About

This is not a science blog. I am not a scientist. Although I have an undergraduate degree in science, I do not do “science” nor do I claim any scientific expertise or in-depth knowledge.

Instead, this blog is about about science — discussing and exploring the war over the science being waged by those hoping to influence public policy. At times, I take a critical stance towards the climate wars, and at other times I employ sarcasm and humour.

I feel more like a war correspondent, if I can lay claim to that venerable profession without any training. I am not a journalist trying to provide an objective “fair and balanced” account of the war. I am a partisan who is writing a personal chronicle of my observations about the climate wars, and I invite others to offer their own observations and conclusions.

I claim that climate science is an inconvenient science. Its findings suggest that if we don’t want to disrupt our climate, we have to change one of the most central parts of our civilization — the form of energy we use to power our technology. Fossil fuels have been the engine of our amazing economic development and growth, but the best science tells us that if we don’t limit our emissions of CO2 soon, we face climate disruption with unknown consequences.

The best science also challenges the political institutions of which we are familiar — the nation state with its simultaneous political independence and economic and environmental interdependence for climate crosses these abstract borders and affects us all. Addressing climate change, if we choose to do so, will demand we act in ways that may not be natural to this political reality in which we live. This inconvenient science presents us with evidence of considerable threat if we do not act, and that evidence suggests that we need to respond to the threat it describes, but it doesn’t tell us how to respond. That is for politics.  The responses proposed by political partisans tend to fall along political lines. Those on the left advocate government intervention in the market while those on the right advocate letting the “free” market decide how best to respond.

I am trained in social research methods and analysis. After finishing my BSc I did an Honours BA and then an MA and am ABD PhD in social science. I’ve studied political science, sociology, social history, psychology and economics. Although I started out in science, I developed an unquenchable interest in humans, our societies and history and so that is where my graduate work focused. I don’t claim to be fully up to speed with the science in climate science as it is beyond most of the science I took as an undergrad. Despite taking courses in graduate statistics, I can’t judge the value of certain statistical methods for analyzing tree rings, or judge the worth of climate models, or draw conclusions about the soundness of derivations of climate sensitivity as most of my own research has been qualitative, hermeneutical, historical and has only used simple statistical methods.

Like Joe and Jane Public, I have to rely on the scientific experts to have it right, or as close to right as can be expected at this time. I have to trust the scientific method and peer review system to have come to the best possible conclusion about the science. It may be incomplete, it may be wrong about some things, but as a layperson, I have no real other choice but to trust the consensus science and peer-reviewed science —  unless I want to go back to university and get a PhD in some related field so that I can judge myself.

I’ve read many papers since I stumbled onto the climate wars — all the main papers in the hockey stick controversy, papers on dendroclimatology, some on sea ice, polar bears, even a few on the sun’s role in climate change. I’ve read peer-reviewed science and blog science, skeptic papers and consensus science papers. I’ve read climate change journalist pieces, congressional reports and watched videos of climate change hearings. Almost 4 years in and I am still in no position to evaluate the literature as a peer, since I am not one. So until the peer reviewed literature changes, until the consensus changes, trusting the mainstream peer reviewed consensus view of climate science is really my only option as a layperson.

To some, taking this position goes against their grain. They want to know for themselves that the equations work or that the methods are appropriate or that the conclusions are valid. That’s fine — but only for a limited group of people with adequate background or time to get it. For the rest of us, it’s either trust the consensus science and peer review system, or fall into cynicism.

The only real options that I and the lay public has are political ones. How do our societies, both as individual nations and as a world community, most effectively respond to what the best science tells us is happening and may happen? At some point, I do hope to discuss policy options, but despite being a policy analyst and consultant by profession, climate policy is not my area of expertise. My current work is in health policy and programs although I have also worked as a Senior Researcher in social policy.

I don’t like what I see happening to science in this current war. I believe that people are so cynical and self-interested that they are willing to sacrifice science on the altar of financial gain or political purity. It does not bode well for our civilization. I am trying to be as honest as I can about what I see going on. Sometimes my posts are pure polemics and sometimes, I may appear dismissive and sarcastic but it is only because sometimes, if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. At all times, I try to call ’em as I see ’em.

Note on blog policy: Please moderate yourself so I don’t have to.

ETA:

Nope. Not really interested any longer in engaging skeptics  because it is an epic fail and a waste of time.

