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Climate Researchers Feeling Heat From White House 635

Jeff K writes "Facts and science collide with tribal loyalties, the Washington Post reports: 'Scientists doing climate research for the federal government say the Bush administration has made it hard for them to speak forthrightly to the public about global warming. The result, the researchers say, is a danger that Americans are not getting the full story on how the climate is changing.'"
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Climate Researchers Feeling Heat From White House

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  • Re:do they care? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @10:47AM (#15076022) Homepage Journal
    US Citizens follow the media. If the media doesn't report on it, the average US citizen doesn't have a clue. Getting global warming topic into class rooms and into the media is the key to getting Americans active.

  • Re:Don't blame Bush! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <> on Thursday April 06, 2006 @10:58AM (#15076130) Homepage

    Anyone under the age of 30, intelligent enough to use a computer, who intentionally reproduced despite the COMMONLY UNDERSTOOD STATE OF AFFAIRS, should be very, very ashamed of themselves.

    The thing about us nerds, though, is that we usually have a strong belief in the power of Man to improve his lot through technological innovation. There's no reason that you can't fit more people on Earth, we just have to take the initiative towards a more environmentally friendly use of technology. If you like science-fiction, as most of us here do, the story collection Future Primitive: The New Ecotopias [] , edited by Kim Stanely Robinson, has various glimpses of such a future.

    Besides, the birthrate in the West has fallen quite low and in many countries (Italy, Spain) is below the replacement rate. Most population growth is being fueled in the Third World, and people there lack the education to understand the consequences of their actions. There's the oft prediction that once their income level rises to Western standards, they will cease to have so many children.

  • Offtopic (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PinkyDead ( 862370 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @11:00AM (#15076144) Journal
    Some time after the fall of the Soviet Union, I had the pleasure of travelling on a Yugoslavian passenger ship. One of the crew was the designated Political Officer - strangest thing - he was just there to make sure the crew didn't say the wrong thing to the western tourists. He was really nice bloke, and well able to throw back a pint but it just seemed a little strange.

    Obviously, this is just an 'interesting' travel anecdote - and has nothing to with anything here.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 06, 2006 @11:03AM (#15076188)
    -Is the world getting warmer??.... Absolutely....

    -Is it a process that has been going on over 15,000 years now. NOTE: Even this is not in dispute. We did just come out of an ice age, by the way....

    -Do we have very much control over this process. Other than destroying > 95% of the worlds population, then NO! Burning "clean" fuels will not do crap when you have > 6 Billion people consuming. It is not an issue of clean, but rather scale.

    The world is changing. It has been allot warmer even a million years ago. Get used to it!! If I hear another person talk about "mother earth being sick", I think Im going to hurl. There is this perception with people that everything is perfect until we do something to mess it up. Well, this theory might work in sunday school, but is just a big fat lie!

  • by bobwoodard ( 92257 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @11:08AM (#15076252)
    Is this really a shocker? Bush has had a policy of denying global warming is a result of humans, the fact he is giving the NOAA extra money for research rather than prevention is quite interesting, global warming is something that is happening.

    From the article: "Although Bush and his top advisers have said that Earth is warming and human activity has contributed to this, they have questioned some predictions and caution that mandatory limits on carbon dioxide could damage the nation's economy."

    It doesn't sound like there's any denying going on, but rather a question regarding the impact?

  • by PIPBoy3000 ( 619296 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @11:11AM (#15076277)
    If you Google about for him, you get some interesting stuff []:
    DR. WATSON: A question for Pieter Tans. What if we don't want carbon dioxide to increase to more than one thousand parts per million? For example, what if we want to keep CO2 from exceeding 450, what is the implication for burning all the fossil fuels?

    DR. TANS: It would be Draconian. I showed the real long term effect of it. If we want to keep CO2 below 450 ppm permanently, I guess we would have to stop just about today, almost.
    And another interesting thing here []:
    What do we see? At least during '92 and '93, there is tremendous uptake of CO2 at mid-latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere by plants. The uptake is about half as large as the total combustion of fossil fuels. So this is fortunate, this is good news. People in the oil and coal industry might love it. But like I said, we don't know if this is going to last. Biologists are generally very skeptical that this will keep happening for decades. In fact, we know that in 1994, terrestrial uptake at the mid-latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere was much smaller than during '92 and '93. So we know that it varies a lot from year to year. It just so happened that when we got our isotopic analysis on line, there were two big years of terrestrial uptake.
    Just reading through what he's said, he seems like a straight-shooter. Sometimes he says things that the oil industry might hate, some things they might love. Ah, science!
  • On The Plus Side ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rewinn ( 647614 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @11:31AM (#15076533) Homepage

    The deliberate intrasigience of the feddies is not the last word. Technology to combat catastrophic climate change is the next big economic opportunity. The only question is whether we make it here and sell it there, or vice versa.

