Yes, I’m Confident in My Superior Political Analysis Skills

On the “One More on the Koch Brothers” thread, the following exchange occurred, which calls for a long enough response that I decided to promote it to top-page status.

Michael Heath: I suggest reading Climate Progress, you’ll get a feel for the what the executive branch is continually doing with the limited powers it has without congressional support.

James Hanley: Well, I do pride myself on understanding how government actually works rather better than they do. They can repeat what’s in the news, but real analysis of the politics isn’t their strength.

Michael Heath: I didn’t know you read Climate Progress to the point you’re capable of criticizing their ability, and mine, to assess whether they’re accurately reporting and analyzing administrative efforts to mitigate for climate changes given constraints on the Executive – good and bad. Here are two examples…
A report on the President’s initiative regarding energy savings on commercial buildings that will be in the President’s next budget proposal: http://goo.gl/CWsR0 . There’s an embedded link in this article of a PDF of the president’s White House paper. It notes:

The President signed an Executive Order directing federal agencies to achieve zero net energy by 2030 and employ high-performance and sustainable design principles for all new construction and alterations. At least 15 percent of existing buildings need to meet these guiding principles by FY 2015.

…James – it appears you are extremely confident in your ability to assess issues from afar as if they all fit a particular narrative consistent with your perspective of how politics works. I’ve found that it’s difficult to impossible to make such assessments on individual issues without actually first becoming well-informed.

Well, yes, I’m rather confident in my ability to assess how government actually functions. My major comprehensive field as a grad student was American Government, with emphasis areas in the presidency and constitutional law. One of the advantages of developing an expertise in a particular area is that you can assess something at a glance with more acuity than the non-expert can with much closer inspection. Merely accumulating facts does not in itself lead to real understanding.

For example, the richest woman in the world is a Chinese woman who made her fortune by buying scrap newspaper from the U.S. (where we have a recycling glut), shipping it to Asia (because container space going west across the Pacific is dirt cheap due to less flow of goods that way), and then shredding it to use as packing material for goods coming back to the U.S. from Asia. I knew every step in that process: I knew there was a glut of recycled newspaper in the U.S.; I knew container space going west was cheap; and I knew newspaper could be used for packing. There’s not one bit of that process that required any specialized or uncommon knowledge. I knew all the facts, so well that when I heard about this woman I had a Huxley moment (“How stupid of me not to have thought of that”) and literally slapped myself on the forehead. But knowing the facts was not sufficient, else I would be rich (and, dammmit, I have the contacts to have made it happen!). But I didn’t, so I’m not.

Now the folks at Climate Progress are not political scientists, however skilled they are in other areas and they rely primarily on journalistic reports. And the overwhelming majority of journalists don’t know their asses from their elbows when it comes to politics–they are impressed by personalities, claims, and issues, rather than having any real ability to analyze what’s going on from a functional perspective. One of my favorite pastimes is laughing my ass off at the television talking heads. No, that’s not true. They drive me absolutely batshit crazy, and it’s not really very amusing at all.*

Let’s take the case of the executive order mentioned above. It’s all well and good, and it’s perfectly in line with what I said about Obama honestly wanting to do something about climate change. But here are the important elements about an executive order. First, it’s something the President can do unilaterally–he doesn’t have to invest any real political capital in it, so he’s not taking any serious effort and risk that would demonstrate real, serious, commitment to making important changes. Second, he mostly won’t be around to see it come to fulfillment–most of the costs are incurred not now, under his watch, but in the future. The exception is having 15% of federal buildings meet those guidelines by 2015, but I’d hypothesize that either they’re already close to that goal, so that it’s not really that hard to meet, or they’re simply not going to meet it, and he’ll just issue a new executive order readjusting the date–he can do that because issuing executive orders is so easy. Finally, it’s not binding because he may not be around in 2015, and he certainly won’t be around after 2016, and the succeeding president may or may not be interested in continuing the policy (imagine a President Palin, or Bachman, or Santorum–although thankfully those odds are vanishingly remote).

In short, his executive order is more of a signaling device than a substantive policy. As a signal it serves two purposes, one electoral and the other substantive. Electorally its a signal to his supporters. It says, “hey, look, I’m serious about climate change.” Substantively it signals a policy approach that perhaps his successors will continue. The perhaps is the strongest element of it, but the substantive signal is not meaningless–it may be harder for a future president to turn off that path, if it becomes well-established, than it would have been for them to never get started on it. So by beginning this, it’s possible Obama’s set a precedent that will be continued, but it’s not certain.

