Yesterday, Willie Soon sent me a weirdly placed article in the Science magazine,
Some naive media admire Obama, the first president to author an article in Science. He's joined elite scientists such as Chinese ex-president Wen Jiabao, Prince Albert of Monaco, Kofi Annan, and yes, also former chemistry postdoc Angela Merkel. Just like Willis Eschenbach, I must say: How infantile you have to be to believe that the presence of an article by Obama in a science magazine implies that Obama is prepared to do scientific research?
In reality, the article has nothing to do with science. It is almost all about politics, including some politicians' favorite denial of many elementary facts about science (such as the unequivocal net benefits of elevated carbon dioxide in the Earth's ecosystems).
Well, let me answer the question from the title again: The appearance of this paper by the outgoing president shows that science isn't the most important thing for the editors of this "peer-reviewed" journal. They should have clearly told him "Apologies, Mr Obama, but your superficial, unoriginal, misleading and overly political drivel isn't good enough for our scientific journal". But many of the relevant people in the magazine are primarily leftists, voters of left-wing politicians etc., and they would never dare to tell the likes of Barack Obama that they suck, not even that they suck in science which they unquestionably do.
This is a fact about the atmosphere in the editorial teams of Science and other magazines. Every scientist, however groundbreaking, must be ready that the editors are probably going to consider kitschy politicians such as Barack Obama to be more important than him and if this fact produces any tension, the scientist will be a loser while the kitschy politician will be the winner.
We see a cult of personality. It's the same cult of personality that has guaranteed that the trapdoor spider (Aptostichus barackobamai) and eight other animal species were named after Barack Obama. The discoverers may name things after whatever they want. Well, almost. And an Obama spider isn't necessarily a problem when it remains just a name indicating what the discoverer enjoyed in his leisure time. But when these political biases influence what is being published in a well-known scientific journal, it's too bad.
Obama's text brings absolutely no new idea. CO2 is evil, warms the Earth, and acidifies the ocean. The warming is 10 times faster than what science measures it to be. I've made great steps towards decarbonization and it's great and will undoubtedly continue not only because it's great to protect the Earth against catastrophes but also because it's economically beneficial for everyone to throw trillions of dollars into the toilet.
All the comments referring to science are always a little bit or brutally wrong. For example, we read:
Left unchecked, the continued growth of GHG emissions could cause global average temperatures to increase by another 4°C or more by 2100 and by 1.5 to 2 times as much in many midcontinent and far northern locations (1).Well, 4° C by 2100 isn't what (even) the latest (fifth) IPCC report says. The equilibrium climate sensitivity from one CO2 doubling is claimed by the IPCC to be between 1.5 °C to 4.5 °C, down from 2.0–4.5 °C according to the previous (fourth) IPCC report. But between 2017 and 2100, the increase of CO2 will only be close to 1/2 of a doubling of the concentration so the IPCC only expects between 0.75 and 2.25 °C of warming by 2100, not f*cking four degrees Celsius as claimed by Obama. Yes, I and others consider the IPCC estimate to a clear overestimate but my point is that Obama's claims aren't fine even according to the IPCC that was worshiped in other situations.
He also says all the ludicrously unscientific things about the destruction of weather patterns by CO2 etc. There is absolutely no scientific glimpse of evidence that the rising CO2 is going to disrupt any local weather patterns – local phenomena which depend on differences and gradients – simply because the effect of CO2 is "global" and by its basically uniform nature, it doesn't change anything about the differences and gradients. If any change could be plausible at all, it would be the expected decrease of the polar-equatorial temperature difference which should reduce the latitude-dependent gradients and slightly lower some kinds of variability and extreme weather events associated with those.
It makes no sense to waste time by arguing about science with Obama because he's just a crank who parrots numerous other cranks. But it's sometimes comical to see what he says about politics. A ludicrous catastrophic consequence of the non-existent warming that Obama quotes is the following:
One of the most frequently cited economic models pins the estimate of annual damages from warming of 4 °C at ~4% of global GDP (4–6), which could lead to lost U.S. federal revenue of roughly $340 billion to $690 billion annually (7).I exploded in laughter. So global warming is terrible because the government will collect fewer taxes.
