The revised picture of Atlantic variability also speaks to the importance of the press not jumping on every new study (even peer reviewed) without some scrutiny and context. This paper triggered heaps of ominous coverage, and now that the boat has tipped back the result is what I call “whiplash” journalism — which in the end tends to alienate readers instead of informing them.
The Sciencemag page is blank on my internet explorer 5.1 running on MacOS 9.1. I will have to buy a new computer to upgrade, but not now. The Scientific American article says that there is great seasonal variability and keep watching for future data.
I don’t take most of what I read in the popular press about climate science seriously, with Andy Revkin’s work a major exception. The majority of the press gets it wrong playing up the worst case and/or the best case conclusions that can be drawn from the paper. Whiplash journalism is the best term I’ve heard to describe the effect.
I use the popular press only for the news that a new paper is out. I then look for a more detailed and accurate discussion on a science site like RC, stoat, Andrew Dessler etc, and read the original paper if I have the time to devote to understanding it.
Comment by Joseph O'Sullivan — 22 Aug 2007 @ 9:28 PM
You’re right, Andy, but I think the press aren’t the only ones who are jumping the gun a bit here. Personally, I believe that it is premature to discount the trend that Bryden observed on the basis of the variability in the RAPID array. These are fundamentally very different ways of measuring the overturning circulation and there is no reason to expect the two to contain the same amount of variability. Remember that Bryden’s trend (at from the 1980s to the present) was based on large-scale changes in temperature and salinity that extended deep into the water column. In fact, here is another recent analysis of the cruise data suggesting that these deep temperature and salinity trends ARE significant.
The nature of the RAPID array means that it will capture all of the “sloshing” back and forth across the latitude of the array that doesn’t have anything to do with climate change. In contrast, Bryden’s analysis contains a lot of inferences and assumptions about reference levels and so forth that are designed to tease out the long-term signal. So it is a bit misleading, I think, to look at the 4 to 34 Sverdrup range of values that RAPID got and use them to discount Bryden’s results.
[Response: Hi Josh, can you expand on what you mean by ‘fundamentally different’? My understanding is the opposite, that the array moorings can be thought of as permanent CTD casts and that the processing of the data is analogous. Cunninghams’ main point in the GRL paper is that the deep T/S properties are more robust than the geostrophic calculations and that seems valid but he uses a model to assess a potential change in MOC which might be a little less so. – gavin]
Excellent observation Andy. Well, they said this and now it’s that! Then again revisions in science are the norm. It usually never means everything was wrong the first time and this is what propagandists do with such info. Sinister, that.
Journalists communicating more with scientists isn’t going to save us. In fact, the prospect is quite grim. Homo Sapiens, on the average, isn’t smart enough to avoid extinction. The prognosis is extinction of the “humans”. The gas that will do it, hydrogen sulfide, cannot be smelled once it is dense enough to kill us.
FIRST: A degree in journalism has to include at least the Engineering and Science Core Curriculum, and preferably a degree in science. The book: “Science and Immortality” by Charles B. Paul, 1980, University of California Press needs to be required reading in journalism. Why? Because your 20 years of experience in science journalism has not been enough for you to get the message. The message is: 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.
Journalists have to stop caring Who said it. It doesn’t matter Who said it. You have to do the experiment yourself before you believe it anyway. Journalists have to do and report the experiment, not find non-existent controversy.
SECOND: A high school diploma has to require [of everybody] enough science to make good citizens of a high technology civilization. A high school diploma has to require 4 years of Physics, 4 years of Chemistry, 4 years of Biology and 8 years of Math at the high school rate of learning. Why? The alternative is extinction. Carbon mitigation has to be voted on. Our best immediate plan of action is to convert coal fired power plants to nuclear. Most Americans are so ignorant that they are paranoid of nuclear power. See: http://www.ornl.gov/ORNLReview/rev26-
34/text/coalmain.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Background_radiation http://www.unscear.org/unscear/en/publications/2000_1.html http://environment.newscientist.com/article/dn12346-renewable-energy-could-rape-nature.html
I would think that our impending extinction would be adequately dramatic to cover as news.
Comment by Edward Greisch — 22 Aug 2007 @ 10:11 PM
Reference comment 2
Page opens fine using iCab on a 300MHz Powerbook Wallstreet running system 8.6. http://www.icab.de/dl.php
Only browser I have used, mostly, for 10 or so years.
Cunningham says. “Do [climate models] have the right sort of nature of the overturning and its variability?” he asks. “There are questions to answer now before you believe their predictions.”
I’ve been thinking this myself for quite some time now. Specifically, we now have actual measurements showing very high interannual variability in the North Atlantic overturing circulation, yet everytime I read about model predictions of the NAOTC strength here, it is described as realtively stable, with only a slight downward trend due to global warming. Do the models we are relying on for our predictions show this kind of huge interanual variability? If not, why should we believe them?
Before this study, we had large observed decadal scale variations in the salinity of the North Atlantic and the Arctic Basin, which are easiest to explain as decadal scale variability of the NATOC. Do our current models replicate these salinity changes? Everything I here seems to indicate that they don’t, but if they don’t, why should we believe these models? If current models get the mixing caused by hurricanes so badly wrong that they need to add a fudge factor called “background mixing in order to fix the problem, then why should we believe that they have the rest of their mixing model correct?
Cryosphere today reports a current sea ice area of 3.22 mkm2, 20% below the previous record minimum, and the sea ice melt for this year isn’t even over. In large part, this appears to be due to a recent increase in this circulation, or at least the amount of it extending into high latitutes.
Large areas of normally ice-covered ocean have been soaking up sun all summer. If the fresh-water layer is thick, the heat will be trapped at the surface and will be released in the fall, when there as a strong negative feedback effect, and the ice thickness will reset to close to normal. If the fresh water layer is thin, the heat will move deeper into the ocean and a lot of it will come out in the winter and spring, when it will decrease the ice thickness. This will cause the sea ice area to decrease rapidly next year, possibly shoving the global climate over a major tipping point.
If current global models cannot predicit the interannual variability of the NAOTC, then why should we expect them to correctly predict the results of mixing in the Arctic when it changes from mostly ice-covered year-round to mostly free of ice in the summer? Why should we trust their predictions at all?
Yes you are correct. The moorings do act like permanent CTDs, but the difference is they are only placed at the boundaries. Strictly speaking, this is okay because the geostrophic transport does just depend on the endpoints of the cruise. But as Bryden pointed out in the 2005 paper, eddies can cause a +/- 6 Sv change in the upper ocean transport as they run into the boundary (i.e. through the endpoint of the cruise). Note that this is about the same as the variability in the “Mid-Ocean Transport” curve in Kanzow et al. (2007). Bryden goes on to argue that the trend he reported is not caused by endpoint variability, in part because the temperature and salinity trends that caused the trend in overturning extend into the interior.
So I guess my point is that the long-term climate signals in the MOC may be more difficult to see if you only have temperature and salinity data at the endpoints.
Interestingly enough before all these empirical data devices were put in place across the Atlantic the available data pointed towards a failing MOC system. Therefore it makes me wonder if the models or assumptions being used and made are just a lot of hot air to stir up debate and get climate change ratcheded up on the political agenda.
[Response: “the available data pointed towards a failing MOC system” – what do you mean? – William]
From the previous thread on Bryden:
[…However, based on this study, which is arguably the most definitive for the timebeing, positive tropical Atlantic SSTs associated with a THC-driven AMO should be contemporaneous with positive anomalies in the THC. In this context, Gray’s public assertions and Bryden et al’s quantitative findings cannot both be correct. -Mike]
Who was wrong?
[Response: Almost certainly the former, and perhaps as well, it now appears, the latter. – Mike]
Re #1 Where Andy Revkin wrote The revised picture of Atlantic variability also speaks to the importance of the press not jumping on every new study (even peer reviewed) without some scrutiny and context.
IMHO, the lesson the press should learn from these events is not that they should play down each new study because they cannot tell whether it is true. They may never know that! The lesson they should take is that scientists can be wrong.
Gavin and Michael have managed to spin the story so that it is a victory for the Bayesian logic, but in fact simple logic is enough to show the whole concept of a slowdown in the THC causing global cooling, such as that which happened during the Younger Dryas, is impossible. The THC is driven by the cooling of the saline Gulf Stream. If the North Atlantic region cooled, the THC would intensify not stop. In fact what caused the YD was that the fresh water flowing from Lake Agassiz allowed ice to form in the Nordic Seas, and this stopped the THC, not vice versa. Later, when that sea ice sheet suddenly collapsed the temperatures in Greenland jumped by 10 C, just as they had during previous Dansgaard-Oeschger events. See the article by Tim Lenton. cited by Gavin
If you apply Bayesian logic to the Arctic sea ice it is obvious that the scientists prediction of an ice free only occurring in 2070 are way off the mark. The Bayesian priors of evidence from McPhee et al, Rothrock et al, Wadhams, and satellite evidence of the ice thinning show that a collapse is imminent.
It is not the facts that journalists should be checking. It is the motives of the scientists. Here we see two reputable scientists not only claiming a victory from defeat, but also reassuring the public that the disaster of a halting THC will not happen, when a major disaster they should have predicted is looming over civilisation.
Re to number 10; Here in the UK the entire debate (for me anyway) surrounding the MOC was started by a Horizon documentary featuring scientists from the Wood Holes institute I believe and their data seemed to be suggesting that the MOC was weakening. However the program made no suggestion that their data could be incorrect or that the MOC was dynamic to within 20 sv’s per annum. Thats the reason why I got into realclimate, in order to gauge the scientific merit of such programs and boy has it all been an eye opener.
