Friday, December 29, 2006

Caveat emptor for Alaska Airlines tickets

So here we are once again, sitting in San Jose Airport for hours, waiting for the Alaska Airlines flight to replace the one they cancelled once again. They seem to specialize in doing this for early a.m. flights. Last time we had to get up at 4:30 a.m., and the rescheduled flight didn't leave until past noon. This time it was 5:30 a.m., and the flight they found for us leaves at 6:30 p.m.

Thought I'd bore you all with this. Think twice before flying with them.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Uncertainty over certainty

Via Deltoid, Kevin Vranes and Andrew Dressler have differing views over whether scientists perceive themselves as having oversold certainty about global warming. The comment thread for Kevin's post is especially interesting.

I want to hear more evidence before I can believe this extends beyond the debate between the moderate warmers and those that think nearly-catastrophic, pre-year 2100 warming is possible.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

My Komodo dragon deduction

News report:

Scientists report of two cases where female Komodo dragons have produced offspring without male contact...Tests revealed their eggs had developed without being fertilised by sperm - a process called parthenogenesis, the team wrote in the journal Nature... "Parthenogenesis has been described before in about 70 species of vertebrates, but it has always been regarded to be a very unusual, perhaps abnormal phenomenon..."But we have seen this in two separate, unrelated female Komodo dragons within a year, so this suggests maybe parthenogenesis is much more widespread and common than previously considered...Because of the genetics of this process, he added, her children would always be male.

and another:

Only about 4,000 dragons remain in the wild, of which 1,000 are female.

The news reports generally say it's unknown how commonly this occurs in the wild, but we have this information:

1. Komodo females can reproduce by parthenogenesis.

2. The viable reproduced eggs from this process are all males.

3. There are three times as many males as there are females in the wild.

My deduction: Komodo dragon parthenogenesis is common in the wild.

News you can use, only here at Backseat Driving.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Let's see the denialists spin this bit of insurance news

If denialists bother to acknowledge how concerned the insurance industry is with global warming, they say it's just a scam to justify increasing insurance premiums.

So now, this piece of news, from "Global Warming Ate My Insurance Policy":

Allstate plans to stop offering property insurance in nearly a dozen counties along the Chesapeake Bay starting in February.

The reason: the increased risk of hurricane damage due to rising ocean temperatures, possibly caused by global warming.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Allstate is part of a growing number of insurance companies that are refusing to cover hurricane-prone areas. The trend started in Florida, which sustained millions of dollars in damage from Hurricane Andrew, and is now moving up to our neck of the woods.

Nationwide Mutual Insurance decided to limit the amount of business it does in coastal areas two years ago and not do any new business in two ZIP codes near Ocean City, Md.

Hard to fit this action with the supposed motive of trying to justify rate increases. I expect the denialists will pirouette with the agility of Rush Limbaugh in a tutu, and come up with a new, completely different explanation: insurance companies are moving out for reasons of their own, and use global warming as a convenient excuse.

That doesn't really work though - why come up with an explanation that provides a justification for the competitors who remain in those areas to jack up the rates?

I should note it's not completely clear if the insurers are expressly relying on global warming concerns as their reason for butting out, but it seems likely. We can list inability to get insurance coverage as a likely present-day cost of global warming.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Restoring faith in democracy, or at least local democracy

I try to keep a pretty strict separation between my personal blog and my work, but in this case I will bring up a general observation that I've developed from my work. My job brings me in a lot of contact with local governments, giving me a chance to see local democracy in action. It can be really annoying and petty, and even have hints of corruption here and there, but the volunteerism can also be amazing.

This week I had a chance to see a city-organized volunteer task force present to the Palo Alto City Council their proposal for what the city could do to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Forget for a moment how effective it will be, I really don't know. I just remain impressed by the extent to which dozens of people are willing to put in total hundreds of hours of volunteer time on this one project, which is just an example of what people will do. The volunteerism also goes up a fair ways in the local government food chain. Many people are unaware that most local elected officials are either unpaid or paid so little as to hardly make a difference. The various commissions in even the smallest towns also consist of volunteers, usually trying to do the rirght thing.

