Monday, January 07, 2008

Goose Report '08

January 6th. Fucking January, fucking 6th, in fucking Canada. The snow's already melting, and the geese are already back, and yet we're not even halfway through what winter is supposed to be yet.

You might remember that last year I clocked the geese returning on March 16. I then went on a bit about Global Warming. Most of my comments there are still valid, so go and read that and the follow-up post if you haven't already. Today, my mind being a little bit blown by seeing the geese back this early, excuse me if I rant a little.

Okay, how the hell can so many seemingly thinking, rational people still doubt Global Warming? I can understand doubt coming from those who have a vested interest in it not being true, along with those who get all of their information form such sources. That's just confirmation bias (or lying) and Garbage In, Garbage Out respectively at work. I don't like it, but it's no surprise.

Particularly on my mind right now is the issue of South Park creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, thanks to an episode I saw a couple days ago. They seem to really have it in for Global Warming. Now, they seem to go out of their way to attack any and everything, so an episode or two on it wouldn't be surprising or anything to worry about. I'm not going to pretend her that there aren't some people who go a bit overboard in their zeal and deserve a little mockery for it, but that apparently isn't the extent of Matt and Trey's attacks.

From my count, it seems that South Park has, directly or indirectly, addressed Global Warming in five separate episodes: "Spontaneous Combustion," "Two Days Before the Day After Tomorrow," "ManBearPig," "Terrance and Phillip: Behind the Blow," and "Imaginationland" (episodes II and III). So, it's clear that Matt and Trey really have it in for Global Warming, and it's probably a safe bet they doubt the validity of Anthropogenic Global Warming and/or the possible consequences.

The question then is: Why? The two of them have shown remarkable skepticism in the past, taking down the likes of John Edwards ("The Biggest Douche in the Universe"), psychic detectives ("Carman's Incredible Gift"), and too many aspects of religion to mention. So what's different here?

Getting the obvious possibility out of the way: They're right, we're wrong. I don't really buy this one, of course. Personally, I don't know enough about climate science to study everything and come up with my own, independant conclusion (to any degree of confidence that I could challenge people who study it for a living), so I'm left trusting the experts. And the conclusion among them is that AGW is real and a problem. There are, of course, dissenters, but many of them have corporate ties you'd expect to introduce a bias or are so obviously cranky that I can debunk their claims myself.

So why don't Matt and Trey simply trust the experts here? Well, I'm guessing it's simply because they think the experts are wrong. I'm not going to hazard a guess right now as to why this is, as there are many possible ways they could have come to this conclusion, and I have no evidence for any particular one of them.

What I will bring up here is why they stick to this belief. For this, the chapter from the paperback edition of Michael Sheremer's Why People Believe Weird Things, "Why Smart People Believe Weird Things" gives us a very good answer. If you haven't read that, I'd recommend checking it out for the full story, but to sum it up: Smart people are very good at defending beliefs they arrived at through irrational reasoning.

This raises the issue of how important it is to be willing to change your mind. Personally, I've probably got a ton of beliefs I arrived at for bad reasons. I could well be wrong about many of them, and the issue at stake here, Global Warming, could easily be one.

So I'm opening this up to the commenters. A couple issues here you could address, depending on your own beliefs: 1) Why do you think so many smart people don't believe in AGW? What led them to their initial beliefs? or 2) Try to convince me why I shouldn't trust the expert opinion on this issue. Go for it.


Disgustipated said...

I just read today that Canada is experiencing a thaw! Hell it is 70 degrees here in should be 20! Global warming is accelerating, I am afraid to see next summer.

Techskeptic said...

I am no global warming denialist.

however, one particular hot spell can not be used to proclaim evidence of GW. Just like its silly for a denialist to mention how cold it is one day, or how far south it was so cold as I see so often.

These sort of observations serve only as confirmation bias.

Here in upstate new york, we jusr broke a temperature record by a faction of a degree. This record was not set last year, it was set in 1930.

Best to keep the discussion on averages, and multi-year phenomena.

just my opinion.

Infophile said...

You might want to read my first post on Global Warming last year, techskeptic. I covered precisely this point there, so I didn't feel like retreading it this time around.

Techskeptic said...

good post, as usual.

My comment wasn't directed at your post, it was directed at the first comment.

apologies for not being clear.

Techskeptic said...

oh boy,

wait 'till the anti-GW folks get their mitts into this

Akusai said...

Yeah, it'll be just another situation where the AGW denialists (intentionally or otherwise) confuse "weather" with "climate" and fail to see the bigger picture.


Pvblivs said...


I made my own comment on my blog where I explain why I don't believe the experts really believe that the warming is human-caused. If they did, they should be looking for reasearch on effective removal of the greenhouse gasses. Their actual advise is a much better fit with the problem of dwindling resources.

Infophile said...

Just because you haven't heard of it doesn't mean it isn't happening. See:

Carbon capture and storage
Carbon sequestration

...among others. The problem is that large-scale projects such as these are hard to get under way. It's a lot easier to simply reduce emission. On top of that, people don't hear so much about these as it doesn't directly affect them.

To take another argument tack, doesn't it say more that scientists believe global warming is human-caused that they're trying to limit human sources? If they merely went and tried to correct natural sources or the CO2 present, whatever the source, then it says only that they believe it's happening. But they're mostly going after human causes, so doesn't it stand to reason that they believe humans are having a significant effect on global warming?

VikingMoose said...

oh boy,

wait 'till the anti-GW folks get their mitts into this

12:04 PM

they'll claim that the surge worked???



Pvblivs said...


     The limiting of human sources also happens to be a limiting of resource consumption. I agree that that is a good thing -- because we would be in a world of hurt if we found all the coal and oil suddenly (or not so suddenly) gone. You see; I believe the scientists are acting against a real threat. I just think they are treating us as children and not telling us the real threat.
     The links are interesting, though.

Anonymous said...

They're only coming up there because its so Freakin' cold down here!!