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  1. Audience supported media must build audience numbers. An easy way to do that is by pandering to emotions. Mass media journalists are agents of that system.

    It is inevitable. Just as the rising sea levels and temperatures.

    Lessons not learned, will be repeated.

    Comment by RPauli — 29 Jul 2008 @ 7:06 PM

  2. The media likes controversy, has been shedding its competent science journalists, and by-and-large doesn’t get the dire nature of global warming, so I see no prospect of this changing any time soon.

    Heck, even Revkin himself, one of the best climate journalist in the country, keeps pushing the meme that those who say we are headed towards catastrophe are no more credible than climate deniers like Inhofe.

    Much of the confusion arises because so much of scientific modeling of climate impacts assumes a wide variety of possible stabilization targets, which gives a wide range of impacts, which makes it seem like scientists don’t know what’s going to happen.

    In fact, the latest IPCC report makes clear that absent strong and swift action, we are headed toward 1000 ppm atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, which is humanity’s self-destruction.

    That’s why serious climate scientists are so dire, why IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri said, “If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.”

    So, yes, we need to move past the study-of-the-day mentality and keep our eyes on the prize — we need strong action now or we face warming in excess of 5°C.

    Comment by Joseph Romm (Climate Progress) — 29 Jul 2008 @ 7:33 PM

  3. I get the impression that many newspapers are seeking to increase their profits by paying their journalists less – leading to a real drought in investigative journalism. Journalists given their time/budget pressures are basically copy and pasting direct from press releases without really taking time to research and provide context.

    Perhaps a start is to provide more background in press releases to make their job simpler?

    In NZ a “science media centre” has recently been started to help provide journalists with scientific contacts for different topics. Of course this has brought up claims of state control… Will have to see how that one goes.

    Comment by Greg — 29 Jul 2008 @ 7:39 PM

  4. Having had to write up science for the quasi-press (a physics trade journal), one thing you realize quickly: If you produce a piece that is totally correct in the science but completely unreadable, you’ve failed utterly. If you utterly fail to get the science right in a very readable article, the only ones that will know are the few scientists who already know it. As a journalist you have to figure out a way to present the research in a way folks will follow. There has to be a problem or conflict to resolve that is somehow compelling to the reader:
    1)Conflict–two implacable foes battling for truth–hell, who cares who’s right; it’s the struggle people buy
    2)A narrative–A lone scientists struggle to understand a fundamental mystery of nature
    3)Read my research or die–This really works best with flesh-eating bacteria and things like that. A slow-moving catastrophe like climate change is hard to sell like this–as James Hansen has found.
    4)The revolutionary discovery–ala relativity, the Big Bang, etc.

    If your research doesn’t fit into one of these archetypal stories, most science reporters won’t have the foggiest notion what to do with it.

    Another aspect people seem to have trouble with is that different aspects of a problem can have vastly different levels of uncertainty: The fact that we are uncertain about clouds doesn’t mean we’re equally uncertain about CO2.

    Still another issue I see is that not only do people not understand how science gets done–they get a mistaken notion of it from popular culture.

    The final issue I see is that most people don’t realize how mind-numbingly ignorant they are. In a world where knowledge increases exponentially, this is perhaps inevitable, but it doesn’t make the job of the scientist or the journalist any easier.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 29 Jul 2008 @ 8:07 PM

  5. > can scientists, press officers and
    > journal editors and journalists actually
    > do anything about it?

    Create a forum similar to this one.
    Run TWO threads in parallel for each paper discussed. One for the actual researchers who are authors, and who are cited, and for the journal editorial people and some selected journalists, to discuss the paper in public.

    The other for the audience comments.

    Ignore the latter and do a public conversation.

    Let the public see the two scientists engage in this different medium, talking out what their research means and focusing on the points that are likely to be overhyped.

    This won’t work where there are actual deep differences — those end up in an exchange of published journal articles or letters or followup research, as it’s always been.

    But _most_ of this problem is as Andy Revkin points out, that one paper “seems to say” one thing and another paper “seems to say the opposite” when the people who actually understand the area can say clearly that

    — these aren’t contradictory results, they’re interesting and different and both scientists see ways to do something more to investigate what’s going on

    — these aren’t contradictory results, they’re (from different hemispheres, from different glaciations, from different species, from different ice cores, from …. the journalists are setting up a fake disagreement and let’s put an end to it).

    Like that.

    Vital — keep the commenters apart from the scientists. Give the researchers who want some anonymity from the _public_ that courtesy. Help them out reading and writing drafts until what they’re saying in terse academic language reads like they were explaining it to their 18 year old smart niece or nephew.

    It’s needed. Maybe invite someone like David Brin in to do summaries and meta-summaries about how the Enlightenment works (when it does) and what small, fragile treasures both our scientific approach, and our planet, are.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Jul 2008 @ 8:25 PM

  6. Scientist should provide context for their findings. Both in the published papers and in the press releases about the work. Too often I read a paper in Nature or Science and the author(s) provide me with no context whatsoever. I have taught my undergraduate science writing students the importance of this. I’d like to see the wider scientific community practice it.

    In addition, scientists should insist on the right to comment on drafts of media articles on their work as a condition for granting interviews.

    Finally, if you suspect your work may generate controversy, real or imagined, then prepare your press response well ahead of time and make sure it is context rich.

    Comment by Peter Houlihan — 29 Jul 2008 @ 8:25 PM

  7. Taking this opportunity to mutilate Shakespeare, may I suggest that the fault, dear Brutus, lies not with the media, but with ourselves?

    We have allowed science education — hell, we’ve allowed ALL of education — to be passed off upon people as a “product.” Students are no longer students, they are “customers” and “consumers.” How unbridled must our hypocrisy be to fain surprise that they do not “get” that science (and, yes, while we’re on the subject, education writ large) is a process; specifically, a process of inquiry?

    Wringing our hands and gnashing our teeth at the mustache twirling villains of the media is probably not going to help, particularly since they are only doing what they’ve been trained to do: spoon feed their “customers” and “consumers” what their “customers” and “consumers” want and expect to be fed. Pushing back against this is not going to be easy; but pushing back against the media is in many ways attacking the superstructure when we need to address the foundation of the problem.

    How do we EDUCATE people to be more than just passive “consumers,” but to be participating citizens in a Representative Democracy? (This, of course, means possessing an active appreciation of the processes of education and science.)

    Comment by Gary Herstein — 29 Jul 2008 @ 8:42 PM

  8. I think it’s important – when offering additional information up to people – to let them participate in building the full picture.

    We have a goodly number of solid bits of work – which we could say equate to a wagging tail, and fur. We suggest that the discerning viewer may be able to figure out that its probably a D O G.

    When new data comes along – pointed ears, for example – rather than just plonking it out there and relying on the public to remember the other bits, we should make sure in each paper that we briefly run over the whole thing again so the public can again draw an educated conclusion. Mmmm tail, fur AND a pointed ears. Yup – looking more like a dog every day.

    The authors owe it to themselves and us to make sure their conclusion (which ever way it points) is placed in the context of prior knowledge, and that they give readers the opportunity of remembering their past conclusions, and deciding if the new element contributes positively or negatively to those earlier conclusions.

    “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still”

    So science has to help folk end up feeling that the idea is theirs – not someone else’s

    Comment by Nigel Williams — 29 Jul 2008 @ 8:51 PM

  9. It’s rare that Gavin wrtes anything I am qualified to comment on, but alas this one I can make a claim to.

    I have to agree with Peter (6). It may not be a part of the scientific process (peer review, etc.) for authors of published papers to put their research into context, but it would lead to better reporting.

    When I wrote and produced a series on climate change last year, I introduced it by saying that journalists always strive to get both sides. However, that very practice leads people into the false impression that there is great disagreement over climate change.

    There is hope in this regard. The American Metr. Society has pushed hard on their Station Scientist concept. It’s goal is to get Meteorologists/Science Reporters, who work on air involved in the editing process for subjects that are science related.

    Comment by Dan Satterfield — 29 Jul 2008 @ 8:57 PM

  10. Scientists are weird that way. First the universe is absolute, then it’s relative, and then it’s weird.

    Now they say it isn’t even unified, but it’s dual.

    Next they will be invoking multiplicities.

    Mathematics is weird that way.

    Clearly scientists and mathematicians can’t be trusted.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 29 Jul 2008 @ 9:10 PM

  11. It seems to me that if one really believes co2 is harmful then more nuclear is the realistic alternative. Nations are not going to give up low cost 24/7 energy.

    thorium is the green nuclear

    “A number of influential people in Russia, China, India, Indonesia and Vietnam say the planet is now entering a 30-year cooling period, the second half of a normal cycle driven by cyclical changes in the sun’s output and currents in the Pacific Ocean. Their theory leaves true believers in carbon catastrophe livid.

    To judge by actions, not words, the carbon-warming view hasn’t come close to persuading a political majority even in nations considered far more environmentally enlightened than China and India. Europe’s coal consumption is rising, not falling, and the Continent won’t come close to meeting the Kyoto targets for carbon reduction. Australia is selling coal to all comers.”

    Comment by charlesH — 29 Jul 2008 @ 9:16 PM

  12. It’s inevitable. And there’s something that can be done whether it is or not.

    It’s inevitable for more reasons than one, including the debunkers are persisting in efforts to gain market share in the truth market, that all new (to the public) ideas take some time for sorting out, and so on. Others can complete the list.

    If it’s inevitable, what can be done? One thing is to be patient, and to persist at least as vigorously as the debunkers. Another is to stress that uncertainty is always part of science, but that those certainties hover around a certain core.

    In the case of perception that climate scientists are unsure, the reply is “You’re darned right they are. And with good reason! But whoa, this body of science started settling core questions back when Fourier (sp?) asked his founding question in the 1820s, and Arhennius (sp?) put the founding question to the test. Climate science is only uncertain how much pepper is in the shaker because it knows very well that the pepper is there.”

    Comment by Lance Olsen — 29 Jul 2008 @ 9:28 PM

  13. Copied from my comment over at DotEarth:

    I don’t know if the media is really the people to blame here. There has been a large disconnect between the scientific community and the “laymen” population on this issue as to what the real implications of a warming world at today’s rate and magnitude can be. A few exceptions include the realclimate team, Hansen, and some other people who give public talks and will sit for interviews frequently (Richard Alley comes to mind). More people like this is the answer, not more balanced journalism (though it never helps when you have 1,000 people on one side, 1 on the other, and it is given the illusion of a 1 vs. 1 “debate”). For the most part, I don’t think a lot of people (or at least those that matter) take people like “kim” seriously, yet even pseudoscience gives the illusion of debate (Monckton’s latest artwork on climate sensitivity being an example)

    For most people though, I think global warming is kind of a mysterious thing: it’s something that isn’t so bad now, but will be a threat in centuries. Overall, it will not effect “me” but “them” and not on the timescales of political terms, but becomes a factor over the long-term for our grandkids. This is important for understanding the public response…you can’t sit on the beach and see the sea levels rising and start to hit the alarm bells, yet this is what most people would consider to be important (things in the here and now, not the there and then). Single “extreme” events cannot be attributed to it, yet it’s going to cause more of them. For many, the idea of a 3 degree global warming is meaningless…as we’re used to 30 degree fluctuations from day-to-day!!! Even basic definitions as “weather” and “climate” or regional vs. global scale variability get muddled up.

    Overall, the “laymen” and “scientist” crowd have too many different assumptions even before going into the conversation, and the media may just be reporting accurately what the scientists find.

    It also seems well in human nature to let bad things happen before we decide to actually do something about it. For an interesting read concerning our inability to “divert the flow of the river headed toward the waterfall, but only to throw sticks in the way to slow the doom” (As the author goes on to) see the book Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. The difference is that global warming is not like a volcanic eruption that is bad for a year and goes away– the CO2 we release will effect climate for thousands of years to come.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 29 Jul 2008 @ 9:57 PM

  14. Take a surprising example that impressed others of a journal doing it right:

    (Now paywalled, so you’ll have to rely on the excerpts there.)

    Mentioned also at Michael Tobis’s site; he more recently pointed to a NYT columnist who also is doing this well:

    I know that Science, and Nature, and many other sites provide “Cited by” and “Related” links to several different services that track subsequent citations and mentions, and Google Scholar provides non-scholarly as well as journal cross-references. I’m not suggesting duplicating that, at all.

    But it’s the relatively rare appearances at RC of working scientists, often only identifiable to us onlookers because one of the principals clearly knows who they are or mentions their work, that I find most helpful sources of real understanding and interesting new information.

    Encourage them — support, appropriate masks for privacy vetted by people we know, a Tip Jar for their lab work via PayPal — to speak up more online, to add a personal layer of comments and links to the “cited by” and “related” information attached to journal articles.

    Judith Curry did it for a while with grad students. Other bloggers are doing it from time to time. It _is_ happening. But it’s not well connected to the journalists and newspaper editors yet at all. Needed.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Jul 2008 @ 10:02 PM

  15. Reading about science in the general media is always a little painful. Beyond the issue of context, journalists also rarely mention sample sizes, the quality of the controls, and the challenges in establishing a causative mechanism, as opposed to merely showing correlation.

    Headline writing also contributes to the whiplash effect: I cringe when I see “Scientists say.” Such phrasing falsely gives the appearance of a general consensus on something that’s just hot off the presses.

    The breakneck speed of the news cycle makes it difficult for the reporter to gather context, but it looks as if reporters try to at least get some comment from other researchers in the field, which is probably the most helpful way forwards. Nobody expects the science journalist to do a lit search on every topic that comes along.

    Comment by tharanga — 29 Jul 2008 @ 10:32 PM

  16. Part of the problem is the very active campaign by those who now hold the reins of power and are loathe to give them up. Exxon, Shell, Peabody, and the well off that want no one to rock the boat whether they be newspaper or TV station owners, their hired talking heads, journalists with an “endowed chair” (columnists), or a myriad others. I am amazed at the amount of disinformation published in my hometown newspaper (Houston Chronicle). Disinformation that is supplied by an oil company, repeated by their hired gun in Washington, and then noted as reality by the local news folks.

    This is the problem: just as creationists cite bible chapters as proof of their “scientific” theories; journalists are are citing what are no more than opinions, often from idealogues, to refute data and analysis.

    How many times have you read or viewed a news story that counterposes a published study or synopsis such as an IPCC chapter with an opinion from a “think” tank and gives each equal weight? Is this the end of the age of enlightenment?

    Comment by Andrew — 29 Jul 2008 @ 10:34 PM

  17. > Nobody expects the science journalist to do a lit search
    > on every topic that comes along.

    Ahem. Ten dingwhistle seconds it takes to get at least a slight clue.
    Of course they should. This “Internet” thing is a lot easier than going down to the library!

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Jul 2008 @ 10:45 PM

  18. Welcome to politics! IPCC head Pachauri (2), dramatically stated that action before 2012 is mandatory. Now he says
    India and China have no obligation to take immediate action.
    Let’s face it, the international system of ‘civilized anarchy’ will not agree to collective, adequate emission controls.
    Science need to work on greater precision regarding severity and time line, and focus on amelioration, which is the only
    practical, political strategy.

    Comment by Fred Jorgensen — 29 Jul 2008 @ 10:55 PM

  19. A nice phrased question. My view is that in the face of very ignorant journalistic nonsense, too many scientists are failing to maintain their research objectivity and argue against alarmist or foolish interpretations (such as the obvious alarmist tone of AIT) I see good scientists lining up ideologically rather than methodologically, and find this painful to watch.

    Comment by Joe Hunkins — 29 Jul 2008 @ 11:09 PM

  20. Fred, cite please for that? I can’t find what you claim Pachauri said. Where’d you find it? ‘Mandatory’ doesn’t always mean ‘legally required’ and ‘obligation’ doesn’t always mean ‘legal commitment’ — I find places where he says what many others say, that there’s a brief period in which measures can be adopted that are not terribly harsh because the longer we wait the more warming is committed to downtime.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Jul 2008 @ 11:47 PM

  21. To Joe Romm, above: It’s already too late, Joe. You know that, too. What the IPCC head said is good, the media needs to hear that. But we’ve already passed the tipping point. No amount of feel good journalism or editorializing is going to change that. Sad to say, our goose is already cooked. We need to start planning now for adaptation, in many ways. Here’s one cocamamie idea: front page of a Colorado newspaper that was not afraid to print the truth:

    Comment by Danny Bloom — 30 Jul 2008 @ 1:44 AM

  22. I thought the fact that the media looks in the scientific journals for headlines on science are naking a mockery of it because although peer review is necessary it is not sufficient and scientifically is only the start of the journey. However once the science in the papers has been totally analysed and embedded into the proper body of knowledge and context of the science then the media does not want to know because the science often says both yes and no.

    I think that the big problem with AGW is that so called disaster is slow in coming and many many years away which allegedly gives us plenty of time to deal with the issue. The media reports on every wind farm or turbine being erected as if this satisfies the terifying prospect of phasing out oil, gas and coal in favour of as yet infant technologies that have yet to be deployed to the masses.

    Maybe the media thinks that we really can continue to live our energy intensive lives here in the west, whilst the east also tries to bring equivilent numbers of people into the first world ethos.

    387 ppmv now means what, 1.5C of temperature rise overall, add in the existing fossil fuel infrastructure and you might be hitting around 2C. The media seldom talk about this, they know not that indiea and chinas 500 million $7000 per annum western style people are going to guarantee >2C even if we do something wondeful in renewables within 30 years which is doubful due to economic and population growth.

    I am not saying we are all doomed but it will be close as to how many millions actually do perish eithe through starvation due to economic issues or weather events in the future.

    Comment by pete best — 30 Jul 2008 @ 4:13 AM

  23. Unfortunately, the cause of this situation is straightforward and inevitable. The purpose of commercial media organizations is not to inform but to make a profit by selling advertising space. Accurate reporting and analysis of complex issues, whether in science, politics or whatever, is largely irrelevant.

    In fact, complex issues will only be explored when the target audience is seen to be highly educated and, even then, the context will often be one of contoversy. If the issue can be presented as a left wing/right wing dichotomy, even better.

    And no, I don’t know what the answer is – other than to seek out the few non-commercial outlets/web sites that do explicitly set out to inform (such as this one).

    Comment by GT — 30 Jul 2008 @ 5:30 AM

  24. Re Hank, 17: Of course, journalists should put forth some effort. And indeed, ten minutes or an hour online should be sufficient to sort out the latest from the likes of Monckton.

    But in general, one would need to have read dozens, if not hundreds, of prior papers in order to assess the contribution made in the most recent publication. This takes time.

    That’s all I mean – that we shouldn’t really expect journalists to have specialized knowledge in each and every field which makes its way into the top journals.

    Comment by tharanga — 30 Jul 2008 @ 6:26 AM

  25. Channel 4 might be having a debate on the The not so Great Global Warming Swindle this Saturday so if you have the time or inclination to join the live studio audience. Meet journalists, shake their hands that sort of thing – go for it!

    Comment by Mike Donald — 30 Jul 2008 @ 7:10 AM

  26. Chaneel 4 might be having a debate on TGGWS.

    Just a reminder that August’s edition of The TV Show goes out live on Channel 4 this Saturday, 2 August, at 4.10pm.

    Front runners for this month’s debates are The Great Global Warming Swindle and The Qur’an – both of which have generated significant viewer feedback in recent weeks.

    If you have any views you’d like to share on either of these programmes, please let us know by leaving your comments below. Alternatively, if you’d like to join the live studio audience, please see our Take Part section for more details.

    The TV Show

    Join the live studio audience?

    Drop em a line, take part, shake the hands of a few journalists. That sort of thing.

    Comment by Mike Donald — 30 Jul 2008 @ 7:13 AM

  27. Charles H writes:

    It seems to me that if one really believes co2 is harmful then more nuclear is the realistic alternative.

    Renewables would be better. Wind is already cost-competitive, solar is getting there.

    “A number of influential people in Russia, China, India, Indonesia and Vietnam say the planet is now entering a 30-year cooling period, the second half of a normal cycle driven by cyclical changes in the sun’s output and currents in the Pacific Ocean. Their theory leaves true believers in carbon catastrophe livid.

    Who are these “influential people?” How do they reconcile their theory with the fact that solar output has been essentially flat for 50 years?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 30 Jul 2008 @ 8:00 AM

  28. It’s great that Andy Revkin has finally figured this out, and then got it in the paper. But journalists need to take a lion’s share of the blame for why the public is confused.

    Scientists are engaged in an intellectual exercise and are supposed to try out new ideas. Journalists ride the edge of credibility when they go chasing some of these ideas that are outside the mainstream.

    Every time a journalist quoted from an industry hack [edit], it only added to the confusion. The he said/she said journalism failed us.

    If Revkin really wants to explain the confusion about climate change, then why doesn’t he explain and report on why the New York Times never ran a story on corporate campaign to create this confusion. Why was it left up to Greenpeace to bring this to light?

    Comment by Thom — 30 Jul 2008 @ 8:45 AM

  29. Journalists are trained to look for alternative views on a story and, as a general principle for achieving fairness and reducing subjectivity across a variety of story situations it is not a bad one. Applied to stories of evolving scientific knowledge, this principle has different effects on public perception of the science, depending on the stage of its development.

    Early on when an idea is new, radical, iconoclastic, journalistic fairness gives it more coverage and cred than it has yet earned by ‘fairly’ portraying it in contrast to conventional wisdom. Thus we get coverage of visionaries and nutcases.

    As an idea gains support, it becomes the subject of hot debate and controversy. This is reflected journalistically in the whiplash effect described by Revkin.

    When a scientific idea becomes the accepted norm, journalistic fairness gives perhaps unwarranted exposure to the old resisters, fighting a rearguard action against it. This is the state of affairs with climate change in general.

    In terms of the old s-curve of adoption of ideas or technologies, the effect of fair journalistic coverage is to help new phenomena get started but then to extend the time until complete acceptance.

    Comment by Dave Goforth — 30 Jul 2008 @ 9:18 AM

  30. Scientists need to explain to the public that while they continue to study the details of anthropogentic global warming and consequent climate change, that we already know enough to be certain that continued unmitigated warming will be a disaster for all humanity, and that we urgently need to phase out all fossil fuel use as quickly as possible.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 30 Jul 2008 @ 9:21 AM

  31. Many of the comments about Revkin’s article point the finger at someone: scientists should provide more context, readers should be more informed and the media should be more nuanced. There is a grain of truth to each of these, and the finger-pointing ultimately doesn’t help. We have to work with what we have.

    This means understanding how the media and reporters work in order to help those scientific community properly frame and communicate their findings to the media in an understandable and compelling way; educating key people in the media on how to set specific stories in a broader context, and figuring out how the public can best hear, understand and assimilate complex messages.

    Comment by Peter Hess — 30 Jul 2008 @ 9:31 AM

  32. Been lurking a long while both here, at CA and some other climate sites and blogs.

    Yes, I am a skeptic, but not a denier. But that is not really relevant to this (relax, you will see).

    There are politics, power and money interests wrapped up on BOTH sides of this entire issue. Not everyone is a pawn of it, nor are they always agents of it. But the fact is all are under the effect of it. That is the social climate of the issue so to speak. The media preys off that climate as that is what sells stories. The talking heads on both sides exploit what they can to promote the agenda they seek to promote. I truly believe that most of the researchers are simply doing research, and *SOME* *MIGHT* be biased as it is simply human nature. For the laymen, this creates a situation where you simply cannot tell whom to believe. I am reasonably educated but far from an expert, yet I can see legitimate points and concerns on both sides of the issue. I am greatly concerned with this entire issue because of the ramifications if EITHER side is right. The nature of the complexity of the issue requires you to put your faith in the research and statements made by whom you hope is correct. I am willing to dig (which is while I may be a skeptic, I simply cannot deny things either), but even with digging, there is little I can latch on to with my level of expertise and say “this is right” or “this is wrong”.

    When trying to look into the issue, either side of it, I simply hate when the line between the research and the politics becomes blurred. My instant reaction is to distrust the information at that point, whoever is presenting it. Well, on this issue, that pretty much means I distrust EVERYONES opinion because the politics just filter down to all levels to a certain degree.

    This creates a problem for everyone if I am typical of some people looking into the issue. People often ask me my opinion on involved scientific issues because they know I am into this sort of thing. What I have to tell them is I just don’t know. Its like listening to two sales people espousing their products and talking about why its better then the other. The outside reviews are a toss up, with reviews coming down on both sides. My life (and our future) depends on which product I choose.

    There has GOT to be a way for the people who are genuinely working to find an answer to be willing to be critics of those on their own side for going off and diving into the political instead of focusing on the science.
    If that happens there just might emerge a voice that might be able to be heard above the din that will be listened too instead of the noise generated by those who want to push you into one camp or another for reasons that have nothing to do with the science. As long as the political voice is loudest the only thing that results is further division and the entrenchment of people it the opinions they have already formed.

    You most likely can NOT educate people to the degree needed to really understand the complex nature of the issue. Therefore you MUST find a way to remove the remotest chance that politics may be intruding into the research. That includes even the PERCEPTION that it is.
    Both sides of this issue need to understand this or nobody will “win” and losing in this game one way or the other is probably a very dangerous thing as the win must be with reality, not politics.

    Comment by Chris MCV — 30 Jul 2008 @ 9:46 AM

  33. Chris MCV,

    Why don’t you try asking a specific question on some aspect of climate science that you feel has two “sides”?

    Comment by Paul Middents — 30 Jul 2008 @ 10:07 AM

  34. Can someone explain how so many well-intentioned people are failing so miserably to share a common understanding of what is happening in our planetary home in these early years of Century XXI?

    There are moments like this one when it appears to me that we in the family of humanity must be living within some huge manmade construction reminiscent of the ancient Tower of Babel. Whatever the reasons for our spectacular failure to communicate meaningfully and sensibly about what somehow could be real about the workings of the Earth and the placement of the human species within the natural order of living things, these circumstances are incredible and present the human family with a potentially colossal threat to life as we know it and the integrity of Earth as a fit place for human habitation.

    As an example, let us look at the growth of absolute global human population numbers. In 2008 there are more people literally existing on Earth on resources valued at less than $2 per day than the total human population in the year of my birth. Our population numbers have been skyrocketing in our time and are projected to continue skyrocketing to the middle of this century when our numbers are anticipated to reach 9+/- billion and then somehow, magically I believe, automatically stabilize. The is no unchallenged scientific evidence to indicate how this “demographic transition to population stabilization” can possibly occur. This has not kept many so-called experts from continuing to say that the preternatural ’science’ on which they rely is outdated and fatally flawed. A mere 108 years ago, at the beginning of the 20th Century, human numbers worldwide were between 1 and 2 billion. Most people can agree, I believe, on these numbers.

    Now let us look at the relatively small, evidently finite, noticeably frangible planet we inhabit. Many experts have asked the question, “How many people can the Earth support?”

    No reasonable and sensible person would say that an unlimited number of people can exist in a limited world. That cannot be. It also follows that the size and make-up of Earth naturally limits the growth of human production and per human consumption activities worldwide. The growth of these activities are subject to certain biophysical limitations of Earth. Endless growth cannot occur in a finite world.

    What do you expect will happen if human propagation, production and consumption activities continue to grow, given their current scale and expected annual rate of increase? Please know that comments are welcome.

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population
    established 2001

    Comment by Steve Salmony — 30 Jul 2008 @ 10:09 AM

  35. I’m thinking that a newswriter could start with, “While the basics of global warming are well established, and our greenhouse gas emissions are causing the warming, with many dire consequences, there is still some scientific uncertainty about (or debate on)…..”

    Or, short version: “While human-caused global warming is well established, there is uncertainty about (or debate on)….”

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 30 Jul 2008 @ 10:16 AM

  36. Chris MCV wrote: “I simply hate when the line between the research and the politics becomes blurred.”

    The fact is, that only happens on the side of those who deny the reality of anthropogenic global warming. The best example being the blatant, egregious actions by the current US administration to censor and suppress scientific information on global warming and climate change, to the point of paying former oil industry lobbyists to edit and rewrite government reports to remove all references to climate change.

    There is no evidence whatsoever that “politics” in any way, shape or form has influenced actual climate science, or its overwhelming conclusions regarding both the reality of anthropogenic global warming and the danger that it poses to humanity and to life on earth in general. ALL of the political interference has been on the side of the deniers, and that interference is driven by those with a huge financial stake in prolonging the use of fossil fuels as long as possible. If you want to “hate” someone for “blurring the line” between politics and research, then those are the folks at whom your “hate” should be directed.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 30 Jul 2008 @ 10:18 AM

  37. A bit OT. Could any tell me if any of the following websites using/promoting accurate climate science. I know at least some are not:

    -Cato Institute: Natural Resources and Environmental Studies
    -Competitive Enterprise Institute: Environment
    -Free-Market Environmental networkRoom
    -Heartland Institute’s Common-Sense Environmentalist Suite
    -Heritage Foundation: Energy and the Environment
    -Instituted for Economic Affairs: Environment
    -Pacific Research Institute: Center for Environmental Studies
    -Political Economy Research Center
    -RAND: Environment and Energy

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 30 Jul 2008 @ 10:19 AM

  38. Chris MCV, I have to ask where you are looking for evidence. There are over 1000 peer-reviewed papers that support anthropogenic causation for the current warming epoch. On the other side… not much. There are >20 global climate models–not one of which works with a climate sensitivity of <2 K per doubling of CO2. Countless professional and honorific scientific societies have looked at the science–and not one has dissented from the consensus position. I am just curious: Even with no scientific background, how could you have missed that all the peer-reviewed research, all the real expertise, all the evidence are on one side of this issue?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 30 Jul 2008 @ 10:49 AM

  39. I am not a scientist. However, for my entire adult life I have noticed that whenever I have known information about a story first-hand or have had specialized knowledge about a particular topic reported in a story, the press has frequently reported significant parts of the story incorrectly.
    The problem being commented about here is not limited to stories about science. It applies to just about every thing the press covers.
    As a lawyer, I cannot tell you how many times I have read stories about court decisions that just didn’t sound correct. When I have actually read the decision being reported upon, I have frequently found that the press account contained major errors that would be obvious to a lawyer.

    Comment by PaulD — 30 Jul 2008 @ 10:50 AM

  40. Paul,
    I think you miss the point entirely. The very fact that I come to this point shows that nobody is doing a very good job presenting the facts. The effort is made, by both sides, but then it devolves into AGW promoters and Denialists debates. Guess what, you just lost what is most likely the ONE chance you have to present your side of the issue. People will look at the debate and decide nobody knows whats going on and push off to be something they don’t understand and have no opinion of because it seems clear to them the issue is NOT resolved, no matter how sure you are of that facts you have.

    Its probably not an answer you like, but it is most likely what is happening and why reasoned response is missing on both sides of the issue by your average person. If you don’t have expert level of knowledge then your opinion is by nature going to be more idealogical, or faithful, then logical. Debate by people on that basis is pretty doomed to gridlock.

    It would be nice if the decision could be simply made by whoever “knows”, but the fact is that the majority of average people have to decide on a direction. These people do not have the expertise to decide based on delving into websites and research papers (they are not going to do it) so they simply will shrug their shoulders and ignore it, or take up a flag based on political ideology.

    Do you see my concern?

    Comment by Chris MCV — 30 Jul 2008 @ 10:56 AM

  41. re 32 – the phrase “both sides of this issue” is part of the myth.

    One of the most critical things is to teach journalists that not all scientists are created equal – expertise in the subject matters crucially.

    Good scientists spend a long time becoming expert (in their field) and learn along the way how to judge good work (in their field) from bad, who has expertise (in their field) and who does not, which journals are credible (in their field) and which are not, and so on. Well-trained scientists in other fields should be able examine the field of climatology, weigh up the wealth of peer-reviewed evidence, and realise that the IPCC reports are authoritative. Poorly-trained scientists might look at the field of climatology and fail to sort the wheat from the chaff, or worse still, convince themselves that they can do a better job than the climatologists. I’m constantly amazed at the number of people in the latter category.

    But the overwhelming majority of the population have no scientific training whatsoever, and have no clue who to trust. They think that anyone wearing the label “scientist” is equally credible on any topic. [not to mention that too many people put no more weight on scientific evidence than they do on political or religious beliefs]. Hence, journalists and the general public think there are “two sides”, both with credible positions.

    Comment by Steve Easterbrook — 30 Jul 2008 @ 11:05 AM

  42. Ray (4), very insightful post. I think, while the dual objectives (accuracy, readability) are both critically important, they have different levels of priority in the different media. In industry rags like yours accuracy (truth) is more important, though closely followed by readability. I think it’s the opposite in public media. Most importantly it must be appealing (a nuanced but important distinction from readability), then, by journalistic rules, it ought to be correct. However, the separation of those levels is increasing in the public press, mostly do to business and financial drivers. They get around this by usually quoting someone else rather than making their own learned assertions. “Mr. Bonos says, “blah, blah, blah”” is accurate and truthful prima facie as long as the quote was recorded accurately. If the blah-blah-blah itself proves incorrect that’s Mr. Bonos’ problem, not the papers’/magazine’s. In industry rags you don’t get totally off the hook like this, though.

    Unless one can magically change the business model and environment of the public press, it will continue to get worse

    Comment by Rod B — 30 Jul 2008 @ 12:06 PM

  43. Chris MCV wrote: “… then it devolves into AGW promoters and Denialists debates … People will look at the debate and decide nobody knows whats going on …”

    What you describe is exactly the outcome that Exxon-Mobil and other fossil fuel companies desire, and have achieved by their funding of right-wing propaganda mills, disguised as “think tanks”, that spew a steady stream of fake, phony, pseudoscientific bunk and employ cranks and liars to create the completely false impression that there is a genuine “debate” about the reality of anthropogenic global warming.

    In fact there is no genuine scientific “debate” about the reality of anthropogenic global warming. None. There is overwhelming agreement by the entire world’s scientific community that anthropogenic global warming is real, that it is happening now, and that unmitigated warming poses a grave danger to humanity.

    That many people imagine there is a genuine “debate” between “both sides of the issue” is a tribute to the success of the fossil fuel industry’s deliberate campaign of deception.

    Comment by SecularAnimists — 30 Jul 2008 @ 12:12 PM

  44. Tharanga:
    > But in general, one would need to have read dozens,
    > if not hundreds, of prior papers in order to assess
    > the contribution

    Nope. Just look it up with Google Scholar, limit it to the last few years or take the default 2003 span.

    Compare the result just by total number and journal name to what you get from the same search in Google.

    If there are a good many studies in reputable journals (somewhere in J-school they must have studied this?)
    say so.

    If there are few or no studies in the journals and a plethora of mentions in the usual PR sites (ditto), say so.

    That’s what is usually missing.

