Backlash Building Against Progressives

A previous post (Feel Good Climatism) pointed to the controlling power of progressive PC institutions in today’s societies.

Short version: The right attempts political persuasion. The left, on the other hand, attempts social persuasion — basically seizing the commanding heights of culture-making institutions and then deciding that espousing some political claims (being pro-gay-marriage) increase social status and that espousing other political claims (being against gay marriage) decrease social status and, indeed, make one a social pariah, fit for ostracism, mass mockery, and internal exile.

The left’s method works much better than the right’s. It always has and it always will. Because most people don’t care about politics all that much — but nearly everyone (except for the crankiest of contrarians, including some of the current assembled company) cares about their social status.

Contemporary socio-political orientations no longer fit traditional liberal/conservative definitions. The left is now committed to “post-modern” philosophy and “progressive” political action, deriving from identity politics and cultural warfare. Traditionalists are now on the far right sideline and “conservatives” are tarred with that same brush. People in the middle are a mix of classical liberals and conservatives who still embrace the western rational, free enterprising democracy frame. Progressives want to overturn that heritage with tactics from social class conflict, supercharged in the age of Internet, social media and 24/7 buzz. The middle alternative on the right is more properly termed “libertarian” since the focus is on individual liberty, free enterprise and limited government. The same concerns motivated those drafting the US Constitution.

The Masses Push Back

Recent events suggest a rise of libertarian views among the masses, portending a growing backlash against the progressive, post-modern views of ruling elites around the world. From Brexit to Trump to Germany, and now Italian voters are trashing the establishment.

Italy’s voters choose populists, deliver stinging rebuke to Europe (CNN)

Italy was plunged into political uncertainty Monday after parliamentary elections delivered victories for populist, euroskeptic parties but left no clear path forward for a new government.

No party or coalition received enough votes to rule alone, and Italy now faces a hung parliament, in what European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker described last month as the “worst-case scenario” for Europe.

Cultural Exploitation Unmasked

Apart from electoral results, there are more voices ready, willing and able to speak out against the PC narrative and the bullying behavior that goes with it. For weeks, Parkland school survivors were adored as celebrities, but now some realism and analysis shows the political and social exploitation that has occurred.

Dear Annoying Parkland Kids: We Gave You A Pretty Awesome World, Try Not To Mess It Up By Robert Tracinski in the Federalist MARCH 6, 2018.  Excerpts below with my bolds

All the reasons for refusing to allow ourselves to be led by children were summed up in the latest coronation of the Parkland kids, this time by ancient leftist Bill Maher. He invited David Hogg and Cameron Kasky on his show so Hogg could boast about hanging up on the President of the United States, and so Kasky could give us this sanctimonious little lecture: “I mean this sincerely, I really do, to all the generations before us, we sincerely accept your apology. We appreciate that you are willing to let us rebuild the world that you f—ed up.”

This sums up everything that’s wrong with these kids’ astroturfed ride to fame. They get flown around the country, they get invited on TV, they get puffball interviewers like Bill Maher, all because they are willing to repeat in a cloyingly self-righteous manner the message favored by their adult handlers. But not because they actually know what they’re talking about.

Let’s look at their arrogant presumption that previous generations messed up the world, so that today’s kids, in their superior wisdom, have to “rebuild” it.

Start with the issues most directly at hand here. School shootings are actually down over the last 20 years. Northeastern University Professor James Alan Fox analyzed the data and concluded that mass school shootings are “extremely rare events” and that “there is not an epidemic of school shootings.”

Moreover, Fox adds that “over the past 35 years, there have been only five cases in which someone ages 18 to 20 used an assault rifle in a mass shooting,” meaning that the most common proposed new gun control measure would have little effect.

Speaking of guns, you might think that without gun control, we’re living in a lawless post-apocalyptic hellscape. In fact, crime is down. Murders are down. Violent crimes committed with guns are way down.

But cite these statistics and you will be told that you cannot contradict the Parkland kids because being present at the scene of a mass shooting makes them unquestionable experts on the topic. No, really. Kasky tells us, “We’ve seen our friends text their parents goodbye. We are the experts.” I can hear Tom Nichols grinding his teeth from here. Obviously, being an expert on guns, crime, and mass shootings requires actual knowledge and research, including the ability to read and understand crime statistics.

This presumption that we adults have ruined the world has wider roots. Today’s young people are bombarded with a lot of doom and gloom that tells them everything is getting worse, pushed onto them by people who have an interest in recruiting them as activists.

They may be surprised to learn, for example, that in addition to crime being down, war has decreased across the globe. The number of wars and the number of deaths in wars decreased dramatically after World War II, of course, but it decreased dramatically again when the Soviet Union collapsed, almost as if Communism was an engine of global conflict.

And so on. The world we older generations have given today’s kids is actually pretty awesome. We can’t protect them from every danger and every risk, and we can’t stop every tragedy like the Parkland shooting. But by historical standards, our kids will be safer, healthier, and wealthier, and they can expect to live longer and more untroubled lives than we did, or than our parents did, or than our grandparents did.

I can see, though, why they wouldn’t realize any of this, because there are some who have a political interest in making things look worse. If you want young people to think capitalism is the cause of war — a view they hear often — you don’t want them to find out that the triumph of the capitalist countries in the Cold War led to a decrease in war. If you want them to rail against “global capitalism” — I can’t decide if this is a cause of the left or of the right these days — you can’t have them realizing that capitalism and trade are wiping out global poverty. If you want them to think free markets are inferior to socialism, you don’t want them to understand the massive increases in prosperity in free market societies, or to question the latest environmentalist panic. And if you want them to become televised activists for gun control, you have to create the impression that there is an epidemic of gun crimes and mass shootings.

The Parkland kids have swallowed all of this, and hence their ignorant ranting to us about how the older generations have messed everything up.

To be sure, the kids we’re seeing on TV are not representative of their peers. We don’t hear much about the Parkland students who don’t fit the left’s narrative. Instead, we’re mostly getting a couple of the high-school debate club types. Once I found out that detail, it all fell into place, because we all remember the guys from high-school debate club. They weren’t the smartest kids, just the most preening and self-important.

The important point is that too many of today’s young people are not being taught to see and appreciate what has made the world as good a place as it really is for them. They have no idea who designed the large and complex systems that produce the peace and prosperity they enjoy, no idea how those systems work, and no idea how much they can foul them up by knocking out pins and levers and constitutional amendments just because they’re angry.

So the lesson from this is to show a little humility, kids. You’re still learning, and you would be well served not to be content to repeat what you learn at school, but to go do your own reading and research and listen to people who disagree with you. It’s not as traumatic an experience as you have been led to believe. When you can show that you understand what’s good about the world we are giving you, and you have some idea of how it got to be that way — then we’ll listen to your ideas for changing it.

Waking Up to Social Thought Control

At a deeper and more personal level, people are waking up to the oppressive cultural regime attempting to control individual thoughts and behavior.

The Backlash Is Building By Rod Dreher • March 5, 2018.

This post by Dreher contains thoughtful emails from people realizing how mobbing done by PC twitter gangs threatens the roots of liberal social democracies. Just a few paragraphs to show why you should read the whole thing (my bolds).

In the near future, a lot of us are going to be James Damore.

A reader writes:

I read what you said about having spoken with four people recently who didn’t vote for Trump in 2016 but are considering it now because of the left’s recent behavior. I’m not quite in that camp, but am close to it; I suspect my progress on the issue largely resembles those of your friends and (I suspect) a substantial minority of other Americans as well.

The firing of James Damore back in August was what really made me start hesitating about my previous view that “political correctness” was, as Vox, the New Yorker, and all the other right-thinking people say, a Fox News attempt to discredit politeness. Here was a guy who was making a calm, carefully reasoned argument that some of Google’s diversity initiatives might not be the best way to achieve diversity, and that Googlers should be free to criticize such policies. In response, not only was he fired (and with a publicity that basically guarantees he’ll never work for a Silicon Valley firm again), but he was subjected to a regularly scheduled bout of Two Minutes’ Hate every day for weeks.

