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Comment: Re:Disgusting (Score 3, Interesting) 848

by terec (#42932129) Attached to: Billionaires Secretly Fund Vast Climate Denial Network

If the US situation is too confusing for you, look at Europe, where politicians are united on anti-global warming efforts. Has it helped? Not one bit. Europeans have been saddled with large costs and no effective reductions to show for it. Electric and hydrogen vehicles are nearly non-existent in Europe, and car ownership and VMT remain high. The only reductions in carbon output have been due to outsourcing carbon-intensive production to China and due to economic slowdowns. Countries are also not doing so well on renewables, with production in most European countries only being 10-20% (but places like Germany only achieve that by importing a lot of non-renewable energy).

Comment: Re:It is Psychology, Science! Fact! (Score 1) 371

by terec (#42894847) Attached to: Paper On Conspiratorial Thinking Invokes Conspiratorial Thinking

As long as you merely "don't like it", there's no problem. However, if you have been paying attention to US politics, you'll notice that the Obama administration doesn't limit itself to "not liking it", they are saying "this is the rational and scientific thing to do, and if Congress isn't going to do it, we are going to act unilaterally", misusing powers given to it for national emergencies. That crosses a line and becomes a threat to our democracy.

Comment: Re:methane is irrelevant (Score 1) 210

by terec (#42894597) Attached to: In 2011, Fracking Was #2 In Causing Greenhouse Gas In US

The primary question raised by the article is: "is methane release from fracking dangerous", and the answer is that nobody has shown a mechanism by which it would be.

As for "my estimates" being "optimistic", no they are not. The climate has been several degrees warmer than it is today many times over the last few million years without any kind of catastrophic positive feedback (in fact, it's been getting colder). If you look at a map of mean annual temperatures, the band of land that would get warmed up sufficiently to release methane by a few degrees temperature increase is quite narrow. And the oceans take thousands of years to respond to atmospheric warming. Sorry, but the ideas and fears you talk about just aren't plausible.

Comment: view from Germany (Score 1) 813

by terec (#42881873) Attached to: Missouri Legislation Redefines Science, Pushes Intelligent Design

Here in Germany, public school is mandatory: rich or poor, you need to go to a government run institution. The curriculum is decided on by committee, and it isn't hallf bad. Of course, creationism isn't taught, but creationism is neither the official position of either the Catholic or the protestant churches in Germany (and those are the only churches that have any say). On the other hand, the history of these churches, their crimes, their anti-semitism, their roles in Nazi Germany are downplayed, while their contributions to society are overemphasized. The Middle Ages are portrayed positively; the term "Dark Ages" doesn't even exist. here is a definite streak of self-serving political indoctrination to the public school curriculum. I'm not sure what all that amounts to; but people shouldn't assume that other nations, even those with a seemingly good public school curriculum, have found some magic solution to the problem.

Comment: Re:It is Psychology, Science! Fact! (Score 1) 371

by terec (#42880089) Attached to: Paper On Conspiratorial Thinking Invokes Conspiratorial Thinking

You're mixing up different levels of reasoning. The Enlightenment argued that it was rational and self-evident that people should govern themselves instead of being governed by despots claiming divine rights. The Enlightenment also made rational arguments about how government by the people should work. But doesn't mean that the people who govern themselves will end up making rational choices. Of course you can have a rationally designed system of government. But such a system necessarily gives people the choice to have their rationally designed government making irrational decisions.

And I didn't say that it was a "strict either/or situation". The choice isn't always-rational or always-irrational decision making, it is always-rational or sometimes-irrational government. I claim that that always-rational is incompatible with democracy; you have to live with sometimes-irrational governmental decision making if you want to live in a democracy. That means accepting that people will vote for bank bailouts and creationism and a lot of other stupid ideas.

Comment: Re:methane is irrelevant (Score 1) 210

by terec (#42880025) Attached to: In 2011, Fracking Was #2 In Causing Greenhouse Gas In US

All of the sources you list take such a long time scale to respond to atmospheric warming that short term releases of methane simply do not affect them, even if they are large. Oceanic clathrates take thousands of years to respond to atmospheric warming if they do so at all. Permafrost disappears so gradually that you might as well treat the methane it releases as carbon dioxide.

