Global Warming: James Hansen

I have criticized James Hansen, while Michael Heath has defended him. Here I critique Hansen with the use of multiple examples of why he is of dubious credibility, not as a scientist but as a political advocate. I do not criticize his peer-reviewed work, for three reasons. First, there is often a sharp disconnect between a person’s public persona and their research persona–I’ve known of a few real cranks who do fine quality research. Second, for his peer-reviewed work we can rely, at least tentatively, on the credibility of blind reviewers–it’s not a perfect and infallible process, but for debate purposes it should be taken as prima facie evidence of the work’s credibility. Third, I haven’t reviewed his peer-reviewed work yet, so it would be extremely irresponsible for me to critique it.

But no matter how good Hansen’s research is, there are reasons to doubt his credibility in his more public and/or popular statements. [Note: It’s a bit hard dredging up good sources on this stuff. His detractors are frequently willing to completely distort and even lie about him,* his supporters seem eager to overlook or excuse away any embarrassing thing he might say, and the respectable media (if there still is such a thing) seems to overlook some of these things. So I may have stumbled into some criticisms that aren’t true. If you can provide evidence that these things didn’t happen, or didn’t happen as reported, please do. [I am working on a companion piece on “Things Hansen Didn’t Say,” since there’s a lot of that out there, too.]

Hansen on Democracy
From Red, Green, and Blue (The first portion of the quote is also found on Hansen’s web page–I’ll take his own web page as being authoritative of what he has said).

“I have the impression,” he says in a recent email, “that Chinese leadership takes a long view, perhaps because of the long history of their culture, in contrast to the West with its short election cycles. At the same time China has the capacity to implement policy decisions rapidly. The leaders seem to seek the best technical information and do not brand as a hoax that which is inconvenient….not only is it nearly impossible to get effective legislation through Congress, but that the special interests can prevent implementation almost interminably. Democracy of the sort intended in 1776 probably could have dealt with climate change, but not the fossil-money-’democracy’ that now rules the roost in Washington.

I have a hard time overstating my horror of arguments like this. I went to grad school with people who argued seriously that it was time to give up on democracy, and who truly believed that China’s government was the best way to go (“If only,” one of them said to me, “they could get the right people in power”). What price are we willing to pay to remediate global warming? A shift to authoritarianism? I’m not willing to pay that price, and I doubt Hansen has thought seriously about what costs are entailed in that solution.

Hansen also demonstrates ignorance of both contemporary politics and U.S. history. If he thinks the Chinese government’s real interest is in preventing climate change, he hasn’t looked very closely. Their top interests, in order, are preserving their position of power and promoting continued economic growth. And if he thinks the democracy of 1776 could have dealt with climate change, then he has absolutely no idea what kind of conflict there was between the states. They couldn’t even agree to pony up the money for the war they wanted so badly to win, so it’s highly doubtful they’d have been able to agree on anything else that required each of them to make serious long-term commitments to a joint venture without immediate returns. He’s just employing an empty shibboleth, the purpose of which is to block critical thought by appealing to our emotional reverence for the Founders. Ironically, that’s exactly what the right-wing panderers normally do.

Hansen on FOIA Requests
As reported by approximately 73 zillion anti-Hansen websites and also Climate Progress, James Hansen is frustrated with FOIA requests. Here’s what he said:

I am now inundated with broad FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests for my correspondence, with substantial impact on my time and on others in my office. I believe these to be fishing expeditions, aimed at finding some statement(s), likely to be taken out of context, which they would attempt to use to discredit climate science.

Allow me to grant two things up front: First, I have no doubt that he legitimately finds them frustrating, and any of his critics would, too, were they in his situation. Second, I have no doubt that he is at least partly, perhaps mostly, right about the purpose of these FOIA requests.

But that’s just too damn bad. Hansen is employed by the government and his research is funded by the citizens of the U.S. He has no business expecting that he be free from the troublesome meddling of those citizens who are paying his salary. As much as FOIA requests can be abused, the law was created precisely to ensure that our agents in government could not operate in secrecy and without public accountability. If Hansen finds that to be too troublesome, he should seek employment in the private sector.

At Dispatches a while back Michael Heath and I went toe-to-toe on what he meant by a “republican-technocratic form of government.” This is what I think that approach necessarily entails–technocratic freedom from public accountability. Michael was not advocating that outcome, but I believe that is where it necessarily ends up. There are no clear “focal points” (c.f. Thomas Schelling) between strong democratic accountability and technocratic unaccountability on which the public can clearly converge to prevent sliding too far to the unaccountable side of things. I suspect Michael remains unconvinced of my argument on this point, and I respect that. But of course I remain very convinced of it, and on that basis of that considered conviction, I have no qualms critiquing Hansen for his disdain for democratic accountability, as evidence both in this example and in the China example.

Hansen’s Weakness on Economic Issues
This comes from Hansen himself, specifically his web page (the same link as above, with text of a speech he gave about his trip to China).

[T]here is great economic advantage in having the leading low-carbon technologies

Well, maybe, under appropriate conditions. The assumptions in his argument are that China can just “have” that technology, and that it will be economically cost-effective. He doesn’t take into account the cost of “getting” (developing and implementing) that technology, which is less affordable to a country with a relatively low GDP per capita, such as China has (about 1/6th that of the U.S.). If they invest too much of their scarce capital in that effort they can actually set themselves back in economic development, rather than gaining any advantage. There’s a reason poor countries adopt (which is sometimes a polite euphemism for “steal”) technologies from wealthier countries rather than buying the intellectual expertise necessary to develop it indigenously. In fact for the same reason I personally am a technological “late adopter,” as early adoption is an inefficient use of my limited resources. There’s also the problem that a new technology’s capacity to resolve problem X is not necessarily related to its cost effectiveness. Even if we assume a “getting” cost of zero, the technology could still be too costly to be economically advantageous, especially given China’s significant coal reserves, which provide a pretty cheap source of energy (cheap to China’s government and manufacturers at least, since much of the real cost is externalized via pollution). If that technology is substantially more costly than coal, China doesn’t necessarily benefit economically. Sure, coal will impose future cleanup and remediation costs, but we have to appropriately discount those costs. If they become wealthier in the future, they may be able to better afford those costs then than they can afford new technology’s costs now.

I have a persistent beef with natural scientists over their failure to have a basic grasp of economic principles. I have a friend who claimed that the problem of unemployment is caused by overpopulation, which is an interesting variation on the lump of labor fallacy. They understand the effort that is needed to acquire expertise in their own discipline, but give every appearance of thinking that a similar effort is not required to understand economic behavior. They’re confident in their demonstrated intelligence, and think that is sufficient unto itself. To the extent people take Hansen’s economic arguments about global warming seriously because “he’s an expert on global warming,” he is contributing to misunderstanding of the facts in the policy debate.

Hansen on Trying Energy Executives for Crimes Against Humanity
Oh, lord how I wish I could put this in the upcoming post on things Hansen didn’t say, but it’s right there in his congressional testimony, not on some idiot denialist’s website.

CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of long-term consequences of continued business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.

Conviction of ExxonMobil and Peabody Coal CEOs will be no consolation, if we pass on a runaway climate to our children.

First, Hansen doesn’t actually know what the CEOs believe, so his claim to know the state of their knowledge can’t be taken seriously. His claim that they really do know sounds very much like Fred Clark’s explanation of a certain type of Christian:

In their view, additional proof of the existence of God would be redundant. Everybody everywhere already knows that God exists… Unbelievers are simply in rebellion — not ignorant, not unpersuaded, just perversely denying what they know to be true.

In Hansen’s world, it appears, everyone knows the truth about global warming, they’re not just ignorant or unpersuaded, but “perversely denying what they know to be true.” Hansen’s slide into that kind of thinking error probably results from the same cognitive process that causes certain Christians to commit the error: When you know/believe something so completely, it becomes difficult to actually understand how someone else could not. Denial comes to seem a more parsimonious explanation than disagreement. But of course that doesn’t make it so.

But that aside, which is, for all the words I expended on it, a very minor issue, let’s focus on what Hansen sees as an appropriate response: trial and conviction for crimes against humanity and nature. This fits in well with his anti-democratic views above; now he’s perilously close to being anti-rule-of-law as well. The fact is that we have no crimes against nature statute, and crimes against humanity for aiding and abetting the mass of humanity in creating temporary wealth for themselves at the expense of long-term costs would be a novel interpretation of the international law on crimes against humanity.

At the risk of provoking outrage, I am going to suggest that when you have a person who designates one issue as so important that we must sacrifice all else before it, not just economic growth, but our political and legal freedom, we should be rightly suspicious of them. No scientific evidence can demonstrate that these costs must be accepted, because the science is empirical data and the decision about what costs to accept is a normative, a value, judgment. Hansen, like many natural scientists, fails to understand that just as an ought doesn’t create an is, an is doesn’t create an ought. Science can tell us what the costs of different courses of action will be, but it can’t tell us which of those courses of action we must or even ought to choose. To suggest otherwise is to demonstrate an ignorance of the essential distinction between facts and values. If you doubt my claim about that, go read the science policy literature. Roger Pielke, for example, asks the question, “can science compel action” in his book, The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics, and calls the belief that it can the “technocratic impulse”:

…the technocratic impulse suggests that the reduction of scientific uncertainty necessarily leads to a reduction of political uncertainty. In other words, technocrats believe that by seeking a clearer conception of the relationship of alternative courses of action and their outcomes, there will necessarily be greater consensus on what action is preferable. We see such calls in most every area where science is contested, with notable recent examples including global climate change, genetically modified food organisms, and nuclear waste disposal…In situations of political conflict about the means or ends that a policy is to achieve, politics will always and necessarily “trump” science simply because science does not compel action. (p. 35)

Pielke writes specifically about Hansen himself, and what he calls Hansen’s “Scientific Authoritarianism” here. It’s worth reading, particularly where he points out that Hansen claims governments should ignore the people and listen to the experts, then accuses governments of “tricking” the public by following the recommendations of….experts–the wrong ones.

