Climate Red Team Forming

Reuters has the story White House readies panel to question security risks of climate by Timothy Gardner.  Excerpts below with my bolds.

The White House is readying a presidential panel that would question U.S. military and intelligence reports showing human-driven climate change poses risks to national security, according to a document seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

The effort comes as President Donald Trump seeks to expand U.S. production of crude oil, natural gas, and coal, and unwind regulatory hurdles on doing so.

The panel, to be formed by an executive order by Trump, would be headed by William Happer, a retired Princeton University physics professor currently on the White House’s National Security Council.

Happer disagrees with mainstream climate science and believes that emissions of the main greenhouse gas that scientists blame for climate change – carbon dioxide – benefits the planet by helping plants grow.

The document calls into question U.S. government reports that say climate change poses risks to national security, including the 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment from the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Dan Coats.

“These scientific and national security judgments have not undergone a rigorous independent and adversarial scientific peer review to examine the certainties and uncertainties of climate science, as well as implications for national security,” the document said.

The annual DNI report, issued in January, said droughts, floods, wildfires and rising seas made worse by climate change and environmental degradation pose global threats to infrastructure and security.

In January, the Department of Defense said climate change was a national security issue and listed 79 domestic bases at risk from floods, drought, encroaching deserts, wildfires and in Alaska, thawing permafrost.

Rhode Island is home to three military bases, threatened by computer model sea level projections.

U.S. officials have also said that climate change can burden the military by increasing the number of global humanitarian missions in which it participates.

The White House is holding a meeting on Feb. 22 in the situation room to discuss an upcoming executive order by Trump to set up the committee, made up of 12 or fewer people, said the document, dated Feb. 14. The document was first reported by the Washington Post.

Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on the science of climate change, arguing that the causes and impacts are not yet settled. As a temporary blast of frigid cold hit the Midwest last month he said on Twitter “What the Hell is going on with Global Wa(r)ming. Please come back fast, we need you!”

Happer, who does not have a background in climate, has served on the NSC since 2018 as deputy assistant to the president for emerging technologies, and complained that carbon dioxide emissions have been maligned, a position strongly opposed by a vast majority of climate scientists. [Gardner misleads and betrays his own ignorance with this editorial comment.  In fact Happer is a radiative energy expert]

Happer said on CNBC in 2014 that the “demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.”

Francesco Femia, the co-founder of the Center for Climate & Security, a non-profit research and policy group, called the panel a “sham committee” that could put a chill on further analysis of climate risks from some members of military and intelligence agencies.

“I am worried there will be a reticence among some in the future to include those risks in their public reports for fear of having to deal with this political committee in the White House, because ultimately the heads of departments and agencies serve at the pleasure of the president,” Femia said.

Gardner quotes someone concerned that people might become accountable for their repeating climate nostrums unsupported by facts. Had Gardner done his homework he would have been informed by this William Happer Interview where his expertise is obvious, though contrary to Gardner’s beliefs.

Climatists have long operated their “rapid response” network to denigrate any and all who questioned the climate catechism.  No doubt they will not resist countering the panel’s pronouncements.  Let the games begin.

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Cosmic Dichotomy: Peterson’s Pearls (1)

This is the first of a series of posts based upon Jordan Peterson’s book Maps of Meaning, published in 1999 after 17 years of research and writing. It is rich in description and insight with many references and quotations from original sources. Reading it I began to copy passages that struck me as especially lucid and pertinent. Those paragraphs of his text are provided below in italics as excerpts selected to explain five themes emerging in my reflections while pondering his book. This post explores one of those themes. Before that is an overview to explain why this is important to me and perhaps to others.

Introduction, Context and My Reflections

I have long been interested in the interface between science and religion, since my education includes degrees in both Organic Chemistry and Theology. The interaction between faith and fact is brought to heightened awareness by Jordan Peterson’s book Maps of Meaning bringing recent psychology and neurology insights to bear on the interrelation. As usual, Peterson surprises by staking out a position honoring and balancing seemingly contrary perspectives. The history of science is replete with examples of how observations and and discoveries were motivated by flashes of inspiration coming from hidden places. One guru I admired used to say he went to sleep with questions and in the morning he could comb the answers out of his hair. The structure of benzene was revealed long ago in just that way.

Peterson provides a framework for understanding and appreciating how myth and science serve us, how we operate in a zone between known and unknown, between what is and what should be. And he reminds us that mythological thinking is primordial for both individuals and societies. Reading this book reminded me of experiences working in community development when I would lead workshop discussions with people wanting to improve their neighborhoods or villages. At the round-table brainstorming we asked them to say what things in their community they would change to make it better. And as Peterson notes, the responses most often came out of the ideal, their community as it should be. For instance, someone might say, “There is a lack of community services.” My job as facilitator was to press that participant to describe the specific existing condition of concern. The interchange might end with a statement: “The streets are full of junk people just throw away. It just stays there and the place is mess.” Now we have an actionable item: A definite gap between “what is” and “what should be.” After an hour or more, we have a list of dozens of items that can be categorized into targets for improvement programs. In management and organizational consulting there is a saying: “A problem well-defined is halfway solved.” The next step is making a plan to get from a to b.

So the ideal or mythological provides a value set from which we choose things to study and to bring under our control either by understanding (reducing the fear of the unknown), or by actually manipulating the thing to serve our purpose. Ancient stargazers designed constellations and gave them mythological identities to make them familiar and less menacing. Astrologers provided guidance how to take advantage or precaution in our actions considering the stars and planets influences. With advances in telescopes astronomers could map the orbits, and events like eclipses could be predicted, making them them occasions of wonder rather than terror.

The field of climate is in a rudimentary state. The ancients made sacrifices to assure favorable weather for agriculture and for safety from storms. Climatology was and is the documenting of weather observations to discern patterns over seasons, years and longer. Weather forecasting makes use of such patterns and enhanced observations from airplanes, drones and satellites to give us warnings and time to prepare for destructive events. The mythological is honored by giving human names to storms, originally only female designations, respecting the unpredictable nature of the timing and location of destruction. (Q: Why is a woman like a hurricane? A: She comes in hot and steamy, and she leaves with your house and car.)

Nowadays, weather forecasts are improved but still are increasingly uncertain after a few days, being SWAGs after a week. (Scientific Wild-Ass Guess). Storms may now have male names, since men can also be out of control. Gender-neutral names are the latest development, to the point where some PC parents name a child “Storm” not to limit its gender options. If this suggests that a new mythology has overtaken the science, then you have got my drift. The whole notion that our computer models can predict future surface temperatures up to a century from now shows that climatology is closer to astrology than to astronomy.

Those who claim “The Science is Settled” are actually giving up on our understanding climate. As Peterson says, unexplored territory is approached with fear and any approach is made under anxiety, which is exactly what global warming doomsayers are manifesting. Many of these are urban dwellers who fear that nature is out of control, and they default to a mindset typical of pre-experimental people. In a primitive way they think that cities can be spared by sacrificing fossil fuels like a sacrificial lamb. In olden days people made idols in their own images and worshiped them to ensure favorable weather. Today people bow before computer models they have made, whose predictions are sure to scare the bejesus out of us.

[Note: I use the word “cosmic” since each individual’s world is at risk, and as we see in the agitation over climate change, entire social groups can also fear for their collective world.]

Jordan Peterson on the Cosmic Dichotomy (Excerpts from Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief Title is link to pdf)

My religious convictions, ill-formed to begin with, disappeared when I was very young. My confidence in socialism (that is, in political utopia) vanished when I realized that the world was not merely a place of economics. My faith in ideology departed, when I began to see that ideological identification itself posed a profound and mysterious problem. I could not accept the theoretical explanations my chosen field of study had to offer, and no longer had any practical reasons to continue in my original direction. I finished my three-year bachelor’s degree, and left university. All my beliefs—which had lent order to the chaos of my existence, at least temporarily—had proved illusory; I could no longer see the sense in things. I was cast adrift; I did not know what to do or what to think.

The people I knew well were no more resolutely goal-directed or satisfied than I was. Their beliefs and modes of being seemed merely to disguise frequent doubt and profound disquietude. More disturbingly, on the more general plane, something truly insane was taking place. The great societies of the world were feverishly constructing a nuclear machine, with unimaginably destructive capabilities. Someone or something was making terrible plans. Why? Theoretically normal and well-adapted people were going about their business prosaically, as if nothing were the matter. Why weren’t they disturbed? Weren’t they paying attention? Wasn’t I?

My concern with the general social and political insanity and evil of the world— sublimated by temporary infatuation with utopian socialism and political machination— returned with a vengeance. The mysterious fact of the Cold War increasingly occupied the forefront of my consciousness. How could things have come to such ah point?

All the things I “believed” were things I thought sounded good, admirable, respectable, courageous. They weren’t my things, however—I had stolen them. Most of them I had taken from books. Having “understood” them, abstractly, I presumed I had a right to them—presumed that I could adopt them, as if they were mine: presumed that they were me. My head was stuffed full of the ideas of others; stuffed full of arguments I could not logically refute. I did not know then that an irrefutable argument is not necessarily true, nor that the right to identify with certain ideas had to be earned.

The study of “comparative mythological material” in fact made my horrible dreams disappear. The cure wrought by this study, however, was purchased at the price of complete and often painful transformation: what I believe about the world, now—and how I act, in consequence—is so much at variance with what I believed when I was younger that I might as well be a completely different person.

I discovered that beliefs make the world, in a very real way—that beliefs are the world, in a more than metaphysical sense. This discovery has not turned me into a moral relativist, however: quite the contrary. I have become convinced that the world-that-is-belief is orderly; that there are universal moral absolutes (although these are structured such that a diverse range of human opinion remains both possible and beneficial). I believe that individuals and societies who flout these absolutes—in ignorance or in willful opposition—are doomed to misery and eventual dissolution.

