Friday, March 28, 2008

Tim Walberg on Global Climate Change

It's the moment we've all been waiting for... Congressman Tim Walberg, self-proclaimed environmentalist, share's his thoughts on global warming and climate change. At a town hall in Hillsdale on Monday, Congressman Walberg got a question on what the federal government should do to combat global climate change. This was reported first by Eric B. at Michigan Liberal, and audio is available here.

I've tried to transcribe it from the very low quality audio file, with some assistance from the transcription Eric already had. My version and his version differ slightly, and both of them are probably slightly different from what was actually said. That's just what happens when you have a low-quality recording.

Still, I'm confident that both of us have captured the essence of what Congressman Walberg is trying to say.

Question: What do you think is the role of the federal government in combating global climate change?

Walberg: In combating global climate change?

Question: [garbled, presumably "Yes."]

Walberg: Well, I think the federal government ought to give incentives to business, industry, and more importantly research institutions to do what's necessary to find out if warming is taking place. I don't think it can be just people like Al Gore [garbled] other side. I think it needs to be people who are doing significant research to find out if, indeed, we are warming. There are a lot of people in Michigan that are saying, "If this is warming, I don't want any more of it." [Laughter] Or, "If this isn't warming, give me more warming!" [garbled] What I'm saying is, when I read science, I read scientists, editors, who police equal on both sides that say there’s a cycle that significant warming that’s produced by human involvement and not just simple matter of fact natural currents that take place in the cycle then I read on the other side an equal number at the very least that say just the very opposite that this something that’s gone on for eons, that we go through these cycles.

The Czech, the president of the Czech Republic, who's spoken here in Hillsdale several times, [garbled] I don't want to hide anything from you guys, this guy is a conservative, he's a free market person, a capitalist. Um, he understands Putin, he understands Russia. But, he may say that we were in Prague dealing with the missile defense initiative. But over the course of the meeting with him the question came up about global warming and climate change. And he says, well, he says, I as you know I’ve written a book about that. Right now we are having it translated into English and I hope you would buy [garbled] and he said I was just in Nigeria for meetings last week, he said, in the process of less than 48 hours I went through two occasions, going and coming, of degree changes of over 30 degrees. Of course, that was Celsius. And then he smiled and he says, once I got back I realized it hadn't hurt me at all! Now, we've seen less than two degree changes in the last hundred years. So I think if you're asking that question, I'm saying we ought to do significant research where we let the private sector in research entities whether it be public institutions like Michigan State or U of M nonetheless the private sector area of government do those research and come up with a decision. I’m not sure the taxpayers ought to pay significantly for things like that.

Where do I begin? Let's start by figuring out what Walberg is actually saying, without his obviously hilarious jokes about cold weather in Michigan.
  • "I think the federal government ought to give incentives to business, industry, and more importantly research institutions to do what's necessary to find out if warming is taking place."
  • It can't just be political figures like Al Gore that inform us on this issue.
  • Walberg has seen an equal number of scientists, if not more, that say global warming is part of a natural cycle and not a result of human activity.
  • The president of the Czech Republic says that he's flown places where it's warm, then flown places where it's cold, and he feels fine. Therefore, maybe global warming isn't an issue.
  • A two degree change in 100 years isn't that bad.
  • The only research on this issue should be conducted by the private sector, and taxpayers should not pay for it.
I actually do agree with Congressman Walberg on one part. It should just be political figures like Al Gore that inform us on this issue. Gore is great for publicity, but all the real decisions should be made based on what actual scientists have to say.

Unfortunately, all of Walberg's evidence against global warming comes from, well, a political figure. And if you think Al Gore is biased, wait until you learn more about Václav Klaus, the president of the Czech Republic.

For starters, the anecdote Walberg shares about Klaus's trip to Nigeria is, quite simply, stupid. We're talking about climate change, not the impact of a warm day versus a cold day on the body. Klaus was fine after his trip to Nigeria, and that's not surprising. Now, if the average temperature of the Czech Republic were to rise 30 degrees Celsius, that would be something else entirely. That kind of a change, which Klaus as an individual can withstand with no trouble, would give Prague an average temperature of 40 degrees Celsius, or about 104 degrees Farenheit. Since the average temperature of Death Valley in July is only 46 degrees Celsius, I feel that such a climate change would be significant.

But, as Klaus correctly points out, he can stand it just fine. Any agriculture in his country might not survive, but that's an entirely different problem.

Obviously, even the most pessimistic predictions of global warming don't come close to a world-wide increase of 30 degrees Celsius, and Prague isn't going to turn into Death Valley. But it's Václav Klaus and Tim Walberg that suggested such a change wouldn't be that big of a deal.