Even books such as Fred Pearces latest one and six degrees by Mark Lynas seem to be broadly in favour of a weakening MOC brought about by freshening northern waters and russion river run off into the north atlantic.
G’Day Gavin & Michael.
Yes I can understand a slowing of the North Atlantic Overturning Circulation, but I suspect it will keep going slow while the melt continues. I say this because as I read a lot of similar reports I compare them to a map I have, called ‘The Floor of the Oceans’.
When I read about all the stuff going on in the oceans I try to compare them to the geography of the floor of the oceans, and most of it makes a lot of sense in why it is happening.
Wadhams Chimney I suspect is kept going because of the undercurrent coming out of Kangertittvag. From what I see, a drain in the continental shelf their keeps the flow going. Ironically I think the Melt is keeping the Gulf Stream flowing.
Wy don’t you just accept the words of Carl Wunsch and other professional oceanographs? “… the notion that the Gulf Stream would or could “shut off” or that with global warming Britain would go into a “new ice age” are either scientifically impossible or so unlikely as to threaten our credibility as a scientific discipline if we proclaim their reality”.
And also Carl Wunsch wrote a message to The Economist, regarding if an ice age can occur in Britain (something discussed in an article in that magazine):
“Your statement that “The Gulf Stream is driven both by the rotation of the Earth and by a deep-water current called the Thermohaline Circulation” is false. The Gulf Stream is a wind-driven phenomenon (as explained in a famous 1948 paper by Henry Stommel). It is part of a current system forced by the torque exerted on the ocean by the wind field. Heating and cooling affect its temperature and other properties, but not its basic existence or structure. As long as the sun heats the Earth and the Earth spins, so that we have winds, there will be a Gulf Stream […]
If the sinking motion at high latitudes were completely stopped, by covering that part of the ocean by sea ice for instance, there would still be a Gulf Stream to the south, and maybe an even more powerful one as the wind field would probably then become stronger. If the sinking were stopped by adding fresh water […], the Gulf Stream would hardly care. […]
Many real climate change effects exist and require urgent attention; focusing on near-impossible Gulf Stream failure is an unproductive distraction.”
We must also consider that there aren’t even close to as muxh ice now than it was in the late ice age, so I don’t think anything will happen, and due to the climate in the artic the ice meltning don’t seem to be a problem:
Well, I predicted increased severity of storms/hurricanes back in 1990 on my Earth Day displays (info I got from some 2ndary science sources) and Pat Neuman (a fired-for-speaking-out-about-GW-NWS-hydrologist-in-the-Midwest, who used to blog here) predicted increased flooding in the upper Midwest and tried to warn people about the possibility of greater flooding with GW. And it sort of looks like we may have been right.
So we see on http://www.cnn.com today the teaser-link: “Mother Nature ‘really cruel’ with Midwest floods.” And attributions like that REALLY irk me. When Katrina hit, a visiting priest said something to the effect in his homily, “Nobody is to blame for Katrina. It was Mother Nature.”
That’s like saying that because there was not enough “beyond a reasonable doubt” evidence to convict OJ Simpson, ergo it was definitely another person, so let’s start a huge manhunt for this unknown killer on the loose.
I think it’s wrong to attribute things to Mother Nature at this point that could attributed to GW (bec they fit what is expected), if scientists only had higher confidence.
BTW, when I read the news story in 2004 about the slowdown in the North Atlantic overturning circulation, somehow I didn’t consider it a completely done deal (I’m not sure if the story had caveats or not), but rather one study on something that (let’s face it) fit part of the big package of things to be expected. So I wasn’t surprised to learn recently in a new study that the variability was just too high to make claims at this point. I was actually a bit relieved that the slow down MAY not have started yet. My sense of foreboding did not increase much with the earlier story (esp since many scientists now say a shutdown may not throw Northern Europe into a deep freeze, due to GW offsetting that), and it certainly hasn’t decreased with this more recent study.
GW is still a huge problem — that hasn’t changed — maybe one of the most severe humanity has ever faced.
And that the public (that I swim in) wasn’t even aware of the 1st study or the 2nd, makes this, along with the GW problem (for the most part) much ado about nothing to them. Afterall, every weird and dangerous weather thing is just Mother Nature acting up. What can we do about it, except buy better insurance??
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 23 Aug 2007 @ 9:09 AM
We all know the the atmosphere and oceans arw warming but is the knock on effects that the media seem to be interested in. As explained here many times, the earths albedo, land use as well as GHG emissions are causing the warming. 3 degrees is what Gavin and co keep on telling us but from time to time we get 6 and 11 degrees in the media due to +ve feedback processes such as permafrost melt (not sure about this one), Amazon and other rainforest destruction/deforestation, WAIS and Greenland melting, etc.
As it stands I am sticking with RC’s projections of 3 degrees of warming at a CO2 doubling to 550 ppmv. What comes during this time, bigger more frequent hurriances, cyclones and typhhoons, drought, flood, pestilence and famine etc will be interesting and I am sure continue to fill the papers and TV.
I apologize for commenting off topic…feel free to delete.
I know that RC doesn’t want to spend time responding to the ClimateAudit guys, and give them more legitimacy…but it would also be nice from a casual observer’s point of view to hear what you think about what they are doing. It seems like a lot of engineers getting overly excited about equipment and precision/accuracy of measurements. How much does it matter? A post/essay from RC dealing with this might invite unwanted (and irrelevant) chatter, but it also might help for a lot of us non-scientist types.
Re 17: Actually Lynn, buying insurance might become more and more expensive and eventually there might not be any insurance to buy, see a recent NYT article. Insurers have complicated maths to deliver to them cruelly simple truths: such risk can be insured at such costs, such at higher cost, such can not be insured due to excessive risk and the certitude of expenses that will not be recovered by insuring the other lower risks. For whatever is in that 3rd category, there won’t be insurance. Of course, the all picture is more complicated, with secondary insurance for insurers faced with unusual expenses, and even goverments participating in those schemes, but at the end it boils down to this. If real costly occurrences happen too often, we will run out of possibilities to insure against them. This could happen surprisingly fast.
Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 23 Aug 2007 @ 11:17 AM
I have never hidden the fact that I am dyed-in-the-wool denialist. However, I have a reason for reading Real Climate. Here in Canada, my Member of Parliament is one, David McGuinty, who happens to be the opposition Environment Critic. He was largely instrumental in getting through our Parliament, with it’s minority government, a Bill requiring Canada to fully implement it’s obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. Like the Man from LaMancha, I “dream the impossible dream” of convincing him that AGW is a myth. It is a good idea to read RC, and think up arguments opposed to what is posted here. Rather like stealing signs at a baseball game.
I realize that on this particular topic, this message is OT, but it is not OT in general. There are a couple of things that I resent when I read people’s opinions of what denialists are; several orders of magnitude worse than the scum of the earth, and in to back pockets of big oil and big carbon. On a personal basis, I am retired, and live by myself after my wife of 50 years died some 9 years ago. My wants and needs are very modest, and my pension more than covers them. Nevertheless, it is always nice to get some extra money. What I, and all the other denialists I know about, are trying to find out is how we can tap into this vast wealth that is lavished on us denialists. If anyone can give me some pointers as to how to get a nice grant from some company like Exxon, I would be most grateful.
Another point is that we are accused of not being scientific. I always try, but do not always succeed, in being an analyst, not an advocate. After reading parts of RC, I feel like Darcy must have felt in Pride & Prejudice when Elizabeth Bennett says “had you behaved in a more gentleman-like fashion”. In this regard may I refer you to http://www.griffith.edu.au/conference/ics2007/pdf/ICS176.pdf
I will admit that before I read this document I had never heard of Rhodes Fairbridge, nor the solar inertial motion (SIM). I am now trying to find someone, hopefully from the Royal Canadian Astronomical Society (not known as a hotbed of denialists), who can provide me with the details of the SIM over the next 50 years or so, and how it will affect the sun’s rotation, and solar cycles 24 through 27.
With the prediction in the above paper that solar cycle 24 will bring the sun’s magnetic conditions to be similar to those in the early part of the 19th century, maybe it will be a good idea to “pay a call on the Dalton”.
Feel free to listen in–one advantage of telling the truth is that you don’t care if someone finds out your secrets.
If you seek to tap into the disinformation funds that Exxon et al. are spreading around, might I suggest that you start by learning the science of climate change. You can then decide whether you are convinced or not and whether the price the denialist disinformation machine puts on your integrity is worth it.
Maybe a coastal ecologist familiar with the JCR can help explain how the article referenced in comment #21 found its way into the Journal for Coastal Research. I checked the Journal’s web site and sure enough the article is listed in the table of contents though I can’t access it directly as I don’t have a membership. Is this an example of a journal publishing what appears to be a “vanity” article for a fee? Will the increasing cost of journal publishing mean that in the future a reader won’t be able to pick up a journal without having to read through what could amount to pages of “sponsored” articles and safely assume that everything in it is real, peer reviewed science? Perhaps a coal company will sponsor the Journal’s next issue with Dr. Denial being given free rein to publish an article explaining how unseen metachlorions are actually warming the Arctic.
Per Peter Ward*, it’s not a halt of the ocean circulation we should worry about — that would be a red herring.
What’s likely at some point as the oceans warm is a rearrangement, to another circulation pattern in which the sinking water is warmer and less well oxygenated. This is known to have happened in the past, leaving layers of sediment with very few fossils for a long period of time, in geological terms.