That’s not rocket science, obviously. Any moderately intelligent adult citizen can follow that logic, and any adult citizen who follows politics already knows all the factual elements, so it almost seems as if nothing new has been said. But the key, as with newspapers and shipping, is in putting all those pieces together. Not to boast, but my expertise in this area (this area, I’m not claiming expertise in everything) allows me to see that at a glance, whereas most people are looking only at the expressed goal–they are seeing the signal, and little, if anything, else.

Additionally, there is another reason to not get overly enthusiastic about Obama’s executive order. Executive orders are a part of the on-going shift of political power away from Congress and toward the executive branch, which is eroding our system of constitutional checks and balances. Nobody ever cares about this, as long as the executive order has a good end. But a handful of us stupid experts do still care about it, and consequently I think executive orders should be much more limited in extent than they are. To use them as a means of setting domestic policy is to usurp what is properly Congress’s authority. You won’t find any journalist who’ll take that seriously, and if you find anyone at Climate Progress who understands that, point him out to me so I can send him a bottle of scotch in praise. This is an area where the non-experts are completely missing the boat, and while they feel quite sophisticated about their detailed understanding of Obama’s executive order, they are completely blind to the issue of this on-going power shift. Being a news junkie isn’t going to allow a person to become aware of this problem because the media folk are almost unanimously ignorant of it. All they know is that presidents issue executive orders, so they applaud the ones they like and criticize the ones they don’t like, and they think they’ve engaged in “analysis.”

When it comes to government most people are more focused on outcome than on process. Granted that process is not God, and that there are rare crisis occasions when it should not be allowed to stand in the way, but it remains true, as legal scholar Alexander Bickel wrote, that ”the highest morality almost always is the morality of process,” and it remains true that each subversion of our constitutionally ordered process occurs within a broader arena of an on-going shift of power from legislative to executive, and that to focus solely on whether this particular executive order achieves a desired goal is to look at it in isolation, abstracted from the big picture of how American political authority is shifting.

So do I feel comfortable that I can assess these things better than the folks at Climate Progress? Yeah, I do, and I’m rather surprised at the implication that I shouldn’t. My expertise is not their expertise, but equally theirs is not mine. As it turns out, the issues do all fit the narrative that is consistent with my view of how politics works, because–as I’ve noted before–I’m less issue-oriented and more analytically oriented; my approach to understanding politics is a functional analysis approach. Clearly that message is not getting through clearly. It could be, at least in part, my failure to clearly explain it, but I’m fairly confident that part of it is just the normal difficulty that politically aware people have of separating themselves from their attachment to particular issues.** Really it’s just a perceptual shift, but I see the difficulty my students have in making that shift, and I see the difficulty my friends and colleagues have in making that shift. But it’s something fundamentally different than just paying attention to issues and knowing lots of details.

___________________________________________
*Believe me, you can’t imagine the way political scientists feel about journalists and pundits–with exceptions for a small handful of them, it’s a mixture of intense disdain for their idiocy mixed with a furious jealousy that people are actually listening to them instead of us. But since the public is also more impressed by personalities and claims than functional analysis, we’ll never get much public respect.
**One of the reasons I can’t be the kind of rabid libertarian people assume I must be the moment I say I’m a libertarian is that I’ve been too professionalized to gain that kind of attachment to most issues.

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About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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21 Responses to Yes, I’m Confident in My Superior Political Analysis Skills

  1. Michael Heath says:

    James Hanley:

    Merely accumulating facts does not in itself lead to real understanding.

    Of course, which is exactly why I suggest you bone-up on climate science, to put the facts you accumulate into a superior context for competent analysis so you don’t make fallacy of balance errors like comparing a misquote of James Hansen within the context of what the Koch brothers purposefully do in the public square – one of the most enormous fallacy of balance errors coupled to a quotemine I’ve encountered.

