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Al Gore’s movie

Filed under: — eric @ 10 May 2006 - (Français)

by Eric Steig

Along with various Seattle business and community leaders, city planners and politicians, a large group of scientists from the University of Washington got a chance to preview the new film, An Inconvenient Truth, last week. The film is about Al Gore’s efforts to educate the public about global warming, with the goal of creating the political will necessary for the United States to take the lead in efforts to lower global carbon emissions. It is an inspiring film, and is decidedly non-partisan in its outlook (though there are a few subtle references to the Bush administration’s lack of leadership on this and other environmental issues).

Since Gore is rumored to be a fan of RealClimate, we thought it appropriate to give our first impressions.

Much of the footage in Inconvenient Truth is of Al Gore giving a slideshow on the science of global warming. Sound boring? Well, yes, a little. But it is a very good slide show, in the vein of Carl Sagan (lots of beautiful imagery, and some very slick graphics and digital animation). And it is interspersed with personal reflections from Gore that add a very nice human element. Gore in the classroom in 1968, listening to the great geochemist Roger Revelle describe the first few years of data on carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere. Gore on the family farm, talking about his father’s tobacco business, and how he shut it down when his daughter (Al Gore’s sister) got lung cancer. Gore on the campaign trail, and his disappointment at the Supreme Court decision. This isn’t the “wooden” Gore of the 2000 campgain; he is clearly in his element here, talking about something he has cared deeply about for over 30 years.

How well does the film handle the science? Admirably, I thought. It is remarkably up to date, with reference to some of the very latest research. Discussion of recent changes in Antarctica and Greenland are expertly laid out. He also does a very good job in talking about the relationship between sea surface temperature and hurricane intensity. As one might expect, he uses the Katrina disaster to underscore the point that climate change may have serious impacts on society, but he doesn’t highlight the connection any more than is appropriate (see our post on this, here).

There are a few scientific errors that are important in the film. At one point Gore claims that you can see the aerosol concentrations in Antarctic ice cores change “in just two years”, due to the U.S. Clean Air Act. You can’t see dust and aerosols at all in Antarctic cores — not with the naked eye — and I’m skeptical you can definitively point to the influence of the Clean Air Act. I was left wondering whether Gore got this notion, and I hope he’ll correct it in future versions of his slideshow. Another complaint is the juxtaposition of an image relating to CO2 emissions and an image illustrating invasive plant species. This is misleading; the problem of invasive species is predominantly due to land use change and importation, not to “global warming”. Still, these are rather minor errors. It is true that the effect of reduced leaded gasoline use in the U.S. does clearly show up in Greenland ice cores; and it is also certainly true that climate change could exacerbate the problem of invasive species.

Several of my colleagues complained that a more significant error is Gore’s use of the long ice core records of CO2 and temperature (from oxygen isotope measurements) in Antarctic ice cores to illustrate the correlation between the two. The complaint is that the correlation is somewhat misleading, because a number of other climate forcings besides CO2 contribute to the change in Antarctic temperature between glacial and interglacial climate. Simply extrapolating this correlation forward in time puts the temperature in 2100 A.D. somewhere upwards of 10 C warmer than present — rather at the extreme end of the vast majority of projections (as we have discussed here). However, I don’t really agree with my colleagues’ criticism on this point. Gore is careful not to state what the temperature/CO2 scaling is. He is making a qualitative point, which is entirely accurate. The fact is that it would be difficult or impossible to explain past changes in temperature during the ice age cycles without CO2 changes (as we have discussed here). In that sense, the ice core CO2-temperature correlation remains an appropriate demonstration of the influence of CO2 on climate.

For the most part, I think Gore gets the science right, just as he did in Earth in the Balance. The small errors don’t detract from Gore’s main point, which is that we in the United States have the technological and institutional ability to have a significant impact on the future trajectory of climate change. This is not entirely a scientific issue — indeed, Gore repeatedly makes the point that it is a moral issue — but Gore draws heavily on Pacala and Socolow’s recent work to show that the technology is there (see Science 305, p. 968 Stabilization Wedges: Solving the Climate Problem for the Next 50 Years with Current Technologies).

I’ll admit that I have been a bit of a skeptic about our ability to take any substantive action, especially here in the U.S.
Gore’s aim is to change that viewpoint, and the colleagues I saw the movie with all seem to agree that he is successful.

In short: this film is worth seeing. It opens in early June.


245 Responses to “Al Gore’s movie”

  1. 151
    Andy Hale says:

    I am a career submarine Captain in the US Navy with a reasonably solid engineering and scientific foundation. I have spent a great deal of time recently trying to wade through bias and predetermined notions to get at the scientific data of Global Warming theories. This website and particularly the exchange on VP Gore’s movie have been very useful.

    Much to my chagrin, however, I have been unable to find the scientific body of evidence that the current global warming trend is due to anthropogenic GHGs vice natural causes/mechanisms as alluded to throughput this thread of emails (and other sites). Although there is clear correlation to global temperature changes and CO2 levels in all the data I have reviewed, I do not see the “vast body of evidence” for cause-and-effect despite hours of online research trying to find it.

    Please assist a concerned citizen-sailor to arrive at a balanced opinion cased on fact. Any references (preferably online) that reflect hard, peer-reviewed scientific linkage on the cause-effect relationship of the current global warming trend (which is well-documented scientifically in my lay opinion) to anthropogenic GHGs would be appreciated.

    [Response: There are several thousand papers out there that support the linkage, from the standpoint of fundamental physics, observations, and comprehensive modelling. You'll find a pointer to some of the basic results in my post "Happy Birthday Charles Darwin." For basic physics, take a look at Dave Archer's textbook (available for now online, at his web site), or George Philander's book. Take a look also at some of the books reviewed in Gavin's post "MY review of books." For a good overall pointer into the literature, dive into the IPCC Third Assessment Report (WG I) available online: http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/ . The update will be out soon. Gore's book that goes along with the movie actually provides a very respectable introduction to the basic scientific arguments. After you do a bit of reading, I'd be interested to hear which (if any) parts of the evidence for human-caused warming seem lacking to you. --raypierre]

  2. 152
    Hank Roberts says:

    Capt. Hale, have you read this from the Navy Postgraduate School, or asked the reference librarian there for the work the Navy’s doing about warming? It’s the Navy and submarine info that’s been most interesting in the last few months. Your folks have known more about what’s going on for longer than almost anyone else.

    Note the map showing the “Gore Box” in this thesis; that’s the area the then Vice President mentions in the movie, that he got declassified for researchers to have access to; this is the latest research from that area. Possibly you know some of the people, you may have provided some of the data used.

    http://library.nps.navy.mil/uhtbin/cgisirsi/zNIRIMrEhT/SIRSI/204950017/523/10074

  3. 153
    Grant says:

    Dear Andy,

    That’s as good a question, perhaps, as I’ve yet seen on this site. I’m far from expert in this field, but I’ll give you the reasons that convinced me.

