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Ernest Partridge's Blog -- 2010

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September 8, 2010


Farewell to a Friend, Stephen Schneider

Last month I revisited Peter Sinclair’s excellent website, “Climate Denial Crock of the Week.”

The piece opened with a video clip of “the late Stephen Schneider...”

“The late. . .!!!” Omigod, say not so!

I immediately turned to Google, which confirmed my worst fears: Stephen Schneider, one of the world’s leading climate scientists and my friend, died on July 19th of a pulmonary embolism while enroute from Stockholm to London. He was 65. (See the Washington Post obituary here).

The tribute of fellow climate scientist, Ben Santer, describes Steve perfectly:

Stephen Schneider did more than any other individual on the planet to help us realize that human actions have led to global-scale changes in Earth’s climate. Steve was instrumental in focusing scientific, political, and public attention on one of the major challenges facing humanity – the problem of human-caused climate change.

Some climate scientists have exceptional talents in pure research. They love to figure out the inner workings of the climate system. Others have strengths in communicating complex scientific issues to non-specialists. It is rare to find scientists who combine these talents.

Steve Schneider was just such a man.

Steve had the rare gift of being able to explain the complexities of climate science in plain English. He could always find the right story, the right metaphor, the right way of distilling difficult ideas and concepts down to their essence. Through his books, his extensive public speaking, and his many interactions with the media, Steve did for climate science what Carl Sagan did for astronomy. (Follow this link for the full eulogy.  The reader responses that follow are also noteworthy.)


I first met Steve Schneider in Boulder, Colorado, some twenty seven years ago. He was at the time the Research Director at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. I was at the University of Colorado conducting research in ethical aspects of applied seismology, under a grant from the National Science Foundation.

The early eighties was a time of great geo-political anxiety. Early in his presidency, Ronald Reagan had dubbed the Soviet Union “the evil empire” which he claimed was “the focus of all evil in the world." And in 1983, Reagan announced his Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”), which most informed scientists agreed was an impossible fantasy.

At the University of Colorado, several scientists and scholars actively responded to these political developments, perceiving them to be grave threats to peace and based upon unfounded dogma and economic interests, and lacking sound scientific foundation. These individuals responded, not as political partisans but as professionals, and based their criticisms of public policies on their areas of scientific expertise. And so we met in informal fora, and wrote articles for both scholarly publications and public media. (For my output see “Notes from the Brink,” at The Online Gadfly). Noteworthy among these critics:

John Birks, an atmospheric chemist who, along with Paul Crutzen (the Netherlands), studied the effects of chlorofluorocarbons on the ozone layer. (Crutzen, along with Mario Molina of MIT, was later awarded the Nobel Prize for this research).

Charles Archambeau, a seismologist, who participated with several Soviet scientists in establishing, to the consternation of the Reagan administration, seismic verification stations in the Soviet Union and in Nevada.  These stations refuted the Reagan administration claims that clandestine underground nuclear testing could not be detected. (More about this remarkable accomplishment here ).

Kenneth Boulding, the world renowned economist, who skillfully explored the economic implications of the arms race.

And finally, of course, Steve Schneider who, despite his employment by a government agency, freely and effectively criticized Reagan administration policy positions regarding climate change and the atmospheric effects of nuclear warfare.

After my departure from Boulder in 1986, I remained in contact with Steve and followed the course of his career at Stanford University with great interest and admiration. In 1991, I invited him to present the keynote address at a symposium that I organized at California State University, Fullerton.

Steve Schneider was justly renowned as a man who did not suffer fools gladly. In addition, unlike many scientists, he did not hesitate to enter a public arena to express his concerns about the grave implications of his scientific work.. The title of his final book, “Science as a Contact Sport,” suggests both his engagement in public debates over climate change, and his impatience with the way such debates are routinely conducted in the media. For this he paid a price. In a touching tribute, posted at the New York Times blog, “Dot Earth”, Scott Mandia wrote:

The mark of a true pioneer is the number of arrows in his back. Stephen kept taking those arrows and never missed [a] step. When the world finally wakes up to the grim realities of man-made climate change, he will be one of those [about whom] people will say, 'Why didn't we listen to him when we had the chance?"

Last December I sent Steve a note with a link to my essay “A Convenient Delusion”. In his reply, he told me about these “arrows:” “You wouldn’t believe,” he wrote,” how ugly e-mails – some threatening violence – have me worried about governing a democracy in the face of complexity... These guys are scary, ignorant and as angry as they are out of touch with reality to boot.”

Steve was justifiably contemptuous of the corporate media, which he described to me as “a bankrupt mega-institution putting a business model of ratings driven behavior over the due diligence of checking the relative credibility of various claimants of ‘truth’.”  Yet he fully realized that he would have to deal with that media if he were to get the message out to the public that our world is in great danger of becoming what James Hansen describes as a planet unlike that in which our species evolved and flourished.

Steve steadfastly resisted being drawn into the usual media/legalistic “two sides” debates – what Paul Krugman lampooned as “The Shape of the Earth: Two Views.” Steve took great pains to analyze and then criticize prevailing mass-media practice. His website contains an insightful essay, wittily titled “Mediarology,” which opens with this contrast between journalistic and scientific approaches to controversial issues:

In reporting political, legal, or other advocacy-dominated stories, it is both natural and appropriate for honest journalists to report "both sides" of an issue. Got the Democrat? Better get the Republican!

In science, it's different. There are rarely just two polar opposite sides, but rather a spectrum of potential outcomes, oftentimes accompanied by a considerable history of scientific assessment of the relative credibility of these many possibilities. A climate scientist faced with a reporter locked into the "get both sides" mind set risks getting his or her views stuffed into one of two boxed storylines: “we’re worried” or “it will all be OK.” And sometimes, these two "boxes" are misrepresentative; a mainstream, well-established consensus may be "balanced" against the opposing views of a few extremists, and to the uninformed, each position seems equally credible. Any scientist wandering into the political arena and naively thinking "balanced" assessment is what all sides seek (or hear) had better learn fast how the advocacy system really functions.

Being stereotyped as the "pro" advocate versus the "con" advocate as far as action on climate change is concerned is not a quick ticket to a healthy scientific reputation as an objective interpreter of the science — particularly for a controversial science like global warming. In actuality, it encourages personal attacks and distortions. (See also Chapter 7, “Mediarology,” in his 1989 book, Global Warming.)

I could go on with my tribute to this remarkable man, and hopefully I will soon do just that. Still on my agenda is a review of his final book, Science as a Contact Sport, which I have postponed pending my completion of James Hansen’s Storms of My Grandchildren, and possibly a couple of additional books concerning climate change, and the denialists.

But for now, I will let Steve have the final words. Addressing two of his students, he writes:

You have maximum credibility in telling my generation how you feel about their legacy to your generation.  I'd tell them – were I somehow able to be 20 again while knowing what I know now – that you know your elders love you and want to leave you in a better world than they inherited. But the older generations’ traditional model of “what was best for us is what is best for you” may not apply. You could say to them, “You were brought up to believe that the older generation has an obligation to leave us a legacy of wealth and infrastructure. We don’t altogether reject that, but we are willing to trade off some of that consumptive orientation to get a legacy of clean air, a full complement of the diversity of nature and culture, and not just material wealth on a damaged planet.

And most important of all, learn now to separate what part of the discussion is over scientific disputes and what part is over worldviews. Armed with that kind of literacy about sustainable development and communications, there really is a good chance you will have had a hand in getting the kind of world you’d rather have from those who can only change course if you tell them what you believe and what you value. Youth can be a powerful force for change through your honesty ... Always know some of us will be there right with you as you go through a life-long apprenticeship in planetary sustainability management. (Science as a Contact Sport, pp. 231-2).