Discussion
The reason I distrust Hansen’s public statements is because while I haven’t followed the science of global warming very closely for the past decade, I have studied the literature on science policy. Coincidentally, today as I was preparing a lecture for my Environmental Politics class, I happened to be in a textbook chapter that dealt, in part, with the specific issue of what the author calls “the limited neutrality of scientific judgment.” Here are some relevant quotes:**

The more an issue is in the public eye, the more expert judgments are likely to be influenced unconsciously by pre-existing policy preferences or by supposedly unrelated factors such as media presentation, the opinions of colleagues or friends, or even the emotional overtones of certain words used in the debate. (Physicist Harvey Brooks).

[A] study of several hundred risk professionals involved in federal environmental policy making suggested that once risk professionals became involved in policy making there was “a weakening of disciplinary perspectives and a strengthening of viewpoints based on politics and ideology” (Science policy expert Dorothy Nelkin).

Social or political bias can be particularly pernicious when not recognized or admitted by the experts. It is now evident that many technical controversies in policy making may not be resolvable by resort to scientific evidence and argument because scientific solutions will be permeated with social, political, or economic bias….as political scientist Dorothy Nelkin once remarked, their expertise “is reduced to one more weapon in a political arsenal.” (Rosenbaum)

In fact my primary reason for ceasing to follow the climate change issue a decade ago, and the cause of my trepidation in returning to it now, is precisely that the science and the politics have become so intermingled that it’s just about impossible to sort them out anymore. And it’s not just the “anti” camp that’s doing it. They may be more obvious, but the pro-camp has thoroughly muddled the science and the politics as well, and are in persistent denial about that fact. But the very fact that they regularly argue as though the scientific evidence should automatically compel specific action itself demonstrates their commingling of the two realms.

I think Hansen is an exemplar of this error, which is why I have difficulty taking him seriously, at least in his public pronouncements. Roger Pielke writes about “stealth advocates,” scientists who speak as though they are promoting particular policies based only on the science when in fact their policy arguments are based as much on their political values. They play the technocratic card–the appearance of the unbiased, objective, technical expert who is only reporting the facts–but it is a sham. Their values are a crucial factor driving their policy recommendations. As Pielke notes, that’s fair, as long as they’re upfront about it. There’s no claim that scientists have a duty to refrain from advocacy, just that they have a duty to be honest that their advocacy is derived from their values, not just from the science. But the common failure of scientists to make that distinction is another reason to be exceptionally dubious about increasing the technocratic influence in government–it adds more authority to a particular set of people who, contrary to the beliefs and goals of the technocrats, will not simply make objective scientific claims, but claims imbued with a heaping dose of subjective value judgments.

Sticking solely to authoritative reports without additional commentary or recommendations is not a solution to the problem, either. As Rosenbaum notes, speaking specifically of risk analysis by federal agencies;

A close reading of [risk assessment] guidelines reveals an enormous discretion customarily left to regulatory agencies in determining how to balance the various statutory criteria (p.127). …

“A politically motivated risk assessor could, in many situations, easily manipulate his or her analysis to produce a desired outcome on either side of the [statutorily defined threshold]…Even a more conscientious risk assessor with no interest in the impact of his or her results would make numerous decisions in the process that could change the final answers by several orders of magnitude…” (National Academy of Public Administration).

The assumption that any individual scientist is, with any degree of certainty, more neutral and objective in his/her policy recommendations is simply naive, and represents a fetishization of science that ignores the fact that it is conducted by real, fallible and imperfect, human beings. The scientific process is one of humanity’s greatest achievements precisely because of the discipline it tends to impose on those imperfect beings, but not only is that discipline itself imperfect (because it frequently works through the administration of other imperfect human beings), it is specifically subject–as are all things–to the corrupting power of politics.

The more political a scientific issue is, the less certainty we can grant the claims of scientists, not because they are inherently untrustworthy or dishonest, but because they are as human as the rest of us, and not normally any more immune to the corrosiveness of politics. James Hansen, as one of the most actively politically involved climate change scientists, is a perfect case example. In fact he’s too perfect. Were I to use him in a case study to try to prove the claim that politics corrupts science I would be open to criticism that I chose an “easy case.”

Final Clarification
I want to close by emphasizing that I am not casting aspersions on any of Hansen’s scientific work or any of the claims in his peer-reviewed publications. As suggested above by Rosenbaum, it is of course possible that the politicization of an issue can affect the technical analyses of it, and so presumably could even affect the interpretations of scientists and the peer-review process. I will write more about that in a subsequent post, but I have no basis for believing or implying that is the case with Hansen’s scientific work. Here I have focused solely on his public pronouncements, where the political effect is both more likely and, when present, more noticeable.

Outside of the laboratory, Hansen appears to me to be a bit of a fool, unwise and incautious in his arguments, and most probably deceiving himself about how much he’s commingled his values with the scientific evidence. (The alternatives to believing he’s not deceiving himself about that are a) he hasn’t commingled them, which I think is an indefensible claim, or b) he’s aware of it and is doing it intentionally and dishonestly for the purposes of political persuasion, which is an extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary evidence, but for which I have as of yet seen no evidence at all.) At his best, in public speaking, he seems careless, with a tendency to claims more grandiose than he can support. At his worst, he seems fully unaware of the ways in which his lack of expertise in economics and politics leads him to make foolishly dangerous policy recommendations.

That’s my view. Have at it.

______________________________________________________________________

*For example, it’s often claimed that he authored a peer-reviewed paper in the ’70s, claiming that the earth was cooling. This appears to be false. A research associate of his used a model he’d developed and reported that the model suggested a cooling trend. Critics then follow up this false claim with snide condemnation of the model, but it is obvious their ignorance of modeling methodology is unlimited. Any model, even stochastic ones, depends heavily on the initial assumptions–the values of the particular variables that you plug in at the start. And this person’s assumptions did not include an increase in CO2 (only a handful of people at the time had noticed the increase in CO2). Also, this was among the earliest climate models, and there have been significant improvements in both model design and in computing power (allowing for more sophisticated models requiring vastly more computing power) over the past several decades.

**I will note the original authors of the quotes, but all are reported in Rosenbaum Walter A. 2008. Environmental Politcs and Policy, 7th edition. CQ Press. pp.124-5, with complete citations at the end of the chapter. If anyone wants the complete citation for a quote I will be happy to provide it.

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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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25 Responses to Global Warming: James Hansen

  1. Michael Heath says:

    James Hanley:

    I have criticized James Hansen, while Michael Heath has defended him.

    Actually I’ve been critical of you more than defending Dr. Hansen. First for using a denialist site who misrepresents what he stated which you repeated and second for criticizing a response which had him responsibly and appropriately providing the fullest possible framing the question deserved.

    James Hanley:

    Here I critique Hansen with the use of multiple examples of why he is of dubious credibility, not as a scientist but as a political advocate.

    If you sufficiently studied Dr. Hansen first prior to singling him out for a pretty vicious set of criticisms you’d realize he’s first in line when it comes to acknowledging his lack of expertise when it comes to public advocacy. He speaks out as a matter of conscious, in spite of recognizing his lack of skill in this area. In fact he spent years in the early- to mid-2000s not speaking-out in public after because he recognizes he has less than stellar communication skills and was hoping other experts with better skills would. That’s a central point in his 2007 reticence argument I previously linked to which was directed at other scientists encouraging them to speak out with a more fully-fleshed out framing of concerns. I.e., talking about predictions in light of paleoclimate findings and the implications of those findings given our rapid rate of climatic change.

    James:

    Michael was not advocating that outcome, but I believe that is where it necessarily ends up.

    Ends up where? First of all it was apparent through at least most of that thread you were arguing against a construct in your head which was in no way what I advocated but instead a gross misrepresentation of what I advocated. I’m comfortable with the fact that your misunderstanding wasn’t my poor communication skills; that’s because at least one other person was easily able to re-articulate my point consistent with my intention and far from you were traveling (Raging Bee).

    James:

    I have a hard time overstating my horror of arguments like this [Hansen’s observation regarding China’s adoption of depending on reality to make policy decisions].

    James, your behaving in a hysterically manner. It also appears you are reading far more into this than what is there, equivalent to exactly how you grossly misrepresented my position on a more technocratic republic when others were able to understand my position which didn’t compare to your fears. In addition Dr. Hansen’s observation regarding how well our democracy is reacting to the threat of global warming is perfectly accurate. He’s also not advocating anything here but instead framing the reality of China’s approach and our own. It’s an observation and a correct one at that.

    James, do you think Fareed Zakaria is promoting some nefarious scheme to make us all authoritarian technocrats? Because his book, “The Post American World”, did a wonderful job analyzing China and India’ recent performance on economic growth where he made the very same conclusions Hansen concludes here based on a wealth of empirical findings [Zakaria reports that China’s superior growth was due to their rejecting faith in a political ideology in the late-70s. They instead deployed a technocratic policy development approach whereas India’s growth is stifled due to their being a democracy with competing interests].

    I have no idea if Dr. Hansen read Zakaria’s book but to those of us who’ve studied China or in my case, also done extensive business there, Zakaria and Hansen’s equivalent observation of Zakaria’s is a perfect reflection of reality, which has you hyperventilating. Given you reacted the same way to my advocacy for a more technocratic approach, I’d argue your objection has nothing to do with a weakness in Hansen’s point and instead conjures up enough fear in you that attack the messenger of this reality even though the protagonist [Hansen] is not advocating we do what you fear.

    What Hansen appears to be doing here is exactly what we should be doing, benchmarking the quality of our governance. On this matter we are failing, miserably I might add. Does that cause me to jump on the China bandwagon to govern exactly as they do? Of course not. And it’s a complete failure in critical thinking to think Dr. Hansen, or me, is making an “either/or” argument merely by benchmarking our failure as a country to consider reality when setting policy, especially when that reality threatens catastrophe.

