WSJ Editorial Board: Head Still Buried in the Sand

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?

291 comments on this post.
  1. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    #249, we’re all agreed, Joel, that several things can cause warming, including increased sun, earth wobble, natural greenhouse effect (& changes to that, such as through vulcanism). The issue is the scientists have ruled out all but human GHG emission this time around. I know people don’t like to take the blame for anything; that’s human nature. Only mature, moral persons are capable of “taking the blame” — and it doesn’t necessarily depend on age.

    But we do need to be mindful of the other natural forcings to which you allude, because they could also kick in at any time. However we can’t do anything about those. We can only do something about our own GHG emissions. So that’s the area we have to focus on changing. And the good news, as I’ve indicated time and again, our GHG emissions can be slashed at least 70% through energy/resource conservation/efficiency plus alt energy at net savings and without reducing GDP per capita or livestyle, and in fact even increase these. (See ) So once we’re down to 30% of our GHG emissions, which may take us 10 years or so, hopefully new tech would have been invented which could let us reduce even further without stopping our high-on-the-hog party. If not, we may have to starting tightening our belt a bit — which will greatly help our health and health costs, mind you.

    As for #195 & the LA opinion piece, I think an 1,800% GDP increase is farfetched, but assuming it’s true, we have to understand that GDP measures the extent to which an economy is monetized (not only productivity), and back in 1900 there were still lots of people living on farms growing their own food, and housewives making clothes, etc, none of which would have been included in the GDP. If we could place value on these things, that would probably cut the increase in half to maybe a 900% increase. Now because we have been using fossil fuels and other resources so inefficiently, as the technology for increased efficiency and resource conservation has come on line, the true potential for GDP increase may have been maybe 1200%. So our GHG emissions (& the .7C warming) may be linked to a reduced GDP over the potential higher GDP, so it has actually harmed us – we’re poorer than we may have been due to our profligate use of fossil fuels, etc.

    That’s this past century & before. Now in this century (and for thousands of years) we will have to pay the price for our GHG emissions & this inefficiency and lack of conservation. The bill, when it is finally over, may make the 900% increase in GDP go to some big deficit, equivalent to a 1,800% decrease in GDP (if the bill had been called due during the 20th century, if we had had to pay as we go for all costs incurred down the road over hundreds or thousands of years).

    I’m no economist, and this is probably jumbled up & a bit nonsensical, but I hope my meaning is clear.

  2. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    I’m not only dismayed by the WSJ (& that LA opinion piece), but by all the media. They should be way beyond presenting the science, real or bogus, and pouring out solutions & information about what people can do – TV programs, news articles, on the radio.

    I remember in the late 80s & early 90s (before Gulf War I), the media were full of solutions – that’s how I found out most of mine. Then they’ve clammed up ever since. I guess the sponsors got to them, or something. Or they’ve been consolidated into the hands of fewer & fewer oligarchs, who’s personal bent is toward climate denial. Or oil-funded powers have been buying them out, or placing strategic ads during news programs. That’s sad.

  3. Steve Reynolds:

    Re 248 and 250:

    Ray, while being an expert in the relevant field may be required to do climate science (or to design IR sensors), that does not mean the same level of expertise is required to evaluate the results. I would not expect my customers to take on faith my estimates of the accuracy of an IR sensor; they want to see my data, and maybe see independently taken data. I expect the same for climate science.

    I agree with your enumerated points in comment 250, but those are all qualitative. We need quantitative answers to what the impact will be, how much we can change it, and what the cost of our efforts will be (including opportunity costs). No one can be an expert in all of the required fields, so we had better learn how to communicate across disciplines in a way that inspires confidence. I don’t think the process will work if we are required to accept the decisions on faith in an elite group of scientists, economists, and politicians. RC, at its best, is a good start on the climate science part of that communication.

  4. pete best:

    Mitigating/dealing with Climate Change

    Some interesting articles from MIT and others on second generation ethenol.

    and here on growing the biomass it requires as fuel.

    Only reduce dependance on Oil and not replace it and it is a corrosive substance due to water retention and absorbtion and hence not good for the existing infrastructure. Other sustainable fuels might be a better and option and it is 10 years away from at lest from commercial production and many years more away from being available globally. 850 million vehicles world wide, 80 million new vehicles sold every year, so thats 12 years to replace the entire world fleet. From here:

    Couple all of this together and higher world temperatures and out ability do something about it diminishes a bit.

  5. Hank Roberts:

    A few years ago a study of business risk pointed out

    I think the WSJ Editors are buying time for their customers, by keeping the record confused, while they shift investments into promising future companies via hedge funds and big private placements. They’d want to do that _before_ stocks of big polluters get dinged by the oh-so-“unanticipated” costs. All the carbon control tactics involve externalized costs being brought home and costs attributed.