    I realize they are teaching the controversy, only filling the pages in between the space sold to advertisers, and at least in Florida, not even expected to try to tell the truth if it offends their owners.

    But, hell, somewhere there ought to be a good honest newspaper. Pointers welcome if anyone knows one.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Jul 2008 @ 12:31 PM

  45. That is the real big challenge, how to properly communicate what we know. Distinguishing the relative (un)certainties of the different aspects are crucial, though indeed mainly in the hands of tthe journalists, press officers and editors. For scientists, it only applies to those writing an overview article or participating in an assessment such as IPCC or NSF reports. On Revkin’s site, I think Schneider made some very good points, and Pielke’s quote I liked as well, of discussing the “so what” question, though it seems strange to hear that from him, because it seems to blur the line between honest broker and policy advocate, one of his favorite points. And again, it doesn’t really fits most research articles, that only usually deal with only a very specific and minor detail, compared to the big picture. But perhaps that is exactly what needs to be communicated. Unfortunately, with the pressure to publish, esp in high profile journals, authors won’t like to downplay the importance of their own results (which is what it may feel like to many). Both for the science itself, for the people working in it, and for the communication to the public, it would be good if this pressure were to diminish.
    Furthermore, endeavours such as undertaken by the RC authors and others, are to be encouraged. If the pressure to publish as many papers as possible were to diminish, scientists may have more opportunity to communicate their knowledge to the public. And that should be funded: Science is publicly funded, so why is the communication of its results not? That’s actually rather strange and definitely unfortunate.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 30 Jul 2008 @ 1:01 PM

  46. OK, let me show you what I am talking about and why statements made appear hollow at best, although I really don’t think you mean them that way, or are arrogant or that entrenched in ideology.

    That is the wiki site that talks about the issue. A regular person trying to look into this is going to find sites like this trying to explain the issue. I am using it so you can see that there are places where both sides are presented (and wiki is not exactly an unlikely site to find) and there is a whole lot of information presented regarding both viewpoints. It covers funding, bias, data quality, etc. Statements that there is only one side to this issue, when compared to sites like that, look very suspect. If someone goes to an actual skeptics site like CA, then the statement comes off as defensive and close minded. I am not saying you are, but that simply is how it comes off and its only fair to let you know that.

    Please understand that, yes, I am a skeptic and do not have the knowledge to understand the papers even if I dug though thousands of them. Yet the fact is, myself and thousands like me do want to know the truth. Balancing a website like that wiki entry and your statement that the issue does not have two sides makes it pretty tough to think you are open to any critique of your methods and such. When sites like CA are critiquing research, peer review, data archiving and the like, and there is not much more reply then simply calling them hacks, it doesn’t help your case, true or not (I have no way of knowing).

    Realize I am NOT saying they are right and you are wrong, simply that at this point, I can not tell who is right and who is wrong, and niether side has really convinced me. My lone opinion doesn’t mean much, but how many thousands of others have hit the same point? These same people are probably the semi-informed that others will ask their opinion and what response is there other then, “well, I am not sure.”

    It is not ME you need to convince, it is realizing that there are a lot of people like me that need way of seperating the political buzz and the scientific opinion, and you just saying so probably isn’t going to be enough. No offense intended.

    Comment by Chris MCV — 30 Jul 2008 @ 1:24 PM

  47. Dave, #29

    Despite the apparent inviolable law of “getting both sides” from journalists, we don’t see two sides in the debates:

    12 years old: Old enough to marry or too young to know?

    Murder and cannibalism: A good population control or evil in nature?

    Sometimes, really, there IS only one side. The idiocy with Faux News and other “high-volume/low-content” news sites is that they seem to understand this implicitly in a very few areas but are completely blind to it being possibly true anywhere else.

    And they hide behind it.

    Same as IDers getting “the controversy” in schools. What about Satanism? Surely we should hear “the controversy” there…?

    This is not to say that these things should be discussed but you cannot use “we must see both sides” as a defense without proving there ARE two relatively appropriately accepted sides (as there is not wrt Satan being a nice old chap) or accepting (and protecting/producing) a debate on something repugnant to society being defended.

    Comment by Mark — 30 Jul 2008 @ 1:32 PM

  48. As a publisher, and long-time lurker on this site, I believe it is unreasonable to expect the public, on its own, to be able to evaluate the merits of competing scientific claims. It needs a referee and, as on so many other issues these days, the press has failed miserably in that role. There are really only two requirements: First, there must be an investment in reporters as willing and able to do the climate beat as Revkin is. Second, there must be a willingness to speak truth to power and to stick with the story.

    Visiting impresses one with the complexities of climate science. But what the public needs to know in order to make good decisions is straightforward. Yet, rather than tell the big story – that increasing concentrations of CO2 would lead to big climatic changes – the press over the last twenty years largely modeled a famous Stephen Colbert bit and merely took dictation from competing camps. Predictably, a confused public was left with the impression there was an honest debate taking place, when instead a well-funded propaganda campaign was being waged on independent science. Without vigorous truth-telling from the press, there was no pressure brought to bear on a government in thrall to the fossil fuel lobby. Whatever happened to “follow the money?”

    It seems to me that the best way to avoid journalistic whiplash is to practice good journalism. Keep the focus on the big climate story and to tell the money story as well. The public may or may not become engaged over the threat to polar bears, they will surely be aroused to action if they realize the consequences of a warmer world – and that they have been sold out for a few pennies.

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 30 Jul 2008 @ 1:41 PM

  49. Chris MCV wrote: “I am a skeptic and do not have the knowledge to understand the papers even if I dug though thousands of them.”

    In that case, exactly what is the basis of your so-called “skepticism”? What, specifically, is the reason that you are “skeptical” of the conclusions of the overwhelming majority of the world’s climate scientists and every relevant scientific organization in the world, including the national science academies of every major country in the world, that anthropogenic global warming is a reality? What, specifically, is the reason that you less skeptical of propaganda funded by the fossil fuel corporations?

    An a priori determination not to accept the reality of anthropogenic global warming, and an eagerness to grasp at any straw, no matter how flimsy, to support that determination, is not “skepticism”. It is denial.

    I can understand why some people choose denial: Al Gore was wrong about one thing — the truth is not “inconvenient”, it is terrifying.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 30 Jul 2008 @ 1:53 PM

  50. Chris MCV — Have you read “The Discovery of Global Warming” by Spencer Weart:

    Review of above:

    or any of


    Comment by David B. Benson — 30 Jul 2008 @ 1:54 PM

  51. > good journalism

    But the journalists don’t get to define what “good” is in their profession. They’ve been overruled by the owners of the media in court.

    Remember this?
    “… In his deposition, Cronkite said that an ethical journalist should resist directives that would result in a false or slanted story being broadcast. “He should not go a microinch towards that sort of thing. That is a violation of every principle of good journalism,” Cronkite said….”

    (On appeal, the Fla. Supreme Court ruled against the position Cronkite was supporting there. Sigh)

    Remember this?
    “… Don’t believe anything you see in a TV documentary made in the UK. Documentary makers here have no obligation to be accurate …”

    This is why there needs to be some OTHER venue in which scientists can present their work to the public.

    Journalism’s already a lost cause, though it will always have some outstanding good practitioners, because the journalists don’t own the journals.

    Scientists could, open-source, online — at least to the extent that it remains true that “the Internet perceives censorship as failure and routes around it.”

    This is why having your servers located outside the countries where censorship is practiced is smart.*

    Let’s hope. How can we amateur readers help the scientists present their work? Please, ask.
    *reCaptcha: Pavillion abroad


    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Jul 2008 @ 2:12 PM

  52. Well, since Chris MCV gets at least some of his information from the wikipedia article on “the controversy”, apparently his lack of faith in science is fueled by the information he finds there.

    Such as this, perhaps:

    On April 29, 2008, environmental journalist Richard Littlemore revealed that a list of “500 Scientists with Documented Doubts of Man-Made Global Warming Scares”[45] propagated by the Heartland Institute included at least 45 scientists who neither knew of their inclusion as “coauthors” of the article, nor agreed with its contents.[46] Many of the scientists asked the Heartland Institute to remove their names from the list; for instance, Gregory Cutter from the Old Dominion University was reported by Littlemore as saying,

    “ I have no doubts ..the recent changes in global climate are man-induced. I insist that you immediately remove my name from this list since I did not give you permission to put it there. ”

    However, the Heartland Institute refused to remove any names from the list.

    I mean, just how much more evidence do you NEED that there’s not really a scientific consensus regarding AGW?

    Comment by dhogaza — 30 Jul 2008 @ 2:20 PM

  53. Chris MCV does mention an important point: How is the public supposed to know that the debate they see in the media is fake, or at least a very different debate than is taking place amongst scientists at large? It is a bit too easy to just out his comments aside as just another stupid skeptic who is not aware of the truth.

    As Walter Pearce also points out, the public by and large can not evaluate the merits of competing scientific claims.

    Many skeptics may have a predetermined notion against any human influence on climate, but there are bound to be many who are sincerely doubting which side is right, and in the media they read (websites, magazines, newspapers, radio, TV) they are indeed finding two sides. Even without a predetermined notion for or against, it is extremely hard for the lay person to figure out who is right. The main two factors influencing their opinion are probably the quality of the communication (good speaker?) and the authority of the source (does it sounds scientific? Is the messager a scientist?)
    Now, to Chris I’d also like to point out that the same wiki also provides info on how widespread the consensus position is:
    And if one understands the IPCC process (eg it becomes clear that indeed amongst scientists there is widespread agreement on many aspects of human induced climate change.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 30 Jul 2008 @ 2:40 PM

  54. Re. 20. Hank Roberts states
    “I can’t find what you claim Pachauri said. Where’d you find it? ‘Mandatory’ doesn’t always mean ‘legally required’….”

    R.K. Pachauri’s comment re ‘mandatory measures by 2012’ was referenced in (2).
    His comment to BBC re ‘Get off the backs of China and India’ is referenced
    In effect, he says China and India should be paid to reduce emission growth!

    If it’s mandatory to take action before 2012, then I would expect cataclysmic, irreversible
    consequences if we don’t. No fuzzy language. No equivocation. Just the scientific facts!

    Comment by Fred Jorgensen — 30 Jul 2008 @ 2:49 PM

  55. Chris MCV does mention an important point: How is the public supposed to know that the debate they see in the media is fake, or at least a very different debate than is taking place amongst scientists at large? It is a bit too easy to just put his comments aside as just another stupid skeptic who is not aware of the truth.

    As Walter Pearce also points out, the public by and large can not evaluate the merits of competing scientific claims.

    Many skeptics may have a predetermined notion against any human influence on climate, but there are bound to be many who are sincerely doubting which side is right, and in the media they expose themselves to (websites, magazines, newspapers, radio, TV) they are indeed finding two sides. Even without a predetermined notion for or against, it is extremely hard for the lay person to figure out who is right. The main two factors influencing their opinion are probably the quality of the communication (good speaker?) and the authority of the source (does it sound scientific? Is the messager a scientist?)
    Now, to Chris I’d also like to point out that the same wiki also provides info on how widespread the consensus position is:
    And if one understands the IPCC process (eg it becomes clear that indeed amongst scientists there is widespread agreement on many aspects of human induced climate change, some exceptions notwithstanding.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 30 Jul 2008 @ 2:57 PM

  56. So, if lets say I am some fellow just looking into this issue for the first time and I find that wiki site, then I read your statement
    “An a priori determination not to accept the reality of anthropogenic global warming, and an eagerness to grasp at any straw, no matter how flimsy, to support that determination, is not “skepticism”. It is denial.”

    How do I take that?

    You assume I have a determination not to accept reality, but so far without a pretty heavy amount of digging, that reality is not presented in a clear cut way as you state.
    It might be clear cut from your experience, but that does not mirror the average person. Saying I am denying reality just insults me on top of that.

    IF you are right, then it is worth doing whatever it takes to show people that fact. Right now as, an outsider, it seems like the pro AGW side has its opinion and nobody should dare question it. Forget that I am a skeptic and look at it from the point of view of someone who has no opinion at all. It still comes off the same way, and thats not helpful.

    Combine that with the media hype from one position to the other, and add in people pushing political agendas by getting behind one view or another, guess what, you lost any clear cut obvious answer. If there is no two sides to the debate then to be frank, you have absolutely failed in presenting that effectively. Most people do not see it that way, right wrong or indifferent that is the facts of public opinion right now.

    Stepping out of one view or another though, let me qualify things a bit, you have to convince people enough to take action. Most people will say X only because thats what the news tells them, but to act on X takes commitment to an idea, which niether side seems anywhere near achieving.

    Comment by Chris MCV — 30 Jul 2008 @ 2:58 PM

  57. A natural response from scientists intent on their work is “why should I bother myself with talking to journalists who might distort what I say?” As a result, much of the information goes out to the press via “embargoed press releases” produced by university outreach people. A good compilation of these press releases on climate science is at

    Let’s take a recent press release, published at sciencedaily, on the role of trade in China’s CO2 emissions:

    ABCNews also picked up the story and covered it: “How the West fuels China’s emissions”

    Nice quote included: “It’s just like narcotics,” says Müller. “Who is responsible, the drug baron or the junkies?”

    That, we can safely say, is an example of how delivery of information from the scientist to the journalist to the general audience is supposed to work. The journalist felt no need to throw in a quote from Monckton or Michaels about how global warming was a myth, any more than a journalist writing about a new antiretroviral drug for HIV would throw in a quote from someone who thought AIDS had nothing to do with HIV.

    Where this gets really thorny is when the concepts are difficult and the journalists and editors are aiming to write and publish stories that attack the science behind global warming projections, or are under great pressure to do so by their advertisers or executive board members.

    Take the much-discussed issue of climate sensitivity – something that the public has probably heard of, but likely out of context and in a confusing manner. Let’s try and explain the basic scientific details, after the IPCC 4th (Chapters 9 & 10, mostly). This will take some space…

    First of all, there are two defined climate sensitivities, as described in IPCC: the transient response (TCR) and the equilibrium sensitivity (ECS), and secondly, they are largely used in practice as benchmarks for atmosphere-atmosphere coupled climate models, and are only rough guides to the behavior of the real-world climate system. Vaguely similar measures might be a car’s modeled 0-60 acceleration time (transient response) and its maximum speed (equilibrium response). The two are related, but they measure (well, estimate) different features of the climate response, and under somewhat artificial and controlled conditions. Of course, we have the 20th century observational record to compare to – but we are only at about 1.35X CO2, with other gases (CH4, N2O, etc.) included. None of that casts any uncertainty on the basic fact of global warming, since one can only recreate 20th century warming records by including greenhouse gas forcing in the models.

    If the ocean did not absorb any heat from the atmosphere, the TCR would be very similar to the ECS, but since it does, the transient response is always less than the equilibrium response. (The transient response for a climate model is defined as the surface temperature change at the time CO2 doubles over preindustrial values, assuming a rate increase of 1% per year, averaged over 20 years).

    The transient response is always less then the equilibrium response because the ocean absorbs atmospheric heat (cloud responses seem to play a role here as well). The rate it does this is dependent on things like wind speed, which complicates matters. One large uncertainty is in how fast the Southern Ocean will absorb heat – that will lead to a slower increase of surface temperatures but also to a faster rate of ocean warming and ice melt.

    Physical analogies might help: for example, take a long iron bar, rest one end in a roaring campfire and hold the other in your hand. It will begin to feel warm, which is the transient response; eventually it will get to hot to touch, which is the equilibrium situation, when the iron bar is radiating & conducting away as much energy as it is receiving from the fire. Use a very thin iron bar, and the transient response is much faster. (Imagine no oceans…) Now try it with a wooden beam – low heat conduction means that the transient response is much less, but the equilibrium condition is now a pile of ash. (corresponding to the highly implausible “runaway greenhouse” scenarios).

    Understanding all this requires a basic knowledge of high school-level physics and thermodynamics – which much of the general audience is probably lacking, even though scientists tend to take such knowledge for granted. The science journalist’s job thus might be better thought of as translation of scientific jargon – a challenging task.

    Now, with that background, let’s consider current scientific research into the transient and equilibrium climate responses (IPCC and Figure 10.25).

    A large ensemble of the BERN2.5D EMIC has been used to explore the relationship of TCR and equilibrium sensitivity over a wide range of ocean heat uptake parametrizations (Knutti et al., 2005)… Fitting normal distributions to the results, the 5 to 95% uncertainty range for equilibrium climate sensitivity from the AOGCMs is approximately 2.1°C to 4.4°C and that for TCR is 1.2°C to 2.4°C (using the method of Räisänen, 2005b). The mean for climate sensitivity is 3.26°C and that for TCR is 1.76°C

    So, hurray! – we have numbers – 1.76 and 3.26, with more certainty for the TCR than for the ECS. What do these numbers mean, however? In the real world, there are numerous additional factors: the sensitivity over the oceans is less than that over the land, leading to greater ocean-land temperature gradients, in general, and the sensitivity in polar regions is much greater than that in tropical regions, by as much as 5-10 degrees C – and we are completely ignoring the issue of carbon-cycle feedbacks as well, as well as how precipitation changes relate to temperature increases. However, one has to have a decent understanding of the basic concepts before tackling modifications, right?

    To get back to the Great Swindle, notice that the transient climate response is dependent on things like ocean circulation and global wind speeds, especially in the data-poor regions of the Southern Ocean. So, a respected scientist (Carl Wunsch) pointed out to a “journalist” from the Great Swindle set that uncertainty in ocean mixing models is a real issue in predicting the climate response – and that journalist then took that statement out of context, insinuating that this cast doubt on the basic fact of global warming.

    Faced with this kind of deceptive and dishonest behavior on the part of some journalists, the rational thing for scientists to do might be to limit their conversations with journalists to official press releases, unless the person in question has a good track record. Even then, face facts: it is almost impossible to explain complex scientific concepts using thirty second soundbites, but let’s try anyway:

    “Basically, the combination of the transient response and the equilibrium sensitivity tells you something about how fast the climate will change as infrared-absorbing gases increase, and how extensive those changes will be. The transient climate response sets a lower limit on the equilibrium climate sensitivity, with the difference between the two apparently due to oceanic heat uptake rates. Upper bounds are somewhat poorly defined due to the likelihood of positive (emissive) feedbacks on the carbon cycle as temperatures increase. These estimates are global averages – actual temperature and precipitation changes in the real world will vary widely with latitude and with region.”

    Comment by Ike Solem — 30 Jul 2008 @ 3:30 PM

  58. (this is my first ever post here, and quite possibly the last)

    Re #49, SecularAnimist

    >>An a priori determination not to accept the reality of anthropogenic global warming, and an eagerness to grasp at any straw, no matter how flimsy, to support that determination, is not “skepticism”. It is denial.>>

    It seems to me that that misses the point. To science, such denial doesnt matter, it can be safely left behind by the scientists. But the issue here seems to be public awareness and that is not science; or understanding why there is such a gulf between the unanimity of scientists and the public impression of the state of the science. Then it is not sufficient to just note that the public mind is in denial and return to the lab. If as you imply there is a need to actually change the public impression of the science – in the interests of everyone, including the deniers – then the scientists will somehow have to find a way to overcome this wall of denial. Like Hansen tries to do, apparently. It seems to me that that is the challenge that Chris MCV laid down, and its a serious one (even if it doesnt help that MCV him/herself seems rather slanted to the denialist viewpoint).

    now, guess this has already been said here a lot of times already, so excuses if its repetitive.

    Comment by Yenna — 30 Jul 2008 @ 3:45 PM

  59. Chris MCV wrote: “… so far without a pretty heavy amount of digging, that reality is not presented in a clear cut way as you state.”

    No heavy digging required. See “The Discovery of Global Warming” by Spencer Weart, which David Benson helpfully pointed you to above:

    Chris MCV wrote: “… add in people pushing political agendas by getting behind one view or another …”

    The only people pushing “political agendas” with regard to the reality of anthropogenic climate change are those who stand to profit — enormously — from the continued use of fossil fuels, who will say anything and do anything to delay the necessary phasing out of their products as long as possible. They are the ones who are funding and otherwise promoting the fake, phony “controversy” about the reality of anthropogenic global warming and climate change.

    Of course you are under no obligation to do so, but you have not responded to my query: what exactly is the basis of your “skepticism” of the overwhelming consensus of the world’s scientific community that anthropogenic global warming is real, and is dangerous?

    Do you believe, in general, that scientists are not to be trusted?

    Do you think it is rational to be at least as “skeptical” of the claims put forth by those who stand to profit from preventing or delaying action to address climate change, as you are of the thousands of scientists who are telling you that it is real?

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 30 Jul 2008 @ 4:01 PM

  60. Re: #56 (Chris MCV)

    If you want to discriminate between the relative merits of opposing viewpoints regarding scientific topics, but you lack the training to evaluate the scientific literature yourself, there are two important clues you can use.

    First: see whether there’s a concensus among the national academies of science in a variety of nations, and how strong that concensus is. In the case of global warming, the concensus is unanimous: it’s real.

    Second: see whether you can detect dishonesty and/or gross incompetence from the advocates of either side. I have noticed that dishonesty and gross incompetence aren’t just present in the anti-global warming side, they’re more like the modus operandi.

    The confusion over global warming is very much like the confusion over the detrminental health effects of tobacco smoke. Ironically, some of the scientists who most strongly argue against the reality of global warming, used to be on the payroll of tobacco companies for the specific purpose of creating doubt among the public about that issue.

    Comment by tamino — 30 Jul 2008 @ 4:05 PM

  61. Global Warming, the Media and the Public

    It may be that even given the media’s penchant for reporting on both sides of a issue, despite scientific conclusions being heavily weighted in one direction (e.g. anthropogenic climate warming), the public may be a bit more savvy than we give credit in peering through this media fog. Here are a few polls (one cited on RealClimate) I found on the public perception of AGW:,2933,250571,00.html

    Perhaps the public skeptics are now a minority, and that those who remain will never be convinced, similar to trying to convince theory of evolution skeptics (see below). So why waste our time? I say we should focus on improving education for the majority who already recognize that AGW is real, and is a real problem, while continuing to whack-a-mole the most vocal skeptics. An example of powerful skeptics is the Louisiana legislature. Below is an excerpt from Louisiana House Bill 1168 which also targets “global warming”, and was recently signed by Gov. Jindal into law:

    Here is a version of HB-1168

    and an excerpt
    “Proposed law provides that neither the state Dept. of Education nor any school official shall prohibit any teacher in a public school system from helping students understand, analyze, and review, in an objective manner, the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course or courses being taught. Specifies that such topics may include biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”

    Comment by Jeff Chambers — 30 Jul 2008 @ 4:20 PM

  62. Re Fred Jorgenson:

    What Pachauri really said according to your link:

    “They should get off the backs of India and China,” he told reporters in the Indian capital, Delhi.

    “They should say: ‘We’ll assist you to move to a pattern of development which is sustainable, low in terms of emissions intensity. But we as the richest nations are willing to take the lead and we affirm our commitment to do so.'”

    Sounds eminently reasonable to me. Maybe that’s why he was chosen to head the IPCC.

    Comment by Paul Middents — 30 Jul 2008 @ 4:24 PM

  63. Re: Chris MCV #32

    You most likely can NOT educate people to the degree needed to really understand the complex nature of the issue. Therefore you MUST find a way to remove the remotest chance that politics may be intruding into the research. That includes even the PERCEPTION that it is.

    I agree that we can’t educate the bulk of the public as to the details of climatology. I don’t understand how the second statement follows, however. Are you assuming that anything “tainted” with politics takes away its objectivity? The reason I ask is because I believe it’s impossible to “remove” the perception of politics from social issues – simply because the opposition can always make the claim whether it is valid or not.

    Look at Darwin and evolution as an example. Any review of Darwin’s biography shows that he was led into his conclusions by his observations. But one wouldn’t know this by visiting some anti-evolution websites where he’s portrayed as an anti-religion zealot who went searching for a way to challenge faith in “God the creator.” Given this climate, could anyone “remove the remotest chance that religion may be perceived as intruding into his research?”

    The same thing happened with Galileo, he thought he was describing the motion of the Jovian moons but instead he was igniting a firestorm about a geocentric universe. I can’t say that religion has ever been removed from this question, but it certainly is settled as far as the bulk of society is concerned. Strangely enough, one could pose the central “denialist” argument for the sun revolving around the earth to people who believe in a heliocentric universe today but still get a largely contrary answer. That is, “If people were traveling 1,000 miles an hour (1,600 kph, the speed at the equator due to rotation) don’t you think they would notice or fly off?” “Common sense” tells me it would (that is, until I consider the question in the proper context). Why then, isn’t this a contentious topic?

    Comment by Paul Melanson — 30 Jul 2008 @ 4:40 PM

  64. The public is largely beyond the AGW debate. Note that both the Bush administration and National Review magazine have acknowledged the greenhouse effect of CO2. Local government (Seattle) is hot on it. What to do about it is a different matter.

    Comment by krog — 30 Jul 2008 @ 4:40 PM

  65. Secular Animist:
    ALL of the political interference has been on the side of the deniers, and that interference is driven by those with a huge financial stake in prolonging the use of fossil fuels as long as possible. If you want to “hate” someone for “blurring the line” between politics and research, then those are the folks at whom your “hate” should be directed…

    All as in 100%, every single instance, perfect totality? My view is essentially the opposite. There is certainly a small amount of self-serving science out there, but as a science person who accepts the high likelihood of AGW I’ve become *increasingly skeptical* of illogical generalizations that don’t fit the data. Big media is at fault for some of this, but most of the bogus assertions are either actively encouraged or unchallenged by climate scientists for reasons I do not understand.

    For example the film AIT made many references to what they suggested would be catastrophic climate changes that could be coming fairly soon. These included massive sea level rise, widespread drought, and suggested that massive killer hurricanes like Katrina would be much more common. The film was clearly designed as an alarming advocacy piece veiled in simplistic interpretations of good research, yet AIT’s unreasonable extensions from that quality research have gone largely unchallenged in the climate community because it’s now considered acceptable (in fact fashionable) to mix science and advocacy.

    I’m not sure you can ever divorce the two completely, but my fairly recent journey into climate science has taught me that the perils we have always known about with corporate sponsored science (e.g. suggestions that tobacco smoke was not dangerous, pharma studies, etc, etc) appear to have reared their very ugly head in government sponsored science as well, though I think in more indirect ways. The first is simply that advocates spend a lot of mental and emotional energy advocating, and this detracts from the time that can be spent doing quality research and doing the kind of introspective skeptical analysis that is the cornerstone of good scientific inquiry.

    But this is not the major issue because historically scientists often “stick to their guns” in spite of evidence in favor of alternative hypotheses or modifications to prevailing hypotheses. It’s a human defect that good peer review helps to fix but bad peer review fails to fix.

    Therefore I think a key challenge to reason is now coming from the overt hostility towards the small number of climate scientists who continue to challenge AGW and the large number of people who challenge it.

    This at the least is going to inhibit them somewhat and at most appears to be denying funding to projects using the two patently false assertions you make above, to wit:

    1. AGW is a certainty. This is an absurd contention no responsible scientist would ever make. My goodness I hope you are not a professor somewhere.

    2. All challenges to AGW come from vested corporate interests. This is a preposterous statement. Although there are not a lot of skeptics in the climate community there are many responsible ones, and rather than disparage their views it suits science to at least listen to them. It’s even important to listen to those who make preposterous claims in their scientific ignorance so that they and others can be better informed.

    More important than respecting skeptics is respecting the common sense point of view about Global Warming science, which is that in our mitigation efforts we need to act rationally with regard to many variables that remain uncertain and difficult to model accurately. The real climate debate about the most appropriate actions has yet to begin in earnest. This is in small part due to skeptics suggesting we have nothing to fear at all, but in *much larger measure* due to alarmists exaggerating the implications of current trends.

    Comment by Joe Hunkins — 30 Jul 2008 @ 4:47 PM

  66. Tamino,
    People, for good or bad, on both sides seem to have plenty of ammunition to blast the other side with. A huge amount can be seen for what it is, but there is enough room to leave a question in many peoples minds. The reality of the way groups of humans interact means that what you say is true, but it will also depend HIGHLY on a persons politics and opinions when they start to look into the issue to try to decide what they believe. For good or bad, these institutions and groups are viewed in the same way governments, think tanks and other groups are viewed. You probably have a lot of info that says X is funded by this corporation and such, but most likely that will get lost in the signal to noise ratio surrounding the issue, and true or not will get chalked up as “talking points” by people as they review the information. If you look for dishonesty and imcompetence in any group, your probably going to be able to find it unfortunatly, and that appears to apply to both sides I am sorry to say.

    Keep reading the first abc story and you see that the public also does not believe there is consensus regarding cause among scientists. It more or less tells me people are aware of the issue and unsure of the facts. That vague a set of opinions could easily be swayed by a few stories or strong personalities to believe something completely different (no I don’t have that much faith in the intellectual capacity of large groups of people).

    As I said, you don’t have to try to convince me one way or the other, thats not the point of my posting at all.
    The point is that the way the press and politicians are dealing with it makes it look like scientists cannot decide the facts (true or not, thats the perception). When one decides to dig deeper and look closer the picture does NOT come into any clearer of a focus. It probably is worse because there is enough technical information argued over that even when one tries to follow a particular issue to the end (say the bristlecone pines) you never really reach it. When you follow the point/counterpoint debates the DO get somewhat nasty and political. So the laymen is left with a lot of open ended questions and no real definate answers.
    I don’t envy you your jobs, I don’t know how to fix it, I just know that IF your point of view is right, then something does need to be done to prove that to the average person. As much as you think the issue is settled, I can tell you that as far as regular people on the street goes, thats NOT the case, OR when they are convinced, it isn’t based on scientific research, its based on what some politician or the media has told them.

    That scares me a bit.

    Comment by Chris MCV — 30 Jul 2008 @ 4:51 PM

  67. Joe Hunkins, I am sorry that you are so misinformed.

    1. Anthropogenic global warming is a certainty. It is an empirically observed reality, not a mere conjecture or hypothesis.

    2. At this point in time, the only “challenges” to the reality of anthropogenic global warming come from “vested corporate interests” and the frauds and cranks that they pay or otherwise encourage to spout pseudoscientific nonsense in order to misinform and confuse the public and thereby defuse public pressure for action.

    Your suggestion that the debate about appropriate actions (which is a legitimate debate, although the most basic required action — ending anthropogenic GHG emissions as quickly as possible — is beyond dispute) is being hindered “in much larger measure” by those who point out the very real dangers posed by unmitigated warming, rather than those who deliberately deceive the public about the danger for the specific purpose of delaying any action as long as possible, is absurd.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 30 Jul 2008 @ 5:13 PM

  68. With respect to skeptics that are best to ignore, the following statement is an good example “1. AGW is a certainty. This is an absurd contention no responsible scientist would ever make. My goodness I hope you are not a professor somewhere.”

    We know with a fair amount of precision how much CO2 has been released from fossil fuel burning, a change from 280 to 380 ppm over the past 150 years. Basic physical chemistry demonstrates that CO2 is radiatively active, so we know that at least some GW must be from H (parsimony). Perhaps the exactly climate sensitivity is difficult to quantify, but it is incredibly irresponsible to brush aside the work of the vast majority of climate scientists, and assume that the climate system will not significantly respond to a 100 ppm increase in CO2 (and other GHGs). It’s just unfathomable that these presumably educated “skeptics” would be willing to gamble with the planet’s climate system with such hubris.

    So why waste our time responding to irresponsibly arrogant (and powerless) skeptics? Let’s focus our attention on helping to educate a largely responsible public, and more perilous skeptics like the Louisiana legislature and Governor.

    Comment by Jeff Chambers — 30 Jul 2008 @ 5:22 PM

  69. I am disheartened to admit that, although a big fan of Real Climate and Gavin,, nearly done slogging thru AR4, and originally finally convinced by Spencer Weart’s “The Discovery of Global Warming”, that I can no longer comfortably say “the science is settled.” But only that it seems “probable” (more likely true than not) that AGW is occuring, and primarily as a function of GHG’S. I suspect very strongly that within 20 years the case for “certainty” will be much stronger. And also much closer to being “too late.”

    On the other hand, I am not a scientist, struggle to follow many of the arguments and threads, and am very comfortable totally dismissing those who cry “hoax.”

    I will continue to watch and study and attempt to be at least minimally conversant. But my confidence of what I used to feel more certain about is waning.

    Not specifically relevant to this or any other thread; just my $0.02; and wondering if any other of you, particularly those more capable than I, might also be feeling the same?

    Comment by Shelama — 30 Jul 2008 @ 5:31 PM

  70. Public perception of scientific consensus

    No responsible scientist would disagree with the following basic facts about AGW:

    1. The change in CO2 from 280 to 380 ppm over the past 150 years was due to human fossil fuel burning.
    2. CO2 is radiatively active – without greenhouse gases in the atmosphere the Earth would be a frozen ball of rock and ice orbiting the Sun.
    3. The Earth is warming, particularly since ~1980.

    Parsimony would have it that the culprit is CO2. Research scientists are constantly investigating the exact climate sensitivity – i.e. how much warming for a known change in CO2 (and other GHGs), and that is where most of the responsible debate resides (and where the media and public rightly see the contention). But the core facts above do not change, and this is where we need to focus public education. So, you’ve got to ask yourself, do you feel lucky gambling with Earth’s climate system? Because, yes, there is the remote chance that the Earth may not be as sensitive to CO2 as the current range of predictions indicate. Wouldn’t that be an incredibly irresponsible bet?

    Comment by Jeff Chambers — 30 Jul 2008 @ 5:39 PM

  71. Worth a read:

    ISSN:1047-3289 J. Air & Waste Manage. Assoc. 58:735–786

    —-excerpt follows——
    “… the scientific understanding that the IPCC documents is not a “house of cards” that falls if one point is not fully understood; it is a pyramid built on extensively tested findings that interlock with under standing of observations and analyses drawn from such disparate situations as Earth’s climatic history and the evolution of planetary atmospheres. Alternative explanations attributing the observed changes to natural variability, forcing by the Sun or cosmic rays, or other exotic factors may show good correlations in particular situations but generally fail quickly when evaluated against the broader set of supporting information. Thus, although it is interesting to discuss the uncertainties of specific critics, [n27] organizing this review around specific criticisms by well-known dissenters would divert attention from the overwhelming evidence supporting the key findings. Instead, responses to the most important of the criticisms will be covered as the topics arise.

    On the other side, there are also many who criticize
    the IPCC for understating the intensity and seriousness of climate change and its impacts, arguing that the IPCC process keeps it from being current on the most recent and dramatic changes. Indeed, because its process limits conclusions to those well established in the scientific literature, lags are introduced into its findings ….”


