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WSJ Editorial Board: Head Still Buried in the Sand

Filed under: — group @ February 7th, 2007

While the rest of the world has basically accepted the conclusion of the latest IPCC report, one small village still holds out against the tide – the Wall Street Journal editorial board. This contrasts sharply with the news section of the paper which is actually pretty good. They had a front-page piece on business responses to global warming issues which not only pointed out that business was taking an interest in carbon reduction, but the article more or less took as a given that the problem was real. However, as we have pointed out before, the editorial pages operate in a universe all their own.

This would not be of much concern if the WSJ wasn’t such an influential paper in the US. However, the extent of its isolation on this issue is evident from the amusing reliance on the error-prone Christopher Monckton. They quote him saying that the sea level rise predictions were much smaller than in IPCC TAR (no they weren’t), that the human contribution to recent changes has been ‘cut by a third’ (no it hasn’t), and that the Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) was written by politicians (no it wasn’t – the clue is in the name).

Even more wrong is the claim that “the upcoming report is also missing any reference to the infamous ‘hockey stick’ “. Not only are the three original “hockey stick” reconstructions from the IPCC (2001) report shown in the (draft) paleoclimate chapter of the new report, but they are now joined by 9 others. Which is why the SPM comes to the even stronger conclusion that recent large-scale warmth is likely to be anomalous in the context of at least the past 1300 years, and not just the past 1000 years.

Thus on any index of wrongness, this WSJ editorial scores pretty high. What puzzles us is why their readership, who presumably want to know about issues that might affect their bottom line, tolerate this rather feeble denialism. While we enjoy pointing out their obvious absurdities, their readers would probably be better off if the WSJ accepted Jeffery Sachs’ challenge. For if they can’t be trusted to get even the basic checkable facts right on this issue, why should any of their opinions be taken seriously?

Enquanto o resto do mundo tem aceitado a conclusão do último relatório do IPCC, uma pequena cidade ainda permanece contra a maré – o corpo editorial do Wall Street Journal. Isso contrasta nitidamente com a seção de notícias do jornal que é muito boa. Eles publicaram uma matéria sobre as respostas dos mercados para as questões de aquecimento global que não apenas apontava que os mercados estão cada vez mais interessados na redução de carbono, mas o artigo de certo modo tomava como certo que o problema é real. No entanto, como já apontamos anteriormente, as páginas do editorial operam em um universo próprio.

Isso não seria muito preocupante se o WSJ não fosse um jornal influente nos Estados Unidos. Contudo, a extensão de seu isolamento sobre essas questões é evidente pela divertida confiança que tem o propenso Christopher Monckton. Eles o citam dizendo que as previsões de aumento do nível do mar foram muito menores que aquelas do IPCC TAR (não eram), que a contribuição humana para as recentes mudanças foram ‘cortadas em um terço’ (não foram), e que o Sumário para Tomadores de Decisão (SPM) foi escrito por políticos (não foi, a dica está no seu próprio nome).

Ainda mais errado é a declaração de que “no futuro relatório falta qualquer referência à famosa curva ‘taco de róquei’. Não somente as três reconstruções originais dos ‘tacos de róquei’ do relatório IPCC (2001) são mostrados no capítulo (rascunho) de paleoclima do novo relatório, mas estas são agora fundidas com mais outras nove reconstruções. Essa é a razão para que o SPM venha com uma conclusão ainda mais contundente de que o recente aquecimento de larga escala é provavelmente anômalo no contexto de no mínimo 1300 anos atrás, e não somente nos últimos 1000 anos.

Assim, em qualquer índice de erro, este editorial do WSJ pontua muito alto. O que nos deixa intrigados é porque seus leitores, os quais presumidamente querem saber sobre as questões que podem afetar suas próprias bases, toleram um negacionismo tão fraco. Enquanto nos deleitamos em apontar seus óbvios absurdos, seus leitores deveriam provavelmente estar melhor servidos se o WSJ aceitasse o desafio de Jeffery Sachs. Se eles não podem ser confiáveis mesmo nos fatos mais básicos sobre essa questão, qual a razão para se acreditar seriamente em quaisquer de suas outras opiniões?

Por Ivan Bergier Tavares de Lima e Fernando Manuel Ramos

291 Responses to “WSJ Editorial Board: Head Still Buried in the Sand”

  1. 51
    joel Hammer says:

    I have been a reader of the WSJ for years. It is a very good newspaper. It is reality based, since it is writen for people who are in the business of making money, not saving the world. They are not given to flights of fancy, at least for long. Being in business does that for you.

    It is much more impartial than say the NY Times, which I read everyday, too. The NY Times is a joke, both on its front page and editorial page.

    As for the Editorial page being not based in reality, let me give you a real world example of reality based writing.

    Some years ago Philip Morris was selling for $75 per share and paying a nice dividend. Then, it lost some lawsuits (“What? Smoking causes cancer? They NEVER told me.”) and its stock price fell to $20. Most people thought that the company was going to go bankrupt.

