USA Today Editorial Board vs. James Inhofe on Climate Change

Dale McGowan explains (in an otherwise worthwhile piece that I’m not going to focus on here) how he helped his 9-year-old daughter deal with the fear that resulted from her having heard about Christian radio-show host Harold Camping’s (latest) prediction that the world would end soon:

I looked her in the eye. “When you’re trying to figure out what to believe, a good way to start is to just ask why other people believe it, then decide whether it’s a good reason.”

We can apply this approach to the question of whether human activity is altering the climate, and whether that alteration is dangerous. For example, today USA Today ran an editorial (Our view: America, pick your climate choices) that basically equates climate change deniers with birthers:

Late last week, the nation’s pre-eminent scientific advisory group, the National Research Council arm of the National Academy of Sciences, issued a report called “America’s Climate Choices.” As scientific reports go, its key findings were straightforward and unequivocal: “Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by human activities, and poses significant risks to humans and the environment.” Among those risks in the USA: more intense and frequent heat waves, threats to coastal communities from rising sea levels, and greater drying of the arid Southwest.

Coincidentally, USA TODAY’s Dan Vergano reported Monday, a statistics journal retracted a federally funded study that had become a touchstone among climate-change deniers. The retraction followed complaints of plagiarism and use of unreliable sources, such as Wikipedia.

Taken together, these developments ought to leave the deniers in the same position as the “birthers,” who continue to challenge President Obama’s American citizenship – a vocal minority that refuses to accept overwhelming evidence.

Nothing much new here (as the editorial points out). But they also did something interesting: They ran an “opposing view” piece by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) arguing the opposite position. See Inhofe’s view: All pain, no gain.

Not too long ago, President Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress proudly announced that America would lead the fight against global warming by passing a cap-and-trade bill. But despite overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress in 2009, Democrats barely found the votes to get the proposal through the House, and Senate Democrats never even brought it up for a vote.

The reason is simple. Cap-and-trade is designed to make the energy we use more expensive. Consider President Obama’s Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who said in 2008, “Somehow, we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” That’s about $7 to $8 a gallon.

What the Democrats have since learned is that the American public is more skeptical of the science of global warming than at anytime over the past decade. Frank Newport of Gallup stated earlier this year, “Americans’ attitudes toward the environment show a public that over the last two years has become less worried about the threat of global warming, less convinced that its effects are already happening, and more likely to believe that scientists themselves are uncertain about its occurrence.”

I encourage you to read Inhofe’s whole piece. There are some additional arguments in it, mainly that if the US pursues cap-and-trade pricing on carbon it will simply shift carbon emissions to other countries and actually increase those emissions.

So, I put it to you: Just on the basis of these two pieces, which side in the debate is making the stronger argument?

USA Today editorial board: the nation’s pre-eminent scientific advisory group is straightforward and unequivocal in stating that “Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by human activities, and poses significant risks to humans and the environment.”

Jim Inhofe: Congress has failed to pass cap-and-trade legislation, despite Democratic majorities, because the electorate is worried about the effect it would have on gas prices. Meanwhile, the American people’s concerns about global warming have diminished over the past decade.

Hm. I wonder which argument should carry more weight as I try to assess whether climate change poses a significant risk? I could listen to the scientists who study climate. Or I could listen to politicians who receive massive campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry, and consumers concerned about the price of gas. I wonder which of those groups has a better take on what’s going to happen with climate?

60 Responses to “USA Today Editorial Board vs. James Inhofe on Climate Change”

  1. shcb Says:

    Two separate but related issues, Global Warming and Cap and Trade. Inhofe is a politician with a degree in economics. It seems that makes him extremely qualified in the area of legislation that could have an effect on the economy. Way more qualified than say climate scientists.

  2. Anithil Says:

    I suppose an economist would be qualified to predict a possible future where we can’t afford cars, etc.

    A climate scientist is more qualified to predict a possible future in which ocean acidification, temperature shift, agricultural failure take place, a possible future, where, you know, people die. Etc.