Note: The name “The Policy Lass” originated with Kenneth Fritsch over at Climate Audit, who referred to me that way when I used to be a regular “troll”. I liked the name, found it quite amusing since I didn’t actually talk about policy but instead tended to question Steve about his actions. Regardless, the name stuck and so I adopted it.

30 Responses to “About”

  1. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Emerson said that? I’ve never sourced it before. That’s interesting.

    It’s most often cited as “consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds,” and then some nerd corrects it to “a foolish consistency.”

    I wish I had the original to the New Yorker cartoon from 1971 in which three elvish looking guys meet under a mushroom, and one introduces the second to the third, “And Ed, here, is the hobgoblin of small minds.”

    Best,

    Ed

  2. Susan great blog, your on my list of sites to scan daily. Keep up the great work.

  3. Since I’m here (over Curry, as it happens) I thought I’d say hello.

  4. Hello,

    How can we contact you?

    Bye,

    willard

  5. Hi, Willard — email me at shewonk @ gmail dot com

  6. PolyisTCOandbanned Reply August 15, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    bu..bu…the peer review meanies are keeping us down. Don’t pay attention to the fact that there are a buttload of speciality journals and even overseas journals, such that on can avoid a clique reviewing your work. Don’t pay attention to the existence of Climate of the Past Discussions, which even “publishes” the papers that don’t get accepted.

    Don’t pay attention to the drecky, just miserable, written quality of skeptic draft papers. We’re used to blogging. That’s our standard of quality. Why should someone who has a controversial science theory also expound it clearly?

    Besides if we really wrote things up clearly, we would be easier to pin down and rebut. Heck, we might show ourselves that some of our beleifs were exaggerated or tenuous. We can’t handle that clarity.

    Plus it’s more work and less fun than jerking off on the Internetz…

  7. TCO – agreed. Science rejects 98% of all papers it receives IIRC. Only the best or most timely or most innovative or most likely to push boundaries or make $$$ for the publishers are published in the established science journals. It’s reality.

  8. I spent the last week lurking and occasionally posting on Watts website.
    I used to be a skeptic, but now I see that the denialists are mere malicious conspiracy theorists.

    Something they do at WUWT is they censor links to science websites, which are websites people would read and understand what denialism is about.
    See, for example,
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/09/04/we-talk-about-politics-because-the-science-is-uncertain/#comment-474898
    Original post: http://i53.tinypic.com/op2pf8.png
    (the moderator ‘dbs’ said that he is not happy with ‘advertising’ blogs that ‘badmouth’ WUWT)

    I then reiterated that I was not advertising websites,
    Original post: http://i52.tinypic.com/x1elgj.png
    Post erased: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/09/04/we-talk-about-politics-because-the-science-is-uncertain/#comment-474948

  9. @ PaulW

    Yep, that sounds about right. Last time I posted there comments were closed not ten minutes after I pointed out that Steven Goddard is supposedly a pseudonym. Of course, I can’t say that was the reason, but the regulars there didn’t get to see it, did they.

    What I find hilarious about Fuller’s post is in the title itself: ‘…Because The Science Is Uncertain’. Not only have RealClimate made a post on this subject before (the irony given the reasons you were censored), but someone should tell Monckton that.

    “…And I’m going to show you the latest science, which now doesn’t leave the question unsettled anymore this is now settled science, it is now settled science that there is not a problem with our influence over Climate. The science is in, the truth is out and the scare is over.”
    — Christopher Monckton. 10/14/9 Minnesota Free Market Institute presentation

    And which toff was making popular guest posts at WUWT only very recently? Guess.

    The RealClimate post: Unsettled Science
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/12/unsettled-science/

    Fuller really needs to get up to speed.

    “Had the IPCC and others been savvy enough to look at all the changes we are making instead of just focusing on the ‘flavor of the month,’ I think the science–and our options–would have been more clearly expressed and more believable.

    Instead, they focused on CO2 and treated all who disagreed as the rabble I mentioned before. What they wanted was a rabble alarmed. What they got was a rabble in arms.”

    No, Tom, that’s a figment of the collective imagination of the Deniaverse. Of course, traffic will go up at Fuller’s site now. For a while at least.

  10. Hello Shewonk,

    Nice blog. I also love science very much.

    However it is not conducted as it should be (honest and transparent). It is corrupted almost hopelessly.

    It will break your heart when you find out, but the truth always wins.

  11. Thanks for working on this site. Policy is the key to making progress. It has been said that the amateurs talk about strategy while the experts talk logistics.

