Trump's EPA pick will make Obama regret his environmental overreach?

Via someone else (Gavin, perhaps?; his tweet is relevant) – I certainly don’t read The Hill regularly – comes Trump’s EPA pick will make Obama regret his environmental overreach by evil arch uber-villain Patrick Michaels. A quick search shows me not having much to say about PM; I seem to have left that to Eli (but that was waay back in 2006); there’s also Tim Lambert, who certainly isn’t keen; and I side-swipe PM in 2013 over some silly sea level graph.

Anyway, the piece can be taken as an indication of what PM thinks the Trump administration is likely to do, though there is no suggestion of inside knowledge; PM must be somewhat distressed that his own invitation to kiss the ring is so long delayed. Probably, it is the views of one particular faction jostling for attention from the Doge. So let’s read it, with that in mind. First of all note the keyword “overreach”, which is central to a lot of their thinking. As with everything, you can read this two ways, and you should read it both ways: firstly, as a principled pro-constitution stand; second, and a way of trying to shift the argument onto their own ground.

But reading on, we have

President Obama… issued a “preliminary finding of endangerment” from carbon dioxide and other greenhouse emissions. Under their interpretation of the Supreme Court’s landmark 2007 climate change ruling… not only permitted the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1992, it compelled the agency to do so…

As long as the Endangerment Finding stands, any EPA, including one headed by Pruitt, will be in court defending against any subsidiary attempt to halt or reverse any regulation of carbon dioxide…. So the Endangerment Finding must be reversed.

But how to do it? For years, federal agencies have thrown massive support at scientists who, as human beings, serve their best interests (and their employer-universities) by generating horror-show results that also generate more support and professional advancement.

The Trump administration is going to have to stock up on scientists and administrators who are savvy to this game, and they are going to be very hard to find, as there’s very little incentive to not play along.

That is interesting. In particular, I find As long as the Endangerment Finding stands, any EPA, including one headed by Pruitt, will be in court defending against any subsidiary attempt to halt or reverse any regulation of carbon dioxide fascinating. This is a totally different view of the world from the near-panic-stricken stuff I see in my fb, Twitter and news feeds about ZOMG! Trump appoints Pruitt! All your base are belong to them. The bad guys think they’re going to have to abide by due process instead.

But more entertaining – and the true topic of this post, which I’ve come round to at last – is the ending: The Trump administration is going to have to stock up on scientists and administrators who are savvy to this game, and they are going to be very hard to find. This, again, appears to be a realisation that they’ll have to play by the rules, at least to a large extent: they will actually need to find themselves “compliant science”. And it looks like PM is fully aware of how hard that is going to be. Naturally, he dresses it up in his own way, trying to imply that the good guys all act like Willie Soon. But in his heart he knows that it is reality itself that he’s fighting.

Which is why it will be so entertaining watching them try to back up the hot words of There’s going to have to be a massive effort to pick apart failing climate models and questionably-adjusted data with actual action. Perhaps the GWPF will be salivating with the thoughts of yummy grant money being shoveled their way for their pathetic “review“.

So, call me Pollyanna if you must, but I find this all vaguely reassuring. Well, I don’t find the sight of everyone panciking reassuring, but you’ll quiet down in a bit, it isn’t possible to live in a state of permanent panic.


* Me apologising for misreading Hayek
* They’re coming for climate scientists! by ATTP
* Gather ye climate data while ye may wherein Tamino veers off into Wattie-land
* Dismantling Climate Rules Isn’t So Easy NYT Op-Ed by By WILLIAM W. BUZBEE.

Maura Healey ha ha ha

The Exxon saga rumbles on. Via RK on fb I find Exxon Wins Latest Legal Round in Climate Fight With Mass. AG from Inside Climate News. And the motto is: those that live by the courts will die by the courts. Or, in this case, a federal judge in Texas says Massachusetts AG Maura Healey must answer questions about her climate investigation to Exxon lawyers. There is astonishment from the “good guys” over the very idea that their actions could possibly be subject to scrutiny: the order is extraordinary because it allows the target of her investigation to investigate her agency and so on. Well, tough. If you choose to fight on the science, that’s what you’ll be judged on. But if you choose to fight in the courts, you’re subject to whatever they happen to decide. I’ve been critical of running to the courts before; this seems a perfect example of what goes wrong.


* Murry Salby ha ha ha

Scott Adams is a tosser

Preceded by Boris “the clown” Johnson, SA wins his coveted slightly damp biscuit1 for The Non-Expert Problem and Climate Change Science. TL;DR: it’s a pile of dingoes kidneys. But before we get down to the insightful analysis, here’s a barely relevant cartoon.


[Don’t miss part 2]

Notice the use of the words “weasel” and “expert”, and the dig at ethics. Anyway, if you want someone slowly patiently and sorrowfully taking SA’s junk to pieces, then you want Victor Venema2. Sou didn’t like it either, but deferred the analysis to VV. Via a comment at Sou’s I discover that PZ Myers has had some complaints about SA over the years. It is quite instructive to go back to one of the earliest (and it is now hard to do so due to link rot, so I’ve archived some internet archive links for you): Scott Adams is a Wally discussing SA’s Intelligent Design, Part 1. Which is much the same stuff: SA trying to look clever by doing “looking down” on something he doesn’t really understand.