That got me paying more attention to the way the Left handles speech, and it made me realize that “political correctness” was most definitely alive and well, and hardly restricted to trivialities like whether the Washington Redskins should be named something else. In Europe, as Douglas Murray has documented, people who raised concerns prior to 2015 about the influx of immigration were silenced with accusations of racism, until things finally reached a boiling point and spilled out with the growth in populist fascist movements. 20 years ago, Theodore Dalrymple was already writing about how the police in the UK were already growing hesitant to investigate Muslim immigrants’ tendency to keep their daughters out of school for fear of being called racist, and more recent data indicate that such social problems (and the continued fear of being labeled racist for trying to address them) are hardly going away. Things that ought to be the subject of legitimate debate in the United States are being categorically ruled out in the same way: could innate biological differences affect, even if only in a small way, the pay gap between men and women? Sexist. Is it really a good idea to let in a large influx of Muslim immigrants in light of the problems Europe has had in that regard? Islamaphobe. Does IQ vary, on average, by race, and does this create the risk of widening the inequality gap because society increasingly rewards high IQ? Racist. Is Obamacare actually as successful as is claimed? You want poor people to die. Is letting in lots of low-skilled immigrants good for the economy? Racist, nationalist, white supremacist.

The fact is, I don’t want to live in a country where the only views permitted in public debates (if they can be termed “debates” at all) are the ones deemed acceptable by enraged Twitter mobs, and where expressing a perfectly reasonable, measured claim (“America should prioritize its own working class over that of illegal immigrants, while still doing what we can to help the Dreamers”) publicly can put you at quite reasonable fear of getting doxxed and subsequently losing your job and health insurance. It’s bad enough that people like Zack Ford are on social media. The last thing I want is for candidates people like him favor to get political power on top of the formidable socio-cultural power the Left already possesses.


What a strange twist. Marx gave us the notion of ideology, which he understood to be the system of beliefs and values that the ruling class used to control the working class and ensure continued power and privileges. Today’s Marxist wannabes who are mostly in the entitled class are employing the ideology of environmentalism to mount an anti-capitalist crusade under the banner of Climate Change, advocating policies which will further the misery of the downtrodden.

For more on how we got here

Warmists and Rococo Marxists.

Disturbing: Legal Social Justice Warriors

Coercive PC Discourse Redux


Disturbing: Legal Social Justice Warriors

News comes of law schools endorsing social justice warfare for their students and graduates.  Bruce Pardy writes in the National Post The social justice revolution has taken the law schools. This won’t end well  Excerpts below with my bolds.

What is a law school for? According to the University of Windsor, revolution. Earlier this month, Windsor’s law school released a statement on the jury verdict that acquitted Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley of the second-degree murder of Coulton Boushie. According to the statement, the Canadian legal system is oppressive. “Canada has used law to perpetuate violence against Indigenous Peoples,” it states, “a reinvention of our legal system is necessary.”

The statement reveals how legal education has lost its way. One could be forgiven for thinking that the purpose of law schools was to train lawyers to understand legal principles and to think logically and critically. Instead, some law schools portray themselves as political actors working for a cause. At Windsor’s law school, “we strive toward social justice. We take that commitment seriously.” Indeed they do. So do other law schools in Canada, some more explicitly than others. Social justice means defeating oppression and righting historical wrongsby favouring or blaming people as members of groups, and by undermining Western legal principles such as the rule of law, equal application of the law, presumption of innocence, and freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion.

There is an old saying that at any trial there are four versions of the truth: what the prosecution says, what the accused says, what the jury finds, and what actually happened. I have no idea what transpired at that farm in Saskatchewan. But Windsor’s law professors seem to know — an impressive feat, since they were neither at the scene nor in the courtroom to hear the evidence. Due process exists, in part, to protect us all from the self-righteousness of mobs.

One might expect Justin Trudeau and his ministers to jump on ideological bandwagons, but it is telling when law schools want to ride along too. Windsor’s says that “the law’s response to Coulton Boushie’s death is tragic, unnecessary and unacceptable.” Boushie’s death was indeed tragic and unnecessary, but the law’s response was not. Even the lawyer for Boushie’s family, Chris Murphy, said that “based on the evidence, the submissions made and the charges that the judge gave to the jury, a route of acquittal was a possibility.”

Human history is rife with oppression. Women were oppressed when only men could own property, slaves when they had no right to liberty, Indigenous people when they were forced to attend residential schools. Oppression results when some people do not have the same legal rights as others. But today’s law schools resist the idea of equal application of the law and openly advocate progressive policies. For instance, when Trinity Western University, an independent religious institution that receives no government funding beyond its charitable status, proposed to open a law school, the established schools urged provincial law societies to ban TWU’s graduates on the grounds that its community covenant did not reflect progressive values. The law societies in Ontario and B.C. obliged. The Supreme Court’s decision on TWU’s challenge of those decisions is pending.

Law schools may not need to preach revolution much longer. If you haven’t noticed, the tipping point is near. Courts and academics are transforming the Charter of Rights and Freedoms from a roster of fundamental liberties into a social-justice charter that justifies curbing individual freedoms instead of protecting them. The words of section 15(1) of the Charter, which guarantee that “every individual is equal before and under the law,” suggest that the same rules should apply to everyone. However, the Supreme Court has held that the law can nevertheless treat people differently if doing so produces equal outcomes, and that treating people the same — for instance, requiring the same qualifications from a minority job applicant as from others — might even violate section 15(1) if it produces unequal results.

The Law Society of Ontario has begun to compel its members to expressly acknowledge an obligation to promote progressive values. Individual liberties are no longer fundamental. Everyone is not subject to the same rules. The legal ground is shifting.

Not all law professors endorse the path that we are on, and fortunately they can still choose what to teach in their own courses. Not all lawyers or judges agree either. Many have kept their heads. Give them credit for thinking for themselves. After all, they probably went to a Canadian law school.

Bruce Pardy is professor of law at Queen’s University and a member of the Law Society of Ontario.

Weird Liberal Science

Now this one I take personally having earned a degree in Organic Chemistry. Alex Beresow exposes a liberal journalist who disparages all chemicals with no comprehension of the science. In this case Nicholas Kristof demonstrates how his employer, the New York Times, misleads and spreads irrational fears in its mission to sell copies to its clientèle on the upper west side of NYC.  He seems to be channeling Rachel Carson (Silent Spring) who wrote about carcinogens everywhere as she was dying of the disease.

The article is NYT’s Nicholas Kristof Would Flunk An 8th Grade Science Test Excerpts below with my bolds.

It’s often helpful for journalists who do not have specialized knowledge of complex scientific topics to write about them anyway, because if they can understand them and figure out how to communicate them, they can perform a tremendous public service. However, if journalists don’t take the time to understand complex topics and get the very basics wrong, they do the public a massive disservice and end up looking like buffoons.

Which brings us to veteran New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who studied law and fancies himself an expert in chemistry and toxicology. Chemists and toxicologists disagree.

His latest diatribe — which was easily and thoroughly debunked by my colleagues Dr. Chuck Dinerstein and Ana Dolaskie — begins with the single most shameless act of fearmongering I have ever seen from a major media outlet. He shows a bunch of common household products, all of which are perfectly safe, and asks, “What poisons are in your body?”

Look at all these lethal things: toothpaste, soap, shower curtains. It’s amazing we all aren’t dead yet. Mr. Kristof’s “research” — if you can even call it that — relied heavily on well-known anti-science activists, such as the Environmental Working Group.

When we criticized his scientific ignorance, Mr. Kristof doubled down, as the scientifically ignorant always do.

It’s interesting that his immediate defense is to lie about his writings. He isn’t only afraid of endocrine disruptors; he’s afraid he’ll get cancer from popcorn, and he’s worried that some enigmatic chemicals somewhere out there are causing diabetes, obesity, and autism. This level of paranoia is what we would expect from a chemtrail conspiracy theorist, not a public intellectual.

Mr. Kristof’s reference to DES is typical chemophobic scaremongering. He points out a chemical that really is bad (DES), which in his mind justifies his demonization of every other chemical of which he is afraid. That’s the chemistry equivalent of saying that all Muslims are suspicious because 9/11 happened.

Mr. Kristof has demonstrated time and again that he is entirely ignorant of the basic principles of chemistry and toxicology. And given that he has been widely criticized from all sorts of science writers, he’s also completely impervious to being educated by actual experts.

