Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Manchurian Senior Fellow?

Ethon has been wondering about the recent push for more research before taking action on climate change. Of course, this is being lead by his favorite bag of munchies, Roger Pielke Jr. who insists, insists Eli tells you, that right now there is nothing we can do (well until paragraph 23) and blames the reporter for listening to him, gets the science all wrong on a paper in Nature to conclude that it's gonna get cold man, blames learning his science from newspapers, and generally has been trying to discredit anyone who thinks that climate change may be a major problem. Other players in the let's lie back enjoy it while paying for a lot of research that may or may not do anything school are our new friends from the Breakthrough Institute, Ted Nordhaus and Michael Schellenberger who are also playing the press like a squeeze box.

As devoted readers of this blog and Naiomi Oreskes may know, this was exactly the tactic used by William Nierenberg in the 1980s to delay action on climate change. Nierenberg, Fred Seitz and Robert Jastrow founded the Marshall Institute at about that time, and all three were hip deep in driving climate change denialism. Nierenberg recruited a bunch of economist accomplices, William Nordhaus (Ted's uncle), Gary Yohe and Thomas Schelling. They minimized the threat, assumed the most favorable case and used the miracle of compound interest to set US policy as research but no action.

John Mashey, has found the missing link between the past and present, Martin Hoffert, one of the emeriti from NYU and a great advocate of space based power, a senior fellow of the Breakthrough Institute and a Marshall Institute "expert". This is quite in keeping with the Marshall Institute's childish infatuation with space based missile defense

Now Eli fully expects a great harumphing to emerge from the Breakthrough Institute/ Roger Pielke Jr./ Marshall Institute nexus, pointing to 23rd paragraphs where they say they really didn't mean it.

They do.


oldmaninacave said...

The trouble with the other side (us) is that we haven't spuriously invented an umbrella lobby group with a snazzy name, like 'Heartless' or 'Breakout'.

If the counter-revolution is to work, we should correct this immediately by forming a web-based, non-exiatent pseudo secret-society with a name the reader can relate to.

How about 'the Tufty Club'?


Flavius Collium said...

How about humanity-hating anticapitalist furriner wine club for science.

The second level satire might be a bit complicated for most of the not so involved public though.

Florifulgurator said...

How about Homo Sapiens Erectus Institute?

Marion Delgado said...

I admit I'm a Luddite elitist, but I have to advocate the return of the word "led" to the English language.

"read" is the exception, not words like lead, led.

Arthur said...

Hi Eli - hey, watch it, Marty's an old friend, and I've written on space solar power myself on occasion.

But he is keeping some pretty odd company there. I've also had long back-and-forth arguments with Shellenberger and Nordhaus when they first came up with this "breakthrough" business, but in the end it really seems we're not that far apart. A lot of what they call for is not pie-in-the-sky stuff at all (which I have no problem with anyway), but the same funding of real deployment that Joe Romm calls for. Their terminology is different, their outlook (particularly Marty's) is much longer term, and their approach is deliberately attention-getting and provocative which gets some people's backs up, but in truth they're (mostly) on the same page.

The Marshall Institute is another story. I didn't know Hoffert had such assocations; on the other hand he's been accused of being a flaming liberal (not without good cause) so if they're willing to talk, maybe we can really find common ground for everybody.

One of the fundamental questions in all this is not "how do we solve the problem?" - the pathway is pretty clear and there are many technologies to work with now and to develop for the future. The real question is "how do we get the world to actually take those steps we know are necessary to solve the problem"? We need leadership, we need vision, we need some sort of world-wide consensus. Maybe these guys are providing some of that - by moving the argument into "do more R&D" vs "spend more on deployment" at least we're getting away from the "we have to address this serious problem"/"what problem?" debate.

Anonymous said...

Great. So they Breakthrough Institute has a former writer for the Marshall Institute, and then there's Roger....Yes, Roger Pielke Jr.

Former Cato Institute alumni.

What a lovely clan of contrarians.

Mus musculus anonymous

Anonymous said...

Marion as luddite elitist,- thats really funny old marion. Next, you'll excoriate(get your cotton-pickin' ludditic elitist mind around that)those who criticise the Delago-type greens who have allowed the death of millions by banning DDT as a malaria control. Oh, thats right, you did. Very recently. A high point for you.

You old elitist Marion, whats the death of a few million duskies, to you being able to say Satans lapdogs. Cheap at half the price.

Regards to all you ludditic elitists, or elitic luddites- can never tell you apart.


bi -- Intl. J. Inact. said...

/me ignores another inactivist troll

An interesting question is, how many of the current inactivist memes can be traced back all the way to the Founding Fathers of Climate Inactivism (Seitz, Jastrow, Nierenberg, Singer)?