What’s likely at some point as the oceans warm is a rearrangement, to another circulation pattern in which the sinking water is warmer and less well oxygenated.
I have my reservations regarding Peter Ward. Personally I think he gravitates towards the quick catastrophic. If he were right, basically there wouldn’t be anything we could do about it at this point anyway.
But I would have to agree that the temperature of the land rising more quickly than surface ocean temperatures and the rate at which land temperatures are rising is cause for concern – as are the phosphate runoff from agriculture and dumping of other waste into the ocean. (Heck, the latter should worry us simply in terms of antibiotic resistance making it from port to port along hundreds of miles of coastline – particularly with how quickly bacteria adapt and exchange genes for resistance.) The high pressure over land, low pressure over water changes the circulation – and you don’t have to have the thermohaline shut down to bring up nutrients which encourage the algae blooms, deadzones, hypoxia and anaerobe population growth.
This is known to have happened in the past, leaving layers of sediment with very few fossils for a long period of time, in geological terms.
Despite the uv-damage to their spores, fungi did comparatively well for a while.
RE #21, Mr. Cripwell, I wouldn’t consider you a denialist, but perhaps a contrarian :)
Just as AGW believers come in all stripes, so do disbelievers. So I’ve come up with some way of sorting them out.
SKEPTICS are the few remaining scientists who are not convinced by the evidence or models, etc. Perhaps they are like those who disbelieve there is a slowdown of the North Atlantic overturning circulation, because the noise it still to great to tell. A skeptic would readily convert to a AGW believer once there was enough evidence. I’m always reading about climate scientists who didn’t believe AGW was upon us until 1998, 2001, or 2005, when such&such evidence came in and convinced them.
CONTRARIANS are like skeptics, but probably won’t convert easily to believers, even when mountains of evidence come pouring in. They aren’t being paid by the fossil fuel industries, don’t have stocks in oil, and don’t work for these companies. The main factor in their disbelief is a somewhat contrarian personality, or too close of following the well-known contrarian streams in our Western (esp American) culture.
DENIALISTS, TYPE A, do have some vested interests in fossil fuels or other industries that might suffer should we all decided to become energy/resource efficient/conservative and go onto alternative energy. They really do disbelieve AGW.
DENIALISTS, TYPE B, are like TYPE A, except they actually believe in AGW, but don’t admit so publically.
Now it is possible you are a skeptic, and would easily convert to an AGW believer, should you be made aware of the right evidence. But it seems you’re more a contrarian, since “who-ya-gonna-call” beyond the topnotch, bonafide, working climate scientists, who are near unanimous that AGW is happening.
Anyway, you don’t seem to be contributing much GHGs, and you live in Canada (which might be one of the better places once GW really starts kicking in), and you (like me) don’t have lots of years left to worry much about harms from AGW (tho, at one point early on Hurricane Dean’s eye path was aimed straight through my house).
I’m thinking that perhaps you have children and grandchildren, and the idea of GW harming them and their progeny might be so untenable to you that you can’t believe it. I wasn’t blessed with children, so I don’t have that blockage. Or perhaps you have fears of general economic harm or political totalitarianism happening (and harming you and/or your progeny) if we dare address GW. Or it could just be a contrarian personality/cultural thing.
Or….there is a less than 5% chance you’re right! But then all that paleo-climate-evidence doesn’t jive and basic laws of physics and thermodynamics, if you are.
I’d suggest reading Mark Lynas’s SIX DEGREES, which can be purchased through http://www.amazon.co.uk — it is well written, and brings together much of the GW research in a format even I can understand (including the controversies, where there are any).
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 23 Aug 2007 @ 2:49 PM
Jim’s not a reasoner:
A sample of 1 says very little, cats are mammals is not the same as mammals are cats, etc. That paid denialists are out there and having a huge impact he can’t deny, so he red herrings. The fraudulent educational fund in Canada is one example of a more low level process, but really, the contrary position here is that there are such top notch, astute scientists in the tobacco industry that they somehow get the science right every time (even when they switch positions). Why is it, again, that people proven wrong, even deliberately fraudulent, switched into a consortium with energy company scientists to produce denialist materials? No one denies that some denialists are simply conservative idealogues. Indeed, there’s a wonderful book Jim should read by former Young Republican Thomas Frank called “What’s the Matter with Kansas” – it makes the point clearly that conservative idealogues are most definitely not all “in it for the gold” (to use Michael Tobis’ description of the ludicrous claim by denialists that scientists have only embraced global warming to make more research money).
We are all skeptics. Generally speaking, if someone makes a claim, your response should be “prove it”, otherwise you’re a trusting fool and should probably stay away from late night infomercials. Compared to the time spans of climate history, the amount of time humans have been studying climate is a blink of an eye. I look at the IPCC reports as best guesses from the science community to a world that wants GW answers NOW. If you are convinced by majority opinions, fine, but you probably have no business thumbing your nose at the people who are waiting for science to play itself out.
RE 21: Jim, I’m afraid you missed the boat when the CATO institute was offering 10 grands to anyone who would muster a scientific sounding critic of IPCC’s AR4 (it did not have to be any kind of true scientific work). If you become conversant enough in climate science and GCMs by AR5, you might be able to complement your income nicely.
Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 23 Aug 2007 @ 5:56 PM
Compared to the time span of gravitational history, the amount of time humans have been studying gravity is a blink of an eye. I look at Newton’s and Einstein’s papers as best guesses from the science community to a world that wants gravity answers NOW. If you are convinced by majority opinions, fine, but you probably have no business thumbing your nose at the people who are jumping off tall buildings waiting for science to play itself out.
Re #31: Michael, if you jump off the top of the Empire State Building in the year 2075, what will be your velocity at impact within +/- .5 m/sec? I’m pretty sure all the laws of physics will be pretty much the same in the year 2075, and that’s what is used to build climate models.
Re Peter Ward, after reading his book, I don’t see why you say “If he were right, basically there wouldn’t be anything we could do about it at this point anyway.”
His book is about the research distinguishing the extinctions that don’t show evidence of asteroid impacts from the one that definitely does — the field trips and study that led away from the “killer asteroids” explanation for all the major extinctions.
The core samples don’t give absolute temperature information or CO2 levels, the continents have drifted, ocean circulation patterns varied; unless there’s something I’m missing, he’s writing about the elimination of the asteroid impact explanation, and the evidence from the strata suggesting a change to warm deep water — not drawing a line on the chart and saying at some specific level our contemporary ocean circulation will quit taking cold oxygenated water deep.
Re 21 – Jim Cripwell – My dear Jim, I am your age and I wonder what universe you are living in! Why are you driven by a compulsion to reject the evidence produced by the vast majority of climate scientists? Really, the world is as it really is and all the wishful thinking imaginable will not change that. We cannot wish away the reality of global warming. Check what your own government is doing in response to the anticipated continuing warming of the arctic. Good grief, man, we have so few years before we are off the scene to try to undo the vast damage of our generation’s ignorance and complacency! Please, wake up and help!
Reading your chapter in A Field guide To Science Journalism I was struck by your invocation of the Exxon Valdez disaster as a paradigm of marine ecosystem pollution . Like most, I was unaware ” The runoff from parking lots, gas stations, and driveways puts the equivalent of 1.5 Exxon Valdez loads’ worth of petroleum products into coastal ecosystems each year.”
But suffering from a common affliction among physicists — a knee jerk tendency to subject factoids to dimensional analysis on sight– my immediate response was quantify your vivid meme. It works out to ~115 tonnes of equivalent crude oil release a day. Which, as I read the AGU journals I subscribe to , naturally makes me wonder how much crude oozes into ‘pristine’ marine ecosystems from countless submarine fractures each day ,and how that number compares to the rate of leakage from all the abandoned or ostensibly dry holes thus far drilled in the seabed ?
It would be remarkable if integrating the leakage from either set of oil sources yielded a sum as small as 115 tonnes – that’s a 5 meter cube of crude , and the marine component of the biogeochemical cycle of carbon –and hydrocarbons — is reckoned in teragrams. Lots of teragrams. Which raises a point of journalistic order: when it comes to Big Oil, you ask: ” So what is a reporter to do?” and answer ” The first step is simple: Know thine enemy. Recognize where the hurdles to effective environmental communication reside so you can prepare strategies to surmount or sidestep them. ”
With due respect to Pogo, though the enemy often sure is us, what Big Oil does physically resembles what is happening to Oil In The Pristine State Of Nature, it being a mere fact of natural history that, having been tectonically traumatized over the course of deep time, nature leaks like a stuck pig.
Polemically useful as keeping readers in pristine ignorance of nature’s deplorably messy ground state may be , can ethical journalists leave them so? As with the thermohaline circulation, the point is moot until one knows what the numbers are, and how they determine the ratio of natural to antropogenic release, so I look forward to your account of the steps you take to find out, and communicate them.
Lynn Vincentnathan Says: Just as AGW believers come in all stripes, so do disbelievers. So I’ve come up with some way of sorting them out.
How about adding another dimension to your classification dealing with the severity of AGW effects? While the reality of at least some AGW is pretty well established, the impact of the effects (at least as discussed by commenters here) seems to go far beyond what I’ve seen as scientificly plausable.
So how do you classify someone who agrees with the bulk o economists and other experts that the effects of AGW will not exceed a few % of world GDP compared to those who expect the end of civilization at best?
Not all the physics are in all of the models.
Programing does not always perfectly capture the physics intended for that model.