    The Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association, A&WMA’s flagship publication, is the oldest continuously published, peer reviewed, technical environmental journal in the world. In print since 1951, the Journal features the latest in cutting-edge research and technology.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Jul 2008 @ 5:46 PM

  72. I feel that no amount of careless journalism or voodoo science will continue to confuse the public,for much longer. Maybe I’m overly optimistic but we’ve been here and done that with the tobacco industry and most recently with SUV’s. It used to be “cool” to smoke, macho, glamorous, adventurous, all at once. Ads touted that “more doctors smoked such and such a brand than any other cigarette”, and “You’ve come a long way baby……. , you’ve got your own cigarette now baby….” and there was the Marlboro Man. Finally the weight of scienfific evidence convinced the public that they were being had. Things began to turn after the Surgeon General’s report in 1964. The report’s impact on attitudes was huge.A Gallop poll conducted in 1958 found that only 44 percent of Americans believed smoking caused cancer, while 78 percent believed it by 1968.
    Perhaps the next administration, will have the cohones to have the EPA or Dept. of Energy take on the fossil fuel industry, in the same manner, and claim that burning of fossil fuels is a clear and not too distant danger to the health and well being of our planet.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 30 Jul 2008 @ 6:01 PM

  73. Shelama, nope, far more certainty than you imagine. You might have run across a thing being circulated lately about “IPCC on the run” (at all the usual septic sites).

    Instead to get the accurate informatin about the probabilities and what the words mean, check the IPCC

    “Words in italics represent calibrated expressions of uncertainty and confidence. Relevant terms are explained in the Box ‘Treatment of uncertainty’ in the Introduction of this Synthesis Report.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Jul 2008 @ 6:03 PM

  74. Shelma #69.

    Well, it’s *possible* that we are being hit by a heatwave from a 10-dimensional being passing this way in hyperspace. It is more possible that you are, in fact, insane and there is no reality and this is just your subconscious talking to you.

    It’s a bit of a bugger, really, but if scientists say “we know this is true” we’re smacked with “you can’t KNOW 100% absolutely” and when we say “we know this is very likely” we’re walloped with “Ha! So you ADMIT you’re wrong!”

    When your doctor says you’re in danger of a heart attack, do you

    a) ignore him because he doesn’t KNOW that and in any case, when you do have one, he doesn’t know you will die from it
    b) take the medicine and advice

    I mean, you hear a lot about people with a THIRD heart attack and they are still very much alive and well, so they don’t KNOW it’s dangerous!

    Oh, and when your heart does give a murmur, do you go to ask advice of your hairdresser rather than the doctor “because he’s in it for the money: if people didn’t go to the doctor, they’d be out of a job, so they’re BOUND to lie”?

    Comment by Mark — 30 Jul 2008 @ 6:48 PM

  75. Relevant, topical, worth reading, with links worth following:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Jul 2008 @ 6:49 PM

  76. True, the public is often unaware of what is agreed on and what is uncertain concerning climate change, and the spectacle of dueling and contradictory science fuels the notion that scientists can’t agree on anything.

    I doubt that scientists, press officers and journalists can actually do anything about it, but government agencies can and should speak with one voice, which would help.

    NOAA, particularly NOAA NWS, has in past years spoke with many voices on climate change but has now become silent. NOAA NWS has 124 offices with direct connections to local media and local government.

    NWS doublespeak on climate change was wrong. Silence is just as wrong!

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 30 Jul 2008 @ 7:07 PM

  77. A few months ago I selected every tenth item listed on our ‘Climate Science Coalition’s’ denialist web site. This led to some wild and wonderful reading from the 14 items that I had sampled. It included material from site/organisations/spokespeople claiming -inter alia: that,HIV does not lead to AIDS, that the US government organised the twin towers attack, that Europe is a state, and that \The personal attacks and abuse heaped on ‘sceptics’ in an attempt to intimidate them and others into silence is a sure sign that real science has little to do with the climate change debate” You don’t have to be a scientist to be able to make a distinction between sense and nonsense on the AGW issue.

    Comment by Paul Harris — 30 Jul 2008 @ 7:21 PM

  78. Re #69, Shelama: I agree with you. It is called “getting of wisdom” and it happens to many of us as we get older. One of the symptons is a growing awareness of how complex things are and how little we really know about it all, both individually and collectively.

    On this site (and many other places) we see claims of certainty that far surpass the information in the body of the IPCC reports (I deliberately left out the SPM). Many of us have learned to be suspicious of those claiming absolute certainty, when we know that life just isn’t like that.

    [Response: Hmmm… Perhaps you could show me one place on this blog where we have claimed absolute certainty on anything remotely contentious? – gavin]

    Comment by wilwindry — 30 Jul 2008 @ 7:25 PM

  79. If it helps any, here’s a word from a working, non-expert journalist who has written about scientific topics in the past.

    There are two issues here, I think.

    First is whether the journalist knows anything about science. Most people think that if a guy is writing about politics he was a poli sci major in college or if he writes about finance he must have some knowledge of business. This is not usually the case. While we may be drawn to certain beats because we are interested, most of the time it’s assigned you. That is, i came to writing about my beat (finance) in a rather roundabout way. Unlike many journalists I have actually taken a physics class (it was my first major). I can do elementary calculus. Most (on the order of 90%) of my professional colleagues are baffled when you bring up even relatively elementary physics. They aren’t stupid, they just never took science after their junior year of high school.

    The upshot is that our knowledge of the beats we cover is earned by talking with people in the field. A good chunk of the time it basically means we are self-taught.

    So given that most of us are humanities majors (though we might be interested in science) it’s important for scientists to understand that the guy on the end of the line might be anything from really interested in the subject (hopefully) or he’s been assigned the story for the day. There is simply no way in six hours to build up anything like expertise in any subject. And more often than not I have had to do science related stories about fields i know nothing about in about that time.

    Now, this is where scientists can help us out. The trick is to not get caught up in minutiae. They aren’t minutiae to you, but they are to me because I have six other stories to write this week and need to be able to answer for readers “so what” in two sentences or less. Tell me that and we have a story.

    Second, realize that you (as scientists) use terminology in a vastly different way than laypeople do. Getting the terminology right isn’t so important as making sure that the average reader has some idea what’s going on. When we write about complex topics It’s important to get the science right. But it’s equally important not to confuse us. I’ve had to lead a few scientists down the path sometimes because they understand as little about writing as I do about their field.

    Comment by Jess — 30 Jul 2008 @ 7:31 PM

  80. Re #78: Actually Gavin, I was referring to Secular Animist’s statements primarily. I should have said that.

    Comment by wilwindry — 30 Jul 2008 @ 7:52 PM

  81. RE: 51

    “Journalism’s already a lost cause, though it will always have some outstanding good practitioners, because the journalists don’t own the journals.”

    Cite, please? Who says “journalism” is a lost cause? What would you replace it with?

    I agree that on climate and other issues, we’ve seen significant institutional failure within traditional news organizations. My experience leads me to believe that, to do their best work, journalists need fearless and financially strong publishers behind them. Perhaps we can agree that media in this country need to be “de-corporatized,” with a return to family- and foundation-owned organizations. Indeed, it may mean that new organizations will need to arise online and off.

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 30 Jul 2008 @ 8:17 PM

  82. wilwindry, it’s funny, I thought for sure your “humility is wisdom” post was going to be a lecture to global warming “skeptics” on crackpot theories — instead, it’s a lecture to climate scientists!

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 30 Jul 2008 @ 8:22 PM

  83. A clarification on “de-corporatizing.” Many print media are under the gun to produce financial results, either because their corporate masters demand it, or because they are so debt-leveraged as to struggle to survive. Obviously this is the enemy of fearless journalism. Remove the relentless demands to maximize profits and one removes a barrier to the kind of fearless journalism needed.

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 30 Jul 2008 @ 8:36 PM

  84. Shelama, Chris MCV, Joeduck, et al. OK. It is foolhardy to make unqualified, absolute statements in science. No one would claim that we have nothing left to learn about climate. OTOH, few who are familiar with the science expect our picture of the role of CO2 to change drastically. It can’t really. Between 2 K/doubling and 4.5 K/doubling there just isn’t that much wiggle room, and nobody has figured out how to make a climate model work with sensitivity less than 2 K/doubling. So we know with high confidence that we are the main driver of the current warming epoch. We also know that such a large change will have very significant, negative effects. That is sufficient: Science has established the threat.

    Here, we have to turn to engineering and ask the question: How bad could the consequences be? We have to use a different model here, since we are trying to bound the effects ON THE HIGH SIDE. This bound lets us know how much effort we need to invest in mitigating the effects. It is my opinion that Gore’s AIT, the Stern Report and some of what Hansen is doing now falls into this category. At this stage, you can’t reject threats out of hand. If it’s credible at all, you have to look at its consequences. The problem we have here is that the probability that sensitivity is large (say, more than 6 K per doubling) is not negligible. The probability that we’ll have increased severe weather (including hurricanes) cannot be shown to be negligible. Ocean acidification cannot be ruled out, and in fact it appears likely. Viewed this way, such activities are not really alarmist, but a necessary aspect of risk enumeration. Look, I realize that Al Gore is the bete noir of the right, but all you are doing by rejecting good science is abandoning the high ground to him. And he has an Oscar and a Nobel Peace prize to prove it. To bound the risks, you first have to accept the existence of the problem.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 30 Jul 2008 @ 8:43 PM

  85. re 78 and 80
    There seems to me to be lot of certainty expressed here about a science where you are still finding your feet and are trying to reconcile a large number of variables and uncertain data sets. As a geologist I am somewhat bemused that you all seem to ignore billions of years of earth history. Is it because there is no satellite data? Perhaps Gavin or Ray could point me towards a “consensus” view of what caused recent events such as the Little Ice Age or the Medieval Warm period or even what was the cause of the warming that enabled us to thrive and evolve as a species in the Holocene. To me as an old fashioned scientist you must expect some debate when you yourseves and your advocates want to radically change the way we as a species have become accustomed to or aspire to live. Discussions of ways to educate the press to your point of view to the exclusion of all others reminds me of “1984”. Is that what you want?

    [Response: Of course there is debate about many aspects of the climate. The ‘consensus‘ is on a relatively small – though important – part of recent climate history. What sensible views do you think are being excluded? – gavin]

    Comment by greg smith — 30 Jul 2008 @ 9:42 PM

  86. Six Degrees, a review:

    Comment by David B. Benson — 30 Jul 2008 @ 9:48 PM

  87. #85 (greg smith)

    Speaking from little experience, in the public setting, “scientific debates” seem to take the form of broad-brush questions like “does evolution really happen,” “is the globe warming,” “do greenhouse gases cause warming,” etc. These are the kind of things that are “settled” in the scientific community (Absolute proofs are rare, but the evidence ends up being too overwhelming to really deny it). For the most part, I think policy makers are interested in those broad-brush questions, with a few more details built in (like does the best evidence suggest it would be worthwhile for a CEO to consider climate change in business).

    In actual science, the questions are not so broad: why does strengthening convection enhances heat uptake in one region while weakening convection enhances it in another; can we cosntrain the aerosol impacts on cloud cover better; how will climate variability change with a climate trend?

    Comment by Chris Colose — 30 Jul 2008 @ 10:13 PM

  88. This post on the Houston Chronicle climate change blog gives a different perspective on the idea of “settled science.” He formulates it as a Kuhnian paradigm shift so that “global warming is happening” has become the null hypothesis. It is the baseline expectation.

    I can illustrate the importance of this different, new baseline this way: even without any global temperature measurements whatsoever, our measurements of greenhouse gases and our quantitative understanding of the greenhouse effect would be sufficient to convince me that global temperature were most likely rising. The new baseline assumption is that temperatures are rising in accordance with the additional heat input, with the complications mentioned in the previous paragraph.

    Thus I became a skeptic: I’m skeptical of the possibility that we are NOT driving temperatures upward.

    I like this a lot. It allows folks to ask “Have you thought about invisible pink unicorns?” And it allows those convinced by AGW to say “and how do you intend to reject the null hypothesis.”

    OK, that may be a bit esoteric sounding to lay folk, but I think that saying AGW is woven into lots of science these days (especially field biology) and it cannot be lightly dismissed is a stronger posture than the-science-is-settled. Asking someone to propose an experiment that overturns the consensus seems more politic that seeming to dismiss them out of hand.

    It may even lead to converting true skeptics. If someone thinks the sun is the culprit, we can ask them what data they think would be sufficient to change the minds of the IPCC, overturn a couple dozen GCMs, and explain observed changes in wildlife behaviors.

    after multiple previews, when I’m ready to post, captcha says: accept sugar

    Comment by Tim McDermott — 30 Jul 2008 @ 10:56 PM

  89. Re: #85 greg

    “As a geologist I am somewhat bemused that you all seem to ignore billions of years of earth history.”

    Are you kidding?

    I am somewhat bemused that the IPCC people managed to condense “Paleoclimate”, Chapter 6 of “Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis”, down to only 64 pages, including 13 1/2 pages listing over 500 references.

    Comment by Garry S-J — 30 Jul 2008 @ 11:31 PM

  90. Re 78 wilwindry

    You might be getting older but I would seriously question the wisdom that is coming with age. If you have any scientific background and have been seriously following the literature then you will have a very hard time arguing with any of Ray Ladbury’s oft repeated points.

    If on the other hand you have been reading the literature and have some real questions or issues, our hosts and some of the very knowledgeable contributors like Ray, Hank, Timothy or Martin can help you achieve some real understanding.

    Comment by Paul Middents — 31 Jul 2008 @ 12:11 AM

  91. As a geologist I am somewhat bemused that you all seem to ignore billions of years of earth history. Is it because there is no satellite data?

    True, paleoclimatology only considers a few hundred million years of earth history, rather than four billion.

    I mean … even (the last?) snowball earth was less than a billion years ago.

    Pity that climate science is totally uninterested in events on the geological timescale. That’s why we have zero information on any climate events before the satellite era.

    Since you’re a geologist, would you agree that earthquakes are a normal part of the geological history of the earth, nothing in the least bit unusual, and that therefore we should ignore their impact on modern cities? Seismic activity on the 100-year timescale is, after all, somewhat boring when placed in the context of a 4 billion year old earth …

    Comment by dhogaza — 31 Jul 2008 @ 1:44 AM

  92. Chris MCV #66

    As much as you think the issue is settled, I can tell you that as far as regular people on the street goes, thats NOT the case, OR when they are convinced, it isn’t based on scientific research, its based on what some politician or the media has told them.

    Tell me about it… if that was your point, yes, we know. Thanks for spoiling my day.

    … I don’t know how to fix it, …

    Don’t post again until you do.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 31 Jul 2008 @ 3:11 AM

  93. A lot of the posts in this thread seem to be asserting that realclimate are being some what bold in their statements about climate change and decribe it as certain. Well of course to some degree realclimate are going to do that becasue they have the science to back them up and can and do find holes in the ones who claim otherwise.

    I mean the globe is warming according to the statistics, that is irrefitable I thought. However what is causing that warming, the Sun, well no not according to the scientific literature and people who study that sort of thing, the Suns output has not changed in 50 years and hence cannot account of the warming of the past 30 years. Cosmic rays that prevent clouds from forming, not proven and scientifically not that credible. The lsit goes on until we get to GHG theory which to the obvious distaste of many fits the bill and is scientifically viable and valid and has been demonstrated to be the current best fit and the simplest explanation that accounts for all of the observed data something that I believe Einstein said was a prerequisite for a scientifc theory.

    Therefore at the present time GHG theory coupled with land use changes (albedo effects) and others related factors is the best fit at present for AGW. The media though and others seem to think that this makes AGW fair game for all of the non peered reviewed people to be interviewed just because they have a track record in some other science or some other non related subject that gives them a voice. The environmentalists then do the same things for the pro side of the argument exaggerate the situation leaving the scientists who we should all be listening to out in the cold whilst the media has a feeding frenzy on all the pseudo knowledge.

    I can think of many names on both sides and hence the reason why I only come here for the real facts after I have read the mumbo jumbo of both sides.

    Comment by pete best — 31 Jul 2008 @ 4:13 AM

  94. On certainty:

    “Everyone knows that the sun rises in the west”.

    *Everyone*? What about people who don’t know what “west” is?

    “The Sun will rise tomorrow”

    Really? You KNOW this? What makes you KNOW that the sun will not explode tomorrow, or a ELE meteor hit the earth?

    Normal usage of language uses certainty to shorten the statement and leaves out all the nuance that is really there in this never certain universe.

    How about accuracy:

    “I am 5’6″ tall”. Uh, in the morning I’m nearly an inch taller than when I go to bed.

    “A pint is exactly 568ml”. And the decimal points. And WHOSE pint?

    But when it comes to saying

    “Anthropogenic CO2 is causing most of the heating of the planet in the last 100 years” we can’t use the semantic shortcuts. We have to batter against everyone who niggles at the little bits you leave out to make a statement to prove you wrong.

    THAT, Jess (#79), is why we don’t use words and phraseology that is acceptable to ordinary people: if we do, then we are attacked on the very wording you asked us to use because it isn’t 100% precise. We resort either to ignoring these attacks (which are then spun as accepting their validity), accept them (which is spun as us accepting the skeptics are right [without saying what we agree with them about: look at the GGWS]) or attacking them on the same pissly little things (which is spun as us using ad hom or proof of lying to the public).

    Why does this happen? Because journalists WANT conflict. Sex sells, but if you can’t get sex on the topic (we’re scientists!), conflict is nearly as good. And if there’s only one talking head, you either

    a) spout the denialist mantra to get conflict going
    b) ask the denialist about his theories because they’re all too willing to make a hostile statement to a willing audience

    We can’t do what you ask, Jess, because you don’t accept the standard (inaccurate) phraseology of the ordinary person as what it is: the broad-brush stroke missing out the minutae. When we leave out the minutae, you let someone attack based on missing out that minutae. You don’t tell them off with “hang on, that’s unfair because normal relaxed english is imprecise and you can’t therefore use that imprecision as your basis of counterexample”.

    Do that and maybe we can start talking like normal people rather than scientists.

    PS if you don’t think this is likely to happen, take a look at the #70-#85 comments above…

    Comment by Mark — 31 Jul 2008 @ 4:33 AM

  95. For UK Readers (but I may not be able to go).

    It might be worth considering items 25 and 26? No idea how it will turn out if the topic is the GGWS. No idea if it will be fair. It would good if the focus is on :

    (a) Failure of Channel 4 to review/summarise the reasons behind the consensus over a period of years.
    (b) Channel 4’s introduction to the topic of “reasons behind the consensus” consisted of an hour long programme misrepresenting that consensus in almost every conceivable way.
    (c) Failure to put it right so far.

    (Revision: Realclimate has done this and I have written a forensic summary and link to commented transcript in comment #108 following “Aerosols, Chemistry and Climate”; more still in Stoat and elswhere).

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 31 Jul 2008 @ 5:03 AM

  96. No it’s not inevitable.
    Scientists, press officers, journal editors and journalists need to move the debate forward. Too much of climate scientists’ and journalists’ time is being expended on the question of ‘is AGW happening or not?’ The basic facts are so secure now that it’s wasted effort to be engaging in this debate (most sensible skeptics seem to accept this and have adjusted their position accordingly, focussing on ‘global warming alarmism’ rather than the basic physics of AGW- I’ve got some sympathy with them).

    Editors and journalists should stop asking the ‘is AGW real?’ question, and scientists should stop trying to answer it (maybe just direct the questioner towards a basic undergraduate text instead). I realise there’s a problem with journalists trying to shoehorn every new piece of research into that context. But editors of reputable outlets shouldn’t be publishing work that does this, and reputable scientists shouldn’t allow their names near it.

    There are plenty of valid questions around the issue that do need to be discussed and debated by scientists and journalists alike (and where a valid skeptical viewpoint is helpful):
    How much warming? Over how long? Is there anything we can usefully do about it- and if so, what?

    The extent and urgency of the world’s response to AGW depends on the answers to these kind of questions. There’s relevant research to discuss in the mass media and on websites like realclimate, but the context is all wrong. The focus on the finer detail of climate science (Greenland ice sheets etc) is only of immediate interest to climate scientists, and desperate climate science deniers looking for material to confuse and confabulate the rest of us. This finer detail doesn’t really matter in the short term- of course, when the syntheses are made and some light can be thrown on the bigger questions, then it becomes a different matter.

    Comment by Matt — 31 Jul 2008 @ 5:06 AM

  97. Perhaps science education is relevant?

    Most educated people are familiar with the romantic view of science which is based on true stories of e.g. Einstein or Planck overthrowing a consensus starting with a couple of anomalies. The misleading part of that story is to suggest that classical science has been completely overthrown and rendered useless. Some quite well educated people try to fit every news item about climate change into the model of a fragile edifice which is ready to collapse when the next tiny discrepancy is found.

    One main source of science education in the UK is the Horizon series on BBC 2. It may be changing now, but for many years the pattern was to spend the first half or three quarters of the programme developing a theme and then the last quarter showing how the conclusions of the first part of the programme were completely wrong. It was all very entertaining and often quite valid. But it is not the whole story. It can give a misleading impression of the way that “normal science” works which may appear to be less exciting but involves slow and steady progress without regular huge collapses.

    Another common assumption is that if there is a conflict, new observations must always trump an old theory. Even theorists make this mistake sometimes. It often happens that it is the observations which turn out to be wrong. Very strong theoretical reasons should be treated with respect.

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 31 Jul 2008 @ 6:03 AM

  98. Joe Hunkins writes:

    1. AGW is a certainty. This is an absurd contention no responsible scientist would ever make. My goodness I hope you are not a professor somewhere.

    It’s not a certainty in the sense that our being real people and not brains hallucinating in a tank of fluid is not a certainty. But there’s no practical uncertainty at this point. Global warming is happening, human technology is causing it, and it’s a real problem. If you think any of those three statements is controversial, you don’t understand the issue. Period.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 31 Jul 2008 @ 6:18 AM

  99. Greg Smith, Discussion of scientific matters should be subject to the constraints of scientific evidence. In this case, ALL of the evidence is on the side of the consensus position. Let me put this another way: Scientists have the evidence; denialists have talking points. Scientists know climate is a noisy system, and that the signal emerges more and more from the noise as the time period under investigation increases. Denialists insist on drawing trends from cherry-picked periods as short as a month!
    Scientists have models that explain much of what we observe. Denialists have bupkis so they are reduced to attacking the models or claiming “it’s all natural.”
    Scientists have over 1000 peer-reviewed papers supporting their position. Denialists have a handfull of mostly discredited studies that never seem to point the way forward.
    Scientist’s have independent review by dozens of professional societies, national academies, etc. and not one has dissented from the consensus position. Denialists have photo ops and “petitions” with zero quality control.

    By all means, Greg, old fashioned scientists like you are welcom to contribute, but could you contribute something of value that actually advances the state of the science–that is, something other than talking points?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 31 Jul 2008 @ 7:36 AM

  100. I have a PhD in computer science, which makes me moderately more competent than a journalist in assessing scientific claims in an area in which I’m not expert but it’s their job. The way so many seem to take no pride in doing it right is depressing. For those having difficulty in assessing competing claims, see my article, Death by a thousand blogs.

    Short summary for those who don’t want to go there: there are other areas of alleged controversy, and by slight tweaks of your search terms in such areas, you can get vastly different slants. That we should be making policy decisions that could in the extreme destroy the biosphere based on such rubbish is absurd, yet the South Africa government for the better part of 10 years based its HIV policy on just this kind of “research”.

    I end the article with a 1-word question: “Darwin?”

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 31 Jul 2008 @ 8:46 AM

  101. Gavin: I think the best way to answer your very good question is with a question: Do you think the science is settled?

    [Response: If you search through this blog – and the IPCC reports and the NAS reports, you will find no mention of a mythical binary distinction between ‘settled’ and ‘unsettled’ science. This distinction is a purely made-up piece of spin – and one that is far more prevalent on the anti side for various reasons. If I thought “the science” was settled, why would I be a scientist? What would be the point? What would there be left to discover? But if you ask me whether the CO2 rise in anthropogenic, or whether CO2 was a greenhouse gas or whether it’s increase has been the predominant cause of temperature rises in recent decades, then yes – these things are pretty much ‘settled’ (in the popular understanding of the word). Do we know the exact impact of aerosol emissions on climate, or fully understand the dynamics of ice sheets, or the impact of eddies in the ocean heat transport – then no. But we do know quite a lot about these things – it’s just that our knowledge is obviously not complete. Is the science settled enough to justify worrying about emissions? Absolutely. – gavin]

    Comment by George Ray — 31 Jul 2008 @ 9:40 AM

  102. Last Sunday, the topic of the sermon at my church was global warming. Since most members of the congregation are aware that I have a PhD in Atmospheric Sciences, I was given the opportunity to speak briefly on the confusion many have in sorting out the scientific consensus versus popular/political debate they hear in the media. To do this as quickly and simply as possible, I chose to write and deliver the following parable:

    There once was an old sea captain. During his time at sea, the old captain had sailed the Maine coast and surrounding areas and knew them well. Upon retirement, he settled down in Maine near the sea he loved. Each morning he would walk along the shore near his cabin. One foggy morning the captain happened upon a stranger, apparently a tourist, standing next to a row boat. When he asked the stranger what he was up to, the stranger said that he was planning to row to Yarmouth. “A good morning workout, I figure!” Incredulous, the captain responded, “Yarmouth? I wouldn’t try that if I were you. That’s maybe 150 miles.” He then paused and said, “Well, it’s at least 100 miles from here anyway!” The stranger stared at the captain blankly and then turned and looked again out to sea into the fog. Convinced that he had set the stranger straight, the captain strode off, pleased with his good deed. The next morning the captain was astonished to find the stranger lying near his row boat now barely alive. “What happened to you?” asked the captain. Slowly, the stranger described how shortly after the captain had departed the previous morning, he had set out to sea to row to Yarmouth and, after many hours of rowing, had encountered a terrible storm. “Even after I warned you about how far it is?” Sheepishly, the stranger answered, “But you seemed so uncertain.”

    Everyone I spoke to after the service claimed that they “got it” – of course, it was Sunday and everyone there is polite!

    Comment by JohnK — 31 Jul 2008 @ 9:49 AM

  103. Here’s a paper that is very likely to produce the next round of Journalistic Whiplash and it would be great if RC covered it preemptively.

    On the credibility of climate predictions
    D. Koutsoyiannis et al. Hydrological Sciences–Journal–des Sciences Hydrologiques, 53(4) August 2008

    Abstract: Geographically distributed predictions of future climate, obtained through climate models, are widely used in hydrology and many other disciplines, typically without assessing their reliability. Here we compare the output of various models to temperature and precipitation observations from eight stations with long (over 100 years) records from around the globe. The results show that models perform poorly, even at a climatic (30-year) scale. Thus local model projections cannot be credible, whereas a common argument that models can perform better at larger spatial scales is unsupported.

    The paper looked at eight specific observation stations and found the GCM models could not project trends at those stations. It wasn’t even looking at regional projections. Nobody has claimed that the temperature and precipitation GCM models can predict what is going to happen in Albany (one of their observation stations). The models are not constructed to predict what is going to happen at a particular observation station.

    The authors make the claim that the models don’t work at larger scales. But, their paper did not test at a larger spatial scale, they simply tested several individual stations. So they are making an inference that is beyond the scope of their analysis.

    Gavin please comment on this paper, or better yet devote a post to it. It is sure to become the next talking point by the anti-AGW crowd.

    [Response: My guess is that this will not be covered in the mainstream media at all, so it’s in a slightly different class: relatively obscure papers that get the blogosphere all excited because they over-interpret the results, in this case with a little help from the authors – (and me apparently if you read the acknowledgments!). Maybe I’ll do something at the weekend…. – gavin]

    Comment by streamtracker — 31 Jul 2008 @ 10:37 AM

  104. Someone up there asked for a cite for the basis for my opinions about the state of journalism and ownership of the media. You can look this up easily. I’d suggest these references as a start:
    (Use the pulldown menu. Note how short the list is.)

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 31 Jul 2008 @ 10:48 AM

  105. Re: 37

    On the ones in doubt, go and have a good look. I am sure you will be able to distinguish between them.

    Comment by Tenney Naumer — 31 Jul 2008 @ 10:54 AM

  106. Chris MCV, greg smith, wilwindry, Shelama, et al: I agree with and support your ideas. I, too, have offered what I meant as helpful criticism to the believers, in the vein of how best to convince others. You were much more erudite than I was, and I appreciate your posts. As you’ve noticed, you’re likely to get a lot of vitriol back. There are some here who are more satisfied spitting out venom and getting their off-topic licks in (tobacco, right-wing talk show hosts, Bush-II, corporations, big oil, etc.) than converting a skeptic or two. They might comprehend but want no part of one of the basic marketing rules: if you want to convince or sell to someone, don’t start off by calling him/her a dumb stupid Neanderthal who has immoral and ugly friends.

    However, keep a couple of things in mind. 1. this RC forum is not the same venue as winning the public; some of the marketing rules probably don’t apply in toto here even though, unfortunately, do apply in the public. 2. RC is relatively probably the best climate science blog/forum going. 3. If you can get past the venom, most of these guys have some good scientific meat (as do most of the more staid posters). 4. “These guys” refers to only a minority of the posters here and only once in a blue moon to a moderator.

    Comment by Rod B — 31 Jul 2008 @ 11:42 AM

  107. Interesting comments. Chris MCV strikes me as not so much a skeptic or denier but as someone quite a bit smarter than he is posing playing devil’s advocate trying to get us to think about how a general public with little science education struggles to understand that which they have no real knowledge of. (Otherwise, why would he bother to try to alert us of the problem?) Of curse, that’s something we are already keenly aware of, but that doesn’t mean that we yet have a solution for.

    Some of the others commenting make the all too common mistake of confusing public confusion and debate over the understanding and meaning of the science with actual debate over the details of the science within the scientific community. The two are not at all the same.

    The latter debate is part of the scientific method itself as it works toward a better, more complete understanding and explanation of observed physical reality. As many have pointed out, most of the key mechanisms of greenhouse gas induced climate change are indeed settled within narrow ranges of certainly and can, or at least should, no longer be considered controversial, while many of the details and their effects remain within much wider ranges of uncertainty, and climate scientists have been very much above board about these uncertainties, much to their detriment in the other debate.

    The former debate is a no-rules-barred mosh pit of –
    – honest scientists–including some skeptical ones–trying to convey the current science and the seriousness and urgency of the threat
    – otherwise competent and credible scientists who have stepped too far outside their field of expertise
    – crackpots who fancy themselves as scientists out to show the eggheads that they don’t know it all
    – evnvironmentalists willing to exaggerate the seriousness and urgency of the threat
    – journalists–some diligent, some ill-equipped–trying to do their job for news outlets trying maximise profits–often by fanning and creating controversy
    – vested interest groups trying to minimise negative effects on their profits or financial freedom–some of them willing to even fund the deliberate creation of confusion and misinformation
    – contrarians-for-hire willing to serve the above purpose (we know they exist, their invoices are matters of public record)
    – ideologues hostile to any government intervention or limits on their personal freedom grasping at any argument that undermines a reality that they don’t like–some willing to simply make stuff up and outright lie
    – sincere members of the public trying to understand the science
    – confused members of the public who don’t have the education or understanding to tell if the above scientists or the above contrarians and ideologues are right
    – wingnuts willing to believe in even the most preposterous conspiracy theories
    (I’m sure I left out a few categories)

    Scientists, and science journalists, can only do so much to alleviate the honest confusion, misunderstanding and misinformation, and frankly, it’s a never ending battle countering the active disinformation and outright lies. Climate change deniers love to troll and play whack-a-mole.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 31 Jul 2008 @ 11:46 AM

  108. Rod B wrote: “… if you want to convince or sell to someone, don’t start off by calling him/her a dumb stupid Neanderthal …”

    Geico might disagree.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 31 Jul 2008 @ 11:53 AM

  109. Rod B wrote: “… getting their off-topic licks in (tobacco, right-wing talk show hosts, Bush-II, corporations, big oil, etc.) …”

    In a discussion about journalist coverage of, and public perception of, the reality of anthropogenic global warming and climate change, it is not off-topic to discuss the well-documented role of “big oil” corporations like Exxon-Mobil in funding fake, phony pseudoscientific propaganda as part of a deliberate, elaborate and sustained campaign of deceit, quite similar to the one that the tobacco companies engaged in for years, in order to keep the public uninformed and confused about the dangers of their product — particularly when some of the same fake “scientists” who shilled for the tobacco companies are now doing the same work for the oil companies.

    Nor is it off-topic to point out the well-documented role of the current US administration in suppressing, censoring and obfuscating climate science, even to the point of employing oil industry lobbyists to censor government reports on the effects of global warming.

    The only reason that the public is “confused” about the reality of global warming is that the public has been deliberately, systematically misled by those who stand to profit enormously from the continued use of fossil fuels.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 31 Jul 2008 @ 11:59 AM

  110. “AGW” is an acronym, not an explanation – just say instead that burning fossil fuels and deforesting the planet is leading to a warming and changing climate, because we are making the atmosphere a bit denser to infrared radiation.

    The level of physical understanding required to understand the basics isn’t much beyond grade school – take an iron sphere, set it beside a campfire, and it will heat up. Wrap a little bit of material around it that is non-reflective and that absorbs heat, and it will warm up a little bit. That’s the level of scientific knowledge needed to understand the theory of global warming. If you can understand why thicker clothing keeps you warmer, then you have grasped the basics. No expert consultation is required.

    How a fluid ocean and atmosphere responds to that warming is a different story. This might be called the theory of anthropogenic climate destabilization (ACD), in which fossil fuel combustion and deforestation lead to increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, resulting in a warmer atmosphere, more precipitation, more variable weather conditions, more heat waves, more droughts, etc. Since a good portion of the ocean’s water is locked up as ice on land, global warming will also lead to sea level rise (the ASLR theory, to go along with the ACD theory and the AGW theory – aren’t acronyms fun?). Estimating that requires some detailed physical models. You can argue about how fast and how far the process will go, but you have to use the three scientific lines of evidence: paleoclimate data, modern instrumental & observational data, and the results of climate modeling studies.

    None of the “skeptics” on this thread are going to challenge those basic scientific lines of evidence or the estimates they produce with anything other than recycled and refuted nonsense – so instead, you get blather about “respecting the skeptics” and “the lack of absolute certainty”- content-free emotive PR speak.

    Given that all the current peer-reviewed, open-to-public-inspection measures of global warming are trending slightly towards the higher end of projected model estimates of climate change, and that current effects are already having significant impacts on ecologies and economies, there really is only one “rational policy choice”: halt the combustion of fossil fuels, and halt global deforestation.

