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Picking science that fits politics: Rep. Mike Beard on climate change

State Rep. Mike Beard is a nice guy. The Republican from Shakopee is the former president of the local chamber of commerce. He says he cares about humanity. He is a man with deep Christian values, a free-market conservative and a veteran of eight years on the Minnesota House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee.

He is not, however, a scientist. But sometimes he sounds like one.  

Earlier this month he introduced legislation to lift the moratorium on coal-fired power plants in Minnesota. That's when the representative began talking like an atmospheric scientist. He lectured his colleagues on global warming. He told the committee members that the planet's troposphere over the tropics was not warming. He is not afraid of CO2 and he's not afraid of coal.

State Rep. Mike Beard
State Rep. Mike Beard

It makes sense if you know something about him. We had a long talk Saturday. He told me he was raised on a farm in western Pennsylvania.

"Our farm was mined for coal three times," he told me.

"And, now we stand on a point and look over barley and wheat and pines. Did we temporarily disrupt the face of the earth? Yes, but when we were done, we put it all back together again."

Climate scientists say burning more coal could result in catastrophic harm to the planet and widespread human suffering. Most of them are convinced that there is a point at which we will never be able to put it all back together again.

Dr. John Abraham, a professor of thermal sciences at the University of St. Thomas and an expert on global warming science, read the transcript of Beard's lecture on global warming. Abraham then wrote a letter to Beard and members of the committee pointing out where the published science disagrees with the representative's claims. The two haven't talked, but both men say they would like to.

Where's the science?
I wondered where Beard learned his climate science. He says he reads a lot. I asked him what he read, and he gave me the names of several conservative blogs sites. The scientist he pays particular attention to is Dr. Patrick Michaels. Michaels admitted on CNN that 40 percent of his funding comes from fossil fuel producers.  

It is understandable. Mike Beard is a free-market conservative and pro-business. No one who calls himself those things can afford global warming to be true. There is a political belief that solving global warming will destroy American business. American business deplores government interference. Global warming regulation and legislation requires governments to act. But Professor Abraham says he would love to see free-market solutions arise. The problem is, he says, nobody on the conservative side is coming up with ideas.

Abraham told me Sunday: "This is an opportunity for a dialogue. Maybe there is a way to bridge the partisan chasm and allow a free-market champion to propose solutions." Abraham then added: "I'm glad to hear Representative Beard cares about humanity. That's a helpful place to start."

But right now, Mike Beard's solution is more coal-fired power plants. He told me that having more coal plants would pave the way for renewable energy. I think he meant it would buy time for innovation without a drop in base load electricity as demand increases.

The lifting of the moratorium seems an odd piece of legislation. Utility companies haven't been outspoken about their need for more coal-fired plants in Minnesota. Rep. Beard says he hears from them, nonetheless. It sounds like he's saying the utility crowd talks coal in the saloon and renewables in church.

A lot of what Beard knows he learned in church. One Congressman, talking about global warming, recently said that God wouldn't allow man to do anything to destroy the planet. Beard told me, "It is the height of hubris to think we could."  I asked him about nuclear war. He said: "How did Hiroshima and Nagasaki work out? We destroyed that, but here we are, 60 years later and they are tremendously effective and livable cities. Yes, it was pretty horrible," he said, "But, can we recover? Of course we can."

It's like the old farm back in Pennsylvania.

'We are not going to run out'
Beard believes that "God is not capricious. He's given us a creation that is dynamically stable. We are not going to run out of anything."

The International Energy Agency's most recent analysis said world oil production peaked in 2006 and petroleum reserves are now in decline. We might not be running out. We are, it seems, running low. Beard continued, "God gave us our minds, creativity and ingenuity, and that is our most valuable natural resource." I agreed with him. I don't think we've peaked on those resources, yet.

Abraham, and a lot of people fearful of the consequences of global warming, would welcome some creativity and ingenuity from the party in power. Rep. Kate Knuth is in the party out of power. She is one of the people he lectured the other day on the science of global warming. Knuth has degrees from the University of Oslo, the University of Chicago and Oxford. She is a Fulbright Scholar and teaches at Hamline's Center for Global Environmental Education. She voted against lifting the moratorium on coal. She is in the minority.

I couldn't help myself. I had to know the answer. Is the troposphere over the tropics really not warming, as Beard told the committee?

I called Dr. Ben Santer. He is a climate researcher with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and was the convening lead author of Chapter 8 of  the 1995 "IPCC Working Group Report."

He said the troposphere above the tropics is warming. I asked him who says, beside Rep. Beard, that it isn't.  Dr. Santer told me that two scientists at the University of Alabama, Huntsville (Christy and Spencer) reported that in a study several years ago, but when researchers from Livermore, Yale, Princeton and elsewhere found a "sign error" in the math, the authors admitted the mistake, corrected the error and found, by their own calculations, the troposphere above the tropics was, in fact, warming.

