October 20, 2009, 11:47 am — Updated: 9:45 am
Are Solar Panels Really Black? And What Does That Have to Do With the Climate Debate?
By Nathan Myhrvold
Nathan Myhrvold is a polymath’s polymath, the former chief technology officer at Microsoft who, by the time he was 23, had earned, primarily at UCLA and Princeton, a bachelor’s degree (mathematics), two master’s degrees (geophysics/space physics and mathematical economics), and a Ph.D. (mathematical physics). He is co-founder of Intellectual Ventures, a firm comprising many other scientists, including climate scientists, whose counterintuitive views on global warming and its possible solutions are explored in the final chapter of SuperFreakonomics. A climate-activist blogger didn’t like the chapter, accusing Levitt and Dubner of chicanery (a charge that Dubner rebuffed here) and accusing Myhrvold of not understanding the physics behind solar power. Oops. Below you can read Myhrvold’s views on the tenor of the global-warming debate in general and solar power in particular. Watch this space for further rebuttals of shouted claims of error and evil.
One of the saddest things for me about climate science is how political it has become. Science works by having an open dialog that ultimately converges on the truth, for the common benefit of everyone. Most scientific fields enjoy this free flow of ideas.
There are serious scientific and technological issues in studying our climate, how it responds to human-caused emission of greenhouse gases, and what the most effective solutions will be for global warming. But unfortunately, the policy implications are vast and there is a lot at stake in economic terms.
It seems inevitable that discussions of climate science would degenerate to being deeply politicized and polarized. Depending on which views are adopted, individuals, industries, and countries will gain or lose, which provides ample motive. Once people with a strong political or ideological bent latch onto an issue, it becomes hard to have a reasonable discussion; once you’re in a political mode, the focus in the discussion changes. Everything becomes an attempt to protect territory. Evidence and logic becomes secondary, used when advantageous and discarded when expedient. What should be a rational debate becomes a personal and venal brawl. Rational, scientific debate that could advance the common good gets usurped by personal attacks and counterattacks.
Political movements always have extremists — bitterly partisan true believers who attack anybody they feel threatens their movement. I’m sure you know the type, because his main talent is making himself heard. He doesn’t bother with making thoughtful arguments; instead, his technique is about shrill attacks in all directions, throwing a lot of issues up and hoping that one will stick or that the audience becomes confused by the chaos. These folks can be found at the fringe of every political movement, throughout all of history. Technology has amplified them in recent years. First with talk radio and then with cable TV, the extremists found larger and larger audiences.
The Internet provides the ultimate extremist platform. Every blogger can reach millions, and given the lack of scrutiny or review over content, there is little accountability. Indeed, the more over-the-top the discourse is the better — because it is entertaining. Ancient Romans watched gladiators in much the same way that we read angry bloggers.
That seems to be the case with Joe Romm, a blogger with strong views about global warming and what he calls “climate progress.” In a recent series of blog posts, Romm levels one baseless, bald charge after another. What provoked this? The best summary I’ve seen comes from a comment by DaveyNC to the Freakonomics blog which says:
Excerpt: See Full Article at NY Times
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Please take some time to read this and understand what Nathan Myhrvold is saying. Truthfully, when it comes to science, it is not my strong suit, but fortunately our website team includes a mathematician who understands Cap and Trade and other scientific issues very well and is assisting us on getting out the facts on these issues involving the environment like Cap and Trade. He found this article and sent it our way especially since it is from the NY Times.