    I read one day an editorial in the WSJ to the effect that the “fix was in.” The agreement with the States Attorneys General had guaranteed the company’s survival and profitablity. Afterall, if big tobacco was to pay billions to the states, that required the states to become the protector of the tobacco industry. Politicians being venal and corrupt, they have eagerly protected big tobacco over the years.

    So, I bought shares at $20, and stuck with the company through thick and thin for the next several years, and was amply rewarded.

    BTW, the company never stopped paying its rich dividend,either.


    Now, those same politicians are telling you they are going to combat global warming. Who do you think is divorced from reality?

    [Response: The ability of the WSJ to assess the political reality on that issue is miles away from the situation on climate change. The analogy would be instead of writing about the States lawsuit, they would have kept on going with the 'tobacco doesn't cause cancer' line and not dealt with the political issue at all. Thus you would have missed out on your financial windfall. The problem is not the politics of the editorial board, it is their shortsightedness. Denialism is just stupid, and if they claim to be in the reality-based community, waking and smelling the coffee would seem to be wise. - gavin]

  2. 52
    Susan K says:

    Sorry Pascal,

    re: #48 getting too political here:

    Its all us laymen like me coming here to get word directly from you climate scientists since it is becoming apparent to us that

    1. these are truly horrific facts
    2. the media (like the WSJ) is distorting and downplaying it
    3. frankly at this point climate change IS a political discussion:
    because the question now is

    How to turn this ship around?

  3. 53

    [[I am a proud skeptic and know a politics-driven propaganda campaign when I see one. It is becoming very difficult to find unbiased scientific information on this topic.]]

    It’s not difficult at all if you go to the peer-reviewed journals. Find a university library and read through some back issues of Geophysical Research Letters, Journal of Geophysical Research, Journal of Climate, Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, and for that matter, Science and Nature. To get a grasp of the basic science involved, see if you can find some books like Hartmann’s Global Physical Climatology (1994), Houghton’s The Physics of Atmospheres (3rd ed. 2002), or Petty’s Introduction to Atmosphere Physics (2006).

  4. 54

    [[Some scientist here (upthread on the IPPC day I think...?) described the cyanobacteria 3.8 billion years ago as "perpetrating the greatest fratricide ever" in COMPLETELY switching the air on this planet tfrom Co2 to O2.

    (Mostly Co2/mostly O2, I mean...)So, is that possible?

    Could we repeat (pre)history - in reverse? ]]

    Probably not.

  5. 55
    Susan K says:

    The WSJ is derelict in its duty to report actual changes in the investment climate:
    I’ll bet these sectors are going to be affected even if there is no governmental action to stop AGW at all:

    1. Insurance companies who cover coastline housing
    2. Architects/builders who design/build gigantic houses: ie the luxury sector of the housing market
    3. Tourism related industries: many markets: everything from areas where there was good trout fishing to 9already) New Orleans.
    4. Govt reinsurers of disaster area expenditures
    5. Incandescent lightbulb makers

  6. 56
    pete best says:

    Re #53, what are you talking about ? Pure gibberish to be honest.

  7. 57
    Peter Williams says:

    Re 43, i.e. Pascal’s comment on science/politics split:

    Sorry to go astray from the WSJ fray, but:

    Say, didn’t I see something in Science the other day about turbulence models and jet streams? What’s the climate connection? That would be interesting to read about here, speaking as someone who’s a hydrodynamicist but not a climate scientist. It would get my blood pressure back down after reading the latest idiot musings of the WSJ editorial board.

  8. 58
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #26: Nick, do you have any specific report of how the FI event went? It was pretty obviously a failure in terms of any broad media coverage (even the Torygraph, which must have come as a real “Et tu, Brutus?” moment for British denialists), but I’m very curious as to the extent of media attendance and other details.

  9. 59
    Susan K says:

    Re:#55 Which industries will be affected?

    Also every export business here that exports to any of the 46 nations that plan to carbon tax imports from non-co operative governments like the USA and China.

    So economicly it comes down to a battle between all US businesses that export v these 2 business sectors that are being protected at the expense of all other businesses:

    coal-fired electricity (40% of US Co2)
    oil burning machinery (transportation 33% of US Co2)

    Maybe it is not surprising that its major US corps that are urging Bush to end the coddling.

  10. 60
    Andrew Sipocz says:

    Re: #33 I completely agree. I’d like to see Real Climate take up the issue of where sea levels maybe in 200 years as the recent IPCC report clearly states that sea level wouldn’t stop rising for centuries even if we stopped all anthropogenic carbon emmissions today. I strongly believe that if the scientific concensus was that one-third of the State of Florida would be under water by 2200 or even 2300, that more U.S. citizens would be alarmed and demanding govt. action on AGW right now. This is an issue that should be explored.