Consider what Deborah Blum, a chemistry writer, wrote about him:

“Whenever Nicholas Kristof writes a piece about the evil, awful world of chemicals out there, I feel a twitchy need to kick something. Or someone. Possibly right there in The New York Times newsroom.”

In perhaps the biggest indication that Mr. Kristof is fundamentally anti-science, he ignores evidence that he dislikes. That’s utterly taboo for scientists, but par-for-the-course for NYT op-ed columnists. Writing in Forbes, Trevor Butterworth says:

“[Kristof] applies no statistical or experimental criticism to these studies: they always “really” find what they claim to have found; and he seems unaware of the many non-industry funded studies or regulatory agency assessments that contradict them. There is no mention, for instance, of the 15-page point-by-point rebuttal written by the Food and Drug Administration to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s petition to ban BPA, a rebuttal which relies, primarily, on non-industry funded research.

Chemjobber, a blog that promotes jobs in chemistry, had this to say of Mr. Kristof:

“I am a little at wit’s end to understand how to help intelligent people like Mr. Kristof see past their clear fear of chemicals, the distrust they have of chemical companies and their seeming dismissal of regulatory agencies. It seems to me that he is all too credulous to the claims of organizations like the Silent Spring Institute that are incentivized to generate as much fear and doubt around chemicals as possible. “

The New York Times Has Only One Editorial Standard

The real problem is that the New York Times has only one editorial standard: To publish whatever sells more copies to their Upper West Side clientele. That means throwing biotechnology and chemistry under the bus while embracing organic food, acupuncture, and other forms of witchcraft.


Updated: Fears and Facts about Reservoirs and GHGs


A previous post explained how methane has been hyped in support of climate alarmism/activism. Now we have an additional campaign to disparage hydropower because of methane emissions from dam reservoirs. File this under “They have no shame.” Excerpts below with my bolds.

On March 5, 2018 a study was published in Environmental Research Letters Greenhouse gas emissions of hydropower in the Mekong River Basin can exceed those of fossil fuel energy sources

“The hydropower related emissions started in the Mekong in mid-1960’s when the first large reservoir was built in Thailand, and the emissions increased considerably in early 2000’s when hydropower development became more intensive. Currently the emissions are estimated to be around 15 million tonnes of CO2e per year, which is more than total emissions of all sectors in Lao PDR in year 2013,” says Dr Timo Räsänen who led the study. The GHG emissions are expected to increase when more hydropower is built. However, if construction of new reservoirs is halted, the emissions will decline slowly in time.

Another recent example of the claim is from Asia Times Global hydropower boom will add to climate change

The study, published in BioScience, looked at the carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) emitted from 267 reservoirs across six continents. In total, the reservoirs studied have a surface area of more than 77,287 square kilometers (29,841 square miles). That’s equivalent to about a quarter of the surface area of all reservoirs in the world, which together cover 305,723 sq km – roughly the combined size of the United Kingdom and Ireland.

“The new study confirms that reservoirs are major emitters of methane, a particularly aggressive greenhouse gas,” said Kate Horner, Executive Director of International Rivers, adding that hydropower dams “can no longer be considered a clean and green source of electricity.”

In fact, methane’s effect is 86 times greater than that of CO2 when considered on this two-decade timescale. Importantly, the study found that methane is responsible for 90% of the global warming impact of reservoir emissions over 20 years.

Alarmists are Wrong about Hydropower

Now CH4 is proclaimed the primary culprit held against hydropower. As usual, there is a kernel of truth buried beneath this obsessive campaign: Flooding of biomass does result in decomposition accompanied by some release of CH4 and CO2. From HydroQuebec:  Greenhouse gas emissions and reservoirs

Impoundment of hydroelectric reservoirs induces decomposition of a small fraction of the flooded biomass (forests, peatlands and other soil types) and an increase in the aquatic wildlife and vegetation in the reservoir.

The result is higher greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions after impoundment, mainly CO2 (carbon dioxide) and a small amount of CH4 (methane).

However, these emissions are temporary and peak two to four years after the reservoir is filled.

During the ensuing decade, CO2 emissions gradually diminish and return to the levels given off by neighboring lakes and rivers.

Hydropower generation, on average, emits 50 times less GHGs than a natural gas generating station and about 70 times less than a coal-fired generating station.

The Facts about Tropical Reservoirs

Activists estimate Methane emissions from dams and reservoirs across the planet, including hydropower, are estimated to be significantly larger than previously thought, approximately equal to 1 gigaton per year.

Activists also claim that dams in boreal regions like Quebec are not the problem, but tropical reservoirs are a big threat to the climate. Contradicting that is an intensive study of Brazilian dams and reservoirsGreenhouse Gas Emissions from Reservoirs: Studying the Issue in Brazil

The Itaipu Dam is a hydroelectric dam on the Paraná River located on the border between Brazil and Paraguay. The name “Itaipu” was taken from an isle that existed near the construction site. In the Guarani language, Itaipu means “the sound of a stone”. The American composer Philip Glass has also written a symphonic cantata named Itaipu, in honour of the structure.

Five Conclusions from Studying Brazilian Reservoirs

1) The budget approach is essential for a proper grasp of the processes going on in reservoirs. This approach involves taking into account the ways in which the system exchanged GHGs with the atmosphere before the reservoir was flooded. Older studies measured only the emissions of GHG from the reservoir surface or, more recently, from downstream de-gassing. But without the measurement of the inputs of carbon to the system, no conclusions can be drawn from surface measurements alone.

2) When you consider the total budgets, most reservoirs acted as sinks of carbon in the short run (our measurements covered one year in each reservoir). In other words, they received more carbon than they exported to the atmosphere and to downstream.

3) Smaller reservoirs are more efficient as carbon traps than the larger ones.

4) As for the GHG impact, in order to determine it, we should add the methane (CH4) emissions to the fraction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions which comes from the flooded biomass and organic carbon in the flooded (terrestrial) soil. The other CO2 emissions, arising from the respiration of aquatic organisms or from the decomposition of terrestrial detritus that flows into the reservoir (including domestic sewage), are not impacts of the reservoir. From this sum, we should deduct the amount of carbon that is stored in the sediment and which will be kept there for at least the life of the reservoir (usually more than 80 years). This “stored carbon” ranges from as little as 2 percent of the total carbon output to more than 25 percent, depending on the reservoirs.

5) When we assess the GHG impacts following the guidelines just described, all of FURNAS’s reservoirs have lower emissions than the cleanest European oil plant. The worst case – Manso, which was sampled only three years after the impoundment, and therefore in a time in which the contribution from the flooded biomass was still very significant – emitted about half as much carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2 eq) as the average oil plant from the United States (CO2 eq is a metric measure used to compare the emissions from various greenhouse gases based upon their global warming potential, GWP. CO2 eq for a gas is derived by multiplying the tons of the gas by the associated GWP.) We also observed a very good correlation between GHG emissions and the age of the reservoirs. The reservoirs older than 30 years had negligible emissions, and some of them had a net absorption of CO2eq.

Keeping Methane in Perspective

Over the last 30 years, CH4 in the atmosphere increased from 1.6 ppm to 1.8 ppm, compared to CO2, presently at 400 ppm. So all the dam building over 3 decades, along with all other land use was part of a miniscule increase of a microscopic gas, 200 times smaller than the trace gas, CO2.


Background Facts on Methane and Climate Change

The US Senate is considering an act to repeal with prejudice an Obama anti-methane regulation. The story from activist source Climate Central is
Senate Mulls ‘Kill Switch’ for Obama Methane Rule

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote soon on whether to use the Congressional Review Act to kill an Obama administration climate regulation that cuts methane emissions from oil and gas wells on federal land. The rule was designed to reduce oil and gas wells’ contribution to climate change and to stop energy companies from wasting natural gas.

The Congressional Review Act is rarely invoked. It was used this month to reverse a regulation for the first time in 16 years and it’s a particularly lethal way to kill a regulation as it would take an act of Congress to approve a similar regulation. Federal agencies cannot propose similar regulations on their own.

