World Affairs Council and Woolsey Team Up in an Assault on Climate Science

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I’ve been away from the blog recently working on a number of things, some of them related to U.S. energy and climate policy. Lots to report.
A colleague of mine thought it’d be worth sharing what James Woolsey is up to, and I agree. In two weeks, he’s moderating a “Climate Change Panel Discussion,” on which 3 of 5 invited panelists deny the basic argument that climate change is mostly driven by human activity and will have extremely adverse affects. That basic argument, by the way, is conclusion of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the largest peer review body ever convened in the world’s history. I’m especially disappointed that the World Affairs Council is supporting this hackery.
In the meantime – I hope you feel compelled to send the WAC a letter holding them to account for their giving disgraced scientists a platform. Here’s what my colleague sent:

I am totally amazed by the panel selected for the WAC Town Hall Meeting on Climate Change. Of 5 panelists, three are deniers of the adverse effects of climate change and the role of human activities as a driver of such change. Two of the panelists are from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (source of the advertising tag line “Carbon Dioxide: some call it pollution; we call it life” and a third is noted skeptic S. Fred Singer. That WAC lends its name to a panel that gives such prominence to people that ignore the science and reflect the interests of their donors has shaken my respect for the World Affairs Council.
I am distributing the WAC panel list to all my colleagues with the question “What has go wrong with the World Affairs Council.” I hope and expect that most of my contacts will share my disappointment. I expect that many people involved in this critical issue with look at the WAC with a feeling of disappointment and a lose of respect.

More soon.
— Scott Paul

Comments

11 comments on “World Affairs Council and Woolsey Team Up in an Assault on Climate Science

  1. Torsten says:

    Hi S.K.,
    thanks for the comments.
    I do not doubt that humankind would act gravely irresponsibly, would we abstain from tackling the issues you described.
    What I fear is that a wave of shrill panic might bring alarmists into a position to politically steer long-term investments. People attempting to make evolution itself go away, instead of trying to ease the pressures humankind is causing to bear on the ecosystem. To do the latter, we are in need of trillions of dollars. Attempting the former, we would need even more.
    We can, though, spend the money just once. We have a single shot. And it would make a huge difference whether we spend the money on, say, developing electric cars, or clean-coal power technology — or if we spend the money on attempting to save the Penguins by attempting to stop the glaciers and poles melting (just an example; I mean to say: whether we spend the money on broad ad-hoc projects without a clear-cut, specific, achievable goal).
    I am afraid of an ecologically Verboten society, of a political climate that tilts toward the easy, quick right-off-the-shelf stop-sign solution to cope with the universe. To force the U.S. into investing billions in short-term projects that might or might not save the planet, that isn’t just a political gamble. We have one shot left.
    As such, any investment that does not tackle a very specific core issue is likely to destroy our ability to later do so. Attempting to quickly reduce the U.S. CO2 footprint by expanding biofuel consumption, and investing billions in the pertinent infrastructure, is an example. The biofuel will likely be produced in Brazil. How, though, will Brazil cope with the exploding U.S. demand? By uprooting the Amazonas rain forest, in all likelihood.
    Another possible example: Investing billions in coal filters right now, the ecological advantage of doing so would be rendered quaint by China investing billions in dirty coal power stations at the same time. It will not solve the issue. It will aggravate it. Because, once China has poured billions into a dirty coal energy structure, she is certainly not willing to upgrade and re-equip that same billion-dollar power grid she just acquired at great pain once the U.S. belatedly comes up with clean modern technology — belatedly because the U.S. taxpayer’s money went into ad-hoc biofuel projects first.
    We need clear and clean priorities. A Nasa-like crash program to develop clean-coal technology, that would certainly help. Raising taxes for that, it would help. However, raising taxes to pay for ad-hoc programs, and then wanting to raise taxes again for clean-coal programs, that won’t work.
    People have a certain tendency to sit back and feel good, after having completed an ad-hoc project. It gives them a false sense of security.
    The important thing is: Yes, we have to act now. Now.
    The more important thing is: In what way to make it effectuous, to really achieve ecological progress?
    The way the Bush administration does attempt to do it is both right and wrong. Right, in the way that until recently she did resist ad-hoc investments. Wrong, that she is shunning from a huge Nasa-like effort all the same since 2001, and shuns away from raising taxes to raise state subsidies for pushing forward key technologies.
    The way Al Gore does attempt it is both right and wrong. Right, by pushing the issue. Wrong, by declaring the scientific debate to be over, and calling for ad-hoc investments. Quickly, now, right from the shelves.
    Democrats are wooing the Christian Evangelicals to join them in this fight. Some Evangelicals are starting to pay attention to it. They are susceptible to a view that would make them assume the Creation is at stake. Consequently, they are susceptible to a belief that humankind might really be able to ad-hoc save the planet, and they might feel a calling to do so. As such, they might put pressure to bear on any elected official to pursue the fast-track solution, instead of an ecologically sound one.
    We have, though, just but one shot.
    best,
    Torsten