  11. 61


    Not only can the models all be wrong, they were shown to ALL be biased in the same direction. (Roesch 2006)

    The IPCC itself has admitted in the AR4 SPM that the level of understanding of solar radiative forcing is low. Even over the last two solar cycles sunspot/bright area based models were only able to explain 80% of the variation in radiative forcing.

    You don’t seem to have read the Wigley and Meehl climate commitment papers that show that equilibration to new levels of forcing take decades to centuries, since you still subscribe to the simplistic signal processing argument that solar forcing hasn’t increased in the last few decades. The increase in solar forcing prior to the last 60 years likely contributed to the recent warming.

    Given the low levels of understanding and the low explanatory power of current solar models, the large amount of unexplained solar correlation in the paleo-climate, and the documented deficiencies of the current state of the art models, consensus and claims of confidence are premature. The skeptics don’t have to have confidence in competing explanations, just confidence that the climate is complex and there is a lot of loose ends out there that require a explanation, yet remain unexplained under near 100% AGW theory. Claims of confidence and consensus and the repeated mentioning of unlikely extreme possibilities in light of these issues ring hollow, desperate and defensive.

    This is all before we even get to other anthropogenic forcings and poorly understood internal climate modes.

  12. 62
    Bill Morlan says:

    Agreed! No one reads the WSJ for the editorials just like no one reads Playboy for the articles. Let’s spend our resources to win hearts and minds on the GHG issue in meaningful venues and ignore this last refuge for those who will never be convinced regardless of logic and overwhelming evidence.

  13. 63
    Marcus says:

    Re: 61: Martin, you cite “climate commitment” as a possible mechanism for solar variations 50 years ago affecting temperatures today. The problem is that if that were true, the _fastest_ response would be expected in the early years, and an ever slowing response in later years. We see the exact opposite, with an accelerating response in recent decades.

    btw: the climate is indeed complex, and there are loose ends. But you have to prove that a loose end is _likely_ to be significant before you can challenge a consensus. Otherwise, it would be impossible to _ever_ make a confident statement about anything complex, because there are _always_ loose ends. cf evolution and the intelligent design debate: there’s always another missing transitional fossil that hasn’t been found, or another protein whose evolutionary pathway hasn’t been elucidated yet. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have 99.99% confidence in the explanatory power of evolution. These “loose ends” are probably part of the reason that the IPCC uses “90%” confidence in attribution, and not 99% or more.

  14. 64
    Dan says:

    re: 61. That first sentence is disingenous. You repeat that mantra over and over, despite specific evidence and information to the contrary at, specifically in response to your comments 1, 3, and 14. How many times are you going to continue to post the same incorrect information about model bias over and over? It is misleading. Your point was addressed several times (per the reply to comment 1 in link above). Yet you continue to beat the drum, with no little recognition of the information provided to you which does not support your claim. One has to wonder why. It is not as if repeating misleading information makes it any more accurate.

  15. 65

    Re: #61 Dan,

    Those responses are not even on point, they are just denials and dismissals, not scientific discourse. Read the Roesch article and do the figures yourself. If you don’t have access to the full text, I cite enough of it in:

    Re: Marcus #63,

    I agree that everything being equal, most of the temperature equilibration will occur in the first few decades and that the energy imbalance will persist and increase ocean heat content for centuries. In this case, the for some reason the temperature equilibration did not occur immediately, but that doesn’t mean that suddenly the climate was in equilibrium. I admit it requires an explanation, my own theory is that the wars and nuclear testing may have had more impact than we currently understand. Nevertheless, the higher level of solar forcing has persisted, and is not expected to continue for much longer. Keep in mind that I am not the one (or thousands) claiming to have all the answers.

    While I am firmly Dawkins camp on evolution, and appreciate its explanatory power, I admit that we can’t rule out the possibility that some cellular machinery may have evolved extra-terrestrially. Similarly, I appreciate and celebrate some of the qualitative insights we have gained from models, I admit that quantitative results must be kept in perspective.

  16. 66

    I find the editorial to be vaguely outrageous, if not flat-out absurd. In presenting the IPCC report as unleashed hysteria, the editorial itself is responding in like kind. Talk about media distortion! What’s up with that?

    Thanks for keeping your head in reporting this when the WSJ clearly did not. Very odd, but only slightly surprising.

    Steve Caratzas

  17. 67
    David Graves says:

    A re-reading of the post that starts this whole thread would be useful before accusing RC of going off on a self-proscribed political/policy tangent. At issue is that the WSJ editorial board refuses to acknowledge the existence of a serious problem that would require a serious and legitimate policy/political discussion. It cloaks that stance in a bunch of pseudo-scientific claptrap. Discussion of why their “evidence” is claptrap is very much the domaine of RC.