The Claim Against Methane

Now some Republican senators are hesitant to take this step because of claims like this one in the article:

Methane is 86 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a period of 20 years and is a significant contributor to climate change. It warms the climate much more than other greenhouse gases over a period of decades before eventually losing its potency. Atmospheric carbon dioxide remains a potent greenhouse gas for thousands of years.

Essentially the journalist is saying: As afraid as you are about CO2, you should be 86 times more afraid of methane. Which also means, if CO2 is not a warming problem, your fear of methane is 86 times zero. The thousands of years claim is also bogus, but that is beside the point of this post, which is Methane.

IPCC Methane Scare

The article helpfully provides a link referring to Chapter 8 of IPCC AR5 report by Working Group 1 Anthropogenic and Natural Radiative Forcing.

The document is full of sophistry and creative accounting in order to produce as scary a number as possible. Table 8.7 provides the number for CH4 potency of 86 times that of CO2.  They note they were able to increase the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CH4 by 20% over the estimate in AR4. The increase comes from adding in more indirect effects and feedbacks, as well as from increased concentration in the atmosphere.

In the details are some qualifying notes like these:

Uncertainties related to the climate–carbon feedback are large, comparable in magnitude to the strength of the feedback for a single gas.

For CH4 GWP we estimate an uncertainty of ±30% and ±40% for 20- and 100-year time horizons, respectively (for 5 to 95% uncertainty range).

Methane Facts from the Real World
From Sea Friends (here):

Methane is natural gas CH4 which burns cleanly to carbon dioxide and water. Methane is eagerly sought after as fuel for electric power plants because of its ease of transport and because it produces the least carbon dioxide for the most power. Also cars can be powered with compressed natural gas (CNG) for short distances.

In many countries CNG has been widely distributed as the main home heating fuel. As a consequence, methane has leaked to the atmosphere in large quantities, now firmly controlled. Grazing animals also produce methane in their complicated stomachs and methane escapes from rice paddies and peat bogs like the Siberian permafrost.

It is thought that methane is a very potent greenhouse gas because it absorbs some infrared wavelengths 7 times more effectively than CO2, molecule for molecule, and by weight even 20 times. As we have seen previously, this also means that within a distance of metres, its effect has saturated, and further transmission of heat occurs by convection and conduction rather than by radiation.

Note that when H20 is present in the lower troposphere, there are few photons left for CH4 to absorb:

Even if the IPCC radiative greenhouse theory were true, methane occurs only in minute quantities in air, 1.8ppm versus CO2 of 390ppm. By weight, CH4 is only 5.24Gt versus CO2 3140Gt (on this assumption). If it truly were twenty times more potent, it would amount to an equivalent of 105Gt CO2 or one thirtieth that of CO2. A doubling in methane would thus have no noticeable effect on world temperature.

However, the factor of 20 is entirely misleading because absorption is proportional to the number of molecules (=volume), so the factor of 7 (7.3) is correct and 20 is wrong. With this in mind, the perceived threat from methane becomes even less.

Further still, methane has been rising from 1.6ppm to 1.8ppm in 30 years (1980-2010), assuming that it has not stopped rising, this amounts to a doubling in 2-3 centuries. In other words, methane can never have any measurable effect on temperature, even if the IPCC radiative cooling theory were right.

Because only a small fraction in the rise of methane in air can be attributed to farm animals, it is ludicrous to worry about this aspect or to try to farm with smaller emissions of methane, or to tax it or to trade credits.

The fact that methane in air has been leveling off in the past two decades, even though we do not know why, implies that it plays absolutely no role as a greenhouse gas.

More information at THE METHANE MISCONCEPTIONS by Dr Wilson Flood (UK) here


Natural Gas (75% methane) burns the cleanest with the least CO2 for the energy produced.

Leakage of methane is already addressed by efficiency improvements for its economic recovery, and will apparently be subject to even more regulations.

The atmosphere is a methane sink where the compound is oxidized through a series of reactions producing 1 CO2 and 2H20 after a few years.

GWP (Global Warming Potential) is CO2 equivalent heat trapping based on laboratory, not real world effects.

Any IR absorption by methane is limited by H2O absorbing in the same low energy LW bands.

There is no danger this century from natural or man-made methane emissions.


Senators and the public are being bamboozled by opaque scientific bafflegab. The plain truth is much different. The atmosphere is a methane sink in which CH4 is oxidized in the first few meters. The amount of CH4 available in the air is miniscule, even compared to the trace gas CO2, and it is not accelerating. Methane is the obvious choice to signal virtue on the climate issue since governmental actions will not make a bit of difference anyway, except perhaps to do some economic harm.

Give a daisy a break (h/t Derek here)

Daisy methane


For a more thorough and realistic description of atmospheric warming see:

Fearless Physics from Dr. Salby

Food, Conflict and Climate

From data versus models department, a recent study contradicts claims linking human conflict to climate change by means of food shortages. From Dartmouth College March 1, 2018 comes Food Abundance and Violent Conflict in Africa.  by Ore Koren.  American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 2018; Synopsis is from Science Daily (here) with my bolds.

Food abundance driving conflict in Africa, not food scarcity

The study refutes the notion that climate change will increase the frequency of civil war in Africa as a result of food scarcity triggered by rising temperatures and drought. Most troops in Africa are unable to sustain themselves due to limited access to logistics and state support, and must live off locally sourced food. The findings reveal that the actors are often drawn to areas with abundant food resources, whereby, they aim to exert control over such resources.

To examine how the availability of food may have affected armed conflict in Africa, the study relies on PRIO-Grid data from over 10,600 grid cells in Africa from 1998 to 2008, new agricultural yields data from EarthStat and Armed Conflict Location and Event Dataset, which documents incidents of political violence, including those with and without casualties. The data was used to estimate how annual local wheat and maize yields (two staple crops) at a local village/town level may have affected the frequency of conflict. To capture only the effects of agricultural productivity on conflict rather than the opposite, the analysis incorporates the role of droughts using the Standardized Precipitation Index, which aggregates monthly precipitation by cell year.

The study identifies four categories in which conflicts may arise over food resources in Africa, which reflect the interests and motivations of the respective group:

  1. State and military forces that do not receive regular support from the state are likely to gravitate towards areas, where food resources are abundant in order to feed themselves.
  2. Rebel groups and non-state actors opposing the government may be drawn to food rich areas, where they can exploit the resources for profit.
  3. Self-defense militias and civil defense forces representing agricultural communities in rural regions, may protect their communities against raiders and expand their control into other areas with arable land and food resources.
  4. Militias representing pastoralists communities live in mainly arid regions and are highly mobile, following their cattle or other livestock, rather than relying on crops. To replenish herds or obtain food crops, they may raid other agriculturalist communities.

These actors may resort to violence to seek access to food, as the communities that they represent may not have enough food resources or the economic means to purchase livestock or drought-resistant seeds. Although droughts can lead to violence, such as in urban areas; this was found not to be the case for rural areas, where the majority of armed conflicts occurred where food crops were abundant.

Food scarcity can actually have a pacifying effect.“Examining food availability and the competition over such resources, especially where food is abundant, is essential to understanding the frequency of civil war in Africa,” says Ore Koren, a U.S. foreign policy and international security fellow at Dartmouth College and Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of Minnesota. “Understanding how climate change will affect food productivity and access is vital; yet, predictions of how drought may affect conflict may be overstated in Africa and do not get to the root of the problem. Instead, we should focus on reducing inequality and improving local infrastructure, alongside traditional conflict resolution and peace building initiatives,” explains Koren.


In Africa, food abundance may be driving violent conflict rather than food scarcity, according to a new study. The study refutes the notion that climate change will increase the frequency of civil war in Africa as a result of food scarcity triggered by rising temperatures and drought.

Reading the study itself shows considerable rigor in sorting out dependent and independent variables.  It is certain that armed conflicts destroy food resources, while it is claimed that food shortages from climate events like drought cause the conflicts in the first place.  From Koren:

Moreover, in addition to illustrating the validity of this mechanism by the process of elimination—that is, by empirically accounting for a variety of alternative mechanisms— figure 2 further highlights the interactions between economic inequality, food resources, and conflict. Here, nonparametric regression plots—which do not enforce a modeling structure on the data and hence provide a more flexible method of visualizing relationships between different factors—show the correlations of local yields and conflict with respect to economic development as approximated using nighttime light levels. As shown, conflict occurs more frequently in cells with more crop productivity, but relatively low levels of economic development, where—based on anecdotal evidence at least—limitations on food access are more likely (Roncoli, Ingram, and Kirshen 2001).