    1. Basic physics. CO2 does absorb infrared radiation. Placing an IR absorber around a warm object does inhibit cooling. Inhibiting cooling does raise the equilibrium temperature. It’s as basic as it gets.

    I would also mention that based on theory, global warming was predicted to be a consequence of increasing CO2 before it was observed. This is, in a way, fundamental in science. Explaining an observation ex post facto with a theory is persuasive, but predicting an observation before it is made is the classic test of a scientific theory.

    2. CO2 and global temperature are strongly correlated throughout paleohistory. It’s true that correlation is not causation, and that throughout the glacial cycles, temperature increase seems to precede CO2 increase. But the factors which “trigger” a glacial cycle (probably changes of earth’s orbit, the “Milankovitch cycles”) don’t cause nearly enough change in the energy budget to account for the temperature swing in a glacial cycle (about 5-6 deg.C). Therefore the large temperature changes must be due to feedback mechanisms in earth’s climate system. Since it’s well documented that a) CO2 begins to rise when a glaciation begins; b) theory demands that CO2 is a feedback in the climate system; c) CO2 and temperature track each other with remarkable similarity, this is very strong evidence that the principal feedback mechanism is CO2.

    3. There’s no other explanation of recent global warming. This is best illustrated by computer model simulations which include numerous climate forcings (solar variability, volcanic eruptions, etc.). Computer models which don’t include the greenhouse effect do a fine job matching observed global temperature until about 1975. Since then, no other known cause can explain the dramatic global temperature rise.

  4. 154
    Grant says:

    Some time ago I requested resources regarding the attribution of global warming to man-made greenhouse gases. The response was something like, “check out what’s on RC in the past … maybe we’ll do a post about that sometime soon.”

    The time is now. That earth is warming is no longer in dispute, even among rational contrarians (?). So come on, RC guys, give us a good post, with references, on attribution. This is, after all, the current bread-and-butter of contrarians.

  5. 155
    Hank Roberts says:

    >151
    Ray gave references in his inline Response to. I’ll look them up:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/02/happy-birthday-charles-darwin/

    Dave Archer’s textbook, online: http://forecast.uchicago.edu/

    George Philander’s book: probably the first link under Publications; Prologue downloadable as a pdf file there:
    http://www.aos.princeton.edu/WWWPUBLIC/gphlder/

    Gavin’s post “MY Review of Books” here:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/05/my-review-of-books/

    Al Gore’s book: http://www.climatecrisis.net

  6. 156
    Andy Hale says:

    Raypierre

    Thanks so much – I have reviewed IPCC 3rd WG I which states in the technical summary . . .”As noted in the SAR, the unequivocal attribution of climate change to anthropogenic causes (i.e., the isolation of cause and effect) would require controlled experimentation with the climate system in which the hypothesised agents of change are systematically varied in order to determine the climateâ??s sensitivity to these agents. Such an approach to attribution is clearly not possible. Thus, from a practical perspective, attribution of observed climate change to a given combination of human activity and natural influences requires another approach. This involves statistical analysis and the careful assessment of multiple lines of evidence to demonstrate, within a pre-specified margin of error, that the observed changes are:

    1. unlikely to be due entirely to internal variability:

    2. consistent with the estimated responses to the given combination of anthropogenic and natural forcing; and

    3. not consistent with alternative, physically plausible explanations of recent climate change that exclude important elements of the given combination of forcings.”

    I interpret this to mean that the detection & attribution in the body of evidence for anthropogenic climate change is the result of deductive reasoning after isolation of natural forcing functions by complex statistical analyses & models that cannot account for observed variations. Further, models & simulations incorporating postulated anthropogenic forcing functions (eg GHGs) show close correlation to very recent climate changes observed.

    It appears to me that the leap of faith to be made surrounds one’s confidence in our knowledge of known non-anthropogenic (natural) radiative forcing functions and our ability to model them. The IPCC-3 WG I report portrays this as a reasonably high confidence. This is the hurdle I am still trying to jump over intellectually.

    I will continue to read your suggested references (great way to spend ones leave period, no :)).

    My journey of global warming discovery has required a substantial investment of personal time. Unfortunately, I seriously doubt the rest of the “joe six-pack” community of which I am the vanguard will be willing to do the same.

    Thanks again for your indulgence and truly appreciate the lack of a condescening attitude anywhere on your website for the unitiated and uniformed!

  7. 157
    Rienk Smittenberg says:

    check http://movies.go.com/movies/review?name=inconvenient-truth_2006&genre=documentary&studio=Paramount%20Classics for a review from someone who can probably can be defined as ‘general public’ . Clearly, it’s not only important what the message is, but probably even more important who the messenger is. Still the movie gets the recommendation one should watch it.

    I saw the movie last Friday – not much news for me except the Navy record, but a lot of new details for my companion, she was generally aware of the problem but not really of the scientific backgrounds, so for her the movie was well-gauged. At http://movies.go.com/boxoffice I’m glad to see that even though the movie was shown in only 2% of the theaters compared to ‘MI-III’ or ‘The breakup’, it still came in 9th place last weekend in the box-offices. Now let’s hope at least some of the multiplexes pick it up (because it may well generate some money – highest per-theatre revenue!) so that stripmall-America can also see it, despite more upcoming summer-blockbusters and already-made commitments.

    One thing that strikes me is that the polar bear has really made it into the new poster child for global warming (see the review mentioned above, and indeed in the theatre there were many aaahs for the ANIMATED polar bear that can’t find solid ice anymore). Maybe time for Ice Age III: the final meltdown (with a last minute save because humankind rights it’s way)? Would that take the subject to grounds not serious enough or an animation to a too serious one for mass appeal. Are any means to bring the message under attention appropiate (what was the effect of “The day after tomorrow”, in the end of the day)? At some point, people need (and want, from what I see) the facts, from sources they trust. Hopefully that trusted source is still called ‘science’ and leads them for instance to this page. Brings back the ‘messenger’ – Politicians? – They know how to convince people but are therefore also treated with distrust. The science part of the movie’s webpage doesn’t provide links to further reading, unfortunately. I’ve asked them.

  8. 158
    Hank Roberts says:

    Good points! As Gore says in the movie, when the water around the metaphorical cartoon frog starts to heat up toward boiling “… someone reaches in and saves the frog. It’s important to save the frog.”

    >The science part of the movie’s webpage doesn’t provide links to further reading, unfortunately.
    > I’ve asked them.

    Me too. That’s very important.

    I’ve also asked them for a non-Flash interface, like NASA and most corporations provide for people who want to read instead of watch a movie.

  9. 159
    Hank Roberts says:

    Here’s a newspaper reference on drowning polar bears, can someone get the primary reference?