    In addition I never asserted your point here, I instead argued you didn’t have sufficient information to rebut whether Climate Progress was incapable of analyzing the President’s actions without first being cognizant of what it is they’re reporting and their analysis. This paragraph by you validates this inability:

    Now the folks at Climate Progress are not political scientists, however skilled they are in other areas and they rely primarily on journalistic reports. And the overwhelming majority of journalists don’t know their asses from their elbows when it comes to politics–they are impressed by personalities, claims, and issues, rather than having any real ability to analyze what’s going on from a functional perspective. One of my favorite pastimes is laughing my ass off at the television talking heads. No, that’s not true. They drive me absolutely batshit crazy, and it’s not really very amusing at all.*

    Climate Progress spends a considerable amount of time criticizing the inaccuracy of media reports. They even present research findings on the quality of what the media reports, such as this blog post here: http://goo.gl/scvNu In addition the bulk of their sources are not journalists but the newsmakers themselves or others who are trusted analysts. Climate Progress’ Joe Romm is a MIT physicist by training not a journalist.

    James:

    Additionally, there is another reason to not get overly enthusiastic about Obama’s executive order.

    I’m not sure anyone’s getting excited, this cite was merely to point out that the Executive is working on climate change in spite of Congress inability to do so, it was a modest assertion. Your point that action isn’t required until his second term, if he’s reelected, is a very good point but I wasn’t trying to claim anything other than the fact he’s putting initiatives in place as best as his executive powers allow.

    James:

    So do I feel comfortable that I can assess these things better than the folks at Climate Progress? Yeah, I do, and I’m rather surprised at the implication that I shouldn’t. My expertise is not their expertise, but equally theirs is not mine.

    No one claimed that Climate Progress could assess “these things” better than you. I instead presented them as a way for you to become cognizant of what the executive was actually doing on climate change given you demonstrate little cognizance of his actions. I never framed my advice to help you analyze the politics but instead to inform you of the activity. The idea that you’re convinced you already know the activities going on around the government better than they do without first understanding what it is they actually do and report, and then judging them on a sample size of one, that’s all you James. Sheesh.

  2. Michael Heath says:

    Another reason to read Climate Progress, in fact the primary reason I read them, is the way the present new scientific findings. When a new report comes out Mr. Romm puts a plethora of other related findings into his blog post to provide some framework for the new finding to help put it into context. I remain amazed at the volume of his work product which I’ve concluded must come from having some superior organizational skills in how he categorizes his prior blog posts and cites them for easy reference.

    Now Mr. Romm is also more of a cheerleader-advocate than I prefer; so I have other sources I use to gauge how an article reconciles to other reports if I have doubts. But in terms of providing context to findings I’m not sure if there’s a better blogger on any topic than him when it comes to creating context in his blog posts by way of past cites.

    So if I want to reconcile the veracity of a new publishing finding, the best sources I found for putting an article into context of other findings is RealClimate.org and ScienceDaily.com. The former by containing mostly blog posts by practicing climate scientists or people working under their direction and the latter by way of how they relate newly published findings on the with past related findings (and doing searches on both sites as well).

    All of this added context is especially important given the fact that climate science remains a relatively new field, there’s a ton of work product being produced, and the fact that denialists are winning politically here in the U.S. partly by the propaganda they produce. So Romm is good at providing the cites and context needed to falsify their positions in spite of not being dedicated to fisking denialist claims where other sites provide a superior service since they’re dedicated to such. RealClimate.org primarily sticks to illuminating findings of peer-reviewed work and providing some insight into controversies that exist between those publishing findings and particular scientists. RealClimate frequently has specific experts and well-known climate scientists guest blog on subjects there as well.

  3. Lance says:

    Michael Heath,

    It figures you would promote Joe Romm’s climate Armageddon screed-fest as a source of “scientific information”. That’s like listing the Aryan Nation as a good source for scientific information about race.

    He is a “senior fellow” at The Center for American Progress”. He is about as far from being a dispassionate scientific observer as a pebble is from being Uranus.

    Although he is a pretty good approximation for the “anus” part of Uranus.

  4. Lance says:

    James Hanley,

    I totally get it that you are a “process guy”, more interested in the details of the game than the outcome.

  5. James Hanley says:

    Michael,

    You do realize that there are sources for what the President is doing besides Climate Progress, right? That I can follow the President’s actions without ever accessing that site?

