Sunday, July 30, 2006

What Bush says

I've noticed recently that the rhetoric of George W. Bush has changed. Consider the following statement made during a press conference in March. In response to a question about climate change, the President says:
First of all ... the globe is warming. The fundamental debate: Is it manmade or natural. Put that aside. It is in our interests that we use technologies that will not only clean the air, but make us less dependent on oil. That's what I said in my State of the Union the other day. I said, look -- and I know it came as quite a shock to -- for people to hear a Texan stand up and say, we've got a national problem, we're addicted to oil. But I meant what I said.
Note that he does not argue scientific uncertainty anymore --- this is quite a departure from his statements in 2001.

I wonder why he wants us to ignore the question of whether our present-day warming is manmade or not. It seems that this is a fundamental question and our response to the present day warming will depend on the answer. If today's warming is mainly the result of human activities, then that suggests an emphasis on mitigation and adaptation, while if it's not related to human activities, then there should be more of an emphsis on adaptation alone.

The only reason I can think that the President says "let's put that aside" is that he knows a signficant portion of the recent warming IS manmade. At present, the Administration NEVER EVER even mentions the possibility that greenhouse-gas emissions reductions might be something we need to do. That position becomes much more difficult to maintain if the Administration admits that humans are contributing to today's warming.


Anonymous said...

Bush is not the only one who has no interest in knowing (or more precisely, "an interest in NOT knowing"**) how much of the recent warming is manmade.

Companies like Exxon-Mobil also have the same vested interest (surprise, suprise).

The greater the uncertainty in the science, the better, as far as they are concerned.

**In practical terms, "An interest in NOT knowing" actually translates to "an interest in having the public NOT know", which is the basic "theme" of the Bush Presidency, summed up by

Bush's Uncertainty Principle

delta_science x delta_politics >= W/2pi

where "W" is Dubya's constant (of course)

Here's what it means:

The better the politics is "known" (ie, controlled) by White House, Congress, FOX news, etc, the smaller is "delta_politics" and hence the larger is "delta_science" (at least in the public mind)

(or so Karl Rove undoubtedly theologizes)

Anonymous said...

Note: nailing down the actual value for Dubya's constant is turning out to be about as difficult as finding WMD in Iraq, but the "Bush uncertainty Principle"** is nonetheless useful from a practical standpoint, even if we don't know its actual value.

I'm sure there is a Nobel Prize in the offing for anyone who does nail it down.

**There is an alternate form to the Bush uncertainty Principle given in the first post:

delta_Bush * delta_world >= W/2pi

Or, in words, the more certain Bush is (in his own mind) about something*, the more uncertain (and chaotic) the world becomes.

"I can't think of any mistakes I have made" - GWB

Jim Clarke said...


Welcome to the world of blogging! I wish you much success in generating serious thought and commentary on global climate change.

You stated that if the warming is mostly man-made that we humans should try to mitigate our influence on climate as well as adapt to possible changes, but if it is mostly natural, we should just try to adapt.

I believe you are expressing a mainstream view, but I have never thought it a rational one. If climate change is bad (an assumption I don't accept), should we not attempt to mitigate it, no matter what the cause?

Your argument is akin to suggesting that if you accidentally start a fire in your house, you should put it out; but if your house catches fire from a lighning strike, then let it burn and adapt to being homeless!

If your house is burning down around you, is it not rather silly to assign levels of morality of the possible ignition sources before deciding a course of action?

While it is intellectually easy to claim a 1 degree human induced warming as morally wrong, while a 1 degree 'natural' warming as morally neutral, there is no rational or scientific basis for doing so. This tendency is simply part of our cultural mindset that appears to be based on an ever growing sense of cultural guilt.

Granted, taking the morality out of the climate change debate demands answers to some very serious, and propably unanswerable questions, before we can proceed. Questions like: What is the best average temperature for planet Earth? Should we strive for a 'stable' climate, or would that lead to catastrophic, unintended consequences, like a dwindling robustness in the entire biosphere?

Most assurdly, those arguing for a reduction in CO2 emissions based in part on a moral issue, would argue against humans mitigating a 'natural' warming of similar magnitude on the same grounds. This indicates that it is not the warming that is the problem, but humanities sinfullness against Gaia, whatever that is percieved to be.

Since I do not believe we humans can effectively control global climate, I would argue that we should focus on adaptation and real vulnerability issues. We should also pursue increased efficiency and cost effective alternative energy sources, because that's what we should always be doing whether the climate is changing or not.

Andrew Dessler said...


Thanks for your comments. My statements about mitigation vs. adaptation stem from a practical rather than moral view. If climate change is natural, then we have little opportunity to mitigate it. We simply cannot control things like the sun or coupled atmosphere-ocean modes like ENSO. Our only response to natural changes is adaptation. If the climate change is due to human activities, however, then we can modify those activities to mitigate.


Ed said...

Good luck with your blogging effort. If your blog simply becomes yet another forum to repeat put downs and insults of the President, it is hard to beleive you will achieve your goal of offering anything at all new or enlightening on the issue of climate. I wish you well. Your book looks very interesting and I will enjoy reading it.

Ed said...

Jim Clarke, you have described the major inconsistency in the man-caused-global-warming (mcgw) movement very well. the driving factor in the mcgw movement is not scientific, but rather religious. In fact, as I study and observe the debate, it is clear there is a chialist (apocalyptic) aspect to this that is very powerful, and compellilng to many people.

Joel Shore said...

In answer to Jim Clarke and ed: I think there is another practical reason in additon to the one Andrew mentioned why we need to be more concerned about man-made vs. natural warming. Namely, there is no known mechanism that would lead to the sort of warming (2.5 to 10 F by 2100) that is predicted due to anthropogenic effects. Indeed, I believe even the bottom end of that range would bring us at or above the highest level that has been seen in the last several interglacial cycles.

This idea that there may be some sort of dramatic warming over the next century or so that is not caused by humans is an idea that has no support whatsoever. As such, I don't really see the need to consider how we should deal with a problem that is not a very realistic possibility. Better to focus on the very real possibility that anthropogenic effects will lead to such a dramatic warming.

Ed said...

Joel, the mcgw is hall of mirrored predictions and echoing prophecies of doom. Re-read what you wrote. There is nothing you can predict out 100 years.

Anonymous said...


So, we can't be certain about anything 100 years out, but you are nonetheless quite certain that "mcgw [AGW] is hall of mirrored predictions and echoing prophecies of doom", right?

No contradiction there.

Ed said...

The difference is we can look today and see that hurricanes are no more powerful or frequent, that other tenets of mcgw are being hyped. the more global the view of mcgw as driving everything from forest fires to cold winters to hot summers, the more likely it is that it explains nothing in the external world.

EliRabett said...

There are many things that can be accurately predicted 100 and more years from now including the postion of the planets as one example. There are other things which one can predict well enough to form a basis for action, climate change for example.

anonymousToo said...

How can it be possible that Global warming might be man-made, but at the same time "If climate change is natural, then we have little opportunity to mitigate it. We simply cannot control things like the sun or coupled atmosphere-ocean modes like ENSO." If it's possible that we could cause it, doesn't it follow that we could mitigate it?