Watts up with Sheldon?

I had been thinking of posting this video of Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse for a while now. I first saw it on Greg Laden’s blog in a post called Will God allow us to ruin our planet.

I found the video interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is supposedly a response to a Republican Senator’s comment that was along the lines of God wouldn’t allow our planet to be destroyed. I have begun to wonder about the role religion is playing in defining some people’s views on global warming and climate change, and it certainly does seem to be influencing some. The second thing I found interesting was seeing a US senator making a passionate speech about climate change. This seemed encouraging. The third thing that was interesting, and which was less encouraging, was that he seemed to rebut the views of the Republican Senator by making religious claims of his own. In a sense maybe it’s good to see that one can make religious arguments in favour of mitigating against climate change, but I found that a little concerning. We shouldn’t really – in my opinion – be using religious arguments to justify acting to mitigate against climate change. We should be basing our arguments on the scientific evidence which strongly supports the view that we should act. In fairness, I haven’t watched all of Sheldon Whitehouse’s videos about climate change and I think he has does have others that have considered this from other perspectives.

Anyway, Watts Up With That (WUWT) has a recent post written by justthefactswuwt called US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse From Rhode Island Provides Erroneous Information To American Public in Global Warming Rant. The post starts by saying

If Senator Sheldon Whitehouse did more reading and less ranting, he might know that Continental US Temperature Lower Troposphere (TLT) – 1979 to Present … is currently below average,

and shows the following figure

RSS temperature anomaly data for the continental US (credit : justthefacts - WUWT)

RSS temperature anomaly data for the continental US (credit : justthefacts – WUWT)


So, this is the temperature anomaly data for the continental USA which seems to have a pretty clear upward trend of 0.184oC per decade. It is, quite clearly, noisy and the data shows that the temperature anomaly at the moment is low (below average). Justthefactswuwt is therefore factually correct that it is currently below average, but this is irrelevant. This may be a fact, but it is one that seems to indicate that justthefactswuwt can’t really tell which facts are important and which aren’t. The WUWT post then goes on to discuss various weather-like phenomena such as tornadoes and wildfires. The basic claim is that there is nothing special about the current level of tornadoes or wildfires. To be honest, I don’t know enough about this to really comment (I shall endeavour to learn more).

I do, think, however that one should be slightly careful with this information. A lot of these phenomena are divided into discrete categories and this does mean that it can be difficult to establish if these events have indeed become more energetic which, in my view, is what is important. Also, given justthefactswuwt’s rather unfortunate interpretation of the RSS temperature anomaly data does make me question the reliability of their interpretation of the tornado and wildfire data.

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2 Responses to Watts up with Sheldon?

  1. Rachel says:

    I agree. There’s no place for religious arguments as justification for aspects of government policy, especially where there will be some, perhaps many, in the population who are not religious at all.

  2. That’s a good point. I had been thinking in terms of how you reconcile science with belief, but it’s true that in our societies today there are many different religions and many who aren’t religious. That does make it societally questionable to use religion to justify aspects of government policy.

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