I would say that there is another group that thinks the AGW problem is much, much worse than anything hinted at in IPCC FAR. Perhaps, we could call these Skeptics B, as they feel the published data does not fully represent the situation.
Then, there are the GOGs (Grumpy Old Guy) that think rather than talking about changes in global mean temperature, it would be better to talk in terms of global changes in energy.
Interesting comments. I would say that in general the US media has done a poor job of covering this issue over the past several decades. The notion of ‘equal coverage’ seemed to be the motivation for always including Lindzen’s or Singer’s or Michael’s opinion as a counterpoint to the hundreds of other professional climate scientists who agreed that AGW was very real.
Would journalists also give ‘equal time’ to those that claim that the HIV virus had nothing to do with AIDS? How about ‘equal time’ for zero-point energy enthusiasts (please…no responses to that one!)? Flat earth societies? I can’t recall the last time I saw a news article on some aspects of genetics and health that gave ‘creationism’ equal time either… you see my point?
Thankfully, that era seems to have passed – and I applaud all those journalists and editors who have finally come to their senses. Now if we could just get government agencies such as NOAA to do the same – and I think it’d be good if journalists started asking NOAA some questions about their continuing official claims that “the multidecadal decadal signal (AMO) is the main driving force behind increased hurricane activity”.
We know there is natural variability, but it seems very clear that the variability is superimposed on an ever-increasing global warming signal.
This is also why I’d never accept a bet for ‘temp X in 5 years’ – really, you’d be betting on the likelihood of a major volcanic eruption as well.
> how much crude oozes into ‘pristine’ marine ecosystems from countless submarine fractures each day ,
> and how that number compares to the rate of leakage from all …
I actually looked that up recently, and posted one answer in a response to the regular drive-by poster “Adrienne” here, who represents the website and book that are claiming naval warfare caused global warming — he or she posts something about the oceans and links to one of their many websites every few months. I’d been asking for numbers. So I finally looked them up
As I recall — you can look it up by searching for that name, if you want — the contemporary recent estimate is that very roughly leakage from all human sources is about equal to natural seeps of petroleum, on an annual basis. So we about double the natural background.
During the World Wars the total from human activity was far less than the natural background.
Now the contemporary estimate was very rough, but one of the authors was from a big petroleum company.
I personally believe the AGW group is more believable, and I support their research wholeheartedly. But they will not or can not tell you how much they don’t know – how of the iceberg is submerged and not visible. Maybe because the unknown is unquantifiable?
#34: You’re right, even if current global climate understanding is 100%, you still couldn’t predict temps in 2075 because humanity is unpredictable. So I will re-phrase: Given a C02 cap of 600ppm what will the sea level be in 2075? Any bets? Climate science is still in its infancy. I am not about throw exclamation points at a skeptic.
re: 39. “So how do you classify someone who agrees with the bulk o economists and other experts that the effects of AGW will not exceed a few % of world GDP compared to those who expect the end of civilization at best?”
Hyperbole aside (“expect the end of civilization at best”), classify them as those who have failed to understand the science of global warming. Or failed to even make an attempt to learn about it.
Apparantly some freshening occured in the 1960s and it takes some 15 years or so for its effects to have been passed.
All of this seems to show that the oceans are very dynamic in nature and I doubt that any abstract physical model can capture all elements of what is going on in the atlantic regarding its conveyor system.
Re #39 [So how do you classify someone who agrees with the bulk o economists and other experts that the effects of AGW will not exceed a few % of world GDP compared to those who expect the end of civilization at best?]
Interesting question. There would need to be at least two dimensions to such a classification: beliefs about the direct impacts of particular schedules of greenhouse gas emissions; and beliefs about the way the planetary socio-techno-ecosystem will respond to those changes. To judge by the SPM, IPCC FAR Working Group II had a go at questions of direct impacts, but (perhaps wisely), didn’t even attempt to explore human responses, or interactions with environmental issues largely independent of AGW, such as soil erosion. Regarding direct impacts, the key questions seem to be whether unmodelled aspects of ice dynamics will cause much faster sea-level rise than WGI anticipates (as Hansen believes is likely); and whether any of the “tipping points” discussed on this site recently occur. Broader responses of the planetary socio-techno-ecosystem to such primary impacts are much harder to get any kind of handle on. My own hunch is that if we collectively fail to take serious mitigation action early enough (when “early enough” is, depends on the factors mentioned above), we’re also likely to fail to deal well with the regional emergencies that will occur if we don’t, and at some stage, some ruling elite fearing loss of control will start a nuclear or biological war. I think the economists you refer to are by training more or less unable to contemplate that the current world-system might actually break down.
Hyperbole aside (”expect the end of civilization at best”), classify them as those who have failed to understand the science of global warming. Or failed to even make an attempt to learn about it.
[insert General Anthony McAuliffe line here]
The full range of possibilities involved in Global Warming involves extraordinarily serious issues. The threat of incessant war over the droughts predicted has even brought out planning in the Pentagon. By the time the bulk of the effects of Global Warming arrive we could number > 9 billion of us depending upon thin margins of error in our agriculture. What are the odds of that scenario? You tell me. So far, the IPCC sees a 4.5C increase as within the 95% realm of possibility. That puts >4.5C in the 2.5% realm of possibility. A 4.5C increase would definitely produce widespread drought and their attendant wars. (Coming well after Peak Oil and the increased cost of petroleum-based fertilizers, what do you think will happen? a meek return to global subsistence farming?) Greater than 4.5 with its ever-rising ocean waters, droughts, storms, advances in disease and pests and the pressures of over 9 billion people … We’re in the midst of a never-ending war in the Mid East now. You think things are going to improve?
So how do you classify someone who agrees with the bulk of economists and other experts that the effects of AGW will not exceed a few % of world GDP compared to those who expect the end of civilization at best?
Further to #48, #49. The rather odd weather this year, which has affected wheat harvests in Canada, Australia, China and Europe, has led to record prices, and a 26-year low in stockpiles (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6962211.stm). If such odd (and most important, unpredictably odd) weather becomes much more common, food prices are going to become both higher in general, and subject to sudden hikes. That sort of thing (rather than actual starvation) tends to lead to civil unrest, a search for external distractions by governments under pressure, and the risk of war.
First let me thank all those who have replied to my original message, and for keeping the discussion scientific; and apologize for a rather lengthy post. The thing I deplore on the issue of climate change is the lack of scientific discussion between the two sides; it is a dialogue of the deaf. I will attempt to keep these thoughts scientific. The first thing I would note is that no-one has challenged the scientific validity of the reference I gave viz. http://www.griffith.edu.au/conference/ics2007/pdf/ICS176.pdf
Whether this is because no-one read it, or because it is scientifically wonderful, I am but sure. But it is central to this message. Let me establish a few facts. First there is no question that the earth’s temperature rose in the latter part of the 20th century. Whether this trend is still continuing is less certain. The question is what is going to happen in the future, and the answer to this will be easier to find if we can agree on what caused the observed rise. There are two rival ideas; that it is AGW, and that it has been caused by extraterrestrial effects.
The case for AGW is made by the extensive writings of the IPCC. If AR4 to WG1 is scientifically correct, as it is written, then the case for AGW is indisputable. However, the error in this document is not what it includes; it is what it excludes. And the key place is Chapter 2.7 under the sub heading Natural Forcings; what I prefer to refer to as extraterrestrial effects. This part of the report occupies some 4 pages, of which three and a half talk about solar irradiance. This is an excellent review of the subject, and quite rightly concludes that the effect of changes in solar irradiance is negligible. The other half page dismisses all other extraterrestrial effects as being inconsequential.
I am neither a solar physicist nor astronomer, and I do not pretend to have kept up with all the literature from the past few years. I do not know if it is now general accepted, since the neutrino experiment in Sudbury, that the solar system is the remnants of a supernova which exploded 5 billion years ago, and the sun is an unstable neutron star surrounded by the remnants from inside the orbit of Mercury. However, I am aware of some of the omissions from the key section of the IPCC report. It includes Svensmark and Marsh 2000 and 2001, but omits Svensmark et al. Proc. Roy. Soc. A October 2006, and The Chilling Stars Svensmark and Calder February 2007. More importantly it omits Tobias and Weiss 2000 Resonant Interactions between Solar Activity and Climate. Journal of Climate 13. 3745-3759. Specifically “The IPCC dismissed any significant link between solar variability and climate on the grounds that changes in irradiance were too small. Such an attitude can no longer be sustained”. I would submit that any publication that has to do with solar physics, and which ignores Nigel Weiss, Professor Emeritus of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics from Cavendish Laboratories, Past President of the Royal Astronomical Society, needs to be viewed with some suspicion.
The issue to me is simple. It is well established that the sun affects the earth’s climate. The question is how much? Is it negligible, as the IPCC claims, or is it dominant as the denialists believe? Surely the way to answer this question is not by papers like Lockwood and Frohlich, but by understanding the physics of how the sun affects climate. Once we know the physics, we can calculate what the sun’s effect is, and if is really is negligible, so be it; we denialists are wrong. Surely it is in both our interests to find out precisely how the sun affects climate.
I finally looked at your paper. First, I note that the journal is not typically one that carries climate papers. Second, the references sprinkled through the piece are mostly not to peer-reviewed climate journals. Peer review is critical here, as it is what separates the musings of an individual scientist from actual science.