    James:

    I went to grad school with people who argued seriously that it was time to give up on democracy, and who truly believed that China’s government was the best way to go (“If only,” one of them said to me, “they could get the right people in power”).

    Where did Dr. Hansen advocate we “give up on democracy” in this quote? In addition James, you repeatedly and I’d argue arrogantly, claim to be able to debate policy on climate change prior to even having an elementary grasp of what science understands. This is another example where some cognizance on your part would help you better understand what those of us who are cognizant of the science understand and appropriately weight that threat to be.

    James – this is three times that you’ve misrepresented James Hansen.

    James:

    Hansen also demonstrates ignorance of both contemporary politics and U.S. history. If he thinks the Chinese government’s real interest is in preventing climate change, he hasn’t looked very closely. Their top interests, in order, are preserving their position of power and promoting continued economic growth.

    I don’t think you understand Dr. Hansen’s position nearly well enough to make a cogent case for this assertion. In addition I am a student of China, history, economics, and China’s climate change policies and also disagree with your conclusion. Instead the developed countries are in a negotiation phase with China where they, like nearly all developed countries except the U.S., are playing long-ball. IMO China is extremely concerned about both climate change and economic growth, they are in fact two sets of interrelated challenges.

    The conundrum the world suffers from on climate change policy is that ball is in the U.S. court when it comes to China where we’ve been waffling now for years. I think China and the rest of the world had high hopes for Copenhagen. Instead our conservatives successfully doubled-down on their obstructionism in a manner that causes China to now be concerned about populist-led protectionism rather than cooperation on developing green energy in a manner that fairly applies the cost to those who created this mess.

    China continues to build additional coal factories, that is the second biggest global threat to mitigation, the first remains American conservatives who deny climate change and where they have sufficient political power to obstruct effectual mitigation efforts which prevents China for mitigating on climate change in a way that doesn’t have them seeing a suppression of exports because of the initial outlays for doing this. So at best we each have a gun to our own respective head playing chicken; from the U.S. perspective that’s totally irrational if our democracy was working on this matter, its not irrational from China’s perspective. In fact I agree with their position for the next couple of years and find it prudent though very concerning given the threat.

    Now I would never claim my position on China’s motivations has no competing arguments. My own certainty for my position is certainly less than 100% given all positions on this topic are speculative, perhaps even to those Chinese leaders setting these policies given that all policymakers rationalize to some degree on complex issues. But I can’t extend Hansen pointing out what every literate observer of China knows regarding their ability to get shit done while Hansen also correctly points out that our democracy is not capable of addressing confidently-held threats; how is correct observations worthy ammunition to falsely attack someone’s character as you do here James? Given it fits the hysterical pattern that you threw at me James I’d argue this post is more about you than it is about James Hansen.

    Re Hansen’s statements on fossil fuel exec’s “high crimes”: James, you are woefully unprepared to comment on this until you understand the science. These guys are willfully threatening humanity, that’s not an opinion, it is a fact. Only those who do not understand the possible worst-case implications of BAU would argue otherwise. If the odds of this threat were rated at less than 1% and a disputed theory you’d have a point, but instead most elements of the theory are held at 90+% and the theory enjoys 97+% consensus within the relevant community and unqualified support from the most respected organizing bodies of science. Your not first getting yourself informed on this matter but instead continually trying to force-fit this issue into a defectively narrow framing of a mere public interest debate as if we arguing about a far more trivial matter is unbecoming.

    James states:

    First, Hansen doesn’t actually know what the CEOs believe, so his claim to know the state of their knowledge can’t be taken seriously.

    Their title requires them to understand the threats to their business model, including the long term. In addition this industry’s own lobbyists began communicating to management in the mid-1990s that global warming was real and a threat. Let’s recall that there was lull in the denialist movement during the 2000 election campaign as their obstructionism wound down, to the point that George W. Bush made a campaign promise to regulate CO2 through the EPA. That was a commitment that helped him get Gov. Christine Whitman to come on-board as his first EPA director. Only until VP Dick Cheney got involved in energy policy and the Koch Brothers started amping the denialism back-up did we see this movement get reenergized.

    James:

    In Hansen’s world, it appears, everyone knows the truth about global warming, they’re not just ignorant or unpersuaded, but “perversely denying what they know to be true.”

    Again no. Dr. Hansen has gone toe-to-toe in numerous Congressional Committee hearings with lobbyists who are paid to lie about the state of the science in order to defend their clients short-term business interests, even if their efforts guaranteed future mitigation efforts would be far more expensive, less effective, and guarantees more harm to more humans. If the people setting corporate policy in the fossil fuel industry are ignorant regarding climate change, it’s a fiercely determined ignorance that has them ignoring even the counsel they pay to lobby for their interests.

    I wouldn’t go as far as Dr. Hansen does here rhetorically, James. But I got to say, its a major failure in thinking to avoid the fact that Dr. Hansen is on the right side of humanity while extending his arguments a bit too far while you fail to frame your criticisms to the threat he’s warning us about and properly gauge the total lack of character and total lack of veracity of his opponents’ claims.

    I don’t buy a “two wrongs don’t make a right” as a defense for you here either. This is a criticism of your focusing on “So and so said something mean to me” to the point it has you avoiding the fact this “picked on person” was metaphorically raping and killing others. This theme of yours, at least three blog posts now starting with the one featuring the Koch brothers, has me wondering what your motivation here is. My speculation is that you are trying to fit the climate change policy debate into your paradigm in spite of not first boning up enough to understand the facts, the threat, and the history of this debate on both the science and the policy in order to validate your paradigm works. I’m not arguing your public interest theory is defective, but your understanding of it is failing you here because you’re not appropriately gauging the threat and the igorning the behavior of those obstructing to a response.

    James:

    Hansen’s slide into that kind of thinking error probably results from the same cognitive process that causes certain Christians to commit the error: When you know/believe something so completely, it becomes difficult to actually understand how someone else could not. Denial comes to seem a more parsimonious explanation than disagreement. But of course that doesn’t make it so.

    I’d argue you are the one making massive thinking errors here James. I think there are some trivial errors in conclusions with Hansen’s arguments, but they aren’t remotely as bad as what you are doing here or what his opponents are doing. I also suggest reading Dr. Hansen’s book to first understand his perspective better than you do now when it comes to his dealing with how these industry execs have effectively influenced the federal government. You demonstrate that you don’t possess nearly the volume of perspective needed to effectively take this subject on unless you are merely seeking to preach to denialists. They’ll eat this stew up since they care about taking Hansen, Mann, and others down with little regard to objective truth.

    Re your FOIA criticisms. You are of course pedantically correct, but you’re once again making a criticism prior to first becoming informed on what is in play here and the extent denialists have gone to obstruct scientific research. In addition, it’s pretty fricking clear what the denialists motivation is, which is to scare scientists into not speaking out and hope to find some minor defect that they can use to leverage putting a stop to the government studying the climate. In fact the VA AG has started a witch hunt on Michael Mann in spite of the fact there is not one scintilla of evidence he’s ever done anything wrong, which has been verified by extensive investigations by independent groups as well.

    Climategate vs. the efforts of denialism is a perfect example of what’s going on. Denialists stole some emails, grossly distorted their content, and have successfully used it to insinuate that the scientific community’s findings on science is doubtful to an outright hoax. That in spite of the fact that the evidence clearly demonstrates it is the denialist community which is the dishonest, fraudulent player. Yet they won on climategate – big time. So I’d argue even here your argument is fatally defective because you are so uninformed you fail to properly frame the context regarding why Hansen is voicing his frustration for doing FOIA requests.

    And let’s also be clear, the data is already available to authenticate most findings where nothing to date has been found that either points to fraud or even challenges the conclusions.

    James:

    At Dispatches a while back Michael Heath and I went toe-to-toe on what he meant by a “republican-technocratic form of government.” This is what I think that approach necessarily entails–technocratic freedom from public accountability. Michael was not advocating that outcome, but I believe that is where it necessarily ends up.

    I can’t even fantasize how what I articulated would ultimately result in a loss of public accountability. I can envision my recommendation vastly increasing public accountability in terms of producing an analysis that reveals how public policy outcomes are divergent from established facts making it easier for the media and the public to better determine how legislation stacks up to claimed objectives.

    James, these recent posts starting with your Koch brothers post and my comment about insuring reality is at least considered in Congress has me seriously questioning your thinking skills. Please explain the mechanics of how the nefarious technocrats in my model could come to dominate beyond public accountability, in a world where certain monied interests are effectively getting Congress-members to deny reality to serve their interests.

    James:

    I have no qualms critiquing Hansen for his disdain for democratic accountability, as evidence both in this example and in the China example.

    I think you failed to establish that Dr. Hansen was advocating anything beyond our confronting the reality of our situation.

    James:

    But no matter how good Hansen’s research is, there are reasons to doubt his credibility in his more public and/or popular statements.

    I’d argue you failed miserably to challenge his character or his credibility which is actually a bit surprising to me since I found things in his book which did have me questioning his credibility (mostly uncited provocative claims he made).

    James quotes Hansen – the bold part only; I added more context to the quote to better gauge Hansen’s point:

    I believe that China has powerful reasons to place a rising fee on carbon: (1) China will suffer more than most nations from changing climate and rising sea level, (2) China has horrific air and water pollution from fossil fuels, (3) China wants to avoid the enormous costs and burdens that accompany fossil fuel addiction, (4) there is great economic advantage in having the leading low-carbon technologies.

    James responds:

    Sure, coal will impose future cleanup and remediation costs, but we have to appropriately discount those costs. If they become wealthier in the future, they may be able to better afford those costs then than they can afford new technology’s costs now.
    I have a persistent beef with natural scientists over their failure to have a basic grasp of economic principles.

    Actually there may be no way to remediate the cost, especially if the ocean’s food chain collapses which we are already potentially risking (cites upon request).

    Also I think you misunderstand his point, I think Hansen is instead arguing that if we successfully mitigate for global warming, some of the winners will be those that led the innovation efforts to transform their energy footprint more quickly than other countries and export those technologies. The crux to affordability for China’s transformation relies on their continuing to enjoy a trade surplus.