Again it is much the same as his analysis of the US election, although he is on safer ground there since it isn’t science. He wrote numerous blog posts on the subject; some of them were actually quite good and insightful; some were poor; many were propaganda disguised as analysis. The most obviously analogous one to the present case is My Endorsement for President of the United States where he endorses Hillary for president, for his “personal safety”. The “reasoning” behind this need not detain us.

So, onto analysing his present post. We start with “I agree with the scientific consensus on climate change” which is nice, but of course that’s only up there as a loss-leader; because without much delay he’s into I realize that science can change its mind, of course and then Something can be “true” according to science while simultaneously being completely wrong at which point he has crossed over into Tosser land. The fundamental question he poses, How the heck can you – a non-expert – judge who is right? – remains a good one; but his answer is worthless. The question has, of course, been oft times discussed before; for example On the Limits of Expert Credibility: Theory and an Application to Climate Change? (don’t miss the link to Krugman on Ricardo, all those oh-yes-of-course-we-believe-the experts people out there).

I can’t see, though, a useful summary of my response to the question, so it is quicker to just re-answer than to find it.

1. You, the public, cannot meaningfully evaluate complex science9.
2. There is no quick-n-easy way to discover which one of two, to-you-superficially-equally-credible, texts is correct6
3. You are inevitably going to have to rely on some authority, or combination of authorities.
4. With a moderate degree of diligence you can discover what is a reasonable authority8.
5. It is not sensible to conclude that the scientific consensus, as shown by that authority, is wrong7.

Point 1 is perhaps more strongly phrased than is entirely fair, but points 4 and 5 are the most important ones. Taking them in reverse:

5: You can (see 4) discover the scientific consensus. SA has done so. At that point, you need to re-read points 1, 2 and 3 and realise that the only reasonable conclusion you can come to is to agree with the consensus. You should do this even if you are aware that “experts have been wrong before3” because although this is true, it offers you no useful information in evaluating .

4: It won’t take you4 much reading to notice that all the “official” side information leads you back to the IPCC; and it won’t take you much reading to notice that the IPCC reports are nicely written though a careful process and link back to a wide variety of good scientific sources. It won’t take you much reading to notice that the “denialist” side is largely a self-linking echo chamber that very rarely publishes anything in the scientific literature.

It is tempting to attempt to circumvent point 2 by “meta analysis”, perhaps of the form

(a) Person A has told me to respect authority – the IPCC, let us say. I know that simply accepting authority is wrong, therefore person A is wrong, and the denialists are right!

This is wrong, obviously. So is

(b) Nullius in Verba used as a way of telling who is correct5.


1. Old English public school joke. Don’t ask.

2. I have suppressed various pointless musing about national character that I felt tempted to insert here.

3. A nice example is Continental drift but my statement is still true; if you’d been around then, your best-guess should still have been to assume that the consensus was true.

4. I am, of course, assuming a moderately intelligent and informed reader who knows, for example, of the existence of the scientific literature.

5. As a slogan or motto it is cute; but don’t forget, they weren’t talking to peasants like you.

6. Any individual criterion or collection (“carefully referenced”; “links to what look like good sources”; “uses (or avoids) equations”; “never swears at fools”; “has a credible looking website”; “has a credible looking qualification”) will inevitably prove to lead you astray in some situation.

7. Perhaps a useful analogy is with Hume’s argument against miracles; or (somewhat less directly relevant, but I love his words so I shall quote them regardless) Hobbes on direct revelation: For if a man pretend to me that God hath spoken to him supernaturally, and immediately, and I make doubt of it, I cannot easily perceive what argument he can produce to oblige me to believe it.

8. [Update: in the above, I’ve made the (somewhat unrealistic) assumption that I’m talking to an unbiased person not emotionally invested in having the result come out one way or another. And I notice that of points 1-5, 4 is the only one that needs choice or intellectual effort – the others are only instructions or advice you need to be wise enough to take. I suppose I ought to add that it is also easy (see comments for examples) to find yourself what appear to be excellent reasons why what-appears-to-be the true authority is unreliable – for example Anatomy of IPCC’s Mistake on Himalayan Glaciers and Year 2035. This is part of note 6 – “never makes any mistake that someone has pointed out to you” is not a useful short cut either.]

9. Excitingly and belatedly, I discover a connection here to the way-out further shores of Randian thought: the Randos like the idea of Rational Individualism, from whence I quote In Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, Howard Roark was a man who didn’t care what other people thought. Well, actually he did in some ways. He cared about his friends, and he was concerned about why some people were secondhanders. But the fact that people thought things didn’t matter to him in the sense that it wasn’t a reason to believe or disbelieve that thing. An idea was either true or false, and he used his own mind to determine that10.

10. I wonder if they had ever heard of the continuum hypothesis. Most likely not.


* Dumb America
* Talking to the layfolk
* The Big Pharma Cancer Conspiracy – Real Sceptic. Doubtless SA will be offering us his Cure for Cancer one day.