The Incompetent Paranoia of Rick Perry

Anyone who has followed Mark’s and Harold’s diligent chronicling of the Rick Perry crazy over the last few days should hardly be surprised when he says something inane.  But if you’re going to be a nutcase paranoid, you should at least make sense on your own terms.

Too high a bar, apparently.  Today, Perry rehashed the now-common right-wing charge of a scientific conspiracy on climate change:

Perry [stated] flatly that scientists drum up phony climate change data to make a buck.

“A substantial number of scientists [have] manipulated data to keep the money rolling in,” New Hampshire Union Leader editorial page editor Drew Cline quoted Perry saying on the stump in a tweet. Before that, Cline quoted Perry saying, “I do believe the issue of global warming has been politicized.”

Let’s suppose that climate scientists really did have a conspiracy to increase their funding.  Would they say what they are saying now?  Not in the least.

Climate scientists have already declared anthropogenic climate change to be real, and have already declared it be extremely serious.  That’s a lousy strategy for generating research dollars.  The better strategy would be to say that it could be serious, but we really don’t know, and there is still uncertainty, but we aren’t sure, and we really need $200 million more to figure it out.

As the science currently stands, the people looking to clean up are not climate scientists, but rather renewable energy experts, geo-engineering specialists, carbon sequestration inventors, fuel cell battery designers, etc.  I think it was Mike Huckabee who, a few months ago, said that the government should offer a $1 billion prize to the person who can invent clean energy.  Whoever that will be, it won’t be a climate scientist.  By proving the danger of anthropogenic climate change so clearly, they have actually undercut themselves financially.  Their reward for this has been unrelenting attacks from the likes of Rick Perry.

I realize that this is a little too straightforward: “well, yes, that just shows how diabolical the conspiracy is!  They are pretending that the science is certain, so that when we accuse them of making it up, they can wriggle out of it by using your argument!”  Cue crazed-dilated eyes.

Maybe Perry could secede from the United States all by himself.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

36 thoughts on “The Incompetent Paranoia of Rick Perry”

  1. Also too, there are ‘climate scientists’ taking Koch Brother money to fake climate change data. You know, ‘we can prove it’s not happening, or that it is happening and no human activity is involved, or yes, humans have caused a global catastrophe, however, there’s nothing that can be done anyway, so Drill, Baby Drill.

  2. It’s a weird accusation of bias. Liberalism is not about regulating as much as possible. Yet conservatism is about regulating as little as possible. You would think that the bias would be in the overwhelmingly large number of people whose ideology depends on opposing regulation, or flatly losing money because of it.

    The idea that profit is a motive for arguing AGW is just totally bizarre. This is why these people get called crazy. Is that not a crazy thing to say?

  3. When I first heard it, it rang true to me.

    Accusations that climate science has been politicized? True!
    Folks taking money to parrot their funder’s positions? True!

    Then I read more, and realized it was the opposite side that was being accused. Classic Rovian tactic – accuse them of what you’re guilty of.

  4. Rick Perry is making sense in his own terms: tribalism. A willingness to be stone irrational does you very well with the same tribe that thinks that it takes balls to kill an innocent man.

  5. It’s easy to just call someone crazy and then dismiss their ideas. For example, it is crazy to believe that the sun is playing the biggest role in the warming of our globe and not me or you driving an SUV. Here is a crazy theory for you-

    “Clouds are formed when cosmic rays hit the atmosphere. The more clouds in the atmosphere, the more sunlight that is reflected off our globe, and our globe cools. When the sun is very active, it’s magnetism draws cosmic rays to it rather than earth, resulting in less cosmic rays hitting the atmosphere, less clouds, less cooling effect of these clouds, and temperatures go up. When sun is inactive, it has fewer sunspots, fewer magnetic activity, more cosmic rays hit the earth, resulting in more clouds, resulting in more cooling, and the temperature of the Earth goes down…”

    You can believe that, or believe that driving your SUV causes CO2 levels to continually build causing the whole earth to warm, contrary to the data (medieval warming, recent cooling trend, failure of computer models to predict, etc).

    http://aconservativeteacher.blogspot.com/2011/08/bombshell-experiment-global-climate.html

  6. Correlation of global temperatures to the level of solar activity is something that’s been thought of.

    I second MobiusKlein, and extend. *Any* accusation by the right is projection; they are incapable of anything else, and need to do it because they’re worse.