There is another study floating around, but Santer says that, too, has been found to be bad science. An exasperated Dr. Santer told me, "Unfortunately, the wrong information is still out there."

That is a problem because that kind of wrong information is often found on the websites Beard most admires. The research upon which he bases his public-policy decisions often comes from scientists working for fossil-fuel subsidized foundations and institutes. People seem to pick the science that fits their politics, whether the science is good or bad.

Santer recommended instead that Beard and everyone else on the planet read the 21 reports from the U.S. Climate Change Science Program that have been distributed to every member of Congress. The reports are written in plain English and require no advanced degrees, but they do require an open mind.

I told Dr. Santer that Rep. Beard would likely read the reports, because he does read a lot. The question only Mike Beard can answer is whether he has the required open mind.

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Comments (52)

I don't know what troubles me more here. Is it cherry-picking science -- even junk science -- in support of politics or deferring to God as a kind of safety value that prevents humans from making mistakes...just so long as they believe?

I think it is deferring to god that troubles me.

I mean this idea that if you only follow God's will all works out for the best in the end is really at the base of Beard's thinking, isn't it? God is the provider, and among the things God provides is a world created perfectly to serve our needs. (Does this work if you're Hindu, I wonder? I don't know...things are going pretty well over there in India, relatively speaking. China is coming around, too.)

How is it that people who promote a political ideology which harps on responsiblity and "living within your means" can at the same time embrace a belief that the ultimate father, if you choose to think of God in that way, would let his "children" run amok and get away with it? Isn't there something like a double-standard working here?

Honestly, we're not quite a theocracy, but when you listen to the right talk, you have to wonder. Theocracies rule through divine guidance, do they not?

It doesn't matter. Religion permeats too much of our political discourse today. People still get worked up about President Obama's religous beliefs, for crying out loud, and even those people who are satisfied that Obama is a Christian will make the point that a president's political beliefs are important because of our nation's Christian values. This is problematic on many levels. Moreover, if you go looking for "Christian values," which Christian values do you accept?

In many ways religion has become both a political scapegoat and a political tool. As a scapegoat religion lets answers to difficult questions get shrugged off. If things go badly, it is God's will and things will come around when God is good and ready. As a tool, political decisions only need to be framed within something like a theological allegory. (WWJD. Right?)

At least so long as it is convenient to do so.

What was the fuss about with Jesus in the Temple with the money changers, for example? Didn't Christ say: "Don't make my father's house a house of trade?" But then when we use religion to justify economically favorable choices today, aren't we in essence using the father's house -- God's teachings -- in the service of trade? Well, never mind...I'm not so good at religion anyway.

I do wish our politicians sounded like they were more engaged with the modern era than the dark ages, however.

Apparently, Rep. Mike Beard is in the same camp as U.S. Congressman John Shimkus. It does not really bother me that they believe they have the science to back up their claims of environmental shangri-la. What is disconcerting is when they drag God into the mix. It makes one wonder: Would they also say that God had a hand in a drought that results in famine ... that results in the excruciating deaths of the poor and helpless?

Politics is bad enough by itself. And if religion is mixed in there unwisely, Lord help us all.

"Climate scientists say burning more coal could result in catastrophic harm to the planet and widespread human suffering. Most of them are convinced that there is a point at which we will never be able to put it all back together again."

Here is the big lie, promoted over and over and over again by the liberal environmentalists. Please give us the list of "climate scientists". I want them listed, one by one one, along with their college degree, resume, and what qualifies them to say anything about the complex subject of the "climate".

We already know that the IPCC is a hoax and fraud from the released emails of the British "scientists".

In the meantime, China will continue to burn coal until they can bring enough nuclear power plants on line to bring their population out of poverty and have a tiny semblance of the standard of living of one Don Shelby.

Oh yes, and the troposphere. So what if it is warming. It did not stop record snowfall in the US this winter.

I think Glenn hit on something that really causes a knee-jerk reaction amongst conserative people, and that it's this liberal arrogance about this whole subject that just rubs people the wrong way.

How is it that in every other field of science no one would ever suggest that there was a consensus about anything? There are different schools of thought and different theories about how things work in the natural world. A real scientist doesn't claim to know all the answers and he certainly wouldn't summarily dismiss those who disagreed with his hypotheses.

So until the Climate Change "community" starts acting like a real scientific endeavor and not a religion, they'll have skeptics rolling their eyes whenever another government report is cited as the truth.

Glenn (#3), why don't you go read the reports mentioned in this article?

....Santer recommended instead that Beard and everyone else on the planet read the 21 reports from the U.S. Climate Change Science Program that have been distributed to every member of Congress....