Václav Klaus has been very vocal in denouncing global warming. In a piece for the Financial Times in London, Klaus writes:
As someone who lived under communism for most of his life, I feel obliged to say that I see the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity now in ambitious environmentalism, not in communism. This ideology wants to replace the free and spontaneous evolution of mankind by a sort of central (now global) planning.
(Emphasis added.)

I don't know about you, but I'm a little worried when I see that my congressman is getting his scientific data from a man that says environmentalism is worse than communism.

Where does Klaus get this kind of expertise when it comes to scientific data? Why, he used to be a free market economist! Obviously, he's qualified to make this kind of judgment, and it won't be clouded at all by other interests!

I'll make a deal with you, Congressman Walberg. I'll never cite former Vice President Al Gore, if you promise to never again cite Václav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic. Let's stick to actual scientists, who we can agree aren't nearly as biased.

Let's recall also that Congressman Walberg is against funding actual scientific research, saying "I’m not sure the taxpayers ought to pay significantly for things like that." Never mind that science is so important, and has been for the entire history of the country, that Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution specifically lists one power of Congress as:
To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;
That primarily addresses patent law, but there is nonetheless a precedent for funding scientific research.

Still, I'm willing to let that slide as a difference of politics. We all agree that it's the scientists that should be making judgments about the science of global warming. So what do the scientists actually say? Here's Congressman Walberg's claim:
What I'm saying is, when I read science, I read scientists, editors, who police equal on both sides that say there’s a cycle that significant warming that’s produced by human involvement and not just simple matter of fact natural currents that take place in the cycle then I read on the other side an equal number at the very least that say just the very opposite that this something that’s gone on for eons, that we go through these cycles.
In other words, Walberg says that he's seen an equal number of scientists at the very least who say that global warming is just a natural phenomenon, not the result of human activity.

I had no idea that Congressman Walberg reads peer-reviewed scientific journals so regularly, nor did I realize that the minister was qualified to interpret the data presented. I, a mere math major, freely admit that I don't read those sorts of scientific journals, nor would I be able to interpret them if I did. Obviously, Walberg is much more in-touch with the scientific community than I am.

Either that, or he's full of crap.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been releasing reports every now and then on the issue. The IPCC describes itself as:
a scientific intergovernmental body set up by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Its constituency is made of :
  • The governments: the IPCC is open to all member countries of WMO and UNEP. Governments of participate in plenary Sessions of the IPCC where main decisions about the IPCC workprogramme are taken and reports are accepted, adopted and approved. They also participate the review of IPCC Reports.
  • The scientists: hundreds of scientists all over the world contribute to the work of the IPCC as authors, contributors and reviewers.
  • The people: as United Nations body, the IPCC work aims at the promotion of the United Nations human development goals
When they released a report last year, this is what the New York Times reported:
The report is the panel’s fourth assessment since 1990 on the causes and consequences of climate change, but it is the first in which the group asserts with near certainty — more than 90 percent confidence — that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from human activities have been the main causes of warming in the past half century.
But, of course, the New York Times is a biased, liberal media source, and the IPCC is made up of a bunch of America-hating countries, so they can't be trusted. So instead, let's look and see what the actual scientists say. These, by the way, are the real scientists whose work Tim Walberg claims to be reading.

In science, the only research you take seriously is research that has been peer reviewed. That is, it's been examined by other experts in the field, who look for flaws and check to make sure that your methodology is sound. If it all checks out, it gets published in a respected journal.

Is it perfect? No. Mistakes still get made. But this way, it keeps the crackpots who don't have any idea what they're talking about from getting mixed in with serious scientific thinkers. If it isn't peer-reviewed, don't trust it.

Naomi Oreskes, a professor of History and Science Studies at the University of California San Diego, sought in 2004 to find out if there really was a scientific consensus on global warming by examining such peer-reviewed articles. She published her result in the journal Science. Here's what she found:
Policy-makers and the media, particularly in the United States, frequently assert that climate science is highly uncertain. Some have used this as an argument against adopting strong measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. [...] Such statements suggest that there might be substantive disagreement in the scientific community about the reality of anthropogenic climate change. This is not the case.


The drafting of such reports [as the IPCC reports] and statements involves many opportunities for comment, criticism, and revision, and it is not likely that they would diverge greatly from the opinions of the societies' members. Nevertheless, they might downplay legitimate dissenting opinions. That hypothesis was tested by analyzing 928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords "[global] climate change".

The 928 papers were divided into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position.

Admittedly, authors evaluating impacts, developing methods, or studying paleoclimatic change might believe that current climate change is natural. However, none of these papers argued that point.