    And frankly I can’t take them seriously. They just cited Paul Krugman claiming climate change is one of the causes of the weather events that are leading to food shortages, and implicitly use Krugman’s claims to bolster their own. Need I name the many things that are wrong with that? Besides the fact that Krugman, as an economist, has no more of a fucking clue whether these weather events are related to climate change than I do, and besides the fact that droughts and storms that have destroyed crops and led to food shortages have occurred repeatedly throughout history, there is the fact that every time a denialist points to cold weather as a data point against global warming they (rightly) get shouted down, but every fucking heat wave and every goddam storm, and every goddam drought now gets (wrongly) treated as evidence for global warming. The hypocrisy of “your single data points are meaningless but ours are very meaningful” makes me want to punch my computer, so–since it’s actually a work computer–my better judgment leads me to mostly avoid people who make such claims. Every time I look at Climate Progress I come away shaking my head at some idiotic thing I find there. It’s not that everything there is that flawed, nor even most of it. But frequently enough.

    In addition the bulk of their sources are not journalists but the newsmakers themselves or others who are trusted analysts.

    a) Why would I trust the newsmakers themselves? They’re going to tell me the great thing they did–they’re not going to analyze it.
    b) I don’t trust those trusted analysts. I’m serious about that. The great majority of analysts cited in the news are cited because they’ve managed to become well known, not because they know things well. There’s a lot of political Perez Hilton’s running around out there.

    Climate Progress’ Joe Romm is a MIT physicist by training not a journalist.

    Exactly, he’s a physicist, not a political scientist. There’s nothing in the political analysis literature that he wouldn’t have the smarts to figure out, but unless he’s gone to the trouble of familiarizing himself with it, then he hasn’t figured it out.

    Why would I get my political analysis from a physicist, a newsmaker, or a popular “analyst”? It would be like a physicist getting his physics from Popular Mechanics.

  6. Michael Heath says:

    James:

    You do realize that there are sources for what the President is doing besides Climate Progress, right? That I can follow the President’s actions without ever accessing that site?

    I recommended that site to you for a reason that’s my third motivation for skimming/reading that site daily, i.e., to provide you with a resource regarding actions by the Executive when it comes to climate change. If you have a better resource that focuses on this topic, please pass it along.

    James:

    They just cited Paul Krugman claiming climate change is one of the causes of the weather events that are leading to food shortages, and implicitly use Krugman’s claims to bolster their own. Need I name the many things that are wrong with that?

    Cite requested. Romm has been covering food insecurity for years now so I’m not sure which blog post you are referencing. The latest one doesn’t rely on Krugman for the science where Krugman is making policy arguments based on scientific predictions which are possibly being validated, he’s certainly not creating his own but instead is repeating scientific assertions that are both well understood and published: http://goo.gl/e7vew .

    That post has Romm relying on other sources for reports of food shortages, food price spikes, and food prices as a reason for increased unrest in the Middle East. In fact my print paper had an article just the other day making the tie between the Russian heat wave, grain prices spiking – partly based on Russian drought, and Mideast political unrest. In addition the Russian drought is an expectation of what to expect in a warming world (1), therefore I would hope that some policy-makers/columnists like Krugman would make arguments based on this event; it seems idiotic not to do so. If only to point towards using this recent event as an illustration of what to expect in the future even if we can’t validate this drought was directly tied to climate change.

    James:Besides the fact that Krugman, as an economist, has no more of a fucking clue whether these weather events are related to climate change than I do, and besides the fact that droughts and storms that have destroyed crops and led to food shortages have occurred repeatedly throughout history, there is the fact that every time a denialist points to cold weather as a data point against global warming they (rightly) get shouted down, but every fucking heat wave and every goddam storm, and every goddam drought now gets (wrongly) treated as evidence for global warming.

    Actually, that’s the elementary explanation of this debate where I’d argue you need to become more informed on the topic since it breaks down easily. Denialists were rightly criticized last winter not just because the storms in the Mid-Atlantic don’t provide evidence against global warming, but also because more severe winter storms in that area is predicted by climate scientists – primarily because of the extra energy stored in the oceans.

    You are absolutely correct that some people take events and make too much out of them. As Lance should know by now since I commented on this the very first time I brought up Joe Romm to him, I’ve always criticized Romm for being an overly strident ideologue. But I don’t recommend Climate Progress for his positions. In fact I have no idea where he stands on certain policy prescriptions since I visit his site for entirely different reasons:
    1) He provides a plethora of scientific cites to provide added context to new findings, second only to ScienceDaily.com.
    2) Given that I’m not that into following the denialist community (2) I prefer updates only on the biggest issues, and once again mostly leverage Romm’s cites, not his own arguments which I normally skim over.
    3) His site builds awareness of governmental actions and controversies.

