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Weekly Round-up

Filed under: — gavin @ 13 September 2006

A few scattered pieces that may be of interest:

The increasingly-odd behaviour of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists – who recently awarded Michael Crichton a journalism award (because his work apparently has the ‘ring of truth‘ as opposed to actually being true), aroused the ire of American Quaternary Association in a commentary in EOS.

Reason Magazine has a Roundtable discussing responses to global warming from their particular perspective. The second essay (by D. Boudreaux) has the remarkable subtitle “Why ignoring climate change isn’t a sign of scientific illiteracy or of ideologically induced stupidity”. His point appears to be that the science of climate change doesn’t specifically imply any particular actions in response (which is true – what action to take, if any, is a political, ethical and economic decision). However his conclusion that ignoring climate change is sensible postition to take is indeed pretty dim. Ignorance is never the answer.

And on a lighter note, the Union of Concerned Scientists has a cartoon competition.

52 Responses to “Weekly Round-up”

  1. 1
    Paul G. Brown says:

    Not a comment about the science, but I can’t let this pass. Boudreaux writes:

    “A voter gets to express in the voting booth his or her policy preferences without being constrained to reckon seriously the consequences of how he or she votes.”

    Ah yes. Democracy. What a crock.

  2. 2
    Matt says:

    I have to agree with D. Boudreaux….

    There is absolutely no way that scientists / engineers can leave the solution to global warming up to the public & law makers. People cannot possibly hope to determine the correct path to take when they are dealing with such increadibly complex issues & have never had to think about energy policy before.

    How should the public / lawmakers know that one way out is making an ultra-cheap solar cell & cheap energy storage device? The water is muddied with pie in the sky scenarios for a “hydrogen economy”, the promise of ethanol, a clean nuclear fusion vision.

    What engineers / scientists / economists need to do is, at the level of the IPCC… create a plan of recommended action.

    This would include what can be done now:
    Specific wind turbine targets. Specific nuclear fission targets. Specific CAFE standards. CF bulb usage & recycling recovery. Solar water heaters.

    It might research in detail the economic effect of a carbon tax & research how different country economies would react.

    It would recommend paths for the future:
    Specific areas of research to fund. (solar / battery / carbon nanotech ultra-cap / organic LED lighting / deep offshore wind / algae biodiesel farms) Recommended current courses of action & then possible scenarios depending on technological innovation targets achieved.

    Currently the US is spending 150 million on solar research. Approx. 60 cents per year per citizen.

    And why isn’t Europe, with its seeming understanding of the gravity of the situation, putting more money into solar / storage research? They are investing in fusion & the hydrogen economy.

    I think the reason is clear — there is no plan from the smartest minds of the world. Just alot of hand waving & occasional messages of doom and panic.

  3. 3
    Ezequiel Marti­n Camara says:

    I do not agree. Doing nothing is an option, and it is an option many people are taking. Ignore other people’s ignorance at your own peril.

    I agree that “ignoring climate change is not a sign of scientific illiteracy or of ideologically induced stupidity”. I mean, I drive a car and use air conditioning. And I know that it contributes to global warning, so I ignore it and do it anyway. I think it is a bad option and I try to change it, but my will takes me only so far. I am not a scientific illiterate, nor my stupidity is ideologically induced.

    Fighting climate change is an arduous and complex matter, and most people, even knowing about it (who does not these days) just do not bother. To convince these people you have to understand them, convince them, and give them the right motivation.

  4. 4
    Karen Street says:

    I appreciate comment 2. For example, I cite Hansen plus one of the writers on RealClimate (Gavin?), saying that we need to make 0 to 10% reductions in GHG emissions by 2015 from 2005 levels, but what does that mean for the industrialized world? for the US? for China? What can be accomplished reasonably by fission, by solar, by wind? Speaking of wind, I rarely read about the analysis of David Keith and others in discussions of how much we can depend on wind. What are the marginal costs and benefits of making greater reductions in GHG emissions?

    To be fair, some of this is the responsibility of the President’s Committee of Advisers on Science and Technology, who would provide answers if the the president were to ask questions.

    Though I had a different take on Boudreaux’s article.

  5. 5
    John Fleck says:

    Gavin –

    I’m puzzled at your response to Boudreaux. Despite the rhetorical turn of phrase that you quote – rather out of context, I would argue – he in fact argues for an acceptance of the science, and uses that acceptance as one of the bases for his argument. He then goes on to argue a particular policy response that you apparently disagree with. But, as you say, acceptance of the science doesn’t necessarily imply a particular policy response. This (acceptance of the science, and moving on then to talk about policy responses) ought to be something that you, as someone committed to winning acceptance of the scientific consensus, ought to embrace, I would think.