    As long as our political leadership are tied to old-fashioned energy sources, they have no incentive to develop & implement the new technologies that will replace the old ... it's a classic "Innovator's Dilemma" [].

    And it has an "Innovator's Dilemma" solution: outsiders develop small, nimble technologies, some of which fail, some of which succeed; eventually they eat the dinosaurs (...sorta like the desktop PC in the era of the mainframe.) You, yourself, can probably figure out a few clever ways to create or implent a green tech in your own city. Give it a try! [A few suggestions here] []

    What is better than making an honest buck while thumbing your nose at the anti-scientists!

  • Not about truth (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bombula ( 670389 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @11:35AM (#15076588)
    The global warming issue is a textbook example of the very unfortunate and worrisome fact that politics is not about truth. It never has been. The same goes for religion. Back when religion and politics were the same thing (and as they still are in some parts of the world today), religion was able to claim the only authoritative access to Truth. But since science began soundly bitch-slapping religion in the arena of Truth in the last century or two, people have become increasingly jaded with both religion and its bedfellow politics.

    The thing is, the people want both religion and politics to be abou truth. We all have a primal need for our 'team' (ie: tribe) to be correct. We all want to believe our side is the Good Guys. The problem, as people become better educated, it becomes harder and harder for any but the most ignorant and gullible to buy into centuries-old superstitious nonsense of religion or the greed-saddled crap spewed out by politics.

    If we ever have political leadership that genuinely prioritizes truth as their policy, that is when we will see a resurgence in interest from the populous. Until then, people are too bored with the gigantic quagmire of lies to care whether something is coming from one rich white guys' camp or the other.

  • by dajak ( 662256 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @11:52AM (#15076782)
    You only have to read a slashdot story on Climate Change (and the amount of time posters call it "global warming" to know that the vast majority of people all over the world are not getting the full story on climate change.

    I'm more worried about the current administration's failure to legislate forced change to energy (particularly oil & gas) consumption, then I am about the American public's lack of awareness of the facts.

    It's a classic free rider problem [] and therefore a responsibility of government. It's also a worldwide free rider problem, where individual countries can choose to be a free rider.

    The vast majority of people is not competent to judge what is happening. As always, people will believe the story if they believe in the authority of the messenger. In many countries in Europe, the climate change story has been adopted as fact for some time by governments, media, and meteorological services. In the US it hasn't.

    The willingness to act on climate change obviously also depends on the consequences. In the Netherlands the government is already investing billions to deal with higher sea levels and more river water than was projected in the past. The last two decades have been so extremely wet that it cannot be a coincidence anymore according to the national meteorological service.
  • by rossifer ( 581396 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @11:55AM (#15076819) Journal
    To quote something I have read in a book - "to beleive that the human race has the power or even the potential to destroy the earth is absolute arogance".

    It sounds like the author of that book had an agenda. And wasn't very well informed.

    Volocanoes are responsible for "global warming". If the gases that they spew are more plentiful that all that humans can put out in 100 years then they are far more responsible.

    Except that volcanic eruptions over the last 100 years only account for 4% of the total greenhouse gas emissions over that same period. Which goes back to my point. You'll need to find a better book to quote.

    It's rather amazing what conclusions you can reach when you decide the results before you begin your "research". Most of what the right-wing comes out with is based on this kind of "research".

    It's so strange. Politically, I'm in the middle-right myself. Lately, however, I find that I have more in common with the statements coming from the left than the right-wing nutjobs, who seem to have not only inhaled, but gargled the bong water. My most sincere hope is that McCain can carry the Republican ticket, and we can wrest the Republican party back from the lunatic fringe. Wasn't the Republican party supposed to be the one defending personal liberties? So why in hell is the current president & cronies leading the charge to destroy our Constitutional freedoms?

    (I know the answer: neo-cons are actually fascists at heart. It was a rhetorical question.)

  • Re:Yes, they care (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GreyPoopon ( 411036 ) < minus herbivore> on Thursday April 06, 2006 @11:58AM (#15076853)
    A few years ago I'd have agreed with you that Americans either didn't know about global warming and/or didn't care. But recently I am definitely sensing a trend that most Americans both know and care.

