA), which represents teachers and school administrators and is one of the largest unions in the country, voted at its annual convention in Chicago on Monday to endorse President Obama for re-election. Still, analysts took note of the margin of victory for Obama in the NEA’s rank-and-file vote – 72 percent in favor, 28 percent opposed.

That’s a significant change from the near unanimous endorsement Obama received the last time around. 

When challenged, union leaders usually revert to form.  Remember, the key principle of unionism is “solidarity” and it is expected of the rank and file.  It’s pretty bad, though, when the “thug” making the threats to those who don’t abide by that is the Vice President of the United States.

“Let me put it this way,” Vice President Biden told a Teamsters audience in Las Vegas last Friday, after raising the prospect that some rank-and-file members might vote Republican. “Don’t come to me if you do! You’re on your own, jack!”

Because we’re an administration of the unions, not the people.

But the White House’s problem is rekindling the union enthusiasm it captured when Obama was essentially an unknown quantity – before they found out he was mostly hot air.  And that’s reflected by frequent White House guest and president of the AFL-CIO Richard Trumka’s words:

“You can be a friend and make a mistake once in a while. And we forgive you for that mistake. The difference is this: that we’re not going to spend precious resources helping candidates that don’t stand up and help us.”

"I have a message for some of our ‘friends,’" Trumka reportedly told another Beltway audience last month, sharpening his tone. “For too long, we have been left after Election Day holding a canceled check, waving it about [and saying] ‘Remember us? Remember us? Remember us?’ – asking someone to pay a little attention to us. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a snootful of that s—."

That grumbling and the possible lack of enthusiasm could be a very important factor in the upcoming election.  Unions provide much if not most of the “Get Out The Vote” (GOTV) troops that helped Obama to his victory.  Dissatisfaction presents Obama with a problem.  He is, at the moment, desperately casting around for a way to appear moderate and to being to run to the middle.  He has a big job ahead to try and win back independents who poll after poll tell us have essentially deserted him.  But on the other hand, he has to be concerned with the dissatisfaction being voiced by one of his largest and most powerful constituencies, one that has previously spent enormously in his (and his party’s) behalf and been instrumental in his victory.  What’s a politician to do?

Now I’m not suggesting that unions will abandon Obama by any stretch.  However, while union leaders may remain supporters of the administration and be enthusiastic about their support, it would appear they may have a very difficult time transmitting their level of support and enthusiasm to the rank-and-file.  

Finally, unions continue to face this real world problem:

That the unions may be spending more money to achieve diminished results would reflect their shrinking percentage of the population as a whole. In 1950, an estimated 38 percent of the American labor force belonged to a union; today, that figure stands at around 12 percent, and even lower – 7 percent – for the private sector. This diminution in labor’s ranks is all the more significant when juxtaposed with the tripling of the American labor force over the same time period.

I’m always amused to read stories where Democrats whine about the outsized influence corporations have in politics.  Union support somehow is never mentioned as being “outsized” for some odd reason. Go figure.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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Study claims sulphur pollution responsible for decade long cooling trend

Check out this story from Reuters:

Smoke belching from Asia’s rapidly growing economies is largely responsible for a halt in global warming in the decade after 1998 because of sulphur’s cooling effect, even though greenhouse gas emissions soared, a U.S. study said on Monday.

The paper raised the prospect of more rapid, pent-up climate change when emerging economies eventually crack down on pollution.

World temperatures did not rise from 1998 to 2008, while manmade emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuel grew by nearly a third, various data show.

The researchers from Boston and Harvard Universities and Finland’s University of Turku said pollution, and specifically sulphur emissions, from coal-fueled growth in Asia was responsible for the cooling effect.

Sulphur allows water drops or aerosols to form, creating hazy clouds which reflect sunlight back into space.

"Anthropogenic activities that warm and cool the planet largely cancel after 1998, which allows natural variables to play a more significant role," the paper said.

Natural cooling effects included a declining solar cycle after 2002, meaning the sun’s output fell.

Oh, wait … "natural cooling effects included a declining solar cycle?" Yeah, much less significant that "smoke belching" from Asia.

What they’re attempting to say here is it is still man who is in command of the atmosphere and climate. Really? If in fact that’s true, and AGW is the most significant problem we face in our future, then it stands to reason that pollution from "coal-fueled growth" is in our best interest, no?

In fact, what they’re describing is the albedo effect which is much more wide-spread than just sulfur pollution. You know – clouds? As I’ve mentioned many times, most of the models don’t consider cloud albedo in their modeling.

Wikipedia has a fairly good description of cloud albedo:

Cloud albedo is an important factor in the global warming effect. Different types of clouds exhibit different reflectivity, theoretically ranging in albedo from a minimum of near 0 to a maximum approaching 0.8. "On any given day, about half of Earth is covered by clouds, which reflect more sunlight than land and water. Clouds keep Earth cool by reflecting sunlight, but they can also serve as blankets to trap warmth."

Albedo and climate in some areas are affected by artificial clouds, such as those created by the contrails of heavy commercial airliner traffic.  A study following the burning of the Kuwaiti oil fields during Iraqi occupation showed that temperatures under the burning oil fires were as much as 10oC colder than temperatures several miles away under clear skies.

Note the final paragraph’s citing of the Kuwaiti oil field fires.  Note where it claims this cooling took place.  Yes, that’s right – only locally.   What the study above is purporting is widely spread coal-fired plants in a few emerging countries are responsible for holding temperatures down globally for a decade.

Do you buy that?

Also note this from Wikipedia:

Aerosols (very fine particles/droplets in the atmosphere) have both direct and indirect effects on the Earth’s radiative balance.

The direct (albedo) effect is generally to cool the planet; the indirect effect (the particles act as cloud condensation nuclei and thereby change cloud properties) is less certain. As per [27] the effects are:

  • Aerosol direct effect. Aerosols directly scatter and absorb radiation. The scattering of radiation causes atmospheric cooling, whereas absorption can cause atmospheric warming.
  • Aerosol indirect effect. Aerosols modify the properties of clouds through a subset of the aerosol population called cloud condensation nuclei. Increased nuclei concentrations lead to increased cloud droplet number concentrations, which in turn leads to increased cloud albedo, increased light scattering and radiative cooling (first indirect effect), but also leads to reduced precipitation efficiency and increased lifetime of the cloud (second indirect effect).

Clouds, however they’re formed, are sort of like the window-shades of the world.  In general, increased cloud cover has a cooling effect (clouds can also trap heat, thereby keeping it warmer at night in an area than another area that doesn’t have cloud cover).  In general, decreased or no cloud cover means warming.   Increased evaporation of the oceans due to increased temperature has a tendency to see more clouds form as the percentage of water vapor rises.  Cooler temps mean less evaporation and thus less cloud formation.  It is a mechanism that is and has been studied for years, but science still doesn’t completely understand the process. 

But you don’t have to be an atmospheric scientist to know it is a critical part of any study of the earth’s climate, but one that has essentially been relegated to the sidelines in the AGW scare, at least till now. 

Finally, note the "oh, yeah, by the way" moment in the article – "declining solar cycle". Tell me – which do you suppose might have more effect – pollution from a couple of emerging countries or a huge burning solar mass that can heat your day up from 69 degrees at 7am to 94 degrees by noon and now showing declining activity?

Yeah, me too.

Oh and one other question – if the AGW crowd is terrified of the increase of global temps, and if they actually believe that we must find a way to allay that, doesn’t it seem that (stipulating this study is actually correct) they should be encouraging the increase in coal-fired plants to offset the effect of the rise in CO2 (again stipulating that CO2 has the effect they claim it has)?

[HT: looker]

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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