  12. “I have to rely on the scientific experts to have it right, or as close to right as can be expected at this time. I have to trust the scientific method and peer review system to have come to the best possible conclusion about the science. It may be incomplete, it may be wrong about some things, but as a layperson, I have no real other choice but to trust the consensus science and peer-reviewed science — unless I want to go back to university and get a PhD in some related field so that I can judge myself.”

    This position is logical and sounds quite reasonable… yet is not completely realistic. What it fails to embrace is the necessary humility of a good scientist. Feynman had it right. So did several others quoted in the side bar.

    As an analyst, you would do well to review the history of “contentious” scientific conclusions. There’s more than one example where the scientific experts got it completely wrong, defended their wrong conclusions, and a different perspective ultimately won out… but it took a long time. We always need to carry the humility that recognizes the status quo in science just might be BS. (I became familiar with this at an early age. While growing up, my best friend’s uncle was trying to get evidence published on plate tectonics… a radical and unacceptable theory at the time… not all that long ago!)

    • All things considered, a non-scientist is best advised to take the consensus view of a science issue into consideration when making a decision rather than the view of a minority of scientists who are contrarians or skeptics. Science is never proven 100% certain and there will always be uncertainties and contrarians who contest the consensus understanding. Indeed, the ability to question the current view of an issue is important. Yes, the consensus view can be incomplete and in need of more research (almost always) and be revised (frequent) or even overturned (more rare). Scientists should always take a skeptical stance towards new data and theory.

      For all but the most well-educated in science, trust in the views of the majority of scientists directly involved in a field is the best way to go for the non-expert when they have to make a decision about policy. Occasionally, this may backfire, but even though Newtonian physics and understanding of gravity was not perfectly accurate, it was good enough to get us to the moon and back. It won’t work to run the GPS system though. For that you need Einstein. So yes, science moves on, theories are revised when new data comes into play. But a policy maker must go with the best science of the day when making a decision that has a science component and for which there is a considerable risk and threat. The public should do the same.

      Climate science is such a case. The evidence is mounting that humans are changing the climate and that the changes are largely due to burning of fossil fuels. The best science suggests that business as usual could lead to a disruption in the climate that our civilization has grown up in and poses risks. This is the consensus view. There are only a very few qualified climate science contrarians. The much greater likelihood is that they are wrong and the consensus is right. So the public should listen to the majority of climate scientists when having to decide what to do about climate change.

      It’s what we do every day when we go to get medical treatment — we trust the consensus view of how to treat our disease or disorder. A procedure may change over time to improve and get a better outcome, and some new procedure may replace it completely, but at the time it works as best as can be expected, given the state of the science.

      This makes those with some level of expertise nervous because they may have or *think* they may have the chops to evaluate the science themselves. That’s fine but I won’t trust their opinion because it’s more likely, all things considered, that the semi-expert or somewhat competent layperson is wrong rather than the consensus.

  13. Thanks! I agree with most of what you wrote, in particular “a policy maker must go with the best science of the day when making a decision that has a science component and for which there is a considerable risk and threat. The public should do the same.”

    There’s (at least?) one aspect not covered by this policy perspective, which is this: policy makers need to also recognize that overall, the earth is far more resilient than we can imagine, and the history human intervention in the environment is a sorry litany of unintended consequences (both when we don’t take that resilience into account, and/or when we manage to override it.) Of course, this has implications for people on all sides of many issues.

    Without getting into details, I’ve found it most helpful to split the climate issue into two parts: is it getting warmer today, and is today’s warming unusual (ie has this happened before.) There is quite a consensus on the first question as you note. Both evidence and consensus on the latter question is much harder to find… and thus leads thoughtful people to be cautious about jumping in to assume we can override natural forces to “fix” the climate. This is particularly true when we recognize the propensity of policymakers and policy advocates to minimize the actual scientific uncertainty. (cf IPCC track record on LOSU, the Level Of Scientific Uncertainty.)

    The poor track record strongly suggests we be careful when recommending solutions, as our solutions frequently tend to make things worse rather than better. Climate science is quite different from medicine in this regard: medical science uses careful paradigms such as double-blind placebo controlled studies. Climate science… not so much.

    • Mr. Pete, you’re a smart guy. I’m not going to rehash all the reasons that I accept the scientific consensus on climate change – you’ve likely seen and read it all and have made up your mind. After four years, so have I.