    The Sunday Times December 18, 2005
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1938132,00.html

    EXCERPTS — there are more researchers mentioned than I’m excerpting here:

    Polar bears drown as ice shelf melts
    Will Iredale
    SCIENTISTS have for the first time found evidence that polar bears are drowning because climate change is melting the Arctic ice shelf.

    The researchers were startled to find bears having to swim up to 60 miles across open sea to find food. They are being forced into the long voyages because the ice floes from which they feed are melting, becoming smaller and drifting farther apart.

    Although polar bears are strong swimmers, they are adapted for swimming close to the shore. Their sea journeys leave them them vulnerable to exhaustion, hypothermia or being swamped by waves.

    According to the new research, four bear carcases were found floating in one month in a single patch of sea off the north coast of Alaska, where average summer temperatures have increased by 2-3C degrees since 1950s.

    The scientists believe such drownings are becoming widespread across the Arctic, an inevitable consequence of the doubling in the past 20 years of the proportion of polar bears having to swim in open seas.

    “Mortalities due to offshore swimming may be a relatively important and unaccounted source of natural mortality given the energetic demands placed on individual bears engaged in long-distance swimming,” says the research led by Dr Charles Monnett, marine ecologist at the American government’s Minerals Management Service. “Drowning-related deaths of polar bears may increase in the future if the observed trend of regression of pack ice continues.” ….
    ….
    The new study, carried out in part of the Beaufort Sea, shows that between 1986 and 2005 just 4% of the bears spotted off the north coast of Alaska were swimming in open waters. Not a single drowning had been documented in the area.

    However, last September, when the ice cap had retreated a record 160 miles north of Alaska, 51 bears were spotted, of which 20% were seen in the open sea, swimming as far as 60 miles off shore.

    The researchers returned to the vicinity a few days later after a fierce storm and found four dead bears floating in the water. “We estimate that of the order of 40 bears may have been swimming and that many of those probably drowned as a result of rough seas caused by high winds,” said the report.
    …..

  10. 160
  11. 161
    Steve Latham says:

    Re Andy’s #156: okay, I agree (and to some extent so do the climatologists who ask for more money to investigate how to model clouds, etc) that a lot of non-anthropogenic factors are not well understood. But let’s go back to the first sentence you quote from WG1: we can’t do controlled experimentation on real climate systems. Let’s say that someone with a really great (and BIG) lab had done controlled experimentation on climate systems. I mean, pretend multiple Earths were replicated and some had atmospheres injected with CO2 and some not, and then 300 years later the experimenter took the temperature of each and rejected the null hypothesis of no difference. Someone could still come and say, “But you didn’t test x or y or z, and those control Earths aren’t in exactly the same condition our Earth is in — therefore you still can’t convince me that OUR Earth has warmed due to the CO2.”

    I think the problem still comes down to the fact that natural sciences can disprove but not prove. Whether or not a person is convinced will likely be up to his/her own biases and predispositions. For that reason, I think it’s reasonable for people to reject absolutist dichotomous beliefs, remain skeptical of all theories, and instead ask “What’s the most likely explanation for a given phenomenon,” and then act on that.

  12. 162
    Joel Shore says:

    Re #156: Another point to remember is that, at this stage, even if we were to come up with some alternative cause to explain the warming, we would still be left with the question of why the earth is so insensitive to greenhouse gases, given that all the theoretical considerations suggest at least a moderate degree of sensitivity.

    As far as I know, only a few scientists, Richard Lindzen being the most prominent, have attempted to do this. However, so far Lindzen’s proposals seem to be failing experimental tests and, furthermore, I have never heard of Lindzen having any sort of compelling explanation of how he can reconcile his stabilizing negative feedbacks with the paleoclimate evidence that the earth’s climate system is in fact quite unstable. (That would certainly be the #1 question that I would like to ask him if I got to speak with him.) I.e., he either has to explain how his stabilizing effects do not apply when other kinds of forcings are considered or he has to show how these other forcings (such as those due to orbital oscillations), which I believe scientists think they have are pretty good estimate of, are really much greater than they believe.

    As Steve L. noted, the truth about science is that there is generally not a “smoking gun”. Science is inductive by nature, rather than deductive, so unlike in mathematics noone can ever prove anything. It is just a matter of the evidence accumulating to the point where it is more and more difficult to explain the observations any other way…and, indeed, when other attempts to explain them have failed to be able to do so.

  13. 163
    Samuel Gravina says:

    I saw the movie. It’s good.

    I’d like to know why people don’t follow their own retoric to conclude that the damage of global warming is inevitable and that we are doomed.

    I believe the movie claimed that in 10 years we would reach a tipping point from which would would not be able to recover. Is there any science / data to this claim? Do people really believe this?

    From my 50 year observation of people and politics, no 10 year period produces any dramatic change. If we have 10 years to change then to me it means that we won’t change and whatever global warming will do will happen.

    Is there any good reason to believe that any of the measures proposed by the movie will help? For example one suggestion in the credits was to use less foriegn oil. How’s that going to help? Does burning domestic oil produce less CO2 than foriegn oil?

    I was skeptical about our understanding of what is causing global warming. Now I’m less so. That’s a real tribute to the movie. But I am still skeptical about our collective ablility to do anything about it.

  14. 164
    Hank Roberts says:

    > I’d like to know why people don’t follow their own retoric….

    Once you have understood some bits of science, rhetoric is less seductive.

    That’s what Gore’s slideshow does, impressively — pulls out the science and holds it up and says, you, too, can understand enough about this to make informed decisions, here are places to start.

    When people have pointers to sites that aren’t fonts of rhetoric, people learn.

    When Hansen says we aren’t yet committed to a disaster, and explains why, the chicken (“sky is falling”) and the ostrich (“head buried in sand, I see nothing”) are boring. Why follow boring rhetoricians?

    Science is exciting, it’s alive, it’s rare and new — just the last few centuries out of tens of thousands of years of human cultures. Rhetoric is old and boring, no matter whose it is.

  15. 165
    Grant says:

    Re: #163

    I disagree that “no 10 year period produces any dramatic change.”

    When John F. Kennedy became president, he announced in a now-famous speech that we should aim to put a man on the moon before this decade is out. It happened.

    It’s true that there’s more global warming already “in the pipeline,” and we can’t avoid future change. But how much change depends critically on what we do in the next few years. It may not be very inspiring to work hard and make sacrifices just to have “very bad” rather than “totally disastrous.” But it’s worth it.

  16. 166
    Richard Deem says:

    Does anybody know if a copy of Gore’s PowerPoint exists online?

  17. 167
    Mark A. York says:

    The science reporter for USATODAY did a good job on C-Span today debunking callers using the same old rhetoric. His view is don’t give the sceptics much copy. I agree.