Background Resource

Climates Don’t Start Wars, People Do

Cal Court to Hear Climate Tutorial

Recent events in the legal claims against oil companies for climate damages feature both a setback for anti fossil fuel activists, and also scheduling for the court to hear both sides regarding the linkage between fossil fuels and climate effects like glaciers melting. First the ruling against the cities’ attempt to take the case out of federal court into state jurisdiction. (with my bolds)

People of State of California v. BP p.l.c. (Oakland) Notice 02/27/2018

The federal district court for the Northern District of California denied Oakland’s and San Francisco’s motions to remand their climate change public nuisance lawsuits against five major fossil fuel producers to state court.

The court held that federal common law necessarily governed the nuisance claims because “[a] patchwork of fifty different answers to the same fundamental global issue would be unworkable” and “the extent of any judicial relief should be uniform across our nation.” The court stated: “Plaintiffs’ claims for public nuisance, though pled as state-law claims, depend on a global complex of geophysical cause and effect involving all nations of the planet (and the oceans and atmosphere). It necessarily involves the relationships between the United States and all other nations. It demands to be governed by as universal a rule of apportioning responsibility as is available.” The court dispensed with the cities’ three primary arguments for remanding the cases.

First, the court said the cities’ novel theories of liability based on the defendants’ sales of their product did not differentiate their claims from earlier transboundary pollution suits in which the Supreme Court (American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut) and Ninth Circuit (Native Village of Kivalina v. ExxonMobil Corp.) applied federal common law.

Second, the court said the Clean Air Act did not displace the plaintiffs’ federal common law claims, allowing state law to govern; the court said that while the Clean Air Act spoke directly to the “domestic emissions” issues presented in American Electric Power and Kivalina, “[h]ere, the Clean Air Act does not provide a sufficient legislative solution to the nuisance alleged to warrant a conclusion that this legislation has occupied the field to the exclusion of federal common law.”

Third, the court said the well-pleaded complaint rule did not bar removal. The court also indicated in dicta that “the very instrumentality of plaintiffs’ alleged injury — the flooding of coastal lands — is, by definition, the navigable waters of the United States. Plaintiffs’ claims therefore necessarily implicate an area quintessentially within the province of the federal courts.” The court said defendants had not waived this issue.

The court certified the decision for interlocutory appeal, finding that the issue of whether the nuisance claims were removable because such claims are governed by federal common law was a controlling question as to which there is substantial ground for difference of opinion and that resolution by the court of appeals would materially advance the litigation. The court’s order also noted that six similar actions brought by other California municipalities were pending before another judge in the district and those actions asserted additional non-nuisance claims.

Federal Court Requested “Tutorial” on Climate Change.

Then we have an intriguing ruling by the court mandating a climate tutorial to educate the court on these matters. On the same day that it denied Oakland’s and San Francisco’s motions to remand their climate change lawsuits against fossil fuel producers, the court issued a “Notice re Tutorial” that invited counsel for the parties to conduct a two-part tutorial on global warming and climate change on March 21. The court gave each side an hour to “trace the history of scientific study of climate change” and an hour to “set forth the best science now available on global warming, glacier melt, sea rise, and coastal flooding.” The court indicated that counsel could either use experts to conduct the tutorial or conduct the tutorial themselves.

The Court invites counsel to conduct a two-part tutorial on the subject of global
warming and climate change:

(1) The first part will trace the history of scientific study of
climate change, beginning with scientific inquiry into the
formation and melting of the ice ages, periods of historical cooling
and warming, smog, ozone, nuclear winter, volcanoes, and global
warming. Each side will have sixty minutes. A horizontal
timeline of major advances (and setbacks) would be welcomed.

(2) The second part will set forth the best science now
available on global warming, glacier melt, sea rise, and coastal
flooding. Each side will again have another sixty minutes.

The tutorial will be on MARCH 21, 2018, AT 8:00 A.M. AND RUN UNTIL ABOUT 1:00 P.M.
Experts may be used to present but counsel will also be welcome to conduct the tutorial.
Dated: February 27, 2018. WILLIAM ALSUP


Many of us have wanted to see a red and blue team confrontation, but did not see it coming in this way. As you see from the text of the ruling, it is two hours for each side, first on climate history and then on current global warming science. It has been a long time since climatists and skeptics faced off in a neutral venue. Hopefully people in the bay area will witness the proceedings.


Brian Potts writing in Forbes totally misinterprets the ruling, stating as a result the very thing the court prevented.

A California Court Might Have Just Opened The Floodgates For Climate Litigation

Background Resources:

On Coastal Climate Risk

Climate Hail Mary by Inept Cities

Is Global Warming A Public Nuisance?

Pipeline Tragedy/Comedy: Ideology and Energy Don’t Mix

The inter provincial Canadian war over a bitumen pipeline is taking on Shakespearean drama as reported in the Globe and Mail  The symbolism of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline  The article is by Arno Kopecky, an environmental journalist and author based in Vancouver.  Excerpts below with my bolds and images introducing the principle players.

Spare a thought for Rachel Notley. While you’re at it, spare another for John Horgan and Justin Trudeau. Three star-crossed allies, progressives all, steering ships through a Kinder Morgan tempest no pundit can describe without saying “collision course.” Shakespearean, ain’t it?

There’s tragedy, comedy and irony galore. Ms. Notley’s take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream with her midwinter ban on British Columbia wines – which was lifted on Thursday – lent itself so well to “Reign of Terroir” jokes that it can only end up raising the provincial wine industry’s profile. As for Alberta’s oil industry, this is more like Much Ado About Nothing. Whether the oil sands grow or shrink has much less to do with any one pipeline (even one that leads to almighty tidewater) than the global price of oil. What about all those Kinder Morgan jobs? Comedy. Anyone serious about creating oil-sector jobs for Canadians would be pushing to refine bitumen at home instead of exporting it raw. That’s why Unifor, the biggest union in the oil sands, intervened against the project in the NEB hearings.

But the notion that Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would add carbon to the atmosphere is comedy, too. If Kinder Morgan isn’t built, trains will keep moving the bitumen they’re already moving, at least until a higher force than pipeline capacity reduces Fort McMurray’s output. Everyone just makes less money that way.

When a country already has more than 840,000 kilometres of pipeline running through it, the fight over roughly 1,000 new kilometres is symbolic for both sides. But symbols matter. Now Trans Mountain has come to symbolize everything from the oil sands to climate change and reconciliation, and everyone’s job is at stake.

Premier Rachel Notley of oil rich, but landlocked and economically struggling Alberta.

None more than Ms. Notley’s, our likeliest candidate for tragedy. Alberta’s most progressive premier in more than 30 years, the woman who imposed a provincial carbon tax and raised royalties on oil sands operators and lifted Alberta’s minimum wage from the lowest to the highest in the country, Rachel Notley will not be replaced by someone nicer. Alberta’s profoundly oil-positive United Conservative Party, freshly merged and braying at her heels, threaten every last NDP policy with a Trumpian corrective. They’ll probably win the next election, too. Ms. Notley’s only hope is in proving to Albertans she can fight as dirty as any conservative would to protect the Symbol.

British Columbia Premier John Horgan, who recently formed a government propped up by a few Green party MPs.

Enter John Horgan, stage left. Poor guy. He’s running a province whose biggest, greenest city overwhelmingly voted against a once-in-a-generation opportunity to massively expand public transit, but has already proved itself willing to get arrested en masse in anti-Kinder Morgan protests. Mr. Horgan’s first major decision as Premier, the tortured approval of the Site C dam, earned him the condemnation of every environmentalist and First Nation leader in the province, if not the country. Now that he’s following through on his campaign promise to “use every tool in our tool box” against Kinder Morgan, fans and critics are trading placards. Never mind that Site C will keep far more carbon in the ground than any thwarted pipeline.