    Perry is a liar, pure and simple. Another nasty piece of work raised up by Texan Republicans.

  7. ACT, that theory is crazy. How fast do you think cosmic rays are traveling, and how much time do they have to be influenced by the Sun’s magnetic field.

  8. As the science currently stands, the people looking to clean up are not climate scientists, but rather renewable energy experts, geo-engineering specialists, carbon sequestration inventors, fuel cell battery designers, etc.

    Of course. They’re the leaders of the conspiracy; the climate scientists are working for them. I mean, look at the Perry quote: He didn’t say the scientists want more research funding; he said they want to “keep the money rolling in”–i.e., keep the kickback money rolling in to their personal bank accounts.

    (Um, the above is snark.)

  9. You can believe that, or believe that driving your SUV causes CO2 levels to continually build causing the whole earth to warm, contrary to the data…

    I always find it incredibly interesting that most people don’t know about the Keeling curve.
    I know they don’t show this stuff on tv, but don’t they teach it in schools?

    That’s not to say a greater promulgation of Keeling’s observations would put an end to purposeful ignorance such as I pasted in above…
    I understand ideology trumps facts on the ground for many conservatives and fundamentalists.
    But it provides an irrefutable starting point of “same facts”. This isn’t a “belief”, it is hard ass data.
    Anybody failing to accept the data, should not be allowed to voice an opinion on the subject.

    Or in Perry’s case, there should be people laughing out loud in derision every time he opens his mouth and tires to make a rug out of science….

  10. CERN has tested the theory regarding cloud formation and its interactions with cosmic rays, and sunspot activity has been documented extensively. These theories, advanced by top scientists, explain the observed history of our climate and predict the future history much better than the computer-models advanced by man-made global warming believers. Research it yourself- you’ll eventually realize that man-made global warming is simply a way to channel money from government to research institutions and ‘green companies’ that would not be receiving this money if they were investigating cloud cover or sunspots. It’s a big scam.

  11. Denialists claiming a “conspiracy” among the wide range of academic scientists who, by consensus, have concluded that human activity has led to global warming haven’t spent enough time in/around academia to figure out one critical fact:

    There’s no way that academia could keep such a conspiracy under wraps for more than two conference cycles.

    As a counterpoint, there’s a reason that Big Tobacco funded the Tobacco Institute and produced almost all of its “research” in-house: It knew it couldn’t maintain any conspiracy in the medium- or long-term in an academic environment. That much of the anti-global-warming “research” is coming from nonacademic institutes captive to energy companies and the like is a disturbing parallel.

  12. As a counterpoint, there’s a reason that Big Tobacco funded the Tobacco Institute and produced almost all of its “research” in-house…

    Yes of course. The parallels of denialism between Big Tobacco and Koch Coal Coalition are remarkable.
    But also on another level that I don’t think many people have realized. That is, the thought-experiment level:

    How could inhaling vast amounts of smoke into one’s lungs for years not harm the body’s health?
    Do you really need science to tell you that? No. But science did anyways…

    Similarly with global warming:

    How can pumping up gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere for eighty years not dramatically change the earth?
    Do you really need science to tell you that? No. But science does anyways…

  13. How can pumping up gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere for eighty years not dramatically change the earth? Do you really need science to tell you that?

    Just to be clear, I hope you understand that the genesis of global warming research didn’t stem from an observation that we were pumping CO2 into the atmosphere and wondering what effect that would have on the earth. It stemmed from anecdotal observations of changes in the climate. The cause was eventually traced to greenhouse gases, primarily CO2. So, yes, we did need science to tell us that because it wasn’t at all intuitively clear CO2 would be the main culprit.

  14. “man-made global warming is simply a way to channel money from government to research institutions and ‘green companies’”

    Here’s the thing. What would it possibly take to convince you you are wrong? Conspiracy theories are defined by how brilliantly circular they are: the very evidence that would disprove them is deemed untrustworthy, thus making it impossible for them to be disproven.