I hope that I can bring those who read this book to the same conclusions, without demanding any unreasonable “suspension of critical judgment”—excepting that necessary to initially encounter and consider the arguments I present.

The world can be validly construed as a forum for action, as well as a place of things. We describe the world as a place of things, using the formal methods of science. The techniques of narrative, however—myth, literature and drama—portray the world as a forum for action. The two forms of representation have been unnecessarily set at odds, because we have not yet formed a clear picture of their respective domains. The domain of the former is the objective world—what is, from the perspective of intersubjective perception. The domain of the latter is the world of value—what is and what should be, from the perspective of emotion and action.

The former manner of interpretation-more primordial, and less clearly understood-finds its expression in the arts or humanities, in ritual, drama, literature and mythology. The world as forum for action is a place of value, a place where all things have meaning. This meaning, which is shaped as a consequence of social interaction, is implication for action, or-at a higher level of analysisimplication for the configuration of the interpretive schema that produces or guides action.

The latter manner of interpretation-the world as place of things-finds its formal expression in the methods and theories of science. Science allows for increasingly precise determination of the consensually validatable properties of things, and for efficient utilization of precisely determined things as tools (once the direction such use is to take has been determined, through application of more fundamental narrative processes).

No complete world-picture can be generated without use of both modes of construal. The fact that one mode is generally set at odds with the other means only that the nature of their respective domains remains insufficiently discriminated. Adherents of the mythological worldview tend to regard the statements of their creeds as indistinguishable from empirical “fact,” even though such statements were generally formulated long before the notion of objective reality emerged. Those who, by contrast, accept the scientific perspective—who assume that it is, or might become, complete—forget that an impassable gulf currently divides what is from what should be.

We need to know four things:
what there is,
what to do about what there is,
that there is a difference between knowing what there is, and knowing what to do about what there is
and what that difference is.

Imagine that a baby girl, toddling around in the course of her initial tentative investigations, reaches up onto a countertop to touch a fragile and expensive glass sculpture. She observes its color, sees its shine, feels that it is smooth and cold and heavy to the touch. Suddenly her mother interferes, grasps her hand, tells her not to ever touch that object. The child has just learned a number of specifically consequential things about the sculpture—has identified its sensory properties, certainly. More importantly, however, she has determined that approached in the wrong manner, the sculpture is dangerous (at least in the presence of mother); has discovered as well that the sculpture is regarded more highly, in its present unaltered configuration, than the exploratory tendency—at least (once again) by mother. The baby girl has simultaneously encountered an object, from the empirical perspective, and its socioculturally determined status. The empirical object might be regarded as those sensory properties “intrinsic” to the object. The status of the object, by contrast, consists of its meaning—consists of its implication for behavior. Everything a child encounters has this dual nature, experienced by the child as part of a unified totality. Everything is something, and means something—and the distinction between essence and significance is not necessarily drawn.

The automatic attribution of meaning to things—or the failure to distinguish between them initially—is a characteristic of narrative, of myth, not of scientific thought. Narrative accurately captures the nature of raw experience. Things are scary, people are irritating, events are promising, food is satisfying—at least in terms of our basic experience. The modern mind, which regards itself as having transcended the domain of the magical, is nonetheless still endlessly capable of “irrational” (read motivated) reactions. We fall under the spell of experience whenever we attribute our frustration, aggression, devotion or lust to the person or situation that exists as the proximal “cause” of such agitation. We are not yet “objective,” even in our most clear-headed moments (and thank God for that). We become immediately immersed in a motion picture or a novel, and willingly suspend disbelief. We become impressed or terrified, despite ourselves, in the presence of a sufficiently powerful cultural figurehead (an intellectual idol, a sports superstar, a movie actor, a political leader, the pope, a famous beauty, even our superior at work)—in the presence, that is, of anyone who sufficiently embodies the oft-implicit values and ideals that protect us from disorder and lead us on.

The “natural,” pre-experimental, or mythical mind is in fact primarily concerned with meaning—which is essentially implication for action—and not with “objective” nature. . .And, in truth—in real life—to know what something is still means to know two things about it: its motivational relevance, and the specific nature of its sensory qualities. The two forms of knowing are not identical; furthermore, experience and registration of the former necessarily precedes development of the latter. Something must have emotional impact before it will attract enough attention to be explored and mapped in accordance with its sensory properties.

How, precisely, did people think, not so very long ago, before they were experimentalists? What were things before they were objective things? These are very difficult questions. The “things” that existed prior to the development of experimental science do not appear valid either as things or as the meaning of things to the modern mind.

The alchemist could not separate his subjective ideas about the nature of things—that is, his hypotheses—from the things themselves. His hypotheses, in turn—products of his imagination—were derived from the unquestioned and unrecognized “explanatory” presuppositions that made up his culture. The medieval man lived, for example, in a universe that was moral—where everything, even ores and metals, strived above all for perfection. Things, for the alchemical mind, were therefore characterized in large part by their moral nature—by their impact on what we would describe as affect, emotion or motivation; were therefore characterized by their relevance or value (which is impact on affect). Description of this relevance took narrative form, mythic form—as in the example drawn from Jung, where the sulphuric aspect of the sun’s substance is attributed negative, demonic characteristics. It was the great feat of science to strip affect from perception, so to speak, and to allow for the description of experiences purely in terms of their consensually apprehensible features. However, it is the case that the affects generated by experiences are real, as well.

We have lost the mythic universe of the pre-experimental mind, or have at least ceased to further its development. That loss has left our increased technological power ever more dangerously at the mercy of our still unconscious systems of valuation.

Prior to the time of Descartes, Bacon and Newton, man lived in an animated, spiritual world, saturated with meaning, imbued with moral purpose. The nature of this purpose was revealed in the stories people told each other—stories about the structure of the cosmos and the place of man. But now we think empirically (at least we think we think empirically), and the spirits that once inhabited the universe have vanished.

Furthermore—and more importantly—the new theories that arose to make sense of empirical reality posed a severe threat to the integrity of traditional models of reality, which had provided the world with determinate meaning. The mythological cosmos had man at its midpoint; the objective universe was heliocentric at first, and less than that later. Man no longer occupies center stage. The world is, in consequence, a completely different place.

The mythological perspective has been overthrown by the empirical; or so it appears. This should mean that the morality predicated upon such myth should have disappeared, as well, as belief in comfortable illusion vanished.

If the presuppositions of a theory have been invalidated, argues Nietzsche, then the theory has been invalidated. But in this case the “theory” survives. The fundamental tenets of the Judeo-Christian moral tradition continue to govern every aspect of the actual individual behavior and basic values of the typical Westerner—even if he is atheistic and well-educated, even if his abstract notions and utterances appear iconoclastic.

Our systems of post-experimental thought and our systems of motivation and action therefore co-exist in paradoxical union. One is “up-to-date”; the other, archaic. One is scientific; the other, traditional, even superstitious. We have become atheistic in our description, but remain evidently religious—that is, moral—in our disposition.

We have become trapped by our own capacity for abstraction: it provides us with accurate descriptive information but also undermines our belief in the utility and meaning of existence. This problem has frequently been regarded as tragic (it seems to me, at least, ridiculous)—and has been thoroughly explored in existential philosophy and literature.

Our behavior is shaped (at least in the ideal) by the same mythic rules—thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not covet—that guided our ancestors for the thousands of years they lived without benefit of formal empirical thought. This means that those rules are so powerful—so necessary, at least—that they maintain their existence (and expand their domain) even in the presence of explicit theories that undermine their validity. That is a mystery. And here is another:

How is it that complex and admirable ancient civilizations could have developed and flourished, initially, if they were predicated upon nonsense? If a culture survives, and grows, does that not indicate in some profound way that the ideas it is based upon are valid?

Our great rationalist ideologies, after all—fascist, say, or communist— demonstrated their essential uselessness within the space of mere generations, despite their intellectually compelling nature. Traditional societies, predicated on religious notions, have survived—essentially unchanged, in some cases, for tens of thousands of years. How can this longevity be understood?

We do not understand pre-experimental thinking, so we try to explain it in terms that we do understand—which means that we explain it away, define it as nonsense. After all, we think scientifically—so we believe—and we think we know what that means (since scientific thinking can in principle be defined). We are familiar with scientific thinking and value it highly—so we tend to presume that it is all there is to thinking (presume that all other “forms of thought” are approximations, at best, to the ideal of scientific thought). But this is not accurate. Thinking also and more fundamentally is specification of value, specification of implication for behavior.

The painstaking empirical process of identification, communication and comparison has proved to be a strikingly effective means for specifying the nature of the relatively invariant features of the collectively apprehensible world. Unfortunately, this useful methodology cannot be applied to determination of value—to consideration of what should be, to specification of the direction that things should take (which means, to description of the future we should construct, as a consequence of our actions). Such acts of valuation necessarily constitute moral decisions. We can use information generated in consequence of the application of science to guide those decisions, but not to tell us if they are correct. We lack a process of verification, in the moral domain, that is as powerful or as universally acceptable as the experimental (empirical) method in the realm of description.

This absence does not allow us to sidestep the problem. No functioning society or individual can avoid rendering moral judgment, regardless of what might be said or imagined about the necessity of such judgment. Action presupposes valuation, or its implicit or “unconscious” equivalent. To act is literally to manifest preference about one set of possibilities, contrasted with an infinite set of alternatives. If we wish to live, we must act. Acting, we value. Lacking omniscience, painfully, we must make decisions, in the absence of sufficient information. It is, traditionally speaking, our knowledge of good and evil, our moral sensibility, that allows us this ability. It is our mythological conventions, operating implicitly or explicitly, that guide our choices. But what are these conventions? How are we to understand the fact of their existence? How are we to understand them?