    As someone frustrated by the continuing he said/she said scientized debate over whether the sun is really to blame, or whether the hockey stick is bunk, I found it refreshing to see someone on that side of the divide accept the science and engage the necessary debate about policy responses, rather than doing the usual niggling about the science that we all find so infuriating.

    [Response: Hi John, This was mainly just a niggle about the ‘ignoring’ climate change comment. I see that as akin to an ostrich putting it’s head in the sand. It’s a very different thing to know everything about a problem and still decide to do nothing about it. He probably thinks the second, but the subtitle implies the first. Whether you think governments can make useful regulatory changes (which I do – leaded petrol anyone?) or not, much of what government and private industry do is plan for the future, and since climate change (and our reponse to it – or not) is very much part of that future, ignoring it is just silly. However, your point is well taken, it is refreshing to see people move on from quibbling about science to discussing the real issues, and possibly I should have made that point above. Thanks – gavin]

  6. 6
    Jeff Huber says:

    #2 This sounds like central planning at it finest. I suppose that next you will want a Federal Emgerency Managment organization for disaster relief.

  7. 7
    SecularAnimist says:

    Matt wrote in #2: “There is absolutely no way that scientists / engineers can leave the solution to global warming up to the public & law makers. People cannot possibly hope to determine the correct path to take when they are dealing with such increadibly complex issues & have never had to think about energy policy before.”

    I agree. However, climate scientists are not necessarily the best qualified people to advise on energy policy.

    For example, I think that James Lovelock is one of the great scientific geniuses and visionaries of our time, that his Gaia Hypothesis represents a revolution in the understanding of life on Earth, and that his grim view of what global warming portends is compelling because of his deep appreciation of the interconnectedness of the biosphere and atmosphere.

    However, I think his pronouncements about the necessity of a large-scale buildup of nuclear power, and his dismissal of wind and solar electricity, are wrong and misinformed. He simply doesn’t know enough about energy technologies and their relative impacts and relative potential for reducing GHG emissions. It’s not his field. Someone like Amory Lovins is much better qualified to advise on the best energy technology paths.

    And as for Reason magazine, it should properly be named Rationalizaton magazine, since what it calls “reasoning” is often nothing but contorted intellectual rationalizations in support of a dogmatic, fundamentalist libertarian or Ayn Randian Objectivist ideology.

  8. 8
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE # 2, Scientists (atmospheric, oceanographic, zoological, biological etc.,etc.) specialize but not in energy policy. Dr. Hoeffert, made an attempt but they could not capture the attention of the entrepreneurs . They presented a good perspective but carried no clout.

    My family doctor is not my tax accountant.

    Engineers know how things work; have the imagination to design and build the most complex machines and systems but — individually or collectively — engineers cannot sort out all the energy pieces and assemble them into an infrastructure that provides the means to keep nearly 3 billion people moving and productive and the climate in check. Amory Lovins cannot, either.

    Though it is great leap of faith to think politicians and their executive branch colleagues can craft and implement the components needed to embark on a decarbonized energy future, the unnerving fact is they are where the buck stops. Thems alls we gots to pull off this caper.

    Be it tax incentives, cap-and-trade CO2 limits, guaranteed loans, eminent domain powers or even martial law, they create laws the bureaucrats promulgate which we voters (ought to) demand. That puts the collective **WE** in positions of greater responsibility and power. I like that part best because it translates the word government into the all encompassing word — us (especially US taxpayers).

    How about a show of hand here — who lately, if ever, has written a letter, visited or made a phone call to their elected representative (US for the moment) demanding more RD&D dollars for this or that technology; increased appropriations for orbiting satellites to measure global changes; or, increased funding for NOAA, NASA, etc.?

    Why do we so willingly transfer all of our responsibilities onto the backs of scientists, engineers or Amory Lovins. In a democracy, we, the voters, rule.

    Too romantic??

    If so, then denialism is a much wider field with more players than just those AGW skeptics.

    Getting serious about and beyond the blather storm of climate change and all its consequences for our children begins with forcing our elected representatives to do our bidding. A lot tougher assignment than debating Pat Michaels or winning the hockey stick war.

  9. 9
    Steve Reynolds says:

    I do not see anyone addressing Boudreaux’s main point: How do we know that heavy handed government actions to limit warming are not a cure worse than the disease?
    Has anyone done a good cost/benefit analysis for the various proposals?

  10. 10
  11. 11
    Max Schwing says:

    D. Boudreaux is entirely right, when he calls for government inaction. I don’t even believe that a viable solution will come out of a room full with scientists and engineers.
    Neither of those two groups has the knowledge or an understanding about economy an social behaviour. In fact, not even politicians or economists have a perfect understanding about human action (although they at least know that they not have a prefect understanding).

