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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Scientists don't say what Republicans claim they do

"It will be hotter and dryer in an Arizona summer."

  COMMENTARY  

 By George Templeton 



By George Templeton
Gazette Columnist
Faith and the Paris Climate Accord
It was April of 1977 and I was looking forward to spring and longer daylight hours.  This was the time of year when the birds began to sing, celebrating the purple flowers on the jacaranda trees that lined the road.  The smell of orange blossoms was in the air.  My fancy turned to the appreciation of nature, but the five mile long line of bumper to bumper traffic moving at less than a walk was frustrating.
Constrained to sitting by my desk job, I took the stairs instead of the elevator, but that was not enough to overcome the stress of things.  There had to be a more satisfying experience out there, somewhere.
Four Wheeling to Nature
I bought a Toyota Landcruiser, outfitted it with big tires and a heavy duty roof rack which I reinforced with aluminum sheeting.  I made the back into a house on wheels using lumber.  This way I could carry my heavy duty jack, large boards to bolt it onto so it would not sink into the mud, hand axes, saw, jerk strap, and all the essentials of life.  I could even sleep in the back without unloading everything.
Wild turkey hunting would bring me peace of mind.  Off we went to the high country at 8000 feet, armed with a wooden turkey call and an over and under gun, light weight 30-30 hand loads for the top barrel, and a full-choke twenty gauge on the bottom.
Turkey Hunting
There was still snow on the ground, everywhere.  When I got stuck, I jacked up the Landcruiser, put fallen tree limbs under the tires, and got moving again.  We went back in the forest where there was no one and set up camp near a hill.  I began my hunt before dawn.  I climbed out of the sleeping bag at four in the morning, planning to cook breakfast and have a cup of coffee.  Much to my dismay, the water barrel was frozen solid but this was only a minor annoyance.
Off I went, in the moonlight, to the top of the hill.  My plan was to wait for sunrise and listen 360 degrees around me for gobblers.  It was cold just sitting there in snow at below freezing temperatures.  The gun barrel was chillingly painful through my gloves, but it was worth it because I was greeted by turkeys that morning.
I heard and saw them, but never got closer than 100 yards.  I tried to be like a romantic turkey, calling for a mate.  Some responded, but they sensed they should not come too close.  As it turns out, wild turkeys are not dumb and they fly really well.
That afternoon I gave up on the turkeys.  I started to explore my surroundings.  There was snow everywhere, on the hillsides and in the treetops.  There were no footprints, no tire tracks, and only the sound of the breeze and a crystal clear gurgling brook that I followed.  I thought, too bad that there are no fish, but then I was surprised as one splashed.  Woah, time to get my wife and the fishing poles!  That afternoon we both caught our limit of German brown trout.  We packed them in buckets filled with snow, brought them back to the camp, and cooked them before the rigor mortis set in.  It was the freshest fish ever.
The trip was an exhilarating mountain top experience that I will never forget.  I can still see the perfectly white snow on the trees and hills, feel the warming afternoon breeze, and become deeply and personally a part of it.  This was the miracle that I was given to.  I was part of it, and it is part of me.
The July 2017 issue of the Scientific American informs us that logging, agriculture, mining, and wildfires reduced healthy pristine ecosystems by an area about the size of Egypt between 2000 and 2013.  E. O. Wilson notes in his book, The Creation, that the current rate of extinction of species is at least 1000 times what it was before humans appeared on the Earth.  At the current rate, half the species of plants and animals on Earth will be gone or fated for extinction by the end of the century and a quarter of them will be gone in the next fifty years because of climate change alone.  We are hurting ourselves.  We don’t see this because we are not personally connected with nature, but nature is connected with us.
Unity
You have no right to be generous with my money, but I give government permission to tax me.  Groups are different from individuals.  The same force that unites the T-party divides it from other groups.  It is the group that has power, not the self.  People come together, but groups split apart.  The paradox of individual selfless patriotism is that it increases the selfishness of groups.   The proof is in politics and religion.
