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Failure Deniers: Climate Change and Public-Sector Science

If not taxpayer-funded, the massive failure of warmism advocates would have been addressed long ago.

by
Tom Blumer

Bio

June 28, 2013 - 12:00 am

Tuesday afternoon, as I was reading Barack Obama’s Georgetown University speech on “climate change,” it occurred to me that the biggest and perhaps most consequential difference between the government and the private sector is how each reacts when reality doesn’t behave as expected.

The public sector does not have a monopoly on people who become irrationally wedded to ideas and programs which have become outmoded, obsolete, redundant, or worthless. The difference is what happens to such people — and in some cases, their firms — in the private sector when they stubbornly stick to their guns.

At a private firm, if a new product or idea loses — or is on track to lose — serious amounts of money, or if a research project is going nowhere, it gets killed (see: the Ford Edsel, New Coke, Apple Newton). Those who fall in love with these flame-outs and blindly defend them even when the handwriting is on the wall get fired. If a bad product or idea isn’t terminated quickly enough, it has the potential to jeopardize entire companies, even large ones (see JCPenney’s three-tier pricing plan and HP’s 2011 Touchpad debacle).

But within government?

If a new idea or product is failing or initially seems destined to fail, bureaucrats, their corporate beneficiaries, and their cronies work to get them underwritten or subsidized. The fact that the government is even involved likely indicates that the private sector knows better than to touch it without putting taxpayers on the hook. This explains why the Obama administration has had losers like SolyndraA123 BatteryBeacon Power, and so many others in its energy “loan” portfolio.

When companies continue to flounder, governments usually either institutionalize their failures or double down on them.

Hopeless passenger-rail romantics and then-powerful rail unions couldn’t bear to see the end of nationwide train travel, so they convinced Congress to have the federal government take over the entire enterprise in the early 1970s. What followed were four decades of annual Amtrak losses averaging over $800 million, and benefiting far less than 0.1 percent of daily travelers nationwide. Recent narrower losses should — but won’t — bring on discussions of selling off Amtrak’s profitable routes to private firms and abandoning the losers once and for all.

After a $5,000 price reduction to about $28,500, the Chevy Volt, produced by General Motors — an entity which is still under de facto government control — still sells only about 1,600 units per month. The vehicle’s fully loaded cost to produce is about $75,000. Yet don’t expect GM to pull the plug, figuratively or literally, on their financially disastrous electric car experiment any time soon. Too much false pride is on the line.

Private companies which kill products or ideas administer the pain quickly and move on. If government ever tries to end a program or operation — “ever” is the operative word, as Ronald Reagan frequently noted: ”The nearest thing to eternal life we will ever see on this earth is a government program” — they go about it slowly, in hopes that outraged politicians or constituents will come to their rescue. If total termination ever occurs, they call it “a learning experience,” which of course was carried out with other people’s money, and rarely includes any learning.

They also frequently replicate their mistakes, which is how Uncle Sam ends up having “47 separate job training programs run by nine different agencies” costing $18 billion per year, and why 173 out of 209 science, technology, engineering, and math programs overlap with at least one other program.

This brings us to President Obama and “climate change.”

If climate science was not completely controlled and directed by agenda-driven public funding? If it was instead a competition between private-sector players selling their research to public and private customers without becoming overdependent on any one entity for their well-being and survival?

Well, the idea of human-caused global warming might still have gotten off to a pretty good start. The concern seemed to make some initial sense: the world is indeed warmer than it was 40 or so years ago when the cataclysmic scare du jour, and even the supposed cause of a bad run of tornadoes, was global cooling. The increase in overall temperatures for the next quarter-century or so appeared to be loosely correlated with the spread of the Industrial Revolution to much of the Third World and dramatic worldwide increases in the deployment of fossil fuel-burning autos, trucks, manufacturing equipment, and electrical devices.

But correlation is not the same as causation. In the late 1990s, even as worldwide carbon emissions continued to rise, average global temperatures leveled off. They haven’t gone anywhere for 15 years, something even the New York Times, Reuters, the New Republic, and the Economist have felt compelled to acknowledge.

The sacred models of warmists didn’t predict any of this. The Climategate emails showed that they’re totally baffled by and angry at their forecasting failure.

That was over three years ago. The temps still haven’t moved.

If warmists had to justify their work to clients with business decision-making interest in their results — instead of needing to keep politically vested true believers at the EPA, anti-progress environmental lobbyists at “public-interest groups,” and radical wealth distributionists happy — they wouldn’t be influential anymore.

They would have long ago been forced to objectively reexamine their assumptions and to modify their models to explain the lull, or be fired for incompetence and replaced by those performing more reliable work.

