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  1. I was pretty disappointed that they left the impression that all the errors in the IPCC report went in one direction. In fact, the most serious error (as covered here on RC) is that the sea level estimates are misleadingly low.

    If only even one article could just get it all correct.

    Comment by Mitch Golden — 13 Apr 2010 @ 8:49 AM

  2. Swedish television recently asked what Swedish researchers thought about the reporting on “Climategate” and IPCCs “errors”, not surprisingly a clear majority thought media exaggerated it all… and from what I can tell the debate in Sweden is much better of then in USA and UK.

    http://uppsalainitiativet.blogspot.com/2010/04/overwhelming-majority-of-swedish.html

    Comment by Magnus Westerstrand — 13 Apr 2010 @ 9:14 AM

  3. Now you know part of the reason I’ve subscribed to The Economist for many years now. Their reporting on science is extremely good for a general readership magazine. I believe part of that comes from their requirement (as noted in the magazine from time to time) that their science/technology section be authored by scientists who can write well, rather than journalists who are interested in science.

    It was rather depressing to see the same contrarian memes show up in the comments section on the articles on the Economist website, however.

    Comment by Derecho64 — 13 Apr 2010 @ 9:16 AM

  4. I know someone, a nonscientist and “skeptic,” who read the Economist piece and *only* took away, as truth, the few things that Eric notes as errors — for example, the misunderstanding that IPCC forecasts have that huge 1.1-6.4 degree uncertainty; that climate data were hidden; and so forth.

    I’m learning not to underestimate how powerfully people can filter information, so they assimilate only those bits they believe confirm their prejudices.

    Comment by L Hamilton — 13 Apr 2010 @ 9:21 AM

  5. I agree with Mitch above – for The Economist to say that the only IPCC errors were those exaggerating things was very annoying. In fact, I pretty much stopped reading then and there back when it was originally published. It seemed rather clear to me that they hadn’t even read RealClimate – a rather grievous error.

    Maybe I was being too harsh on them though…

    [Response: I think you are. Read the whole article. It really is very good on the science.--eric]

    Comment by CPR — 13 Apr 2010 @ 9:25 AM

  6. I thought this blog was all about science. There seems to be a huge focus on politics lately. I thought the science was supposed to speak for itself.

    [Response: Unforunately, getting the science to be heard requires getting through a bit of politics these days. Don't worry, we'll get back to it -- and indeed, the Economist largely does, which is precisely why we're highlighting their article.--eric]

    Comment by Tom S — 13 Apr 2010 @ 9:25 AM

  7. Excellent piece, Eric, thanks, especially the first paragraph. To state that the US media has failed- including flagship outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post- is an understatement.

    When I ran a small company with overseas offices I relied on The Economist, even though I didn’t like their politics. Their key readership sector is international business managers, who depend on factual reporting. The magazine’s hardheaded approach is their trademark, and their pride.

    We don’t have anything like that here. You can peruse the scientific evidence in the science journals, but they aren’t readable for most people. The magazines that do feature quality writing are generally captive to the politics or financial interests of their management. The closest thing we have to Economist reporters (who don’t sign bylines) is Seth Borenstein of Associated Press, who pops up once in a while to bring sanity to the subject of climate change.

    You write well, Eric, and so does Gavin. I humbly suggest that you brainstorm a better way to communicate the critical evidence that you continue to develop. Climate blogs like this one are great, but the audience is too small. You would rather do science, and we certainly need you there, but the US media would rather do something besides report the evidence clearly and accurately.

    I suggest that the climate science community:
    1. Establish a US media climate science watchdog, specifically charged with publishing factual or implicit errors that appear in the media daily.
    2. As part of this effort, expose fossil fuel and timber companies’ efforts to muddle the science, by highlighting false statements that emerge from their “think tanks” and subcontractors.
    3. Prepare a fact sheet summarizing the science that is more readable than IPCC or various statements from scientific organizations. Distribute it to the editorial boards and stockholders of every major US media company. Don’t just put it in the mail: send someone to their headquarters.
    4. As a separate effort, lay out plausible results of the various projected temperature increases in the next century. Three degrees, for examaple, doesn’t mean much to the average citizen.
    5. Hire a small staff to monitor and educate full time, and have them report to a group such as yours.
    6. If funding is not available within your organization- or it may be too awkward- solicit funds from a quality NGO. Be careful of some of the more entrenched NGO’s, whose board and management have been penetrated by fossil fuel interests. There are a few good ones left.

    You guys know what the deal is. Let’s finally get this accomplished.

    Comment by mike roddy — 13 Apr 2010 @ 9:42 AM

  8. Their conclusion is a bit odd for an economic magazine:

    “The doubters are right that uncertainties are rife in climate science. They are wrong when they present that as a reason for inaction.”

    Economists’ bread and butter is risk management. From an economic perspective, the right thing to do would be to develop risk-weighted cost scenarios. From this perspective, a 50% chance of an expensive result is very different from a 90% chance. They would justify different levels of action.

    Comment by vboring — 13 Apr 2010 @ 9:47 AM

  9. I’d like to add one more relatively small error to the list of those found in the IPCC report. On page 263 of the WG I report there is a figure showing the first EOF of the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) from 1900-2002. This is based on work of Dai et al. originally published in 1998 in Geophysical Research Letters and then updated in a 2004 paper in the Journal of Hydrometeorology that has been discussed before on RC. The figure appears to be correct, but the caption indicates that this first EOF accounts for 67% of variability in PDSI over this time period. This is incorrect, as figure 6 in the Dai et al. 2004 paper indicates that the correct value is, in fact, 6.7%. I’m sure this is just a typo, but it’s a typo that changes my interpretation of the figure fairly substantially and thus has at least some importance. It’s probably impossible to weed out all mistakes of this nature, but it would be nice if the AR5 process had a slightly more robust method for ensuring that these errors don’t slip through.

    Comment by Tamlin — 13 Apr 2010 @ 10:17 AM

  10. I read that issue of the Economist (while visiting friends). There were a couple of pieces in there. Overall, I was impressed.

    IMHO, it was not perfect as other shave noted. However, the Economist has thus far done an excellent job in accurately reporting on climate science. Their reporting is balanced and, for the most part, factually correct. This places them leagues ahead of the other media outlets like Der Spiegel.

    Kudos to The Economist!

    Comment by MapleLeaf — 13 Apr 2010 @ 10:35 AM

  11. Much of the reason why “data are vexatious” is because this research has been starved for instrument resources.

    A prime example: ICESat, now offline for gathering more cryo data due to the failure of its last working laser of the three units onboard, an anticipated failure that came as no surprise. We knew that a replacement spacecraft was imminently necessary with the last laser failure in 2008, we know that polar observations are very important to narrowing uncertainties w/regard to climate change. Despite this, we had no spacecraft ready for launch; a replacement will not be launched until 2014.

    One could argue that failure to plan and construct a replacement (and what would be wrong with simply an identical satellite, if budget was an issue) was down to poor oversight of the mission but one would be wrong. One could say that other, more important Earth observation missions took priority over an ICESat replacement but one would again be wrong. No, this feckless gap in our data will most likely be revealed as political in nature once historians produce a definitive account; the particular inclinations of the administration in charge during the period of interest are a hint but we’ll see about that.