    Reply

  2. Spo says:

    Torsten,
    Hope you are still looking in on this thread.
    I thought your post was very good. Very interesting.
    Let me begin by referencing some excerpts from a BBC article I read …
    “Current levels of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere are higher now than at any time in the last 650,000 years.”
    That is the conclusion of new European studies looking at ice taken from 3km below the surface of Antarctica.”
    and
    “We find that CO2 is about 30% higher than at any time, and methane 130% higher than at any time; and ***the rates of increase*** are absolutely exceptional: for CO2, 200 times faster than at any time in the last 650,000 years.”
    From: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4467420.stm
    It seems like, in simple terms, we are driving 55 mph in a 25 mph zone. So while we may not be able to affect how the road will ultimately twist and turn going forward, driving along the road faster than we should (i.e., excess man made CO2 gas production) will litter the road with more and more crashed cars that are never removed.
    At some point, the road – regardless of its ultimate path – becomes affected by the gradual build up of these crashed cars.
    So even if the the Earth’s ultimate path may be problematic for the way we live now – aren’t we either accelerating this and/or possibly compounding the problem with our current CO2 production?
    Given how polarizing this issue is – it may seem like my questions are rhetorical. They are not intended to be. Just interested in your point of view.
    Take it easy,
    S.K. Calb

    Reply

  3. jf says:

    Here’s wishing you success in pressuring the WAC to think twice. Minor point: a few spelling or grammatical errors are perfectly acceptable in a blog, but I hope somebody proof-read your friend’s letter before he sent it.

    Reply

  4. Patricia Kushlis says:

    WACA had a change in directors about a year ago. If you haven’t been in contact with the new person, it might be worth a visit. If there’s an ongoing problem engage the people on the board of directors. It is important because WACA is one of only two national organizations that sends foreign affairs experts out as speakers around the US and WACA has been the more liberal of the two.