A hour-long lecture at Stanford University by Stephen Schneider.

Stephen Schneider: “An Overview of the Climate Change Problem”

Stephen Schneider’s Publications.


July 28, 2010

We recently received the following e-mail which has been circulating for the past couple of years.  It contains ten alleged quotations from the writings of Thomas Jefferson.  The content suggests a right-wing source.

Unlike most recipients of such stuff, we took the trouble to fact-check the quotations, and sure enough, discovered that most of them appear to be bogus.

But why should we be surprised at this result?  Typical of the right wing, if the facts do not support their position, they just invent new "facts."   By now that kind of behavior is routine and familiar.  For example, consider the current smear of Ag. Dept. official, Shirley Sherrod, and the previous successful smear of ACORN. Also, Al Gore's "invention of the internet," the Iraq WMDs, and additional lies too numerous to mention. (See Jerry Barrett, ed. Big Bush Lies, Riverwood, 2004. Full disclosure: Crisis Papers editors, Partridge and Weiner, wrote three chapters of that book).

Of the ten quotes below, we found that three are authentic. One is redacted to alter the original meaning. One is an obvious concoction. The remaining five are apparently fakes, for they can not be found anywhere among Jefferson's surviving writings.

For more about the authenticity of these quotations, follow these links to the snopes.com and turthorfiction.com websites.

Here is the e-mail as we received it, with our added comments in italics and links to the validating sources.

"I Told You So" By Thomas Jefferson

Obviously, he was a man ahead of his time.


"When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe."

Thomas Jefferson

The quotation is authentic.

"The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not."

Thomas Jefferson

"This exact quotation has not been found in any of the writings of Thomas Jefferson."
So says The Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia.

"It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes.
A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world."

Thomas Jefferson

The quotation is authentic. And we agree completely.
Unfortunately the Republicans do not.
90% of the national debt was incurred under Reagan and Bush II.

"I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them."

Thomas Jefferson

Not authenticated.

"My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government."
Thomas Jefferson

"This exact quotation has not been found in any of the writings of Thomas Jefferson" The Jefferson Encyclopedia

"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms."

Thomas Jefferson 

A partial quotation.  The redaction alters the original meaning.  The complete quotation: "No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms within his own lands."

"The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government."

Thomas Jefferson

Not authenticated

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

Thomas Jefferson

Authentic. Jefferson later retracted the remark in view of the reign of terror following the French Revolution.

"To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical."

Thomas Jefferson

A misquotation.

"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property - until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered." 

There is no evidence that Jefferson ever said or wrote this, and strong evidence that it is a concoction from the early twentieth century.  The word "deflation" was not in use in the English language until the 1920s. See: snopes.com. 



May 5, 2010

The Crisis Papers' Correspondence Page has a three week limit, after which the letters "drop off" the bottom of the page.  From time to time, some outstanding letters provoke extended replies by the editors, worthy of inclusion (and thus retention) in this blog.  Here is such an exchange regarding the essay, Ayn Rand's Excellent Proposal. (EP)


Dear Ernest,

I just read your Ayn Rand article at Information Clearinghouse. Then I read a little of your book regarding Progressives.

I am a 60 year old activist in Los Angeles. I ran against Jane Harman for Congress in 1992 as one of seven Democrats in an open primary. It was a classic case of the millionaire "insider" carpetbagger buying the election. I came in third with no money.

Anyhow, here we all are today, living in the world since the events of 9/11. I am writing to you because I am at my wits end. I believe we are in a Constitutional Crisis. And I don't say this lightly.

I have every reason to doubt the "official" story of 9/11 as do more than half the American public. As you mentioned in the book you are working on, the election of Bush was a judicial coup. Then there was vote tampering in Ohio in 2004. Millions of human beings have been killed or have died since 1990 with the Persian Gulf War, then the sanctions, then the Iraq War, the war in Afghanistan/Pakistan. We are now killing people with drones from stations in Colorado using joysticks as if it's a high tech video game.

There is an epidemic of birth defects in Falluja. Israel used phosphorus bombs in Gaza. Bush, Cheney are war criminals being patted on the back by Obama and Holder and Israel's Mossad are assassinating Hamas leaders in Dubai with not a peep from the U.S. government. The rule of law has flown out of the window here. I feel as if we are living in a totalitarian, fascist state. The looting of the treasury by Geithner, Paulson and Bernanke in 2008 and now Obama and the Democrats are trying to force a health insurance corporation bailout against the will of Republicans and MANY PROGRESSIVES.

Here is a series of articles (6) by David DeGraw you may not have seen on a website called Amped Status regarding The Economic Elite vs. The People.

I have been a loyal (and very unhappy) Democrat my entire life. When Ron Paul ran against McCain, Romney, Huckabee, Tancredo etc. I supported many of Ron Paul's positions, particularly those related to our wars of aggression and also related to The Federal Reserve (I watched "The Money Masters" on Google in two parts regarding the history of money and it was a real eye opener).

Obviously I don't agree with many of Paul's Libertarian philosophies, but the personal freedom parts I can certainly understand. It's easy to see why Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul see eye to eye on so many things.

My question to you is, what should we do? DeGraw suggests we should no longer give our votes to any Republicans or Democrats as they are all working for the same corporate elite team.

What do you think of forming a third party? I know we wouldn't win any elections out the gate, but we have to start somewhere don't we?

I have tried to participate in the political process my whole adult life. I have played by the rules. But I can never vote for another Democrat again.

I'm very curious what your take on this is? I think people are ripe for going to a new way of thinking.

It reminds me of the famous Einstein quote: "The splitting of the atom has changed everything save our mode of thinking. Thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe".

Warmest regards,
Charlene Richards, R.N.

Ernest Partridge replies:

Dear Ms. Richards,

I share your pessimism. Clearly, Wall Street and the mega-corporations own the government of the United States. The SCOTUS decision, Citizens United v. FEC, was the final straw that broke the back of American democracy.

To make matters worse (if that is possible), the election system is so corrupt that it appears impossible to vote the corporate stooges out of office. If the ESS/Diebold merger goes through, 70% of the votes counted in the next national elections will be on machines with secret software written by right-wing fundamentalists. In other words, our elections are and will continue to be unverifiable.  Yet the mainstream media won't say a word about this, much less investigate it.

The corrupt financial system that got us into this mess remains intact, following the bail-out of Wall Street with ordinary taxpayers' money. There is every indication that another, greater, collapse is just ahead.

Meanwhile, the Bushevik criminals who lied us into these illegal wars, violated international treaties, and dismantled our Constitution are at large and unpunished.

It is a dismal situation, and quite frankly I don't see a way out. Not to say that there isn't a way out, just that I can't see one at the moment.

As for 9/11, I agree that there is reason to doubt much of the "official story" -- the part about "who could have imagined that the terrorists would fly airplanes into buildings." (C. Rice). I suspect that the Bush gang knew an attack was coming, chose not to do anything about it so that they might take advantage of it. They did not, however, anticipate the scale of the disaster. I do not, however, endorse the "9/11-truther" theory that the WTC fell due to a "controlled demolition." The available evidence suggests that a coordination of a demolition with the impact of the airliners is implausible. (My views on this may be found in "The 9/11 Conspiracy: A Skeptic's View.").

So we come to your question: "What to do?"