That’s not happening. The more reality continues to mock them, the more recklessly the warmists lash out at, threaten, and litigate against ”deniers,” the more they deliberately manipulate their data to fit their dogma, the more they falsely claim “settled science.”

Along those lines, Obama’s Organizing For America recently sent an email asking members to “Call out climate deniers in Congress,” saying that: “The science on climate change is clear.” One thing is very clear: “the science” isn’t what they say it is.

On Tuesday, the “punk” president himself childishly ridiculed those who disagree with his Chicken Little belief that “climate change” is “the global threat of our time” when he said: “We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society.” What we really don’t have: the luxury of enduring at least three-and-a-half more years of tyranny carried out in the name of what looks more like a colossal government-enrichment scam than anything resembling legitimate science.

Obama’s “Climate Change Plan” madness must be fought at every turn, including in Speaker John Boehner’s House of Representatives, which must move to defund and forcefully challenge every authoritarian “climate change” move this administration attempts.

Along with having a decades-long career in accounting, finance, training and development, Tom Blumer has written for several national online publications primarily on business, economics, politics and media bias. He has had his own blog, BizzyBlog.com, since 2005, and has been a PJM contributor since 2008.

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Top Rated Comments   
"And considering the number of humans on the planet, it stands to reason that some of the change is in response to what humans do."

No, it doesn't. It doesn't stand to reason AT ALL.

That seems logical on the surface, but in fact, it's absurd.

Many (most) people have NO idea how vast this planet is, and how vast are the forces and processes that drive it. We see 7 billion people and we think, "Wow! That's a LOT! The earth is CROWDED!"

No, it's not. As far as humans go, it's pretty empty. We can fit every man, women, and child into the greater Ft. Lauderdale area. All 7 billion. True, we'd be standing shoulder to shoulder, but we'd all fit.

Too crowded? Fine, move us all to Texas. Now we can spread out a bit. Each of us gets about 1100 square feet of our own. That's a good sized apartment. One for each man, women, AND child.

That leaves the entire rest of the planet EMPTY of humans. Lots of room for farming, mining, and dumping waste. (I nominate Afghanistan for that.)

Still too crowded? Okay, let's walk over to Alaska. While we're walking, just to make it fun, we'll DOUBLE the population.

Now all FOURTEEN BILLION of us get about 1800 square feet. Each.

"Oh, but the pollution we emit? What about that?"

One good volcano puts out more CO2 than all of man's emissions since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

Ants put more formic acid into the air each year than factories.

"Well, what about the thermal pollution! Surely we are warming the planet with all our burning of fuels and nuclear power plants!"

There is more energy released globally in 24 hours by lightning strikes than is contained in all of the worlds nuclear weapons combined.

And the sun's energy dwarfs that by many orders of magnitude.


Man is puny.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I can buy an "expert" with a Ph.D who will testify authoritatively to ANYTHING. Most of these "scientists" scam for grant money; that's how score is kept in the academy. In case you haven't noticed, most of the foundations that fund university research have become the exclusive province of the left. Great granddaddy may have made the money as a "Robber Baron," but he sent junior to Hahvud and Hahvud turned junior into a lefty and we're now on two or three generations of lefties none of whom have ever hit a lick of work or lived in anything resembling the real World, but they're calling the shots on most foundations and a lot of big businessess.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Even if (and that's a heck of a big if) I accepted the premise that CO2 causes catastrophic climate change, I still would not accept the idea that gubint should be picking the winners and losers.

For one thing they suck at it. For another, they confiscate my tax money and use it for things I despise. In the third place, the gubmint, as my somewhat profane grandfather use to say, could f**k up an iron wedge.

The gubmint is at its clumsy best when it defends the country AND its borders, and keeps its nose out of almost every other aspect of life.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (49)
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Mr. Blumer asserts that the world has stopped getting warmer, even though 2010 was the warmest year on record world-wide, and nine out of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred in the 21st century (the tenth being 1998). He responds to the fact that an extremely large majority of scientists who have dedicated their professional lives to the study of global warming now believe that the burning of fossil fuels is causing climate change by asserting -- as a self-evident fact -- that the judgement of such scientists is controlled by their desire for grant money. This is an ad hominem attack of breathtaking scope and impudence; it is the lazy man's refutation of the work of researchers over many decades, in many countries, deriving their funding from a wide variety of sources (and some had no funding at all). Instead of advancing scientific arguments in support of his thesis, he resorts to the rhetorical device known as transference: talk about failures of judgement in one field and suggest that work in another field is of the same quality as the first -- never advancing beyond suggestion to arguments based on fact. Mr. Blumer's article, in short, will satisfy those who agree with him a priori and who, like him, lack curiosity about the causes of the changes that are undeniably taking place in our world. Such publicists are, unfortunately, in long supply.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Let's forget about the media, which has done a poor job reporting climate change. The scientists, at any rate, "admit" that the rate of increase of the average surface temperature of the Earth has slowed in recent years (they are still rising). There is, however, evidence that the oceans are taking up more heat than before. Why this is so needs further study. (Yes, we still have things to learn about what happens to the excess heat held against the Earth the growing amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.)
At any rate, because there are always local, temporary factors adding to or subtracting from the warming influence of growing levels of CO2, the rise in the Earth's average surface temperature will never be graphed as a straight upward line, as if it were a plot of y = 2x. It will be a jagged line, with plateaus, whose trend, over time, is still upward.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"2010 was the warmest year on record world-wide, and nine out of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred in the 21st century (the tenth being 1998)"