    The vast, overwhelming majority of climate scientists (experts) come to different conclusions than you, who I presume are a layman. For any given theory, you can find at least an expert skeptic or two. And in almost every controversial case, you’ll find them defended by claims of a conspiracy. Conspiracy theorists aren’t normally taken seriously, by definition “crazy” in the political sense. Why should you or any other Republicans be any different?

  15. What’s ironic is that ideologically motivated people (like our reactionary teacher friend in this thread) will seize on any scientifically dubious argument that suits their prejudices. If climate change was based on a reed of evidence as thin as the cosmic ray theory the denialists would be (properly) mocking it. Because the scientists involved were basically speculating about an effect which might be interesting, even if it probably wasn’t the main effect. We do that all of the time.

    The solar ingredient is, of course, included in the climate models. And solar scientists are very firm in the knowledge that the Sun hasn’t changed much over the last 30 years; its contribution is measured and too small. (Why wouldn’t astronomers be aggressively asserting that the Sun did everything given the conspiracy theory, by the way? Wouldn’t that be great for solar physics? Are we just too stupid to cash in, or is it that the climate modelers have bribed us into silence?)

    So “A conservative teacher” is either spouting about things they know little about or being intentionally deceitful. There is no information value in a debate in either case.

  16. “I hope you understand that the genesis of global warming research didn’t stem from an observation that we were pumping CO2 into the atmosphere and wondering what effect that would have on the earth.”

    Actually, it did. Look up Svante Arrhenius or “history of climate change science” on wiki. The theory is older than relativity.

    Re the main point of the OP, I’ve argued the same. Climatologist research consensus can be summed up as “it’s time to spend a lot of money on research – by engineers, for engineering projects to handle the certain challenges of climate change.” This doesn’t fit the self interest model at all.

  17. “ACT, that theory is crazy. How fast do you think cosmic rays are traveling, and how much time do they have to be influenced by the Sun’s magnetic field.”

    Just shy of the speed of light, and given the size of the Sun’s magnetic field, roughly 16 hours. That is, in fact, plenty of time for the Sun’s magnetic field to effect all but the highest energy cosmic rays.

  18. Marc, you still don’t get it- it isn’t that the sun gets hotter or colder, it is that sometimes it has stronger magnetic fields (which can be seen for the increase in sunspot activity from 1970 to 1990, the same range that ‘global warming’ was observed), and when it does, it keeps cosmic rays from striking the Earth, which means there are less clouds, thus less reflection, thus a warmer planet. Don’t worry though- sunspot activity goes up and down over the years, so the globes temperature will go down again, so there is no need for the government to control every aspect of our lives in a vain attempt to fight man-made global warming. Of course, there is no money in this, so few ‘research scientists’ will earn grants from the government to work on this theory.

  19. It is one thing to debate questions of public policy or economics with a rational, enlightened opposition but we seldom get to that point, because much of the oxygen of public debate is consumed with defending the fundamental facts of our physical condition such as evolution, or the age of the earth with these GOP crazies, who have only a very tenuous understanding of how the universe operates, if it conflcit with what they perceive the Bible reported two thosuand or more years ago. Yes these are indeed just scientific theories and laws that satisfactorily explain how our universe works, like the law of gravity and theory of relativity that all scientists accept. But to make any progress on convincing these troglodytes on related issues like global warming and climate change which all major climate scientists accept, is like having to reinvent the wheel every couple of years especially during Republican runups.

  20. “Conservative Teacher” asserts that global climate change is due to variations in the strength of the solar magnetic field. Since 1960, the strength of solar magnetic field has varied in 10 year cycles, with a slight downward trend. On the other hand global temperatures have increased significantly during that time, and the 10 year cycles do not appear. Therefore, the theory advanced by “Conservative Teacher” is false.

    For graphs of the solar magnetic field, see
    http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0911/0911.4396v1.pdf
    For a graph of global temperatures, see http://climate.nasa.gov/keyIndicators/

  21. Thanks, Kenneth.

    And ‘Conservative Teacher’ didn’t post a link to this CERN research.