  3. shcb Says:

    A climate scientist is just as qualified to predict the weather a hundred years from now as an ecconomist is to predict the eccomonic health a hundred years from now. As Ethan has been trying to say, we will adapt to the shortcomings of both predictions. The amount we have to adapt and suffer will depend on how wise we are in deciding who is correct and to what extent they are correct. Did you notice that a vote of a representative that accepts money from the oil lobby is tainted but not so a rep that takes money from the environmental lobby.

  4. shcb Says:

    I look at this as a courtroom. We are the jury, we will make a decision based on the evidence presented and how it is presented, only the evidence should matter but in the real world how slick the attorney presents it also matters. The judge is congress, he will dole out punishment or largess in some proportion to either the climate or the economy. To date the attorneys for the AGW side simply haven’t produced enough credible evidence for me to convict the economy. They evidently have convinced you, so now it is time to take a head count and present it to the judge. Unlike a court case we will start the whole process over again as soon as we are finished counting.

  5. knarlyknight Says:

    False comparisons.

    A climate scientist works in 100 year timeframes.

    Economic skills will only project for years at best, then political, social and other events take over and make any further projects irrelevent. An economist is better compared to a meteorologist who will project weather for about a week or long range for about a year.

    A climate scientist is eminently qualified to predict climate a hundred years from now.

    False comparison #2: the courtroom is not the USA. The courtroom is the world. USA is that lone jurer who damaged his brain too much with LSD in past years and is bogging down the decision making process, but eventually he will be brought into submission by the other jurers and the dawning awareness of his own stupidity..

  6. knarlyknight Says:

    or perhaps that is too kind. The USA may be that lone jurer that everyone else involved with the case is realizing must be a ringleader of the crime or at least an accomplice, because no-one could actually be as stupid as he is pretending to be.

  7. shcb Says:

    Let’s table #2 for now.

    Your critique of #1 is fair to a point, however there is short and long term predictions involved in economics just as there is short term (meteorology) and long term (climate sciences) predictions. The problem here is the validity of long term predictions made a decade or two ago have proven to be spotty at best so confidence isn’t high that future models will be correct. This happens in economics as well. Even with all the best minds and the best data they are still just predictions.

  8. knarlyknight Says:

    prefer not to table #2 for now, as it ties directly to your last comment which implicitly supports letting the crimes against the world ecology continue without any restorative justice.

  9. shcb Says:

    Says he with tar sands :) If the US is so evil, punish us, and China, and India, and Russia. Invade the mean old US and force those bad boys to drive mopeds, good luck.

    If there is any groundbreaking technological advancement it will probably come from America. No we’re not the crack head in the room, this is a global problem remember?

  10. knarlyknight Says:

    Yes, our government is led by a neanderthal egghead wwnj who rejects the will of the people for Canada to take action on climate change and who has tarnished Canada’s reputation as a progressive nation on a myriad of issues.

    As for China, Russia and India, last time I checked they were aligned and on-board with the AGW scientific findings.

  11. shcb Says:

    The people of Canada voted him in didn’t they?

    As far as the other three countries, sure they will sign on to whatever they think will give them an advantage and then build another 60 coal plants the next month.

    If you’ve been to a hotel recently they have a note on the bed that says they are saving the planet by not washing the sheets every night. the first place I saw that was in China, years before I saw it here, the air was still brown. Like everything else in China it was just a thin veneer. They really have no other choice

  12. ethan-p Says:

    Everybody wants to do something about AGW…right up until it hits their bank account. Then it’s someone else’s problem/fault (not realizing that even if it is someone else’s fault – that WILL trickle down to the consumer rather quickly).

    Cap & trade sucks. It’s taking our dollars to make us feel better…I mean, research new technologies. Of course, in America, those dollars all goes into the general fund and are spent before they even go in. That, and let’s say that we magically develop a new energy infrastructure in 15 years that doesn’t pollute. Does anyone actually believe that there is a chance in hell that those taxes would go away? Hell no. They’ll be needed (and spent) on other things – and the fed will find something else to tax to make up for the revenue lost.

    Anyway, the point is that nothing comes for free…and making it someone else’s problem usually comes back to bite us in the ass. Not that there is ever going to be a “right” time to deal with the problem (better start now than later). I sure hope that the start isn’t cap & trade though.