    James – if you have better resources for these three areas of information, please recommend them.

    James:

    The hypocrisy of “your single data points are meaningless but ours are very meaningful” makes me want to punch my computer, so–since it’s actually a work computer–my better judgment leads me to mostly avoid people who make such claims.

    I assume this coming from this prior comment from me:

    The idea that you’re convinced you already know the activities going on around the government better than they do without first understanding what it is they actually do and report, and then judging them on a sample size of one, that’s all you James. Sheesh.

    I’m sorry James but I can’t discern how I’m being hypocritical here. In fact I’d argue your response validates my point, rather than revealing some thinking error on my part. I think the disconnect here my be a misunderstanding of exactly why I was recommending Climate Progress to you, which again was never because of Romm’s analysis skills, but instead because of Romm’s presentation of issues and citations tied to those issues.

    I don’t know of anyone I completely agree with so it doesn’t bother me that one of the best information providers takes a position different than my own. I do not find Romm to be fundamentally dishonest like we see in the opposing ideological camp, in fact I perceive him like I do Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann, which is that they’re extremely honest from a relative perspective in the ideological wars, but sometimes fails nominally in terms of my definition of honesty. Romm’s disingenuous in the sense they sometimes, not always, create too narrow a framework for their positions which helps their argument. I of course would prefer everyone always make brilliant arguments which would require a broad enough framework to force one to always confront compelling challenges to one’s argument. Romm fails on this point, not always, but he does. That doesn’t mean he fails on the reasons I peruse his site and again James, if you can recommend superior resources for me to achieve my numbered resources 1, 2, and 3 above, please do so.

    Me earlier:

    In addition the bulk of their sources are not journalists but the newsmakers themselves or others who are trusted analysts.

    James responds:

    a) Why would I trust the newsmakers themselves? They’re going to tell me the great thing they did–they’re not going to analyze it.
    b) I don’t trust those trusted analysts. I’m serious about that. The great majority of analysts cited in the news are cited because they’ve managed to become well known, not because they know things well. There’s a lot of political Perez Hilton’s running around out there.

    Who asked you to trust the newsmakers? I repeatedly recommended this site to build awareness, not be told what to think. My point about “trusted analysts” wasn’t about his citing people like Krugman or popular pundits, in fact quite the opposite. I point that out because Romm frequently quotes people who are subject experts who aren’t pundits. In the Romm/Krugman food piece I link above that would be examples like:

    1) the NCAR analysis of droughts that Romm cites: http://goo.gl/1bd4s
    2) the Goldman Sachs analysts providing counsel on Mideast food stockpiles
    3) an environmentalist’s perspective – Lester Brown
    4) Richard Ferguson, global head of agriculture at Renaissance Capital
    5) UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation
    6) Camilla Toulmin, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development

    So James – please help me understand where I can find a superior resource who covers these issues with such a large volume of citations? I realize that Romm is building a case to confirm his own bias and have never stated otherwise. In fact as Lance should remember, I’ve preemptively pointed that out regarding Romm from the very beginning. I’m not gullible nor do I think you are James, therefore I assume you are capable of leveraging such a wealth of information while still concluding that the odds are great there are positions which are worthy of consideration which Romm avoided. I know I can. It appears to me you are effectively arguing you can’t, that you must get your analysis arguments from a source which agrees with you. I realize you don’t actually think that, but if you read your argument here that is what you arguing where I think we’re both well beyond that.

    Therefore, I remain exceedingly comfortable recommending Climate Progress to you and others who possess critical thinking skills. If you have better resources to offer so we can discard with Climate Progress, please offer them up. I fully realize Romm is far from perfect, but given the specific objectives I have which he fulfills, I’m happy to have him as a resource while happy to discard with him if someone else provides the incredible amount of context he does but in a manner that is far less biased.

    James:

    Why would I get my political analysis from a physicist, a newsmaker, or a popular “analyst”? It would be like a physicist getting his physics from Popular Mechanics.

    Well I never recommend you get your political analysis from him. So again, you continue to argue points I never made. Do you like to argue just to argue? I initially recommended him to you to help increase your awareness of political activities where I found you lacking on being informed, not to slavishly get fed Romm’s recipe of global warming soup as a prescriptive. As I stated earlier in this post, I don’t even use Romm for political analysis to the point I have no idea where he stands on certain issues, e.g., nuclear, how to tax carbon (if at all).