The thing is, pipeline battles on the coast aren’t about pipelines or even climate change. They’re about oil tankers. Want symbols? Wild salmon and orca populations are rapidly approaching extinction in southern B.C. Yes, oil tankers do already ply these waters. No, we don’t love hearing that the only way to pay for sorely lacking coastal protection is to heighten the risk of an oil spill by tripling the number of tankers.  But that’s the deal.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau currently touring India.

Enter Justin Trudeau, our doomed and dashing Hamlet, haunted by the ghost of his father, asking not to be or not to be, but can the ends justify the means? The greater the ends, it seems, the crueler the means. For all his capacity to renege on inconvenient promises, Mr. Trudeau clearly does regard the fight against climate change as a Very Great End. He knows we’re losing the glaciers whose meltwater irrigates half of Canada’s agriculture; he’s aware of our metastasizing cycle of flood and forest fire; he’s already dealt with one wave of climate refugees, from Syria (yes – that war was largely triggered by a calamitous drought that beggared a million farmers); he knows this is just the beginning. (Note: The reporter and Trudeau believe things cited in this paragraph contrary to evidence, but ignorance and hubris are essential to any tragedy.)

Against all that, he weighs the spill risk of one new pipeline, twinned to a pre-existing condition, with a corresponding increase in tanker traffic through relatively safe waters in which oil tankers can so far boast a 100-per-cent safety rate. Without Kinder Morgan, Mr. Trudeau mutters, pacing the stage from left to right, you lose Alberta; without Alberta, you lose your national climate-change strategy, your coastal protections, your whole progressive agenda. You lose everything.

Enter, in our closing act, B.C.’s coastal First Nations. Of course, they’ve been here all along – Mr. Trudeau made them some promises, too. But so far, his definition of consultation looks a lot like the old one: a process to determine not if a project should proceed on Indigenous territory, but when. The courts may yet cancel Trans Mountain because of it, as they did Northern Gateway. That’s probably Mr. Trudeau’s best hope for a happy ending. He’s created his own Birnam Wood, an army of First Nations and their allies ready to lead the march to Dunsinane Hill, aka Burnaby Mountain and the terminus of the pipeline, for the biggest act of civil disobedience our generation’s seen.

It isn’t a question of if, but when.

This is another example of damage done by virtue signaling, further explained in Virtue Signaling as a Vicious Circle

Footnote:  Regarding the attempt to blame the Syrian conflict on drought, see Climates Don’t Start Wars, People Do

Virtue Signaling as a Vicious Circle

A recent article reveals how perverse is the trendy pattern of virtue signaling. Ron Ross observes examples of this growing substitute for ethical behavior, adding perspective and raising concerns. His essay at the American Spectator is The Power and Prevalence of Virtue Signaling  Excerpts below with my headings, bolds and images.

Puzzling Events Explained by Virtue signaling

One key to understanding much of the bewildering behavior we see around us is to recognize the power and popularity of “virtue signaling.” Keeping virtue signaling in mind will help you understand a lot of behavior that otherwise makes no sense.

What, for example, is the point of removing Confederate statues or attempting to disown the country’s Founding Fathers because some were slave owners? It makes sense if your objective is to be sanctimonious. You make yourself feel better by looking down your nose at Thomas Jefferson.

Virtue signaling is the modern version of what St. Augustine in the 5th century referred to as “outward signs of inward grace.” A major difference, however, is the kind of grace he referred to actually meant something.

First the Guilt Trip, then Superiority

A precondition to needing to virtue signal is guilt. Virtue signaling is one of the left’s package deals that typically involve two steps. Firstly, make people who have done nothing wrong feel guilty. Then, offer them ways to assuage that guilt. It’s little more than a con game but it has worked amazingly well for liberals.

It always helps to keep in mind that everything is relative. In order to feel superior, you need something to feel superior to. Virtuous relative to what? In order to feel holier than thou you need a thou.

Does virtue signaling accomplish anything outside of the individual? Anything tangible, significant? Any activity as widespread and long-lasting as virtue signaling has to have payoffs. The payoffs for virtue signaling are inner, not outer, directed.

An irony is that the need to virtue signal is an insecurity about your own virtue. An observation a psychologist friend likes to make is, “The bigger the front, the bigger the back.” Or as Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, “The louder he spoke of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.” Virtue signaling is motivated more by insecurities than virtue.

The “signaling” part of virtue signaling means you want others to become aware of your virtue. Why is that important to you? Where does your need to signal come from? Are you so overwhelmingly virtuous that you can’t resist letting others know about it?

Symbols Instead of Substance

Virtue signaling is, of course, closely related to political correctness. Being sensitive to PC and being quick to take offense demonstrates your virtue for all to see.

Recycling is one of the left’s favorite sacraments. It helps overcome the guilt of consuming.

There is an opportunity cost to virtue signaling. Spending time on useless activities, e.g. recycling, marching, allows avoidance of useful, meaningful activities, e.g. being thoughtful and considerate of those around you, e.g. family, friends, and people you work with. Those behaviors can actually make a difference.

Maybe you’ve wondered why actors and other celebrities feel the need to publicly express their political opinions. What is their motivation? Maybe they feel guilty about how amazingly wealthy they are (they shouldn’t).

Donald Trump is the context for much of the virtue signaling we observe. It’s another two-step process. The first step is to decide that Donald Trump is a reprehensible human being. He is crude, unsophisticated, and his personality makes you cringe. The second step is making it crystal clear that you and he are polar opposites. You have absolutely nothing in common with him. You don’t need to provide details about what makes you virtuous, just the fact that you despise him is sufficient to prove you’re virtuous. He is crude, you are refined. Trump provides a backdrop for your identity. It’s ironic that hate is seen as a path to virtue.

Grandstanding Instead of Civility

Virtue signaling is a substitute for thinking, it is thinking avoidance. It is the latest variation of group think. When you latch on to group opinions you have no need to think for yourself.

Driving a Prius automobile is a popular form of virtue signaling. Driving a hybrid lets others see that you care about the planet and that you’re doing your part to prevent it from being destroyed by CO2. Driving a Prius allows to you drive rudely and carelessly. Cutting someone off or running a stop sign or two are trivial matters compared to saving the planet. Everything’s relative. It’s probably no accident that Priuses have an unusual profile. That helps assure that your virtue signal will noticed.

A favorite demand of leftists on college campuses and endowment fund boards of directors is “divestment.” What is divestment? In the investment portfolios of endowment funds and retirement portfolios are stocks of companies involved in shunned activities such as producing and selling fossil fuels. In such situations activists demand that the colleges or foundations divest, i.e. sell, any stock of such despicable companies.

Divestment is possibly the most useless behavior anyone could ever imagine. How anyone thinks it will have any impact on anything real is a mystery. Because of the way capital markets work, divesting on anything but a massive scale will have no long-term impact on a company’s share price. If they manage to drive a stock’s price down, bargain hunters will drive it back up to its underlying value, relative to other stocks. Other than stoking sanctimony divestment accomplishes absolutely nothing.

Sincerity Posing as Goodness

Showing your disapproval of the names or mascots of sports teams demonstrates your sensitivity for the supposed feelings of various minority groups. How many of those demanding that the Washington Redskins change their name are Indians? My guess is that it’s a very small fraction.

Wearing ribbons is a popular form of virtue signaling. The ostensible purpose is to “raise awareness” for such things as breast cancer (pink ribbons). Is there anyone who isn’t already” aware” of breast cancer? And once your awareness has been raised, what are you supposed to do with it? As is the case with every variation of virtue signaling, the mission statement is nowhere to be found.

Feeling Good about Caring the Most

Virtue signalers are delicate creatures who are easily offended. They wouldn’t be caught dead laughing at stereotypical humor. They are overly serious about almost everything. It only hurts when they laugh.

There is a large element of virtue signaling in environmentalism. Devout environmentalists like to think they’re the only ones who care about the environment. Relative to how much they care about the environment you don’t care much at all.

Marching and demonstrating are two popular virtue signaling activities. The next big opportunity will be June 9. It is the “March for Oceans,” or what they’re labeling “M4O.” According the organizers’ website, “This summer we will see a new blue wave of resistance — and celebration — for the other 71 percent of our environment that is the Ocean. The ocean is rising and so are we!”