I'm not sure that a third party is the only answer, though support for a third party should always be available as a "pressure point" against the Democrats. We might, however, take a lesson from the radical right: don't just support a major party, take it over. Progressives should therefore support liberal insurgents in primary elections against the "conserva-dems," like Bill Halter running against Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas.

Even more important, perhaps, than elections might be mass-movement action. Arianna Huffington's "move your money" (out of the big banks and into credit unions) is one such action which, if widespread, would do a lot of "beneficial damage" to the banksters. The mass media should be boycotted, and the word should go forth that the "official news" of the mainstream media is no longer believed. Then the alternative media should be supported.

I expect to have much more to say about such mass protest activities in forthcoming uploads of The Crisis Papers.

Sadly, it seems that things will get much worse before we see much improvement. "The establishment" appears to believe that there is no limit to the amount of abuse that the American public will tolerate from their corporate masters. In this, the establishment is wrong. Never forget that we are talking here about (at most) 5% oppressors versus 95% victims. The oppressors are using the familiar scapegoating techniques, so evident amongst the "tea partyers" -- blame the gays, the minorities, the socialists, the communists, and always, of course, "the libruls."  If the progressives respond wisely, they can redirect the public rage to the appropriate targets. (See my "Don't blame the tea partyers, recruit them").

I close with an observation that I have often made in the past decade: Our struggle is hopeless. As hopeless as George Washington's struggle against King George III, as hopeless as Gandhi's struggle against the British Empire; as hopeless as M. L. King's struggle against southern segregation; as hopeless as Andrei Sakharov's struggle against the Soviet Union; and as hopeless as Nelson Mandela's struggle against apartheid. (See "Where are our Heroes Today?")

No, I don't see a way out. So let's find some and invent some, and then put them to work.

"The people, united, cannot be defeated"!

Ernest Partridge

Dear Dr. Partridge,

I am writing you today to thank you for your web site "The Online Gadfly," to ask your permission to make some copies, strictly for my personal reference and study, of some of your articles posted on your web site and other sites, and to share with you my own comment about one of the main points of criticism of libertarian philosophy which you dissect in you articles.

I was born into a very conservative, right wing authoritarian cultural environment. In my early youth I adopted the views of those around me. In early adulthood, I began to awaken to the fact that my natural bent didn't fit in with my birth environment at all. I am actually liberal and progressive in my inclinations and views, which was a bit of a surprise to me. The gradual evolution, over more than four decades, of my self understanding in this regard would have been greatly aided by your web site, had it been available during those decades. Well I'm very glad to have discovered your site now. Your analyses there help me put into words and clearer focus things that I have felt for a long time and which I have been able to only partially verbalize with the clarity that I'm now finding in several of your essays and papers. Thank you very much! Your work is a great help.

As I'm studying what you have to say, I'm finding that it would be very convenient and helpful to retain on my hard drive copies of some of the content of your web site for offline study and my personal reference. If you would be gracious enough to grant me permission to retain such copies for my personal study and non commercial use, I will assure you that these copies will not be redistributed without your explicit further permission. The two writings from your site that I'm interested in at this moment are "Liberty and Justice for Some" and "Why Liberals are Not Libertarians." And while I'm at it, permit me to include here requests to retain copies of your articles "A Question of Loyalty" -- from Democratic Underground -- and "Ayn Rand's Excellent Proposal" -- from ICH.

I see from your web site that a print version of, at least, "Liberty and Justice for Some" is planned for site visitors in the near future, however I've actually already made copies of the four articles I've mentioned above. But, after reading your copyright comments on your site, I don't feel good about keeping the copies without consulting with you, and if my request is not agreeable to you I will delete these copies from my hard drive and backups.

Now for my comment. The libertarian concept of "atomism," which I think you critique very well, brings to my mind the case of our human bodies. We are a body, composed of individual cells, that is definitely more than just the sum of the disparate, individual cells acting independently. The individual cells, which do have their individual sphere of existence, must function according to a common identity, or else they will die along with the whole body. Conversely, the body must, in its complex functioning, respect and preserve the appropriate individual spheres of function of its various cells or the body will again become disordered and die. The parts and the whole of the human body are inextricable.

Cells that go rogue, wildly pursuing their own growth at the expense of the integrity of the whole, we call "cancers," with the all too well known disastrous consequences.

Now the question arises from this analogy, do humans, when we form a society, create some form of actual collective entity that has a meaningful relevance to the individuals in the society that cannot be ignored, except at their natural peril? Is a society a metaphysical body of some real significance? Well, I think that the obvious answer to that question is yes! Commentators of many spiritual traditions, over thousands of years, have all affirmed that, at some level spiritually, we are all connected, and that that connection has practical significance whether we are aware of it or not. In fact, it strikes me that awareness of our ultimate oneness is the dividing line between the "every man for themselves" crowd and the "we are all in it together" folks. If you are familiar with the Eastern mystical system of representing the subtle anatomy of our consciousness, then we could say that this dividing line is the forth chakra -- the heart chakra. Human consciousness below the heart chakra is dominated by the illusion of "separateness of being," while consciousness at the heart chakra and above progressively opens up to awareness of our connected relationships with all other beings.

Perhaps you are already well aware of these perspectives and their relationships to the points you make so well in your writings. If so, then let me apologize for my presumption. If not, then perhaps you might find these perspectives a profitable new dimension to your thinking.

Eugene Earle

Ernest Partridge replies:

Dear Mr. Earle,

Thanks for your kind comments.

You are welcome to collect any of my work on your hard drive, and to print and distribute it as you wish. My only conditions are the usual ones: include the author's name and the source (with URL) -- the Online Gadfly or The Crisis Papers, or the journal if published. Also, if printed and distributed, the note "with the permission of the author."

I require royalties only if the works are adapted in collections that are for sale. This condition, presumably, does not apply to you.

I copyright my writings to discourage plagiarism. (I dare not guess how often they have been used as student term papers). Otherwise, I am pleased to see them distributed.

A small correction: the essay is titled "With Liberty for Some." I briefly considered "With Liberty and Justice for Some" but then realized that "Justice for Some" is no justice at all. "Justice" implies universal application (i.e., "for all"). But "Liberty for Some" is clearly meaningful, if indefensible -- i.e., "liberty" that is obtained at the cost of the liberty and welfare of others.

I concur with your analogy of society with the human body. My late friend, the novelist Edward Abbey, put it well when he wrote that "the ideology of constant growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." I explored this analogy in an unpublished essay, "Taking Gaia Seriously.", As for "society" being more than the sum of its individual parts, see Chapter 5 ("Good for Each, Bad for All") of Conscience of a Progressive.

I would, however, add a caveat: while cognizant of the social dimension of human existence and morality, one must not lose sight of the integrity of the autonomous individual. There must be a balance between individual autonomy and personal rights on the one hand, and social responsibility on the other. The tragic error of both Nazism and Soviet communism was to reduce the individual to a "cell" in the body politic. Libertarianism commits the opposite error: a denial of the very existence of a "society" apart from the individual. John Donne and John Stuart Mill were both right: Donne - "no man is an island, entire to itself...;" and Mill -- “over himself, over his own mind body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”

Thanks again for your interest.


Ernest Partridge

I agree with you 100% regarding the fate of the banksters. But you are 100% wrong if you think they were the heros of Atlas Shrugged, or that this is somehow a critique of Ayn Rand. She was rather prescient in how things were going to play out. Look around you. Her "heroes" already have gone on strike. There is no one left but the looters.

From The Smirking Chimp

I've observed that too.