    Fortunately ESA has launched a replacement for CryoSatNow since they had a slightly more urgent attitude about climate change and quickly produced a replacement for the spacecraft lost on their first launch attempt. Meanwhile NASA is doing gap-filling via other means to make up for the loss of ICESat. But thanks to crappy management we’re now faced with a data splicing nightmare, a pointless challenge for investigators which also naturally will provide fodder for Dark Ages personalities determined to throw sand in the wheels of public policy.

    There are other examples. Ocean heat content is tough to fathom (hah!) in part because the ocean is not as richly instrumented as necessary. This is a great intellectual challenge for researchers but at the end of the day, the fact we can’t account for missing energy (Trenberth?) is a serious problem when it comes to public policy; the heat we can’t measure is made into a subject of debate which again retards policy response.

    The amount of money we’re talking about in all cases here is paltry compared to what we spend on other things. Compared w/a $60 trillion global economy the gap between proper resources and poor resources is invisible.

    This parsimonious approach to instrumentation is one of the reason I laugh when I hear rejectionists muttering about all those rich scientists and their giant AGW gravy train. Innumeracy strikes again.

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 13 Apr 2010 @ 10:39 AM

  12. Magnus Westerstrand wrote (2):

    Swedish television recently asked what Swedish researchers thought about the reporting on “Climategate” and IPCCs “errors”, not surprisingly a clear majority thought media exaggerated it all… and from what I can tell the debate in Sweden is much better of then in USA and UK.

    Not that surprising. I and others have noticed that the disinformation campaign is primarily an English-speaking phenomena, concentrating in the United States, Australia, Canada and England.

    Please see for example:

    The denial industry has worked itself into the international arena, slowly but surely, over the past 20 years. It remains a largely English-speaking affair centred around the United States, but has spread further into key countries targeted by the deniers and think tanks.

    Dealing in Doubt: The Climate Denial Industry and Climate Science
    Greenpeace (March 2010)
    http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/dealing-in-doubt

    Interestingly, this largely mirrors the spread of creationism where it has made a big push to get into schools. And at least in the case of creationism, some of the seed money has come from the United States, e.g., Howard Ahmanson and the UK. Likewise, the cooperation between industrial front organizations is greatly assisted by a common language.

    Then again, the strategies and frame of mind are often similar with denialism directed against different branches of science, and oftentimes people who are “skeptical” of one branch of science are similarly skeptical of another. For example, Roy Spencer who has been a proponent of “skepticism” with respect to mainstream views in climatology is a creationist. Philip Johnson, the father of Intelligent Design is also involved in HIV/AIDS denial.

    Likewise, oftentimes many of the organizations involved in one denial campaign serve in another. Please see for example my list of 32 organizations that are part of the climatology denial campaign that were also involved in the denial of the connection between tobacco and their associated health problems, and some of the major figures involved are the same as well. Please see for example Naomi Oreskes’ The American Denial of Global Warming.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 13 Apr 2010 @ 10:42 AM

  13. I’ve mixed feelings about The Economist’s reporting on climate change, though on balance certainly they should be applauded, all the more so if the tenor of the comments their articles receive is any indication of the views of their readership as a whole. Perhaps these comments are some justification for their pandering to the ‘sceptic’ agenda in their use of phrases such as “the scientists’ shameful mistakes”, but perhaps they are just poor journalism – the media’s own confirmation bias.

    The message as a whole from The Economist has been positive, and more so in recent years, particularly as a conservative paper that has credibility with that group of people who would naturally be sceptical of climate change because of the policy implications (the need for government intervention) but who still have some degree of intellectual honesty. However, the tone of their reporting still leans towards a delaying approach, underplaying the urgency of the situation and exaggerating the doubt.

    One phrase that stood out for me was this:

    “The problem lies not with the science itself, but with the way the science has been used by politicians to imply certainty when, as often with science, no certainty exists.”

    There should be certainty in the political response even though the science is not certain and doesn’t claim to be. If my child runs out on to the road I am not certain that they will be hit by a car, but I am certain that I should get them off of the road as quickly as I can.

    Comment by Heraclitus — 13 Apr 2010 @ 10:46 AM

  14. The article concludes with a paean to the precautionary principle, which is OK, but it begins with, “When governments started thinking seriously about climate change they took the sensible step of establishing, in 1989, the IPCC,” and concludes with, “The IPCC has suffered from the perception that it is a tool of politicians.” Well, that’s not exactly a perception, is it? Are governments no longer comprised of politicians? Does the Economist propose disbanding the IPCC?

    Comment by Walter Manny — 13 Apr 2010 @ 10:48 AM

  15. NASA reports that the northern hemisphere just experienced its 5th warmest winter on record. Hah!

    Comment by Jim Bob — 13 Apr 2010 @ 10:54 AM

  16. FWIW, I agree that everyone should read it.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 13 Apr 2010 @ 11:07 AM

  17. Jim Bob (15) wrote:

    NASA reports that the northern hemisphere just experienced its 5th warmest winter on record. Hah!

    Not sure where you are getting that from (where is the reference by the way?) but I wouldn’t be surprised: smaller regions and periods of time will tend to show greater variability and be less reflective of the overall trend.

    However, according to NASA the winter of 2009-2010 was the second warmest in instrumental record for the earth as a whole.

    Please see:

    8. Weather variability versus climate trends

    Public opinion about climate change is affected by recent and ongoing weather. North America had a cool summer in 2009, perhaps the largest negative temperature anomaly on the planet (Figure 14a). Northern Hemisphere winter (Dec-Jan-Feb) of 2009-2010 was unusually cool in the United States and northern Eurasia (Figure 14b). The cool weather contributed to increased public skepticism about the concept of “global warming”, especially in the United States. These regional extremes occurred despite the fact that Jun-Jul-Aug 2009 was second warmest (behind Jun-Jul-Aug 1998) and Dec-Jan-Feb 2009-2010 was second warmest (behind Dec-Jan-Feb 2006-2007).

    pdf pg. 20, Current GISS Global Surface Temperature Analysis (Draft, April 2010)
    J. Hansen, R. Ruedy, M. Sato, and K. Lo
    NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, New York, USA
    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/paper/gistemp2010_draft0319.pdf

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 13 Apr 2010 @ 11:30 AM

  18. #12 @Timothy Chase
    “…disinformation campaign is primarily an English-speaking phenomenon…”

    In how many languages are you following the climate debate?

    IMO Germany isn’t that much better. Stephan Rahmstorf has just written up all the errors the SPIEGEL made in its latest report. Articles in other newspapers have been rather a mixed bag as far as I have been following them.
    In France Claude Allègre, the ex-minister for education, science and technology, member of the academy of science, CNRS gold medallist, etc. has published a book “L’imposture climatique” which is pure denialism.
    I don’t know about other countries. Does anyone have access to a global map of climate scepticism?

    Comment by Martin — 13 Apr 2010 @ 12:18 PM

  19. reference #15 Jim Bob
    I tried to find the NASA release that said we had the 5th warmest winter. Can you give a link?

    [Response: GISS does not put out press releases on the temperature record except for the round up at the end of the year. Figures and data are updated monthly. - gavin]

    Comment by bibasir — 13 Apr 2010 @ 12:21 PM

  20. Economics assumes civilization advanced enough to have a system of money. That is a limiting assumption. Economics cannot deal with a broader picture, such as crashes of civilization and population crashes. Economists assume continuous monotonic growth in the population. “The Economist” is an economics journal.

    The obvious limiting situation: If population growth on Earth continues monotonically, eventually the total mass of humans exceeds the mass of the Earth. This is clearly not possible. Economists cannot deal with such limits inside of economic theory.

    Since economists do not have tools for dealing with any situation that is outside of their standard assumptions, climate change is beyond the boundaries of economic theory. The article in The Economist should have started with a statement of the limits of economic theory and the fact that GW is a broader subject than economics.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 13 Apr 2010 @ 12:39 PM

  21. “If my child runs out on to the road I am not certain that they will be hit by a car, but I am certain that I should get them off of the road as quickly as I can.”

    This, kids.

    Totally this.

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 13 Apr 2010 @ 12:47 PM

  22. In the mid-noughties, something opened The Economist’s eyes to climate change. Before that (I’ve been a subscriber these past 15 years), they were content to heap scorn on “greenery” and root for Lomborg. (The science section was generally good, though.) When they changed their tune, I was terrified, thinking, If even The Economist takes climate change seriously now, the oceans must be about to boil…

    Comment by CM — 13 Apr 2010 @ 12:53 PM

  23. Martin #18 “In France Claude Allègre, the ex-minister for education, science and technology, member of the academy of science, CNRS gold medallist, etc. has published a book “L’imposture climatique” which is pure denialism.
    I don’t know about other countries. Does anyone have access to a global map of climate scepticism?”

    I follow a few French science/technology news websites, with comment sections. I can confirm that there is a lot of “skepticism” (at least numerous comments in that directions, maybe not from that many individuals) using exactly the same worn out arguments as in the US. Media are in general more along the mainstream scientific view though. Interestingly, while I read a lot about the “enviro-nuts left wing conspiracy” on the US websites, french skeptics see the AGW as a conspiracy from the French nuclear lobby…

    Comment by Manuf — 13 Apr 2010 @ 1:44 PM

  24. Jim Bob @15 appears to be extrapolating his experience of where he lives to the entire northern hemisphere.

    If I were to do the same I would have to express surprise that it was only the fifth warmest winter, with only one notable winter storm before Christmas for the entire winter, and even this in the lee of one of the great lakes.

    Fortunately we don’t have to rely on groping our way around the hemisphere in this fashion, we can look at the data that has been conveniently collected for us by NASA and NOAA.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 13 Apr 2010 @ 1:51 PM

  25. I wrote in 12:

    Not that surprising. I and others have noticed that the disinformation campaign is primarily an English-speaking phenomena, concentrating in the United States, Australia, Canada and England.

    Please see for example: …

    Martin (18) wrote:

    In how many languages are you following the climate debate?…

    Perhaps I should have said, “as far as I can tell… the disinformation campaign is primarily an English-speaking phenomena, …” as I have seen little reporting on it elsewhere — although as I pointed out the Greenpeace report takes the same view.

    IMO Germany isn’t that much better. Stephan Rahmstorf has just written up all the errors the SPIEGEL made in its latest report. Articles in other newspapers have been rather a mixed bag as far as I have been following them…

    You might also point to Czech president Klaus:

    Conference organisers were celebrating something of a coup in securing as a keynote speaker the Czech president, Václav Klaus, at a time when his country holds the rotating presidency of the EU. Klaus, a Eurosceptic, believes that efforts to protect the world from the impact of climate change are an assault on freedom.

    Czech leader joins meeting of climate change deniers
    Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
    The Guardian, Monday 9 March 2009
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/mar/09/climate-change-deniers

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 13 Apr 2010 @ 1:57 PM

  26. @15, more importantly Jim Bob, the globe just experienced its warmest (or tied for warmest) January-March on record. And the last 12 -months (April 2009 through march 2010) have been the warmest on record. Regardless, I’m not sure what your post has to do with the Economist articles?

    @14 “Does the Economist propose disbanding the IPCC?”
    Wishful thinking, and no it does not.

    Comment by MapleLeaf — 13 Apr 2010 @ 2:01 PM

  27. I read that article when it came out, and I had similar feelings to yours. Several common misconceptions, but the overarcing message was generally spot-on. Similar to Inconvenient Truth in that way…

    I think it’s strange how the recent media kerfuffle has flipped things around. It used to be that the Guardian, a fairly liberal paper, had the best and most accurate writing on climate change, but it has steadily declined in recent months. Now, the Economist, quite a conservative publication, takes top spot – at least in my mind.

    Comment by Kate — 13 Apr 2010 @ 3:34 PM

  28. Amazing! An article in the UK press about climate science with some serious scientific content.

    For years now, the rest of the media do discuss climate science but only in a highly politicised and sensational way. This includes the Guardian which does occasionally invite climatologists, but whose editorial policy tends to discourage this sort of wide ranging and deeper approach. It also includes the BBC which appears to be scared to touch the science , for fear of criticism, and to employ non expert scientists who are not that well informed.

    That said , it is sad state of affairs when every article about the subject has to include obligatory unsubstantiated ‘health warnings’ about the CRU. Most articles elsewhere , deserve a “Fail” or Bare Pass. The Econ. might have achieved a “First” were it not for the shortcomings mentioned by Eric and others.

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 13 Apr 2010 @ 3:39 PM

  29. Just when you thought yourselves safe in the utilitarian hands of The Economist, Fred Singer’s publisher of last resort, the not-so-learned journal of The John Birch Society, has weighed in to accuse the IPCC , get ready for it , of the Pelagian Heresy :

    http://www.jbs.org/jbs-news-feed/6036-gores-climatological-pelagianism-and-the-ipcc

    [Response: Who knew? - gavin]

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 13 Apr 2010 @ 4:00 PM

  30. What do people here think of:

    “Global warming has reached the point of no return, a study published in the Tuesday edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences…

    Dr. Susan Solomon of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research laboratory led the study. “People have imagined that if we stopped emitting carbon dioxide the climate would go back to normal in 100 years, 200 years; that’s not true,” she said, adding the effects are well nigh irreversible.”
    http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2009/01/29/2009012961002.html
    http://cires.colorado.edu/people/solomon/

    Does this mean that the debate is actually over and that there is no need for cap and trade, carbon taxes, carbon credits etc.? I want to know RC’s position on the article linked above.

    [Response: Why do you think we have 'positions' on every recycled article that people point us to? Are we likely to go back to pre-industrial temperatures any century soon? No - but I'm pretty sure you don't think we will either. So what is your specific point? - gavin]

    [Response: Well, actually we did take a 'position' on Susan's work on 'irrersibility', here.-eric]

    Comment by Jimbo — 13 Apr 2010 @ 4:06 PM

  31. CORRECTION to 25:

    The following:

    IMO Germany isn’t that much better. Stephan Rahmstorf has just written up all the errors the SPIEGEL made in its latest report. Articles in other newspapers have been rather a mixed bag as far as I have been following them…

    … was written by Martin (18) who I was responding to.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 13 Apr 2010 @ 4:19 PM

  32. If NOAA is saying it now, perhaps we should have a position.You can read what she says as well as I can…

    Comment by Bill — 13 Apr 2010 @ 4:30 PM

  33. Jimbo, Bill, (and Ibrahim on the Krugman thread),

    Oh come on. Disinterred canard for supper, anyone? You’re linking to Korean news site Chosun for your “news” about a PNAS study? What’s with this reflexive, unthinking re-posting of any reheated junk you find served up on WUWT? The grown-ups – who are trying to have a conversation here, by the way – discussed the implications of that study when it came out, over a year ago, so if you want a “position”, go read it.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/02/irreversible-does-not-mean-unstoppable/

    Comment by CM — 13 Apr 2010 @ 5:13 PM

  34. A disappointment I find in the “The Economist” article is that it doesn’t tell the cost of doing nothing. It assumes that you already know what is wrong with a 6 degree C rise.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 13 Apr 2010 @ 6:42 PM

  35. How times have changed. Remember when The Economist was one of the main cheer leaders for Bjørn Lomborg (a failed academic who hit on the rather obvious ploy of stirring controversy by writing a book on a subject he knew nothing about, that went contrary to the findings of people who did know what they were talking about — if anyone’s forgotten him)?

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 13 Apr 2010 @ 7:54 PM

  36. Bill (32) – NOAA didn’t say it. Susan Solomon said it (quite a while ago as CW pointed out).

    Ask Anthony where NOAA ever “issued a warning” as he claimed…

    Comment by arch stanton — 13 Apr 2010 @ 8:04 PM

  37. Martin (18) wrote:

    I don’t know about other countries. Does anyone have access to a global map of climate scepticism?

    The following isn’t exactly a map and being from 2006 it is a little dated. Moreover, it won’t tell you the extent to which coverage is biased or how strong the AGW denial campaign is in a given country, but…

    Global Warming Concerns

    A great deal, a fair amount, only a little or not at all, don’t know
    United States 19 / 34 / 47 / 1
    Great Britain 26 / 41 / 32 / 1
    Spain________ 51 / 34 / 14 / 2
    France_______ 46 / 41 / 14 / 0
    Germany______ 30 / 34 / 36 / 1

    Russia_______ 34 / 31 / 34 / *

    Indonesia____ 28 / 48 / 23 / 1
    Egypt________ 24 / 51 / 23 / 1
    Jordan_______ 26 / 40 / 34 / *
    Turkey_______ 41 / 29 / 23 / 8
    Pakistan_____ 31 / 25 / 39 / 5

    Nigeria______ 45 / 33 / 20 / 2

    Japan________ 66 / 27 / 7 / 0
    India________ 65 / 20 / 13 / 2
    China________ 20 / 41 / 37 / 2

    From pdf pg. 6

    15-Nation Pew Global Attitudes Survey
    For Release: Tuesday, June 13, 2006
    http://pewglobal.org/reports/pdf/252.pdf

    You are right: Germany would seem to have a problem, more so than Great Britain at this point. China — with its largely government-controlled media would also seem to have a problem. France — not so much. But the United States? We’re #1.

    PS My apologies if the formatting doesn’t turn out.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 13 Apr 2010 @ 10:47 PM

  38. “…suggestion that “climate skeptics” had somehow been kept from publishing in peer reviewed literature…”. This is something like the creationists cribbing about not being able to publish in the Nature. Climate skepticism is not science. It should be categorized along with scientology and astrology. Let them shout to the roof in tea parties, but they can’t claim that ever sane person should hear them.

    Comment by Arun Murthy — 13 Apr 2010 @ 11:12 PM

  39. Eric,

    I don’t understand your statement “This could easily be taken to suggest that we could keep the global mean temperature to within 1.1degree C above 19th century values, without any reduction in fossil fuel use, A VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE RESULT” since the ability of the climate models to predict global temperatures has not been shown. Therefore, I disagree with the vitually impossible part of the comment.

    The following statement really makes me skeptical: “But this doesn’t detract from the larger point that The Economist is making here – that the UNCERTAINTY IS ITSELF A REASON FOR ACTION, not a reason to delay action” since the whole point of modelling the climate on a global scale is to reduce the uncertainties.

    I think climatologists fail to convey to the general public the number of assumptions and adjustable parameters that go into the climate models. I think if the policy makers knew better all the adjustable parameters that go into the models they may not have as much faith in the long term predictions.

    Comment by RaymondT — 13 Apr 2010 @ 11:32 PM

  40. What, nobody played stickball on the street here, or rode bikes?

    It’s all about risk management and mitigation, and a great analogy.

    :)

    The big takeaway, IMHO, is that one can be accepting of the science and not care one whit for the proposed political solutions (and vice versa). I think that too often these get tied together, when they are really mutually exclusive.

    Comment by Frank Giger — 13 Apr 2010 @ 11:50 PM

  41. Their reporting on science is extremely good for a general readership magazine. I believe part of that comes from their requirement (as noted in the magazine from time to time) that their science/technology section be authored by scientists who can write well, rather than journalists who are interested in science.

    Who?

    This was something I’d suspected given the author’s familiarity with the science. Is the author’s identity a secret?

    Comment by Donald — 13 Apr 2010 @ 11:50 PM

  42. “I thought this blog was all about science. There seems to be a huge focus on politics lately.”

    What is this science? And what is it about? I thought that political science was science? I guess I was wrong? Physics is the only science, right? Biology can hardly be accepted as real science, that is why we dont see any biology in the only real science assessment of the IPCC: Working group 1. All the rest is just politics and rhetorics ….

    Stick to the science, hit your head against the wall, that is physical, it is real, you can feel it physically, stick to the real world, real science, real climate change.

    Comment by Andreas Bjurström — 14 Apr 2010 @ 3:42 AM

  43. More nonsense, this time from Harrabin of the BBC:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8618441.stm

    Somebody says, he may think, it is believed that, we expect that, it is reported …

    Completely meaningless nonsense. Not a single factoid in the whole piece. And that is BBC. He just could not wait for the few days to get the actual report.

    Comment by Pekka Kostamo — 14 Apr 2010 @ 3:43 AM

  44. For a while now, I’ve been hearing in one ear that English libel law is so biased in favour of plaintiffs and against journalists that it’s stifling freedom of speech; whilst hearing in the other ear that the popular press are getting away with making false accusations against individual scientists at CRU and against the IPCC. Anyone care to comment on how the two fit together?

    Comment by DanH — 14 Apr 2010 @ 5:37 AM

  45. OT I know but ‘There was no scientific malpractice at the research unit at the centre of the “Climategate” affair, an independent panel has concluded.’ from BBC news website this morning. Just what we expected I know but good news all the same.

    Comment by Louise D — 14 Apr 2010 @ 5:50 AM

  46. Good to see that the Oxburgh Report has backed the CRU scientists and their work, while suggesting that they might make more use of statisticians in future.
    Another conspiracy whitewash for the so-called skeptics to cry about ?
    What will they be left with when Russell leaves them empty-handed too ? It seems to me that all that will be left then will be the troofer types, who see conspiracies everywhere.

    Report here

    Comment by JMurphy — 14 Apr 2010 @ 7:26 AM

  47. From this perspective, a 50% chance of an expensive result is very different from a 90% chance.

    True, but it depends on the full probability distribution of outcomes, with the associated cost for each such outcome.

    And even computing the expected cost doesn’t necessarily give you enough to do good risk management. (“The Black Swan”, anyone?) Some bias towards avoiding potential catastrophe, even if fairly unlikely, is generally a good thing in risk management.

    Comment by Lotharsson — 14 Apr 2010 @ 8:05 AM

  48. The Oxburgh report actually landed a few blows, while pretending not to. Most were in the report itself, and in interviews they said:

    ‘Lord Oxburgh said any exaggeration of the extent of global warming happened when the data produced by CRU was presented to the public by various organisations, including the UN body in charge of climate change the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that went on to advise Governments around the world.’

    Oxburgh knew who the relevant lead authors were, but criticism of their role as IPCC authors was outside his brief.

    “I am sure that they [public bodies including the IPCC] took the uncertainties into account making policy but in the way some of this has been presented to the public, it has not,” he said.

    ‘However Professor Hand did say that “inappropriate methods” were used by a separate university to draw up the infamous “hockey stick” graph showing the rise in global temperatures over more than 1,000 years.

    Again, he said the basic shape of the graph would not have been changed but the rise in temperature during the 20th century compared to the past was exaggerated.’

    Coupled with the comments on needing statisticians more involved, I would call the report a score-draw.

    Text above lifted from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/7589715/Climategate-scientists-criticised-for-not-using-best-statistical-tools.html

    Comment by HotRod — 14 Apr 2010 @ 9:50 AM

  49. “Coupled with the comments on needing statisticians more involved, I would call the report a score-draw.”

    But is why then the case that the CRU should be tried for War Crimes in the US or commit ritual suicide?

    RWN media were all for death and worse for climate scientists.

    I guess since it’s all a draw, they’ll be evening up the scales by calling for death and worse for Lindzen et al?

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 14 Apr 2010 @ 10:46 AM

  50. #41 Donald says:
    “This was something I’d suspected given the author’s familiarity with the science. Is the author’s identity a secret?”

    The Economist doesn’t supply bylines for their articles; it’s their policy:

    “Articles often take a definite editorial stance and almost never carry a byline. Not even the name of the editor (from 2006, John Micklethwait) is printed in the issue. It is a longstanding tradition that an editor’s only signed article during his tenure is written on the occasion of his departure from the position. The author of a piece is named in certain circumstances: when notable persons are invited to contribute opinion pieces; when Economist writers compile special reports; and to highlight a potential conflict of interest over a book review. The names of The Economist editors and correspondents can be located, however, via the media directory pages of the website.”

    Comment by Derecho64 — 14 Apr 2010 @ 11:03 AM

  51. PS to 37

    Martin, I found a different poll from roughly a year later. Rather than asking whether “How concerned are you about global warming?” (or its presumed translation into their languages) it asked more or less, “Would you personally be willing to make sacrifices including paying higher taxes to address climate change?”

    Please see:

    Most people say they are ready to make personal sacrifices – including paying more for their energy – to help address climate change, according to a new BBC World Service poll of 22,000 people in 21 countries.

    Most Would Pay Higher Energy Bills to Address
    Climate Change Says Global Poll
    Monday 5 November 2007
    http://www.globescan.com/news_archives/bbc_climate2/

    The results are considerably different. Urban Chinese demonstrate considerably more concern as do Germans. Brits and Australians show considerable willingness to make personal sacrifices. French? Roughly evenly divided.

    Please see:

    Urban Chinese have the largest majority (85%) who would support raising taxes on the fuels that contribute most to climate change.

    The proportion of Chinese favouring higher energy taxes is 24 points greater than the next largest majorities in Australia and Chile (61% in both). This is followed by Germans (59%), Canadians (57%), Indonesians (56%), Britons (54%) and Nigerians (52%). Publics lean toward this measure in Mexico (50% to 46%) and are divided in Kenya (50% to 48%), Spain (49% to 47%), France (47% to 48%), Turkey (42% to 43%) and India (38% to 36%).

    Majorities in Italy (62%), South Korea (59%), the Philippines (58%), Brazil (55%), Egypt (52%) and the United States (51%) are initially opposed to higher energy taxes.

    Judging from the differences I believe we can safely conclude from a given poll that a particular set of people responded a particular way in response to a particular set of questions when asked at a particular time. Then again, a cold snap can mean a drop of 10% in the US who believe global warming is happening — and a heavy snowstorm in winter is a smashing good time for a denialist propaganda blitz, no doubt.

    I hope that helps but somehow I think not.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 14 Apr 2010 @ 11:16 AM

  52. Good post from Giles Slade today.

    Comment by Nick Dearth — 14 Apr 2010 @ 11:40 AM

  53. HotRod says: 14 April 2010 at 9:50 AM

    The human mind is a wonderful thing. We can ignore what’s in black and white and instead read “between the lines”, drawing our necessary comfort from our fertile imaginations.

    I’m happy that you’re happy, HotRod.

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 14 Apr 2010 @ 11:58 AM

  54. Donald asks :
    “Their reporting on science is extremely good for a general readership magazine. I believe part of that comes from their requirement (as noted in the magazine from time to time) that their science/technology section be authored by scientists who can write well, rather than journalists who are interested in science.

    Who?…. Is the author’s identity a secret?”

    Hardly- though I gather articles may be written collaboratively, the masthead links inform us that The Economist’s environment editor is ‘Eating the Sun ‘ author Oliver Morton, formerly of Nature

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 14 Apr 2010 @ 2:41 PM

  55. Being a skeptic, I would say this article was the best example of a balanced report I have read to date. We all know how rare this is. 99% of reporting is us vs. them.

    Comment by Tom S — 14 Apr 2010 @ 3:45 PM

  56. Here’s am example of misreporting by ‘reputable’ British newspapers.

    “The recent furore around ‘Climategate’ faked scientific claims has hardened the views of Tory MPs, many of whom were already unconvinced by the scientific consensus…” Anushka Asthana of the Observer newsapaper,in an article carried in the Guardian Weekly,m 12 February 2010.

    “Faked scientific claims”? Excuse me…That is simply untrue.

    Comment by Paul Harris — 14 Apr 2010 @ 8:54 PM

  57. I also found the economist article interesting.

    I disagree with the following sentence on page 3: “This pattern of warming down below and cooling at the top is expected from greenhouse warming, BUT WOULD NOT BE EXPECTED IF SOMETHING OTHER THAN THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT was warming the world, a hotter sun would heat the stratosphere more, not less. From what I read, Mojib Latif is estimating that the warming from the oceans due to internal decadal oscillations could account for 10% to 50% of the warming during the 90′s. If this is true, that means that the increase in temperature due to the internal decadal oscillation would also contribute to an increase in the water vapour content which would also increase the greenhouse effect and would then also cool the lower stratosphere.

    I found the reporting on the effect of the aerosols quite objective. On page 4, the authors wrote: “Taking aerosols into account, climate models do a pretty good job of EMULATING the climate TRENDS of the 20th century. THIS SEEMS ODD, SINCE THE MODELS HAVE DIFFERENT SENSITIVITIES. In practice, it appears that the way the aerosols are dealt with in the models and the sensitivity of those models tend to go hand in hand; SENSITIVE MODELS ALSO HAVE STRONG COOLING EFFECT”

    In other words the climate models with various sensitivities are tuned to history match the temperatures using the aerosol forcing. There is no rational reason why sensitive models should also have strong cooling effects due to aerosols.

    On page 5, the authors write: “Using the IPCC’s assessment of probabilities, the sensitivity to a doubling of carbon dioxide of less that 1.5 C in such a scenario has perhaps one chance in ten of being correct”. It is misleading to think in terms of probabilities since the different simulation runs cannot be thought of as experiments. Since we are dealing with the simulation runs of temperature the calculation of a probability is a mathematical construction. The approach used in calculating this probability has not been verified since we are dealing with a unique event.

    Comment by RaymondT — 14 Apr 2010 @ 9:19 PM

  58. I think the next move for the deniers will be to undermine concerns that warming will cause serious problems. They already do this, but I think it will become their focus. Where is real-climate-environment?

    Comment by Mike — 14 Apr 2010 @ 9:35 PM

  59. Is it possible to find a short, accurate explanation of what motivates the deniers?

    Comment by Hunt Janin — 15 Apr 2010 @ 3:08 AM

  60. ““Faked scientific claims”? Excuse me…That is simply untrue.”

    Put your weaselglasses on and reread.

    There ARE faked scientific claims. The ones promoting climategate were making them. Just leave out the participant and put another sentence containing the IPCC scientists next to it and let people draw the wrong conclusion.

    ‘course investigative journalists know this and should be asking the questions “who made what fraudulent scientific claims?”. Blogs have to do it now.

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 15 Apr 2010 @ 3:32 AM

  61. re 29
    Compared to Fred’s latest effusion:

    http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/04/climategate_whitewash.html

    The Pelagian Heresy guy seems comparatively lucid.

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 15 Apr 2010 @ 6:32 AM

  62. #57–

    Point 1: Notice that you still invoked the greenhouse effect?

    Point 2: Your conclusion appears to be a non sequitur; there is nothing in the premise requiring the “tuning” you claim.

    Point 3: The grammatical subject of this sentence is “assessment,” not “calculation.” The IPCC is upfront that “big picture” statements such as this one involve expert judgement. Such judgements are part of the IPCC brief, and cannot be avoided completely in situations such as the today’s, in which knowledge is still rapidly advancing.

    Your objection is itself “misleading,” IMO, in that it seems to create a false dichotomy between “completely known” and “completely unknown.” I must say that this is a tactic that is not unfamiliar–sadly.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 15 Apr 2010 @ 8:17 AM

  63. “Is it possible to find a short, accurate explanation of what motivates the deniers?”

    There are many deniers.

    About the only common cause is fear and hate. And not really a huge amount of hate except that stirred up by their fears.

    Then again, the motivation behind almost all of the pro-science side is fear that we’re gonna be boned in the future if we don’t do something now.

    As an earlier poster put it: you don’t stop your child playing on the road because they *have* been run over, you do it because they *might*.

    Fear.

    *What* they fear is the multitudinous Cthonic beast. A small sample:

    New World Order
    Communism
    Elites (e.g. people who know things you don’t and are rude enough to point out that you don’t know)
    Communists
    The Other Guy
    Foreigners
    Environmentalists
    The Gravy Train Changing Rolling Stock
    Admitting You’re Wrong
    Admitting Someone Else Is Right
    My Money, You Can’t Have It
    I’ve Been Told I Should Be Scared

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 15 Apr 2010 @ 8:41 AM

  64. I am sure most of you have not seen today’s (Thursday, 4/15/10) Houston Chronicle editorial. Down here in the center of OIL country what the editorial said is generating quite a stir. Here is the final comments from the editorial. Enjoy….

    “…..As writer Elizabeth Kolbert points out in the current issue of the New Yorker, ‘The message from scientists at this point couldn’t be clearer: the world’s emissions trajectory is extremely dangerous. Goofball weathermen, Climategate, conspiracy theories — these are all a distraction from what’s really happening.’…. For those of us living in hurricane-vulnerable areas, keep in mind this ominous measurement: Sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic main development area for tropical storms last month were the warmest ever recorded for March, already reaching levels typical of late June. The conjunction of several climate patterns combined with ongoing overall warming of the world’s oceans is thought to be the cause. Despite all the spinning and hot air, the science is solid and global warming is a real, deadly serious concern. It’s time to deal with it.”

    So, as we sometimes say here in Texas.. “nuff said”

    Comment by RandyL — 15 Apr 2010 @ 2:03 PM

  65. The Economist’s take in the CRU investigation
    “The scientists in “climategate” did not fudge the data, a report finds”

    http://www.economist.com/research/articlesBySubject/displayStory.cfm?story_id=15905891&subjectID=348924&fsrc=nwl

    Comment by o — 16 Apr 2010 @ 8:36 AM

  66. Ken Caldeira is on my local radio station right now, in a program on geoengineering: http://www.kqed.org/epArchive/R201004160900

    It will be up as an audio file at some later point.

    He makes many good points — one being this:

    The estimated cost of converting to renewable energy is about 2 percent of global annual income.

    If our economy were now based on renewables, and someone told us we could increase the world’s wealth by 2 percent by switching to fossil fuel, although it would mean acidifying the ocean and changing the climate, that would be absurd.

    Amazing the difference in perspective isn’t it?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 Apr 2010 @ 11:55 AM

  67. Hank, the difference is that change changes things.

    For those with power NOW, this change *could* lose them money. Being accountant-led, they act like accountants and consider this a terrible thing to be avoided.

    cf the copyright cartels’ expensive attacks on a distribution method that would cut their costs astromomically and grow the pie of money in creative works massively BUT would lead to more bit players being able to play.

    It doesn’t matter that they may lose out BUT STILL BE HUGELY WEALTHY. After a billion, the money is meaningless, it can’t be spent quick enough. So money is power, and your power can be thwarted by someone with more. So it’s no longer “can I live comfortably” but “Can I exercise my will freely”.

    And losing money means losing the freedom to act however you want.

    THAT is the perspective change.

    It’s not “will I live well after the change”, but “I probably will be worse off after the change”.

    And as far as Rand is concerned, the rich’s ability to do as they will is deserved morally and any attempt to reduce that ability (even if it results in a rising tide lifting all boats: that means more people able to do as THEY will and THEY may want to stop you getting what you want) is morally Evil.

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 16 Apr 2010 @ 3:03 PM

  68. Hank Roberts says: 16 April 2010 at 11:55 AM

    If our economy were now based on renewables, and someone told us we could increase the world’s wealth by 2 percent by switching to fossil fuel, although it would mean acidifying the ocean and changing the climate, that would be absurd.

    That will bear up to frequent repetition, nice!

    We also spend some 6% of global GDP purchasing insurance, money spent buying us lots of psychological comfort and a little protection against bad things that are necessarily improbable. But we can’t spend less on reducing risk from climate change with higher probability while simultaneously buying our future energy supply? Absurd.

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 16 Apr 2010 @ 3:29 PM

  69. “The estimated cost of converting to renewable energy is about 2 percent of global annual income.”
    This has never been validated, and is totally silly : why not use 2% more energy with a vanishing cost ? or 4% more energy to produce + 2% GDP ? Energy is not a cost, it is a source of income. Its “cost” is no more than the money you spend to drive to your job : it is just a small amount of expense necessary to get much more money.
    If renewables were only 2% less productive than fossil fuels, it is very unlikely that this would be the case exactly everywhere, because every country are not equal , neither in the availability of renewables , nor in that of fossil fuels; so there would be some countries where renewables should be more interesting than fossil fuels. In fact there are , but only in one case : electricity generation, with hydropower (or in rare cases geothermal power). And it is indeed fully or almost fully used in this case (in Norway, Quebec, Iceland). But not for all the other uses , including of course transportation, metallurgy, carbochemistry, and so on. So speaking of “converting to renewable energy” is a full lie. This is only possible for energy generation, with hydropower, in rare countries.

    Comment by Gilles — 17 Apr 2010 @ 12:32 PM

  70. vboring@8 says, “From an economic perspective, the right thing to do would be to develop risk-weighted cost scenarios. From this perspective, a 50% chance of an expensive result is very different from a 90% chance. They would justify different levels of action.”

    This is definitely the course of action to take. But, there’s one big problem–the first step in any probabilistic risk assessment is to bound the adverse consequeces due to a threat. Since we cannot at this point rule out a)that climate sensitivity could be 4.5 degrees per doubling or even higher, or b)that even at 3 degrees per doubling some threats could result in a collapse of human civilization, bounding risk is not possible at this point. Under those conditions, probabilistic risk assessment says that the only appropriate course of action is risk avoidance–even as you work to better bound risk. So, The Economist is quite correct, even from an economic perspective, in its consclusion.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 17 Apr 2010 @ 2:47 PM

  71. > Hank Roberts says: 16 April 2010 at 11:55 AM

    NOTE the bit I posted is a paraphrase written listening to Stephen Schneider on our local radio station. Look for the transcript to get it right and attribute it.

    Here’s the website, now with a link to the audio file:
    http://www.kqed.org/epArchive/R201004160900
    http://www.kqed.org/.stream/anon/radio/forum/2010/04/2010-04-16a-forum.mp3

    (What I posted, the paraphrase:
    – If our economy were now based on renewables, and someone told us we could increase the world’s wealth by 2 percent by switching to fossil fuel, although it would mean acidifying the ocean and changing the climate, that would be absurd.–

    Gilles — that figure is the “cost of converting” ….

    Oh, why bother ….

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 17 Apr 2010 @ 3:07 PM

  72. rrrrgh, let me correct myself. That KQED interview is with
    * Ken Caldeira, climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 17 Apr 2010 @ 3:08 PM

  73. Gilles, (#69) by your analogy likening energy costs to the cost of driving to work, one would be forced to conclude that no-one would ever pay for seatbelts or airbags.

    Instead, auto companies actually advertise these desireable features–though there was a time when seatbeltss were not considered so desireable.

    Something to do with accuate appreciation of certain dangers, perhaps?

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 17 Apr 2010 @ 3:52 PM

  74. “Gilles, (#69) by your analogy likening energy costs to the cost of driving to work, one would be forced to conclude that no-one would ever pay for seatbelts or airbags.”

    Why ? seatbelts or airbags are like an insurance, but an insurance is not the main driver for the wealth , neither for individuals.
    Stern’s calculations are totally bogus, with all due respect. If you could spare say 40 % of fossil fuels at a cost of 2% of the economy, whereas employing them would produce externalities of 20 %, the best choice wouldn’t be neither the first solution, nor the second, but a third one : do the improvements that spare 40 % of fossil fuels, and multiply the economy by 1/0,6 = 1,66 , accepting the 20 % of externalities : this would still produce 1,66 * 0,98 – 0,2 = 1,43 so 43 % MORE wealth that the second solution ! which has always been the chosen solution actually : improve the use of fossil fuels, and produce the maximum of wealth you can with them.

    Comment by Gilles — 17 Apr 2010 @ 4:13 PM

  75. Kevin, then why were seatbelts and airbags both mandated by legislation?

    Comment by Rod B — 17 Apr 2010 @ 10:29 PM

  76. Gilles (69): Energy is not a cost, it is a source of income.

    BPL: So why do you have to pay for it?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 18 Apr 2010 @ 5:42 AM

  77. After the Eyjafjallajökull erupted on Iceland, there is a chance for the volcano Katla to follow. Now that could cause temporarily a local “climate change” in Europe.

    I wonder if that would change people’s stance towards global climate change.

    Comment by Endre Varga — 18 Apr 2010 @ 7:53 AM

  78. > produce the maximum of wealth you can

    Best answer I’ve seen to that philosophy,
    and best reminder that’s not the only point of view,
    after several mine disasters and a widespread airport closure,
    and best statement of where it fails (after several mine disasters)
    and where it works (during widespread airport closure for safety reasons)
    and what to fix, is from:

    http://www.ginandtacos.com/2008/08/31/atheistsfoxholes-libertariansairplanes/

    —excerpt follows—-

    I am thrilled that the government regulates the living shit out of every aspect of my present endeavor, from mandating certified training for the mechanics to capping the number of hours pilots can fly in a day to putting the aircraft through regular safety inspections to regulating the process of air traffic control to resisting calls to privatize airport security. None of this is “free market.” It is the result of government meddling.

    The good libertarian relies on the free market to solve problems on its own. Take a couple of hamburger chains, for instance. The one that makes bad food will go out of business. Customers won’t eat there! Thus the market, left alone, will punish those who fail to provide what people want. How cute. Let’s leave the airline industry alone – bust the unions, abandon all regulation, let the market set whatever wage it will, let the pilots be on for 36 hours at a crack – and let the same process go to work. Markets will force airlines to keep their planes safe, otherwise no one will pay to fly with them!

    In order for the market to punish the backsliders, consumers must be made aware that Airline X is unsafe. Since we don’t have regulations and inspections, how will we know? Well, look up. We will know which airlines shirk on maintenance and safety when we see their planes plunging out of the sky. Here’s where my Mises Institute friends come in.

    As market acolytes, I believe that they should volunteer to be on the plane(s) that serve the purpose of communicating this essential information to all of us. In the airline industry, the market’s way of telling us who is inferior involves a lot of people dying. The system works really well – let airlines be, see who fails, and punish them with one’s wallet – for everyone except the people on the plane.

    Inasmuch as I do not think that uncontrolled flight into terrain at 500 mph is a worthy sacrifice for the glories and benefits of unchained race-to-the-bottom capitalism, I am a liberal. Inasmuch as I don’t want to eat the BSE- and e.coli-laced hamburger that tells us which meat processor is shirking, I’m a liberal. Inasmuch as I don’t want to be the person working in a garment factory for 75 cents per hour when wages devolve to “what the market will bear,” I’m liberal. Inasmuch as I don’t want my dad to be the guy in the coal mine that the defunded Mine Safety & Health Administration hasn’t inspected in 6 years, I’m a liberal. Inasmuch as I care more about you not getting injured at work than about the effect of workplace safety on your boss’s bottom line, I’m a liberal. Inasmuch as I don’t want a terrorist bomb to explode underneath my seat right now because Milton Friedman says the TSA’s should be auctioned off to some politically-connected mall security guard outfit, I’m a liberal.

    In short, to the extent that I care more about what happens to people – real people, here in the real world – than I care about patting myself on the back for being 100% true to pure free market principles, I’m liberal. Regarding the term’s use as an insult – when you are ready to volunteer for a flight on Market Self-Correction Airways or have your kid to eat the Mad Cow meat and die on a ventilator with blood hemorrhaging out of his eyes, then we’ll talk. Until then, politely lean forward and blow it directly out your ass. There is no insult I can take seriously from people who are so fanatically devoted to free-market idolatry that they would rather see lives lost and ruined than controvert its sacred principles. People who care more about free market ideology than human life prove themselves remarkably undeserving of either.

    That, I suppose, is the simplest statement of my political philosophy.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 18 Apr 2010 @ 9:31 AM

  79. While the article was very good and provided a more nuanced view in understanding the complexities of theory and measurement in the context of climate science, what depressed me were the many deniers comments made to the article. Clearly, no amount of logic, peer reviewed work, or evaluations from blue ribbon panels will shake these folks from their belief that this is all nonsense generated by a conspiratorial horde of scientists.

    While time is against us, we probably have more hope in educating the next generation than in converting the current one. But we need to be as sophisticated and as good at reaching a wide audience as our opposition (as difficult as that can be when you don’t have the freedom – as they do – to simply make up information to support your case). We can’t just talk to each other.

    Someone earlier wrote about how Science should speak for itself. In an ideal world, that lofty sentiment might work, but in down and dirty reality, the policy that scientific fact should drive will only occur when public opinion and political will are strong enough to drive it, whether because we have succeeded in educating a wide enough audience in the facts and the dangers they imply, or, sadly, after a significant number of disasters have struck so forcefully that even the deniers have to question their positions. And given the nature of humans to rationalize events and the pace of climate change, who knows how long that will take.

    Comment by RWilsker — 18 Apr 2010 @ 10:11 AM

  80. Hunt Janin #59,

    Perhaps not short, but I found it lucid:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denial

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 18 Apr 2010 @ 10:31 AM

  81. Hank Roberts (78), if you’re comparing “liberalism” with the extremely fringe laissez faire libertarians, then you’re correct. Though if you are hoping to imply a comparison with today’s conservatism, then you are all wet. Today’s conservatism is not defined by your simplistic words, to wit: liberals good, conservatives bad; it’s really a bit more complex than that. There is no way that 100% pure free markets (complete laissez faire) work successfully in the long term. Someone has to set the rules that 1) protect the populace from egregious harm, and 2) maintain fair, in addition to free, markets to the greatest extent feasible. Most, if not all, of your examples fall into that category, and mainstream conservatives would concur. So you have not drawn any distinction between today’s conservatives and liberals.

    IMO today’s liberalism goes far beyond the basic societal things into personal individual things. They desire a system that doesn’t just protect individuals from egregious harm, but directs their personal lives to 1) protect them from themselves, and 2) assure day to day living in compliance with the regime’s dictates. They don’t just want to protect me from poisonous meat racked with e.coli, they want to dictate which meat I can eat, when I can eat it, how it’s cooked, and how much I can eat.

    I think the breakdown between conservatives and liberals into AGW protagonists and antagonists is mostly, though not all, coincidental. Where it is not, IMO, is where those in both camps know or even care little about the science, but the reaction and mitigation appeals to their bent — either keeping government more at bay, or controlling others’ lives respectively. Neither are helpful to the cause, though too often IMO the AGWers strongly support the idiot protagonists. (What the hell! A vote is a vote…)

    [Response: The difference between AGW 'protagonists' and 'antagonists' is that the latter much more often happen to have the science on their side, for the most part. Consequently, while they may exaggerate (making Katrina = 'global warming' for example), they don't have to make things up. That's why we often appear at RC to be on the 'side' of the 'liberals', or to be less critical of them. But the reality is that whenever conservatives say things that are scientifically valid, we will be on their 'side'. Hence our support of The Economist -- generally considered a conservative (or at least not liberal) publication.--eric]

    Comment by Rod B — 18 Apr 2010 @ 11:49 AM

  82. Hank (78),

    Bravo! Very nicely put.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 19 Apr 2010 @ 4:31 AM

  83. ” Consequently, while they may exaggerate (making Katrina = ‘global warming’ for example), they don’t have to make things up.”

    I disagree.

    “Exaggerating” AGW effects when the proponents know darned well it is false is lying. As in making stuff up.

    The science isn’t on their side!

    Indeed, when scientists take it easy (are less critical) of lies told by protagonists they hurt their own credibility far more than any denialist could.

    [Response: You keep implying that we give the NGOs and media a pass, but it is simply not true. There are plenty of examples on this site of us calling out sensationalist claims that are not supported by the science. Making stuff up is equally wrong whoever does it. - gavin]

    Comment by Frank Giger — 20 Apr 2010 @ 1:24 AM

  84. I knew there was a reason I posted a link to that Economist article among others.

    Comment by Jacob Mack — 20 Apr 2010 @ 2:03 AM

  85. Wow, eric [#81]. Do you think that this idea of “thinking about the idea someone’s saying rather than concentrating on whether you like them or their ideas or not” will *ever* take on?

    It doesn’t seem to be vogue at the moment, mind.

    Comment by Comletely Fed Up — 20 Apr 2010 @ 2:59 AM

  86. They [liberals] don’t just want to protect me from poisonous meat racked with e.coli, they want to dictate which meat I can eat, when I can eat it, how it’s cooked, and how much I can eat. – Rod B.

    Do you have any actual evidence for this silly claim? Like, for example, a liberal proposing a law limiting how much meat you can eat?

    *crickets*

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 20 Apr 2010 @ 6:19 AM

  87. “IMO today’s liberalism goes far beyond the basic societal things into personal individual things.”

    Funnily enough, the right are far more guilty of this than anyone else.

    Copyright enforcement that entails investigation into personal information. Wiretapping and surveillance “for your own good”, etc. The right only want government out of BUSINESS “private” activities. They’re 1,000% behind government interference in INDIVIDUALS (as long as they’re too poor to have power).

    Then again, it’s that old canard of projection going on.

    PS Nick, Rod’s problem is that he’s being told that something is bad and he doesn’t like that interference in the business’ information. How DARE someone tell him that the food from *Mart is bad! If the meat is bad, let the Free Market sort it out!

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 20 Apr 2010 @ 8:00 AM

  88. Eric (#81),
    The Economist is a liberal publication. It’s not conservative.
    You may be trying to fit this British publication in the yankee political spectrum but it won’t work. Yankees have reshaped the meaning of the word “liberal” between WWI and WWII at a time when their political scene was particularly weird.

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 20 Apr 2010 @ 8:16 AM

  89. Rod B:”IMO today’s liberalism goes far beyond the basic societal things into personal individual things. They desire a system that…assure[sic] day to day living in compliance with the regime’s dictates.”

    I lurk here a lot, usually without posting. Enough to get a sense the personas of many of the frequent posters. Rod B, you usually seem to do a better job of appearing levelheaded than this. Echoing Nick Gotts, do you have anything to back this type of talk up? You’re not the first person I’ve encountered who seemed convinced that US liberals want to “control other people’s lives,” but maybe you’ll be the first to coherently explain why you think such a thing…

    Comment by Kevin Stanley — 20 Apr 2010 @ 8:41 AM

  90. “The Economist is a liberal publication. It’s not conservative.”

    The liberal economist is more libertarian, which is a US-style-Conservative viewpoint.

    I.e. smaller government (when it comes to interfering with business or rich people).

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 20 Apr 2010 @ 9:25 AM

  91. Nick (85), Oh, given a couple of minutes I could probably recall a few hundred. But in a few seconds I’ll quickly cite NYC’s recent outlawing of trans fats in restaurants, and the ever growing push to kill McDonalds, and the recent outcry over KFC putting too much chicken in their new sandwich. Then a while back there was Califano wanting to outlaw butter in the movie popcorn. Then…

    Comment by Rod B — 20 Apr 2010 @ 9:45 AM

  92. Kevin (88), I did answer Nick. I should also point out (just very slightly agreeing with a tiny part of CFU’s post — against my better judgement ;-) ) this predominately comes from liberals, but not exclusively. The liberals want to force everyone’s medical records and info readily available. The right want everyone’s DNA profile stored and accessible. [Yeah, yeah, yeah! I know they both aver that it will never be misused.]

    [Response: Err umm, this discussion is interesting, but is now 100% politics, 0% climate science. Looks like a good time to turn off the comments thread.--eric]

    Comment by Rod B — 20 Apr 2010 @ 9:57 AM

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