Comedy gold: APS president attacks "inaccurate characterization" of APS position, doesn't realize he's attacking an APS quote


Guest Post by Alec Rawls

When German ex-climate-alarmist Fritz Vahrenholt came out last week as a climate skeptic, he related his moment of epiphany, when he was firsthand witness of the alarmists’ sheer disregard for error:

Vahrenholt’s skepticism started when he was asked to review an IPCC report on renewable energy. He found hundreds of errors. When he pointed them out, IPCC officials simply brushed them aside. Stunned, he asked himself, “Is this the way they approached the climate assessment reports?”

For a comedy of errors, witness American Physical Society president Robert Byer’s response to the 16 climate skeptics who recently criticized his organization’s statement on climate change in the Wall Street Journal. It should serve as a Vahrenholtian moment for APS members. Here is Byer’s complaint:

The APS statement is unequivocal. It notes that “global warming is occurring.” … The statement does not declare, as the authors of the op-ed suggest, that the human contribution to climate change is incontrovertible.

See how up-to-speed the APS is? Byers is aware that climate skeptics don’t deny global warming—that they only question whether this warming is attributable to human action—and so he assumes that the critics must have accused the APS of claiming that human attribution is incontrovertible. But if he had actually read the skeptic article that he presumes to correct, he would know otherwise. They explicitly questioned the statement that “global warming is occurring.” How did Byers miss this sentence:

Perhaps the most inconvenient fact is the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now.

It may be incontrovertible that the planet WAS warming, past tense. But the claim that the planet is incontrovertibly STILL warming is nothing short of bizarre.

It’s not just little news items like: “Met Office releases new figures which show no warming in 15 years.” It’s the very idea of making an unequivocal statement about the content of incoming data, about the direction that our ever-changing climate is currently heading. Byers really doesn’t see the problem?

Byers attacks the APS statement itself

Of course the sixteen critics also took the APS to task for its presumption that warming is primarily caused by humans, but they did this entirely with quotes. When Byers attacks the claim that APS attributes warming to human activity, he is blissfully unaware that he is attacking the APS statement itself.

Here is the full skeptic paragraph on the APS:

In September, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ivar Giaever, a supporter of President Obama in the last election, publicly resigned from the American Physical Society (APS) with a letter that begins: “I did not renew [my membership] because I cannot live with the [APS policy] statement: ‘The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.’ In the APS it is OK to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible?”

Giaever is directly quoting the APS statement. The quote is not out of context. There are no omitted ellipses. It is APS itself that jumps directly from the claim of incontrovertible warming to the claim that greenhouse gases must be reduced, implicitly attributing the proclaimed warming to human GHG production. Nobody can blame Byers for taking this quote to imply that APS also considers human attribution to be incontrovertible, but it is quite amazing that he somehow fails to realize that it is in fact a quote.

Byers is all het-up about this scurrilous aspersion. How dare the skeptics accuse the APS of such perfidy! It is a ludicrous concatenation of error, all in a mere 200 word response to a 1200 word op-ed.

Who can write 200 words for a national newspaper without bothering to check the few facts addressed? Does Byers even know what the APS statement says? He can’t have bothered to read the WSJ op-ed. And he is clearly unaware that there is some leeetle bit of doubt about whether the planet is in fact still warming.

Witness your naked president, APS members. He actually thinks he is wearing clothes. Maybe you could just shuffle him out the door, and that egregious APS statement with him.

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Physics Major
February 8, 2012 7:40 pm

I have been a member of APS for 40+ years. I would suggest to Dr Byers that the Society needs to stick with its scientific mission and leave politics and political correctness to others. Otherwise embarrassments like this are bound to happen.

February 8, 2012 7:40 pm

“The statement does not declare, as the authors of the op-ed suggest, that the human contribution to climate change is incontrovertible.”
If it didn’t (which it does), it would make the APS deniers,
welcome to the other side!

February 8, 2012 7:48 pm

Time to resign out of sheer embarrassment.