I'm quite sure the "climate models are useless" meme and all its mutations come from Seitz's "models for nuclear winter are useless" essay, and it has survived almost unchanged to the present day. Yeah, people have tried adding facts or facty things to it since then, but it seems that every time someone adds some factiness to the meme, the new meme tends to disappear in a cloud of gray puff.

Anonymous said...

JohnS, are you that same guy that hangs out on science blogs making those contrarian statements about climate change. If so, how did you fall into the DDT myth ban?

Mus musculus anonymouse

Anonymous said...

John S;

What happened to that 14 m sq km winter sea ice (at a minimum) that you predicted?

Where is it?

or more aptly, where WAS it?

So close, but yet so far.

And by the way, the ice has already dropped (like a rock) back to pretty much where it was at the same time last year.

Given how THIN the new ice is, we are almost certainly on track for another very (if not record) low.

YOU were just WRONG, WRONG WRONG, John S. -- as you are about the whole "ice recovery claim".

Simon Donner said...

Glad to see you point out, even in passing, the lunacy of the Prometheus post on that Nature decadal prediction paper. Spin aside, this is what bothered me: if we academics are going to write for the public about an academic paper (to which only institutions and individuals with subscriptions have access) we should at least take the time to read the paper itself. Like it or not, these blogs are the only source of information for many people. Maybe we need to take some sort of "oath of effort"? "I won't write about a piece of research that I did not read in full".

Dano said...

I'm with Arthur here. I don't think the B.I. and Gaia-worshipping good folk are that far apart. As I said at Romm's place, it's useless to excoriate someone who is going in your same general direction and wants the same things because they want the course to be 135 degrees and you want 120.

Personally, I don't trust RP Jr or Sr and his/their involvement troubles me, but I saw Marty speak maybe 6 weeks ago and, while I didn't agree with some of what he said, there was none of this 'delayer' bit.

I'm confused over why we have to hammer people over whether 120º or 135º is the proper course. Adaptive mangagement - which should be used in this instance - is perfectly capable of starting at 127º and tightening or loosening the cleats to adjust to a changing wind.

Come, people. You take a 2x4 upside the head of someone 180º off, not 7-10º. Sheesh.


And can we not throw bones to the troll, plz?



EliRabett said...

Well, it depends.

First of all this thing has a history, and the history is that action was delayed purposefully at a critical time by deflection to that 130 degree mark: let's not do anything but research cause there will be plenty of time to do it later. The later has now morphed into let's do nothing but more research because nothing we do now will have any effect. Of course, they leave out why we are in this fix.

Second, when you can trace back to some of the same organizations and folk who were blocking any actions, it begins to look suspicious.

Now I don't know Hoffert at all, but my question would be that the attitude of the Marshall Institute towards climate change is no secret so why is he associated with them if he is so worried about climate change?

The Breakthrough Institute looks more and more like a denialist front organization, with a few of the nomenklatura pulling the strings from behind the curtain.

Dano said...

It's just their [B.I.'s] approach. One doesn't have to buy into it whole-hog. As I said, having the Pielkes on board concerns me. But,

Just as we aren't talking about all adaptation or all mitigation. Their approach may not be the way to go (I'm, personally, not all in), but there's no reason why it can't inform the debate.

F'r instance, it is no problem at all to take a RMI-Lovins type approach in the near term (say, starting 10 years ago) and work on technology too.

In my mind, this typical herding-cats lib'rull back and forth just looks silly to reg'lur folk. Will it get us any closer to actually having a direction, then galvanization and motivation for our public. Doubt it.

When the issue is tangible to most folk, they'll act, for that is human nature. Until then, some will change light bulbs and hopefully more will change some laws to get us down the road.



Dano said...

BTW, the GF found solace in the opinion in the Rocky last weekend about being tired of hearing about things like Hickenlooper's 5 points ("45 seconds shorter in the shower?!? horrors!!!!").

Why did she find solace? For the simple reason she's tired of hearing about green this, green that, eco yada. She doesn't want to hear about companies jumping on board being half the reason for green eco, she just is typical and doesn't want to change unless she is forced to (and then she'll b1tch about it and not want to change her habits).

Some do change, many don't. And many don't for differing reasons (lazy, cheap, dang liberals, socialism, I refuse to believe, etc), so one strategy for action won't do it.



EliRabett said...

Dano, when I talk to the press or to people without a scientific background I am very careful to say things like:

"This is a real threat to ourselves, our children and our grandchildren. To meet the threat we have to immediately start amelioration. We will have to adapt, mitigate and find new technologies. All require an honest appraisal of the fix we are in."

