Global warming theory violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics

Alex Cockburn joins Sen. Inhofe.

Congratulations, global-warming denialists!  You now how have Alex Cockburn on your side. This is line-for-line the Inhofe case, except that Cockburn’s Marxism makes him insist that the Conspiracy So Vast must have a corporate, rather than a governmental, source.  It’s superficially coherent, though I can’t quite follow how it is that oil companies are supposed to benefit from the “hoax.”  And someone should really tell Cockburn, and his comrade-in-arms George Will, that the “global cooling” threat imagined in the 1970s was supposed to operate on a time-scale of millennia, not decades, and wasn’t at all inconsistent with the analysis of anthropogenic global warming.

Has someone written the essay on the similarities between creationism and global-warming denialism?   Both are expressions of a sort of anti-clericalism directed at science, which is after all our established religion.

The scientific enterprise has much better self-regulation built in to it than the clerical one, but that self-regulation is by no means perfect.  People, including scientists, can do some pretty rotten things when big bucks and hot ideologies are on the table.  In fields I know about, the science of tobacco and health and the science around drug treatment are pretty seriously corrupt, and of course drug-development research is a well-known cesspit.   And lots of expert testimony doesn’t bear close scrutiny.

The anti-science movements increase the urgency of cleaning up the scientific slums, even as they generate a natural defensiveness that tends to blunt that effort.   The consequence of not listening to Erasmus is to get Luther, and then Voltaire.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

9 thoughts on “Global warming theory violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics”

  1. I'm reading "Idiot America" now — how wonderfully timely to prepare me for this morning's lunacy.

    Cockburn is also an idiot on peak oil, claiming that it's just another corporate scam too.

  2. Hot money & big ideology really are on the table in economics & its natural children, the policy sciences, in which it's esp. urgent to be clear about the line between scientific commitments & conclusions, &, on the other hand, any scientist's extrinsic normative & practical interests. There's a limit to how much non-members of a scientific community can do it clean it up. Better science education can only go so far. The increased social role of science increases exploitable asymmetries of information. As long as money & ideology are involved, there'll be groups w/ an interest in convincing the nonscientist political community that science is rotten.

  3. Umm, so you hadn't noticed that Cockburn has been an AGW denier for well over a decade? And made a big deal of it in the nation? And got whipped in an online debate by Monbiot on the subject?

    Also re creationism/denialism comparisons. Pharynglula has been making that comparison for years. (Sorry just a link to his general blog rather than a particular post. I'll let you search for appropriate posts yourself.)

    Also Deltoid. In general, people who spend much time taking on either creationists or AGW denialists soon see the parallels.

  4. He was also the one who convinced of the seriousness of Saddam's WMD threat. After all, if both left and right say it mustn't it be true?

    Hm, there seems to be a pattern here of Cockburn being useful primarily to the Republicans…

  5. You are quite right that the science behind drug treatment is deeply corrupted by the big bucks available through NIDA. The researchers who are in a position to say the emperor has no clothes cannot afford to do so, lest they aggravate their program officers. Beyond the limited benefits of opiate substitution therapies and some short contemporaneous effects of contingency management programs, there is little compelling evidence for the "treatment works" mantra promulgated by NIDA and the treatment research community. The implication, for me, is that we need more and more innovative approaches, but neither is NIDA's strong suit, and neither are encouraged by the current science funding mechanisms.

  6. I've subscribed to the Nation for about a decade, and it's a tremendously valuable voice and in many ways a great magazine (check out their investigative pieces featured on the cover in the past month, on Blackwater in Pakistan and on our funding the Taliban through our transport contracts in Afghanistan), but it has its downsides, the most reliable of these being the biweekly columns by the execrable (and aptly named) Cockburn. So I'm in a reasonably good position to confirm Gar Lipow's assertion that Cockburn's been a global warming denier for a long time. Indeed, if there's an issue of even the slightest importance or controversy on which Cockburn's not on the wrong side, either in substance or in style but usually in both, I'm not aware of it.

  7. "Has someone written the essay on the similarities between creationism and global-warming denialism?"

    I think that global warming denial is most similar to denial of AIDs in the 1980s and 90s. Compared to the AIDs disaster in Africa, I think the one thing in global warming's favor is the long time horizon. While it would certainly help and be a lot cheaper, global warming mitigation does not have to be worked out in the next few years. This will give younger generations with different ideas about the world more time to grow up and get used to everything.

  8. "…global warming mitigation does not have to be worked out in the next few years."

    I don't think this is true.

    The delta in the rate of change suggests that we may not have any time at all, but may have waited too long already. Of course this depends on defining what changes (losses) are acceptable. Currently, analyses of the increase in the rate of change suggest that we are in for a rocky ride even if we put full force into correcting the anthropogenic element in global warming. The problem is, in part, positive feedback appearing unpredictably (methane production in the ground -not permafrost – as a result of the modest increases in temperature wiped out the effects of England's successful meeting of its Kyoto protocol, for instance). I fear that there is not time left, but we dither – as Copenhagen demonstrates.

    As to the deniers showing a similarity to creationists, that would seem to follow since many (most?) are creationists. There is a major problem for the evangelical theist in that global warming implies that God is not controlling things (you can't be prosperous if your land is being covered by water, or your stocks in various energy companies are worthless because we can't burn fossil fuels). Thus, to a creationist Christian, global warming can't be happening. Unfortunately, that belief will not change until it is much too late

  9. Ok, speaking as an engineer, I have to say his thermodynamics argument is not just stupid, but remarkably stupid. It may even ascend to Georgescu-Roegen levels of stupidity. And that's saying something.

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