[Ayn Rand] really was right about that, but she saw the looters as coming from the left rather than from the right. The book, strangely enough, continues to play out.

It'd be nice if truly productive people really were on strike and hiding out somewhere, waiting for the right moment to save us. Unfortunately, though, most of them are right here working their asses off and trying to survive, not collectivism, but individualism.

river walker.
From The Smirking Chimp

Ernest Partridge Replies:

So just who are these alleged "heroes."

Edison? Ford? Bill Gates?

Should they not pay a fair share for a support of the "commons" -- the "whole social system ready to [their hands] in skilled workers, machinery, a market, peace and order"? (Hobhouse)

Would Gates have founded MicroSoft if he had an expectation of earning, not 60 billion, but a mere 6 billion -- or even 60 million?

Are there no innovators -- no "atlases" -- in regulated capitalist economies with established social networks and free public higher education?

Are you suggesting that if we abolished all government regulation, public schools and universities, all taxes on the wealthy, and thus allow the infrastructure to disintegrate, that an army of John-Galt entrepreneurs would emerge from their "strike" to save us all?

If so, then where are they now? Sitting by a pool somewhere, muttering "if I can't keep everything, then screw 'em"?

No, the mess we are in right now is not due to an absence of John-Galt types. Instead, the Galts have purchased the government, arranged to have their taxes slashed, and now are stealing from the workers and educators who are the ultimate sources of their wealth.

Ernest Partridge


It's astounding how the novel's concepts have been totally misunderstood (or misrepresented).

The villains of Atlas Shrugged were akin to the Wall Streeters taking bailouts, not the heroes.

If Ernest thinks consumers are better off without the producers, rather than vice-versa, he should re-think his premises.

From Information Clearing House

Ernest Partridge Replies:

No, Guest might take a closer look at his premises.

Galt (etc.) couldn't "produce" scratch without his workers. And the workers, conversely, could produce nothing without tools (capital), and the skills to use them (education),

It's this "versus" nonsense that gives the whole objectivist/libertarian frame away.

A flourishing economy is, and must be, a cooperative endeavor among labor, capital, and government. It is not a free gift to the wealthy and fortunate, to which nothing is owed for its sustenance -- owed in terms of education, infrastructure, just governing institutions, etc.



February 2, 2010


Correspondence Regarding Global Warming and Libertarianism

A libertarian friend, who is a global warming skeptic, writes that the climate change debate arouses his suspicions regarding "precautionary thinking and policies" and "prior restraint."

My reply:

Your note prompts a thought-experiment:

Would you have felt this way about "precautionary thinking" and "prior restraint" on December 8, 1941?

Now suppose that scientists determine, with 50% confidence, that a mountain-size meteor is headed toward earth which, if it impacts in ten years, will result in a Chicxulub event (Yucatan, c. 60 million years ago), and the extinction of all life larger than a cockroach.

Now suppose further that 97% of the scientists active in the relevant specialties concur with this finding. Accordingly, a global conference is convened where it is agreed that an aggressive, world-wide engineering effort might succeed in "nudging" the doomsday rock away from a collision trajectory.

Would a veto of the project due to qualms about "precautionary thinking" and "prior restraint" be appropriate? Would it be appropriate of there were a 5% confidence of a collision?

So how is this different from a projection that a 3 degree Celsius increase in global temperature is likely, and a 5 degree increase is possible, if there is no curtailment of CO2 emissions (i.e., "business as usual"), given that the upper end of increase will lead to the abandonment of coastal cities and farmland, crop failures, and the starvation of at least half of the human population?

Of course, if 97% of active climate scientists are wrong, and the likes of Fred Singer, Richard Lintzen, Frederick Seitz and the SEPP are right, then the question is moot -- in this particular case. But these scenarios (meteor and global warming) still raise the general question "in principle."

In short: are there not occasions which require collective action in the face of common threats, and is not that collective action best accomplished first through research and then through implementation by appropriate scientific and technological experts? And is not that implementation correctly described as "precautionary thinking (and action)" and "prior restraint"?

What is the justification of a military establishment if not "precautionary thinking" and "prior restraint"? (Albeit I would insist that the US Defense budget is more than twice as much as is necessary, and is driven more by the military-industrial complex than by necessity). Doesn't the libertarian "minimalist state" concede that some institutions are required to secure the fundamental triad of rights: life, liberty and property, through the "night watchman" police, the military and the courts? How can one avoid describing the function of these institution other than in terms of "precautionary thinking" and "prior restraint"?

And finally, what is a "global defense" against a meteor strike or global climate catastrophe other than "precautionary" thought and implementation and "prior restraint" against a common threat to life, liberty and property?

Yes, global warming may be a "myth" and the consensus scientific view may be wrong, as Sen. Inhofe and the SEPP would have us believe. Let us hope that this is so. But do we dare act, or fail to act, on this hope? And if the consensus view is ultimately refuted, the moral/political principles raised by the spectre of climate change remain untouched. The stubborn question remains, "yes, but what if..."? Other common emergencies demand "precautionary thinking" and "prior restraint" -- military threats (e.g., December 7, 1941), "peak oil," the erosion of democracy and the rule of law (e.g. "Citizens United v. FEC"), and meteor strikes. All of these potential emergencies demand "precautionary" policies responsive to the libertarian doctrine that the function of the state is to protect life, liberty and property.


Two lengthy exchanges regarding my essay, "A Convenient Delusion," deserve to survive the "three-week only" rule in The Crisis Papers Correspondence page.  So here are those exchanges, in chronological order.

Dr. Partridge,

As a scientist in the field of paleogenetics (and therefore a user of paleoclimatology data), I try to educate the public about the basics of rational thought. You are failing at step one. You cannot correctly identify a statement of fact.

1. "The summer Arctic ice cap is likely to disappear completely in 30 to 40 years." This is not a fact, and could not possibly be a fact; it is a projection that may be true or false.

2. "The decade of the 2000s was the warmest on record, containing eight of the ten warmest years." This is better; at least it could conceivably be a fact. But it is not a factual (the Medieval warm period was warmer than today; the Minoan Warm period was much warmer than today).

3. "Carbon Dioxide is a greenhouse gas". At last, a fact. But then you bungle it by saying: "Without atmospheric CO2, most of the earth would be too cold to support human life." This could be a fact, but it is (in fact) not factual. Water is the greenhouse gas that prevents the Earth from freezing.

4. "Methane is about 22 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and vast amounts of methane are being released". A fact, followed by a non-fact. You are trying to reproduce the idea that permafrost release of methane will create a runaway greenhouse. But this did not happen in the MWP, even though sea ice in the Arctic was largely gone.

5. "But with the advent of the industrial revolution and the massive consumption of fossil fuels, the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide has almost doubled". Imprecision makes it impossible to decide if this is a fact (doubled over what), but it is wrong in any case. The earliest records of atmospheric CO2 are in 1820; they are higher than today.

Al Gore and the political class declared a winner in what was previously a lively debate among scientists. The result was the politicization of science, including blogs like yours from people who know no science, but know how to parrot other parrots. In fact, Jim Hansen had an interesting hypothesis, but the preponderance of evidence (that is, actual fact) says that it is wrong.