    I’m not sure I agree with Hansen’s argument that China needs to tax its carbon consumers but it is in no way as defective as your comparison which I quote here while agreeing that your following comparison is a failure in thinking (that we can ignorantly reason our way to a correct perception of reality):

    I have a friend who claimed that the problem of unemployment is caused by overpopulation, which is an interesting variation on the lump of labor fallacy.

    James:

    At the risk of provoking outrage, I am going to suggest that when you have a person who designates one issue as so important that we must sacrifice all else before it, not just economic growth, but our political and legal freedom, we should be rightly suspicious of them. No scientific evidence can demonstrate that these costs must be accepted, because the science is empirical data and the decision about what costs to accept is a normative, a value, judgment.

    Assume a 10% risk that we risk mass extinction, including all humans, within several centuries if we don’t spend up to 3% of GDP to end human-generated greenhouse gas emissions which result in a positive radiative forcing. Assume a 90% risk we’re threatening a major loss of the ocean’s food chain, the loss of our coastal areas to sea level rise, 50% of all our river basins dry-up, and a massive disruption where billions of humans live due to flooding, drought, and food shortages if we don’t spend 3% of GDP to end human-generated greenhouse gas emissions which result in a positive radiative forcing.

    Now we have two parties. One claims this isn’t happening. This same group doesn’t even argue we should insure against these risks in spite of science’s confidence and unanimity on this matter. The other side has one guy who takes his arguments a bit too far.

    What am I going to worry about, the guy with the slightly bad form or the people successfully denying us the opportunity to debate how we mitigate against this very real threat. [Real in the sense it’s a threat, not that this threat is 100% certain.]

    In addition you once again misrepresent Dr. Hansen on this issue when you falsely claim he’s advocating we “must sacrifice all before it”. He neither makes that argument nor does he have to because he’s cognizant of the fact the costs are trivial relative to both the threat and the long-term benefits.

    James:

    Hansen, like many natural scientists, fails to understand that just as an ought doesn’t create an is, an is doesn’t create an ought. Science can tell us what the costs of different courses of action will be, but it can’t tell us which of those courses of action we must or even ought to choose. To suggest otherwise is to demonstrate an ignorance of the essential distinction between facts and values.

    I’d argue the failure here is your continued misrepresentation of James Hansen. In his book he provides an extensive argument on this very point which has him justifying his “ought” on these matters while recognizing how this differs from science’s role. That justification is specifically related to the fact that Americans are in denial about the risk as is the government and the risk to humanity of him not speaking out. He’s arguing for a waiver.

    The science he presents lays out a very concerning though not convincing argument on the ultimate risk to humanity, the climate science community monolithically presents enough to justify their voicing “oughts” on this matter as well. I suggest critiquing the argument he presents rather than ignoring its existence, continually misrepresenting his positions as you do here, and failing to frame your own arguments within the level of the threat science informs us. If you were cognizant of all this I think you’d quit picking on a mere toddler when there are monsters out there.

    James:

    The reason I distrust Hansen’s public statements is because while I haven’t followed the science of global warming very closely for the past decade . . .

    You know James I don’t spend much time thinking about or studying Hansen until you started to focus on him. In fact beyond my reading his book, the vast bulk of my exposure to him are your blog posts attacking him, not criticzing him but attacking him given your gross misrepresentations.

    I read his book, but given the way I follow climate science he only occasionally pops up since there are thousands of scientists practicing and publishing where I’m looking more at the synthesis findings and articles as they’re published. I’m aware that like Michael Mann he’s a primary target for denialists. I never spent much time wondering why since all the denialists I’ve encountered are serial liars where I realize the scientific process itself will eventually filter out the wheat from the chaff in case a Hansen or Mann is wrong (where with all the scrutiny their contributions remain invaluable). My skin in the game is with scientific methodology, if it fails than I’m wrong.

    From my perspective you never gave Hansen due consideration prior to falsely pillorying him. I would think as an academic you would demonstrate better character than this. Why is that James? This is the third blog post from you where I’ve easily established you misrepresent his claims, in this one the biggy has you claiming he’s advocating we destroy democracy when in fact he’s making an accurate observation many respected figures continually make which is an obvious point as well.

    I think there is an argument to made regarding how science interfaces on policy. I don’t think there’s merely two sides to that debate as you characterize it here where I think you also create a strawman of Hansen’s position. I find it just as shameful to slander and libel a public figure as someone whom we interact with on a personal basis. I’m not sure why people find it so much easier to dishonestly attack public figures and act like it’s OK, but I’d argue it’s so harmful we should vociferously condemn it when we encounter it – as I do here James.

    James:

    In fact my primary reason for ceasing to follow the climate change issue a decade ago, and the cause of my trepidation in returning to it now, is precisely that the science and the politics have become so intermingled that it’s just about impossible to sort them out anymore.

    I’d argue that’s an irresponsible reason to avoid this issue. I’d argue we have a responsibility to humanity use our talents to become informed on this issue to the extent we practically can. In addition the bulk of my reading avoids the politics altogether with few exceptions. ScienceDaily.com and the last book I just finished, “Understanding the Climate Crisis”, rarely delved into politics.

    I’m also bemused why you’ve spent so much energy falsely attacking a leading climate scientist’s while simultaneously claiming you don’t like how science and politics merge on this topic in an ugly manner, which has almost nothing to do with Hansen’s behavior and everything to do with the denialist and greenwash effort. The ugly aspect I perceive here is your misrepresentation of James Hansen, not his speaking out because of the lack of authoritative voices doing so elsewhere. If your authentic concern was the conflation of science and policy, why go after the white knight whose slightly awkward while the black knights rape, pillage, and burn?

    James:

    Roger Pielke writes about “stealth advocates,” scientists who speak as though they are promoting particular policies based only on the science when in fact their policy arguments are based as much on their political values. They play the technocratic card–the appearance of the unbiased, objective, technical expert who is only reporting the facts–but it is a sham.

    I’d argue the sham on display here is what you write James, not what Hansen does. I read a lot of books written by practicing scientists where I’m very consciously considering: Do they distinguish between what the consensus is, their own expert views, and keep the descriptives distinct from the prespective?

    I don’t have a problem with experts moving beyond the descriptive the prescriptive. My years implementing and managing a continuous improvement approach to repetitive manufacturing quickly developed a cognizance that the daunting challenge was identifying root cause problems resulting in defects, i.e., the descriptive. If one were able to sufficiently discover the root causes, a successful corrective action plan and improvement to one’s preventive systems were almost always pretty frickin’ obvious, those being the prescriptions. If true, and my countless observations is that it is generally true than I would of course seek out those best able to describe the descriptive and expound on a prescriptive, which is after all what medical practioners do though they stand mostly on the shoulders of researchers.

    Certainly Dr. Hansen’s prescriptions puts him into territory where he’s not an expert. For example, in his book he promotes the Milton Friedman like ‘fee and dividend’ over ‘cap and trade’ and a carbon tax. He has some flaws in his advocacy, partly because he’s not qualified to be solely considered on this matter. But I don’t have to solely consider his position, I am free to seek out experts where I’d have a hard time believing someone capable of comprehending his book would be too stupid to not realize Hansen’s prescriptive on how to best tax carbon is not an end-all argument.

    I’m still glad he opined on this because his expertise did provide me with new insight into concerns for the efficacy of these plans relative to the scientific aspect, i.e., the feasible rates we need accomplished to avoid catastrophe. For example, his point that fee and dividend doesn’t limit the rate of decline of carbon emissions like cap and trade by definition does is an excellent point when we compare the threat to the needed cost for cap and trade to effectively work in a relatively short time period (very onerous). From this perspective it’s easy enough to perceive that while cap and trade could have certainly been effective if we’d started in the late-80s when the threat became understood enough to warrant mitigation, we’re far too close the tipping point, if we haven’t already gone over it. That assertion comes from a recent paper I just came across several days ago.

    If Hansen had continually conflated his policy prescriptions with a covertly presented position on the science than criticism would be warranted. But I had no problem distinguishing between the three, i.e., the science, his views on the science, and his policy positions. And given I read his book more than a year ago, I’ve continually observed that Hansen’s concerns on the science are not singular, in fact the majority of published articles I’ve seen use the same dire language in their papers that Hansen uses in public. It is us who have our heads in the sand wailing about gnats.

    James:

    The more political a scientific issue is, the less certainty we can grant the claims of scientists, not because they are inherently untrustworthy or dishonest, but because they are as human as the rest of us, and not normally any more immune to the corrosiveness of politics. James Hansen, as one of the most actively politically involved climate change scientists, is a perfect case example. In fact he’s too perfect. Were I to use him in a case study to try to prove the claim that politics corrupts science I would be open to criticism that I chose an “easy case.”

    I’d argue that Hansen is a perfect example of a reluctant activist who in most cases would never take up a banner but whose conscious demands it because of the forces you avoid when making your case here. I’d argue the case study here is also how some people will focus on criticizing the trivial while avoiding the monumental which created the very context that elevates such awkward spokespeople like Hansen who are correct in their warnings. I not only think your case is not “easy”, but that you failed.

    James:

    Hansen appears to me to be a bit of a fool, unwise and incautious in his arguments, and most probably deceiving himself about how much he’s commingled his values with the scientific evidence.

    Slowly shaking my head. One of the things that frustrates me about your character attack on Hansen is that I have problems with the guy myself (I gave his book three out of five starts because of my concerns about him), but the repugnant nature of this blog post and your other two on Hansen are so over-the-top hysterical and flat out untrue you’ve got me defending someone who also can make me groan.

    James:

    At his best, in public speaking, he seems careless, with a tendency to claims more grandiose than he can support. At his worst, he seems fully unaware of the ways in which his lack of expertise in economics and politics leads him to make foolishly dangerous policy recommendations.