  18. 68
    Ike Solem says:

    RE#61, Martin, I’ll just post a few links again
    Real climate post on solar forcing
    The Vanishing Solar Influence
    The solar maximum was in 2001
    Talking point#40 – it’s all the sun’s fault

    Poorly understood internal modes? You mean temperature variability in the absence of external forcings – i.e. weather? Perhaps you should read Short and simple arguments for why climate can be predicted, RC Aug 2 2006 – a nice summary of the weather-vs-climate issue.

    You know, if we were discussing the effect on infrared-absobing gases on the climate on Mars, the whole issue probably would have been settled about 20 years ago – but people tend to get emotional over massive economic changes, which will certainly be diffiicult. Similarly, many people don’t want to admit they are sick, and so put off visiting a doctor until their disease has progressed to an untreatable level – and if your livelihood is based on fossil fuel sales, a similar emotional dynamic must also occur. That’s why the ‘treatment program’ should have started two decades ago (i.e. switching to renewable energy systems) – the longer we wait, the worse it will get.

  19. 69
    mark s says:

    #61 crikey, there you are again Martin. I could have sworn i have read that post before, hold on a minute… oh yes, i did, about an hour ago.

    Its good of you to have slightly rewritten it though, otherwise we might all be getting BORED.:-)

    Talk about deja vu…

  20. 70
    for now says:

    All the defence attempts for WSJ trying to spin their lies have been completely inane and missing the point entirely. The guy with the analogy about Philip Morris was completely clueless as well – it’s not about business, making money or even the politics of what should be done, it’s about outright misrepresenting science and lying.

    How can one decide what to do if the “facts” one has are all wrong? You can’t get the right outputs if the inputs are all wrong. (Well, maybe by chance.) The whole “issue” can’t even be about policy yet since the real scientific facts are missed by the right wing (84% of republicans in power think humans aren’t causing global warming, according to a recent post by RPjr). Isn’t politics supposed to be making the right thing, decisions based on values and facts?

    How can someone say “they don’t like leftist regulation of industry, so they don’t believe that AGW science is honest”? That excuse is completely on it’s head, and if the proponent doesn’t understand why, I don’t understand how he or she can understand anything about how the physical world works. It can only be seen as simply lying in the hopes of attaining a certain outcome in policy – it can NOT be seen as evidence that the scientific facts are not facts but just opinions based on political views, like the proponent tries to imply, and seems to be in many semi-skeptics’ repertoire nowadays.

    With places like WSJ propagating their lie machine, the public will reach what the science is saying about the real world much slower (if ever). These lies have been debunked countless of times in scientific literature, but the public is remarkably boneheaded and easily led astray.

    Lying is lying, regardless of politics or policy or anything. Every time you’re trying to link it to this or that, you’re on losing ground and admitting it and looking stupid. It would be ridiculous if it wasn’t an important matter.

    Future generations will curse your name.
    (ending furious rant.)

    I think the skeptic bullshit bingo at Deltoid could perhaps be a useful tool for exposure. It could be educational and should be firmly scientifically based (If it’s not yet properly cemented, it should be made so by linking to good articles).

  21. 71
    James says:

    To illustrate the disconnect between the WSJ editorial board and its reporting, there are a couple of interesting GW/alternative energy-related articles in it today (2/7/07, pg A10, IIRC).

    One describes a new – I guess you might call it “solar outsourcing” – investment opportunity, in which investment groups buy & install solar power for business, then are paid for the electricity at a rate lower than the utility cost. Here’s a link to an article (not the WSJ one) on such a project:

    Which I think goes to show that it’s not investors or business in general that’s anti-AGW or alternative energy. Trying to use the issue in support of an anti-business agenda, as some of the previous commenters do… Well, isn’t that playing right into the denialist claims that AGW is just a smokescreen for the left/liberal agenda? Much, much better to get business on board by showing all the ways that responding to AGW a) protects what they have, and b) creates lots of new profit-making opportunities.

  22. 72
    Dan says:

    re: 65. “Those responses are not even on point…” Excuse me? Did you even read the various responses re: solar radiative forcing? Or the numerous replies to yours and other periodic postings along the lines that “(t)he increase in solar forcing prior to the last 60 years likely contributed to the recent warming”? Talk about dismissive “science”. Your Roesch article interpretation has been discussed here in previous posts and threads.

  23. 73
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Head in the sand? You mean they’ve got sand up there too? Sounds scratchy! The editorial board of The Economist has come around nicely. This leaves the WSJ and the Telegraph as just about the only two holdouts. And they’ve been reduced to recruiting pseudoscientists like Monckton.

