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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Change of heart?

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 06, 2016 08:01 am

Ruh roh:

President-elect Donald J. Trump, who has called climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, met on Monday with the climate-activist extraordinaire Al Gore, offering environmental activists a glimmer of hope that the Trump administration’s policies will moderate from his campaign pledges to scrap all efforts to stem the warming of the planet.I think we've all become used to Trump saying a lot of stuff he doesn't mean.He has a habit of saying something at the extreme edge of an issue, then revealing later that he has a much more moderate approach in mind. That's probably the way he conducted business negotiations, and it worked well for him in the presidential primary. His core supporters seemed to have accepted that and haven't expressed much distress at the changes.

But I think if he flips on climate change, that might be a deal breaker for some supporters. It's not because it was very high on the list of the GOP base's concerns. It ranked well below such things as immigration, trade and health care. And it's never really been one of Trump's big deals, either.

But the climate change divide is emblematic of the left-right split we have right now in the country. One side absolutely believes one thing — that climate change is real, man-made and a great threat. The other side holds steadfastly to the opposite view: Humans didn't create the climate change crisis because there is no climate change crisis; the whole thing is a hoax or a scam. All during the campaign, Trump was very much on one side; he even went so far as to call climate change a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese. For him to suddenly jump to the other side would seem like a betrayal, even to people not especially energized by the climate change debate.  A meeting with Al Gore could just be another one of Trump's fake-out moves, but it's worrisome.

As I've been doing more and more lately, I went to the blog of Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip, to see if he had a take on it. Adams got Trunp far before anybody else did and predicted the election's outcome a long time ago. His calm analysis of what's going on is such a welcome change from the hysterical rantings of the Never Trumpers and the smug platitudes of the Trump loyalists.

Sure enough, he has weighed in with a lengthy post about climate change, and it's gratifying to see he has the same position I've sort of evolved into: It's difficult to weight all the evidence for a lay person, so let's just accept that climate change is real and that humankind is at least one contributing factor. But let's not get all batcrap crazy about it. There will be good and bad with the change, as there always is. And we'll figure out what to do about the bad when we need to. We always have and we always will.

On the question of fear, if you believe that experts are good at predicting future doom, you are probably scared to death by climate change. But in my experience, any danger we humans see coming far in the future we always find a way to fix. We didn’t run out of food because of population growth. We didn’t run out of oil as predicted. We didn’t have a problem with the Year 2000 bug, and so on. I refer to this phenomenon as the Adams Law of Slow-Moving Disasters. When we see a disaster coming – as we do with climate science – we have an unbroken track record of avoiding doom. In the case of climate change danger, there are a number of technologies under development that can directly scrub the atmosphere if needed.

[. . .]

If you ask me how scared I am of climate changes ruining the planet, I have to say it is near the bottom of my worries. If science is right, and the danger is real, we’ll find ways to scrub the atmosphere as needed. We always find ways to avoid slow-moving dangers. And if the risk of climate change isn’t real, I will say I knew it all along because climate science matches all of the criteria for a mass hallucination by experts. 

Also of interest, if you really want to get into the weeds on the issue, is the comments section, which now has more than 1,900 posts. You can get a good primer on the current state of the debate just by reading them and checking out some of the links. I like this contribution for its nuanced view:

I look at this from more of a dynamic systems/computer modelling perspective. Any time people are promoting AGW as a yes/no question, it is a gross oversimplification, and not a scientific one. The question should be along the lines of "to what degree do humans influence the climate" on a sliding scale. The super high consensus figures take everyone from 1%-100% to achieve the so called consensus, only eliminating zero percenters.

With that said, humans are obviously inserting some signal into the climate system. Earth is just as obviously full of very significant negative feedbacks, otherwise it would have run away to one side of the temperature or another long ago. As a chaotic system, it may not even be subject to long-term prediction, just approximate guesses based on historical averages. The resolution, completeness (and frequently accuracy) of the data gathering is woefully inadequate today to accomplish what they are stating with near certainty. We need to measure clouds, ocean water at all depths, ground temps, air temps at resolutions listed in feet instead of miles to begin to have a picture.

Note it's not just "do humans contribute to climate change," but how much do you think they do on a 0-100 scale? That's a vital point, but hardly anybody ever mentions it.

And now, whew!

But even as the president-elect was sitting down with the former vice president, his transition team continued to court ardent opponents of climate control policies to fill key posts in the government. Many transition officials question or deny the established science of human-caused climate change and have worked aggressively to undo President Obama’s climate change policies.

"I'm open to persuasion on climate change!" "No, I still have my mind made up!" That's just like "Answering the Taiwan call was just a courtesy" and "Actually it was a deliberate move to put China on notice." Talk about a "chaotic system." Trump was unpredictable on the campaign trail, he is now, and he will be as president, and that is a calculated style. It's how he operates. He is not nearly as "spontaneous" (i.e. "dangerously impulsive") as he has been described. That might comfort you or it might scare the hell out of you, but there it is.

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