    It would be nice if we could just let the fossil fuels run out, but most of them will have to be left in the ground. This leads to opposition from individuals, corporations and governments who are dependent on fossil fuel economics.

    This is why the leaders in renewable energy development are Germany and Japan, who have few fossil fuel reserves of their own, and a vested interest in limiting global warming as well. Some of the fossil fuel dependents are also taking the opportunity to move into renewables, for example the Pickens wind power approach, or Dubai’s solar power approach. ( ).

    Others are still basically committed to the fossil fuel economic model, for example ExxonMobil, Senator Inhofe, and the current United States government. Their response to the problem has included paying large sums to ex-tobacco science public relation firms to press the denialist talking points, halting any political efforts to regulate fossil fuel emissions, and censoring government scientists and defunding climate satellites, all in an attempt to keep us all firmly on the “business-as-usual” projection path.

    Unfortunately, many journalists and editors in the U.S. have played a crucial role in disseminating said talking points to the public and to politicians, mainly via their selective choice of “experts” to quote. Editors tend to provide neophyte science journalists with lists of experts – but where do they get those lists from? Furthermore, some editors will deliberately assign people with zero science background to cover such “experts” verbatim, sans questions. Claiming ignorance of science as the cause of this behavior is not very believable. Pressure on editors from fossil fuel-linked advertisers and shareholders is a more likely explanation.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 31 Jul 2008 @ 12:02 PM

  111. JohnK: Beautiful and powerful story!

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 31 Jul 2008 @ 12:27 PM

  112. Simple question for all the folks on this forum who are completely convinced regarding AGW and its effects as defined by Hansen, et al.

    What are you personally doing in your life to solve the problem? To clarify, I’m not asking about your political actions or activism, I’m talking about your personal choices.

    How many here are organic vegans?
    Walk or bicycle for all transportation?
    Homes are completely solar and wind powered (or other renewables)?

    Fair question, no?

    Comment by Robert — 31 Jul 2008 @ 12:30 PM

  113. RE: 104

    Yes, and if you’ve read the Moyers piece you know his views on the deleterious effects of “corporatizing” media, referred to in my earlier posts. But the cite I requested from you was the part where he said “journalism is already a lost cause.” Please send it along when you find it.

    You also suggested we ask how we can help the scientists here present their work. OK, I’m asking.

    My audience is investors. I’m willing to lend a podium to any of the scientists here — if any, indeed, wished to communicate with that audience!

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 31 Jul 2008 @ 12:31 PM

  114. Simple question for all the folks on this forum who are completely convinced regarding AGW and its effects as defined by Hansen, et al.

    What are you personally doing in your life to solve the problem? …

    Fair question, no?

    In terms of assessing the accuracy of the science, no, it’s not a fair question, in fact it’s a meaningless question.

    If your doctor is overweight, smokes, and drinks like a fish, this fact doesn’t make him wrong if he tells you to lose weight, quit smoking, and curtail your drinking if you care about your long-term health, right?

    Comment by dhogaza — 31 Jul 2008 @ 12:50 PM

  115. Robert asked: “How many here are organic vegans? Walk or bicycle for all transportation? Homes are completely solar and wind powered (or other renewables)?”

    FWIW, I have been a vegan for twenty years (and was a vegetarian for 14 years before that). I purchase only organic foods, most of it locally-grown, from a local family-owned market. I am fortunate to have a sunny back yard where I can grow some of my own food. I do drive a car, but I limit my driving to approximately 25 miles per week, and I drive a 17 year old Ford Festiva that gets 38MPG in city driving and 48MPG on the highway. I purchase 100 percent wind-generated electricity through my local electric utility, and my house is heated and cooled by a high-efficiency electric heat pump.

    The main point I would like to make about these practices is not that I deserve any special commendation for them, but that they are all easy to do, they all benefit my personal well-being, and in general save money.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 31 Jul 2008 @ 12:53 PM

  116. Ike Solem wrote: “This is why the leaders in renewable energy development are Germany and Japan …”

    Spain is also a world leader in the development and deployment of solar energy technology.

    And according to WorldWatch Insitute, China is emerging as a world leader in wind energy:

    A recent boom in Chinese wind power development has surpassed the government’s original target and forced policymakers to set a new goal that might still be too modest.

    In 2007, cumulative wind installations in China exceeded 5 gigawatts (GW), the goal originally set for 2010 by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s top economic planner. The Commission had set the target in its 2006 mid- and long-term development plan for renewable energy. The plan’s target for 2020 was 30 GW, a level that is now projected to be reached by 2012, eight years ahead of schedule.
    In March, the NDRC revised its mid-term target, doubling it from 5 GW to 10 GW for 2010. Yet this new goal is still too modest, with wind installations likely to reach 20 GW by 2010 and 100 GW by 2020. China is witnessing the start of a golden age of wind power development, and the magnitude of growth has caught even policymakers off guard.

    However, it should also be noted that according to WorldWatch, in 2007 the USA led the world in wind energy development:

    The United States led the world in new installations for the third year in a row with a record-shattering 5,244 megawatts of wind capacity added, increasing cumulative installed capacity by 45 percent. Wind power represented 30 percent of new U.S. capacity additions last year, compared with 1 percent of the total just five years earlier. The nation’s wind capacity now totals 16,818 mega­watts, second only to Germany, and is enough to power 4.5 million U.S. homes.

    The USA has enormous wind and solar energy resources, and private capital is already pouring into the expansion of these new energy industries. What is needed in the US is government policies that will support and encourage this New Industrial Revolution of the 21st century: generous, long-term investment and production tax credits, renewable portfolio standards for utilities, and feed-in tariffs (which have been very successful in Germany) for small-scale renewable electricity producers.

    But such policies are being blocked by the fossil fuel and nuclear industries and their political allies, who for obvious reasons want to delay as long as possible a massive transfer of wealth to the new energy industries that will inevitably come with the transition to an energy economy based on free, endless solar and wind energy rather than on consumption of a costly and limited supply of fuel.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 31 Jul 2008 @ 1:08 PM

  117. Today’s Journalistic Whiplash

    New data shows that Bangladesh’s landmass is increasing, contradicting forecasts that the South Asian nation will be under the waves by the end of the century, experts say.

    Scientists from the Dhaka-based Center for Environment and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS) have studied 32 years of satellite images and say Bangladesh’s landmass has increased by 20 square kilometres (eight square miles) annually.


    He told AFP findings by the IPCC and other climate change scientists were too general and did not explore the benefits of land accretion.

    “For almost a decade we have heard experts saying Bangladesh will be under water, but so far our data has shown nothing like this,” he said.

    A google search on this topic, finds several news sources reporting the IPCC was wrong. Only one included an interview with an IPCC scientist:

    Dr Atiq Rahman, a lead author of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, told the BBC that there was little in the new research to make him think that their projection needed revising.

    He said that many people living along the coast had observed that sea levels where higher now than in their grandparents’ day.

    “The rate at which sediment is deposited and new land is created is much slower than the rate at which climate change and sea level rises are taking place,” he said.

    So while some new land may be created in parts of the country, elsewhere a much larger amount of land will disappear, he said.

    In any case, the new land will take decades to become useful, and so compensate for fertile farmland that was flooded.

    Dr Rahman said that what is needed now is a village-by-village survey of coastal Bangladesh.

    Funny thing is. No matter how hard I look I can’t find a copy of the Center for Environment and Geographic Information Services report. Not even at the CEGIS website and not via a search of several academic databases.

    If anyone has a copy, I’d like to see it.

    Comment by streamtracker — 31 Jul 2008 @ 1:39 PM

  118. Relevant to “journalistic whiplash”, consider the following from the Associated Press this past Tuesday:

    A chunk of ice spreading across seven square miles has broken off a Canadian ice shelf in the Arctic, scientists said Tuesday.

    Derek Mueller, a researcher at Trent University, was careful not to blame global warming, but said the event was consistent with the theory that the current Arctic climate isn’t rebuilding ice sheets.

    “We’re in a different climate now,” he said. “It’s not conducive to regrowing them. It’s a one-way process.”

    Now, I don’t know how much of this double-talk comes from Derek Mueller and how much is from the AP writer. But why in the world should a scientist feel the need to be “careful not to blame global warming” for an occurrence which he then attributes to “the current Arctic climate“, saying that “We’re in a different climate now” which is “not conducive to regrowing” ice sheets, noting that this climate change (how else to describe it?) is “a one-way process.”

    Does the bit about being “careful not to blame global warming” have any purpose other than to suggest the existence of nonexistent doubt that the shockingly rapid and massive changes in Arctic ice are driven by anthropogenic global warming?

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 31 Jul 2008 @ 1:41 PM

  119. Walter, you’ve misattributed my off the cuff opinion to Moyers. Please don’t do that even to be argumentative.

    Don’t attribute something typed on a blog to a permanent and well thought out decision about the state of the world, either! It’s always fair to ask why someone believes something, what their basis is for believing it, and whether it’s their own conclusion or something they read, if so where they read it and why they trust the source.

    You left out all the middle part of that process and leaped to assuming a citation, then misplaced concreteness by assuming Moyers said it.

    Way, way wrong. Please, read more carefully and ask more carefully why people write what they do.

    I said I thought journalism was a lost cause up there, based on the Florida case and the New Scientist article. My opinion. Worth exactly what it weighs.

    Cheer me up. Show me you understand this.
    reCaptcha: “in repetition”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 31 Jul 2008 @ 1:42 PM

  120. I will bite on this one. So what do I do, being a skeptic and all, realize I do consider myself a bit of a high-tech redneck.

    Not a vegan, sorry, I like steak a bit much. But I do think meat choices should change and I promote the use of goats as they are a much better yield and less environmental impact then beef. I have raised meat goats for market, but have been too busy this year and reduced my herd by a lot.
    I am not driving a big SUV, but a 6 cyl mini truck with no AC (and it is hot here!). We have a big truck but very rarely drive it (only to pull horse and stock trailers and the like).
    I am constantly upgrading the house to be more environmentally friendly, replacing windows to double glazed insulated, not heating the pool (till I get a solar heater) and adding insulation to the house where lacking. My workshop is not air conditioned and although it would be wonderful, its just too wasteful to consider.
    All appliances that can be on a timer are.
    Using power strips to kill phantom loads (computers, stereos, etc)
    CFL’s in every light fixture for over 5 years now, long before it was the “green” thing to do.
    Programable thermostat.
    Trying to go solar or solar assist, but I cannot stand PV as its a messy toxic disaster (solar thermal steam is the way to go!, but totally diy as you cant buy them too easily!)
    I am very pro nuclear power.
    I do want to switch my daily work driver to an EV, but having to go 35+ miles a day makes that more of a challange, but one I am serious about meeting.

    What rubs me is that I am a conservative right winger according to most, but I fully believe that in my day to day life my actions speak a heck of a lot louder then the Love your mother (Earth) bumper stickers on the big SUV’s of my “liberal” friends. Just bugs me to no end!

    Sorry, thats one issue that just makes me crazy in the normal left/right stereotypes.

    Comment by Chris MCV — 31 Jul 2008 @ 1:42 PM

  121. Just a quick comment on #116
    “free, endless solar and wind energy”
    I have a small farm and have equipment that has to run. I don’t live in a place that works well with wind, although solar is an option. Have you priced going solar for someone like me? OUCH!
    I am a big believer in distributed power generation using solar thermal, wind, geothermal combined with a grid using nuclear as a backbone. Wind and solar at this point are not mature enough in my opinion to take up the load, even if you could factor out “corporate resistance”.

    Comment by Chris MCV — 31 Jul 2008 @ 1:47 PM

  122. re: 106. ” There are some here who are more satisfied spitting out venom and getting their off-topic licks in (tobacco, right-wing talk show hosts, Bush-II, corporations, big oil, etc.) than converting a skeptic or two.”

    Wow, that is really a classic “pot, kettle, black”. So I guess “spitting” unsubstantiated “venom” about EPA is okay because you like to and you’ve done it? Goodness what hypocrisy.

    Comment by Dan — 31 Jul 2008 @ 1:48 PM

  123. A second attempt to reply to 114: Dhogaza, That is a cute anecdote, but essentially non responsive. If you believe that something needs to be done, what are you doing yourself? The example of the Dr’s advice is of personal choice affecting a single individual. AGW’s effects purpotedly will reach us all, most especially and heart tuggingly, our grandchildren. If the effects are that dire and urgency to solve the problem so immediate, surely someone with the courage of their convictions would attempt to live the lifestyle of the SecularAnimist, correct?

    [Response: No. If someone posited that the only solution was everyone to become vegan, then you might be correct. However, everyone becoming vegan is not actually an effective, nor practical solution (though it would help somewhat). If people (correctly IMO) suggest that individual action was not going to be sufficient and that changes to how carbon-related externalities were priced into the cost of fossil fuel, thus allowing the ‘market forces’ to align themselves more closely to a low emission future, then you might criticise them for not buying renewable energy from their utility. But blanket suggestions that unless you live in a cave, CO2 is not a greenhouse gas are just silly. The whole point (presumably) is to avoid that kind of outcome. – gavin]

    Comment by Robert — 31 Jul 2008 @ 1:53 PM

  124. Hank,

    I do understand and, moreover have enjoyed your many pithy comments over the years! Whenever a hot air balloon needs bursting, I know where to find the person with the sharpest pin.

    I wish you had taken my gentle jibe about citations in the same spirit. Please tell me you understand.



    Comment by Walter Pearce — 31 Jul 2008 @ 1:55 PM

  125. RE #47, and “I can not tell who is right and who is wrong, and niether side has really convinced me.”

    I, like you, am not a scientist, and don’t understand climate science very well.

    But aside from nearly all bonafide, working climate scientists (including even those paid by Exxon), saying that anthropogenic global warming is real, there are other ways to come to a conclusion for oneself. And I do rely pretty heavily on the experts’ knowledge, but not completely (they could be wrong in either direction — AGW is less harmful, or more harmful that they are claiming).

    So, I think like this: What are the dangers of believing their claims that AGW is real and dangerous, when in fact it is not, THE FALSE POSITIVE (which scientists are afraid of, so they don’t make claims unless there is less than a 5% chance they are wrong).

    I can tell you from experience that reducing my greenhouse gases by two-thirds has saved us money, without lowering our living standard. And Rocky Mountain Institute and a book by its head, NATURAL CAPITALISM (see: and ) say that America could reduce its GHG emissions by at least 75% without lowering productivity…from off-the-shelf technology (imagine what might be done if people and inventors actually put their minds to it?)

    Also, think of all the other problems that would be solved by mitigating a non-existing global warming — local pollution, acid rain, conflicts for oil, depleting non-renewable resources, grouchiness from paying high gasoline prices & higher taxes (or deficits, so our kids can pay it off) for military costs to secure supplies …. the list goes on.

    The FALSE POSITIVE would be a terrific economic bonanza, plus solve many other problem, and we wouldn’t have the problems of global warming! Only the climate scientists would be chagrinned.

    On the other hand, THE FALSE NEGATIVE (fiddling while the world burns) would be a REALLY bad thing. Not only would we lose all the great money & economic benefit from all that energy/resource efficiency/conservation, and have to contend with all the other environmental and military problems, but global warming could kill off a huge chunk of humanity and other living things for 100,000 years even (see: ). And then, according to some people’s belief, one could end up in a much hotter place than a globally warmed world for a lot longer than 100,000 years.

    I hope that helps.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 31 Jul 2008 @ 2:01 PM

  126. Re #118 SecularAnimist,

    Another paper covered the same subject and included this quote:

    (Globe & Mail)Dr. Mueller, whom Dr. Vincent calls the pre-eminent expert on Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, says he’s concerned that the ice shelves will disappear completely.

    “The take-home message for me is that these ice shelves are not regenerating,” he said. “If we’re looking at an indicator of whether climate is to blame, it’s really the lack of regeneration that convinces me. They’re breaking away so rapidly that there’s no hope of regeneration,” he said, adding that is “pretty strong evidence that suggests this is related to global warming.”

    Seems Mueller was careful to blame AGW. Really makes you wonder what the AP reporter’s biases are.

    Comment by streamtracker — 31 Jul 2008 @ 2:07 PM

  127. Lynn,
    I think you will see from my post above that I do share your view this way. My personal political beliefs make be believe that when it comes down to it we should all work to the same end, even if for different reasons.
    Our dependence on outside sources of fossil fuels is a national security risk and potential world climate risk. Who is better set up to deal with the massive infrastructure changes (and to profit from them) then the big energy companies. Once we get it going and profitable we can in turn sell the ability to get off fossil fuels (or at least drastically reduce their need) to the rest of the world. This will also reduce the funding sources of many questionable groups that are funded indirectly by the sale of oil to us by sympathetic governments. It would require cultural and infrastructure change, but the benefits would far outweigh the negatives in the long run. A huge problem is the “I want it NOW” mindset of our culture, both at the corporate (must make a profit this quarter!), governmental (“I am out to save the world”, or “I will protect you from those that want to undermine our way of life”), and individual (“I want my cell phone, ipod, new car every 2 years and 2500 square foot home for me and my wife with cultivated lawn”). Even it one totally denies global warming, the same course of action should hold true. I think that is one of the most frustrating things of all.

    Comment by Chris MCV — 31 Jul 2008 @ 2:20 PM

  128. JohnK #102: this is so true… this story goes up on the outside of my office door!

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 31 Jul 2008 @ 2:25 PM

  129. Gavin,

    I appreciate your response, but do not agree.

    The desire, presumably, of the AGW crowd is to create a dynamic change in how we consume the world’s resources in order to prevent an imminent disaster. Would Gandhi’s leadership as a non-violent revolutionary have been as effective if he took up arms?

    [Response: This is irrelevant. Gandhi was quite successful as a non-violent revolutionary, but then Lenin was quite successful as a violent one. I admire the former far more than the latter. But neither were hypocrites. – gavin]

    It is obvious, even to a simple minded fellow such as myself, that “individual” action won’t be sufficient to create the systemic changes necessary to achieve your goals, but to hedge your argument against personally responsible behaviour on “one person won’t make a difference” is rather feeble, don’t you think? With that line of reasoning, I presume you don’t vote either?

    [Response: I never said that individual action won’t make a difference, I said it was not sufficient. I generally find myself in agreement with Edmund Burke “No man ever made a greater mistake by doing nothing when he could not do anything”. I am cautiously optimistic that enough will eventually be done to reduce emissions (but it depends on the day), and that many different actions will be part of that solution – but they have to be practical – everyone becoming vegan is a non-starter (sorry SA). – gavin]

    It seems to me that my question is fair. Furthermore, it also seems to me that (like SecularAnimist) those who have the courage of their convictions would want to set a positive example of how it can be done.

    Leadership, IMO, is more than giving speeches and presenting the facts to others.

    [Response: Of course. But a) I make no claim to be a leader, and b) I already buy only renewables from the utility, have swapped almost all our bulbs for CFL in any case, do not own a car, live in high density housing etc. But if I am not also a vegan who lives in cave, my actions are, by your logic, insufficient and my scientific expertise ignorable. Your ideal leader in this case will never be found, and you can rest happy that you never need to pay the science any mind because we all have feet of clay. Good luck getting that past the ethicist. – gavin]

    Comment by Robert — 31 Jul 2008 @ 2:27 PM

  130. Robert, No.112 asked

    “What are you personally doing in your life to solve the problem? To clarify, I’m not asking about your political actions or activism, I’m talking about your personal choices.”

    I write as many emails on as many forums as I can manage. Some 20 years ago, I got the first forest on the planet certified by Forestry Stewardship Council/WWF/Soil Association. Give any money I can spare to conservationist groups.

    “How many here are organic vegans?”

    Not vegan, but eat organic whenever possible.

    “Walk or bicycle for all transportation?”

    Haven’t owned a car for 10 years. Haven’t been in a car for about 5.

    “Homes are completely solar and wind powered (or other renewables)?”

    Heating is from log stove. The trees grow faster than I can burn them. I use a chainsaw. Major portion of carbon footprint is from mains electricity. I cannot afford the cost of solar or wind.

    “Fair question, no?”


    Comment by CL — 31 Jul 2008 @ 2:32 PM

  131. RE: #112 (Robert)

    I agree with the others here that this doesn’t affect reality one bit, but if the question a request to “show you’re serious” about beliefs, I’ll bite.

    There are two reasons I’ve had to change my lifestyle in my adult life: 1) my health and 2) the environment, especially as it affects climate change. The health issues were serious and required many things that were hard for me (no salt, diet, low fat, daily medication). But the “dirt nap” alternative was worse. Objectively, I’ve made even more changes to my lifestyle to mediate my impact on the planet (recycle, compost, reuse, more vegetable protein, 55 mpg hybrid car, walking, bicycle). These things weren’t easy, but I felt compelled by what I know and my concern for the future.

    At work I manage a group of chemists who all believe in “AGW” and all have made lifestyle changes because of it. A coworker is going into politics after retirement next year because she feels so strongly about the issue. My company has also responded to employee input (many are scientists) and recently gone to “zero waste.” Just look around you, our world is filled with people who take this seriously and are putting deeds to words.

    P.S. My doctor has many of the same medical problems I do and has been less successful in addressing them than I have. I try and encourage him every time I see him, but some changes are hard to make. That doesn’t mean he’s a hypocrite.

    Comment by Paul Melanson — 31 Jul 2008 @ 2:33 PM

  132. gavin wrote: “However, everyone becoming vegan is not actually an effective, nor practical solution (though it would help somewhat).”

    I suppose that “everyone” will never do anything.

    A recent study (which I can’t locate at the moment but have cited here before) found that switching from the “standard American diet” to a vegan diet reduced one’s “carbon footprint” as much as switching from an SUV to a compact car, so I would say that becoming vegan is an “effective” way for individuals to reduce their contribution to global warming, particularly given that according to the UN, animal agriculture generates more greenhouse gas emissions worldwide than does the transport sector. And I have no idea why you think it is not “practical”. Millions of people over thousands of years in many different cultures have lived on near-vegan, plant-based diets, and a vegan diet is entirely practical for Americans with access to supermarkets.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 31 Jul 2008 @ 2:35 PM

  133. Walter, sorry, ASCII loses the tone of voice and gleam in the eye, and I worry about later readers getting the facts right so I do belabor the horsemeat. Tenderizes it though (wry grin). I’ll try to “hear” you better next time around! Keep poking, I do need that often.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 31 Jul 2008 @ 2:39 PM

  134. Re 112 & 123:
    Let’s suppose that I comply. If I announce that I live naked in a hole and susbsist on dirt and twigs, would you be satisfied? Or would you simply move the goalposts and take issue with the fact that I exhale CO2?

    Comment by spilgard — 31 Jul 2008 @ 2:39 PM

  135. SecularAnimist says in response to my 106 post, “Geico might disagree.”
    Hadn’t thought of that. Good point!

    All of those diversions you describe in 109 might still be “on topic”. But they are nothing short of character assassination by association and seldom helps the cause.

    Comment by Rod B — 31 Jul 2008 @ 2:51 PM

  136. Robert (#123): I drive about 3000 miles a year (most of it with multiple people in the vehicle) (and am selling my car and shifting to zipcar in the future). I limit meat eating to one or two times a week. I almost always go through revolving doors rather than swinging doors, given the option. I keep the heat at 65 in winter, 85 in summer. I try to limit conspicuous consumption in general. However: there is a limit to individual action. Indeed, given the nature of the marketplace, reducing a gallon of personal gasoline consumption leads to less than a gallon of gasoline reduced globally, as the drop in demand leads to a decrease in price and therefore an increase in demand by others. Also, a drop in congestion similarly increases the utility of driving for others. Even worse, CAFE is designed so that when I buy my efficient car for my limited driving uses, it means someone else can buy an inefficient car and probably drive it much more.

    There are some things where there are positive feedbacks: buying renewable power, for example, encourages more companies to get into the renewable business. Donating money to green organizations and political candidates is of course a good thing. Buying organic encourages more organic companies.

    But the idea that you can’t argue for appropriate legislation to reduce carbon emissions if you aren’t reducing your own emissions is just silly.

    Comment by Marcus — 31 Jul 2008 @ 2:52 PM

  137. Re 134 (spilgard)

    Humorous post, thanks for the giggle.

    More seriously, though, it is interesting how my question is seemingly separating the wheat from the chaff.

    Some of you seem interesting in making a difference, while others seem content to make excuses.

    Comment by Robert — 31 Jul 2008 @ 3:01 PM

  138. spilgard
    > … exhale CO2?

    Only assuming it’s fossil carbon you’re putting into the atmosphere for the first time. You knew that.
    What mythological beings eat coal? I forget.

    It’s actually a serious question you ask then distract from. I recall a recent study looking at the amount of CO2 commitment for individuals that is possible nation by nation, taking into account each individual’s share of the energy used for libraries, infrastructure and so on. They said a monk or hermit in the USA is still using more fossil fuel for the per capita share of libraries and sidewalks and public health than the average citizen in the poorest countries that spend no money or energy on such.

    Anyone recall that? Too busy to hunt for it right now.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 31 Jul 2008 @ 3:05 PM

  139. Re #112 Robert

    No. It’s not a fair question. In fact the question is designed to elicit an answer that has nothing to do with AGW science, but rather to accuse people that understand that this global warming event is human caused of not doing as much as they should to prevent something that is largely caused by the ignorance of governments, corporations and even individuals.

    Since we know the isotopic signature of atmospheric Co2 and we know how much methane, nitrous oxide and high GWP’s we’ve added to the atmosphere and we know reasonably well the among of climate forcing that imposes, then the question should be two fold, why don’t people understand the facts of what we do know, and what are individuals, corporations and governments going to do about it.

    Placing the burden on those that are ‘convinced’ its human caused is actually kind of pathetic, especially since they are probably already considering what they can do to reduce their individual impact.

    Maybe the better question would be: Are you, and/or others that are saying it’s not human caused, even though the evidence is incontrovertible about the basic science (and the details are still being examined), willing to pay extra for your lack of understanding to have to make up for the difference economically because you chose to believe false arguments rather than scientific facts and relevant understanding in context of pragmatic reality, which in turn delayed needed political action pertaining to policy development?

    That might be a more fair question based on the context you are attempting.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 31 Jul 2008 @ 3:07 PM

  140. Chris MCV wrote: “I cannot stand PV as its a messy toxic disaster … I am very pro nuclear power.”

    That makes no sense at all and I fear that you are misinformed. The manufacture of photovoltaics is most certainly not “a messy toxic disaster”, and of course in operation they emit no substances of any kind into the environment, toxic or otherwise. According to the US Department of Energy:

    Because manufacturers use a wide variety of processes to make PV cells, a wide range of chemicals—some of them toxic or hazardous—are employed in PV cell production. In terms of worker safety and health, simple protective and administrative measures can be used effectively to protect those who produce PV systems. In terms of the environment, the PV production process produces small amounts of waste materials, but this is minimal relative to the emissions from conventional energy sources.

    In contrast, the mining and refining of uranium produces mountains of toxic waste and the operation of nuclear power plants also produces mountains of toxic and highly radioactive waste.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 31 Jul 2008 @ 3:07 PM

  141. #121 Chris MCV: looks to me you did everything you could do in your personal situation. From there on up, it’s politics. That includes solar/wind/etc. Distributed is nice for some uses, but… I don’t see you load a personal nuclear reactor on your pickup from the local hardware store either :-)

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 31 Jul 2008 @ 3:07 PM

  142. Hank Roberts asked: “What mythological beings eat coal? I forget.”


    Comment by SecularAnimist — 31 Jul 2008 @ 3:09 PM

  143. Ike (110), I know it’s a minor point, but your examples, Dubai solar and Pickens wind farm, are being done for pure economics, not to alleviate GW.

    Comment by Rod B — 31 Jul 2008 @ 3:13 PM

  144. SecularAnimist
    To consider solar without considering energy storage methods (most typically batteries) into the mess tells me you are misinformed. The bugbear in the works for most renewables is the storage of energy. The most prevelant answer has been chemical energy storage, which does indeed result in massive amounts of toxic wastes. Now if some of the other methods were used I would possibly agree with you, but if you go look at 20 websites that sell PV products how many of them have an option aside from batteries for a non grid tie system?

    As for the operation of Nuclear plants creating mountains of highly radioactive waste…. do a bit more research. This is an area where I do have a bit of experience. Most of the “issues” around nuclear power are based on politics and fear, not the reality of harnessing fission to boil water.

    Comment by Chris MCV — 31 Jul 2008 @ 3:47 PM

  145. Martin,
    As far as a nuke in my truck. I would if I could. I am no ninmby, put that sucker right next door to my house!

    Comment by Chris MCV — 31 Jul 2008 @ 3:49 PM


    “… Vulcan can be used to pinpoint CO2 emissions down to the levels previously unseen, Gurney says the tool should not be used to affix blame.

    “Ten years ago there might have been resistance to the notion of examining who is responsible for the CO2 emissions in such a visually detailed way,” Gurney says. “However, what Vulcan makes utterly clear is that CO2 emissions cannot be exclusively affixed to SUV drivers, manufacturers or large power producers; everybody is responsible. We need to look for real solutions, and have a deeper discussion about energy use. It’s not about politics. It’s about doing good science and solving the problem, and we can all be a part of that.”

    Note to Journalists: Broadcast-quality and high-definition animations of the Vulcan maps are available, as are jpeg images of carbon dioxide emissions for the continental United States. Contact Steve Tally at

    Researchers now have a better view of where carbon dioxide is being emitted thanks to Vulcan, a research project led by Kevin Gurney, an assistant professor at Purdue. This map shows where CO2 is being emitted in the continental United States in 10-kilometer grids and combines data from sources including factories, automobiles on highways and power plants. The map offers more than 100 times the detail of previous inventories of carbon dioxide. The image displays metric tons of carbon per year per grid in a logarithmic base-10 scale. (Purdue University image/Kevin Gurney)

    A publication-quality image is available at

    New analysis by Purdue researchers of greenhouse gases shows that the emissions are greater in the southeastern United States than was previously thought. In this image, the amount of red represents the increased amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from previous estimates, and the blue represents a reduction in atmospheric CO2. Purdue assistant professor Kevin Gurney says the difference appears greatest in winter months when there are more emissions and less vertical air movement. (Purdue University image/Kevin Gurney)

    A publication-quality image is available at

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 31 Jul 2008 @ 3:50 PM

  147. spilgard wrote

    “Let’s suppose that I comply. If I announce that I live naked in a hole and susbsist on dirt and twigs, would you be satisfied? Or would you simply move the goalposts and take issue with the fact that I exhale CO2?”

    Well, pressing any point to absurdity leads into nonsense…but can also be illuminating. As biological creatures we are not suitably constructed for a diet of dirt and twigs. But people on this board often seem to assume that we have choices and options. Seems to me, it’s not a question of satisfying someone’s austere agenda of living naked in caves. If the biosphere collapses, any remaining humans are going to have to struggle to eke out any sort of existence in a fairly desperate circumstances. If we’re talking pure theory, the best answer would be for most or all humans to disappear. I’m sure almost every other living organism on the planet would applaud. I live as frugally and harmlessly as I can, as a matter of moral principle and self-respect, but even if millions were inspired to follow my example, it’s not going to make much difference. There are additional millions being born (an extra city every week, is it ?) and the majority aspire to a lavish reckless lifestyle of conspicuous consumption and they will more than compensate for the fringe who strive for voluntary simplicity and are completely satisfied with little.

    How much of our (mis)behaviour is innate and how much culturally conditioned is a muddy area, but seems almost everyone aspires to higher status, more leisure, greater wealth, more technological toys…the technosphere disrupts, destroys, devours, displaces the biosphere. The beautiful planet we inherited gets wrecked, even if we do somehow manage to avoid the worst results of AGW. I have never been able to understand how anyone can think that’s ‘alright’ in any sense, however seems I’m a crank on the fringe, well away from the mainstream majority view…

    Comment by CL — 31 Jul 2008 @ 4:06 PM

  148. To Shelama & Chris MCV:

    It is also worth looking at the quality of the “debater’s points” and the style of each. This has helped me to decide that the denialists are very unlikely to be correct, because their arguments are not consistent with themselves over time, and persistently fail to address the whole picture. Some recent examples:

    1) “The solar system is warming, not just Earth, so it must be the Sun at work, not CO2.” A quick check of denialist sources, such as World Climate Report, discloses that their source on Jupiter’s warming was a 2006 prediction based on circulation modelling of the Jovian atmosphere. So the alleged warming for Jupiter is predicted, not measured; is not solar sourced, but the result of changes to the Jovian atmosphere; and (since the prediction looks good so far) a probable example of a successful prediction made by circulation modelling–the very modelling that denialists often claim can’t be trusted in the matter of AGW! (Then, of course, there is the fact that actual measurement of TSI doesn’t show a warming trend–in fact, some data shows a slight cooling. One denialist site I saw solved this by using a fake TSI graph.)

    2) Last month the denialist ‘flavor of the moment’ was insistence that a cooling trend was occurring, based on data from too-short periods of time. One argument I saw presented June 2008 satellite data, comparing it with two or three *days* data from June 1988 (I think that was the year.) I hope the stupidity of this is obvious; if not, let me suggest that it is roughly equivalent to taking a hour or so of NYSE stock data, comparing it to three random points from last month, and then investing your retirement savings on the comparison. Not a good idea! Either incompetent, or dishonest argumentation.

    3) Denialists persistently fail to address crucial points. The biggest one, I think, is the stratospheric *cooling* that we have observed. This is ONLY compatible with the AGW scenario; it really is a “smoking gun.” Solar warming obviously can’t cool the outer atmosphere, though this is what slower outward radiation from earth would result in. Yet this fact is never mentioned by the denialists, even when they are pushing the validity of the measurements made by those same satellites at lower altitudes.

    These sorts of failures in logic betray the fact that for many of these folks, the real objective is not scientific but rather political–or perhaps, “public relations.” These sorts of arguments are just not internally coherent, and can’t win the scientific debate. But they can sow confusion and create delay, which I conclude must be the objective.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 31 Jul 2008 @ 4:38 PM

  149. Re 142: I believe the early Lignites and Anthracites served coal on festive occasions.

    I guess I should atone for the flippancy by providing my own statistics.

    With a small plot of agricultural land, my wife and I raise about 75% of our own produce and about half of our meat via bio-devices called “chickens” which convert weeds, bugs, rodents and garbage into eggs, fryers and fertilizer. Firewood from tree maintenance provides about half of the winter heating. Work commute is an issue, but with a bit of planning the gas tank gets refilled only once per month.