  18. 168
    Hank Roberts says:

    I doubt it. Imagine trying to keep a correct copy, with the fun people have changing things then attacking their forgeries as though they were real (cf Hansen, repeatedly). I’m buying the book.

    [Response: Note: This comment refers to 166, regarding Gore's powerpoint, not #167. --raypierre]

  19. 169
    S Molnar says:

    Re #163:
    I share your pessimism, but not your fatalism. After all, as Jimmy Stewart said, lost causes are the only causes worth fighting for. But seriously, I don’t think Hansen means to suggest that if we fail to take appropriate action in the next 10 years all is lost. Things will be very bad, but our species will not be doomed to extinction (although I can’t make the same claim for polar bears). The benchmark of a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide is somewhat arbitrary – the best guess is that every doubling costs about 3 degrees C, and we all want to avoid the doubling of the pre-industrial level of 280 ppm to 560 ppm, but if we miss that we can still strive to avoid going from the current 380 ppm to 760 ppm, or any other benchmark you choose. It’s discouraging how few people will act in their own self-interest, but we are morally obliged to do our best.

  20. 170
    Kyle Mankin says:

    From what I’ve read, Gore’s movie begins with the assertion that “debate no longer exists regarding the causes and effects of global warming”. There is a claim that “no reasonable climate scientist” disputes the reality of global warming. Yet.. today, I read that William Gray directly disputes the notion of anthropogenic global warming. Let me see… who do I trust more, William Gray? or Al Gore. Sorry… I don’t need to see or hear ANYTHING further from this film.

    [Response: If you really think Bill Gray is a more reliable authority on global warming than Al Gore, I don't think we need to hear the rest of your comment (which has therefore been deleted). Al Gore's understanding of the basic physics underlying global warming is far more reliable than Bill Gray's. Sad to say, Gray hasn't even achieved a decent undergraduate level understanding of the science, and has made a number of very elementary blunders. For a sampler, take a look at our post, "Gray and Muddy Thinking on Global Warming." --raypierre]

  21. 171
    Sheila says:

    After watching the movie yesterday I went to the movie website expecting to find a list of references, but there are none. If this isn’t made available on the official movie site, will it be done here as a labor of love?

    I’m curious about his glib presentation showing the number of journal articles in a survey of journal articles on global warming disagreeing with global warming compared to a survey in the popular press. That was amusing and clever, but I would like to see the article he got the information from.

    [Response: The study he is citing is by Naomi Oreskes, "Beyond the ivory tower: The scientific concensus on climate change." Science 306, 3 December, 2004. A number of skeptics have tried to do their own count, and claim to have found skeptical papers Oreskes missed, but this is achieved only by an extremely fanciful interpretation of what counts as skeptical. --raypierre]

  22. 172
    Hank Roberts says:

    I’m going to buy the book, but I’ll be offline a few weeks reading it (on a native plant restoration, a 200-year project begun in my copious spare time) Maybe someone who has it will comment on references.

    We can guess about the sources, but that’s not the best way. And I’d imagine the actual slide show is different each time it’s given as the information changes.

  23. 173
    Sheila says:

    Thank you kindly for the reference! a link to the article: BEYOND THE IVORY TOWER: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change.

  24. 174
    Ike Solem says:

    RE#170,

    It should be widespread knowledge that certain sectors of the fossil fuel industry have continually been looking for ‘skeptical scientists’ whose views they can widely promote – it used to be people like Richard Lindzen and S. Fred Singer, but they’ve been discredited to the point where new ‘voices’ are being sought. A quick list of the new ‘PR team’ includes William Gray, Chris Landsea, Roger Pielke, etc. In most media reports you see their names repeated ad nasueum as the ‘climate skeptics’ but their views rest on very shaky ground – they seem to hang everything on the ‘Atlantic Multidecadal Oscialltion’ and they repeatedly state that increases in hurricane frequency/intensity are simply part of a ‘natural cycle’ and have nothing to do with global warming. Their logic even seems to extend to ‘human-induced global warming isn’t happening because hurricanes are increasing due to a natural cycle’ – none of which appears true. The link between increased sea surface temperatures, warming ocean currents, and hurricane intensity is ironclad – and the warming SSTs and warming ocean currents are due to human-induced increases in heat trapping atmospheric gases. You also see warming in desert regions, which are more isolated from oceanic influences, as well as in mountainous glacial regions, as well as in the polar regions. There is absolutley no scientific basis for denying the reality of human-induced climate change.

    The BBC has a 40 minute film on the US government efforts to censor government scientists – it can be found at Panorama on US government censorship of science, (To watch the film, click on the video link to the right when you open this page). This film also contains an account of some of the world’s first climate change refugees from a melting Arctic island- a trend that can be expected to grow and grow.

    It is also worth noting that the primary step in limiting carbon emissions is to stop burning coal, which has the lowest energy:carbon ratio of any of the fossil fuels (natural gas has the highest energy:carbon ratio). Coal plays a major role in electricity generation in the US, so that means that a replacement source is needed – namely, wind and solar generated electricity in combination with a load balancing (energy storage) system. Producing such a system will generate many jobs and will stimulate the economy. Claims about an ‘economic collapse’ due to restriction of carbon emissions are patently false.

  25. 175
    pat neuman says:

    re 174.

    Also see:
    NOAA, global warming, and hurricanes: CSW director interview
    Posted on June 04, 2006

    Text from a May 30 live interview with Climate Science Watch director Rick Piltz on the â??Earthbeatâ?? public affairs show on WPFW-FM radio in Washington, DC, as part of a program on hurricanes and global warming. Also interviewed was Dr. Judith Curry of Georgia Tech University, who met the following day with Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to discuss the potential implications for Florida of research showing a global increase in hurricane intensity (AP: â??Scientists say warming threatening Florida”).

    See Details
    http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/

  26. 176
    Brian Gordon says:

    I don’t understand how any scientist can say “it’s not too late” with confidence. (But I would be grateful if someone could explain to me why we do still have time.)

    1. Even if net carbon output to the atmosphere became zero tomorrow, look at all the changes that have occurred with the current levels. Surely Arctic sea ice disappearing very soon is a tipping point that will have much wider impact?

    2. What is the ‘lag’ or momentum of the climate system? That is, are the changes we’re seeing the result of GHGs from 50 years ago? If so….