    Citations requested for both sufficient enough to single Dr. Hansen out for the level of contempt you’ve applied to him here and in the previous posts. I’ve encountered none yet.

  2. Michael Heath says:

    Failed to select follow-up comments on first post.

  3. Will H. says:

    Hello, Hanley.
    What I find most disturbing about this is that I simply don’t know what to do.
    As a definite RINO, it is my dearest goal to destroy the nation through collaboration with socialists.
    However, there are pitifully few socialists to be had.
    Being a RINO isn’t so easy these days.
    And I’m not quite convinced that the nation should really be destroyed.
    Don’t tell the other RINOs this.
    But I find it incredibly difficult to take a stand on this issue.
    Would adherence to Hansen readily assist in the destruction of the nation through collaboration with socialists, or would said collaboration with socialists be in vain, that the nation might persist, even through the course of its certain destruction?
    I am unsure of the proper RINO position on this matter.
    Please assist.

  4. D. C. Sessions says:

    Your horror over Hansen’s observation on democracy is interesting since you read it as prescriptive. I read it as the classic observation that democracies have problems with sustained effort and foresight — which is one that’s been made for at least the last century that I know of.

    “Approach A has problem X, which approach B does not” is not an argument for approach B — it’s just a description of one property that they have.

  5. James Hanley says:

    Michael,

    It would take me far too much time to deal with the entire corpus of contemptuous superciliousness in your comment than I am willing to spend on it. For a man who claims to be an anti-bully, you come across as very much of a bully, and the more bullying your comments are, the less I am impressed that you have any reasonable objectivity on this matter.

    But I will say this, your repeated claims that nobody can talk meaningfully about the climate debate until they have familiarized themselves with the science, besides being a bullying position, is simply false. I don’t talk about the science because I haven’t yet familiarized myself with the past decade of it, but I can certainly talk about the debate, because I have sufficient background in the science and environmental policy literature. You seem unable to recognize this distinction.

    On the other hand, you repeatedly demonstrate that you have no familiarity with the science policy literature, yet you seem to believe there’s no need for you to study that before you make any comments on the policy debate, and to simply dismiss the resulting critiques. In fact any critique of a climate scientist seems to offend you, which again calls into question your objectivity.

    Not only do you dismiss Pielke without reading him, but you still fail to understand the dangers inherent in your wish for greater technocracy, because you are ignorant of the relevant literature. What Raging Be may or may not have understood is irrelevant (you seem to have failed to note that he only claimed to understand you, but didn’t actually write anything substantive enough to demonstrate such understanding, and likely was writing that comment just to attack me), as is what you hope for from greater technocracy. What matters there is not wishful thinking, but the real risks of technocracy, of which you appear to know nothing.

    And frankly, your claim that I’ve been irresponsible in not following the debate closely is just more bullying, from a very moralistic position. I despise moralism. The funny thing is that I’ve never argued against AGW or the science behind it, because I am careful to keep my arguments limited to my areas of expertise. Yet you come raging back like I’m one of the Koch brothers themselves–you seem to have only one setting on this issue, and it’s pure unadulterated outrage. Again, your objectivity seems questionable.

    Finally, will you please lay off the mindlessly repeated claim that I have to familiarize myself with the climate science before I can discuss the policy debate. It’s very annoying intellectual bullying and it’s dead wrong. Your inability to distinguish between the science of AGW and the structure, process, and character of the debate is a serious failing. I will repeat yet again from the science policy literature that scientific knowledge does not determine policy objectives. No matter how deep a person’s understanding of the science, that knowledge does not logically or deterministically lead to a particular policy view–as long as you fail to fully understand that, I just hear someone yelling irrelevant details at me.

  6. James Hanley says:

    Will H.,–What do I know of RINOs?

    D.C.–There’s little evidence that authoritarian societies actually have superior capacity for foresight and sustained effort beyond continual militarism. Like democracies, they are run by humans, and as with the humans who run democracies, those who run authoritarian systems are also more concerned about present gains than future gains they may not be around to enjoy.

  7. Will H. says:

    The assumption that any individual scientist is, with any degree of certainty, more neutral and objective in his/her policy recommendations is simply naive, and represents a fetishization of science that ignores the fact that it is conducted by real, fallible and imperfect, human beings.
    That’s good stuff.
    There seems to be a general misconception as to what science is. And because of that, the general public seems to be unable to see when a scientist is in the process of being decidedly unscientific.
    Why would it be that William Glasser would write that, over his 40 years as an active therapist, he was able to cure all but two instances of depression– and then later come the medicalists that tell us that all you need to do is to take a pill for the rest of your life (even though studies have shown that these medications tend to lose efficacy after three years). Who’s the scientist here?
    (Sorry, Hanley, but it’s difficult for me to pass up an opportunity to give the medicalists what for.)
    Science is the process, and not its results. The body of knowledge is yields has been given various levels of verification, though it is still subject to revision in broad swaths.
    As far as climate science goes, there’s an awful lot that no one really knows. Of course, there is modeling. We see modeling every evening on the local news when we hear it will be such-and-such tomorrow. Tickled by our own ingenuity, we take to more modeling every year when they roll out the predictions for hurricane season. Marveling at the accuracy and sophistication of our gadgetry, we then make forecasts regarding geological periods.
    Here’s some cool theory stuff from introductory instrumentation:
    First, there is no such thing as an accurate measuring instrument, except by accident, and then only for a fleeting moment.
    Secondly, there is no such thing as an accurate display device, with the same exceptions noted.
    Thirdly, all instrumentation must conform to the human senses.
    Those are the three basic errors of instrumentation. You’ll never get away from them.
    Under the best of circumstances, never trust the instrumentation, but verify.
    Under the worst of circumstances, do what needs to be done, then never trust the instrumentation, and verify.
    Those things go out sometimes, you know. And that’s pretty much when it’s discovered that they’re out of calibration is when someone is looking at them.
    So look at them plenty and often.
    As far as climate change is concerned, I find the data compelling, but not conclusive.
    Still too many unknowns.

  8. ppnl says:

    I have recommended Jared Diamond’s “Collapsed” before. Subtitle is “How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed”. Much of it is about environmental problems and how societies responded to them.

    Jared Diamond also comments favorably on some authoritarian methods of dealing with problems. He is in no way endorsing them. He is only examining why some societies address their problems and some don’t.

    I see Hansen’s comments on authoritarians in the same light and cannot see James Hanley’s “horror” here as anything but over the top projection.

    Anyway compared to the overt dishonesty of the denialists whatever excesses Hansen commits are minor. That does not mean they should not be criticized but really…

    Anyway if global warming gets as bad as some suspect, if we don’t do something now then an authoritarian solution is the only solution that will be open to us. That is the real risk to liberty.

  9. ppnl says:

    Er, why are we all talking in italics? I never even studied that language!

  10. James Hanley says:

    I can’t figure out why this thread went to italics, and I don’t know what to do about it. That’s the risks when you read the blog of a luddite.

    I like Diamond’s Collapse and have used parts of it in my environmental politics class. Of course one major question that he wasn’t in a position to answer is how well those cases scale up. There’s a difference between a relatively economically isolated community highly dependent on one resource with no suitable substitutes and a globally interconnected economy where nearly every resource has some substitute, and where we’re continually investing in R&D to create new substitutes. Does that mean it couldn’t happen on the global scale? Not necessarily. But there are sufficient differences of economic interconnectedness and R&D to have some skepticism about how well his cases scale up.

  11. Michael Heath says:

    James to me:

    For a man who claims to be an anti-bully, you come across as very much of a bully, and the more bullying your comments are, the less I am impressed that you have any reasonable objectivity on this matter.

    I readily agree that I’ve come across as a bully; that was fully by design and was a direct reaction to my perception of your own bullying. My point James is that I find your arguments against Hansen are made with really bad form and in bad faith. First because you’ve repeatedly misrepresented his statements which your conclusions rely upon and second because you don’t first consider the framing within which he presents his arguments, not just the scientific aspect, but also the two sources where he presents his argument on why he’s going beyond the mere descriptive. Those sources being his book and his argument on scientific reticence, the latter which I linked you to in an earlier blog post thread.

    My being a bit nasty to you is in hopes of changing your behavior which I find to be far beneath the guy I thought I knew. My ire is motivated to shake you up to reconsider your arguments because at least this reader finds them to be in both bad form and bad faith, where its also clear you have no compunctions about misrepresenting Hansen to further an argument where he plays your foil.

    James – shouldn’t your having repeatedly misrepresented Hansen give you pause that perhaps you’re not bringing a high-quality dispassionate analysis to your blog posts on this topic? It sure would me where I readily admit I react well to knocks in the head where others, perhaps you, not so much; that would be a failure on my part to effectively motivate you to pick up your game which I find in disarray on this topic.

    Most of us are justifiably repelled by people who act like you do against Hansen when it’s someone they know, are allied with, or support. My position is that it’s equally important if not more important that we don’t misrepresent any public figures that are influencing the public square, including the ones we despise. For me two examples would be Charles and David Koch where my fierce opposition to their behavior results in an even greater personal obligation to not misrepresent them; primarily because it pollutes that public square. And I get that your animosity against Hansen is not because of his position on climate change like mine is with the Koch brothers. I wouldn’t claim to know what it is because you haven’t accurately represented him sufficiently enough to allows us to discern your motivation. If I had to guess he’s a mere foil to criticize behavior coming out of the climate change community by at least him which doesn’t square with your position and many others on science policy. If this is true than first understanding their perspective and their motivation is imperative which you instead remain determined to avoid.

    James stated to me

    On the other hand, you repeatedly demonstrate that you have no familiarity with the science policy literature, yet you seem to believe there’s no need for you to study that before you make any comments on the policy debate, and to simply dismiss the resulting critiques.

    I disagree. I think I am literate in that area and I’ve certainly read significantly on this topic. My arguments in the framework of that literature were and remain respectful towards your position; I also think reasonable people can disagree on where the boundaries given particular circumstances and the factors that would cause these boundaries to move.