    Hypothetical game plan: leave the loser industries, the ones that will have to pay the externalized costs of climate change eventually, in publicly held corporations, and the stock in the hands of the mutual funds serving retirement plans and the small investor, move the money into private hedge funds and private placements.

    Look at how the market has “created” wealth the last few decades — all those dollars have to go somewhere, before the illusion the are based on, the big old polluting ‘smokestack industries’, are admitted to be costing the Earth and handed the bill. Right now, as someone on the radio said a while back, “two percent of the people own more than half of the assets — they bought it, they broke it, let them pay to fix it.”

    The only solution for the market/politics is to get ownership widely spread so lots of little people own everything that’s causing the problem, and a few well placed rich people own everything that’s offering a solution. Insert wry grin.

    I’m not cynical enough yet but working on it.

    —- excerpt from that 2003 study of disclosures—–

    “climate change is a new ‘off-balance sheet’ risk that could affect shareholder value. …
    “… all the companies are beginning to measure their greenhouse gas emissions
    … most have discussed climate change at the board level,
    barely half (12) reported on the issue in their securities filings and
    less than half (nine) are projecting greenhouse gas emissions trends.

    Among the 12 companies that do mention climate change in their securities filings, the disclosure tends to be vague, often stating in a sentence or two that the risks may be “material” but cannot be determined at this time. Eight companies made no mention of the issue whatsoever.

    “All companies profiled in this report are taking some governance actions to respond to climate change. But few have adopted comprehensive programs to treat this issue as an imminent financial and environmental threat,” said report author Douglas G. Cogan, deputy director of Social Issues for IRRC. “Companies cannot expect to mitigate climate change risks and seize new market opportunities until they build a foundation of well functioning environmental management systems and properly focused governance practices for a carbon- constrained world.”

    “… U.S. companies, in particular, are still pursuing business strategies that discount the global warming threat. By contrast, non-U.S. companies are more likely to report on the financial risks and undertake climate change mitigation strategies.”

    Most ‘financial advisors’ available to the average investor can’t beat the market average, one has to wonder who the WSJ editors are serving by maintaining that nobody knows what’s happening, eh?

  6. joel:

    I know I am getting repetitive (Def. of a fanatic: Can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.) but the data from the Vostok ice cores really bothers me.

    Assuming there are no unknown processes currently at work to affect global temperature, what will be the affect of atmospheric CO2 values substantially above anything measured in the last 400,000 years?

    Does the current CO2 level mean that we will have extensive melting of Greenland and Antarctica and thus rising sea levels. Melting the Artic is not big deal in that regard, isn’t it?

    This question is a trick question, and I doubt there is any answer. I know that in Chemical engineering, and most other areas of numerical model building, extrapolation beyond your data is considered very poor science. But, isn’t that what we are doing? There is no data on global climate with CO2 levels close to what we have today, so how can such a situation be accurately modeled? Only with numerous assumptions.

    And, I wish someone would answer this question: What will be the global equilbrium temperature with CO2 at 380 ppm? And will that cause serious problems?

    [Response: These issues are dealt with in so-called ‘committment’ experiments where you just keep 2000 atmospheric levels constant and see what happens. You generally get a further ~0.5 deg C warming (but it depends a little on how the ocean is taking up heat – the faster it’s warming now, the greater the current imbalance, and the bigger the warming ‘in the pipeline’). As far as I can tell from talking to relevant people, this isn’t a big enough additional warming to doom the ice sheets but this is a big ‘known unknown’. -gavin]

  7. Susan K (not a scientist ) Card carrying member of the evidence based community):

    Is any climate scientist here familiar with the experiments that prove that Co2 does indeed cause a greenhouse effect of warming? Could you give this guy the reference? He works in the energy industry, but is maybe about to switch sides.

    [Response: This is kind of funny. The equivalent experiments that showed in a laboratory setting that CO2 was a greenhouse gas were done almost 150 years ago. Since then, there have been huge refinements to the theory, demonstrations in the real world, observations of radiative changes in the atmopshere (Harries et al, 1997) and observations of predicted consequences (strat cooling etc.). Cosmic ray ‘theory’ is not even at the point Tyndall was in the 1860s – it has a long way to go before it gets taken as seriously. – gavin]

  8. Michael Tobis:

    It is interesting to see how the public constantly frets about cars when they represent a relatively small fraction of the greenhouse gas problem.

    re #245:

    Having waded through the considerable statistical soup of this topic I have yet to see the hard scientific data that would lead me to believe there is a strong alternative to gasoline.