  27. 177
    CM says:

    Robert Balling, the global warming skeptic, has recently published an article, “Inconvenient Truths Indeed,” in which he outlines six scientific criticisms of Gore’s movie.

    http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=052406F

    This article has been trumpeted by lay pundits and certain segments of the political blogosphere as a “full debunk of the misleading scientific arguments.” Below is my response to his points. Any additional comments, corrects, additions? Thanks -CM

    1) BALLING: “Near the beginning of the film, Gore pays respects to his Harvard mentor and inspiration, Dr. Roger Revelle. Gore praises Revelle for his discovery that atmospheric CO2 levels were rising and could potentially contribute to higher temperatures at a global scale. There is no mention of Revelle’s article published in the early 1990s concluding that the science is “too uncertain to justify drastic action.” ”

    THE FACTS: Gore spoke in the movie about the facts of Revelle’s scientific discoveries. Indeed, Revelle’s early 90′s article does state his opinion at the time that the data being presented was “too uncertain to justify drastic action.” First, a semantic point: Revelle wrote that in his estimation, the data did not justify “drastic” action at the time; this, however, is not a statement against any action. More importantly, however, is the fact that the article was published 16 years ago! Climate research exploded as a field of science thoughout the ’90s, and an extensive amount of research has been done in the last 16 years. Revelle died in 1991 and therefore cannot comment on his statement in light of much more significant and conclusive data. Balling’s first critique, a cherry-picked a 16 year old quote, is not a substantive criticism of the current data presented by Gore in the movie. Many people would read this first criticism and discount the remaining article; however, because Balling’s first point is incredibly inane does not a priori disqualify the remaining five. So let’s continue.

    2) BALLING: “Gore discusses glacial and snowpack retreats atop Kenya’s Mt. Kilimanjaro, implying that human induced global warming is to blame. But Gore fails to mention that the snows of Kilimanjaro have been retreating for more than 100 years, largely due to declining atmospheric moisture, not global warming.”

    THE FACTS: Dr. Balling is distorting the scientific data here. The IJC paper that Balling uses as support for this criticism is willfully misinterpreted. The claim of declining atmospheric moisture is based on an incomplete reading of the record of past climates. There is considerable evidence (e.g, from Lonnie Thompson’s work) that Kilimanjaro melting is due to warming. It is undeniable that tropical mountain glaciers worldwide are in retreat- and that fact is incompatible with a localized precipitation interpretation. Even if Kilimanjaro melting has contributions from precipitation, changes in precipitation are predicted to be linked with tropical circulation shifts associated with global warming. The climate scientists at Realclimate.org, the go-to source for scientific information on climate change, explain that the studies of Kilimanjaro “only support the role of precipitation in the initial stages of the retreat, up to the early 1900″. Moreover, “the Kilimanjaro glacier survived a 300 year African drought which occurred about 4000 years ago.” The most scientifically accepted explanation for why it has almost completely disappeared this time is “anthropogenic (human-induced) climate change.” (see Tropical Glacier Retreat) http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/05/tropical-glacier-retreat/

    3) BALLING: “Many of Gore’s conclusions are based on the ‘Hockey Stick’ that shows near constant global temperatures for 1,000 years with a sharp increase in temperature from 1900 onward. The record Gore chooses in the film completely wipes out the Medieval Warm Period of 1,000 years ago and Little Ice Age that started 500 years ago and ended just over 100 years ago.”

    THE FACTS: This is a very old criticism among climate change ‘skeptics,’ which has been sufficiently debunked. It is slightly embarrassing that Balling actually uses this as a criticism. Even if Balling’s criticisms of the ‘Hockey Stick’ model were true, very few of Gore’s conclusions in the movie are based on the so-called “Hockey Stick” model. In fact, in the movie Gore discusses the warming periods Dr. Balling mentions. Gore simply illustrates that these changes were fundamentally different than what has occurred at the end of the 20th century. Scientists overwhelming agree on this point and repeated scientific studies have confirmed this model. As Realclimate.org explains, “Nearly a dozen model-based and proxy-based reconstructions of Northern Hemisphere mean temperature by different groups all suggest that late 20th century warmth is anomalous in a long-term (multi-century to millennial) context.”
    (see Myth v.s Fact Regarding the “Hockey Stick”) http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=11

    4) BALLING: “You will certainly not be surprised to see Katrina, other hurricanes, tornadoes, flash floods, and many types of severe weather events linked by Gore to global warming. However, if one took the time to read the downloadable “Summary for Policymakers” in the latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), one would learn that “No systematic changes in the frequency of tornadoes, thunder days, or hail events are evident in the limited areas analysed.”

    THE FACTS: First of all, the IPCC report cited by Balling is from 2001, well before Katrina or many of the other extreme weather events cited by Gore. Moreover, Gore is careful not to assert that Katrina or any specific weather event was caused by global warming; however, more warmer surface temperatures do result in stronger weather events. Gore notes that climate models predict that as the concentration of carbon dioxide increases the frequency of extreme weather events increases. This is exactly what we have seen over the past several years – in fact, a scientific study titled “Changes in tropical cyclone number, duration, and intensity in a warming environment” was recently published in the journal Science (Webster et al., 2005). Two other recent scientific articles have also been published (Schwartz, 2006). This being said, there is by no means a scientific conclusion about the severity of storms. Scientists are open and honest about uncertainties in this data. Ideologues have capitalized on this process of scientific inquiry to disingenuously cast an air of uncertainty on the scientific findings. Neverthless, there is research that is beginning to point to increased weather due to global warming – it is possible that Balling is working from old talking points here (as he is with the ‘Hockey Stick’ criticism) and merely has not kept up with the fast-paced research developments in this field.

    5) BALLING: “Gore claims that sea level rise could drown the Pacific islands, Florida, major cities the world over, and the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. No mention is made of the fact that sea level has been rising at a rate of 1.8 mm per year for the past 8,000 years; the IPCC notes that “No significant acceleration in the rate of sea level rise during the 20th century has been detected.”

    THE FACTS: Balling, again, is using conveniently selected information. If you actually read the IPCC chapter on 20th C sea level change, you see that Balling has cut the conclusion short. The quote cited by Dr. Balling actually continues: “This is not inconsistent with model results [predicting accelerating sea levels] due to the possibility of compensating factors and the limited data.” The IPCC study also notes that over the last 3,000 years, sea levels have increased “at an average rate of 0.1 to 0.2 mm/yr – with about one tenth of that occurring during the 20th century.” Even though the overall rate of change 1900-1990 was within historic range limits, human causes account for a discernible portion of 20th C rise. Balling skips over the report’s conclusions on human-caused warming and asserts a blatantly erroneous claim.

    6) BALLING: “Near the end of the film, we learn of ways the United States could reduce emissions of greenhouse gases back to the levels of 1970. OK. Assume the United States accomplishes this lofty goal, would we see any impact on climate? The well-known answer is no. China, India and many other countries are significantly increasing their emission levels, and global concentrations of CO2 may double this century no matter what we decide to do in the United States. Even if the Kyoto Protocol could be fully implemented to honor the opening of this movie, the globe would be spared no more than a few hundredths of a degree of warming.”