Our constant cross-cultural interchanges and our capacity for critical reasoning have undermined our faith in the traditions of our forebears, perhaps for good reason. However, the individual cannot live without belief—without action and valuation—and science cannot provide that belief. We must nonetheless put our faith into something. Are the myths we have turned to since the rise of science more sophisticated, less dangerous, and more complete than those we rejected?

The ideological structures that dominated social relations in the twentieth century appear no less absurd, on the face of it, than the older belief systems they supplanted; they lacked, in addition, any of the incomprehensible mystery that necessarily remains part of genuinely artistic and creative production. The fundamental propositions of fascism and communism were rational, logical, statable, comprehensible—and terribly wrong.

No great ideological struggle presently tears at the soul of the world, but it is difficult to believe that we have outgrown our gullibility. The rise of the New Age movement in the West, for example—as compensation for the decline of traditional spirituality—provides sufficient evidence for our continued ability to swallow a camel, while straining at a gnat.

Could we do better? Is it possible to understand what might reasonably, even admirably, be believed, after understanding that we must believe? Our vast power makes self-control (and, perhaps, self-comprehension) a necessity—so we have the motivation, at least in principle. Furthermore, the time is auspicious. The third Christian millennium is dawning—at the end of an era when we have demonstrated, to the apparent satisfaction of everyone, that certain forms of social regulation just do not work (even when judged by their own criteria for success).

Footnote: Navajos and Prairie Dogs

The intersection of folk and scientific wisdom is demonstrated in a case regarding an Arizona Navajo reservation.

Government officials in the 1950’s proposed to get rid of prairie dogs on some parts of the reservation in order to protect the roots of the sparse desert grass and thereby maintain at least marginal grazing for sheep.

Navajos objected strongly, insisting, “If you kill off all the prairie dogs, there will be no one to cry for the rain.” Of course they were assured by the amused government men that there was no conceivable connection between rain and prairie dogs, a fact that could be proven easily by a simple scientific experiment: a specific area would be set aside and all the burrowing animals there would be exterminated.

The experiment was carried out, over the continued objections of the Navajos, and its outcome was surprising only to the white scientists. Today, the area […] has become a virtual wasteland with very little grass. Apparently, without the ground-turning processes of the little burrowing animals, the sand in the area becomes solidly packed, causing a fierce runoff whenever it rains.

It would be incautious to suggest in this instance that the Navajos were possessed of a clear, conscious objective theory about water retention and absorption in packed sand. On the other hand, it would be difficult to ignore the fact that the Navajo myth system, which insists on delicate reciprocal responsibilities among elements of nature, dramatized more accurately than our science the results of an imbalance between principals in the rain process. (Barre Toelken here p. 21)

But folk wisdom is an unreliable, inconsistent kind of wisdom. For one thing, most proverbs coexist with their exact opposites, or at least with proverbs that give somewhat different advice. Now that climate change has passed into social discourse, proverbs and unsubstantiated claims are voiced among like-minded people, thereby reinforcing shared beliefs without any critical analysis to verify an objective reality to the sayings.

Disney’s portrayal of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice in over his head.

The moral of the story pertains to the arrogance of scientists who think they have empirical understanding of a natural system, and can predict its behavior. The deeper truth is that even when knowledge is added by experiment, life and the world contain other mysteries yet to be explored. Each new answer raises many new questions, if we are brave and curious enough to investigate. In later posts, Peterson gets into the perversion of turning a present scientific understanding into an ideology, i.e. freezing a relative, incomplete known into a myth, thus discouraging further analysis in order to protect the status quo.

Congressional Climate Resolution

The current world political climate is shame-and-blame in order to gain approvals for drastic reduction of CO2. Thus pressure is applied to political officials at every level to show their colors on acting to “fight climate change.”  The so-called Green New Deal will apparently be put as a resolution for the House to vote its approval of the concept.  It seems timely to propose an alternative resolution.

There is no place to hide these days, and politicians who have a rational position on climate science had better legislate on the issue. A common sense legislative motion could read something like this (followed by supporting documentation and references).

 

Whereas, Extent of global sea ice is within the range of historical variability;

Whereas, Populations of polar bears are generally growing;

Whereas, Sea levels have been slowly rising at the same rate since the Little Ice Age ended 150 years ago;

Whereas, Oceans will not become acidic due to buffering from extensive mineral deposits and marine life is well adapted to pH fluctuations that do occur;

Whereas, Extreme weather events have not increased in recent decades and such events are more associated to periods of cooling rather than warming;

Whereas, Cold spells, not heat waves, are the greater threat to human life and prosperity;

Therefore, This chamber agrees that climate is variable and prudent public officials should plan for future periods both colder and warmer than the present. Two principle objectives will be robust infrastructure and reliable, affordable energy.

Comment:

The underlying issue is the assumption that the future can only be warmer than the present. Once you accept the notion that CO2 makes the earth’s surface warmer (an unproven conjecture), then temperatures can only go higher since CO2 keeps rising. The present plateau in temperatures is inconvenient, but actual cooling would directly contradict the CO2 doctrine. Some excuses can be fabricated for a time, but an extended period of cooling undermines the whole global warming mantra.

It’s not a matter of fearing a new ice age. That will come eventually, according to our planet’s history, but the warning will come from increasing ice extent in the Northern Hemisphere. Presently infrastructures in many places are not ready to meet a return of 1950s weather, let alone something unprecedented.

Public policy must include preparations for cooling since that is the greater hazard. Cold harms the biosphere: plants, animals and humans. And it is expensive and energy intensive to protect life from the ravages of cold. Society can not afford to be in denial about the prospect of the current temperature plateau ending with cooling.

Footnote:

The Trudeau initiative is an example of the alternative to legislating a rational position. It is virtue-signalling by adopting a token carbon price, which will not lower CO2 concentrations, nor reduce temperatures. The tax will enrich government coffers, which is a key motivation for politicians hiding behind this noble cause.

In 2015, gasoline taxes in Canada represented on average 38.5 cents per litre, which is approximately 35% of the pump price. That includes 10¢/litre federal tax, provincial fuel taxes ranging from 6 to 19 ¢/litre, plus sales taxes. Taxing at $10 a tonne starting in 2018 would add a carbon tax on top as shown below:

Fuel Type UNITS FOR TAX 2018 Added Tax
Gasoline ¢/litre 2.22
Diesel (light fuel oil) ¢/litre 2.56
Jet Fuel ¢/litre 2.61
Natural Gas ¢/litre 1.90
Propane ¢/litre 1.54
Coal – high heat value $/tonne 20.77
Coal – low heat value $/tonne 17.77

These pennies added on top will not change behavior, but millions of consumers’ dollars will be skimmed in a hidden way, including rising transportation costs of everything.

If this was anything other than a tax grab, they would do one or both of two things:

  • Make the tax revenue neutral by paying the monies collected back to consumers; and
  • Make the increases in the carbon tax rate conditional upon rising temperatures as measured by satellites. (as proposed by economist Ross McKitrick)

fuel-tax

US Refined Coal Surging

Despite predictions that US coal production and use are doomed, Trump policies are sparking an increase in “clean coal”, i.e. refined coal. Activists/alarmists say there is no such thing as clean coal, but as usual they conflate actual air pollution with CO2 emissions, which are plant food rather than toxic. A recent article from EIA explains the rise of refined coal U.S. production and use of refined coal continues to increase. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

U.S. production of refined coal, which is coal that has been processed to reduce emissions when burned, reached record highs in 2017, and it is expected to increase even further in 2018. Use of refined coal has increased despite the general decline in total U.S. coal consumption since 2008. For the first three quarters of 2018, EIA estimates that refined coal production totaled 121 million short tons (MMst), which is 21% of the total U.S. coal production of 563 million short tons.

According to EIA estimates, refined coal’s share of total coal tonnage consumed for U.S. electricity generation will have increased from 15% in 2016 to more than 18% through October 2018. EIA began collecting data on generation from refined coal in 2016.

Refined coal generated more than 235 million megawatthours (MWh) of U.S. electricity in 2017, or 20% of net coal generation, an increase of 2% from 2016. EIA estimates of refined coal through October 2018 suggest an even larger increase in refined coal use to more than 22% of total coal generation.

Refined coal is most commonly made by mixing proprietary additives to feedstock coal. These additives increase the production of mercury oxides, which can then be captured by using mercury emission reduction technologies such as flue gas desulfurization scrubbers and particulate matter control systems.

Refined coal production qualifies for a tax credit under the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004. To qualify for the refined coal tax credit, producers must have a qualified professional engineer demonstrate that burning the refined coal results in a 20% emissions reduction of nitrogen oxide and a 40% emissions reduction of either sulfur dioxide or mercury compared with the emissions that would result from burning feedstock coal. The tax credit was designed to increase with inflation and was valued at $6.91 per short ton produced in 2017 and $7.10 per short ton in 2018. EIA surveys show respondents continued to add refined-coal burning plants even as older conventional coal plants retire, with 36 new refined coal plants coming online from 2016 through October 2018.

Summary

US technology is progressing to reduce air pollution. The principal issues are:
Nitrogen oxides (NOx), Sulfur dioxide (SO2), Mercury (HG), and Particulate matter (PM).

The combination of refining the coal feedstock along with scrubbers is removing the actual environmental hazards. What is left is the unproven claim of global warming/climate change as the reason to deprive people of the benefits of burning coal for gaining power. Power to the people indeed.

Footnote:

A previous post highlighted the mismanaged Ontario phase-out of coal power plants, driven by CO2 obsession but justified by appealing to air pollution.  See Ontario Coal Phase-out: All Pain, No Gain

Multiple Reasons to Dismiss Kid’s Lawsuit

A monkey wrench in the Works.

Previous posts have followed the twists and turns of the lawsuit Juliana vs. US, initiated and funded by Our Children’s Trust.  In November the Supreme Court signaled their desire that lower courts rein in the scope of the lawsuit.  The District Court backed off and now the Ninth Circuit Court will take up the appeal in advance of any trial activity.