Second, you have grossly oversimplified the position of the IPCC. They acknowledge that the Sun is important. The question is how much of the CHANGE can be explained by solar variability. The problem with the work of those supporting an extraterrestrial cause is that they don’t have a workable mechanism. Svensmark posits that changes in the heliomagnetic field affect GCR fluxes, which in turn affect formation of clouds. Leaving aside the handwaving nature of the argument, the main problem here is that GCR fluxes are not changing–certainly not since the ’70s when we started measuring them with satellites and very, very probably since at least the ’50s based on neutron flux measurements. So the proponents have either a cause with no mechanism or a mechanism with no cause–neither leads to a workable theory. Some have tried to get around this by positing that there is some sort of “delay”, but this puts us into the realm of fantasy–there’s no mechanism I can think of by which the theory of Svensmark can be saved in this way.
On the other hand, the greenhouse mechanism is based on known and validated physics. We know it happens in nature. We know we are increasing GHG concentrations. We know from the models that the changes seen are capable of producing the observed warming. It seems to me that the astroclimatologists have a double problem: Not only must they come up with a mechanism by which their astro-influences can impart energy to the climate (which they’ve failed utterly in so far). They must also explain what a known mechanism suddenly stops working once we’re above ~280 ppmv CO2.
I’m not a member of the Royal Canadian Astronomical Society, but am a member of the much humbler British Astronomical Association. I have read a lot of reports about what the sun might or might not do in the next solar cycle and it seems to me that you may as well flip a coin: the next cycle may be more or less active than the last one and proponents of both defend their respective corners equally convincingly. The trend of the last three cycles does seem to be slightly towards the less active, but not by much.
I did read the paper you originally indicated, but I can’t see how the sun can move through its own magnetic field. Surely the sun’s magnetic field is an integral part of the sun, not something that’s fixed for the sun to move about in.
I read some of Svensmark’s papers. There was some interest in his idea of an extra flux of cosmic rays causing cloud seeding, but it didn’t look convincing.
I did ask the Astronomer Royal for Scotland – a solar expert – for his opinion and he didn’t think that the solar contribution could account for the amount of global warming we see. Taken altogether, there is a solar component, but not enough of one.
If we had another Maunder minimum (and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t) there is no telling how deep it would be or by how much the climate would cool. But even if we did, I don’t think that’s any excuse for inaction on the carbon front because, at best, the problem would simply be postponed for 40-120 years. When the sun comes out of any minimum, AGW would hit with a vengeance, as there would be a strengthened solar component plus all the CO2 accrued from years of doing nothing.
The most rosy outlook is if we have a Maunder minimum that does cause a cooling, but at the same time, we use the opportunity to replace hydrocarbons. But it’s probably a long-shot.
re 50 – California suffered unusual winter storms that trashed the winter crop, crops are dying in the South from the unusual heat, and the midwest appears to be drowning. The unusual weather seems to be more and more noticeable.
The pentagon assessment is in many ways a “What if the most extreme scenario occurred…”
The new Bryden paper catches Professor Gray in a bit of a pickle. First it was the thermohaline circulation speeding up that explained the warming of the tropical Atlantic (and the rest of the tropical oceans for that matter) and hence the increase in hurricane intensity and frequency. Then with the first Bryden paper he blamed it on a slowing down. Actually, in his AMS presentation, he covered both bets and had a speeding up and a slowing down in the same presentation. I think he eventually fixed that and settled on a slowing down. What next, I wonder?
Since no one else responded to the reference you posted, I will. I’d guess the reason no one else responded is that the theory in that paper is a crackpot theory.
Have you ever read Velikovsky’s “Worlds in Collision”? The author contends that astronomical events were responsible for the miracles recorded in the bible; at the time, it was an extremely popular book and generated much discussion and thought. If you talked about it with an astronomer, you’d be likely to hear something along the lines of, “The astronomy was utter nonsense, but the historical/archaeological discussion was fascinating!” If you talked about it with a biblical archaeologist, you’d be likely to hear something along the lines of, “The archaeology was utter nonsense, but the astronomical discussion was fascinating!” The truth is, both were utter nonsense, but they were exciting ideas, argued in a way that was extremely persuasive to those who didn’t know the subject.
The SIM theory is just the same. The fact that you say, “I am neither a solar physicist nor astronomer” reveals why it’s so persuasive to you.
You also need correction on a few other points:
The case for AGW is made by the extensive writings of the IPCC.
No, it isn’t. It’s made by the truly vast body of literature in peer-reviewed scientific publications. The writings of the IPCC are just an overview/summary of that vast body of literature, which is so extensive that even an overview/summary seems to you to constitute “extensive writings.”
I do not know if it is now general accepted, since the neutrino experiment in Sudbury, that the solar system is the remnants of a supernova which exploded 5 billion years ago, and the sun is an unstable neutron star surrounded by the remnants from inside the orbit of Mercury.
It is not generally accepted, because it is just plain impossible. I don’t mean improbable; just plain impossible.
Surely the way to understand the impact of solar variation is not to attach yourself to crackpot theories when you lack even a basic understanding of the physics of how the sun behaves, or affects climate.
RE #55, actually, I’d sort of think that a slowing down might increase hurricanes, since the hot water would be left there to get hotter in hurricane alley.
In fact, can anyone answer this: If and when there is a slow down or halting of the N. Atlantic overturing circulation, which would likely cause a cooler Europe and NE U.S. (than would be expected with GW), wouldn’t that also mean (considering the 1st law of thermodynamics) that the southern areas, like my place near the Gulf of Mexico, would get hotter (than they would if the NAOC did not slow down or stop)?????? So it would be GW + this extra heat?
I’ve never gotten an answer on that.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 24 Aug 2007 @ 11:19 AM
Tamino brings up an excellent point about the perils of cross-disciplinary studies. It is quite rare for a single individual to have sufficient expertise in multiple disciplins to ensure the study makes sense. This is one reason why so many of the scientists who are contrarians have expertise that pertains ever so slightly to one small aspect of climate studies. I refer to it as the SEP (somebody else’s problem) phenomenon–for busy people it is often tempting to look into an issue just enough so that you THINK you understand it. The thing is, though, you have only peeled back one layer of the onion.
The situation is even more fraught for the layman, who has no way of assessing the credentials of so-called experts and no way of judging whether their argument really holds together technically.
As advice, I can only offer this: Do what scientists do. Look and see what they guy has published in peer-reviewed scientific journals that are directly pertinent to the subject he/she is writing about. Look how often their work is cited by other authors in peer-reviewed journals. By that criterion, I have no problem dismissing Weiss or Svensmark or a host of others who have no real credentials in climate science.
Or said another way, if you are being led in your opinions about a field of study by people who have no record of publication in that field, you are most assuredly on the wrong path.
I’ve always been a bit confused by the THC discussion with respect to slow down and speed up. It seems to me that if the salinity decreased then the top level water would simply get pushed further north because it doesn’t sink as far south. But eventually it would become colder than the underlying water and sink anyway – just further north. So it would seem to me that a reduction in salinity should lead to no change in absolute current speed – just the overall length of the current. Warmer water would make it further north hence potentially precipitating a warmer European Arctic.
Steve, #39, yes, there are many different types among the AGW believers, and underlying this might be (as I posted under the previous thread, “Musings about Models,” #84) the difference between:
(1) THE SCIENTIFIC MODEL: Scientists usually require 95% or greater confidence to make a claim. They need to protect their reputations, so that people will go on believing them — so making false claims (alpha error) is much worst for them as professionals, than failing to make true claims (beta error). They cannot be the boy crying wolf. If they are, they get cut out of the loop.
(2) THE MEDICAL MODEL: Victims and potential victims of environmental harm, and environmentalists, and the general public (you’d think), would like to avoid environmental harm in the first place. They would be reticent to continue a practice that MIGHT be harmful to them or others. They would be greatly averse to failing to avoid a true harm (beta error). As are doctors and their patients when viewing test results — doctors will not tell their patients they are only 94% confident the lump is cancerous, so they won’t operate, and to come back next year to see if it’s made the 95% confidence interval.
Ordinary people concerned more about the world’s life support systems (we call them environmentalists) than their scientific reputations, would likely take the tact of “hope for the best, but strive to avert the worst.” So in their minds, they’d be interested in what the very worst case scenario might be. I guess that would even be (in many minds) worse than losing civilization — it would be the extinction of our species, if not due to GW and its environmental harms directly, then perhaps bec we nuke each other over dwindling life-supports. That doesn’t mean most environmentalists think that’s likely, only that it’s possible, and to be avoided.
So how do you classify someone who agrees with the bulk o economists and other experts that the effects of AGW will not exceed a few % of world GDP…?
I might say “neo-classical economists” or THE ECONOMIC MODEL. Their thinking might work pretty well in a healthy environment with seemingly limitless resources and no environmental harm externalities. However, in the real world, esp that of today’s AGW world, their model crashes.
They tend to view things in terms of “exchange value” (based on supply and demand, etc) so that a bottle of vodka or an inkjet might be equivalent (in terms of currency) to a bag of food.
However, in the real world we have biological needs that include non-toxic water, air, and a balanced diet of several different types of foods (with their different vitamins, minerals, etc.).
For a better economic model, we need also to include the “use value.” For instance, being stuck on a desert island for 6 months with no water or food, but a mountain of diamonds (you’d think) would be less preferrable to being stuck on an island with fresh water and plenty of food, but no diamonds. [When I present this dilemma to my students, they actual hesitate a bit :) ]
So neo-classical economic assessments of how much GW under a BAU scenario will cost, or their cost/benefit analysis of mitigating GW is going to be exceedingly faulty and unreliable re a prudent policy that will ensure sustainability for the world’s population.