  13. Smith Says:

    Funny how an idea that was pushed by Republicans has now become their favorite whipping boy. It is almost as if they promoted a stupid idea and conned environmentalists into buying into it just so they could point out how stupid it is. It is like some kind of convoluted strawman.

  14. ethan-p Says:

    Good thing that I’m not a Republican. Anyway – I don’t care whose idea it was (unless it was my own, then it would have been genius ;) ).

    That is a really good article, though. As an alternative to the “command & control” regulation, it’s better.

  15. Smith Says:

    “Good thing that I’m not a Republican.”

    To misuse Shakespeare due to shifting semantics, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

  16. shcb Says:

    The only advantage cap and trade as it’s described here has over command/control is it gives the companies a little leeway as to how to conduct business. For instance if a company has a small rural power plant that is a heavy polluter they could not spend the money to clean it up if they keep larger, more profitable plants up to date. Sad for the people in that small town but hey, the rules are the rules. On a less cynical note it works because the big polluter ends up paying his competitor, the non (less) polluter that is investing money in new equipment, of course a portion of that money is what could have been profit for the polluter. Now one thing businessmen hate more than paying taxes is paying their competitors. It still has the command/control aspect because government sets the cap.

    But, this isn’t the type of cap and trade we are opposed to. Where cap and trade runs off the rails is when you start to cross many different industries and even countries and try and come up with a magic formula to somehow make it all even and fair. If you were to decide that dry cleaners in your town are using too much electricity you can do the cap and trade as it is described here and force all the dry cleaners to install more efficient motors and heating elements. As long as at some point the regulating body decides they have fixed the problem and don’t need to keep ratcheting down the regulations it will work. The reason it will work is because all the dry cleaners are using essentially the same technology and have the same market pressures on them.

    Now let’s introduce another business in the formula, say a wild bird seed store. The bird seed store isn’t going to use as much electricity as the dry cleaners of course so we have to find a factor to make it all fair and this is where politics comes in to play. The wild bird seed lobby convinces the city fathers that dry cleaners are evil, they use all kinds of nasty chemicals, they stink, for goodness sake some of them are open 24 hours a day, and the clientele, rich folks that can’t even wash their own cloths. On the other hand we have these wonderful wild bird seed people, feeding the underprivileged wrens and meadowlarks a nutritious well balanced dinner every day (with seed purchased by those same rich folks that go to the dry cleaners but that is another story). So whatever shall we do? Easy, we take the cap below the level the industry can efficiently operate and then tell the dry cleaners they can “buy” credits from the wild bird folks. This is where it becomes a targeted tax.

  17. knarlyknight Says:

    “The only advantage” – that a narrow mind can fathom, that is, presumably, …

    “…gives the companies a little leeway…” – biased issue framing; in fact the “leeway” may be extensive…

    thou dost protest too much & thy mind grows weary…

    Happy Victoria Day.

  18. shcb Says:

    That’s a classic response, I might have to bookmark that one.

  19. SemperDubitat Says:

    Might I recommend doing even more varied research from reputable sources. Attempting to make an informed analysis of an issue that has enormous complexity to it merely from a USA Today article (together with any spin that was put on the article to weigh in favor of one side) is no way to formulate an informed opinion on any topic.

    There are two very compelling, and scientifically solid, sides to the global climate issue. Having worked in meteorology for 20 years I have always found it laughable that people are so willing to believe a climatologist who says the end is nigh with cataclysmic predictions but scoff at the meteorologist who predicts it’s going to rain four days from today. They both use similar modeling techniques to arrive at their hypothesis. “Nobody believes a weather prediction twelve hours ahead. Now we’re asked to believe a prediction that goes out 100 years into the future?” As James Madison said “No man is allowed to be judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and not improbably, corrupt his integrity.”