    So, what is the set policy? No policy at all. If you want to change someting, do it yourself, but don’t ask mommy-state to do it for you.
    If you are not willing to do it yourself on your own, how can you ask for other people to do the same?

  12. 12
    Eric (skeptic) says:

    Lead story on CBS News Radio this morning was Dr. Hansen restating 10 years until the point of no return with emphasis on species extinction and rising sea levels. They also quoted a poll where (IIRC) 67% said yes to some question about warming and 28% said no. Oddly I haven’t found anything on their website yet.

  13. 13
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE # 11

    Max, get real.

    [If you want to change someting, do it yourself, but don’t ask mommy-state to do it for you.
    If you are not willing to do it yourself on your own, how can you ask for other people to do the same?]

    When,in the 1970S, US pediatric doctors pleaded with the air regulators to ban leaded gasoline, did they call on you to [do it yourself]?

    Lots more examples of how the public needs [mommy-state]. AND YOU NEED HER ALSO!

  14. 14
    __earth says:


    is el nino back?

    according to Rueters at USA Today, its back and:

    “This El Niño has caused drier-than-average conditions across Indonesia, Malaysia and most of the Philippines.”

    Personally, it’s pretty wet here. Southeast Asia, i mean.

    [Response:Indeed, it does appear that a warm event may be developing. There is a nice animation of this here. Interestingly, there is an historical relationship indicating that Atlantic hurricane activity is suppressed due to increased local wind shear during the summer/fall during which the El Nino is developing. So ENSO might have something to do with the weaker activity observed thusfar this season, which indeed has been associated with significant shearing of incipient storms. It will be interesting to see how this holds up over the remainder of the season, since there appears to be a lot more action over the past 1-2 weeks. If we have yet again witnessed an anomalous Hurricane season when all is said and done this year, it will be all the more impressive given that the unfavorable conditions due to the growing El Nino event. – mike]

  15. 15
    Fernando says:

    # 11

    or economists have a perfect understanding about human action

    Human action? Are you austrian, Max?

    Asutrian school of economics is the most free-market oriented branch of economics. Some of them (ancaps) even reject the idea of a minimal State. They despise Democracy, free market is the only place where people should “vote” (with their money, by the way).


  16. 16
    Hank Roberts says:

    Note re the recent Arctic sea ice report — graphic here:

    I’d earlier linked –in a now closed thread I can’t correct — to a thesis, this one:

    The author there used a climate model, and the results for Arctic sea ice predicted what seems to be happening now — a sudden rapid decline, and in this time span.

    That link is now broken, because the Navy’s library was rearranged I’m trying to find a good link.
    If you can find the thesis, look in the back for the graphic resembling the one in the press release above.

    My recollection is that the modeling used for the thesis predicted this rather well.

  17. 17
    Hank Roberts says:

    Followup on that Arctic sea ice prediction in a thesis, trying still to get a good link

    The thesis is still shown as available to the public from the Navy Grad School library, here:

    Determination of changes in the state of the Arctic ice pack using the NPS Pan-Arctic coupled ice-ocean model
    —- McNamara, Terry P.

    — And it should be downloadable: but “the file is damaged and could not be repaired”

    Google also finds the thesis available for a price:
    here for about $19:

    here for about $23: Adobe PDF – $22.95

    Abstract — because I think it’s important and to the Navy’s credit it has the resources to do this sort of modeling, and succeed:

    Date: Mar 2006
    Author: T. McNamara
    This thesis provides an analysis of the diminishing sea ice trend in the Arctic Ocean by examining the NPS 1/12-degree pan-Arctic coupled ice-ocean model. While many previous studies have analyzed changes in ice extent and concentration, this research focuses on ice thickness as it gives a better indication of ice volume variability. The skill of the model is examined by comparing its output to sea ice thickness data gathered during the last two decades. The first dataset used is the collection of draft measurements conducted by U.S. Navy submarines between 1986 and 1999. The second is electromagnetic (EM) induction ice thickness measurements gathered using a helicopter by the Alfred Wegener Institute in April 2003. Last, model output is compared with data collected by NASA’s ICESat program using a laser altimeter mounted on a satellite of the same name. The NPS model indicates an accelerated thinning trend in Arctic sea ice during the last decade. The validation of model output with submarine, EM and ICESat data supports this result. This lends credence to the postulation that the Arctic not only might, but is likely to be ice-free during the summer in the near future.

  18. 18
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE # 17

    Hank, save your money and try the following link:

    It should take you directly to the Thesis. However, the link does have an attitude.

  19. 19
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE # 18. Not a reliable link, Hank.

    I suggest you try:

    and scroll down to the line reading: Handle/proxy Url and access that link.