The latest development is the US government (the Appellant) making its initial filing Feb. 1, 2019, now available for public scrutiny.

The document is Appellants’ Opening Brief Excerpt in italics with my bolds.

SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT

The district court first erred when it denied the government’s motion to dismiss this action. It erred again when it denied the government’s motions for judgment on the pleadings and for summary judgment. This Court should reverse for any of the following independent reasons:

1. Plaintiffs cannot establish any of the three requirements for Article III standing. Plaintiffs have only a generalized grievance and not the required particularized injury because global climate change affects everyone in the world. They cannot demonstrate causation because climate change stems from a complex, world-spanning web of actions across all fields of human endeavor, and Plaintiffs cannot plausibly connect their narrow asserted injuries — like flooding or drought in their neighborhoods — to any particular conduct by the government. In addition, Plaintiffs’ alleged injuries are not redressable because a single district judge may not (consistent with Article III and the equitable authority of federal courts) seize control of national energy production, energy consumption, and transportation in the ways that would be required to implement Plaintiffs’ demanded remedies.

Separate and apart from Plaintiffs’ failure to satisfy the three standing requirements, this action is fundamentally not a case or controversy under Article III. Plaintiffs did not ask the district court to resolve anything resembling the kind of dispute that gave rise to jurisdiction at common law or the adoption of Article III; Plaintiffs instead asked the district court to review all of the representative branches’ programs and regulatory decisions relating to climate change over the past several decades and then pass upon their constitutionality in the aggregate. No federal court has the power to perform such a sweeping policy review, and no federal court has ever done anything close to what Plaintiffs seek here.

2. Plaintiffs have failed to pursue any claim under the APA or any other remedial scheme established by Congress for review of federal agency action or inaction. At its core, Plaintiffs’ action challenges a vast number of federal agency actions and inactions, yet Plaintiffs have refused to comply with the requirements of the APA. Plaintiffs may not circumvent Congress’s considered judgment to channel such challenges through the APA by asserting a right to proceed directly under the Constitution or the courts’ equitable authority; the existence of the APA forecloses those potential causes of action.

3. Even if Plaintiffs could satisfy the foregoing threshold requirements, their constitutional claims are baseless and must be dismissed. Plaintiffs’ alleged fundamental right to a “livable climate” finds no basis in this Nation’s history or tradition and is not even close to any other fundamental right recognized by the Supreme Court. Plaintiffs’ reliance on the state-created danger exception is also misplaced; there is no reason to extend that narrow doctrine to these circumstances. Plaintiffs’ equal protection and Ninth Amendment claims are also meritless.

4. Finally, there is no federal public trust doctrine that binds the federal government. Even if such a doctrine did apply to the federal government, any common-law federal public trust doctrine is displaced by statute. In any event, the atmosphere is not within any public trust. The orders of the district court should be reversed, and this case should be remanded with instructions to dismiss the complaint.

Summary:

What a concept!  Let’s have judges decide national energy policy.  And when the economy fails because energy supply is too expensive and unreliable, will the black robes be accountable to the public?  Nope.  And let’s turn a courtroom over to members of a doomsday cult for 50 days so they can persuade the public of their beliefs and fears. Even worse idea. Let’s hope even the Ninth Circuit can see the folly in this proceeding.

For background on the lawsuit see:  Supremes Kick Kids Lawsuit Down the Road

For background on the false GHG Endangerment Finding see: GHGs Endangerment? Evidence?

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Wealthy Elites Attack Their Own Roots

It is the season for Corporate annual shareholders meetings, and once again energy companies will be attacked. Wealthy individuals and institutions will again brandish knives against the energy goose that made them fortunes. Those who have benefited the most from modern society’s use of fossil fuels now resemble a cancer eating away at the heart of prosperity. It is a puzzlement why they want to stop tapping the vast supply of underground energy before its benefits reach the impoverished masses in underdeveloped countries.

An outlook on the sparring ahead is provided at CNN Business

A standoff is brewing between investors, corporate boards and federal regulators as shareholders prepare to vote on resolutions that concern human rights, corporate governance, and climate change.  Excerpts in italics with my bold.

Leveraging shareholder votes for environmental and social ends isn’t new, but such resolutions have been on the rise in recent years. Shareholders proposed 464 resolutions in 2018 compared with 407 in 2010, according to an analysis by the Sustainable Investments Institute.

Although that’s down slightly from a record of 494 resolutions in 2017, the number of proposals that were withdrawn jumped in 2018, often following quiet deals with management to accomplish some part of what the resolution called for without going to a public vote.

One key reason: Backing from the three largest asset managers in America. BlackRock, State Street, and Vanguard, taken together, are the largest shareholder in 40% of all public companies in the United States.

All three of those heavyweights have altered their shareholder voting guidelines in recent years to be more open to progressive resolutions, resulting in a series of high-profile votes in favor of them. For example, in 2017 the trio voted for resolutions requesting that ExxonMobil and Occidental Petroleum compile reports analyzing how future climate change regulations would change their businesses.

Most shareholder resolutions are technically non-binding, and completing a report on the potential impact of climate change may not seem like that big a deal. But companies see them as a first step on the road toward real limits on their activities, and ultimately their profits.

To cut back on this kind of resolution, ACCF and other trade associations formed a group called the Main Street Investors Coalition. It advocates for small-time shareholders who might lose out if “politically motivated” resolutions hurt investors’ portfolios.

Along with Nasdaq, the Business Roundtable, and the Chamber of Commerce’s longstanding Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness, the coalition has been pushing for legislation that would raise the threshold of support needed to re-submit a resolution that failed previously. They’re also asking the Securities and Exchange Commission to more tightly regulate proxy advisers.

Some changes already are taking root — including a narrower view of what’s considered fair game for proxy ballots.

In late 2017, the SEC’s staff issued a bulletin reinforcing the idea that boards of directors are better positioned to run the company’s everyday operations than are shareholders, leading to fears that climate change resolutions would be ruled out of bounds.

in early 2018, the SEC ruled in favor of the oil producer EOG Resources when the company complained that a resolution calling for greenhouse gas emissions reductions had too much to do with its “ordinary business.” Core business functions one of the categories considered off-limits for shareholders to micromanage.

Many of these resolutions are coming from Climate Action 100+, a group of 300 investors with $32 trillion in assets, including the investment arms of HSBC, Legal & General and the Church of England. For example, a resolution will be voted upon at the British Petroleum annual meeting.

In the proposal, BP is tasked with developing a business strategy in line with two of the Paris deal goals by the end of its 2019 financial year – holding temperature rises to well below 2C and reducing carbon emissions to net zero by the second half of the century.

BP has not specified what metrics and targets it might set if the resolution is passed, but they could include targets for the carbon intensity of its products and linking executives’ bonuses to carbon emission cuts.

But the company will not be setting targets any time soon for “scope 3 emissions” produced by customers using its products, such as burning petrol in a car. These emissions are much bigger than those from the company’s operations.

BP said it was not supporting a separate resolution, brought by the Dutch investor group Follow This, seeking to make BP set a goal for scope 3 emissions. The group has previously been credited with influencing Shell’s decision to set such targets.

Climate Activists storm the bastion of Exxon Mobil, here seen without their shareholder disguises.

Postscript:

The SEC rulings show the line in the sand regarding these maneuvers to shut down oil companies.  On March 12, 2018 SEC wrote EOG Resources Action Letter  allowing management to set aside an invasive shareholder resolution.

What Trillium Asset Management Demanded of EOG

Resolved: Shareholders request EOG Resources, Inc. (EOG) adopt company-wide, quantitative, time-bound targets for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and issue a report, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information, discussing its plans and progress towards achieving these targets.

Whereas: The Paris Climate Agreement of 2015, agreed to by 195 countries, established a target to limit global temperature increases to 2-degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. To meet the 2-degree goal and mitigate the most severe impacts of climate change, climate scientists estimate it is necessary to reduce global emissions 55 percent by 2050 (relative to 2010 levels), entailing a US reduction target of 80 percent.

According to a 2015 report by Citigroup the costs of failing to address climate change could lead to a $72 trillion loss to global GDP.

EOG states: “Our safety and environmental management processes are based on a goal setting philosophy. The company sets safety and environmental expectations and provides a framework within which management can achieve safety and environmental goals in a systematic way.” Despite this philosophy, EOG has not established time-bound or quantitative emissions reductions goals. Motivated by the imperative to reduce emissions, cut costs, and/or achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, many companies are setting goals:

• Over 300 global businesses have committed to setting GHG emissions reduction targets consistent with the 2-degree goal.
• Hess, Apache, Kinder Morgan, and Southwestern, are among EOG’s peers in the U.S. Oil and Gas sector that have set quantitative, time-bound GHG and/or methane reduction targets.
• The 10 major international oil and gas companies that constitute the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative recently announced their intention to work towards near-zero methane emissions.
• Over half of EOG’s peers in the S&P 500 have set GHG reduction targets.

Setting GHG reduction targets is frequently found to be a sound business strategy. A 2013 report by CDP, WWF, and McKinsey & Company found that companies with GHG reduction targets achieved 9% better return on invested capital than companies without targets.

Setting targets would address a common concern of investors that are increasingly attune to the risks of climate change. State Street Global Advisors recently published disclosure recommendations for oil and gas companies, wherein it states, “We view establishing company-specific GHG emissions targets as one of the most important steps in managing climate risk.”

One of the recommendations of The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, whose members include JPMorgan Chase, UBS Asset Management, Generation Investment Management, and BlackRock, is: “Describe the targets used by the organization to manage climate-related risks and opportunities and performance against these targets.”