    1) Archer, Rahmstorf, Map 8.25 in The Climate Crisis, Chapter – “Impacts of Climate Change”, page 182. Crop yields have been declining in Asia for years now, scientists predict up to a 30% decline by mid-century in Central and South Asia. In fact the 2010 Russian summer is almost an exact reflection of the 2007 IPCC report’s prediction for their agricultural region. I would hope policy wonks would make prescriptive arguments based on the Russian drought and results of that drought.

    2) Romm doesn’t focus much on the contrarian arguments within the climate science community unless they’re acting as denialists, nor should he since he’s not a climate scientist. I get my perspective on contrarian climate change challenges from RealClimate.org which is representative of the climate science consensus.

  7. Lance says:

    D.C. Sessions,

    Krugman’s opinion piece in the NY Times is further evidence that he should stick to economics.

    First he points to a simple Gaussian graph with no units and claims it represents the current climate. He then makes an arbitrary unexplained and unsupported shift to the right.

    He uses this idiotically simple and unscientific illustration to claim that it’s OK to view”hot” weather events as proof of climate change but not “cold” ones.

    He then makes a statement,

    But the pattern should have changed: we should be getting lots of record highs, and not as many record lows — which is exactly what we do see. And we should be seeing 100-year heat waves and similar events much more often than history would have suggested likely; again, that’s what we actually do see.

    Here are the three things wrong with Krugman’s statement.

    First since the instrumental temperature record began about 130 years ago we have been in a general warming trend, therefore by definition you would expect more “high” temp records than “low” for the obvious reason that if you didn’t you wouldn’t be in a “warming” trend.

    Second, most of these “records” have been set in urban areas affected by the Urban Heat Island Effect, and as such should be viewed with a great deal of skepticism.

    Thirdly there is the issue of the quality of the data being used, an issue I will discuss in further detail when I have faster internet access.

    Needles to say Krugman has made up his mind and is now using economics 101 grade arguments and graphics to sway public opinion.

  8. Michael Heath says:

    Lance:

    Second, most of these “records” have been set in urban areas affected by the Urban Heat Island Effect, and as such should be viewed with a great deal of skepticism.

    Citation requested, i.e., that there is an urban heat island effect and that the increase in heat records is its primary source. It also appears that you are claiming that the increase in global temp’s global observed is primarily caused by this supposed urban heat island effect, is that true? If so citation for that requested as well. These are amazing assertions Lance and leads to dozens of implications and several contradictions with other observations if your assertions are actually true.

  9. D. C. Sessions says:

    Michael, you do realize that Lance is parroting long-refuted talking points. Don’t you?

  10. ppnl says:

    It is a little disappointing that you guys can’t have a better discussion of global warming. At least you could get to a point where you could agree on what you are disagreeing about.

    The facts and effects of global warming is a pure science issue. That would be a good discussion to have.

    The decision about what to do about global warming is a value judgment that must be informed by science. This is necessarily a messy but important discussion.

    The discussion of the political strategies to accomplish the goals we have decided on is a mess. We probably need to invite an expert like Karl Rove. Maybe we could rent a space in the 9th circle of hell to hold strategy meetings. And of course the goal does not have anything to do with global warming so much as just using the issue to gain power. Truth? A mildly useful property when on your side but fairly easily countered when it is against you.

  11. James Hanley says:

    Sorry, haven’t had any time to catch up here lately.

    Michael, as to the “The hypocrisy of “your single data points are meaningless but ours are very meaningful” makes me want to punch my computer,”

    I apologize if that sounded like it was directed at you personally. It was directed at people who do that. There is a common media habit (cough *weather channel!* cough) of emphasizing that a cold snap isn’t evidence against global warming but treating every heat event and every storm as evidence of, or being caused by, global warming.

  12. James Hanley says:

    Re: Citation request for Urban Heat Island Effect. No cite is needed for the existence of the effect. It’s a simple fact. As to whether that’s the actual cause of the increases in the temperature record, well, yes, I’d like to see a cite for that as well. When I last paid attention to this issue, approximately a decade ago, there had just been a published report on temperature recordings on the Farallon Islands off the coast of San Francisco showing increasing temperatures–and they’re far enough off-shore that there’s no urban heat island effect there.