As I’ve said before the expensive things like gold and diamonds won’t be harmed much by GW, only those cheap things, like bread.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 24 Aug 2007 @ 12:00 PM
‘It is quite rare for a single individual to have sufficient expertise in multiple disciplins to ensure the study makes sense.’
How rare? Do you know of anyone at this level of expertise in global climate science? Could you drop a few names?
Once again, thanks for all the comments. I want to concentrate on one issue, so let me quote from what Bill Tarver (#53)said. “ I did ask the Astronomer Royal for Scotland – a solar expert – for his opinion and he didn’t think that the solar contribution could account for the amount of global warming we see. Taken altogether, there is a solar component, but not enough of one”. At college my mentor was the great Gordon Brimms Black McIvor Sutherland. Amongst many other things, he taught me to trust my own instincts, and to never accept anything in science unless it could be proved beyond all doubt. Opinions do not matter.
I think we agree that the sun has some effect on climate. I think we also agree that no-one knows what the physics is, as to how the sun affects climate. Until we know precisely how the sun affects climate, how can we calculate quantitatively how big the effect is? And until we know quantitatively what the sun’s effect is, how do we know how much, if any, of the recent increase in global temperatures has been caused by the sun, and what is going to happen in the future? Maybe AGW is enough to explain global warming, but I have seen no “smoking gun” that proves, beyond all doubt, that this is true.
I cannot see how we can conclude that the sun’s effect is negligible until we know, quantitatively what the sun’s effect is. Can someone explain this to me please.
[Response: “beyond all doubt”? If that is truly your criteria for accepting something, you might as well stop reading about science in any field, since that is never achievable. I find it hard to believe you mentor ever meant such a thing. – gavin]
Re: #51 The paper cited is a memorialization, i.e. an obituary. It is not peer reviewed science. I don’t know how it ended up in the Journal for Coastal Research which usually contains peer reviewed articles on coastal geology and ecology.
If you knew, you would realize how utterly nonsensical the proposition you mention is:
“… the sun is an unstable neutron star surrounded by the remnants from inside the orbit of Mercury.”
I’m sorry, but the fact that you can entertain the thought of this non-sense being true casts a long and very dark shadow on everything else you say. If you want to be taken seriously you should study a bit more, but make sure you study the real science and not some fringe pseudo-scientist writings. You don’t need to have a PhD in astronomy or astrophysics to understand the few basic facts that help you distinguish between valid propositions and crack-pot theories.
Comment by Rafael Gomez-Sjoberg — 24 Aug 2007 @ 1:51 PM
Re #51: Jim, I agree that Nigel Weiss cannot be ignored. Here on his home page it says:
“Following a misleading account of my views in the Toronto National Post in February, a number of right-wing lobbyists have asserted that I claimed that an impending drop in solar activity would lead to global cooling that would cancel out the warming caused by greenhouse gases. On the contrary, I have always maintained that any temperature changes caused by variations in solar activity — while interesting in themselves — are not significant compared to the global warming that we are already experiencing, and very small compared to what will happen if we continue to burn fossil fuel at the present rate. On April 11 2007 the National Post published an apology and withdrew its allegations.”
Gavin wrote “[Response: “beyond all doubt”? If that is truly your criteria for accepting something, you might as well stop reading about science in any field, since that is never achievable. I find it hard to believe you mentor ever meant such a thing. – gavin]” Not at all. I believe in the Second Law of Thermodynamics. I believe Boyle’s Law, Kirchoff’s Laws, Newton’s Laws of Motion with their limitations, Wein’s Law, and on and on. I believe we can prove the inverse square law of attraction of electric charges to something like 15 significant figures. Where there is overwhelming experimental evidence, then we can have proof beyond all doubt. Are these laws going to stay true for all time? Who knows. That is what science is all about. Questioning the basis of everything, and only relying on hard, reproducible, expermental, quantitative, etc. data.
At college my mentor was the great Gordon Brimms Black McIvor Sutherland. Amongst many other things, he taught me to trust my own instincts, and to never accept anything in science unless it could be proved …
At my Royal College (of Science and Technology) in Scotland no-one bohered to mentor me, but I still managed to deduce that the Universe was curved in four dimensions, long before the publication of Stephens Hawkings’ A Brief History of Time. In fact it was so long ago that at that time there were two theories of the Universe – the Big Bang and Continuous Creation. It seemed obvious to me that Continuous Creation must be the correct paradigm, but when even Fred Hoyle abandoned that idea I then realised that I could not even trust my own deeply held convictions (instincts.)
So Jim you mentor was correct, and you should not have even trusted him since he could not prove he was correct. He was wrong, and you cannot trust you own instincts. If you do, you will only see what you want to see.
You claimed that there was no smoking gun. The North West Passsage is smoking now, and has been for several weeks, ever since the perennial ice there disappeared. Moreover, worldwide an outbreak of forest fires are wrecking havoc from California to Albania and Greece. Last year it was the turn of Victoria, Australia to burn.
The rain in Canada that you believed everyone had heard of, has been repeated in Britain and China. Climate change is global, but you won’t see it if you do not look for it.
OTOH, your mentor was correct to tell you not to trust the scientists. They, like your mentor, distrust everyone except themselves. Their climate models are based on the false thesis that greenhouse gases radiate back to the surface, but if that were true then the surface could never be colder than the air, which is not the case.
Moreover, with their model the greenhouse effect can never raise the surface temperature to more than twice a planet’s effective temperature, yet for Venus that factor is four. The melting of the Arctic sea ice is completely unpredicted using the current models, but the failure of the surface radiation models is well known, except by the modelers who, like all computer programmers, will not admit that their code is wrong.
Jim, it is not just you whose instincts tell him that he is right. Gavin is also prey to that fallacy!
Re #65: Hmmm. That image seems to show the far North Atlantic-Barents Sea as perfectly salty enough. I thought I was arguing that the THC effect would simply occur further north. If were to argue that it doesn’t sink at all – then it would have to slosh back under the pressure from the current and gravity. This would, by itself, cause sufficient mechanical mixing to enable the THC effect. Of course, wind driven current pressure piles up water forcing deep water below to be squeezed southward due to the topography of the ocean floor in the North Atlantic. So it would seem that if the THC effect shut down entirely – there would be considerable current flow. Just the fact that warm water is less dense in the tropics would allow a circulation to develop – regardless of wind or THC effect.
A suggestion: some number of threads get filled up with:
“what about THIS paper”
followed by back-and-forth rounds of debunking.
Sometimes THIS is new; sometimes it’s been an explicit thread; often its debunking is spread around and not so easy to reference.
How about creating a new category under climate science called “Dubious papers” or something like that, and then:
a) When a moderator sees one of these, create a new thread and tell people to go there. [This means eager debunkers should hold off instant responses.]
b) Then, the new thread can be focussed on that one paper and avoid cluttering the existing thread.
c)And there would get to be nice repository of really bad papers in one place, which would be *really* useful. In particular, one of the most valuable things of watching for a while is that one can tell the difference between:
– “Is there anything to this?”
– “X (debunked), Y (debunked) … but ANY explanation that isn’t AGW.
Amongst many other things, he taught me to trust my own instincts, and to never accept anything in science unless it could be proved beyond all doubt.
Um, I’m not a scientist, just a layman, so perhaps you could explain how this applies to:
The Big Bang
After all, they are all theories, just like AGW.
Now, removing my tongue from my cheek, perhaps I could presuade you to read “Antiscience”, an essay by the late Carl Sagan, found in his wonderful collection of essays entitled “The Demon Haunted World”. He does a bang-up job of explaining why your basic premise re “beyond all doubt” doesn’t really hold up.
Then again, perhaps the phrase is accidental hyperbole and not what you meant, eh?
Jim Cripwell said:
“I cannot see how we can conclude that the sun’s effect is negligible until we know, quantitatively what the sun’s effect is. Can someone explain this to me please.”
Hmm, I had always thought that the Sun’s effect on climate was quite well defined. It puts out LOTS of radiant energy, which heats the planet. Period. Beyond this, there is zero evidence that the Sun has any significant effect on climate.
So now you are proposing not only that the greenhouse effect must be demonstrated beyond doubt (not even reasonable doubt), but that we also have to go chasing after some chimerical mechanism by which the Sun could explain the observed effects. You are proposing that we scrap a perfectly viable, reasonable and well supported theory and take off over hill and dale looking for a mechanism we have no good reason to even think exists. Now really, Jim, did you really manage to maintain a straight face as you typed this?
“Not at all. I believe in the Second Law of Thermodynamics. I believe Boyle’s Law, Kirchoff’s Laws, Newton’s Laws of Motion with their limitations, Wein’s Law, and on and on.”
Um…if I may be so bold…you are engaging in a dodge, a subtle rhetorical fallacy, selective omission. Claiming to believe in a Law of science is nice and all that, but what you really seem to be doing is inferring that Laws are somehow a step up on the hierarchical scale from Theories.
Which is, as my dear, departed granddad was fond of saying, balderdash.
Roughly put, a theory is an assemblege of facts that best explain how a phenomena works, as in the theory of gravity.
A Law addresses the observable, consistant effects of a phenomena, as in the case of the Law of Gravity or Newton’s Laws of Motion.
A law does not explain how a phenomena “works”; it only discusses the observable results of the EFFECT of a phenomena. Simply put, a Theory is a scientific explanation of a phenomena; a Law is the consistant observable effect of the phenomena – two different things…
Unusual weather is the norm. Just like the “average man” – there is no “average man”.
That’s one of the reasons why people like to talk about the weather (and that’s not new either).
The difference is when you start to see changes on a yearly and decadal basis that suggest something is changing.. In the past ten years we’ve been seeing weather in my region that is inconsistant with what we know to be norms.
There is a certain point, in other words, where it stops being simple something to be dismissed as “talk about the weather” and something that perhaps we should be paying attention to…
Alastair (70), a correction from the peanut gallery. I don’t think Fred Hoyle gave up on the basics of Continuous Creation. He just modified the periodicity and lumpiness of the process, though enough that “continuous” would not be accurate.
Lynn Vincentnathan Says: So neo-classical economic assessments of how much GW under a BAU scenario will cost, or their cost/benefit analysis of mitigating GW is going to be exceedingly faulty and unreliable re a prudent policy that will ensure sustainability for the world’s population.
Thanks, Lynn and others that responded.
However, it seems your arguments boil down to that the economists are wrong, and that your non-expert opinions are right.
It is possible that you are right, but as far as classification goes, I think that you have to be classified as economic skeptics (or even economic denialists in some cases), if you are going to classify those who question the climate science as climate skeptics.
With 2 dimensions, most simply there are 4 quadrants:
Two replies: #61 (Lynn): I have always enjoyed your perspective, and I found your observation about the Scientific and Medical models especially thought-provoking (it might be old hat to you, but it’s new to me – although it could be the way you expressed it). It’s really about what information people use to make decisions in a less-than perfect world using less-than perfect science. I work in the biological realm where uncovering the mysteries of one black box often reveals more black boxes, and where using the tools we have we do the best we can to measure what we can.
RE #69 Jim: If the only science you believe is that which can only be described by known physical laws, you would have a very limited scientific worldview indeed. Physicians give drugs to people knowing that there is not a 100% chance that the drug will work (based on studies in which a fraction of patients is sampled) using a schedule that is based on “average” drug pharmacokinetics (YMMV) hoping that the patient is not part of the minority that would experience a serious adverse event. None of this can be boiled down to F=MA, but decisions are still required – see Lynn’s post. You claim that science is about “Questioning the basis of everything, and only relying on hard, reproducible, expermental, quantitative, etc. data.”. True enough – so check to see what has been reproduced, what has been shown to be independently verified, etc. Above all, apply this same skepticism to the skeptics. Look to see whether their work stands up to criticism by their peers and whether it has been independently reproduced or verified by independent measurements (e.g. satellite vs. surface measurements, independent data handling, independent modeling).
Re #73 “Um, I’m not a scientist, just a layman, so perhaps you could explain how this applies to:
The Big Bang
After all, they are all theories, just like AGW.”
Simple. Where is the experimental data to support any or all of these theories? If it exists, then there is a good chance that the theories might be correct. When the experimental data is overwhelming, then we have proof beyond all doubt. To look at a few examples. For relativity, a simple experiment was done when two atomic clocks were flown in opposite directions around the world, and the difference in time was measured. Gravity was one of the first things to receive experimental data, with Gallileo’s law of odd numbers. Evolution; we have the evidence of how bacteria have adapted to antibiotics, and the failure of Lysenko. It would take far too long to discuss all these in detail, but the “umpire” in science is, was and always will be the experimental data. “To the solid ground of Nature trusts the mind that builds for aye” William Wordsworth.
“Simple. Where is the experimental data to support any or all of these theories? If it exists, then there is a good chance that the theories might be correct. When the experimental data is overwhelming, then we have proof beyond all doubt. To look at a few examples. For relativity, a simple experiment was done when two atomic clocks were flown in opposite directions around the world, and the difference in time was measured. Gravity was one of the first things to receive experimental data, with Gallileo’s law of odd numbers. Evolution; we have the evidence of how bacteria have adapted to antibiotics, and the failure of Lysenko. It would take far too long to discuss all these in detail, but the “umpire” in science is, was and always will be the experimental data. “To the solid ground of Nature trusts the mind that builds for aye” William Wordsworth.”
Do you accept these theories and their conclusions as the best answer possible for the phenomena they attempt to explain? If not, can you name something that does a better job of doing so? If so, why do you accept them, yet engage in an inconsistant argument (in relation to this apparent acceptance) against the theory of Global Warming, which has more than satisfied the same criteria that these other theories have satisfied?
I ask this as you said in 63 something needed to be “proven beyond all doubt” to be accepted as science. (“…never accept anything in science unless it could be proved beyond all doubt.”) Yet here you are apparently accepting the results of the theoretical science (though, equally interesting, you appear by your posts to remain blind to the relation to Global Warming theory). Simply put, you are being inconsistant by the standards you set for yourself.
Re #69: [I believe in the Second Law of Thermodynamics. I believe Boyle’s Law, Kirchoff’s Laws, Newton’s Laws of Motion…]
Maybe I’m belaboring the obvious here, but I’m pretty sure all of those have in fact been shown to be incorrect, Newton’s Laws of Motion, for instance, are incorrect for very fast or very small objects.
A lot of people seem to get this backwards: natural “laws” aren’t rules which the universe is obliged to follow, as though it were a model and the laws the source code, They’re just our best attempts to figure out how the universe actually works. Thus believing in them is futile: if it comes to a conflict between law and the universe, the universe wins.
When it comes to global warming, a lot of the denialists seem to be following a variant of this belief fallacy. They don’t want the world to be acting the way observation strongly suggest it is, therefore they invoke a belief in some alternative law, which they go to great efforts to contrive.
[[At college my mentor was the great Gordon Brimms Black McIvor Sutherland. Amongst many other things, he taught me to trust my own instincts, and to never accept anything in science unless it could be proved beyond all doubt]]
I don’t mean to be offensive, but he sounds like a scientific illiterate. Science isn’t in the business of proving things, it can only disprove (falsify) them. Scientists believe in AGW because the theory has survived a long time despite repeated and ferocious attempts to knock it down.
[[ Their climate models are based on the false thesis that greenhouse gases radiate back to the surface, but if that were true then the surface could never be colder than the air, which is not the case. ]]
Alastair, we know the atmosphere radiates back to the surface. We’ve measured it. And the surface can never be colder than the air only if you restrict yourself to radiative effects alone. In reality there are such things as inversions.
If I were a high school science teacher I’d require my students to read these discussions. Not so much for the real science found here, but instead for the exposure to the process of critical thinking. Young people can learn how science works here at RC and watch critical thinking at the same time to see how and why it works. Our world desperately needs many more people with this skill.
#79, economists are not so much wrong, as their sphere of study is narrow, and they tend to hold those variables outside economics constant (to be deleted from the equations). Some economists are trying to develop other standards besides GDP & GNP (which really only measure the monetization of an economy, and do not distinguish between “goods” and “bads”).
For instance, if village A grows its own food (each family growing much of its own) and barters without money, it has zero GDP, but village B might grow only cash crops they sell on the market, and they might be malnurished (while village A has a rich, healthy diet), bec village B’s profits are not enough to feed them adequately.
Society A might have a higher GDP per capita than society B, but it might be because society A people are on the whole a lot sicker, and require lots of medical services (which pump up the GDP, but reflect “bads (disease)” and not good health). Or Society A might have full employment and tremedous building projects…bec the mega-hurricanes keep knocking everything down.
You could have “profligate society” using up its resources, including topsoil, lickety-split, and polluting its air and water…..but its GDP looks great, though the society doesn’t have long to live. And “prudent society” could be protecting its resources and life supports so that its generations can go on into the far distant future, but its GDP per capita doesn’t look as good as “profligate society.” So I guess the question is, do we want to live it up now, carelessly & wastefully, and to #@&#@ with the children, or do we want our human societies to go on into a good and healthy future.
Some economists are trying to address “quality of life” issues, along with “quantity of money.”
I’m an anthropologist, not an economist, so I follow a more holistic approach. Economics deals with the production and distribution of goods and services — it’s a social dimension, not a material one. Subsistence patterns (within cultural ecology), OTOH, deal with how people eke out a living from the environment, e.g., hunting/gathering wild animals/plants, horticulture, pastoralism, plow agriculture, industrial agriculture (with tractors, etc). That’s not economics. Economics has to do with what happens to the resources once they are taken from the environment, and also with the work groups and division of labor involved in taking the resources out and producing products (although neo-classical econ is more into commodities than products, even tho these are one & the same thing). However, the resources themselves (the flora, fauna, minerals, water, etc) are more the purview of cultural ecologists and biologists and geologists, not economists. Economics also has to do also with modes of exchange — reciprocity, redistribution, and market economy. But, again, neo-classical econ is more into studying only market economies, not these other types which have been with us much much longer than markets.
So economics is narrow, and neo-classical economics is even more narrow. I’m sure economists are very good at what they do within their narrow confines.
However, economics alone, and esp neo-classical, is not up to dealing with serious environmental problems or with policies involving life & death decisions — unless it turns those non-economic “constants” into the variables that they are, and is able to deal with externalities.
If everyone had to keep all their pollution and GHGs within a private cubicle of land, water, and air allotted to them (and not pass them on to future generations), there’d be little problem getting people to reduce their harmful pollution that now gets passed onto others, esp future generations.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 26 Aug 2007 @ 8:40 PM
RE alll the neutron star stuff. This is a folk bastardization of the Bircher/RBN/LaRouche/Rense crowd’s explanation for solar (not global) warming – namely that “Planet X,” a neutron star headed for us (mentioned prominently on the Bad Astronomy site) is not only going to wipe us out (but “they” don’t want us to know – presumably because we’d enjoy moments of sweet freedom or realize the mystical truth once we realized the end was nigh) – but it’s also incidentally the source of solar-system-wide warming. It’s so obvious! Sometimes Planet X is a brown dwarf, others a neutron star.
I like the touch of making the sun itself a neutron star though. If that’s the case, a little heatproofing and we can probably slingshot out through a wormhole if we spin the sun Just Right.
Re #79 [However, it seems your arguments boil down to that the economists are wrong, and that your non-expert opinions are right.]
That would be so if neoclassical economics had the same scientific status as the physics underlying AGW, but it doesn’t. Rather, it is one among a number of competing schools of thought – social sciences are after all the hard sciences, where “hard” means “difficult” :-). I’d mention particularly behavioral economics (e.g. take a look at Camerer, C., G. Loewenstein, and M.Rabin (2003). Advances in Behavioral Economics, Princeton University Press and references therefrom), but the names of Herbert Simon (Nobel prizewinner in economics), Samuel Bowles, Ernst Fehr, Herbert Gintis, Richard Thaler and Daniel Kahneman are worth googling in this context; and institutional economics, the tradition of which goes back to Thorstein Veblen, but more recently Douglass North, Elinor Ostrom, D.W. Bromley, Arne Vatn and Geoffrey Hodgson may be mentioned. Very recently, “neuroeconomics” has grown out of behavioral economics. A feature common to these approaches is that (with the arguable exception of a subschool of institutional economics called “new institutional economics) they deny that people act as neoclassical economics says they should, as rational utility-maximisers. I authored a review paper (Gotts, N.M., Polhill, J.G. and Law, A.N.R. (2003) “Agent-Based Modelling in the Study of Social Dilemmas”, Artificial Intelligence Review 19:3-92 which includes a survey of some of the evidence to this effect in the particular case of social dilemmas. So while I’m not an economist, I ground my scepticism concerning neoclassical economics on the work of many who are, as well as that of others (such as sociologists and social and cognitive psychologists) who are professionally expert in overlapping areas.
Steve Reynolds, It is often quoted that economists have predicted 10 out of the last 4 recessions, so it is not entirely unwarranted that some skepticism might apply. One area where I’ve noticed that economics consistently fails is in the impact of technology. Economists seem to have lost sight of the fact that technology developed to do cutting edge, curiosity-driven research almost always winds up benefiting the economy. Then, too, they often assume that substitute technologies/resources will become available to replace those that become prohibitively expensive. For example, I believe that most of the studies that have anticipated that costs of climate change in the single digit percentages of global economy have assumed that other crop lands will become available as climate makes traditional lands untenable. This is a gross simplification that is unlikely to bear out in practice. The Canadian shield is unlikely to become the breadbasket of North America.
I would also contend that economics tends to be driven by ideological factors more than the hard sciences: It used to be that you had a hard time finding any text book that agreed with Milton Friedman or Friedrich Hayek. Now it’s hard to find economists who don’t parrot them.
That said, we ignore economists at our peril. This is particularly true when it comes to how nations will choose when it comes to tradeoffs between long-term environmental and short-term economic risks. In the end, despite all the disinformation the science has had to overcome, the most difficult hurdle for a proactive policy will be demonstrating economic necessity and viability.
It is interesting to note that new scientist reports on HIV causing AIDS denial much like the denialists on climate change for their is political and financial ramifications to this to. For some reason it looks like science is not in the ascendency here and many people do not want to hear the rational scientific message.
Re #96 [Nick, just like in climate science, there are prominent economists that disagree with the consensus.]
No, in economics there really isn’t a consensus. The few climate scientists who are holdouts seems to publish little, and to be pretty much bereft of ideas. This is far from the case with non-neoclassical economists – just use Google Scholar on the names I gave. Ray is right to mention technological innovation as an area where neoclassical economics has little to say. Look for R.R. Nelson, S.G. Winter, G. Dosi, G. Silverberg to mention a few.
re: #98 Nick
I’m still trying to catch up on reading, but in the meantime, since you seem to have a broad view of economists, do you have any opinions on these folks (that I mentioned in another thread here):
Re #100 John,
Thanks for these interesting references. They come from yet another non-neoclassical research program (in Lakatos’s sense): ecological economics. It’s not one I know much about, though I should know more. It’s mainly concerned with macroeconomics. This aims to explain or more ambitiously predict things like GDP growth rates, inflation, unemployment rates, business cycles etc., as opposed to microeconomics, which concentrates on the behavior of individuals, or quasi-individuals such as firms – though obviously the two are related. The basic premise of ecological economics is that economics needs to take more account of biophysical processes and constraints, particularly thermodynamics. I was rather turned off it because one of the few papers I’ve read in the area (which I can’t now identify), made the crass error of claiming that the second law of thermodynamics implies that the more economic activity there is, the faster the biosphere will necessarily degrade to a point where no useful work is possible. I think Jeremy Rifkin may be a current proponent of this belief. However, the two papers you point to don’t appear to make any similar error. I don’t feel qualified to comment on them further than that, but they certainly appear highly relevant to the question of how far economic growth can be decoupled from the grwoth of energy use.
Re: economists. I fear we are in danger of descending into the type of debate we had about engineers vs. scientists a few months ago. The economic aspects of climate change will assume increasing importance as the public begins to understand the unassailable nature of the science of climate change and as vested interests begin to understand the futility of attacking such an unassailable position.
Steve Reynolds has pointed out that many economists have estimated the costs of climate change to be in the single-digit percentage points of the global economy. This does not seem credible to me for several reasons–ranging from my understanding of the potential impacts to my experience with tropical agriculture and invasive species and diseases. I think it would be interesting and important to examine the assumptions made by economists in these assessments. I also think it is important consider the potential positive impacts of technological developments to mitigate climate change (just as it is important to include potential positive impacts of a warmer world in economic assessments). As pointed out by Nick, technological innovation is not something neoclassical economics treats very well.
Now I realize that we have a tendency to see any problem through the lens of our own education and training, but I think that a risk analysis/management approach could pay significant dividends for such a complicated analysis. In such a system, the costs of an adverse outcome are weighted by its probability. The probability can be, but is not necessarily Bayesian. This allows risks to be considered even if there is substantial uncertainty over their probability and impact.
RE #103 [Now I realize that we have a tendency to see any problem through the lens of our own education and training, but I think that a risk analysis/management approach could pay significant dividends for such a complicated analysis. In such a system, the costs of an adverse outcome are weighted by its probability. The probability can be, but is not necessarily Bayesian.]
I see at least three problems with that:
1) Costs to whom? The cost to the global economy could be quite small while still causing enormous amounts of suffering and tens of millions of premature deaths.
2) Costs over what period of time? If you’re integrating over time, what discount rate do you use?
3) How do you cost, say, mass extinctions, loss of cultural treasures, or the end of industrial civilisation? Unless we think the probability of these things happening would be unaffected by climate change, they need to be taken into consideration, but they don’t appear commensurable with costs as economists reckon them. I think this points to one of the limitations of neoclassical economics: the idea that all values can be reduced to a common “currency” (whether you call it money, utility, or whatever).
Nick, very reasonable caveats. I, too, am doubtful that all outcomes can be expressed in monetary terms. However, if we simply sit back and refuse to play this game, we will never convince the majority of politicians, businessmen, etc. that the risk is serious. Just as many “denialists” have sidelined themselves from the process by attacking the science (which they don’t understand), we will preclude ourselves from injecting our values into the debate by trying to remain above it. And as distasteful as we may find the process of assigning a “value” to human life and suffering, the idea of allowing those who value it less to do so is more distasteful.
In short, I view these factors as caveats and challenges rather than obstacles. And I don’t see that we have much choice but to phrase our arguments in terms of the dismal science while trying to make it less dismal in the process.
Ray, I should make clear I don’t object to risk analysis or management approaches provided their limitations are understood. Are there current attempts within those approaches to use multi-criteria analysis? Suppose for simplicity we just consider two criteria, expected reduction in economic output (with some discount rate), and probability of a disaster of sufficient scale to make further monetary-based calculation pointless (again, perhaps, discounted over time). You might then come up with a range of policy options with different possible trade-offs. The choice between these would then be obviously a moral/political one, on which everyone’s opinion would be equally valid, not a question with a scientifically justifiable answer. In practice, there would be more than two dimensions, quantification would be difficult, and there’s still the matter of selecting a discount rate – probably also a political/moral choice rather than one where there’s a scientifically justifiable answer. But maybe something along these lines is a way of using economists’/risk analysts’ relevant expertise, without handing over to them matters on which we all (worldwide) should have an equal say?
I am not sure how much you can separate the human from the economic. The fact is that climate change poses a seious threat both in human lives and economic impact and there is enough uncertainty and risk to both.
I know that many here are primarily concerned with the human dimension, elsewhere oftentimes primarily the economic. But given the uncertainties, risks to human life will necessarily also involve economic risks, and risks to the world economy involves a potential reduction in the resources, including those that are available for dealing with disasters. One figure I ran across (“Modern Times” by Paul Johnson, who at least seemed to get his facts if not his judgments right) was that presumably the oil shocks of the late nineteen seventies had through its economic repercussions in all likelihood resultied in the deaths of over a million people.
What I would stress is trying to frame things in terms of the values which are important to a given audience. Then if you can open a dialogue – perhaps by showing how various values are related – all the better.