While EOG has implemented various emissions reduction strategies, proponents believe establishing time-bound, quantitative emissions reduction targets would serve to align new and existing initiatives, spur innovation to drive further emissions reductions, lower costs through enhanced efficiency, mitigate risk, and enhance shareholder value.

What EOG Said and SEC Confirmed:

At the outset, it bears noting that, in our December 20, 2017 and January 12, 2018 letters to the Staff (and in our website and other public disclosures), EOG acknowledges that climate change and emissions reductions are social issues of general importance. Our December 20, 2017 letter to the Staff discusses, in detail, (i) the emissions-related practices and processes that we have implemented in furtherance of the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions throughout our operations and (ii) our emissions-related quantitative disclosures (i.e., metrics) on our website which allow investors to evaluate EOG’s year-to-year reductions in emissions from our operations.

However, as stated in EOG’s letters to the Staff, it is the implementation of the proponents’ Proposal that would require EOG’s management to potentially prioritize quantitative emissions reduction targets over a wide variety of factors involved in oil and gas exploration and production operations (such as geologic formation characteristics and operational considerations), in each case at the expense of our management’s own judgment. The quantitative targets requested by the Proposal would also potentially displace or disrupt management’s judgment regarding, among other operational factors, the location, timing, and mix of production, which are at the core of EOG’s daily business decisions as an exploration and production company. EOG continues to maintain that this is the very definition of micro-management.

Note:  Wealthy climatists are also active outside the boardroom and across borders, as shown in this Canadian Broadcasting Corporation video:

See Also:  Climatist Manifesto

Climatism is eroding the foundations of free enterprise democratic societies.

 

Cold Waves and CO2

To put this year’s winter cold into perspective, there is an informative article by Jon Erdman at weather.com America’s Coldest Outbreaks January 17 2018 Excerpts with my bolds and showing CO2 concentrations at the referenced dates. Note  that temperatures are in degrees Fahrenheit.

The Clear Number 1  February 1899: Atmospheric CO2 295 ppm.
The cold wave during the first two weeks of February 1899 is by far and away the gold standard for cold outbreaks in U.S. history.

What made this outbreak worthy of its lofty status was the magnitude, areal coverage and longevity of the cold.

For the first and only time on record, every state in the Union (recall, there were only 45 states at the time) dipped below zero. Subzero cold invaded parts of south-central Texas, the Gulf Coast beaches and northwest Florida.

Tallahassee, Florida, dipped to -2 degrees on Feb. 13, 1899, the only subzero low in the city’s history. This remains the all-time record low for the Sunshine State.

All-time record lows were set in a dozen states, from the Plains to the Ohio Valley, Southeast and District of Columbia. In addition to Florida, state record lows in Louisiana (-16 in Minden), Nebraska (-47 in Camp Clarke) and Ohio (-39 in Milligan) still stand today.

Dozens of cities still hold onto their all-time record low from this cold wave, including Atlanta (-9), Grand Rapids, Michigan (-24), and Wichita, Kansas (-22). Temperatures as frigid as -61 degrees (Montana), -59 degrees (Minnesota) and -50 degrees (Wisconsin) were recorded.

The Mississippi River froze solid north of Cairo, Illinois, and ice not only clogged the river in New Orleans, but also flowed into the Gulf of Mexico a few days after the heart of the cold outbreak.

Ice jams triggered floods along parts of the Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland and James Rivers. Ice skating was the activity of choice as the San Antonio River froze.

Lacking snow cover, the ground froze to a depth of 5 feet in Chicago, damaging water, gas and other pipes.

New York City engineers found trusses on the Brooklyn Bridge had contracted 14 feet due to the cold, according to Extreme American Weather, by Tim Vasquez. Due to frozen aqueducts from Catskills reservoirs, the city of Newark was forced to draw water from other rivers and bays.

Adding insult to injury, a massive snowstorm punctuated the cold outbreak from the Gulf Coast to New England Feb. 11-14.

Cape May, New Jersey, picked up 34 inches of snow, the nation’s capital was buried by 21 inches and 15.5 inches fell in New York City, overwhelming city crews and isolating suburbs.

In Florida, snow fell in Fort Myers, Tampa saw measurable snow for one of only two times in its history, and Jacksonville picked up 1.9 inches of snow. New Orleans was blanketed by 3 inches of snow.

Here are some other notable cold outbreaks since the massive 1899 outbreak.

Winter 2013-2014 Atmospheric CO2 399 ppm

Ice builds up along Lake Michigan as temperatures dipped well below zero on January 6, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Chicago hit a record low of -16 degree Fahrenheit as an arctic air mass brought the coldest temperatures in about two decades into the city.
(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

– December 2013 – February 2014 was among the top 10 coldest such periods on record in seven Midwest states.

– An early January 2014 outbreak brought the coldest temperatures of the 21st century, to date, for some cities.

– The winter was among the top five snowiest on record in at least 10 major cities.

Late January-Early February 1996 Atmospheric CO2 363 ppm

– Minnesota state record: -60 degrees near Tower on Feb. 2, 1996. WCCO radio’s Mike Lynch broadcasted live from Tower that morning, during which he blew soap bubbles which then froze on the ground as a crowd watched.

– All Minnesota public schools shut down.

– Fears of natural gas shortage in northern Illinois prompted requests to reduce consumption.

Mid-Late January 1994 Atmospheric CO2 359 ppm
– 14 cities set all-time record lows, including Indianapolis (-27), Cleveland (-20) and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (-22). Pittsburgh (-22) beat its previous all-time record set during the February 1899 outbreak.

– Both Pittsburgh (52 hours) and Cleveland (56 hours) set their record stretch of subzero cold.

– Indiana state record low set: -36 degrees at New Whiteland on Jan. 19

– 35 counties in Ohio plunged to -30 degrees or colder on Jan. 19.

– Worcester, Massachusetts, had seven straight days with subzero lows, a record stretch.

– Crown Point, New York, dipped to -48 degrees on Jan. 27.

– Coldest month on record in Caribou, Maine, with an average temperature of -0.7 degrees.

December 1990 Atmospheric CO2 356 ppm
– Most destructive freeze in California since 1949. Fifty percent of California’s citrus crop damaged.

– Record 18-day freeze streak in Salt Lake City

– 2,000 children stranded in Seattle schools due to heavy snow on Dec. 18

– Randolph, Utah, bottomed out at -45 degrees on Dec. 22.

December 1989 Atmospheric CO2 354 ppm
– All-time record lows in Kansas City (-23), Topeka, Kansas (-26), Lake Charles, Louisiana (-4), and Wilmington, North Carolina (0).

– First Christmas Day snow (trace) on record in Tallahassee. Miami had a rare freeze while Key West dipped to 44 degrees.

– 14 inches of snow fall at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on Christmas Eve.

– At the time, it was the fourth coldest December on record for the entire U.S.

President Reagan Inauguration – Jan. 1985 Atmospheric CO2 346 ppm
Due to the cold, President Ronald Reagan takes the oath of office for his second term as President in the Capitol Rotunda on Jan. 21, 1985.

– 13.2 inches of snow in San Antonio, Texas (Jan. 12), crushed the previous 24-hour snow record, there. Austin and Houston (3 inches each) also were blanketed by this snowstorm.

– All-time record lows were set in Chicago (-27), Jacksonville, Florida (7), and Macon, Georgia (-6)

– State record lows were set in Virginia (-30 at Mountain Lake) and North Carolina (-34 atop Mt. Mitchell).

– $1.2 billion in damage to Florida’s citrus crop

– Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration was the coldest Inauguration Day on record (7 degrees). The ceremony was moved indoors and parade cancelled.

Late December 1983 Atmospheric CO2 343 ppm
– $2 billion damage to agriculture, mainly due to freezing temperatures in central and northern Florida.

– As measured using the old formula, wind chills reached 100 degrees below zero over much of North Dakota on Dec. 22.

– Williston, North Dakota tied its all-time record low (-50) on Dec. 23. (Check out the hourly observations from that day.)

– Sioux Falls, South Dakota, remained below zero from the morning of Dec. 16 until Christmas Day afternoon.

– Over 125 daily low-temperature records were broken on Christmas Day. Tampa’s Christmas Day high was only 38 degrees.

Remembering the “Freezer Bowl AFC Championship game in Cincinnati, Ohio on Jan. 10, 1982.

January 1982 Atmospheric CO2 341 ppm
– 85 deaths were attributed to the cold wave, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

– Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway Airports set all-time record lows (-26).

– Milwaukee, Wisconsin, plunged to -26 degrees on Jan. 17, their coldest temperature in 111 years.

– Montgomery, Alabama (-2), Jackson, Mississippi (-5), and Atlanta (-5) each plunged below zero.

– Snow at rush hour on Jan. 11 slickened streets, stranding motorists in Atlanta.

– Natural gas lines froze, and up to 7 million experienced brownouts, according to Tim Vasquez.

– The second coldest game in National Football League history, the “Freezer Bowl”, was played in Cincinnati, where a kickoff temperature of -9 degrees greeted the warm-weather San Diego Chargers.

– Hundreds of cases of frostbite were treated at the stadium, including Bengals quarterback Kenny Anderson’s frosbitten ear.

Tonawanda, New York – Post Blizzard of 1977
Photo of a house almost completely buried in snow in the aftermath of the “Blizzard of ’77” in Tonawanda, New York.  (Jeff Wurstner/Wikipedia)

January 1977 Atmospheric CO2 334 ppm
– 69 first-order weather stations shivered through their record coldest month, according to Weather Underground’s Christopher Burt.

– South Carolina state record set: -20 degrees near Long Creek

– Temperatures did not rise above freezing the entire month in a swath from eastern Iowa to western Pennsylvania northward, according to Burt.

– Snow fell as far south as Miami and Homestead, Florida, the farthest south occurrence of snow in the U.S. Two inches of snow fell in Winter Haven, Florida.