    I’m instead primarily objecting to your misrepresenting Dr. Hansen’s arguments to create what appears to me to be a strawman caricature of his points in order to make your arguments relative to science policy. From my vantage point you then pound on your strawman of him against your perspective of those principles while simultaneously avoiding Hansen’s preemptive argument he makes attempting to justify his speaking out beyond both the consensus view and making policy prescription arguments. He’s asking for a waiver or a change in the boundaries on the topic of climate change, which your arguments avoids altogether, which is another observation supporting my conclusion you rail against a strawman.

    My repeated point regarding myself being uncomfortable with some of Dr. Hansen’s actual positions, not your strawman description, is that I’m dubious to its effectiveness with the public where I always prefer a principled win. I also previously directed you towards a Hansen argument directed towards his peers that directly relates to the subject of how science communicates. That argument was his objection to the level of scientific reticence by his peers that was on display in the early- to mid-2000s; to the point he [rightly] believed they weren’t accurately communicating the threat. My observation subsequent to that well-publicized argument within the scientific community is a dramatic change in how science is communicating in its publications – with far less reticence. I have no idea how much influence Dr. Hansen had on his peers in this regard but the direness of the threat which is communicated in more recent papers is far more amplified and far more accurate.

    A prime example of how reticence failed us was Lance looking only to the IPCC predictions on sea level rise while simultaneously ignoring the qualifications within the IPCC report those predictions are in fact understated where he also avoided all the findings since that report that increase the predicted rate or other findings that predict results in attendant centuries. I now see many papers which do a far better job of framing their findings within this broader framework beyond the mere models for this century. This more honest rendering of findings will make it far harder for reality denialists to justify inaction against a threat against humanity where I would argue science has an obligation to consider when presenting their findings. The fact the scientific community is now doing this en masse is heartening, a major sea change, and one you don’t even appear cognizant of while instead making a trivial argument (because its against one spokesperson) that still requires you to misrepresent him to make your case.

    James – I’m not claiming you don’t have an argument here against Hansen (though I think you used the standard denialist objections against him we’re already repeatedly encountered while unconsidered substantial objections against him exist). I’m arguing your point is incredibly trivial relative to far more urgent controversies and it’s made in bad faith and bad form to boot.

    James:

    Finally, will you please lay off the mindlessly repeated claim that I have to familiarize myself with the climate science before I can discuss the policy debate. It’s very annoying intellectual bullying and it’s dead wrong.

    And yet I’ve repeatedly demonstrated where your I think your arguments have failed miserably. James, why the reticence? Here’s a mere 64 page report that would greatly increase your cognizance, the 2009 Copenhagen Diagnosis: http://goo.gl/MFjTD

    James:

    Not only do you dismiss Pielke without reading him, but you still fail to understand the dangers inherent in your wish for greater technocracy, because you are ignorant of the relevant literature. What Raging Be may or may not have understood is irrelevant (you seem to have failed to note that he only claimed to understand you, but didn’t actually write anything substantive enough to demonstrate such understanding, and likely was writing that comment just to attack me), as is what you hope for from greater technocracy. What matters there is not wishful thinking, but the real risks of technocracy, of which you appear to know nothing.

    I’ve read Pielke and Pielke, Jr. My argument isn’t so much about our disagreement on the interface between science and policy, which is a respectful one where I argue for nuance and more fluid boundary. Instead its primarily predicated upon your repeated misrepresentation of Hansen while not first considering his argument on why that boundary should be challenged on climate change more than some other disciplines and lastly the incredibly important controversies that I think better deserve our attention.

    In addition and as continually noted previously, my advocacy of a more technocratic form of government doesn’t resemble the strawman you characterized. I also don’t think you are sufficiently considering the actual benchmarking results we’ve been encountering now for the past couple of decades which should force to us to least consider this topic, especially given the unprecedented challenges humanity faces now – both in terms of lives risked, security, wealth, and most uniquely – complexity of the challenges.

    As I’ve previously noted, I’m in the brainstorm stage of any position regarding adding a technocratic element so what I hold is therefore humbly held; I’m seeking better results humanity requires in order to avoid catastrophe. I remain an establishmentarian who therefore first seeks tweaks not a radical dismantling.

    Your actual challenge regarding Congressional compliance was both a good one and I think helped flesh-out my position in a manner that improved it. I’m disappointed an academic would argue that his perception of the failures of technocratic aspects of governance in the past is ample justification to not reconsider at least aspects of it for the future, especially given the fact we are in new paradigm with incredibly complex challenges. I can assure you that our best run companies invite an open mind while always remaining cognizant that all successful strategies ultimately fail simply because conditions change.

  12. Michael Heath says:

    I have no idea why my previous post starts with italics and runs through out. All my blockquotes, which started after the italicized text and therefore is not relevant to this formatting defect, were all spelled and formatted correctly.

  13. Michael Heath says:

    Will H.:

    There seems to be a general misconception as to what science is. And because of that, the general public seems to be unable to see when a scientist is in the process of being decidedly unscientific.

    I don’t observe a problem with the public distinguishing between a scientist talking about science versus presenting a personal perspective. I do perceive the general public not perceiving when the topic of science is actually being discussed along with not perceiving the difference between a scientific assertion of fact or theory vs. a counter-assertion by way of a notion.

    Will H.

    As far as climate science goes, there’s an awful lot that no one really knows. Of course, there is modeling. We see modeling every evening on the local news when we hear it will be such-and-such tomorrow. Tickled by our own ingenuity, we take to more modeling every year when they roll out the predictions for hurricane season. Marveling at the accuracy and sophistication of our gadgetry, we then make forecasts regarding geological periods.

    Actually we’re not primarily modeling geological periods but instead this century. We do look at paleoclimate findings that runs across geological periods where much of those findings can’t [yet] be fit into the models.

    Will H.:

    First, there is no such thing as an accurate measuring instrument, except by accident, and then only for a fleeting moment.

    We’re not fully dependent on such accuracy since we consider trends from many different aspects via independent efforts which help reconcile other observations. For example, while the process and equipment for collecting surface, sea, and atmospheric temperatures are very different; their trends all strongly correlate. In addition we can predict other findings if these trends actually existed which also helps to validate the confidence in other observations, e.g., poleward migration rate of climate, ocean acidification rate, sea level rise rate, Arctic sea ice volume declines, amount of radiative forcing anomalies parsed by source, etc.

    Will H.:

    As far as climate change is concerned, I find the data compelling, but not conclusive.

    Climate science is a pretty broad field. What aspects of the theory do you find less than conclusive that is conclusively held by the climate science community? Do you have citations that support your doubt?

  14. Michael Heath says:

    ppnl:

    I have recommended Jared Diamond’s “Collapsed” before. Subtitle is “How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed”. Much of it is about environmental problems and how societies responded to them.

    I’ve seen Diamond speak on this topic. I also read and thoroughly enjoyed, “Guns, Germs, and Steel”. Dr. Diamond does what I have not encountered Dr. Hansen to do, which is permeate his science with his personal biases to the point his biases clearly reveal themselves in his work where they shouldn’t (I have no problem when scientists clearly parse them out in a book to the public). I enjoy his work but find him less than trustworthy because of this constant conflation showing up in his work and/or my inability to distinguish when we’re discussing science or his personal notions beyond the science.

    Altemeyer’s research on right wing authoritarianism has been making the rounds lately where he’s another one whose bias is infused to his work. I’d argue this is primarily because he finds their thinking to be defective and therefore worthy of condemnation, where I’d concur. However I’d sure welcome some independent validation from other qualified experts given this bias.

  15. ppnl says:

    I would be interested in your understanding of both Diamond’s and Altemeyer’s bias. I have read the two books by Diamond but have far less understanding of Altemeyer. As I understand it it is like the “right wing” is on oxytocin.

  16. James Hanley says:

    My being a bit nasty to you is in hopes of changing your behavior which I find to be far beneath the guy I thought I knew. My ire is motivated to shake you up to reconsider your arguments because at least this reader finds them to be in both bad form and bad faith, where its also clear you have no compunctions about misrepresenting Hansen to further an argument where he plays your foil.

    Uh, and how’s that tactic working out for you so far? It’s been great at persuading Lance, eh? And obviously I’ve com around, too, right?

    shouldn’t your having repeatedly misrepresented Hansen give you pause

    You take it as axiomatic that I’ve repeatedly misrepresented him. I disagree, and don’t believe you have come close to demonstrating that I have. You make a very weak defense of his pro-authoritarian comments and ignore his economic ignorance. Your claim that I’ve misrepresented him is far from definitive proof.

    I got to say, its a major failure in thinking to avoid the fact that Dr. Hansen is on the right side of humanity

    Ah, moralism. That always works with me.

    while extending his arguments a bit too far

    You agree that he’s extending his arguments too far, but you get irate that I agree with Pielke that he’s a stealth issue advocate. Odd, given that’s pretty much the definition of a stealth issue advocate. You’ve conceded the point even as you complain that I point it out.

    while you fail to frame your criticisms to the threat he’s warning us about and properly gauge the total lack of character and total lack of veracity of his opponents’ claims.

    Um, in case you haven’t noticed, I didn’t base anything here on his opponents’ claims, but on what he said himself. As to the Koch brothers, I have previously agreed that they’re self-interested liars, so in what way have I not gauged their character? If I was the sympathetic type, I’d be shedding tears for that strawman you just beat the stuffings out of.

    Most of us are justifiably repelled by people who act like you do against Hansen when it’s someone they know, are allied with, or support.

    More moralism. It’s funny how you seem to think my attitude toward Hansen is worse than your attitude toward the Kochs. I don’t hate Hansen, and if you’ll go back and re-read everything I’ve written, you’ll notice that I’m not using invective or personal insults, nor have I ever criticized his scientific work. Really all I’ve done is point out that Hansen has not acted with perfect integrity, so that I don’t trust his public pronouncements–and I can’t get very upset about that because (just as I noted about the Kochs’ purposeful dishonesty), that’s how I expect politics to work.