One last point. You say that you cannot "swallow" the possibility that "hundreds of millions of dollars" in establishment science might be wrong. You need to get an education. Science frequently follows fads that are false. For example, hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on the belief that acid causes ulcers (in fact, it was hundreds of billions of dollars). New drugs were developed, got FDA approval, and were prescribed billions of times. In fact, ulcers are caused by a bacterial infection. The two scientists (Barry Marshall and Robin Warren) who pointed this out (and were later given the Nobel Prize for pointing this out) were subjected to years of ridicule by establishment scientists (something that the Nobel Committee discussed). Imagine how much more difficult their problem would have been if they had also had the Vice President, the President, and bloggers like yourself every day claiming that they were "deniers" of the "established consensus" about gastrointestinal disease, and whose anti-science view of how truth is determined (heck, if we have spent hundreds of millions on it, it must be right) was politically favored as well as scientifically favored.

Steve Benner
From Mediamonitors.net

Ernest Partridge replies:

This is, at last, a worthy criticism. Even so, like most of the other critics, Mr. Benner fails to supply citations for his claims.

Now to Mr. Benner's points, in order:

1. Much of our disagreement reduces to our different interpretations of the word "fact." My interpretation is much broader than my critic's. Arguably, too broad. Is it a "fact" that a solar eclipse will take place in Indonesia on March 9, 2016?  The NYT 2010 World Almanac says so (p. 338).  Is it a "fact" that sun will expand into a red giant in five billion years?  Is it a "fact" that it will be warmer next July than it is now?  Is it a "fact" that the sun will (appear to) rise tomorrow morning?  All these are "projections" into the future.  I believe that some projections are sufficiently certain that they may qualify as "facts." Among these "facts," I would include the projection (with cited references) that the Arctic will be ice free in about forty years if present trends continue.

2. This troublesome claim about "the Medieval warm period" deserves careful examination. Which I have done. A NOAA report, "The Medieval Warm Period" states:

As paleoclimatic records have become more numerous, it has become apparent that "Medieval Warm Period" or "Medieval Optimum" temperatures were warmer over the Northern Hemisphere than during the subsequent "Little Ice Age", and also comparable to temperatures during the early 20th century... In summary, it appears that the late 20th and early 21st centuries are likely the warmest period the Earth has seen in at least 1200 years.

If you examine this NOAA page, you will find a graph that combines thirteen separate paleoclimatological studies. Only two of these show a significant "Medieval warm period," neither of which show more warming than in the late 20th century.

A measured assessment of the so-called "hockey stick" graph of global temperatures for the past 1200 years may be found in the MIT Technology Review article, "Medieval Global Warming."

For a responsible debunking of the "Medieval war period" diversion, see Peter Sinclair's "The Medieval Warming Crock".

As for the Minoan warm period (3300-3450 years ago), I am not qualified to comment, except to note that this was a local, not a global, event and that due to its distance in time, difficult to quantify.

3. I can not say with assurance that I was right and my critic is wrong about the temperature of an Earth without CO2. I am not a climate scientist, and so I rely on the findings of those that are. In any case, this was an offhand remark in my essay with no significant bearing on the strength of my argument. I should not have made it without citation. So I have removed it from the Crisis Papers posting. Other internet postings, alas, are beyond repair.

4. See "Global Warming: Methane Could be Far Worse than Carbon Dioxide," then follow the links in the article. If my response to #2 is valid, the comment here about the Medieval warming period is moot.

5. Mea culpa! Here I goofed. In fact, the atmospheric CO2 has not doubled since the advent of the industrial revolution. I "heard it somewhere" but failed to check it out. Inexcusable, especially in view of my insistence that my critics cite their sources.

So here are the facts: If we date "the advent of the industrial revolution" at 1750 (James Watt patented his steam engine in 1769), the atmospheric CO2 was about 280 parts per million. Today it is approaching 390ppm. But here's the kicker: in the 51 years since 1958, the CO2 level has risen by 75ppm, from 315 to 390.

CO2 levels in 1820 "higher than today?" NEVER have I encountered such a claim! Where on earth does this come from? I simply do not believe it. Where is the evidence? What citations? Lacking these, I will continue to dismiss this claim.

"The preponderance of evidence (that is, actual fact) says that [Jim Hansen] is wrong." Easy enough to say. Now cite that "preponderance of evidence." On the contrary, "the preponderance of evidence" gathered by working, peer-reviewed and publishing climate scientists has convinced 97% of them to conclude that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is real.

Finally, regarding the "they all laughed at Christopher Columbus" rejoinder:

Sure, just because virtually every scientist studying global climate change accepts the hypothesis that the global atmosphere is warming at an accelerating rate due to human activity (AGW), this does not prove absolutely beyond all possible doubt that they are correct.

It does not prove this, simply because in science there are, in principle, no absolute certainties. Far from being a weakness of science, this condition, called "falsifiability," is essential to science.  According to the falsifiability principle, there are numerous conceivable findings that might "prove" that AGW is false: e.g., evidence from ice-core samples, from global temperatures, from Mauna Kea measurements, etc. (Cf. the IGCC, NAS, NOAA, AASS reports). But this conceivably refuting evidence is not forthcoming, while the confirming evidence continues to accumulate. Regrettably. I devoutly wish that what the climate scientists were finding were not so.

Moreover, not knowing anything at all about the alleged acid/ulcer link that you cite, I will stipulate that for awhile, many (most?) scientists in the field were mistaken. (But I doubt that the number of scientists and the amount of research involved with the study of ulcers was remotely comparable with that of climate science). But what does that prove? That we can't believe in any scientific research whatever because it is occasionally wrong? Of course not! Overwhelming consensus among scientific experts must count for something. And note also that scientific fraud and error is corrected by more and better science. So it was with the Piltdown Man, presumably with the acid/ulcer connection, and so it will be with AGW if, as you claim, this too is false. But I see no evidence of this. Again, regrettably.

Yes, "they all laughed" at Columbus, at Edison, and the Wright brothers. But "they" also laughed at the inventors of perpetual motion machines, at the discoverers of Atlantis and Noah's Ark, and at astrologers, UFO buffs, creationists, etc. And "they" were right.

As for Columbus, it is quite possible that most Europeans of his day believed that the Earth was flat. I just don't know if they did. But most informed scholars at the time knew that the Earth was round, for they were aware that Eratosthenes had proved it so c. 240 BCE.  The point? Regardless of what most ordinary folk believe, or even some scientists in other fields, the overwhelming majority of scientists who actively study the earth's climate agree that global warming is real, is of human origin, and is a threat to human civilization. And theirs is the opinion that should count.

And so, at length, we return to the pivotal question of my essay:

Is the scientific affirmation of anthropogenic global warming a "hoax," as Sen. Inhofe would have us believe? Possibly. But to believe this one would also have to believe either that (a) hundreds of millions of dollars of funded and peer-reviewed research have systematically led to a false conclusion, or (b) that thousands of scientists from around the world are engaged in a giant conspiracy, or (c) that all these scientists are simply fools. Sorry, but that is much more than I can swallow.

Nothing you have written is remotely responsive to this challenge. Certainly not an indication of the indisputable fact that occasionally scientists -- even a "consensus" of scientists -- get things wrong, only to be corrected eventually by more and better science.

The Bottom Line: I am not a climate scientist, and I don't even play one on TV. So I rely upon qualified scientists and their peer-reviewed and published findings. Like all of these scientists, I do not like what they are finding, for their research has very grave implication for humanity.

But the sensible response is not to employ any and every available sophistry to attempt to overturn the findings of these scientists. The intelligent response is to take these finding seriously, refute them if possible and if not, face up to their implications, and then implement public policies to deal with them.


