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Scientists Explain Why Chairman of House Committee On Science Is Wrong 476

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-getting-hot-in-here dept.
Lasrick writes "Michael Oppenheimer and Kevin Trenberth take apart Rep. Lamar Smith's (R-Tex.) Washington Post op/ed on climate science saying: 'Contrary to Smith's assertions, there is conclusive evidence that climate change worsened the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy. Sea levels in New York City harbors have risen by more than a foot since the beginning of the 20th century. Had the storm surge not been riding on higher seas, there would have been less flooding and less damage. Warmer air also allows storms such as Sandy to hold more moisture and dump more rainfall, exacerbating flooding.'"
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Scientists Explain Why Chairman of House Committee On Science Is Wrong

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  • Fantastic... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday June 09, 2013 @04:38PM (#43955355) Journal

    Man, I certainly can't think of any better candidates for the chairmanship of the House Comittee on Science, Space, and Technology than a lawyer without any technical or scientific background, a big fan of SOPA, expanding the DMCA's restrictive elements, and PCIP. Just as icing on the cake, the guy is a Christian Scientist, so he probably has a worse-than-average relationship with medical science.

    Honestly, how do we end up with these jokers?

    • You're right, Ralph Hall was so much better! ;)
    • by houghi (78078)

      Honestly, how do we end up with these jokers?

      You know the answer to that. The real question is when you are going to do something about it.

      The think that is holding the people back is that it will not be a nice thing. Things will get worse before they get better.

      I have no idea if this will go peacefully and a real peoples government will arise or if it will be like the French revolution with some blood or even bloodier.
      I do not even know if it will tear up the USofA into smaller parts and no idea when it wi

  • Not very surprising (Score:4, Interesting)

    by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Sunday June 09, 2013 @04:40PM (#43955379)
    Lamar Smith is to climate change what Antonin Scalia is to gay marriange. Scientists say to Scalia/Lamar: "we have no doubts, we've established X beyond reasonable doubt". Scalia/Smith says to the public: "As everybody knows, there's great controversy among scientists as to whether X is true". Fuck them both.
  • by tp1024 (2409684) on Sunday June 09, 2013 @04:43PM (#43955427)

    I'll quote Feynman on this one, because I couldn't say it any better:

    "I would like to add something that's not essential to the science, but something I kind of believe, which is that you should not fool the laymen when you're talking as a scientist. . . . I'm talking about a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending over backwards to show how you're maybe wrong, [an integrity] that you ought to have when acting as a scientist. And this is our responsibility as scientists, certainly to other scientists, and I think to laymen."

  • by Spy Handler (822350) on Sunday June 09, 2013 @04:59PM (#43955561) Homepage Journal

    Am I the only person who initially read this as "Lamar Smith (T-Rex)" ?

    • He's not far from it if I remember right. Wasn't Lamar Smith the guy who took SOPA/PIPA legislation from MPAA/RIAA and proposed it to Congress?
  • Science or Not (Score:2, Insightful)

    by PPH (736903)

    Both sides can make their claims. But unless someone can do a proper experiment with a control planet, and make that experiment repeatable while you're at it, its all speculation. Not proper science.

    And Smith forgot to make an important point about the Keystone Pipeline. Stopping it doesn't mean that carbon stays in the ground. It means the Chinese will burn it. And they will do so with less rigorous emissions standards. But then I can't prove that either. Its all speculation.

    • by Ksevio (865461)
      There really aren't two sides - it's like comparing evolution with ID - the experts are overwhelmingly on one "side".

      Saying "well he's going to pollute so I might as well too" is a horrible philosophy. We can do our part to move to better energy sources, and pressure China to follow, but China is not even going to consider it if the US is using the very same fuel.
    • by AK Marc (707885)
      So, step 1, create a control earth.

      Should we create it around a control star, or set it in an identical orbit, perhaps on the other side of the sun? Venus + Mars + a number of larger asteroids (maybe a lot of them) can come up with the right mass, we just need to assemble them and get them in the right orbit. It may be hard getting the atmosphere right, it would likely inherit Venus's atmosphere, and not be sufficiently close to ours.
    • by amorsen (7485)

      Both sides can make their claims. But unless someone can do a proper experiment with a control planet, and make that experiment repeatable while you're at it, its all speculation. Not proper science.

      That is a ridiculous view of science. You have just declared history to be non-science.

      And Smith forgot to make an important point about the Keystone Pipeline. Stopping it doesn't mean that carbon stays in the ground. It means the Chinese will burn it. And they will do so with less rigorous emissions standards. But then I can't prove that either. Its all speculation.

      Indeed, you cannot prove that. It is difficult to transport bitumen to anywhere useful in reasonable quantities without the Keystone Pipeline. Without the Keystone Pipeline, there is a limit on how much you can economically extract. It is possible that the bitumen will get extracted eventually, but without the pipeline this extraction will at least be delayed.