    Granted, the above are motivated more by efficiency gains than by environmental concerns. At work I’m a geophysicist with the USGS geohazards team, so my energy is directed towards helping people evade the earth’s day-to-day wrath. As a result, I’m often not on speaking terms with the planet. My wife probably contributes the most towards the future as she’s an R-D chemist for a company which is phasing from development of mercury-capture technology for coal-fired power plants to CO2-capture technology.

    Comment by spilgard — 31 Jul 2008 @ 4:54 PM


    Comment by Hank Roberts — 31 Jul 2008 @ 4:58 PM

  151. Re Re #129, Gavin

    I believe that meat take up many times more water and feed than growing plants alone does and hence a lot of people see being a vegan as a good way of cutting down on land, water and food use whilst reducing methane emissions (not sure if cows do in fact emit that much methane in the grand scheme of methane release)? Trouble is that it aint going to happen. However meat needs transporting to and it goes a long way an needs refrigeration to so meat is quite energy intensive to.

    At the present time your optimism is good to know but hardly as yet on a firm scientific footing. I see no evidence of fossil fuel usage presently falling, indeed quite the opposite at the present time. Everyone seems to be pinning there hopes on CCS technology for coal which is a long way off commercially and in sufficent quantities to be effective in bringing down global carbon emissions but you know that already. Oil and gas are on the increase and our present infrastructure in terms of housing (leaky and energy hungry at the moment) and energy use in terms of getting to work, shopping requirements, flying and holidays etc (living in the suburbs)is woeful at the present time.

    It all seems a tad hopeless at the moment but I am sure that we have enough time before we hit the fateful 450 ppmv?

    Comment by pete best — 31 Jul 2008 @ 5:20 PM

  152. RE: 133

    Hank, it was my bad. I’ve lurked for so long and forgot I was an unknown quantity. It was presumptuous to do any tweaking. Now that I’m on the record, however…

    RE: 151

    I believe Hansen is now saying that 350ppmv is the magic number, at a minimum, and that given the right kind of reductions in fossil fuel use we can get there with reforestation and better agricultural practices. Is there a consensus that 350 is the number?

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 31 Jul 2008 @ 6:27 PM

  153. A look back via an other blog at one of David Brin’s relevant pieces, as quoted here:

    Some of you have read my extensive essay – written for the American Bar Association – about the underlying common traits of markets, science, courts and democracy — the “accountability arenas” that have empowered free individuals to compete and create without tumbling quickly into repression and outrage…. for the first time, ever. Alas, over the years since, I have found that people have trouble perceiving some of what the paper describes… or why today’s internet just does not yet have what it takes to empower us with a “fifth arena.”

    Here is one of the key difficult concepts. I describe how markets, science, courts and democracy each have “centripetal vs centrifugal” social phases.

    I see these opposite trends having much the same effect for accountability arenas that INHALING and EXHALING have in living mammals. You need both for the system to thrive.

    In science, markets, courts and democracy, the CENTRIFUGAL PHASE is when each individual participant may disperse, find allies/collaborators, and safely organize with others under some degree of protection, in a zone where product can be refined and readied for competitive testing.

    In science, this zone is your tenured professorship or lab etc: in markets the safe zone is the company/corporation: in courts it is attorney-client privilege and the power of coerced deposition; and democracy has parties.

    That’s the centrifugal phase and it took civilization thousands of years to realize how necessary it is, in order for these four arenas to function.

    Note that this is the phase that exists now, copiously, in the nascent “fifth arena” of the internet!

    What the cybersphere does NOT have is anything even remotely resembling the CENTRIPETAL phase that also empowers the four older, more mature “arenas.”

    What is the centripetal phase? This is where in all of the disparate and dispersed participants in an arena are summoned together by a ritual CALL TO COMBAT. What ensues is a battle – competition – that has transformed ancient human bloody-mindedness into something much more like a game. One in which rules have been laid down to ensure that the outcome of competition correlates at least somewhat with quality of product, and much less with power or influence or other means of cheating.

    In science the centripetal competition phase compels researchers to publish papers and present them for criticism. In markets the ritual battleground is retail sales – where customers compare goods and services. In democracy the role is filled by elections, and courts have trials.

    Presently, on the internet, THERE IS NO EQUIVALENT CENTRIPETAL PHASE that allows us to test ideas, opinions, arguments against each other, using competitive processes to cull wheat from the chaff.

    Pearls are said to float upward in shit. But so MUCH of the ranting online today is BS, how can anyone hope for good ideas to actually coalesce and for bad ones to finally die, as they eventually deserve?
    —-end excerpt—–

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 31 Jul 2008 @ 6:34 PM

  154. Re: #112

    Robert, I only use one compact fluorescent bulb in the room that I occupy — the rest of my house is dark at night.

    I use a small, energy-efficient refrigerator that I have to manually defrost.

    I have no water heater, dishwasher, clothes washer, or dryer.

    I almost never watch TV.

    I live in the tropics and do not have an air conditioner.

    If I could afford solar panels around here, I would certainly buy them, but they are way out of reach.

    I put about 3500 miles per year on the car, but after learning that burning 1 litre of petrol emits more than 3 litres of CO2, I am trying to reduce that.

    I don’t buy useless, unnecessary stuff.

    And, I spend several hours per day playing whack a mole with the industry-paid deniers on Dot Earth, which is not something that I actually enjoy doing — I just see the need for it.

    I could do more, of course.

    Comment by Tenney Naumer — 31 Jul 2008 @ 7:21 PM

  155. I wanted to point out something that a lot of the people who think we can go on using fossil fuels.

    I did a little calculation. I assumed we increase usage 1% per year of oil.

    I also assumed the whole planet was covered with oil to a depth of 1 km.

    The answer I got was that by the year 2113 or so there would be no more. None. (I also assumed a 100% conversion rate).

    So we will be using something else, like it or not, in the next couple of decades — maybe a little more if we are lucky. Of course, if we slowed the increase we might go longer.

    Anyhow, the thing that all the “skeptics” have to remember is that while nuclear has its merits, there’s a simpler way to harness it than building new plants. We have dozens of the things generating megawatts floating out at sea. Can’t see why we can’t bring one or two back and “plug it in” as it were.

    Point is, there’s a lot of ways to reduce CO2 emissions, but it will require some changes in lifestyle. Many are with proven technologies we already have — we just need to spend a relatively small amount of money in the scheme of things. Give me $10 billion — the cost of rehabbing the old 20th century limited line to Chicago — and I can cut the air and car traffic by enough that we save at least that much by not sending it to oil producers.

    Comment by Jess — 31 Jul 2008 @ 7:54 PM

  156. Walter Pearce (152) — 350 ppm CO2e is a maximum, not a minimum.

    My own amateur analysis, for what its worth, is that 350 ppm is only an interim goal. Long term will have to be around 290 ppm.

    But wahtever, we need to be about it.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 31 Jul 2008 @ 8:39 PM

  157. Re:112, Robert’s question about personal behavior is fair enough, at least as far as I’m concerned. What others choose to do as individuals is their own decision. I feel I ought to put my money where my mouth is. The outcome, however, is that using compact fluorescents and mass transit actually costs less. My energy and transportation costs are down.

    I live in a large building complex and suggested a few years back that they do a feasibility study on installing solar panels( in the NY City area). A year or so ago they responded that it would take an 11 year payback period to reach the break even point, and shelved it. My reaction was ‘so what?’ If we had started years ago, we’d have some measure of independence from the local power company a few years,
    from now.

    There’s a certain oil company ( they have a hyphenated name), whose retail gas stations,I wouldn’t go near. If I ran out of gas in front of one of their stations, I’d push the car until I found another retailer. Just today they announced another obscene amount for quarterly profits. Fine!Why the hell should I contribute to it.

    It’s going to take a lot more than each of us thinking globally and acting individually though.This problem requires not just national but international cooperation.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 31 Jul 2008 @ 8:45 PM

  158. Yesterday I asked a question which appears to have neen moderated so I will ask it again in simple terms. The little Ice age and Medieval Warm Period are well documented events and there is a rough periodicity to them with a fairly rapid period of cooling/warming of about 100 years followed by a longer period of “stability” before another 100 years or so of the reversal of the process. Presumably whatever caused these events did not switch off when fossil fuels started to be used. Therefore, how do your models account for this process, and if they do not then are they inherently inaccurate?

    Comment by greg smith — 31 Jul 2008 @ 8:55 PM

  159. Greg, can you ask a more specific question about one of the models?
    Try reading a few of these to start with:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 31 Jul 2008 @ 9:38 PM

  160. but if you go look at 20 websites that sell PV products how many of them have an option aside from batteries for a non grid tie system?

    Well that’s the problem innit? That’s where the grid comes in. So you can locate the buggers where the sun shines — and large scale storage: pumped hydro, compressed air, for solar thermal even heat storage.

    You cannot solve this problem, society can.

    BTW I did see a small-scale pumped-hydro storage solution for farms… dunno if it’s operational.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 31 Jul 2008 @ 9:42 PM

  161. Ray Ladbury says:
    Between 2 K/doubling and 4.5 K/doubling there just isn’t that much wiggle room, and nobody has figured out how to make a climate model work with sensitivity less than 2 K/doubling. So we know with high confidence that we are the main driver of the current warming epoch.

    Is this the primary evidence for 2-4.5 K/doubling sensitivity – that no one can figure out how to make a climate model work with more or less?

    Or is the primary evidence something else?

    [Response: No. The best evidence is from paleo-climate changes. – gavin]

    Comment by Richard Patton — 1 Aug 2008 @ 12:09 AM

  162. RE: Certainty. Just wanted to make clear that although many commenters here make the mistake of suggesting that likelihoods are certainties, I’ve seen no posts or scientist comments here at RC that do that. I find the IPCC’s language extremely appealing – they often use probability statements when talking about science.

    Ray several good points above though as I’ve commented before I’m partial to risk bounding decisions based on the growing body of economic models that suggest moderate rather than drastic mitigation.

    Soon the AGW debate will move away from the “stupid” form it takes now which has the media pitting stubborn AGW skeptics against an angry mob of overly alarmed activists and into the form it needs to take to make progress – better predictive modelling of climate and mitigation impacts and how spending will affect these factors.

    Comment by Joe Hunkins — 1 Aug 2008 @ 1:22 AM

  163. Perhaps the issue is not the message but the messenger(s); While some (like you Gavin) are consistently polite with your arguments the religious zeal of many “environmentalists” who have jumped on the climate change bandwagon is a real turn-off for many people and perhaps refelcts why a large portion of the public (as evidenced by a recent UK survey) are skeptical about the causes and required actions around climate change.

    For a good summary of this reaction see AA Gill’s Sunday Times review of BBC climate change drama “Burn Up”

    This is especially pertinent to people such as Ray Ladbury who in Comment 4 above states “The final issue I see is that most people don’t realize how mind-numbingly ignorant they are.” Perhaps a little less arrogance and a little more humility from the knowledgeable pastors?

    As AA Gill says in the article
    “There is a global resistance, not to the facts, but to environmentalists. It appears most of us would rather fry, drown or starve than be told what to do by a bearded git in sandals, and that’s a rather comforting and cussedly human truth. “

    Comment by Patrick — 1 Aug 2008 @ 4:41 AM

  164. Chris MCV writes:

    To consider solar without considering energy storage methods (most typically batteries) into the mess tells me you are misinformed. The bugbear in the works for most renewables is the storage of energy.

    Solar thermal electric plants store excess heat in molten salts, allowing them to operate at night or in bad weather. Some STE plants achieve almost 24/7 operation that way.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 1 Aug 2008 @ 5:59 AM

  165. Re Robert’s question as to what any of us is personally doing is based on two premises, only one of which is mentioned:
    1) That we accept that the phenomenon is real, man-made and serious; and
    2) that any of us owe mankind a contribution towards doing something about it.

    If I were a climatologist doing active research, I would look at how mankind has appreciated my earlier attempts at contributing, and based on that, form a judgment whether mankind is actually worth the attempt. No use helping those who don’t want to be helped. Why should scientists be more humanitarian than the rest of us? The BS up with which they have had to put was way above the call of duty. Climatology is great physics and its own reward. And there’s nothing quite like the “I told you so” experience ;-)

    If my name were James Hansen, Michael Mann or Lonnie Thompson, I expect it would be a long, hard think.

    (As for me, I am getting my driver’s licence at this rather late age. Looking forward to driving around, going places, enjoying the mobility and the hydrocarbons while they last… the “crunch” will undoubtedly come when I am dead and buried, not my problem. I can see myself sitting on my cloud looking down at things going to hell in a handbasket, mumbling “I told you so” :-) . Remember me if you’re around and I’m not.)

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 1 Aug 2008 @ 6:18 AM

  166. “This spectacle of duelling and apparently contradictory science fuels the notion that scientists can’t agree on anything. Ironically, just as climate change has made it on to the front page because the weight of evidence supporting a human role in recent warming, increased coverage may actually be leading people to think that scientists are more divided on the basic questions.

    “Is this inevitable? Or can scientists, press officers and journal editors and journalists actually do anything about it?”

    My answer? Perhaps scientists can counterbalance the whiplash somewhat – if they act specifically through a watchdog group like a unit of the Royal Society or of the AGU that has some institutional credibility – but an ad hoc grouping of scientists such as those here is vulnerable to criticism and easily drowned out. Press officers, journal editors and journalists can try, but their personal and institutional incentives actually encourage them to contribute to the effect. These people are in the business of attracting as much attention as possible. This means that, on topics which hold a fair degree of popular interest, there are great incentives for making “news” (and thus potential whiplash) out of the latest study, happening or intriguing statistic.

    Perhaps it will help to analyze what it is that people tend to consider “the problem”. In my view, it is not so much the difficulties that we each face in adding new information to our cognitive maps of reality, as it is the incentives for interested parties to manipulate our predilections in ways that advance their private interests. In particular, given the nature of our political system and the dominant role that groups with financial interests play in shaping policy, the chief “problem” is that shifting climate “news” is fodder for the mill of those who profit from our current “do nothing” status quo, while costs and risks are shifted broadly through society. These interests, following the playbook that Luntz once kindly spelled out for the Bush administration and Republicans, like the “whiplash” as it helps them to further play the American layman (via various mechanisms including ads, blogs, and “independent” spokesmen in apparently unaffiliated thinktanks) into supporting stasis.

    This is a “problem” that various scientists, press officers, reporters and media outlets may struggle with, but it’s one that none of them individually is in a position to address (and some have incentives to exacerbate).

    I think it would be really helpful if, to counterbalance the misinformation and “uncertainty” being spread by the fossil fuel firms (and their investors, supply/demand chains and politicians), we could get a few OTHER ELITES, acting through firms and other organizations that clearly face the costs and risks that are being shifted (or who see the opportunities to be gained in moving to energy systems that pose fewer environmental risks), to step up to the plate of publicly arguing over science and policy. By this, I am not inviting a new batch of rent-seekers simply to come to the public trough, but note that it is high time that executives at our insurers and power producers (and others who are well-aware of climate risks and well-positioned to evaluate them) who care about the future to start acting like it – and stop allowing those who benefit the most from the status quo dictate the level of risks and costs that we all have to bear.

    Insurers, for example, are publishing literature about the risks posed by climate change; why can’t they or others publicly step forward and denounce alot of the nonsense? Where is the Gates Foundation? Google? Branson? Why does PEW never take any of the nonsense head-on?

    We need some people who obviously have money and reputation at risk to step forward – and hopefully people who are not asking for a handout (like Pickens is). Otherwise, we will continue to remain locked in the dynamic of “radical enviros, scientists in the employ of government and fat politicians with big carbon footprints who want to take over the world” vs. “responsible defenders of capitalism who want to make sure that our economies are not gutted, the poor are not trampled and science is not used to create bigger governments, unless we’re REALLY sure we need to act”.

    This is not the fault of scientists (regardless of what Roger Peilke Jr may say), and it is unfortunately endemic to the media. What we need are other firms to stand up to Peabody, Massey and the oil firms.

    Comment by TokyoTom — 1 Aug 2008 @ 6:20 AM

  167. Sometimes you don’t even need a journalist to get whiplash. Dr. Rind, I believe one of your inspirations, Gavin, has put out a very clear exposition on the state of climate modeling.

    We still can’t predict future climate responses at low and high latitudes, which constrains our ability to forecast changes in atmospheric dynamics and regional climate.

    Of course, a lot has changed between the early
    models and our current ones: now coupled dynamical
    oceans without flux corrections are being used;
    cloud liquid water routines are incorporated to calculate
    changes, not only in cloud cover but in cloud
    optical depth; the horizontal and vertical resolutions
    are noticeably finer; and the number of different
    models has increased by a factor of 5. However, the same net uncertainties still exist; their causes are
    somewhat better known, perhaps, but a solution is
    not yet in sight.

    Can we use paleoclimate data from equilibrium
    climate changes of greater magnitude, which presumably
    contain the nonlinearities, to determine
    the proper latitudinal response? Unfortunately, the
    answer is a resounding no.

    To put the model variation
    in perspective, in the coupled atmosphere–ocean
    models run for AR4, there is approximately a 50%
    probability that the tropical ocean warming will
    exceed 2°C in the last 20 yr of this century with the
    A1B trace-gas release scenario (Solomon et al. 2007)
    (i.e., a coin flip).

    Given that the primary reasons for our uncertainty
    in both low- and high-latitude sensitivity is largely
    associated with model physics, it makes the problem
    that much harder to reduce by averaging. It has been
    suggested that we can have greater confidence in
    the multimodel mean changes than in that of any
    individual model for climate change assessments,
    which seems to be the case in weather forecasting experiments
    and simulations driven by specified SSTs.
    Considerable work has been done in deriving weights
    for the different models to provide the optimum
    forecast (e.g., Krishnamurti et al. 1999). However, in
    both of those situations the response is dominated
    by atmospheric dynamics, even when the physics are
    varied (e.g., with specified SSTs, the forcing is largely
    provided). The various models are all attempting to
    solve the same basic dynamical equations, albeit in
    different forms, and it is understandable that their
    errors can be minimized when different attempts are
    averaged together. For climate-change simulations,
    given their different physical parameterizations,
    models are not solving the same equations. The formulations for low and high clouds, or snow albedo
    change with temperature, vary. It is doubtful that
    averaging different formulations together will end
    up giving the “right” result, especially because we
    have no way of knowing whether the various choices
    that have been made even circumscribe the proper
    sensitivity. As noted by Wang (2005), an individual
    model may provide results that differ from the mean
    model response because it includes either an improved
    parameterization or a missing mechanism.
    Because the cloud cover and cryospheric feedbacks
    are providing a substantial part of the net forcing, in
    effect the models are being given a different forcing
    distribution. The model responses (e.g., tropical land
    precipitation) can often be of different signs, and
    there can be little confidence that averaging them
    together will produce a better result.

    The last quote, I believe, is a direct rebutal to Gavins’ viewpoint and as such deserves a reply, of course I will understand if you want to save your response for a letter to the journal, but please at some point revisit this issue.

    CONCLUDING REMARKS. As noted in the
    introduction, over the past 25 yr we have not been
    able to quantitatively improve our understanding of low- and high-latitude (or even global) climate
    sensitivity. That does not mean we have not learned
    many things; we are more knowledgeable about why
    models are getting different responses in various
    locations, and, as the preceding discussion has
    shown, we are in a position to better understand
    the consequences of not knowing these sensitivities.
    However, at this point the uncertainties in
    latitudinal temperature gradient changes affect the
    confidence we can have in many of our projections
    of atmospheric dynamic and hydrologic responses
    to global warming.


    Comment by Ellis — 1 Aug 2008 @ 7:00 AM

  168. @ greg smith:

    The Medieval Warm Period may actually have been a local, rather than global event. You probably heard the “grapes in England” or some such. Actually grapes are pretty tough and can exist in a wide range of climates, which is why they have wineries in Newport, RI and Canada. You also proabbly heard the “why was Greenland called that” thing, but the etymology of the name isn’t as clear cut as it looks, and Greenland doesn’t look like a big ice sheet most times anymore than Iceland does. Iceland used to have trees on it, you know, and they are all gone now. Southern Greenland was probably the same. (Vegetation takes longer to re-establish itself in colder climates). In both cases the trees were simply chopped down and if you combine that with sheep raising, well…

    Anyhow, the upshot is there isn’t a whole lot of evidence for a global Medieval Warm period. Local to Europe, maybe. But the models wouldn’t have to worry about that, or rather it’s already sort of baked in, just like El Nino events and the like. Thats a big oversimplification, but it’s the current state of the science in a nutshell, as I understand it.

    Comment by Jess — 1 Aug 2008 @ 7:00 AM

  169. “You cannot solve this problem, society can”

    That statement troubles me greatly. One should strive to make society better, but the ultimate responsibility lies in each individual. We ARE society afterall.
    I know you probably mean that the answer is not each residence going off grid and such, but if enough people start doing that it improves the market demand with motivates companies to sell and improve these products. It also makes it more commonplace for the average person to see and accept as normal. Then you have paved the way for it to happen on a larger scale.
    Saying only society can solve this seems like you feel as if you are powerless and government must legislates the answer.

    Comment by Chris MCV — 1 Aug 2008 @ 7:15 AM

  170. Where I am is rural. There is pretty much no way I could get the current local government to consider going to a decent sized solar thermal power generation system (although I would LOVE it and will actively lobby for it).
    So I either would have to make/contract my own, which is not something most could do easily, or I have to consider other forms of generation, such as PV.
    I love things like what Sopogy and other companies are doing, but they are a bit expensive for the individual.

    There is so much talk about an “Energy manhatten project” but the fact is it needs to be something that average people can wrap their minds and wallets around. Try to buy the powerhead they use on the solar stirlings made by Solo sometime. Its not cheap nor even easy.

    There is a large gulf to cross in the areas between proven design, public acceptance, public demand and feasability. No matter how “green” a technology is, if it cannot span those gaps it is going to have a hard time being utilized.

    Comment by Chris MCV — 1 Aug 2008 @ 7:44 AM

  171. Re 163: Patrick, Might I suggest that you at least make an attempt to take quotes in context. If you look at the sentence that follows my quote about the ignorance of the common man, you will find that I attribute it not to the individual, but to the pace of increasing knowledge. But, then, I suppose that wouldn’t fit into your little stereotype of scientists as bearded gits in sandles, would it? To call attention to the ignorance of the ignorant is not arrogance, but rather a diagnosis. The fact that you choose to take it as an insult rather than as a suggestion that you go and learn something suggests that you are not only ignorant but also complacent. So, perhaps if you would like to be taken more seriously, you might consider keeping the quotes you choose in their proper context.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 Aug 2008 @ 7:57 AM

  172. 160 and others,

    There are a variety of home hydrogen generation and storage systems coming on the market that work well with wind and solar power systems. Honda has one for the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles that also acts as a back-up home power system. A British company has developed low cost a PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) and manufacturing method that will reduce the overall cost of electrolizers.

    Nanosolar has a printing press manufacturing process for PV that should dramatically reduce cost and environmental impact of solar cell manufacture (they shipped their first utility scale panels this year). Their product should greatly reduce the cost solar powered electrolization of hydrogen in areas where wind power is not a viable option. Ballard Power Systems and others have fork lift battery pack replacement Hydrogen Fuel Cells that are in use and are actually selling. Actual sales for these companies will help reduce the cost of automotive FC manufacture.

    High pressure hydrogen storage tank design is greatly improved and lower pressure systems using chemical interim storage are improving.

    John Deere has a FC utility vehicle that the US navy is considering for use on its aircraft carriers.

    So rather quietly, Hydrogen as a storage and transportation fuel is starting to come of age.

    All of these projects started when gas was less than $2.00 a gallon. Research funding for the US and Canadian companies was provide in part by the Bush administration. None of these projects have generated any significant media attention.

    Comment by captdallas2 — 1 Aug 2008 @ 7:58 AM

  173. Regarding storage for PV and wind generated energy, here is some very good news:

    Major Discovery From MIT Primed to Unleash Solar Revolution
    Thursday 31 July 2008
    By Anne Trafton, MIT News

    In a revolutionary leap that could transform solar power from a marginal, boutique alternative into a mainstream energy source, MIT researchers have overcome a major barrier to large-scale solar power: storing energy for use when the sun doesn’t shine.

    Until now, solar power has been a daytime-only energy source, because storing extra solar energy for later use is prohibitively expensive and grossly inefficient. With today’s announcement, MIT researchers have hit upon a simple, inexpensive, highly efficient process for storing solar energy.

    Requiring nothing but abundant, non-toxic natural materials, this discovery could unlock the most potent, carbon-free energy source of all: the sun. “This is the nirvana of what we’ve been talking about for years,” said MIT’s Daniel Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at MIT and senior author of a paper describing the work in the July 31 issue of Science. “Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon.”

    Inspired by the photosynthesis performed by plants, Nocera and Matthew Kanan, a postdoctoral fellow in Nocera’s lab, have developed an unprecedented process that will allow the sun’s energy to be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. Later, the oxygen and hydrogen may be recombined inside a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity to power your house or your electric car, day or night.

    The key component in Nocera and Kanan’s new process is a new catalyst that produces oxygen gas from water; another catalyst produces valuable hydrogen gas. The new catalyst consists of cobalt metal, phosphate and an electrode, placed in water. When electricity – whether from a photovoltaic cell, a wind turbine or any other source – runs through the electrode, the cobalt and phosphate form a thin film on the electrode, and oxygen gas is produced.

    Combined with another catalyst, such as platinum, that can produce hydrogen gas from water, the system can duplicate the water splitting reaction that occurs during photosynthesis.

    The new catalyst works at room temperature, in neutral pH water, and it’s easy to set up, Nocera said. “That’s why I know this is going to work. It’s so easy to implement,” he said.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 1 Aug 2008 @ 9:04 AM

  174. OK, I may, in my usual manner, offend some, but this has also been bothering me for some time.

    I do not believe that there would be so much confusion in the public mind if more individual scientists were to come out and take a public stand on the science.

    Hansen has been taking it on the chin for years, acting as a lightning rod for all the criticisms. But, in a way, this has permitted other scientists to carry on and do their thing.

    OK, I realize that my viewpoint of what is going on there in academia is restricted, but this is my perception of things as a member of the general public.

    Are you guys so unsure of your science and personal integrity that you can’t now come out into the light of day and tell the world of the inevitable disaster if humanity does not change its ways?

    Are you afraid of the criticism? Are you afraid of being accused of having a political agenda? So what! Why aren’t you more afraid of not having a viable planet for your children to live on?

    Comment by Tenney Naumer — 1 Aug 2008 @ 9:31 AM

  175. These data sets seem to indicate that atmospheric methane concentrations have been leveling off since 2000. Does anyone have any idea why that sort of thing might occur??

    Comment by Richard — 1 Aug 2008 @ 10:25 AM

  176. RE #112, Robert, you forgot to ask about stuff reduction.

    How many of us reduce the amount of stuff we buy — which requires energy to extract resources (like ripping up rainforests in South America to get bauxite for aluminum), process, ship to industries (like in China), manufacture, package, ship to store (from China), to driving around searching in 5 or 6 stores to buy it, for garbage trucks to haul it away once we’re finished with it.

    And don’t forget all the paper-work at each level. That’s trees, and all the energy that goes into processing and marketing paper.


    Now, to be fair, younger people establishing their households need to buy more stuff, but be sure to get long-lasting, rather than throwaway stuff.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 1 Aug 2008 @ 10:47 AM

  177. Quite frankly, Climate change is very bad news and we need people and bodies in the know to step up to the plate and put their money where their mouth is… all this ‘debate’ about GW is just fizzling while were sizzling.

    Scientist, if they think that it is happening and is as bad as it is and are not seeing a positive reaction to their alarms – should be taking drastic steps like Hansen and Gore.

    Letters stating ‘we believe etc…’ are not strong enough – shouldn’t they be threating resignations, having sit-ins, demanding audiences with leaders, placing law suites …. setting themselves on fire and jumping off tall buildings?

    Comment by paulm — 1 Aug 2008 @ 10:53 AM

  178. Paulm,

    “The object of war is not to die for your country, but to make the other bastard die for his.”

    George Patton

    “advances War”
    “investments Libby”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Aug 2008 @ 11:03 AM

  179. Re #125 – Lynn

    Thank you so much for your reasoned reply regarding the false positive and the idea that we won’t do any harm in attempting to solve AGW even if the catastrophic results do not occur as a result.

    You’re mostly correct and I commend individual and reasonable governmental efforts at conservation and responsible use of natural resources. Most reasonable individuals would agree with that statement.

    That said, I believe it is naive to write a blank check to government in the name of solving this “crisis”.

    Case in point, the global price of food, especially grains, has gone up incredibly in the past year and every indicator is that the increase in price for food stuffs in directly linked to the production of bio fuels. Why are bio fuels being produced? Obviously for a lot of different reasons, but one of the most oft given is AGW.


    [Response: Another strawman. Where has anyone suggested giving the government a blank check to deal with this issue? And there is a world of difference between someone claiming that their favorite subsidy is helping save the planet and it actually having any such effect – corn ethanol is the classic example. – gavin]

    Comment by Robert — 1 Aug 2008 @ 11:07 AM

  180. Re 177 – paulm said:

    “Quite frankly, Climate change is very bad news and we need people and bodies in the know to step up to the plate and put their money where their mouth is”

    Paulm, I’ve got really, really bad news for you. Climate always changes. Always has, always will. You don’t have to be in the AGW crowd or a “denialist” to understand that. That much we can agree on I think.

    Comment by Robert — 1 Aug 2008 @ 11:21 AM

  181. Tenney Naumer,
    But individual scientists are coming out and saying AGW is human caused and a major problem. But not all of them do it in the media. Don’t get me wrong, I have enormous amount of respect for those scientists who do reach out to the public through media. But not all scientists come with the same personality or talents. However all of them teach AGW and its causes, effects and the need to take action in their classes. I, for one, taech in an undergraduate instution and have over 1000 students go through my classes per year. So just using one of the books highlighted on RC (on sidebar) per semester as the textbook for the class has enormous impact. And there is also a lot to be said for contributing to the basic science even if those scientists may not be teaching or doing much outreach. What we know about AGW we know because of that basic research. The “consensus” among scientists about AGW, if you will, is far greater than most lay people appreciate. And though the cliche perception in modern culture of a scientist may be “one who lives in nerd paradise”, we really do reach out, a lot and in many ways.

    Comment by Figen Mekik — 1 Aug 2008 @ 11:42 AM

  182. The problem with the medis is the sound bites. One like:

    Cliamte catastrophe, climate chaos, climate disaster. Giving up on 2C (what does 2C really stand for?)and the reporting of infant alleged breakthroughs in renewable and sustainable technology which then are stated to be 10 years before commercial production and then another 20 years before critical mass of deployment is reached.

    Hydrogen technology is one good example. Battery breakthroughs, hybrid plugin cars etc. I just hate the way that the media portray in the headline that a given technology will somehow save us in a very short space of time.

    The last time I looked humanity was persuing: hydrogen cars, plug in cars, electric cars, more efficient cars, and algae based and cullular biofuel breakthroughs that will allow us to be carbon neutral in no time at all which is all nonsense in any meaningful timeframe for avoiding some of the early dramatic consequences of AGW.

    Then we have CCS: another potentially useful yet commercially infant technology which will cost a lot of money to deploy if it wver actually exists. Then we have the bad boys, GTL/CTL, shale and oil sands and digging up Alaska, Deep oil and eventually the Arctic. We have no strategy for carbon mitigation, only Kyoto and no one significant signed up for that and Bali and G8 meetings have been hazy and vague on strategic mitigation strategy.

    At the present time we have a who raft of infant technologies vying to be the one to resolve the issues of AGW but coal plants are still being built (with or without CCS ready consideration) and oil is still being drilled for and cars build that do little MPG. People are still flying en masse and runways still to be built.

    Fossil fools are everywhere and no one is really taking the lead on mitigation. Sure Germany has a lot of solar and denamrk a lot of wind but they are still building coal fired power stations to.

    Comment by pete best — 1 Aug 2008 @ 11:59 AM

  183. Paulm, I’ve got really, really bad news for you. Climate always changes. Always has, always will. You don’t have to be in the AGW crowd or a “denialist” to understand that. That much we can agree on I think.

    True, but your children and grandchildren aren’t going to be around long enough to see the climate change due to those natural causes, which act on timescales of tens of thousands of years.

    We’re causing change on a pace far, far faster than that caused by milankovich cycles or other known drivers of long-term climate change.

    Your position is a bit like stating that since death is inevitable, there’s nothing wrong with murder – the victim will die regardless.

    Comment by dhogaza — 1 Aug 2008 @ 12:09 PM

  184. Re 179 – Gavin and that blank check

    Recently Al Gore gave a speech to congress:

    “Today I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years.”

    I won’t say that Mr. Gore speaks for anyone hear, but I do think it is reasonable to make the statement that he does speak for the AGW cause.

    Can anyone here make the case that in order to accomplish Mr. Gore’s goal that it won’t take a governmental (and societal) effort exceeding any in our countries history?

    [Response: What’s your point? There’s a big difference between a challenge and your previous implication. – gavin]

    Comment by Robert — 1 Aug 2008 @ 12:19 PM

  185. Re: #181

    Dear Figen Mekik,

    I thank you for your response, but let me just point out that we simply do not have that kind of timeframe anymore.

    Climatologists of significant repute need to pick their phones and call their local newspapers and request to write opinion pieces for publication.

    They need to call the local radio station and see if they can be heard on the air.

    They need to phone the local TV station and see if they can present something on the news.

    They need to go to the local city council meetings and try to get their points on the next meeting’s agenda.

    They need to go have a chat with the local city planner.

    They need to take immediate actions.

    Comment by Tenney Naumer — 1 Aug 2008 @ 12:48 PM

  186. Re what people are doing personally, we
    – choose to live in a very small house in an urban area dense enough to support excellent public transit
    – use that public transit, as well as biking and walking
    – chose to purchase a hybrid to replace an aging car for those times when the above simply won’t get us where we’re going in the time available
    – I work out of my home, so no commute; I only drive to meet with a client or work site when required
    – opted not to fly since 1997 (not that we flew much before then)
    – retrofit the house with thermopane windows and added insulation & weather stripping
    – replaced furnace with high-efficiency model and used programable set-back thermostat set low in winter, and way back when we are away from home
    – use natural ventilation in all but the hottest weather–haven’t used the ac once yet this summer
    – use low-energy lighting, and, as I was taught as a child, turn off unused lighting and devices when not in use
    – replaced appliances with energy star models
    – air dry clothes, in the back yard spring, summer, fall, in the basement and bathroom in winter
    – investigated roof-top solar pv and solar hot water, but our roof is not properly oriented and will not support the needed support structure, so we get electricity from a renewable supplier instead, and pay more for it
    – try to buy locally grown staple produce when ever possible and simply don’t buy imported exotic produce
    – eat meat main courses only 3-4 times per week
    – volunteer with a local group whose mandate is to educate citizens about what they can personally do and show them how to do it, including most the things listed above

    Comment by Jim Eager — 1 Aug 2008 @ 1:03 PM

  187. Robert, yes, the “no regrets” energy efficiency choices will cover much of what’s needed.
    The _problem_ is a great one. The _solution_ is to be cheap and efficient and plan ahead.

