And global warming continues to make the news. First comes a story about a comment made by NASA administrator Michael Griffin in an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep. Inskeep asked Griffin whether he was concerned about global warming.

“I have no doubt that a trend of global warming exists,” Griffin told Inskeep. “I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with.”

“To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth’s climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn’t change,” Griffin said. “I guess I would ask which human beings — where and when — are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that’s a rather arrogant position for people to take.”

Griffin’s comments immediately drew stunned reaction from James Hansen, NASA’s top climate scientist at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.

“It’s an incredibly arrogant and ignorant statement,” Hansen told ABC News. “It indicates a complete ignorance of understanding the implications of climate change.”

Can you hear Hanson’s cry of “Heretic!” at Griffin? I sure can! And what exactly are the “implications of climate change” that Hanson is frothing over? Humans have experienced hotter overall temperatures than the ones we are currently experiencing, most recently during the Medieval Warm Period of the 10th – 14th centuries. But Hansen’s response is disingenuous — his comment about the implication of climate change has nothing to do with Griffin’s question. Who are we to say that this climate is the best climate and that we should do something to arrest the climate to our arbitrary standard? Hanson continues to deliberately misunderstand Griffin’s query.

Hansen believes Griffin’s comments fly in the face of well-established scientific knowledge that hundreds of NASA scientists have contributed to.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Hansen. “I thought he had been misquoted. It’s so unbelievable.”

It’s not unbelievable. It’s just that Hansen isn’t listening to what Griffin is actually saying. Griffin isn’t denying that there is a warming trend. What he doubts is that we must be all a-twitter over “fixing” our climate. Climate temperatures rise and fall over time, just as the water level of the sea rises and falls over time with the tide. Griffin is saying that it is arrogant for scientists to claim that our current climate is the “right” climate and to try to fix temperatures at this level. Imagine a scientist standing at the seashore, declaring the “right” sea level and trying to stop the changing of the tide. Is it not arrogant to stand on the shore and demand that the tides obey your very whim?

Sadly, it appears that President Bush is climbing on the “we must fix it” bandwagon.

President Bush on Thursday urged 15 major nations to agree on a global emissions goal for greenhouse gases and to reach a consensus by next year.

With the United States accused of dragging its feet on combatting climate change, Bush called for a meeting this fall of 15 countries identified as major emitters of greenhouse gases. This list would include the United States, China, India and major European countries.

But Germany has a better plan, and it only calls for a reduction in emissions (read that as production of goods and services) to 50% of what it was in 1990. It is like making only 50% of the money you earned 17 years ago. Does that sound like a good plan?

Germany, which holds the European Union and Group of Eight presidencies, is proposing a so-called “two-degree” target, whereby global temperatures would be allowed to increase no more than 2 degrees Celsius – the equivalent of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit – before being brought back down. Practically, experts have said that means a global reduction in emissions of 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

It was hot yesterday, and there is no air conditioner at my place. But I took care of the matter because I gave strict instructions to my thermometer not to rise more than 3.6 degrees that day before it started to cool off. For some reason, it ignored me. I’m not sure why.

But good luck on that, Germany. Tell us how it works out.

July 14th is Bastille Day. This means my French-speaking sister-in-law ran the Tricolor up the pole today, instead of the normal Stars and Stripes (or the occasional Jolly Roger). Bastille Day is, of course, the day the French celebrate their twin successes of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and the invention of cheese.

OK, so that’s not really the reason for Bastille Day, but I just couldn’t pass up teasing my sis about France. It’s my raison dêtre.

So much for the Stuff. Now on to Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. In computer circles, this is often shortened to FUD. TWikIWeThey summarizes FUD this way on its FudFighters page:

FUD is short for Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, combining to form the preferred marketing tool when your product doesn’t have any “real” advantages. Well, that’s not strictly true. Given the choice between RedHat 7.2 and Bob’s Latest Distro 0.4.1a-test, most people would choose the RedHat distro. Bob’s might actually be better, but we’re uncertain of that. We doubt that he has tested it as thoroughly as RedHat have, and fear what might happen to our systems if we installed it.

However, when used as part of an agressive [sic] marketing campaign, FUD can be thrown at software and/or systems that are demonstrably better than the version you are pushing. It relies on the target market not knowing as much about the products as you seem to.

While this page deals mainly with the computer industry and provides great examples of FUD and how to do it right, FUD is not just limited to the computer world. When Aljazeera posts the video of a kidnapped victim being beheaded, they are willing accomplices of terrorist FUD. When Democrats toss out lies like “this is the worst economy since Herbert Hoover,” they are engaged in political FUD. And when environmentalists bemoan the destruction and death of 50,000 to 100,000 species every year due to mankind’s actions, they are engaged in environmental FUD.

One commonly-used environmental FUD rallying cry is the threat of global warming. According to these green Chicken Littles, Earth will soon burn up because we drive SUVs. Yeah, OK. When confronted with one of these enviro-nuts, I usually ask them to identify the primary cause of global warming. Since they know all about this subject, you’d think they could provide the correct answer, but in the dozen-plus times I’ve presented this question to environmentalists, no one has successfully answered correctly. The #1 cause of global warming is the sun. This simple answer is not what environmentalists want you to consider when they are pushing their agenda.

The BBC recently posted this article announcing that the sun is at a 1,000-year high for sunspots and solar activity. In the article, they provide a fact and then a opinion: “They say that over the last century the number of sunspots rose at the same time that the Earth’s climate became steadily warmer. This trend is being amplified by gases from fossil fuel burning, they argue.” Imagine the sun tossing many 50-pound sandbags on a scale, and then hearing people claim that your few grains of sand are tipping the balance. While we are a nifty species, man cannot affect the earth’s temperature anywhere near as much as the sun can.

During 1645 and 1715, scientists counted only a few sunspots. The prolonged cold weather during this time was termed the “Little Ice Age.” Few sunspots; cold weather. There seems to be a link, and while scientists are loath to declare a direct correlation, sunspot activity and Earth’s overall temperature do coincide.

NASA posted an article this month about the sun’s “blast wave” — the coronal discharge of our active sun. During the two-week “Halloween Storms” of last year, the sun erupted in 17 major flares, including the strongest one yet on record. “In two weeks the Sun released more Earth-bound [coronal mass ejections] than it had all year.” Sounds like a pretty active sun to me, and well worth paying attention to.

Thanks to the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory spacecraft (SOHO), you can see images of the sun taken at different wavelengths. I particularly like the blue images taken at 171 angstroms, and one of these images is usually my desktop image. You can access these images at this SOHO image webpage or by clicking on the links just below the nifty blue sun:

Look, Ma!  It's the Sun!

(512 x 512)(1024 x 1024)

As long as people have strongly held opinions, there is the chance that they will use fear, uncertainty, and doubt to push their agenda. When someone dishes out a heaping helping of FUD, the truth will be your best defense. That, and a good 2×4 to smack ‘em upside the head.