  24. 74
    Steve Bloom says:

    I stumbled across these while perusing the AGU 2006 fall meeting abstracts:


    “Agent-based Model for the Coupled Human-Climate System

    “* Zvoleff, A (, Complex Systems Laboratory, IGPP, University of California – San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0225, United States
    Werner, B (, Complex Systems Laboratory, IGPP, University of California – San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0225, United States

    “Integrated assessment models have been used to predict the outcome of coupled economic growth, resource use, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, both for scientific and policy purposes. These models generally have employed significant simplifications that suppress nonlinearities and the possibility of multiple equilibria in both their economic (DeCanio, 2005) and climate (Schneider and Kuntz-Duriseti, 2002) components. As one step toward exploring general features of the nonlinear dynamics of the coupled system, we have developed a series of variations on the well studied RICE and DICE models, which employ different forms of agent-based market dynamics and “climate surprises.” Markets are introduced through the replacement of the production function of the DICE/RICE models with an agent-based market modeling the interactions of producers, policymakers, and consumer agents. Technological change and population growth are treated endogenously. Climate surprises are representations of positive (for example, ice sheet collapse) or negative (for example, increased aerosols from desertification) feedbacks that are turned on with probability depending on warming. Initial results point toward the possibility of large amplitude instabilities in the coupled human-climate system owing to the mismatch between short outlook market dynamics and long term climate responses. Implications for predictability of future climate will be discussed. Supported by the Andrew W Mellon Foundation and the UC Academic Senate.”



    “Economically optimal risk reduction strategies in the face of uncertain climate thresholds

    “McInerney, D (, Department of Geosciences, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802 United States
    * Keller, K, (, Department of Geosciences, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802 United States

    “Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions may trigger climate threshold responses, such as a collapse of the North Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (MOC). Climate threshold responses have been interpreted as an example of “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” in the sense of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). One UNFCCC objective is to “prevent” such dangerous anthropogenic interference. The current uncertainty about important parameters of the coupled natural-human system implies, however, that this UNFCCC objective can only be achieved in a probabilistic sense. In other words, climate management can only reduce – but not entirely eliminate – the risk of crossing climate thresholds. Here we use an integrated assessment model of climate change to derive economically optimal risk-reduction strategies. We implement a stochastic version of the DICE model and account for uncertainty about four parameters that have been previously identified as dominant drivers of the uncertain system response. The resulting model is, of course, just a crude approximation as it neglects, for example, some structural uncertainty and focuses on a single threshold, out of many potential climate responses. Subject to this and other caveats, our analysis suggests five main conclusions. First, reducing the numerical artifacts due to sub-sampling the parameter probability density functions to reasonable levels requires thousands of samples. Conclusions of previous studies that are based on much smaller sample sizes may hence need to be revisited. Second, following a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario results in odds for an MOC collapse in the next 150 years exceeding 1 in 3 in this model. Third, an economically “optimal” strategy (that maximizes the expected utility of the decision-maker) reduces carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 25 percent at the end of this century, compared with BAU emissions. Perhaps surprisingly, this strategy leaves the odds of an MOC collapse virtually unchanged compared to a BAU strategy. Fourth, reducing the odds for an MOC collapse to 1 in 10 would require an almost complete decarbonization of the economy within a few decades. Finally, further risk reductions (e.g., to 1 in 100) are possible in the framework of the simple model, but would require faster and more expensive reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

    No kidding.

  25. 75
    Solar Kismet says:

    Two comments:

    1. Re: 71; There are legit companies doing this in the commercial solar sector (they rent the solar panels from a non-utility and pay them their utility costs on a long-term contract, essentially hedging future electricity cost increases). However, a new one is claiming to enter the residential market and is more hype than hope. Read more here.

    2. Should news organizations provide balanced coverage proportional to scientific understanding? Or should they keep a minority dissent “just in case”? Does it matter if the minority is introducing something “new” (i.e. the world is round) or holding onto something “old” (i.e. climate change)? Read a bit more here.

  26. 76
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #73: Based on the Torygraph’s climate coverage around last weekend, in particular the Sunday editorial, the analysis piece (I forget which day) by the science correspondent, and the lack of any story on the Fraser Institute event, they too look to have abandoned the dark side. Even so, the WSJ still has the National Post (Canada) to lean on.

  27. 77
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #75, point 2: Well, the only purported bit of science in that denialist’s letter was a claim that the satellite and balloon records don’t show warming, which is entirely wrong. I think more and more editors are deciding that the time has passed for publishing that sort of tripe, a stance with which I could not agree more.

  28. 78
    Chuck Booth says:

    People do read the WSJ’s op-ed pages and take them seriously: Recently, I’ve seen letters to the editor in my local paper citing as an authoritative source of scientific informationa a WSJ op-ed piece dismissing AGW. I’m not at all surprised when the paper’s editorial position on a subject like AGW runs contrary to its news stories on the subject – it did (maybe still does, though I no longer read the WSJ) run op-ed essays by avowed creationists denying evolution, while, sometimes in the very same issue, the news or business section featured articles about some new drug or gene therapy that could only exist because biological evolution is a reality. When I used to subscribe to the WSJ and read it regularly, I frequently used its sometimes bizarre op-ed essays on science topics (some on the Endangered Species Act were absolute howlers) in my college biology classes to stimulate students to read and think critically, and to dissect arguments built on flawed logic and the misrepresentation of scientific data.