February 8, 2012 7:51 pm

tolo4zero says:
February 8, 2012 at 7:40 pm

“The statement does not declare, as the authors of the op-ed suggest, that the human contribution to climate change is incontrovertible.”
If it didn’t (which it does), it would make the APS deniers,
welcome to the other side!

True, but we don’t want them and we don’t need them. Please just send honest folk.

February 8, 2012 7:56 pm

Things like this generally happen when an organization is needing to curry favor with some other organization. What was the purpose of making the statement in the first place and from whom did they benefit in making it? Was it a requirement for a grant from some foundation or another? Or maybe Dr. Byers was simply taking an opportunity to use his pulpit to extol his own personal political views and curry favor with those who he admires. Generally, though, there is a reason why an organization jumps into a very polarized issue and it generally has to do with which side of their bread has the butter on it. Do they publish their books? Did they get a sizable contribution right around that time?

February 8, 2012 7:58 pm

“And he is clearly unaware that there is some leeetle bit of doubt about whether the planet is in fact still warming.”
I’m he can’t be blamed “stans in sua” since government officials like Lisa Jackson have argued with Congressmen that “nothing has changed.”

February 8, 2012 8:18 pm

Fritz Varenholt was one of many reviewers of the first and second order drafts of the IPCC Special Report on renewable energy. Scanning his contributions in the reviews of each chapter, and responses to his points,I don’t see any evidence that ‘IPCC officials simply brushed them aside’. Each point is acknowledged by the writing team with comments such ‘ section/paragraph/etc.will be re-written’,’noted’ ‘accepted’ and/or a specific action is detailed.

February 8, 2012 8:32 pm

This is so perfectly incoherent and disgraceful that Byers ought to resign or be fired immediately.
The idea that the titular head of any learned society could be so manifestly incompetent to discuss issues already pronounced upon by that society is beyond embarrassment.
No physicist worthy of the name can accept the leadership of a buffoon like Dr. Byers.

February 8, 2012 8:38 pm

@ Nick 8:18 pm
Were they re-written? Seems Dr. Varenholt doesn’t think so. How about you? Have you read The Delinquent Teenager. I suggest you do.

Jeff Wiita
February 8, 2012 8:56 pm

Maybe APS should recant their entire global warming position statement and leave politics out of their mission statement.

February 8, 2012 9:00 pm

Nick, Perhaps he is talking about the finished version that was released to the public?

February 8, 2012 9:36 pm

The statement as it exists now (always?) has “…incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring” as a one sentence paragraph on its own. This semantic subtlety does leave the option to argue “incontrovertible” is not applied to the rest, though personally I’m reluctant to read it that way given the tone of the full statement.
It’s worth pointing out the first sentence of the statement: “Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth’s climate”.
“are” does not leave any room for doubt i.e. incontrovertible, though no mention of scale of the affects is given and it probably is incontrovertible that the climate is affected to some degree, however small.
They should have made their statement incontrovertible.

Al Gored
February 8, 2012 9:38 pm

I’m guessing that the BBC’s Richard Black hasn’t got the joke yet.
“12:30 UK time, Tuesday, 7 February 2012
@BBCRBlack via Twitter
American Physical Society says WSJ letter distorted its position on #climate @carbonbrief
I’m guessing that somebody will be wishing they didn’t spread this letter all over the net so fast.

Britez Riveros
February 8, 2012 9:43 pm

Real evidence to show that the Australian Authorities were in fact advised wrongly about Wivenhoe dam and why people died and lost Billions

February 8, 2012 10:18 pm

I personally don’t have evidence to back up my speculation that each of these organizations were pressured to make the statement to go on record as to whether they were for science (AGW) and scientists (Climate) or not.

February 8, 2012 10:29 pm

… apparently at his level of incompetance…

February 8, 2012 10:33 pm

Surely it cannot have been written by the good docteur himself. It must have been written by some PR agent?

