Posted by: ericgrimsrud | October 1, 2014

PERC, Montana’s Judas goat on climate change

Fossil fuel industries and the states in which they reside have a public relations problem. While they have vast supplies of coal and other fossil fuels that others want to buy, the retrieving and selling of these fossil fuels can cause them to be perceived to be “drug pushers” of a sort – that is, fueling the world’s addiction to these substances as the concentration of CO2 in our background atmosphere soars to levels well above any recorded over the last 800 millennia. Thus, that public relation problem is figuring out how to continue to reap the financial benefits of those sales while not being perceived to be intellectual morons with respect to what all of our legitimate scientific organizations consider the greatest environmental threat ever faced by mankind. Therefore, the fossil fuel rich states are in great need of what I will call here “intellectual verification” for their actions.

So to their rescue come various conservative “think tanks” who do their best to come up with whatever level of pseudo-intellectual verification they can muster – no matter how flimsy – and then sell it to their well-healed customers. We have an excellent example of one of these organizations in Montana. It is called the Property and Environmental Research Center (PERC) and is located in Bozeman, Montana (their website is perc.org). My comments below describes how PERC services the needs of fossil fuel interests in Montana and elsewhere.

My impressions of PERC to be related here have been derived almost entirely from my inspection of its website at perc.org and my from my previous email exchanges with PERC’s President, Terry Anderson. Those email exchanges have been summarized previously on this blog – see https://ericgrimsrud.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/678/). In essence, what I learned from them is that PERC does its very best to ignore our traditional and exceedingly well-established fields of science when their messages concerning climate change interfere with PERC’s financial preferences. So please do have a look at that previous post and then kindly return.

Next, let’s listen to a speech given by PERC President Anderson on June of 2014 to the Hoover Institute of Stanford West and take note of three of its major themes. These are: the trivialization of the climate change problem, the trivialization of conclusions drawn by scientists, and a masking of one of the most obvious solution to this problem. Anderson’s speech can be found http://perc.org/articles/adapt-adapt-adapt-market-responses-climate-change Please have a listen and return.

TRIVIALIZATION OF THE PROBLEM

Note how Anderson trivializes the issue of global warming by drawing analogies to several routine and far less substantial issues, such as house fires, bonds and real estate investments, and even the game of golf. “Would you buy fire insurance today in order to protect your home out to the end of the century?” Anderson rhetorically asks, for example. The use of analogies such as these for arguing against prompt action on climate change suggests that he has insufficient respect for the beast he is dealing with. Mother Nature can be a cruel mistress. She calls the shots and there will be no corrective negotiations with Her later for the excessive amounts of CO2 we are putting into the atmosphere today. The present issue of climate change is unique within the entire history of mankind. We have never before faced a problem of this magnitude and our prior experiences with house fires, financial investments, golf, or any other endeavor of mankind are of little relevance in solving it. Any serious solution must start with a far better recognition of and knowledge of the real science involved than Anderson clearly has.

TRIVIALIZATION OF THE CONCLUSIONS DRAWN BY SCIENTISTS

Anderson then goes on to display his contempt for those who do have considerable understanding of the science behind climate change by equating their conclusions and recommendations to the views held within the fields of religion – most of which are based on faith, of course, rather than reason. Thus, Anderson explains that he is neither a “believer” or a complete “atheist” on the subject of climate change, but is instead an undecided “agnostic” who is leaning a bit towards atheism. Anderson states that while he is trying to learn more about the science of climate change, at this point he embraces what he mistakenly thinks is the “scientific” view held by his personal friend and co-libertarian, Matt Ridley of Great Britain. Unfortunately, by his own admission in his recent book ” Rational Optimistic”, Ridley is also not a climate scientist. His background is in biology and he “publishes” only in non-peer reviewed magazines and books written for the general public (see my full post on Ridley at https://ericgrimsrud.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/on-the-unwarranted-hubris-of-mankind-and-matt-ridley/ ). Thus, while Anderson appears to have no credible intellectual links to the science of climate change, he is pleased to share and promote his views on the subject with the general public and potential customers of PERC. Moreover, his style is never to clarify the science and serves only to undermine the public’s confidence in science and scientists.