Uselessness and remoteness are two of the ingredients for virtue signaling choices. Driving a hybrid automobile will make not an iota’s difference to “climate change” (whatever that is). In any case, the “climate disruption catastrophe,” as it’s sometimes called, is not predicted to occur for another fifty years. It was more than two hundred years ago when some of our founding fathers owned slaves. The past is unchangeable and irretrievable. Problems that you can’t do a damned thing about are virtue signaling favorites.

A recent Dennis Prager column, “Three Reasons the Left Wants Evermore Immigrants,” had as reason number three, “the power of feeling good about oneself. It would be difficult to overstate the significance of feeling good about oneself as a primary factor in why people adopt left-wing policies.… In their eyes, they are moral heroes protecting the stranger, the oppressed, the marginalized, the destitute.”

Until this week William McKinley thought he was home free.

Finally, this just in: The Arcata, California city council voted Wednesday night to remove the statue of President William McKinley from the town square. The statue has been in place for over a hundred years. As per usual, McKinley’s sins have not been clearly elucidated. He was assassinated in 1901. Like Matt Lauer, the statue will vanish into the ether. One of the groups demanding the statue’s removal is the Humboldt State University student group, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanco de Aztlan, whatever that means. I’m embarrassed to admit I’m a resident of Arcata. Our neighboring town to the north is McKinleyville. The town’s name is probably not long for this world.

These are just a sampling of the ways virtue signaling is dictating behavior far and wide. Being aware of its many manifestations will reduce your confusion and increase your amusement. It’s a shame it’s doing so much damage.


The Darrow quote crystallized what was making me uncomfortable about the behavior of the Parkland survivors on television.  I understand they were scared out of their wits, lost friends and are angry.  But the aggressive and threatening language toward anyone not on their bandwagon smacks of self-righteousness, and worse a justification for bullying.  It makes me wonder how much of that helped send the shooter around the bend.

Everything Americans Know about Science in Brief

NASA scientists at work in the 1960s.

This is a reblog of an article at Popular Science Everything Americans know about science in seven graphs. It is a report on how the country stacked up in a recent National Science Foundation quiz. Text and images below with my bolds.

Every two years, a couple thousand lucky Americans get to take a science quiz. The National Science Foundation surveys the representative sample to see how much they (and, by extension, we) all understand about science and technology. And it’s not just for fun. The NSF has a vested interest in figuring out what Americans know, think, and understand about the scientific world so they can construct policies in line with our collective reasoning. So once it’s collected, this survey data gets compiled and put it into one big report.

Of course, no survey can perfectly capture how well a person understands science. A few questions can’t distill that kind of information; scientific literacy is less about memorizing specific facts than it is understanding how to interpret evidence. But these tests can help us get a snapshot of what Americans do know, and how our understanding is changing.

Here’s how we did:

CLIMATE CHANGE Data from NSF (some totals don’t equal 100% due to rounding) Infographic by Sara Chodosh

More Americans than ever think climate change poses a real threat to the environment, though the proportion who feel it’s not that bad has stayed around 15 percent. It seems to be the undecided who have come around, not the outright deniers. And unfortunately, the survey also found that only 6 in 10 think global warming is caused by humans—though on the bright side, that’s the highest number ever. (Note: Taking the 50% who think climate change is dangerous times 60% blaming humans gives 30% with the CAGW opinion.  The number could be higher if the concerned people also blame humans at a higher rate).

SCIENTIFIC CONCEPTS Data from NSF (some totals don’t equal 100% due to rounding) Infographic by Sara Chodosh

Testing “understanding” of scientific concepts requires some careful finagling. We’ll let you be the judge of how well NSF did. Here are the two-part questions used, which respondents had to get entirely right to receive credit:

Probability A doctor tells a couple that their genetic makeup means that they’ve got one in four chances of having a child with an inherited illness. (1) Does this mean that if their first child has the illness, the next three will not have the illness? and (2) Does this mean that each of the couple’s children will have the same risk of suffering from the illness?

Answer: (1) No (2) Yes

Experiment (1) Two scientists want to know if a certain drug is effective against high blood pressure. The first scientist wants to give the drug to 1,000 people with high blood pressure and see how many of them experience lower blood pressure levels. The second scientist wants to give the drug to 500 people with high blood pressure and not give the drug to another 500 people with high blood pressure, and see how many in both groups experience lower blood pressure levels. Which is the better way to test this drug?

(2) Why is it better to test the drug this way?

Answer: The second way, because a control group is used for comparison.

**Scientific Study **(1) When you read news stories, you see certain sets of words and terms. We are interested in how many people recognize certain kinds of terms. First, some articles refer to the results of a scientific study. When you read or hear the term scientific study, do you have a clear understanding of what it means, a general sense of what it means, or little understanding of what it means? (2) (If “clear understanding” or “general sense” response) In your own words, could you tell me what it means to study something scientifically?
Answer: Formulation of theories/test hypothesis, experiments/control group, or rigorous/systematic comparison.

SCIENTIFIC FACTS Data from NSF (some totals don’t equal 100% due to rounding) Infographic by Sara Chodosh

Despite the wayward influence of Journey to the Center of the Earth, apparently the best-known fact is that the center of the Earth is hot (far too hot to be hospitable, at least). We also seem well-versed in plate tectonics, and about 3 in 4 Americans have figured out that the Earth goes around the Sun. But only 1 in 2 know that it takes a year.

Not included here are the questions about evolution and the big bang. The NSF found a small change in those questions had a huge impact on the answers. Adding “according to the theory of evolution” or “according to astronomers” increased the proportion answering correctly to each question. A 2016 study found a similar phenomenon, but substituting a question asking about elephant evolution rather than human—people seemed to understand elephant origins better than human ones. And that suggests that it’s not that people can’t or don’t grasp the theory of evolution, it’s that sometimes scientific principles conflict with a person’s beliefs—and sometimes the beliefs win out.

Note: Beliefs also pertain to socio-political movements advancing their agenda using science to persuade.  Lysenkoism in the USSR was one example, and the UNIPCC is another. Additional questions in the linked article show such influences, once you understand environmentalism as a quasi-religious construct.

How Dangerous are GMOs?
Concern over genetically modified food is on the rise, despite the fact that 88 percent of National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine members think they’re safe. Other surveys suggest the public isn’t well-informed about the actual technology involved in creating these crops, which means views are shaped by general perception and worldview rather than scientific evidence.

How Dangerous are Nuclear Power Stations to the Environment?
The younger you are, the more you think nuclear power stations harm the environment. Accordingly, fewer and fewer Americans support using nuclear energy, though 30 percent still want to prioritize fossil fuel development over alternative energy. Oddly, Gallup data suggests that the nuclear accident at Fukushima didn’t change perspectives much, which could mean that other factors—like “energy prices and perceived abundance of energy sources”—are a bigger priority than safety.

How Dangerous are Air and Water Pollution?
Education doesn’t have much of an impact on understanding that water and air pollution are dangerous. And really, why would it? The vast majority of people, including adults who dropped out of high school, think that both forms of environmental damage are dangerous (though apparently a graduate degree teaches you to feel it’s more extreme danger).

How Scientific is Astrology?
Americans have been waffling about astrology for as long as the NSF has been asking about it. There is, for the record, no true scientific basis for astrology, though there is plenty of evidence that horoscopes only feel like they’re accurate, even when they aren’t. Seminal research from the ‘70s and ‘80s showed that horoscopes are so general that everyone will identify the same personality description as their own, as long as it’s labeled with their astrological sign. Take away that Libra title at the top, and your previously perfect personality description will suddenly feel alien.


Some time ago the Onion Magazine article New Report Finds Americans Most Interested In Science When Moon Looks Different Than Usual revealed that Americans interest in science is capricious.