And, as for consensus, Dennis (#4):


While the harsh winter pounding many areas of North America and Europe seemingly contradicts the fact that global warming continues unabated, a new survey finds consensus among scientists about the reality of climate change and its likely cause.

A group of 3,146 earth scientists surveyed around the world overwhelmingly agree that in the past 200-plus years, mean global temperatures have been rising, and that human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures.

Peter Doran, University of Illinois at Chicago associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, along with former graduate student Maggie Kendall Zimmerman, conducted the survey late last year.

The findings appear today in the publication Eos, Transactions, American Geophysical Union.

In trying to overcome criticism of earlier attempts to gauge the view of earth scientists on global warming and the human impact factor, Doran and Kendall Zimmerman sought the opinion of the most complete list of earth scientists they could find, contacting more than 10,200 experts around the world listed in the 2007 edition of the American Geological Institute's Directory of Geoscience Departments.

Experts in academia and government research centers were e-mailed invitations to participate in the on-line poll conducted by the website Only those invited could participate and computer IP addresses of participants were recorded and used to prevent repeat voting. Questions used were reviewed by a polling expert who checked for bias in phrasing, such as suggesting an answer by the way a question was worded. The nine-question survey was short, taking just a few minutes to complete.

Two questions were key: have mean global temperatures risen compared to pre-1800s levels, and has human activity been a significant factor in changing mean global temperatures.

About 90 percent of the scientists agreed with the first question and 82 percent the second.

In analyzing responses by sub-groups, Doran found that climatologists who are active in research showed the strongest consensus on the causes of global warming, with 97 percent agreeing humans play a role. Petroleum geologists and meteorologists were among the biggest doubters, with only 47 and 64 percent respectively believing in human involvement. Doran compared their responses to a recent poll showing only 58 percent of the public thinks human activity contributes to global warming.

"The petroleum geologist response is not too surprising, but the meteorologists' is very interesting," he said. "Most members of the public think meteorologists know climate, but most of them actually study very short-term phenomenon."

He was not surprised, however, by the near-unanimous agreement by climatologists.

"They're the ones who study and publish on climate science. So I guess the take-home message is, the more you know about the field of climate science, the more you're likely to believe in global warming and humankind's contribution to it."

Doran and Kendall Zimmerman conclude that "the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes." The challenge now, they write, is how to effectively communicate this to policy makers and to a public that continues to mistakenly perceive debate among scientists.

(end quote)

But hey, what you know can't be shook by doubts, eh?

God the Coal Giver? I have yet to see the scripture where the Allmighty promises a never-ending supply of fossil fuel to Man.

God must not have liked Minnesota much, because our state has no coal, no oil, and no natuaral gas. Have we been cursed?

I'm sorry but anyone who thinks Republicans like Beard sometimes sound like scientists lack a basic understanding of science. Science is not high school debate. Climate change is not a political phenomena. Anyone who rejects climate change on political, religious, or ideological grounds is simply not dealing with evidence. And by the way, can Beard give us an example of a mountain top that's been put back together? Or a valley that's been dug out after having been filled in? His farm was "mined" for coal- twice?

Mr. Shelby, these guys are not interested in genuine dialogue, and for the most they lack the integrity to conduct genuine dialogue. They are interested in promoting their ideology, period.

the liberal environmentalists are 100% responsible for any climate problems because these luddites have stopped safe, clean, limitless nuclear power for the last 50 years because of their anti science crusade against the greatest energy source every created by God: nuclear fission and nuclear fusion. What is the roots of their fanaticism against nuclear power: they do not want rising standards of living for non white people in the third world.

Good piece, Mr. Shelby. It makes clear that the climate-change PROBLEM is not about science.

Description of climate change is for climate scientists. Definition of when it is a PROBLEM is for citizens, since any definition will be a function of not only familiarity with the science of climate change but also positions on the epistemology, morality, economics, politics, and psychology of climate change. And in Mr. Beard's case, the metaphysics.

Mr. Beard is clearly not up to speed on the science of climate change. (For the latest authoritative summaries see The National Research Council of the National Academies recent AMERICA'S CLIMATE CHOICES reports— But that he hasn't seen through the climate-change denialists (e.g., Michaels, Christy, Spencer) shows he's operating with a primitive epistemology, too readily promoting his wishes to beliefs or even "knowledge." And Mr. Beard's metaphysics are troubling: he seems to believe that a climate-change problem is not possible because God wouldn't let it happen. Well, how does he know? What if he's wrong? What does that mean anyway?

Mr. Beard is now in a position to do great harm. I wish he would check his equipment before he proceeds.

Don Shelby is criticizing someone for not being a scientist but trying to sound like one? This would be the same Don Shelby who is not an engineer yet tried mightily to sound like one when the I-35 bridge collapsed?

