Genie Scott, Global Warming & Creationism

As we told you in this post a couple of months ago, the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is going to be “monitoring controversies over the teaching of climate change as well as controversies over the teaching of evolution.”

We enthusiastically support science education, including climate science, but we expressed some concern about this new direction for NCSE. That’s because we oppose teaching science in an ideological way to promote left-wing political goals, and we didn’t want to see NCSE get all tangled up in questionable politics.

Climate change is being exploited by the usual suspects in a game they’ve been playing for quite some time, and man-caused global warming is their latest star in a role that once featured global shortages, nuclear winter, world peace, social justice, saving the rain forests, etc. The pretext of the moment changes, but it’s always the same old power grab.

Global warming is legitimate science that deserves better than to be abused in such a shameless manner, and we didn’t want NCSE to become an unwitting pawn in that game.

So it was with great interest we watched this video of Eugenie Scott, NCSE’s Executive Director, speaking on 15 September in Scotland about creationism and global warming denial in terms of public opinion polls, “academic freedom” legislation, religion, and politics. The NCSE website had an article about it: Evolution and Global Warming Denialism: How the Public is Misled.

Our fears that Genie would somehow become “Al Gore lite” were totally unfounded. Her speech is excellent. The video is 48 minutes long and it’s well worth your time. Check it out.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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22 responses to “Genie Scott, Global Warming & Creationism

  1. There’s a huge difference between saying that “I disagree that your proposed policy is going to have the desired effect on global warming” and saying “global warming is bogus”. The DI equivalent for global warming is very careful to hedge what they say against climate science, while at the same time encouraging their followers to spread outlandish charges.

    Case in point: “hide the decline” and “Nature trick”. The actual incident refers to a figure in a paper where instrumental data and proxy data were plotted side by side–and clearly labelled and distinguished in both figure and caption. But it is like pulling teeth to get “climate skeptics” to admit that is all that happened. By not telling you what happened and repeating the catch phrase, they would like you to come away with the impression that global temperatures have been declining and climatologists hacve been “hiding the decline”. But they don’t come out and say this. They let their followers make the claim for them.

  2. Gabriel Hanna says:

    There’s a huge difference between saying that “I disagree that your proposed policy is going to have the desired effect on global warming” and saying “global warming is bogus”.

    And one can also say: Your proposed policy (e.g., UN control of the global economy) may indeed have the desired effect, but there are less coercive methods of achieving the same thing.

  3. I agree with Gabriel, and I was never that much concerned that the NCSE would go too far. They are concerned about the attacks on scientists, and science itself, and not the political side of it.

    If people attacked Al Gore, and others, purely on the policies they want to implement, then that is totally fine with me, and should be ignored by the NCSE. When they attack the science, and use almost exactly the same tactics as creationists to do so, I think it a fair target for them.

  4. Curmy, I agree with your suspicions that there are those who would use global warming to hamstring the U.S. economy, and it is truly a shame that it has become so politicized. It’s one thing for France to reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels; another thing entirely for the U.S. to do it.

    At the rate that China is increasing its carbon emissions, whatever the U.S. does will have little effect on climate, but would almost certainly have disastrous effects not only on our economy, but the entire world’s. If we were forced to suddenly return to 1990 emission rates, it would most likely throw the entire world into a deep depression.

    The common sense thing (in my opinion, anyway) would be to reduce carbon emissions as much as possible without depressing the economy. Switching from coal to nuclear for electrical generation is obviously an answer, but a lengthy one and politically unpalatable. Subbing natural gas for coal greatly reduces CO2 emissions and is much cleaner than coal as well.

    Without a means of short-term energy storage, such as flywheels, wind turbines aren’t going to make much difference except for permanently change the pastoral landscape. If a utility uses wind for more than about 30% of its power, it risks shutting down the grid if the wind stops suddenly. Backup generators can’t be started quickly enough to take up the slack.

    Don’t want to subvert the blog to climate change, so I’ll stop.

  5. @RSG:If a utility uses wind for more than about 30% of its power, it risks shutting down the grid if the wind stops suddenly.