    Re: Technocratic government. I stated that I don’t think you intend the type of government I see resulting, so I’m not making a strawman of your argument. I’m saying that’s where your proposal would end up. That’s a different argument. I’m not saying you’re evil, just that you’re wrong.

    On the science issue, yet again. Your comment above makes no sense. You haven’t demonstrated to me where my discussion of how the policy debate plays out is flawed because I don’t know the details of the science. I’m mystified as to what you are even referring to in thinking you’ve demonstrated that point. And you say that it’s different with the climate change issue, but that’s dead wrong. The issue of science not logically determining policy prescriptions is a category issue, not an issue of degree. If you keep insisting that this issue is different, so that the science does logically dictate the policy, you’re only indicating with more certainty that you’ve lost objectivity on this topic. Regardless of the science, what matters for the policy debate is the predicted effect of various actions (including BAU). If we focus on the worst plausible outcomes of BAU, there are still alternative policy choices available to us. You may think some are no good and shouldn’t be considered. That’s fine, but it’s a subjective value judgment, not a scientific judgment. If you think it’s a scientific judgment you’re fooling yourself.

    Dr. Diamond does what I have not encountered Dr. Hansen to do, which is permeate his science with his personal biases to the point his biases clearly reveal themselves in his work where they shouldn’t.

    A mild quibble. I don’t consider Diamond’s popular books to be his science, so I’m not sure I’d say his biases permeate his science. But, yes, they certainly do permeate his popular work. (Of course that’s a big part of what makes them such good reads; they’re not dryly academic, but personal.)

  17. ppnl says:

    James,

    Looking at the page source it seems that you have a screwed up closing italic tag where you said “…scientific knowledge does not determine policy objectives. No matter how deep a person’s understanding of the science, that knowledge does not logically or deterministically lead to a particular policy view–as long as you fail to fully understand that, I just hear someone yelling irrelevant details at me.”

    I don’t know why the broken tag would have carried over the end of the post. But if you can edit the tag it may fix it.

    Anyway I agree with the statement even if you did screw the closing tag. But lets put it in a different form.

    “A diagnosis of cancer does not determine treatment. No matter how deep a persons understanding of medicine that does not logically or deterministically lead to a particular treatment.”

    This is still true. There is usually a wide range of choices balancing things like risk/reward and quality of life. Only the patient can make those decisions. But even so I think we can see that running off to Mexico for for laetrile treatments is contraindicated.

  18. Michael Heath says:

    James stated:

    You take it as axiomatic that I’ve repeatedly misrepresented [James Hansen]. I disagree, and don’t believe you have come close to demonstrating that I have.

    Your first blog post in this forum on James Hansen you state:

    As it turns out, Hansen has lied, too, or at least been so careless with his predictions that it’s fundamentally indistinguishable from base dishonesty. (Which links Anthony Watts’ site.) [Cite: http://goo.gl/FnYAF%5D

    We discover there is no primary source validating what Anthony Watts and Patrick Michaels present. Two people who shouldn’t be used as sources regardless. We don’t have Hansen on the record, only memories by a reporter ten+ years after an interview with Hansen where it appears both Michaels and Watts misrepresent that reporters’ memories (according to Hansen if we are to believe him and his representation of the response by the reporter).

    From this perspective there is nothing here worthy of anyone’s time repeating scine we can’t validate what was stated, yet you repeat it as an example of Hansen lying. Hansen’s characterization of that conversation certainly isn’t a lie, but we can’t validate that either except to note it’s absurd and we have no record of making other absurd claims regarding the threat of climate. What’s also concerning is that you actually use a known fraud as your source who got it from another known fraud. We can certainly judge this to be a failure in character by both Michaels, Watts, for spreading a smear on Hansen they can’t validate is true and now unfortunately you as well for spreading what you call a lie when in fact we have no evidence Dr. Hansen lied.

    The second piece of evidence is here in this very thread. You quote Hansen:

    “I have the impression,” he says in a recent email, “that Chinese leadership takes a long view, perhaps because of the long history of their culture, in contrast to the West with its short election cycles. At the same time China has the capacity to implement policy decisions rapidly. The leaders seem to seek the best technical information and do not brand as a hoax that which is inconvenient….not only is it nearly impossible to get effective legislation through Congress, but that the special interests can prevent implementation almost interminably. Democracy of the sort intended in 1776 probably could have dealt with climate change, but not the fossil-money-’democracy’ that now rules the roost in Washington.

    You respond James

    I have a hard time overstating my horror of arguments like this. I went to grad school with people who argued seriously that it was time to give up on democracy, and who truly believed that China’s government was the best way to go (“If only,” one of them said to me, “they could get the right people in power”). What price are we willing to pay to remediate global warming? A shift to authoritarianism? I’m not willing to pay that price, and I doubt Hansen has thought seriously about what costs are entailed in that solution.

    I find your conflating Hansen’s correct observation about China and the U.S. to advocacy for a shift to authoritarianism both dishonest and hysterical given your quip, “I have a hard time overstating my horror of arguments like this.”

    James:

    · You agree that he’s extending his arguments too far, but you get irate that I agree with Pielke that he’s a stealth issue advocate. Odd, given that’s pretty much the definition of a stealth issue advocate. You’ve conceded the point even as you complain that I point it out.

    I haven’t encountered any evidence Dr. Hansen is a “stealth issue advocate”. From my perspective he’s the polar opposite of stealth, he’s “open kimono” to a fault.

    My point about Hansen extending his arguments too far had nothing to do with promoting covert motivations but instead revolve around his arguments outside his areas of expertise. I found his sources on his ‘fee and dividend’ and the value of nuclear waste in a world with fourth generation nuclear to be weaker than I demand. If one is an expert in a field and promotes the work of a colleague whose work is not conceded that’s fine with me if it’s framed that way. However if someone is commenting about a field other than their expertise such as what Hansen does on the economics of taxing carbon and a fourth generation nuclear economy, than I would expect highly regarded well-established arguments, not citing some no-names pointing to their spreadsheets as one of Hansen’s cites in “Storms” leads the reader towards.

    James:

    · Um, in case you haven’t noticed, I didn’t base anything here on his opponents’ claims, but on what he said himself.

    Well no, that is not true. In the case of NYC flooding the point distributed was absurd, spread by people well-known for being frauds and misrepresenting Hansen before, can’t be validated to have been said, and rejected as having been stated as reported by Dr. Hansen. In the second instance, China and the U.S., you are basing your criticism on the Hansen in your head, not what Hansen actually asserted.

    James:

    Re: Technocratic government. I stated that I don’t think you intend the type of government I see resulting, so I’m not making a strawman of your argument. I’m saying that’s where your proposal would end up. That’s a different argument. I’m not saying you’re evil, just that you’re wrong.

    I never concluded you were claiming my intentions were evil. I am claiming where at least one other person concurred you created a strawman of my point to knockdown rather than confronting my actual position which we think was easily understood yet you took it for something different.

    James – we can respectfully disagree on the value of a more technocratic government, hell – I’ve repeatedly noted it’s in a brainstorm stage and humbly held. But I perceive your reaction to be hysterical to my point, especially since you’ve provided no demonstration how my proposal would ultimately end-up with horrendous results and also given the fact we already appoint experts (federal judges). I’m also not advocating we strip any powers from the Congress or Executive, but instead advocating we create a framework which provides a more accurate and accessible analysis of how their work stacks up against reality so we have a more informed public and makes it far easier for the media to also report on the differences as we see in the area of budgets with the CBO’s reports.

    This is an off-topic subject related only to how I perceive your reaction to my proposal to be exactly how you behaved after reading Hansen’s observations about the U.S. and China. All I’m asking for is if this topic comes up again you confront what I write and not what you imagine I wrote.

    I wrote earlier:

    · Dr. Diamond does what I have not encountered Dr. Hansen to do, which is permeate his science with his personal biases to the point his biases clearly reveal themselves in his work where they shouldn’t.

    James responds:

    A mild quibble. I don’t consider Diamond’s popular books to be his science, so I’m not sure I’d say his biases permeate his science. But, yes, they certainly do permeate his popular work. (Of course that’s a big part of what makes them such good reads; they’re not dryly academic, but personal.)

    Actually I was making an entirely different point than what you respond to here. When one reads a science book for the general public, one expects the author to report on the science. Normally these books, unlike the peer-reviewed literature, also go well beyond the science and provide other perspectives as well as you correctly note. I agree with you that often makes them more enjoyable. For example, I particularly enjoy considering a scientist’s perspective which differs from his peers, especially when they’re well respected in that field.

    My problem with Diamond was in his speeches, I don’t remember this so much in his books, but when he spoke he appeared to me to be conflating his own very obvious liberal biases with the science to the point it made it difficult to distinguish one from another. So while I appear far more supportive than you for scientists to speak out prescriptively, in fact I want them to do more of it, I also would argue they have a far greater obligation to clearly distinguish what is science from what is their own perspective. To date I’ve had no problem misunderstanding Hansen keeping these topics segregated whereas the Diamond speeches he made about his two more popular books had him presenting information in a manner where I had hard time distinguishing the science from his opinion.

    James – I consider you a friend and want what’s best for you. I’ve also learned a lot from you over the years. My objections on the Koch Brothers, Hansen, and my technocratic impulses aren’t that you disagree with me, but that I don’t think your arguments are up to the standards you normally employ. My gut really twitched when I clicked on a link to find you citing Anthony Watts as a source for what a scientist stated, especially when it took me less a couple of minutes to discover there was no veracity to it and was just another attempt to defame James Hansen, with you promoting that defamation. Do you know who Mr. Watts is and his record when it comes to misrepresenting both scientific findings and what scientists actually write? The guy’s of equal character to Ken Hamm or Kent Hovind, no actually he’s worse since he’s smarter and therefore should know better.

    * My Hansen book isn’t accessible to me now; the people he cites might not even be economists; there was a link to a very amateurish spreadsheet providing the analysis for one of Hansen’s economic positions. This was an example of extending one’s argument too far.

  19. James Hanley says:

    ppnl–thanks for the fix. It does seem strange that a broken tag would carry over to subsequent comments.

    Michael–Hansen has no correct observations about China, other than their ability to act quickly. He is duped by his political ignorance into thinking that the Chinese gov’t is either wise or takes the long view, when in reality their concern is mainly the short-term problem of maintaining their control over the country. Do you have such a favorable view of Hansen that you automatically accept his political ignorance as wisdom, or do you simply share that fundamental misunderstanding of China so that you mistakenly see his ignorant statement as insightful?

    And let me reiterate that his statement about the U.S. is not right. He said that with the Democracy of 1787 we could have solved this problem. That demonstrates a great degree of ignorance, as well as an effort to manipulate his audience via emotional appeal to patriotism.

    I notice also that you have carefully avoided discussing Hansen’s statement about the economic advantage of being the first mover technologically. So your claim that Hansen is right about China is wrong, your claim that Hansen is right about the U.S. is wrong, and you avoid the issue of his erroneous economic arguments.

    I can admit that my first criticism of him, on the flooding in New York, was inaccurate (but I didn’t make that one in this thread, so my claim that I didn’t rely on others’ criticisms here is in fact true; but I should have specified here more precisely). But you seem to be incapable of recognizing that he is flat out wrong about China’s government making decisions based primarily on long-term future gains, that he dog-whistled about U.S. democracy, and that he makes wildly unsupportable economic arguments.

    Until you can get past looking at this issue with sustained moral outrage, the likelihood of having amicable discussion is vanishingly remote. I can’t see that righteous indignation and bullying are the best response to someone criticizing Hansen for making inaccurate statements about economics, U.S. history, and Chinese politics?

    I’ll repeat yet again. What interests me most is how the policy debate and policymaking process play out. I’ve got not sacred cows here. I see Hansen acting in ways that are predicted by the science policy lit, so I point it out. In response you act as though I nailed Jesus to the cross. No, you’re not just pointing out my errors–the errors are Hansen’s, and you are too eager to deny that their errors, because you’ve become intensely ideological about this issue.

  20. Michael Heath says:

    James:

    Hansen has no correct observations about China, other than their ability to act quickly. He is duped by his political ignorance into thinking that the Chinese gov’t is either wise or takes the long view, when in reality their concern is mainly the short-term problem of maintaining their control over the country.

    If true, that would apply to both Fareed Zakaria and all the others that concede Zakaria’s analysis of China as pointed out earlier. That’s given that Hansen’s observation about China is equivalent to Zakaria’s.

    James:

    Do you have such a favorable view of Hansen that you automatically accept his political ignorance as wisdom, or do you simply share that fundamental misunderstanding of China so that you mistakenly see his ignorant statement as insightful?

    I have absolutely zero confidence in Hansen’s observation regarding China. As I pointed out previously, Hansen’s merely repeating an equivalent observation to Fareed Zakaria’s in his book, “Post American World”, which is consistent with my own experiences and study of China.

    James:

    And let me reiterate that his statement about the U.S. is not right. He said that with the Democracy of 1787 we could have solved this problem. That demonstrates a great degree of ignorance, as well as an effort to manipulate his audience via emotional appeal to patriotism.

    Again James, you continue to misrepresent what James Hansen actually stated, which was:

    Democracy of the sort intended in 1776 probably could have dealt with climate change, but not the fossil-money-’democracy’ that now rules the roost in Washington.

    I discern a massive difference between what I quote here from Hansen and how you describe what he wrote. From my perspective spelling out that difference should be insult to any reasonable person’s intelligence.

    I also think Hansen’s point is in no way risible though that is certainly your right. Lastly, his point that the fact that denialists are winning in D.C. is absolutely dead-nuts correct which makes me wonder why you are so intent on misrepresenting James Hansen on an issue where he: a) deserves none of our attention while, b) a far more egregious event takes place. That is the fact that the scientific community has been asserting a threat with high confidence for several years now which our Congress is effectively denying that threats very existence, even at confidence levels far below what scientists report of their own conclusions (in terms of passing legislation as a result of this threat).

    Of course you have a right to blog about whatever you desire and of course there’s ample opportunity to disseminate communication errors of even those I might be perceive to be the “good guys”. However, given the reality that James Hansen is continually singled out and misrepresented by denialists and you create false strawmen of his points to make your own case to the point once we filter out your false assertions there’s nothing much left reveals the most distinctive conclusion a reasonable person can conclude is the quality of your argument and the judgment used to make an argument against this particular person.

    James:

    I notice also that you have carefully avoided discussing Hansen’s statement about the economic advantage of being the first mover technologically. So your claim that Hansen is right about China is wrong, your claim that Hansen is right about the U.S. is wrong, and you avoid the issue of his erroneous economic arguments.

    Actually I wasn’t careful, I didn’t even notice I avoided this topic; primarily because I don’t find Hansen all that relevant when it comes to what you quote here. I didn’t read his book because of the content beyond the science though I enjoyed his perspective. But I’m certainly not going to trust what any non-expert has to say about a subject outside their expertise unless they’re a policy maker, which he is not. Again, my primary objection here is not James Hansen but instead with the quality of your argument.

    James:

    But you seem to be incapable of recognizing that he is flat out wrong about China’s government making decisions based primarily on long-term future gains, that he dog-whistled about U.S. democracy, and that he makes wildly unsupportable economic arguments.

    Well again, you misrepresent him on U.S. History, there are respected analysts who concur with Hansen on China’s strategy – it’s not an empirical point you can validate in spite of your framing it as such, and while I disagree with him on his economic point – I find it trivial relative to your argument in general and should also note the existence of actual policy makers who repeat this point – most famous being President Bill Clinton.

    As I stated earlier, James, there is an argument to me made against Hansen and that was one. I just find it incredibly trivial to the far bigger observation, your repeated misrepresentation of him, the quality of your argument in general, and how trivial this point even is relative to the general discourse on climate change policy.

    James:

    Until you can get past looking at this issue with sustained moral outrage, the likelihood of having amicable discussion is vanishingly remote. I can’t see that righteous indignation and bullying are the best response to someone criticizing Hansen for making inaccurate statements about economics, U.S. history, and Chinese politics?

    I do find the repeated misrepresentation of someone else either a failure in critical thinking or even a moral failing, especially when it’s so obvious and pointed out.

    James:

    What interests me most is how the policy debate and policymaking process play out. I’ve got not sacred cows here. I see Hansen acting in ways that are predicted by the science policy lit, so I point it out. In response you act as though I nailed Jesus to the cross. No, you’re not just pointing out my errors–the errors are Hansen’s, and you are too eager to deny that their errors, because you’ve become intensely ideological about this issue.

    Again James, I think we should be fair to each other. In the case of James Hansen, your failure to first consider his preemptive arguments about policy prior to criticizing him on speaking out on policy and then your repeated distortion of his arguments to better make your case causes me to point out that IMO, this has little to do with Hansen or me and instead everything to do with the quality of your effort to make your case.

    I don’t perceive anything ideological in my argument. Please quote exactly what would cause someone to claim such an observation is reasonable. It’s my perspective I’ve focused almost entirely on analyzing the quality of your argument rather than making an ideological case for something, in fact I’m can’t imagine what that topic would even be perceived to be.

  21. DensityDuck says:

    “[Scientists] understand the effort that is needed to acquire expertise in their own discipline, but give every appearance of thinking that a similar effort is not required to understand economic behavior. They’re confident in their demonstrated intelligence, and think that is sufficient unto itself.”

    And this is the classic failing of intellectual specialists; they’re so used to being the most-knowledgeable people about something that they assume the same is true for everything. “I’m smart,” they say to themselves, “and I’ve thought about this issue, therefore I’ve come up with the proper solution, because smart people who think about things always come up with the proper solution. Anyone who disagrees with me is objectively wrong, either for some nefarious reason or just because they’re stupid.”

  22. D. C. Sessions says:

    That is the fact that the scientific community has been asserting a threat with high confidence for several years

    Let’s be a bit more precise: since at least the 1960s, with increasing precision as both the available data and our ability to process it improved. Largely forgotten now, the “CO2 Problem” was part of the abortive Carter-era attempt to chart the USA a route away from dependence on imported oil (other reasons being economic and national security.)

  23. Michael Heath says:

    DensityDuck:

    And this is the classic failing of intellectual specialists; they’re so used to being the most-knowledgeable people about something that they assume the same is true for everything. “I’m smart,” they say to themselves, “and I’ve thought about this issue, therefore I’ve come up with the proper solution, because smart people who think about things always come up with the proper solution. Anyone who disagrees with me is objectively wrong, either for some nefarious reason or just because they’re stupid.”

    Do you a have cite empirically supporting your assertion this true is for the population of people with a particular expertise? While I’ve encountered the rare bird demonstrating this behavior it’s not even remotely consistent with the population of experts I’ve dealt with in my career, in fact the opposite is true. That their effort to become experts has them better appreciating what experts in other fields assert with attendant levels of confidence where it’s the “know-nothings” who assume consensus positions held with high confidence and small margins of error are mere opinion no better than their own.

  24. James Hanley says:

    Michael,

    I can’t speak for your experience, but my experience in academia substantiates DensityDuck’s statements at least so far as the issue of politics in general. Intellectuals across the academic spectrum think their natural intelligence, so ably demonstrated, also sufficiently demonstrates that their thoughts about politics must be correct, regardless of how little technical study they’ve made of it. Case in point, P.Z. Myers.

    Whether it’s a more general phenomenon than that, I can’t say. But it often makes me wish I’d studied geology.

  25. Michael Heath says:

    James:

    I can’t speak for your experience, but my experience in academia substantiates DensityDuck’s statements at least so far as the issue of politics in general.

    I think many if not most people who harbor political opinions display the D-K effect when it comes to politics. However DensityDuck was specifically referencing economics, not politics in general.

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