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Global Warming Delusions at the Wall Street Journal

Filed under: — david @ 18 October 2007

Daniel Botkin, emeritus professor of ecology at UC Santa Barbara, argues in the Wall Street Journal (Oct 17, page A19) that global warming will not have much impact on life on Earth. We’ll summarize some of his points and then take our turn:

Botkin: The warm climates in the past 2.5 million years did not lead to extinctions.

Response: For the past 2.5 million years the climate has oscillated between interglacials which were (at most) a little warmer than today and glacials which were considerably colder than today. There is no precedent in the past 2.5 million years for so much warming so fast. The ecosystem has had 2.5 million years to adapt to glacial-interglacial swings, but we are asking it to adapt to a completely new climate in just a few centuries. The past is not a very good analog for the future in this case. And anyway, the human species can suffer quite a bit before we start talking extinction.

Botkin: Tropical diseases are affected by other things besides temperature

Response: I’m personally more worried about dust bowls than malaria in the temperate latitudes. Droughts don’t lead to too many extinctions either, but they can destroy civilizations. It is true that tropical diseases are affected by many things besides temperature, but temperature is important, and the coming warming is certainly not going to make the fight against malaria any easier.

Botkin: Kilimanjaro again.

Response: Been there, done that. The article Botkin cites is from American Scientist, an unreviewed pop science magazine, and it is mainly a rehash of old arguments that have been discussed and disposed of elsewhere. And anyway, the issue is a red-herring. Even if it turned out that for some bizarre reason the Kilimanjaro glacier, which is thousands of years old, picked just this moment to melt purely by coincidence, it would not in any way affect the validity of our prediction of future warming. Glaciers are melting around the world, confirming the general warming trends that we measure. There are also many other confirmations of the physics behind the predictions. It’s a case of attacking the science by attacking an icon, rather than taking on the underlying scientific arguments directly.

Botkin: The medieval optimum was a good time

Response: Maybe it was, if you’re interested in Europe and don’t mind the droughts in the American Southwest. But the business-as-usual forecast for 2100 is an entirely different beast than the medieval climate. The Earth is already probably warmer than it was in medieval times. Beware the bait and switch!

Botkin argues for clear-thinking rationality in the discussion about anthropogenic climate change, against twisting the truth, as it were. We couldn’t agree more. Doctor, heal thyself.

For years the Wall Street Journal has been lying to you about the existence of global warming. It doesn’t exist, it’s a conspiracy, the satellites show it’s just urban heat islands, it’s not CO2, it’s all the sun, it’s water vapor, and on and on. Now that those arguments are losing traction, they have moved on from denying global warming’s existence to soothing you with reassurances that it ain’t gonna be such a bad thing.

Fool me once, shame on…shame on you. Fool me–you can’t get fooled again.

-George W. Bush

453 Responses to “Global Warming Delusions at the Wall Street Journal”

  1. 51
    Taber Allison says:

    Carl #49, I tried the link, but it takes you to a press release, not a paper. I’m assuming one can find this directly at the AIBS web site.

    Thanks for the information.

  2. 52
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    re 36

    Speaking of Lester Brown, you left out his “Outgrowing the Earth” present at this link broken down into sections in pdf format.

    The chapter on climate is interesting from a purely practical perspective:

    As are the chapters on Security, Water and so forth.

    Published in 2005, it’s well-cited, paragraph by paragraph, and a very uncomfortable book to read when you realize 2.5 years later a lot of what he was projecting near-term seems to have born itself out.

  3. 53
    Carl Zimmer says:

    Taber [51]–Whoops! Wrong link. Here is where you can grab the pdf of the extinction review:

  4. 54
    Ike Solem says:

    RE #47 – there are quite a few “RealSolutions” sites available:

    Of course, part of any renewable energy solution will have to involve ending the use of fossil fuels as well – meaning that, first and foremost, we’ll have to close down all the coal-fired power plants in the US, China, India, and so on. That will require a lot of international cooperation…

  5. 55
    ken sponagle says:

    I am a businessman I make money by providing services to people . many of the responders to this site should tell us how the make money we might have a better understanding their science and which institution they are paid gov or private enterprise.

  6. 56
    catman306 says:

    Les Porter, an answer to the problem of corporations in the US is the simple shift in paradigm: corporations are NOT legal persons and therefore have no RIGHTS, only privileges that can be revoked for cause. Robert Reich is advocating exactly this.