  29. 79
    Marco Parigi says:

    Re: 74 Initial results point toward the possibility of large amplitude instabilities in the coupled human-climate system owing to the mismatch between short outlook market dynamics and long term climate responses. Implications for predictability of future climate will be discussed

    Sounds like an admission that the human/Climate coupled system is likely to be chaotic. I would add that drastic measures and targets applied would only make unpredictability more likely. This would place climate prediction more in line with stockmarket prediction – Glorified guesswork and hunches – a job for the economists who are used to getting it wrong most of the time.

  30. 80
    Ron Davison says:

    Once the WSJ gets over its odd belief that there is a conflict between preserving one’s habitat and economic progress, they’ll embrace the reality of climate change and the plethora of business opportunities represented by solutions to it, like recovering alcoholics who never miss an AA meeting.

  31. 81
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #79: Would that it was chaotic in the sense you mean. All of the variability is on the side of the less pleasant outcomes, unfortunately. The history of human societies is very poor when it comes to planning very far ahead.

  32. 82


    The Roesch results have not been disputed in the literature. There probably has not been time for a rehabilitation of the credibility of the models in the scientific literature, and their credibility has been damaged both individually and since the error is correlated, their credibility is also damaged as ensembles. However, a proper scientific response would not be trying to prove that this 2.8 to 3.8 W/m^2 of positive surface albedo bias does not damage their ability to attribute and project the < 0.8 W/m^2 of recent energy imbalance. It would take “correct” models to do that anyway. Such efforts would instead be better spent just correcting the models, and restarting the ensemble runs that have probably already been underway for months. Trying to claim model validity in the face of such errors without doing the research, is not a scientific effort, but a face saving and hand waving exercise in denial. Any purely analytic argument that could fill this void would probably also be an advance in understanding non-linear systems apriori without the models now thought to be necessary.

    Marc, the internal climate modes, are the poorly understood multidecadal oscillation behavior that models cannot yet reproduce. I look forward to the insights that the models will eventually be able to provide in this area.

    [Response: Martin, this is the umpteenth time you've said this, and the hundredth time it's been pointed out that your assesment of the importance of this result is grossly inflated. Enough. Come up with something more interesting to say or don't bother. (hint, try reading about any of 634 other analyses of the AR4 models). -gavin]

  33. 83
    Marco Parigi says:

    All change is unpleasant. Unexpected change doubly so. I would be happy to accept BAU if it meant the changes could be known and dated in advance, but whatever happens, big disasters are certain anyhow. I like that research you quoted and how it frames our measures as reducing probabilities of certain events. That does help in cost benefit analysis at least.

  34. 84
    Edward A. Barkley says:

    As I recall the Scientific Method as I was taught it in college, a hypothesis will remain such unless it makes predictions that are testable and can be verified in experiments that are repeatable. As a skeptic, the warming of the globe does not surprise me; that humans contribute to the warming does not surprise me. But dramatic conclusions that “the north pole will be ice-free by 2040″, as this site referenced, are a dramatic departure from the human-caused warming hypothesis. That is clearly propaganda designed as a shock tactic that, if true, would certainly be a theory with short-term predictive and testable potential. Not like the IPCC’s hardly bold 93 years hence sea level predictions. Dramatic conclusions require dramatic evidence. Show me the predictions such a theory makes concerning sea levels by the end of this decade, for instance.

    [Response: The debate over this stuff is complex enough without throwing in disinformation. As we reported the science is *not* conclusing that the NP will be ice free by 2040. Why not actually read the post rather than construct a fantasy of it? - William]

    The fact that all of you “real climate scientists” gave that paper white space in advance of serious experimentation on the theory’s predictions is evidence of biased journalism, bad science and political propaganda. The climate science field is now so entrenched in overly abstracted simulations based on limited data sets that the supposedly “peer-reviewed” journals just read like constitutional law that piles personal opinion on top of personal opinion until a skillful propagandist could draw any conclusions he likes from the books without fear of judgement.

    How can you criticize the WSJ for what it prints as editorial?

    Show me the hard science that makes ethanol a reasonable alternative to gasoline – given that millions of acres of land would need to be dedicated to providing only a portion of the corn crop required.

    Show me the hard science that wind or solar energy are likewise reasonable sources of global energy and not mere left-wing, feel-good solutions.

    All I see is a massive propaganda campaign to America’s science teachers and semi-literates fueled by highly abstracted simulation, untestable predictions and feel-good solutions that will have kids running home to switch off the air-conditioner.

    I hold you to a higher standard that the WSJ, and less sensationalism and more evidence.

  35. 85
    Alex says:

    I agree with the posts advocating more direct communication with widely-read media outlets, when possible. If it gets through, some readers might actually think a bit, and even raise an eyebrow at what their paper is printing. Or am I just dreaming?