    Re: Krugman. Is Krugman right that it’s just a shifting of the frequency distribution? Or is it a changing of the shape of it?

    Re: Where to get information on what the President is doing. I find Whitehouse.gov useful.

  13. ppnl says:

    Stu Ostro may disagree with you:

    http://climatecrocks.com/2010/12/03/stu-ostro-the-weather-channels-former-skeptic/

    Anyway maybe an examination of cases where the different sides have used the weather to make arguments about climate would help. You got specifics?

  14. Michael Heath says:

    James:

    Is Krugman right that it’s just a shifting of the frequency distribution? Or is it a changing of the shape of it?

    The curve is correctly shifting to the right and I suspect the curve on at least the right tail is changing shape to account for more extreme events. The number of cold records has been decreasing over the past couple of decades as Krugman correctly cited. However I’m not sure if that observation is part of a continuing trend or whether it will change as more factors come into play in changing the climate. For example I know some record warm temps in the Arctic over the past couple of winters has changed weather patterns to bring more cold temperature events to non-Arctic regions. So perhaps we might see increases in the left tail in spite of shift of the curve to the right and less cold events recently. If true and I have no idea if it is, that would require a change in the shape of the left tail as well.

    However Mr. Krugman’s general point was a good one, worthy of making, and his graphs help illustrate his point, which was and I quote, The point is that the usual casual denier arguments — it’s cold outside; you can’t prove that climate change did it — miss the point . . .

    James – I’m not sure you are as up to speed as you believe you are on the urban heat island effect when it comes to how we report global temp. anomalies over time, which is the records used to report on changes in climate. I recommend that Lance support the exact assertions he made with cites which I challenged in my comment post and we go from there.

  15. James Hanley says:

    Michael,

    I said that urban heat islands are real, because your post asked for a cite on the existence of the urban heat island effect. You’re not seriously going to disagree on whether urban areas actually do create heat islands, are you?

    But that is wholly separate from the issue of whether the heat island effect accounts for the rise in recorded temperature. I agreed with you on wanting a cite from Lance supporting the argument that the rise in recorded temperatures is just an artifact of the urban heat island effect, because I’d seen a report from the Farralon Islands, where there is no urbanization (nothing but bird poop, really), showing increasing temps there as well. So in fact I’m agreeing with you on being dubious about Lance’s explanation.

    Also, you wrote, “I’m not sure you are as up to speed as you believe you are on the urban heat island effect” (emphasis added), even though I had written, “When I last paid attention to this issue, approximately a decade ago…” I would think it’s clear that when I say I haven’t paid much attention to a particular issue for the past decade, that I’m not claiming to be up to speed.

    Here’s what’s going on, as I see it. The debate on this issue is so polarized that even intelligent people begin to see everything and everyone in a binary distribution–you’re either for us or you’re agin us” as they say. But I’m not in either camp, so please stop this habit of reading all my comments on the issue as though I’ve taken sides.

  16. Michael Heath says:

    James:

    I said that urban heat islands are real, because your post asked for a cite on the existence of the urban heat island effect. You’re not seriously going to disagree on whether urban areas actually do create heat islands, are you?

    Please forgive me for not being clear in my challenge to Lance which caused this divergence. I’m not sure urban heat island effects impacts global temp. trend anomalies and the total number of temp. records which was the subject of Krugman’s point and Lance’s critique. I’m aware of at least one, though IIRC, two recent papers validating it doesn’t impact the global temp. trend reported when comparing recent averages to pre-industrial averages, i.e., that post-industrial anomalies are caused by this effect. OT but GISS is also currently in the process of evaluating their own data once again for the urban heat island effect to insure it does not. You addressed an entirely different topic, their existence, than what Lance asserted and which I challenged. Lance’s assertion was which I quote again:

    Second, most of these “records” have been set in urban areas affected by the Urban Heat Island Effect, and as such should be viewed with a great deal of skepticism.

    My response to Lance was and remains open:

    Citation requested, i.e., that there is an urban heat island effect and that the increase in heat records is its primary source. It also appears that you are claiming that the increase in global temp’s global observed is primarily caused by this supposed urban heat island effect, is that true? If so citation for that requested as well. These are amazing assertions Lance and leads to dozens of implications and several contradictions with other observations if your assertions are actually true.

