Sunday, October 15, 2006

That's Senator Shit-For-Brains, Pal

Debra J. Saunders continues the downward slide of intellectual probity and editorial responsibility in returning to perhaps her pet idée fixe, and in so doing, not only aligns herself with such upstanding publications as the Moonie Times, but praises perhaps literally the stupidest member of the United States Senate, heretofore a deliberative body of at least some repute.

Inhofe gleefully represents some of the most regressive, moronic notions to fester in politics. No doubt people like Saunders would like to wish the rest of Inhofe's nonsense away and pretend that, out of everything else he's said and done over the years, at least he knows what he's talking about on this subject. Good luck with that.

Inhofe is even currently under investigation by the FAA for flying a plane that he knew had a damaged rudder. In Inhofe's defense, however, it should be pointed out that Inhofe only knew that the rudder was damaged, he didn't know exactly why. That would just be....well, stupid.

But apparently his mindless contrarianism on the subject of global warming has earned him admiration from Serious Thinkers such as Saunders.

GLOBAL WARMING is a religion, not science. That's why acolytes in the media attack global-warming critics, not with scientific arguments, but for their apostasy. Then they laud global-warming believers, not for reducing greenhouse gases, but simply for believing global warming is a coming catastrophe caused by man. The important thing is to have faith in those who warn: The End Is Near.

Talk about hitting the ground stumbling. Saunders, herself a tiresome self-styled contrarian, is no doubt under the impression that she's puncturing the supposed smug superiority of secular liberals who conveniently find faith in their pet causes. But when the subject she chooses to laud is literally on record as declaring that the United States should base its Israel policy on the Bible (and even suggested that 9/11 was divine retribution for failing to protect Israel sufficiently), well, you may want to find a different well to pump.

What does Inhofe make of the NAS finding? Inhofe recognizes that the Earth is warming, but sees this as part of the natural cycle. Inhofe mentioned the Medieval Warm Period -- 1000 to 1270 A.D. when the Vikings grew crops in Greenland. So he doesn't buy this 12,000-year high. His office referred me to a piece University of Oklahoma geology professor David Deming penned for the Normal Transcript that noted, "The fact that the thermometer wasn't invented until the year 1714 ought to give us pause when evaluating this remarkable claim."

Note that Deming is also the cephalopod who wrote the Moonie Times op-ed I linked to above, but wow. What a remarkably ridiculous analogy. What does the date of the invention of the thermometer have to do with the legitimacy of core sampling and compiled weather data. Hell, weather records weren't consistently kept for statistical tracking purposes almost anywhere until maybe 100 years ago? Is Deming implying that any research compiling data before that period of time is automatically invalidated? What exactly are the University of Oklahoma's standards for their geology professors -- a pulse and a grant from Exxon?

This is the sort of thing that counts for scientific observation in these circles, and as Saunders' husband works for the "Discovery" "Institute", it's no real surprise to find that she shares the same disdain for honest scientific rigor. No wonder people in Tornado Alley think Jesus rode to work on a dinosaur.

I remain agnostic on global warming, as I've seen good arguments on both sides. I know, however, that I never will be convinced that global warming is a scientific threat as long as believers put most of their energy into establishing orthodoxy and denying that reputable global-warming skeptics exist.

See, that's Saunders' real beef, and that's fine, insofar as it appeals to the notion of truly rigorous scientific skepticism and validation of method. But Inhofe is not only not remotely a scientist, he is quite consistently a scarily unserious thinker. He is absolutely not the horse you want to hitch your "global warming agnostic" wagon to.

I too have expressed some skepticism in the past about global warming, mainly over the degree and rapidity which some scientists speculate changes will occur. But I temper that skepticism with reading as many different opinions by as many different impartial and scientific voices as I can discern. (And frankly, it's impossible to not take the sheer scale of scientific evidence seriously at this late point in the game.) James Inhofe is neither, and again, he has proven himself to be nothing more than a foolish, disingenuous, intellectually dishonest person. Allowing him to head the Environmental Committee is a slap in the face on the scale of putting Libya or Sudan on the UN's Human Rights Commission.

There's no other intellectually honest way to put it -- Inhofe is not just a tendentious hack and an idiot, he is someone who is actively, diametrically opposed to honest scientific inquiry. He's made himself abundantly clear on that count. This is not a case of the New York Times and a claque of lefty scientists picking on poor ol' Mister Smith as he does the peepul's work in mean ol' Warshington; this is a group of educated, serious, sensible people trying desperately to counter the destructive nonsense of a man who is inexplicably allowed to wield actual power over his fellow citizens.

The people of Oklahoma could hardly be any more irresponsible in their civic duty if they slapped a "Jesus Saves" sandwich board on a stray dog, and voted it into office. That's how fucking dumb Jim Inhofe really is. He's the one guy in government who makes Tom Coburn momentarily appear to have a measurable IQ.

Now, here's what serious scientists -- as opposed to hacky newspaper columnists looking for cheap money quotes to bolster their threadbare premises -- have to say in response to Inhofe's bullshit:

Inhofe relies upon novelist Michael Crichton (see here and here) to support his contention that

"We are also in the midst of a natural warming trend that began about 1850, as we emerged from a 400 year cold spell known as the Little Ice Age."