    You can look this up — use sources other than the PR sites.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Aug 2008 @ 1:20 PM

  188. Given the amazing success of the Human Genome project, I would like to propose a much more modest undertaking: I propose that before this year is out that we commit to mapping the denialist Memome–all the memes that denialists trot out in place of actual thought.

    Robert supplies us with three already:

    1)That the reality-based team are starving poor people to death by making biofuel from food.

    2)That climate change has always happened and always will

    3)That the real goal of the environmental movement is massive government intervention in the economy.

    Regarding 1: This is a bit of a stretch, since biofuel production dates back decades and since the real reasons for it are largely political (e.g. employment in Brazil’s poor Northeast and buying votes from farmers and cash from agribusiness in the US). In the US especially, ethanol production from corn is a net energy consumer!

    Regarding 2: Well, yeah, except that the past 10000 years–you know, that period where human civilization developed–has been a period of remarkable climatic stability, and the fact that current rates of change are unprecedented, and …

    Regarding 3: Gee Robert, are you saying the the free market economy is not up to the task? That great Communist T. Boone Pickens doesn’t seem to agree. And if government intervention is required to avoid the collapse of civilization, wouldn’t that be a good use of taxpayer dollars?

    So, got any original material, or are you going to accuse us next of wanting to stifle growth in the developing world?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 Aug 2008 @ 1:29 PM

  189. Re the question “what sacrifices have you made to save the environment?”

    I live in a 1250 square foot house. The lighting has been CF since they first came available at Home Depot. Ten years ago I replaced my electric water heater with a 94% efficient gas water heater that also replaced a 68% efficient oil furnace. I’m mostly vegetarian, eating chicken or fish once or twice a week, pork and beef less often. I drive a compact car that gets 30 MPG. If my wife had been driving a hummer instead of the 50+mpg diesel Golf when she was T-boned by a minivan that ran a red light, she would probably be alive today.

    I expect that the people who have been conspicuously consuming fossil fuel for the last 20 years while willfully ignoring the signs of global warming will eventually notice things getting bad(drought, wildfires, intense storms, weather extremes, Santa’s workshop sinking into the Arctic Ocean-I’m looking forward to asking Santa some tough questions at the mall this year &;>).

    I expect that they will announce “WE are all in this together, and WE ALL need to tighten our belts and make sacrifices to save the planet”.

    YOU voted for Reagan, Bush, Bush, Bush, and Darth Cheney. YOU pissed away your children’s and grandchildren’s futures by ignoring alternative energy, conservation, and the environment while Exxon/Mobil reaped billions. I don’t have any children; don’t expect me to bail YOUR children out now. YOU were playing videogames, pirating music, and watching junk on the internet instead of paying attention to YOU have screwed things up for all of us, but I have “been there, done that” for 30+ years; I’m not going to try fixing YOUR mistakes any more. If things get really bad, I may have to grab my fishing gear, walk to my sailboat, and head for better climates, but I will survive. What’s YOUR plan B?

    I dont’ expect this to happen anytime soon. For some perspective on the political debate necessary before substantive policy changes will be made, try the following google searches:
    “global warming”
    “global warming”

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 1 Aug 2008 @ 1:34 PM

  190. Re Robert @184: “Can anyone here make the case that in order to accomplish Mr. Gore’s goal that it won’t take a governmental (and societal) effort exceeding any in our countries history?”

    No, because it will take a governmental and societal effort perhaps as large as or larger than any in our countries history, in fact any in world history, since the problem is global and in no way limited to just the US.

    As Gavin responded: Your point? The fact is we have chosen in the past to make the truly huge sacrifice necessary to accomplish a world-wide goal, namely the defeat of Germany and Japan, and we are now talking only of a financial and lifestyle commitment here, not a sacrifice of human lives, so please do not tell us that the effort is either impossible or that it will result in destroying the world economy because both are simply not true. In fact, it is impossible that making the switch from a fossil fuel-based economy will not add to GDP and result in the development of new technologies, industries and ways of doing things.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 1 Aug 2008 @ 1:49 PM

  191. Re 184 – Gavin

    Although I used an expression of speech “blank check” to emphasize the point of not blindly trusting that government has societies (or the planet’s) best interest in mind when solving a particular problem, I do think it the expression applies in principle to what we would need to be done to accomplish Mr. Gore’s goal.

    I think it is a reasonable statement that meeting Mr. Gore’s goal would be a more difficult challenge than overcoming the Great Depression and World War II combined. As a child of a member of the “Greatest Generation” I’ve got some insight into exactly what that means and I think it would pale in comparison with what would have to be done in this scenario.

    Comment by Robert — 1 Aug 2008 @ 1:49 PM

  192. the models wouldn’t have to worry about that, or rather it’s already sort of baked in, just like El Nino events and the like. Thats a big oversimplification, but it’s the current state of the science in a nutshell, as I understand it.

    Whoa – too much simplification leads to obfuscation, which some think is happening with respect to the MWP.

    As Gavin noted above, Paleoclimate reconstructions, rather than models, are the best evidence to support AGW. Unfortunately some of these paleo reconstructions (esp. tree rings) are not as mathematically robust as one would like to see to definitively counter those who challenge them.

    Resolving the existence and/or significance of the MWP issues is important because

    1) If it was a clear global phenomenon it is another challenge to the alarmists and the pending doom hypothesis.

    2) If it was a clear global phenomenon it raises some potentially serious questions about the methodology of studies that don’t show MWP and the many generalizations about data that suggest MWP is not of interest or significant as a sign that natural CO2 variability is much greater than generally suggested.

    [Response: Neither of these conclusions follow. There are already plenty of periods in the paleo-climate record that unambiguously exceed global present day temperatures (the Pliocene, Eocence, PETM etc.), so one more is not an issue. The actual issue is whether it can be understood, but to do this you need to have unambiguous records of solar and volcanic forcing from which you could deduce the residual intrinsic variability. Given these records are very uncertain, combined with the uncertainty in the reconstructions, and the uncertainty in climate sensitivity, it is very unlikely that the medieval period is ever going to be a significant constraint on anything relevant. The paleo-climate that is important for overall climate sensitivity is the LGM, or maybe the Pliocene – much bigger signal-to-noise ratios in both cases. – gavin]

    [Response: Actually, you would find a fair number of climate scientists who don’t necessarily agree w/ some of what Gavin has stated above. Indeed, Hegerl et al (2006) in Nature argues that you can indeed further constrain climate sensitivity based on precisely this information (well, using the past 7 centuries of paleoclimate reconstructions, anyway). That having been said, the idea of global mean warmth during the Medieval era that rivals current warmth is inconsistent with every paleoclimate reconstruction of the past decade published in the scientific literature. It is also inconsistent with every model simulation study that has been done using best estimate climate forcing. So you’re really out on a limb. And perhaps even more to the point, an MWP as warm as today (while, again, inconsistent with all of the best available observational and modeling-based evidence) would most likely indicate a climate sensitivity that is much greater that nearly all available estimates, and would portend even greater future climate change in response to anthropogenic forcing. It would certainly not be a cause for comfort. -mike]

    Comment by Joe Hunkins — 1 Aug 2008 @ 2:09 PM

  193. Defeatism, Robert? How unpatriotic.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 1 Aug 2008 @ 2:27 PM

  194. Re 188 – Ray Ladbury

    Now the conversation is getting more interesting. Let’s clarify a couple of things, though. Ray, you’re obviously lumping me in with “denialists”. What have I denied in any of my posts, I don’t recall? It seems you’re debating a phantom and assuming motives that I have not demonstrated in any of my writings.

    Furthermore, your condescending remarks regarding the originality of my material are kinda funny considering the fact that you took the time to type out a fairly lenghty response to my posts, no?

    So, let me digress. One of the biggest obstacles, it seems to me, in this whole discussion (and by whole discussion I am referring holistically, not just this blog) is the anxiousness to do verbal combat and attempt to belittle those who you consider to be intellectually inferior. As my grandmother used to say, If you can’t say it nicely don’t say it at all. A quaint but effective tactic.

    Let’s switch topics. Ray, in terms of the free market economy taking on the task of creating an 100% emissions free electricity in 10 years, what impetus exists for the free market to make that happen? Personally, I don’t believe that impetus exists in that timeframe. Do you see evidence to the contrary?

    Just for a second, lets assume I’m correct that the impetus for the free market isn’t there within the next 10 years to hit that goal, what alternative to government intervention is there then?

    As to your question on the collapse of civilization and government intervention, that is a fair point and one I wouldn’t debate provided that irrefutable evidence exists that will happen. World War II is a great example of an appropriate government intervention.

    Regarding the 2nd issue, are you suggesting that the last 10,000 years of climate stability are a climatic anomaly?

    Comment by Robert — 1 Aug 2008 @ 2:31 PM

  195. Ray Ladbury noted a denialist theme: “That the real goal of the environmental movement is massive government intervention in the economy.”

    Ironically, the government already intervenes massively in the economy — to subsidize continued use of fossil fuels and nuclear power.

    Very little government “intervention” in the economy is needed to support the rapid transition to renewables that Al Gore proposes — and that intervention would consist mostly of tax cuts to encourage private investment in wind and solar, combined with feed-in tariffs to guarantee a fair price paid to small wind and solar energy producers, renewable portfolio standards for utilities, efficiency standards for appliances, automobiles and buildings, and a carbon tax to capture the currently externalized costs of burning fossil fuels. All of these combined would probably amount to significantly less government intervention than the business-as-usual multi-billion dollar subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear power.

    The idea that some kind of heavy-handed Soviet-style command and control government-run economy is necessary to move to a renewables based energy system is absurd. Particularly since the very nature of solar and wind technologies puts the ownership of energy “production” in the hands of individuals, households, small businesses, family farms, communities, municipal utilities, etc. From the point of view of political philosophy, libertarians are the ones who should be most avidly promoting a transition to wind and solar.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 1 Aug 2008 @ 2:32 PM

  196. [comments seem to be closed for Dr. Mekik’s 2007 post]

    Dear Dr. Mekik,

    I just wanted to let you know that I really appreciated your post “Sweatin’ in the Mediterranean Heat” because I used to live in the Cyclades in the 1970s. 1977 was the hottest year they had, I believe, until 2007. But even then, they had to import water. On any given day, in August, during the height of the tourist season, there were a good 30,000 tourists on the island with about 7,000 locals. By the mid-1990s, that number had increased to 300,000. Who knows what it is now. Food, water, and everything else has to be imported.

    This points to the fact that there has been little public discussion of the need for new thoughts on land use (yikes! shades of soc ialism!), which includes coastal lands, wet lands, forests, and what types of structures and materials should be used — people are gonna holler like stuck pigs, but it has to be brought out and discussed in public.

    And, Dr. Mekik, thank you for your description of the NOA/NAM — I had been looking for one.

    Comment by Tenney Naumer — 1 Aug 2008 @ 2:34 PM

  197. Re #163 Patrick

    Your point is well taken. However, I don’t think it is impolite to point out ignorance. The fact that alarms are ringing and many people are seriously concerned is not out of context with reality.

    Example: They just closed a section of Baffin Island and had to evacuate 21 tourists by helicopter. Most of Baffin is in the Arctic Circle. Their average July Temps is 12C (54F).

    This month the temp is 27C (81F). That’s 27F above normal. Arctic amplification is in full swing and is expected to accelerate warming. That will likely soon show up in the sea level rise acceleration above the current rise trend.

    So rather than be concerned with those that are frightened by the prospects, we would all be better off actually examining the expected ramifications of extreme climate change outside of natural variability, and what that really means to human civilization. maybe some better questions would be:

    How many people and species will die (and on what time scale)?

    As food scarcity increases due to multiple factors regarding energy, resource availability, capacity, distribution and climate and inflation increases rapidly, how will we cope?

    Do we have the organizational capacity and resources to take needed action knowing that every day we delay needed action pushes us deeper into increased cost and capacity to cope with the magnitude of changes needed?

    What degree of alarmism is appropriate concerning the knowledge that well known knowledge that this global warming event is human caused, and we will continue to warm for a significant period of time, and it will affect all biological systems on earth?

    In other words, how long should we keep the discussion moderate and non alarmist, which inevitably delays needed action to prevent larger problems in the near and distant future.

    The idea that most would rather “fry, drown or starve” is a very ignorant and in fact foolish statement. It is of course subjective but does indicate a severe ignorance of the reality that we now face.

    Also, I don’t know who he is referring to when he says “a bearded git in sandals” is that a particular person and why is that even important since it has little to do with the science?

    In other words, don’t shoot the messenger. It’s not his fault that global warming is human caused and will severely challenge the entire world economic and biological systems.

    So maybe people just need to be more mature about the what is known, and be reasonable. And most of all, stop making excuses to delay needed action? Or we can just let it cook and continue BAU and fulfill Mr. AA Gill’s prophetic words?

    Personally I’m for needed policy action now based on current global scientific consensus and the fact based science. Less cost, greater benefits on a risk/reward basis.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 1 Aug 2008 @ 2:36 PM

  198. Robert wrote: “I think it is a reasonable statement that meeting Mr. Gore’s goal would be a more difficult challenge than overcoming the Great Depression and World War II combined.”

    One thing that happened during World War II was that the automobile manufacturers stopped building cars and started building tanks and other military equipment. Perhaps today’s automobile manufacturers who are suffering huge losses, closing factories and laying off workers, should instead consider converting those factories to the manufacture of wind turbines. It would certainly be the patriotic thing to do.

    And there are plenty of unemployed former manufacturing workers who could be profitably retrained in some sort of WPA-style program as electricians and plumbers to install rooftop photovoltaics and solar water heaters.

    A transition to a new energy economy based on harvesting clean, free, endless solar and wind energy could be the New Industrial Revolution of the 21st century, driving a new era of widespread, sustainable prosperity. The only ones for whom it would be an economic disaster are the fossil fuel corporations, whose trillion dollar profits would vanish when people stop buying their products.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 1 Aug 2008 @ 2:45 PM

  199. > provided that irrefutable evidence exists
    The attempt to divert the thread to another free market discussion is transparent.

    There was no irrefutable evidence WWII was needed at the time the commitment was made to fight that enemy — while many in the US were still profiting from trading with them.

    Look it up:

    Don’t bring it back here. There are plenty of other places for arguing about that.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Aug 2008 @ 3:08 PM

  200. Ray, you say, ” ….I propose that before this year is out that we commit to mapping the denialist Memome [in the vein of Human Genome project] –all the memes that denialists trot out in place of actual thought.

    Ray! You’re losing it! I hope I did not cause this uncommon goofiness :-P

    ps. sorry to take this out of context; just couldn’t resist.

    Comment by Rod B — 1 Aug 2008 @ 3:47 PM

  201. #179, it is a very sad thing that this ethanol (or food-to-fuel) thing is being used to dismiss and chastize environmentalists. As an environmentalist I can say that I’ve always been against it; as have all other environmentalists I know.

    Years ago, when I first heard about it, I thought, this is going to come down to taking food out of poor people’s mouths so the rich can continue to drive frivolously around in their SUVs. I think it’s actually an agri-biz strategy to increase profits.

    I am, however, in favor of using agri-wastes, such as dung, for biofuel (the remainder makes an even better fertilizer).

    I also thought food crops-to-fuel would likely entail greater greenhouse gas emissions than simply getting & using oil from the ground, due to agriculture being so energy and resource intensive (water & equipment use requires lots of energy) — and I’ve been proven right on that. Maybe it’s also an oil industry strategy to increase profits.

    What I have favored is electric vehicles, especially when coupled with alternative energy. I can’t wait to be driving on the wind in a few years when affordable EVs come out here in America. Of course, they’re already available in India, China, Japan, and Europe.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 1 Aug 2008 @ 4:04 PM

  202. #191 Robert

    Just because something is difficult does not mean it should be ignored.

    I am not a member of the greatest generation. But I did work with the ‘Chief Implementation Officer’ of ‘The Marshall Plan’. So I am well aware of the strategies and methodologies used post war. And, he was in intel from day one, throughout the war working with Generals Bradley and Powell and even Winston Churchill, he even had to face off with Patton during a conflict over a certain faux paux of one of his lieutenants and Patton. From him I learned many interesting facets of how things were done during that time.

    What special knowledge are you referring to in your statement? Are you inferring that you are more reasonable than Mr. Gore. If so, in what context, and what is the relevance of your contextual claim?

    You state you have “some insight into exactly what it means”. Could you expound on your insight please, I am always looking for new and relevant information.

    #180 Robert

    Your post has a context problem. Yes, climate always changes. Yes, it always will.

    But you forgot to add that this climate change is human caused. That is fairly important to context and relevance.

    Otherwise, the general statement confuses the issue for those that read your post.

    #179 Robert

    Global food price is not only linked to biofuel production that is only one factor. Resource scarcity, demand, energy and distribution issues are also factors just to name a few. Heck, some of it is likely even linked to global warming, droughts and floods possibly caused by regional shifts of climate systems. But I guess you did not intend to point out those other factors since your point is? I’m not sure what your point is?

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 1 Aug 2008 @ 4:15 PM

  203. Re #177

    I agree. Scientists’ apparent reluctance to make strong statements regarding the implications of what they seem to be saying (ie AGW is real and is a big problem) undermines their position. Well, do they think it’s serious or not? If they do, what do they suggest we all do about it? (OK, maybe they’d say they’re ‘not qualified’ to comment on that… but ‘d say they’re still more qualified than the rest of us)

    Or are they just going to spend all their time discussing climate science minutiae and engaging in futile ping-pong arguments with people who deny basic physics?

    Comment by Matt — 1 Aug 2008 @ 4:56 PM

  204. Re 202 – John P. Reisman

    “Just because something is difficult does not mean it should be ignored.”

    Agreed. I don’t recall writing anything to the contrary. The point, as I’m guessing you have gathered, is to put the “solution” in the proper context. There is a harm in being realistic?

    The context of my “greatest generation” comment was merely anecdotal. My Dad lived through the depression and was a WWII combat veteran. Sorry to dissapoint, it was nothing more than that.

    Regarding climate change, again you’re reading to much into a casual comment. It tickled my funny bone that someone would make the statement that the climate is changing as some sort of shocking revelation.

    Finally, a word on food prices and biofuels:

    “This paper examines the factors behind the rapid increase in
    internationally traded food prices since 2002 and estimates the contribution of various factors such as the
    increased production of biofuels from food grains and oilseeds, the weak dollar, and the increase in food
    production costs due to higher energy prices. It concludes that the most important factor was the large
    increase in biofuels production in the U.S. and the EU. Without these increases, global wheat and maize
    stocks would not have declined appreciably, oilseed prices would not have tripled, and price increases due
    to other factors, such as droughts, would have been more moderate.”

    Comment by Robert — 1 Aug 2008 @ 4:56 PM

  205. Robert, I did not accuse you of being a denialist–merely noted that you had used 3 common denialist memes. I also pointed out the fallacies in the first two. And, actually the past 10000 years HAVE been remarkably stable

    Now, as to your third contention–frankly, I don’t know whether massive government intervention will be needed. I suspect, however, that the longer we wait, the more massive the intervention. I can see ways in which government could HELP markets incentivize innovation–e.g. cap and trade or carbon taxes. And clearly, T. Boone Pickens (and many others) expects to reap a bounteous harvest, and I rather doubt that he anticipates to reap it as Comissar. And if you are wary of government intervention, I would suggest that you get your fellow capitalists to stop dismissing good science as “a hoax” and get them thinking in terms of market solutions. Because we will need solutions, and so far only those who favor government intervention are proposing them.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 Aug 2008 @ 5:05 PM

  206. #174 #185 Tenney Naumer

    They most certainly are getting the word out.

    We’re all in the same boat trying to get the word out in the most effective manner. I don’t think you realize how little spare time they (working scientists) have (research, class, admin, family, writing papers, meetings, conferences, field work, breaking in new post doc students, etc.)? They are working very, very hard from what I see and doing a great job. I understand your frustration but let us not request they begin to give up what time the have for sleep as they are able to achieve.

    Personally, I’m beginning to believe Gavin has not slept for about a year. But that does not mean many others are not working just as hard in different areas and making profound contributions to the science. This will all add up to getting the point across more effectively.

    As to your comment about criticism: I don’t know any scientists afraid of criticism. Criticism is one of the nutrients that science thrives on.

    Please don’t get me wrong, I understand your frustration as do so many involved in the debate. There are critical issues at hand. Inertia can be a funny thing when it comes to bureaucracies and awareness, which is why it is important to do the best we can to explain what the science is and what it means.

    #177 paulm

    Lawsuits are all in process and many cases have already occurred and many more will occur. We really don’t want the scientists doing the relevant work to resign. That would be bad for everyone.

    #178 Hank Roberts

    Good point!

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 1 Aug 2008 @ 5:11 PM

  207. Re: #184 “I do think it is reasonable to make the statement that he(Al Gore) does speak for the AGW cause.”

    Anthropogenic global warming isn’t a cause. Wish it were. He’s not promoting any cause. He speaks, I believe from the viewpoint of someone who has taken the trouble to get familiar with the basics of the inter-relationship of the Earth’s temperature, how it radiates energy, and the composition of our

    The temperature of our planet, without the amount of greenhouse gases that existed in the atmosphere in pre-industrial times, would be about -18C or 0F. The “natural greenhouse effect” makes the Earth a more comfortable +15C or about 59F. Changing the amount of these gases,primarily CO2 and H2O, will change the value of this effect (not cause).

    A conspiratorial mindset doesn’t exist among proponents of AGW. The scientists and well informed non-scientists, like Gore, don’t have any conspiracy going on, other than to present the existing science, and the consequences of continuing along the lines of a number of behavioral scenarios.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 1 Aug 2008 @ 5:20 PM

  208. #204 Robert

    It may be hard to believe, but some people still deny climate change even. I have a friend that has assured me that the global mean temperature has not changed at all and he can prove it because the FAA has not changed their ref to mean of 29.92 Mercury at a specified temp for density altitude calcs. for pilots.

    There of course is much more controversy about anthropogenic climate change. As I mentioned you forgot to mention that in your post #180.

    By continuing to say climate change rather than human caused climate change or global warming, you either indicate you don’t understand that this global warming event is human caused or you are not presenting proper context pertaining to the known science.

    So I will ask you directly. Do you believe this global warming event is human caused?

    As to assertions of the World Bank report, I would not put all my stock in the report but neither negate the importance of their findings, but rather add it to the compendium of aggregate knowledge and understanding of the matter. We can also add to the list market speculation and even market manipulation, as well as population issues, etc. I am confident that market forces artificially inflated the price during the period in question but I have not studied it in depth as yet. So I would agree with the general summary of the report in the context of the scope of the paper.

    You will note that in my post on the matter above I did include an et cetera for the purpose of illuminating that the issue was not a single factor but a confluence of factors, as the report points out.

    They do mentioned the back to back droughts in the report in Australia which has impacted market prices by the reduction of global grain exports of about 4%. So these are all factors in a bigger picture and I’m still oversimplifying.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 1 Aug 2008 @ 5:31 PM

  209. Ray Ladbury wrote: “Because we will need solutions, and so far only those who favor government intervention are proposing them.”

    That’s not really true. There is plenty of private capital — tens of billions of dollars per year — pouring in to important solutions such as wind and solar energy development. Much of it is in countries other than the USA — Spain, Germany and Japan are leaders, and China is on track to become a world leader in both wind and solar.

    But there is also a lot of private investment in the USA. The USA already leads the world in the growth of wind power, and major US utilities are planning even larger investments in wind and solar, including distributed rooftop photovoltaics. Major corporations including General Electric are investing billions in wind and solar. General Motors is partnering with utilities to develop the grid infrastructure and charging stations to support large numbers of electric cars. Nissan has announced that they plan to introduce pure electric (not hybrid) cars in the US market in in 2010 that will be available in large quantities and both affordable to consumers and profitable for the company.

    As I noted in a previous comment above, the “government intervention” that is needed is not at all heavy-handed or onerous: tax credits to encourage private investment in wind and solar, feed-in tariffs to guarantee a fair price paid to small wind and solar energy producers, renewable portfolio standards for utilities, and efficiency standards for appliances, automobiles and buildings. The “government intervention” that might be most objectionable to “conservatives” would be a carbon tax, simply because many “conservatives” have a monomaniacal hatred of taxes of any kind for any reason. But a carbon tax is merely a way of forcing the market to recognize the costs of fossil fuel use that are currently “externalized” (which means foisted off on the public).

    On the other hand, if emissions continue to increase and accelerate, and anthropogenic warming continues unabated, then the resulting impacts and social upheavals will almost certainly lead to “government intervention” of the worst kind, such as the imposition of dictatorships all over the world to try to impose some kind of order on the escalating chaos.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 1 Aug 2008 @ 5:32 PM

  210. RE: Robert #184

    Can anyone here make the case that in order to accomplish Mr. Gore’s goal that it won’t take a governmental (and societal) effort exceeding any in our countries (sic) history?

    Yes, I can make that case. However, in the spirit of your and other denialist comments here, I won’t back it up. That’s OK, because people who don’t want to believe this can happen won’t be swayed by it anyway.

    Seriously, I deal with this sort of situation (daunting projects) at work all the time. It’s amazing what you can do with some planning and leadership.

    RE: Robert #191

    I think it is a reasonable statement that meeting Mr. Gore’s goal would be a more difficult challenge than overcoming the Great Depression and World War II combined. As a child of a member of the “Greatest Generation” I’ve got some insight into exactly what that means and I think it would pale in comparison with what would have to be done in this scenario.

    My friend Ooog in the cave next door says the same thing about human civilization (or would if he could do more than grunt). For example, who in their right mind believes we can develop agriculture, permanent structures, or a written language, after all it’s never been done before!

    Comment by Paul Melanson — 1 Aug 2008 @ 5:42 PM

  211. #204 Robert

    It tickled my funny bone that someone would make the statement that the climate is changing as some sort of shocking revelation.

    I’m unsure as to why it tickled your funny bone since you are the one that brought it up in your post #180?

    Paulm, I’ve got really, really bad news for you. Climate always changes. Always has, always will. You don’t have to be in the AGW crowd or a “denialist” to understand that. That much we can agree on I think.

    So why did it tickle your funny bone?

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 1 Aug 2008 @ 5:43 PM

  212. #210 – Ray

    I have been known to laugh at my own jokes, but in this case my post(#180) was in reaction to one made by Paulm (#177). Always happy to clarify.

    Comment by Robert — 1 Aug 2008 @ 6:04 PM

  213. Re # 209 – John P. Reisman

    “So I will ask you directly. Do you believe this global warming event is human caused?”

    Interesting choice of a word in your question, believe. I believe in God, but I know I weigh 203 lbs. Get the distinction?

    I know that mankind has an impact on the environment, on the eco system and on the climate itself. To state otherwise would be a denial of my own observation and knowledge. I won’t pretend to understand exactly what that impact is or what the implications are. To state otherwise would be a logical fallacy, at least for me.

    Is the earth warming at an unprecedented rate? You seem convinced, that is you believe it to be the case. I haven’t seen the empirical proof and I doubt it can be produced, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the case. So I visit this site and others, to read informed opinions and studies to try and figure things out for myself and gather an informed opinion. I’ve been on the quest for knowledge for quite some time.

    Which brings me to a more direct answer to your question, which is simply I don’t know if I believe in AGW.

    Comment by Robert — 1 Aug 2008 @ 6:19 PM

  214. Matt-#203

    I’m not sure who you’re listening to, but I’m hearing plenty of serious statements from the scientists on the IPCC. There is no ambiguity in their statements about the consequences of not reducing CO2 emissions. That message is not getting across to the general public, which I find incredibly frustrating. But do you really think that more people will listen to and trust scientists who jump up and down screaming at the top of their lungs? Frankly, I don’t know what the answer is, but I’ve received their message loud and clear.

    Comment by cletus — 1 Aug 2008 @ 6:28 PM

  215. Journalistic Whiplash? Read Andy Revkin’s blog post on accreting river deltas and then some of the comments. In my opinion, his blog entry on the ability of river deltas to maintain themselves or even expand under rising sea levels is journalistic whiplash at its worst.

    My criticisms are:

    Mr. Revkin cites a news article that predicts Bangledesh’s entire demise (25m of sea level rise) within a century which itself is incredibly flawed.

    Mistake #1: he treats a past published news article as if it were an edited synopsis of years of peer-reviewed research.

    Mr. Revkin then jumps to his own conclusions despite his lack of training or first hand experience in coastal geology and doesn’t first have some experts check them out.

    That’s mistake #2.

    He then publishes his ponderings in one of the most important sources of news in the world and will get back to his readers with some actual facts after he has a chance to talk to some experts.

    Mistake #3. Too damn late.

    His readers have already jumped to the same conclusions he did while apparently writing his blog entry on the toliet or where ever he was when he wrote this dribble and was otherwise too preoccupied to bring a single relevant fact into his blog entry.

    And here enters his commentors mistake. They’ve read and assumed his blog is held up to the same editorial standards as his news articles.

    Here Mr. Revkin in conjunction with other journalists has just convinced (probably most were already convinced) that sea level rise due to global warming is nothing to be concerned with. The continents will magically rise up and all will be well.

    Comment by Andrew — 1 Aug 2008 @ 7:30 PM

  216. > has just convinced (probably most were already convinced) that sea
    > level rise due to global warming is nothing to be concerned with.

    You’re mistaking the chorus of usual posters there for most people.
    There are very few of them, and they fill up any unmoderated climate thread with the same repeated stuff. Sad. Illustrates the problem Brin referred to in the bit I quoted earlier.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Aug 2008 @ 7:53 PM

  217. Worth reading:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Aug 2008 @ 7:58 PM

  218. Re #215 Andrew, I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis.

    I posted the following comment at the blog and have yet to get an answer. If any one here has an answer, I would appreciate it.

    This is the second time I’m asking this. But, if I can’t get a hold of this report, how can I evaluate it?

    1)I have only found media articles on this report.
    2) Nothing at the the Dhaka-based Center for Environment and Geographic Information Services.
    3) Nothing found in a search of several academic websites.

    Maybe I am missing something?

    Can anyone tell me:
    1) What is the citation?
    2) Where was it published?
    3) Was it peer-reviewed?
    4) How can I get a copy?

    I feel like we are discussing a ghost.

    Mr Revkin, could you please provide a reference for this mysterious new report.

    I have also emailed the authors a day and a half ago, but I have yet to get a response.

    The way this was reported in the media, really science journalism at its worst.

    Comment by streamtracker — 1 Aug 2008 @ 8:25 PM

  219. Re: #206

    Dear John,

    Let us just take a certain subset of climatologists — the ones who already have tenure, for example.

    And, let us assume, for the moment, that we are not toast, and the world actually has a couple of years for us to move to zero CO2 emissions.

    Does it then make logical sense for said tenured professors to continue to devote so much of their time to what they did last year instead of getting the word out to the public so that public policies can be changed for the benefit of all, or does it make better sense for said climatologists to continue to do exactly what they are doing, refining and improving the research results, while we go past the point of no return?

    Comment by Tenney Naumer — 1 Aug 2008 @ 9:45 PM

  220. Tenney,

    Thanks very much for your kind words (#196), and please call me Figen. I heard this year is dryer in Turkey. Even Lake Van (it’s huge) is getting smaller. So I whole-heartedly agree with you that we have to do something fast.

    Comment by Figen Mekik — 1 Aug 2008 @ 10:33 PM

  221. Robert, how do you know you weigh 203 lbs? Are you absolutely certain of this number? Did you consider the error margin of your scale, how much your muscle tone may affect how much you weigh (living people “carry” themselves somewhat based on their muscle and bone strength, hence the term dead weight)? Would you be willing to admit there is some level of uncertainty, a margin of error, in that number, 203lbs?

    If yes, then you are doing science. There are no absolutes in science. But this doesn’t mean believing in AGW is like believing in God. it is more like believing you weigh 203lbs. there’s a LOT of evidence supporting AGW with some uncertainty. but the signal always far outweighs the noise. Is this really so difficult?

    Comment by Figen Mekik — 1 Aug 2008 @ 11:02 PM

  222. Convincing people of the reality of Global Warming is one thing and convincing people it’s Anthropogenic is another – the former can be shown through real world affects such as loss of ice and phenological shifts, with easy to understand measures such as borehole temperatures preferable to referencing models of climate. The latter is a bit harder but I’d say the groundwork is already laid.
    Personally I don’t find it hard to tell explanations of science from real debate about aspects of the science from attempts to convince me the science is wrong – references to credentialled sources that come with the imprimatuer of scientific institutions that exist for the purpose of finding out how climate works is a start on the problem of who to believe. The alternative tends to be the unsupported “warmers say this and that” minus convenient links and references to allow you to go and look for yourself to see if that’s really the case. Graphs that are small portions of much larger graphs tend to be suspect if they fail to mention the limitations or to point to the larger more complete ones.
    Meanwhile the ability of scientists to inform the policy makers and politicians may be more crucial than the lay public, as the views held by them will flow through to those who look that way for leadership. Whilst there are plenty of politicians who will cynically attempt to sway the public for short term gains,the leading ones can tell the difference between a substantial body of scientific knowledge and an attempt to persuade. They are more likely to find discriminating between the immediate costs of strong action on mitigation and projections of the costs of adaptation in it’s absence a crucial factor. They aren’t likely to be taken in by the crude arguments of denialism. Witness recent events in Australia, where the major political parties accept AGW as reality, despite the vocal protestations of denialists even within their ranks.

    Comment by Ken — 1 Aug 2008 @ 11:25 PM

  223. Re #213 Robert

    Good answer. Actually I am quite convinced and unless someone can explain the warming trend and the forcing levels with a natural causation then there is no reason for me to ‘believe’ otherwise.

    You bring up another good point. It really is not about beliefs in a certain sense, it’s about science. So there is a connotative distinction to be made based on the definitions. On one hand, my belief is based on the known science.

    As in transitive verb 1 a

    Many however, believe it is or is not human caused as in intransitive verb 1 a, 2, and 3

    I believe (intransitive verb 3) that subjects both sides that hold such perspective to be caught up in an endless circle of rhetorical opinion argument.

