Monday, July 05, 2010

Pre-Parade talk with a Tea Party Patriot, I - Climate change

In his recent Union op-ed (link), TPP Stan Meckler had asked,
"... Have any of these naysayers ever had the opportunity to actually talk to a Tea Party member and find out what we think?"
He had a point. While I had attended the TPPs' Gateway Park event last month (report I, II), I hadn't talked one-on-one with any rank&file Tea Party Patriots, other than the standard coffeehouse denizens. So, while we were waiting for yesterday's 4th of July parade to begin, I struck up a conversation with the TPP woman near me, J.

(It was largely one-way, with her laying forth her worldview & understandings; since my goal was to understand, I tried to avoid "but-but-but..." counterings - and I'm not using her full name since again, the goal was to learn. Consider it a survey where N=1.)

And, again, during our exchange, I was thinking the world needs to be run by women. Even when we disagreed - which was at least 98% of the time - there was none of the repellent spear-shaking/jeering tribalism that some guys seem hardwired for. Women want what they believe is best for the world.
(yes, this is a generalization)

I started by asking her how, according to the TPPs' principles, we could fight climate change.
(We moved on from there to other topics, which I'll put in a separate post. And as a caveat, the Q&A below is reconstructed from memory and notes, plus a bit of construction glue (and obviously I've added the links); I hope she'll correct me, on the parts I get wrong.)

Listening to her, it was clear how McClintock's survey results could show "28% say global warming's not real" (link). There's some re-educating to do.
(The links below contain some re-educatory material)

Q: How would the TPPs fight climate change?

A: We don't know if we *can* stop it - moreover, we don't even know it exists. We've just had the coolest decade in history.

Q: Really? I thought it was the warmest (link); you mean globally? Your sources for this?

A: No, the coolest; globally. You should read the blog by Anthony Watts...

Q: Does Anthony have the background & training to assess the state of climate science? Is he a climate scientist? (link)

A. Yes, he's a climate scientist. And there's Bjorn Lomborg, who says the reason we don't hear [that global warming's importance is all puffed up] on the news is because the truth isn't scary.

Q: And you see him as a credible source because....?

A: He's written books, very thoroughly researched.

Q: ...with a lot of footnotes? (link)

A: Yes. And how would carbon trading solve the problem, anyway? And why are they saying carbon is the culprit? And there are red flags about the science - a scientist in Europe was caught fudging data and ignoring the data that he didn't like, hiding the datasets from the public when they asked for it...

Q: Wasn't he exonerated? (link)

A: Not that I heard.

Q: What sources do you get your news from, and do you think you would have seen a retraction from them, as prominently run as the initial accusations, if he had been exonerated? (link)

A: The Associated Press ran it, and I read the New York Times; yes, I'd expect to see a prominent retraction, and I didn't. Plus there was that case where some graduate student alleged that the glaciers were melting, and they just accepted it and included it [in the IPCC report (link)]. People just take something they agree with, and they run with it. It happens on both sides.

Q: Confirmation bias (link). What methods do you use, to protect yourself from falling to this?

A: Of course, everyone has it. And you're in trouble if you think you don't. A study showed that experts were *more* often wrong, since they don't check the facts.

Q. [likely Tetlock's research (link)]

To be continued, with more on not-specifically-GW topics, in next post; which will include environmental economics (link), and harnessing the free market.
In retrospect - I'm not the world's fastest thinker - I should have pressed for J's views on how one *can* reduce one's confirmation bias - not to zero, but somewhat. And about whether it's important, to understand the risks of climate change. (link)
What else should I have asked about?


Joy said...

(First half of J's response)
Anna, first and foremost let me thank you for our conversation on the 4th of July at the parade. You were courteous, civil and elegantly reserved in your posture and mannerisms. This is refreshing and we should each acknowledge with gratitude such respectful behavior whenever we encounter it. Our differences, while sharply drawn, should only serve to stimulate deeper understanding and debate, not acrimony.

First, I am not, nor should I be represented as such, a "spokesperson" for the Tea Party. I am simply one person who is trying to find a voice in an increasingly distant and unaccountable government.

As for all the questions on climate change, I sense that is your particular area of interest. It is not mine, so my "inside" knowledge (HA!HA!) of something so complicated (by politics as well as confusing scientific data) is sadly lacking. I don't know whether climate change can be definitively attributed to man's behavior...and, as I said, if it CAN be, I don't know whether man can do enough to change it. Both are serious questions which MUST be addressed before we deliberately embark on a massive transfer of power and wealth from the private sector (you and me!) to the governments of the world. I am suspicious of the motives of people, whatever the problem, when their only answer lies in increasing government power and decreasing individual liberty. That is MY natural bias.