    Reply

  5. Torsten says:

    Carroll,
    “Someone correct me if I am wrong….but it seems that the main arguement of the global warming deniers is that the climate changes are just ,cycles’.”
    1) Yes, there are cycles. Of the four billion years our planet has come to exist so far, the poles have been ice-free for about 3,5 billion years. In terms of geological history, the presence of ice and glaciers on earth are the exception, not the normal state of nature.
    That is not to say that humankind may just cease to prevent the fast-paced warming our way of life does cause since 150 years or so. To the contrary, we might want to strive to stop the polluting. As far as we know today, there rarely has been a climate change that came about that sudden. A NASA-like effort to develop a car powered by non-carbon energy is long overdue (“to send a non-polluting car on a clean voyage from Long Island Sound to the Bay of San Francisco and return it safely to New York, from sea to shining sea”).
    However, our efforts will be counterproductive if they are undertaken aiming at eternally preserving the earth’s biological balance and geological shape exactly as it is in April 2007. That is to say: Although the present climate change is man-made, any assumption that save humankind’s behavior, Earth would be in a perfect balance made for eternity, that may be erroneous as well.
    Earth, in terms of geological and biological forces, is still a changing entity. The Gulf stream that makes Norway inhabitable is just five million years old, having sprung into existence after what is Panama today surfaced from beneath the sea and blocked the waterway into the Pacific, thereby diverting the Gulf stream in a northeasterly direction. The forces that closed the Panama Isthmus shut, or that made the Alps pile up just some mere 70 million or so years ago – those forces are still active. Remember the tiny island Surtsey that all of a sudden appeared from below the sea not far from Iceland some 40 years ago? Things like that will happen in the future, too, and conceivably on a much larger scale. Germany’s Eifel volcanoes, for one, are said to be merely dormant.
    As such, a mind set that would want to freeze geological and evolutionary forces, defining Earth’s present shape as sort of God’s final intention – such a mind set would probably be doomed.
    Therefore, what humankind may want to consciously strive for is the ability and the intention to adapt to Earth’s awesome forces, as opposed to attempting to control them. Preventing global warming as a way to intentionally adapt to the complexity of Earth’s physics, that is something entirely different from a fight to “protect God’s creation”, i.e. to freeze Earth’s geological and biological likeness acting as a perceived trustee of the Almighty. We just don’t know what God’s final intention is, and we may never know. We may not even know for sure if He would want humankind to exist forever hence, or, to put it in non-religious terms: We do not know whether Earth will bear with us, or whether we will be overstepping our welcome the way the dinosaurs did, regardless of our actions.
    2) Because of the complexity of the forces that shape Earth, and the enormity of the intellectual task to define the proper course of action to adapt to them, it might be appropriate to not term dissenting voices “deniers”. “Deniers” is a word that up to now has been employed to name Holocaust deniers. It is used to tell apart people who negate a horrible undeniable crime against humankind after the fact, from others who do not.
    Global warming is a known imminent danger, albeit not a closed case in the sense that its horrible results have already played themselves out for everybody to see. The assumed results are horrible in terms of humankind’s chance to live comfortably at certain places and regions, or even to sustain and feed our children, and yet they are still assumptions. Anyone questioning their veracity may be unwise, or short-sighted, or cantankerous. However, to call them a name that is associated with denying the Holocaust would seem to be unfair.
    To question global warming or certain aspects thereof is not tantamount to denying mass murder. Although some critics unfortunately feel at liberty to call others names as well, their dissent is still a legitimate way to honor the First Amendment. It is up to a free and lively debate to sort out the differences, in an engaging, steadfast yet gracious way.

    Reply

  6. Pissed Off American says:

    Well hey, in a day and time when Elmer Fudd gets to be head of the CIA, I see no reason to protest a bunch of Bushlickers pretending to be scientists. It could be worse, Bush could be playing God, instead of just pretending that God told him to murder a quarter of a million Iraqis.

    Reply

  7. JohnH says:

    Woolsey is an enigma. On the one hand he promotes “clean coal” and alternative sources of energy. On the other hand he teams up with a bunch of climate change deniers. Perhaps he is too aware of the national security implications of depending on Persian Gulf oil and totally oblivious to the dire implications of excess energy consumption, the root cause of global warming. Or maybe he’s just gotten in bed with the coal industry.

    Reply

  8. Carroll says:

    Someone correct me if I am wrong….but it seems that the main arguement of the global warming deniers is that the climate changes are just “cycles”.
    I haven’t read Gore’s book yet but I expect it defeats the “cycles” defense…anyone read it and can comment on this?….the fact that cycles occur doesn’t mean they aren’t worsened or interferred with by pollution.

    Reply

  9. TLittle says:

    Good to see WAC offering a blanced opinion.

    Reply

  10. Killer_Whale says:

    Woolsey.
    I saw him in the indie film “Who Stole The Electric Car?” I was shocked to see him in that film.
    Anyway, this seems more typical of him.

    Reply

  11. Edmund J Davis says:

    Just look at their bios: CATO, Competitive Enterprise Institute, a bunch of politically appointed positions with scientific-sounding names; articles written for Reason, WSJ, National Review. No scientific journals, no mention of peer-reviewed articles, no university positions, no research. What hacks. You could come up with just as distinguished a panel by going down to the local coffee shop.

    Reply

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