February 8, 2012 10:38 pm

Sheesh! Check out this PyysicsToday article:
“Wall Street Journal attempts to escalate the climate wars”

Nigel S
February 8, 2012 10:50 pm

The APS statement is wonderfully weaselly.
‘The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring… significant disruptions.. are likely…. We must reduce emissions…’
So their president is correct. They didn’t say that the human contribution to climate change is incontrovertible. They said that we must reduce emissions because significant disruptions are likely.
Hoist on his own petard I think.
‘…a plan so cunning, you could stick a tail on it and call it a weasel!’

February 8, 2012 11:26 pm

DavidA says:
“are” does not leave any room for doubt i.e. incontrovertible, though no mention of scale of the affects is given and it probably is incontrovertible that the climate is affected to some degree, however small.”
Both the scale and the incontrovertable status of the anthro contribution are pinned down by the balance of the statement:
“If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.”
Hey Byer – stop trying to weasel your way out of your position statement. Retract it. Or turn in your Hard Science card. You are an embarrassment to your field.

February 9, 2012 12:12 am

I may be a bit slow this morning….but I had to read this article a couple of times in order to grasp the point. The idea that this is going to galvanize the scientific community into howling for Mr Byers’ head is a bit of wishful thinking, I would say.

February 9, 2012 1:45 am

It’s a bit shoddy to have a concise punchy mission statement that encapsulates your policy, and then to have to have reams of ‘lawyer-speak’ underneath explaining what you actually meant.
Come on Byers, get it right first time

Robert of Ottawa
February 9, 2012 3:00 am

Ah, Lysenko is smiling.

A. Opinion
February 9, 2012 4:13 am

How can the president of APS make such a basic logic blunder.
In logic:
if not b -> not a
then a -> b
So if less GHG’s -> less global warming, as the APS statement claims,
then the statement must imply that GHG’s are a significant factor in global warming.

February 9, 2012 5:02 am

The issue with the IPCC reports is that all evidence contrary to the AGW dogma was swept out of the Summary for Policy Makers which is seen by politicians and the media as the official stance of the IPCC contributors.

February 9, 2012 5:03 am

Well, that and the fact that they loaded the IPCC studies with non-peer reviewed advocacy fiction.

Rob Crawford
February 9, 2012 6:43 am

C’mon, he’s a physicist. We know those guys aren’t that in touch with the reality of the global warming hoax.

February 9, 2012 7:27 am

A. Opinion says:
February 9, 2012 at 4:13 am
How can the president of APS make such a basic logic blunder.
In logic:
if not b -> not a
then a -> b