Needless to say, it's ludicrous. The effect of temperature on the economy is tiny but if one looks at the sign, it's obvious that it's positive. There is more economic activity in a warmer climate. Just compare the Amazon forest with the Antarctica to have a clue. But aside from the ludicrous statements about the climate and ludicrous statements about the impact of warming, Obama reveals his political thinking. The well-being of America and the mankind is measured by how much tax revenue is collected!
Thankfully, Obama's successor knows that tax cuts are a good thing.
If you were so obsessed with tax revenues, you could have increased the taxation – much more than you did. Why do you talk about elaborate weird schemes that make you believe that you may collect more money in taxes by forcing people to reduce the CO2 footprint? All of this stuff is so silly and shows that the obsession with the big government and his own ego is the penultimate root of all these drivels.
The fact that Obama doesn't understand anything about science or economics isn't the only or deepest problem here. A deeper problem is that he is (and others are) absolutely unable to distinguish the disciplines. Because he doesn't really have a clue about science and economics, he doesn't know the boundary between the things that he doesn't know – like science and economics – and the things he does know – like reading a speech passionately to impress his fans.
Take Czech ex-president Klaus. He's a very smart economist who has done some technical, quantitative work in economics. But he is aware of the difference and boundary between science and politics. He knows that weather scientists are discussing the dynamics of the temperature including the precision of tenths of degrees and he knows that he couldn't join them right away. Well, he isn't really too interested in these detailed technical questions in meteorology etc. (and I won't hide that I was always mostly bored by this stuff, too). On the other hand, he also sees that the power that drives this faith isn't science but ideology and politics. And he knows something about those, that's what he's been doing successfully for decades. So it's his comparative advantage.
The conflation of science and politics displayed by Obama's article is very bad. It's actually bad in both directions. It's terrible when some political cults are ultimately above scientists in the science journals – when politicians and their ideologies and programs may influence how scientists talk about science. But the opposite influence is also bad. It's bad when scientists think that they have the "right" to make political decisions just because they are scientists – even though the "right" political decisions obviously cannot be determined by science alone.
P.S.: E.g. at Anthony Watts' blog, most reactions are sort of partisan but at least one reader, Doug Allen, wrote an emotional and dissatisfied reaction to a comment by Willis:
Here’s your quote-“Now I gotta ask … is there anyone on the planet who thinks that: e) Obama made it into Science magazine (or to be the Editor of the Harvard Law Review) on his own merits?”Again, I also think that it's absolutely juvenile to believe that meritocracy decided that this article was published in science – and that Obama was so important in the Harvard Law Review, too. This comment of Willis' – and mine – is surely "ad hominem" to some extent because it's a comment about a particular person, Barack Obama, and his stories. But that doesn't mean that such comments should be taboo or illegitimate. Obama has been the president of the world's main superpower for eight years. It should be normal to discuss him – and whether he deserved one thing or another.
However, Your Argumentum ad hominem et al does not represent the Willis Eschenbach I’ve loved to read and recommended to others.
This obsessive opposition to any "ad hominem" discussions of this kind – and similarly, some people's such as 4gravitons' obsession to avoid any topic "related to politics", is ultimately helping the unfair and politically biased treatment of scientists and their results in journals, universities, and even in the blogosphere. Obama has obviously had – and still has – some influence about the scientists' work so scientists simply have to watch that inappropriate things aren't getting out of control.
Similarly, 4gravitons has reiterated that ER=EPR isn't good enough for a Hollywood actress to spend any time. When I previously asked him why he wouldn't ever discuss much more brutal examples of some fallacies he's referred to – like the treatment of global warming – he would quote "the policy to avoid politics" as his excuse. But when it comes to the time that an average actress gives to ER=EPR, it suddenly isn't politics for him.
His approach is obviously an example of double standards and the consequences are obvious: by his silence, 4gravitons encourages the most brutal lies about science and abuses of the authority of science, like the lies linked to global warming, while he fights to suppress good things that some Hollywood folks may actually do, like promoting the top results of recent years in quantum gravity and quantum information. You may repeat your "apolitical" excuses, 4gravitons, but at the end, the effect isn't changed: You're often standing on the side of villains and against the good guys. You would know it if you allowed yourself to evaluate your reactions in a broader context.