    • Re:Science or Not (Score:5, Informative)

      by Xyrus (755017) on Sunday June 09, 2013 @08:01PM (#43956901) Journal

      Both sides can make their claims. But unless someone can do a proper experiment with a control planet, and make that experiment repeatable while you're at it, its all speculation. Not proper science.

      You can't be that dense. By your reasoning, just about every aspect of science is "speculation".

      Almost all non-trivial physics models are simulations. This includes everything from CFD's to weather and climate models. These simulations are built upon physical equations the describe the phenomena. These models are run against KNOWN CONDITIONS to see if the are accurately modelling the phenomena.

      In the case of climate models, the models are initialized with pre-industrial conditions (with various small tweaks to the initial conditions to create what is known as an ensemble). Then the models are run forward to present day to see how well they modeled the KNOWN conditions that happened over that time period. And, not surprisingly, the climate models do a pretty good job. Keep in mind, these models are not STATISTICAL models. These are PHYSICAL models, i.e. modelling the actual physical dynamics of the earth's climate.

      And even then, the models are just tools. The research used to the develop the models are based upon real world observations (historical as well as current). And this research has been ongoing since Fourier first proposed greenhouse gas theory back in 1824.

      Speculation is someone saying "The moon is made of cheese!". Science is someone showing objectively that it isn't. Idiocy is looking at the science and disregarding it as nonsense since it goes against your belief that the moon is made of cheese.

    • by thrich81 (1357561)

      By your definition astronomy, paleontology, and any part of geology which hypothesizes the formation of rocks and major landforms are not proper science. There are sciences which are not experimental sciences but still make testable predictions. The predictions are along the line of, "if you make the following observation, you will observe this..", or, "if you build this type of instrument and look in this place, you will observe this phenomenon...". The theory of the big bang cosmology made a testable p

  • by stenvar (2789879) on Sunday June 09, 2013 @05:39PM (#43955899)

    Contrary to Smith’s assertions, there is conclusive evidence that climate change worsened the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy.

    Well, you aren't giving it.

    Sea levels in New York City harbors have risen by more than a foot since the beginning of the 20th century.

    True, but incomplete. Sea levels have been rising steadily since long before industrialization:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Post-Glacial_Sea_Level.png [wikipedia.org]

    Therefore, although warming can cause sea level rise and sea levels have risen, there is no conclusive evidence that anthropogenic emissions have contributed significantly to sea level rise.

    Had the storm surge not been riding on higher seas, there would have been less flooding and less damage.

    True, but that could mean anything from totally insignificant to significant increase in damage; nobody knows how much increase there is. Since the sea level rise isn't attributable to human emissions, however, that point is academic.

    The actual problem is that people build in flood plains and too close to the ocean, because Congress bails them out with taxpayer money. That problem is much easier to take care of than carbon emissions.

    Warmer air also allows storms such as Sandy to hold more moisture and dump more rainfall, exacerbating flooding.

    True, but nobody knows whether that is a significant effect (likely not) either or how much of it is due to human emissions.

    So, the scientists actually haven't said much factually wrong, but their statements are misleading and full of weasel words, and their policy recommendations are unfounded and ineffective.

    Lamar Smith is right: "wait and see" is the right approach for the US. To that I'd add: eliminate federal flood insurance and disaster aid. If millionaires want to live on the beach, they should self-insure and not have the tax payer assume their risks.

  • I'm guessing Smith believes if we all pray more/harder all these storms will go away. It's either the devil's fault or god is mad at us.
  • by epine (68316) on Sunday June 09, 2013 @09:02PM (#43957311)

    This is ridiculous. No one would take a one-time one foot rise in global sea level seriously if it wasn't being construed as a canary in a coal mine with respect to a larger threat. They would just accept the city being built with insufficient surge margin as one of a thousand things done differently one hundred years ago.

    Nor would people rush to conclude that a one-time one foot rise in sea level was a high price to pay with what humanity has achieved in the last one hundred years.

    Building too close to unpredictable water is an ageless human tradition.

    I think it's poppycock to tie an amorphous process such as global warming to any specific counterfactual. There are many environmental carcinogens where we know it doubles the base rate, but we can't point to any one specific person and say "you died because of this".

    It's unscientific in attitutude to dupe the public into thinking that science operates in these terms. One does not need a concrete case of cause and effect in order for a process to have real effects. Even if the sea level had declined by a foot, some storm somewhere would have been worse. I've never had much appetite for scientists drawn into PR.

    • Re:poppycops (Score:5, Informative)

      by riverat1 (1048260) on Monday June 10, 2013 @03:36AM (#43958951)

      Nor would people rush to conclude that a one-time one foot rise in sea level was a high price to pay with what humanity has achieved in the last one hundred years.

      What makes you think sea level won't continue to rise, that it's a one-time thing? The last time CO2 levels were as high as they are now sea level was over 60 feet higher than it is now.

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