links for 2011-02-11

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

12 replies on “links for 2011-02-11”

  1. You should read about the real Billy Budd –
    “Guert Gansevoort and the Somers Affair

    On December 14, 1842, the United States brig USS Somers under Commander Alexander Mackenzie returned home to New York after cruising the waters off North Africa. With the arrival of the ship came the news that some men had been hung on board after being charged with mutiny. Just as in Claggart’s charges against Billy Budd, there had been no overt act of mutiny, only accusations that the men had been plotting. One of the alleged mutineers was Philip Spencer, the son of the American secretary of war. Spencer had allegedly held private meetings with another member of the crew named Wales. According to Wales, Spencer was plotting to take possession of the ship by murdering the officers at night and intimidating the rest of the crew into submission. Supposedly, once in control of the brig, Spencer intended to turn pirate and rob defenseless ships in the Atlantic Ocean. Spencer had persuaded about twenty members of the crew to join him in his plan, according to Wales. Wales told the ship’s first lieutenant of the plot, who then informed Captain Mackenzie, who immediately placed Spencer under arrest. The following morning, missing equipment seemed to confirm the captain’s fears that unrest and mutiny were brewing in the crew. Several other men were arrested after being linked to the plot through papers found in Spencer’s possession, and on December 1, 1842, Spencer and two other men were hanged from the ship’s yardarm. The two other victims were Samuel Cromwell and Elisha Small, a man who was well-loved by the crew; sailors on board exclaimed God bless the flag! when he was hanged.

    The resemblance of this case to the plot in Melville’s Billy Budd is obvious; what makes the connection even more intriguing is that Melville’s cousin served on the court that convicted the mutineers. Lieutenant Guert
    Gansevoort, Melville’s cousin, was seven years Melville’s senior, but despite this age difference the two had spent a great deal of time together as youths, and though this closeness did not continue throughout adulthood, the relationship remained an important one. At the time of the incident, Melville was just enlisting on the United States, a navy ship sailing out of Honolulu.”

    Yep, Philip Spencer was the SON of the secretary of the Navy and they still hung him.

  2. perlogik, that’s quite a story! I never knew a bit of that. This is probably a good occasion to confess that I have never read “BIlly Budd.” I’ve read about it, but that is obviously not the same thing as reading it. Over a decade ago, my friend Jock insisted that I read it, and I told him that I would. I have failed to do so, and still think of my promise every time I see Melville’s name. Maybe this confession will move me to finally read it. :)

    Shaun yes, of course, you are right that weather != climate and that what’s going on at the poles is particularly complex, although most of those factors are a result of man—ozone depletion, specifically, is a big one.

  3. It’s amazing that there remain people who are convinced that Algore’s hockey stick is legit. But there are still people who believe that CFCs cause global warming (seriously), so whatever.

  4. You and I both know that the facts are on my side here. If you’ve got some evidence against anthropogenic global climate change, there are several thousand environmental scientists who would love to hear what you’ve got to say.

  5. You’re kidding, right? There are certainly some scientists left out there still banging the anthropogenic drum, but they’re dwindling — and you know it (see, I can play that silly ‘I know what’s in your mind’ game, too.)

    You must not have read much of the growing body of research that strongly supports what reasonable people (read: folks without a political axe to grind, and whose livelihood wasn’t dependent on continued government money) have known all along. It’s the sun, stupid.


  6. Allow me to interrupt, I.Pub. I’m a bit confused as to what you are trying to say. Are you saying that the famed hockey stick graph is bogus (your first comment) and that there hasn’t been warming, or that there has been warming, but it’s not due to humans, but rather the sun (your second comment).

    Or am I totally misreading you?

  7. Since 2005, Exxon-Mobile has spent $9 million on front group “scientists” denying global warming as manmade. Kock Industries has spent $25 million. Koch is big in petrochemicals. You may also know them as the private corporation that cynically bankrolled the astroturf tea party express rallys.

    I don’t have to be a climate scientist to know that when two of the world’s biggest greenhouse-gas producers are willing to spend that kind of money on “climate scientists”, their “research” will find no man-made link to climate change.

  8. What we *do* know is that carbon dioxide levels are off the chart. What we *don’t* know is whether this affects the climate one way or another, or how it affects the climate.