First, as a paleogeneticist, I am a user of climate science data and models; I do not generate them. Therefore, I have no professional interest in seeing one outcome over another; I am just interested in getting the truth so that we can use it in our own research. This makes me an especially good person to evaluate the current disaster that passes for "climate science'. Politics has corrupted climate science so badly that one cannot trust anything that anyone says, on either side.

As a second task, I try to explain to the public what science is, and what discipline scientists must apply for their theories and models to have the power that people want from science. Your post (and your rejoinder) are especially disturbing, as they show how poorly our schools are at educating the public on what science is, and does. Many of us are taking our outreach more seriously as a result.

Now to substance. To have the power that the public want from "scientific statements", scientists must distinguish between fact and theory. Anyone who uses the "different interpretation" of the word "fact" denies (for himself) the power of science.

It not a "fact" that a solar eclipse will take place in Indonesia on March 9, 2016. It is a prediction based on a theory. The eclipse may not occur in that place on that date; if so, then the theory is wrong. Your rhetorical questions presume that your theories (celestial mechanics, astrophysics, or climate models) could not possibly be wrong. This is how humans generally approach their theories, about everything from religion to medicine. But it is not science, and any scientists who confuses actual facts with projections that assume their theories are correct compromises their ability to see facts when they presents themselves. Most importantly the facts that contradict their theory.

This is the case now with much of climate science. No, it is not a "fact" that the Himalayan glaciers will be gone in 2035; this is the "crock" that the IPCC finally retracted last week. The appearance of this non-fact in the IPCC report indicates how the inability for IPCC modelers to distinguish between actual facts and projections that presume that their theories are true. Anyone who knows basic physics can do the calculation that shows that it is impossible to get that much heat into the Himalayans in that amount of time.

Nor is it a "fact" that the Arctic ice will be gone in 2040. The qualification "if present trands continue" is a cheat. As is the claim that it is all fine if one "provides the reference."

Especially when the reference is the video that you directed me to from Peter Sinclair ("The Medieval Warming Crock" ). Briefly:

(a) the Medieval Warming clock did not come from the IPCC; it is based on an analysis of Norther Hemisphere data.

(b) No a "larger view" does not change this view. Mann's "net" was not much larger than the older dataset; it was still from the Northern Hemisphere.

(c) Mann did an incorrect renormalization of the data from 1000-1960 by dividing it to get unit-less numbers by measurements since 1960. As any statistician knows, doing this will always get a hockey stick, regardless of what data are put in.

(d) The National Academy triangulated; Sinclair cherry picks the report to claim that it supports exactly what it did NOT support, the

(e) The "hockey team" is multiple models all based on the same flawed premises. It is like saying that because 100 copies of Friday's New York Times agree, then its editorials must be right.

(f) The graph that he produces includes projected data after 2000, not experimental data, even though experimental facts are known for this period. This is the only reason why temperatures today appear higher than in the Medieval.

In other words, Sinclair is so convinced that his theory is right because he accepts theory-driven projections as "facts" that he is unable to see that now that the facts are in hand that deny his theory, he continues to represent projections as fact. Indeed, Jim Hansen predicted the curve that Sinclair shows, but not the facts as subsequently measured (no run away greenhouse, no horrible hurricanes, no further increase in temperature) Hence my comment that the "preponderance of evidence says that Hansen is wrong". And indeed, because you, Sinclair, and Jim think that "facts" are projections that assume their theory is right, they do not reject the theory when actual facts do not conform; they just discard the facts.

As for references, I went to www.igc.org to try to find out how someone expounding publicly on climate science needs citations about what is taught in paleoclimatology 101 about the Medieval Warm Period, who knows nothing about the Minoan (but is nonetheless convinced that it is a local phenomenon), and thinks that because a scientific establishment believes something, it must be true. But the links did not work for me.  [Wrong link.  Try www.igc.org/gadfly EP]  Read Bradley's basic textbook (Paleoclimatology, Second Edition: Reconstructing Climates of the Quaternary).

I attach a paper discussing the alternative view about the history of CO2. Remember, Beck is also an advocate, so you need to look at the papers he cites before drawing any conclusions. In fact, the difference in the conclusions between Beck and the IPCC arises solely from which facts each decide to discard. But it remains a fact agreed on by all sides (see Copenhagen_Diagnosis for the IPCC concession on this) that CO2 rise follows temperature rise; it does not precede it).

As for ulcers, you say that you do not know "anything at all about the alleged acid/ulcer link that you cite", but you "doubt that the number of scientists and the amount of research involved with the study of ulcers was remotely comparable with that of climate science".

One wonders why someone who wants to make broad statements about how reliable scientific "consensus" is to not know of the dozens of examples like this, or the names "Prilosec" or other anti-acids that were the products of billions of years of investment based on the consensus theory, or the fact that Marshall self-infected himself to demonstrate the establishment was wrong.

A simple google gives some places to start. http://acronymrequired.com/2005/10/the-h-pylori-no.html

"But what does that prove?" you ask. It proves that people who do not understand what a "fact" is can write nonsense.

As for your confidence that "scientific fraud and error are corrected by more and better science", this is true, until the science become politicized. It is not a fact that today's temperatures are inconsistently high relative to those over the past 10,000 years. There is little evidence that human CO2 emissions are causing current temperatures. There is no consensus among climate scientists about these matters. There is good evidence that CO2 rise has not historically caused temperature rises. These are all facts.

But because of the politicization of science, non-scientists with blogs will continue to do what you do, East Anglia scientists will continue to do what they did, and climatology will not be fixed for many, many [years].

Steve Benner

Ernest Partridge Replies

Thank you for your thoughtful and well-informed reply to my essay and my previous response.

Let's begin with my re-iteration of a foundational fact: I am not an expert in climate science and I don't claim to be. Accordingly, I cannot provide an informed critical response to much of your rebuttal. Your refutation of the "common wisdom" held by climate scientists throughout the world may be correct. I devoutly hope that it is, and would enormously gratified if you and like-minded scientists were to prevail. I am open to such an argument, however limited my ability to assess it.

However, from that limited point of view, I am unconvinced that the consensus view is wrong, and I am somewhat impressed that it is, in fact, a consensus arrived at through the research, both independent and coordinated, of thousands of scientists of numerous cultural backgrounds, throughout the world. I am not a climate scientist, so I look to the opinion of those who are. Similarly, I am not an astrophysicist, so I can add nothing to the dispute between steady-state theorists such as the late Fred Hoyle, and "big-bang" theorists such as Stephen Hawking and Steven Weinberg, etc. However, I can not ignore the fact that over time the "big-bang" theory has prevailed among most experts in the field.

While my knowledge is limited as to the content of climate science, as a retired philosophy professor who has taught and published in the field of the philosophy of science, I am not totally ignorant about "how science works," and I resent your implication that I am somehow ill-educated about the subject.  While the philosophy of science is not my specialty, I believe that I can claim some competence. (See my "Is Science Just Another Dogma?"). Accordingly, I am quite aware of the distinction between "facts" and "theories," and thus of the fallacy of the shopworn creationist remark that "evolution is not a fact, just a theory." (See my "
"Creationism" and the Devolution of the Intellect", both of these written for a general audience and therefore necessarily oversimplified and incomplete).  I could go on with an elaboration of the conceptual analysis of knowledge (as "justified true belief"), the hypothetico-deductive model of scientific inquiry, Karl Popper's account of scientific confirmation (as "failure to disconfirm"), Quine's pragmatic verification theory ("Two Dogmas of Empiricism") and all that. But I am not disposed right now to re-take my Ph.D qualifying exams, and still less, I assume, are you inclined to read them.