And for Neal #5, it's easy to be shook by doubts when you cite a poll that had a 30% response rate, was conducted online and by email, and where the majority of the respondents where scientists directly involved in climate research.

A decade ago I was open to the possibility that man-caused global warming was real. But now that we have seen senior researchers at NASA and NOAA intentionally falsifying data, seen the center of British climatology research conspire to hide data that does not fit their meme, and prediction after prediction of global warming proponents not come true, I think my doubts are well founded.

Dennis is spot on-if you want to persuade conservatives that global warming is real, then approach the conversation with respect, rather than implying that anyone who doesn't agree with you is mentally deficient or ideologically warped.

Don should use his reporting skills to interview scientists from the 1970s who assured us then, in such good liberal magazines as Time and Newsweek, that we were heading for another Ice Age.

I am sure they were just as confident in their beliefs then as their scientific colleagues are today. Oops.

Representative Beard is quoted as saying:

1) ". . . the planet's troposphere over the tropics is not warming."

This is false. It has been understood for decades that the tropics warm less than the global average, and much less than at higher latitudes. Greenhouse gas induced global warming is as well established as is the theory of gravity.

2) ". . .God is not capricious. He's given us a creation that is dynamically stable. We are not going to run out of anything."

I cannot claim to know whether or not God is capricious; but there is unequivocal evidence that the human enterprise has now gotten so large that we are running out of environment, including but not limited to the ability of the atmosphere to assimilate carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide and the other long-lived greenhouse gases are being emitted much faster than natural systems can absorb them, recycle them, or render them harmless.

3) "The International Energy Agency's [IEA] most recent analysis said world oil production peaked in 2006 and petroleum reserves are now in decline."

The oil situation is extremely important from the standpoint of national security and disruption due to oil scarcity, but it is not germane to Minnesota power-plant issues.

We do not know what Rep. Beard means by the IEA's "most recent analysis." It is well known that:(a) Conventional oil production (and reserves) in NON-OPEC countries peaked in 2004-2005. (b) Global "oil reserves" increased when non-conventional oil from the Alberta Tar Sands were re-classified from "resources" to "reserves" a few years ago. OPEC "reserves" of conventional oil have not declined but there are serious questions about the way in which Middle-east OPEC countries report their data.

Dean E. Abrahamson

> How is it that in every other field of science no
> one would ever suggest that there was a consensus
> about anything?

How's that? So there is no consensus on the Theory of Gravity? No consensus around relativity? Around the structure of the atom? Around chemical compositions of elements?

Dennis, statements like these are why Republicans are not believable.

Dennis wrote one of the most uninformed comments I've ever read about science. No consensus about anything in any other field? Wow. Germ theory? Evolution? quantum mechanics? That's just 2 seconds of thought Is there consensus about every detail of those? No. Do we pretend to know every detail about those? No. But neither do climate scientists.

Mr Michels, the concerns about global cooling involved different issues: particulate and sulfur pollution. In case you missed it, numerous actions were taken in the 70s and 80s to address many of those issues.

I'd also remind you that many elements of the previous "global cooling" concerns are rising again in plans for geo-modification to combat climate change. Sulfur seeding of the atmosphere, is one example.

I'm not sure what predictions Mr. Thul believes haven't come true, but many predictions have not only come true, but are actually occurring at much accelerated rates than thought: things like polar ice and glacial retreat.

Finally, it would be much easier to deal climate deniers with "respect" and not view them as "ideologically warped" if, they quit trying to bolster their arguments with debunked, and outright false "evidence."

Until then, they really don't deserve much more respect than proponents of "Intelliegent Design" or flat earthers.

David, thanks, I was just about to make that some comment. Here's a list of a few theories which have scientific consensus in physics (my field) alone:

- general relativity
- the standard model of particle physics
- big bang cosmology
- quantum electrodynamics

and those are just some big overarching ones.

"Please give us the list of "climate scientists". I want them listed, one by one one, along with their college degree, resume"

Not that we owe this to the willfully ignorant, but for starters, here's the contact page for climate scientists at the University of Minnesota. I'll eat my shoes if any of them are global warming deniers.

How is this guy different than the Unabomber? Christian psychosis is still psychosis.

The problem with these Republo-deniers isn't simply ignorance, but willful and deliberate ignorance in service of ideology. All one need do is witness the impressive display of intellectual dishonesty and lack of integrity amongst these comments. It's high school debate pretending to be legitimate scientific criticism. I don't apologize for unflattering references to such people because their ignorance is deliberate. Call me an elitist if you will, but I'll not apologize for being knowledgeable. These people are not interested in learning, they have closed their minds to information that conflicts with their beliefs. I think we waste our time when we pretend such people can be educated, or dialoged with. You can't force knowledge on people who don't want it. I think we simply need to work around these people rather than try to argue them.