This analysis shows that scientists publishing in the peer-reviewed literature agree with the IPCC, the National Academy of Sciences, and the public statements of their professional societies. Politicians, economists, journalists, and others may have the impression of confusion, disagreement, or discord among climate scientists, but that impression is incorrect.
(Emphasis added.)

Let us review.

Congressman Walberg does not believe we should rely on biased figures like Al Gore, yet has no problem relying on a man that says environmentalism is worse than communism.

Congressman Walberg does not believe that taxpayers should be funding scientific research like this, instead believing that private industry-- famous for their lack of bias in areas which could have an impact on their profits-- should take the lead on climate research.

Congressman Walberg claims to read the research of many scientists, and says that he finds many of them, if not a majority, reject the consensus view that human activities are causing a global warming and climate change. This, despite reports by organizations like the IPCC and a survey of peer-edited scientific articles which flatly contradicts Walberg's claim.

Congressman Walberg, what scientists are you relying on? Other than President Klaus, can you name a single reputable scientist whose peer-reviewed research contradicts the consensus on climate change?

Do you have any evidence to support your position?

I would welcome any response from Congressman Walberg, his staff, or his supporters. Until then, I offer these potential conclusions:
  • Congressman Tim Walberg does not read scientific journals, nor does he rely on peer-reviewed research.
  • His claim that he reads science that offers contradictory positions on climate change is either a lie or a misrepresentation of his reading of biased media reports or material supplied by lobbyists.
  • His anecdote about President Klaus shows that he does not fully understand the issue, nor does he understand the value of actual scientific research.
  • His position that scientific research into global climate change is primarily motivated by either a general mistrust of science, a general opposition to government spending, or arguments presented to him by lobbyists with an agenda of their own.

Congressman Walberg, this is a serious problem facing the planet. If you're not willing to take the time to make an informed judgment, don't pretend to know what you're talking about, and don't offer absolutely ridiculous anecdotes about trips from the Czech Republic to Nigeria.

I'm not a scientist, and I don't claim to fully understand climate science. But I can spot someone who's just trying to fake his way through the issue and sound smart. Believe me, Congressman, you're not fooling anyone.

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"Well, I think the federal government ought to give incentives to business, industry, and more importantly research institutions to do what's necessary to find out if warming is taking place."

Amazing, the incentives he's referring to are tax breaks and grant funding at tax payer expense for a problem we know exists.

He will do it for political expediency in an election year, however he is adamantly opposed providing any tax funds for life-affirming stem cell research or basic insurance for at risk children. Shameful.

His "environmental knowledge" and understanding of climate and outdoor science is limted to visiting rest areas along the highway.

It's simply shameful he was ever elected to Congress. He's just a puppet of Club for Growth Plutocrats.

Speaking of Club for Growth:

"Of all forms of tyranny the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth, the tyranny of plutocracy."
-Theodore Roosevelt
Can you be more brief? I like what you said, but to go on and on and on, destroys your point. I've trying to make a decision here, and it is obvious you have a personal issue with the congressman
No contest, there, anon #2. Fitz says it right up front on the header:

Covering and Opposing Congressman Tim Walberg, the Radical Conservative of Michigan's 7th District
In the Jackson CitPat:

"We are very disappointed in Tim Walberg ...'' said Veterans For Peace Chapter 93 coordinator Arnold Stieber, who was not at the protest. ``War is not the answer.''
FACT: Tim Walberg promised in his campaign to oppose all earmarks and promised to never support an earmark.

FACT: Citizens Against Government Waste just published their annual report. Tim Walberg is not even anywhere near the bottom of the list.

FACT: Walberg loves pork and he is actually good at getting it.

As far as I am concerned, Walberg is a horrible republican. He sells out to radical religious interests (hardly conservative) and he personally requested 16.6 million dollars of our money for his pet projects (fiscally liberal.)

Check it out for yourself:
Have any of you guys hear what the New Jersey Nets are doing to in the fight against global warming? Not only are there games now carbon-neutral, but they traded Jason Kidd to the Dallas Mavericks for the a “better environment” also. Julianne Waldron explained to the media that Kidd was giving off to much Carbon dioxide. “Jason Kidd always hustles when he is on the basketball court, and we all admire that greatly. But all of that running up and down the court, pushing the team out on fast breaks, expending extra energy just to make a few extra points and possibly win a game, caused all of the players to breathe a great deal more heavily and thereby expel extra amounts of carbon dioxide into the air, and we all know that is bad for the environment. We made the difficult decision to trade Kidd in order to save the planet.” Check out this article I found on it Environmental Activism is the Key to the Current Success of the New Jersey Nets
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