Frankly, I felt somewhat "set up" by your questions, as knowledge of climate change was not why I was at the Tea Party float that day. That's why I stated right off that I just don't know enough to really get my head around it all, but that I do know that there have been many, many assertions from the settled science that have been called into question. I don't disbelieve in climate change. I believe that the science isn't settled. And the answers aren't settled either.

Oh! And due to the fact that you began this conversation, I don't feel held to the whole betting thing in the "rules of engagement" on your site. (Just a little good natured teasing...but I'm off the hook, as it were...)

Some of what I remember about the conversation was that I raised questions and concerns far more often than I stated things as if I knew the facts. Also, I did not attribute the statement that "the truth isn't scary" to Lomberg. He was mentioned during that conservation, but, to be honest, I don't remember WHO said that particular line. It was a guest on a television program. Again, my interest in this subject is not so passionate that I have kept accurate notes on who, what, and where. I presume this is true for most people, no matter on which side of the political spectrum they reside. This leads to my assertion that we are all biased to information that agrees with previous information that we have accepted as correct...whether or not it is. People can build an entire ideology and worldview on the wrong premise, for example, Marxism. That fact that it doesn't work, hasn't yet worked, and isn't likely to EVER work, doesn't dissuade them from believing in it.

As for Lomberg being discredited by your Newsweek link. Ok. I would ask why he was never called into question by the left when he was with Green Peace? Only when he went against the "party line" was he called out? Interesting...

You stated that the men involved in the climategate email leaks had been exonerated. I did an internet search and found that all the reports exonerating these men came from the government (your links as well) - and here we go merrily back to the same self-interested power game. It's a closed circle...hmmmm...

Joy said...

(Second half of J's response)
Here (link) is a relatively recent article that may be of interest...
(AP, "Dutch agency admits error in UN climate report")

And here is another link to the false data stating that the glaciers were melting (link) (Jan. 17, 2010, "World misled over Himalayan glacier meltdown" - by
Jonathan Leake and Chris Hastings )

And here is a link to an article concerning that fact that we are actually cooling...(link)("Temperature Monitors Report Widescale Global Cooling" - Michael Asher (Blog), Feb. 26, 2008)

Ultimately, this debate is complicated and the answers are simply not universally agreed upon, for they are complicated as well. I also find it unconvincing that the only answers put forward involve a massive increase in government power. Makes me wonder who really benefits...follow the money, as they say.

And here are questions for you. How do you feel about the way the Obama administration is handling the BP spill in the Gulf?

What do you think about the players involved in the Chicago Climate Exchange and carbon credit trading? Does this actually solve the problem...or just move it around so that some men can become unimaginably wealthy?

Are bureaucracies the best way to respond to rapidly changing and highly uncertain situations, such as the gulf spill?

Your link to environmental economics sharply illustrates how one person's bias is seen as rational and the other's as well, biased. I think that article is FILLED with inconsistencies, misrepresentations, and untruths. It leads the reader to its preferred conclusion with questions and statements that are left unanswered, as if we all should just be smart enough to agree. Shall we? I don't, because I don't accept the premise that you can control markets without controlling people. OR the premise that controlling people actually makes them "more free". OR the premise that when a individual or a group of individuals (e.g. corporation) does something that hurts others that there is no recourse within a society except government regulation. How about the law? How about the idea of competition addressing the failings of one company by opening an opportunity for another company to deliver the good or service WITHOUT polluting or causing harm?

There seems implied in all this discussion a deep distrust, even fear, of the actions of free people, and an almost unquestioned acceptance of the wisdom of government and "officials". I find this very disheartening that so many distrust their fellow citizens, yet trust politicians. I think we should turn this paradigm around and begin trusting each other and DIStrusting those who would abrogate your personal power, no matter HOW much they promised they were doing it for your own good.

I'm not sure if I addressed everything in your post. Forgive me if I have left some points unanswered. I look forward to reading the rest of your blog posts on our conversation. For the most part, you were extremely fair. Thank you, Joy

Anna Haynes said...

Egads, too many things to respond to, J. And Blogger's choking on my comment too.

> "...knowledge of climate change was not why I was at the Tea Party float that day."

Yes, that's true. But - IMO - if acknowledging and acting on an existential threat is opposed by Tea Party folk since it goes against their principles, then IMO that strips the movement of credibility.

> "That's why I stated right off that I just don't know enough ... [but] I believe that the science isn't settled [enough to act]."

But the climate scientists and economists - and insurance companies - do.

And without a grasp of the risks we run in *delaying* action, it's impossible to intelligently assess whether action is called for.