    There are so many common misconceptions in #245 one hardly knows where to start to clarify the situation. This one sentence I quote itself manages to be based on several points of confusion; the relationships between science, engineering and policy seem entirely muddled into a vague “you people”; the somewhat circular expectation of what “hard scientific data” might mean, (that which might convince the questioner of something that might not actually match what anyone is saying) and so on. Amid all this, I’d like to focus on the popular misconception that the climate change issue is primarily about gasoline and vehicles.

    While these constitute a significant source of contemporary forcing, the fraction is likely to decline, simply because the supply of petroleum is likely to decline. The automobile is a convenient symbol for both sides of a lifestyle and culture debate, but we shouldn’t ignore the fact that it is not the core issue in climate forcing.

    Most of the fossil carbon reserves are in the form of coal. If all the available coal is consumed, the world will be very seriously disrupted. If little of the coal is consumed (and new fossil fuel sources like shales don’t become widely tapped) we will probably continue along in the range of noticeable but manageable changes that we now see.

    It’s not about oil or natural gas. It’s the coal. Perhaps some sort of end-to-end carbon sequestration will becomes available and universally used, but that remains speculative. Otherwise, the coal must stay in the ground.

    Individual consumers do not know when they are consuming coal. The energy provenance of our manufactured products (including food) is not announced. While individual decisions can contribute to conservation, it is pretty much impossible to boycott coal at the consumer level.

    Our issue is energy infrastructure, not gasoline.

    It’s really easy to become boggled by the amount of energy wasted in the typical traffic jam, mentally multiplying by all the jams in all the cities every day of every year. Our reliance on this infrastructure in the face of an increasingly tapped-out and problematic resource is daunting. This problem, though, is if anything a silver lining from the point of view of climate change. The petroleum contribution to warming is going to shrink in proportion, and eventually even in absolute size.

    We don’t need to encourage the elimination of petroleum use anywhere near as much as the elimination of coal use, at least insofar as climate change is concerned. Petroleum will probably go away with or without policy incentives, but coal will not.

    Self-propelled private vehicles are not at issue in any case. Nobody is threatening to take your car away. It would be a good thing if the public got a clearer picture of this. A great deal of the general resistance to climate policy seems to involve confusion with the separate and almost disconnected issue of petroleum supplies and transportation infrastructure that is so much a part of daily life for many people.

    The following crucial IPCC TAR graphic (in my opinion insufficiently noted) tells the tale.

    The greenhouse problem is mostly about the coal.

  9. Edward A. Barkley:

    Because people latch on quickly to my sarcastic remarks (like electromagnetism and weather in portland) as serious comments on the topic, I’ll try to avoid that from now on.
    Remember “The Population Bomb” by Paul Ehrlich. That book contained the same types of qualifiers and asides that I see in the article. Those projections and predictions were dead wrong weren’t they? And yet the data upon which it was based showed clear trend lines that advanced his logical conclusion. That was also propaganda. One of the reasons it should have been discounted out-of-hand at the time was because the closed system was too large to make testing feasible over that short period of time.
    You must admit these sea ice projections are dramatic. Shouldn’t we be able to make projections of sea levels in key locations worldwide over much shorter periods of time ? Or are you are still telling me that the theory is untestable in the short term?

  10. FatBoy:

    I investigate financial fraud for a living and I am concerned with the way the battle between the two sides on AGW is being played out. I must say that the constant referal to “consensus”and to rubbish any skeptical reminds me of when I’m getting close to a fraudster and they try every trick in the book to throw me off the scent and close down questioning . Skeptics even if they are wrong are essential to the scientific process. People should not accept at face value what they are spoon fed by the media or goverments even if it is popular. I would urge both sides to stop name calling and try and stick to the science itself . Hyping up the facts and wild claims do no good as does ignoring a problem. A calm careful approach is needed. Also rubbishing ordinary people along the lines of ” I’m a scientist, you cant possibly understand this complex fact but just accept it” is not good enough. Most court cases involve a difference of expert opinion. Experts can be right or wrong. I think the IPCC report is on the right lines, but as it is only 90% certain it should be open to healthy skeptical review without name calling- as with any investigation dont get tram lined into thinking you are always right as the truth has a nasty habit of biting you on the arse.

  11. Ray Ladbury:

    Re: 254–A layman simply is not in a position to reach a relevant conclusion about what is and what is not good science in a field as complicated as climate change. I agree that the scientific community should be open about the process of peer review and about communicating results, but it is absurd for someone who has devoted a few weeks of study to the subject to expect an equal voice with someone who has devoted their life to the subject. In this sense, the layman is very much like a person who receives a diagnosis of a serious illness from his doctor. When faced with such a situation, the reasonable thing to do is get a second opinion, not to go home and try to get a medical education over the Internet. In the case of climate change, virtually ALL the experts are agreed about the diagnosis–the only disagreement comes when discussing treatment options. And this is precisely where the nonscientist can and should contribute. As I said, I no more trust a scientist for economic advice than I trust an economist to tell me what climate may do.

