Saturday, September 11, 2010

In which Eli pisses off Roger Pielke Jr. and Michael Tobis.

Ethon flew in from Boulder. Poor dear had a few singed feathers from the Four Mile Canyon fire, but he was laughing anyhow, because Jr. has discovered that a bunch of political scientists don't like him because he wants to affect policy rather than publish papers. IEHE this is nuts. Most political scientists' wet dream is to affect policy, but that, dear bunnies is not why we are gathered here to piss off Eli's dear buddy, Michael Tobis, and his, well, whatever Roger thinks Eli is.

After picking himself off the floor, giggling, Eli remembered an Email he had received from a, hold on for it, a political scientist. It talks about Roger, but it really is also talking about Michael

. . . he has directed essentially all his critique at the science community, as if the science community were the basis of the problem. I take the position that the essential problem in the relationship between scientists and the political/policy process is clearly on the political side of the exchange. Say what you will about the shortcomings of scientists, by far the more significant need is for people to have a critique of politics. For this, Roger’s Ph.D. seems to be worthless. He is clueless about how to address the madness of the political process and how to come to grips with the disinformation campaign.
Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is not to change the IPCC, teach scientists how to communicate or the public to think, but to fix the political process. As always, you will get no credit for trying and the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions."




Excuse Eli, he has a date with a bottle of distilled eau de carotte .

23 comments:

Michael Tobis said...

Eager though I am for an honest battle of wits against an armed opponent, Eli will have to do better at finding a point of disagreement.

My interest in the twin impossible goals of teaching scientists how to communicate and the public how to think stems from the desperate dysfunction in the political process, to which communication with experts is, in a well-ordered society, normally delegated. The hopeless triangle of mutual dismissal among public, politicians and scientists hardly seems workable even in the hypothetical event that science had nothing out of the ordinary to say. The idea that Roger's "honest broker" approach has anything useful to add to this tangle of mutual contempt is flatly risible.

Of course, Roger is moving off his "honest broker" posture to a position that would have been quite reasonable and timely twenty years ago, viz., greatly accelerated investment in energy alternatives. So mocking Roger's prior position seems moot. Unfortunately, his acceptance of a realistic estimate of the state of affairs ca. 1990 has been scooped by the more articulate and telegenic Mr. Lomborg arriving at essentially the same earth-shaking conclusion, so I think Roger has peaked. I realize Eli will miss him, but so it goes.

This all said, we remain in our quandary. Any reasonable policy to protect civilization will imply modest and tolerable constraints on most of us, and is hardly more of a threat to liberty or national self-determination than, say, the GATT. Nevertheless, the prospects of us rising to the occasion have plummetted from "expected" (ca 1990) to "plausible" (a year ago) to "a snowball's chance in hell" (now) and there is a question of what to do about it now that our prospects of avoiding severe damage are so drastically curtailed.

It seems to me that there is no dignity or even pleasure to be gained from capitulating to this absurd fate.

I certainly do assign most of the blame to the political sector and the journalistic sector for massive failures of leadership, dreadful incompetence, and distraction with shallow, transitory and literally secular matters. In the end, the fate of the world for eons will quite likely have been much diminished by the hanging chads and butterfly ballots of Broward county, a doom that even Vonnegut might have dismissed as too shabby and absurd.

But I don't propose to capitulate to this idiot cataclysm, this comedic pratfall of a planetary doom. So what can one do? As in the Hollywood blockbusters, when all you have left between your predicament and doom is a long shot, you take the long shot. I'm open to suggestions. The main thing to do right now is bend the curve of politics away from the bizarre conspiracy of paranoia that seems to be prevailing.

The best thing I can imagine for the next couple of months is merciless mockery. But Roger isn't the target. For instance, did you see this guy?

Rattus Norvegicus said...

OMG! That guy was channeling Glen Beck!

But hey, I could be treasurer of Minerva. I served three terms as treasurer of my student government at college. During which time we stopped funding various political groups who had beefs (or is that beeves) with Reagan administration foreign policy (no disagreement here, just that it didn't add anything to student life) and instead invested in infrastructure. A video system for the student lounge (which was very popular: I ended up running a seminar series on Hitchcock for the film department, but RA's could have movie nights for their halls which was really the great thing), a better sound and projection system for the dining hall which made presenting films for the college better. Stuff like that. Worked hard to align the interests of the students and faculty to improve the life of the college. (I won't talk about the massive party we were able to fund which ended us up on the list of Playboy's top college parties..., but it was fun).

Elect me! I could have been a Repulican!

Ron Broberg said...

This all said, we remain in our quandary. Any reasonable policy to protect civilization will imply modest and tolerable constraints on most of us, and is hardly more of a threat to liberty or national self-determination than, say, the GATT. Nevertheless, the prospects of us rising to the occasion have plummetted from "expected" (ca 1990) to "plausible" (a year ago) to "a snowball's chance in hell" (now) and there is a question of what to do about it now that our prospects of avoiding severe damage are so drastically curtailed.

Perhaps I am guilty of oversimplification - but the 'why' which underlies the change of prospects is the key to understanding how the future unfolds. And those who point to political, financial, and/or corporate economic interests are right as far as they go ... but in my opinion fail to dig deep enough.

Debt - Energy - Climate

You can't fix one independent of the others. The only way forward that I can see today is to build a national vision of energy independence. That vision must be broad enough to include nuclear, local biomass, and private solar. But much of the real gains will be unglamorous energy efficiency - negawatts - type improvements.

The techno-optimist in me says that the real transition from fossil fuels will come from the biotech guys a few decades down the road and not the physical science and electrical engineering guys. That is - if the transition is a positive one.

Steve Bloom said...