Do you mean:
then b -> a

February 9, 2012 8:22 am

Actually, a number of physicists have found the recent APS “public statements” to be an open embarrassment, a completely inappropriate abuse of a position of prestige for political purposes, and one that is unfortunately likely to cost the entire organization credibility in the event that the “pronouncements ex cathedra” prove wrong.
Physicist by and large know better than to “believe” in large scale theoretical computations (such as the global climate models) with hordes of adjustable parameters and little to no skill at forecasting or hindcasting.
One serious problem in the political debate and the journalistic debate is that both sides of the issue are not being soberly and respectfully discussed. The skeptic point of view bends over backwards to the point of openly rewriting the laws of physics and common sense in claims made, mostly by a non-scientific fringe, that there is no such thing as a greenhouse gas mediated greenhouse effect at all, that gravitational compression of an atmosphere can warm a planet in steady state without any active cooling mechanism, that the oceans are not warmed by visible light — I’ve been trying to openly oppose “bad science” on WUWT as a skeptic because promoting ideas that openly violate the laws of thermodynamics without doing all of the detailed work that must necessarily accompany such a revolutionary claim only invites dismissal not only of the specific claim, but in a political or public debate, of the credibility of the entire point of view.
The same is true on the other side — in the public debate proponents of CAGW often make appeals to emotion, showing polar bears apparently trapped on a melting ice floe with the clear implication that they are about to drown because of AGW, when in fact the bears are a few hundred feet from the shore and playing on the melting ice in a seasonally normal way. It does its best to pretend that any evidence that opposes its claim simply doesn’t exist — that one can dismiss the “it’s the sun, stupid”, argument based on the remarkably powerful correlation between solar state and temperature (easily as predictive alone as the empirical correlation between increasing CO_2 and temperature). It plays fast and loose with the data, simply massaging the data with cherrypicking and adjustable UHI parameters until it erases evidence for natural variability of global temperatures of the same order is the asserted human-caused warming. It is this sort of thing that is causing the defection of principled individuals from the CAGW camp.
Sadly, the polarization typical of a political or religious — not a scientific — debate has made all of the common-sense middle ground no-man’s land for the scientist and lay person alike. If you are a “denier”, you are branded as a greedy, blind, stupid, selfish individual who is willing to stand by, complacent in your consumption of energy while driving huge SUVs, while the baby polar bears all drown and the sea rises to sink the coastal regions of the entire world. If you are a “warmist”, you are painted as being a commie pinko who is only using CAGW as an excuse to tax the rich and give to the poor while setting up the United Nations as a world government, and doing anything necessary to fake data and conceal contrary evidence that might weaken “the cause”.
All of this is being presented to the public as a sort of Pascal’s Wager, a religious bet. The lay public, and most scientists for that matter, simply don’t know enough to judge. They are presented with a stark choice.
They must accept the warmist position and pay an enormous cost now to prevent a hypothetical still greater cost in the distant future (but one that they are told is inevitable, possible inevitable even if we do spend an enormous amount of money now). They are told not to question the remedies being proposed that make up the huge price tag — the issue isn’t whether or not e.g. Carbon Tax Credits will work or is the best way to ultimately reduce the use of fossil fuels and save the world or whether or not the use of fossil fuels will naturally diminish over time simply because they become more expensive than the alternatives fast enough to prevent any “catastrophe” from emerging — it is “we are experts we must do this or the polar bears die”.
The skeptics often do no better. A lay person must accept that CO_2 is a wonderful, benign molecule that has no effect whatsoever on the climate, neither responsible for keeping the Earth from being in a permanent ice age on the low side nor likely to cause catastrophic warming on the high side no matter what the concentration. They must accept the notion that everything will be fine as far as the environment goes if only the government gets out of the way of industry and lets pure capitalism reign, as everybody knows that the oil companies and power companies and coal mining companies would never put short term profit ahead of social responsibility. They have to accept the notion that all scientists, but especially the scientists engaged in climate research, are stupid and venal and engaged in a global conspiracy, that none of those scientists believe in CAGW in good faith and with any good reason for doing so.
This is where the APS has failed both its membership and the lay public. Physicists have the often deserved reputation for being the most sober members of the scientific community. No field has been hammered more often since the Enlightenment with worldview changing paradigm shifts, and even in physics, where our knowledge can usually be carefully advanced and extrapolated because much of it is relatively simple, this process appears to be far from over, with several world-changing discoveries being actively pursued and debated even now. Also, at the heart of the controversy are a number of basic elements of physics. Physicists could have been, and still could be, the dispassionate judges, the disengaged referees for a public argument and scientific debate that has been marred from the beginning with political corruption and bad science.
But that cannot happen when one of the world’s most visible physicists steps in and supposedly speaking for all of his colleagues proclaims the debate over and one side the winner, by implication dismissing all challenge including any possible future challenge based on new evidence or argument. This isn’t a matter of even arguing for one side of Pascal’s Wager, saying that we aren’t sure but this is the best bet, it is making an open statement that one side is right and the other is wrong and it is certain that the future will unfold according to the scenario painted by the warmists.
For shame. For shame indeed.
There may or may not be magnetic monopoles. The Higgs particle might be found shortly, or it might not be found and thereby more or less destroy the Standard Model and with it our understanding of pretty much all physics at the microscopic level — again. Neutrinos may have just done us the discourtesy of travelling faster than light in spite of an enormously successful and consistent theory, supported by huge amounts of evidence that up to now has predicted that they can do no such thing. Dark energy that we do not in any way understand (and that might not exist at all, as there are competing explanations) appears to be pushing the Universe apart. Dark matter that we do not in any way understand (and that might not exist at all, as there are competing explanation) appears to be pulling the galaxies together. Nanoscale quantum mechanics may or many not prove capable of doing actual computation, which may or may not revolutionize the way we build computers. Debate rages — largely without evidence or the possibility of getting any direct evidence — about how much Universe lies beyond the visible limit at 13.75 billion light years, whether or not the multiple worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is correct, whether or not the human mind is somehow a factor in measurement and thereby the “collapse” of a quantum mechanical wavefunction. None of this is certain, and it is certain that much of our current best guess statement of the theory of everything and all of its more complex higher order parts is wrong.
Yet the president of the APS, speaking for me, has stated that a specific prediction of climate science is certain!
Forget the fact that Earth’s climate is an enormously complex, stunningly complex, non-Markovian system where we almost certainly haven’t even yet identified all of the important processes or features that determine the average climate. Forget the fact that the climate begins with the Sun, and we cannot predict the state of the Sun and that there is considerable uncertainty about precisely how the sun affects the Earth’s climate outside of being the furnace that heats the world. Forget the fact that before one even looks at the Earth per se, the climate appears to depend in some complicated way upon the orbital dynamics of the Earth, gravitational resonances that change the orbit, the Earth’s axial tilt and how that tilt lines up on Earth’s apihelion and perihelion as the eccentricity changes, and that there is at least weak evidence that it depends on where the Sun is in its galactic orbit as well, none of which we understand well enough to precisely predict.
Forget the fact that once one addresses the Earth per se one is confronted with a solving not just the Navier-Stokes equation, but several distinct and coupled Navier-Stokes equations, for the ocean, the troposphere, the stratosphere, the exosphere, the thermosphere, with different thermal forcings and boundary conditions, where mathematicians cannot even prove that solutions exist at the level of complexity of this problem. Yes, as physicists we know the solution does indeed exist — we can see it in action around us — but it is openly insulting to suggest that we can find it with any degree of confidence whatsoever.
Forget the fact that when one attempts to reduce the full problem to one that is computationally tractable, one has to make numerous simplifying assumptions and apply heuristics right and left, fuel the resulting non-Markovian models with data of questionable integrity and large error bars and force them to become Markovian because solving integro-partial-differential equations is just too damn difficult, thus erasing most of the interesting long-time-scale dynamics or pretending that we know and understand it well enough to make the conclusions of such a model certain.
Forget the fact that — unsurprisingly — the models thus built exhibit little to no predictive skill, either for forecasts or hindcasts outside of the data range used to build the model in the first place.
Forget the fact that the Earth’s climatological record itself is rather excellent evidence that there are no “catastrophic” turning points were are likely to reach over the next century, and that if one were to bet that we would reach one the smart money would be on a cold catastrophe, not a hot one, since the Holocene is already well over 10,000 years old and the next ice age “looms” sometime in the next 0-2000 years. Which unfortunately we cannot predict any more accurately than that, see remarks above.
Forget the fact that the direct measurement and analysis of the GHE over the era where we have halfway decent global data suggests that it is strongly saturated, so that additional warming does not scale anything like linearly with the concentration, but rather on a logarithmic basis, and that decent fits to the logarithm directly suggest that in fact no crisis will occur if we actually do double, or even triple, the anthopogenic part of the CO_2 concentration relative to the present (neither of which will ever happen for purely economic reasons if we do nothing at all).
Forget the fact that the physics of how CO_2, water vapor, the Sun’s magnetic field, the varying salinity and heat content of the oceans, the varying use of the land, and the major global oscillations all seem strongly coupled in ways that confound “simple” explanations, reduced to easy differential terms in a thermal balance equation.
All of this is settled science, beyond reasonable doubt, where Einstein’s theory of relativity or the standard model are fair game. We, as physicists, must now support the warmist wager and agree to turn over all of our human judgement and trust to those who insist that the only solution to the dilemma is “carbon trading” and the self-destruction of human civilization, pushed by people who “believe” in their “cause” so much that they are happy to jet all over the planet to push their agenda, that we should make sacrifices that they do not visibly share.
Such is the ex cathedra pronouncement of the APS.
For shame.
Let me make a modest proposal, as a physicist for whom the president of the APS does not speak. Let us turn in our time of uncertainty to the words of Richard Feynman and try to restore some actual scientific integrity to this debate. To quite his “Cargo Cult Science” address:
But this long history of learning how not to fool ourselves–of
having utter scientific integrity–is, I’m sorry to say, something
that we haven’t specifically included in any particular course that
I know of. We just hope you’ve caught on by osmosis.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself–and you are
the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about
that. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other
scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after
I would like to add something that’s not essential to the science,
but something I kind of believe, which is that you should not fool
the layman when you’re talking as a scientist. I am not trying to
tell you what to do about cheating on your wife, or fooling your
girlfriend, or something like that, when you’re not trying to be
a scientist, but just trying to be an ordinary human being. We’ll
leave those problems up to you and your rabbi. I’m talking about
a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending
over backwards to show how you are maybe wrong, that you ought to
have when acting as a scientist. And this is our responsibility as
scientists, certainly to other scientists, and I think to laymen.
For example, I was a little surprised when I was talking to a
friend who was going to go on the radio. He does work on cosmology
and astronomy, and he wondered how he would explain what the
applications of this work were. “Well,” I said, “there aren’t any.”
He said, “Yes, but then we won’t get support for more research of
this kind.” I think that’s kind of dishonest. If you’re
representing yourself as a scientist, then you should explain to
the layman what you’re doing–and if they don’t want to support you
under those circumstances, then that’s their decision.

Where, in the history of climate debate, are any of the warmists bending over backwards to show how they are maybe wrong? Where is the evidence that confirmation bias (trying to fool yourself) is not rampant in the field, with none of the primary participants willing to openly entertain even the suggestion that they might be wrong? Claiming unwarranted certainty for an uncertain result is many things, but good science is not one of them. And sadly, climate science is absolutely permeated with one set of discussions internal to the field, where considerable uncertainty often is expressed, and an entirely different set of pronouncements made to the lay public. The Climategate communications stand as direct evidence that this is the rule, not the exception, in climate science today.
One thing is for certain. Robert Byer is no Richard Feynman. And by speaking out as he has, he has done a disservice to the reputation of physicists everywhere for scientific objectivity and maintaining an open mind that will take decades to heal.
How can we restore some integrity to the process? If every warmist on Earth would step up and acknowledge that the skeptics could be right and that it very well might be the case that even if anthropogenic CO_2 is causing some warming of the Earth’s climate, the amount will almost certainly never be “catastrophic” whether or not we take extraordinary measures to control it, that would make Feynman’s Ghost very happy. If every skeptic on Earth would step up and acknowledge that it is certainly not the case that all of the science supporting the warmist position is bad science, that the greenhouse effect really does exist and really does involve CO_2, and the even the possibility of catastrophe could be correct, then they might placate Feynman’s Ghost.
Even the lay public and their de facto representatives, the press and the politicians, could take a pledge neither to believe in CAGW nor to disbelieve in it, as long as visible change of any sort remains modest and non-catastrophic, and to refuse to be swayed by those that make absurd claims about “the number of deaths attributed to AGW this year” which presuppose an impossible knowledge based on an indefensible model while refusing to even begin to count confounding effects. No, the sky is not falling. We do not need to panic. We can choose to act in an orderly way that does not involve major sociopolitical redistributions of wealth as the “only solution” that can save the world.
Perhaps, if both sides in this essentially religious public debate forcibly require integrity and common civility to be restored both in the scientific arena and in the political/public arena, they might find that they have common ground and that there are at least certain courses of action that everybody can broadly agree on, such as continuing to aggressively fund the development of alternative energy resources that don’t consume resources that follow a more or less predictable economic law of increasing cost to recover. Technological advance is ultimately the solution to the dilemma, the only one that does not require the dismantling of modern civilization to avoid a danger that may prove to be just as imaginary as Chicken Little’s, once we truly do have a quantitative predictive theory of the climate that actually works. Three things that could completely solve the problem within twenty years, long before the problem reaches a “catastrophic” climax even according to the most pessimistic predictions of the warmists might be:
* Building nuclear power plants to replace fossil fuel burning plants at an aggressive pace. Yes, there are dangers there as well. Yes, we can, if we choose to, overengineer to avoid them, especially by moving away from Uranium fission technology towards Thorium.
* Doing absolutely nothing — solar energy will overtake fossil fuels in economic cost benefit in the next decade no matter what the public or private sector do. At that point the ordinary human desire to make money as fast as possible will solve the carbon problem so that atmospheric CO_2 concentrations are on the way down within 30 years no matter what actions we take in a panic now. To be honest, investing tens of billions of dollars per year directly in the development and prototyping of solar energy production and storage will have a bigger long term impact than any of the IPCC’s wealth redistribution schemes. If we’d begun this scale of investment instead of (say) fighting the war in Iraq, we would be roughly a third of the way to the goal line of solar energy self-sufficiency today.
* Pushing far harder than we are currently pushing to work out thermonuclear fusion. Making a “Manhattan Project” level effort, for example — tens of billions of dollars a year — makes far more sense than carbon trading, dollar for dollar, because solving the fusion problem makes the world self-sufficient in energy forever, it removes energy scarcity once and for all as an obstacle to the continued development of human civilization. So does solar energy, but not quite as conveniently. Fusion will be clean and safe — the very difficulty of the problem ensures that if a “catastrophe” occurs in a fusion generator, all that will happen is that the reaction will stop — leaving us only with the trivial problem of handling the globally microscopic amounts of radioactive matter produced as a side effect in the containment vessels.
Of these, only the solar solution is openly discussed, and it is the one that needs the least help, and none of them need be any more “urgent” than we wish them to be. Feynman’s Ghost, speaking to us across the ages from his Cargo Cult address, suggests that in the end, our role as scientists is to present the real facts, the pros and the cons, the evidence for and the evidence against, the likely costs and the likely benefits, without exaggerration or bias produced by self-interest, to the lay public and to let them decide for themselves on the basis of the whole story what they (and sure, we, as we too get our vote) want to do with it.