    So in effect and application, you believe in God (because you accept your religious fatih and opinion) and you believe you weigh 203 lbs. (because you trust the technology that measured your weight).

    You state:

    I haven’t seen the empirical proof and I doubt it can be produced, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the case.

    But empirical proof is exactly what has been produced. The Co2 concentrations have changed, the isotopic signature of the Co2 from burning fossil fuel is known, so it is very easy to measure how much Co2 is from industrial process and how much is natural. The same for methane, nitrous oxide in the quantitative measurement and observations. The approximated forcing levels are fairly well understood and the models and observations match up with the GHG levels, albedo changes and many other factors. So the main part of the argument is empirically known.

    The paleo records also are great indicators just how far outside of the natural GHG ranges we are at this time.

    There are lots of little details left to learn about and figure out, but the big stuff is pretty solid along with its associated understanding of projection.

    As the bible says he who turns from the truth once known… Hebrews 10.26 there is no further sacrifice…

    If you really think there is no empirical evidence, you simply have not examined the evidence, or you have not understood the relevance and context of what you have seen. It’s pretty easy stuff to understand once get into the data deep enough and reduce the noise level sufficiently to see the signal.

    Just to give you some perspective, if we were in line with the natural cycle, we would be around 0 W/m2 or likely less (-.1W/m2) at this time (speaking from a radiative equilibrium perspective.) Instead we are around 1.9 W/m2 based on the mean analysis.

    Clearly we are on a different path, and clearly it is not natural. What more precisely do you need to know or see. Or would you prefer to say it’s solar and the sun is in a quiet phase? Or some other equally unsupported argument like global warming has reversed because we have been cooling since 1998?

    You see it’s all about context and relevance of the science, modeled and observed.

    The sun is in a quiet phase but that does not mean we will stop warming. We have been cooling since 1998, but that does not mean we are not continuing to warm in the long term. The sun argument is simple to understand. take away sunspots and you are left with 1.6 W/m2 on the mean, which means we will continue to warm without sunspots. On the cooling since 1998, the long term trend is warming. Just because we had an unusually warm El Nino event does not mean we are cooling long term.

    Like I said, context and relevance.

    Re #204 Robert

    I agree with you, we need a solution that is in the proper context of the known science and the reality of AGW. There is no harm in being realistic, but if you don’t have the empirical science in context then any policy recommendation will be incorrect.

    I’m still curious why I tickled your funny bone since you brought up the premise of

    I’ve got really, really bad news for you. Climate always changes. Always has, always will.

    in the first place. Or had you forgotten that you said it first when you responded to my post?

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 2 Aug 2008 @ 12:38 AM

  224. Tenney, you disagreed with what Figen wrote; I thought it very well put.

    Have you made this short list of tenured climatologists — limiting it to those tenured, and now publishing relevant work in the climate journals? — I doubt you’ll find on that list any doing less than they possibly can already.

    Imagine if those few were to quit publishing.

    Look back at, say, antibiotic resistance, or any of the many other things that scientists have tried to warn the public about. Look at the whole profession of public health.

    These people aren’t magic. People have to listen, or not. Either we’re going to be smart enough, or we’re not.

    Fermi Paradox — where are all the intelligent species that ought to have evolved? We may be right on the normal course, eating up our planet before we can outgrow it, one flicker then darkness.

    Hope not. Don’t blame the tenured climatologists if doing their best to keep us an intelligent species fails.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 Aug 2008 @ 3:56 AM

  225. I think the climate science has serious problems to solve in this matter. The media hysteria and the proliferation of studies indirectly related to global warming is something that is seriously affecting this science. Stories such as the news about global warming and kidney stones for example. And there are millions of others like that, for example see this site:

    All this discredits this science even if this science is not directly responsible for this avalanche of news and studies related with global warming and climate science.

    Sorry for my bad english.

    Comment by Joao — 2 Aug 2008 @ 6:00 AM

  226. Tenney Naumer puts his finger on an important issue, the “Tethered Goat” climate science model. The Goat knows that the wolves are loose, but his job is simply to publish more and graze in a very small circle. Of course, it is not only the self tethered, but there are strong lobbies that are happy with this situation and quite willing to find lose goats (Hansen, Rahmstorf, Schmidt, Pierrehumbert, etc) and try to re-tether them.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 2 Aug 2008 @ 8:01 AM

  227. Re: #226 (Eli)

    I’d suggest that some of the “loose goats” aren’t goats at all; they’re lions or tigers or bears, oh my! You might even run into an especially knowledgeable rabbit, or the occasional bulldog…

    Comment by tamino — 2 Aug 2008 @ 9:53 AM

  228. RE this discussion about what we know and what we belief….a little story.

    In kindergarten the teacher accused me of stepping on and squashing a little boy’s Mexican jumping bean (plastic bean with a tiny worm). The boy was in tears, and I felt sorry for his loss, but I refused to admit I had done the dastardly deed. I didn’t see myself do it, so I didn’t do it.

    Apparently young children cannot understand that they may have done something like that, if they didn’t actually see themselves do it.

    Now as an adult I’ve come to believe that I probably did do that dastardly deed. Several kids had said they saw me do it.

    I also trust what the (bonafide, working) scientists have to say. They could be wrong, but I accept their word, plus it does seem logical (I had come to except the idea of a natural greenhouse effect some decades earlier).

    I also accept their word that the earth is a sphere and goes around the sun, even though my personal experience tells me the earth is flat (especially here in Texas) and the sun rises in the east, travels across the sky, and sets in the west.

    However, we have more help in making decisions, and one is Pascal’s (father of statistics) wager. The false positive on AGW (mitigating it when it is not happening) would be a great economic and environmental bonanza, while the false negative (fiddling while the world burns) would be an extreme tragedy (see my post #125), so I opt to act as if AGW is real, and even worse than the reticent, false-postive-fearing climate scientists are telling us. That is, I really into reducing my own GHGs, and trying to get others to do likewise.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 2 Aug 2008 @ 10:57 AM

  229. Politics is such a distraction. Gavin is always at his best when he speaks to climate modeling science. With that in mind, I hope he can take the time to respond substantively to #103, which replies to Gavin’s inline in #78. #103 cuts to the heart of the matter. These models are the basis for GHG/AGW attribution. If they are in error, then points #38 and #84 lose all their weight. Either way, #110 is wrong, as #103 proves. Finally, if #106 is true then one should expect a substantive thread devoted to #103.

    Thank you for this forum. Let’s hope for a thread on Koutsoyiannis’s 2008 paper:

    Recap for context [+ my reply]:
    #38 There are >20 global climate models–not one of which works with a climate sensitivity of <2 K per doubling of CO2.
    [Or is it, more simply: “not one of which works”?]

    [Response: Some models are better than others, but all work in that their emergent properties – the mid-latitude storm tracks, the circulation of the ocean, the ITCZ, the monsoons all appear as a consequence of the underlying assumptions (raditative transfer, NS equations, conservation of mass etc.). – gavin]

    #78 Perhaps you could show me one place on this blog where we have claimed absolute certainty on anything remotely contentious? – gavin
    [Multiple claims that all relevant physics are “known” – as though scaling through a fluid hydroatmosphere is a non-issue.]

    [Response: Never been claimed. The radiative properties of CO2 are well known, but scaling issues in turbulence are not. Please do not use “quotes” to imply that I have made statements I have not. – gavin]

    #84 Nobody has figured out how to make a climate model work with sensitivity less than 2 K/doubling.
    [Maybe because the models are broken or the approach to ensemble modeling is incorrect?]

    [Response: The models aren’t broken and climate sensitivity has nothing to do with using ensembles. If you can come up with a model that matches the cooling of the LGM that is consistent with no sensitivity to CO2, I have a Nature editor who’d love to hear from you. – gavin]

    #106 RC is relatively probably the best climate science blog/forum going.

    #110 None of the “skeptics” on this thread are going to challenge those basic scientific lines of evidence or the estimates they produce with anything other than recycled and refuted nonsense.
    [Are the GHG/AGW attribution models skillful? Are their projections credible? What’s the relevant metric, and how well do they perform?]

    [Response: Not amenable to a one line response – read the IPCC report in the meantime. – gavin]

    Comment by Richard Sycamore — 2 Aug 2008 @ 11:18 AM

  230. Re # 240 Robert

    For the sake of clarity regarding your posts:

    You claimed special insight (#191) that “as a child of a member of the “Greatest Generation” pertaining to “exactly what ‘that’ means” with a casual comment and you are writing in a science blog saying that there is no empirical evidence thus making it clear to us that you know nothing of the existing empirical evidence that is widely available and you are giving equal weight to denialist arguments that are not supported by science when put in context, and now (post #213) you are stating that you do not believe it is human caused.

    You claim you are trying to learn about the science; but what I see is you are merely a part of the background noise confusing people with ambiguous statements and casual comments that have no relevant meaning or significant point. Maybe you should warn people with a statement like I don’t know what I’m talking about and am still trying to figure AGW out; but I’m not examining the relevant science and still listening to denialist arguments and giving them inappropriate weight pertaining to my beliefs. You know, sort of like a warming label.

    That would be less confusing to people reading your posts.

    If on the other hand you are serious about learning. Contact me through my web site by email and I would be happy to discuss the matter with you directly to help you understand the empirical evidence. Or, just click on

    and start reading

    Not knowing is not a good excuse at this time in relation to the empirical body of evidence, the fingerprints, the quantitative knowledge observed and modeled.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 2 Aug 2008 @ 11:41 AM

  231. SecularAnimist: ‘The “government intervention” that might be most objectionable to “conservatives” would be a carbon tax, simply because many “conservatives” have a monomaniacal hatred of taxes of any kind for any reason. But a carbon tax is merely a way of forcing the market to recognize the costs of fossil fuel use that are currently “externalized” (which means foisted off on the public).’

    I actually agree with most of your 209 comment.

    As a libertarian who probably hates taxes more than most “conservatives”, I could agree that a _revenue neutral_ carbon tax would be a desirable and useful way to mitigate carbon emissions. The key to getting conservatives and libertarians to agree to a carbon tax is the revenue neutral part. Almost every proposal I have seen from politicians plans to generate revenue for them to distribute in a way that gives them more power.

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 2 Aug 2008 @ 11:43 AM

  232. #215 Andrew

    You stated that Mr. Revkin made many mistakes. But when I read the piece, I did not get that impression.

    Then you go on to say he indicates everything is dandy, no worries?

    Here Mr. Revkin in conjunction with other journalists has just convinced (probably most were already convinced) that sea level rise due to global warming is nothing to be concerned with. The continents will magically rise up and all will be well.

    So I am confused about what point you are trying to make. You want to say Mr. Revkin is guilty of Journalistic Whiplash? But your contexts and basis are not reasonable from what I can derive from your post.

    A blog is to stimulate discussion so I don’t think it needs to live up to the journalistic standards of an article, in other words, it’s fair game to say he will look into things more.

    I don’t think he is saying that “The continents will magically rise up and all will be well.” He is stating that is occurring in Alaska. If one extrapolates into the future, the rising land will be back underwater soon anyway, so I hope people don’t start building there.

    It is my impression that Mr. Revkin is doing a great job of late and getting better. He has good context and is pointing out multiple perspectives that are relevant.

    Here’s the skinny on the Revkin item as I read it in context with the what is reasonably understood in the science:

    We already doubled the sea level rise rate so that is one basis from which yo calculate. We know we are warming and the forcing is in the system for a long long time.

    Assuming this is a linear progression:

    Let’s say we double again in the next 10 years, and so on…

    2cm and again
    4cm and so on… 9 more decades…
    8 cm
    16 cm
    32 cm
    64 cm
    128 cm
    256 cm
    512 cm

    add that all up and you can see that Hansen was being generous by not adding the last decade

    the total is 10.22 meters of sea level rise (33 feet). But this is assuming a linear progression. There are non linear components and it is reasonable to assess that the non linear will lean toward the acceleration side of the scale due to positive feedbacks overriding negative feedbacks.

    So it may not be prudent to rule out 25 meters of rise just yet.

    Revkin referenced other articles and that is not unreasonable considering the context he gave it.

    Add another decade to the linear progression on top of the previous calcs. and we are at 20.5 meters of sea level rise

    The overall tone and content was quite informative in my opinion.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 2 Aug 2008 @ 11:48 AM

  233. Ken, your #222 is well-put. I was trying to say some of the same things, quite differently, in my much earlier post in this thread. Assessing the value of the argumentation on each side of a debate is not purely a matter of assessing content: it is also a matter of assessing process and procedure. So those of us who are at best scientific amateurs may find it useful to consider not just the arcana (for us!) of integrations over differently-shaped surfaces, interrelations between forcings, sensitivities, and responses at varying timescales, etc., etc., but also the internal consistency and consistency over time, the reliability and transparency (in terms of sources/cites), the responsiveness (or lack thereof) in confronting objections to one’s own argument, and level of relevance of points made of each side. For some of us, it may be a good deal easier to recognize a good or bad faith argument by means of such markers than to simply to “do the math” (which some of us, sadly, are not so well equipped to follow.)

    It’s not easy, in the sense that it takes time and effort to do such an analysis, but this individual response is, I think, an important part of dealing with the “journalistic whiplash.” The other part is sharing what we learn with those who may be less able or willing to put in that effort. Most on this site are clearly involved with both parts of this process: educating themselves, and sharing the understanding(s) that they develop.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 2 Aug 2008 @ 11:52 AM

  234. Back on-topic. There is also a problem with the sources and press-releases newswriters choose to use.

    Last Oct I was upset by a segment on EWTN’s (Catholic channel) Rome Reports (aired thru Raymond Arroyo), “Is Pope Benedict the First Eco-Pope?” [Of coure not, John Paul II was.] It’s past the middle of the video at .

    It featured Lord Monckton, and a spokesperson from the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, who dismissed environmentalists as nature worshippers.

    Acton (see does press releases and provides speakers, I’m guesssing mainly for Catholic news orgs and groups, perhaps for other religions, as well.

    I just found out this week that ACTON IS HEAVILY FUNDED BY EXXON, which as you know is notorious for its funding of climate change disinformation. See: .

    This makes one wonder about Rome Reports’s funding, and Raymond Arroyo’s, and EWTN’s. Not sure about Monckton either. And what other Church or quasi-church orgs might be so funded.

    At any rate either Catholic news providers are unwittingly getting duped,…or wittingly.

    This whole media wrongful reporting is just another nail in the coffin of our belief and trust in society. In addition to this church-media corruption, when you also consider our other institutions — government, educational (many funded by corrupt industries), and the corrupt industries themselves — that trust in society is getting pretty much smashed to smitherines. I imagine this all-pervasive corruption might culminate in taking a large toll on society. If you can’t trust anyone, even your own mother….

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 2 Aug 2008 @ 12:06 PM

  235. Lynn Vincentnathan: “The false positive on AGW (mitigating it when it is not happening) would be a great economic and environmental bonanza…”

    Since the above statement conflicts with the position of most peer-reviewed economists, I curious why you seem to have so much faith in climate science and so little faith in economic science.

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 2 Aug 2008 @ 12:19 PM

  236. Worth remembering, when puzzling over why the media get this so wrong:


    “… The worst thing about Mr. Gore, from the conservative point of view, is that he keeps being right. In 1992, George H. W. Bush mocked him as the “ozone man,” but three years later the scientists who discovered the threat to the ozone layer won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In 2002 he warned that if we invaded Iraq, “the resulting chaos could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam.” And so it has proved.

    But Gore hatred is more than personal. …

    Consider the policy implications of taking climate change seriously.

    “We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals,” said F.D.R. “We know now that it is bad economics.”

    ———end excerpt——–

    reCapcha says: “Puzzle War”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 Aug 2008 @ 12:24 PM

  237. Re: #224

    Dear Hank,

    First, let’s try to keep the word “blame” out of the discussion because that is not what I am doing. (I chose “tenured” professors because they are no longer in the situation of “publish or perish.”)

    Second, I would refer you to my comment #219.

    Third, I would ask you to consider if it makes logical sense for scientists to continue in a state of scientific reticence or should they act as if they believe in their own error bars?

    Fourth, I realize that it is difficult to ponder the fact that we are heading toward self-annihilation given the fact that whenever I personally try to contemplate that future, my own brain insists on changing the subject in remarkably short order.

    Fifth, I must ask you to try to believe in the butterfly effect. If I didn’t believe in it, I would not be typing this comment.

    Comment by Tenney Naumer — 2 Aug 2008 @ 1:18 PM

  238. Robert wrote: “Is the earth warming at an unprecedented rate? […] I haven’t seen the empirical proof and I doubt it can be produced …”

    The empirical proof has been produced, and is readily available in the public domain, including documents linked from this very website, so if you “haven’t seen it” that is your own shortcoming, not a shortcoming of the science.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 2 Aug 2008 @ 1:19 PM

  239. Re #171: The problem with public perceptions is far more intractable than mere ignorance. I’ve linked these here before, but once again:

    Understanding Public Complacency About Climate Change: Adults’ mental models of climate change violate conservation of matter

    Abstract: “Public attitudes about climate change reveal a contradiction. Surveys show most Americans believe climate change poses serious risks but also that reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions sufficient to stabilize atmospheric GHG concentrations or net radiative forcing can be deferred until there is greater evidence that climate change is harmful. US policymakers likewise argue it is prudent to wait and see whether climate change will cause substantial economic harm before undertaking policies to reduce emissions. Such wait-and-see policies erroneously presume climate change can be reversed quickly should harm become evident, underestimating substantial delays in the climate’s response to anthropogenic forcing. We report experiments with highly educated adults-graduate students at MIT-showing widespread misunderstanding of the fundamental stock and flow relationships, including mass balance principles, that lead to long response delays. GHG emissions are now about twice the rate of GHG removal from the atmosphere. GHG concentrations will therefore continue to rise even if emissions fall, stabilizing only when emissions equal removal. In contrast, results show most subjects believe atmospheric GHG concentrations can be stabilized while emissions into the atmosphere continuously exceed the removal of GHGs from it. These beliefs — analogous to arguing a bathtub filled faster than it drains will never overflow — support wait-and-see policies but violate conservation of matter. Low public support for mitigation policies may be based more on misconceptions of climate dynamics than high discount rates or uncertainty about the risks of harmful climate change.”

    Why Don’t Well-Educated Adults Understand Accumulation? A Challenge to Researchers, Educators, and Citizens

    Abstract: “Accumulation is a fundamental process in dynamic systems: inventory accumulates production less shipments; the national debt accumulates the federal deficit. Effective decision making in such systems requires an understanding of the relationship between stocks and the flows that alter them. However, highly educated people are often unable to infer the behavior of simple stock-flow systems. Poor performance has been ascribed to complex information displays, lack of contextual knowledge, the cognitive burden of calculation, or the inability to interpret graphs.

    “Here, we demonstrate that poor understanding of accumulation, termed stock-flow failure, is more fundamental. In a series of experiments we find that persistent poor performance is not attributable to an inability to interpret graphs, lack of contextual knowledge, motivation, or cognitive capacity. Rather, stock-flow failure is a robust phenomenon that appears to be a function of the mental models constructed and used when encountering a dynamic system. We show that many, including highly educated individuals with strong technical training, use what we term the ‘correlation heuristic’, erroneously assuming that the behavior of a stock matches the pattern of its flows. We discuss the origins of stock-flow failure and implications for management and education.”

    Some related research is available here.

    This apparent incapacity to grasp the problem appears to be uncorrelated with intelligence (and in my entirely unexpert opinion is probably genetic, much like color blindness). Combine this grouping with those who can see the problem but choose for reasons such as short-term self-interest to ignore it, and IMHO we have ourselves a majority of the population.

    On the plus side, it does seem clear that things can and probably will change quickly the moment large numbers of humans are affected by a climate disaster (or a series of them, more likely). Unfortunately that point in time may be too late to prevent rather a lot of very bad further effects.

    (Here it’s worth pointing out that the views of people like Lomborg and Pielke Jr. are dangerous because the approach of favoring adaptation over mitigation would have the effect of maximizing the response lag by the countries that are simultaneously most responsible for the problem and have the most resources to implement solutions.)

    For anyone thinking that I’m being too pessimistic, consider the response of the U.S. to the problems of energy security and peak oil. It was crystal clear thirty years ago that both were going to become huge problems within the lifetimes of many then living, and even as the consequences of both have recently become much more pointed it seems our society would do almost anything to avoid grappling with them in a serious way. One day historians may mark the day Ronald Reagan had Jimmy Carter’s solar installation removed from the White House roof as a “Day of Infamy” much worse than the Pearl Harbor attack.

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 2 Aug 2008 @ 1:45 PM

  240. Tenney, you’re asking individuals to take on an industry.
    Remember what happened to Ben Santer? They do, I’m sure.
    People have human limits on what they can do. Industries don’t.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 Aug 2008 @ 1:46 PM

  241. Dear Hank,

    Let’s just agree between the two of us to disagree on this point, but I would point out that your comments are all about why something can’t be done and mine are about how it can be done.

    As long as people repeat to themselves that something can’t be done, then it won’t get done.

    And here we are, needing the whole world to get on a new path or there won’t even be a viable planet much less this blog or peer-reviewed research publications.

    Comment by Tenney Naumer — 2 Aug 2008 @ 2:55 PM

  242. #235, Steve, I do lack belief in neoclassical economic theory to address issues in the anthropocene. It probably held up somewhat in the holocene. I’ve discussed that elsewhere —

    More importantly, I myself reduced my GHGs since 1990 by two-thirds, without lowering my living standard, and Amory Lovins figures America could reduce its GHGs by three-fourths, without lowering productivity (in economic terms we are way off inside the production possibilities frontier).

    Furthermore, there is a tremendous amount of subsidies and tax-breaks going to oil and coal, not even counting military costs to secure oil supplies. So those of us on wind are paying for other people to pollute on April 15th.

    We do not have a free market. So, well, maybe a free market might even work, but I guess we can never know.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 2 Aug 2008 @ 5:09 PM

  243. Lynn Vincentnathan: We do not have a free market. So, well, maybe a free market might even work, but I guess we can never know.

    I agree that we do not have a free market, but I also agree with economists that being closer to one is better than further.

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 2 Aug 2008 @ 8:53 PM

  244. #235 #243 Steve Reynolds

    I have faith in economic models to the extent they are relevant to the economics of related interdynamic systems.

    For example if the interpretation of use of a particular economic model ultimately destroys one economy in favor of another that may of may not be good.

    In my interpretations every system has an economy that has components. As in living systems theory and the 20 critical subsystems.

    The economy in this case is the give and take between the inter-dynamic systems.

    Definition 3a applies to systems theory.

    So if you are talking about all inter-dynamic economies that is one thing, if you are only referring to the monetary economy and the industrial economy, then the scope is sufficiently narrowed to render any monetary economy arguments irrelevant in relation to the aggregate economy of the planet earth. You could of course extend that to the parent system and economic exchange with the solar system, but that would be out of context on a geologic time scale with the more relevant discussion pertaining to the economy of climate and bio-systems, GHG’s, forcing, and the human subsystem of earth and its co-lateral, parent and subsystems.

    “Every living dynamic system is tied in some way to all other systems. What happens at the macro-level effects the micro-level and vice versa, with resonance’s equivalent to the relevance of the individual event.”

    Since we have no objective value basis for the monetary economy it is not possible with the current systems to have even a remotely free economy. What we seem to have though is corporate social-ism, where they get the benefits and we get to pay for it. But that can’t last either i.e. the tragedy of the commons, which Gavin recently brought up. It is something that should be well considered and with tempered care.

    Economists that argue for free market economy are full of hot air literally since they are merely supporting in the well marketed ideas that foster corporate social-ism.

    Ike Solem pointed out some relevant points on this in #110

    Others are still basically committed to the fossil fuel economic model, for example ExxonMobil, Senator Inhofe, and the current United States government. Their response to the problem has included paying large sums to ex-tobacco science public relation firms to press the denialist talking points, halting any political efforts to regulate fossil fuel emissions, and censoring government scientists and defunding climate satellites, all in an attempt to keep us all firmly on the “business-as-usual” projection path.

    and taminos #60 pointed out the means

    #72 pointed out a method of solution

    I may be going the long way around the barn, but the reality is economy is not just monetary and we’re going to have to get more economical and more conservative in our conservation if we are to preserve a sustainable global socio-climatological-biosphere-monetary economy that is more, rather than less, livable.

    If we over tax the global economy we all lose.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 2 Aug 2008 @ 11:49 PM

  245. Re: 232

    “Here’s the skinny on the Revkin item as I read it in context with the what is reasonably understood in the science:”

    First, I do regret the tone of my post.

    Mr. Revkin doesn’t understand the science. A meter of sea level rise over the next century will inundate vast areas of Bangladesh and make vast areas unsuitable for farming and the delta building of the Ganges will be unable to prevent this. Certainly there are means of artificially enhancing the delta building process to reduce the losses. Such means are now employed at the mouth of the Atchafalaya in Louisiana (Mississippi Delta). But they are no match for rapidly rising sea levels.

    The news article he cites sets up a strawman argument which Mr. Revkin then sets alight. That is that 25m of sea level are required to cause catastrophic losses in Bangladesh.

    Sea level has been fairly stable for 6,000 years and this has allowed the build up of large deltas along the world’s coastlines. These are vast areas that are very flat and without much slope. Sediments tend to accumulate in these deltas near the high tide elevation and only above that fairly slowly. The result is that relatively small amounts of sea level rise (eustatic or subsidence-driven) inundates vast areas of delta land. For example, where I live on the upper coast of Texas, one foot of sea level rise will cause the shoreline to retreat 1,500 feet. But in Louisiana on the Mississippi Delta, one foot of sea level rise will cause the shoreline to retreat over 15,000 feet.

    This characteristic of deltas is why the temporary sea level rise seen in tropical cyclone driven storm surges cause such huge casulties and crop losses when they strike delta areas such as Bangladesh or Myanmar or New Orleans.

    One meter of sea level rise will be catastrophic in Bangladesh, but even more so in Louisiana as the microtidal climate (seasonal lunar tides fluctuate only about 1.5 feet) that that delta has formed in means that very little of it is above 1 meter in elevation. It now seems inevitable that the world will lose some of its most valuable real estate in terms of food production, human habitation and habitat for wildlife and fisheries over the next century due to AGW.

    Comment by Andrew — 3 Aug 2008 @ 12:14 AM

  246. Wow, quite a thread. Two thoughts. One on Whiplash, the other on Bangladesh’s coastal troubles.

    1) I’ve got to rebut the assertion by #28 above that The Times hasn’t reported on corporate disinformation efforts related to global warming. Such stories began in 1998, with Jack Cushman’s page-one piece on the extraordinary memo laying out a corporate-funded plan to sprinkle uncertainty in the climate discourse; my story in 2001 on Exxon Mobil’s effort to get Robert Watson dumped as IPCC chairman; my 2005 piece on the former oil lobbyist sprinkling uncertainty in government climate reports; etc.

    2) On Bangladesh, I felt obliged to start a thread on the Bangladesh news without access to the data and researchers simply because it’s the kind of assertion that reverberates far and wide. I didn’t write a print piece because the whiplash threshold is higher in print. As it turned out, Kevin Trenberth of NCAR (in an update to that post) says sediment accretion is not something to sneeze at.

    I’ve written before on the mixed value of blogging (my Dot Earth post calling for a “Slow Blog Movement” gets into this a bit).

    I’m hoping Gavin et al weigh in yet on whether the IPCC has considered sediment accretion at all in assessing regional impacts of climate and sea-level change.

    Comment by Andy Revkin — 3 Aug 2008 @ 9:03 AM

  247. When one considers the sheer length of Bangladesh’s coastline, it seems incredible to assume that accretion from Himalayan sediments will suffice to save Bangladesh from the rapid sea-level rise occurring today. Just look at a map.

    captcha: beside crude

    Comment by Tenney Naumer — 3 Aug 2008 @ 10:20 AM

  248. Tenney, I haven’t explained myself well if you think I’m saying ‘can’t — I’m saying the scientists I’ve known pretty much do all they can to educate people in and out of classrooms. I grew up a ‘faculty brat’ and saw this kind of outreach all my life. I still see it going on. It’s part of being a scientist for a lot of people. Yes, not all do it, some are so specialized, or so introverted and so focused, they don’t do much public contact.

    Pushing them into the PR grinder won’t improve public understanding. The public has fun, too many of them, watching charming mountebanks humiliate smart people.

    I think even RC, well moderated as it is, is too harsh an environment for some of the scientists I know. Let alone a site like Dot Earth. Let alone the local church or club or other public venue — which is where I see those scientists willing to speak to people doing exactly that.

    If there’s some individual scientist you think is wasting his time by doing work instead of say joining you in the threads, ask her or him why, eh? Otherwise you’re just proclaiming “they” should be doing something different.

    I think they’re as human as anyone else, though often far better informed, and as open and available as anyone to helping people learn.

    But if they had wanted to be in PR or sales they’d be there. You’re asking them to jump into that arena. Could you offer to teach them how to do it? Find the reluctant ones and offer to be their mentor?

    Heck, all of us who aren’t scientists and do pop up here — and wherever we work, play, have contact with other people — really have to be available not just to convince other nonscientists, but to be helpful to any scientist who, watching us, thinks we can help them explain this stuff.

    Part of being in the milieu is being available. If you’re convincing and your skill doing this is obvious to the scientists you think aren’t outspoken enough they’ll ask your help in speaking up. OK?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 Aug 2008 @ 11:11 AM

  249. Andy Revkin wrote
    > to rebut the assertion by #28 above that The Times hasn’t reported

    Andy, how did you find those examples? Can you tell us not just the fact but the way to find those stories, so any other reader here can look up the NYT’s reporting on corporate disinformation on climate?

    I’m fair at searching, and I can find that stuff — but it means reading through huge amounts of chaff. Do you have a search tool AT the NYT you can tell us how better to use, limiting terms, or such?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 Aug 2008 @ 11:17 AM

  250. Andy also wrote:

    > But, of course, the echo chamber was already reverberating.
    > You may have noticed several Dot Earth visitors who reject
    > the idea that humans are warming the planet posted links to the
    > initial barrage of criticisms of Mr. Clinton….
    > …
    > Does anyone out there want to start a “slow blog” movement?

    Oh yeah, we know the regulars. Others besides me have suggested several times (as I suggested above, here) doing parallel threads, one for the scientists’ conversation, one for the peanut gallery.

    That would be your “slow blog” movement, Andy. I think it’d fit the need the science authors and journals all have to be heard, slowly, as they write, thoughtfully.

    The science discussion would probably accumulate 1/100 of the volume the peanut gallery thread would. You’d want one or more authors (the corresponding author?), someone from the journal, the authors of some of the _cited_ papers especially those critiqued. You’d be doing something delicate in parallel with the usual academic do-se-do of publishing. RC does it now, when papers are in preparation but not yet published. Mention, put a placeholder, revisit.

    You could be doing this with Others have asked too.

    If you did, eventually, nobody would read the peanut gallery thread — it would be so popular with the === crowd that nobody would go there any more except to paste more rhetoric.

    Pull that stuff out of your current threads and they’d lose most of the volume and none of the information.

    Yes, you want to _know_ these people are out there. Where’s that sociology team study you were talking about in the earlier climate thread? Is it really happening?

    I really hope you (journalists, scientists) can do something like this, whether by separating threads in, or elsewhere.
    RC does it well now but I wish there were more scientists either invited, or encouraged, to speak up. People like me who’d like to help are around, we don’t need our names posted, invite us to do library grunt work for you, check cites, do careful excerpting, if you will.

    Even to (gack) read the peanut gallery thread looking for pearls.

    Captcha: heats discharged

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 Aug 2008 @ 11:32 AM

  251. Hank (248): “If they (scientists) had wanted to be in PR or sales they’d be there”. There probably are many scientists who would love to combine science and outreach/communication. But in the current academic system, esp for young scientists (without tenure), combining these is very difficult. Whereas among young scientists, the desire to also engage in public outreach is probably the greatest. That’s a big loss of potential.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 3 Aug 2008 @ 3:39 PM

  252. Bart, Tenney said ‘tenured’ not ‘young … without tenure’ — different!

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 Aug 2008 @ 3:57 PM

  253. I think Hank (248) explains the dilemma very well. (Truth in advertising: I’m a sceptic but trying to put myself in the AGW camp to comment helpfully.) It is the scientists who, seemingly, likely will have to carry the bulk of the water in convincing the public. The problem is that they are (usually) not equipped with the appropriate “skills” for that effort, don’t particularly want to learn those skills, and, if they did try, would not be very good at it. Ever try to turn a guy into a master electrician who hates electricity and construction work? Maybe more to the point, some of the skills necessary in what I’ll loosely call PR is just not in the psyche nor the desire of many scientists. So putting the onus on the scientists is unworkable; and criticizing them or holding them somehow accountable is silly and simple buck passing.

    If you can find the rare scientists who are also outstanding speakers, debaters, convincers, collar him/her and quickly double, at least, the remuneration. But, to beat the odds to get anywhere, the burden needs to be placed on a “public interface” skill set. Granted, they would have a difficult time learning the right level of climate science. But marketing guys do that all the time. Hank is right-on in his post. (More erudite than mine, I might add.)

    Comment by Rod B — 3 Aug 2008 @ 4:27 PM

  254. Just as this site is and should be apolitical, my feeling is that good journalism should try to stay neutral and report from personal observation and discussion with authorities in their respective field.

    I had the opportunity to attend a talk at NYU’s Lifelong Learning Institute a few years ago, given by Andy Revkin and he did a fine job of relating his experiences in the Arctic and on what’s happening to Greenland’s ice cover and floating arctic ice sheets without revealing which ‘side’ he favors. I believe this was proper, and adds to the overall credibility of responsible reporting.

    We had a wide ranging Q and A afterward, the subject of sea level rise was included. I raised the possibility of non-linear or exponential rise and there was general consensus that this is indeed possibe.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 3 Aug 2008 @ 5:59 PM

  255. Re #246: Andy, that’s an odd reading of what Trenberth said. After noting that sediment accumulation can compensate for a small amount of sea level rise he wrote, “I suspect that projected rates of sea level rise are too great and the risk is that the natural processes can not keep up, or even if they do they become episodically overwhelmed by a storm surge.”

    One aspect of sea level rise I have never seen any media coverage on is the impact on fisheries of the inundation of existing estuarine ecosystems. Will even a few feet of sea level rise terminate estuary productivity, will that have a huge negative impact on fisheries, and will the re-establishment of these ecosystems be more a matter of centuries than decades? I suspect the answer to all of those questions may be yes. Please ask your experts about it.

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 3 Aug 2008 @ 7:32 PM

  256. Well worth reading:
    Thoughts and notes on science

    “I’ll be trying what seems to be an unusual approach in blogs — writing to be inclusive of students in middle school and jr. high, as well as teachers and parents (whether for their own information or to help their children). To that end, comments will have to pass a stricter standard than I’d apply for an all-comers site. It shouldn’t be onerous …”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 Aug 2008 @ 9:50 PM

  257. The Sacramento Bee today (Sunday) published a fascinating article by Pulitzer Prize award winning writer Tom Knudson entitled, “Sierra warming: Climate change puts heat on high country.”

    Captcha: sent always (this site may require you to subscribe — if so, I can email the article to those interested)

    Here are a few introductory paragraphs:

    “No longer is climate change a distant drama of shrinking polar ice caps. As year-round ice fades from the saw-toothed summits of the Sierra Nevada, as Klieforth and others watch a world change in their lifetimes, it’s clear an unwelcome reality is at our doorstep: Global warming is local warming.

    “Just as rising worldwide temperatures are sowing problems in the far north and parts of Antarctica, so, too, are they bringing big changes to our own northern exposure in the Sierra and other mountain regions.

    “You can see it in the dead rust-red pines west of Yosemite National Park, the fading easel of wildflowers near Carson Pass south of Lake Tahoe and the parched bare banks of lakes and reservoirs. You can smell it in the acrid ash-gray smoke from a siege of early-season wildfires that has choked much of the region for weeks on end.

    “You can hear it in the quiet murmur of small streams that once rushed noisily downhill in July; in the whoosh of cars over Tioga Pass after Thanksgiving – a time when the white-knuckle road crossing, the highest in California, was always closed by snow prior to 1975; and in the voices and observations of scientists, resource managers and mountain residents.”

    Comment by Jim Eaton — 4 Aug 2008 @ 12:27 AM

  258. RE: #235

    “The false positive on AGW (mitigating it when it is not happening) would be a great economic and environmental bonanza…”

    Since the above statement conflicts with the position of most peer-reviewed economists, I curious why you seem to have so much faith in climate science and so little faith in economic science.

    What an outrageous statement! You might think this is true, but I would like to see the evidence. Citations please!

    Comment by Paul Melanson — 4 Aug 2008 @ 10:09 AM

  259. Re: 255 “One aspect of sea level rise I have never seen any media coverage on is the impact on fisheries of the inundation of existing estuarine ecosystems. Will even a few feet of sea level rise terminate estuary productivity, will that have a huge negative impact on fisheries, and will the re-establishment of these ecosystems be more a matter of centuries than decades? I suspect the answer to all of those questions may be yes. Please ask your experts about it.”

    I think this is a worthy topic as one of the more certain aspects of AGW is that the rate of sea level rise has increased as the result of thermal expansion and is undoubtedly going to increase unless AGW somehow stops. You can argue about what the ice is going to do, but there is no arguement that water expands as it heats.

    I suggest looking over the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana’s web page to get an idea of how big a problem this is and could be for marsh and estuary loss associated with sea level rise. Be warned that the cause of Louisiana’s marsh and estuary loss is complex and is much debated. There is no question that sea level is and will continue to exacerbate the problem and at some point will completely overwhelm other causes of coastal land loss.


    For good scientific debate, the best journals are Estuaries and the Journal of Coastal Research. These are widely available in university libraries.

    Comment by Andrew — 4 Aug 2008 @ 11:32 AM

  260. Bangladesh.

    Curiosity about Bangladesh’s vulnerability lead me to visit the Sundarbans last year on a trip that after several days meandering through the waterways of this forested jungle lead us out onto the Bay of Bengal. Expecting a vast expanse of mudflats from the billion tons of sediment coming each year down the Ganges, Brahmanputra and Meghna (GBM) rivers I was very surprised to find a sandy, gently sloping, swimable beach. Our guide pointed out where a island had been visible until a year or two before, and on the distant points dead trees could be seen standing out to sea. On the shoreline a tangle of dead trees and exposed stumps indicated recent erosion. And at mid-tide there was the shell of a house that seven years earlier had been 400 metres inside the jungle. A most disagreeable scene.
    Picture here:

    Where the sand was absent there was an understrata of mud that was at least fifty (from the size of some of the trees), and for all I could tell hundreds or thousands of years old. So for the ten or twenty kilometres of coast I could see the shoreline was eroding at 50 to 100 metres per year. This made no sense at all. AGW sea level rise could not account for this. Once I had access to the internet, I was able to find research that indicates the GBM delta is sinking, as do other large deltas, under the weight of their sediment.
    Research sample here:

    The coastal strip of land where I observed the erosion appeared to be a barrier island; behind it is the Sundarbans reserve, eighty or so kilometres back to the boundary south of Mongla. As far as I could tell this forest of quite large trees was mostly under water at high tide; again, this makes no sense unless the land is sinking; these tidal areas tend to silt up over time. While all this is just traveler’s anecdote, I came away convinced that at least for the Khulna district, Bangladesh is extremely vulnerable to catastrophic cyclonic surge, and that this vulnerability will increase over time, regardless of AGW. An even worse disaster than the 1970 cyclone, which killed upwards of 500,000 people, remains possible.

    I would disagree with Mr Revkin that the IPCC should investigate regional impacts such as this. The interplay of factors at work here includes sediment build up, sediment reduction due to up-river dam building, delta subsidence, tectonic shifting (Bengal is tilting eastward) and no doubt more, let alone AGW and sea level rise. As for the Dhaka-based academics whose paper began this thread, they do have the problem that travel in Bangladesh is difficult and uncomfortable. I still have nightmares about the size and speed of the cockroach that shared my berth on the MV Bonbibi. Nevertheless credible research into the risks facing Bangladesh requires survey and measurement out in the field. And managing these risks requires a realistic assessment of Bangladesh’s capabilities.


    Comment by Pat McLean — 4 Aug 2008 @ 4:11 PM

  261. Steve, who are these “peer-reviewed economists” you keep invoking? I’m still waiting for an answer from you to my question in the “Bray” thread.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 4 Aug 2008 @ 4:39 PM

  262. Re 197 John, your arguments are well made but when making such arguments one needs to be aware of the best method of persuading people. The \ignorant\ public have been listening to high priests and authorities since ancient times fortelling doom and destruction and there is perhaps a natural tendency to be suspicious of the purveyors of these stories. In light of this one needs to choose carefully the best form of communication and messages to avoid antagonising people.

    Comment by Patrick — 5 Aug 2008 @ 6:41 AM

  263. > avoid antagonising people

    Any? All? 51 percent? top management?
    Some people are going to be antagonized.

    Regrettably, I think, some people make a specialty out of being ticked off, it gets them what they want.

    There’s a very sad piece up today about “NPR’s new editorial director of digital media” who, you’d hope, was interested in news.

    Instead it’s a book about how everybody hates and whines a lot.

    All those little complaints are indicators of something bigger, Meyer told Steve Inskeep: a lack of trust in public leadership and an overall weakening of public morality.

    Coincidence? Cause and effect? Where’s he going with this?

    What’s sad is he says he gave up his bullshit detector on 9/11. Now he’s describing whiny people and says that describes everyone.

    His piece goes through a long list from his new book winds down with:

    “These are little things in some respects. They’re not global warming or genocide. But they don’t feel little.”

    To which I think the only response is:

    “I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that. Now, now… Here’s looking at you kid.”

    Bless his heart. I hope he gets his bullshit detector back.

    reCaptcha: Javert com

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Aug 2008 @ 8:25 AM

  264. RE #243, we do need some gov regs and programs to combat GW (esp to get the point-source industries to do the right thing), but I also agree that we need to have a relatively free market to encourage (nonpoint-source) people to do the right thing. This would entail internalizing at least some of the externalties (e.g., enviro & health harms from pollution and global warming).

    So gov could (slowly over the next 5 years) take away all the subsidies and tax breaks from fossil fuels (and make oil pay at least a small portion of military operations that involves oil-rich nations from which the companies get the oil), and also impose a modernate “externalities tax” — some of which would go back to the tax-payers. Then with that extra money the tax-payers could decide whether to pay, say, $10 per gallon (costing 33 cents/mile for a 30 mpg car), or opt for an electric car — which should cost less than an ICE car if mass produced — which costs less than 2 cents per mile to run.

    There could also be tax-breaks for buying electric cars. Some people would still opt for the ICE car for various reasons, but I think, at least for 2-car families, a whole lot of people would switch, and heavily rely on their EV for commuting purposes. I understand that with the latest battery tech, EVs can have a 200 mile range and recharge within 2 hours. See: . I know Tesla Roadsters are very expensive, but Tesla will be coming out with more economical sedans within a few years. And I understand other auto makers are developing EVs, tho they won’t have the range and quick charge that Tesla offers. Tho, of course, one could upgrade to the best battery tech — which is also somewhat expensive now, but should come down with mass marketing.

    Utility companies love EVs, since they mainly charge up at night, during their low peak time. The ComEd guy who came to our environmental group up north, was especially happy with they idea of EVs, since they are 75% nuclear & operations cannot be shut down at night, which means they are not operating at full-capacity, and rely heavily on coal-powered peaking plants.

    RE electricity generation: Without subsidies and tax-breaks for coal, and a “externalities tax” imposed, wind and solar (which either are or are quickly becoming cost competitive) would be offered as options, and the funds raised could be used as tax-breaks for buying wind or solar from companies, or for installing such equipment. You might see a lot more coal-powered utilities bringing an alt-powered component into their product line. They just need more incentive to do so.

    Some of the “externalities tax” funds could also go to help victims of local pollution and acid rain (some funds to Medicaid and Medicare) and GW harms (to hurricane, wildfire, flood, drought relief programs).

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 5 Aug 2008 @ 11:59 AM

  265. I work for a newspaper based in Bombay. And I think we do end up portraying that there is disagreement. But that’s because there are a bunch of scientists who aren’t agreeing upon a certain theory.

    I recently worked on an article on nuclear energy, and we had equal number of scientists and environmentalists arguing for and against nuclear power.

    I feel any one who takes a dogmatic approach to climate ends up messing up the debate.

    Comment by Krishna — 5 Aug 2008 @ 12:53 PM

  266. Lynn (264), I tried to respond but I can’t get past the spam filter for love nor money. It was a really good response, too! :-)

    Comment by Rod B — 5 Aug 2008 @ 4:39 PM

  267. Krishna, Actually, the agreement among experts in climate science is overwhelming. The vocal opposition is mainly from people outside the field who do not understand the science and oppose it because of the political implication they perceive it to have. Look at the peer-reviewed publications, the number of citations of different articles, the numbers of professional societies of scientists in relevant disciplines, and the consensus becomes clear. An internet petition that lets anybody call themselves a scientist can’t really be taken as credible opposition.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 5 Aug 2008 @ 6:00 PM

  268. Lynn, I’ll try again but dumb it down a bit. I suggest caution. When you give a pile of money to the gov’t you have to watch them like a hawk. Don’t routinely assume they are going to do the good social or mitigation stuff you want. They tend to send money to people that might vote for them in the next election — generally as short-sited as industrialists.

    In case you miss this post, I inadvertantly (stupidly?) also put it in another thread :-P

    Comment by Rod B — 6 Aug 2008 @ 9:02 AM

  269. Re #264
    “Utility companies love EVs, since they mainly charge up at night, during their low peak time. The ComEd guy who came to our environmental group up north, was especially happy with they idea of EVs, since they are 75% nuclear & operations cannot be shut down at night, which means they are not operating at full-capacity, and rely heavily on coal-powered peaking plants.”

    Utility companies love EVs as long as there are not too many of them! The last figures I saw indicated that a fleet of about 10% EVs would balance out the load if recharging at night, more than that would require extra capacity at night.

    Comment by Phil. Felton — 6 Aug 2008 @ 9:56 AM

  270. Phil. Felton wrote: “Utility companies love EVs as long as there are not too many of them! The last figures I saw indicated that a fleet of about 10% EVs would balance out the load if recharging at night, more than that would require extra capacity at night.”

    According to a December 2006 study by the US Department of Energy:

    If all the cars and light trucks in the nation switched from oil to electrons, idle capacity in the existing electric power system could generate most of the electricity consumed by plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. A new study for the Department of Energy finds that “off-peak” electricity production and transmission capacity could fuel 70% percent of the U.S. light-duty vehicle (LDV) fleet, if they were plug-in hybrid electrics …

    The study also looked at the impact on the environment of an all-out move to PHEVs. The added electricity would come from a combination of coal-fired and natural gas-fired plants. Even with today’s power plants emitting greenhouse gases, the overall levels would be reduced because the entire process of moving a car one mile is more efficient using electricity than producing gasoline and burning it in a car’s engine.

    The current generation of PHEVs (e.g. Prius conversions) have a range of 60-100 miles running as pure electric, battery-powered vehicles, a range which considerably exceeds the average daily driving needs of most Americans.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 6 Aug 2008 @ 11:48 AM

  271. Ray Ladbury wrote: “The vocal opposition is mainly from people outside the field who do not understand the science and oppose it because of the political implication they perceive it to have.”

    I would say that the “vocal opposition” is mainly from (directly or indirectly) people who profit from the continued use of fossil fuels and quite correctly perceive that the actions needed to address global warming, namely a rapid phase-out of the use of their products, will lead to a massive transfer of wealth from their industry to the new energy industries of the 21st century and the loss of trillions of dollars in profit that they would otherwise expect to receive. From their point of view, the longer they can delay this inevitable transition, the better. They have either convinced themselves that the “inconvenient” science of global warming is wrong, or else they just don’t care because they think their wealth and power will enable them to escape its consequences. After all, there were those during the cold war who claimed that a global thermonuclear war with the USSR and China would be “winnable”. Exxon-Mobil executives and other such people may think the same thing about unmitigated global warming.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 6 Aug 2008 @ 11:58 AM

  272. “This spectacle of duelling and apparently contradictory science fuels the notion that scientists can’t agree on anything.’

    Dueling and contradictory science sounds like the real thing to me. I’m addicted, for example, to reading Brian Greene on superstring/brane theory: I truly like weirdness, and 6-dimensional Calabi-Yao space turns me on. But I am aware that the theory is passionately, hotly contested.

    Hasn’t that pretty much been the case since the 17th c. Isaac Newton would have lost his head literally if James II had been victorious at the Battle of the Boyne (smack dab in the middle of the Maunder Minimum, by the way, when North Atlantic storms were truly vicious. He would have lost his had figuratively if he had known that for two hundred years the corpuscular theory of light was, by overwhelming consensus, as wacky as Newton’s alchemical speculations. He was redeemed, of course , in 1906 by Einstein, who in turn was a dissenter from the dice-playing God of Niels Bohr and quantum mechanics.

    Science is a method of inquiry before it is a body of knowledge.

    By the way, forgive me the pedantic note of a former teacher of English when I point out that ‘phenomena’ is plural, singular, ‘phenomenon.’

    Comment by Arthur Glass — 6 Aug 2008 @ 3:59 PM

  273. Thomas Friedman has a good editorial today:

    …my trip with Denmark’s minister of climate and energy, Connie Hedegaard, to see the effects of climate change on Greenland’s ice sheet leaves me with a very strong opinion: Our kids are going to be so angry with us one day.

    We’ve charged their future on our Visa cards. We’ve added so many greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, for our generation’s growth, that our kids are likely going to spend a good part of their adulthood, maybe all of it, just dealing with the climate implications of our profligacy. And now our leaders are telling them the way out is “offshore drilling” for more climate-changing fossil fuels.

    Madness. Sheer madness. …

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 6 Aug 2008 @ 4:15 PM

  274. Arthur Glass, Scientists are often argumentative by nature, so the frontiers of any field tend to be areas of controversy. However, in any field of science there are aspects where all contributing member agree. Note that I specify “contributing” members, because what motivates the agreement is the fact that the models, etc. don’t work unless they incorporate those facts. That is really what is meant by scientific consensus. Einstein’s opposition to quantum theory was a good case in point. He had good philosophical and to some extent physical arguments, but physics was just much more fruitful with quantum indeterminacy than without it.
    In climate science, the physics of CO2 is such a given. It’s why those few climate scientists who reject it never seem to publish anything of note.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 9 Aug 2008 @ 7:01 AM

  275. Here’s a piece of sloppy journalism that sows confusion and doubt from The Houston Chronicle. Reminds me of several years back when Jim Leherer said of the warming, “…which some scientists attibute to global warming” — as if there’s not even much balance in the “debate,” but only SOME, perhaps misguided since it’s only some, scientists claim AGW is happening.


    Some cite global warming as the culprit. Others point to a natural cycle in world climatory conditions. This much is certain: Glacier Bay National Park is changing…

    This pattern — which reflects snowfall rate, climate change and topography — has continued for about 250 years. It’s one of four extended periods of retreatment over a 4,000-year period that also has included four periods of advancement.

    What happens next?

    Will there be another reversal? Another era of advancement?

    “Scientists almost certainly would say yes, that the Earth will have another cold period,” Ranger David Deyette told us aboard the Coral Princess.

    “But it may not happen in our lifetime.”

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 9 Aug 2008 @ 8:24 AM

  276. Re: #248, #250, #253

    Dear Hank,

    You know, there is a very wide spectrum of activities that a person become involved in — from being the next Al Gore to being a person who decides to drive less and conserve more energy.

    I agree with Rod B and you that not everyone is a great public speaker. But, surely, there are many who speak well.

    And, why should a scientist speak publicly? It is a simple matter to call up City Hall and arrange to talk to the city planner, if the city is not very large. Ideas and knowledge can be disseminated in this way, even if it seems to be on a very small scale. How many city planners have heard from concerned scientists? You can bet they hear from the business community about all of their concerns.

    btw, some of the regulars on Dot Earth are forming a pbwiki for discussion of ideas and actions. Although we have not finalized the setup, I will just let you know that at least in the beginning, the moderator will be me; thus, the kims of this world will be barred. It is called dotearthlings and will be up soon.

    As to the university scene, I am a brat of a brat (although, I doubt my mother would appreciate being called a brat). I grew up running around a university, and I spent 10 years at university, 3 in a doctoral program (finance) which I did not finish because I lack the math skills. I spent 6 years as a technical editor of peer-reviewed articles for the analytical chemistry and biomedical sections of Elsevier Science Publishers, B.V., in Amsterdam. Thus, it could be said that I have something of an idea of the life and times of professors and scientists, although I have never quite been inside the area.

    I do know that some researchers are not equipped to reach out in public ways, but there are other ways. I still think that we each have to do as much as we can in this regard because unless the politicians have the weight of public opinion to move them, they will not move. If the politicians do not move in the right direction very soon, we are toast. Thus, the logical thing is to do everything possible to get their attention and to get them moving along.

    Captcha: aid swear

    Comment by Tenney Naumer — 9 Aug 2008 @ 4:41 PM

  277. > do everything possible

    Or do something limited and targeted collaboratively, really well.
    As Gavin wrote at the beginning:
    ————- from the opening of this thread:

    “… duelling and apparently contradictory science fuels the notion that scientists can’t agree …. increased coverage may actually be leading people to think that scientists are more divided on the basic questions.

    “Is this inevitable? Or can scientists, press officers and journal editors and journalists actually do anything about it?”

    Getting everyone capable of speaking out to go speak out is likely to increase the confusion. Can we focus?

    Can scientists whose work — illuminating different aspects of the world, so their papers seem to disagree — do something together to explain what they’re doing to the public? With editors/writers?

    I think the scientists will say that the climate, let alone the world, is yet anyone’s complete understanding, and they’re each working on illuminating some detail.

    Suggestion — focus on citation.
    Call it a Cited Science Forum, maybe.

    RC is a good example, but with very loose constraints on cites.

    DotEarth is an example of great topics, with comments routinely filled with unconstrained witnessing, and usually no citation at all.

    Most of the “science news” entertainment publications lack good citation, maybe to keep their readers on their page instead of send them away (ad-driven?) Most of the journals have cites but aren’t newsy-readable.

    This blog, new, has a _great_ attitude (hey, I think so anyhow):

    “… if you disagree with some point I make, or have a point to add yourself, then it is a good idea to include a link or full reference to a good source. One of the things about doing science is that you don’t take people’s reporting as gospel. Scientists are people, and people make mistakes. So it’s a good idea to make it easy for people to check out the full original source. When you’ve described something well, they can be thankful for your much better description. Or maybe they can learn more about the topic. Wins all around….”

    Isn’t that great? I love it. It’s the teacher’s right attitude.

    Can we find a way other scientists can participate along the lines of his model, with the public, helping nonscientists do it this way? Like the exchange of letters in Nature or Science, in blog form — edited, requiring that claims be cited — teaching readers how to look things up for themselves, how to ask good smart questions, how to go to the library reference desk, how to focus.

    How to describe the world as scientists do — observations, and footnotes with sources for on anything reported second-hand.

    It’d mean getting the journal editors and science writers to pledge to cite their sources in blogs — not hide them for journalistic advantage.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 10 Aug 2008 @ 12:03 AM

  278. I’ll add, I completely agree with Tenney, act locally. My college newsletter recently reported on their little town’s council having a series of meetings about replacing the ancient electrical power generation facility for the location. The college biology and ecology people showed up to propose working up a green energy program for the town.

    They said they met a very serious professional team of lawyers and planners who came in for the local coal company — who had the contract on the old dirty coal plant and wanted to make sure the town council voted to agree on replacing it with another nice modern one built to the same standards, cheap and dirty.

    There must be industry teams like this visiting every town or county or college that has a coal plant for steam heat or electricity or both, wherever there’s a license coming up for renewal, or a facility at the end of its lifespan due to be replaced — pushing replacing it with the same old thing.

    The coal industry must have teams of lawyers and consultants, working out of a comprehensive database of were all those loads of coal have been sold, where the plants are that burn them — and when the’ll be up for renewal or replacement.

    You can bet there’s no counterforce team from the green future rolling out to those same meetings with the same background knowledge.

    Yeah, we need that too.

    Not what Gavin’s asking about in this topic, though. Anyone know if it’s being discussed anywhere else? Pointer please if so.

    Teamwork. They’ve got theirs and they’re well into playing the game.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 10 Aug 2008 @ 12:09 AM

  279. Re: spilgard @147,

    There are additional millions being born (an extra city every week, is it ?) and the majority aspire to a lavish reckless lifestyle of conspicuous consumption and they will more than compensate for the fringe who strive for voluntary simplicity and are completely satisfied with little.

    It’s not really that bad, we’re only adding about 3 cities worth a year.

    1 Tokyo Japan 32,450,000
    2 Seoul South Korea 20,550,000
    3 Mexico City Mexico 20,450,000

    My personal view is somewhere between the late George Carlin

    And Dr. Albert Bartlett: Arithmetic, Population and Energy

    Comment by Fernando Magyar — 11 Aug 2008 @ 8:50 PM

  280. Uncertainty is fine. It is dealt with in the oil industry, insurance, etc. IPCC scientists just have to do a better job of quantifying their uncertainty (Earth scientists need to understand statistics when brainstorming together). Right now they say “high probability”, “90%+ confidence”…they need to say: we are 99.5% certain warmer ocean sequester less CO2, or 20% of the evidence indicates more warmer world clouds will be warming highwer altitude and 15% of the evidence says cooling low clouds and 65% of evidence in inconclusive.
    Then again, reinsurance actuaries don’t have the most powerful nation on Earth and the most profitable industry on Earth interfereing with their executive summaries the way Bush and Exxon successfully modify IPCC research. I’m surprised IPCC lets this happen. My suggestion for IPCC:
    It would be nice if IPCC quantified their uncertainty for each potential positive feedback mechanism. For starters, they haven’t done a very good job of estimating the economic damages of climate change. Nicolas Stern has said once we get to 2C warming, we are likely locked in to a 6C warming. For starters, I’d like an estimate for each degree of warming, of the economic cost of:
    1) Reduced agri-yields. IPCC claims yields might increase, ignoring that precipitation variability of any type is devastating to crop yields. Also, many climate scientists claim crops can be grown in the thin acidic boggy soil of boreal forests.
    2) Lost freshwater. Aquifers haven’t been charted accurately anywhere. The AB government has been blocking this mapping in AB. The Himalayas provide freshwater to almost half the people. If they melt, the damage might be in the $quadrillions, but no one has looked at this in detail.
    3) 60% of cities being flooded late this century or early next. Which should be saved and which should be abandoned? No triage plans as of yet. How to leave cities so environmental damage is limited. Where to house evacuees. How to build capital now in these cities so it is mobile enough to move. Canada’s Scorched Earth plan to evacuate Atlantic cities in the event of a Nazi invasion, comes to mind.
    4) The geopolitical costs of mass refugee flows. 9-11 led to the $2 trillion Iraq War debacle. Once again, this cost may run in the $quadrillions.
    There are many others, but against the above five the Mountain Pine Beetle’s potential destruction of $100 billion in forest is minor.

    With the above in mind, each potential positive feedback should be estimated as to the probability it will occur at each degree warming, it’s severity, and over what temperature intervals it is relevant. No problem if uncertainty is big; economists and actuaries deal with this uncertainty (strange deniers don’t realize uncertainty is a known commodity in geopolitics and finance). I’m assuming linear temperature forcings won’t be a problem. GHG levels and albedo effects need to be translated into degrees Centigrade warming, with a premium for fast and near-term warming. *Some* potential nonlinear positive warming feedbacks:
    1) Rainforest die-off (not observed) may release sequestered carbon soil.
    2) Increased cooling loads (A/C) emit more GHGs.
    3) Crop failures and land use changes (cutting down rainforests for farms and not using fallow) may result if warmer temperatures drop agri-yields (or the opposite could occur if more plants in a warmer world sequester more carbon in soil).
    4) Sequestered GHGs from permafrost may occur (very complicated).
    5) Reduced ice area reduces albedo.
    6) Warmer temps might (or not) lead to increased snowpack with reduced albedo.
    7) Warmer temps might draw attention to biofuels that might emit more GHGs than they replace.
    8) More clouds will likely be created, possibly leading to more high altitude clouds (or they could be low altitude cooling clouds).
    9) Glaciers could be melted, affecting ocean circulation and potentially (or the opposite) leading to warming ocean current circulation patterns (my thesis for temp occilations at end of last ice age).
    10) Increased defense (drought and famine refugee flows) and infrastructure (dykes) investments might draw capital away from clean goods and R+D.
    11) Warmer ocean has decreased ability to sequester CO2.
    12) Forest fires increase in a warmer world, directly emitting soot and GHGs, and probably indirectly via soil carbon losses.
    13) Catastrophic wamring effects of geoengineering gone wrong could result if solar shades, atmospheric particles or sunken algae blooms unleash a Pandora’s Box of effects.
    14) Everything else.
    To be sure there are negative forcings that should cancel out much of this.

    Comment by Phillip Huggan — 12 Aug 2008 @ 2:44 PM

  281. 279,Fernando Magyar, you appear to have misattributed my comments at 147 (to spilgard)

    I suppose it depends upon how you define a city. I think, in UK, a quarter of a million counts as a city. I gather global population increase, per annum, is around 75 millions. So that’d be 300 UK-type cities per annum, or around three Mexico Cities.

    Comment by CL — 12 Aug 2008 @ 6:56 PM

  282. Andrew Dessler has a good post on this topic and links to a Slate coverage of Andy Revkin’s article. Andy Revkin responds on DotEarth to Slate.
    The Uncertainty Agenda
    Slate Columnist: ‘Find the Arguments’ in Climate Science

    Comment by Joseph O'Sullivan — 15 Aug 2008 @ 4:59 PM

  283. The NY Times ran an article about how the US court system uses dueling witnesses and the difficulties this causes. Its very similar to how the popular press uses scientists in reporting.

    Comment by Joseph O'Sullivan — 15 Aug 2008 @ 5:08 PM

  284. I reckon Phillip Huggan has a point when he mentions ‘triage’ in relation to climate change. There’s a new web site that explores how this type of decision making might work — worth a quick glance

    Comment by John — 18 Aug 2008 @ 9:32 PM

  285. Thanks for the tip John. yes, I found this site at most edifying. Lots of food for thought there on how we might optimize our response to impending climate change.

    Comment by Chris H. — 26 Aug 2008 @ 12:16 AM

  286. Whiplash? The [Australian] ABC web site today (26/8/08) carried this story by Gwynne Dwyer
    Analyst warns of looming global climate wars
    To be honest it seems like a crank article intended to discredit climate science by being over-the-top crazy – is it? Does Gwynne Dwyer have any credibility?
    Posted Mon Aug 25, 2008 3:14pm AEST
    Updated Mon Aug 25, 2008 3:18pm AEST
    The Arctic ocean could be entirely free of ice in five years’ time, Gwynne Dwyer says

    The Arctic ocean could be entirely free of ice in five years’ time, Gwynne Dwyer says (AFP: NASA)

    * Audio: Military analyst predicts ‘climate wars’ (The World Today)

    The prospect of global wars driven by climate change is not something often discussed publicly by our political leaders.

    But according to one of America’s top military analysts, governments in the US and UK are already being briefed by their own military strategists about how to prepare for a world of mass famine, floods of refugees and even nuclear conflicts over resources.

    Gwynne Dyer is a military analyst and author who served in three navies and has held academic posts at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst and at Oxford.

    Speaking about his latest book, Climate Wars, he says there is a sense of suppressed panic from the scientists and military leaders.

    “Mostly it’s about winners and losers, at least in the early phases of climate change,” he said.

    “If you’re talking about 1 degree, 2 degrees hotter – not runaway stuff – but what we’re almost certainly committed to over the next 30 or 40 years, there will be countries that get away relatively cost free in that scenario, particularly countries in the higher latitudes.”

    But he says that closer to the equator in the relatively arid zone – where Australia is situated – there will be very serious droughts.

    “[There will be] huge falls in the amount of crops that you can grow because there isn’t the rain and it’s too hot,” he said.

    “That will apply particularly to the Mediterranean… and so not just the north African countries, but also the ones on the northern side of the Mediterranean.

    “The ones in the European Union like Spain and Italy and Greece and the Balkans and Turkey are going to be suffering huge losses in their ability to support their populations.

    Climate refugees

    He says a fall in crops and food production means there will be refugees, people who are desperate.

    “It may mean the collapse in the global trade of food because while some countries still have enough, there is still a global food shortage,” he said.

    “If you can’t buy food internationally and you can’t raise enough at home, what do you do? You move. So refugee pressures – huge ones – are one of the things that drives these security considerations.”

    In Climate Wars, even the most hopeful scenarios about the impact of climate change have hundreds of millions of people dying of starvation, mass displacement of people and conflict between countries competing for basic resources like water.

    “India and Pakistan are both nuclear-armed countries. All of the agriculture in Pakistan and all of the agriculture in northern India depend on glacier-fed rivers that come off the Himalayas from the Tibetan plateau. Those glaciers are melting,” Dr Dyer said.

    “They’re melting according to Chinese scientists to 7 per cent a year, which means they’re half gone in 10 years.

    “India has a problem with this. Pakistan faces an absolutely lethal emergency because Pakistan is basically a desert with a braid of rivers running through it.

    “Those rivers all start with one exception in Indian-controlled territory and there’s a complex series of deals between the two countries about who gets to take so much water out of the river. Those deals break down when there’s not that much water in the rivers.”

    And then you have got the prospect of a nuclear confrontation, Dr Dyer says.

    “It’s unthinkable but yet it’s entirely possible. So these are the prices you start to pay if you get this wrong,” he said.

    “Some of them, actually, I’m afraid we’ve already got them wrong in the sense that there is going to be some major climate change.”

    Dr Dyer explains the least alarmist scenario for the next couple of decades still involves enormous pressures on the US border.

    “That border’s going to be militarised. I think there’s almost no question about it because the alternative is an inundation of the United States by what will be, effectively, climate refugees,” he said.

    “They [US] are concerned actually about losing a lot of land and a lot of crop production within the United States itself.

    “A lot of Florida’s basically about six inches above sea level – and the Mississippi River Delta, well we’ve already seen what one hurricane did there – plus of course many interventions overseas by the American armed forces as much bigger emergencies occur in much bigger parts of the world.”

    Worst-case scenario

    But the real insight into the US study is that the more severe climate change scenario is the one that analysts think is the more likely one.

    “And it’s not just the analysts. I spent the past year doing a very high-speed self-education job on climate change but I think I probably talked to most of the senior people in the field in a dozen countries,” Dr Dyer said.

    “They’re scared, they’re really frightened. Things are moving far faster than their models predicted.

    “You may have the Arctic ocean free of ice entirely in five years’ time, in the late summer. Nobody thought that would happen until about the 2040s – even a couple of years ago.”

    Dr Dyer says there is a sense of things moving much faster, and the military are picking up on that.

    He also says we will be playing climate change catch-up in the next 30 years.

    “The threshold you don’t want to cross, ever, is 2 degrees Celsius hotter than it was at the beginning of the 1990s,” he said.

    “That is a margin we have effectively already used up more than half of. It would require pretty miraculous cooperation globally and huge cuts in emissions.”

    And if the world does not decarbonise by 2050, you don’t want to be there, according to Dr Dyer.

    “My kids will and I don’t think that is going to be a pleasant prospect at all, because once you go past 2 degrees – and you could get past 2 degrees by the 2040s without too much effort – things start getting out of control,” he said.

    “The ocean starts giving back to the atmosphere the carbon dioxide it absorbed. That world is a world where crop failures are normal.

    “Where, for example, Australia does not export food any more, it is hanging on to what it can still grow to feed its own people but that is about all that it is going to be able to do, and many countries can’t even do that.”

    He says China will take an enormous blow.

    “There is a study out from the Chinese Academy of Scientists and then swiftly disappeared again, but about two years ago, we predicted the maximum damage that would be done to China under foreseeable climate change in the 21st century was 38 per cent cut in food production,” he said.

    “That is only about three-fifths of the food they now eat and there will be a lot more of them.

    “I think we will end up having to do things that at the moment nobody would consider doing like geo-engineering, ways of keeping the temperature down while we get our emissions down.”

    – Adapted from an interview first aired on The World Today, August 25.

    [Response: People trying to sell a book often get a little carried away. But he’s referencing Maslowski’s ‘2013’ statement, which as we’ve stated before is not a widely held view. – gavin]

    Comment by Tony — 26 Aug 2008 @ 5:39 AM

  287. Tony asked..
    “Does Gwynne Dwyer have any credibility ?”

    He has his fans and detractors but he is indeed a man who has spent a lifetime thinking hard about geopolitics and conflicts and why they occur and how they are conducted.

    He has a web site where one can access his column articles (under the recent articles links).

    Judge for yourself..

    Comment by David Donovan — 26 Aug 2008 @ 9:01 AM

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