  20. 20
    Eric Swanson says:

    Re #13:

    To set the record straight (I think), the main reason for removing tetraethyl lead from gasoline was that it poisoned catalytic converters. The catalytic converters were thought to be the best cure for the much more immediate problem of carbon monoxide emissions. Of course, there was a secondary benefit to children who were nolonger subjected to lead in the air they
    were forced to breath.

  21. 21
    David Graves says:

    On this leaded gasoline sidebar, (#13 and #20), I believe from my recollection of the literature thirty years ago, both were concerns. That nasty mommy state set the goal of elimination of lead emissions(and smog-forming unburned fuel and CO)and let the manufacturers figure out how to make it happen. The result in the short term was a bunch of cars that didn’t run very well because they had pollution controls grafted on. Once engines were designed with the design constraints in place, voila’! California’s standards are now industry-wide, cars run well on lower octane fuel, etc.
    The worst mis-step was the MTBE debacle. The main point however, is that the economic costs need to include the environmental costs, so the market gets all the information it needs. Coal-fired electricity is too cheap because its environmental consequences are not priced into the kilowatt-hours. The only way to do that is for the reviled “nanny-state” to intervene. Otherwise–tragedy of the commons.

  22. 22
    Hank Roberts says:

    A good review here:
    The history of lead has much of interest to the current situation with carbon. Allow me a brief snip from the above:

    [One of the proponents of adding lead wrote]: “…Ethyl gasoline was therefore temporarily withdrawn from the market pending a thorough investigation by a distinguished committee appointed by the Surgeon General”.
    Among the agitators alluded to above was Dr Yandell Henderson, Yale Physiologist, who made the following anticipative and rather disconcerting observation about the possible public health consequences of exposing the general population to automotive lead:
    “I find two diametrically opposed conceptions. The men engaged in industry, chemists, and engineers, take it as a matter of course that a little thing like industrial poisoning should not be allowed to stand in the way of a great industrial advance. On the other hand, the sanitary experts take it as a matter of course that the first consideration is the health of the people… Lead poisoning today is comparable to typhoid fever. It is almost comparable to tuberculosis in its character as a disease. It is a form of poisoning of a peculiar type. It is cumulative. It is already common. We do not know what percentage of the population, how many tens of thousands of people in America, are carrying a greater or less quantity of lead in their bodies now. We have every reason to believe that it is a very considerable number”
    (ref. 7, p. 62).
    In a private letter to R.R. Sayers of the United States Public Health Service, Dr Henderson noted poignantly that “in the past, the position taken by the authorities has been that nothing could be prohibited until it was proved to have killed a number of people. I trust that in future, especially in matters of this sort, the position will be that a substance like tetraethyllead cannot be introduced for general use until it is proved harmless” [17]. In his views on environmental toxicology, Dr Henderson was clearly well ahead of his time…..
    —- end excerpt—-

    In fact, Dr. Henderson was clearly well ahead of our time, too. The Europeans listened and banned lead in many uses decades before the US finally began to be concerned.

  23. 23
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE # 22

    Hank, if you played baseball, you must have been a heck of a shortstop. Nothing gets past you.

    That link is more than a reminder of how science, medicine and politics can rise to the challenge. It gives one hope.

  24. 24
    Hank Roberts says:

    Credit for that to the Columbia teacher who put that article online. There are so many champions in our past we never heard about, so long as their stories were buried in paper in libraries, hard to find and repeat. There is hope.

  25. 25

    Re 23 John,

    I think you are missing the point. You wrote “That link is more than a reminder of how science, medicine and politics can rise to the challenge” but Hank says Dr Henderson wrote “in the past, the position taken by the authorities has been that nothing could be prohibited until it was proved to have killed a number of people.” That has not changed. Even Katrina had no effect because it cannot be proved that the deaths it inflicted were caused by global warming.

    Eventually the US will follow Europe’s lead, but this time it is going to be too late, especially as it will need India and China to follow it as well :-(

  26. 26
    Fernando Magyar says:

    “There is absolutely no way that scientists / engineers can leave the solution to global warming up to the public & law makers. People cannot possibly hope to determine the correct path to take when they are dealing with such increadibly complex issues & have never had to think about energy policy before.”

    It seems that Californians at least might disagree.

  27. 27
    Audrey R says:

    Re # 3 “Fighting climate change is an arduous and complex matter, and most people, even knowing about it (who does not these days) just do not bother. To convince these people you have to understand them, convince them, and give them the right motivation.”
    By Ezequiel Marti­n Camara

    – which is why the work being done by Linguistic Landscapes (there was a previous RC article on LL’s document “warm words”) is worth taking a look at. I am rabidly anti-marketing (I used to work for it. I thought I could change the world. It doesn’t want the world to change, the world suits it just fine as it is) but am willing to admit that sometimes it might have a worthwhile purpose. They’re using language like, “we need to work in a shrewd and contemporary way, using subtle techniques of engagement… treat climate change communications in the same way as brand communications… Approach positive climate behaviors in the same way as marketers approach buying and consuming”. I’m biting my tongue. Although I hate it – and although I know that Pale Green (which is what they’ll be selling) is not the ultimate answer, just buys time – this manipulation is necessary right now.