Notice how something like that does not encourage cherry picking. Notice how everything coming out of the Breakdown Institute does

If a dumb old bunny can do this, why not Hoffert, Pielke, Schellenberger and Norhaus. Since I used to hang out with science policy types I know how carefully they pick their words. I note the effect of their words. These guys are selling a bunch of hooey at the world's expense and their profit

Dano said...

Ah. There we go.

I say the same thing, roughly, and I talk to decision-makers about sustainability issues. Doing it this week as a matter of fact. Did it less than two weeks ago, for action. Perhaps I'm a policy type. Nonetheless,

I'm looking for narrative, not mud-flinging.

If BI wants to make a profit - and it is obvious that they do, Christ look at their PR and their narrative - well, this is Murrica. People try to make profit on the rope you're going to hang them with on Saturday.

This is OK today in our system, and politicians (decision-makers) think its OK and they must triangulate amongst many groups trying to profit off of one thing or another.

IOW, totally expected. What is odd (or should I say, expected by some) is the 2x4 wielding by a certain societal sector that seemingly is bashing profit/moneymaking ideas/pandering for public subsidies (OK, its fine to bash this a little bit). To me, I see this as marginalizing behavior. Or self-defeating behavior. Or something that maybe I can't name right now, but looks sadly familiar and not actualizing.

There needs to be a different narrative. I see it in your reply immediately above.

In my mind the narrative goes something like this:


Man-made climate change [I prefer this term in the public discourse if I'm framing it] is a real threat to ourselves, our children and our grandchildren.

To meet this threat we have to immediately start taking action. We will have to adapt, mitigate and find new technologies. All require an honest appraisal of the fix we are in.

Some groups focus solely on finding new technologies, and that's fine. We have the technology - now, today - to begin. There is no need to delay any longer. Starting today will create jobs. Starting today will make it easier for our grandkids to adapt and cheaper to mitigate.

Despite what some groups say, this will not break the bank, and may even strengthen our economy, our resilience, and our neighborhoods.

Let some groups look for future technology. That's fine, as long as we recognize and understand that future technology is just that: future. Let us start today.


Now, recognize that Dano is not bashing anyone and pointing out that, oh I dunno, BI is triangulating for something that the listener can fill in for themselves, and no one has 2x4'd anyone.

That's whut I'm sayin'.

I don't 100% agree with BI, but BI can try to do what they are trying to do. It's only one way. We can't see the future, so we don't know how right they are in their solutioning, just as we can't know how right "our" ideas are. I don't care for Roger's dodgering, but there's a better way to point out the location of the hornet's nest than by hitting it with a stick.

As S&N said, the old ways aren't working any more. We need some new ones. Use some honey.



guthrie said...

I hardly ever run into honestly under informed people, but the couple of times I have done so, I've suggested that sure, we can keep looking at things, but what we can do right now that won't force them to change everything about their life is encourage efficiency measures. Most peopel will hardly notice increased efficiency measures, but we can certainly put a lot in place over the next few years.
Start them small, work up to the bigger things.

Anonymous said...

"James E. Hansen, a NASA scientist who says the Bush administration attempted to censor his warnings about the perils of global warming, will be honored tomorrow night at 7 at the Forum Theater of the La Jolla Playhouse at the University of California San Diego.

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography will give Hansen its 2008 Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest. .....

The Nierenberg Prize was created to honor the memory of William A. Nierenberg, who was director of UCSD's Scripps Institution of Oceanography for 21 years."

Has anyone informed Hansen that prize carries the name of the same person who is being tried to be descredited in this blog??!!

John Mashey said...

It would be astonishing if Hansen didn't know perfectly well perfectly well who Nierenberg was. The prize is in honor of Nierenberg's (worthy) work at Scripps, not his (not-so-worthy) efforts at Marshall.

Hansen even did a gracious obituary for Jastrow, discussed here a while back.

Even great scientists sometimes go off the rails later on, but that
a) neither diminishes the worth of their earlier work
b) nor gives them a free pass for what they did later, especially if they traded on what they did earlier.

Anonymous said...

Dano says "can we not throw bones to the troll, plz?"

but it's just so much fun to point out how wrong John S was about his ice "recovery" prediction.

he stuck his neck out and got it chopped off.

How he has the nerve to continue to comment here after making such a fool of himself is beyond me.

apparently he thinks no one will notice.

Dano said...

Yes, but is the comment spam worth that little victory?



EliRabett said...


Hank Roberts said...

> ... Prize was created to honor the
> memory of William A. Nierenberg,
> who was director of UCSD's Scripps
> Institution of Oceanography for 21
> years

I imagine the irony is quite obvious. Remember the good work someone once did. Honor the memory of when it was.

Hank Roberts said...

What the devil is that illustrating??

EliRabett said...

Turning dollars into doughnuts. Seems appropriate.