    THE FACTS: This is the latest iteration of the climate skeptic justification for inaction: “ok, global warming is happening, may be human-caused, and may have some consequences, but there’s nothing we can do about it.” We’ve seen this position evolve among the so-called climate skeptics over the last two decades as the data has become more undeniable. As James McCarthy has noted, “In the late ’80s, early ’90s, it was, ‘Nothing is changing.’ And by the mid-’90s, it’s, ‘Well, things are changing, but just a little bit, and by the way, humans aren’t causing it.’ By 2000, it’s ‘Well, things are changing a little bit, humans are causing it, and there may be some impacts, but you know what, it won’t matter.’ – Balling’s own views have evolved on this point as well, even Balling now admits “(1) Global surface temperatures have risen in recent decades. (2) Mid-tropospheric temperatures have warmed little over the same period. (3) This difference is not consistent with predictions from numerical climate models.” ( http://www.marshall.org/pdf/materials/170.pdf ). To his credit Balling even wrote in 2005 that “there is substantial evidence that a non-solar control has become dominant in recent decades. The buildup of greenhouse gases and/or some other global-scale feedback, such as widespread changes in atmospheric water vapor, emerge as potential explanations for the recent residual warming found in all latitudinal bands.” (reference 2005 Sen Roy and Balling).

    The argument that “even if we reduce emissions China and India will continue to increase emissions” is not an excuse for inaction on our part. Such faulty logic is inexcusable. We should be leading the world effort on curbing emissions. The fact that other countries are emitting at high rates does not absolve us of our responsibility to curb our emissions and serve as a world leader on the issue. Secondly, Balling ignores the economic factor of rising energy costs – as oil gets more expensive (which it will as resources dwindle), developing nations will be hard-pressed to continue to afford cheap combustion. Currently, China and India are probably better suited to innovating and adapting to carbon-neutral alternatives, which are both cheaper and cleaner. We stand to lose out in this economic sector while countries that genuinely seek to innovate energy alternatives pass us up.

  28. 178
    Hank Roberts says:

    Brian: you wrote: “I don’t understand how any scientist can say “it’s not too late” with confidence. (But I would be grateful if someone could explain to me why we do still have time.)”

    Did you watch Al Gore’s movie or read his book by the same title? It helps to know what information you are starting with.

    Do you rely on any source of information you can point us to? Possibly you’re reading one of the sites that specializes in FUD (“Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt”) — those are commercial PR sites, industry funded, for the most part.

    Give us some idea of where you’re starting from — what you have already read — so we can give you answers appropriate to what you already know.

  29. 179
    Michael Jankowski says:

    “The argument that ‘even if we reduce emissions China and India will continue to increase emissions’ is not an excuse for inaction on our part. Such faulty logic is inexcusable.”
    It’s not faulty logic. Maybe it was just explained poorly.

    If Corporation X is limted to Y CO2 emissions/year in the US but needs to add factories for growth, they will be encouraged to put these factories overseas in nations like China or India where there are no emissions limitations. And if Corporation X is willing to attempt to grow within the US and simply become more efficient to maintain their CO2 emissions limits, Competing Corporation Z in India or China will gladly use their unlimited CO2 emissions to gain a pricing and competitive advantage and get a substantial/complete share of the growth. In the end, the CO2 emissions are simply re-distributed to developing nations. And environmental regs in general in places India and China are much looser than they are in the US, meaning not only do global CO2 emissions likely stay the same, but global pollution overall increases.

    There would need to be a global policy absent of huge exemptions like India and China for things to work.

    “Currently, China and India are probably better suited to innovating and adapting to carbon-neutral alternatives, which are both cheaper and cleaner.”
    Adapting carbon-neutral alternatives may be easier for growing nations rather than those having to retro-fit existing facilities, but as stated here:
    http://edition.cnn.com/2006/TECH/science/05/10/asia.pollution.reut/index.html

    ***He said the main reason emissions from China and India are rising so fast compared to the rest of the world, which had a 15 percent rise in carbon dioxide emissions between 1992 and 2002, was older, inefficient coal-fired power plants in both countries.

    While cleaner coal-fired plants are possible, India and China cannot afford to make the switch.

    “They can’t afford to take (the old, heavily polluting power plants) out of commission to repair them because basically, if you don’t have power for even three months, that has huge economic costs for them,” (World Bank acting vice-president for sustainable development Steen) Jorgensen said.***

  30. 180
    Stephen Berg says:

    Re: #179,

    Michael, did you ever stop to think that by reducing GHG emissions and becoming more energy efficient, a company would SAVE money? Your argument is flawed.

  31. 181
    Don Baccus says:

    CM – Balling’s piece was demolished earlier in this thread, scroll up a bit and you should be able to find several posts doing so.

  32. 182
    pat neuman says:

    re 174.

    The BBC article “Climate chaos: Bush’s climate of fear” says that Bush came to power in 2000. That’s incorrect, Bush became president in Jan 2001.

    Also, even before Bush became president, the National Weather Service (NWS) discouraged government scientists from doing investigations on climate change in hydrology. NWS is the largest agency within NOAA having responsibility in weather, hydrology and climate.

  33. 183
    Brian Gordon says:

    re: 178: Hank, here’s my history:

    * Canadian, 45, lived in the US from 1995-2003
    * Returned to Canada, started reading the BBC online, discovered apparently there’s a climate problem :-)
    * Read the books by Linden, Kolbert, and Flannery
    * Have read through realclimate and checked out other sites (junkscience was so blatant in their attempts to distort that I don’t consider them a useful source of climate information)
    * Have seen Dr. David Suzuki, and read various other things
    * An Inconvenient Truth is not yet showing in Victoria

    So, it seems very obvious to me that the climate is changing, largely due to human influence. Further, it seems that the change is happening _faster_ than predicted. Even in the space of a few months, for example, the time it will take the Arctic to be ice-free in the summer has been revised down from 30 years to 10 or less.

    The books and Suzuki claim that we must act within 10 years. I don’t see where they’re getting this number; it seems more like wishful thinking. (Don’t get me wrong; I am entirely in favour of immediate and extensive mitigation projects.)

  34. 184
    Hank Roberts says:

    “the World Bank concludes that pollution is costing China an annual 8-12% of its $1.4 trillion GDP in direct damage”
    http://www.economist.com/business/displayStory.cfm?story_id=3104453
    ——-
    And from China:

    ….the environmental picture is not improving, and is, in fact, worsening, and “allows for no optimism,” said Zhu Guangyao, deputy chief of the State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), at a news conference to release the white paper.

    The damage to the environment is costing the government roughly 10 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product, or about US$220 billion, Zhu said in response to a question, adding that it was a rough figure.

    China’s GDP for 2005 was US$2.26 trillion.

    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2006-06/06/content_609273.htm

    My guess — either they’ll correct the problem, or what happened to the USSR will happen to China.
    My other guess — this also applies to the USA.

  35. 185
    Michael Jankowski says:

    Re#180, if reducing GHG emissions and becoming more efficient were that easy and cost-effective for companies, why aren’t they all doing it? Why would Kyoto even exist?