      One thing I do want to say in response to your comment is that as a policy analyst, I know that risk goes both ways — risk of acting and risk of not acting. As it see it, the risk of not acting is far more of a threat than the risk of acting. Shifting to a low-carbon economy is right for so many reasons, economic, environmental and political. Besides, even if you discount the whole greenhouse theory, and if you do then I have to rethink my opening statement, there’s always the issue of ocean acidification. Continuing down the path of emissions that we’re on is a threat to our oceans. Need I say what a threat to our economic well-being that could prove to be? I didn’t even mention peak oil. The mining and burning of coal is very toxic and produces radioactive wastes as uranium and thorium. Indeed, some research has suggested that a person living next to a coal-burning power plant is exposed to more radiation that one living by a nuclear plant that is properly complaint with government regs.

      Finally, of course climate science is different from medical science in one key way — there is no experiment but the one we’re currently running to see what will happen if we double or more the amount of carbon in the atmosphere / oceans. No porcine model, not rat model, no bovine model — just computer models and the real thing. We have to do the best we can, given the reality we face.

      I’m not saying that climate science is perfect, but as a policy analyst who must simplify complex issues down for the benefit of non-experts every day, we have to rely on the best science current when facing this threat and sometimes the uncertainties and complexities must be simplified for the public and policy makers to digest. That’s expected of us.

      I’m curious. If for some strange reason the sun started to really amp up in the energy department and increased solar radiation was causing an increase in global temperature, would you be against trying to mitigate it? It’s a natural phenomenon. Would you be against changing what we can change in our own behaviour — economics, politics, culture — to reduce the harm to our civilization?

  14. Again, I agree with much of what you write.

    A lot of actions Just Make Sense independent of anything else. They help the environment, they are economically sound, etc.

    Other things are more dubious of course — as an Audubon board member, my wife struggles with the plusses and minuses of wind energy, for example. And I was shocked to discover that the CFL that broke falling on our carpet from a 1 ft high living room table… meant that my home became an EPA danger zone requiring extreme measures.

    We do need to find reasonable alternative energy sources. My own bias is to ensure we do so in a responsible manner that in particular avoids harming the poorest of the poor around the world. I’ve spent time in places that would make most developed-world people cringe. Those whose lives depend on carbon-based energy should not be the ones to suffer.

    I love your question about solar mitigation, particularly since there is evidence that what you propose is a significant element of today’s warming. I would be for experiments designed to discover effective, reversible means of mitigation. (Why reversible: because we do not control the sun itself.) I suspect the required means would necessarily go far beyond behavioral change, since any significant increase from the sun would completely overwhelm existing human warming. Most likely, warming and cooling in the past has been much greater than today, and we’ll likely see such swings again in the future. (I consider arctic tree lines an obvious metric of long-term climate, and today’s measures are hardly unusual.)

    We must of course consider the equivalent “opposite” question as well: suppose that the current interglacial comes to an end, with decreased solar output causing a decrease in global temperature. Would we be willing to mitigate that? A much more difficult prospect, and a far more deadly scenario.

    Even with no human contribution to climate, both warm and cold scenarios will be seen in the future. We’re foolish to ignore them.

    Oh — ocean acidification. An important topic. Three thoughts: a) do not know enough to weigh in; b) do know enough to see evidence of misdirection (did you know much of the coral reef damage is due to sunscreen?!! Look it up.); c) Have access to serious resources on this and do intend to dig in.

    Thank you much for your measured responses. I truly appreciate it. I’ll try to return occasionally.

    • The people who are currently poor by your or my standards are going to be even less able to afford fossil fuels in the near future as they become more scarce (conventional oil) and therefore more costly, or the more expensive versions come online. Even fracked gas and synthetic crude, which are more costly than the lovely light sweet crude we grew up on and easy-to-access natural gas reserves, will be hard for the poor to afford. I agree that we all need energy and access to energy is key to lifting up the poor out of poverty. It is development, technological aka economic development, that leads to increased standard of living. That requires energy. I don’t accept the argument that continued access and reliance on fossil fuels is the best or only solution. I think the more incentives we provide for the development of alternative energy sources — especially solar electric and nuclear — esp. fusion — are the future. But there are others and they each play a role in weaning us off the fossil fuel economy.