We begin with what seems to me to be a simple case of ambiguity. In ordinary non-scientific usage, I submit, the word "fact" is correctly used to refer to some virtually certain events in the future. Because I was directing my essay to the general public, it was that sense that I had in mind regarding eclipses, etc.   So if you ask an ordinary English-speaker (and I would include here most scientists) if it is "a fact" that the sun will (appear to) rise tomorrow morning, I dare say that almost all would reply that this is "a fact."

On the contrary, you interpret the word "fact" to have no application to future events, however compellingly probable. Very well. And if I accept your stipulation, then we have no argument: it follows that there are no future facts. But this is an analytical truth (i.e. "by definition") not an empirical truth.

As for my alleged assumption that "[my] theories ... could not possibly be wrong," I refer you to my earlier reply: "in science there are, in principle, no absolute certainties. Far from being a weakness of science, this condition, called 'falliblism' and 'falsifiability' is essential to science." So I plead not-guilty of your charge.

Furthermore, I did not claim, nor do I believe, that "the Himalayan glaciers will be gone by 2035." However, there seems to be compelling evidence that continental glaciers throughout the world (the Himalayas and Alaska excepted) are shrinking.

Your careful critique of Peter Sinclair's "Medieval Warming Crock" deserves the scrutiny of a climate expert, which I am not. You will have to look elsewhere for a competent assessment. Again, I hope your dismissal of the findings of the vast majority of climate scientists is right, and I sincerely hope that you and like-minded scientists succeed in proving it so. But at the moment, I am not hopeful.

My "expounding" on climate science was, as I clearly stated, the idle speculation of an amateur. I lack the competence to advance the science in any way. If climate scientists have in fact determined that Minoan warm period was a world-wide phenomenon, then I stand corrected. It just seemed improbable to me that data to support such a conclusion was available about an event that took place more than three millennia ago. But then, what do I know? However, I did not say (and wouldn't) that "because a scientific establishment believes something, it must be true." That assertion conveys a dogmatism that I do not embrace. However, I believe that science, albeit fallible, has proven itself to be the best source of knowledge about the natural world (which means about reality -- I reject "supernatural knowledge"). Accordingly, I must take scientific consensus very seriously, notwithstanding the fact that occasionally in the past scientific consensus has been overturned -- by scientific research, of course.

And so in closing, we return to the essential challenge of my essay:

Is the scientific affirmation of anthropogenic global warming a "hoax," as Sen. Inhofe would have us believe? Possibly. But to believe this one would also have to believe either that (a) hundreds of millions of dollars of funded and peer-reviewed research have systematically led to a false conclusion, or (b) that thousands of scientists from around the world are engaged in a giant conspiracy, or (c) that all these scientists are simply fools. Sorry, but that is much more than I can swallow.

You present a fourth possibility (similar to the second, the "giant conspiracy"): that climate science has "become politicized."

I confess that I am having difficulty identifying the "politics" that you allude to -- a "politics" that somehow unites in a common cause and motivates thousands of scientists, from diverse cultures and political systems and ideologies from around the world. Are we to believe that a home-grown American politics (presumably some form of Al Gore's liberal environmentalism) has somehow captured an entire scientific community? Is this a "politics" that guides and distorts the research of the scientists who extract and examine ice-core samples from Greenland and Antarctica? Does this "politics" cause scientists to mis-read thermometers and other research instruments?

Sorry, but unless and until you identify this "politics" and give me compelling evidence that it has captivated an entire scientific discipline, then your throwaway line about "politicized science" will remain "more than I can swallow."

On the contrary, "politics," along with massive economic interests, are overwhelmingly on the side of the global warming skeptics, as the captive corporate media has lavished time and attention to the skeptics with the predictable result that public belief in and concern about climate change has significantly abated.

Your skepticism is among the most responsible and informed that I have encountered, and I must therefore take it seriously (notwithstanding your distortion of my views and your false accusation of dogmatism). Once again, I sincerely hope that you are right.

But from my limited perspective from outside the circle of climate scientists, and my somewhat more competent standpoint as a student of the philosophy of science, my vote remains with the consensus view.

For the sake of the future of human civilization, let us hope that they are wrong. But if they are right, we must promptly and massively prepare for the emergency that is ahead of us if we are to avoid global catastrophe.



The US and Europe are having the coldest winter in decades. The Australian drought is over and Arctic ice is near normal.

You can't maintain a lie by not reporting it.

Tony Heller

Ernest Partridge replies:

I've been trying to make sense of "You can't maintain a lie by not reporting it." I give up! Didn't you mean to say, "you can't maintain a lie by not reporting the truth""

Oh well...

As for that "coldest winter in decades," Sean Hannity has said this repeatedly, typically without any citation whatever. What is your source? By way of refutation, NOAA reports that 2009 was "the fifth warmest January through October period." The Goddard Institute of Space Studies agrees. (Citation: http://mediamatters.org/print/research/200911250020). But what do NOAA and GISS know? They're just scientists who collect publicly monitored and replicable data. How can all this stand up against Sean Hannity's butt?

As for Australia, no droughts are forever. This one has ended -- or so you say (sans citation). If you are right (and why should I believe you?), well, so what? I am more interested in global data and trends. The alleged end of the Australian drought means nothing by itself.

"Arctic ice is near normal?" Flatly false! In fact, "the permanent Arctic Ice [is] vanishing." See also, Agence France Press: "Arctic Ice Cap to Disappear by 2040."  For still more evidence, see the satellite images here. So who are you goin' to believe? Sean Hannity (etc) or your own lyin' eyes?

This is the difference between us: I cite facts, grounded in scientific research, and my critics, like yourself, rarely do so. Occasionally I slip up, and when my errors are brought to my attention, I correct them. (See my reply to Steve Benner, above).

Ernest Partridge


Here are few official government references which should help out.

According NCDC, 2008 and 2009 had normal temperatures.

December was the 13th coldest on record.

According to NCDC, October was the third coldest on record. [Illustration, the source is not cited]

According to NSIDC Arctic ice is essentially normal.   [Illustration, the source is not cited]

According to NSIDC, Antarctic ice has been increasing for 30 years, and according NCEP, Europe is having record cold. [Illustration, the source is not cited]

Tony Heller

Ernest Partridge Replies:

For the benefit of our readers, I should note that your e-mail contained several tables, maps and other illustrations, which I cannot include here.

Trouble is, that most of those graphics were uncited and in isolation from the source texts. So they were meaningless by themselves. Since I cannot relate them to a text or make sense of them out of context, they are of no use in advancing your argument.

However, I believe that I can make a few general observations regarding the "record cold" in Europe, the alleged increase in Antarctic ice, and the "coldest December" (not "on record," but in the past 113 years, and in the contiguous U.S., which you failed to mention), etc.

Climate change deniers seem to regard the global climate as similar to the temperature inside a house. When the thermostat turns on, the temperature of the entire house rises uniformly, and when the thermostat shuts down, the house cools uniformly.

The global climate is not like this. It is, instead, a system -- a complex entity made up of numerous interacting parts. Accordingly, one can not generalize from one location (the contiguous U.S.) or a brief interval of time (December, 2009) to the entire planetary climate system. Global warming can and does result in local cooling. When records are collected and collated from around the world, the conclusion remains firm: this past decade was the warmest on record, containing four of the warmest years on record.

Case in point: Last week, southern California suffered its most severe storm in years. It lasted a full week, and now, outside my window at my mountain home in the San Bernardino mountains (elevation, 5000 ft), I see an accumulation of 18 inches of snow. Does this refute global warming? Quite the contrary. The storm was a result of an "El Nino" event, which in turn is caused by an unusual warming of the Pacific Ocean. Thus, that snow outside is quite possibly the result of global warming.