"Nietzsche...said we must become a camel (drinking up everything) before we can become a lion, and properly rebel against the strictures of society." - this is good advice for the TPPs. It's important to understand economic principles and science & media literacy, before delving into areas that require such knowledge.

Minor point, re your Lomborg Q ("I would ask why he was never called into question by the left when he was with Green Peace?") I'd recommend reading what L's SourceWatch entry (link) says about his Greenpeace involvement- "...Greenpeace has no record of Lomborg ever being actively involved in the organisation."

Re "the science isn't settled" - in a sense you're right, but not in the sense you mean - see "The real holes in climate science"
(I'm guessing they're not what you think)

[continued in next comment]

Anna Haynes said...

[continued from previous comment]

There's a ton of misleading climate info floating around, and it's being deliberately amplified by some. It's important to be able to assess credibility of sources, so as not to be led astray.
(Recommended: The Credibility Spectrum)
(...and it's important to recognize that someone who's arguing *against* the weight of scientific evidence on climate is much more likely to be wrong, esp. if he himself isn't a publishing climate scientist.)

The recent "Expert Credibility in Climate Change" (link) - "97-98% of climate researchers examined who are most actively publishing in the field support the IPCC conclusions, i.e., are convinced by the evidence for human-caused climate change, [while, in contrast,] ... the relative climate expertise and scientific prominence of researchers questioning the findings is significantly below that of convinced researchers."

If you have children, or nieces and nephews, you have a stake in the future; for their sake, we have to care.

Joy said...

>>If you have children, or nieces and nephews, you have a stake in the future; for their sake, we have to care.<<

Your closing statement seems to suggest that caring is only defined as agreement with your viewpoint. This is confusing at best. I would suggest that it is quite possible to care, and care deeply, about our world, environment, etc., without being convinced of your premise or your solutions.

One of the tactics used to dismiss the Tea Party as a viable political movement is the commitment to never addressing what we DO stand for, but always, instead, attacking us on policy, rather than principles. A "what would you DO?" attack instead of a "what do you believe?" question. As an organization, we are not interested in setting public or government policy. Our belief is in foundational principles around which a responsible, moral, representative, Constitutional Republic can be restored. The three main planks of our platform: fiscal responsibility, limited government, free markets. If you do not believe in these ideas, you do not believe in America as it was founded.

It is our belief that if these ideas would serve as the markers for measuring candidates for elected office, then the answers (eg policy) to problems would be animated and directed by these beliefs. And we might get some VERY different answers!

What I am very disheartened by is the committed position of simply dismissing what we stand for through attacks that illustrate that we do not have all the answers to questions that are complicated and involved. This immediately distorts the conversation and distracts people from a true understanding of what the Tea Party stands for.

Anna Haynes said...

Re exoneration, from yesterday, The Muir-Russell report
("long-awaited and surprisingly thorough...conclude[s] that the rigour and honesty of the CRU scientists is not in doubt. For anyone who knows Phil Jones and his colleagues this comes as no surprise...")

(Joy, could you keep an ear/eye out & see if this gets reported by the news sources you use? I'm curious...)

> "As an organization, [TPPs] are not interested in setting public or government policy [so it's unfair to judge us on that]. Our belief is in foundational principles around which a responsible, moral, representative, Constitutional Republic can be restored."

But if the TPP's priorities are such that, under them, crucial, far-reaching problems of today - that were unthinkable in 1776 - can't be addressed, or even (it seems, by TPP leaders or any substantial TPP contingent) *acknowledged*, then the TPP movement isn't something we should support.

Remember Newt Gingrich's ~1994 Contract With America, that turned out to be a Contract On America? The things that aren't said explicitly do turn out to matter.

(I bring this up since "another name for History is 'all the data that we have so far'" - paul graham)

> "If you do not believe in these ideas, you do not believe in America as it was founded."

An anecdote - last month I was having a discussion with a diverse group of about a dozen local do-gooders, and the founding fathers' Constitution came up, and we looked around at each other and realized that back then, *none* of us would have been permitted to vote.

Anna Haynes said...

> "[Anna suggests] that caring is only defined as agreement with your viewpoint."

If that viewpoint is "what the science is telling us", yes. And if it's what Capitalist Economics 101 is telling us, yes.

(i.e. the distinction between "opinion" and "scientifically informed opinion" is crucial here)

Joy said...

Then we must agree to disagree.

Anna Haynes said...

> "...the distinction between "opinion" and "scientifically informed opinion" is crucial..."

In other (better) words, "It is not rude, stubborn, arrogant or unreasonable to refuse to compromise on a question of fact. ...Truth is the dominant ethic of the scientific world view."