– 35 percent of Florida’s citrus crop was damaged; rolling blackouts were needed in Florida due to heavy power demand.

– President Jimmy Carter walked 1.5 miles in the Inauguration Parade with temperatures just below freezing on Jan. 20.

– The “Buffalo Blizzard of ’77” added a foot of snow to the 33 inches of snow on the ground, accompanied by wind gusts to 75 mph, producing snow drifts up to 30 feet high, paralyzing the city.

January 1949 Atmospheric CO2 311 ppm
Coldest month on record in Boise, Idaho, and Spokane, Washington.

– Coldest winter at virtually every weather station in California, Nevada, Idaho and Oregon, according to Burt.

– A series of blizzards in the Great Basin and Plains claimed 150,000 sheep and cattle, isolating ranches from Wyoming to South Dakota.

– The Army airlifted supplies to snowbound ranchers.

– Snow fell in San Diego. One of only three measurable snowfalls on record in Downtown Los Angeles, as well.

– All-time record low set in San Antonio, Texas (0 degrees).

Winter of 1935-1936 Atmospheric CO2 310 ppm
– Coldest Plains winter of record.

– Low temperatures dropped below -50 degrees on four separate days in Malta, Montana.

– Parshall, North Dakota, plunged to -60 degrees on Feb. 15, still the state record low today.

– Langdon, North Dakota, remained below zero for an incredible 41 straight days, the longest stretch on record in the Lower 48 states, according to Burt.

Winter of 2019 Atmospheric CO2 409 ppm


Ice builds up along the shore of Lake Michigan as temperatures dipped to lows around -20 degrees on January 31st, 2019, in Chicago, Illinois. Businesses and schools closed, Amtrak suspended service into the city, more than a thousand flights were canceled, and mail delivery was suspended as the city coped with record-setting low temperatures.  (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)


A cyclist rides through the falling snow in the Financial District, January 30th, 2019, in New York City
(Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)


Frost forms on the back of Galloway cows on February 1st, 2019, in Crainlarich in Scotland. Temperatures plummeted to -15 degrees Celsius on the coldest night of the year. (Photo: Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images)

Summary

Clearly CO2 neither causes nor prevents outbreaks of arctic cold invading North America. Concerning ourselves with GHGs is no substitute for ensuring reliable, affordable energy and robust infrastructure.

Jonathan Erdman is a senior meteorologist at weather.com and has been an incurable weather geek since a tornado narrowly missed his childhood home in Wisconsin at age 7.

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John Christy Named EPA Science Advisor, Eco-Freak Out Ensues

The flavor of the activist/alarmist reaction is suggested by headlines from the usual suspects.

Scientist Who Rejects Warming Is Named to EPA Advisory Board Scientific American

Wheeler Appoints Climate Denier to EPA Science Board EcoWatch

Former coal lobbyist and acting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler has named a climate denier to serve on the …

John Christy Was Just Named An EPA Science Adviser. His Climate Studies Have Been Repeatedly Corrected. Buzzfeed

A climate science skeptic with a history of botched research is the latest controversial addition to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Scientific Advisory Board …

Controversial climatologist John Christy, who once said scientists believed Earth was flat, to join advisory board at environment agency The Guardian

A more restrained report comes from AL.com Alabama climate change skeptic named to Trump’s EPA advisory board  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The Trump administration continued its reshaping of how science is evaluated at the Environmental Protection Agency with the appointment Thursday of a slew of new members to a key advisory panel.

Among the eight additions to the agency’s Science Advisory Board are a number of members whose ideas run against mainstream scientific thinking on issues that include the health effects of radiation and the modeling of Earth’s climate.

Andrew Wheeler, the acting EPA chief, added the eight new members while reinstalling eight others selected during the Obama administration. He cast the appointments as a reaffirmation of the Trump administration’s commitment to hearing scientific opinions from a diverse set of voices.

“In a fair, open, and transparent fashion, EPA reviewed hundreds of qualified applicants nominated for this committee,” Wheeler said in a statement. “Members who will be appointed or reappointed include experts from a wide variety of scientific disciplines who reflect the geographic diversity needed to represent all ten EPA regions.”

But critics of the administration see this and other moves under Wheeler and former EPA chief Scott Pruitt as part of a larger push to make the agency’s decisions more friendly to industry.

“The general makeup of the Science Advisory Board has changed significantly in the past two years,” said Genna Reed, a science and policy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “What we’re seeing is a decrease in the number of academics and a surge in the number of industry and consulting-firm members.”

With the announcement Thursday, 26 of the board’s 45 members have been appointed by the Trump administration.

The best-known new member of the panel, though, actually does work at a university. John Christy, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, is perhaps the most prominent climate skeptic in all of academia.

Christy acknowledges that humans have altered Earth’s climate. But he’s a polarizing figure within the climate science community for his criticism of mainstream climate models produced by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and of scientific conclusions about the severity of global warming reached by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Pointing to his own analyses of satellite temperature data, which suggest that observed warming is on the lower side of projections, Christy has argued that atmospheric temperatures are less sensitive to the buildup of greenhouse gases than the majority of other climate scientists say they are.

Among the many scientific institutions that say global warming is dangerous is the EPA itself. In President Barack Obama’s first year in office, the EPA determined greenhouse gases posed a risk to public health, giving the government the legal justification it needed to try to curb emissions from cars, coal plants and other sources.

Christy, Alabama’s state climatologist, takes issue with EPA’s “endangerment finding.”

“I, as well as many others, am very skeptical of the basis of many of these findings, like the endangerment finding,” Christy said in an interview Thursday.

He said he believes the EPA’s reliance on what he regards as faulty climate models have led it to issue misguided rules for polluters. “If you use bad models,” he said, “you’re likely to come up with bad regulations.”

Christy is often called on by Republicans leery of government climate regulations to testify before Congress. At a 2015 House Science Committee hearing, Christy described the study of climate change as a “murky” science. “We do not have laboratory methods of testing our hypotheses as many other sciences do,” he said in his written remarks. “As a result, what passes for science includes opinion, arguments-from-authority, dramatic news releases, and fuzzy notions of consensus generated by preselected groups.”

Michael Mann, a climatologist at Pennsylvania State University who has testified opposite Christy before lawmakers, has argued that Christy’s findings have become “a central pillar in the case for climate change denial” despite the fact they have “been shown to be an artifact of faulty computations.”

The advisory board will also now include Brant Ulsh, a health physicist at M.H. Chew & Associates whose work focuses on low-dose radiation.

In the past, the EPA has maintained there is some risk of cancer from any exposure to radiation. But Ulsh argues the way the government has modeled the health effects of small amounts of radiation exposure at places like nuclear power plants overplays that risk.

“Right now we spend an enormous effort trying to minimize low doses,” Ulsh told the Associated Press last year. “Instead, let’s spend the resources on minimizing the effect of a really big event.”

Another new panelist is Richard Williams, an independent consultant and former Food and Drug Administration official who has praised the Trump administration for cutting regulations.

In the fall of 2017, Pruitt upended the agency’s key advisory groups, announcing plans to jettison scientists who have received EPA grants.

The move set in motion a potentially fundamental shift, one that could change the scientific and technical advice that historically has guided the agency as it crafts environmental regulations.

“It is very, very important to ensure independence, to ensure that we’re getting advice and counsel independent of the EPA,” Pruitt told reporters at the time.

He estimated that the members of three different committees – the Scientific Advisory Board, the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee and the Board of Scientific Counselors – had collectively accepted $77 million in EPA grants over the past three years. He noted that researchers would have the option of ending their grant or continuing to advise EPA, “but they can’t do both.”

Suspicion Confirmed: Climate Change is Racist

The Hill has the story: European colonizers’s mass slaughter of Native Americans caused first major change in climate Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

A new study found that European colonizers who arrived in the Americas killed so many indigenous people that it caused the first major change in the Earth’s climate.

The new study, conducted by researchers at the University College London, found that by killing nearly 56 million indigenous people over the course of roughly 100 years, European settlers caused large areas of farmland to go abandoned and reforest.

The study said the new swath of vegetated land, which CNN reported was roughly the size of France at the time, caused a massive decrease of in carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere then.

Levels of carbon in the atmosphere had changed so much that it caused the planet to experience a global chill in 1610, that is now known as the Little Ice Age, researchers said.

“CO2 and climate had been relatively stable until this point,” UCL Geography Professor Mark Maslin, one of the co-authors behind the study, told CNN on Friday. “So, this is the first major change we see in the Earth’s greenhouse gases.”

Maslin told CNN that he and the team of researchers conducted the study by examining archaeological evidence, historical data and analyzing Antarctic ice, which can trap atmospheric gas and reportedly reveal the quantity of carbon dioxide that was in the atmosphere long ago.

He said a combination of all of the above showed researchers how the reforestation that was brought on by the mass slaughter of indigenous people in the Americas led to the global chill.

“The ice cores showed that there was a larger dip in CO2 (than usual) in 1610, which was caused by the land and not the oceans,” Alexander Koch, the lead author of the study, told CNN.

“For once, we’ve been able to balance all the boxes and realize that the only way the Little Ice Age was so intense is … because of the genocide of millions of people,” Maslin added.

Summary

There you have, all wrapped up with a bow on top. The Little Ice Age was caused by too little CO2, from too many trees because white men killed too many natives. Talk about connecting the dots.  Did those white guys think they could get away with it?  Thankfully, wildfires are solving the excessive forests problem.  Oh wait.

From the Encyclopedia Virginia:  The Little Ice Age and Colonial Virginia

The Little Ice Age refers to a period beginning about AD 1300 and lasting until the middle of the eighteenth century in which the average worldwide temperature may have cooled by as much as 0.1 degrees Celsius. Despite its name, this period “was far from a deep freeze,” the scholar Brian Fagan, writing in 2000, has argued. “Think instead of an irregular seesaw of rapid climatic shifts, driven by complex and still little understood interactions between the atmosphere and the ocean.” Some climate scientists contend that the term “Little Ice Age” is an exaggeration; others dispute the beginning and ending dates. (Historians have suggested that severe weather during the American Civil War may have been an effect of the Little Ice Age.) But nearly all agree that the seventeenth century—when the English founded the Virginia colony at Jamestown—was one of the coldest in the last thousand years.