I've generally believed the Winston Churchill quote that democracy is just the least bad of all alternatives for governance. And I have to acknowledge that for all the volunteer work I saw this week by local people, there is probably an equivalent amount of volunteer work elsewhere by people trying to keep evolution from being taught to schoolchildren. Still, I've got my little piece of evidence that the better side of human nature can ever so slightly outweigh the worst side, and democracy can actually sometimes be a half-decent method of governance.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Number-crunching the Congressional resolution authorizing the Iraq invasion

The rightwingers have wasted a lot of bandwidth arguing that democracy, not WMDs or Al Qaeda, was the real reason Congress gave Bush approval to attack Iraq. They seem less interested in democracy these days and more interested in strongmen, but it has been their main argument justifying the invasion. I thought I'd test it by number-crunching the words in the Whereas justificatory sections of the Congressional resolution authorizing force.

I've reprinted the Whereas part below with the democracy-related provisions in bold italics. The whole section runs at 1,259 words, and I count 143 words as discussing democracy. Eleven percent doesn't make democracy anything like the primary cause. If you read the resolution, it's primarily about non-existent WMDs, secondarily about non-existent ties to terrorism, and last about everything else.

The rightwingers are wrong about history, just as they've been wrong about Iraq.
Congressional Resolution:

Whereas in 1990 in response to Iraq's war of aggression against and illegal occupation of Kuwait, the United States forged a coalition of nations to liberate Kuwait and its people in order to defend the national security of the United States and enforce United Nations Security Council resolutions relating to Iraq;

Whereas after the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, Iraq entered into a United Nations sponsored cease-fire agreement pursuant to which Iraq unequivocally agreed, among other things, to eliminate its nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs and the means to deliver and develop them, and to end its support for international terrorism;

Whereas the efforts of international weapons inspectors, United States intelligence agencies, and Iraqi defectors led to the discovery that Iraq had large stockpiles of chemical weapons and a large scale biological weapons program, and that Iraq had an advanced nuclear weapons development program that was much closer to producing a nuclear weapon than intelligence reporting had previously indicated;

Whereas Iraq, in direct and flagrant violation of the cease-fire, attempted to thwart the efforts of weapons inspectors to identify and destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction stockpiles and development capabilities, which finally resulted in the withdrawal of inspectors from Iraq on October 31, 1998;

Whereas in 1998 Congress concluded that Iraq's continuing weapons of mass destruction programs threatened vital United States interests and international peace and security, declared Iraq to be in "material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations" and urged the President "to take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations" (Public Law 105-235);

Whereas Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations;

Whereas Iraq persists in violating resolutions of the United Nations Security Council by continuing to engage in brutal repression of its civilian population thereby threatening international peace and security in the region, by refusing to release, repatriate, or account for non-Iraqi citizens wrongfully detained by Iraq, including an American serviceman, and by failing to return property wrongfully seized by Iraq from Kuwait;

Whereas the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction against other nations and its own people;

Whereas the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its continuing hostility toward, and willingness to attack, the United States, including by attempting in 1993 to assassinate former President Bush and by firing on many thousands of occasions on United States and Coalition Armed Forces engaged in enforcing the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council;

Whereas members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq;

Whereas Iraq continues to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations, including organizations that threaten the lives and safety of American citizens;

Whereas the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001 underscored the gravity of the threat posed by the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by international terrorist organizations;

Whereas Iraq's demonstrated capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction, the risk that the current Iraqi regime will either employ those weapons to launch a surprise attack against the United States or its Armed Forces or provide them to international terrorists who would do so, and the extreme magnitude of harm that would result to the United States and its citizens from such an attack, combine to justify action by the United States to defend itself;

Whereas United Nations Security Council Resolution 678 authorizes the use of all necessary means to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 660 and subsequent relevant resolutions and to compel Iraq to cease certain activities that threaten international peace and security, including the development of weapons of mass destruction and refusal or obstruction of United Nations weapons inspections in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, repression of its civilian population in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688, and threatening its neighbors or United Nations operations in Iraq in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 949;

Whereas Congress in the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102-1) has authorized the President "to use United States Armed Forces pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 678 (1990) in order to achieve implementation of Security Council Resolutions 660, 661, 662, 664, 665, 666, 667, 669, 670, 674, and 677";

Whereas in December 1991, Congress expressed its sense that it "supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 as being consistent with the Authorization of Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102-1)," that Iraq's repression of its civilian population violates United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 and "constitutes a continuing threat to the peace, security, and stability of the Persian Gulf region," and that Congress, "supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688";

Whereas the Iraq Liberation Act (Public Law 105-338) expressed the sense of Congress that it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove from power the current Iraqi regime and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime;

Whereas on September 12, 2002, President Bush committed the United States to "work with the United Nations Security Council to meet our common challenge" posed by Iraq and to "work for the necessary resolutions," while also making clear that "the Security Council resolutions will be enforced, and the just demands of peace and security will be met, or action will be unavoidable";

Whereas the United States is determined to prosecute the war on terrorism and Iraq's ongoing support for international terrorist groups combined with its development of weapons of mass destruction in direct violation of its obligations under the 1991 cease-fire and other United Nations Security Council resolutions make clear that it is in the national security interests of the United States and in furtherance of the war on terrorism that all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions be enforced, including through the use of force if necessary;

Whereas Congress has taken steps to pursue vigorously the war on terrorism through the provision of authorities and funding requested by the President to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001 or harbored such persons or organizations;

Whereas the President and Congress are determined to continue to take all appropriate actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such persons or organizations;

Whereas the President has authority under the Constitution to take action in order to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States, as Congress recognized in the joint resolution on Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40); and

Whereas it is in the national security of the United States to restore international peace and security to the Persian Gulf region;

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This joint resolution may be cited as the "Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq".

Tangled Bank #69

Tangled Bank #69: War on Christmas is up. My post, E.T. Smacks Down Pharyngula, is part of this TB.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Peiser's anti-global warming list is off to a bad start

Benny Peiser claimed that Naomi Oreskes' proof of a scientific consensus on global warming was wrong, but has since recanted part of that claim. Not all of it, though:

as I have stressed repeatedly, Oreskes entire argument is flawed as the whole ISI data set includes just 13 abstracts (less than 2%) that explicitly endorse what she has called the 'consensus view.'

He then posts the thousand-plus abstracts and invites us to "Check for yourself!"

Okay - here's the second abstract of the thousand abstracts he posted:

A stochastic approach is developed to estimate the probability of wet days, and the mean and standard deviation of local daily nonzero precipitation reflecting global climate change scenarios. The approach is based on the analysis of daily atmospheric circulation patterns (CPs) and the linkage between types of CPs and daily precipitation. Three CP data sets are used for the 500-hPa pressure field: 40-year historical, 10-year 1 X CO2, and 10-year 2 X CO2 scenarios obtained from the atmospheric general circulation model of the Canadian Climate Centre. CP types obtained by clustering techniques and their frequency distribution are similar for the three data sets. The linkage between CP types and precipitation considers an additional variable, the spatial average pressure height within each CP type. The difference in pressure heights among the three CP data sets makes it possible to estimate the effect of global change on local precipitation statistics. Under the dry continental climate of eastern Nebraska the effect of 2 X CO2 scenario on local precipitation regime is spatially variable and significant: the number of wet days slightly decreases but both the mean and variance of daily precipitation increase resulting in a more variable precipitation regime.

(emphasis added)

Somehow I doubt this abstract made his list of the thirteen that explicitly endorse a consensus position on climate change, but it makes my list.

I doubt there's any part of Peiser's study that's accurate.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

An Inconvenient Bayesian Truth?

James Annan feels his (and Hargreaves') paper, which says that the high end of predicted temperature changes from global warming is unlikely for a doubling of CO2 levels, has been unjustly rejected for publication, possibly because it is not an alarmist result. Stoat agrees.

I don't have anything like the math chops to make my own judgments, but I accept James' statement that multiple referees may have had criticisms but didn't consider his work to be fundamentally flawed. Given that, and because Annan gets a result that eliminates possibilities no one else has eliminated, it seems pretty obvious the paper should be published. Let the debate then go on as to whether the paper's right.

Several points worth mentioning though - Annan thinks the resulting temperature increase is still enough to warrant emission reductions. His result doesn't support the next line of defense by fossil fuel industry - the "forget reductions, let's just adapt" nonsense. It also only deals with doubling CO2 - if we don't control emissions, they'll more than double and cause much more trouble. Eli Rabett also points out that what Don Rumsfeld would call "known unknowns" are mostly dangerous - at best, they won't make things worse, and at worst, they will. Those unknowns weren't (and couldn't be) included in Annan's result. Not a flaw in the paper, but another reason to do something about greenhouse gases.

And one of Annan's commenters notes that it's hard to draw conclusions about peer review of a single paper in terms of demonstrating institutional bias. The only conclusion Annan may be able to draw from being screwed over is that he's been screwed over. Hopefully, the paper will get published somewhere appropriate.

Friday, December 15, 2006

How to cook Tim Blair, Andrew Bolt, and Patrick Michaels

1. Place Blair, Bolt, and Michaels in a large, water-filled pot equipped with a step ladder they can use to escape at any time. Set initial water temperature at average levels.

BLAIR/BOLT/MICHAELS: We're quite comfortable, thank you!!

2. Increase temperature to an unambigous, new historic high.

BLAIR/BOLT/MICHAELS: No big deal! Not going to last!

MICHAELS: Want to bet it won't be this warm again?

3. Drop temperature back down, but still far above average.

BLAIR/BOLT/MICHAELS: See!! Vindication!! There is no potboiler warming! Not a problem!

4. Gradually increase temperature to near or above the historic high.

BLAIR/BOLT/MICHAELS: We deny it's above the historic high! Deny it!

MICHAELS: And, uh, the bet offer is withdrawn.

5. Keep temperature very high, but a tiny bit below Step 4.

BLAIR/BOLT/MICHAELS: The science behind potboiler warming is bogus, and we'll stay here for as long as it takes to prove it!

BLAIR: I'm not feeling hot - crank it up, people!

BOLT: Me neither!

6. Repeat Steps 2 through 5 until done. Don't worry, they won't use the step ladder to get out. Process will be sped by the fact that their brains were already cooked.

Please, please, please, may some denialist point out to me that we haven't yet repeated Step 2 - just be prepared to put your money where your mouth is about what will happen in the near future.

(Hat tip: Deltoid.)

UPDATE: From RealClimate:

Most bizarre new contrarian claim:
"Global warming stopped in 1998".
By the same logic, it also stopped in 1973, 1983, and 1990 (only it didn't)
So we have repeated steps 2 through 5, multiple times.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Global warming's effects on the space program

Global warming is good for space program because it thins the outer atmosphere, says the usually-reliable Planetary Society blog. Thinning the outer atmosphere reduces the drag it has on orbiting satellites, which means they need to use less fuel to prolong their lifespan.

Global warming is bad for space program because it thins the outer atmosphere, says a Reuters report on the same study referenced by the Planetary Society. Thinning the outer atmosphere reduces the drag it has on orbiting space junk, meaning the junk will stay in space longer, threatening satellites and astronauts, before burning up (they do note the positive benefits on satellites).

Neither of these two sources tries to weigh the positive against the negative, but my guess is like most aspects of climate change, the negative outweighs the positive. The solution to atmospheric drag on satellites is to provide more fuel. It has a cost, but no comparable solution presents itself to the problem of space junk, a problem that's expected to get signficantly worse.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Volokh Correction #17

Outsourced to Tim Lambert via a lame, not-much-of-a-retraction by Jonathan Adler, regarding the claim that the IPCC is reducing its estimate of future global warming. Adler could try just admitting the report he referenced was completely wrong.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Republican War on Science, and Imperial Life in the Emerald City

I finally had the time to finish Chris Mooney's book, The Republican War on Science. Like everyone says, it's a very important and useful book. While it may be a little inappropriate to compare RWOS to a book I've only heard about but haven't read, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, I was stuck with how both books reference the Bush Administration's insistence on ideological screening of people for job positions that should be apolitical.

I thought the Bush insistence on "conservatives only" for Iraq reconstruction jobs had a clear cause. They refused to allow companies from countries that opposed the Iraq war to compete for reconstruction contracts, and they fought the UN's initial efforts to get involved in Iraq, all because they felt that spoils belong to the winner. It was conservatives who had the brilliant idea of invading Iraq, so non-conservatives had no right to participate in the "spoils" of reconstructing it.

Same thing with science. Conservatives won the 2000 and 2004 election, and so to them belong the spoils of manipulating science. The alternative idea, that they were elected to do the job of serving the voters and their responsibility is to do the best job possible, seems to have escaped them.

A few other thoughts on Mooney's book:

He mentions Dr. David Hager's abuse of science while leaving out Hager's personal scandals. Mooney may be above mentioning that, but I'm not.

On page 253 of the paperback edition, Mooney writes that given the evidence, "we can infer that the Bush Adminstration almost certainly had politicized science to an unprecedented degree." While I think he's right, it's a hard statement to prove, going beyond a bunch of anecdotal observations to actual conclusions. After all, Roger Pielke Jr. put together a bunch of anecdotes saying the media and others overexaggerated the threat from global warming. Did he prove his case?

I think Mooney's best evidence is the number of prominent Republicans he found who criticize the Bush war on science. His second best piece though is on page 255, where he found that both Bush and Clinton took a similar position on an issue that wasn't supported by the science (exchanging needles with drug addicts to prevent HIV). Bush lied about the science, Clinton didn't. Anecdotes like that are powerful evidence, especially in the absence of counter-examples.

Mooney says early in the book that he's not considering funding issues. I would disagree with that decision - if an administration is abusing some science while generously funding science in general, it might be hard to say that it's worse than another administration that only starved science. Still, abusing science is done either for religious or business reasons, and either one involves important societal issues. From global warming to women's reproductive choices, the Bush Administration is screwing up important science, and their general support for science funding doesn't overcome that.

Finally, my one stylistic criticism is that as a visual learner, I could use something eye-catching to reinforce the text - graphics, charts, tables, or even a list of the many repeat characters and their roles. Mooney has another book coming out, Storm World, covering a subject ideal for visual aids, so hopefully we'll get some eye candy inthat book.

Tangled Bank #68

Tangled Bank #68 is up - my post on the Supreme Court's discussion of alleged uncertainty over the science of global warming is part of Tangled Bank, where it says "It was also crucial to understand the uncertainties of the weather [Backseat Driving]."

Monday, December 04, 2006

Computer-printed paper ballots are the solution to electronic voting

A federal election commission rejected requiring a paper record of electronic voting on the grounds that it's too much work:
"They should be longer-range goals," said Britain Williams of the National Association of Election Directors. "You are talking about basically a reinstallation of the entire voting system hardware."
Yes, we are. You all screwed it up, so go make it right. And paper trails create problems of their own with privacy and paper jams. The best solution I heard was on NPR's Science Friday - don't have computers print out a paper trail but rather an actual paper ballot that will be used to register a vote. This combines all the advantage of clarity and access for disabled voters that computers have, with the voter security and robustness of a paper ballot system. And if the computers or printers fail, voters just fill out the ballot by hand.

Six years of embarassing elections are more than enough. Let's fix this.

The solution to a collective action problem is to stop people from doing anything about it...

...according to the honorable Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. I had pointed out this excerpt from last Wednesday's Supreme Court hearing in an earlier post:
JUSTICE SCALIA: I presume the problem that they have in mind is that we have nothing to give in international negotiations. If we have done everything we can to reduce CO2, you know, what deal do we make with foreign nations? What incentive do they have to go along with us?
MR. GARRE: That's right, Your Honor. We've got a unique collective action problem, and yet, the reaction experience of the agency in dealing with the issue of stratospheric ozone depletion rate had precisely that situation, where the U.S. initially took steps. The stratospheric ozone depletion worsened, and it was only after international agreement was reached in the Montreal Protocol that a global solution to the problem was reached.
It's outrageous given the context, which I suspect Scalia knows nothing about. The United States has been a millstone around the neck of the Kyoto and post-Kyoto efforts to fight global warming. Not only has the Bush Administration done what it could to keep other countries from ratifying Kyoto, the US unwillingness to do anything about global warming has limited the political will in other nations to do something.

By this blighted standard, the rest of the developed world has acted immorally by adopting Kyoto without requiring binding reductions from Third World countries, and only the virtuous
American decision to pump unlimited amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere makes a global limit on CO2 still achievable.

Scalia is unbelievable. The only comparison is Tim Blair, who also thinks that not doing your part is the thing to do.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

November 2006 Iraq casualties

Avg. daily Coalition fatality rate during the last month: 2.6
(nearly all Americans, and excluding Iraqis)

Previous averages
October: 3.52
September: 2.53

Last year, November 2005: 2.87.

Overall daily average to date is 2.32. Total US dead as of today: 2900.

Iraqi monthly military and police fatalities: 123.

Previous military/police fatality rates
October: 224
September: 150

Last year, November 2005: 176.
Total Iraqi military dead: 5823.

Note that I've seen media reports suggesting the Iraqi military casualty figures are signficant undercounts.

Iraqi monthly civilian fatalities: 1,741

October: 1,315
September: 3,389

Last year, November 2005: 592.

To-date civilian total starting from March 2005: 20,754. Note that the civilian numbers are far less accurate than others (most likely to be greatly underestimated, or even ridiculously underestimated), but could still be useful in determining trends.

Comments: Three bad months in a row for the Coalition is enough to identify a trend. As before, Iraqi military fatality rates continue to be low, more proof they're sitting out the civil war. Also as before, civilian casualties remain terrible.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Supreme Court transcript excerpts related to science

I'm reading through the US Supreme Court case hearing from last week, and thought I'd pull out a few excerpts related to alleged scientific uncertainty over anthropogenic global warming:

JUSTICE SCALIA: Well, there's a lot of conjecture about whether -- I gather that there's something of a consensus on warming, but not a consensus on how much of that is attributable to human activity.
JUSTICE KENNEDY: But at the outset, you made this, some of this perhaps reassuring statement that we need not decide about global warming in thiscase. But don't we have to do that in order to decide the standing argument, because there's no injury if there's not global warming? Or, can you show standing simply because there is a likelihood that the perceived would show that there's an injury?
MR. MILKEY (attorney for plaintiffs/appellants): Your Honor, especially in this case where none of our affidavits were challenged, I don't think the Court needs to go there ultimately on the merits because we showed through our uncontested affidavits that these harms will occur. There was no evidence put in to the contrary, and I would add that the reports on which EPA itself relies conclude that climate change is occurring in....
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: That's not all they said. I'm looking at A-85 and they said establishing emissions now would require EPA to make scientific and technical judgments without the benefit of studies that are being developed to reduce the uncertainty in the area. That's different than saying they disagree with the regulatory approach.
MR. MILKEY: It is and it isn't, Your Honor, because that statement will alleges be true. There will always be scientific uncertainty. Agencies will always have an understandable interest in seeing more information. They never -
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: There's a difference between the scientific status of the harm from lead emissions from vehicles that -- when you have lead in the gasoline, to the status, the status of scientific knowledge with respect to the impact on global warming today? Those are two very different levels of uncertainty.
MR. MILKEY: Your Honor, when EPA regulated lead back in the ethyl days, as the Court court itself took note, there were huge amounts of uncertainty atthat time. And EPA has a lot of discretion in evaluating that, that uncertainty.
And if the EPA determined that the level of uncertainty was such that it was not reasonable to anticipate endangerment, that is perfectly appropriate. It would also be appropriate if the agency determined that there was so much uncertainty that they couldn't even form a judgment on that. That would be applying the endangerment statute at the same time it put off. But the point is they did not say any of that. They instead relied on impermissible grounds.
MR. GARRE (attorney for defendant/respondent): Thank you. Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.
After carefully considering the issue the nation's expert agency in environmental matters concluded that Congress has not authorized it to embark on the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions to address global climate change. And that even if it has, now is not the time to exercise such authority, in light of the substantial scientific uncertainty surrounding global climate change and the ongoing studies designed to address those uncertainties....
MR. GARRE: .... And one of the reasons that the agency gave was the substantial scientific uncertainty surrounding the issue of global climate change. Petitioners acknowledge that that was an appropriate consideration for the agency....
MR. GARRE: I -- I don't think that that is a fair reading of the EPA decisional document, Your Honor. Certainly, the agency didn't go out of its way to say, "and reading these considerations together and not any of them individually." And with respect to the scientific uncertainty, Your Honor, you also have to take into account that the EPA had before it and pointed to the report of the National Research Council on global climate change.
JUSTICE STEVENS: I find it interesting that the scientists whose worked on that report said there were a good many omissions that would have indicated that there wasn't nearly the uncertainty that the agency described.
MR. GARRE: Your Honor, if you are referring to the amicus brief, Your Honor, there are -- assuming there are amicus briefs on the other side. The Ballunas amicus brief -- I think it is fair for the Court to look at, to look at the document that the agency had before it. That -- that document produced by the National Research -- Research Council, that's the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences. And it's one of the gold standards of research.
JUSTICE STEVENS: But in their selective quotations, they left out parts that indicated there was far less uncertainty than the agency purported to find.
MR. GARRE: Well, Your Honor, I think one thing that we ought to be able to agree on is there is that there is uncertainty surrounding the phenomenon of global climate change. I think the debate is on which areas are more uncertain than the others. But certainly I think the agency was entitled to conclude, particularly if you take into account the deference this Court should give to that kind of determination, that the scientific uncertainty surrounding the issue of global climate change, surrounding issues of the extent of natural variability in climate, surrounding the issues of impact of climate feedbacks like ocean circulation, and low cloud cover, are permissible considerations for the agency to take into --
JUSTICE STEVENS: Is there uncertainty on the basic proposition that these greenhouse gases contribute to global warming.
MR. GARRE: Your Honor, the report says that it is likely that there is a -- a connection, but that it cannot unequivocally be established....
(UPDATE: this post originally included an off-topic transcript excerpt, but I'm deleting it and giving it a separate post here.)
JUSTICE SCALIA: That's what I was asking, yes. And you think it will go back to them and they will say, oh my goodness, the scientific uncertainty is not enough by itself? You really expect that to happen?
MR. MILKEY: Respectfully, Your Honor, I think EPA will have a hard time saying that there is insufficient -- I mean, too much scientific uncertainty. The very sentence -
JUSTICE SCALIA: They said it already.
MR. MILKEY: No, Your Honor.
JUSTICE SCALIA: The only question is whether that alone is enough.MR. MILKEY: Respectfully, Your Honor, they did not say that. They did not anywhere say why the existing uncertainty mattered. To the contrary, they emphasized the need to act in the face of current uncertainty, but never explained why that principle applies to a nonregulatory approach but not to a regulatory one.
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: What they said was until more is understood about causes, extent and significance of climate change and the potential options for addressing it, we believe it's inappropriate to regulate these emissions.
MR. MILKEY: Your Honor.
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: That strikes me as saying they think there is too much uncertainty for them to act.
MR. MILKEY: Your Honor, they did not say there is too much uncertainty for them to form a judgment, which is the key issue. They said they preferred more certainty, but because of the nature of the endangerment standard, which emphasizes the important of regulating in the face of uncertainty, they have to at least explain why the uncertainty matters. And that is -- what they did here is particularly troubling in the fact that they ignored all of theindications pointing toward endangerment. They looked at what we don't know without ever looking at what we do know.