    The atmosphere and the planet are a very complex and diverse bio-system and we have barely scratched the surface of understanding how the literally billions of interactions between atmosphere and planetary surfaces affect the climate in the next week (even some global warming advocates admit that we only understand about 20% of the atmosphere), let alone years from now. The Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (a peer-reviewed journal) in August of 2010 noted “The studies show no trends in losses, corrected for changes (increases) in population and capital at risk, that could be attributed to anthropogenic climate change…”

    Those who equate global warming deniers with birthers or Holocaust deniers are merely utilizing ad hominem attacks to avoid the topic. These verbal tactics are typically used by small minded people who have no intention (and often no ability) to engage in constructive and erudite dialogue, usually because they have no argumentation skills and are unwilling to see the many side of multi-faceted issues. One sees the same frame of mind in religious fundamental extremists.

    As Michael Crichton noted “Increasingly it seems facts aren’t necessary, because the tenets of environmentalism are all about belief. It’s about whether you are going to be a sinner, or saved. Whether you are going to be one of the people on the side of salvation, or on the side of doom. Whether you are going to be one of us, or one of them.” He also said “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.”

    “Because in the end, science offers us the only way out of politics. And if we allow science to become politicized, then we are lost. We will enter the Internet version of the dark ages, an era of shifting fears and wild prejudices, transmitted to people who don’t know any better. That’s not a good future for the human race.”

    But also in the end science categorically does not have all the answers to all the questions all the time.

  20. enkidu Says:

    USA Today aint no peer reviewed journal (but they do have that pretty weather map!;) Somehow I am less inclined to listen to Senator Inhofe as he is the number 4 highest recipient of oil & gas $ over the last twenty years. To the tune of well over a million dollars (on the books anyway).

    Surprise #1 oil & gas guzzler?
    John McCain with close to $3 million (perhaps distorted by his 2008 campaign.

    Quoting Michael Crichton after trashing USA Today? now that is lorry! ;)

  21. knarlyknight Says:

    Enk where are your manners? Semperdubitant (i.e. Snow white’s 8th dwarf, Doubtful.)

    Doubtful made some good points and clearly has the intelligence to lower the risk of this blog simply being a kneejerk opposition to shcb due to his consistency in being atrociously wrong. Besides, Doubtful’s reasoning supports my view that Global Warming is primarily caused by the earth’s core heat escaping from sub-Pacific heat vents & volcanoes.

    My guess is that Doubtful is shcb’s wife.

  22. enkidu Says:

    Knarly, please present any scientific research on the variability of Earth’s core temperature. Has this ever changed over such a short period of time? I’m just curious where you got this idea (please, please, please don’t say

    Unless of course you are just being cheeky ;)

    In a mud wrestling match between the scientific credentials and reputations of USA Today and Michael Crichton, I think we are all the losers (or at least amused by the ‘results’).

    Welcome to! Can we call you Doubty? or mb Dubi?

  23. knarlyknight Says:


    I made the connection all by myself (!) after reading an abstract of groundbreaking (no pun intended) geological research that has concluded the “ring of fire” in the Pacific is far more active and extensive than anyone had previously thought. Similar results between tectonic plates in the Atlantic too.

    My understanding is that due to the incredibly large, yet constant, mass of the planet & the constant (according to Newton) or relatively constant (according to Einstein) force of gravity, the pressure exerted on the earth’s core results in a constant temperature of about a zillion degrees (farenheit) but that is not quite as hot on the celsius scale. I’ll be making a submission to Rense later this week if you want to see the peer reviewed “official theory” on this.

    As for the scientific research, that is still in its infancy. However, inspired by shcb’s tests with molten aluminum in his bathtub, I have a test hole that is already 15 ft. deep in my backyard. Careful measurements seem to indicate that the earth is heating up, but I have yet to correct for seasonal variability (it was snowing when I started digging.)

    btw if Semper agrees, I am fine with “Dubi” but present “Donut” for consideration.

  24. enkidu Says:

    I’ll take tongue in cheek for $500 Alex!

  25. knarlyknight Says:

    lorry Enk! Here is your answer:

    “This could change our understanding of the contribution of hydrothermal activity to the thermal budget of the oceans.”

    And I thought I was the only researcher working on this. If they will collaborate with me, we’ll have this figured out before Obama closes Guantanamo.