    I wonder why?

  22. I’m an astronomer, “Conservative Teacher.” The cosmic rays were an interesting idea- and didn’t pan out (see below). This isn’t surprising. On the one side: laboratory measurements about the heat trapping of CO2 plus a known and measured CO2 increase caused by human activity. On the other side: a speculative, and unlikely, correlation between rare cosmic rays, cloud seeding, and the solar magnetic field. For actual scientific critiques of the idea, see for example

    http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/3/2/024001

    “A decrease in the globally averaged low level cloud cover, deduced from the ISCCP infrared data, as the cosmic ray intensity decreased during the solar cycle 22 was observed by two groups. The groups went on to hypothesize that the decrease in ionization due to cosmic rays causes the decrease in cloud cover, thereby explaining a large part of the currently observed global warming. We have examined this hypothesis to look for evidence to corroborate it. None has been found and so our conclusions are to doubt it. From the absence of corroborative evidence, we estimate that less than 23%, at the 95% confidence level, of the 11 year cycle change in the globally averaged cloud cover observed in solar cycle 22 is due to the change in the rate of ionization from the solar modulation of cosmic rays.”

    The CERN experiment was to see whether cosmic rays could nucleate droplets, not testing the many other steps in the causal chain.

    Or you could look at

    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2010/2009GL041327.shtml

    “Currently a cosmic ray cloud connection (CRC) hypothesis is subject of an intense controversial debate. It postulates that galactic cosmic rays (GCR) intruding the Earth’s atmosphere influence cloud cover. If correct it would have important consequences for our understanding of climate driving processes. Here we report on an alternative and stringent test of the CRC-hypothesis by searching for a possible influence of sudden GCR decreases (so-called Forbush decreases) on clouds. We find no response of global cloud cover to Forbush decreases at any altitude and latitude. ”

    …and, finally,

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364682611000691

    ” A survey is made of the evidence for and against the hypothesis that cosmic rays influence cloud cover. The analysis is made principally for the troposphere. It is concluded that for the troposphere there is only a very small overall value for the fraction of cloud attributable to cosmic rays (CR); if there is linearity between CR change and cloud change, the value is probably ~1% for clouds below 6.5 km, but less overall. The apparently higher value for low cloud is an artifact. The contribution of CR to ‘climate change’ is quite negligible.”

    Interesting idea, worth thinking about, but not a major factor – as one would have suspected going into it, given the physics.

  23. Thank you Marc. I knew somebody out there had considered the data, done the math. You just managed to write it out with far fewer ‘you are an idiot’ comments than I could have manged.

  24. koreyel wrote, “How can pumping up gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere for eighty years not dramatically change the earth?”

    The science behind the anthropogenic warming hypothesis is, IMHO, much subtler than that for lung cancer. IIRC, if you smoke heavily, the chance you’ll get lung cancer is increased by a factor of about 20. OTOH, CO2 is actually a fairly weak greenhouse gas (IIRC H2O is much stronger, e.g.).

    Skepticism re anthropogenic warming hasn’t been unwarrented throughout the history of the theory—I don’t know much about the topic, but I was somewhat skeptical in the late 1990s. The problem is that the evidence, while not 100% convincing, is converging with time, and yet the skeptics carry on as if that weren’t true.

  25. While the problem for the true believers is that the evidence isn’t converging on the really scary scenarios that are being used to justify all the hysteria. We’ll probably get some warming, but not a whole lot, because CO2 IS a weak greenhouse gas, and it’s effect has mostly reached saturation, subject to increasingly diminishing returns.

  26. Brett, you’re the first to mention a ‘reached saturation’ notion I have read.
    Any links? Preferably not to a place like wattsupwiththat


    Also, the ‘probably’ part is not reassuring. We’re playing a reverse lottery, and we don’t know the odds.

  27. We’ll probably get some warming, but not a whole lot, because CO2 IS a weak greenhouse gas, and it’s effect has mostly reached saturation, subject to increasingly diminishing returns.

    So it goes, from “Nothing’s happening,” to “Well, not much.” What’s the next step?