    Worse than that; wind displaces hydro or natural gas, because those are effectively the economic way to store power. You can keep water behind a dam, or start and stop a natural gas plant to accommodate demand.

    But any form of energy storage, whether flywheel, battery, or ultracapacitor, costs hundreds or thousands of times as much, per kW-hr, to use and the capacity does not exist in any case. Hydroelectric reservoirs do exist and have vast capacity, and so wind is displacing hydro. The percentage of fossil fuel usage in the Pacific Northwest has actually increased as wind farms have been built. The hydro capability is fully utilized and new natural gas plants have been built for load balancing.

  6. “It’s one thing for France to reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels; another thing entirely for the U.S. to do it.”

    why?

  7. @Flakey: $14.5 trillion vs $2.5 trillion. 20% nuclear vs 85% nuclear.

  8. Not to mention the US is the size of Europe, and so we need about as much diesel as Europe needs, whereas France is about the size of Washington and Oregon put together. Etc.

  9. Population density is also very different.

  10. Combating creationism is about combating religion and theology based attacks on science. Religion based attacks have been ongoing on centuries. This effort is widely supported by people across the political spectrum.

    Controversies and skepticism revolving around AGW/CC are very much about politics and a concern that science is being hijacked to advance a socialist/collectivist political agenda and a power grab under the pretense of saving the world. People who usually have no problem with science are skeptical, suspicious, and distrustful. The only religion involved concerns the mythical God of Gaia.

    The political positions are so polarized that the middle ground has disappeared — middle ground that could be occupied by people who think that if the planet is warming maybe it is best we learn how to adapt to it.

    If the NCSE steps into this political imbroglio it may not be perceived as even an “unwitting pawn”. It may be perceived as a willing political pawn and lose support among more moderate and independent people who support separation of church and state and who oppose religion based attacks on science. Eugenie and the NCSE need to be very careful about this.

  11. It might be too much to say that environmentalism is a “religion”, though we can all think of people we know for whom it might as well be. But definitely the environmental movement sees pollution as morally wrong, rather than merely as a cost of living.

    For example, the Arikara of the Midwest lived a nomadic lifestyle. The cost of this lifestyle was that after a few years in a location they’d harvested all the available wood and so had to move away to another location, and not return for (possibly) decades while the wood grew back. They didn’t strip-mine wood because they were evil people, but because that was a cost of their way of living. Other Midwestern people used to drive entire buffalo herds off cliffs, often burning large areas of the plains in the process. Until they got horses and could hunt more efficiently.

    Environmental damage is something any organism will do, unless ruthlessly kept in check by the rest of the living environment. Green plants killed off most life on earth at one point. Beavers in Tierra del Fuego, for example, rabbits in Australia, etc. If humans ever want to be more than passive hunter-gatherers at their mercy of their environment, environmental damage is the unavoidable cost of that, and for me I don’t see the moral component. Nature does not love us and cherish us if we respect her. Nature does her damnedest to kill us off.

    Of course this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care about pollution at all. Like everything else in life, costs and benefits must be considered. Pollution does bring us benefits or we wouldn’t do it.

  12. Jack Hogan says:

    …middle ground that could be occupied by people who think that if the planet is warming maybe it is best we learn how to adapt to it.

    It’s not too difficult. There’s a reason why humans generally aren’t found densely populating places like Antarctica and the North Pole. There’s a reason why architecture is different in New England and New Orleans. There’s a reason why people don’t plant crops in the Sahara, or build houses and shopping centers in the swamp. We don’t need the UN to hold our hands, and we certainly don’t need them to run the world’s economy..

  13. Flakey, you asked why it would be different for the US to reduce CO2 compared to France. Gabriel hit the main points in his post above. I was also thinking of the potential effect on the global economy. If the US economy declines 5%, it would have a much bigger effect on the world economy than would a 5% decline in France’s GDP.

    Our legislators need to be very cautious concerning unintended consequences.

  14. What will be the effect on the economy when human migrations invade already populated centres at rates well above the ability to build new infrastructure?
    What happens when Texas, for example, suffers 1 in a 100 year droughts at the current rate of 1 in a decade droughts?
    If that level of change took more than a century, adaptation would be a breeze, if it only takes 20 years, the economic effect will be substantial. Before anyone takes those numbers as significant, they don’t reflect expectations, they are for comparison only. The point is, the faster the change, the more it will cost us. What is the cost/benefit ratio we should be concerned about, and what ratio should we consider acceptable?

