Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Difference Between Consensus and Reality

Politicians debate. And they decide things. And they enact change.

In the realm of policy and lawmaking, if politicians are able to come to a majority consensus, the law/policy is passed and becomes reality. Consensus = Reality. And that describes a functioning democracy.

However, it becomes problematic when politicians try to extend the concept of Consensus = Reality beyond the policy realm.

Particularly when they venture into the realm of science.

If a majority of politicians decide that their constituents are homeless and need more public housing, then the housing gets built. But if a majority of politicians decide that their constituents dislike rain and therefore it will not rain today, that does not prevent rain (particularly when meteorologists forecast rain). It only ensures that the politicians will be without an umbrella.

Which leads us to the climate change “debate”. Congress is taking the scientific reality of climate change and attempting to build a consensus that climate change is not real.

The "Wegman report" released this week (which was commissioned by chair of the Chair of the Committee on Energy and Commerce) criticized a 1999 paper by Michael Mann about climate change and the “hockey stick” theory of global warming. The House Committee held a hearing about the Wegman report yesterday.

Not surprisingly, the Committee found the report it commissioned to be “valid and compelling.” Even though the report was commissioned to “draw attention to the discrepancies in [the Mann research], and not to do paleoclimatic temperature reconstruction,” the Committee came to a consensus that “Mann’s assessments that the decade of the 1990s was the hottest decade of the millennium and that 1998 was the hottest year of the millennium cannot be supported by his analysis.”

Wow, what kind of criticism must have been presented to Congress for them to the consensus that global warming is hooey? The kind of criticism that makes any scientist or academic want to pull his or her liberal-elitist hair out:

“In our further exploration of the social network of authorships in temperature reconstruction, we found that at least 43 authors have direct ties to Dr. Mann by virtue of coauthored papers with him. Our findings from this analysis suggest that authors in the area of paleoclimate studies are closely connected and thus ‘independent studies’ may not be as independent as they might appear on the surface…

In this case we judge that there was too much reliance on peer review, which was not necessarily independent.”
This criticism is laughable. Yes, the same people write papers and do peer review within a given discipline. This stems from the fact that a person must be trained in a certain discipline in order to write papers and do peer review. In a budding science like climate change, there simply aren’t that many scientists who are adequately trained, so there is destined to be some overlap.

Further, peer review is a relatively excruciating process in which a person presents results to the most qualified experts they can find in order to have their results questioned and criticized, and then tries to defend the results. If they can be defended, the defense is written into the paper. If not, it's back to the drawing board. After repeating this process again and again, most of the errors, flaws and shortcomings are weeded out. To suggest that NOT doing peer review leads to a less biased, more reliable end result is absurd.

But, regardless, the Committee reached the consensus they reached, based on a report they themselves commissioned which was not subject to peer review or rebuttal by Mr. Mann. And they decided that climate change is a myth.

But that does not take away the reality of global warming and its effects. It only ensures that as the fallout from global warming rains down on us, Congress has decided to leave the umbrella at home.


Anonymous Kate said...

I find the debate to be quite interesting. As a student of geology, I'm presented with both sides... global warming caused by polution, or natural climate change. I wonder whether or not it really matters.

I'm inclined to think it's a bit of both really since the earth has historically gone through periods of warming and cooling (thus ice ages, etc) but us poking holes in the ozone layer can't help speeding up the natural warming process.

Regardless, is the bickering going to stop the process from happening? If we don't want to fess up to our actions and really can't believe that distroying the natural balance of the earth will cause changes to our environment, then fine... but even if you don't blame global warming, you'll have to do something about the effects of these "natural processes". For all you big-business supporters: It's going to cost a hell of a lot... in lives- maybe, homes-probably. ...and a huge amount of money.

I take it back... since when have disasters ever caused problems for big business (Uh hem Halliburton, Exxon Mobil)?

1:32 AM  
Blogger Jezebella said...

You hit it on the head. It doesn't actually matter what the cause is. The objective facts show that the earth is heating up, the ice caps are melting, and pretty soon Miami and L.A. will be underwater. And if there is anything we can do to stop or slow that, we should do it.

On the other hand...

Given that Indianapolis is the largest city *not* on a major waterway, I think we are in a good position to take over the country once sea level rises. Let's just not do anything about global warming. It will be good for Exxon and for our city!!

8:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hillary’s Plan to Help Indiana Parents Balance Work and Family
Hillary Clinton has a bold plan to help Indiana parents manage the responsibilities of caring for their children and their aging parents, while meeting the demands of their work responsibilities.

More and more families are headed by two working parents, and today’s parents work longer hours than ever before. As a result, American parents have 22 fewer hours a week to spend with their kids than they did in 1969. A 2002 report by the Families and Work Institute found that 45 percent of employees say that work and family responsibilities interfere with each other, and 67 percent of working parents say they do not have enough time with their children.

Hillary Clinton believes that as these new challenges confront America’s families, our policies need to catch up. That’s why she has a work-family agenda for our modern economy. This bold effort will give Indiana parents the support they need to more effectively balance work and family obligations. And it will work in partnership with America’s businesses to ensure that pro-family work policies and increasing workplace flexibility helps improve American competitiveness and economic growth. Hillary’s work-family agenda includes:

A New $3,000 Caregiving Tax Credit. Hillary will offer a new $3,000 Caregiving Tax Credit to any person with substantial long-term care needs or to their caregivers. On average, unpaid caregivers pay more than $5,000 in out-of-pocket costs, often dipping into their savings or forgoing their own health care. The credit will not require a complex accounting of out-of-pocket costs, but instead would be available directly to any individuals with substantial long-term care needs or their caregivers. Hillary’s Caregiving Tax Credit would provide generous new assistance to at least 104,000 Indiana residents [CRS, 2007; Census 2007].

A New Long-Term Care Insurance Tax Credit. Hillary will offer a new tax credit to help those planning for their long-term care needs afford high-quality insurance policies that are right for them. This new tax credit will cover 75 percent of long-term care insurance premiums up to $1,500 per year for qualified long-term care insurance policies that meet strong new consumer protection requirements. The credit will reward middle-class families that take steps to prepare for their long-term care needs. Hillary’s new Long Term Care Insurance Tax Credit would benefit at least 180,000 seniors and near-retirees in Indiana [ (p. 27)].

Paid Family Leave. Hillary will expand the Family Medical Leave Act to cover employers with 25 or more workers, a change that will provide legal protection for unpaid leave to 13 million additional workers. Hillary will also create a State Family Leave Innovation Fund to support the establishment and expansion of state-level leave programs for new parents and those caring for their aging parents. She will ensure that every state has a paid leave program by 2016. In Indiana, this proposal could impact many of the 2.2 million private-sector workers who do not have paid family leave [Institute for Women’s Policy Research].

Equal Pay for Equal Work. Today, American women earn just $.77 for every dollar men earn. And for African American and Latinos, the disparity is even worse. African American women earn .68 cents and Hispanic women earn only .57 cents for every dollar men earn. On average, the wage gap costs families $4,000 a year. As one of 16 female U.S. Senators, Hillary has championed this issue. She introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would toughen the penalties associated with violating the Equal Pay Act; strengthen the ability of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to crackdown on equal pay violations; prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who share their salary information with their co-workers; reward model employers; and more. In Indiana, women who work full time earn 72.6 percent of what men earn [Institute for Women’s Policy Research].

Seven Guaranteed Sick Days for Full Time Workers. Forty-four percent of all workers in Indiana do not have sick leave. These workers must go to work sick or forgo pay when they become unexpectedly ill. Hillary will ensure that every full-time worker has access to 7 sick days. Part time workers will receive a proportional share. Part time workers will receive a proportional share. Hillary’s policy would impact the 1.2 million workers in Indiana without access to sick leave [National Partnership for Women & Families].

Increased Funding for Child Care. Hillary has worked to expand access and improve quality of child care in our country for decades. The Bush Administration has essentially frozen the level of child care funding for the last eight years. As a result, the real purchasing power of child care subsidies has fallen significantly. According to the Bush Administration’s own estimates, 300,000 children will lose child care assistance by 2010, and 150,000 have already lost child care assistance since 2000. Hillary believes we need to increase child care funding through the Child Care and Development Block Grant and return the program to it’s original intent: to serve working families. Hillary’s policy would help the 330,000 children under six in Indiana who need child care [National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies].


12:27 AM  

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