  12. david iles:

    The question here it seems to me is about personal and cultural momentum. This is the force of things continuing to be done as they have been done in the past. Precedent is one of the largest motivators of human beings. It is extremely difficult to move out of a well-established routine, and it is threatening at some basic level to us to be asked to do it. People have put up with slavery economic impoverishment, terrible working conditions, and extreme physical and mental abuse for whole lifetimes simply because it is what they are used to. The brain forms dendrite pathways according to the habits of the individual, if I do a crossword puzzle everyday my brain will develop a whole network of connection that make cross wording easier for me to do, and soon I will be uncomfortable if I miss my crossword time on any given day. Human habit is what we are working against here not economic disaster if we face the consequences of GW. Economies are our invention. They are there just because we got started down a particular path and continued to build on that path. If we were forced to change we would, and find a new way to continue on. What is different about this discussion is that the science of climate change is trying to turn the ship of personal and cultural momentum before our forests burn down, our food production becomes erratic and undependable, and our oceans rise above knee level. Historically humans have had to have the water at their necks before they accepted that they were going to be impacted by a flood. Their own personal momentum was a much bigger force then any warning given or often even the evidence of their own eyes.

    Every time these comment lines on RC include a big discussion about whether GW is actually caused by humans and I never really see any evidence given that it is not, but people continue to cling to the notion that we can pump gigatons of CO2 and other GHG�s into our atmosphere without significant effect. I suggest in the future no one rises to this debate unless real evidence is produced that contradicts what is now the most scientifically studied climate phenomenon in human history. It is at best a waste of time and at worst it adds a certain legitimacy to non-evidence based assertions that allows people some scraps of their well-worn comfort zone to hold onto and prevents us from moving on.

    Can we see above the cultural rut we have worn and move towards progress or are we stuck here until our fizzy CO2 saturated oceans seep in and force us out?

    Methanol is worth looking into, see:
    and geothermal:
    Hydraulic hybrids
    solar has made remarkable progress:
    funding and incentives to home inventors and tinkers would be a cheap way to make progress

  13. Edward Barkley:

    quote, “the relationships between science, engineering and policy seem entirely muddled into a vague “you people”; the somewhat circular expectation of what “hard scientific data” might mean…”
    I am well aware of the relationships of coal and oil usage to C02 emissions. I am also aware of the much more sensitive and potent subject of nitrogen emissions. If you expect outsiders such as myself to take the science seriously, I expect you to attack alarmists and invokers-of-New-Orleans with the same ferocity with which you attack me. I also expect you to not disregard oil industry geologists opinions out-of-hand because they “are likely shills for Exxon Mobile.”
    As far as the continued evasion of my request for “hard science” in contrast to “scientific consensus”, make some short term predictions under pre-agreed upon controlled conditions and prove that this hypothesis is actually a theory. If you think I am showing disdain for climatology professionals with vast, sweeping and dire predictions for those who ignore them, you’d be quite right. I will not kiss the clergy’s ring because they are in consensus with one another.
    Remember the question isn’t whether the globe is warming or not, it’s about whether or not it is our fault.

    [Response: In general the use of quotation marks implies that one is actually quoting something that someone else has said. I can find no trace of anyone on this site describing anyone else as a ‘likely shill of Exxon Mobil’ whatever industry they work for. I am sure that you would not stoop to making up quotes in order to knock down strawmen arguments, and so I’d appreciate some clarification. On your general point, no one is asking you to kiss anything, and there is plenty of hard science in the science if you care to look for it – hard science doesn’t generally exist for policy choices and expecting it to is foolish. -gavin]

  14. Jeffrey Davis:

    re: 261

    One of the reasons Ehrlich’s direst projections didn’t come to pass is that people changed behaviors in response to the threat posed by over-population.

    We, too, can avoid the various calamities attendant on Global Warming. But it will require that we change behaviors in response to the threat.

  15. Ray Ladbury:

    Re:261 While informed skepticism is essential to the scientific process, the adjective “informed” is important. And since one must be informed to make a positive contribution to the debate, that excludes:
    1)dittoheads who will simply spout the party line (right or left)
    2)contrarians who will dissent simply because it is easier for them to remain in the limelight by doing so
    3)those who are ignorant of the basic science
    4)those who are ignorant of the scientific process–and that includes the process of reaching scientific consensus
    No one in the scientific community is expecting anyone to accept the case for climate change on faith. However, isn’t it the height of arrogance to think that with a weeks worth of study and no appreciation of even the basics in the field you know a field better than someone who has been studying it for 30 years. It’s science. Anyone can play if they agree to play by the rules–and the rules are that if you are uninformed, your opinion counts for butkis.

  16. Mark A. York:

    “Remember the question isn’t whether the globe is warming or not, it’s about whether or not it is our fault.”

    Well Edward there’s your problem: that isn’t the question at all. Not among the experts anyway. What part of that can’t you grasp? Your burden is provide evidence to the contrary. What is doing it if we aren’t? Then compare and contrast using the rules of scientific analysis. I’m not getting the feeling you’ve done the homework for that question.

  17. Rod B.:

    The priesthood always claims it should not be challenged because the challengers don’t have authority. This part of the debate ignores the history of considerable scientific innovations and breakthroughs coming from outside the particular science field. The other irony is the priests of climatology (many of them here, anyway), while refuting outright any input from outside, seem to have compunction expounding on other people’s stuff, like economics, business markets, and cultural development.

    And how did ozone get its ugly head in this?? The silly link mentioned in #239 (though not exactly endorsed by Mark) evidently doesn’t know about the direct greenhouse effect of ozone.

  18. Ray Ladbury:

    Re: 264 Edward, did you not realize that scientific consensus is invariably based on hard evidence. In this case you have several strands that all point to rapid climate change and to anthropogenic causation.
    1)Very rapid changes in Polar regions–also shorter Winters (dates between first and last frost) and warmer overnight temperatures. These contrast to much slower and more minor changes inthe tropics. This by itself would be sufficient to eliminate solar forcing and argue for a greenhouse-type mechanism.
    2)Of the two most significant greenhouse gases, the most significant, water vapor, hasn’t changed drastically beyond what would be expected due to temperature increase. Moreover, its residence time in the atmosphere is way too short to account for the long-term trends being seen. The 2nd most important ghg-CO2-is increasing rapidly in the atmosphere and the trends of CO2 increase is similar to that for the climatic changes we are seeing. Where is the CO2 coming from? Isotopic measurements show most of the increase is fossil carbon, and the main sources of fossil carbon being injected into the atmosphere are from humans burning fossil fuels. Thus, you have an implication of both CO2 and of anthropogenic activity.
    3)Are the effects of increased CO2 sufficient to explain the observed dramatic effects. Only here do we need to resort to modeling, and we find a very robust conclusion that CO2 is a sufficient explanation.
    4)Are there any other possible causes that could explain the observed trends. The answer is no–we’ve already seen that solar forcing won’t reproduce the observed distribution of effects, and the changes in solar irradiance aren’t sufficiently large, either. That, in a nutshell, is the argument, Ed. I don’t see a weak point. Do you?

  19. Mark A. York:

    Speaking of “butkis’ Ray. It amazes me how far these Instapundits will go to not only deny AGW, but to make convoluted attempts to disprove it. It always quickly devolves into the ad ignorantiam.

  20. Michael Tobis:

    Mr. Barkley in #264:

    If you expect outsiders such as myself to take the science seriously, I expect you to attack alarmists and invokers-of-New-Orleans with the same ferocity with which you attack me.

    Whatever the issues of the credibility of a scientific field really shouldn’t depend on the proportion and patience of responses to public confusion on one side or another of some policy controversy or another. The science should stand or fall on its intellectual merits and not the political skills of its members in avoiding being baited into flamefests.

    I also expect you to not disregard oil industry geologists opinions out-of-hand because they “are likely shills for Exxon Mobile.”

    I doubt that I ever used those words or expressed anything like that intent. If I did so please point it out to me so that I can retract it immediately.

    If you are using “you” in some the plural sense, please take note that the editors of this site (among whom I do not number) do not necessarily agree with everything said here. They are no more responsible for someone making blanket criticisms of petroleum geologists than they are for your peculiar question about proving that gasoline needs to be replaced.

    Remember the question isn’t whether the globe is warming or not, it’s about whether or not it is our fault.

    There are many questions related to climate change, some scientific, and some social and political.

    The one you mention here is pretty much regarded as settled by now, though if you think that’s *the* question feel free to address it, as it is on topic for this site and exactly on point for the expertise of some of its editors. I didn’t see you doing that in the posting to which I responded, though.

    Rather, “the” question that you raised was whether anyone had made a conclusive claim that gasoline needs to be replaced because of climate change. My response was that this was a straw man, and that as far as I knew nobody had seriously linked climate change to a need to replace gasoline. I suggested you look at the reserves of coal as compared to other fossil fuels.

    You seem to me to be trying very hard to change the subject that you raised, rather than looking at some of the “hard scientific data” you plaintively requested in #245.

    Here it is again:

  21. Ray Ladbury:

    Re:268 Hey, Rod, go ahead, challenge the scientists. However, unless you bring new evidence to the table or a new way of looking at the evidence we already have, you will not change the conclusion. Science welcomes all challengers who agree to play by the rules of science. That means you don’t short-circuit the peer review process by going directly to the press. It means you make your decisions based on the evidence you have. Let us know when you or the other “skeptics” are ready to play by those rules. I’ll even help you edit your paper and make suggestions of which journal to submit it to.

  22. Edward A. Barkley:

    Requiring hard scientific evidence before making expensive policy decisions is foolishness? My burden is in providing evidence to the contrary? And you’re not expecting me to kiss your ring? Pure educational-elitism at work. Or rather not at work – still at school, as expected.
    I’m not trying to disprove anything. I’m asking for evidence. I’m sure the globe is warming. And I’m sure human’s contribute. But if you have hard science, then make short term predictions under controlled circumstances and with agreed-upon methodology.
    269: I’m trying not to start a cyclical warming argument. I’m trying to stick to the original WSJ propaganda argument – and that I find this site highly steeped in propaganda itself; religion guised in robes of science.
    And please pardon my quotation marks, I’m certain no one here has ever suggested that a skeptic was a shill for Exxon-Mobile. Impossible. Unthinkable. Unimaginable.

    [Response: Thanks. I also find that reading an opposing point of view is useful in figuring out how to reply. I would commend the same to you. To reiterate though, there is plenty of hard evidence for the physical science parts of this discussion (the evidence for continued warming, the role of greenhouse gases, aerosols, solar in climate change etc.). There isn’t hard scientific evidence that cap and trade systems are more efficient than a carbon tax, or which industry will produce the most important new technology in the future. I am more than willing to provide ‘hard science’ for any particular issue in climate science (but not climate policy). If you have specific requests, go ahead. Your suggestion for a short term prediction is not clear for what and for why. – gavin]

  23. Susan K (not a scientist ) Card carrying member of the evidence based community):

    Sorry. It was I (not a scientist)who mentioned Exxon shills.

    I am sorry for bringing it up, as it does seem to have inflamed the argument, just as the moderator pointed out to me when he censored some even more inflammatory remarks I made.

    I am a designer, and in 40 years in my field I have learned that the most important determinant of success is that the faster you face a problem the better your chance of fixing it.

    It is only too natural to deny the problem, ignore the intuition of unease, do nothing… But we are in danger of acting too late.

    Please understand my impatience is bourne of my experience, a warning bell I recognised.

  24. tamino:

    Re: Edward Barkley

    In 1988, James Hansen testified in congress about predictions of future temperature, based on climate models developed at NASA GISS. They made predictions for three scenarios. Scenario “A” was described as “on the high side of reality,” as it had rapid exponential growth of greenhouse gases and no volcanic eruptions. Scenario “C” was described as “a greater curtailment of greenhouse gases than it realistic.” These two scenarios were meant to give an idea of the upper and lower limits of possibility. Scenario “B” was based on a realist projection of greenhouse gases, and sprinkled three large volcanic eruption in the 50-year forecast period. This was the actual prediction.

    Hansen’s team’s prediction, made nearly 20 years ago, has turned out to be right. Does this meet your standard of “short term prediction?”

  25. David B. Benson:

    Edward A. Barkley — I am not a climate modeler nor more than an amateur climatologist. However, I do have some experience building mathematical computer models upon which decision makers actually rely. While none of these were to be as complex as a climate model, nonetheless these were always validated against actual data before making any claims of the reliability of predictions. A typical but simple validation consists of dividing the available data into two parts. One part is the training set, used to set model parameters. The second part is the test set, used to determine the quality of model predictions.

    I should be most surprised if climate modelers do not do something rather similar. If they have done so, then in effect your request for predictions has already been met.

  26. Charles Muller:

    #269 A rapid answer.

    Polar amplification : it seems a constant trait of warming period, whatever the cause of warming. Look at Arctic temperature 1916-45 on Nasa GISTEMP. Furthermore, recent studies suggest that aerosol/ice clouds could exert a radiative forcing similar to GHGs one on Arctic.

    CO2 “sufficient explanation” : for which warming ? 1750-2005, 1850-2005, 1950-2005… I think that natural+anthropic forcings are necessary for simulate these trends in models. And please, give me a reference for emission of aerosols between 1950 and 2005 on Northern Hemisphere, so I’ll be sure models estimate of forcings balance for recent trends are really “robust”.

    Weak point: when 2000 or so scientist confess low level of understanding of nearly all forcings except GHGs, I call that a weak point. You don’t. Explain me why. Another evident weak point is the scarcity of good measures, and the continuing debate over them, even in the satelitte era. RSS and UAH still differ on tropo / strato warming/cooling amplitude, Levitus / Lyman / Gourestki still debate of the ocean heat content, Willson (ACRIM), Frohlich (PMOD) and IRMB team still diverge on TSI reconstruction 1978-present, etc. etc.

    IPCC SPM : 1850-2005 warming 0,57-0,95 K ; anthropic forcing 0,6-2,4 W/m2. Even a layman can understand that very different conclusions may arise according to the value you choose in these uncertainty ranges.

  27. dan allan:

    quick note for the many skeptics on this post:

    If there was really some cabal by biased liberal pseudo-scientists to raise everyone’s alarm by forecasting a global catastrophe, don’t you think they would have come up with a forecast that was undeniably catastrophic?

    As it is, the best predictions of these scientists allow many people to argue that the warming isn’t going to be so bad, and should go ahead and continue to burn our fossil fuels. Surely, if the results were all being driven by ideology and ulterior motive, they would have come up with a prediction like 20-30 degrees c, or they would still be talking about a runaway greenhouse effect as a possibility, instead of a puny little 1.5-4.5 c increase for a doubling of co2. No?

  28. Steve Reynolds:

    Here is a scientific question (at least I have tried to define it that way) for the experts:

    Susan K and many others here believe that it is very urgent to very aggressively attack the CO2 emission problem. Accept as given the IPCC consensus (on climate) and the consensus of economists (on discount rates and the preference of poor people, who will be richer in 30 years, to have necessities now). And Stern does not count; his report was not peer reviewed.

    What scientific evidence do we have that says attacking the CO2 problem is universally urgent?

    I am defining universally urgent here to include requiring the spending of resources on anything that will not significantly affect emissions 30 years from now. Examples of activities that would likely affect emissions in 30 years are: R&D on non-fossil energy, and capital spending on long term investments such as power plants. Something that would not is the gas mileage of a car bought this year.

  29. Burn boron in pure O2 for car power:

    In comment 259 Michael Tobis includes,

    It is interesting to see how the public constantly frets about cars when they represent a relatively small fraction of the greenhouse gas problem.

    … I’d like to focus on the popular misconception that the climate change issue is primarily about gasoline and vehicles.

    While these constitute a significant source of contemporary forcing, the fraction is likely to decline, simply because the supply of petroleum is likely to decline. The automobile is a convenient symbol for both sides of a lifestyle and culture debate, but we shouldn’t ignore the fact that it is not the core issue in climate forcing.

    Most of the fossil carbon reserves are in the form of coal. If all the available coal is consumed, the world will be very seriously disrupted. …

    The greenhouse problem is mostly about the coal.

    Obama was recently in the news for backing coal-to-gasoline in the USA. The masses of the far East are, I think, buying the largest self-propelled private oil-burners they can afford, and if they develop coal-to-gasoline, that will be fairly large. So coal and cars seem strongly coupled to this member of the public.

  30. Edward Barkley:

    David B. Benson. Like yourself, I know a little something about building mathematical computer models upon which policy decisions are made – mainly in the portion of the modeling process at which visual simulations are generated for interpretation of complex data. I expect that your last comment is quite correct. My experience tells me that such data is quite sensitive, however, because real world predictions about the short-term future (if proven wrong)can eliminate someone’s funding quite rapidly. And this is exactly why I am asking for it. I am being asked to believe that by the end of the century: (from #106)

    “Rising sea levels accelerate as the Greenland ice sheet tips into irreversible melt, submerging atoll nations and low-lying deltas. In Peru, disappearing Andean glaciers mean 10 million people face water shortages. Warming seas wipe out the Great Barrier Reef and make coral reefs virtually extinct throughout the tropics. Worldwide, a third of all species on the planet face extinction”

    …but, put simplistically, we won’t go out on a limb and predict where the water lines will be over the next five to ten years – because that is risky and measurable. If you criticize skeptics for generalization you must also criticize comment #106. In good-spirited truth everyone, I’m easy to deal with. I already believe that humans contribute to the warming of the globe. The task ahead of you is much greater.

    For a matter of perspective only, I offer the following: A good friend of our family is a phd working for the Center for Disease Control. The color of his dire predictions for global destruction come in the form of malaria, the filovirus family, and new strains of incurable tuberculosis. Another friend of mine from school is a phD in Nuclear Physics with high-level clearances in places you can imagine. Even without specific details, lunch with him is always good for a weekend of sleeplessness and deep depression. As he likes to say, “People aren’t nearly afraid enough of weapons of mass destruction, but that will change.”
    Everyone seems to have something of which I should be afraid. And I will always downplay such dire predictions, because I know that anything we study we also change. Our viewpoint of the entire globe can hardly be called objective.

    Still, it has been quite entertaining. The 2006 Year in Review read like a Saturday Night Live sketch.
    And with that I conclude my argument on the identification of propaganda. It’s quite clear to me that the WSJ is entitled to their opinion.