February 9, 2012 9:43 am

I would presume Fritz Vahrenholt knows the situation about himself far better than we can. There is obviously something specific that happened.

Dave Dardinger
February 9, 2012 10:19 am

Imagine an area representing B and a surrounding area representing ~B. Now draw three A’s A1, A2 & A3 with A1 inside B; A2 inside ~b and A3 partly in both B and Not B. You should be able to see that A>B is the proper deduction. B>A -> A = B which is not necessarily the case.

February 9, 2012 12:09 pm

Robert Brown says:
February 9, 2012 at 8:22 am

This should be a post by itself.

Michael J. Dunn
February 9, 2012 12:59 pm

For the logic problem, let A = cow and B = quadruped.

February 9, 2012 2:43 pm

Robert Brown – a wonderfully positive post. I agree that reflection and truthful discourse should be the order of the day.
I feel that any contrasting view would seem awfully negative and perhaps cynical but I have to say that the issue is well past “religious” and on to “political”. And here is where the problem may lie – politics is about POWER and that will not be given up lightly. After all the political decisions to fund this issue to the extent it has (and has agreed for the future) is not based on truth or logic, only on retaining and gaining more power. Politicians will only revise that decision if it can be demonstrated that would get them elected. I’m afraid to say “educating” the voters is laudable but not too practical and not necessarily effective.