So, a long litany of other sources of methane really is irrelevant to the question of whether fracking is dangerous. For making fracking dangerous, you'd have to have some kind of positive feedback cycle that operates on a very short time scale. You haven't listed anything like that.

Comment: Re:methane is irrelevant (Score 1) 210

by terec (#42865775) Attached to: In 2011, Fracking Was #2 In Causing Greenhouse Gas In US

I'm not sure what you're trying to say. Fact is that we don't take much of a risk releasing methane from fracking, because if we find it heats up the globe too much, we can simply stop it, the methane will disappear quickly, and we'll be no worse off than before; humanity has shown itself capable of such effective actions for example on the ozone hole.

The clathrate argument is a red herring. Apart from the fact that people have greatly overestimated the amount of clathrates present, they are released very slowly in response to atmospheric warming, so they aren't relevant to discussions about methane release from fracking.

Comment: Re:It is Psychology, Science! Fact! (Score 1) 371

by terec (#42865495) Attached to: Paper On Conspiratorial Thinking Invokes Conspiratorial Thinking

The interesting thing to remember is that there aren't a lot of pure democracies out there.

As I said, people will also vote for irrational representatives; representative democracies don't magically make government rational or scientific.

The idea behind the US, for example, is supposed to be that it is based on rationality and scientific (or at least Enlightenment) principles.

No, that is incorrect. The idea behind the US is that people should foremost have the freedom to make their own choices, not collectively, but individually. It is an assumption of the Enlightenment that people will tend to make rational and scientifically sound choices, but there is no guarantee that they will.

Living under a direct democracy would probably be a terrifying experience without some form of voter exclusion that only allowed _informed_ votes (and any such system would be hard to prevent being gamed), and, even then, it could be terrifying if you were a member of any sort of minority.

A direct democracy based on majority rule is indeed incompatible with individual liberties, and that is why the US doesn't have such a system (of course, that doesn't stop either the left or the right from invoking a supposed majority as a justification of their various policies). But any system that attempts to enforce rational and scientifically sound government is likewise incompatible with individual liberties, because if you don't have the option to make "the wrong choice" you don't have a choice at all. And having that choice isn't an idle academic exercise: since nobody knows for certain what the rational and scientific choices actually are, the only way is to let everybody make their own choices and sort out later who was right and who was wrong.

What the US system has traditionally tried to do is to let everybody choose for themselves. If you want to destroy yourself with irrational or bad choices, that's your business; government would only intervene to protect people from causing harm to each other. Unfortunately, that system is falling apart, with both the left and the right trying to protect people from themselves, and to fabricate all sorts of harm and obligations to each other in an attempt to restrict people's ability to choose for themselves.

Comment: methane is irrelevant (Score 1) 210

by terec (#42843979) Attached to: In 2011, Fracking Was #2 In Causing Greenhouse Gas In US

Methane doesn't matter much as a greenhouse gas because its atmospheric half life is so short; it turns into CO2, which has a much smaller greenhouse effect relative to methane. Scary numbers based on methane emissions are just FUD.

(IPCC tries to get at this via the "GWP" measure, but that measure still overestimates the effect and danger from methane.)

Comment: Re:It is Psychology, Science! Fact! (Score 1) 371

by terec (#42843919) Attached to: Paper On Conspiratorial Thinking Invokes Conspiratorial Thinking

Abuse of science to provide flimsy justification for outrageous public policy is not the same thing as "atempt[ing] to make government rational and based on scientific principles".

You have to decide: do you want a democracy or do you want a government based on rationality and scientific principles.

They are mutually exclusive, because most voters are neither rational nor scientifically inclined, so they will frequently make irrational and unscientific choices (or elect representatives that make irrational and unscientific choices).

Personally, I prefer democracy to rational government.

Comment: Re:It is Psychology, Science! Fact! (Score 1) 371

by terec (#42822865) Attached to: Paper On Conspiratorial Thinking Invokes Conspiratorial Thinking

That's a bad metaphor. But if we stick with that metaphor, then the problem is precisely that Kyoto, Doha, and all the other efforts all propose that we keep digging anyway. Until someone comes up with a plan where we actually stop digging, making the shovel slightly smaller makes little difference.

Federal grants are offered for... research into the recreation potential of interplanetary space travel for the culturally disadvantaged.

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