    Keep in mind that our atmosphere was considered to be much hotter and heavier during the Triassic-Jurassic-Cretaceous periods… the worst mistake folks could do is jump to conclusions or insert political hyperbole into the science. We’ve only got 120 years of data… let’s not convince ourselves of the hypothesis just yet.

  9. There are certainly some scientists left out there still banging the anthropogenic drum, but they’re dwindling

    Please, tell me more about this. Is there any scientific organization of national standing that holds this position that global climate change does not have anthropogenic causes? In a study that I linked two a few weeks ago, published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that:

    Here, we use an extensive dataset of 1,372 climate researchers and their publication and citation data to show that…97–98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field support the tenets of [anthropogenic climate change] outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change…

    So, that’s 2-3% of climate researchers believe in non-anthropogenic climate change, according to this study. Not a “dwindling” number but, in fact, stunningly large majority.

    Again, if you’ve got any information to the contrary, I’m all ears!

    You must not have read much of the growing body of research that strongly supports what reasonable people (read: folks without a political axe to grind, and whose livelihood wasn’t dependent on continued government money) have known all along.

    When you say “continued government money,” do you mean to imply that continued private funding is somehow different, or more pure? Are scientists whose work is funded by Exxon to be trusted more than scientists whose work is funded by the federal government? Or if you really mean “continued money” (period), then could you point me to one of these researchers whose work is not funded by anybody—climatologists who are just doing it for the love of the science, and are independently wealthy or, alternately, homeless?

  10. What we *do* know is that carbon dioxide levels are off the chart. What we *don’t* know is whether this affects the climate one way or another, or how it affects the climate.

    Actually, while there are areas of debate about the extent to which different factors affect global climate change, I’m not aware of any debate about whether CO2 has an impact on global climate. That’s because it’s so very straightforward. There is no question that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, which is to say that it permits the passage of light but absorbs infrared light, and thus acts as a blanket over the planet. And there is also no question that 0.0387% (more or less) of Earth’s atmosphere is CO2, (or 5^1018 kilograms), about 75% of which is within 11 kilometers of the surface of the planet. It’s really a tiny, tiny amount. There is also no question that there’s a normal, natural balance of the production of CO2 by natural forces and the absorption of that CO2 by seawater and other forms of natural sequestration. And there’s also no question that humans cause the emission of about 28.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, which is to say about 1.5% of all of the CO2 in the atmosphere or, put differently, about a 3% increase over the natural levels of CO2 output. And, finally, there is no question that there have been highs of 290 ppm and lows of 180 ppm through humans’ existence, and that we are currently at 290 ppm—the highest level in human history.

    So, those are the basic facts about which there is no quarrel, and I’m aware of no dissent.

    The problem here is that 3% excess output. What nearly every climatologist agrees on is that 3% is problematic, because about 60% of it goes straight up into the atmosphere. (About 40% is sequestered in the ocean, lucky for us. :) So let’s call that an extra 2%, every year, that the earth has no mechanism of absorbing. That’s 2% more infrared rays retained, and although the corresponding increase in temperature certainly isn’t 2% (I don’t know what the effectiveness per unit of CO2 is, unfortunately), there is naturally a corresponding increase. What dissenters argue is that no, natural processes are bound to take care of this, because there have been way higher levels in the past. And the thing is, these people are totally right. But humans didn’t live then. Huge changes in Earth’s biomass accompanied these changes. Those species that could adapt, survived. Those that couldn’t, didn’t. And while humans as a species might survive, a lot of us (frankly, the global poor), are screwed.

    (Why the hell do I know all of this? :) Well, I’ve been working on a blog entry about this, off and on, for a few months, and I’ve got a text file full of these notes on my desktop.)

    Anyhow, Shaun, do the math for yourself! It’s really interesting stuff. I’ve really enjoyed doing the math myself. It’s one thing to trust authority figures, and it’s quite another to just step through it. I’ve come to understand the climate science in a way I never did before.

  11. It occurs to me, these many hours later, that Republicans’ response to global climate change is very much like fiscal conservatives’ response to severe recessions—saying that the problem will ultimately take care of itself, so let’s not intervene. In both cases, the logic is correct, but following it requires a willingness to ignore significant suffering among the most needy. (And in the former case, it requires a willingness to gamble on the existence of the human species or, at a minimum, our world as we know it.) Ironically, it is Democrats’ position on global climate change that is the most conservative. :)

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