Similarly, the alleged increase in Antarctic snow pack. I've read about this, and am inclined to believe that it is a fact. But what is the cause? Probably increased precipitation on the Antarctic continent, due again to an increase in ocean temperature. Missing from your account are the abundantly documented and thus undeniable facts that the ice shelves along the edge of the continent are disintegrating (cf. the satellite photos) and that the Antarctic glaciers are accelerating. Similarly, there is no doubt that the Greenland ice shield is shrinking as the glaciers there accelerate. And throughout the world, continental glaciers are shrinking "at historic rates."

You quote Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado:

Well I have my own article on where the heck is global warming? We are asking that here in Boulder where we have broken records the past two days for the coldest days on record. We had 4 inches of snow. The high the last 2 days was below 30F and the normal is 69F, and it smashed the previous records for these days by 10F.

Trenberth knows full well that two cold days in in Boulder tells us nothing about the state of the planetary climate system. He is only repeating a hackneyed joke that I often heard from climate scientists during my two years as an NSF researcher in Boulder: on an unseasonably cold day, "well, so much for global warming!" Just a joke, dammit!

As Aristotle famously remarked, one swallow does not make a summer. Nor does a cold month in one locality refute the findings of thousands of climatologists throughout the world.

There are some errors in the area where you state that facts are stubborn things.

The disappearing of the Arctic summer ice is based on computer modeling which for those of us that work with computer models understand is not fact but speculation. Next is your comment that, “which means that it "captures" incoming solar radiation.” CO2 absorbs infrared waves reflected from the Earth's surface, in a manner that is nothing like a “greenhouse”. CO2 is a poor absorber of IR waves as its black body absorption bands are limited. It is the assumed positive feedback associated with increased CO2 that are the issue as atmospheric water vapor has not been proven to provide the the needed positive feedback that global circulation models rely on for increased temperature. Satellite and ocean buoy measurement have not confirmed that GCMs are robust. CO2 has had no impact on ice melt according to the latest research.

Windy City Kid.
From MediaMonitors.net

Ernest Partridge Replies:

The inference that the Arctic summer ice is disappearing is based, not only (or even primarily) on computer modeling, it is based upon field measurements and satellite imagery. See above citations. I repeat: who are we asked to believe, your uncited comments or our own lyin' eyes?

Moving on: If I said what you think I said about CO2 and ice melt, then I was clearly wrong. Which is why I am glad that I never said what you think I said. I never, that is, said that CO2 directly causes ice melt.

True: CO2 has no DIRECT impact on ice melt. The impact is secondary. If, as the vast majority of climate scientists agree, the global temperature is rising, due to increased CO2 (see below), then this warming will cause a decrease in ice and snow cover which, in turn, will cause greater absorption of solar radiation. It's called a "positive feedback."

When the best your critics can come up with is a straw man, then you must be doing something right.

You state that "satellite and ocean buoy measurement have not confirmed that GCMs are robust." Send me your citation and data, and then I might pay attention.

But I have encountered so much totally-made-up misinformation, out-of-context quotations, and downright lies by the deniers, that I refuse to believe anything simply on someone else's undocumented say-so. I no longer accept "information" from Jon Stewart's "Center for Something I Heard from Some Guy."


An Auto-Tutorial on Libertarianism

Dr. Partridge -

Please add me (belatedly) to what must be a long list of fervent fans.

Your "Convenient Delusion" article, picked up by Truthout, was on the money (and deserves wider publication) I haven't read a more convincing argument against the "deniers" anywhere.

"Delusion" in turn led me to your
"Climate Reality Bites the Libertarians," which I loved...

Would you be kind enough to refer me to a "Partridge-approved" source for Libertarian doctrines? Something hopefully shorter than "Atlas Shrugged," less dry than Wikipedia's earnest descriptions, less enthusiastic than Libertarianism.com, but authoritative enough to not be disavowed by a young Libertarian? Perhaps what you used.

I need it for an upcoming debate with my granddaughter, a college freshman with a potentially fine mind who is struggling to overcome the brainwashing of being brought up in an LDS family. Most recently, I created a short course for her on evolution which helped rescue her from Creationism. But she still retains her father's views about Obama being a socialist and recently announced that she's a Libertarian. Not that I'm trying to systematically attack everything the child believes in, but she says she loves our grandfather/granddaughter discussions, and I feel impelled to point out to her some of the differences between Libertarianism and Progressivism. That's the context of my request.

BTW, have you read anything by John Howe on Peak Oil? If not, I'd be happy to send you one of his paperbacks. He's kind of an interesting combination: like an Old Testament prophet, but with unassailable engineering credentials

Thanks for your time -- and keep up your great work!

Marsh Whitfield

Ernest Partridge replies:

Dear Mr. Whitfield,

Thank you for your kind note. Responses such as yours keep me going in spite of the discouraging news these days....

Four important works by libertarians immediately come to mind: David Boas' "Libertarianism: A Primer" (Free Press), Milton and Rose Friedman's "Free to Choose" (Harcourt Brace), John Hospers' "Libertarianism: A Political Philosophy for Tomorrow" (Universe), and Robert Nozick's "Anarchy, State and Utopia" (Basic Books). Add to this, Tibor Machan's anthology, "The Libertarian Reader" (Roman and Littlerfield). Boas and Friedman are quite readable, but Hospers and Nozick are more "academic" and tougher-going. For a good, if brief, back-and-forth discussion of libertarianism, see "Libertarianism, For and Against," by Craig Duncan and Tibor Machan (Rowman and Littlefield).

As for critiques of libertarianism, try Roberrt Kuttner's "Everything for Sale" (University of Chicago), Paul Krugman's "Conscience of a Liberal" (Norton) and John Rawls's "A Theory of Justice" (Harvard). Rawls's book is tough going (at 587 pages), but it has essentially defined the liberalism-libertarianism debate since its publication in 1971. (See my "
John Rawls -- A Tribute" and "The Great Regression -- and The Road Back")

Because I have not found at one place, a satisfying and comprehensive criticism of libertarianism that is accessible to the non-academic and moderately well-educated reader, I have decided to write one myself:
Conscience of a Progressive, in progress and at my website, The Online Gadfly.  See especially the chapters 3 - 10. Although the project has been stalled for a couple of years, I am back at work on it. Because the central target was originally the Bush-Cheney administration, I must now thoroughly overhaul the text to give it a more generalized perspective. Also, I have, in the past couple of years, written several essays that need to be incorporated into the book. Many of these essays are likewise directed at the libertarians and the Republican-Right economic policies. You can find these essays by following this link, then check out those at the top of the list, dated 2007, 2008 and 2009. As for libertarianism vs. progressivism, I address that issue directly in "Why liberals are not libertarians". Come to think of it, that might be a good place to begin.

Your granddaughter's LDS background strikes a responsive chord with me. You might see what I mean if you check out "About this Mormonism Thing" (December, 2007). See especially the responses that follow the essay.

Well, that's much more than enough for how.

Do let me know how your conversations with your granddaughter progress.

Ernest Partridge


Ernest Partridge's Internet Publications

Conscience of a Progressive:  A book in progress. 

Partridge's Scholarly Publications. (The Online Gadfly)

Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers".   His e-mail is: gadfly@igc.org .

Crisis Papers editors, Partridge & Weiner, are available for public speaking appearances