  7. 57
    Øyvind says:

    Interesting spin from WSJ again. Let me understand this correctly – if not one single species is going to get extinct – there is no problem? As long as we have a few hundred polar bears left things are fine? They didn’t all die – hence global warming is no problem, a similar argument to the guy dressed in a tiger-fur arguing that tiger-hunting is no problem – there are after all plenty tigers in our zoos. Thus, our planet with a 2-4 degree fever imposed over 100 years is perfectly fine. Great! Problem solved. Why are my eyes watering – and why do I have the sensation that this will be a story told and retold through the foreseeable future?

    It is also interesting that when environmental stress is concerned all we worry about the mega-fauna (including myself using tigers and polar bears as examples). This concept is as anthropocentric as the definition of the medieval optimum is Eurocentric since I believe anyone trying to keep the Maya and Tiwanaku civilizations operating would oppose the view that this period was optimal.

    Finally, a reflection on the numerous people indicating that the world may have changed more rapidly in our past than at present: Since IPCC presented the SUP I have been wondering why it didn’t include the forcing rate-of-change over the last 20 kyr figure from chapter 6 (paleoclimate) that really shed light on rapid alteration. Put otherwise and maybe more relevant for the general reader – if we applied a conservative estimate of the temperature gradient since 1950, say 0.1 degrees per decade, to the shift from maximum glacial conditions 20.000 years ago to the beginning of our current interglacial (10.000 years ago) the deglaciation would have included a rather whopping 100 degree Celsius warming.

  8. 58
    Eli Rabett says:

    American Scientist is the magazine of Sigma Xi, a scientific research society to which many (probably most) research scientists in the US belong. In this respect it most closely resembles Physics Today, a pop physics thrill journal. Most articles are by invitation of the editors. I think your hair shirt is showing

  9. 59
    Eli Rabett says:

    Before everyone gets teary eyed about the WSJ news coverage, you should realize that Rupert Murdoch bought the WSJ a couple of months ago, and it is about to be Foxified.

  10. 60
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #39 & Botkin’s mention of Northern Mockingbirds moving north due to certain plants moving north (& not due to GW). It’s really shocking that a prominent ecologist is unable to think holistically.

    Global warming is not only about the air warming. It’s also about plants moving into new areas, more evaporation, greater droughts AND floods, greater storms, greater brush fires, greater deforestation. And then all the effects from these effects. And all the effects from these, and so on (including possible human genocide and wars).

    And, of course, GW is not the only problem we’re facing. There are lots of other environmental and non-environmental problems. And if you put them all together, my sense is they equal some much greater set of harms than the sum of the individual problems and harms. At least they could — and that’s where our focus should be.

    The good news is that many solutions not only mitigate GW, but also many other (environmental and non-environmental) problems, AND strengthen the economy (tho I realize the WSJ is not about economic issues in general, only about stocks going up & down, and “fear” is something they really fear).

    So it is just simply counterproductive to waste time debating which problems are worse. We just need to move on to solutions.

  11. 61
    Chris says:

    Re 12 : David,

    Botkin also writes “The climate modelers who developed the computer programs that are being used to forecast climate change used to readily admit that the models were crude and not very realistic…”

    Would you characterize today’s models as crude?

    [Response: If the weatherman says 99% chance of rain, do you take an umbrella? David]

    My response would be if the weatherman said that it would rain tomorrow I would take an umbrella – if the weatherman said it would rain next week – I wouldn’t bother. That’s the problem with the models – weatherman can’t predict the weather with any accuracy more than 2 days in advance – so why should be believe the models that predict years or scores of year ahead?

  12. 62
    Andrew Sipocz says:

    #53 Reading some of Dr. Botkin’s publications gave me the feeling that he’s throwing rocks at his colleague’s predictions on AGW and extinctions because he believes the extinction threat is overblown. His personal comments reflect this attitude. I believe the threat is understated for many of the same reasons he cites; that is inaccuracies in the models now being used to predict the availability of habitat niches, both physical and biotic (controlled by interactions with other species), under future climate scenarios.

    We’re already in the midst of an exinction crisis without AGW. And extinction is only the last step a species takes on the long road of population decline.

    Survival of species during past climactic swings is not a good indicator of future survival under AGW because we are in control now. We, humankind, have profoundly changed the earth. Things will be different this time.

