Climate change, population growth, and social justice

At the recent climate change town hall series put on by CNN, Bernie Sanders got asked a question about overpopulation and climate change. His answer focused on reproductive rights, and on expanding the right to birth control and other family planning options not just to American women, but to women all over the world. This includes ending bans on foreign aid going to organizations that do things like providing abortion and other family planning services around the world:

This take is a good one, in my view, because it shows a commitment to improving the world for everyone that is often sorely lacking in discussions around overpopulation and limited resources. It’s one of those issues where a lot of people talk about how important it is to find a solution of some sort, but the conversation often doesn’t go farther. Most of the solutions that are readily available in popular culture seem to be… Bad. Also generally authoritarian.

If you have the time, I strongly recommend Peter Coffin’s video on the subject, as he does a great job of going into the history of concern over the problem, as well as some of the proposed solutions: [Read more…]

Climate denier pleads irrelevance and infirmity, and a zombie myth shambles on

The science of climate change is a field that focuses on trends over periods of a decade or more. Unfortunately, not all the trends the informed viewer will encounter have to do with climate research – some have to do with those who reject that research for non-scientific reasons. These people – generally referred to as climate science deniers – will show the non-scientific basis for their objections in the way they will use the same objections, year after year, no matter what new data arise, or how often those objections are rebutted.

This trend of continuing the use of dead arguments long after their demise is common to all areas of science denial, from the anti-vaccination crowd, to young-earth creationists. The tactic generally involves making false claims that seem plausible on the surface, and that take far more time and effort to rebut than was expended on the original lie. As a result, in all areas where this problem exists, people end up building resources to ease the rebuttal process. For climate science, the handiest one is the argument list found on Skepticalscience.com. The purveyors of these lies have found that there is no point at which their bullshit will have grown too ripe for their followers to swallow, so they have no incentive to stop feeding it to them.

When talking about science, this endless dishonesty also means repeatedly lying about actual people and the work they do. Arguably the most popular target for this behavior is climatologist Michael Mann, first made famous for his “hockey stick” graph in the 1990s. There are a variety of claims made about his work, but one of the most persistent has been that his temperature reconstructions discounted the Medieval Warm Period. This was a period during which Western Europe and Southern Greenland experienced higher temperatures than during most of the last couple centuries, and that showed prominently in an early IPCC graph. The graph seems to have been based on data from England, and incorrectly described as representing global temperatures. Mann’s graph drew data from multiple sources around the planet, and so, unsurprisingly showed a different result. If you haven’t seen it, or if you’d like a refresher on the subject, I highly recommend you watch this video from Potholer54 on the subject:

Mann has, over the years, been subject to an endless torrent of harassment and lies, and eventually decided to sue one of the primary culprits for libel. This would be a fellow by the name of Tim Ball, has gained a reputation for inflating his credentials to lend artificial authority to his arguments against the general consensus of climate research. I’ll refer you again to some of Potholer54’s coverage of the subject, with the relevant portion of this video starting around 8 minutes in:

Mann’s lawsuit against Ball has recently been dismissed, which has been claimed as both a victory for Ball, and a validation of the claims Ball has made about Mann and his research. It may shock you to learn that this reading of the situation is, in fact, another lie. From what I can gather, the request for dismissal that the judge granted was not based on the merits of the claims made. It was based on Tim Ball being old and sickly, and the assertion that nobody takes Ball seriously, and so his lies could cause no real harm to Mann (link leads to a twitter-based image that I have transcribed below):

The BC Supreme Court has never made any finding, directly or indirectly, that you failed to produce your data.

The August 22, 2019 ruling said nothing on that subject.

Ball’s request that the lawsuit be terminated – for delay – relied heavily on his alleged state of health.

Ball said in an affidavit supporting his application that lawsuit be terminated for delay:

“My Health

82. I myself am 80-years old (born 5th November 1938. I am diagnosed a Type 2 diabetic controlled by insulin. 

83. I had quintuple bypass surgery in June 2007.

84. After the trial adjournment in February of 2017, I suffered coronary heart failure. This occurred in May 2017. It result in the surgical insertion of five stints in my heart. I am on blood thinners and will be for the rest of my life.”

Ball’s request that your lawsuit against him be terminated for delay also relied heavily on his argument that Ball’s accusations have not damaged your reputation.

According to a written submission filed with the Court by Ball’s lawyer:

“Dr. Ball’s website did not appear in a Google Search of Dr. Mann or his research for at least 92% of all searchers, likely more. Dr. Ball’s website has a low ranking and low popularity as calculated by Alexa, software used to judge website popularity.”

“…there are eight years of evvidence to support the complete lack of damage to reputation in BC or elsewhere.”

Basically this is tantamount to saying that Ball’s accusations against you have been given no credibility by the average, reasonable reader.

In summary, the court’s brief ruling on August 22 made no finding on whether your claims were valid, or whether Ball’s pleaded defenses had any merit.

Such findings would have been made at a trial, which will now not happen (unless this ruling is reversed on appeal).

As ever, the science denial crowd is relying on the most superficial of glances to “support” their declarations of victory, so Mann has helpfully provided resources for those who wish to look into the subject – and the data – for themselves: https://twitter.com/MichaelEMann/status/1165641839627702274.

The reason I went into the Medieval Warm Period “controversy” in the beginning is because the science denial crowd has been using their “victory” to spread around the same long-debunked ideas about climate history over the last thousand years, in an effort to cast doubt on the properties of CO2 as a greenhouse gas. The basic idea is that if the “hockey stick” pattern isn’t real – if the Medieval Warm Period was hotter than today – then it can’t be CO2 causing current warming. We’ve known for decades that the pattern Mann found is an accurate one, and as I mentioned back in 2013, there have been multiple studies, by multiple teams, using multiple data sets from all over the world, that have all come to the same conclusion: The global temperature is higher now than it has been in hundreds of thousands of years, and we’re headed for temperatures not seen in millions of years.

We’ve been digging up carbon that was pulled out of the atmosphere over a period of hundreds of millions of years, and putting it back into the atmosphere in a matter of decades. It was much, much hotter back then, even with a cooler sun. If we continue on this path, we will go far beyond anything our species has ever encountered, or the species we descended from, or their ancestors, going back to the first mammals. If we do end up burning all of the fossil fuels we know about, we’re not facing the current nightmare scenario of 4-6 degree temperature rise. Accounting for feedbacks like the melting permafrost and seafloor methane clathrates, we’d be facing over 10 degrees of warming. It’s unclear whether humanity can survive in a world like that, but unless we make massive changes to how we live and how we use our technology, I would say the answer is a sepulchral NO.