    As an American, I'd like to add (anecdotal) evidence that many Americans are just as sensitive to this topic as our European counterparts. I apologize if I ramble a lot, but I hope somebody at least finds it an interesting read. I work in the IT department at the American subsidiary of a European-based corporation. Almost every aspect of my job involves working directly with people in Germany, Singapore and the UK via conference calls. Even my interactions with the personnel in the local office are usually over the phone. With the exception of front-end loading on project startups, there is absolutely NO reason why I need to be in the office. Because of the ridiculously overinflated housing market, I could only avoid living in a trailer by buying a house 35 miles from the office where I work. This means that I drive 70 miles a day, every day of the week. The car I drive is one of the more fuel-efficient non-hybrid models that gets over 30 miles per gallon. Although I could do better with a hybrid or diesel, the cost of maintenance on both those types of vehicles leaves me slightly biased against them. And, since I'm a parent, the ultra-fuel-efficient two-seater vehicles are not practical for me. Recently, my company sold part of the land on our local campus, and we are now renting two of the buildings that sit on the land we sold from the company we sold to. I have suggested numerous times to my management that at least two thirds of the workforce could just as easily work from home. I have offered to pay my own bills for internet and telecomm access, only charging back international calls to the company (at a lower rate than they currently pay). I have offered to sign a waiver of liability so that there are no insurance issues associated with my working from a home office. I have demonstrated that I get more done in the same amount of time in the quieter environment of my home office, and I have carefully explained that I would probably start working earlier and finish later because I don't have two hours of driving a day. I have patiently explained that if those whose jobs permitted were allowed to work from home, we would be able to stop leasing the two buildings on the land we sold and easily fit everybody into the remaining buildings with a few "virtual cubes" available for when people need to come to the office. My American management is completely in support of this idea. However, the transplants from our corporate headquarters in Europe absolutely cannot stand the thought of not being able to watch people work. I have even used the "Global Warming" argument (out of frustration), and they refuse to relent. Now, just imagine what would happen if 25% of the work force in the US started working out of home offices. They would reduce their daily driving to vitually zero. Imagine the impact to greenhouse gases this would have.

    So, what's my summary? I think the companies we work for could very easily contribute to improving the environment if they would just think out of the box a bit. For some reason, they refuse to do so. I also think that our European counterparts are just as blind to potential solutions as we are, but just in different ways.

  • Re:Come on now.... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 06, 2006 @01:46PM (#15077940)
    A Gallup poll found that only 17 percent of the members of the Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Society think that the warming of the 20th century has been a result of greenhouse gas emissions

    That was in 1991. A year or so later, Gallup reported that most researchers believed that global warming was a reality. Today, about 15 years later, pretty nobody with a brain they're willing to use doubts it any longer.

  • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @02:23PM (#15078280) Homepage Journal
    It doesn't sound like there's any denying going on, but rather a question regarding the impact?

    Actually, the Bush gang does seem to have wised up that the denial isn't really going over all that well. So they've switched to the traditional "Further research is needed" approach.

    "Yes, some scientists say there's warming, but they don't agree on exactly how much or exactly what the causes are. We should wait until the scientists can reduce their error estimates to zero and prove exactly what's happening. Until then, we should all just go about our business as usual."

    And since science hardly ever actually proves anything, this amounts to an indefinite delay to taking any action that might interfere with business and industry.

    One of the interesting codes is the recent use of the phrase "sound science" by the Republicans (and a few others). If you look for the definition, you'll find that it means science that can absolutely prove its results, with no error bars or conjectures remaining. This sounds good to most non-scientists. But hardly anything in science has ever been proved to this degree. Scientists are still testing the Laws of Thermodynamics, the Theory of Relativity, and even the Law of Gravity. (They're all hoping to become famous for finding a loophole. ;-) We'll all be dead for centuries before they even get close with something as complex and chaotic as weather and climate.

    So basically Bush & Co are insisting that we wait until scientists have done something that science doesn't do. It may be a long wait.

  • by dubl-u ( 51156 ) * <2523987012@p[ ].to ['ota' in gap]> on Thursday April 06, 2006 @06:33PM (#15080543)
    Actually, Bush has behaved entirely responsibly with regard to global warming.

    If you call what he's doing "entirely responsible", what would you call what European countries are up to? Because they are inarguably way ahead on doing something about the problem.

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter