3 months ago

Is climate policy debatable?

President Trump is creating a Presidential Committee on Climate Security to scrutinize climate science. Princeton University physicist William Happer has been identified as a possible committee chair. Environmental groups consider Mr. Trump’s proposal heretical and label skeptics as climate change deniers. Nonetheless, I think that climate science, the environment, and our democracy will all benefit from this committee.

Why should we debate a settled question? Isn’t there “97 percent consensus” among scientists on climate change, and haven’t the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and National Climate Assessment (NCA) already determined that we face a crisis?
Climate consensus studies rely on reviews of published papers or surveys of scientists. The relevant scientific question is not whether humanity’s use of fossil fuels raises global temperatures, but rather the magnitude of this impact. The consensus is illusory as agreement on the first question is billed as consensus on the second question.

The IPCC produces two documents, literature reviews conducted by scientists, and a “Summary for Policymakers” dictated by politicians. The media frequently reports only the “Summary,” which is really an advocacy document for climate alarmism. Surveys of IPCC scientists reveal far less confidence in the conclusions the Summary offers.

The 2018 NCA report received much media coverage for its dire predictions, but commentators noted numerous flaws. Roger Pielke, Jr., concluded that the NCA’s authors “have given a big fat gift to anyone who wants to dismiss climate science and policy.”

A significant body of scientific evidence disputes claims of an impending climate catastrophe. Interested readers can check out the two editions of The Nongovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Climate Change Reconsidered. Critically assessing the conflicting evidence is a task for the Presidential committee.

What constitutes an existential threat? The NCA projects that climate change might lower GDP by 10 percent, but that’s not the dire future depicted in Kevin Costner’s movie Waterworld. We can respond to a climate threat in multiple ways: mitigation, or reducing human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases; adaptation, or adjusting how we live to a warmer climate; and climate engineering, or reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide while still using fossil fuels. How to address climate change is an economic question. Exactly which questions does the “settled” climate science settle?

If climate change is an existential threat and we address it solely through mitigation, all nations will likely need to stop using fossil fuels within a few decades. This will require a significant expansion of government control over the economy. The impacts on our lives of ending the use of fossil fuels will be enormous.

In political discourse, is more government control over the economy a means of preventing cataclysmic climate change, or an end in itself? Proponents of markets and economic freedom will understandably demand better evidence to conclude that we face an existential threat than liberals.

Debating climate science today may also help protect the environment. Without widespread acceptance that we must bear the enormous costs of ending the use of fossil fuels, the required policies will prove politically unsustainable. President Obama did not submit the Paris Climate accord for Senate ratification and did not invite an open debate. This allowed President Trump to withdraw via executive order. Did avoiding debate help stem climate change in the long run?

Liberal democracy is based firmly on the belief that governments serve the interests of citizens. Americans can disagree on taxes, government spending, and regulation and maintain a liberal democracy in America as long as we accept the legitimacy of each other’s beliefs. Accepting the right to disagree means using words, ideas, and arguments to advance our favored positions and accept compromises when necessary.

The use of the term “climate change denier” is part of a trend which threatens liberal democracy. The term equates skepticism about hypothesized climate impacts decades in the future with denial of the Holocaust. This declares disagreement over climate policy illegitimate. We will not be able to preserve democracy if many Americans are not allowed to advocate for their favored policies through the political process.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

25 mins ago

Ashley Chestnut getting students up to speed with history in ‘Down in the Ham’ series

For Ashley Chestnut, her home state of Georgia runs deep in her bones. She moved to Alabama to attend ministerial school and after completing classes was hired by the Church at Brook Hills.

Birmingham has “grown on her.” Several years ago, Chestnut decided to really get involved in her new community.

From the scenery to its food scene, the Magic City checked all the boxes for Chestnut’s home away from home. But there was one particular area where she wanted to have an impact.

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Ashley wanted to inspire children from Birmingham’s neighboring communities to visit Alabama’s largest city. The result two years ago was a documented list of history lessons in “Down in the Ham – A Child’s Guide to Downtown Birmingham.”

Local author sheds light on events and history ‘Down in the Ham’ from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Inspiration in unusual places

The notion to write a book about Birmingham, combined with a coloring book, didn’t come the way one might think.

She was hours away, more than four hours in fact, visiting friends in Greenville, South Carolina. While there, her friends’ children were boiled over with excitement about visiting downtown Greenville to find, of all things, mice sculptures.

They’d read a book and couldn’t wait to find these animals that had been brought to life in the pages of literature.

In her downtime driving back home, Chestnut fondly remembered the excitement of the kids – and then it hit. Why not recreate a book about Birmingham’s downtown with hopes of fueling excitement among young readers?

Chestnut wasted no time putting her idea into action – to inspire children to love and explore their city.

It’s in the art

The words came fairly quickly for her book, but Chestnut knew it was not done until she secured an illustrator to make it come to life.

She saw the artist’s work before they even met. While at an auction, she noticed one particular piece. It not only caught her eye, but she wanted to reach out with the idea that this artist would be the perfect “fit” for her book project. And that’s what she did.

Artist Abby Little Jessup had a full plate, but after hearing from Chestnut, she knew “Down in the Ham”was a project she should illustrate.

Their collaboration is not only making history, but led to a fast friendship.

Birmingham’s Vulcan gives a tour in the book, but it packs other family-friendly activities for adults and children.

More fruitful works

The original “Down in the Ham” series not only includes the children’s book, but also “Color the Ham: A Down in the Ham Coloring Book.” Children can read about and then color sites in the Magic City.

Other communities haven’t been left out of the fun, either, with their latest project. “Around the Ham: A Down in the Ham Coloring Book” reaches beyond Birmingham to highlight communities from Homewood to East Lake and everywhere in between.

It was released in June – two years after her first book.

Chestnut’s books can be found in the gift store at Vulcan Park and Museum atop Red Mountain or can be ordered online at downintheham.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 hours ago

Roy Moore on 2020 US Senate race: ‘A different race,’ ‘I don’t think it will be as notable, vicious’

One of the concerns of many regarding the 2020 U.S. Senate race is with the presence of former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore as a candidate, the competition will draw media scrutiny from all over the country.

On the eve of Moore’s announcement, national outlets sent reporters to be in Montgomery for his rollout.

However, in an appearance on Huntsville radio’s WVNN on Saturday, Moore said to host Shannon Moore that he did not think 2020 would be a repeat of the “vicious” 2017 contest given all of the other election campaigns that will be underway at the same time.

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“I think it’s a different race,” Moore said on the “Politics and Moore” show. “I think it’s different because that was a special election. There weren’t other races going on across the country. There are hundreds of races going on across the country. Of course, you’ve got your presidents. You’ve got how many contenders for the Democratic [nomination]. There’s a lot going on that wasn’t going on then. I don’t think it will be as notable, as vicious. I mention Project Birmingham — things like that probably won’t occur because there are so many other races. Project Birmingham was a disinformation campaign, as you know, by some Democratic gurus and billionaire Reid Hoffman and George Soros, to stop my candidacy. And it was 80-something Republicans. So, I don’t think that will go on.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

2 hours ago

Alabama-based Apprenticeship Readiness Program graduates first students

Hard work pays off. That was a lesson learned by participants of the Central Alabama Building Trades’ Apprenticeship Readiness Program (ARP) hosted by Jefferson State Community College. The first Alabama-based ARP program had a 92% graduation rate, surpassing national benchmarks and preparing the students for the workforce of the future.

Over an eight-week period, students received hands-on training and educational services, introducing them to union crafts and the construction industry before they select a specific career trade.

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North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) sponsors ARPs, which are designed to prepare residents, particularly those from underrepresented communities and transitioning veterans, for registered Building Trade apprenticeship programs. These programs develop plumbers, electricians, ironworkers and other skilled professionals who propel growth in the state.

In celebration of the students’ accomplishment, a graduation ceremony was held in June at Alabama Power corporate headquarters in Birmingham. Participants and their families were in attendance, along with leaders of the local business community and higher education and national union leadership.

NABTU Secretary-Treasurer Brent Booker praised the graduates for their drive and completion of the program.

“What you’ve put into this is what you’ll get out of it. Through the Apprenticeship Readiness Program, you’ve changed your life. You’ve changed the next generation of your family and you’ve changed the economic trajectory of where you’re going. Stay on that track,” Booker said, challenging the graduates.

“We are pleased to have our first graduating class of Birmingham and plan to offer future ARPs in Alabama,” said Brandon Bishop, NABTU Southern representative.

Potential students interested in the next class starting in July should contact Terry Davis, ARP coordinator, at trdavis@centurytel.net by July 15.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 hours ago

Auburn professor pens new book on Neil Armstrong, travels globe to discuss ‘First Man’

AUBURN — James Hansen vividly recalls how the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon brought Americans and the world together. Five decades later, the author of “First Man”—the only authorized biography of Neil Armstrong—is continuing to tell the story of that unifying moment in history by giving talks around the globe and through a new book that’s set to launch in October.

“I’m putting the finishing touches on a book that is going to be published with selected letters to Neil Armstrong,” said Hansen, professor emeritus at Auburn University, of the upcoming book titled “Dear Neil Armstrong: Letters to the First Man from All Mankind.”

Through letters written by people all over the world to Armstrong, Hansen said readers can learn more about the astronaut who was the first to step foot on the moon.

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“What’s interesting about this book is what we can learn from reading the types of letters that were written to Armstrong not just immediately after Apollo 11 but for the rest of his life,” Hansen said

Hansen said nostalgia for the moon landing is high, especially with this weekend’s 50-year anniversary of Armstrong taking his “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” And this week, that excitement can even be seen in Langholm, Scotland—where Hansen was invited to attend celebratory events surrounding the big moment in history. The location has a unique connection to Armstrong as it’s his ancestral town.

“Neil went there in 1972 to great fanfare and enjoyed himself a lot, so I thought that would maybe be the most unique and interesting place to actually be on the day of the anniversary itself,” Hansen said.

After Hansen wraps up his stay in Scotland, he will then focus not only on his new book, but also in exploring a documentary on moon rocks, many of which have gone missing over the years.

“From six [moon] landings, something like 850 pounds of moon rocks were brought back and deposited in what was known as the Lunar Receiving Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center in Houston,” he said.

Many of the rocks are still there, while a number of them were parceled out to researchers and lunar scientists around the world.

NASA recently announced that it would be unsealing some of the samples that have been preserved since the Apollo missions. Hansen said in the early 1970s, when the rocks were being brought back, NASA chose to seal some of the rocks so that future generations, with access to better technology and instrumentation than was available then, could study the rocks.

Hansen said he believes the rocks will continue to be parceled out over time as better technology comes available or another mission to the moon brings back more rocks.

“Until that happens, these are pretty precious commodities,” he said. “You need to save some of them for future scientific generations.”

Each story surrounding Apollo 11 has always held a fascination for Hansen, who remembers the day history was made.

It was on a summer Sunday between James Hansen’s junior and senior years of high school when Armstrong took his first steps on the moon. Hansen was gathered in the living room of his family’s home watching it on one of only two televisions in the house.

“The landing took place itself in the mid-to-late afternoon, depending on your time zone,” he said. “I was watching a baseball game, and actually the baseball games were recognizing it and everyone stood up at one point and prayed for the Apollo astronauts and then when it was announced that they landed, it was on the scoreboard and they stopped the game and everyone applauded.”

As the landing neared, he and his family turned to CBS, where Walter Cronkite was covering the event. It was well before the days of VCRs and DVRs, so the only way Hansen could capture what was happening on the screen was to take a picture of it with his Polaroid camera.

“That was important memorabilia and a lot of people did that. The moon walk itself took place about three hours after they landed. That was in the early evening and lasted until late in the evening. I was old enough that I didn’t have to have special permission from my parents to stay up and watch it all but a lot of smaller children did and I’ve heard a lot of stories from people over the years about where they were and how their parents let them stay up or they woke them up in time to hear Neil Armstrong say, ‘One small step,’” he recalled.