Of course, that's a stat utterly without meaning since it must perforce be an average. Where on earth is the temperature steadily "average?"
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Corlyss, Do you really think that averages are "without meaning"? If that's the case, then Ted Williams was just an ordinary baseball player!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Basic point is very good, that government has no feedback mechanisms.

If you NEED an "Apollo Project" where you just get one shot and it's mondo expensive use the government approach, but expect to pay for it bigtime, triple-mondo.

I'd also give a small defense to Beacon Hill, their idea - hi-tech rotating energy storage - was almost good and I suspect the engineering was poor.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Politicians pushing climate change are not " irrationally wedded to ideas and programs which have become outmoded, obsolete, redundant, or worthless."

The idea to which they are wedded is that any crisis whether real or manufactured that they can sell to a gullible public gives them more money, power, or both!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
They are wedded to another idea also, total control. If I have a say in your carbon foot print, you literally cannot drive to Grandma's house without me lowing it and approving of it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The offensive against ''climate change'' will be about as effective as the ''War on Poverty."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The "War on Poverty" was largely aborted because we went off to fight a war in Vietnam. This compounded the tragic of the misbegotten war. The War on Poverty concentrated on education and empowerment -- showing people how to fish, rather than giving them fish. It was the inspiration of Jack Kemp's "compassionate conservatism". Would that our democracy had enough steadiness to see things through.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Several years ago, I heard Ralph Nader (no friend of big business) say, "The problem with government programs is - there is no failing grade." He was speaking in the context of the War on Drugs, but it applies across the board, for the reasons presented in the article.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"At a private firm, if a new product or idea loses — or is on track to lose — serious amounts of money, or if a research project is going nowhere, it gets killed "
Rent seeking is an alternative strategy. See compact fluorescent bulb, corn ethanol.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
After 20 years in the military, I retired and took a management position with a large defense corporation in the late 80s. During my 20 years there, the company changed hands several times. The new owners always came by to give us the new company brief. There was one that was very interesting.

The CEO called an executive meeting. On the whiteboard, he drew an oil derrick in the upper left hand corner. In the lower right, he drew an oil drum. Connecting the two, he drew an arrow from the derrick to the drum, beside which he put a $.

Pointing to the derrick he said, "This is you." Pointing to the oil can, "and this is me." Underlining the $, he said, "As long as this keeps flowing we will be fine. If however, it stops, or god forbid, reverses direction, your successor will have an opportunity to fix it."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
When I heard this inflammatory--if not ridicul-ous--speech, all I could think of were his staffers who have failed him. Between the diehard-green idealogues and the campaign-promise score keepers, neither managed to temper these remarks to the point that they wouldn't be received with derision.

I guess it can be said that both these staff groupees are so far out of touch with reality that they are now a BENEFIT to Republicans and a LIABILITY to the administration. I was actually embarrassed for him, unless of course we learn that the Smartest President Ever actually crafted these 1990s remarks-- hisself.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Virtually anyone with more than a brain stem, can, if they're motivated enough, look up Barry's Record of being truthful, honest, Oath-Obeying and clear-thinking, and know down into their guts that he simply cannot be trusted. This is just one more of those things to put on " The List ".
He's now America's version of that fabled thing we all hear so much about in Star Trek and the like , AKA : 'Anti-Matter'.
What ever he says, you should do the exact opposite....and be confident you're in the correct lineup of citizens.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
After a $5,000 price reduction to about $28,500, the Chevy Volt

I thought the selling price was ~ $45K, which was then reduced by a $7,500 "rebate" courtesy of the taxpayer. The price quoted by Blumer appears to be the "net price" after the generous (if involuntary) contribution from the taxpayer (with the $5K reduction also factored in). If I am correct, then the buyer still has to shell out at least $35K to start. This means he/she has to have the discretionary income to buy this chancy experimental vehicle, which means that the buyer is at least uppr-middle class, if not downright affluent. Why should taxpayers with a median income (for those who actually pay income tax) roughly the same as the initial price of a Volt have to subsidize the lifestyles of those with several times their incomes? How "progressive" is that?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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