  31. Steve Bloom:

    Re #252: Lynn, I wanted to look at the site you linked, but there’s something wrong with the address. Thanks.

  32. dhogaza:

    It’s quite clear to me that the WSJ is entitled to their opinion.

    Of course they are. And if they opine “the earth is flat”, it is certainly reasonable for scientists to point out they’re wrong. And to snigger while doing so.

    This, in essence, is what they’re doing in regard to AGW.

  33. Mark A. York:

    “certain no one here has ever suggested that a skeptic was a shill for Exxon-Mobile. Impossible.”

    No one has to suggest it since it’s a proven fact most them are. We have the receipts.

  34. Charles Muller:

    #278 Quick note on your quick note
    “If there was really some cabal by biased liberal pseudo-scientists to raise everyone’s alarm by forecasting a global catastrophe, don’t you think they would have come up with a forecast that was undeniably catastrophic?”

    No “cabal”, no “pseudo-scientists” (and free to be “liberal” if they are). IPCC authors realize a very precious work when they summarize our current scientific knowledge on climate. What is much more questionable (IMO) is the level of confidence they put in models projections or attribution-detection. They are obliged to do so because governments gave them a “political” agenda (that is, express as quicckly as possible an opinion about a policy decisions). This science-politics confusion has been somewhat aggravated by media exaggerations / alarmism, putting pressure on climate scientists. All that is detrimental to scientific caution. (For media, I speak from my French / European experience, but it seems the case is a bit different in the USA).

    AR4 SPM offers a new insight into this overconfidence. Projections of temperature 2100, for example, now include carbon cycle coupling and despite this new complexification suggest some “best estimates”. But how is it possible to extract any credible estimate whereas carbon cycle are still in their infancy, and each week or so brings a new discovery (see Barber and picoplankton in Science this week, or previously Smittennberg and ongoing buildup of refractory organic carbon, Zhou and carbon accumulation in old-growth forests, Keppler and CH4 emission from plant growth, etc., etc.) ?

  35. Tom Edgar:


    Words like ‘capitulate,’ and ‘believe’ have no place in science. I shudder to think what would be if Copernicus, Galileo, or Newton had ‘capitulated’ and accepted some commonly-held belief rather than pursue science.

    Science is a thought process (remember observation, interpretation, TEST!) ‘Skeptics’ are not villians; in fact they are the backbone of modern science. All scientists should be skeptics; that’s our job! Test, test, test,… PROVE!!!

    How has the scientific method been lost?

    [Response: Reaad our previous piece how to be a real skeptic. -mike]

  36. Mark A. York:

    What in blazes is Charles Muller talking about?

    #286 The real skeptics are skeptical of the “false sceptics” whose opinion is corrupted by self-interest e.g. taking money to say what they say despite the preponderance of evidence to the contrary, and the subscribers, who are just politically and ideologically prone to believing it. It’s classic confirmation bias.

  37. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    # 282, my mistake. It’s for NATURAL CAPITALISM by Hawken & Lovins.

  38. Chuck Booth:

    RE # 286 “How has the scientific method been lost?”

    It hasn’t – it is alive and working quite well in research laboratories and at scientific conferences around the world, and in the pages of peer-reviewed scientific journals. No one is suggeting that skepticism is bad. It’s just that the bulk of the skepticism about AGW seems to be coming from a very small number of climate scientists and a very large number of people who are not climate scientists, many of whom seem to have a conservative political bent (an interesting phenomenon in and of itself).

    [Response: Indeed, this is more or less what we’ve said previously in our previous piece how to be a real skeptic. -mike]

  39. Trevor Kidd:

    Yes the National Post (and Financial Post) in Canada, as others have mentioned, has been on a role lately printing anything skeptical they could find.

    Not to be outdone the Winnipeg Free Press just printed a story titled: “Warming on Mars linked to sun, not SUVs” I have sent a letter to the editor.

    The same piece appears here, but under a different name:

  40. Ed G.:

    #279, Steve Reynolds

    Your question seems to assume that the CO2 emitted now is not relevant to the climate of 30 years from now (or thereafter). Much of the incremental CO2 emitted today will still be in the atmosphere then. What matters is the total CO2 emissions over the entire period. Only if it were known in advance that investment in future decreases is more cost-effective and fungible with car mileage now, might you be correct. Moreover, improvement in gas mileage now has 30 more years to accumulate an effect. If future improvements are to be better, they would have to be large enough to overcome that 30 year head start.

  41. James:

    Re #273: You ask “Requiring hard scientific evidence before making expensive policy decisions is foolishness?” You’re setting up a blatant double standard here. Deciding not to do anything about rising CO2 is every bit as much a policy decision, and is potentially even more expensive. Why not play fair, and show us the hard scientific evidence for doing nothing?