"We already know that the IPCC is a hoax and fraud from the released emails of the British "scientists"."

"But now that we have seen senior researchers at NASA and NOAA intentionally falsifying data, seen the center of British climatology research conspire to hide data that does not fit their meme"

Glenn (#3) and Dave (#10), these lies get repeated so often that I will give you the benefit of the doubt and will assume that you just don't know better, but there was no fraud or falsifying data. The scientists involved were guilty of not releasing information or discussing not releasing information to the climate change "skeptics" who had requested it, but there is no evidence whatsoever of any fraud.

"Don should use his reporting skills to interview scientists from the 1970s who assured us then, in such good liberal magazines as Time and Newsweek, that we were heading for another Ice Age."

Actually Jeff (#11), even in the 1970s climate scientists were looking at a warming model. The scientific consensus, to the extent there was one, was that there was not enough available data. A couple of articles in popular magazines (not scientific journals) is not representative of what most scientists were thinking at the time. No oops here.

"A real scientist doesn't claim to know all the answers and he certainly wouldn't summarily dismiss those who disagreed with his hypotheses."

Dennis (#4), I don't think that any climate scientist would claim to know all the answers. What they would claim is that the evidence overwhelmingly supports the idea of man-made climate change. There is only a "consensus" here because the evidence is so strong. To the extent that those who disagree are summarily dismissed, it is because their disagreement is not rooted in science, or at least in good science. When Representive Beard cites God as a basis to disagree with science and evidence, how do you expect scientists to react? The same is true when climate "skeptics" cite studies that have been reputed by their own authors, or trot out falsehoods like the email "hoax" or the 70s Newsweek article.

Dan (#18), I'm not sure Dennis & Co. actually read the articles they cite. Otherwise, they might have come across lines like this one from the oft-invoked June 24, 1974 Time Article ("Another Ice Age?"): "Temperatures have been as high as they are now only about 5% of the time."

In any event, the main thrust of the article is that observable changes are taking place in the Earth's climate, and more study is needed. Fast forward to now; lots of studies in the intervening 40 years have done a lot to improve our knowledge and understanding of what's happening and why. Big surprise.

Another thing Rep. Beard tries to sound like but is not--a theologian.

It is interesting that non-science types keep insisting that there is no consensus in the scientific community. If only there was one thing that all scientists everywhere could agree on ... something like, "the world is not flat" or "Planet Earth is not the center of the solar system." Seems to me that the same religious-based thinking that denied both of these wild "theories" back in the day is again at work here.

If four out of five dentists is enough consensus to get us to chew sugar free gum, what percentage of climatologists does it take to convince the Bible-based naysayers on climate change? (And not even whether it's going to be devastating, just convince them that it's actually happening.)

Ever buy something with assembly instructions that were written by a Japanese person with poor English language skills and if you build exactly according to what is written it doesn't work? If only God had idiot proofed the Bible.

We need to get the folks with knowledge making our energy policy decisions. Rep. Beard's influence could push our planet's biosphere toward a horrific cascade of disruption only hinted at in the Bible. Imagine sea levels rising 20'. How much valuable real estate in US alone would be lost? Who is going to pay for that disruption? Could this be God's way of purging our planet of too many people? It is unfortunate that the poorest people will take the brunt of changes underway. Perhaps we need a revolution in this country to take back our critical policy making, away from lobbyists funded by industries causing the problem, who fund studies that deny there is a problem.

Wow. Listen to you all claim that theories are settled science. I rest my case.

Dennis (#24), mostly what people have been doing is responding to your (#4) statement, "How is it that in every other field of science no one would ever suggest that there was a consensus about anything?" by providing specific counter examples. I didn't see a single post claiming that global warming theories are a "settled science". If that's the sum of the "evidence" upon which your case rests, I move to dismiss.

And thanks Dennis for confirming, yet again, that so many people confuse the common usage of the word "theory" versus its meaning in a scientific sense. The formal scientific definition of theory refers to a comprehensive explanation of some aspect of nature that is supported by a vast body of evidence.

As already mentioned by another commenter Dennis, your contention that there isn't consensus in fields of science is just plain wrong.

Dennis (#24) your problem is that your "case" is based on your lack of understanding of how science works.

Climate science, like other scientific disciplines, is always collecting new data and revising its beliefs accordingly. There is debate among climate scientists about the nature and extent of man-made climate change. There just isn't any real debate that man-made climate change is occurring because the evidence is so overwhelming. It is that overwhelming evidence that makes man-made climate change "settled science."

What you want is for the climate scientists to acknowledge that there are people who don't believe in climate science. The problem is that those beliefs are based on ignorance, or in some cases, falsehoods, instead of science and evidence. If you want the climate scientists to alter their position, you need to provide actual evidence. That's how they work. The consensus in the field isn't the result of arrogance or whatever else you may think it is - its simply a result of the current state of the evidence.

Cecil (#19), it goes deeper than not reading the articles - its a lack of interest in the truth or any willingness to reconsider their positions. Some people think facts are important. Some people don't.

uhm, Dennis:

Look up the scientific definition of "theory."

When you say that something is "only a theory" you're using the word as a replacement for what we scientists call a hypothesis.

Any scientific theory is subject to revision or replacement when sufficient data arises. Nothing in science is absolutely "settled," but by the time something is labeled a theory, there is broad consensus that it is the explanation that best fits the large quantity of available data.

> Listen to you all claim that theories are settled
> science.

Dennis, do you actually understand what a scientific theory is? It is not a hypothesis or a guess. It is an explanation of a concept given a set of observations and quantifiable data. It is testable. It is provable. A scientific theory is proved.

Honestly, where is our scientific education going these days?

Thanks Don for a message that needed to be told.

Well, and so this age-old pickle of humans continues ....

On the one hand, you have "faith" in the supernatural based really on consensus (a "holy" book) and requiring no proof. Degrees or resumes of those who make postulates here are not required or demanded.

Then on the other hand, you have the other thing, "science", which admits to doubts and only accepts consensus-based conclusions from research done over lengthy periods of time.

The faithers have forever hounded the scientists about their lack of "consensus." But, good news ... at least these days there are no witch's pyres anymore!

You're all wasting your time on Dennis and his cohorts; they're intellectually incapable of recognizing the difference between science and religious nonsense.

We can sum it up this way:

"For those who believe, no proof is necessary.
For those who don't believe, no proof is possible."

Don explained science denial in a nutshell: "Mike Beard is a free-market conservative and pro-business. No one who calls himself those things can afford global warming to be true."

I would add "religious conservative" to that. That's what denial amounts to. It's a refusal to believe something that challenges self-interest and worldview. Something is false because it mustn't be true.

Anyone who claims to be a Christian AND a free market conservative AND a climate change denier doesn't understand at least two of the things he claims to be so passionate about.

Ah, the old "climate change denier" name calling. Is this the "thoughtful approach" to the news touted by the "unbiased" MinnPost?

I continue to wait for balanced, fair treatment of issues like this from this digital rag. So far it's just a Minnesota version of the DailyKos.

Great article. It would be helpful to publish a link to the plain-English reports of the US Climate Change Science Program.

Congratulations to Don Shelby for great journalism. So many times bad data like that quoted by Rep. Mike Beard is just left unchallenged by the reporter. The excuse is that since he said it, it is newsworthy whether it is right or wrong. Mr. Shelby followed up to refute Rep. Beard's claim that atmospheric warming is not occurring over the tropics. Keep up the honest and informative reporting.

Wow. reading the comments is like a briefing on every denier argument ever made. No matter how many times these arguments get debunked (like climatologists did NOT predict cooling back in the 70's, but were already more worried about warming) they get repeated. That's what makes the promoters of these arguments "deniers" instead of "skeptics". At least the commenters who criticized liberals for opposing nuclear are admitting temperatures are rising from human emissions of greenhouse gases. They're ahead of the people who think climatologists were caught falsifying data. One scientist's mistake favors the deniers' position, and they cling to it debunked or not, but find one character flaw in a global realist, and the whole global warming theory is supposedly falsified. Won't someone tell us global warming is a hoax because Al Gore is divorced?

Ironic that Don Shelby picks the title "Science that fits politics" while he blatantly shows where his politics lie. Is it any indication about where the politics in this issue lie in that the wording has been changed from "Global Warming" to "Climate Change"? The agenda is the same but since the "science" of Global Warming no longer fits as the earth actually cools again, the wording needed to be changed. It is great citing scientists that are paid by the funding as long as it supports the agenda but show me free market scientists that support the agenda. You can pick and choose your "facts" as easily for both sides but the agenda of big government against free market will always be easy to track if you check the source and see what their agenda is. Why don't you cite reputable sources such as Richard Lindzen, Timothy Ball, Jeff Poor, instead of citing "percentages of scientists". If people that pretended that they were actually concerned about the environment would fight more for the environment rather than push issues to hide their agenda, there would not be a debate. Trying to change people and push your agenda based on "Global Warming" then "Climate Change" then whatever it will morph to next just makes you less and less credible and shows your true colors. Could it be that you really don't care about the environment, but simply want to change things that your politics or funding do not agree with? Show me people that are not paid by government funding, the UN, and other sources that agree with human induced "climate change". Climate of the world is cyclical. If you look at enough history rather than the past 200 years you will see many times where it was much warmer and much colder than it is right now. Use that data rather than an insignificant amount of data to prove your point, or can't you???