ARLINGTON, VA—Explaining that readership of science-related articles and discussion of scientific concepts tends to surge at such times, a report released Thursday by the National Science Foundation confirmed that Americans are most interested in science when the moon looks different than normal. “According to our findings, citizens are never more engaged by scientific disciplines than when the moon does not look like it regularly does—for example, when it becomes big or bright,” read the report in part, which added that while the nation’s interest in science is typically fairly minimal and consistent when the moon is its usual size and color, as soon as these properties of the moon differ in a noticeable way, millions of Americans begin displaying a desire to learn and share scientific knowledge. “The moon is ordinarily white and relatively small, and science is not on most people’s minds. However, when the moon is no longer white and small, and instead happens to be large, reddish, temporarily darkened, or any combination of those things, people generally want to know more about the methodological study of natural phenomena. Of course, once the moon goes back to the way it normally looks, interest in how the universe works drops back to baseline levels.” The report went on to mention that major changes to the Earth appeared not to garner Americans’ interest at all.

For more satirical input from the Onion see US Students Improving Math



More Civil Climate Discourse

As discussed in Coercive PC Discourse, there is a lot of insulting and shouting when it comes to climate change.  As the summary of the post said:

But there is a way to reduce needless division over the countless disagreements that are inevitable in a pluralistic democracy: get better at accurately characterizing the views of folks with differing opinions, rather than egging them on to offer more extreme statements in interviews; or even worse, distorting their words so that existing divisions seem more intractable or impossible to tolerate than they are. That sort of exaggeration or hyperbolic misrepresentation is epidemic—and addressing it for everyone’s sake is long overdue.

In the interest of demonstrating how climate realists can deal in a civil manner with disagreeable others, I provide some further helpful examples from Alex Epstein, author of The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels. Excerpts from his recent emails with my bolds.

1. Promoting Dialectic rather than Debate

Late last week I got this email from reader Peter Conley. I hope you find it as motivating I do. Peter is proof that with enough study and practice it’s possible to get amazing results in your energy conversations. At the end I’ll tell you a new technique I learned from Peter’s email.


Hello Alex,

I use [your framework] to discuss the issue of energy every opportunity I get and it is highly effective at promoting dialectic rather than debate. I had an experience with a schoolteacher on a Southwest flight recently that illustrates its effectiveness:

Teacher: “Do you believe in climate change?”

Me: “That is a very interesting and complex topic. It’s obviously very important to you. What are your thoughts on the subject?”

Teacher: “We need to stop it!”

Me: “And why is that?”

Teacher: “Because the ice caps are melting!!”

Me: “And why do you care about that?”

Teacher: “Because sea levels will rise!”

Me: “And why is that alarming?”

Teacher: “Because coastal cities and entire countries will be underwater!!”

Me: “So, you’re concerned about the negative impacts it will have on people?”

Teacher: “Of course, I don’t want to leave such a dangerous world to my grandkids.”

Me: “Of course not, neither do I. Would you agree then that when we think about this issue, we should use human flourishing as our standard of value?”

Teacher: “Yes, definitely!”

Me: “Do you know, then, if human deaths because of climate-related factors such as extreme hot, extreme cold, and drought are increasing annually or decreasing?

Teacher: “Well, I’d imagine they are increasing.”

Me: “What if I told you that the number of such deaths worldwide have decreased from over 3 million one year in the early 30s, to under 30,000 in this decade?”

Teacher: “Wow! Why is that?”

Me: “Because of technology. Because we are so much better at protecting ourselves from the naturally dangerous environment than our ancestors were. So, what would you say the most basic human need is?

Teacher: “Food, shelter, water, security.”

Me: “Those are all actually products of fulfilling one basic need, one basic necessity; the most basic human need is energy.”

He agreed, and further agreed that we must look at all costs and benefits and had a two-hour discussion about those. He was able to understand my thinking and said “I didn’t know that” far more times than he said “I don’t know about that.”

I like your point that the energy industry is the industry that powers all other industries. I have found it highly effective to explain that point after first asking “What is the most basic human need?” Most of the time I get answers like the teacher gave, or references to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Helping the person conclude that energy is the most basic human need helps to frame the conversation in terms of human flourishing . . .
I appreciate all the work that you do, and you have inspired me to do what I can to correct the conversations people are having.




As I said at the outset, you’re doing an amazing job.

Here are two tactics I want to experiment with myself after reading your note.

Getting agreement on a pro-human standard by asking “Why” to their value statements. I usually get another person to agree on a common, pro-human standard by asking something like “Would you agree that the best decision is the one that most advances human life?” But your way is intriguing. When they say they care about something, you keep asking “Why” until you get down to the level of an ultimate standard—and then you offer “human flourishing” as your view. One reason this is effective is because it quickly introduces the idea that there need to be reasons (standards) for caring about things. Another reason it’s effective is that you’re challenging the idea that environmental change—ice caps melting—is inherently bad. I imagine that you need to strike a careful tone while asking these questions. If you come across as completely indifferent to the thing they claim to care about it could backfire. But if you ask the question earnestly, indicating that you’re looking to clarify not contradict, I can see how it would work well.

How you explain that energy is a fundamental need. The question “What do you think the most basic human need is?” Is an engaging question to ask. By getting the other person to state what they think are the most important needs you’re connecting them very concretely to the requirements of human flourishing. And then you show how energy is fundamental to those needs, connecting energy to human flourishing. This ensures that access to energy doesn’t become anything resembling optional or derivative—it stands as fundamental.

2. What to do when someone calls you the devil


I’ve been listening to some of your interviews on YouTube and I sincerely appreciate your effort to make the case for fossil fuels. I am about to graduate with a degree in chemical engineering and I have a job lined up to work for a major oil company at their largest US refinery.

On my college campus I encounter people that seem to be so clueless as to the benefits of fossil fuels that I don’t even know where to begin to try to convince them. I talked to one young freshman girl and when I told her that I want to go work in oil and gas, she responded with “you mean Satan?” I was so stunned at her hostility that I didn’t know how to respond. I just said “yeah sure,” so that I didn’t have to engage in a combative conversation. What do you think I should have done in this situation?

Best regards,

Zachery Baker


Great question, Zachary.

Imagine that you had told the freshman not “I want to go work in oil and gas,” but “I want to go work for a hospital.” And she had responded “You mean Satan?”

How would you react?

Here’s my guess:

  1. You would find her response hypocritical; you would be sure she and certainly those she cares about have taken advantage of the life-and-death benefits of hospitals.
  2. You would find her response offensive; she is assuming you would work for an evil enterprise.

I think the exact same reaction is warranted in the case of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels, like hospitals, have risks (hospitals have more) but are indispensable to human flourishing. If someone condemns us for pursuing a career providing energy that billions of people need and request, they are being hypocritical and offensive.

In my experience you can profitably point out either of these if you do so politely and calmly.

Express curiosity about hypocrisy

In the case of hypocrisy, I like to take a tone of curiosity and/or confusion, not condemnation.

F: “You mean Satan?”

You: “I’m curious why you think they’re Satan. Just looking at you right now you appear to be a major user of their products…”

She’ll either acknowledge that she’s a user or not—either way you can transition into why we all use products of the oil industry.

Be offended (but calm)

You: I’m curious, would you ever work for an industry you believed was evil?

F: No, of course not.

You (gravely): Neither would I. (Don’t break eye contact.) And I find it offensive that you think I would without asking me why I chose to work in this industry.

This will give the other person the opportunity to apologize and express sincere interest in your thought process—or to be rude and prove unworthy of your time.

Let me know how it goes!

Bravo Alex for engaging people constructively in the battle for hearts and minds as we perhaps enter a cooling period where our energy needs will be even more pronounced.

Previous Post with different examples: Civil Climate Discourse

Footnote:  For more on how green zealots are poisoning the social environment, read the poignant story of Tisha Schuller, an environmentally responsible energy consultant writing in the Breakthrough Institute Journal:  Reclaiming Environmentalism  How I Changed My Mind Without Changing My Values

Schuller on where she is today:

For several years, I stopped calling myself an environmentalist. After five years of threats, extremism, and misinformation from a community I’d once considered myself a part of, I simply couldn’t use the term anymore.

It’s easier, now, to unwind my complex relationship with environmentalism and environmentalists. I’m no longer a target of constant criticism and threats, for one, and I have the mental leisure to dissect my own experiences and prejudices. With the benefit of hindsight, I’ve become passionate about reclaiming the term. I am an environmentalist.

But I can no longer embrace many of the totems that have come to define environmentalism for many people.