HIDING THE MOST OBVIOUS AND FAIREST OF SOLUTIONS

Towards the end of his speech, Anderson discusses the various methods by which CO2 emissions might be curtailed through government participation. In discussing these, however, he does not mention the one that has been favored by the many who think that the Earth’s atmosphere should not be used free of charge as a CO2 garbage dump. Anderson does mention a version of a Carbon Tax that would be “revenue neutral” and I agree with him that that version would be a looser.  The version of a Carbon Tax that  Anderson does not mention is the one called the “Carbon Fee and Dividend Plan” which does make excellent sense (see my previous post on it at https://ericgrimsrud.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/the-best-energy-policy/). He does not explain why he ignores it, but it might be because fossil fuel industries terrified by the possibility that this form of a Carbon Tax might gain traction. This is because the Carbon Fee and Dividend Plan would probably work very well, indeed, and would, indeed, greatly decrease our use of fossil fuels and CO2 emissions. By not even mentioning this plan and instead only mentioning the problematic “revenue neutral” version of a Carbon Tax, Anderson is showing most directly that he is, indeed, in the back pocket of the fossil fuel industries. While he might be excused for not being aware of all of the science associated with climate change, he cannot be excused for claiming ignorance of a credible economic plan that is widely favored. Again, for those of you who are not aware of the “Carbon Fee and Dividend Plan”, a description of it has is provided on one of my previous posts – see https://ericgrimsrud.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/the-best-energy-policy/

CLIMATE DENIAL AND WORSE

The definition of a global warming “denier” used to be one who does not believe in the science of global warming. Today, that definition has changed as the term, “denier”, has increasingly become associated with “stupid”. Therefore, the current stance of these obstructionists is typically more nuanced. They claim that they aren’t sure about the science behind climate change while they continue to obstruct and undermine the public’s confidence in real science – just as Terry Anderson now does. Thus, Anderson encourages us to in”sail on” with “business-as-usual” and get as “wealthy” as we can in the short term so that we will be better prepared later “when and if” the problem meets his unspecified standards for concern. In the meantime, I suspect that Anderson is getting as wealthy as he can from this service he is providing to our fossil fuel industries.

From my description of PERC and its President provided above, it might occur to many that the term “obstructionist” or “denier” is not sufficient for describing the harm organizations such as PERC are doing to their respective communities. Perhaps the term, “Judis goat” provides a better fit. This term refers to an individual or organization that intentionally leads other members of their community to their slaughter for their own unstated reasons or rewards.

I doubt very much that Anderson is so intellectually challenged as to not realize that the scientific community will very likely be proven in time to be largely correct with respect to their recommendations concerning cutbacks in our CO2 emissions. This issue has been studied for over 100 years and its basic tenets as outlined by Svante Arrhenius in 1896 have withstood subsequent tests of measurements and theory ever since. Today, the agreement among scientists who’s day jobs involve the study of climate change is as close the unanimity as any scientific topic of some complexity can be. I think Anderson knows all of this and, furthermore, has no interest in learning more about the real science of climate change because real science does not serve his needs. He has made it quite clear to me that he has only extraneous self-serving reasons for his stance on the subject of climate change which have nothing to do with science and the future welfare of the people that live on this planet.
So if something walks like a Judas goal and talks like a Judas goat, it very likely is a Judas goal. If I might also use an analogy to religion, PERC appears to place higher value on those proverbial thirty pieces of silver than it does on the well being of its community.


Responses

  1. I now share your disdain for PERC owing to their inability to engage with the general public (e.g. this camel).

    That said, the scientific evidence shows that there has been no “Global Warming” for nearly 20 years in spite of the relentless increase in the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    It seems to me that the benefits of rising CO2 far outweigh the negative consequences so can you explain why a single dollar of m
    y taxes should be wasted to “Mitigate CO2”?

    [Response by EPG: You are wrong. The total Earth continues to warm. Surface T’s reflect only about 3% of that total heat and they do not reflex T changes that have occurred in the polar regions – only sites that are easier to get to. I have explained all of this in some detail on my post in March 2014 called “adding natural variation to man’s effects” at https://ericgrimsrud.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/adding-natural-cycles-to-mans-effects/. Sorry, but surface T’s alone are a bit litte using T measurements of your little toe to see if you are sick.]

  2. Hard to know about evidence. I got this graphic off the internet. It shows that the 10 warmest years on record globally are all since 1998. First is 2010, then 2005, 1998, 2013, 2003, 2002, 2006, 2009 2007 and 2004.

    [REsponse from EPG: We have both average surface T’s and extreme T’s and yes Dave, the extreme T’s do clearly indicate increases in the last decade. ]

  3. I did read in detail your views of Anderson and PERC. You did say this:

    “Mother Nature can be a cruel mistress. She calls the shots and there will be no corrective negotiations with Her later for the excessive amounts of CO2 we are putting into the atmosphere today. The present issue of climate change is unique within the entire history of mankind. We have never before faced a problem of this magnitude and our prior experiences with house fires, financial investments, golf, or any other endeavor of mankind are of little relevance in solving it. Any serious solution must start with a far better recognition of and knowledge of the real science involved than Anderson clearly has.”

    If you are this convinced of what you have stated, you should have no problem giving me the link to the experiment that shows that CO2 does what you maintain as far as being the driver of the earth’s climate. I do not need to be reminded of Tyndall’s 1859 lab experiments that do not prove that humanity’s CO2 emissions are warming the planet. In the real world, other factors can influence and outweigh those lab findings and that is why these experiment must deal with the real world and not computer models that do not have the ability to factor in all of the variables that effect the earth’s climate. If you can not provide a verifiable experiment regarding the present amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and how it affects the climate and creates your anthropogenic global warming, (none has occurred for 19 years now) then believing that it does so is akin to sharing the believes of any number of faith based cults around the world today that have deities and, in this case, devils in the sky known as the trace gas essential for all terrestrial life on earth, carbon dioxide.