February 9, 2012 5:36 pm

A candidate for the President of the American Idiocy Society….

Jeff Alberts
February 10, 2012 7:26 am

What’s even more bizarre is that we’re still talking about something meaningless, “global temperature”.

Mark B.
February 10, 2012 10:57 am

Logic may not be violated. There is a strong implication that since the globe is warming and that GHG must be reduced, GHG causes GW. This however is still an implication, not a statement. It could also be that for pure political kowtowing GHG must be reduced. It all depends on “what the meaning of is is.”

Roger Knights
February 10, 2012 11:40 am

“One thing is for certain. Robert Byer is no Richard Feynman.”


Roger Knights
February 10, 2012 11:54 am

Robert Brown says:
February 9, 2012 at 8:22 am
Actually, a number of physicists have found the recent APS “public statements” to be an open embarrassment, a completely inappropriate abuse of a position of prestige for political purposes, and one that is unfortunately likely to cost the entire organization credibility in the event that the “pronouncements ex cathedra” prove wrong.

Environmentalism will take a worse hit, and likewise the MSM. Taking a lesser but still substantial hit will be PC progressivism. The global warming scare will be the progressives’ Vietnam.

solar energy will overtake fossil fuels in economic cost benefit in the next decade no matter what the public or private sector do.

Doubtful, given the way shale gas is coming on.

Stas Peterson
February 10, 2012 8:36 pm

From one scientist and physicist to another. You represent Physics and all Physicists well. You should be the President of the APS, not that current Buffoon.
Thank You.

Larry in Texas
February 10, 2012 9:35 pm

Robert Brown says:
February 9, 2012 at 8:22 am
Sir, you take an eminently reasonable position on this issue. No one here who is honest to themselves as well as the cause for which we all stand – good science and the avoidance of extremely bad policy – would disagree with you.
As a non-scientist, I would add, though, that there are forces larger than the scientists themselves that drive this debate. I also think that scientists have driven themselves into a number of traps by insisting upon taking their theories (particle physics being just one example of those you yourself mention) in directions that suggest the complete unification of various types of phenomena into one, compact, theory. Einstein’s E=mc2 was so beautiful that other physicists, other scientists strove to imitate it in other areas of curiosity and inquiry. It is this drive to unify scientific theory and to provide the “answer to everything” that now create some of the problems you describe in your post (the best example I can find of this kind of thinking in history is in the creation and development of the Ptolemaic theory of the universe). This attempt at unification of highly diverse phenomena, I fear, is one of the motivations of the alarmists in justifying their own fields of climatological endeavor. The motivation that one can explain everything in a way that puts man at the center of the problem – a place that I think man does not belong – can generate the kinds of kerfluffles we see now.
It will take another “paradigm shift” of the type that Thomas Kuhn describes in order to remove some of the focus away from the kinds of scientific debates we have today. The universe is still too mysterious and wonderous to me to allow myself to get totally caught up in the kinds of nonsense we see today. In the meantime, I cannot, if I am a citizen or if I am a policy-maker, utilize a poorly explained, highly debatable science to create the sorts of draconian policies I have seen over the past 10 years around the world.

February 10, 2012 9:37 pm

I see the “settlement” rages on and on. Its a good thing there is no debate.

Mark N
February 11, 2012 2:48 am

Robert Brown says:
February 9, 2012 at 8:22 am
Greatest of all comments. I look forward to reading more from you. Thank you

February 12, 2012 10:11 am

Robert Brown – apart from a couple of incorrect criticisms of the “real science/sceptic” view and a slightly optimistic opinion of the growth in renewable energy given shale oil & gas reserves, that was a most well thought through piece.
It also shows why governments are so wrong to give any more than a glance at the outrageous claims of the CAGW Cause. Your piece should be sent by everyone to their democratically elected representatives at once.
May you, Sir, take over from that twit, Byers.

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