    Re # 11 “Max, I am a housewife. While I think I do understand what you’re saying (I think you’re talking about taking responsibility), I’m not sure what more I can personally do. For now, I for one do need people with more knowledge than I have, to further explain to me the small and big things I might do to contribute to mitigation; and with more power than I have, to force my neighbours to contribute also. I’m willing to do anything that’s necessary but I need input. I don’t mind being backstage, supporting systems that nurture the minds and hands of the generation that will make the leap that ensures survival of our species. I want a strong government with sane advisors to devise these systems because I live in the real world and I know that 90% of my fellows would rather stick pins in their eyeballs than take responsibility.
    I try really hard to “be the change I want to see” but the ordinary people who are my peers do not want their “rights” interfered with – the right to breed like rabbits, the right to drive suv to shops, the right to all the electricity they can get their hands on, the right to pour paint thinners down the drain etc etc. I regret not being able to conceive and implement the ultimate answer. If there’s a next life I want to be Mao but better, then we’ll see what’s what.
    The real work must be done against all odds in a world full of compulsive consumers, especially in developing countries like mine where we the masses are actively encouraged to be just that. Unfortunately, most of my fellow adults are not grown up, and a single-minded nanny state with its head in the right environmental place is exactly what we need right now, whether we like it or not.

    My heartfelt thanks to all at RealClimate, which often feels like the only sane site on the internet. You have no idea how many good ripples you’re causing out here in the darkness.

    Audrey R
    South Africa

  28. 28
    Grant says:

    I live in Maine but my company’s HQ is in California, so I visit regularly and keep a close eye on CA political news. Gov. Schwarzeneger’s CO2-regulation initiative has inspired CA voters to rally around the environmental flag. He has succeeded in overcoming opposition from his own republican party by forming a strong coalition with CA democrats in the state house. Perhaps most important, it has inspired CA entrepreneurs to look on CO2 reduction and renewable energy as a potential new technology market. If you read the local papers, it’s not unlikely you’ll find some story about how CA’s groundbreaking legislation carries not just economic risks, but tremendous opportunity. They’re betting that when the nation as a whole gets on the CO2-reduction bandwagon, the CA economy will shoot into the lead because they’ve got a several-years head start.

    It’s inspiring, really. And I regularly hear friends and co-workers say things like, “He’s too conservative on most things, but he’s a *real* environmentalist.” Also, it (and other environmental initiatives) have dramatically helped his poll numbers — this issue is likely to propel him to reelection.

    I guess the point I’m trying to make is that IF politicians get going about this, and really mean it, THEN the public will respond — with votes. IF the leaders push the issue, THEN business will change its tune from “ruin the economy” to “biggest economic opportunity.” So there is hope that the public and lawmakers will “do the right thing.”

  29. 29
    Matt says:

    I just wanted to clarify what I meant when I said

    “People cannot possibly hope to determine the correct path to take when they are dealing with such increadibly complex issues & have never had to think about energy policy before.”

    What I meant was that climate models focus mainly on outcome scenarios, alloting so much for growth, & so much for various mitigation scenarios. Often these seem to be biased towards a certain wonder technology (carbon sequestration, or I’ve even heard that fusion will come to our rescue.)

    What I’d love to see is a consensus among scientists and engineers about which technologies seem like they could really work in the time frame that we have. & which ones are almost there, but could use considerable , global R&D (ultra cheap solar cells & energy storage devices for example)

    Also which technologies need to be taken with a considerable grain of salt. Such as carbon sequestration — where the technology has to work so well with less than 0.1% leakage… or we’ve got serious problems. nuclear power — there might not be enough uranium. biofuels — the threat to changing large portions of our land.

    I’d like to see step by step plans so that hurried lawmakers can have something to go by, beyond what they receive from industry groups.

    Something like this sort of thing:

    I was very encouranged to read the story in the NYT about California’s new legislations on co2 reduction & solar initiatives & energy use reduction. Even with laws controlling vampire loads from electronic devices! California is on top of it!

    As far as.. should it be us or our government. I’d say certainly. In fact, its got to be an agreement between governements! However, can we count on the US to do anything? I think we may see NGOs rise to the occasion… taking public contributions & giving directly to solar cell / energy storage research. The US Govt. has set aside just 150 million for solar research for 2007 — a major increase over 2006, however… this amounts to about a buck per tax payer. For the technology that has any chance at saving our planet. Meanwhile “clean coal” technology gets about 3 times as much. & they haven’t even chosen a site for (perpetually the) Futuregen.