    By the way, Brett, care to put a distribution with that oh-so casual “probably?” Care to tell us what you consider “not a whole lot,” and to estimate the consequences?

  28. Everyone I talk to in the related fields has the opposite impression: that the models were conservative, and that things are changing much faster than projected. For example, the feedback in the Arctic (melting ice reflects less sunlight, causing more melting) is stronger than captured in models. The models also leave out catastrophic events, and these could drastically accelerate matters (e.g. collapse of Greenland ice). The errors are not symmetric. For instance, look at the the arctic sea ice right now:

    http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

    It’s odd. I can respect arguments about what to do given the reality of climate change. But instead we’re dealing with a wholesale rejection of the science, and with politically motivated attacks on the motives of scientists (as per the original post.) Nature will have her way; what possible benefit is there to pretending otherwise?

  29. FYI – greenhouse gasses absorb only specific frequencies, and as you add more of them you get a smaller effect. Contra Brett, this is of course included in the models – e.g. not a surprise – and explains why the (large) effects of CO2 are not even larger.

    The same logic, by the way, implies that small amounts of other molecules (like methane) have even more impact because the abundances are lower and thus you get a bigger bang for the buck per molecule. The particular scientific issue with methane is the short residence time in the atmosphere (of order a decade.) By contrast, the “weak” greenhouse gas CO2 won’t get back into balance for thousands of years. You’d think conservatives would care about giving such a gift to our children a hundred generations removed; apparently not.

  30. An excellent source of digested-for-laymen info on climate change, but including citations of the primary sources, is http://www.wunderground.com/climate/. Under the “Climate Change Opinion” section heading (menus on the right) you’ll see “The Manufactured Doubt Industry.” ACT and Brett, you’re rank amateurs–read this to see how it’s done properly.

  31. That would be these models, right?

    The bottom line, as I understand it, is that CO2, by itself, simply cannot cause a dangerous degree of warming, because the frequency bands it effectively blocks are already blocked. The assumption in the models is that it causes a slight warming, which results in higher humidity, and H2O being a much more effective greenhouse gas than CO2, it’s this increased humidity which causes the actual warming which we’re supposed to be concerned about.

    The problem being that increased humidity can cause increased clouds, and said clouds, depending on where and when they occur, can either increase or decrease warming. All the warming we’re supposed to be worried about comes out of the way the models handle water, something we can’t calculate working from first principles. In this area the models are exercises in curve fitting with excess parameters. With all the problems that implies.

    That’s why I role my eyes whenever somebody says that, if you don’t predictions of dangerous warming, you “don’t believe in physics”. BS, physics by itself doesn’t get you there. And, as the link I started out with demonstrates, the models aren’t really all that reliable in predicting things like IR radiation from the Earth.

    Which is to say, they’re not all that reliable, period.

  32. If Perry is accusing scientists of manipulating data, the correct response is “Name them!”.

    We are talking about the National Academy of Sciences here, is he saying the majority of them are on the take?

    If he made a similar accusation about the Supreme Court, for example, what would be the response?

  33. Brett,

    Alas, poor old Spencer and Braswell has been refuted so often that the paper is worthless as “evidence”. Here is a scientific critique of their paper: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2011/07/misdiagnosis-of-surface-temperature-feedback/

    The canard that climate science is “only models” is often repeated. The case for climate change is based first and foremost on a host of converging lines of evidence. See key indicators here: http://climate.nasa.gov/keyIndicators/ and here: http://www.skepticalscience.com/10-Indicators-of-a-Human-Fingerprint-on-Climate-Change.html

    BTW, we get earth radiation from satellite instrumentation, not from “models”.

  34. “CO2, by itself, simply cannot cause a dangerous degree of warming, because the frequency bands it effectively blocks are already blocked.”

    No. CO2 absorbs in multiple bands, some of which are not shared by H2O. Also higher altitudes have very low H20.

    “The assumption in the models is that it causes a slight warming”

    Quantification missing. Try one-third of the warming. Not chicken feed.

    “which results in higher humidity, and H2O being a much more effective greenhouse gas than CO2, it’s this increased humidity which causes the actual warming which we’re supposed to be concerned about.”

    Already answered.

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