Transcendental Bloviation

Politics, Space, Japan

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Warming to Global Warming, or Just More Blazing Straddles?

Hmph, the first half of that headline has already been taken by the New York Times. My quibble is expressed by adding a question mark.

George Bush's energy secretary and science advisor have both signed reports essentially admitting that industrial-society emissions are behind the warming trend in recent decades. But ... Bush himself seemed unaware of this, when asked about it an interview. "Ah, did we? ... I don't think so." (Well, I hope he is at least aware that the invasion of Iraq was undermanned, and the potential for resistance was, um, "misunderestimated," since he said as much recently.)

The USGCRP report describing is pretty unequivocal.
Multiple ensemble simulations of the 20 th century climate have been conducted using climate models that include new and improved estimates of natural and anthropogenic forcing. The simulations show that observed globally averaged surface air temperatures can be replicated only when both anthropogenic forcings, e.g., greenhouse gases, as well as natural forcings such as solar variability and volcanic eruptions are included in the model. These simulations improve on the robustness of earlier work.
Figs 8a and 8b - arctic sea ice shrinking - are compelling. Fig 9 is interesting, too: it illustrates some differences between simulations with and without anthropogenic forcing gases. And that graphic is followed by this:
A recent study shows that the average global results reported above also pertain over the North American region. Several indices of large-scale patterns of surface temperature variation were used to investigate climate change in North America over the 20 th century. The observed variability of these indices was simulated well by several climate models. Comparison of index trends in observations and model simulations shows that North American temperature changes from 1950 to 1999 were unlikely to be due only to natural climate variations. Observed trends over this period are consistent with simulations that include anthropogenic forcing from increasing atmospheric greenhouse gases and sulfate aerosols.
Is it climbdown to admit the obvious? Good question. Dick Cheney has openly softened on gay marriage - as well he might, considering he has a lesbian daughter, and a wife who wrote a novel in which a lesbian relationship was portrayed in non-judgmental terms. Some months back, we even had Colin Powell more or less admitting that the choice of Iraq was partly driven by the need for "stable, democratic nation that will provide oil to the world market," causing scarcely a ripple in the news.

Well, one thing is for sure, it's not a climbdown when you seem not to know that your own administration has started feeling with one foot for a lower rung. Could Bush have been feigning ignorance? Could this be campaign posturing? The current straddle works both ways, after all. Republicans convinced of anthropogenic global warming (what few there may be) can point to Bush cabinet members' positions. And the faithful who think that climate change warning signs are all Chicken Little screeching can point to Bush's apparent obliviousness as a sign that he hasn't endorsed this position. People will remember what they want to remember. What Bush Knew and When He Knew It about global warming could be a forgotten issue in a week's time, especially if some SBVT die-hard shoots (or gets shot by) someone who hates SBVT, in some bar in Wyoming. What people will remember is whatever feels right to them.

We've got wide straddle on the gay marriage thing, too. Those Traditional Values people can point to Bush's continued support for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman, when you point out Cheney's clarified position on this issue. And for all we know, Cheney's admission was the opening note of a Cheney swan song, a clearing of the path to some less disastrous choice of Vice-President in what promises to be a real squeaker of an election.

Are we warming the atmosphere? Did we go into Iraq in part for its oil? Will Dick Cheney support a constitutional amendment defining marriage as sacrosanct union between a woman and something recognizably human? All I know is: straddle rules.


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