  36. 186
    Hank Roberts says:

    Michael — same reason nobody reduced and eliminated CFCs until governments worldwide acted together, even when the loss of the ozone layer was obviously happening. It’s that “level playing field” argument — more properly, “planar playing field” — as long as all the companies are on the _same_ slippery slope to disaster, none wants to be the first to spend money (short term disadvantage) to take action even though all are going to end up in the same place if none of them change.

    See Ray P’s response at the bottom of #47 (this link should get you close, my Firefox gets close using it)
    I think this helps put it in perspective:
    http://www.realclimate.org/wp-comments-popup.php?p=311&c=1#comment-14101

  37. 187
    Hank Roberts says:

    Look for Ray’s responses (green or blue) and see the recent paper at Chicago Int’l Law Review — via his link on the main sidebar — for good answers on why ten years matters. Briefly, it’s time in which simple efficiency and conservation can hold off building old style polluting coal plants, for example — long enough to plan and build new type closed combustion coal plants that feed in coal and oxygen, produce no nitrogen oxides, and can capture all the uranium, thorium, mercury and other pollution as well as allowing capture of CO2 for sequestration if that technology matures in, again, a decade.

    Look at the graphs for what happens if we act now vs. don’t — many links, sorry I’m rushed.

  38. 188
    Brian Gordon says:

    Re: 185: Why many companies are not doing much about reducing their GHGs:

    1. It costs more upfront than what they are doing now.
    2. Most company officers believe that the primary purpose of a corporation is to make money (as opposed to provide a product or service, fill a human need, etc).
    3. Spending money on anything that is not immediately profitable results in an immediate competitive disadvantage when your competitors are not spending that money.
    4. It’s not as easy as doing what you’ve always done.
    5. Not many corporations want to admit the full scale of climate change.
    6. Every penny spent is a penny less for the CEO. (Enron, Nortel, Worldcom, etc., etc.)
    7. Etc.

  39. 189
    Don Baccus says:

    Re: #188. Your point seven could be … “CEOs are fond of pushing problems that can be ignored short-term over the retirement horizon”.

  40. 190
    Michael Jankowski says:

    RE#186 – “same reason nobody reduced and eliminated CFCs until governments worldwide acted together
    I believe this is what I had said – it would need to be a global effort including developing nations (at least, those that are significant emitters) and not exempting nations like China and India.

    I believe that gov’ts contributed multi-billions of $$$ towards a fund from about 1990-present to provide CFC-free technologies to developing countries. I’m not quite sure how this analogy relates to the cost-effectiveness of reductions.

    RE#188 – Reducing GHG emissions is good PR – see the recent comments about BP on another recent thread on this site – which is good for business. I know of many enviro conscious people who try to buy gas from BP whenever possible and boycott Exxon for this very reason.

    You reason #1 is incorrect. Companies have absolutely no problem investing capital upfront – if the move is projected to be cost-effective in the long-term. As I said in response to #180, if the move were cost-effective, companies would do it at the drop of a hat. Concern with profits, CEO bonuses, etc, doesn’t really apply to public utilities, and public utilities are constantly investing capital for long-term returns. Some are looking 20, 30, 50, or even further into the future. Once again, if reducing GHG emissions were cost-effective as #180 claimed, you would see much more participation.

    [Response: Markets are not completely rational, so some moves that make economic sense don't happen. With regard to coal, it's worse. What makes economic sense is to burn coal. Lots of it. That's because the environmental effects of burning coal -- from mountain top removal to mercury pollution to global warming -- are not in any way reflected in the price of coal. No market signals, no action. --raypierre]

  41. 191
    Joel Shore says:

    Re #185 and #190: So, are you saying that BP is lying when they claim that they have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by the amount they said they are and that they are saving a significant amount of money in doing so? Because the world of your naive economic principles this would be impossible.

    By similar logic, one also must conclude, for example, that the phenomenon of pet rocks or beanie babies could not have occurred until the exact moment that it happened…because if it could have been profitable before that, someone would have acted on it already.

    And, despite what it says on the box, those compact fluorescent light bulbs can’t possibly save consumers money or more of them would have converted over to them already.

    In other words, the world is not as simple as the most simplistic market economics religious principles would have you believe. You have to go beyond that and study how markets really work. There are lots of real issues markets face including externalities, the lack of perfect knowledge, inertia, perverse incentives in corporate cultures, …

  42. 192
    Hank Roberts says:

    Which public utilities, by the way? none mining coal, that I’m aware of.

  43. 193
    Yuramanti says:

    Wow!! This is good news from America!!
    So, when will your county move ahead to the next big step joining Kyoto Protocol!? ;-)

  44. 194
    Michael Jankowski says:

    RE#191, Where did I say it was impossible for GHG reductions to be cost-effective? If BP is saving money and reducing GHG emissions, good for them (although I do find your implication that BP is being completely truthful to be amusing…usually, oil company statements are viewed with a lot of doubt, especially by enviro-conscious people, yet you are daring me to say there are lying). But just because one company can do it doesn’t mean every company can just flip a switch and follow suit. If it were that easy, every PC maker in the world would’ve adopted Dell’s business model and had their high profit margins over the years.

    Your reference to beanie babies and pet rocks is absurd. Those were fad products and inventions of sorts. If you want to go with that analogy, then maybe it would be more appropriate to discuss how cost-effective it would’ve been for BP to switch all of its plants to the manufacture of beanie babies or something along those lines.

    As for fluorescent bulbs, you’re talking about a personal consumer choice. Consumers don’t necessarily choose the most cost-effective products. If they did, high end automobiles, first-class seating, luxury homes, expensive clothing stores and product lines, etc, would not exist. Those making corportate financial business decisions are not doing so based on their own personal consumer choices. Utility companies are not, either. They are looking at the financial bottom-line, and if it’s cost-effective for them to invest in and implement a new technology, they do so.

    RE#192, Is there really a public utility out there that mines coal?

  45. 195
    david Iles says:

    We are rapidly gaining the technology necessary to solve our energy needs sustainably and doing this on a shoestring budget.

    here is a quote from an article at New Scientist magazine:

    Victor Klimov, a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico �has shown that by shrinking the elements of a solar cell down to a few nanometres, or millionths of a millimetre, each captured photon can be made to generate not one, but two or even more charge carriers.

    This doubles the current efficiency of solar cells.