Scientific studies come to the opposite result. All published scientific investigations of the causes of 20th century warming have consistently found that natural factors alone cannot explain the warming. Model simulations of large-scale temperature changes in past centuries , for one, can only reproduce the post-"Little Ice Age" warming through the inclusion of non-natural, anthropogenic forcing. The IPCC concluded in its 2nd asessment report that "that there is a discernible human influence on global climate", based in fact on a variety of different techniques, including so-called "Detection and Attribution" studies. These studies involve detailed analyses of the spatial patterns of the observed 20th century changes, which differ for different causes of warming (e.g. anthropogenic factors such as increased greenhouse gases or industrial aerosols, or changes in land use, and natural factors such as changes in solar output or explosive volcanism), each of which have their own unique spatial pattern or "fingerprint". Another simple reason that natural causes cannot explain recent warming is that none of the natural factors which could potentially cause warming (e.g., the combined solar+volcanic forcing or even the somewhat more dubious hypothesized forcing by cosmic ray flux changes) show a trend since the mid 20th century.

Sorry, but it's a tad more involved and convoluted than "The Bible said it, I read it, and that's that", which really does appear to circumscribe all of Inhofe's legislation, as well as his approach to logic and reason. I'm sure that comes off as more smug secular snark, but Inhofe's record speaks for itself.

Finally it is worth providing a bit of context for this latest speech. Inhofe has a history of making inflammatory and incorrect claims about the science of climate change. He previously gave a speech on the senate floor in July 2003 on "The Science of Climate Change" (partial transcript here) in which he stated that "catastrophic global warming is a hoax" and made a rather substantial number of false claims about the science. In fact, Senator John McCain (R) of Arizona subsequently provided two climate scientists mentioned specifically by Inhofe, Dr. Stephen Schneider of Stanford University (whom Inhofe referred to as "the father and promoter of the catastrophic global warming fearmongers") and Dr. Tom Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the opportunity to respond to several of these false assertions in the Senate record--see the account provided in the article "Earth Last" by science journalist Chris Mooney. In this speech, Inhofe repeated many of the standard contrarian arguments challenging the mainstream, consensus view of the climate research community that the activity of human beings now has had a discernable impact on global climate and that this warming is likely to continue as anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations continue to increase. Most of these arguments are debunked on the pages of RealClimate. Inhofe, for example, once again promoted each of the "myths" we have documented about the "Hockey Stick" reconstruction of past temperature changes, citing contrarian criticisms that have since been thoroughly discredited.

These excerpts are very thoroughly referenced and annotated, so definitely check out the original. Look, again, I remain skeptical of the more frantic Day After Tomorrow theses, but just in the past few years -- chunks of the Antarctic Ice Shelf the size of Rhode Island breaking off; last year's epic hurricane season; an alarming trend of polar bears drowning. They can't all be statistical anomalies, nor can there be absolutely no human causation in any of them. Serious people can debate over the details and facts and find some common ground, but there is literally zero probity or intellectual honesty to Inhofe's stance.

Considering his governmental position, that's simply unacceptable, to borrow Junior's favorite new word, and it's irresponsible for people who characterize themselves as inquisitive agnostics to give Inhofe's cheap nonsense the time of day, especially in the guise of "apostasy". Inhofe's laissez-faire approach to environmental stewardship is as orthodox dispensationalist as it gets. These are people who quite literally believe that it doesn't really matter how we abuse the planet, because the end is nigh and the rapture is coming.

I wish that were mere sarcasm, but it isn't.


Firiel said...

This is the same bozo who boasted that nobody in his family for generations was gay. I can't wait till (a) one of his kids comes out of the closet and/or (b) he gets to the Pearly Gates and is met by his gay great-great-grandcester, who promptly kicks his ignorant ass down that long slippery slope to where he really belongs. And I'm not gay - just anti-stupid.

Gentlewoman said...

On behalf of Senator Kit Bond (R-Huntin' n Fishin'), and all residents of the Show Me State, I challenge your assertion that this bigmouth from Oklahoma is the Stupidest Senator.

Our own Kit Bond is so fucking stupid that even if he's ever said anything about his opinion (I'm not saying he has any, mind you), no one, not even in Missouri, has ever paid him the slightest attention. He votes how they tole him, and jest genrally keeps his mouth shet the rest of the time. And cashes the checks.

I once phoned his office to complain about some unusually spectacular pending Republican criminality, and spoke to a succession of staffers, none of whom had any idea how the Senator would vote, if he knew there was a vote, or where the Senator might be at that moment (as it turns out, he was in Alaska, fishing with Ted Stevens). They assured me that 'someone' would get back to me, but that I might want to check the Senator's website. Which did not appear to have been updated since the Senate website system was introduced, and in typical Bondian style, said nothing about anything, and had lots of flags and shit.

Two months later, I got a form letter, obviously written and typed by someone educated in one of our fine Missouri schools, laden with typos, printed off-center on the paper and purportedly signed by Sen. Bond his own self. It was on the wrong subject. But it assured me that Sen. Bond 'agreed with the President that blah blah blah.'

Kit Bond, so stupid, it's contagious! Even his staff is stupid and incompetent.

Let's see your fancy-pants Oklahoma amateur beat THAT. I'll bet Kit Bond doesn't even know what global warming IS. And unless it's gonna impact the fishin', ya know, he's prolly jest not gonna worry about it none, neither.