Yes the climate is changing, The over-all temperature of the planet is warming. What's your point? You think that just because different terminology has been used to describe the phenomena, the phenomena must not exist? Interesting, I guess that means that since heart attack, cardiac arrest, and fibrillation are all used to describe cardiac distress, there must be no such thing, your heart will never stop beating.

Let's expand this ontological notion, do you happen to know how many different terms there are to describe God? In Christianity alone Yahweh has "morphed" into half a dozen other terms... according to your logic God cannot exist.

This highs school debate stuff gets so tedious.

Dan (#40), fine, let's take a look at your three sources of wisdom:

-- Jeff Poor: a journalist (using the term broadly), not a scientist of any kind His CV: Graduated from the University of South Alabama (2007) in Mobile, Ala. with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and from Auburn University (2000) in Auburn, Ala. with a Bachelor of Science in Building Construction)

-- Tim Ball: former professor of geography at the University of Winnipeg between 1988 to 1996. The University of Winnipeg never had a climatology department. Ball's fellow NRSP board members are paid oil company lobbyists. Just a reminder that "free market scientists" are paid by someone too.

-- Rich Lindzen is an actual scientist, and entitled to his opinion. My understanding is that he does not deny the impact of man-made pollutants on the atmosphere; he simply has a different view of the effectiveness of current computer modeling to accurately predict where it will lead. (Lindzen teaches at MIT and receives 'gubmint funding for his work. How does that fit in with your grand conspiracy theory?).

To paraphrase your note, "you can pick and choose your "facts" as easily for both sides but the agenda of big business against the environment will always be easy to track if you check the source and see what their agenda is."

John (#36) the use of the term "denier" isn't a function of bias. Rather, its a function of the state of the evidence - those who don't believe in man-made climate change can only justify that position by denying the overwhelming evidence. They have no evidence of their own.

You can see how pathetic the denier arguments from some of the posts here. Frankie (#35) cites an article that is nearly 20 years old which Cato is sadly still promoting. Dan Martins (#40) laughably refers to Jeff Poor and Timothy Ball as credible sources. Well, it would be laughable if the kind of pseduo-scientific nonsense that Dan spouts wasn't so widely believed. Lindzen is climate scientist who is a dissenter, but it is his opinions that rely on picking and choosing of science, which is why his opinions are not considered credible in the field.


> show me free market scientists that support the
> agenda.

There is no such thing. A scientist by definition cannot be "free market." A scientist operates based on facts and observations. There is no political bias that creeps into a scientist's thinking. It's about the data and drawing reasonable conclusions based on that data.

I am really sad about the apparent state of science education in this country.

Thanks, Shakopee. Can you please send him back to Pennsyvania?

Hubris? It is hubris to think that we cannot destroy ourselves, or that free markets are not driving us in that direction. Another Christian who doesn't sound anything like Christ.

Thanks to Beard and Michelle Bachman, and increasingly TPaw, we here in Minnesota are earning a reputation for religious based magical thinking, and a tenuous at best relationship to facts.

Dennis (#24) says: "Wow. Listen to you all claim that theories are settled science. I rest my case."

You obviously know next to nothing about science. A Theory, in science, means "settled science." The Theory of Evolution is settled science. The Theory of Relativity is settled science. The Theory of Gravity, Planetary Motion, Atomic Theory, Relativity, etc. are all called "Theories" precisely because of the overwhelming evidence that has long solidly established each of them as settled science.

Go read up on the difference between "opinion" and "theory."

Dennis (#24) says: "Wow. Listen to you all claim that theories are settled science. I rest my case."

In the field of science, there is no higher category of proof than a "theory." It's not like the Theory of Gravity can ever be promoted to any higher level. This is not religion-- where facts are immutable even after they have been thoroughly disproven. The scientific method exists to provide a means to challenge a hypothesis until it can either be disproven, remain a hypothesis due to lack of consensus, or graduate to a Theory, which is used to build our understanding. The scientific definition of "theory" is nearly the opposite of what the word means to a layman.

Hypotheses become theories because of consensus.

Beard believes that "God is not capricious. He's given us a creation that is dynamically stable. We are not going to run out of anything."

Would he believe that god would allow Hitler to cause the deaths of 40-50 million human beings, or Satlin to kill 20 million or Pol Pot to kill millions?

Mr Beard is a wishful thinker.

Representive Beard is a dangerous fool if he believes that the world will never run out of anything. That would not even be true if the world were not so overpopulated with humans.