    I cant link straight to the article because it is a pay site, but here is another article slightly older that talks about the process.

    http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/002789.html

    If we combine this power generation with the efficient energy storage of methanol as researched by Nobel Laureate Dr Olah we have an efficient bottom up energy economy. here is an interview with Dr Olah.

    http://www.techreview.com/read_article.aspx?id=16466&ch=biztech

    As to personal responsibility, our daily lives, and governmental policy, it is hard for me to see much distinction. In order to have any way out of what we are currently creating we must work on both fronts at the same time. Our personal responsibilities to our children are to work to create a government that can address these problems. What we have now is a government that mainly addresses corporate interests and corporations are bound by law to do what is necessary to enhance stockholders dividends. The 1919 case Dodge v. Ford Motor Co., sets the precedent. Here is an excerpt from the supreme court of Michigan�s decision;

    �A business corporation is organized and carried on primarily for the profit of the stockholders. The powers of the directors are to be employed for that end. The discretion of directors is to be exercised in the choice of means to attain that end and does not extend to a change in the end itself, to the reduction of profits or to the nondistribution of profits among stockholders in order to devote them to other purposes�.

    http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1768159

    Also see some of the dialogue of the case here

    http://www.abelard.org/ford/ford2-business.php

    The other case that makes action to reduce global climate change difficult was the 1886 case where the US Supreme Court ruled in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad [[118 U.S. 394], that a private corporation was a “natural person” under the US Constitution, sheltered by the 14th Amendment, which requires due process in the criminal prosecution of “persons.”

    We are caught in a sort of catch 22 of climate change and governmental policy. Industry is the single largest contributor to anthropomorphic CO2 (33%) but legally there are very few checks that can be put on this source because it would impede profitability and would impinge on the rights of a corporation as a individual person.

    The major problem we are facing with utilizing new sustainable energy sources appears to me to be corporate inertia. The wealthy companies that run our economy are fixated on maintaining their status. A natural position I suppose. But it is one that is selling our children’s future out from under them. From arms manufactures and the pentagon to energy traders and big oil, media companies, to congress, everyone wants to maintain and enhance market share, and over the course of our history as a country have established the legal means to do so, no matter the obvious destructive results of continuing on in the poison rut that has been established. So we can only take personal responsibility by taking activist positions regarding the basically legally mandated short-term view of corporations.

    [Response: I don't see that there's any constitutional impediment to regulating corporate CO2 emissions, either by command and control or market mechanisms. Corporations are already subject to all sorts of regulations -- fuel economy standards, child labor laws, accounting practice laws, toxic pollution laws, and so forth. A carbon tax is even less problematic constitutionally, since it has been clear since the beginning that Congress has the powers to levy taxes of various sorts.

    One of the problems with corporate governance in the US is that it has proved hard to get the CEO's to even pay attention to the short-term needs of providing value to their shareholders (Enron being the most blatant example), let alone the long-term profitability of the company itself (this quarter's results vs. payoff in 20 years) let alone taking financial risks that might benefit society as a whole or the economy as a whole but have uncertain payoff for the company itself. Corporations, like people, are neither inherently good or bad. Perhaps more so than people, though, they need clearer incentives to good behavior regarding their broader impacts. --raypierre]

  46. 196
    Hank Roberts says:

    Ray, I’d recommend finding someone able to address this from the corporate governance side who’s eager to explain to corporate boards and shareholders how they can, within the rules, address climate change. There’s a brand new Stanford corporate governance program as of this year, for example. I think there’s almost no attention given to these concerns and that the law for Boards of Directors currently does make that limit explicit. It’s a huge subject area.

    Finding someone in that field who wants to show his or her peers how their rules allow change would be good.

  47. 197
    Hank Roberts says:

    Here’s another approach to addressing corporate action — skillful ridicule:
    http://www.boingboing.net/2006/06/07/pranksters_give_fake.html

    “… at the UK Serious Games Summit, where game developers met to discuss games that are intended to have positive social outcomes. The pranksters — widely believed to have been the notorious Yes Men — gave an increasingly provocative, funny and weird deadpan PowerPoint presentation [links] on McDonald’s putative interactive strategy. The presentation focused on the way that corporate practices contribute to global climate change.”

  48. 198
    Felix F B says:

    It seems most news-papers and magazines are qualifying the movie as over dramatic wich is pathetic. There is many reasons to be dramatic when the fate of billions of peoples is at stakes, including our very own planet lies on a the head of a needle.

    Beside the gouvernements propaganda, we now have the medias ignoring the situation and the masses that follows blindly taking their cars when they could simply take public transport. If you beleive in something, then give it justice by YOUR actions. How many people beleive in kyoto but would never dare to take public transport 3 days a week instead of their cars?

    Warning about global warming started over 25 years ago, perhaps it would have cost less to do something about it back then? Scientists were simply ignored and shut off qualified as over reacting, making extreme scenario, etc… I dont know about you, but the whole scenario with the mega-corporations controling even wars mixed with global warming scenario is a prety good receipe for the soon to be released real-life movie “appocalyspe 2025″.

    Revolution again…

    Forgive my poor english.

  49. 199
    Doug Percival says:

    I am also skeptical of the estimation of Gore, Hansen and others that we have ten years time in which we can act to avert irreversible runaway warming and catastrophic climate change.

    As I look at what is already happening to the Earth as a result of the GHGs we have already pumped into the atmosphere, particularly the self-reinforcing feedbacks such as increased release of carbon and methane from warming soils, the increased absorbtion of heat by ice-free arctic oceans, the warming and acidification of the ocean leading to widespread die-off of phytoplankton which take up CO2, and so on, and then realize that the CO2 we’ve already put into the atmosphere will continue to cause warming for many decades to come, it is very difficult to see how this can all be stopped and reversed, even in the (in my opinion) unlikely event that the human species and its nations and corporations wake up to the danger and immediately begin taking large-scale action to virtually eliminate GHG emissions.

    I am extremely pessimistic. I think that we, and the golden goose of the Earth’s biosphere, are cooked. So, like the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard Of Oz”, the only thing I ask is, please talk me out of it.

    [Response: I think "10 years" is fair if it's referring to the time we have to set capital investment in energy systems on the right track. Even then, it should be seen as more of a guideline than an immutable principle. If we do nothing in the next ten years, things may get a lot worse and there will be more pain in doing enough carbon emissions abatement in the subsequent times. Nonetheless, it would still be worth doing things in the subsequent 10 years even if we twiddle our thumbs in the next ten years, since things will get EVEN WORSE if we continue to do nothing. There's no one unique point at which one gives up hope, because however much damage we do to the climate, we're always capable of doing a lot more, so there never comes a point where emissions abatement becomes pointless. If the "10 years" is supposed to mean strictly that the likely emissions in the next 10 years themselves will push us past a point of no return, on the other hand, I'd agree that the statement is not supportable scientifically. What's more, it's counterproductive, since it gives denialists the idea that if they can just hold off meaningful action for another ten years, then they can rest on their laurels since there will then be no point in doing anything ever again. --raypierre]

  50. 200
    Mark A. York says:

    CNN is running a sceptic story with world v. William Gray, and then the weatherman chimed in to support Gray as a prelude to the report. We don’t know how much we’re contributing he said. That’s clearly false.


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