    Also, regarding the scientific publications on megafaunal extinctions; just because something is published in Science doesn’t mean it has credibility or is even good science as the CRay and Solar AGW debates have shown us. Waves of extinctions have followed human colonization coincident with it, whereever it has occurred. New Zealand, Hawaii, North America, South America, Madagascar. Those extinctions occurred at different times and the extinction events didn’t just occur to megafauna, but rather any class of animal or plant utilized by humans or otherwise tied to the habitat transformations humans caused (such as our vast use of fire). 50% of the birds native to Hawaii went extinct when that Island was colonized. Arguments for other causations fall flat.

  13. 63
    Aaron Lewis says:

    First, surviving climate change comes down to growing enough food. Growing food on a large scale requires being able to predict the climate well enough to plan crops and cultural methods several years in advance.

    What crop are we going to be growing on THAT field in 5 years? What variety will do best? When do we plant to optimize germination? Do we plan to irrigate? Will we have water to irrigate? When will we harvest? These are questions that farmers answer based on experience with recent climate. If climate is changing, then farmers have less of a basis for answering these questions, and food production suffers.

    Farmers need to plan for seed, equipment, fertilizer, labor, pollination, and capital. Each of these factors requires multiyear planning. In a changing environment, it is harder to plan. At some rate of climate change, planning fails and food production fails. I would estimate that at current rates of return, famers could tolerate about 1 standard deviation of climate change per decade. With crop failures, food costs will go up, but despite higher prices, farmer’s incomes will go down, because they have more crop failures.

    Climate change makes farming much harder.WSJ seems to have forgotten what crop failure and famine look like. I guess the folks at the WSJ do not eat, or maybe they have never tried to grow food.

  14. 64
    Rod B says:

    David, weathermen never say 99% chance of anything!

  15. 65
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re #61. I’m not sure I understand your comment. It is not “weather” we are trying to predict decades into the future, but climate, and climate is largely a function of energy. We can predict with very high confidence that if current trends continue wrt greenhouse gas emissions, that the energy in the climate system in several decades will be significantly higher than it is today. That is different from making long-term predictions of a chaotic phenomenon like weather.

    I have noticed an alarming ignorance of the fundamentals of climate modeling among skeptics. They seem to think that models are “fit” to climate trends with lots of adjustable parameters. This is far from the truth. GCM actually have very little “wiggle room” to play with. Even a casual perusal of the descriptions of these models would acquaint the reader with this fact. As such, I can only conclude that they have not made such a casual effort.

  16. 66
    Ron says:

    This may not be the right thread for this question, but I was referred to this site by another blogger who was unable to answer my question.

    It seems to me, based on what I’ve read so far, that climate models do a fairly poor job of predicting climate reality. In other words, the models can be tweaked until they can predict the past pretty well, but they still don’t do well when it comes to predicting what the climate will do next.

    My take on this is that there’s something wrong with the hypothesis. Perhaps CO2 isn’t the problem after all, or perhaps there’s a lot more going on than is taken into account by the designers of the models.

    I have had proponents of the CO2/AGW hypothesis tell me that it appears the climate is warming even faster than the models predicted, therefore this is proof that the hypothesis is correct. I disagree. I say if the models don’t perform as expected, then there’s a problem with the hypothesis.

    Who is correct here? And where can I find some sort of ‘proof’ that the ‘CO2 causes global warming’ hypothesis is right?

  17. 67

    re #61

    Chris, rather than throwing a bunch of links at you I will try to help you understand this with some other method.

    Let’s say you live on a railroad track and that track is called earth, so you can’t really jump off of it without a pretty decent supply of oxygen and some rather fantastic technology. For this portrait lets assume you don’t own NASA or any other space agency (guessing you don’t anyway).

    So, humans added billions of tons of Co2 (Nitorus oxide and methane along with a few others) to the atmosphere which makes the place warmer. This is called Global Warming and in this story, Global Warming is the train.

    So you live on the train track and the train is coming, the weatherman (rail-station employee) tells you that he’s not sure when it will hit you but it’s at least more than two days from now, maybe a week?

    So you say, I don’t need to get off the track for a week at least and by the time 6 days are over, I will know if the rain is coming for sure.

    The only problem is that the track is earth and the train is Global Warming. You can’t get off the track, none of us can.

    A real train running down a mountain loaded with, I don’t know, say coal, has a lot of weight. That weight translates to inertia and momentum. It’s pretty easy to get off a real train track though so you don’t have to worry about the train actually stopping before it hits you. You can just step off.

