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  • Don’t Argue with a Fool, Unless you Need Practice

    Posted by Mitch Townsend on September 3rd, 2005 (All posts by )

    In a generally fact-free diatribe, which by now has been widely denounced, Juergen Tritten, German Environment Minister, appears to blame the Bush administration for hurricanes. Focusing on the few places where he makes a factual assertion, the facts fail to support his arguments. Tritten: “No single storm can be traced back to climate change, but three things can be scientifically proven beyond doubt. First, natural catastrophes are drastically increasing in frequency and magnitude.”

    Compare the data from the 1850’s to the 1990’s, or see if you can find a trend line in these historical records of hurricanes in the US. Or is Tritten proposing that earthquakes in the Pacific and hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico arise from a common cause?

    Tritten: “The United States has a four percent of the worlds population and is responsible for 25 percent of the worlds greenhouse gas emissions. Although their standards of living are roughly the same, the average American generates more than twice as much CO2 than the average European.” The United States, with its four percent of the world’s population, also generates 27% of the world’s goods and services, consuming about the same amount. Our production of carbon dioxide actually seems to be about 22.5%, not 25%. Comparing carbon dioxide production per capita, rather than per unit of output, makes places like Niger look like examples for us to follow. And anyway, the US share of world population is closer to five percent than to four.

    If this was a typical leftist editorial-writer, this would be no more than another irritant. Tritten, though, is a cabinet-level official of the German government, and presumably speaks for his country. I think the US ambassador should deliver a letter of protest and a carton of high school math and science books.

    Hat tip: Watching America

    Update: Instead of global whining, a better approach is probably just getting money to those who will spend it to relieve the human suffering. I took the liberty of signing up the Chicago Boyz as a sponsoring blog at The Truth Laid Bear. Here is Instapundit’s list of organizations you could help. I suggest, among others, AmeriCares. According to their 2004 financial statements, out of $818 million in expenditures, $808 million was program expenses, which is the cost of goods and services delivered. This indicates a very lean organization where your donation will be put to work, rather than recycled into fundraising efforts. Dig deep, and thanks for the tip, Arjan!

    Technorati links to posts on Katrina: Flood Aid and Hurricane Katrina.

     

    8 Responses to “Don’t Argue with a Fool, Unless you Need Practice”

    1. Neil Katin Says:

      I agree there isn’t a clear trend, but it is clear that 2001-2004 is a much worse than normal period.

      The chart is misleading because the last line is a partial period; if you scale it up by 3.3 then the data stands out more.

    2. Ralf Goergens Says:

      Trittin actually only speaks for his party, but because the Social Democrats need the Greens, ypou won’t see the Chancellor calling Trittin on the carpet.

    3. Ginny Says:

      Naive questions:
      Surely other factors make information partial? Wouldn’t hurricanes that didn’t hit land be as important as those that do? (Not to us, of course, but to weather trends.)
      How long and how accurately have these been tracked? Communications even a hundred years ago were not what they are and how long have we been able to “see” movements come and go? (Surely planes and then satellite pictures have made a large difference in what we know at any modern point in time, but do they give us much sense of perspective over time?)

    4. Mitch Says:

      I would have liked to present the data as a graph by individual year, since decades are rather an arbitrary way of grouping them. There could well be cyclical patterns recurring at some interval other than 10 years which this table would obscure. However, I only intended to show that Tritten’s assertion of a linear increase is not supported by the data, and that the measure of greenhouse gasses per capita is not very meaningful. My underlying point is that we are doing something with these emissions other than suffering a case of national flatulence brought on by over-indulgence, or driving our SUVs through the pristine woodlands in pursuit of Bambi’s mother.

      Regarding the defects in data collection, we are all in the same boat. Their sources are no better than mine, and if they want to use them as proof, I can use them as rebuttal.

    5. Ginny Says:

      Actually, the problems with collection are likely to point to more unlogged in the past and fewer in the present – which would support your argument. (Exactly how good were records on hurricanes in North America four or five hundred years ago?)

      As someone illiterate about science, I’m always impressed by modern precision. And wondered how this precision affects our thinking? If we awoke to conscious life suddenly this morning, we’d be likely to think the sky was falling at sunset. If we can now take temperatures via satellite, what long-range perspective do we have on them?

    6. A Scott Crawford Says:

      “First, natural catastrophes are drastically increasing in frequency and magnitude.”

      Hey Ralf, are you German, and if so, does anyone actually take this very strange and unoriginal type of tirade seriously? Is there an anti-vaigra pill that Stasi slips German Politicos to turn them flacid and light? Because the former Green leader (Fischer?) at least knew about clubbing authority, so to speak (heh), even when objecting to bilateral nuclear reductions.

      Ginny: Here’s the link to the LoC linkfarm on weather and climate data (since when does anyone trust weathermen???)

      http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/SciRefGuides/weather.html

    7. Robert Schwartz Says:

      One thing that all these pundits fail to understand is basic physics. Storms are powered not just by the air temperature or the water temperature, but by the difference between temperatures in various places. Warming will not necessarily produce increased temperature differences and might even reduce the fundamental difference between the arctic and the tropics.

    8. Ralf Goergens Says:

      Hey Ralf, are you German, and if so, does anyone actually take this very strange and unoriginal type of tirade seriously? Is there an anti-vaigra pill that Stasi slips German Politicos to turn them flacid and light? Because the former Green leader (Fischer?) at least knew about clubbing authority, so to speak (heh), even when objecting to bilateral nuclear reductions.

      Few people take this seriously. He’s trying to mobilize the environmental base for the elections.