I think Lester Brown says it much better than I can. He makes a great case for how the world is veering towards the edge and what we can do about it in his latest book :
“World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse”

Here are a few excerpts. (there are also many graphics and charts that I have omitted for this post. If you need to see them to understand this text, go to the earth-policy website)

Veering toward the edge:
As the world economy has expanded nearly 10-fold since 1950, consumption has begun to outstrip natural assets on a global scale. The same values that have allowed ecological deficits to grow are contributing to ballooning fiscal deficits around the world, threatening to undermine economic progress.

Some of the planet’s natural capital, like fossil fuels or water in non-replenishable aquifers, is finite and exhaustible. And some is regenerative; it can be thought of like an interest-earning bank account, where if the principal is maintained, one can live off of the interest indefinitely. In nature, we can harvest plants from the same land as long as soils are maintained; we can continue to catch fish from the sea as long as the catch remains below each fishery’s sustainable yield; we can get water from underground as long as pumping does not exceed rates of recharge; and carbon can regularly cycle through the atmosphere, land, and oceans without major consequence.

Yet as our human family has grown and the global economy has expanded, demand has surpassed the earth’s regenerative capacity. We are overharvesting forests, over-plowing fields, overgrazing grasslands, overdrawing aquifers, overfishing oceans, and pumping far more carbon into the atmosphere than nature can absorb.
Many of these negative trends intersect at our global food supply. While for many years the world was making gains in reducing the number of hungry people, this progress was reversed in the late 1990s. Today close to one billion people in the world are undernourished.

As food prices rise, the ranks of the hungry are likely to grow even larger. Following the punishing heat wave that devastated Russia’s wheat harvest in summer 2010, staple grain prices have soared to near-record highs in early 2011. Rising food prices hit people on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder—many of whom spend over half their income feeding their families—the hardest.

Governments that are unable to ensure adequate and affordable food risk political instability and social unrest. If they cannot provide basic security, they may descend into state failure. Many of the world’s failing states are hampered by high population growth rates and a deteriorating resource base, and depend heavily on international food aid.

A new direction:
Time is running short, but we can pull back from the edge. While security is a major concern for the world’s governments, we have inherited a definition of security from the last century, one dominated by two world wars and the Cold War. Rather than armed aggression, today we are at risk from the fallout of climate change, population growth, water shortages, poverty, rising food prices, and failing states. Military spending worldwide exceeds $1.5 trillion annually; yet traditional defense outlays do little to address these true threats to our future. Diverting just 12 percent of global military spending can meet the goals of eradicating poverty, ensuring basic health care, stabilizing population, and restoring the earth’s natural systems.

Stabilizing climate will mean rapidly cutting carbon emissions by dramatically scaling up renewable energy, harnessing energy efficiency, restructuring transportation systems, curbing deforestation, and planting trees. That the fastest growth in the global energy industry over the last decade is in solar and wind is an early sign of hope.

Politicians talk about cutting carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050, but more ambitious cuts are likely needed to prevent climate catastrophe. Together the climate stabilization measures described in World on the Edge would drop net carbon emissions 80 percent by 2020.

Dr. Phil Jones, Director of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, who was at the center of the climategate e-mail scandal and destroyed data collected on global temperatures. He was recently interviewed by the BBC.

B - Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming

Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.

Dr. Phil Jones who is a proponent of Climate Change also has to admit that global CO2 levels have increased in the same period.

"But Professor Abraham says he would love to see free-market solutions arise. The problem is, he says, nobody on the conservative side is coming up with ideas."

A completely "free" market solution is unlikely, because greenhouse gas emissions are an externality - for the most part, they don't directly affect the polluter or the person who buys from them, so there's no incentive for them to affect prices. But conservatives *did* come up with a market-based solution.

It's generally called "cap and trade," and it was used in 1990 to prevent acid rain. (The bill was passed overwhelmingly by a bipartisan Congress, and signed into law by George H. W. Bush.) It places a cap on total emissions (something a "free" market could never do) but creates a market in which emitters can buy and sell allowances to pollute. It stands in contrast to non-market solutions that would require every polluter to reduce their emissions to the same degree.

If you ever have the opportunity to sit in on a committee meeting where Mr. Beard is seated, you will see that he has a knack for philabustering nearly any discussion. He is very good at stating what I'm sure he believes to be facts; however, he will nearly always concatenate his statements will multiple subjects, and thereby try to limit any requests for him to cite his sources or validate those statements. It really is an old political-stumping trick. As the article pointed out, Mr. Beard relies heavily on ultra-right wing blogs for his information; not unlike another ultra-conservative from MN, Ms. Bachmann. And of course, when all else fails, they always seem to bring religion into the conversation. Please, it would be nice, just for once, to see either of these two politicians get their facts straight, and be willing to enter into a focused, on-topic discussion where all citations are required to be validated. Then again, do we really need facts anyway :))