  30. 30
    Hank Roberts says:

    > 22, 23, 24, 25
    I had not checked up the directory tree til now, but that lead reference is from one of “the three SIPA courses from the MPA in Earth System Science, Policy and Management, of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

    Educating potential politicians — that’s where there’s hope for science.

  31. 31
  32. 32
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE # 29

    Matt, your clarification helped somewhat but leaves me (at least) with a feeling of frustration of how advocates for [step by step] plans; a blueprint; a roadmap, etc. designed to get the consumer world emissions down to some level that future CO2 concentrations might stay below 450-550 ppmv.

    The FOE/Tyndall report, THE FUTURE STARTS HERE can be downloaded at:

    for anyone interested.

    The fact FOE did not ask Tyndall Centre to consider economic aspects of climate change but to concentrate on the science and technologies frankly was a missed opportunity to attach some reality to the proposal.

    So this next in a long series of reports is competing with those other roadmaps, blueprints, etc. (the contents of which many of us can cite or assume) for the attention of harried politicians who have to sell their legislative proposals to voters already burdened with the increasing cost of living and cost of government.

    I cannot imagine such a report seeing the light of day in this US Congress because it offers no consumer/voter buy-in and does not reflect the fiscal limitations of the US federal government.

    How about a roadmap, blueprint, step-by-step plan that implements a carbon reduction law enacted by a legislative body? Hey, wait a minute. That is what California is creating: a plan to implement AB 32. Granted, it will not take California carbon emissions down to 70 percent below 1990 level but it is a good start and will likely assure re-election of its Austrian-born Republican Governor. Hats off to California voters, legislature and Governor Schwartzenegger. They provided the nation a (first-round) road map with a step-by-step plan soon to follow.

  33. 33
    Stephen Berg says:

    This is pretty linkworthy, don’t you think?

  34. 34

    “People cannot possibly hope to determine the correct path to take when they are dealing with such increadibly complex issues & have never had to think about energy policy before.”

    Well, the EU is asking the public for some guidance on exactly that as they prepare to close out comments on EU Energy policy. (Deadline is Sunday)

    Greenpeace has provided their response to the questionairre as a guide for folks who might be confused by the sometimes coded questions.

  35. 35
    Hank Roberts says:

    As discussed previously:
    “… According to Dr. Jonah Colman, who does climate modeling at Los Alamos National Laboratory, “the availability of DSCOVR for inter-comparison between other measurements” would reconcile discrepancies in data from low-Earth orbit satellites. “Albedo is incredibly important,” he added. “It can change quickly, and we currently do not have a direct method for measuring it. DSCOVR would have given us that.” Project leader Dr. Francisco P.J. Valero, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, describes the mission as “an urgent necessity.” Dr. Robert L. Park, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland, is even more blunt about the importance of DSCOVR’s data: “Not knowing may kill us.”

    Did spiking the mission have anything to do with the politics of global warming? Climate scientists think so.

    If we’re interested in understanding how climate changes and how to predict what’s going to happen next, DSCOVR would appear to be a crucial undertaking. So what happened? The loss of the Columbia shuttle certainly didn’t help, but the real coffin nail seems to have been partisan politics….”

    “In January 2006, NASA quietly canceled DSCOVR altogether, citing “competing priorities.” Many in the scientific community are incredulous that such an important mission might be lost to rank partisanship. “Gore favored it,” says Dr. Park. “This administration is determined that a Gore experiment is not going to happen. It’s inconceivable to me.” Climate analyst Trenbeth said, “It makes no sense to me at all either from an economic or a scientific viewpoint. That leaves politics.”
    “The Ukrainian government offered to lau­nch DSCOVR free of charge, France made a similar offer. But NASA’s response so far has been “no thanks.”

    “DSCOVR is not entirely dead yet. NOAA is considering bankrolling the launch because DSCOVR could better warn of solar storms, protecting expensive communications satellites. Until then, assuming it’s not stripped for parts, DSCOVR will remain in a box at Goddard…..”

  36. 36
    W F Lenihan says:

    I am a retired lawyer with a keen interest in scientific matters. I am quite competent to gather and analyze copius amounts of information and draw generalized conclusions from it. After reading the 35 replies above my opinion that scientists should never be allowed to engage in public policy making is reinforced. The problem invariably is the inability to develop concensus, which is a virtue.
    The role of scientists in public policy formation in a democratic government must be limited to advisoy one due to the complete lack of accountability, like it or not.