  26. Anithil Says:

    Dubitat, you make some good points.

    “There are two very compelling, and scientifically solid, sides to the global climate issue.”
    Let’s say this is true (although personally, I don’t believe it is, but setting that aside). What about the potential consequences for each of our options? See earlier jbc post of video made by science teacher. Cost-benefit analysis.

    I have thought that Meteorology and Climatology are different branches of science. I was not aware they used the same modeling, just as I am not aware that a molecular biologist used the same modeling as an environmental biologist who studies populations. One is larger scale than the other, and they are very different branches of science. What types of modeling is shared by meteorology and climatology?

  27. NorthernLite Says:

    That statement about meteorology and climatology essentially being the same science made my eye brows raise as well…

  28. NorthernLite Says:

    … I wouldn’t bother wasting your breath with someone who thinks weather and climate are the same thing. These are the type of people that see a big snowstorm in the middle of January and ask “what happened to global warming?!”

  29. ethan-p Says:

    @SemperDubitat: Welcome to That being said, you are a heretic, and must be burned (but in a fashion that sequesters the airborne carbon dioxide emissions from your cleansing). …Kidding

    Anithil: I really liked the science teacher video. I hope that this isn’t too much of a stretch – but for the cost/benefit analysis, when I substitute any religion for causal anthropogenic global warming, it fits really well into the same argument. For example, accepting the teachings and mythology of Jesus Christ as well as follow someone’s interpretations of how we should live our lives fits perfectly in the cost/benefit analysis.

    I started to fill out the chart, and I realized that I didn’t have the time to do it…so just do it in your head while you re-watch the video :) It fits…and the argument can be used the same way. Does this invalidate the whole thing? No…it’s a great chart and is pretty convincing. However, it raises my eyebrows to same old tricks that the religious have been using.

    Oh, also: DOOM!!!

  30. NorthernLite Says:

    You honestly think science books are in the same category as a bible? Really?

  31. knarlyknight Says:

    When meteorology & climatology were equated I realized this was not a serious discussion. Thanks Anit for articulating that, I just rolled my eyes and couldn’t be bothered – kudos to Anit for concise, polite smack-down.

    NL, you’re doing a good job seperatign wheat from chaff too~!

  32. shcb Says:

    Too bad sitting back and observing isn’t in my nature, it’s kind of fun. SemperDubitat said the models are similar. Within a dozen posts he has been neutralized (as far as you’re concerned) because in your minds he thinks weather and climate are the same. I think y’all just validated his fourth paragraph. Not counting you Ethan.

  33. shcb Says:

    Actually, Anithil isn’t included in the group either, he is playing it straight and asks questions that deserve a response. I hope one will be offered by SemperDubitat.

    Anithil’s post was taken in a direction it wasn’t intended I suspect.

  34. knarlyknight Says:

    FYI shcb, climate and weather models are not similar.

    Also, climate science isn’t what happens next week, stating such a fallacy is what raises eyebrows:

    “The atmosphere and the planet are a very complex and diverse bio-system and we have barely scratched the surface of understanding how the literally billions of interactions between atmosphere and planetary surfaces affect the climate in the next week…”

  35. ethan-p Says:

    @NL, was that directed at me?

    If so – are you really using that straw man argument with me? Really?

    If that was directed at me, would you mind pointing out where you have seen me equate the bible with science books? All I’ve said is that proponents of cAGW and some religious people are using the same smoke and mirrors tactics to sell their arguments. Do you not think that this is applicable? How so? Is it because you know that your viewpoint is the correct one? Even if your viewpoint is 100% correct, how does that invalidate my point that the argument being used by cAGW proponents is the same as the argument used by religious people?

    Finally, I find it very interesting how you interpreted SemperDubiat’s statement and then go on to dismiss everything that was said. The statement was “They (climatology and meteorology) both use similar modeling techniques to arrive at their hypothesis” and you went on to interpret that as Semper’s calling them the same science – which seems pretty far out there to me. Your reaction in and of itself helps to underline the point (that I believe) Semper was making. From what I have read in your reactions, it appears to me that you have no interest in having an honest dialog about the topic in any fashion, rather being smugly righteous is what’s most important. Again, this is an interesting trait shared with the morally superior religious.