And while nostalgia is high today about the moon landing and how it unified the world in a shared monumental accomplishment, the historian in Hansen also recalls how the lead up to the landing wasn’t always met with full public support.

“They look back at nostalgia to this era when the moon landings happened and just sort of assumed that the American public, which was footing the bill because this was a U.S. federal government project, that the public was overwhelming in support of the moon landing program,” he said.

Hansen said that while the American public supported space programs on the whole, they weren’t demanding that moon landings take place.

“It was really the politicians within the context of the Cold War and the race with the Soviets in space that drove the project, and then the American people just kind of went along with it and didn’t oppose it too actively,” he said. “But, when they were polled, they didn’t seem too supportive.”

Even today, Hansen said there still are those who ask him if the landing really happened.

“We just can’t get past that,” Hansen said. “For some reason, there are people who just question it. I think everybody likes a good conspiracy theory but the evidence for the moon landing having been real is so tremendously overweighing anything that’s questionable. It’s a little upsetting but as a historian I find it interesting that people continue to believe or disbelieve things that are clearly believable or unbelievable.”

He said many people think we only went to the moon one time.

“There were actually six missions, Apollo 11-17,” he said. “There would have been seven landings if Apollo 13 had not had its emergency.”

When a malfunction in an oxygen tank on the service module exploded, Apollo 13’s crew was fortunate to make it back to Earth, but the lunar landing did not happen on that mission.

“If you’re questioning, ‘Did the moon landings actually happen?’ it’s not just questioning one, it’s questioning six of them,” he said.

Hansen is on his own mission to tell the story of what did happen and through his books and talks he is doing all he can to keep that moment in history alive.

“I feel a responsibility to the story and to Armstrong and to historical accuracy,” he said.

(Courtesy Auburn University)

4 hours ago

Alabama tech president: Apollo 11 landing gave father his final wish

HUNTSVILLE — The successful landing of Apollo 11 on the Moon 50 years ago to the day is famously known as a “giant leap for mankind.” However, to one Alabamian, it meant the world.

Speaking at the Apollo 11 50th anniversary dinner at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center on Tuesday, the anniversary of the launch which was powered by an Alabama-built Saturn V rocket, Teledyne Brown Engineering President Jan Hess shared the emotional story of how much the historic mission’s culmination meant to her and her family.

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Hess, a 2018 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact, now leads the very Huntsville firm that was the first high-tech company established in the city in the 1950’s to help Dr. Wernher von Braun build the Redstone Rocket, the first large American ballistic missile.

Noting the company’s early work with von Braun, Hess said, “They too believed the impossible was possible.”

She and her eight siblings grew up in the Rocket City, and Hess remembers the Space Race vividly, saying she “grew up hearing amazing things happening at [Redstone] Arsenal.”

“My dad’s excitement about man landing on the Moon was contagious,” she told the crowd on Tuesday. “So much so, that I wrote a series of books — five pages [each], very large print — about an astronaut named ‘Jerry,’ who first visited the Moon and then every planet. I was seven years old. But you see how a seed can be planted. And then another. And then another.”

One of the questions that all speakers were encouraged to answer was where they were when man landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969 at 2:17 p.m. CST.

Hess explained why she would never forget the answer to this question for two intertwined reasons.

“I believe my recall is close to perfect,” she emphasized.

“I was ten-years old, and I was watching the landing on TV with my father and my mother and some of my siblings,” Hess recounted. “It was perfectly quiet in the room, except for my mother’s voice, recounting to my father what was being shown and said on TV. Her voice was steady but conveyed the significance of what was occurring. You see, we were in my father’s hospital room. So, although we didn’t know it, he was within hours of the end of his battle with cancer. And he met one of his missions — and that was living to see man land on the Moon.”

“So, I want to salute and thank the men and women who worked tirelessly over 50 years ago, [who made that moment possible and inspired future generations and space exploration],” Hess concluded.

You can relive the golden anniversary of Apollo 11 in real-time here.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn