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  1. Its worth pointing out Monboit’s long (and mostly fruitless) exchange with Cockburn on this issue. It makes for some amusing reading on a work break, if nothing else.
    http://www.zmag.org/debatesglobalwarming.html
    I’m rather surprised that Cockburn limited himself to citing Micheals and Seitz, instead of the full roster of usual suspects.

    Comment by Zeke Hausfather — 7 Jun 2007 @ 6:59 AM

  2. Cockburn makes his living by being an annoying ass. To quote Jake Gittes, it’s his metier.

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 7 Jun 2007 @ 7:01 AM

  3. Lost credibility (i.e. unwillingness to sign up to speculative theories proposed here like tipping point) is now justification for exclusion of opportunities to shape policy? I think your table needs to more than just the carbon-is-evil policy makers. One example policy would be adding aerosols which you dismissed above. The fundamental reason for allowing more than “carbon-is-evil” policy makers is that your tipping point theory needs more than carbon to work.

    Comment by Eric (skeptic) — 7 Jun 2007 @ 7:17 AM

  4. Cockburn seems to be some sort of right wing black ops -he is also very vocal about ridiculing David Ray Griffins thesis[The New Pearl Harbour} that 9/11 was an inside job.[See Griffin's new Debunking9/11 Debunking] and then there was his attack in the Nation on Mother Theresa as a fraud…
    Money talks– follow the money

    Comment by tapasananda — 7 Jun 2007 @ 7:19 AM

  5. Dear Sir,

    As an intelligent layman, I am totally worried that every human activity that uses external fossil-based energy, contributes to global warming. Even the food we eat is not carbon neutral because of the huge amount of energy used in producing, processing, transporting, storing and cooking it. Is there any model to show what is sustainable energy use i.e. not contributing to further global warming or, better still, in reducing it in the long run. Or, is the technological man’s future ultimately and inevitably doomed – no matter what we do.

    Comment by Vinod Gupta — 7 Jun 2007 @ 7:29 AM

  6. Re #5, a very very good point and one that cannnot be addressed in a simple thread. However Goerge Monbiots book HEAT does attempt to show what can be done to mitigate AGW somewhat and although his workings are not entirely scienitfic they are rational enough and can sow the seeds of thought into combating AGW.

    As for weening ourselves off of fossil fuels in a significant way before 2030 and hence 480 ppmv of total greenhouse gases then that is doubtful. Maybe the entire thing will come down to peoples own conscience in the end but I doubt that the rich will comply and the rest of us only because peak oil will make driving as we do it today nearly impossibly expensive or the coming oil wars will shock us into doing something.

    Comment by pete best — 7 Jun 2007 @ 8:13 AM

  7. All of this makes it obvious (once again) that this subject is firmly in the world of politics, as it has been for a very long time. I do wonder why this all keeps coming up on this blog with these outraged reactions, change the name to realpoliticsonclimate, or just stick to science please, this is gettng boresome. The more you NASA guys protest, the more the bard’s words become prophetic, “Thou dost protest too much”.

    Comment by Dr. M. Jorgensen-Petersen — 7 Jun 2007 @ 8:41 AM

  8. I believe (and probably so do many others) that Cockburn’s real dissent from Global Warming is not primarily scientific, but ideological.

    Looked at from a viewpoint which (sensibly) notes both the ruin to which Cockburn views both liberal and conservative elites to have pushed most of us to the brink of, and profiting from the process all the way, Cockburn doubts that those elites would be honest or altruistic enough to be honest about GW.

    Thus, from Cockburn’s view (my asssumptions of it), it is just as bad to accept manipulation from a liberal elitist such as Gore — you’d just be taking more misdirection from a venal capitalist class.

    Here is where I think the error is:

    Cockburn misses the fact that both (A) GW is true, and (B) Capitalist elites are manipulating a GW reaction to their advantage, can be true simultaneously.

    Cockburn, I think, believes that either (A) or (B) can be true.

    What he fails to imagine is that even if GW is true, and the globe’s elites wish there to be an anti-GW set of policies, then there still are choices to be made about (1) which policies are enacted; (2) who will pay for those policies; (3) who will receive funds for those policies; (4) and who will benefit from the changes introduced by anti-GW policies.

    Or, more crudely, “Hey, if the world’s gotta go anti-Global Warming, I’m gonna make sure that I’m on the winning end of the deal.”

    If Cockburn wished to accurately pursue his ideological and political views (as opposed to his scientific views), he would be inquiring into the “who benefits” and “who pays” side of anti-GW policies, in order to demand the most just and democratic response to GW.

    Comment by El Cid — 7 Jun 2007 @ 8:45 AM

  9. Realclimate continues to do a good job exposing arguments by some national journalists and scientists who have denied there is a global warming problem. However realclimate has been silent about similar denial by many government people who have been heard at national and local levels, thus little or no progress in helping the public understand the severity of the global warming problem we caused and now face.

    [Response: As we've pointed out many times before, our "silence" sometimes merely reflects that fact that this is all volunteer and we don't have time. We probably should have said something about the recent comments by the NASA cheif, and perhaps we'll still get around to that. On the other hand the NASA chief (thankfully) doesn't speak about climate change very often. In contrast, we've been faster to take on people like George Will and Alexander Cockburn because they are widely read -- in these cases -- at both ends of the political spectrum.--eric]

    Comment by pat n — 7 Jun 2007 @ 9:19 AM

  10. Well put, Gavin. You may want to note that the monster under the bed in Cockburn’s latest screed is nuclear power…

    Comment by robert davies — 7 Jun 2007 @ 9:23 AM

  11. In my nearly forty years of professional environmental activism, I have frequently had to rebut people on the left, for one or more reasons: their indifference to environmental problems, their antipathy to anything that smacked of representing or strengthening the scientific establishment (which post-modernists still vilify as being inherently tainted), and their hostility to any movement or theory which was antithetical to economic growth, which they still consider imperative to solving global poverty. Even biologist Barry Commoner, whose writings and statements I followed closely, repeatedly stated (most recently at the Cooper Union celebration of his 80th birthday a few years back) that Nature can take care of itself, and that the appropriate technology would suffice to save the earth.

    In the case of Cockburn, all three of these are in all likelihood operative. What is most maddening is the fact that statements like Cockburn’s, as well as those by conservatives, exemplify a major charcteristic of ideologues: the selection of evidence to support an a priori ideology/theory, and the deliberate ignoring of conflicting and non-supportive evidence. One could call this “unnatural selection”, in that it reflects a world view where subjective political biases rule the day. This tendency is not limited to the left or right, of course. But it reflects disturbing trends of our times: a resistance to dissent, intellectual inflexibility, devotion to doctrine (much like that of religious fundamentalists), and a very destructive world view much like the irrational one that prevailed prior to the Enlightenment. That public intellectuals follow these trends – and that public discourse conducted in presumably progressive media like The Nation disseminates it – is possibly the most serious problem we have today regarding science.

    Comment by lorna salzman — 7 Jun 2007 @ 9:28 AM

  12. Cockburn’s arguments are nothing more than derivative spins of a few climate change denialist’s clichés. He exhibits about as much depth as spit on the sidewalk.
    There is zero empirical evidence that a runaway train heading toward a brick wall is going to hit it. Dismissing the results by this criterion is obvious folly. I suspect Cockburn writes “R” & “L” on the bottoms of his shoes…

    Comment by Tim Jones — 7 Jun 2007 @ 9:35 AM

  13. Gavin, can you respond to Cockburn’s response to your last letter, in which he claims you read the Nature paper incorrectly? (His response appears just below your second letter). Thanks!

    Charles

    Comment by Charles — 7 Jun 2007 @ 10:15 AM

  14. I read the NASA guy apologized for his remarks.

    Comment by J.C.H — 7 Jun 2007 @ 10:28 AM

  15. Though it’s too late now, as usual the comments have already been twisted into a case against a consensus:

    {“Many rationalist scientists agree with him, clearly demonstrating there is no scientific consensus on man-made, catastrophic global warming,” said the director of the Science and Public Policy Institute, Robert Ferguson.}

    I was baffled by his initial comments- is there an official realclimate stance on what he said?

    Comment by Nick Harvey — 7 Jun 2007 @ 10:53 AM

  16. Regarding JCH’s suggestion that NASA’s Griffin “apologized”, this should not be taken as a retraction. Griffin apologized that his attempt to avoid controversy was taken as controversial. He did not apologize for stating that niether he nor NASA had any opinion about whether global climate change constitutes a problem.

    Indeed, from Griffin’s point of view this is a new twist, and he surely didn’t expect this turn of events.

    The serious question is to what extent this model of dispassionate science informing policy without expressing any opinion actually makes sense. When the science has something of consequence to say, it is obviously problematic to suggest that scientists are required to say it as quietly and timoroously as humanly possible.

    Regarding Eric’s response to Pat N’s posting, I find the suggestion that “the NASA chief (thankfully) doesn’t speak about climate change very often” is strange. What should we be thankful about. His whole point was that he was not expected to have a position on the matter. That his words came out as strange and frightening is, I suggest, because that position is strange and frightening. This seems at odds with Eric’s “thankfull”. If we are to be grateful for his silence, should we not also be grateful when he acknowledges that he has nothing to say?

    I have more to say about this approach (which isn’t unique to NASA) on my blog.

    (Which blog, by the way, I hope someone at RC will get around to adding to the RC blogroll one of these days…)

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 7 Jun 2007 @ 10:59 AM

  17. Re Eric(the Skeptic)’s comment along the lines of “Your’e one too”:

    This forum, while it sometimes gets into policy issues, tries to restrict itself to the science. Various technological solutions to global warming through geo-engineering have been proposed. But it is very hard to evaluate these because the science underlying them is very uncertain, certainly much more uncertain than that in the IPCC Reports establishing the reality of what is called global warming.

    In any attempt to solve a problem, we have to be sure the cure is not worse than the disease. The sooner we act, the more likely relatively conservative measures will suffice. But, it may in fact come about that a future generation may need to undertake a more radical approach. And, the more we can reduce the build-up of greenhosue gases, the less extreme those radical measures will have to be, if they are needed. The danger is in thinking we can delay doing any of the obvious things now because some miraculous technological fix will solve the problem in the future.

    If the major emitters of greenhouse gases find it hard to agree on setting caps on emissions now, what makes you think the world can agree to injecting aerosols in the stratosphere as a solution?

    Comment by Leonard Evens — 7 Jun 2007 @ 11:08 AM

  18. Eric (#3) wrote

    One example policy would be adding aerosols which you dismissed above. The fundamental reason for allowing more than “carbon-is-evil” policy makers is that your tipping point theory needs more than carbon to work.

    There are numerous problems related to aerosols.

    Some may be more specific to the kind of pollutant you are talking about, whether it happens to be in the form of respiratory diseases, acid rain or even decreased albedo and consequent warming of the atmosphere. But one thing all aerosols have in common is that if you are going to balance the greenhouse effect due to increasing levels of carbon dioxide, you must keep increasing the amount of aerosols – which will then increase the negative effects associated with them – including diminished agricultural output and climatic side-effects – as they will not evenly counteract the effects of increased carbon dioxide and its water vapor feedback due to evaporation.

    An important point to note is that while cooling from aerosols and warming from greenhouse gases may have a slight cancelling effect in the global mean, this is not true regionally. Ideas that we should increase aerosol emissions to counteract global warming have been described as a “Faustian bargain” because that would imply an ever increasing amount of emissions in order to match the accumulated GHG in the atmosphere, with ever increasing monetary and health costs.

    18 Jan 2005
    Global Dimming?
    by Gavin Schmidt
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/01/global-dimming/

    For more on this, please see:

    Biography of Veerabhadran Ramanathan
    Regina Nuzzo, Science Writer
    PNAS | April 12, 2005 | vol. 102 | no. 15 | 5323-5325
    http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/102/15/5323

    Global warming in the twenty-first century: An alternative scenario
    James Hansen, Makiko Sato, Reto Ruedy, Andrew Lacis, and Valdar Oinas
    Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 August 29; 97(18): 9875â??9880.
    http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=27611

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 7 Jun 2007 @ 11:40 AM

  19. I have come to conclusion, you people (contributors to this website) are “saints,” in the sense of having the patience of a saint (or a saint-like quality of being). And true “to form”, you continue to display this quality of being when dealing with the apparently endless sea of (so-called) contrarian nonsense.

    Comment by Thomas — 7 Jun 2007 @ 11:44 AM

  20. No, Dr. Griffin (who is a distinguished scientist and educator with more degrees and experience than any on this blog) actually said this “”Unfortunately, this is an issue which has become far more political than technical, and it would have been well for me to have stayed out of it,” and this: “All I can really do is apologize to all you guys … I feel badly that I caused this amount of controversy over something like this,” . In other words, something as small and unimportant as AGW, which he obviously does not personally “believe” in as most on this blog do, and he did not apologize for his scientific views of this. I find it interesting he was demonized and vilified (being attacked personally as arrogant, ignorant, naive, etc.) by fellow scientists for speaking his scientific mind here, is that they way some of you climatologists act in a scientific context? Very unscientific and much more political if you ask me.

    Comment by Dr. J — 7 Jun 2007 @ 11:56 AM

  21. Re #8 [I read the NASA guy apologized for his remarks]

    Nasa Griffin did apologize and then added:

    “Doing media interviews is an art. Their goal is usually to generate controversy because it sells interviews and papers and my goal is usually to avoid controversy,” he said.’”

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/06/06/tech/main2891713.shtml

    Comment by Richard Ordway — 7 Jun 2007 @ 12:10 PM

  22. Maybe we can get Alexander Cockburn, Michael Crichton, Richard Lindzen and Roger Pielke Sr. and Jr. to co-write an article explaining global warming – that’d be amusing reading. :)

    Since Cockburn throws up some link between biowarfare and climate modeling, let’s run with it. Here is the noted physicist Freeman Dyson writing on a related issue in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: subscription required :( The article is mostly about the dangers of nuclear and biological warfare technology, but the BAS issue “Approaching Midnight” also addresses climate.

    The article is all about the need for transparency in scientific research, but contains this gem of a statement that also describes the climate issue surprisingly well:

    This last phrase of Milton identifies precisely the two kinds of people who became candidates for the job of scientific censor in more recent times. “Ignorant, imperious, and remiss” describes the Communist apparatchiks of Russia in the time of Soviet biologist Trofim Lysenko. “Basely pecuniary” describes the capitalist lobbyists who swarm around the chambers of government today in Washington.

    Science will always have to defend itself against enemies of freedom on two sides, against ideological enemies on one side and against commercial enemies on the other. The ideological enemies are not only Christian fundamentalists on the Right, but also dogmatic Marxists and environmentalists on the Left. The commercial enemies are not only monopolistic corporations interested in profits, but also corrupt politicians interested in power. The choice that we have to make is not between scientific freedom and science governed by a wise group of philosopher kings. The choice is between scientific freedom and science governed by political hacks of one kind or another.

    Politics does make for strange bedfellows (Alexander Cockburn and Jerry Falwell, for example).

    The current leftist hack argument is that global warming is a fraud engineered by the nuclear industry and carbon traders in the name of profit. The rightist hack argument is that global warming is a fraud engineered by godless liberals for political reasons. The fossil fuel corporate lobby and their wholly owned politicians are happy to support either argument, as long as no action is taken to limit fossil fuel use or to encourage energy conservation and the development of renewable energy technologies.

    I’d have to agree with pat on the role of government science agencies in this issue. If senior scientists can be muzzled and fired, can you imagine the effect on junior government scientists? There is a Lysenkoism at work here – junior scientists know what will lead to advancement and what will lead to a sudden exit from their jobs. This leads to the Roger Pielke Jr. phenomenon.

    However, what is worse is the deliberate manipulation of data and the refusal to fund climate satellites. NOAA switched to a 1971-2000 baseline for their anomaly calculations, for example – and there are really only two explanations – one is to artificially reduce the reported warming trend, and the other is to provide a safer baseline for the weather risk insurance industry. At the same time, NASA says it has a ‘budget crisis’ that prevents it from launching the Deep Space Climate Observatory, while handing over $5.6 billion to HP. Competing priorities, indeed…

    I’ll admit that I tried to get into renewable energy research after getting an MS degree in ocean sciences, only to be told that there were no such opportunities, especially if you didn’t want to have your research fall under private proprietary IPR control, and that I’m somewhat irritated by this fact – but the science supports my position. This area of science is now seeing rapid growth (in Germany and Japan and Australia), but is still incredibly underfunded in the US.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 7 Jun 2007 @ 12:17 PM

  23. Eric (#3) wrote:

    Lost credibility (i.e. unwillingness to sign up to speculative theories proposed here like tipping point) is now justification for exclusion of opportunities to shape policy?

    There is nothing speculative about the greenhouse effect. It is well-established, measurable scientific fact. Likewise, various positive feedback loops which include glacier melt (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and the release of methane by permafrost(1, 2) are being witnessed today. There would seem to be very little which is speculative about these, except for the magnitude and speed at which they would come into play. We seem to have underestimated both. These constitute tipping points of a sort in that once they get started, they feed into themselves and each other – with climate change beginning to take on a life of its own. It appears that we are rapidly approaching such positive feedbacks – and that some have already begun.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 7 Jun 2007 @ 12:17 PM

  24. re. #3 Mr. Eric wrote: [I think your table needs to more than just the carbon-is-evil policy makers.]

    Hmmm, so Gavin and other Real Climate contributors do not list or mention the IPCC which recommends looking at other greenhouse gases(GHG) beside carbon dioxide(CO2)as important to possible solutions?

    “A multi-gas approach and inclusion of carbon sinks generally reduces costs substantially compared to CO2 emission abatement only.” and

    “recent studies using multi-gas reduction have explored lower stabiliztion levels than reported in TAR”

    From IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change) Fourth Assessment Report, Working Group III

    http://www.ipcc.ch/SPM040507.pdf

    Comment by Richard Ordway — 7 Jun 2007 @ 12:41 PM

  25. Re- your excellent debate on Fact, Fiction and Friction in the Hurricane Debate last summer.
    A Swedish group compounds confusion in today’s UK “The Times”-
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article1896266.ece

    Comment by graham dungworth — 7 Jun 2007 @ 12:51 PM

  26. re 22 “The current leftist hack argument is that global warming is a fraud engineered by the nuclear industry and carbon traders in the name of profit. The rightist hack argument is that global warming is a fraud engineered by godless liberals for political reasons.”

    I don’t think there is any unanimous “leftist argument”, or even “rightist” one.
    There is certainly a contrarian swamp into which the likes of Cockburn and Durkin (who I’m not really sure was ever a “leftist”) have fallen, for whatever motives.

    The question of political reactions to global warming is more complicated.

    For those who decry the politicization of the science, I’d suggest that were we faced by a 90% chance of a bolide impact in 50 years, the political fissures in society would be of earthquake proportions within 10!

    There is certainly quite a wide spectrum of views on the question of AGW, both on the left and on the right.

    Most people on the broadly defined left do accept it as a reality and not a conspiracy, but there’s a lot of debate to be had about how to tackle it, both in terms of mitigation and socio-political effects. This is completely valid and not on the same level as denying science.

    For example, the nuclear power solution has generally been widely rejected by the left and environmentalists in the past. It’s not a popular one even now. It’s also true that there are now environmentalists like James Lovelock and Greens like Patrick Moore, who have adopted what might be called a “right-wing” positions on the issue recently.

    I think there’s also a more subtle position developing on the “right”:

    Such as: “we must adapt”, “it could be beneficial”, “it can’t be stopped anyway” “it will destroy us economically to try to solve it”, “lets burn up all the oil before it happens”, “let’s grab someone elses land and resources”……

    Comment by Alex Nichols — 7 Jun 2007 @ 1:23 PM

  27. I was amazed to learn that Pierre Sprey is passing
    himself as a climate expert. A remarkable person, BTW. See
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/15/AR2006051501518.html

    Comment by Eli — 7 Jun 2007 @ 1:25 PM

  28. I would just add one more bit to the genealogy of Cockburn’s AGW denial: his apparent faith – similarly drawn from a single sage – that petroleum is itself a renewable resource, produced not from ancient organic matter but from some alchemical (or mystical) process deep in the earth’s crust. http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn10152005.html If burning oil (and presumably coal and gas) is then “carbon neutral,” such views tie Cockburn even closer to the corporatists in the oil lobby (and especially the now “revolutionary” Citgo) he ostensibly despises. His whole game stinks.

    Comment by Brendan — 7 Jun 2007 @ 1:33 PM

  29. Re: #20 (Dr. J)

    Dr. Griffin (who is a distinguished scientist and educator with more degrees and experience than any on this blog)

    My brief researches indicate that Dr. M.D. Griffin is not represented in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, and has no expertise to offer regarding climate science. Absolute zero. A google scholar search turns up only one entry in the first several pages that I can positively associate with him, a book on “Space Vehicle Design.”

    The Wikipedia entry on Griffin points out that:

    James Hansen, NASA’s top official on climate change, said Griffin’s comments showed “arrogance and ignorance”, as millions will likely be harmed by global warming.[19][20] Jerry Mahlman, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said that Griffin was either “totally clueless” or “a deep anti-global warming ideologue.”[21]

    In short, when it comes to climate science, Griffin is not even in the same league with the moderators of this blog. When it comes to peer-reviewed publications (and that’s what makes one a “scientist”), he appears not even to be in the same league with myself (or a number of other regular readers of this blog). For you to proclaim him as one with “more degrees and experience than any on this blog” — now that is ideologically motivated posturing.

    Comment by tamino — 7 Jun 2007 @ 1:53 PM

  30. Ike Solem quoted Freeman Dyson: “The ideological enemies [of science] are not only Christian fundamentalists on the Right, but also dogmatic Marxists and environmentalists on the Left.

    I cannot think of any examples of “dogmatic environmentalists” being “ideological enemies of science,” in contrast to religious fundamentalists, who flatly reject empiricism which is the essential foundation of science.

    Opposition to the proliferation of specific technologies, e.g. pesticides or commercial nuclear power, on the basis of their perceived dangers and harms, does not count one as an “ideological enemy of science”. Can you offer any examples of what Dyson is talking about here?

    Ike Solem wrote: “The current leftist hack argument is that global warming is a fraud engineered by the nuclear industry and carbon traders in the name of profit.”

    I am not aware of anyone making that argument. I haven’t read Cockburn’s stuff. Does he make that argument?

    I am aware of people making the argument that the big push by the nuclear industry for enormous government subsidies to find a massive expansion of nuclear power on the basis that nuclear power is “THE ANSWER” to global warming is a fraud that dishonestly and cynically takes advantage of growing concern about the very real problem of global warming, and I make that argument myself (because even a quite large expansion of nuclear electricity generation would have little effect on overall GHG emissions, at great cost, taking too long to achieve even that little effect, while misdirecting resources that could more effectively be applied elsewhere). But that is not the same as arguing that the science of global warming is itself a fraud.

    Similarly, I am aware of some people who argue that carbon trading schemes are, or at least could be, a fraud that will enrich certain people or corporations but do little to actually reduce CO2 emissions. I don’t know enough about carbon trading to have an opinion about that. But again, that is not the same thing as arguing that global warming itself is a fraud.

    It should not be surprising if various fraudsters attempt to cash in on the growing public concern about global warming with various bogus (and profitable) schemes to address it. In due time we will all no doubt be receiving Spam emails advertising “carbon reduction pills” or “clean energy enhancement” products or opportunities to invest in wind farms owned by deposed African dictators.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 7 Jun 2007 @ 2:12 PM

  31. Politics X Science as depicted by comedians:

    There’s a scene on the Monty Python´s film “Erik the Viking” in which the last inhabitants of Hi-Brazil drown while they endlessly debate whether their land is really sinking or not. Doesn´t it look disturbingly like our present situation?

    Comment by Alexandre — 7 Jun 2007 @ 2:23 PM

  32. Since I brought it up solely in reaction to Cockburn, may I suggest that a good topic for a column or set of comments would be around the question “Which approaches to addressing or solving the Global Warming crisis are more just and democratic?”

    I.e., we can respond to the Global Warming problem by implementing programs that shift costs onto those least deserving to pay it, and by shifting revenues or profits for response programs into the hands of those who already represent extraordinarily concentrated and subsidized wealth.

    For example, I foresee it as much more politically likely that costs will be born by US taxpayers over oil companies with cosmically large profits, even though those companies were profiting from the very problem being addressed.

    Or we can respond to Global Warming in ways that not only aim to tackle the problem technically, but try to shift costs and funds in a more intelligent, just, and sane development model.

    I think that many of the Cockburn’s of the world have mixed up the lack of this type of inquiry for proof that Global Warming is a fraud got up by the oil companies / nuke companies etc.

    For example, concentrated wealth greatly, greatly prefers the horrendously inefficient US nuclear power industry over any other sets of more efficient, more productive, and cheaper alternatives (including conservation), but then, the profits aren’t so easily controlled and costs not so easily lied about and then later increased and shifted to taxpayers, which is the way it works here. (Oh, that nuke plant will only cost $3 billion. What? It was $20 billion and still has minimal efficiency? Hmmm, guess we’ll have to raise your taxes and utility rates.)

    All just saying that there’s more to questions of fairness and global democratic movements than whether or not GW exists and merits a response.

    The question of How To Respond will soon come to over-ride the question of Whether To Respond, and “cui bono” is not some antiquated irrelevancy.

    Comment by El Cid — 7 Jun 2007 @ 2:27 PM

  33. RE: #20 (tamino)perhaps you missed his resume? Here it is in case you think he is not quaified to speak as a scientist on a broad range of subjects:

    “Prior to being nominated as NASA Administrator, Griffin was serving as Space Department Head at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. He has been an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins University, and George Washington University, where he taught courses in spacecraft design, applied mathematics, guidance and navigation, compressible flow, computational fluid dynamics, spacecraft attitude control, astrodynamics and introductory aerospace engineering. He is the lead author of more than two dozen technical papers, as well as the textbook, “Space Vehicle Design.”

    A registered professional engineer in Maryland and California, Griffin is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the International Academy of Astronautics, an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), a fellow of the American Astronautical Society, and a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. He is a recipient of the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal, the AIAA Space Systems Medal, and the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest award given to a non-government employee.

    Griffin received a bachelor’s degree in Physics from Johns Hopkins University; a master’s degree in aerospace science from Catholic University of America; a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland; a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California; a master’s degree in applied physics from Johns Hopkins University; a master’s degree in business administration from Loyola College; and a master’s degree in Civil Engineering from George Washington University. He is a certified flight instructor with instrument and multiengine ratings.”

    So, unless he has published hundreds of climatology papers in peer-reviewed obscure journals he is not qualified to speak? He also was a very successful businessman, who turned esoterica into actual useful commerce, unlike all those peer-review academics who still are stuck in low paying university jobs desperately seeking tenure by churning out junk to get published and recited. Who should we admire and allow to speak? Why is Dr.Griffin unqualified? Why should he be demonized personally for speaking his scientific views? Where I practice science we have respectful debates on the science and don’t personally attack people, merely question their data and scientific views, but then as a scientific disagreement, not a passionate diatribe. This subject seems to bring out the worst in people and scientists.

    Comment by Dr. J — 7 Jun 2007 @ 2:43 PM

  34. Michael Griffin apologized to a group of JPL scientists (wrong coast sir) for failing to state that he was expressing an opinion in his interview – a policy which he himself instituted for NASA scientist/media contacts. He did not, as far as I can tell, apologize for being wrong.

    Comment by Mark — 7 Jun 2007 @ 2:45 PM

  35. Re 18
    The other problem with technical solutions, such as aerosols, to global warming is the problem of unintended consequences. If we put enough aerosols into the atmosphere to slow down global warming, then when those aerosols fall out of the atmosphere, we will have dirty snow. Dirty snow absorbs heat and melts. Putting up lots of aerosols would be a good way to SPEED UP the melting of our remaining ice.

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 7 Jun 2007 @ 3:06 PM

  36. I’ve been an admirer of Cockburn’s work (and a subscriber to CounterPunch, his newsletter) for years. Now that I see him venture into an area that I’ve dedicated some study to, and it seems obvious in some instances (his citation of the “cheating has become respectable” line from an old Science editorial, for instance) that his distortions are intentional, I have to conclude that he can’t be trusted as a source of any kind of information – his basic intellectual techniques are highly suspect.

    So this is a learning experience for me. My hunch is that Cockburn is not on the take – accepting funding from the usual vested interests – merely mad: delusion combined with impenetrable stubbornness. Ultimately, the source of his delusion is not very interesting, but I think Cockburn’s flameout (as he rambles incoherently about carbon isotopes, so pathetic) may illustrate that there are contrarians who are fundamentally sincere, rather than mercenary. Schizophrenic sincerity isn’t of much use to anyone, of course; so I’m not sure if there’s any point to distinguishing it from run of the mill hackery.

    Comment by Daniel C. Goodwin — 7 Jun 2007 @ 3:51 PM

  37. In a recent issue of “The Nation”(June 18,2007),Mr.Cockburn responds to readers letters by stating “I have made an effort to understand the science of global warming,going back almost ten years……..”. The only thing this shows is that he’s learned nothing in those almost ten years.
    It’s a pretty sure sign that Coclburn doesn’t understand the basic principles of climate science, when he has to resort to continuously attacking the personalities involved in climate science and other proponents of global warming. An example of this,from his column in “The Nation”(June 11,2007) ‘The Greenhousers Strike Back and Strike Out’,is his reference to “Dr. Michael ‘Hockey Stick’ Mann”. He uses the term ‘fearmongers’ to apply to those who have the audicity who oppose his point of view. It seems the term ‘smearmonger’ can appropriately be applied to Mr. Cockburn.
    If he sincerely wants to understand global warming as he claims, he should take up Gavin’s invitation to meet and listen with an open mind, as Elizabeth Colbert did for her fine objective book ” Field Notes From A Catastrophe”.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 7 Jun 2007 @ 4:10 PM

  38. Reference the Scientific American article “Impact from the Deep”, in the October 2006 issue on pages 65 to 71. The article says: If the warming trend from whatever cause continues for 200 years [or now less than 200 years] we will go extinct. The cause of the extinction of Homo Sapiens will be hydrogen sulfide bubbling out of the hot oceans.
    My questions are: “Once the hydrogen sulfide smell becomes noticeable, is it already too late?” and “Will people start thinking that the hydrogen sulfide smell is normal?”.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 7 Jun 2007 @ 4:33 PM

  39. El Cid (#32) wrote:

    All just saying that there’s more to questions of fairness and global democratic movements than whether or not GW exists and merits a response.

    You raise some relevant concerns.

    However, I believe that given the severity of climate change and the threat that it poses, our first priority should be that of addressing it in the most effective way possible, and I would prefer to avoid individuals attempting to use the issue of climate change as a vehicle for one version or another of ideologically-motivated syndicalist or socialist “social justice.” With respect to those who have genuine concern for the poor, I would remind them that it is the poor that will be disproportionally affected by climate change – and hope that this is enough to motivate them to recognize that it must precedence over their implementation of their personal version of the ideal society – at least for the time being.

    Insisting upon other priorities – particularly those of an ideological nature – will only serve to divide us.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 7 Jun 2007 @ 5:28 PM

  40. Re. 32 by El Cid. I would also be interested in an article on RC on the solution to global climate change. I run a site on global warming (http://www.globalwarming-factorfiction.com) and I have yet to find a real workable solution to the problem of excess carbon dioxide or methane.

    All of the solutions that I have seen are either unrealistic or not politically acceptable (at least in the US where I live). Things such as massive changes of the US meat diet aren’t going to happen. Nuclear power is a political non-starter. Dams on more rivers tends to cause huge outrage in the affected communities (and always seems to kill of some endangered animal or plant). No one wants solar farms in their backyard or wind farms off of their beach. The Green party in Canada is proposing a massive gas tax hike that would probably impoverish the poorest families (http://globalwarming-factorfiction.com/2007/06/07/greens-climate-plan-sees-12-cent-tax-at-the-pumps/). Mass transit in most cities is not available and won’t be for years/decades. The call for increase efficiency in automotives exceeds what is technically capable to be achieved (at least in the near term according to the automotive manufacturers). Ethanol production in the US causes increases in the cost of food which hurts the poor, likely costs as much energy as it delivers, and is years (decades?) away from widespread availability and adoption.

    While I am not saying that excess greenhouse gas is not a problem, what solution is out there that is reasonable and not based on (science) fiction? In many cases, the cure could be worse than the disease. Also, if the cure is so expensive, would it be better to reallocate that money to a better cause (e.g. fresh drinking water for the impoverished or free AIDS medecine or one of a dozen other major problems)? Unfortunately, we sometimes only can put band-aids on problems and not solve the root evil.

    RealClimate is excellent because it deals with the science of this issue probably better than any other site but as other comments have said, this is a political problem. If the science is not overwhelmingly conclusive of the problem than the realities of the politics come into play. I have tried to find on RC articles that give workable solutions and if they do exist, please respond because I have missed them. If not, I would be interested in the thoughts of the various authors.

    Comment by Sean O — 7 Jun 2007 @ 5:34 PM

  41. Dr. J., Michael Griffin does not have a scientific opinion for the simple reason that the is not a scientist, but an engineer. I would trust his engineering judgement on whether a particular thermal, structural or electrical risk was sufficiently low to fly a rocket. I might even trust him on whether we can get back to the Moon (though this is really more politics than engineering). I would not trust his opinion in a matter where he has no specialized knowledge–such as climate change, string theory, superconductivity and so on.
    Mike Griffin made a mistake in judgement–voicing an opinion on a matter well outside his expertise. It is a mistake many–indeed, most–make from time to time. What is unfortunate is that this man controls the agency best positioned to really answer the questions about the current threat, and he thinks the threat is negligible. So, by all means, I do not think he should resign. I do think he should not be making decisions about NASA’s science program.
    I can only hope that you are not a real “doctor”, since whatever education you may have had did not teach you to value knowledge.

    Comment by ray ladbury — 7 Jun 2007 @ 5:38 PM

  42. Re #38: Edwind Griesch — Assuming you aren’t just joking, the answers are: yes, it will be too late; people will stop thinking because sufficient hydrogen sulfide inhalation is fatal.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 7 Jun 2007 @ 5:39 PM

  43. Thanks for all the responses. #17 Leonard, I agree that science, not
    policy, is the focus here, but a certain amount of cherry picking
    shows up, especially in the timing questions. Is lowering CO2 really
    the least extreme and radical solution right now considering the
    economic consequences?

    #18 Timothy, in the Ramanathan bio, his observation of aerosol cooling
    directly supports my argument above; clearly a sudden increase in
    aerosol “pollution” would help cool the climate. His concern about
    droughts that it may cause should be alleviated with models; if they
    are good enought to predict warming and aerosol cooling then they must
    also be good enough to predict droughts and drought avoidance (perhaps
    with high altitude and high latitude aerosols).

    #18 The alternative scenario article mentions a large variety of
    aerosol effects but they all should be able to be modeled. The
    Faustian bargain is not further detailed. Does acid rain eventually
    occur from high altitude aerosols? The lack of knowledge of the sign
    of the trend in aerosol forcing is of no concern since that forcing is
    completely unplanned. Hansen’s suggestions for CH4 and ozone capture
    are interesting and need to be evaluated against the carbon policies.
    He points out the lucky coincidence in phasing out CFC emissions which
    obviously also shows the feasibility of worldwide emission policies.

    #23 Timothy, the glacier melt articles are perfect examples of cherry
    picking with no consideration of opposite effects like increased
    snowfall. The methane release only has quantitative analysis in the
    amount (doubling the current CO2). No analysis of time period or
    models of CO2 sequestration to go with it. To counter your “seem to
    have underestimated”, we seem to have underestimated some negative
    feedbacks as many articles here have shown.

    #24 Richard, I read the mitigation potential section in the bus on the
    way home. The costs seem reasonable until you look at the amounts of
    reduction needed for climate stabilization. The discussion is very
    myopic (many examples like alleviating traffic congestion are
    considered without considering the benefits of transportation
    flexibility which is a hindrance in my own case). It is also very
    carbon-centric in mitigation ideas and does not consider aerosol
    alternatives at all.

    #35 Aaron, unintended consequences are precisely what climate modeling
    must avoid if it is to be believed for warming scenarios.

    Comment by Eric (skeptic) — 7 Jun 2007 @ 5:42 PM

  44. Re #40: Sean O — Seriously consider biochar as part of the solution. Follow the link below.

    http://www.shimbir.demon.co.uk/biocharrefs.htm

    Comment by David B. Benson — 7 Jun 2007 @ 5:51 PM

  45. Re 35: if you count water droplets as an aerosol solution then might I suggest you look up the proposal by Salter, Latham et al which uses seawater to increase albedo by producing stratocumulus clouds over the ocean. It is astonishingly cheap and we could counter all AGW with a few billion dollars. The fallout is water. It’s not ideal but might buy times until the science sorts itself out.

    Does anyone know of a good graph which shows the change in albedo over the last… well, as far back as possible? TIA.

    Methane; people have started to go on about permafrost methane. Nearly 18 months ago I mentioned on my website that methane suppression by SO2* would be wearing off soon and people would begin to panic when methane levels showed signs of rising.

    Re Dr J. Well said, sir! We’re getting into ‘are you now, or have you ever been, a global warming denier’ territory. This is not science, it’s witch-hunting. Worse, it’s McCarthyism.

    JF
    * A little known benefit of acid rain.

    Comment by Julian Flood — 7 Jun 2007 @ 6:29 PM

  46. Timothy Chase wrote: “With respect to those who have genuine concern for the poor, I would remind them that it is the poor that will be disproportionally affected by climate change”

    It is also the poor who are most desperately in need of more energy — a situation completely unlike the USA which is a profligate waster of unbelievably vast amounts of energy, and where I would argue our quality of life could actually be improved by dramatically reducing our energy use.

    Small-scale photovoltaics and wind power are good solutions for providing urgently needed rural electrification in the poorest regions of the world. Large-scale centralized power plants, whether nuclear or coal fueled, and extremely costly grids for distributing electricity from centralized power plants, are not a good solution for providing more energy to poor people in the developing world. Aside from the dangers and harms presented by expanding the use of coal and nuclear, the poor countries of the world simply don’t have the resources to build the power plants or the distribution grids.

    One of the most important things that can be done is to promote the dissemination of small-scale photovoltaics and wind turbines throughout the developing world. This addresses the very real needs of the poor for more energy without increasing GHG emissions, promotes social and economic justice, and — guess what? — there’s a lot of money to be made from doing it, as the world’s major PV-exporting countries (Japan, Germany and increasingly China) are well aware.

    On the subject of NASA’s Griffin, Ray Ladbury wrote: “Michael Griffin does not have a scientific opinion for the simple reason that the is not a scientist, but an engineer.”

    Whether he is qualified to do so or not, Michael Griffin did not express a “scientific opinion”. He expressed the opinion that it would be “arrogant” for anyone now living to suggest that we should make any effort to maintain the Earth’s climate within the range of temperatures that have existed throughout all of recorded human history, while apparently not regarding it as “arrogant” for the humans of the past century up through the present to engage in activities which threaten to radically and abruptly alter the Earth’s climate and ecosystems upon which not only human civilization, but the survival of the human species, utterly depend.

    That’s not a scientific opinion. It is inane, blithering, offensive nonsense that one would expect from Rush Limbaugh, not from the head of NASA.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 7 Jun 2007 @ 6:39 PM

  47. Re: #33 (Dr. J)

    RE: #20 (tamino)perhaps you missed his resume? Here it is in case you think he is not quaified to speak as a scientist on a broad range of subjects:

    You quote an impressive resume of Dr. Griffin as an engineer. NOT as a scientist.

    So, unless he has published hundreds of climatology papers in peer-reviewed obscure journals

    How about one peer-reviewed paper on any subject in any journal? I haven’t yet seen any evidence of that. I also see no evidence whatsoever — absolute zero — that he has any knowledge of (let alone accomplishment in) the science of climate.

    Why should he be demonized personally for speaking his scientific views?

    I never even came close to demonizing Dr. Griffin. I simply contradicted your clear implication that he was more qualified to speak on the subject of climate science than anybody associated with this blog. The truth is, he is far less qualified to speak on that topic than any of the moderators, and a number of the regular readers.

    Where I practice science we have respectful debates on the science and don’t personally attack people

    It was your comment that was an ad hominem attack — and a very nasty, untrue one — against the moderators of this blog. You are a hypocrite.

    This subject seems to bring out the worst in people and scientists.

    It has certainly brought out the worst in you.

    Comment by tamino — 7 Jun 2007 @ 6:43 PM

  48. Eric (skeptic) (#43) wrote:

    #18 Timothy, in the Ramanathan bio, his observation of aerosol cooling directly supports my argument above; clearly a sudden increase in aerosol “pollution” would help cool the climate.

    Ramanathan supports the physical principle that aerosols can lead to cooling. Anyone with a knowledge of the physics would. He opposes the policy of implementing your proposal of cooling the climate by means of aerosols for a variety of reasons – including the fact that aerosols will be washed out of the atmosophere every time it rains, and you have to put up ever-increasing amounts of aerosols to keep up with the increasing levels of greenhouse gases. And yes, of course the effects of aerosols are emminently predictable: they are predictably temporary, and impractical – if one seeks to use aerosols continuously as a matter of enduring policy.

    The Faustian bargain is not further detailed.

    See above.

    Aerosols must be used continuously because, unlike CO2, they wash-out of the atmosophere. To keep up with the effects of CO2, one must use them in ever-increasing amounts. The greater the duration and extent that they are used, the greater the financial costs of simply using them, and the greater the costs of their side-effects no matter how wisely they are used – because using them is unwise.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 7 Jun 2007 @ 7:04 PM

  49. As much as I have been enlightened by all manner of hard hitting articles on Counterpunch, Alexander Cockburn has dug himself one big dumb hole with his phastasmagorical position on global heating.

    Comment by gerald spezio — 7 Jun 2007 @ 7:35 PM

  50. The immediate and most urgent problem is where the CO2 is going — it’s known, measured, predictable, straightforward physical chemistry.

    No sunshade is going to help this. This is the base of the food chain and of most of the photosynthesis on the planet at risk.

    http://www.ipsl.jussieu.fr/~jomce/acidification/paper/Orr_OnlineNature04095.pdf
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v437/n7059/fig_tab/nature04095_F4.html

    “… Southern Ocean surface waters will begin to become undersaturated with respect to aragonite, a metastable form of calcium carbonate, by the year 2050. By 2100, this undersaturation could extend throughout the entire Southern Ocean and into the subarctic Pacific Ocean. When live pteropods were exposed to our predicted level of undersaturation during a two-day shipboard experiment, their aragonite shells showed notable dissolution. Our findings indicate that conditions detrimental to high-latitude ecosystems could develop within decades, not centuries as suggested previously.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Jun 2007 @ 7:42 PM

  51. SkepticalAnimist,

    I though Freeman Dyson’s comments were important because they showed how all political agendas lead to attempts to influence scientific inquiry. However, scientific inquiry was never intended to be a political football for various interests, regardless of their nobility or lack thereof.

    The only real substance in my comment was a) NOAA’s use of a 1971-2000 baseline for anomaly calculations, which was done for highly dubious reasons, and b) NASA’s refusal to fund an important climate satellite for the relatively small sum of $100 million, while also delivering a 5.6 billion contract to HP. I have no problem with HP (they make great printers) but why couldn’t that have been a 5.5 billion contract, and $100 million for the Deep Space Climate Observatory?

    Those were really the only two issues that I was hoping to see a response to. Why would NASA and NOAA behave in this manner? It looks like Lysenkoism to me – any disagreements?

    Comment by Ike Solem — 7 Jun 2007 @ 8:13 PM

  52. The key is to reduce two things: 1) population and 2) average resource use per person per year. These are the fundamental facts, and the rest depends on this foundation. Other measures are only helpful in that they delay the deep need for a change in population and consumption. In addition, we will at some point need to reduce global population to about one billion, from six billion, unless adequate replacements for carbon fuels appear (and even then some drop seems like a good idea as we are currently living on or over the edge). We should try to do that by population limits rather than by starvation, war, and disease. This will require major philosophical changes. We have our work cut out for us. Should we ask the next generation to deal with it, when the difficulty is greatly increased due to the delay?

    Comment by David Alexander — 7 Jun 2007 @ 8:30 PM

  53. It is sad that the idea of aerosols to control global temp is actually making some progress as a “solution” to GW. Edward Teller is dead but his legacy seems alive and well.

    Dr. J, do not dismiss research papers as a way to advance human knowledge and understanding of reality, because that’s where it happens, and scientific peer-review is part of that process. Although it is not a guarantee (as in the Legates/Soon/Baliunas and others), it is still the best tool we have. Dr. Griffin’s lack of relevant research papers in the subject in which he voiced (loudly) his opinion does not speak in his favor. Would you consider the opinion of a biomedical engineer with a specialty in electromechanics relevant for a discussion of the risks of intervening on a particular metabolic pathway in certain disorders? Few MDs would. In fact, there would probably be no consultation of someone with such a background.

    It does not mean that this engineer couldn’t have his opinion, but that’s just what it would be: an opinion. As you know, everybody has one. Granted, his is certainly better than Joe Blow’s, but going on TV and giving undue weight to that opinion because you’re in a position to do so IS underhanded.

    You shouldn’t be so concerned abouth this blog anyway. I read a lot of comments on blogs here and there. The mind manipulating campaigns and dsinformation spread by Crichton and the like of his has been successful beyond a lobbyist’s wildest dreams. Whatever is said about Griffin here is not going to be as widely heard as the utter nonsense spread by CO2science and other bogus sites. I see it all out there, scientists predicted an ice age in the 70′s, it’s all for grant money, science is business, it’s all politics, models are worthless, the list goes on and on, all debunked but alive and well. The denialists’ hard work has created a much more favorable environment for skeptics than the evidence warrants. Don’t worry about Griffin, he will have no shortage of supporters.

    Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 7 Jun 2007 @ 8:40 PM

  54. Re: 39 by Timothy Chase

    I believe that given the severity of climate change and the threat that it poses, our first priority should be that of addressing it in the most effective way possible, and I would prefer to avoid individuals attempting to use the issue of climate change as a vehicle for one version or another of ideologically-motivated syndicalist or socialist “social justice.”

    This is certainly a reasonable response, but it also may be one which presumes a great deal: for example, it presumes that I have not also considered this point, and it presumes that there is a simple, controversy-free, and objectively obtainable “most effective way” to respond to global climate change.

    It is, for example, possible that some of the most effective ways to address the causes of global warming would be to aim to do so in the most just and democratic ways possible.

    That would actually be a scientific question, one similar to studies which look at other types of environmental problems and note that often social programs which carry out innovative changes for certain poor populations may be more effective than simply working with high government officials and heads of major corporations.

    That’s not just some set of pie in the sky and naive ideological concern. Those are real, actual questions asked by a lot of real, working on the ground scientists.

    It may also be dangerously socially naive to presume that the incredibly concentrated economic and governmental powers which do exist will choose the “most effective” solutions to global climate change over those most pleasing to those same powerful interests.

    The response that “we don’t have time” to ask important questions seems to be entirely wrong as well, as we have no problem asking other important scientific questions more focused on the hard science end of the question.

    And certainly at no point would one choose to pursue due to ignorance a more stupid solution if there had been the possibility of choosing a less stupid solution if one had investigated other possibilities.

    Regardless, I’ll re-phrase my suggestion in the form of a prediction:

    Very soon, the major controversy in the subject of the global response to the global climate change crisis will not be on its need, but on on how to respond to it, how it will be paid for, and who will be paid to do it.

    This is an objectively testable prediction, but one which seems fairly close to some basic social intuitions.

    Comment by El Cid — 7 Jun 2007 @ 8:58 PM

  55. Yes, it is Lysenkoism, but the Michael Griffin thing goes well beyond merely his global warming views. He is widely seen as being a completely incompetent engineer just from his ESAS (Exploration Systems Architecture Study) implementation of the VSE (Vision for Space Exploration), and most credible space architects are literally horrified that his engineering expertise may actually reach fruition (the so called stick). This is not even bringing up other unsavory problems (the big bang – it’s just a theory) and the inspector general scandal, which have occurred on his watch. Most analysts recognize now that laws were literally broken during the ESAS process.

    http://cosmic.lifeform.org/?p=302

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 7 Jun 2007 @ 9:16 PM

  56. Eric (skeptic) (#43) wrote:

    #23 Timothy, the glacier melt articles are perfect examples of cherry picking with no consideration of opposite effects like increased snowfall. The methane release only has quantitative analysis in the amount (doubling the current CO2). No analysis of time period or models of CO2 sequestration to go with it. To counter your “seem to have underestimated”, we seem to have underestimated some negative feedbacks as many articles here have shown.

    You write, “Timothy, the glacier melt articles are perfect examples of cherry picking…”

    … but I was offering them as an example of positive feedback, a tipping point – which we will not be able to control. And if you wish to claim that this is a problem with only some glaciers, I would remind you that this is a global problem (see for example “The State of the Cryosphere: Glaciers”, in particular, the chart near the bottom of the page) which will affect hundreds of millions of people – simply in terms of the loss of glaciers as a source water and the consequent water scarcity (see for example Ice-capped roof of world turns to desert, Global warming: Tibet’s lofty glaciers melt away). That isn’t cherry-picking – what I in fact offered were representative examples.

    You write, “… with no consideration of opposite effects like increased snowfall.”

    … and that is a red herring.

    Here are some points for you to consider – beginning with the point you have just brought up, and moving out:

    1. Snowfall is what creates glaciers — but it doesn’t seem to be working terribly well at this point.
    2. Snowfall won’t help with summer crops if it all melts in the spring.
    3. Snowfall won’t help downstream if its melt soaks into parched ground before it has the chance to go downstream.
    4. A fair amount of snow will fall in some deserts (as it used to in the region around Santa Fe) but the deserts remain deserts.
    5. Increased rain won’t help much if it tends to fall over the ocean.
    6. Rain won’t help much if it rarely falls over land, and then only in torrents.
    7. Rain won’t help much if due to higher ground temperatures it evaporates before it can feed the plants.
    8. Increased carbon dioxide won’t help plants much if they are drought-stressed and heat-stressed.
    9. And the drying out of the soil will itself result in positive feedback.
    10. The probability of the Amazon river valley becoming a desert is now estimated at being 10-40%.
    11. CO2 increases ocean acidity, but this diminishes the ability of marine life to sequester carbon.
    12. CO2 is destroying the ability of diatoms, forams, coccolithphores and coral to use calcium, sequester carbon, and support the rest the rest of the oceanic biosphere.
    13. Higher temperatures are dimishing the ability of the ocean to absorb carbon dioxide and oxygen and threaten to turn the ocean hypoxic.
    14. If fish harvests and agricultural harvests are both predictably and seriously reduced, a still growing human population is threatened with starvation.

    You write, “No analysis of time period or models of CO2 sequestration to go with it.”

    No, I didn’t respond to this point as it was something you never brought up.

    You write, “… we seem to have underestimated some negative feedbacks.”

    Nearly all of the feedbacks which scientists are seeing are positive feedbacks at this point – and they have this odd tendency of feeding into one-another. Something about moving outside a stable attractor, I suppose.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 7 Jun 2007 @ 9:56 PM

  57. SecularAnimist (#46) wrote:

    Timothy Chase wrote: “With respect to those who have genuine concern for the poor, I would remind them that it is the poor that will be disproportionally affected by climate change”

    It is also the poor who are most desperately in need of more energy — a situation completely unlike the USA which is a profligate waster of unbelievably vast amounts of energy, and where I would argue our quality of life could actually be improved by dramatically reducing our energy use.

    I am beginning to think that you are more concerned with power than the poor…

    Look – I have no problem with photovoltaics and the like. What I do have a problem with is someone insisting on everyone buying into their personal ideology before anything gets done. For one thing, it suggests that such an individual lacks all comprehension of serious things are – or else all genuine concern for those who will be affected.

    This addresses the very real needs of the poor for more energy without increasing GHG emissions, promotes social and economic justice, and — guess what? — there’s a lot of money to be made from doing it, as the world’s major PV-exporting countries (Japan, Germany and increasingly China) are well aware.

    If there is a great deal of money to be made selling advanced technology to the poorest of the poor, then I shouldn’t think you will even need to advocate it – or try and convince the United States to pay for it.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 7 Jun 2007 @ 10:19 PM

  58. REFERENCE: “Building Red America: the New Conservative Coalition and the Drive for Permanent Power” by Thomas B. Edsall, 2006 Basic Books N.Y. N.Y.
    George W. Bush’s politics of polarization has caused average Americans to ignore facts and only care about which side of the polarization you are on. Average Americans are not hearing you. They are just parsing you as noise from the other side. Most people know nothing about science. Now they are seeing science as the immoral enemy/liberal.
    Reference: “The Republican War on Science” by Chris Mooney, 2005, Basic Books. Mooney’s book has the following URLs:
    http://www.waronscience.com/home.php
    http://www.chriscmooney.com/
    http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05268/576883.stm
    See also:
    “Undermining Science, suppression and distortion in the Bush Administration” by Seth Shulman, 2006. Shulman’s book has the following URL:
    http://www.ropercenter.uconn.edu
    See also:
    http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/51150/
    http://www.alternet.org/stories/52801/
    It may be necessary to stop talking about climate long enough to reclaim Science’s natural moral high ground. Teach the basic idea that Science is more a moral commitment than anything else. Reference:
    “Science and Immortality” by Charles B. Paul 1980 University of California Press. In this book on the Eloges of the Paris Academy of Sciences (1699-1791) page 99 says: “Science is not so much a natural as a moral philosophy”. [That means drylabbing [fudging data] will get you fired.]
    Page 106 says: “Nature isn’t just the final authority, Nature is the Only authority.”
    Nature isn’t just the final authority on truth, Nature is the Only authority. There are zero human authorities. Scientists do not vote on what is the truth. There is only one vote and Nature owns it. We find out what Nature’s vote is by doing Scientific [public and replicable] experiments. Scientific [public and replicable] experiments are the only source of truth. [To be public, it has to be visible to other people in the room. What goes on inside one person's head isn't public unless it can be seen on an X-ray or with another instrument.]
    Science is a simple faith in Scientific experiments and a simple absolute lack of faith in everything else.
    We are not acting like lawyers, preachers or politicians. We are telling the truth. Those lawyers, preachers, politicians and other innumerate humanitologists don’t know what truth is. We have to teach everybody to do very simple science for themselves so that they will be able to understand this.
    Or, we have to find a place to hide that is very far away, like Mars. Remember Giordano Bruno.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 7 Jun 2007 @ 10:48 PM

  59. #52
    Population growth is unlikely to decline sufficiently to actually cause a significant decline in population. Great progress is being made in medicine, agriculture, and the natural efficiency of economic freedom is spreading around the globe. All these factors contribute to the support of large healthy populations. At least reproduction rates are leveling off in most westernized societies, including I believe-China!

    Comment by Kroganchor — 7 Jun 2007 @ 11:12 PM

  60. Answer to Comment # 32: Did you know that enough URANIUM goes up the smokestack of a coal-fired power plant to Fully fuel a nuclear power plant with the same output? See: http://www.ornl.gov/ORNLReview/rev26-34/text/coalmain.html
    If breeding of thorium into uranium and using plutonium as fuel are allowed, enough uranium and thorium go up the smokestack of one coal-fired power plant to fully fuel 500 nuclear power plants of the same size. That isn’t all that goes up the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants. Arsenic and lead are also among the 73 elements in coal smoke, and the quantities are worthy of commercial production. Did you know that you get 100 times as much radiation from a coal-fired power plant as from a nuclear power plant?
    Have you ever heard of background radiation? The natural background radiation that has been there since the beginning of time is 1000 times what you get from a nuclear power plant or 10 times what you get from a coal-fired power plant. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Background_radiation
    or http://www.unscear.org/unscear/en/publications/2000_1.html
    If the safety level of nuclear power plants were LOWERED to the same level as coal-fired power plants, the resulting [nuclear] electricity would be very cheap indeed and nuclear power would be very efficient.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 7 Jun 2007 @ 11:57 PM

  61. David Alexander (#52) wrote:

    In addition, we will at some point need to reduce global population to about one billion, from six billion, unless adequate replacements for carbon fuels appear (and even then some drop seems like a good idea as we are currently living on or over the edge).

    I think it would be possible to support eleven billion, perhaps even at current US standards – with the right technology, and I would quite obviously focus on power first. New approaches to solar power – perhaps photovoltaics which achieve the 95% efficiency of plants, or harvesting some of the energy of the thermohaline or even the jet stream. Tidal power – even if it doesn’t look especially pretty to some people. Geothermal. But chances are it will require major investment – and the more ambitious projects will probably require major international cooperation.

    However, at this point, I am not sure that any of the governments are all that serious about tackling climate change, least of all the United States and China. From what I understand, only two countries in the EU which stand a chance of meeting their obligations under the original Kyoto Protocol: Sweden and (presumably) the UK. Time appears short, perhaps too short to achieve the level of cooperation which is needed – even assuming we have a decade in which to get our act together before this thing takes on a life of its own.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 8 Jun 2007 @ 12:17 AM

  62. Re 40 by Sean O:

    What law of nature decrees that every problem must have a solution? It’s entirely possible, perhaps probable, that there is no solution in the context of the limited capacity of human beings to adapt – morally, economically, intellectually – but most crucial: very quickly. Our species is quite capable of destroying itself, dragging down countless other species with us, one way or another. Get used to it.

    Comment by Daniel C. Goodwin — 8 Jun 2007 @ 1:14 AM

  63. Since this thread seems more on journalism than science, I couldn’t resist the sad irony of the following, even if it isn’t about Cockburn:

    Wall Street Journal, Thursday, June 7, 2007:
    WSJ editorial and reporting are of course quite distinct: one does report the news.

    WSJ Editorial has a well-known position (100% denialism) on AGW (Murdoch might be an improvement!!)

    One of my newspaper friends claimed that Letters to the Editor are selected by the news staff.

    BUT, I have my doubts…

    1)The Letters to the Editor section’s prominent (top-of-page) heading was:

    “Global Warming: Irrational Assumptions and Speculation as Dogma”

    were printed two long letters (>50% of total L-t-t-E) supporting that view, by:
    Charles Battig, M.D. of Charlottesville, VA, (retired)
    David L, Wood, M.D. of Long Beach, CA. [both Google-able, with interesting results]

    One described WSJ commentaries by Richard Lindzen and Holman Jenkins as “offer a scientific analysis rather than the politically correct media line”.

    2) On the other hand, the most prominent *news article*, starting in top-right corner of first page, with largest point-size headline, was a nice article by reporter Liam Pleven:

    “As Insurers Flee Coast, States Face new Threat”

    This straightforwardly discussed the upsurge in all coastal states from Texas to Massachusetts, of insurance policies by “insurers of last resort” for coastal areas. Such insurers give lower rates, are not necessarily completely funded, and will need big government bailouts if bad things happen. There’s at least $800B of liability ($426B in FL alone).

    Why the surge in this type of insurance?

    Regular private insurers, who must make fact-based risk assessments to stay in business, are “fleeing the coasts.”

    Comment by John Mashey — 8 Jun 2007 @ 1:21 AM

  64. #20
    Griffin’s a Bush appointee and he hasn’t retracted his remarks apparently. Nuff said.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_D._Griffin

    Comment by Mike Donald — 8 Jun 2007 @ 2:00 AM

  65. Guilt by association?

    Oh, you mean like associating ‘skeptics’ with cigarette companies…

    Comment by Steve D — 8 Jun 2007 @ 2:57 AM

  66. re 52 David Alexander

    I’m sorry I’m gonna be a little harsh with that, but an argument like the one you use, meaning reducing population from 6 billion to 1 billion during the next century (because for this to have an impact on mitigating GW, weâ??d have to do it fast) is the typical argument denialists love to hear and then use to point fingers at those “dreaded GW alarmists”.
    Reducing a population by more than 80% in a hundred years is not called a population control, it’s called a near extinction with tremendous impacts on the survivors (and it’s much more than just a philosophical change; I recommend you to read about psychological impacts of catastrophes on surviving populations). The “better” examples of population control we can see to this day are in China and Indiaâ?¦ The Chinese “one child policy” is a very drastic one, which should lead, one can imagine, to a relatively strict control of population. But if you look at Chinese demography, you’ll see this:
    1950 chinese population: 562 000 000
    2000 chinese population: 1 264 000 000
    2050 chinese population: nearly 1 500 000 000
    (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demography_of_the_People’s_Republic_of_China)
    That means that even with this kind of “one child policy”, the chinese population won’t stabilize even in the next 50 years.
    That means, to reach this goal of 1 billion inhabitants in the whole world in 2100, you have two solutions:
    _ A global sterilization of the large majority of the population of this planet. I’m not sure people would accept such things, do you?
    _ A global atomic war. A global conventional war wouldn’t be enough. See the example of WW2, the country who lost the most population was Belarus, and it lost “only” the fourth of it.

    So we need new and realistic solutions in order to be taken seriously. Energy Efficiency, alternative energies, Energy use control… No one says it will be easy, or even cheap, and most of the work is still to do. But going back to the old Malthusian theory of population control is useless and dangerous, and can only lead to the total denial and inaction of political and economical authorities concerning GW.

    Comment by nicolas L. — 8 Jun 2007 @ 3:28 AM

  67. I went to a debate last night on free market solutions with a couple good speakers including Mark Lynas and the chairman of Shell UK that made it clear that skeptics just aren’t taken seriously here in the UK. One guy from the audience at the end decided to reguritate a lot of the swindle arguments and was absolutely shut down by both sides of the panel AND the rest of the audience- do people like Cockburn actually hold and sway over there?

    Comment by Nick Harvey — 8 Jun 2007 @ 3:48 AM

  68. [[No, Dr. Griffin (who is a distinguished scientist and educator with more degrees and experience than any on this blog) ]]

    Not in climatology he isn’t. His degrees are in engineering; he is not a scientist at all. On the other hand, the people who write this blog — Gavin Schmidt, Raymond Pierrehumbert, Michael Mann, etc. — are all Ph.D. climatologists.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 8 Jun 2007 @ 5:43 AM

  69. #50, Timothy, “unwise” is a general statement. Unwise under what conditions? The way we do today and the types of aerosols is unwise. But perhaps there are better ways and better aerosols that would achieve cooling without negative side effects. Again it boils down to models, if warming is a problem because the models predict it, then they can also predict the most cost effective solution. Hank, as usual you read my question and answered it. The best reason not to put up sunshades is that CO2 will cause other problems, many of which are uncertain as your papers point out.

    Comment by Eric (skeptic) — 8 Jun 2007 @ 6:13 AM

  70. Re Response in #9:

    Widely read national articles reach different audiences than local TV and newspapers.

    Many local meteorologists, news and weather casters rely on local National Weather Service (NWS) staff for advise which is then passed along to the public in various forms.

    Dr. Heidi Cullen, Climate Expert said Dec. 21, 2006 in a blog article at The Weather Channel Blog, JUNK CONTROVERSY NOT JUNK SCIENCE…

    Meteorologists are among the few people trained in the sciences who are permitted regular access to our living rooms. And in that sense, they owe it to their audience to distinguish between solid, peer-reviewed science and junk political controversy. If a meteorologist can’t speak to the fundamental science of climate change, then maybe the AMS shouldn’t give them a Seal of Approval.

    http://www.weather.com/blog/weather/archive/200612.html?from=blog_nav_archiveindex&ref=/blog/weather/archive/

    Michael Tobis said on his website yesterday:

    Refusing to advise constitutes advice that a problem is not serious.

    What does the public think when NOAA’s NWS Climate Prediction Center (CPC) puts out products in a manner that suggests there is no evidence that climate change in the US and global warming is happening while air temperatures at NWS climate stations for the last 100 years are showing rapid upward trends in recent decades withing the Upper Midwest and Alaska? NWS CPC should be saying something about climate change (or change its name?).

    NWS downplayed global warming since Al Gore published his first book on global warming in 1992-1993. NWS has told the public over many years that global warming was not a problem.

    When the NASA administrator said that global warming is not a problem, even though he may retract and apologize for his statement, the damage takes a long time, if possible, to reverse.

    Comment by pat n — 8 Jun 2007 @ 6:37 AM

  71. “Dr. J., Michael Griffin does not have a scientific opinion for the simple reason that the is not a scientist, but an engineer.”

    No, because he is not an expert on climate not because he is an engineer.

    There have been a lot of posts about engineers on here lately. Do people understand what courses people in ingineering take at the university? My quess is that more than 50 % of the proffessors at a univeristy is consider as engineers by the people here. Do you also dismiss all these people? Experts in aerodymaics, numerical solutions of pdf:s etc.

    “I would trust his engineering judgement on whether a particular thermal, structural or electrical risk was sufficiently low to fly a rocket. I might even trust him on whether we can get back to the Moon (though this is really more politics than engineering).”

    My “quess” is that he also knows something about research and have the ability to learn stuff in other areas even though he is an engineer.

    “I would not trust his opinion in a matter where he has no specialized knowledge–such as climate change, string theory, superconductivity and so on.”

    Yes, we shouldn’t trust anyone.

    How many contributors here has any specialized knowledge about climate science, not including gavin et al? My quess is actually 0 but I am not sure about a couple.

    Comment by fredrik — 8 Jun 2007 @ 6:47 AM

  72. Re #32 and #40 –

    First, it’s important to understand that some of the time scales are sufficiently long that many of the technical obstacles have more than sufficient time to work themselves out, while other obstacles exist only in the minds of the industries (and their customers) who cry the loudest.

    There are already sufficient kinds of vehicles in the automobile manufacturing portfolio of makes and models to make a dramatic dent in the amount of liquid fuels consumed and their associated CO2 emissions (and for anyone who hasn’t read my posts on the subject of AGW, I’m more concerned about the economic impacts of running out of non-renewable fuels, because I think we hit a brick wall there before the oceans boil …). The problem with automobiles, for example, isn’t that there isn’t enough battery manufacturing capacity, but rather that people can afford to drive cars and SUVs that get horrendous gasoline milage, so they do. The large auto makers could make a profit selling higher milage vehicles if that was all they were allowed to sell, they simply choose not to sell vehicles that consumers don’t want to buy, and consumers want to buy them because they can still afford to operate them. I say, government needs to take away that choice by immediately raising CAFE and slapping a fatter gas guzzler tax on those models that waste the most.

    In areas of conservation, such as residential lighting, the obstacles are again more personal prefences than technologically insurmountable. The problem with conversion from incandescent to fluorescent isn’t technical — visit WalMart some day, they have bazillions of those little corkscrew-shaped bulbs for sale — it’s that consumers don’t like the light, don’t like the shape of the bulb, want to use their dimmer switches, or something else utterly non-technical. Commercial users, such as retailers, don’t want to turn off their lights at night, not because they can’t find the “Off” switch or whatever, but because “advertising” requires that they spew light into the sky in order to get someone, somewhere, driving down the highway at 2AM to know they can return between 10AM and 8PM and shop for the latest sales. The prestige associated with having a giant building, all lit up in the middle of the night, is a reason commercial highrise buildings can’t seem to quit spewing light into the night sky. Over and over again, the reasons for wasteage aren’t technical, they are some manner of personal or business preference.

    Some of the comments in #32 reflect a bit of ignorance about what can be done fairly near term that won’t result in landscape blight — farmers are already leasing land for wind farms and deriving a nice revenue stream from it. There’s nothing stopping farmers from leasing their land for wind production, nor is there anything stopping commercial buildings from leasing roof space for solar. I can scarcely imagine that people will complain that buildings have solar panels on their roofs, or that farms and grazing land have a few dozens or hundreds of wind turbines out in the middle of nowhere, providing revenue to the owners of that land.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 8 Jun 2007 @ 7:04 AM

  73. Re #39 [I believe that given the severity of climate change and the threat that it poses, our first priority should be that of addressing it in the most effective way possible, and I would prefer to avoid individuals attempting to use the issue of climate change as a vehicle for one version or another of ideologically-motivated syndicalist or socialist "social justice."]

    The most effective way possible might well be to develop and release a genetically engineered pathogen that would kill a large proportion of the world’s population. A medium-sized nuclear war might also suffice, by a combination of soot in the stratosphere blocking sunlight, and derailing the global economy. I use these extreme examples to make the point that our choice of ways to address climate change inevitably depends on moral and political beliefs that are not directly related to that issue, not just on what is “most effective”. I make absolutely no apologies for preferring ways which I believe will also help the poor, decrease inequality, and bring nearer the kind of democratic socialist world I want to see – but I try to avoid fooling myself into believing that the approaches I prefer for those reasons are necessarily the most effective.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 8 Jun 2007 @ 7:56 AM

  74. Ya know what bothers me most about these statements from Cockburn, Griffin and others? They’re not even up-to-date with research. All they have to do is look at the press releases from Science, and they’d know that warmer climates are not good. Within the past several weeks – too recent to have been forgotten – we’ve had articles modeling the US Southwest as warming to a climate which has never been observed in the past. Longer-term studies show increased CO2 in the atmosphere does not help crops or trees, but does wonders for plants like Poison Ivy and Kudzu. That increased level of CO2, initially seen as a boost to early-stage growth actually inhibits later productive stages of plant life.

    And all anyone has to do is open an issue of that obscure journal Science, and you’ll see new information every week. It’s not hard to stay atop the situation. Of course it’s easier to ignore it…

    James Hansen is rightly incensed that the NASA Cheif would make statements of opinion not supported by his own agency’s research.

    There’s an old saying we need to remind these individuals – it’s better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

    Comment by Terry Miesle — 8 Jun 2007 @ 8:03 AM

  75. We simply do NOT know enough about the role of aerosols in climate to start “saving ourselves” by pumping them into the atmosphere.

    While many are enamored of “global dimming”, few understand that the potential for cooling or WARMING due to aerosols depends on factors we have yet to work out.

    The Asian Brown Cloud is now been seen to WARM the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean as the altitude and darkness of the carbon particles conspire to ABSORB heat into the atmosphere. This, in turn, adds heat and power to Pacific storm systems. Warming – not dimming – from particulate ejection.

    In short, we could just end up messing around with yet another system which we don’t understand based on despiration and fairy tale innocence. This is new knowledge since the release of IPCC WGI earler this year. Add in the pollution cost to public health – heart disease and PM2.5, sulfate pollution, lung function deficits – when these particles come down into lower levels or are generated at the surface, and you have a disaster waiting to happen.

    The only certain way to slow or stop global climate change is to curb CO2 emissions. Period.

    Comment by ParticleWoman — 8 Jun 2007 @ 9:20 AM

  76. [[George W. Bush's politics of polarization has caused average Americans to ignore facts and only care about which side of the polarization you are on. Average Americans are not hearing you. They are just parsing you as noise from the other side.]]

    Not so much President Bush as Rush Limbaugh, George Will and other right-wing propagandists. I think it’s important to avoid bashing Republicans on this issue, since half the country is Republican and we need them on our side. Bush’s current plan for dealing with AGW may be insufficient, but at least he’s not denying it exists any more. Any move in a positive direction is a good thing. (BTW, I’m a liberal Democrat.)

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 8 Jun 2007 @ 9:26 AM

  77. [[ Did you know that you get 100 times as much radiation from a coal-fired power plant as from a nuclear power plant?
    Have you ever heard of background radiation? The natural background radiation that has been there since the beginning of time is 1000 times what you get from a nuclear power plant or 10 times what you get from a coal-fired power plant.
    ]]

    Both these figures assume the nuclear plant is undergoing “normal operation.” In real life, every damn one of the things has “unplanned releases” from time to time. In any case, who here favors coal as a power source? I certainly don’t. The coal-versus-nuclear thing is a fallacy of bifurcation.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 8 Jun 2007 @ 9:29 AM

  78. [[Guilt by association?
    Oh, you mean like associating 'skeptics' with cigarette companies...
    ]]

    Steve, how many threads do you intend to post this same message in?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 8 Jun 2007 @ 9:31 AM

  79. [[ But going back to the old Malthusian theory of population control is useless and dangerous,]]

    There is nothing essentially incorrect about Malthus’s thesis. Populations do expand to the limit of the food supply, and if birth control (or Malthus’s “moral restraint”) of some kind isn’t used, numbers will be reduced by starvation and plagues. There’s no organism in the world that keeps on increasing its population endlessly. Only humanity, with our half-bright way of doing things.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 8 Jun 2007 @ 9:34 AM

  80. Dr J, you do understand the difference between a peer-reviewed scientist and an engineer, right? (And this is not a knock on engineers, only an attempt to point out the specific difference.)

    Griffin’s accomplishments are specific to the field of engineering. While there is no question that he is trained in disciplines scientists are likewise trained in, what we’re really discussing is a difference of application.

    Let’s look at it another way: would you ask an X-ray technician – who is qualified to take pictures of something and can even recognize medical problems a subject might have – to give you an expert opinion regarding brain surgery?

    In essence, that is what you are suggesting we do here.

    But let’s take it a step further. Consider your own ad hominem remarks regarding the peer review process. To anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the scientific process, it is understood that peer review is the little engine that makes the progress and refinement of scientific inquiry possible. Yet you seek to dismiss it with what amounts to a hand wave, characterizing it as something that occurs in obscure journals.

    The problem, it strikes me, is you are confusing someone’s titles and position – his label of “Authority” – for expertise. This is not the case, as the late Carl Sagan pointed out in his essay on Baloney Detection (“There are no authorities, only experts.”).

    Bottom line: you have provided absolutely nothing to suggest that Dr. Griffin is a qualified expert on the subject of climatology, and failing that, criticism of his very public remarks as the head of NASA – not to mention the controversial history of his tenure as alluded to in other posts – remain valid.

    Regards.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 8 Jun 2007 @ 10:02 AM

  81. Guys And Gals,’engineer’ is not a dirty word, in fact as the saying goes ‘four years ago, I couldn’t even spell engineer, now I are one’. Whether we’re a butcher a baker or candlesticker maker, we’re all entitled to our opinion on issues that affect us as a society. The problem is that when you’re speaking publically and especially from a position of power,like Mr. Griffin, you oughtta have the good sense to temper your remarks and try to limit them to conclusions based on fact.
    Back to Mr. Cockburn and his diatribes against global warming advocates and his vendetta like approach to modellers. He seems to think that computer modellers and scientists are two different species, and doesn’t understand that modelling is a tool used in many disciplines,science included, to project possible future outcomes, based on initial assumptions. I had to learn fortran some years ago to simulate and to extend data records for civil engineering purposes. Though civil engineering is my discipline, the models were a useful tool in analyzing the data and drawing conclusions.
    There are uncertainties and models are far from perfect but because something isn’t perfectly efficient doesn’t mean that it’s not necessary or useful.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 8 Jun 2007 @ 10:02 AM

  82. RE # 62, Daniel, your personal opinion has been duly recorded:

    [Our species is quite capable of destroying itself, dragging down countless other species with us, one way or another. Get used to it.]

    Now, with that out of the way, the concerned RC contributors can bring more enlightement (even comments pointing towards solutions) to us and to our children.

    Comment by John L. McCormick — 8 Jun 2007 @ 10:15 AM

  83. #79
    “Populations” might, but humans do not. Malthus hasn’t been right since people learned to grow more food than they needed.

    Comment by Kroganchor — 8 Jun 2007 @ 10:35 AM

  84. Fredrik, My criticism on engineers was not meant to denigrate the profession or the practitioners thereof. My criticism was directed against the tendency of some engineers to think that because they have had a course in thermodynamics, they are experts in any system where energy is conserved. I do not care how smart you are: to think that your intelligence places you on an equal footing in a scientific matter with someone who has studied that matter for >20 years is the height of arrogance and foolhardiness. William Shockley was a brilliant physicist, but when he ventured into eugenics, he was just another racist moron who didn’t understand what he was talking about. Mike Griffin is a brilliant engineer, but he does not understand squat about climate–it’s not what he’s focused on, and his comments betray the fact that he hasn’t given the matter much thought.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 8 Jun 2007 @ 10:56 AM

  85. re 80

    I wrote:

    “To anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the scientific process, it is understood that peer review is the little engine that makes the progress and refinement of scientific inquiry possible. ”

    I should qualify what I said by stating that I am incorrect in saying peer review makes scientific inquiry possible”.

    That is obviously incorrect in that scientific inquiry does not depend upon peer review to occur.

    What I should have said is “that peer review is the little engine that assists in the progress and refinement of scientific inquiry, and does so in a fashion no other method I am aware of can match.”

    My apologies for my imprecision.

    Regards.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 8 Jun 2007 @ 11:06 AM

  86. Kroganchor (#83) wrote with respect to the view that the growth of human populations is limited only by starvation and disease:

    #79

    “Populations” might, but humans do not. Malthus hasn’t been right since people learned to grow more food than they needed.

    I would also add that there is the “Wealth effect.”

    The greater the wealth, the greater the tendency of families to limit the number of children they have. In poorer countries, less investment in children is required in terms of their education before they can be put to work and result in a net increase in the family’s income. For example, the young may work alongside their parents in the fields. But in richer countries, more investment is required. For example, in the richer countries, such as Japan, children become a luxury since they will often have to go through college before they are able to make a substantial income – and by that time they are generally living on their own.

    Expressed in 1964 dollars, the rate of population increase begins to drop once the annual per capita income rises above 300 dollars. However, part of the cause of the population explosion in third world countries was the result of modern medicine becoming available before birth control. This made it far more likely that more children would survive childhood – while potential mothers were largely unable to avoid pregnancy. But given rising living standards and the availability of birth control, the population explosion itself is being brought under control – except in a few especially poor countries like Haiti and Uganda.

    As such, we are now projecting that the population of the earth will level out at around eleven billion.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 8 Jun 2007 @ 11:54 AM

  87. Re #83: [Malthus hasn't been right since people learned to grow more food than they needed.]

    Sorry, but Malthus is still right, it’s just that food supply has become variable rather than constant, as (IIRC) it was in his original formulation. So now you’re inserting the assumption that humans will always be able to grow more food than they need. Suppose that assumption fails due to the effects of AGW (or just from eventual exhaustion of resources): humans grow less food than they need, and Malthus is vindicated.

    Comment by James — 8 Jun 2007 @ 12:00 PM

  88. James (#87) wrote:

    Sorry, but Malthus is still right, it’s just that food supply has become variable rather than constant, as (IIRC) it was in his original formulation. So now you’re inserting the assumption that humans will always be able to grow more food than they need. Suppose that assumption fails due to the effects of AGW (or just from eventual exhaustion of resources): humans grow less food than they need, and Malthus is vindicated.

    If Malthus is right, then where food is plentiful, such as Japan and Europe, we are currently experiencing the worse population explosion imaginable. However, the population in those areas has either leveled out or is actually declining. As such Malthus was wrong – for the reasons I gave in #86.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 8 Jun 2007 @ 12:22 PM

  89. Re 56:”12. CO2 is destroying the ability of diatoms, forams, coccolithphores and coral to use calcium, sequester carbon, and support the rest the rest of the oceanic biosphere”

    Diatoms use silica for their shells, not calcium carbonate. They make up nearly half the pelagic plant population.

    I see, googling, that they rely on ocean turbulence to keep up in the light — they are thus prime candidates to be effected by surface pollution which disengages wind from the surface — that’s how the oil on troubled waters effect happens. I wonder if anyone has details on how this has altered oceanic populations of diatoms and calciferous phytoplankton populations. Anyone? Have we altered (by increasing dust) the silica levels in the oceans, thus giving diatoms an advantage over the other sorts of floating plants. If so we may have reduced the oceanic pull down of carbon by stopping the carbonate shells raining out into the deep ocean sink.

    Another prediction for my theory. I hope the science (wet welly science, not modelling) is there to prove me wrong.

    You know people are arguing about someone being an engineer and thus not qualified to discuss global warming? If I had to bet on who was qualified it wouldn’t be computer modellers either. My money would be on marine biologists and I wish we heard more from them.

    JF

    Comment by Julian Flood — 8 Jun 2007 @ 12:43 PM

  90. After reading the set of three Cockburn articles (and George Monbiot’s measured and reasonable responses) (cited in comment #1), I am stunned when I realize this is the same person I heard speak in c. 1987 so passionately in defense of the Amazon rainforest and the need for conservation measures. I would have thought such a stance would carry over to concern about AGW. Evidently not…

    Comment by Taylor — 8 Jun 2007 @ 12:53 PM

  91. Reply to Barton Paul Levenson, #77: WRONG! Those releases fron nuclear power plants are much less than a teaspoon full.
    By the way, The Chernobyl accident released only 200 tons of radioactive material, as much as an average coal-fired power plant of the same capacity would release in 7 years and 5 months. Average coal contains 1 or 2 parts per million uranium. Some Illinois coal contains up to 103 parts per million uranium. Since coal varies, so does the uranium output of the coal-fired power plant’s smokestack. The amount of thorium contained in coal is about 2.5 times greater than the amount of uranium.
    Releases in 1982 from worldwide combustion of 2800 million tons of coal totaled 3640 tons of uranium (containing 51,700 pounds of uranium-235) and 8960 tons of thorium. That is only one year.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 8 Jun 2007 @ 1:04 PM

  92. “There’s no organism in the world that keeps on increasing its population endlessly. Only humanity, with our half-bright way of doing things.”

    Author Author!

    Comment by Mark A. York — 8 Jun 2007 @ 1:17 PM

  93. On the ‘engineers vs. scientists’ issue – it’s a false dichotomy. In renewable energy technology issues, it is often the case that basic research is done by academic scientists, and successful basic research leads to private sector engineers picking up the technology and doing a lot of process optimization aimed at increasing efficiency and reducing costs – this has been the standard approach to all technological development for quite some time, and usually there is mutual respect and interest between the two groups. Basic science research depends on well-engineered instruments, and so on.

    The problem with Griffin isn’t that he’s an engineer, it’s that he’s a bad engineer with a political agenda – see http://www.tombodett.com/storyarchive/homeplanet.htm (on the removal of the phrase ” To understand and protect our home planet” from NASA’s mission statement)

    As far as who is and who isn’t ‘qualified’ to discuss climate science, it all falls under the heading ‘Earth systems science’ (or ‘Planetary systems science’), and thus involves contributions from physics, chemistry, and biology – as well as from astronomy, meteorology, ecology, geology, computer science, etc. There isn’t any one source to go to, and the overall problem is one of synthesis between disciplines – also called the ‘overall system perspective’. Even a single issue, such as carbon cycling within the oceans, involves input from many areas – there have been a lot of articles on this issue in Science lately, from modelers, from sediment-trap people, and so on.

    Currently, it looks like long-standing worries about weakening carbon sinks on land and in the oceans are not ‘alarmist fears’ – see http://news.mongabay.com/2007/0517-southern_ocean.html

    Comment by Ike Solem — 8 Jun 2007 @ 1:25 PM

  94. A few comments on this thread.

    In #80, J. S. McIntyre wrote: “Dr J, you do understand the difference between a peer-reviewed scientist and an engineer, right? (And this is not a knock on engineers, only an attempt to point out the specific difference.)”

    This suggests a substantial misunderstanding of what engineers do and how they do it. No engineering design that has a impact on public health and safety can be delivered without the seal of a professional engineer. More specifically, almost every engineering organization will have a formalized process for quality control, which, in practice, is precisely a mechanism for “peer review”. In some cases the requirement for quality assurance is embedded in law or regulation and the effort is very substantial, representing perhaps a quarter or third of the cost of a project. There are failures of quality assurance, but the same is true of “scientific” peer review. An uncle who did engineering consulting after he retired, made sure that each of his contracts included the clients’ recognition that he would be providing best effort, but was, like all humans, fallible, and that they had the responsibilty of due diligence and review of his consulting product.

    In #68, Barton Paul Levenson wrote: “[[No, Dr. Griffin (who is a distinguished scientist and educator with more degrees and experience than any on this blog) ]]

    Not in climatology he isn’t. His degrees are in engineering; he is not a scientist at all. On the other hand, the people who write this blog — Gavin Schmidt, Raymond Pierrehumbert, Michael Mann, etc. — are all Ph.D. climatologists.”

    Levenson should hustle over to the American Association for the Advancement of Science and tell them to get rid of their Engineering Division and quit printing articles and news on engineering issues and to Sigma Xi and tell them to stop inducting engineers and including columns, article, and book reviews on engineering in the American Scientist magazine.

    Like McIntyre, Levenson misunderstands what engineers do and how they do it. Their primary goal is not discovery of new scientific knowledge, although that is sometimes a byproduct of engineering activity, but rather the use of existing knowledge to meet the needs of society in a cost-effective fashion. The ways in which they do this use many of the resources and methods of science, including research, experimentation, and peer review.

    In #77, Levenson writes:

    “[[ Did you know that you get 100 times as much radiation from a coal-fired power plant as from a nuclear power plant?
    Have you ever heard of background radiation? The natural background radiation that has been there since the beginning of time is 1000 times what you get from a nuclear power plant or 10 times what you get from a coal-fired power plant.]]

    Both these figures assume the nuclear plant is undergoing “normal operation.” In real life, every damn one of the things has “unplanned releases” from time to time.”

    I don’t have a pointer to the literature, but would be willing to bet Levenson that, even taking unplanned releases into account, which exist primarily in the imaginations of anti-nuclear activists, the release of radionuclides to the environment from coal-, oil-, and gas-fired electricity generation and transportation will far outweigh releases from commercial nuclear plants.

    In #65, Steve D writes: “Guilt by association?

    Oh, you mean like associating ‘skeptics’ with cigarette companies…”

    In several cases — Frederick Seitz, Steve Milloy, Jim Tozzi, etc. — , you don’t need to “associcate” global warming denialists with tobacco denialists, they’re the same people. Further, the fossil-fuel industry adopted the same strategies as the tobacco industry and used many of the same political and propaganda resources.

    Best regards.

    Comment by Jim Dukelow — 8 Jun 2007 @ 2:08 PM

  95. Again, let me clarify my meaning. I did not say the Dr. Griffin made his remarks because he is an engineer. I said that because he is an engineer, he has not been trained as a scientist, and therefore on matters of science was probably not competent to pass judgement. FYI, I work as both a scientist and and engineer. Both disciplines bring valuable skills to the table, but just as I would not want to drive over a bridge designed by a scientist, I would not want to rely on an engineer to tell me how science works.
    I also disagree that Griffin is a bad engineer. He’s actually got a pretty good track record of bringing projects in. He drew rather strong conclusions based on his limited knowledge of the subject. We should all remember the words of St. Patrick: “Oh Lord, let my words be sweet and tender today; for tomorrow, I may have to eat them.”

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 8 Jun 2007 @ 2:29 PM

  96. It may be that Cockburn is latching on to a significant claim out there that Margaret Thatcher “engineered” the global warming crisis claims in order to promote the nuclear industry. Check out this UseNet thread (to which I provided some rebuttals) and its links:

    Xref: sn-us sci.physics.foundations:535
    Path: sn-us!sn-feed-sjc-02!sn-xt-sjc-11!sn-xt-sjc-08!sn-xt-sjc-12!supernews.com!pd7cy1no!shaw.ca!news.alt.net!spf.stump.algebra.com!robomod!not-for-mail
    From: Oh No
    Newsgroups: sci.physics.foundations
    Subject: The green house effect – one of Thatcher’s lies?
    Date: Sun, 11 Mar 2007 05:05:08 CST
    http://groups.google.com/group/sci.physics.foundations/browse_frm/thread/7bb1c857334f9011/a1f90f44ec199984?lnk=gst&q=thatcher&rnum=1#a1f90f44ec199984

    Quote:
    (Poster handle: “Oh No”)
    Of course it is known that Thatcher was probably the most dishonest and corrupt leader this country has ever had in modern times, up to and including the present one. Now it is claimed that the “science” behind
    global warming was a story she put about to damage the miners and support nuclear power, while at the same time, no doubt, putting money into Dennis’s pocket through his commercial interests in the power industry.

    http://www.channel4.com/science/microsites/G/great_global_warming_swindl
    e

    One might think that this is just another bunch of lies from a different commercial quarter. I had always thought there was some science behind the greenhouse effect, but one has to question whether there actually is any, or whether people are just making calculations on the basis of an accepted wisdom with no fundamental scientific basis. As I know that string theorists and CDM cosmologists do exactly that, I have to question other areas of science too.

    Regards


    Charles Francis
    moderator sci.physics.foundations.

    substitute charles for NotI to email
    ~~~~~
    Of course, even if Thatcher did try to use GW to help the nuclear industry (and BTW, is that so damn bad?), that wouldn’t be a reason to disbelieve the scientific claims (ad hominem fallacy.)

    Comment by Neil B. — 8 Jun 2007 @ 3:16 PM

  97. re: #65, #95
    Jim: yes.
    Also, one cannot forget Fred Singer.

    Steve D: it’s NOT guilt by association. Any rational skeptic should assess the weight behind someone’s opinions, especially in the Web era.

    Consider people like Seitz & Singer (two physicists, not physicians)
    - took money from tobacco companies (RJ Reynolds)
    - fought recognition of smoking/cancer link

    If someone takes money from tobacco companies, to help keep getting teenagers addicted to tobacco, to assure future tobacco profits, what, exactly, do you think they won’t do?

    Steve D: do you defend these guys? Do you believe anything they say? Why? Do you have any knowledge at all about the lobbying industry?

    There are some interesting websites around that can sometimes help sort out the maze of interconnected people and entities, although of course, one must always be careful to assess them as well.

    Wikipedia

    http://www.sourcewatch.org

    Political Friendster
    http://www.politicalfriendster.com/
    Click on “search” button at left. Put in Fred Singer, TASSC, Milloy or Cato.

    DeSMogBlog’s “Who are the deniers” is interesting:
    http://www.desmogblog.com/node/1272

    Denialism Blog has a page with a nice shortlist:
    http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/2007/05/who_are_the_denialists_part_ii_1.php

    Comment by John Mashey — 8 Jun 2007 @ 3:37 PM

  98. re 94.

    I have no argument with your response re quality control in engineering, but in relation to my response to Dr J it is a non-sequitur, an apples and oranges argument.

    The subject was not whether or not there are standards in place within engineering that parallel the peer review process in science that might lend credibility to Griffin’s comments (they wouldn’t), but instead that of a fundamental difference of application. Dr J presented Griffin’s resume, which clearly shows him to have a rather exclusive engineering background that has no apparent relation to climatology, as a rebuttal to the argument that Griffin is not credible as a climatologist, and therefore his public comments as the head of NASA were, in essence, egregious. His reason for doing so was to suggest Griffin did have credibility as a scientist.

    I addressed a fundamentally flawed premise, and my attempt was only to demonstrate why it was flawed, not to suggest that engineers do not also engage in their own form of peer review.

    Regards

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 8 Jun 2007 @ 3:49 PM

  99. More re 94

    “I don’t have a pointer to the literature, but would be willing to bet Levenson that, even taking unplanned releases into account, which exist primarily in the imaginations of anti-nuclear activists, the release of radionuclides to the environment from coal-, oil-, and gas-fired electricity generation and transportation will far outweigh releases from commercial nuclear plants.”
    And I’m sure the former residents of Chernobyl look at this issue in similar fashion. *smallest of smiles*

    The problem – potential problem – with nuclear power is not comparisons of the steady emissions you are referring to. Odds are that if all nuclear plants were able to run as were designed and built we would have nothing to worry about. Yes, I understand Chernobyl was far from the best design, that it was, on reflection, a disaster waiting to happen. That’s really not the point, though. It happened, and its effects were long-lasting and far reaching, as anyone living in Europe in that time could probably tell you. The area around the site remains unfriendly to human life, and the Russians are now building a second containment structure to replace the older one, which is rotting away.

    The real problem is that there exists in our lives and in the course of events the element of the unexpected. (I’m sure the fathers of the Industrial Revolution ever dreamed of the long-term consequences to our climate they would inadvertently bring about, for example.) Again, in relation to human disasters, this might not be a cause for worry. When Iraq left Kuwait at the end of the first Gulf War they sabotaged the oil fields, and the region is still recovering from the effects on its environment. But that recovery is relatively short-term when you consider it in relation to what happened at Chernobyl.

    I am a reluctant advocate of nuclear power, if only because of the trade-offs associated with it are preferable to what will happen if we keep on as we are with a carbon-based energy economy. But that does not blind me to concerns regarding the long-term implications of the dangers associated with nuclear power that rightfully concern people. It is only with the greatest of hubris that we can discount that worry.

    Plans are what we make. Life is what we get. And sometimes life turns out to be one wicked mother.

    Regards.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 8 Jun 2007 @ 4:22 PM

  100. re 33 Mr. J wrote: [[So, unless he (Griffin-RO) has published hundreds of climatology papers in peer-reviewed obscure journals he is not qualified to speak?]]

    Mr. J. You do not understand science and seem to be trying to muddy the issue.

    There is either peer review and then there is not peer review, Griffin is in the non-peer review category on Climate Change.

    Griffin does not publish climate peer review (no one checks his work for facts) and does not quote real climate peer review.

    So therefore he is not qualified to speak on it (he *does* however have a right to his own *opinion* but not to state that his views are factual{because no one can check his facts for accuracy).

    Peer review is the only(err major) way science has to vet (check) itself.

    Griffin, or Lindzen or Singer or Gavin can say whatever they want about anything they want. How do you know whether they are corrupt or lying or not…a PHD means s _ _ t for their morale values or truthfulness. Some PHDs are still peddling that tobacco is still good for you.

    Now, if one of these people tries to peddle false science without evidence in the peer review system…they will be crucified because their evidence will not stand up to the world…even African scientists.

    So I believe PHDs who tell me that smoking is good for me, abestos won’t hurt me, global warming is not happening and that humans are not causing it, etc…but you *won’t* find that in the peer review reviewed literature….because evidence does not exist for it.

    Choose your own poison…just don’t say that Griffin has or insinuates he or NASA has provable evidence that GW is not ocurring or that humans are not causing most of it. If he does, he is *liar*…period.

    Comment by Richard Ordway — 8 Jun 2007 @ 4:34 PM

  101. Re: peer-reviewed scientists, engineers

    Peer-review doesn’t exist for climate / hydrologic change work at federal agencies (river forecast centers, others) and likely doesn’t exist for runoff frequency work in federal agencies (USGS, COE, others), in my experience (ending July, 2005)

    Comment by pat n — 8 Jun 2007 @ 4:40 PM

  102. #59, #61, #66

    You know, it might be a 2 billion and maybe 150 years, if you are lucky — but there is a basic denial of the fact that we are living over the capacity of the planet. There has been a good deal of scientific analysis, this is not just my opinion. Also see the destruction of jungle animals (“bush meat”) and of fish populations, for human survival.

    Deniers will always grab onto whatever they want – the truth, or one’s best insight into truth, should be spoken and others will come to see the truth. It will be the increasing fight over energy, the decline of natural resources, and other factors, that together will apply pressure on the population. We have already seen the beginning of it. Some may be thinking that the United States and Europe will be immune from this, but likely only temporarily so. Walls and missile shields, the equivalent of gated communities, are being built.

    Read the book “Collapse”. Civilizations can be at their peak one year, and seventy years later be nearly extinct. By “change of philosophy”, I meant that most couples would need to agree to not having children. I did not say this is easy or even likely to happen, but you may also not have seen growth on a petri dish – one day flourishing, a day or two later, extinct from overcrowding and self-poisoning. I am not saying we will be totally extinct, but that the world’s life will change dramatically. I think that the creeping reality of this century is very hard to face – the warning alarms, however, are sounding all around us.

    Comment by David Alexander — 8 Jun 2007 @ 5:26 PM

  103. Ray, why are you categorising people as engineers and scientist? Do you really belive a quantum mechanics professor know more about climate than a professor in structural dynamics or mathematical system theory? Griffin probably only have limited knowledge about climate but the usual physics proffesor also limited knoweledge about climate.

    To label all engineers as crackpots as you and for example Barton actually do in your comments is the exact thing as if I call Barton a crackpot because he is a Christian. The first seems to be ok here but not the last one. Why?

    Comment by fredrik — 8 Jun 2007 @ 5:33 PM

  104. Ok, I’m gonna try to go straight to the point. Malthus was wrong because of 2 major flaws in its thesis:
    - he assumed population would grow exponentially when food supply would grow arithmetically. During 19th and 20th century, and to to technical progress and intensive agriculture, food supply actually grew faster than world population.
    - he assumed population growth would not naturally stop by itself, which is of course wrong given the demographic transition phenomena that touches all populations reaching a certain standard of living. The main population growth takes place during the transition period of a developing economy to a developped economy, then stops and is replaced by a slow population decay. Population growth is just a temporary state lasting about 100 years, more or less 50 years.
    The problem with Malthus is that he made a static analysis, assuming the conditions he was observing at the end of 18th century would stay the same during time. He was predicting a shortage in food supply for the middle of the 19th century… Observations didn’t confirm his theory, did they?

    Comment by Nicolas L. — 8 Jun 2007 @ 5:35 PM

  105. What are an engineer according to you? Is a profesor of structural dynamics working in a university and writing peer-reviewed papers a scientist or an engineer?

    Is he doing research according to you?

    Comment by fredrik — 8 Jun 2007 @ 5:38 PM

  106. fredrik, Now where did I call any engineer a crackpot? I believe that what I said was that engineers do not typically have a working knowledge of how science is done on a daily basis, because they do not do science. Should every lawyer be considered a literary critic because they do a lot of writing? The difference between an engineer and a scientist is in the way they approach a problem and in the problems they tend to approach. In my own field, I work with about 50% scientists and 50% engineers. Some who have engineering degrees approach problems like scientists, while a few scientists approach problems like engineers. Both science and engineering are powerful disciplines. Both scientists and engineers sometimes suffer from delusions that their training and brilliance may make up for a lack of specialized knowledge when they look into a new field. Both usually find out that they are wrong. It has been my experience that many denialists are engineers, perhaps with a little experience of computer modeling, which they feel gives them insight into why climate change is bogus. Dr. Griffin, whom I’ve met, seems to have stepped into such a situation, and still seems to have some of it on his shoe. So, fredrik, please accept my apology if what I said could be construed as an attack on engineers. It was not intended that way. Had Dr. Griffin been a professor of geology, I would have pointed out that that does not count as specialized, relevant knowledge. And as to my own field of expertise, no, radiation physics doesn’t help me out a whole helluva lot either. I do at least practice science on a daily basis though.

    Comment by ray ladbury — 8 Jun 2007 @ 6:01 PM

  107. Re 82, from John McCormick:

    My point is that solutions to global warming are usually discussed in purely technological terms, so as to answer the question: How can we preserve life on Earth without changing any of our habits? Clearly there’s no business-as-usual solution, and the search for it is futile.

    The solution (if there is one) would entail much more than a change of habits. In Collapse, Jared Diamond discusses several societies for whom environmental depletion posed the question: “In solving this problem, which of our core values are we willing to jettison, and which are too precious to lose?” The severity of our current predicament is a global analogue. In human history, some societies marshaled a sufficient capacity for change, and some did not. The Norse Greenlanders decided they’d rather die than eat fish (though it’s hard to understand why they hated fish so much), and so they disappeared. Stuff happens.

    Comment by Daniel C. Goodwin — 8 Jun 2007 @ 6:05 PM

  108. #56, Timothy, sorry I should have been clearer (I keep forgetting this is a very literal forum). You did not cherry pick articles, you picked out a reasonable sample of tipping point articles. The problem was with the articles themselves. They do not reference models or comprehensive measurements to support the tipping point hypothesis. Your follow-up post does the same, but the observations are being cherry-picked. Here is just one example of more snow in greenland:

    http://edgcm.columbia.edu/images/stories/ScienceToday/Greenland/fig9.png

    This type of hypothetical result works against tipping point. There are many others: some types of clouds, energized jet stream, more storms, concentrated convection, and other negative feedbacks leading to cooling. The tipping point articles routinely ignore any of these factors.

    Comment by Eric (skeptic) — 8 Jun 2007 @ 6:13 PM

  109. Richard Ordway wrote: “… just don’t say that Griffin has or insinuates he or NASA has provable evidence that GW is not ocurring or that humans are not causing most of it”

    As I understand it, Griffin did not say that. In the quotes I have seen, Griffin acknowledged that global warming (“a warming trend”) is happening, and he did not address whether humans are responsible for it or not. He suggested that anyone who thinks we should avoid radically altering the Earth’s climate and biosphere with anthropogenic warming is “arrogant”. Which, as I wrote previously, is inane blithering rubbish worthy of Rush Limbaugh.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 8 Jun 2007 @ 6:44 PM

  110. Re Comment 84 Ray Ladbury says in part:
    My criticism was directed against the tendency of some engineers to think that because they have had a course in thermodynamics, they are experts in any system where energy is conserved.

    Ray, you don’t need thermodynamics to know that if my house is losing say 9000 Btu/hr. during the winter,it loses it hour after hour and day after day to to the outdoor surroundings and I have to compensate by,in my case, burning oil to keep a thermal energy balance. The loss due to the temperature difference between the house and its surroungings is compensated for by the boiler’s input. If my boiler gives me say 80,000 Btu for every gallon of oil- then my oil usage is (9000x24x30)/(80,000)=81 gallons/month. My checkbook tells me more than thermodynamics, in this case.
    One point that I haven’t seen mentioned so far was that Sadi Carnot, himself,who laid the foundations of the second law of thermodymanics, was primarily considered a military engineer, concerned with designing steam engines.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 8 Jun 2007 @ 7:51 PM

  111. In #98, J. S. McIntyre writes: “Dr J presented Griffin’s resume, which clearly shows him to have a rather exclusive engineering background that has no apparent relation to climatology, as a rebuttal to the argument that Griffin is not credible as a climatologist, and therefore his public comments as the head of NASA were, in essence, egregious. His reason for doing so was to suggest Griffin did have credibility as a scientist.”

    This provides a nice lead-in to looking at Griffin’s actual background and what he actually said. First, along with his Ph. D. in aeronautical engineering, Master’s degree in electrical engineering, and Master’s degree in civil engineering, he has a Bachelor’s in physics (Johns Hopkins), a Master’s in aeronautical science (Catholic University), a Master’s in applied physics (Johns Hopkins), and a Master’s in business administration (Loyola College). If nothing else, he gets some sort of prize as a campus rat, although I suspect most of those degrees were achieved while working full time or while on educational leave from his employment or military service. It seems extreme to describe that as a “rather exclusive engineering background”. It is true that there is no obvious connection to climatology, but, in fact, the objectionable parts of his comments also have little connection to climatology. Overall, it would appear that Griffin has an extensive background in both engineering and science.

    So what were those comments? They are available at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10571499 .

    First, he agrees that global warming exists and that recent evidence has “pretty well nailed down the conclusion that much of it was manmade.” He then adds that “Whether that is a longterm concern or not, I can’t say.”

    Steve Inskeep follows up, asking whether it is a problem mankind has to wrestle with. Griffin responds (with a non sequitur), “To assume it is a problem is to assume that the state of the 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.” He continues with an obvious, but irrelevant fact, “First of all, I don’t think it’s within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown.” Finally, he passes to the critical remark, which is not climatological, but rather political and ethical: “And second of all, 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.”

    Finally, Inskeep asks him how his feelings/beliefs might impact putting together the NASA budget. Griffin responds correctly (but dodging the question) that “Nowhere in NASA’s authorization, which of course governs what we do, is there anything at all telling us that we should take actions to affect climate change either one way of another. We study global climate change, that is in our authorization, we think we do that rather well. I’m proud of that, but NASA is not an agency chartered to, quote, battle climate change”

    An obvious follow up question that Inskeep did not ask is how Griffin’s feelings/beliefs might affect how NASA’s upcoming budgets affect the ability of NASA to monitors climate and to research the climate system in the future.

    I happen to disagree with Griffin’s political and ethical pronouncement, but like all of us, he has a right to those views, whatever his background in climatology. However, those views and some of his earlier actions make me appreciate that we now have some real congressional oversight of NASA.

    Best regards.

    Comment by Jim Dukelow — 8 Jun 2007 @ 7:59 PM

  112. Eric, did you read the text that accompanies that model image you posted above?

    You posted:
    > the observations are being cherry-picked. Here is just one example of more snow in greenland:
    > http://edgcm.columbia.edu/images/stories/ScienceToday/Greenland/fig9.png

    And here’s the accompanying text:

    “However, snow depth and snow cover (figures 9 and 10) show that the increased rate of snow fall cannot keep pace with the increased melting and thus both snow depth and snow cover would be expected to decrease as global warming proceeds into the mid-21st century.

    “The implication is that, although the new scientific observations show an increase in the elevation of the interior Greenland ice sheet, the ultimate impact of Global Warming will be a reduction in the size of the ice sheet …”

    Was that your point, that people can look at an image and draw a mistaken conclusion, if they don’t read the text?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Jun 2007 @ 9:37 PM

  113. Regarding Griffin…

    As a coder, I had to pick between a fellow who was undoubtedly a very good coder at one time – but had been a part of management for a fair number of years since then and someone who had far more recent experience in a number of different areas. I picked the guy with the recent experience – and fought for him – pushing hard against people several levels above me.

    (I convinced them – but then a bad quarter prevented the company from being able to fill any vacancies.)

    I think Griffin may have been quite good at engineering spacecraft at one point – but I wouldn’t want him designing one that I had to fly in – now that he has been an administrator for so long.

    However, even if he were still involved in design, I really don’t think it would be that relevant – when it comes to climatology. Someone who specialises in radiation physics, thermodynamics or fluid dynamics could very well have a great deal to offer that would be of value – but they would be far less of an “authority” than someone who actually specialises in climatology. And in any case I would place a great deal of emphasis on peer-reviewed publications within what is at least a closely related discipline.

    But lets set all of that aside for the moment.

    I find the following statement incredible:

    “And second of all, 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.”

    It isn’t a question of vanilla vs. chocolate. It isn’t a question of whether you would prefer to live in Los Angeles or Seattle. It is serious climate change which threatens to displace millions, cause water scarcities for somewhere in the neighborhood of a billion and starvation on scales that are unprecidented in human history – and that is just for starters. Moreover, it is a question of how fast climate change will take place – and both how uncontrollable and unpredictable it may become.

    ** ** **

    Nearly 15000 glaciers and 9000 glacial lakes are found in the Himalayan mountain chain which stretches 2500 km across five countries â?? Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, India and China. The mountain range feeds nine perennial river systems in the region and constitutes a lifeline for nearly 1.3 billion people downstream.

    Himalayan glaciers are shrinking at an average of 10 to 60 m annually, with some retreating by 74 m a year. In China, glaciers have been retreating at a rate of 5.5 per cent in the last three decades. With current climate change projections two-thirds of Chinaâ??s glaciers are likely to disappear by 2050, and almost all would be gone by 2100.

    The Impending Himalayan Outburst
    June 2007
    http://www.nepalmonitor.com/2007/06/the_impending_himala.html

    (emphasis added)

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 8 Jun 2007 @ 9:58 PM

  114. “Once the hydrogen sulfide smell becomes noticeable, is it already too late?” and “Will people start thinking that the hydrogen sulfide smell is normal?”.

    Not necessarily, but most likely, because it’s a forerunner to coming lethal concentrations. Interestingly, as H2S concentration builds up, long before fatal dosing, one of the first thing to go is smell (our ability to detect H2S from its odor).

    Comment by Rod B. — 8 Jun 2007 @ 11:13 PM

  115. Just for the record, there is a vast library of peer reviewed Engineering publications. Some of us can even spell and do grammar.
    And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

    Comment by David Bruce — 9 Jun 2007 @ 12:17 AM

  116. I found an interesting article when I was participating in a discussion on gristmill. On a post about invasive species a commenter recommended a book about the subject.

    I googled the title and found a review in the journal Ecology and the reviewer, an ecologist at U. of Washington, brought up some interesting points that are relevant to pieces like Cockburns. It was a good summary of judging the value of books and articles in a politically charged scientific area.

    http://striweb.si.edu/basset/PdFs/Longino2004Arthropods.pdf
    Deprogramming invasion biologists? is the article that applies to climate change as well is it does to ecology.

    Comment by Joseph O'Sullivan — 9 Jun 2007 @ 12:29 AM

  117. “I think your table needs to have more than just the carbon-is-evil policy makers.”

    Rhetoric like this does not enhance credibility.

    Why not just say the “Boyle’s-Law-is-Evil” policy makers ?

    Comment by Doug Watts — 9 Jun 2007 @ 12:30 AM

  118. Re: 112.

    I imagine the “increased snowfall” will be an upcoming canard. Glaciers only grow when snow accumulation exceeds melting. If melting rates increase more quickly than the rate of increasing snow fall, the glaciers still shrink.

    Comment by Doug Watts — 9 Jun 2007 @ 12:37 AM

  119. OK, I see folks are still hung up on the fact that I placed part of the blame for Griffin’s comments on the fact that he is an engineer. Programmers and scientists, IMHO, are equally vulnerable to the delusions of adequacy when it comes to their competence in fields outside their own. I only know that in my education as a physicist (which may not have been typical), the point was driven home that if you disagree with the scientific consensus in a field well outside your area of expertise, you had better have done some really serious homework and have really good understanding and reasons for your disagreement.
    I work with a lot of engineers and a lot of scientists. It is my experience that the engineers are more likely to question anthropogenic causation of climate change without having a deep knowledge of the subject. Again, I do not claim that experience is typical.
    Another point: I have met Mike Griffin. He retains a good working knowledge of what it takes to build a spacecraft. He is also a pretty good administrator. After the cipher named Sean O’keefe and the misguided leadership of Dan Goldin, Griffin is someone who at least knows which end of the rocket should point up. I say this despite the fact that I have serious reservations about the wisdom of manned space flight–a goal Griffin views as the real purpose of NASA. To his credit, he was good natured and forthcoming when I asked him some rather pointed (some might say insubordinate) questions about the manned program.
    Griffin made a mistake–voicing an opinion on a topic that he has not thought out very clearly or deeply. Making climate policy is an area that he views as outside his job description and his interest. Frankly, I do not know if you could get him to change his opinion by presenting him with more information. However, I don’t think his personal views will influence his decisions at NASA. If there is renewed funding for climate research at NASA (and I hope it is) it will be earmarked by Congress, and Griffin (hopefully) won’t be able to touch it. This is something that will bear watching. The cuts to NASA’s science budget have not been isolated to the climate program. The spending used to be 50-50 between science and manned. It is now more like 30-70 in favor of manned space flight.
    However, I would rather have an administrator who expresses the occasional intemperate opinion but to whom I could go with a serious technical problem than an administrator who mouths all the right words but has no passion for building satellites.

    Comment by ray ladbury — 9 Jun 2007 @ 7:07 AM

  120. Re #114:

    As impressive as EdGCM is in its output, I encourage people to look at the output more closely and much more critically. It’s a nice toy, and a great way to slurp up processor power by the MFLOP, but I wouldn’t base any decision in any aspect of my life (other than “Do I buy a larger computer?”) on it.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 9 Jun 2007 @ 8:04 AM

  121. #112, Hank, the increased snowfall is a negative feedback regardless of the net glacial mass. Hansen’s “albedo flip” is a perfect example of cherry picking: “Snow-covered ice reflects back to space most of the sunlight striking it. However, as warming causes melting on the surface, the darker wet ice absorbs much more solar energy” (http://www.iop.org/EJ/article/1748-9326/2/2/024002/erl7_2_024002.html)

    The modeled increase in snowfall (again regardless of the net change) contradicts his albedo flip premise. There are many other negative feedbacks that Hansen ignores: increased rainfall (http://www.sciencedaily.com/upi/index.php?feed=Science&article=UPI-1-20070601-19364200-bc-us-climatechange.xml) and related negative feedbacks: more energetic polar vortex, more concentrated convection, etc.

    Cherry picking is when an article talks about positive feedbacks without mentioning the negative ones or at least a comprehensive model that includes both.

    Comment by Eric (skeptic) — 9 Jun 2007 @ 8:35 AM

  122. Malthus thesis is sound. Populations do tend to grow exponentially unless there is some “moral restraint”. There are plenty of examples in nature as well as of human societies where such “restraint” has been instituted. Keep in mind that when Malthus was writing, any type of birth control was extremely rudimentary and unreliable). At that time, a woman tended to become pregnant as soon as she stopped lactating–roughly every 2 years. The advent of birth control is a type of moral restraint–based on the moral supposition that women should have the right to control their reproduction. The fall of birthrates in industrialized countries is based on one thing Malthus probably could not have anticipated–the tilt of urban economics to favor fewer children. Still, I would contend that the basic tenets of Malthus were correct. Unless population is regulated, it will outstrip the ability of production to support it and crash. If nothing else, we can extrapolate the unrestricted population curve to the point where the mass of the human population equals the mass of the planet–and clearly that provides an upper limit that will not be transcended (and if you think space travel can do it, you need to look at how much energy it takes to accelerate a human and all his or her infrastructure to escape velocity).

    Comment by ray ladbury — 9 Jun 2007 @ 8:55 AM

  123. Jim Dukelow wrote regarding Griffin:

    Finally, he passes to the critical remark, which is not climatological, but rather political and ethical: “And second of all, 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.”

    [...]

    I happen to disagree with Griffin’s political and ethical pronouncement, but like all of us, he has a right to those views, whatever his background in climatology.

    I agree with Jim’s point that Griffin’s controversial remark is “not climatological, but rather political and ethical”, and I agree that Griffin, like anyone else, “has a right” to whatever political and ethical views he may hold.

    However, Timothy Chase comments regarding the same statement by Griffin,

    I find the following statement incredible [...] It isn’t a question of vanilla vs. chocolate. It isn’t a question of whether you would prefer to live in Los Angeles or Seattle. It is serious climate change which threatens to displace millions, cause water scarcities for somewhere in the neighborhood of a billion and starvation on scales that are unprecidented in human history – and that is just for starters. Moreover, it is a question of how fast climate change will take place – and both how uncontrollable and unpredictable it may become.

    Now, there is overwhelming, rapidly increasing empirical evidence, and overwhelming, rapidly strengthening scientific consensus that anthropogenic global warming, if we do not “wrestle” it to a halt in the very near future, will cause exactly the unprecedented suffering, deprivation, displacement and death to hundreds of millions of human beings that Timothy Chase succinctly describes.

    And indeed that is only the start, since continued accelerating anthropogenic global warming, combined with the carbon feedbacks that it is already triggering, threaten not only the continued existence of human civilization, but the survival of the human species, along with the survival of a majority of all Earth’s species, and conceivably threaten the capacity of the Earth to support life — at least anything resembling the rich, diverse biosphere that we know today.

    I would submit that if Griffin does not accept the overwhelming scientific consensus about the grave threat presented by global warming, if he believes that it is a relatively trivial problem that we don’t need to “wrestle with”, then he is in fact profoundly ignorant of climate science and what it tells us about global warming. In that case, his ethical & political views are subject to the criticism that they are based on ignorance — an ignorance that is legitimately seen as outrageous and shocking for a man in his position, who moreover is taking advantage of that position to publicize his ill-informed ethical and political views.

    On the other hand, if Griffin does recognize the seriousness of global warming, if he is cognizant of the vast suffering and harm and irreversible damage to all life on Earth that it portends, then his “ethical and political view” that it would be “arrogant” to try to prevent it is the “ethical and political view” of a madman or a monster, and is rightly condemned by anyone whose ethical or political views place any value whatever on the well-being of sentient beings.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 9 Jun 2007 @ 11:09 AM

  124. Eric (#108) wrote:

    #56, Timothy, sorry I should have been clearer (I keep forgetting this is a very literal forum). You did not cherry pick articles, you picked out a reasonable sample of tipping point articles. The problem was with the articles themselves. They do not reference models or comprehensive measurements to support the tipping point hypothesis. Your follow-up post does the same, but the observations are being cherry-picked. Here is just one example of more snow in greenland:

    http://edgcm.columbia.edu/images/stories/ScienceToday/Greenland/fig9.png

    This type of hypothetical result works against tipping point. There are many others: some types of clouds, energized jet stream, more storms, concentrated convection, and other negative feedbacks leading to cooling. The tipping point articles routinely ignore any of these factors.

    In G8 summit declaration: Comment #18 I point out that snowfall will actually increase the absorbtion of sunlight with glaciers since melting snow is darker than the glaciers themselves. Additionally, snow will cause the expansion of drains through which water reaches the bottom of glaciers, lubricating them and accelerating the rate at which they descend. In places like Greenland and the western Antarctic Peninsula this will result in their descent towards the ocean at an accelerated rate. Elsewhere it will result in some dramatic flooding (see the article I linked to in #113) and more rapid onset of water shortages and decreased agricultural output as rivers dry up (ibid.). Negative feedback? Well, yes, I suppose the snow is a temporary negative feedback, but results in other, stronger positive feedbacks. It should also be noted that the increased rate rising sea level mentioned above carries with it additional positive feedbacks of a fairly serious nature as rising sea level due to either Greenland or the western Antarctic Peninsula will increase the rate at which ice is lost from the other. And in all cases, glacier loss increases the albedo feedback where glacier melt lowers the albedo of the earth and thus increases the degree to which sunlight is converted into thermal energy – and this will feed into other positive feedbacks.

    Now you refered to “more storms” and more “concentrated convection.”

    Well, we aren’t sure that there will be more storms – I don’t think anyone has done the analysis as of yet. Likewise, if by “concentrated convection” you are refering to tornadoes, currently the evidence we have is only suggestive. However, if you mean hurricanes of increased intensity, well yes, that looks quite likely at this point – and there is a substanial amount of evidence suggesting that it has already begun. But I am not sure that this is the sort of “negative feedback” people will actually wish to see. Moreover, it carries with it a positive feedback of sorts that we weren’t aware of before: increased circulation of warm water towards the poles – resulting in the more rapid loss of albedo.

    However, if by increased convection, you mean what we are seeing in the Antarctic Ocean where increased convection is carrying more water vapour into the stratosphere, resulting in more rapid loss of ozone, decreased greenhouse effect in the stratosphere as ozone is a greenhouse gas,leading to stronger winds at the surface, well, yes, the increased convection is a negative feedback of sorts, but given the stronger winds at the surface, this is decreasing the ability of the Antarctic Ocean to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – which itself leads to more positive feedback. Similarly, your so-called “negative feedback” is resulting in the faster rate at which the Arctic is warming, resulting in the lower uptake of carbon dioxide in the northern hemisphere by the ocean – and thus contributing to the global rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

    Now what about clouds?

    There isn’t much reason to expect the lighter, more dispersed clouds. The increased evaporation (which itself leads to higher levels of water vapour in the atmosphere and an increased greenhouse effect) will, upon condensing into clouds tend to result in deeper, darker clouds – which won’t be that effective at increasing the albedo of the earth. Storms are more likely to dump their rain prematurely, over the ocean where such evaporation takes place – and this substantially increases the likelihood that, for example, the Amazon river basin will dry out and become a desert. The fires which may very well sweep through would themselves increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and diminish the ability of the biosphere to absorb carbon dioxide. Likewise the droughts and higher temperatures in other areas will diminish the ability of the biosphere to absorb carbon dioxide. As such, at present this is more of a positive feedback. The oceans can do without the rain, where it will become more likely, but we can’t, where it will become less likely – except in more infrequent and more intense when it does occur.

    But you will notice that of the things you’ve mentioned, I have left the “more energized” jet stream until last. The jet stream itself is part of a circulation of warmer air from latitudes closer to the equator towards the poles. As such, it would actually be increasing the rate at which the polar regions warm – resulting in positive feedbacks which I have already mentioned. But at some point those positive feedbacks will have melted away with the ice and the destruction of much of our ozone. Once these other more positive feedbacks have disappeared, the negative feedbacks you have mentioned (e.g., hurricanes) will remain and help to stabilize the climate, increasing the rate at which thermal energy is lost to space. But by that time the earth will have become quite different from what we have known over the past ten millenia, much closer to something we haven’t known for the past 200 million years.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 9 Jun 2007 @ 11:37 AM

  125. No population grows forever exponentially (or grows forever at all), neither in nature nor in human societies. There is always a regulation of some kind, the food shortage and increased competition being of course the most �extreme�. Our modern human societies have their own regulation which is demographic transition. We can discuss to know if demographic transition is a natural or moral phenomenon. I�d say it�s mostly natural. The moral component of it, meaning the acceptation of contraception, historically follows the beginning of the transition. The most of the movement is due to the transition from rural life with subsistence agriculture to urban life. This phenomenon can be qualified as �natural� as it is not driven by any law (in the jurisdictional sense) or moral behaviour. People just go where jobs, meaning money, meaning food, are.
    Secondly, Malthus was not only wrong in not anticipating future demographic movements like this, but also in thinking resources and mostly food supply grow up arithmetically. Food supply in the last 2 centuries, grew also exponentially, and in fact faster than population.
    Basically, he was wrong on the two main suppositions on which his theory relied on.
    Finally, the stricter conscious population�s regulation attempts that we can see in China and India are pretty inefficient to reduce effectively the population. All they do is reducing the growth rate, which we can predict will follow its course until China and India become fully developed countries.
    Ok, I�ll stop here but you can visit wikipedia and their very interesting link on demographic transition:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographic_transition

    Comment by Nicolas L. — 9 Jun 2007 @ 1:05 PM

  126. Metaphorically, Mr Cockburn simply enjoys hearing himself talk.

    I’m a longtime subscriber to The Nation. I have long ago learned to skip his column and head straight for the crossword puzzle.

    When he wrote a column defending Stalin by minimizing Stalin’s well-documented crimes (not 10 million killed — only 5 — or some such balderdash), it was clear that he had no credibility as a journalist whatsoever.

    He just likes to stir the pot and generate dozens of letters to The Nation so that he can get a few more column inches in the letters pages for his reply, which is usually ad hominem and mean spirited.

    Comment by Steve — 9 Jun 2007 @ 1:12 PM

  127. Since Steve brought us back to the nominal topic of this thread, I’ll chime in. About a decade ago, I was very involved in a conservation issue that Cockburn chose to write about. His indifference to facts became apparent quite quickly, and was confirmed by a friend who knew Cockburn’s fact-checker. When Cockburn’s penchant for ad hominem reached the point it was indistinguishable from the behavior of a sociopath, I gave up on both him and The Nation.

    Comment by Rick — 9 Jun 2007 @ 4:30 PM

  128. Re #122 — Ray has hit it exactly. Malthus’s thesis, in a nutshell, was:

    Population will expand past the food supply, and then people will die, unless they practice “moral restraint,” i.e., don’t have as many kids as they could.

    That thesis, at least in the long run, has never been shown to be wrong. You can alter the conclusion a bit by expanding the food supply, but that can never be more than a temporary solution. Population will always hit whatever food production rate you come up with — unless you “practice moral restraint.”

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 9 Jun 2007 @ 5:54 PM

  129. re: #125
    Malthus may well have the last word, although he didn’t really foresee the effects of:
    - Industrial Revolution
    - Mass urbanization and drop in subsistence farming
    - Green Revolution

    Malthus published ~1800, at which point ~80% of people in USA lived on farms, then:
    1900: 40%
    2000: ~2%

    Having grown up on a farm (1950s-1960s), I an attest to it having plusses, but it is also very hard work, and especially if you have livestock, neverending. I’ve run into people waxing lyrical about how nice it would be to live on a farm … but none of them had grown up there. First-world farmers are embedded in a high-tech civilization, and it can be OK, and it works to have only 2%. India is still 60-70% farmers.

    Just as we’re entering a new climate domain, we may be entering a new domain of food+population:

    1) We have likely gotten most of the “low-hanging fruit” from the Green Revolution, except perhaps in Africa. See:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Borlaug [1970 Nobel Peace Prize winner]

    It may well be that GM {foods and fuel-plants} will help, although that certainly causes opinion conflicts for some environmentalists. I wouldn’t automatically assume there’s another Green Revolution just lying around.

    Anyway, food yields are leveling off in many places. and Borlaug thinks good food yields are important to minimize deforestation.

    2) It is not at all clear that the mass urbanization ongoing/expected in many less-developed countries will lead to the same sort of demographic transition as happened in the existing developed countries, which managed to get rich as they urbanized, and had cheap energy to help that work.

    3) Does anyone get nervous at the prospect of huge third-world mega-cities (where most population growth is expected), with lots of barely-fed people? That seems like a good recipe for political trouble, especially in an era when energy won’t be so cheap. Although there are plenty of other reasons, the progress of Zimbabwe from breadbasket to basket-case, even with just 35% urban population, does not augur well. Hungry people = political instability, and large, poor cities have been prone to pandemics.

    4) Another recipe for trouble: societies that have a large excess of young men with minimal marriage prospects tend to have social trouble. The normal 105:100 mail:female birth ratio is already over 135:100 in some areas of China and India… Of course, this problem is self-correcting, eventually.

    5) In urban environments, many people really don’t *really* understand how food gets there (and how energy-intensive it is). A grad school colleague was from New York City, and his only office decoration was a NYC subway map. He liked chocolate milk, so one day we took him the farm at the edge of the (Penn State) campus, and showed him the dark chocolate cows. He wasn’t really sure we were kidding. :-)

    Anyway, some people interpret Borlaug’s Green Revolution as nullifying Malthus, but Borlaug doesn’t agree with them… Borlaug’s 1970 Nobel acceptance is still relevant, and the last part of his talk is rather Malthusian:
    http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1970/borlaug-lecture.html

    Comment by John Mashey — 9 Jun 2007 @ 6:35 PM

  130. Timothy, quite frankly I am confused about ozone. Isn’t ozone depletion (as bad as it might be otherwise), a negative feedback? Also wouldn’t increased winds from stratospheric cooling increase CO2 uptake at the ocean surface? By concentrated convection I meant the concentration of cool cloud tops especially over oceans allowing greater subsidence and LW radiation to space in the clear areas. As you note, increased snowfall (in Greenland) might be a temporary negative feedback. But tipping point is about the present, not the long term.

    Perhaps this paper helps answer the ozone question: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/97/4/1412.pdf My main question is does stratospheric cooling due to loss of ozone contribute to net warming by reducing IR into space or does it cause cooling by allowing more IR into space? It seems like it would also depend on any convective transfer with the troposphere which would depend on concentration of convection (which I believe generally increases with GW). In that case ozone depletion would part of a negative feedback.

    As for the oceanic CO2 uptake, it seems intuitive that CO2 transfer increases with wind speed. Here’s an example: http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/pubs/outstand/feel2331/figs.shtml in figure 4.

    Clouds are a big unknown and your points are good, except, as I have mentioned here before, for fires. They are short term negative feedback from aerosols. Probably more unknowns than knowns even with fire especially considering what happens after the fire.

    Finally about the jet stream. There are reasons for the energized (highly oscillatory) jet to be a negative feedback and some for it to be positive. The positive ones like warming polar regions are partly offset when considering corresponding cooling (and lowered CO2 output) in nonpolar regions. The jet would also cause more concentrated convection as I noted above.

    You are correct that more hurricanes and monsoons will cause lots of other problems, but they are nonetheless negative feedbacks.

    Comment by Eric (skeptic) — 9 Jun 2007 @ 6:45 PM

  131. Re #104: [Ok, I'm gonna try to go straight to the point. Malthus was wrong because of 2 major flaws in its thesis]

    Those are “flaws” only in the sense that Newton’s Laws are flawed because they don’t take relativistic effects into account. Similarly, the constants in Malthus’ equations can be changed. In particular, the agricultural productivity per acre can be increased by technology, or more acres can be cultivated, but both of those have obvious limits. So far food production has kept ahead of population growth, but it’s a race that ultimately can’t be won.

    [- he assumed population growth would not naturally stop by itself, which is of course wrong given the demographic transition phenomena that touches all populations reaching a certain standard of living. The main population growth takes place during the transition period of a developing economy to a developped economy, then stops and is replaced by a slow population decay. Population growth is just a temporary state lasting about 100 years, more or less 50 years.]

    Would you care to cite even one example where this has happened, other than temporarily & locally? In fact, if you consider the global population, I think you will find that the situation is exactly the opposite. Thanks to the spread of western medicine, the last century or so saw a great increase in population growth, because more humans survived to reproductive age. Now that’s returning to something approximating historical norms, as the expectation that most children will survive to adulthood becomes the norm. But that norm is still an increase.

    Comment by James — 9 Jun 2007 @ 11:58 PM

  132. re: #128, #104
    Most estimates I’ve seen say ~9B in 2050, with most of the growth in Africa and Asia, usually expected in large megacities.

    People might be familiar with Normal Borlaug, 1970 Nobel Peace prize winner (i.e., Green Revolution), but if you aren’t … he’s probably one of the most impactful humans in history (that many don’t know):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Borlaug

    Many people have credited him for disproving Malthus … BUT
    he didn’t think Malthus had been disproved … merely held off 30 years.

    His 1970 acceptance address is still worth reading:
    http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1970/borlaug-lecture.html

    “Most people still fail to comprehend the magnitude and menace of the “Population Monster …
    Malthus signaled the danger a century and a half ago. But he emphasized principally the danger that population would increase faster than food supplies. In his time he could not foresee the tremendous increase in man’s food production potential. Nor could he have foreseen the disturbing and destructive physical and mental consequences of the grotesque concentration of human beings into the poisoned and clangorous environment of pathologically hypertrophied megalopoles. Can human beings endure the strain? Abnormal stresses and strains tend to accentuate man’s animal instincts and provoke irrational and socially disruptive behavior among the less stable individuals in the maddening crowd.”

    Comment by John Mashey — 10 Jun 2007 @ 2:14 AM

  133. Dissidents Against Dogma

    By ALEXANDER COCKBURN

    “Now read Dr. Jeffrey Glassman, applied physicist and engineer, retired from California’s academic and corporate sectors, who provides an elegant demonstration of how the absorption and release of CO2 from the enormous carbon reservoir in the earth’s oceans controls atmospheric CO2 concentrations. This absorption and release is very much a function of the earth’s temperature and Glassman shows how the increase in atmospheric CO2 is the consequence of temperature, not the cause.”

    Copied and posted from Cockburn’s latest screed on GW (June 9-10) i have a question about his comment on how the…” increase in atmospheric CO2 is the consequence of temperature, not the cause.”

    Comment by Greg Bacon — 10 Jun 2007 @ 3:57 AM

  134. Debunking the Debunkers

    After reading more of Cockburn’s latest article on Climate Change online in Counterpunch, June 9-10 edition, came across the name of a certain Patrick J. Michaels that Cockburn quotes.

    Went to a site called “Exxon Secrets Factsheet” and googled Mr. Michaels and this is part of what they found out about Michaels:

    Michaels is the Chief Editor for the “World Climate Review,” a newsletter on global warming funded by the Western Fuels Association. Dr. Michaels has acknowledged that 20% of his funding comes from fossil fuel sources: (http://www.mtn.org/~nescncl/complaints/determinations/det_118.html) Known funding includes $49,000 from German Coal Mining Association, $15,000 from Edison Electric Institute and $40,000 from Cyprus Minerals Company, an early supporter of People for the West, a “wise use” group. He received $63,000 for research on global climate change from Western Fuels Association, above and beyond the undisclosed amount he is paid for the World Climate Report/Review. According to Harper’s magazine, Michaels has recieved over $115,000 over the past four years from coal and oil interests. Michaels wrote “Sound and Fury” and “The Satanic Gases” which were published by Cato Institute. Dr. Michaels signed the 1995 Leipzig Declaration. In July of 2006, it was revealed that the Intermountain Rural Electric Association “contributed $100,000 to Dr. Michaels.” (http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/GlobalWarming/story?id=2242565&page=1) ALEC advisor. http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=11310 and http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=3558

    Surely, just because someone receives hundreds of thousands of dollars from organizations like Exxon Mobil and others wouldn’t affect their scientific neutrality, now would it? (Tongue planted firmly in cheek)

    Have done several searches on names in past Cockburn articles and guess what? Nearly all of the people he cites can be found on the Exxon Secrets site and they all have received some type of money from companies like Exxon Mobil.

    Coincidence, huh?

    Here’s the link to that excellent site:

    http://www.exxonsecrets.org/html/listorganizations.php

    Comment by Greg Bacon — 10 Jun 2007 @ 4:19 AM

  135. re 128: “Would you care to cite even one example where this has happened, other than temporarily & locally?”

    Of course I do :): this phenomenon happened in all the European countries with no exception. And it is everything but temporary.
    Demographic transition is already completed in all of North American and European countries, but also in some Asian countries. Lots of these countries now experience a negative population growth, and those who still manage to keep a positive (but still small) population growth (like USA) do it thanks to the immigrate populations.
    Here are some sample of population growths in developed countries:
    _the total world growth is 1.116
    _USA: 0.894
    _UK: 0.275
    _European union average: 0.16
    _Germany: -0.033
    _Poland: -0.046
    _Japan: -0.088
    _South Africa: -0.46

    Demographic transition is nothing like theory, it�s been fully observed in all developed countries. And this explains why population growth follows a logistic model, not an exponential model.
    If you want global data: The world population growth rate is expected to decline during the 21st century. The world population growth rate had its peak around 1960, when it was over 2%, and is slightly declining since (1.116% now). It is expected to be near 0.5% in 2050. You can go check this here:
    http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/world.html

    Now, another link to learn more about Malthusian theory and population demography:
    http://geography.berkeley.edu/ProgramCourses/CoursePagesSP2006/Geog130/geog130.html
    Itâ��s the program of the Berkeley University course on “populations and natural resources”, I followed it a few years ago and itâ��s quite instructive :).

    Comment by Nicolas L. — 10 Jun 2007 @ 7:56 AM

  136. The article cited at the beginning by Justin Podur at Znet, â??GW Suspicions and Confusions,â?? (http://www.zmag.org/content/print_article.cfm?itemID=12796&sectionID=57),
    is itself suspicious and confusing, not to mention downright awful. Podurâ??s approach to the GW debate is to focus on â??elitistsâ?? and â??leftistsâ?? battling for control. By my count he uses â??elitistsâ?? 22 times and â??leftistsâ?? 19 times in his article. But from his poor writing itâ??s not clear who or what these people/groups are, or if they are fighting against or with each other. His article offers no real insight into either the scientific or policy issues involved in the GW debate.

    RC should have become suspicious when reading two of Podurâ??s most stupefying statements:

    â??I believe there are some things that can be known about the natural world, and scientists have uncovered some of these things, including about the climate system.â??

    Imagine that: Podur believes science has some credibility!

    And this, from his next-to-last sentence in the article:

    â??Rather than a debate over the validity of discredited scientific positions, what is needed is a debate on how to resist the elite agendas that have led to the warming, then to its denial, and that now seek to co-opt movements for change.â?? [my emphasis].

    If the scientific positions are â??discreditedâ?? then why would there be a debate over their â??validity?â?? And worse, â??agendasâ?? (elite or otherwise) do not â?? as best I understand it — lead to warming. Rather, I think it has something to do with the earthâ??s response to a variety of chemical and physical changes that leads to warming.

    Comment by GERALD RELLICK — 10 Jun 2007 @ 10:13 AM

  137. Re #135: [Here are some sample of population growths in developed countries:]

    Funny, I seem to find quite different numbers. A few minutes with Google comes up with, for instance:

    US population, from factfinder.census.gov:

    2006 299,398,484
    2000 281,421,906
    1990 248,709,873

    UK population increased by 7.7 per cent since 1971, here: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/CCI/nugget.asp?ID=6

    European Union: “Data from the EU’s statistical office shows that between 1975 and 1995 the EU population grew by just over 6%. From 1995 to 2025 however, this growth is expected to almost half to roughly 3.7%.”, here:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2053581.stm

    [The world population growth rate is expected to decline during the 21st century. The world population growth rate had its peak around 1960...]

    Notice that this is the growth rate, not the population growth itself. Even if the rate declines, as long as it stays above 1.0, the population keeps increasing.

    This squares with my hypothesis that here is what we might call a natural (positive) population growth rate, which is probably partly psychological. That is, there’s a goal of having X number of surviving offspring, X being the most you can expect to raise successfully. Throughout most of human history, people had to have C * X to ensure X survivors, where C was usually 2 or more. Then along came western medicine, reduced C to nearly 1, and as a consequence increased the growth rate because there was still an expectation of large C. After a few generations, that expectation is changing, and so growth rates are declining, but only back to their previous levels.

    Comment by James — 10 Jun 2007 @ 12:34 PM

  138. re 137 : “Funny, I seem to find quite different numbers. A few minutes with Google comes up with, for instance”

    Actually no, we have the same numbers, but we have a different way to interpret them :). The population growth declines once population growth rate is below 0. This already happened in a few countries that finished their demographic transition. USA is the exemple you give, and still has a quite positive population growth rate thanks to its immigration policy. Without immigration, US population growth rate would become negative around 2015, and US population would start to decline.
    Due to the nature of demographic transition, the world population growth rate is declining since the 60′s. There’s no clue to say for now it will stabilize above 0, and actually the demographic history of developped countries would tend to show it will go slightly below 0, meaning world population will stabilize and even start to diminish. The maximum population under this model is hard to predict but studies go from 10 to 12 billion after 2050. Decline would start around 2100. Of course, this doesn’t anticipate the probable huge effetcs of GW.

    Comment by Nicolas L. — 10 Jun 2007 @ 3:29 PM

  139. re: #135
    Rich urbanized societies have made / are making / will make the demographic transition, but that’s not the (population) problem.

    http://www.finfacts.ie/biz10/globalworldincomepercapita.htm estimates the 2005 per capita incomes
    http://www.iiasa.ac.at/Research/LUC/Papers/gkh1/chap1.htm shows the 10 countries which will contribute most to world population growth (1995-2025), listed in order below.

    2005 $ Country
    ….$ 720 India
    ..$1,740 China
    ….$ 690 Pakistan
    ….$ 560 Nigeria
    ….$ 160 Ethiopia
    ..$1,280 Indonesia
    $59,590 USA
    ….$ 470 Bangladesh
    ….$ 120 Zaire (Congo)
    ..$2,770 Iran

    Of these countries, exactly one is already rich&urban, and several others are headed that way, but have long ways to go. For some, it’s very hard for to see how these grow to be rich urban societies any time soon.

    Nicholas K: can you give us references to indicate why you think that the rest of the world can turn into urbanized rich in the same way that developed countries have, especially given pressure on water & topsoil, and (over next 50 years) likely diminished availability of cheap oil?

    In some cases, the expansion will come in vast slums. Can you cite some references to believe that these generate the same demographic transitions as living in Manhattan or Tokyo or London?

    Have you visited any large city in India, or breathed the air lately in Bejing or Shanghai? Mumbai is built on an island, mostly near sea-level, and has 25M people. Shanghai is “building Green City on One Meter Elevation land”, and already has ~19N people. When I first visited Beijing in 1988, it was mostly bicycles … not any more. Given that most of the growth is expected in developing countries, in urban areas, 2.5B people is akin to having 100 more Mumbai/Shanghai’s by 2050. Is that for real?

    At least 4 of the countries on that list depend on rivers fed from the Himalaya. Most of those countries have sizable coastlines.

    Anyway, I think people understand a fairly smooth demographic transitions from rural-farming to urban-industrial, over 150 years, but it would be encouraging to believe this will also happen in the next 50 years, on a much vaster scale, without causing trouble. So, what is there to help us believe that? in the absence of convincing evidence, I’d stick with Borlaug in being nervous.

    Comment by John Mashey — 10 Jun 2007 @ 3:32 PM

  140. Regarding Cockburn’s most recent piece, it’s clear he has no understanding of the topic. As usual, the politically motivated commentators are comfortable with scientific and logical inconsistency. The piece is essentially ‘argument by reference to my chosen experts’ but has some glaring self-contradictions.

    The most obvious one is this phrase: “…the other huge embarrassment facing the modelers is the well-researched and well-established fact published in many papers that temperature changes first and CO2 levels change 600 to 1,000 years later. Any rational person would immediately conclude that CO2 could not possibly cause temperature if the rise in CO2 in comes centuries after the rise in temperature”

    This has been addressed at RC and many other places, and the explanation is that multiple forcings, including Milankovitch, initiate a process which leads to atmospheric CO2 rises, decreasing albedo, etc. Think of striking a match – is it the initial friction, the reactive chemical tip, or the wooden stick that is responsible for the total observed temperature rise?

    Cockburn then says “Unfortunately for the climate modelers the history of the earth’s many temperature and CO2 swings tells us that it obviously does not get worse and worse. After any given warming phase begins, thousands of years later the cyclical Milankovitch decrease in the sun’s heat kicks in….Obviously the “bad” CO2 must disappear due to some “feedback” that the modelers haven’t thought of yet, i.e., one that keeps the earth’s climate in rough equilibrium.”

    Of course, any examination of the science would reveal that there are multiple mechanisms for drawing down CO2 – photosynthesis overtaking respiration being one likely one, leading to carbon storage in cooling soils and in the ocean. Cockburn ignores the fact that 100+ million year old fossil carbon is being added to the active carbon pool, thereby changing the entire system.

    Earlier in the piece, Cockburn states that “…the absorption and release of CO2 from the enormous carbon reservoir in the earth’s oceans controls atmospheric CO2 concentrations. This absorption and release is very much a function of the earth’s temperature and Glassman shows how the increase in atmospheric CO2 is the consequence of temperature.”

    Yes – just like the conversion of chemical energy to heat energy by a match is also the consequence of the temperature change due to the initial friction of striking a match. How could this possibly be, Mr. Cockburn? What’s odd is that Cockburn seems to be saying that CO2 affects temperature and also that it doesn’t – or is he just trotting out a supplied list of contrarian arguments? Does he really believe that infrared-absorbing atmospheric gases have no effect on planetary surface temperatures?

    There are other false claims; one is that modelers are incapable of handling water vapor, which is false – although clouds do remain a source of uncertainty – which doesn’t mean that global warming is a hoax, it means a broader spread in the predictive output, in both positive and negative directions. The most egregious claim is that changes in solar energy output are responsible for the observed warming – he ignores neutron-flux data on the flat solar output since measurements began, as well as the other evidence against this (greenhouse gases lead to stratospheric cooling; increases in solar output would lead to stratospheric warming – which isn’t observed).

    I think what Mr. Cockburn is really upset about can be seen in this opening phrase: “The left has been swept along, entranced by the allure of weather as revolutionary agent, naïvely conceiving of global warming as a crisis that will force radical social changes on capitalism by the weight of the global emergency. Amid the collapse of genuinely radical politics….”

    Mr. Cockburn seems to dream of some radical political upheaval leading to a ‘communist revolution’ – a la George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”. He has no problem with misrepresenting and distorting scientific inquiry if it helps with this aim. If anything, all this confirms the words of Freeman Dyson:

    “Science will always have to defend itself against enemies of freedom on two sides, against ideological enemies on one side and against commercial enemies on the other. The ideological enemies are not only Christian fundamentalists on the Right, but also dogmatic Marxists and environmentalists on the Left. The commercial enemies are not only monopolistic corporations interested in profits, but also corrupt politicians interested in power.”

    I would have posted this on his ‘counterpunch’ web site – but it doesn’t allow comments, which is unsurprising.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 10 Jun 2007 @ 5:08 PM

  141. Re: 140.

    I am “politically motivated,” but I believe that Cockburn is wrong both on his scientific and his political analyses in regard to anthropogenic global warming (AGW).

    He appears to have made a logical error in assuming that if it were true that capitalist and global economic elites could manipulate the worldwide response to anthropogenic global warming, then they would only do so if AGW were fake.

    But he fails — in an extraordinary failure of insight for an experienced political writer like himself — to consider the possibility that elites could BOTH manipulate (and I mean that in a realistic, limited fashion, in the ordinary ways of PR, or backing political campaigns, etc., not any movie-style puppetry conspiracy notion) the global response to AGW and at the same time AGW could be TRUE.

    It is a simple and logical observation about the elementary social and economic aspects of the world to say that IF AGW is true, and IF the elites whom Cockburn doesn’t like / trust are demanding a global response to AGW, it is ALSO true that they wish to shape that response as they prefer.

    Why is this so complicated for him to understand?

    For example, whether he were right or wrong in his perception that AGW concerns were being used by the nuclear power industry to make more money, it is NOT logically necessary that AGW be false in order for that to happen.

    If I were the evil nuke industry conspirator hypothesized by Cockburn, why would it be necessary for AGW to be false in order for me to work as hard as I could to convince everyone that my (nuclear power) industry would be the right place in which to spend a lot of money fighting AGW?

    Wouldn’t I do that whether AGW were true or not? In fact, wouldn’t my job be even easier if AGW were true?

    And if it were true that a given $1 Billion spent in conservation yielded greater rewards to fighting AGW and in social benefits than that same $1 Billion invested in, say, my industry of nuclear power, wouldn’t I (as a self-interested nuclear industry type described by Cockburn) be working even harder in order to make sure that government spending, etc., prioritized my industry over that of conservation?

    Notice that I’ve listed lots of exciting intrigues, scandals, and fights over resources, perfect for muck-raking leftist investigative reporters to launch into, and yet none of it requires that AGW be false.

    And that’s before considering the science, which overwhelmingly demonstrates that AGW is real and significant.

    Comment by El Cid — 10 Jun 2007 @ 8:44 PM

  142. “I believe that what I said was that engineers do not typically have a working knowledge of how science is done on a daily basis, because they do not do science.”

    Someone with a PhD in any subject has a degree as a researcher. He should now how to do research and many of them works as researchers. PhD in engineering subjects also publish in peer-reviewed journals. I dont see any difference between a researcher working in for example physics and one researcher working in for example structural dynamics. A lot of research in engineering subjects is modeling of some process. I see no fundamental difference between modeling an offshore windturbine and modeling the climate. The methology is the same.

    I can see a difference between researcher and non researcher but not a fundamental difference between a researcher in a engineering field and a researcher in a science field. That is my point and you seem to disagree with it.

    “I do at least practice science on a daily basis though.”

    What is it to practice science? Do gavin practice science? Do people modeling offshore windturbines practice science?

    Comment by fredrik — 11 Jun 2007 @ 3:35 AM

  143. re 139 John

    I was initially just trying to debunk this whole idea of “let’s get the world population back to 1 billion quickly” and the myth of the Malthusian ever growing population (until a big catastrophe comes), but this question is much larger and overpasses the simple demographic problem.
    Basically, your question is: will the future population growth of developing countries know a demographic transition, and most of all will it be environmentally and socially “friendly”? Do I get it right?
    First, do I believe that countries like China and India will experience the same demographic transition?
    If you look at the population census and projections in the future for India(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demography_of_India), you’ll get those decadal population growth rates:
    _ Between 1960-1970: 20%;
    _ Between 1990-2000: 17%;
    _ Between 2020-2030: 11%;
    _ Between 2040-2050: 7%;
    With this projection, we can estimate a maximal population somewhere between 2070 and 2100, and around 2 billion people. Of course this is a very ruff projection, and possibly one should build a multi-scenario model with different economical growths and birth and death rates. But the result is this: Indian population will probably not “go further” than 2 billion people. At the same time, we can see the rate of people living below poverty line goes down since the 60′s. It was 55% in 1973 (320 million people), it’s now around 23 (250 million people). The overall population growth doesn’t seem until now to diminish resources available for each people, as it’s well compensated with economic growth.
    We can also say the population of India will have quadrupled between 1950 (beginning of Indian economic growth) and 2100. We can compare it to the demography of the first industrialized country and most flourishing economy of the 19th century, England.
    English population was around 15 million ppl in 1840, it’s now around 50 million (more than tripled). When we compare the two, we can see similarity in the phenomenon.
    And we can make pretty much the same thing with China. So, yes, I do believe demographic transition will happen in those countries.
    Now, about social and ecological impacts. I’m not sure I’m the most qualified to answer this, as my field of study is more in Eastern Europe. But judging by what we have known in Europe, the costs will be high. We just have to look at the state of our natural resources (for example in France, where I leave) to see that it suffered a lot from our activities. And the social costs lead to numerous revolts of workers by the end of the nineteenth century in most of European countries, most notably of course in Russia. No much people seem to remember now, but in the nineteenth century London was known for its space devouring urbanisation, criminality rate, pollution rate and of course its multiple shanty towns. All around the biggest cities of the world (New York, Paris), you could find those horrible living conditions and places. It’s pretty much the same phenomenon we see now in the biggest cities of the emerging countries.
    We also have to deal with the fact that we used without any restriction fossil fuels as our primary source of energy, which of course present emerging countries have to at least partially avoid (and by partially, I’d like to say totally). There I’ll let some other ppl answer, because I’m not a specialist in the energy field.
    So, the question is: will emerging countries be able to develop and avoid too deep consequences on environment and social activities? If I had the answer, I’d probably be very rich by now. But I keep hope in human ability to find new ways and technologies quickly. I actually prefer believe in that, that saying “we’re already doomed, let’s reduce world population by 80%”.
    Now, of course, there is still the case of Africa. Africa is really where the big development problems are. Africa is facing a huge population growth (multiplied by 2 in 50 years), but its development level is still very low. I think that if we got a problem itâ??s mainly here, and if there is some urgent action to take, itâ??s the right place to go. Before trying to install an opened market in Africa, which is the main issue of the development policies that took place so far in this continent, we should try first to help build solid social and political structuresâ?¦ but for now it sounds like utopia unfortunately.
    Ok, hope I answered your question. And of course, this is just my point of view, I don’t expect everybody to agree on such a huge issue :)

    Comment by nicolas L. — 11 Jun 2007 @ 3:36 AM

  144. [[Demographic transition is nothing like theory, it�s been fully observed in all developed countries. And this explains why population growth follows a logistic model, not an exponential model.]]

    There seems to be some confusion here over what Malthus said. He did not say “population always expands exponentially, in every case.” He said, “population expands exponentially, unless moral restraint is practiced.” The folks in the low- or zero-growth first world did not achieve non-exponential growth magically, they achieved it through widespread use of contraception and abortion. That’s the technological equivalent of Malthus’s “moral restraint.”

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 11 Jun 2007 @ 6:20 AM

  145. The answer to the “CO2 follows temperature increase” folks is simple. In natural global warming, it does. The present warming is not natural. The CO2 is not coming from the ocean, it’s coming from burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and cement manufacture. We can tell from the isotope signature that most of the new CO2 is not, repeat not, from the ocean.

    Just because natural warming can happen doesn’t mean warming is always natural. Cockburn’s stance is equivalent to saying, “People have died of natural causes for thousands of years, so this guy with the twenty bullet holes in him can’t have been killed by another human being.”

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 11 Jun 2007 @ 6:27 AM

  146. re: 145

    No confusion :). As I have already pointed, “moral restraint” of contraception is a secondary reason for demographic transition, which is much closer from a natural phenomenon.

    125: “We can discuss to know if demographic transition is a natural or moral phenomenon. I’d say it’s mostly natural. The moral component of it, meaning the acceptation of contraception, historically follows the beginning of the transition. The most of the movement is due to the transition from rural life with subsistence agriculture to urban life. This phenomenon can be qualified as “natural” as it is not driven by any law (in the jurisdictional sense) or moral behaviour. People just go where jobs, meaning money, meaning food, are.”

    Malthus only saw a few “solutions” to population growth: natural catastrophes, misery (mostly famine from food supply shortage), moral restraint (sexual abstinence) and vice (like murder). Apparently, he missed a big one.

    Comment by nicolas L. — 11 Jun 2007 @ 9:08 AM

  147. Barton Pual Levenson (#144) wote:

    There seems to be some confusion here over what Malthus said. He did not say “population always expands exponentially, in every case.” He said, “population expands exponentially, unless moral restraint is practiced.” The folks in the low- or zero-growth first world did not achieve non-exponential growth magically, they achieved it through widespread use of contraception and abortion. That’s the technological equivalent of Malthus’s “moral restraint.”

    Here is another way of looking at it.

    Malthus was right all along – but modern society imposes moral restraint simply as the result of its own development. A modern society requires a skilled workforce and compulsory education. Children require too much investment on the part of the parents before there is any chance of the economic return one would get when in earlier times they could have helped you by working alongside you in the fields. Children become a luxury – particularly if you want them to have the same opportunities that you had.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 11 Jun 2007 @ 9:18 AM

  148. I’m a layperson so please excuse my ignorance. I understand that “peer review” is the process in place, but isn’t the “peer review” process, like any other haman analysis process, subject to political or other biases by the reviewers? Have any of you scientists experienced these biases in that process?

    joe

    Comment by joe c — 11 Jun 2007 @ 9:56 AM

  149. Of course there are biases, but the biases tend to be diluted by using multiple, randomly selected reviewers. Also, if rejected, a paper can be resubmitted to either the same journal or a different one. Keep in mind that reviewers are being judged, too. If they are too biased, then their influence in the community will diminish. I’ve been on all sides of the process–reviewer, author, and selecting reviewers. There are some authors whose work we know cannot be sent to some reviewers, becuase it will be savaged. Also, keep in mind that reviews are supposed to be anonymous. That also encourages honesty. All in all, the system works well.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 11 Jun 2007 @ 10:54 AM

  150. Just as an aside to the above contributions – much of it very interesting, as usual – has anyone looked into what NASA’s Michael Griffin was getting at, when he suggested that we shouldn’t take the Earth’s present climate as being ‘optimal’? Do I detect here the glimmerings of a (cycnical?) new counter-argument from the sceptics/contrarians, namely that a changed climate could/would be better for mankind? For example, has anyone done any research on what the ‘optimal’ Earth climate would be? And if not, is there a flaw or weakness in the arguments of those of us concerned about the way things are going?

    Comment by Nick Odoni — 11 Jun 2007 @ 10:57 AM

  151. Nick, just google a phrase like “warmer is better” (in quotes). You will see a long history of good (and not so good) discussion of why a warmer climate would be better. It is in the tendency of this board to see every new skeptical argument as a new talking point strategy. Although such strategies exist, I don’t believe that warmer is better is a new strategy IMO.

    Comment by Eric (skeptic) — 11 Jun 2007 @ 11:44 AM

  152. I too have been on both sides of the peer review process: both reviewer and reviewed. The process is not perfect; I have at least once received what I considered to be an unfair review. And it’s obvious from reading the peer-reviewed literature, that some real garbage slips through the cracks.

    But despite its flaws, papers must be reviewed to have any hope of maintaining quality of publication. Furthermore, it absolutely must be reviewed by people who know the subject — an editor at the Wall Street Journal is not qualified to estimate the value of a paper on quantum field theory. And the people who know the subject are, by definition, one’s peers.

    Therefore, there is simply no alternative. Without review, too much junk is published. And the only qualified reviewers are one’s peers.

    Comment by tamino — 11 Jun 2007 @ 12:04 PM

  153. With regard to the discussions of Malthus, it is important to realize that the so-called “Green Revolution”, and the industrialized agriculture practiced in the developed world, was and is utterly dependent on large inputs of cheap, abundant fossil fuels. As such, it is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    The “new green revolution”, which is part of the solution, is organic agriculture, oriented to bioregional self-reliant production of diverse food for local consumption — not fossil-fueled industrial agriculture oriented to huge monocrops of exports for “global trade”.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 11 Jun 2007 @ 12:11 PM

  154. Eric (#151) wrote:

    Nick, just google a phrase like “warmer is better” (in quotes). You will see a long history of good (and not so good) discussion of why a warmer climate would be better. It is in the tendency of this board to see every new skeptical argument as a new talking point strategy. Although such strategies exist, I don’t believe that warmer is better is a new strategy IMO.

    If we could easily pickup cities, soil and plants at will and move them where we want whenever it became convenient, then control where the rain fell, calm the storms and screen out the ultraviolet resulting from water vapor destroying the ozone, the argument might even carry some weight. As things are, I believe the argument is seriously flawed.

    But even assuming the mobility of all these things and that we possessed all of these powers, there would still be the increased acidity of the oceans and all that this implies.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 11 Jun 2007 @ 12:12 PM

  155. joe c (#148) wrote:

    I’m a layperson so please excuse my ignorance. I understand that “peer review” is the process in place, but isn’t the “peer review” process, like any other haman analysis process, subject to political or other biases by the reviewers? Have any of you scientists experienced these biases in that process?

    Different reviewers will have different political leanings and motives. A given author can generally go somewhere else. But there is also the cummulative evidence from many different lines of inquiry. Systemically the whole will advance – much like an economy where there exists many different businesses all looking for the next opportunity, looking for something a consumer will be willing to pay for in preference to the things they already purchase. And every periodical wants to be cutting-edge, containing the breakthrough papers which will further their reputation, give authors a visibility they otherwise lack and bring in more subscribers.

    Money, insights and prestige are powerful motivators. Some will fall down, but others will rise to the occasion.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 11 Jun 2007 @ 12:39 PM

  156. #148 [[but isn't the "peer review" process, like any other haman analysis process, subject to political or other biases by the reviewers?]]

    I have been around the peer-review system for over eleven years.

    The peer-review system {currently} over a period of about two years or less my personal observation) weeds out normal-human biases within that time period.

    If you don’t have truthful evidence…it will be torn to shreds ***IN AN OPEN WAY open for all to observe from all over the world*** and you and your reputation, and evidence too will be torn to shreds…because “the whole world is openly reviewing you and your work” from 87+ nations and experts from all fields are allowed (and do) view and attack your work…

    …it establishes and enhances *their* reputation and makes *them* stand out if they can legitimately point out errors or untruths.

    There are too many journals from many too many different countries for an unbased bias to last. A journal will be ostricised, lose its reputation and no longer get the best authors (best scientists/best work= money) if it continues to print untruths.

    Yeah, peer-review has weaknesses…it is slow, painful and arduous…and yes subject to short-term biases…but it weeds them out.

    The whole global warming issue…has almost *200 years* of a body of supporting evidence from the peer review system (starting in at least 1824 with Joseph Fourier and physics as to why the Earth is warm and not -18 degrees C).

    Go ahead, and shoot down one line of many lines of supporting evidence that human GW exists (no one can because there is no legititmate peer-review evidence)…it still doesn’t matter…human-caused GW lives….and will continue to live no matter what you think or believe.

    This is because there are so many supporting lines of evidence built up since 1842, ie. physics, paleoclimate evidence and current observational evidence.

    GW is not a value system…such as whether you “believe” in it or not like the FOX news channel likes to do. It is based on hard, cold, steely, provable peer-review evidence that has gone through the crucibles of hell and still stands…and is currently as strong as gravity in the peer-review system.

    The “scientists” who have PHDs who say it is not happening don’t do peer-review in GW that *stands up under peer-review scrutiny* from all over the world in an open way…period.

    They are certainly allowed to say whatever they want…just not that their evidence is the truth…because they have no provable evidence that stands up to open world scutiny in an open way…and time is ticking…

    I’m a little uptight about this because I’m in a job that analyzes peer-review evidence from journals from all around the world every day…and the evidence (started in 1842) is just getting nastier every day…that we are possibly in a sh_t hole of hurt and we need to address the issue before it is possibly too late to avoid damage that is scientifically “unkosher” for me to talk about to the public.

    Comment by Richard Ordway — 11 Jun 2007 @ 12:54 PM

  157. re: #152 SecularAnimist

    Sounds great! I like organic food, especially compared to the inorganc food, and we shop at the local farms often.

    But since you brought this up as “The Answer” I must ask a few questions:

    1) Do you have at least a year’s experience working on a small family farm?
    2) What do you think of DDT’s use in Africa?
    3) Is Bt corn OK? biotech & GM foods in general? or not?
    4) What do you think of low-till?

    [This is actually relevant to Cockburn & AGW, and interestingly, is another one of these 3-sided arguments (like AGW) that gets most commonly portrayed as 2-sided.)

    Comment by John Mashey — 11 Jun 2007 @ 1:24 PM

  158. James Hansen, George Monbiot, Michael Mann and all the other Global Warming Elitists are either unwitting dupes in a conspiracy to deprive Americans of their God-given liberties, or else they’re implicated as co-conspirators. Where is this climate-crisis hoax leading? That, my friends, is all too easy to see…

    First, they get us used to the idea of carbon credits, and the next thing you know, they’re paying you for your guns and ammunition in carbon credits. Worthington, Vermont, has already passed an ordinance making firearms redeemable in carbon credits (1). That, my friends, is one baby-step away from completely smashing the Second Amendment by making such transactions mandatory. If Americans don’t wise up before it’s too late, the Global Warming Elitists will succeed in taking away our guns, so they’ll be free to dismantle the rest of our freedoms, one by one.

    1. A. Fellow, et al; oral correspondence in a bar, El Cerrito, February 2007.

    Comment by Daniel C. Goodwin — 11 Jun 2007 @ 1:44 PM

  159. SecularAnimist (#152) wrote:

    With regard to the discussions of Malthus, it is important to realize that the so-called “Green Revolution”, and the industrialized agriculture practiced in the developed world, was and is utterly dependent on large inputs of cheap, abundant fossil fuels. As such, it is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    In my own view, if tariffs on goods from developing countries are removed, subsidies being given to local businesses are eliminated, proper investment in alternative energy sources are made, we already have the technology to replace the cheap labour which is employed in the production of agricultural products in developing countries. Then the living standards of their citizens will rise to that of the more advanced countries while birthrates will fall since the skilled labour required by a modernized economy require more education.

    But that you and I are in agreement with regard to the empirical science regarding climate change. Moreover, I fully recognize the importance of avoiding a reduction in the genetic variety within various species of crops – as this renders them more vulnerable to stress and disease on a far wider scale than if variety were preserved.

    I believe that the points upon which we agree are more important than the areas of disagreement.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 11 Jun 2007 @ 1:49 PM

  160. Re #143: [I was initially just trying to debunk this whole idea of "let's get the world population back to 1 billion quickly" and the myth of the Malthusian ever growing population...]

    You’ve got two separate questions there. To take the second first, you’re not doing too well in debunking that alleged myth. At most, your supposed “demographic transition” slows the rate of population increase. As long as the rate’s positive, it’s still exponential, and you’ve not shown any example where population decreases over the long term, barring some natural or social catastrophe. (We could cite for instance Cambodia under the Kymer Rouge as such an example.)

    The first question is entirely different. It’s not about what the population is likely to be, given various assumptions & projections. It’s about what level of population the Earth can support on a permanent basis. Of course that depends on a lot of factors, including what level of support you want, bare subsistence or something more comfortable. But I don’t think you can demonstrate that the planet can support more than a billion or so.

    Comment by James — 11 Jun 2007 @ 1:49 PM

  161. Re 148 (and Ray’s response, 149)

    To paraphrase Churchill’s comment about democracy, peer review is the worst form of judging the merits of scientific work, except for all the others that have been tried.
    No one has ever claimed that peer review is flawless, but the beauty of science is that it is self-correcting. If a paper is published on an important topic, the results and conclusions will be carefully scrutinized and they, or their predictions, will be re-examined by other scientists, possibly time and time again. If the results can’t be replicated, or the predictions can’t be confirmed, the paper will likely be diminished in value, or completely forgotten. However, it is important to remember that there are several aspects of peer-reviewed research papers of potential value – the actual data, the analysis of those data, and the author’s conclusions.
    Some papers are extremely valuable because of their data, even though their analysis and/or conclusions are determined to be incorrect. Other papers are valuable because they offer new insights, even though their data may be flawed, or mundane (or, in the case of review articles, original data may be absent). It is always a mistake to put too much weight on any single published paper, esp. when it is presents something new. Scientific knowledge usually built piece by piece, like a jigsaw puzzle, though there are no guarantees that the puzzle’s borders, or shape, are fixed. But, when paper after paper from such disparate fields of science as atmospheric physics, atmospheric chemistry, climatology, oceanography, ecology, botany, zoology, etc keep pointing in the same direction (i.e., the climate is warming, and humans are in part responsible), it is hard for most scientists to ignore the conclusions; they might quibble over a few of the conclusions, but they can’t ignore the growing body of information as a whole.

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 11 Jun 2007 @ 2:04 PM

  162. # 158 Mr. Dan wrote: [[...the Global Warming Elitists will succeed in taking away our guns, so they'll be free to dismantle the rest of our freedoms, one by one]]

    Errr, evidence please sir, evidence…just the facts sir, just the facts. Where’s your evidence that human-GW is not going on and that we don’t have to do something about it?

    Scientists are not responsible for policy…it’s not their field….so don’t shoot the messenger, please.

    What others *do* with the overwhelming GW evidence is indeed a serious legitimate issue.

    However, sir, I’m not morally allowed to tell you about possible threats to your or other personal freedoms in the USA, if worse case GW scenarios come to pass (as actually happened with the ozone hole dynamics..it was the worse case scenario)…”it ain’t very pretty” either.

    Comment by Richard Ordway — 11 Jun 2007 @ 2:56 PM

  163. Re 162, on Global Warming Elitists… sorry to be pedantic and ruin everything, but with my words taken out of context by someone whose sense of irony has been substantially compromised by the usual, workaday, onrushing absurdities of life in a schizophrenic society (technically: unable to distinguish fantasy from reality), I feel compelled to break out of character: the Second Amendment nonsense is a put-on, folks (there’s a clue for you in the footnote, okay?)

    Comment by Daniel C. Goodwin — 11 Jun 2007 @ 3:18 PM

  164. re 158.

    Okay, I’ll bite.

    Could you illuminate a few things for me, please?

    What, specifically, do you mean by the term “Global Warming Elitist?” What does the term mean in relation to the actual science that seems to be rather solid and overwhelming in support of the positions they have taken REGARDING the science?

    And as for the effect on the Constitution of their reporting the science, can you do a more detailed job of explaining what effect their actions are having?

    Seriously, I am genuinely curious.

    Thanks in advance.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 11 Jun 2007 @ 3:46 PM

  165. #163 Daniel:
    I caught the irony on first read … but unfortunately, your post was similar to those of posters who are 100% serious… hence, not as amusing as you may have meant it. I haven’t seen a beliefs inventory that did correlations of NRA membership and “AGW is a hoax” beliefs, but I’d speculate that it is high.

    Comment by John Mashey — 11 Jun 2007 @ 4:31 PM

  166. Re: 165 (Global Warming Elitists). Here’s an interesting thought experiment I tried today: try to come up with the most elaborately boneheaded assault on reason you are able to imagine, wrap it in jingoism, and most Americans will think you’re serious – it doesn’t matter how outrageously threadbare the particulars of the argument. God have mercy on us.

    Comment by Daniel C. Goodwin — 11 Jun 2007 @ 4:55 PM

  167. Re: 166. As Tom Lehrer said, “Satire became redundant when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize.”

    Comment by ray ladbury — 11 Jun 2007 @ 5:32 PM

  168. Well global warming is a bitch. Nice to see Cockburn and Monbiot double-stuffing her.

    Comment by Chuck Mertz (www.thisishell.net) — 11 Jun 2007 @ 5:55 PM

  169. We’ve been found out! It’s all in the last paragraph of Cockburn’s latest polemic: “If the public swallows this new greenhouse dogma,it won’t just be carbon taxes on an airline ticket It will be huge charges for the alleged carbon savings of the immensely expensive nuclear plants they’re so eager to build to give a cooler, cleaner world to your grandchildren.”
    We’ve been outed! What we really want is to impose a nuclear world on our grandchildren! We want them to be knee deep in nuclear waste surrounded by high energy nuclear radiation! Of course! The “they”, though he doesn’t specifically state who, are the proponents global warming and those who believe it to be true. Maybe it could be true. After all paranoids can have enemies,too, and “they” (us) could have this as their ultimate ulterior motive. And a pot of water, on the stove could spontaneously come to a boil.
    What arrant nonsense, this man writes!
    One more point. He states repeatedly that temperature changes first and CO2 changes 600 to 1000 years later. This may have been true in ages past but what’s happening today is much different than what has happened in the past since the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is much higher and increasing at a faster rate than any time in the last half million years or more. A good source for exposing this myth is at
    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/corporate/pressoffice/myths/index.html

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 11 Jun 2007 @ 6:51 PM

  170. Daniel C. Goodwin (#162) wrote:

    Re 162, on Global Warming Elitists… sorry to be pedantic and ruin everything, but with my words taken out of context by someone whose sense of irony has been substantially compromised by the usual, workaday, onrushing absurdities of life in a schizophrenic society (technically: unable to distinguish fantasy from reality), I feel compelled to break out of character: the Second Amendment nonsense is a put-on, folks (there’s a clue for you in the footnote, okay?)

    Ah, Daniel…

    I wish you had been there at DebunkCreation when I made my entrance by mock-espousing the Omphalosian argument. It took a few hours before things quieted down – and some were still suspicious for a couple of days…

    Anyway, I can only speak for myself, but good to have you aboard!

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 11 Jun 2007 @ 8:07 PM

  171. re 163, I sure charged up the hill! Good one, Daniel.

    Comment by Rod B — 11 Jun 2007 @ 11:09 PM

  172. re 160

    “But I don’t think you can demonstrate that the planet can support more than a billion or so”. The population has grown above 1 billion since the beginning of 19th century, 200 years ago. So it’s been demonstrated some time ago now, I think. Besides, the question is not “can we support a 6 or 10 billion people population on earth”, because it’s too late for this. Those people are already here, or will be soon. The question you should ask yourself is “How do we make those 10 billion people living in descent conditions AND in a sustainable way for earth”. We have to look it the constructive way.

    “At most, your supposed “demographic transition” slows the rate of population increase”.
    Supposed? Please ask any geography teacher about the supposd nature of demographic transition. In France, it’s a phenomenon we study during the equivalent of US Junior High School.

    “As long as the rate’s positive, it’s still exponential”. As far as I remember my maths, it’s wrong. To have an exponential growth, you have to have a positive and at least constant rate (or increasing rate) of growth. If you got a positive but decaying rate trough time, you will first reach an arithmetic growth of population, then a decay of population growth. When your growth rate is below zero, then your population begins to decrease.
    If you go there (http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/world.html), you’ll notice by yourself, this is exactly what’s happening now. The population growth rate is slightly decaying, and the population growth curve cannot be compared to an exponantial aynmore since the end of 20th century (inversion of the curve, quite similar to the one you see on a logistic curve). The trend of the growth rate is going down since the 60′s, and there is no reason why it should stabilize above zero.

    “you’ve not shown any example where population decreases over the long term, barring some natural or social catastrophe”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Japan
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germany (go to demographics)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Poland
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demography_of_Romania

    I won’t cite here countries of ex-ussr, because you can partially (but not totally) explain their impressive negative population growth rates by the 90′s crisis. You also have to remember that most of developed countries (USA included) manage to keep a positive population growth rate by welcoming immigrant population.

    Comment by nicolas L. — 12 Jun 2007 @ 4:02 AM

  173. re 111.

    Given as you mentioned me again, I thought a some comments were worthwhile in response.

    I have already pointed out the reasons for addressing Griffin’s engineering background earlier, in #94. Nothing you wrote really changed regarding that, so we’ll let it stand as it is.

    In your discussion of Griffin’s interview, you omitted a rather pointed and glaring comment he made at the beginning of the second answer: “I am not sure that it is fair to say that it [Global Warming] is a problem we must wrestle with.”

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10571499

    His follow-up – “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.” – builds nicely on that opening into a straw man argument, the idea that the discussion/”debate” surrounding GW is about what is an optimum climate, which, if this were true, would support his opening statement nicely. While on its own the statement is – as you rightly pointed out – a non-sequitur in a practical sense, in terms of relation to his opening statement, it sets up his talking points nicely. And that’s what this is really about. The next statement – “First of all, I don’t think it’s within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown.” – further builds on this straw man, inferring that the effort to address GW is one of trying to alter the climate, when in fact the real effort that is being discussed – and in places launched – is to ameliorate the effects of what humanity has already done. Then he plays the “How dare we?” card: “And second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings â?? where and when â?? 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.”

    The final line is, indeed, political. In fact, the entire statement was. Griffin’s comments are an exercise in rhetorical fallacies, a rather obvious series of talking points. I sincerely doubt they are his “opinion”.

    But how can you call this an “ethical” question when the premise of the statement is false? Griffin set up a straw man, the inference that somehow this discussion revolves around the idea people are arguing over what climate is “just right” (as in the story of Goldilocks), as opposed the very real problem of how dangerous the changes we are experiencing may turn out to be for. If we listen to Griffin, the suggestion is we should do nothing, as it isn’t our right to make the call.

    Say what?

    Griffin’s final statement is laughable, and you are correct that he is dodging the question, but in so doing, he is again attempting to redefine the discussion (albeit with likely unwitting help from Inskeep). He sets up another straw man, inferring that what is being discussed is NASA’s duty to take action or “battle” climate change, a duty that doesn’t exist. What he ignores is the fact that, in essence, that has been exactly what NASA has been doing by virtue of the work NASA scientists have done to show it is happening and by rightly raising the alarm.

    Instead, he ends by voicing an argument that echoes the “warmer is better” claim we see being fielded by the so-called skeptics. (Global Warming Skepticism/Denialism 2.0)

    I agree with you Griffin has every right to his personal opinion. But there is a distinction you are ignoring – he has this right AS A PRIVATE CITIZEN.

    He was not being interviewed as a private citizen, but as the head of NASA, and as such, his statements carry the weight associated with that office, regardless of his intent. Many people listening to him invariably accept what he is saying as reflective of NASA’s policy. The fact that in so doing he essentially engaged in a political exercise to not only muddy the waters regarding Global Warming, but did so in a manner that is in opposition to what the scientists working for that organization have been saying for years, was egregious.

    This is what has upset people. And rightfully so, IMHO.

    Regards.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 12 Jun 2007 @ 10:06 AM

  174. Re #172: [ The population has grown above 1 billion since the beginning of 19th century, 200 years ago. So it's been demonstrated some time ago now, I think.]

    You missed the important concept in my question, which is sustainability. Most of the current 6 billion or so are supported either by the use of finite fossil fuel resources, or by the degradation & destruction of the environment. Keep on in the same way, and eventually the planet runs out of resources and environment.

    [Besides, the question is not "can we support a 6 or 10 billion people population on earth", because it's too late for this. Those people are already here, or will be soon.]

    Aren’t you now arguing against your own theory, that this demographic transition will cause negative population growth rates, and thus the population will decline? It also overlooks the possibility of what we might call technical interventions, which might range from large-scale nuclear wars to some mad scientist type bioengineering the cold virus to produce contraceptives.

    [The question you should ask yourself is "How do we make those 10 billion people living in descent conditions AND in a sustainable way for earth". We have to look it the constructive way.]

    How is that constructive? It simply can’t be done: there isn’t enough room on the planet.

    [Please ask any geography teacher about the supposd nature of demographic transition. In France, it's a phenomenon we study during the equivalent of US Junior High School.]

    I remember studying a lot of things at that level, many of which have since been shown to be false.

    “…most of developed countries (USA included) manage to keep a positive population growth rate by welcoming immigrant population.”

    Welcoming immigrants? You sure haven’t been paying much attention to US politics :-) In any case, it doesn’t really matter where the excess population is coming from, but that the total continues to increase.

    Comment by James — 12 Jun 2007 @ 1:01 PM

  175. re: Griffin
    1) It doesn’t bother me if NASA would concentrate on doing good science.
    Far more disturbing than ill-considered remarks are things like:

    NASA shelves climate satellites
    Environmental science may suffer
    http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2006/06/09/nasa_shelves_climate_satellites/

    Why did NASA kill a climate change project?
    http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/01/15/opinion/edpark.php

    Perhaps “Some people do not want to know the data.”

    Comment by John Mashey — 12 Jun 2007 @ 2:06 PM

  176. John Mashey (#174) wrote:

    Why did NASA kill a climate change project?
    http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/01/15/opinion/edpark.php

    Perhaps “Some people do not want to know the data.”

    Personally, I find the prospect of this more disturbing than climate change itself.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 12 Jun 2007 @ 2:37 PM

  177. [["We can discuss to know if demographic transition is a natural or moral phenomenon. I'd say it's mostly natural. The moral component of it, meaning the acceptation of contraception, historically follows the beginning of the transition. The most of the movement is due to the transition from rural life with subsistence agriculture to urban life. ]]

    Okay, so the demographic transition, in and of itself, lowers the birth rate.

    How does it do that? There are very few ways to lower the birth rate other than not having sex, or not having babies. How can you lower the birth rate without using one of those two methods? If you’re talking about later marriage among people who don’t engage in premarital sex, then you’re talking about people not having sex. If you’re talking about limiting family size, then you’re talking about people not having sex, or using contraception, or having abortions. I can’t think of a way to lower the birth rate in any other way.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 12 Jun 2007 @ 6:27 PM

  178. Re #177: Note that it’s not really the birth rate that matters in population growth, it’s the “survival to reproductive age” (SRA) rate. What isn’t being taken into account (as far as I can tell) is that it’s only in the last century or so that the two have been even close to the same.

    Thus it seems likely that this demographic shift theory is at least partly illusion, caused by taking what was an abnormal period in human history, the time in which western medicine became widespread, as the norm. in the discussion this demographic shift theory. SRA took a jump, but people’s expectations didn’t change. Now they’re catching up, and in some cases overshooting, which is what’s causing the perception of a demographic transition. Will the transition last, or will it settle to a lower level of increase? I’d tell you, but my crystal ball is in the shop for repairs…

    Comment by James — 12 Jun 2007 @ 9:45 PM

  179. Re 174

    “Aren’t you now arguing against your own theory, that this demographic transition will cause negative population growth rates, and thus the population will decline?”
    I donâ??t see where I contradict myself. Did I say demographic transition was over? No, I said in my previous posts that population growth would decline seriously around the end of this century, leading to a total maximal population of 10-12 billion people.

    “It simply can’t be done: there isn’t enough room on the planet”
    So, you should see GW warming as a bless. Cause it will sure make world population diminish a lot if we let it go without mitigationâ?¦ Sorry, that’s a way of thinking I can’t get. You’re basically saying it’s not worth searching for solutions because we’ll never find them anyway. On what serious and undeniable studies are you basing this analysis? My point of view is that we don’t have solutions for everything yet, but we have a lot of good engineers, scientists and people of good will on this planet to at least believe there is a chance of finding solutions soon without sacrificing 80% of the world population. And no single person has the answer to this, but it will be a collective job.

    “I remember studying a lot of things at that level, many of which have since been shown to be false.”
    Which ones? So basically, we should throw at the garbage the 50 last years of geographic and historic studies on the subject? If you’re going to look at the data of the links I gave in my previous posts (and I don’t doubt you did), have you got another theory to explain it?

    “Welcoming immigrants? You sure haven’t been paying much attention to US politics”
    Really? go to see there : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_to_the_United_States
    I quote: “As of 2006, the United States accepts more legal immigrants as permanent residents than the rest of the world combined.”

    Comment by nicolas L. — 13 Jun 2007 @ 2:44 AM

  180. “Will the transition last, or will it settle to a lower level of increase? I’d tell you, but my crystal ball is in the shop for repairs… ”

    You won’t need it. Historians, geographs and demographers already answered this question. Please go look at the data, you can start by here for the basic knowledge: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demography
    “The UN “medium” projection shows world population reaching an approximate equilibrium at 9 billion by 2075. Working independently, demographers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria expect world population to peak at 9 billion by 2070. Throughout the 21st century, the average age of the population is likely to continue to rise.”

    Comment by nicolas L. — 13 Jun 2007 @ 4:42 AM

  181. [[ I see no fundamental difference between modeling an offshore windturbine and modeling the climate. The methology is the same. ]]

    “Methodology.” And I see a lot of fundamental differences. Your continuing inability to understand the difference between an engineer and a scientist implies to me that you just don’t want to hear what the other side is saying.

    A scientist is trying to find out how something in the natural world works. An engineer is trying to apply science to an engineering project.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 13 Jun 2007 @ 4:49 AM

  182. I believe that the demographic transition is generally due to economic factors:
    1) In an urban setting having children is more expensive, and one reaps less economic benefit from it.
    2) More women are educated in an urban society, increasing their awareness of reproductive control and also presenting them with opportunities for work outside the home. The higher expense of urban living (traditionally, anyway), also encourages women to work outside the home. With both members of the couple spending much of the day outside the home and returning late, opportunities for, uh, reproductive activity, decrease.
    3)The urban environment offers greater opportunities for entertainment outside of reproductive activities–yes, sadly many couples will opt for Jay Leno (or his Chinese counterpart) over their spouse. Note however, that the demographic transition is accompanied by increased resource consumption, so I’m not sure it helps that much.
    Given that there are many incidences in nature of an organism discovering a new food source and this fueling another surge in population, I think it’s premature to say Malthus was wrong. All we’ve done is figure out how to turn petroleum into food, and that can’t last forever.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 13 Jun 2007 @ 8:04 AM

  183. Barton, do you have any idea what a researcher with a PhD in an engineering subject actually do?

    What are the fundamental differences between modeling an offshore windturbine and climate? Explain them to me.

    “A scientist is trying to find out how something in the natural world works.”

    Does the wind (fluid) field around a windturbine have something to do with how the natural worlds works? Has the wave load on a windturbine anything to do with have the natural world works?

    “An engineer is trying to apply science to an engineering project.”

    There are a lot of people that you would call engineers that try understand how the natural world works, people working in aerodynamics, modeling waves, structural dynamics etc. There are no fundamental difference between calculating the aerodymaics around a tree, a scientific problem in your veiw, and calculating the aerydanmics around a windtrubine. It doesn’t matter it the object is natural or man build or if the reason for the calculation is to design a better windturbine or just understanding more about trees.

    Comment by fredrik — 13 Jun 2007 @ 8:39 AM

  184. Fredrik,
    Engineers and scientists view the world differently. They attack problems differently. I, myself, work in a very applied field. My job title is “radiation engineer,” but the way I do my job is influenced by my training as a physicist. My wife was trained as an electrical engineer. She now works in environmental science, and has a job title of engineer, but she thinks like a scientist. The way I would distinguish between engineering and science is in the tendencies and perhaps the motivations of the practitioners. A scientist doesn’t believe something unless he understands the mechanism–even if he sees it with his own eyes. An engineer trusts an empirical test more than any model. A scientist is often more narrowly focused than an engineer. Perhaps the fact that most engineering disciplines cross scientific boundaries explains why some engineers seem to think they can understand and contribute beyond their expertise. Some scientists do so as well (William Shockley being the classic case), but in general, scientists usually realize that their contributions outside their limited focus will be limited.
    Both the scientific and engineering perspectives have their advantages and limits. Each is necessary, and neither is superior to the other.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 13 Jun 2007 @ 9:10 AM

  185. Re #179: [You're basically saying it's not worth searching for solutions because we'll never find them anyway. On what serious and undeniable studies are you basing this analysis?]

    But you’re switching questions in midstream. I was responding to your question, back in post #172: “How do we make those 10 billion people living in descent conditions AND in a sustainable way for earth”. You don’t need “serious and undeniable studies” to answer that, just simple arithmetic. The Earth has a land surface area of 57 million square miles. Even neglecting the fact that much of that is desert or ice cap, 10 billion people would mean an average population density of 175 people per square mile, or a bit under 4 acres per person. Thus the inescapable conclusion: a large part of that population would have to live in overcrowded conditions. (Even at the current level, we observe that many people do live in such conditions.) Such overcrowding contradicts the requirements of “decent conditions”, and so the question is answered.

    (Or we can answer the question a different way. Take the fairly prosperous parts of the current population, which is for a ballpark figure about 500 million. Observe the effect they’re having on the planet, and extrapolate.)

    Note that this is entirely apart from the problems of global warming. It simply means that in looking for solutions to those problems, we have to deal with reality. 10 billion people, or even 6 billion, can’t all have a decent life on this planet. That’s not the same as saying they can’t have a life of some sort, or have a chance at a decent life, or that we shouldn’t seek to make what improvements we can.

    [I quote: "As of 2006, the United States accepts more legal immigrants as permanent residents than the rest of the world combined."]

    Perhaps this is a language problem? There is a very distinct difference between “accept” and “welcome”.

    Comment by James — 13 Jun 2007 @ 1:28 PM

  186. Re #180: [Historians, geographs and demographers already answered this question.]

    Sorry, but they haven’t answered it. They’ve used their crystal balls to make predictions, which may or may not turn out to be correct. (You can see this even in the references you give, in which the demographers make a range of predictions based on various contingencies.) It’s pretty easy to think of plausible ways in which they could be wildly wrong. For instance, that mad scientist bioengineers a contraceptive virus, so birthrates & populations decline. Or in the other direction, some religion which rejects contraception gains widespread control, so birthrates & populations exceed the predictions.

    Comment by James — 13 Jun 2007 @ 1:38 PM

  187. Many of the solutions to global warming require the cooperation, not just of scientists and engineers, but also of politicians and farmers and manufacturers.

    Take the need to move away from fossil fueled agriculture and towards carbon-neutral agriculture. One of the critical steps appears to be the use of biochar, which is essentially charcoal.

    Let’s look at corn production as an example – the corn stover (everything but the kernels) is usually just left on the ground. Scientists know that vegetation left on the ground goes back into atmospheric CO2, with only a few % going back into the soil matrix – in other words, corn stover is labile carbon.

    Engineers have come up with a bio-oil biochar process that works as follows:

    “The production process converts sawdust, wood chips and other waste wood and biomass into biooil, a greenhouse gas neutral biofuel that can be used to generate electricity and to power industrial processes that make use of fuel oil.

    Dynamotive�s carbon/greenhouse-gas-neutral fast pyrolysis technology uses medium temperatures and oxygen-free conditions to turn dry, waste cellulosic biomass into biooil for power and heat generation. The biooil can be further converted into vehicle fuels and chemicals.

    A co-product of the process is biochar, a dry soil concentrate that can be used to enrich agricultural soils, the forerunners of which were used in ancient times in the Amazon to rejuvenate soils and enhance their productivity. �The soils created then are now known as �terra preta,� which means black soil, and are considered among the most fertile in the world,� according to company information.

    Corn stover can obviously be fed into such a process, which will result in the production of biochar. One concern about feeding corn into cellulosic biofuel production has been that this will lead to increased depletion of carbon from soils. However, the biochar process results in about 20% of the original plant carbon being converted to a stable carbon supplement for soils – a far better result than the few % addition due to just leaving the stover lying on the ground.

    The only question that remains is what energy source will be used to run the oxygen-free pyrolysis of the corn stover – will it be clean solar energy, or dirty coal? Here is where politicians can step in, and mandate the use of clean energy for the process, rather than coal.

    This, I think, provides a good example of scientists, engineers, investors and politicians all working together to solve a specific problem. What’s needed is cooperation among all four groups, and plans that will really work to reduce carbon emissions – unlike coal-fired industrial agriculture corn ethanol production, for example.

    The only losers are the fossil fuel industry – and while they have the cash and the engineering experience to make the transition, investing in new technology will lower their profit margins and upset their shareholders, so they are continuing to fight against the new, clean technologies. They also have too much control over politicians, who routinely sabotage renewable technology development at the behest of the fossil fuel corporations. That is yet another problem that needs to be addressed.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 13 Jun 2007 @ 4:17 PM

  188. Re #187: [The only question that remains is what energy source will be used to run the oxygen-free pyrolysis of the corn stover - will it be clean solar energy, or dirty coal?]

    Waste heat from nuclear reactors, of course :-)

    Comment by James — 13 Jun 2007 @ 7:19 PM

  189. Re #187: Ike Solem — As I understand it, some of the bio-oils, or indeed the char, suffices to run the pyrolysis unit. But any low grade source of heat will do, I think.

    I agree that all four of your groups of people are required. I would also include farmers, ranchers and foresters. Help inform them all. This appears to be a winner for everybody but the fossil fuelers…

    Comment by David B. Benson — 13 Jun 2007 @ 7:30 PM

  190. I have a question for you corn wizards. Ethanol is touted as greatly reducing the net CO2 emissions from that of gasoline. The only thing that allows this is counting the CO2 taken up by the corn stover during its growth. How long does the stover take to disintegrate? If it is one or even many growing seasons it seems most of the “sequestered” CO2 is put back in the atmosphere, eliminating this claimed advantage for ethanol.

    Comment by Rod B — 13 Jun 2007 @ 10:06 PM

  191. re 185

    “10 billion people would mean an average population density of 175 people per square mile, or a bit under 4 acres per person. Thus the inescapable conclusion: a large part of that population would have to live in overcrowded conditions. Even at the current level, we observe that many people do live in such conditions. Such overcrowding contradicts the requirements of “decent conditions”, and so the question is answered ”
    The population density is now around 100 people per square mile (As long as my translation from kilometre is good :) ), and most of this population concentrates in major urban areas. I personally live in one of the top crowded places of the planet. My country is 16th on the list of highest density population, and the city I live in is the fourth on the list of the highest densities on the planet, with about 65 000 people/ square mile ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_selected_cities_by_population_density http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population_density ). I sure do live in overcrowded conditions, right? So now, do I live in indecent conditions? As far as I love to complain (I’m a French people, after all), Iâ??d pretty much have to say no. Density doesnâ??t automatically means awful living conditions, for this you c an compare the population density and the living standards of a shanty town to the one of a nice central town like Paris. I donâ??t think youâ??ll find the awful living conditions in Paris, where the density is by far the highest.

    “They’ve used their crystal balls to make predictions, which may or may not turn out to be correct. (You can see this even in the references you give, in which the demographers make a range of predictions based on various contingencies.) It’s pretty easy to think of plausible ways in which they could be wildly wrong.”
    Historians actually studied the history of demographic transition in developed countries. Concerning demographers, I think in the portray you make of them a lot of climate scientists will recognise a very familiar way of thinking and the kinds of critics they have to face everyday. Of course, we canâ??t be 100% sure because the only way for that would be to take a travel machine to 2100 and then come back. As long as this is not possible, Iâ??ll keep on believing the projections.

    Comment by nicolas L. — 14 Jun 2007 @ 2:44 AM

  192. Ray, I just belive the research education resulting in a PhD in a engineering subject compared to the research education resulting in PhD in science subject are very similar and that the researchers attack a similar problem in a similar way. I dont belive in a general difference as you propose for people with a PhD. Researchers vs non researchers would be better.

    The generalisations that engineerers is more likely to be sceptics is for the first a generalisation and thus shouldn’t be used in my opinion. I think a sceptic stance on global warming is more a political stance compared to anything else.

    I agree with you that you should be very careful to draw any conclusions outside your expertise and it is equally stupid to do independent of who who does it. But I also belive that the only possibly scetchy part of AGW is in the computer models. Simulation Navier-Stokes equations are extremely difficult and there are a lot of knoweledge about simulation large systems and what can go wrong in engineering fields. I dont find it strange that some people with the related background are sceptical of the validity of the predictions. Most sceptics dont have a clue though and use crap arguments.

    Comment by fredrik — 14 Jun 2007 @ 6:17 AM

  193. [[There are no fundamental difference between calculating the aerodymaics around a tree, a scientific problem in your veiw, and calculating the aerydanmics around a windtrubine. It doesn't matter it the object is natural or man build or if the reason for the calculation is to design a better windturbine or just understanding more about trees. ]]

    No, you are just not getting it. Modeling the flow around a wind turbine is not trying to get at some new scientific principle or discover some new effect or even nail down a controversy. It’s about making an effective product. A computer model of the wind around a tree most likely would not make it through peer review, because it wouldn’t tell anybody anything new. A lot of papers get rejected by journals for just that reason — including some of my papers. If it doesn’t come up with something new, it’s not really advancing scientific knowledge, and that is the difference between engineers and scientists. They may have taken many of the same courses, they may know a lot of the same mathematical and computer programming techniques, but they are simply not doing the same thing, and it’s stupid and wrong to insist that they are. Engineers are not scientists, though they can do science if their work makes it through peer review, because the goal of their job is not advancing scientific knowledge, it’s making products work. Doctors are not scientists, though they can do science if their work makes it through peer review, because the goal of their job is not advancing scientific knowledge, it’s healing people with wounds or diseases. Physicists or climatologists or anthropologists are scientists, because their job is advancing scientific knowledge.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 14 Jun 2007 @ 12:24 PM

  194. Re #191: [ Density doesn't automatically means awful living conditions, for this you can compare the population density and the living standards of a shanty town to the one of a nice central town like Paris. I don't think you'll find the awful living conditions in Paris, where the density is by far the highest.]

    Once again, there seems to be a bit of language confusion. There’s a big gap between the awful living conditions of a shantytown, and what I’d consider decent. There may also be a bit of personal taste, too. Some people may not mind being crammed cheek by jowl with thousands of others, but lots of people (I among them) do. So a life that doesn’t include a large amount of space can never be decent to me. Indeed, though I’ve never lived in Paris, I have at various times lived in similar cities. I didn’t think that I had a decent life then, and mostly tolerated it in hopes of making enough money to someday escape.

    [Concerning demographers, I think in the portray you make of them a lot of climate scientists will recognise a very familiar way of thinking...]

    Not really. Climate science (in respect to AGW) is founded on experimental data. CO2 does absorb infrared, and the atmospheric concentration is increasing due to human emissions. Given those facts, you can make predictions. You can also input various scenarios as to what future emissions might be, and predict the probable consequences.

    The demographers, by contrast, are really doing nothing much more than curve fitting, observing past behavior and projecting it into the future without any real theoretical or experimental foundation.

    Comment by James — 14 Jun 2007 @ 1:24 PM

  195. Re #190: Rod B — Ideally, ethanol production is carbon neutral. That is, all the carbon comes from the air and eventually goes back into the air. The advantage of pyrolysis is that the resulting biochar can be sequestered, for thousands of years, in the soil. It improves the soil tremendously. Used this way, it is carbon negative in that it takes carbon from the air which is put into the ground. It also produces a carbon neutral oil, called bio-oil, which can be burnt directly or used as feedstock for other processes. Here is a well organized site about biochar:

    http://www.shimbir.demon.co.uk/biocharrefs.htm

    Comment by David B. Benson — 14 Jun 2007 @ 4:09 PM

  196. Re #193 (BPL)

    Barton, I think that your distinction between “engineers” and “scientists” is somewhat artificial. Although we could say that engineering is (mostly) about making things that work, in practice by far the best way to achieve this end is to understand what is happening. To stay with the example of wind turbines, engineers have done a lot of work on understanding flow around turbine blades, on turbulence modeling, wake modeling, occurrence of extreme wind events etc.

    A lot of engineering is about making models, checking predictions against measurements, refining the models and so on. For me, that’s science.

    And yes, as you might have guessed from this or from previous contributions, I am a wind turbine engineer.

    Comment by Dick Veldkamp — 14 Jun 2007 @ 5:08 PM

  197. re: #195
    Please can we get off the engineer-vs-scientist thing.

    1) If we really care whether engineers or scientists are more prone to irrational beliefs, we need to stir up the kinds of scientists whose expertise lies in that area, i.e., not engineers, physicists, or other climate scientists, but (most likely), social psychologists who actually do this sort of research.

    2) Otherwise, we (who pride ourselves as careful whatevers in our own domains) are mostly speaking from anecdotal evidence. I can think of plenty of people with either science or engineering backgrounds who’ve gone off into hard positions, although I speculate that the percentages are probably lower than in the general population.

    3) Just for fun, I visited http://www.desmogblog.com/ to do a pass through their Deniers Database (encountering an interesting article regarding Tim Ball on the way: in some sense, too bad it won’t go to trial), and started to look at the Deniers list, but quickly encountered one labeled a dowsing expert, at which point I fled. In any case, I think the list was supposed to be scientists, so it wouldn’t have been a representative study anyway.

    Hypothesis: “Engineers are more likely than scientists to succumb to bad ideas”:
    NOT PROVED, and not likely to be proved here.

    Comment by John Mashey — 14 Jun 2007 @ 7:41 PM

  198. David (195) I appreciate it. But my understanding is that ethanol (from corn at least) production and burning is carbon neutral (even slightly negative) only if the CO2 absorbed by the stalks, roots, and cobs (and converted to carbon) is permanantly sequestered. If it gets re-emitted into the atmosphere through decomposition (likely within one growing season with full tilling — I think??) then ethanol, joule for joule, adds significantly more CO2 to the air than gasoline. Do you agree?

    I have to study the pyrolysis/biochar thing. Sounds interesting; thanks for the link.

    Comment by Rod B — 14 Jun 2007 @ 10:49 PM

  199. re 194

    “So a life that doesn’t include a large amount of space can never be decent to me”
    We’re talking about personal preferences then, not about unbearable living conditions for human beings having for consequence to reduce world population.
    Another short example so you get my point: Europe is around 700 million people, with a 4 millions square miles superficy. Make the math yourself, you will find a 175 inhabitants/ square mile (how weird)
    Do the same with Africa: 12 million square miles and 900 million people. You’ll find 75 inhabitants/square milesâ?¦
    So now, do you still think a lower population density means better living conditions?

    “The demographers, by contrast, are really doing nothing much more than curve fitting, observing past behavior and projecting it into the future without any real theoretical or experimental foundation.”

    Do you have any idea how science works? It’s not about taking a piece of paper, a black pen and starting to design a nice regular curve that will fit your views (this is apparently what some GW contrarians do, though, if I can judge by the last topic posted on RC :)). It’s about collect data (like populations census), analyse it, and in the case of demographers study populations dynamics, migration movements, sociological behaviours past and present to then model a projection of future populations. If you don’t believe demography is a real science, you should take a trip to a geography university, or at least take some information about itâ?¦
    you can start by there: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demography , and then go to the external links. That should be a good base to start.

    Comment by nicolas L. — 15 Jun 2007 @ 3:04 AM

  200. I agree with Dick, good post.

    “No, you are just not getting it. Modeling the flow around a wind turbine is not trying to get at some new scientific principle or discover some new effect or even nail down a controversy.”

    The modeling is done for the understanding of the flow around a windturbine, this is not well known and there are a lack of understanding of some parts, for example stall delay is poorly understood. The are probably not going to result in any new scientific princible but I also doubt that Gavin is going to discover any new scientific principle in his modeling work.

    “Engineers are not scientists, though they can do science if their work makes it through peer review,”

    PhD’s in engineerings subjects publish in peer-reviewed journals so I quess they do science then. Good that was my point all the time.

    “because the goal of their job is not advancing scientific knowledge,”

    That depends on how you define scientific knowledge. Is fluid dynamics around an airplane scientific knowledge, i.e aerodynamics? Is fluid dynamics in the atmosphere scientific knowledge? I would say both are scientific knowledge.

    But whatever, we are not getting anyware here. It just seems to be a lot of prejudice around.

    Comment by fredrik — 15 Jun 2007 @ 5:42 AM

  201. [[David (195) I appreciate it. But my understanding is that ethanol (from corn at least) production and burning is carbon neutral (even slightly negative) only if the CO2 absorbed by the stalks, roots, and cobs (and converted to carbon) is permanantly sequestered. If it gets re-emitted into the atmosphere through decomposition (likely within one growing season with full tilling -- I think??) then ethanol, joule for joule, adds significantly more CO2 to the air than gasoline. Do you agree?]]

    Ethanol from plants is taking CO2 out of the air and then putting it back in. Gasoline from oil is taking CO2 out of the ground where it has been for 300 million years and putting it in the air. That’s the difference.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 15 Jun 2007 @ 6:14 AM

  202. [[But whatever, we are not getting anyware here. It just seems to be a lot of prejudice around. ]]

    Every time you assert that engineers are scientists, I will counter it, because it’s not true. And it’s pretty damned arrogant as well. The prejudice seems to me to be all on your side. By your argument, who needs scientists to do science? We can just have engineers do it. We don’t even need people to get science degrees, just engineering degrees. Sorry, I don’t buy it.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 15 Jun 2007 @ 6:17 AM

  203. Barton, Nature seems to atleast publish something about windturbines. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v412/n6842/pdf/412041b0.pdf

    Thus, those people do science according to your definition.

    Do you ever answers peoples questions by the way? I have asked you a couple questions but you just ignore them. You just sit on your high horse claiming that I am wrong. You are also inconsistent, modeling a windturbine is not science even though you can found a lot of peer-reviewed article about it but an engineer that publish his works in peer-reviewed journals are doing science according to you. So what is it?

    Science degrees or engineering degrees on the PhD level is more or less the same in my opinion and I am going to continue to belive that until someone give any argument that it is not true. No argument has been given so far. This assumes that PhD’s in engineering subjects like aerydnamics or structural dynamics is considered engineers. I get the impression that you and Ray thinks that and I have asked you to clarify. If their research are considered science, they should be considered as scientist and I have no problem any more.

    Comment by fredrik — 15 Jun 2007 @ 7:28 AM

  204. #202 (Barton) Engineer vs scientist

    Barton, whether somebody (in your view) is “arrogant” says exactly nothing about the validity of his arguments.

    Now can we please stop this particular discussion that is getting us nowhere? Moderators?

    [Response: Agreed. No more scientists vs engineers postings please.... - gavin]

    Comment by Dick Veldkamp — 15 Jun 2007 @ 9:09 AM

  205. re #197

    “Hypothesis: “Engineers are more likely than scientists to succumb to bad ideas”:
    NOT PROVED, and not likely to be proved here.”

    Likely not.

    But if you’ll forgive a short, semi-off-topic digression, in my own experience I do find it interesting that in another area of contention, Evolution, the Creationists tend to be defended most virulently on message boards by engineers who seem extremely touchy about the questions regarding their credibility in making pronouncements regarding the biological sciences, and that, in the general “debate”, the legitimacy of many Creation “scientists” is, at best, questionable:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/credentials.html

    Also worth noting is that the founder of the modern Intelligent Design movement, Phillip Johnson, is a lawyer.

    Finally, perhaps the Global Warming issue could use a barometer like Project Steve from the National Center for Science Education:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/steve/

    Not that any of this necessarily means we see a correlation between the two discussions, but I think it would be worthwhile to note, once more, that the issue started when someone attempting to defend Griffin’s unfortunate statements posted his resume as proof that he was a scientist (sans any mention of peer-reviewed work on the subject of focus) when, in fact, the resume was that of an engineer.

    Some feel there is a distinction between scientists and engineers, others do not. I tend to side with those that do, so there’s my bias, for what it is worth. Personally, I don’t think then or now anyone is trying to suggest there is something negative about being an engineer, though if I were to venture an opinion, it seems that those who take a position tending to support the idea that there is no distinction seem to be doing so in a defense of engineering. Take from that what you will.

    Again, please forgive the digression. That said, it is a Friday, and a beautiful day indeed, (at least, here on the Left Coast), and I do hope you all have a wonderful and contention-free weekend.

    Regards,

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 15 Jun 2007 @ 9:59 AM

  206. Re #199: [We're talking about personal preferences then, not about unbearable living conditions for human beings having for consequence to reduce world population.]

    How do you determine what conditions are bearable or decent, except by consulting the personal preferences of the people who might live in them? And again, you’re overlooking the very big gap between your unbearable conditions (yet the people who live in them do manage to bear them, mostly), and what you or I would consider decent conditions.

    [So now, do you still think a lower population density means better living conditions?]

    All else being equal, yes. Low population density is necessary for a decent life, but of course it is not sufficient.

    [Do you have any idea how science works?]

    Well, I think I do. So, I assume, do the several companies & institutions that have paid me to do it :-)

    [...in the case of demographers study populations dynamics, migration movements, sociological behaviours past and present to then model a projection of future populations.]

    Yes, I thought that is exactly what I said. They’re gathering statistics on past behavior, and using them to project the future. That would be akin to studying past climates, finding out that there were e.g. Milankovic cycles, and using those to project future climates. Unfortunately those projections would be wrong, or maybe incomplete is a better word, because they don’t take the effects of CO2 into account. Those effects (simplistically) can’t be determined by statistical methods, because humans haven’t put large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere before, but they can and were predicted by theory. See the difference? Demography has statistics, but no theories with which to predict the effects of things that haven’t happened before.

    Comment by James — 15 Jun 2007 @ 2:06 PM

  207. And as the VD sufferer said, that Alexander really makes my…

    Okay, I won’t say it. But I wanted to.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 16 Jun 2007 @ 10:30 AM

  208. “Okay, I won’t say it. But I wanted to.”

    LOL!

    Concerning engineers economists and other techician trades many of whom deny global warming, Barton is correct they have a product to produce as free from difficulty as can be. It’s pragmatic in nature. Good! We need them to work on solutions to climate change based problems including solving the core problem: CO2 production. What we don’t need is cross-disciplinary denial that there is a problem, and there is no need to go to work. We need cooperation and a pool of all the talents we can muster. The time for competition is over. Let us compete for solutions before it’s too late.

    Comment by Mark A. York — 17 Jun 2007 @ 11:48 PM

  209. I remember being amused by Chomsky’s notion that the CIA was a Marxist organization that simply wanted the other side to win! All these guys – left or right – are convinced they have human destiny in the bag; I suspect that Alexander is one of that class of intellectuals who simply cannot accept that history would have the temerity not to end up at the destination he’s envisioned for it…

    Comment by Bill Doyle — 19 Jun 2007 @ 6:36 AM

  210. RE #209 [I remember being amused by Chomsky's notion that the CIA was a Marxist organization that simply wanted the other side to win!]

    Off topic, I know, but I’m curious: where did Chomsky say this? Sounds to me like an ironical comment, which could have been prefaced by: “From the way they behave you would think…”. And who are “All these guys”?

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 19 Jun 2007 @ 8:27 AM

  211. RE: #208

    Mark, individuals are free to deny AGW as strongly and with righteous indignation as they choose.

    The rest of the world is slowly and steadily facing the future as climate scientists, agronomists, oceanographers et.al., determine and report on the consequences of a warming world.

    When the heads of nations met at the recent G-8 they looked across the table at winners and losers. The former are few and have a short lifespan and the latter will eventually be all of us.

    No suprise the insurance industry was the first out of the box to esablish a global warming strategy: cut their losses. Now, China is backing away from coal liquefaction and ethanol production because water availability is not certain. Sea level rise is already claiming victims.

    I have come to see AGW is not an environmental problem: it is an engineering and economic challenge to solve and the US will be in short supply of engineers. In your words:

    [We need them to work on solutions to climate change based problems including solving the core problem: CO2 production.]

    The environment is victim. Environmentalists and especially NIMBYs will hamper the work by opposing needed investments, offering up ideas and remedies for which they have no background or fight infrastructure retrofit and additions if they threaten ecosystems already marked for destruction by relentless AGW.

    Comment by John L. McCormick — 19 Jun 2007 @ 11:06 AM

  212. re#210 0ff topic: Quick skim of a dozen volumes did not reveal the source of the quote: should I ever find it I’ll post it.

    On topic, and regarding sources: did people thoroughly check any of Cockburn’s links. I’m glad I did, because it would have been a shame to miss out on Dr. Jaworowsky’s ‘The Ice Age is Coming’- Snowball Earth is on its way, but hey, not to worry; â��The present technology of nuclear power, based on the nuclear fission of uranium and thorium, would secure heat and electricity supplies for 5 billion people for about 10,000 years.â�� And â��However, I think that in the next centuries we shall learn to control sea currents and clouds, and this could be sufficient to govern the climate of our planet.â��

    Cockburn later went on to wax indignant that people had suggested the good Dr. might be a crank!

    I’d have to say that overall, his proferred links were a little wobbly! I’ve also enjoyed the string of ‘dog ate my homework’ explanation re not producing the long-promised Hertzberg papers…

    Comment by Bill Doyle — 20 Jun 2007 @ 4:36 AM

  213. re #212, Bill Doyle: Cockburn did finally provide the references to George Monbiot, who then got the papers from Herzberg himself. Monbiot’s response, which he says will be the last in his exchange with Cockburn, is at

    http://www.zmag.org/sustainers/content/2007-06/13monbiot.cfm

    He refers readers to RealClimate for general information on climate change and specifically to the discussion of Cockburn’s nonsense.

    Comment by Robin Fox — 22 Jun 2007 @ 9:41 PM

  214. I have to thank Bill Doyle. I wouldn’t have thought to look at the crank sites Cockburn links to.

    However, it does raise an interesting question. If Cockburn uses a pro-nuclear crank for support, that indicates that the argument that concern about anthropogenic CO2 being a stalking horse for the nuclear industry is probably a red herring.

    If so, I really wonder what his objections are. I have two hypotheses, both of which may be true. One is that, as an old Stalinist, he’s offended at the thought that the age of industrialization through which all human culture must pass according to Marx may well lead to catastrophic effects on the survival of humans and human culture. Proponents of this view would disdain AGW for not being sufficiently rigorous in its adherence to Marxist principles.

    Alternatively, (after comment #134) he could be a paid shill.

    Comment by Nullifidian — 23 Jun 2007 @ 12:27 PM

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