    For the record, I don’t know whether or not climate and meteorological models are similar. I’m neither a climatologist nor a meteorologist.

  36. knarlyknight Says:

    Ad hominem much ethan? “For the record” ethan, you do not have to be a climatologist or a meteorologist to understand that the models used by these two disciplines are significantly different. Here is a very simple explanation of the differences:

    “One simple way to think about the difference in predicting weather and climate is to think about rolling a six-sided die. Predicting the weather is like predicting what the next roll will be. Predicting the climate is like predicting what the average and standard deviation of 1000 rolls will be. The ability to predict the statistics of the next 1000 rolls does not hinge on the ability to predict the next roll. Thus, one should not dismiss climate forecasts simply because weather forecasts are only good for a few days.”

    Also, this may help:

  37. shcb Says:

    “FYI shcb, climate and weather models are not similar.” That depends on what parameters you use to define similar, that is where a discussion is required. You ask the person how they are similar as Anithil did, unless he was being snarky. You don’t label him (or her) irrelevant until you get clarification, that is when your response becomes ad hominem.

    Here’s my take, both models would use historical data. Take this outbreak of tornadoes for instance, it seems every 30 years or so that we have massive storms and huge loss of life. That would be important to both short and long term predictions. “Tornado Alley” is important to each, the shifting of Tornado Alley to the west in the last few decades is important to both models (and is it likely to shift back east at some point). Whether the tornado hits Joplin or Springfield is important to one and not the other, that is why the word similar and not the phrase “the same” was used.

  38. ethan-p Says:

    Ad hominem? Are you sure you’re citing the right logical fallacy, because I’m not sure how it applies here. (OK, maybe you’re right on one point “smugly righteous” may have been a little over the top…sorry about that, NL)

    I fully understand that weather and climate are entirely different. Calling a snowstorm proof that climate change is or isn’t happening is BS.

    Perhaps “for the record” was a poor choice of words…how’s about “for what it’s worth”? In any case, I understand how the disciplines are different (and I read the links that you posted as well). However, I haven’t seen the nuts and bolts of the models – maybe there are some similarities, maybe it’s complete bullshit. I’m honestly hoping that Semper can shine some light on it.

  39. knarlyknight Says:

    shcb, the context is whether the models are similar enough to damn one set of models with the shortcomings of the other set, not whether they share certain features.

    ethan, “ad hominem” was my impression when I read your post, I guess I erred based on your tone because after re-reading your post I see that criticism does not apply. My apology to you. Also, I know you are smarter than pretending not to be able to guess some significant differences between the models that make them dissimilar enough to invalidate Semper’s statement:

    They both use similar modeling techniques to arrive at their hypothesis. “Nobody believes a weather prediction twelve hours ahead. Now we’re asked to believe a prediction that goes out 100 years into the future?”

    I think my previous link, , addressed that question more than adequately.

    I’d also like to see a Semper reply to Anit, however, given his apparent intelligence I’d guess that if he’s seen the cacophony after his post he’s long gone.

  40. ethan-p Says:

    Yeah – I hope that Semper replies too.

    The stuff about the 12 hour prediction versus a 100 year prediction is an old one. I think that I first read it in Crichton’s novel. Anyway, I am aware of the vast differences between meteorology and climatology, and I assume that the models are very different. Still, if Semper has the background claimed, perhaps there is something that can be learned.

  41. knarlyknight Says:


  42. NorthernLite Says:

    @ethan, I get ya, I was just a little surprised that you were (or so I thought anyways) comparing the two – science and religion. Now I see what you were getting at.

    I’m with you on the doom and gloom stuff. I think scaring people works in some cases, for example, to make people give up some of their freedoms, but it’s not going to work with CC, or at least it hasn’t so far.

    I actually think the rising cost of energy is going to be the major catalyst for action. Forget the whole science of it and just appeal to pocketbooks.

  43. NorthernLite Says:

    Btw wasn’t trying to set up a straw man:

    when I substitute any religion for causal anthropogenic global warming, it fits really well into the same argument.

  44. ethan-p Says:

    @NL: I totally agree with the rising cost of energy driving action. People will vote with their wallets. I probably sound like a broken record with all of my free market crap…but I think that the market will provide a solution.

  45. ethan-p Says:

    Here’s a story that I just read on NPR about deniers. It doesn’t add much to the discussion, but it seems relevant to the topic.

  46. shcb Says:

    This is a perfect example of people not doing even the most basic research on their own. I figured these tornadoes would bring the global warming faithful out of the woodwork with claims of “see! Tornadoes! Big ones! Gotta be global warming!” like they did with hurricanes after Katrina (the true believers haven’t got the memo that it is climate change, not global warming).

    I was watching a show on the Mississippi twisters on Discovery and Reed Timmer, who obviously knows a thing or two about tornadoes, said that this kind of outbreak happens every few decades, he also said they don’t know why. The last one was around 1975, (during the last cooling trend BTW). So I went and looked, just did a quick search of worst tornadoes and sure enough, about every 30 years since the beginning of modern weather observation (1860 or so). And he wants to know what motivates us. Golly, I don’t know, maybe real science.

  47. Anithil Says:

    I’m not sure what you’re saying here shcb. I didn’t get from the writer “Oh MAN this is because of that there GLOBAL WARMING”. I got more that they were talking about the fear of hearing the sirens, of something unpredictable and uncontrollable happening, something over which the person had no control. True, they list it as motivation, but I didn’t get them coming straight out and saying that the tornadoes are evidence of global climate change. True, they link to the article that may say that, but they also talk about links refuting it. The article is about motivation, and the feeling of natural disasters causing death and destruction was one of the things that motivate them.

    Also, tornadoes are weather. Global climate change is climate. There’s a difference between weather and climate. I know that. It’s what I tell to people all the time when they say “Oh golly it was cold today, guess global warming is a scam”. The fact you would assume I would, as a “faithful”, yell that a piece of weather is simply more evidence, is funny.

  48. Anithil Says:

    Another funny thing: for the second time, you have assumed that a blogger/commenter was a man! First the author of the article (who’s name is Ursula), and previously, me.

  49. shcb Says:

    Last things first, am I to assume you are a woman Anithil? It could go either way from your comment. I just naturally default to calling everything him or he if I don’t know, I’m a man, I am of German heritage (I think the Germans are the only country to call warships him or he). I’m an engineer and a machinist, both male dominated professions, so I just default there. Plus it’s just a matter of convenience, I could call them congress people or congressperson but congressmen is just easier. I’m not very good at looking at who wrote an article either, you’re not the first to catch me doing that on this site, you won’t be the last, but do know I mean no disrespect in either case.

    Now to whether they are blaming the tornadoes on global warming/climate change (see how awkward that is) I certainly thought the article was blaming the tornadoes on AGW (so much cleaner) if that one isn’t the one JBC just added is. Here’s a part I like (from the new post) “or that the pine forests across the western part of this continent have been obliterated by a beetle in the past decade”. 30 years ago when I would backpack in the Flattops wilderness area we would walk around to all the dead trees surrounding the camp site and give them a good shove to see of they were going to fall on the tent because beetle kill had done them in 40 years before that!

    Now none of this means AGW isn’t real, or it is. This is all just evidence. But this is where climate science and meteorology start to overlap and where I can see the models being similar, all these events are bits of a puzzle to a climate scientist and they are tools for a meteorologist. If an outbreak like this happens every 30 years that helps the weatherman or weatherwoman predict when the next big outbreak might happen and it is up to a climatologist to figure out what is causing a pattern, or if a pattern is broken what changed. I just don’t see that the pattern has been broken.

    Is the beetle kill worse in the last few years or has it just spread to a less remote area (when I started backpacking in the Flattops there were no topo maps of the area, that is how remote it was). Are hurricanes and tornadoes really worse or are they just causing more damage because they hit towns? Are there more tornadoes because we have the technology to see them from hundreds of miles away now? After you ask all those questions you have to ask is it because the earth is warming, and after you ask that you have to ask if the warming is caused by humans.

    When you toss all that together I just don’t see that there has been that much change in the last 30 years or so, not enough to say we are causing it.

    As to your ““Oh golly it was cold today, guess global warming is a scam’…” comment, I agree, I cringe when someone on my side says it was cold in South Dakota this winter, global warming must be over as much as I do when people blame a hurricane on AGW. Either of those events may be important pieces of evidence or they may not. But a true scientist looks at them as just pieces of the puzzle until they become more than that.

  50. NorthernLite Says:

    ethan, that was a nice little column you posted that ended with a great question.

  51. knarlyknight Says:


    Pine beetle kills may be relatively common south of the 49th, but what has happened in the past 10 years in Western Canada is unprecedented. In past, pine beetles have never been much of a problem in British Columbia because the cold winter climate would wipe them out.

    In recent years (within the decade) the pine beetle has wiped out most of BC pine forests and is expected to kill up to 80% of the mature lodgepole pine in BC before the epidemic abates because they have eaten all the food they can access.

    That has decimated the softwood forestry industry here, reducing it to a mere salvage operation of ruined (low value) timber.

    That’s some bad weather effects… ;-)

  52. NorthernLite Says:

    Yeah, when I took a vacation on Vacouver Island a few years back I went on a tour through some very magical forests, with 1000 year old trees… that were being decimated by the pine beatle – because of warmer temps.

    PS: Go Canucks!

  53. shcb Says:

    It looks like beetle kill in Canada has a similar history to Colorado, there were major outbreaks in the 1930s and 1940s, same as the Flat Tops, then sporadically since then. Seems they are as native as the trees and have always been a problem. Hot dry summers and cool winters make the problem worse for sure, but so does actively fighting fires. It seems the only way to kill them in the winter is for the temps to get below minus 30 for at least 5 days in a row. Other than that you have to have a freeze at the exact moment in either the spring or fall when the critter is most susceptible.

    Bottom line, I think it is really hard to blame this outbreak on cars in China.

  54. knarlyknight Says:

    NL, I think the 1000 year old Vancouver Island Douglas & Spruce trees are in okay shape, except for the logging…

    shcb, I heard the pine beetle destruction is unprecedented in BC and that the main cause is the -30 to -40 deg. that was lacking over a decade in the 1990’s to early 2000’s in BC, but I guess you’re the expert. ;-)

  55. shcb Says:

    That may be the case, but there was a bad infestation many decades before AGE. So what caused that disaster? And yes the douglas and spruce are safe, the beetle only goes after old pines, about 40 years old or so, or crowded trees, or otherwise weak.

  56. knarlyknight Says:

    bad infestation = disaster ???

    what an idiot.

  57. shcb Says:

    Please explain

  58. Craig Says:

    To me, the argument is less about whether man has affected climate change (yes, but to what degree? Statistically significant or almost entirely?), than it is about what amount of certainty do we have that X amount of trillions of dollars and worldwide economic alteration will result in y amount of temp reduction? And what amount of temp reduction will result in actual climate change moderation (and what would that actually look like in tangible results?)?

    That seems to be the weakness of the sciences, and the source of a great deal of arguments and “scandal” about the true validity of studies projecting these kinds of specific environmental results due to warming. Not to mention determining the connection between dollars/world economic realignment with temp change and actual environmental impact.

  59. shcb Says:

    True, but I think you need to know how much of an impact man has before you can answer the other questions. If we have little to no effect on climate change, then there will be little to no change on the climate no matter how much we spend or how much we disrupt the social fabric of the world.

  60. knarlyknight Says:

    Maybe it is your sources of information that make you uncertain about the impact humans have on the natural environment and climate change?

    What I’ve heard from reputable sources over the years is that the 6 + billion of us:

    have an enormous impact:
    Modern climate change is dominated by human influences, which are now large enough to exceed the bounds of natural variability.
    Quote… Human alteration of Earth is substantial and growing. Between one-third and one-half of the land surface has been transformed by human action; the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere has increased by nearly 30 percent since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution; more atmospheric nitrogen is fixed by humanity than by all natural terrestrial sources combined;…etc.

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