The cause or causes of this cooling is subject to vigorous debate. Scientists have pointed to the Maunder Minimum, a period between 1645 and 1715 when the number of observed sunspots decreased, indicating a reduced level of solar activity; however, opponents of this theory argue that the resulting decline in solar irradiation was not sufficient to cause the Little Ice Age. During this cooling period, the tilt of the earth’s axis also changed. Such changes may profoundly affect ocean circulation, which, in turn, affects climate. Still other scientists have suggested that volcanic eruptions—such as one in the southern Philippines in 1642—may have had an impact on the cooling, causing chemical reactions in the atmosphere that blocked or redirected sunlight.

The extreme weather wreaked terrible consequences on both the Indians and Europeans in Virginia. As the Spanish Jesuit pointed out, Indian populations decreased during times of drought, likely because of the scarcity of food. Such scarcities also led to conflict—among Indian communities and between the Indians and Europeans. The English at Roanoke had neither the intention nor the ability to feed themselves off the land, and a cold winter and drought conditions led them to place pressure on the Algonquian-speaking Indians of Ossomocomuck to share their already depleted supplies. This, in turn, led to warfare. Indian towns were destroyed and a weroance, or chief, beheaded.

While the Little Ice Age affected the entire world, leaving significant numbers of people to subsist on little food, its impact on Virginia was particularly sharp. It raised the stakes for both Indians and Europeans, making survival more difficult and conflict more likely.

Conclusion: It seems once again, climatists have got cause and effect reversed.

Sciencing Vs. Scientism

 

What is Scientific Truth? Previous posts here have discussed the difference between science as a process of discovery (“sciencing” if you will), and science as a catalog of answers to how the world works (“scientism” in this sense). On this issue, I am following Richard Feynman, and also Arthur Eddington, who is quoted at the end.

This post dives into the struggle over truth and science in contemporary society. It also discusses some underlying philosophical confusions leading to distortions of scientific processes and discoveries. Michela Massimi is Professor of Philosophy of Science at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. She works in history and philosophy of science and was the recipient of the 2017 Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar Medal by the Royal Society, London, UK. Her article recently published at Aeron is entitled Getting it right. Excerpts in italics with my bolds and images. My takeaway: Science matters only because Truth matters. But do read her entire essay for your own edification. Title is link to essay.

Truth is neither absolute nor timeless. But the pursuit of truth remains at the heart of the scientific endeavour

Think of the number of scenarios in which truth matters in science. We care to know whether increased CO2 emission levels cause climate change, and how fast. We care to know whether smoking tobacco increases the risk of lung cancer. We care to know whether poor diet exposes children to the risk of developing obesity, or whether forecasts of economic growth are correct. Truth in science is not esoteric dilly-dallying. It shapes climate science, medicine, public health, the economy and many other worldly endeavours.

That truth matters to science is hardly news. For a long time, people have looked to science for truths about the world. The Scientific Revolution was nothing if not the triumph of Galileo’s scientific truth – hard-won through his telescopic observations – over centuries of dogma about the geocentric system. With its system of epicycles and deferents, Ptolemaic astronomy was at once sophisticated and false. It served to, at best, ‘save the appearances’ about how planets seemed to move in the sky. It did not tell the truth about planetary motion until the discovery of the Copernican explanation. Or consider the Chemical Revolution at the end of the 18th century. We no longer, after all, believe in phlogiston – the fictional imponderable fluid that Georg Ernst Stahl, Joseph Priestley and other natural philosophers at the time believed to be at work in combustion and calcination phenomena. Antoine Lavoisier’s scientific truth about oxygen prevailed over false beliefs about phlogiston.

The main actors of these scientific revolutions often fostered this way of thinking about science as an enquiry leading to the inevitable triumph of truth over past errors. Two centuries after Galileo’s successful defence of the heliocentric system, this idea of the course of scientific truth continued to inspire philosophers. In his Cours de philosophie positive (1830-42), Auguste Comte saw the evolution of human knowledge in three main stages: ‘the Theological, or fictitious; the Metaphysical, or abstract; and the Scientific, or positive’. In the ‘positive’, the third and last stage, ‘an explanation of facts is simply the establishment of a connection between single phenomena and some general facts, the number of which continually diminishes with the progress of science’.

In some scientific quarters, this Comtean notion of how science evolves and progresses remains common currency. But philosophers of science, over the past half-century, have turned against the representation of science as a ceaseless forward march toward truth. It is just not how science works, how it moves through history. It flies in the face of the wonderful and subtle historical nuances of how scientific revolutions have in fact occurred. It does not accommodate how some of the greatest scientific minds held dearly to some false beliefs. It wilfully ignores the many voices, disagreements and controversies through which scientific knowledge has often advanced and progressed over time.

However, many (and legitimate in their own right) criticisms against this naive view of science have committed a similar mistake. They have offered a portrait of science purged of any commitment to truth. They see truth as an inconvenient and disposable feature of science. Fraught as the ideal and pursuit of truth is with tendencies to petty doctrinairism, it is nonetheless a mistake to try to purge it. The fallacy of positivist philosophy was to think of science as coming in stages of some sort, or following a particular path, or historical cycles. The anti-truth trend in the philosophy of science has often ended up repeating this same misstep. It is important to move beyond the sterile dichotomy between the old (quasi-positivist) view of truth in science and the rival anti-truth trend of recent decades.

Let us start with some genuine philosophical questions about truth in science. Here are three: 1) Does science aim at truth? 2) Does science tell us the truth? 3) Should we expect science to tell us the truth?

In each of these questions, ‘science’ is a generic placeholder for whichever scientific discipline we are interested in questioning. Question one might strike us as otiose but, in fact, it triggered one of the liveliest debates of the past 40 years. Bas van Fraassen launched this debate as to whether science aims at truth with his pioneering book The Scientific Image (1980). Does science aim to tell us a true story about nature? Or does it aim only at saving the observable phenomena (namely, providing an account that makes sense of what we can observe, without expecting it to be the true account about nature)?

There are philosophers today who embrace the view that science does not need to be true in order to be good. They argue that asking for truth is risky because it commits one to believing in things (be it epicycles, phlogiston, ether or something else) that might prove false in the future. In their view, ‘empirically adequate’ theories, theories that ‘save the observable phenomena’, are good enough for science. For example, one might take the Standard Model in high-energy physics not as aiming at the truth about whether the world is really carved up into quarks, leptons and force carriers; whether these entities really have the properties that the Standard Model says they have; and so on.

When it comes to the second question – does science tell us the truth? – scientific realists and anti-realists of various stripes have debated it. Leaving aside the aim of science, let us concentrate on its track record instead. Has science told us the truth? Looking at the history of science, does it amount to a persuasive story of truth accumulated over the centuries? Philosophers, historians, sociologists and science-studies scholars have all challenged a simple affirmative answer to this question.

This decades-long, multi-pronged, disenchantment-with-truth trend in philosophy of science starts by rejecting the idea that there are facts about nature that make our scientific claims true or false. Fact-constructivism is only one aspect of this multi-pronged disenchantment-with-truth trend. Outlandish as this might sound, its defenders claim that there is not a single, objective way that the world is; there are rather many different and ‘equally true descriptions of the world, and their truth is the only standard of their faithfulness’, in the words of the philosopher Nelson Goodman. For example, he claimed that we do make facts, but not like, say, a baker makes bread, or a sculptor makes a statue. In Goodman’s view, we make facts any time we construct what he called a ‘version’ of the world (via works of art, of music, of poetry, or of science).

We do this all the time, for example, with stars and constellations. As the philosopher Hilary Putnam expresses it: ‘Nowadays, there is a Big Dipper up there in the sky, and we, so to speak, “put” a Big Dipper up there in the sky by constructing that version.’ Goodman’s world-making view has severe implications for truth in science. ‘Truth,’ he wrote, ‘far from being a solemn and severe master, is a docile and obedient servant. The scientist who supposes that he is single-mindedly dedicated to the search for truth deceives himself … He as much decrees as discovers the laws he sets forth, as much designs as discerns the patterns he delineates.’

Fact-constructivism sounds too radical to many philosophers, and alienating to most scientists. So here is another approach against factual truth, well-known among philosophers of science. Over the past 40 years, they have produced an extraordinary amount of work on models in science. The role of abstractions and idealisations in scientific models, they maintain, is to select and to distort aspects of the relevant target system. The billiard-ball model of Brownian motion, for example, represents the motion of molecules by idealising them as perfectly spherical billiard balls. Moreover, the model abstracts, or removes, molecules from their actual environment, which is of course where collisions among molecules take place.

Studying modelling practices in science has led some to argue that science does not tell the truth but it does provide important non-factive understanding. Consider, for instance, Boyle’s gas law, which captures the relation between pressure p and volume v in an ideal gas at constant temperature. At best, Boyle’s law is true ceteris paribus (ie, all else being equal) in highly idealised and contrived circumstances. There simply is no ideal gas with perfectly spherical molecules displaying ‘atomic facts’ (in a quasi-Wittgensteinian sense) that make Boyle’s law true. Despite being true of nothing real, the billiard-ball model of Brownian motion and Boyle’s ideal gas law do nonetheless provide important non-factual understanding of the behaviour of real gases. For they allow scientists to understand the relation between decreasing volume and increasing pressure in any gas, even if there are no atomic facts in nature about perfectly spherical molecules corresponding to such idealisations.