Life is not a rat race where we must beat the other fellow and destroy him.  We are concerned about social science, economics, the outsourcing of jobs, and rising inequality in America.  We worry about mankind’s survival, extinction of species, and irreversible damage to the earth predicted by the physical and life sciences.  We are called upon to be participants in the dance of life, not to be envious that the Paris climate “conspiracy” was primarily for the “exclusive economic benefit of other countries”.   Will fear of the future, moral obligation or greed be our motivator?
The Republicans claim to be pro-business.  They think that the denial of global warming creates jobs.  Today’s free enterprise has a short-term outlook that sanctions social irresponsibility.  Rapid climate change causes crop failure, starvation, migration, and wars.  Think of the jobs that will be created to make the walls needed to hold back the ocean! 
The Party Was Not a Negotiation
In the 1990’s my company held several five million dollar week long international parties for our customers.  I know because I wrote a syllabus and conducted seminars.  There were goose steeping Russian dancers, ice fountains flowing with vodka, chocolate mousse, expensive hotel rooms, and many examples of creative things our customers were doing to make the world a better place.  It was a business fair like a science fair.  It sounds like a lot of money, but even then a single wafer area cost a billion dollars.  So, this effort at making connection with customers and showing them how we could make the world a better place, cost less than one percent of our new equipment budget.  Now how about Trump and the non-binding motivational Paris agreement that he chose to bail out on?  Did he win friends and influence them?  Are his penny-pinching deals, rather than connections with humanity, the ultimate arbitrator of reality?  
Pittsburgh and Paris
Pittsburgh was a black city in 1955.  In those days our home was heated by coal.  Our water heater was even coal fired.  Do you think we will return to that?  We loved coal, but Pittsburgh has modernized.  Forty years later I rode the subway in Paris.  It moved people efficiently and reduced pollution.
The Paris Accord was only a starting point, an agreement where every country would set its own goals and try to reach them.  Like my company party, it was a motivational science fair.  Trump claims that he personally can drive a new economic bargain with the other 195 countries in the Paris agreement, but they are not interested.  He would attach conditions to ensure that America comes first, contradicting the idea that business agreements should be win-win propositions.  Self-interest is not the only reason for treaties and deals.  Treating others as economic conspirators misses the point.  We share the same earth.
There Must be Facts, but What Do They Mean?
Americans are altruistic.  They would never make personal decisions that could harm their grandchildren.  But true believers have no qualms about jeopardy.  They subordinate their rationality to tribal whims.  Their loyalty supports the hypocrisy of their group.
Unfortunately, global warming is a matter of political instead of scientific discourse.  Scientists do not say what the Republicans claim they do.  Global warming is more than a single temperature, ridiculed and taken out of context
There are many explanations.  It could be that tomorrow never comes.  (I don’t have a problem.  Nobody tells me what to do!)  It could be political ideology and misguided patriotism (America first, my country right or wrong).  It could be the desire to maintain the privileges of the status quo (No such thing as global warming).  It could be that God’s covenant is with the Republicans (Taxes are immoral, God controls, we are not responsible, God said, just believe).  It could be intent to deceive (the desire for power and control, propaganda that purports to educate but lies and distorts).  It could be ignorance of science, math, and data analysis.  It is not a diligent questioning of the facts.
The purpose of statistics is to place bounds on uncertainty, but we don’t discuss that.  What are the mechanisms involved, sampling, proxies, measurement, strength of the variables and interactions?  What is the standard deviation of the mean, the probable error, the confidence interval, the Pearson correlation coefficient, and the mathematical response surface?  What is the risk we are taking if we are wrong and there really is global warming? 