  15. b_sharp asks:

    What is the cost/benefit ratio we should be concerned about, and what ratio should we consider acceptable?

    If change is slow, we can handle it. If it’s huge and fast, you don’t really think the UN is going to have anything positive to contribute, do you? So either way, the UN is useless. If the globe is warming, we’re going to handle it ourselves. I want the facts and freedom. Forget the tyranny.

  16. Thanks for the link enhancement, Curmie.
    I just didn’t even take the time to try.

    On the topic. Sadly, complex problems require complex solutions. No easy answers to climate change or its results and some will likely be painful and costly.

  17. SC: “So either way, the UN is useless.”

    Perhaps so. However, if we are to curb CO2 emissions, it will require international cooperation if it entails any kind of sacrifice.

    There is so much about climate change that remains unknown. For instance, might there be some self-limiting factors that will kick in? One possibility might be increased annual snowfall in the Arctic if the Arctic Ocean loses some of its ice cover. The open water would allow increased evaporation, leading to more precipitation. If Arctic snowpack lasts longer into the summer, the Earth’s albedo will increase, thus acting to cool the Earth. Of course, this could lead to a new Ice Age, so pick your poison.

    One thing is certain, though. If we choose an option (or have one forced upon us) that causes the US economy to shrink significantly, it will trigger a global depression. A global depression could easily trigger Global War, as the last Global Depression did.

    And Lynn, thanks for the link. Very interesting. Let’s hope that Perry’s problems in the polls continue.

  18. Clearly Curmudgeon you are poorly educated on this subject. Global warming is real. Acidification of the oceans is real. Supplies of fossil fuels are finite.

    You seem to know about creationism – try not to go outside your field – it makes you look silly.

  19. I still think it is fascinating that of all the Western World France has little problems with nuclear power. As Gabriel said 85% power from it already, and their way to go to 1990 co2 levels is simple, for them, make more nuclear power stations

    “There is so much about climate change that remains unknown. For instance, might there be some self-limiting factors that will kick in? ”

    Even if that is true it still can mean locally severe changes to certain areas. If the artic ice melts much faster the UK and Ireland are going to probably see temperatures drop by about 2 degrees on average.

  20. @Flakey:As Gabriel said 85% power from it already, and their way to go to 1990 co2 levels is simple, for them, make more nuclear power stations

    While I did say that France is 85% nuclear, I did NOT say they could reach 1990 targets by building nuclear plants.

    Nuclear plants are reliable and powerful but they are not flexible and canot be easily stopped and started to adjust to deman. France often has to pay Germany or the Netherlands to take its power when they are overproducing, and buy power when they are underproducing. 85% nuclear is a little too much.

    France built these nuclear plants not because they wanted to be carbon neutral but because France values energy independence over cost effectiveness. They have little coal or oil and do not wish to be dependent on foreign power sources (though as I pointed out above to some extent they are dependent because their grid lacks flexibility) and they are willing to spend a great deal of money to achieve that.

    As for France reaching 1990 levels of emissions, France’s emissions now are pretty much what they were then–they’re already there, thanks to nuclear power. However, it comes at a high price, and like much else in the French economy cost effectiveness and flexibility are sacrificed to other ends.

    http://www.france24.com/en/20100812-carbon-dioxide-emissions-slight-rise-greenhouse-gases-france

  21. And that’s another difference between France and the US. When France’s grid doesn’t balance they can draw (or more importantly, put excess power) on any of the other industrialized nations around them, just like a US state could. But for the US as a whole, whose power are we going to use to even out our production? Canada’s production (which is about 60% hydro) is only 15% of ours. (I suspect we already use whatever extra they have for load balancing already, though I don’t know how to find this out.)

    France has 60 million people: almost double the population of California, in a space only 20% bigger than California, bordering other nations of similar density. I don’t know why anything that works for them should be automatically assumed to work for the US, and that’s not even getting into cultural and social differences.