Anti-dogmatic and anti-monist approaches to science have also questioned the value, as well as the facticity, of truth. From the 1960s, science-studies scholars began to see the word ‘truth’ as evoking unpalatable petty doctrinairism and intracultural battles in the wake of the Vietnamese war, postmodernism and, later on, what became known as the ‘science wars’. Many saw the physicist Thomas Kuhn as the forefather of a new historicist trend that dismantled what they perceived as the naive view that science aims at or tracks truth. Kuhn saw himself as ‘a fact lover and a truth seeker’. Yet in the final remarks to his classic The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), he made a prescient, almost ominous, warning:

Does it really help to imagine that there is some one full, objective, true account of nature and that the proper measure of scientific achievement is the extent to which it brings us closer to the ultimate goal? … Successive stages in that developmental process are marked by an increase in articulation and specialisation. And the entire process might have occurred, as we now suppose biological evolution did, without benefit of a set goal, a permanent fixed scientific truth, of which each stage in the development of scientific knowledge is a better exemplar.

For Kuhn, truth is not an overarching aim of science across scientific revolutions. Nor do scientific revolutions (eg, from Ptolemaic to Copernican astronomy) track truth either. What they do, at best, is to increase our ability to solve anomalies that beset the previous paradigm (as when we eventually discovered that retrograde motion was only an illusion, and not something that needed epicycles and deferents to be explained).

We see the spirit of Kuhn’s warning in discussions today. Truth itself is not enough to settle or even guide debates about expertise, trust, consensus and dissent in science. The philosophers of science Inmaculada de Melo-Martín and Kristen Intemann have described the matter well in their book The Fight Against Doubt (2018). When it comes to the role of science in policymaking, the key is ‘engaging in discussions with all relevant parties about the values at stake, rather than the truth of particular scientific claims’. Policymaking involves politics and values, and ‘disagreement about values cannot, and should not, be decided by scientists alone’ or by just scientific evidence.

The third question is whether we should expect science to tell us the truth, or is truth (or at least the notion of factual truth) not best left to logicians and metaphysicians?

While critical analyses of factual truth are indeed best left to logicians and metaphysicians, philosophers of science should not abdicate their responsibility to talk about truth in science. The quasi-Wittgensteinian myth of atomic facts as the truth-makers of scientific claims has proved inadequate to even scratch the surface of very complex practices in science. But that is not a good reason (or pretext) for forgoing truth altogether. Nor is it a reason for concluding that science should not be expected to tell us the truth.

But whose truth? By whose lights? Some might be tempted at this point by a Jamesian pragmatist theory of truth. American pragmatism has traditionally provided an alternative way of thinking about truth, which some philosophers of science see as more congenial to capturing the complex nuances and the power structure of scientific practice.

In James’s words: ‘“The true” … is only the expedient in the way of our thinking, just as “the right” is only the expedient in the way of our behaving.’ Stripped of its rhetorical flourishes, for James to be true is (to a good approximation) to work successfully. A scientific model is true – on a loosely Jamesian view – if it successfully facilitates and enables activities (be they epistemic or not). If the billiard-ball model of Brownian motion helps scientists to predict the behaviour of gas molecules, for example, the model is (pragmatically) true. The falseness of the presumption of perfectly spherical molecules does not matter.

The risk with a James-inspired conception of truth, as I see it, is that it is too malleable to resist the tides of time and the stresses of social forces endlessly at work in science. A James-inspired view of truth abdicates the expectation that science tells us the truth in the name of a non-better-qualified kind of success of a scientific practice. But how to tell apart cases where success does indeed track truth from cases where it does not? More to the point, when it comes to matters such as climate change, the benefit of vaccinating children, or economic forecasts, we seem to need more than a malleable Jamesian conception of truth for the sake of scientifically informed decisions that do not bow to pressure from powerful lobbies and political agendas (in the name of what ‘might work’). But, someone might reply, how can truth and pluralism go hand in hand if not by opting for a Jamesian conception of truth (if we really care about truth at all)?

There is another way of thinking about how truth and pluralism might go hand in hand, without reducing matters of truth to calculations of what is pragmatically good to individuals or communities sharing a scientific perspective at some point in time. First, it is necessary to understand the key term ‘scientific perspective’ and how it impinges on scientific pluralism. In its original use by the philosopher Ronald Giere in 2006, ‘scientific perspective’ is akin to Kuhn’s disciplinary matrix: a set of scientific models (including the relevant experimental instruments to gather data). In broader terms, scientific perspective is the disciplinary practice of a real scientific community at any given historical time. It includes the knowledge they produce, and the theoretical, technological and experimental resources they use, or that guide their work.

The time for a defence of truth in science has come. It begins with a commitment to get things right, which is at the heart of the realist programme, despite mounting Kuhnian challenges from the history of science, considerations about modelling, and values in contemporary scientific practice. In the simple-minded sense, getting things right means that things are as the relevant scientific theory says that they are. Climate science is true if what it says about CO2 emissions (and their effects on climate change) corresponds to the way that things are in nature. For the sake of powerful economic interests, sociopolitical consequences or simply different economic principles, one can try to discount, mitigate, compensate for, disregard or ignore altogether the way that things are. But doing so is to forgo the normative nature of the realist commitment in science. The scientific world, we have seen, is too complex and messy to be represented by any quasi-Wittgensteinian picture of atomic facts. Nor can the naive image of Comte’s positive science render justice to it. But acknowledging complexity and historical nuances gives no reason (or justification) for forgoing truth altogether; much less for concluding that science trades in falsehoods of some kind. It is part of our social responsibility as philosophers of science to set the record straight on such matters.

We should expect science to tell us the truth because, by realist lights, this is what science ought to do. Truth – understood as getting things right – is not the aim of science, because it is not what science (or, better, scientists) should aspire to (assuming one has realist leanings). Instead, it is what science ought to do by realist lights. Thus, to judge a scientific theory or model as true is to judge it as one that ‘commands our assent’. Truth, ultimately, is not an aspiration; a desirable (but maybe unachievable) goal; a figment in the mind of the working scientist; or, worse, an insupportable and dispensable burden in scientific research. Truth is a normative commitment inherent in scientific knowledge.

Constructive empiricists, instrumentalists, Jamesian pragmatists, relativists and constructivists do not share the same commitment. They do not share with the realist a suitable notion of ‘rightness’. As an example, compare the normative commitment to get things right with the view of the philosopher Richard Rorty, in whose hands Putnam’s truth as ‘idealised warranted assertibility’ reduces to what is acceptable to ‘us as we should like to be … us educated, sophisticated, tolerant, wet liberals, the people who are always willing to hear the other side, to think out all the implications’.

Getting things right is not a norm about us at our best, ‘educated, sophisticated, tolerant, wet liberals’. It is a norm inherent in scientific knowledge. To claim to know something in science (or about a scientific topic or domain) is to claim for the truth of the relevant beliefs about that topic or domain.

Thinking of truth as a normative commitment inherent in the very notion of scientific knowledge brings some benefits. It overcomes a false dichotomy between atomic facts and non-factive, non-truth-conducive inferences. And it makes realism compatible with perspectivism. Scientific communities that endorse historically and culturally situated scientific perspectives (either across the history of science or in contemporary science, across different fields or different scientific programmes) share (and indeed ought to) a normative commitment to get things right. That is a minimum requirement to pass the bar of what we count as ‘scientific knowledge’.

Getting the evidence right, in the first instance – via accurate measurements, sound non-ad-hoc procedures, and robust inferential strategies – defines any research programme that is worth being called ‘scientific’. The realist commitment to get things right must begin with getting the evidence right. No perspective worthy of being called ‘scientific’ survives fudging the evidence, massaging or altering the data or discarding evidence.

Scientists ought to share rules for cross-perspectival assessment. That our knowledge is situated and perspectival does not make scientific truths relativised to perspectives. Often enough, scientific perspectives themselves provide the rules for cross-perspectival assessment. Those rules can be as simple as translating the 10 degree Celsius temperature in Edinburgh today into the 50 degree equivalent on the Fahrenheit scale. Or they can be as complex as retrieving the viscosity of a fluid in statistical mechanics, where fluids are treated as statistical ensembles of a large number of discrete molecules.

Let there be no doubt: scientific knowledge is the product of our getting it right across our perspectival multicultural scientific history. Scientific knowledge is not a prerogative of our Western cultural perspective (and its discipline-specific scientific perspectives) but the outcome of a plurality of historically and culturally situated scientific perspectives that, over millennia, have reliably produced knowledge with the tools, resources and concepts respectively available to each and every one of them.

Scientific truths are the resilient and robust outcome of a plurality of scientific perspectives that, over time, have meshed with one another in their (tacit, implicit and often survival-adaptive) normative commitment to reliably produce scientific knowledge for us as humankind. That is why, far from being an insufferable hindrance to scientific pluralism, truth is in fact its best safeguard in tolerant, open and democratic societies that are genuinely committed to the advancement of scientific knowledge in the very many faces it comes with.

Footnote: 

Religious creeds are a great obstacle to any full sympathy between the outlook of the scientist and the outlook which religion is so often supposed to require … The spirit of seeking which animates us refuses to regard any kind of creed as its goal. It would be a shock to come across a university where it was the practice of the students to recite adherence to Newton’s laws of motion, to Maxwell’s equations and to the electromagnetic theory of light. We should not deplore it the less if our own pet theory happened to be included, or if the list were brought up to date every few years. We should say that the students cannot possibly realise the intention of scientific training if they are taught to look on these results as things to be recited and subscribed to. Science may fall short of its ideal, and although the peril scarcely takes this extreme form, it is not always easy, particularly in popular science, to maintain our stand against creed and dogma.
― Arthur Stanley Eddington

See Also: 

Data, Facts and Information

Three Wise Men Talking Climate

Head, Heart and Science

Post-Truth Climatism

How Science Is Losing Its Humanity