  37. 37
    yartrebo says:

    Re: #36

    I disagree. Scientists are citizens like anyone else and have their own unique understanding of the situation. Under democratic communism it would be a simple matter to including climate scientists as part of the central planning process – accountability is no more an issue than with the economists, social scientists, engineers, and other professions that would be represented in a sound central planning process. The more information available to a central planning board (along with more responsible political pressures), the better its decisions will be. Disasters such as the one resulting from the irrigation of large portions of the Kazakh SSR for cotton, which might appear as a likely problem to a climatologist or geologist, but obscure to an economist or even an agricultural engineer, could be avoided.

    As far as reaching a consenses goes – scientists generally only bother debating stuff where there is uncertainly. Professors (who teach mostly established material to others) generally don’t stir up much controversy or debate. If those same people are now involved in central planning (or lawmaking in non-communist countries), their goal is now one of consensus-building – they are to discuss with knowledgeable people from other fields such as social science and economics to come to a long term plan that best serves the needs of society. If anything, scientists would prove to be much better at representing society’s views than the partisan lawyers who make up the bulk of lawmaking in my country (USA).

  38. 38
    Fernando Magyar says:

    Re# 36
    My apologies to the mediators for my previous comment, apparently the bar for what is considered acceptable discourse is set at a different height here than on other science blogs. I’m willing to accept that. Though I agree with the comment in 37 and still consider what was said in 36 to be somewhat lacking in merit. Cheers!

  39. 39

    Re #38 I have not read your censored reply, but I can imagine that it voiced the same anger that I felt on first reading Mr Lenihan’s post. Here is my response now that my temper has cooled.

    Re #36

    I am a retired engineer with a keen interest in scientific matters. I am quite competent to gather and analyze copius amounts of information and draw generalized conclusions from it. After reading your post #36 above, my opinion that lawyers should never be allowed to engage in public policy making is reinforced. The problem invariably is their inability to understand the science. Understanding science is a neccessity for any decision.

    The role of lawyers in public policy formation in a democratic government must be limited to the administration of the law due to the complete lack of accountability, like it or not.

    OTOH, we all live in a democracy, where everyone, scientist, lawyer, and egineer are entitled to express our political opinions through the ballot box. It is a pity then that the lawyers of the Supreme Court decided that they should choose the US president in 2000, rather than order that the choice be made in by counting the votes in Florida.

    [Response: Let’s not get into this particular discussion here! – gavin]

  40. 40
    Hank Roberts says:

    Next ice age appears to have been predicted; abstracts only here:
    2nd International Conference on Global Warming and the Next Ice Age

    Severe Cooling of the NW Atlantic Linked to Gulf Stream Retreat During the Last 10,000 Years — Julian P. Sachs, School of Oceanography, University of Washington

    “… the slope waters east of the United States and Canada cooled 4°-10°C during the last 11 kyr. We attribute the cooling to a large equatorward shift in the position of the Gulf Stream …. The observed cooling of northwest Atlantic slope waters may facilitate perennial ice growth in eastern Canada and the onset of the next ice age.”

  41. 41
    Stephen Berg says:

    And William Gray is at it again:

  42. 42
    David B. Benson says:

    Re #40: Hank Roberts, next ice age is not due for a long time according to orbital forcings. While I wish now I had kept the references, I found four papers each stating that the next ice age would not start until 50,000, 100,000, 600,000, 650,000 years from now, all based on orbital forcings and the different authors estimates of just how much was enough to tip the system.

    And none of the four papers considred AGW at all, at all…

  43. 43
    Stephen Berg says:

    An interesting blog to look at:

  44. 44
    Hank Roberts says:

    <40, 42, coming ice age?
    Yeah, that was news to me too. The link’s broken now.

    The full list of participants at that forum is here:

    here’s an excerpt from that page, I recognize some of the names. It seems to be a select group, maybe LANL has a plan in mind?

    Solar Variability and Cosmic Rays
    Chair: Didier Tanre

    P. Brekke*, New Knowledge about the Sun
    R. Willson, Solar Radiation
    D. Rosenfeld*, Cosmic Rays
    E. Palle, Solar Acticity and Cosmic Rays
    N. Scaffeta*, Solar Variability and Global Warming

    Climate Change: Observations
    Chair: Ross McKitrick

    J. Veizer*, Climate, Water and Carbon Cycle
    J. Christy*, Surface and Tropospheric Temperature Changes
    R. Pielke*, Multi-decadal Surface Temperature Trends
    P. Chylek et al., Greenland Climate Change
    Q. Fu*, Global Warming Seen from Satellites

    The Next Ice Age
    Chair: V. Ramaswamy

    G. Kukla*, Interglacials Marked by Global Cooling
    A. Berger*, M.-F. Loutre, A Postponed Next Ice Age?
    L. Franzen, Peatland/Ice Age Hypothesis
    J. Sachs, Cooling of the NW Atlantic and Gulf Stream