That guy should move to Arizona and run for governor. For both of your sakes let's hope that the (claimed) fact that he possesses a master's in communication won't trigger a campaign to dismnantle the higher education system root and branch. :)

Re RP Jr.'s PoliSci colleagues, I think what bothers them about him is what bothers everyone else, which is that unseemly degree of self-promotion. Regardless, let's not cut him too much slack. In the last year alone he's built up a lot of karma what with the Hartwell Group, Klotzbach et al. (for both of which I suspect he was the organizer) and his appearance on the Beeb (opposite Chris Field) attacking the IPCC.

Anonymous said...

he has directed essentially all his critique at the science community, as if the science community were the basis of the problem.

I should get those words tattooed on my biceps.

Anonymous said...

This is how 'you' fix a political problem---cheep too...for a change.)

http://www.theage.com.au/world/carbon-cuts-leave-chinese-factories-in-chaos-20100908-1518t.html

I wonder how they make their Iron Fists, that help the 'people' & still not create C-OO that will Kill the 'people'? Show us a model, ok?

EliRabett said...

The iron rice bowl. Been there, done that

Anonymous said...

Ah, so...payee/payer?

Anonymous said...

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1310788/The-real-2001-Scientists-teach-robots-trick-humans.html

Lionel A Smith said...

Phil Davison of Minerva has a 'master's in communication' and has to rely on notes to remind him what his name is!

EliRabett said...

In reply to: Ah, so...payee/payer?

Eli suggests inserting an r

Magnus Westerstrand said...

So so... on the area of interesting subjects... Any one that know how the reply to


Potential Dependence of Global Warming on the Residence Time (RT) in the Atmosphere of Anthropogenically Sourced Carbon Dioxide

went?

shewonk said...

Yes -- the problem is not with the science but politics. Too many politicians have their heads so far up the asses of the oil corp execs that they eat and breathe, well, you know.

Marion Delgado said...

Eli, if Michael is essentially in some issues taking an accommodationist tack, well, I have to say for the record I agreed with Chris Mooney when he made his similar criticisms in Unscientific America. I don't oppose accommodationalism; the fact that I believe ideological capitalism is the root problem perpetuating AGW* does not mean I'm going to criticize free-marketers like Amory Lovins when they're right or the efforts of virtually everyone from Joe Romm to Michael Tobis to you-name-it to get businesses involved in green technology.

Also, I found the disagreement between Michael and Joe Romm to be instructive - it boiled down to Michael saying, don't glad-hand the public and pretend that green jobs are going to restore the world economy and produce enough jobs to replace the ones we've lost connected with our current industrial production which uses dirty energy. And Joe, IMO, is arguing that holding other variables constant, then it is accurate to say green jobs will cause a renaissance and a recovery over what we would have without converting.

The point is, in that situation, at least, Joe Romm is basically Barney the Dinosaur and everything's one big happy family of positive thinking, and Michael Tobis is essentially saying we should admit that we have to limit growth and tell people the hard facts that fixing AGW will require sacrifices and curtailment of lifestyles in America and other G20 nations. That's not a critique of how scientists communicate, it's a critique of the policy process.

The fact that I tend to agree with Joe Romm's business-environment Kumbaya claim is irrelevant to my point: your political scientist's not really talking about Michael. The people talking about Chris Mooney may occasionally also be talking about Michael Tobis, but never the ones talking about Roger Pielke, Jr. - that's a nonexistent match. The denialists will leverage scientific doubt and uncertainty, and they'll leverage self-criticism - what else is new?


*And, therefore, e.g., Al Gore's Earth in The Balance was quite unbalanced, and guilty of an incredible cover-up of the true state of affairs with its argument that the former East Bloc was worse environmentally than the "West," given that the (much greater) environmental damage caused by Western business interests happened all over the world, not solely in the alleged home countries of those businesses.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Shewonk: "Yes -- the problem is not with the science but politics. Too many politicians have their heads so far up the asses of the oil corp execs that they eat and breathe, well, you know. "

...by assmosis? Basically, my criterion on whether I can vote for someone these days is whether they believe in physical reality. This pretty much crosses more than half the candidates off my list.

Anonymous said...

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Gotta jet?

Horatio Algeranon said...

a_ray says "whether I can vote for someone these days is whether they believe in physical reality."

But how does one decide?

Some well-respected physicists think there may actually be an infinity of realities happening in parallel (Many Worlds), maybe even one where Sarah Palin is President, Glenn Beck VP, William Kristol Secretary of State, Sean Hannity White House Press Secretary and Bill O'Reilly Secretary of Education.

Or maybe Horatio is getting ahead of himself and that reality doesn't transpire until 2012.

Lazar said...

Hmmm... Richard Tol is claiming that technological innovation "would increase the costs of emission reduction." ... and implying that the IPCC are lying about Nordhaus (2002).. really?

Anonymous said...

Mit researchers and scientists need millions to buy larger roulette wheels. This, so they can stop the Global Temp. from raising like crazy. Solving the nature of the current problems, while minimizieng risk & all, at the same time.

http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2009/climate-change-1002.html

I know, you guys all like the money on black:) Better late than never...

Anonymous said...

Eli, you piss off everyone other than the eleven folks who read your blog.

Best, N.

J Bowers said...

Twelve.

TimChase said...

On a different front -- the Arctic front...

Arctic Sea Ice Volume Anomaly 2010-09-15
http://psc.apl.washington.edu/ArcticSeaiceVolume/IceVolume.php

If you are still seeing 2010-08-31 due to hitting a server that doesn't have the updated image try:
https://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0B-57vongYoiAZWM0ZTc3ZjAtMmExYS00MmJhLTg4YWUtY2RmNWQ4MDJiMzM3&sort=name&layout=list&num=50

Gaz said...

13