Jimmy Carter gets advice about global warming

by John Q on August 22, 2019

In the course of attempting to threadjack Harry’s post on advice to new students, a commenter made the often-repeated claim ““Forty years ago (1970’s) global cooling was all the rage!””. As it happens, just before reading this comment, I received a link to some files from the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. It’s a daily log or similar, and starts with a response to someone named Frank Press who had written to Carter raising concerns about CO2 emissions and global warming. The advice given to Carter was as follows:

The issue raised by Press is not new. The experts all agree that more infor­mation is needed. The energy plan indicates that nearly $3 million was being requested for ERDA to study the long-term effects of co2. (James) Schlesinger feels that the policy implications of the issue are still too uncertain to warrant presidential involvement or poli­cy initiatives. Schlesinger is examining the issue in the preparation of the FY 79 budget, and will, at that time, have the full report of the NAS study and further results from ERDA.

That accords with my memory, but not, apparently that of numerous others. Both warming and cooling were discussed in the 1970s, but there wasn’t clear evidence either way. By the 1980s, it became clear that the trend was towards warming, though it took another decade or so to produce broad scientific agreement that greenhouse gas emissions were the most likely cause and another decade for this agreement to reach near-certainty.

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Giovanni Buttarelli

by Maria on August 22, 2019

A few years ago I was on a panel about the Internet of Things. There were five of us, plus the moderator, sitting in a line across the stage of the Brussels convention centre; reps from Google and, I think, a big Korean chaebol, Giovanni Buttarelli, the European Data Protection Supervisor, Wojciech Wiewiórowski the Assistant European Data Protection Supervisor (though he might have still been the Polish DPC at that point), and me. I was there – I think – because the moderator knew me and I can usually be relied upon in these situations to stir a little, but not too much.

It all took a while to get going because Google, a major sponsor, took some of the allotted time to screen a video about how the Internet of Things would also include the Internet of Clothes, and how this would be great for Europeans because the ‘smart’ fabrics in question were hand-woven French jacquard. The infomercial was followed by a lengthy and remarkably self-serving presentation from the Google executive, and we all had to sit up on the stage looking interested for a good fifteen or twenty minutes. Finally, the panel-proper began and our moderator lobbed a softball for each of us to answer in turn.

Everyone was quite measured and politely took their cue from the Google framing, which was that Europe needed to ‘focus on innovation’, ‘provide an enabling regulatory environment’, and basically make the Single Market safe for surveillance capitalism. What none of us realised was that once the video had finished screening behind us, it had been replaced by a live Twitter feed which the now quite grumpy audience was quickly populating with dissent. We on the stage couldn’t read the sarcasm and frustration that had filled up the hashtag, so when it came to my turn and I let rip a quick but genuinely exasperated little monologue that ended with a rhetorical question about how we data-subjects would even afford to buy smart things after we’d all been automated out of existence, the applause and even a few whoops took us all by surprise.

Giovanni caught my eye and grinned. Anyone, and I mean anyone, in receipt of a smile like that – loaded as it was with canniness, grace, deep and multiply enfolded intelligence, and sheer downright mirth – would walk a long way to see it again.

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David and Eric Schwitzgebel have made a list of the 295 most cited philosophers in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. On Facebook, Harry commented:

Nussbaum is #10 on this list — not especially surprising. The next woman on the list is Anscombe, at #48. Then Korsgaard at #57, Anderson at #63. Foot comes in at #139 (after Millikan, Cartwright, Thomson, Young and Annas). 10 women in the top 139 is a bit shocking, but the low ranking of Anscombe and Foot is more than a bit shocking. Some of it can be explained away — the list favors the present over the past (and especially, I would guess, the teachers of the people who write for SEP), it favors people who’ve written many somewhat influential pieces over people who have written a few very influential pieces, and it favors people who write about many things over those who write about few things. But add all of those factors together and you don’t come close to explaining why there are so few women in the top #139, and you come even less close to explaining the rankings of Anscombe and Foot in particular.

It is quite depressing indeed, but not at all surprising. There are enough research papers showing that, trying to keep all other factors constant (e.g. by conducting audit studies), women receive less recognition in academia than men. No need to review that literature here again. Not only the women who would be candidates for “top 295” lists, but across the full spectrum of degrees of seniority. But there is more to be said. [click to continue…]