    Hurricanes and Global Warming
    Chair: R. Pielke
    W. Gray*, Tropical Cyclone Activity and Global SSTs

  45. 45
    TokyoTom says:

    40, 42, 44

    By the way, the LANL conference was organized by Petr Chylek, who kept the name from a prior conference he co-organized, “The First International Conference on Global Warming and The Next Ice Age,” which took place in Halifax in August 2001 under sponsorship from the American Meteorological Society and by the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society:

  46. 46
    Dave Eaton says:

    Democratic communism? Hmm. Keep talking like that and you can be sure AGW mitigation or prevention efforts will stall in the United States.

    The problem I see is that in the past, environmental regulations have not inflicted much pain on people, and people were largely neutral about them. The banning of tetraethyl lead, or DDT, or chlorofluorocarbons all seem to me to fit into that category. Voting citizens were either aware of the problems, and therefore supported bans, or unaware, but unaffected (to first order) and thus unmotivated to complain.

    If steep reductions in greenhouse gases are necessary, and major (=painful) sacrifices are necessary, climate policy in a country like the US will always be vulnerable to politics. AGW mitigation is particularly problematic because one may need to make large changes now for modest curbs later. Short-time-scale politics seems ill-equipped to handle the problem.

  47. 47
    Hank Roberts says:

    Methane in the news:
    [my excerpts, see original NYT article — also those with subscriptions see Nature 9/28 for the actual research article

    September 28, 2006
    Mystery of Methane Levels in 90�s Seems Solved
    ….the atmospheric concentration of methane, a heat-trapping gas, stopped increasing in the early 1990â��s after tripling during the preceding 200 years.

    ….the leveling off was probably temporary and caused by a downturn in emissions from industry and most likely related to the collapse of the Soviet Union and its economy.

    After 1999, emissions from industry and other human activities began rising again, particularly in China, according to the study …published today in the journal Nature ….masked by a reduction in methane from sources in nature. …..

    Inez Y. Fung, an atmospheric scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, said the study was a convincing portrait of shifts in human and natural contributions….

    �If methane�s growth rate resumes its historic pace, its future contribution to global warming could be significant,� said Edward J. Dlugokencky, [at NOAA] Boulder, Colo., and an author of the study.

    The researchers used a combination of measurements of regional variations in methane levels and computer simulations ….
    –end excerpt—

  48. 48
    Hank Roberts says:

    Thinking about an orbiting sunshade?

    This will help get an idea of how big it will have to be to cast a large shadow.

    This is Alpha (the International Space Station) and the Shuttle, photographed against the sun’s disk in silhouette.

    found here:

  49. 49
    Hank Roberts says:

    Also perhaps of interest to the real scientists here, and a good example of putting science blogging out in public view:
    —-begin excerpt——

    September 8, 2006
    This Week’s Finds in Mathematical Physics (Week 239)
    John Baez

    David Corfield, Urs Schreiber and I have started up a new blog!

    David is a philosopher, Urs is a physicist, and I’m a mathematician, but one thing we all share is a fondness for n-categories. We also like to sit around and talk shop in a public place where our friends can drop by. Hence the title of our blog:

    1) The n-Category Café,

    Technologically speaking, the cool thing about this blog is that it uses itex and MathML to let us (and you) write pretty equations in TeX. For this we thank Jacques Distler, who pioneered the technology on his own blog:

    2) Jacques Distler, Musings,
    —— end excerpt ——

  50. 50
    Solar Kismet says:

    Regarding the statement: “There is absolutely no way that scientists / engineers can leave the solution to global warming up to the public & law makers.”

    I find that to be an arrogant statement on two fronts.

    One, that because something is scientifically correct, proper action will necessary follow. All we need is scientists to show the rest of us the consensus on solutions (which obviously there aren’t). We need to work toward the collective goodwill of society, not alienate them.

    Two, public policy from lawmakers is a necessary part of the process, love it or hate it. They receive their cues from lobbyists with money, and on occasion, from the groundswell of outcry from a concerned public. Without grassroots support from the public, the technically correct solutions are dead in the water.

    Which leads me to a third point about being able to communicate to the media, who occasionally listen, and to the public, some of whom are grasping for things they can do to respond to climate change. They need to feel empowered to do something, even if it is a technically immeasurable. Helplessness leads to inaction. Their concern and involvement is what builds support for change, so it needs to be supported and directed, not derided as futile.
    Here is an article from Grist magazine that tries to bring some clarity to the average people searching for climate change actions. Whether what they do has measuable climate change reductions is almost secondary to their actions at creating community concern for political change among others.