Chuck Spinney: The Economist Backs Off on Climate Change

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Chuck Spinney

Chuck Spinney

The below report in The Economist highlights the controversies overtaking the consensus position on human-induced global warming in climate science.

IMO, it is balanced; indeed, in many ways, it might even be construed as being slightly biased toward the consensus pro-warming position.  This report does not, for example, disucss the cosmic ray hypothesis of the Danish physicist, Hans Svensmark (explained here with a link to Svensmark’s very important paper), even though that hypothesis is gaining some experimental support; nor does this report address the well-known problems of instrumental temperature measurements (resulting in adjustments that have the analytically convenient effect of increasing the degree of warming over time) or the poorly understood reliabilities of proxies (e.g., tree rings, ice cores, etc) for measuring long term baselines.

What makes this report and its accompanying editorial (here) interesting is not only its balance but the fact that, to date, The Economist has leaned toward the “pro-warming” side of the climate science debate; so, this report indicates a shift to a more ambivalent position.

All in all, I think The Economist has introduced a sound dose of sanity to what has become a totured unscientific emotional debate, reminiscent of those I saw repeatedly in the Pentagon’s politically motivated uses of science to support weapons advocacy.

Chuck Spinney

The climate may be heating up less in response to greenhouse-gas emissions than was once thought. But that does not mean the problem is going away

Mar 30th 2013

OVER the past 15 years air temperatures at the Earth’s surface have been flat while greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to soar. The world added roughly 100 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere between 2000 and 2010. That is about a quarter of all the CO₂ put there by humanity since 1750. And yet, as James Hansen, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, observes, “the five-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade.”

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Mar 29

Chuck Spinney: The Mind of the Decider — Ignorance Plus Arrogance — Disconnected from Reality While All Others Buried Their Integrity

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Chuck Spinney

Chuck Spinney

NATIONAL SECURITY

Iraq Invasion Anniversary: Inside The Decider’s Head

By Chuck Spinney, March 22, 2013

[note: a shorter version of this essay also appeared in Counterpunch here]

In the summer of 2002, during the lead up to the Iraq War, a White House official expressed displeasure about with article written by journalist Ron Suskind in Esquire. He asserted people like Suskind were trapped “in what we call the reality-based community,” which the official defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.”

President Bush announces the invasion of Iraq from the Oval Office, Mar. 19, 2003.

President Bush announces the invasion of Iraq from the Oval Office, Mar. 19, 2003.

Suskind murmured something about enlightenment principles grounded in scientific empiricism, but the official cut him off, saying,

We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.

This is a revealing statement about the mentality in the Bush White House prior to the Iraq War.

Think about it: in effect, the official is claiming the mind of a decider, who is tasked with making decisions to cope with the constraints of the real world, has the power to create a new reality over and over again. Therefore the decider need not be worried about matching his actions against those constraints, or even observing those constraints, before making his decisions.

Arrogant? To be sure.

Unusual inside the Beltway?  Not really, based on my experience in the Pentagon.

But this outlook also reflects an incredibly stupid and dangerous way to orient one’s decision cycle to events in the real world.

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Mar 22

Chuck Spinney: The Truth About the Cuban Missile Crisis

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Chuck Spinney

The below article, which appeared in the Atlantic last January, is a very important illustration of how domestic politics determine foreign policy.  Bear in mind, the behaviour described below occurred when there was (and still is) a consensus among the pol-mil intellectuals that domestic politics stops at the water’s edge and that foreign policy was and should be bi-partisan — the conclusion is a good analysis of where this kind of romantic intellectualization leads.

The Real Cuban Missile Crisis

EVERYTHING YOU THINK YOU KNOW ABOUT THOSE 13 DAYS IS WRONG.

By Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic, 11 January 1913

EXTRACT

On that very first day of the ExComm meetings, McNamara provided a wider perspective on the missiles’ significance: “I’ll be quite frank. I don’t think there is a military problem here … This is a domestic, political problem.” In a 1987 interview, McNamara explained: “You have to remember that, right from the beginning, it was President Kennedy who said that it was politically unacceptable for us to leave those missile sites alone. He didn’t say militarily, he said politically.” What largely made the missiles politically unacceptable was Kennedy’s conspicuous and fervent hostility toward the Castro regime—a stance, Kennedy admitted at an ExComm meeting, that America’s European allies thought was “a fixation” and “slightly demented.”

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Mar 18