      This development won’t happen unless and until we pay the real price for fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are not properly priced because the external costs are not part of the price we pay at the pump. Burning fossil fuels and the smog that results from it leads to thousands of deaths in big cities a year from chronic diseases and leads to increased health care costs for us all due to health effects and loss of productive and disability free life. Think of the monumental subsidies we pay to fossil fuel corps, given their profit levels. I consider that to be immoral and I am generally a proponent of a freer market. Gah I remember when gasoline was $0.30/litre! I just filled my tank and paid $1.22/litre. I’m very well-off compared to 99% of the world’s population so if I notice the impact of higher prices, how much more unaffordable is it to the bulk of the world? I’m afraid I see this argument linking continued reliance on fossil fuels to protecting the poor to be questionable. I find it to be disingenuous primarily because it comes from folks whose political ideology leads them to not think too much about the lot of the ROTW or even their neighbour. They are often quite isolationist politically and against foreign aid, etc. Radical rugged individualists, IOW, who seem to have adopted this “plight of the poorest” meme as a convenient intellectual truncheon to use against their opponents in order to try to gain higher moral ground. Perhaps you are truly concerned about the plight of the world’s poor. If so, I commend you. I suspect some of your fellow contrarians are fair weather humanitarians — out of political expediency rather than real conviction. IMHO of course.

      I think that it is precisely the poor who will be most unable to adapt to climate change due to their poverty. There are hundreds of millions of the poorest of the poor living in low lying coastal areas who are exposed to the risks from sea level rise. Millions upon millions of others who are in drought-stricken areas who will be harder hit in a warming world. Millions who rely on the oceans and seas for their livelihoods who will lose out if the oceans are affected by acidification. For someone like me, with a high income, climate change will mean using more energy (air conditioning) and spending more of my income on energy, but I can afford it. In fact, where I live, I directly benefit from climate change in the short run and from fossil fuel development. I suspect that those of us who do truly care about the world’s poor would do better by them to address climate change rather than encourage it by rampant development of fossil fuels like the tar sands and coal, which the poor can’t afford now — which is a part of why they continue to be poor. Instead, I think rich countries should invest in new clean carbon free or neutral technologies, develop clean energy tech and provide incentives for developing countries to use them, and through technology transfer from developed to developing countries.

  15. “I’m afraid I see this argument linking continued reliance on fossil fuels to protecting the poor to be questionable. I find it to be disingenuous primarily because it comes from folks whose political ideology leads them to not think too much about the lot of the ROTW or even their neighbour.”

    You won’t find me making such an argument. And how can I say this gently: the poorest of the poor typically do not have access to fossil fuels. Those who live on less than US$2 a day can’t even dream of such things. They typically cook over dung or wood-scrap fires. Which of course produce huge quantities of CO2 in aggregate. It is leaders of these communities whose voices are not heard by those who would regulate CO2 as a poison. There are solutions to be had. I know a field pilot/research/training site in India that has developed an ultra low-cost closed-loop energy cycle (fed by the sun ultimately): crops -> hybrid cattle -> methane + dung -> (heat for village) + (compost) -> fertilize crops -> …

    Not gonna argue politics with you. I do suggest one little research project that might be enlightening: compare the personal/corporate care-for-the-poor of the various political persuasion communities in any given nation. Not how much of other people’s money they spend through government, but how much of their own. Wealthy or middle class or even poor. I suspect you will be surprised. The “good samaritans” of the world are not where the media likes to suggest they are.

    I agree on safe nuclear. I am hopeful for solar but practically speaking solar research has produced diminishing returns to date as it is scaled up… same problem as with LED lighting (which is wonderful for low light but to date is less efficient than fluorescent light at high power! … still I dream of further breakthroughs! 🙂 ) The hard part is that neither solar nor nuclear are particularly accessible to the poorest of the poor, unless through vast subsidy. Of course, some appropriate technology developments show promise to help change this. To understand these things with insight requires a long term perspective at every level (eg a costly solar generator needs longer than a 25 year lifespan to make sense; a “solar hut” panel shouldn’t be dependent on batteries that must be replaced every 500 days, etc…)

    I realize it sounds logical to link “ocean level rise” and “poor at risk”… but have you seen real evidence for this? I have not; the issues there do not seem correlate well, particularly for the amount of change realistically in view. I don’t worry about warming and the poorest of the poor either for that matter. In my semi-extensive travels and interactions, the poor suffer far more from cold than heat, in a variety of ways… but that’s a bit risky to say out loud, so you didn’t hear it from me. 😀

    Again, thanks for a good conversation. Life has become complicated for a while at my end; I must beg patience…

  16. Pale grey typeface on a white background too hard to read. Thank God they still print books in black and white.

    Shame.,

  17. In most of the world, the only source of affordable energy is dung. This is the source of their poverty. Wood is not an option. Burn the forests and drought and famine will follow.