Republicans point out an increase of only 0.2 degrees, but that’s the reduction in warming from struggling over the last agreement five years ago.  Our grandchildren could see nearly seven or eight degrees F if nothing more is done.  The average world temperature is about 58 degrees F.  These numbers have a tolerance that can go either way.  There are large variations in temperature with season and geography.  It will be hotter and dryer in an Arizona summer.  Many plants don’t care about critical thresholds like freezing until that happens.  They have a temperature range needed for survival.
Imagine that the earth is a thermal conductor heated by the sun’s radiation.  It lacks convection from air and ocean currents.  Its thermal capacitance depends on its mass and specific heat.  At first, heat flows easily from the surface to the interior because of the large temperature difference.  But as the interior heats, this becomes less so and the surface will more rapidly warm.  This shapes the curve of the temperature rise over time, revealing thermal time constants associated with the curve’s inflection points and slope.  Rates of change are more revealing than the amount.
We are measuring large changes on a scale of hundreds of years instead of geologic history’s millennia (The earth is older than the Bible’s 6000 years).  Is it a coincidence that these started happening during the time of mankind’s industrial development?  Why do you suppose the Trump administration has defunded earth science?  They don’t like facts that challenge their worldview.
Seemingly insignificant statistical data is more revealing than spectacular catastrophes.  It is true that the average, which is the most probable value, is only a mathematical abstraction.  The melting of Antarctica is reality (reference July 2017 National Geographic), but it is difficult to forecast.  Trump is helping to make certain that we will do nothing until Florida sinks into the ocean, but by then it will be too late.  What is operating here is the same thing that makes people think they will beat the casino.  Their education did not include the mathematics of expected value.
Moral Man & Immoral Society
Reinhold Niebuhr’s pessimistic 1932 book has been proven correct over and over again.  He wrote in the time of racial prejudice, the war to end all wars, and the great depression.  Marxism, not globalization and climate change, was the issue in those days.
Marx viewed evil as the consequence of social privilege maintaining inequality so that wealth would not have to be shared.  He portrayed wealth and materialism as the fundamental driving force of history, not politics or ideas.  Modern science has statistically analyzed this.  It found that social class on opposing sides did not matter.
Communism was an extreme implementation of the idea that wealth should be shared, but historically it has not worked out that way.  Stalin’s brutality supports Niebuhr’s criticism about paltry group ethics.  Today, we know that social revolution is much more likely to come from quantum physics than from ideology.  Technology has advanced since the 1930’s.   Consequently, I am more optimistic than Niebuhr was.
As Thomas Friedman pointed out in his 2008 book “Hot, Flat, and Crowded”, we are growing increasingly connected by travel, commerce, communications, entertainment, and education.  Our connections will overcome power, egoism, and self-interest.  We will find ourselves by losing ourselves to the mutual needs of others, but not in individual deals, made by an autocrat, that seek monetary returns more than results.
America may have done the most to reduce greenhouse gases, but it is responsible for eighty percent of the world’s pollution and happens to be the number two emitter in the world.  Our accomplishments do not exonerate us from unconditionally helping our neighbors.  The world is not laughing at us and conspiring to take our jobs.  We have no reason to envy them.
Around 300 AD some Greek monks classified the seven deadly sins.  Pride is the sin from which all others arise.  It is the mother of injustice.  Now, why would that be?  Pride dulls the senses, and is self-aggrandizing.  It destroys humility and empathy.  It has all the answers and no need to learn.  It destroys the connections with our fellow-man.
The Coming Flood
Doesn’t life call upon us to compete, and to create?  Perhaps the people who say that greed is good are confusing it with the striving that is part of life’s expression.  Humanity has the freedom to create, but its personality dysfunction causes irreversible harm.  We don’t see our mutual immorality.  Nature restores equilibrium, but at what cost?  How do we balance our social sympathy with our self-interest?  Reinhold Niebuhr gave us an often quoted clue.  “God, grant us grace to accept with serenity that which cannot be changed, courage to change that which can be changed, and wisdom to know the difference.”

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