    I could have worded this request better when it comes to the fact I’m not claiming there isn’t an effect, but that it shows up in the global temp. averages and is the majority source of hot records as Lance asserts.

    Re my point about the left tail possibly changing shape in the future with more extreme cold weather events. I’ve been re-organizing all my bookmarks on climate change findings and came across this article which seems to support the possibility:

    The overall warming of Earth’s northern half could result in cold winters, new research shows. The shrinking of sea-ice in the eastern Arctic causes some regional heating of the lower levels of air — which may lead to strong anomalies in atmospheric airstreams, triggering an overall cooling of the northern continents, according to a study recently published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

    “These anomalies could triple the probability of cold winter extremes in Europe and northern Asia,” says Vladimir Petoukhov, lead author of the study and climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “Recent severe winters like last year’s or the one of 2005-06 do not conflict with the global warming picture, but rather supplement it.” Article: http://goo.gl/tl0qD

    Now that’s just a potential regional phenomena and might not be enough to increase the total number of global cold weather records; but it does provide evidence that Krugman’s generally good point would not hold up as a precise argument in terms of his ignoring a change in the shape of the curve as the climate warms.

    Article’s Cite: Vladimir Petoukhov, Vladimir A. Semenov. A link between reduced Barents-Kara sea ice and cold winter extremes over northern continents. Journal of Geophysical Research, 2010; 115 (D21): D21111 DOI: 10.1029/2009JD013568

    James – When will my post I published yesterday in the other thread pass moderation? I’ve some additional comments I want to add but don’t want them to appear prior to that post.

  17. Michael Heath says:

    James:

    Also, you wrote, “I’m not sure you are as up to speed as you believe you are on the urban heat island effect” (emphasis added), even though I had written, “When I last paid attention to this issue, approximately a decade ago…” I would think it’s clear that when I say I haven’t paid much attention to a particular issue for the past decade, that I’m not claiming to be up to speed.

    My point was that I’ve seen some articles related to the efficacy of temp. trends within the context of the urban heat island effect which have been published recently noting that if anything, there is very slight cooling bias in the global temp. records. I don’t recall what the status was ten years ago but these findings should dispel doubt that the global temp. trends are flawed, especially since they are also in sync with many other lines of evidences which are not affected by urban generated heat relative to past temp. from that locality.

    James:

    Here’s what’s going on, as I see it. The debate on this issue is so polarized that even intelligent people begin to see everything and everyone in a binary distribution–you’re either for us or you’re agin us” as they say. But I’m not in either camp, so please stop this habit of reading all my comments on the issue as though I’ve taken sides.

    James, that’s unfair; I didn’t misconstrue your point in the context it was presented. I was only pointing out that whatever people thought ten years ago about this is not what is thought now and my desire, as you stated, to stay on point regarding my request of Lance. I did that in a way that had me not being precise enough in my communication to mislead you about my position for which I apologize.

    You are also coming into this with fresh eyes where Lance and I have a history. In addition I’ve conceded to your request about civility as demonstrated since you made it. James – can you please approve this comment post still sitting in moderation? Link: https://bawdyhouse.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/global-warming-bangladesh-land-gainslosses/#comment-282

  18. James Hanley says:

    Michael,

    Sorry about getting held up in moderation. I’ve set the rules to allow up to three links before moderation kicks in. I’d like to be more generous, but I’m afraid of spam getting through. And unfortunately the email address I used when I set up my original WordPress account several years ago is one I don’t check regularly anymore, and the messages about posts held in moderation go there. I’ll get that message approved, and in the future if you have a post get held up in moderation, feel free to email me directly about it. My adrian.edu address is the only one I check (almost) daily.

  19. ppnl says:

    James,

    I said that urban heat islands are real, because your post asked for a cite on the existence of the urban heat island effect. You’re not seriously going to disagree on whether urban areas actually do create heat islands, are you?

    It isn’t just that the positions are polarized. If you have not kept up with the debate then you are trying to pick up the strands of a conversation that has been going on for awhile.

    Nobody questions that there is a heat island effect and nobody who is familiar with the debate would have misunderstood Michael as you did even if his wording was not clear.

  20. James Hanley says:

    ppnl,

    I respectfully disagree with you, particularly your last sentence. Poorly worded comments are always misunderstandable. I’ve had debates with people on subjects where we’re both quite up to date, and each side at times has managed to make itself very misunderstood.

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