  36. 86
    Valuethinker says:

    re #18 by Bill Settlemeyer

    Bill. The cynical view is that the WSJ knows its market, and its editorial page is a sail trimmed to that wind.

    (I think that is genuinely the case with Fox News. Fox is quite a subversive TV station (The Simpsons!– probably the most anti-values programme on American tv) but Fox News is aimed at a particular demographic, and it targets it very well. Somewhat cynically to my mind, but very well).

    In the case of the WSJ I think it is a bit like mistaking Inhofe for a corporate shill. No the Senator believes what he says– he genuinely believes there is a conspiracy against American prosperity and growth, embedded in the global warming movement.

    Similarly, I think the WSJ believes this stuff. They really do think that this is a scientific conspiracy against the US of A.

    As to businessmen, my own experience is that top businessmen, like BP’s John Brown and Shell’s Lord Oxenburgh, really do think there is a problem. And many of the more thoughtful commentators do as well (I refer you for example to the Financial Time’s Martin Wolf, probably the best economics commentator in the published media right now).

    But the general run of businessmen are good at business. Just as doctors are good at medicine, and often lousy at business. Or lawyers are good at lawyering, and often lousy at business. And all of us (except doctors) would be truly lousy in an operating theatre.

    Being good at business doesn’t make you a good student of climate science, nor of international economic policy to fight global warming.

    So I think most businessmen, when they express an opinion about global warming, are talking out of their hat. They don’t know about GW any better than my surgeon does, or my lawyer, or my accountant– fine professionals though they may be.

    So call most businessmen neutral about GW *but* because the solution to GW will almost inevitably involve more government intervention, they are opposed to 1). believing in it 2). doing anything about it.

    It is interesting, I think, how much less business denialism there is about GW in Europe. I’m not sure why, but I think it has to do with a generally greater respect for science and for expertise in general, over here (if you want to be less charitable, you could call us more submissive to authority).

    It’s a shame that we live in a world where we think that the fact that the WSJ is a leading business newspaper, means that it has something sensible to say about the scientific realities of GW.

  37. 87

    [[Given the low levels of understanding and the low explanatory power of current solar models, the large amount of unexplained solar correlation in the paleo-climate, and the documented deficiencies of the current state of the art models, consensus and claims of confidence are premature.]]

    If “the explanatory power” of Solar models is low, it means Solar isn’t as much of an influence as you think it is. “Explanatory power” has a specific meaning in statistics. Solar fails the statistiscal test. It’s responsible for about 20% of 20th century warming, almost all in the first half. It’s not causing the warming now.

  38. 88

    [[Show me the hard science that wind or solar energy are likewise reasonable sources of global energy and not mere left-wing, feel-good solutions. ]]

    The Solar constant averages 1,367.6 watts per square meter. The Earth’s radius averages 6,371,010 meters. The area of a circle is pi R^2. You do the math.

  39. 89
    beyondtool says:

    In Australia we effectively have a 2 sided political system that is too gutless to face up to the challenges that global warming presents. Howard is saying that the economy will be dramatically affected by reducing emissions, and Labor is suggesting that investing in green tech will solve the issue and create jobs.

    They are both wrong. The largest obstacle to overcome in the movement forward to solutions of global warming is the love of the economy. Money is what got us into this problem. The solution is economic downturn, loss of jobs (especially polluting ones!), and lower of quality of “economic” life. We must reduce, improve efficiency, use less transport, pay carbon taxes, recycle..and inevitably this will result in economic downturn.

    We are so indoctrinated by our culture that it is sacrilege to suggest economic downshifting. The earth is finite, and we are currently spending the future of our children.. the only sane alternative is to reduce our impact now. Meanwhile our media continue “the debate”, wasting valuable time, sprouting scientific fixes (such as carbon sequestration and nuclear) that are implausible, unfeasibly expensive, even more environmentally damaging than fossil fuel use and in many cases far, far too late to make any difference. Where does the responsibility for the planet start?

  40. 90

    Oops! Forgot — the Earth’s bolometric Bond albedo is 0.30. Don’t forget that!

  41. 91
    Fernando Magyar says:

    Re: #83

    As someone who was driving a 100% ethanol powered Volkswagen fox in the mid 80′s in Brazil and lived through the economic chaos caused in part by that country’s dependence on foreign oil imports back then, I very much doubt that ethanol is a panacea for the US. Not to mention that burning ethanol still produces CO2. However it did help the Brazil to cut oil imports and Brazil is well on its way toward independence from at least that particular addiction. Many other problems not withstanding at least they showed that it is possible to change course and think outside the box, no small feat.

    As for millions of acres of land needed to grow corn to produce ethanol in he U.S. we already do it to support the beef industry, maybe a little outside the box thinking here might be in order as well. In any case I’m not personally a big fan of ethanol as fuel.