    Buried beneath their feet is the means to lift them out of poverty. It is the same solution the rich developed nations used. It is the solution being used in India and China today to end poverty.

    It is an energy source that is plentiful, low cost and found almost everywhere. Build a road you will find it. Most importantly, it is something the 3rd world can afford. It is energy for one tenth the cost of oil. It is a solution that has been proven many times over to end poverty, end hunger, end disease.

    However, the rich, overfed developed nations do not want the 3rd world to follow this path. No longer worried about filling their bellies, the rich of the world now worry about losing the good life. They worry about fashion. They worry about climate. While the rest of the world worries about food.

    Do as I say, not as I do, so say the rich.

  18. …the poor suffer far more from cold than heat, in a variety of ways…

    Originally from a cold country, I lived in the tropics for nearly 20 years. In the tropical “winter” it is not uncommon for local people to be wearing long pants and jackets, while I’m sweating in shorts and a T-shirt.

    Global warming is not global, it is primarily happening in winter in cold countries. The winters are becoming warmer. The summers and the tropics are showing little if any warming.

    The net effect of global warming to date has largely been an increase in food supplies. In constant dollars food prices are lower now than they were 50 years ago, while population has more than doubled.

    Other past 50 years, the percentage of the world’s population dying from famine has decreased dramatically. Completely opposite to what was predicted by the experts.

    Beware of experts bearing predictions.

  19. Firstly – please please do not use the word “inconvenient” since it is liable to tar you with the bnrsh of Al Gore who, according to data that he did not deny, uses more fossil fuel energy per week than I do in a year (his fans claim that this is offset by his buying electricity from “renewable energy sources” but since renewable energy generation is totally independent of demand that is totally bullshit). Secondly if you did a postgraduate course in statistics why cannot you review the tree-ring alleged data?
    In the last 40 years we have burned over 200 hundred billion tons of coal apart from oil and gas equivalent to an even greater amount. So the fact of AGW is undeniable (except to those who think burning coal cools us down), just the extent thereof compared to the effect of the solar cycle. So I find lies by a small lazy group totally unnecessary and unacceptable.
    I want an honest debate because we cannot convert sceptics with arguments that are transparent lies.

    • I’m not concerned about being tarred with the brush of Al Gore primarily because I’m no longer interested in engaging so-called skeptics. I’m writing about climate politics just to get it out of my system, and instead of engaging climate skeptics, I’d rather collaborate at the grassroots level and use social media to connect with people who are convinced of the reality of AGW and want to do something concrete. Climate skeptics are a diversion and a waste of intellectual time because they are usually skeptical for political rather than scientific reasons. IMO. No amount of science is going to convince them because their skepticism is primarily about politics and economics, not evidence.

      As to Al Gore’s carbon footprint, wealth is positively correlated with CO2 emissions. Al Gore is wealthy. Ergo… I don’t give a crap about how much CO2 Al Gore puts into the atmosphere. I care about his ability to get the public to think about the issues, and to get them to think strategically about action to address climate change. To be sure, his efforts to offset his carbon emissions is positive. But I measure his worth based on his ability to get the public to demand action on climate change through the ballot box.

      This personalization of the problem, focusing on an individual’s carbon footprint like some kind of proof of carbon purity, is a flawed approach. I think it will turn people off. It’s not like there are a lot of options for consumers of energy. Until there are options, it’s a little disingenuous to use that as a measure of morality.

      Second, my graduate degree was in social theory and my graduate course in quantitative methods was taken quite some time ago. You should never ask a lady her age but suffice to say I have been working in policy rather than research for the past 13 years and have relied on the statisticians to do the number crunching for me. Statistics, like language, requires constant use to maintain skills. Use it or you lose it. My work, in grad school and in my career as a policy analyst and researcher, has been qualitative instead of quantitative so my skills have seriously rusted in that department. I am not competent to judge the validity of statistical analyses. I leave that to the big kids who do this for a living. Seriously, I’d have to go back and take a stats course to get caught back up to speed. I don’t have the time and inclination to do so.

      The time for debate over the reality of global warming is long gone. The time for action is now. Those of us who accept the science have to forget the Sisyphean task of engaging the skeptics and instead collaborate with each other to inform the public that they have to act and provide them with a way to do that.

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