    It is a fact that real scientist devise experiments to either prove or disprove their hypotheses and welcome people to try to disprove them so that they can move on. They sure do not say that the science is settled and the argument is over because there are REAL scientist out there doing REAL scientific work that are not blinded by some agenda that they support so that they can get more “research” money or money to fund a boondoggle renewable energy scheme that will never work.

    [Response from EPG: John, Your comments are both wrong and silly. If you jumped off a tall building, do you doubt what would happen to you? Maybe you would not fall very rapidly or maybe you would even float and fly. You might say you don’t know because that exact experiment had not been done under the same exact conditions (temp, wind, barametric pressure, ground level conditions,your size, weight and shape, etc) that at the moment you jump. All you know for sure are things that came from theory and lab experiments – which have characterized the force of gravity and the viscosity of the atmosphere and so on.

    Concerning the warming effect of CO2 we also know the fundamentals concerning what it will do (IR absorption and emission constants at all relevant temperatures and its concentration in the Atm) In addition, we do have IR emission date from satellites and these have shown that the Earth is emitting less IR at the wavelengths of CO2 at the exact position of the satelite at the moment of the measurement as the conc of CO2 in the atm increases. But no, we don’t have such measurements at all positions above the Earth taken exactly at the same time under all of the conditions existing everywhere at all times – and never will have such measurements. Your suggestion that they should exist is nonsense.

    So John, if you don’t trust this way in which science is typically done, go ahead and test it by jumping off a tall building (that is a joke, don’t actually do that).
    is
    Again your point is pointless. All we can ever know for sure about complex systems are the pieces of the total – which are then included in models of the total system, of course. This is the only way science can be applied to complex systems. Nevertheless, thanks for your example of an entirely BS point that is endlessly made by scientifically illiterate Deniers of AGW.]

    • Eric; You claim that I am both “wrong and silly” and then launch into a scenario about me jumping off of a tall building thinking that what would happen to me is based on theory and lab experiments. I could have done an experiment before hand and threw you off and seen how rapidly you got to the ground; therefore, I ,since I value my life, would not have jumped. You, being a supposed learned and educated individual, should know that Newton figured out gravity and established the LAW to describe it and that the constant for it is equal to the gravitational acceleration g which is 9.8 meters per square second at sea level on the Earth. The weight, size, and shape of the object are not a factor in describing a free fall. I would have thought that you would have known that in a vacuum, a feather falls with the same acceleration as an airliner & that also means that gravity is one of the weakest forces in nature because it requires the mass of the earth to make a feather fall.

      [Response from EPG: John you continue to be too dense. Yes we know what happens in a vacuum. That is one of those bits of inputs to the model. The question was what would happen to you under existing ambient conditions where size and shape does matter. For example, you could be wearing you superman outfit with a big cape. You could do it a sea level where atm pressure is a max. You could reduce you weight from say 300 to 130 pounds. Now reread and reconsider the point I was trying to get across to you.]

  4. Having just observed the debate between EPG and AGW deniers, I, as a farmer and former Pharmacist, am amazed at the refusal of supposedly intelligent people to admit to what is happening too our precious planet.
    Having been associated with production agriculture on this farm–20 miles from Alberta–for almost 70 years, I have observed considerable temperature change. We have seen temps down to 60 below back in the 50 ‘s and water pipes froze in certain areas down to 6 feet deep. That hasn’t happened in years.
    MSU Ag researchers just announced on Ag Live–an hour long TV program on PBS that takes questions on all aspects of plant agriculture–that the area around Harden MT can no longer grow spring wheat with profitable yields as the temps are too hot during the critical period.

    [Good to hear from you Arlo. Tusen Tak for your comments! EPG.]

    • Nobody is disputing that temperatures have been rising since 1850. The cause of the rise is disputed.

      The effects of rising temperatures where you live seem beneficial given that you have a longer growing season. Are you advocating a return to the colder conditions that applied 65 years ago?

      • Yes, that would be fine with me. The Glaciers would slowly return to Glacier Park, the oceans would recede and the Pine Bark Beetle would freeze to death and stop killing the pines. Also, CO2 is having a very negative affect on the corals and of course sea life of all types.
        CO2 is as great temperature regulator and without it, the planet would be incapable of supporting life. However, Increasing amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere is causing a hotter planet which will eventually melt both the ice masses on Antarctica and on Greenland flooding all the coastal areas which is where 45% of the population is, in the US of course. The above is just an accounting for this country. The other land masses would suffer the same fate.


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