    As for the hard science that wind or solar energy are likewise reasonable sources of global energy and not mere left-wing, feel-good solutions.

    While I can’t personally speak to the science, as someone who talks daily to executives of international business around the world I am begining to get the sense that there are a lot of hard nosed business people and governments out there who can’t exactly be categorized as left-wing by any definiton and are apparently willing to invest their hard earned cash in solar and wind energy. Though probably not yet a full blown trend it is certainly a shift in the direction of the breeze.

    BTW there seems to be a lot of hard science to back up the claim that fossil fuel may not be so great either. Oh, I know, a consensus of thousands of climate scientists from around the world is probably really just Left-wing feel-good unscientific propaganda. I feel so sorry for the unsuspecting capitalists who are risking financial ruin by buying into these fly by night alternative energy schemes.

  42. 92

    I apologize for being off topic, however I am not aware of any other place with a suitable audience that may be able to address my Global warming related question.

    What are the estimated temperature limits of survivability of plants and animals (including insects such as honeybees). Take for example mass wild bird deaths in Western Australia ( that appear to be temperature related. I am also aware of Cattle deaths (due to temperature alone, not lack of water) last summer in Australia.

    This is obviously outside the domain of Climate Scientists, however I could not find the answers. None of the obvious keywords work on a Google search (for meaningful results).

    That is a biological question, an Engineering one: What is the temperature limit for most modern cars, stationary with the air-conditioner running? I am thinking of a freeway traffic jam scenario co-incident with an extreme heat wave. What ambient temperature in those conditions will cause cars to fail and be unable to start before the people start to “fail”. I have been in 48 degrees C (shade temperature) and that ain’t pleasant!

    I notice that the skeptics dismiss the significance of extreme temperature events, their attitude seems to be: “summer is hot; get use to it”.

  43. 93
    Fernando Magyar says:

    Oops, my last comment was in regards #84 and not 83.

  44. 94
    Brian Klappstein says:

    I’m sure someone else has already noted it, but there is another “small village” holding out against the tide. That’s the editorial page of the Financial Post (part of the National Post in Canada). They had a great series on “CV of a denier”, 10 in all they covered I believe.

    [Response: Try checking out DeSmogBlog's commentaries. -gavin]

  45. 95

    It can be warmer in thousand years and still not out of the natural variation. Check my blog for info.

  46. 96
    tom says:

    The strategy being used by some to try to control the climate debate is that there is ‘consensus’.

    But consensus over WHAT ?

    That the there’a an obseved warming trend? So what- there was never much argument over that in the first place.

    That man has influenced the climate? Again ,so what? There was never much argument about that either.

    What there IS argument about is the DEGREE OF man’s influence and the projected degrees of warming in the future. To say there is scienticfic consensus on those things is disengenous at best and downright fraudulent at worst.

  47. 97
    SecularAnimist says:

    tom wrote: “The strategy being used by some to try to control the climate debate is that there is ‘consensus’. But consensus over WHAT ?”

    The AR4 SPM from the IPCC says there is a consensus that it is 90 to 95 percent certain that human activities are responsible for most of the observed warming of the last 50 years.

  48. 98
    Dick Veldkamp says:

    Re #96


    The simple fact is that there IS consensus, which has nothing to do with debating tricks. All those scientists who studied climate change agree about the main facts of climate change:
    1- that there is a warming trend.
    2- how large man’s influence is.
    3- what the best estimates of (the range of) further temperature & sea level rise are.
    This is the short version. For the long version, numerical values, statements of probability, necessary qualifications and so on: check out SPM AR4.

    Regrettably there is no consensus on this yet:
    4- there is now more than enough proof that the situation is bad, and we’d better start doing something about it in a hurry.

  49. 99
    tom says:

    Well, I guess it wouldn’t be hard to get consensus on a broad statement like that, but there isn’t.

    The IPCC document is NOT holy writ.

    Now that it has been released, the debate will really start popping in the climate science community at large. For example, the very post that spurred this thread is being taken to task by Roger Pielke as we speak.

    And yesterday I pointed out a glaring error in the post.

    ‘ and that the Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) was written by politicians (no it wasn’t – the clue is in the name). ”

    the WSJ article DID NOT say it was written by politicians.

    [Response: WSJ said "Written mainly by policymakers (not scientists)" which is wrong - William]

  50. 100
    for now says:

    re #86: It is still paradoxical. How come if you feel that some actions and policies that AGW could cause are uncomfortable, does it make you to dismiss the scientific basis? That is utter self deceiving. Hello? It doesn’t help!
    You can’t change facts by having a feeling that they are uncomfortable. You should pay even more attention to such uncomfortable things.

    If the thing is real, it has to be dealt with sooner or later, and the better the sooner. Accept the facts and then campaign and talk and argue on the _policy_ issues, don’t try to distort the scientific information.
    You’re only doing a great disservice to humanity.

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