    That is not possible in the case of Global Warming, We can’t just step off the track. Likewise, burying your head in the sand is not going to help. Neurosis might feel good in a given moment but it is not a good cure for inevitability of ones own actions (that of the human race).

    Or are you one of those people that think that responsibility for ones actions is a bad thing and you should be able to get away with anything you want, no matter the consequences?

    So we can’t predict if it will rain tomorrow, but we can predict based on an overwhelming literal mountain of evidence that it is going to get warmer. And unless you know of some magic that is going to happen to stop it or some other event that will produce enough particulate matter in the upper atmosphere to mitigate global warming, say like volcanoes erupting regularly every 3-4 years or so, you might want to reconsider your position.

  18. 68
    SteveF says:

    David said:

    There is no precedent in the past 2.5 million years for so much warming so fast.

    I dunno, the transition from the Younger Dryas into the Holocene was a decent sized temperature shift and occurred reasonably rapidly. For example, 5-10 degrees over a few decades, according to GRIP:

    There are a few other terrestrial archives that show significant and rapid warming at this time. The multi-proxy study at Krakenes for example. Also, it’s probably reasonable to assume that there were other similar events during the Pleistocene, that we can’t resolve so well.

  19. 69
    Rod B says:

    catman306 (56), while it’s been up and down a couple of times, it turns out that corporations do have rights, though just a bit less than people. The Supreme Court ruled that gov’t can’t take corporate property without due process, e.g. This idea to appropriate corporations (and I assume you all would include partnerships and entrepreneurships, including farms (like those that don’t grow enough switchgrass, I suppose)) is right up the alley of criminally indicting and imprisoning any person who disagrees with the thrust. Fascism is such an efficient process.

  20. 70

    Human nature baffles me! We are watching the artic and antarctic melting. We are experiencing big changes in our weather, flooding hotter and longer summers, fires where they never were before due to droughts. We seem afraid to say the dirty word, “global warming” when this “different” weather is being described. I get mail and e-mail pleading for money to “Save the Polar Bears”. Can anyone tell me HOW, in real life that can be accomplished? We not only CANNOT suddenly stop driving our gasoline powered cars and CAN’T suddenly convert the world to non- polluting industries. We are and have been further delayed due to “big business” and government interests which deal in their short term interests rather than long term which might “jeapordize the economy” (Bush’s words, I beleive!). When you face the facts, we are doomed to creating more carbon dioxide as humans can’t, haven’t and won’t eliminate the problem of global warming in time. The polar bears are without a single doubt, doomed. There is no way that we can suddenly reverse the effects of global warming. We have absolutely no way to stop the ice at the poles from melting. In time Florida and all low lying coastal areas world wide WILL be under water. Droughts, fires, (which will and are adding still more co2 to the atmosphere), floods, hurricanes and tornados WILL increase. We ARE already experiencing the beginning effects of global warming. We have a compounded problem here, as when land becomes more and more uninhabitable, human beings will be forced to move into the remaining shrinking inhabitable spaces. We have done nothing to reduce human population, (actually, China with “one child only” has made an attempt) so more wars are inevitable as man fights over possesion of inhabitable land. Can anyone tell me that I am wrong in my observations? I doubt it. Al Gore and scientists can be commended for enlightening us about global warming, but I cannot see how in reallity our poor old world can be saved. It is already too late. We are already in the downward spiral, global warming which will be impossible to reverse. (I am not, by nature a negative person, just practical!)

  21. 71
    Rod B says:

    Ray (65), while I agree that much of the criticism of GCMs is too exessive and unrealistic, your defense of GCM is also. You said, “…GCM actually have very little “wiggle room” to play with….” You make it sound like the old saw that “it came from the computer so it has to be correct.” Are you seriously expecting us to believe that the people who wrote every line of code can’t wiggle any of it??

  22. 72
    dhogaza says:

    Rod B:

    Weatherman never say 99% chance of anything!

    Right, they say 100%…

    See where it says 100% chance of showers today and tonight?

    However, despite David’s question, I don’t take my umbrella when the weatherman tells me it will rain. I’m from Portland, Oregon. Umbrellas are for wimps, Brits, and people from NYC … :)

  23. 73
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE whether climate models are crude and “If the weatherman says 99% chance of rain, do you take an umbrella?” I took this to mean that whether or not one says climate models are crude, the fact that they have reached pretty high levels of certainty is reason enough to start mitigating GW — just as we would take an umbrella when a weather model predicts rain (and everyone knows how unreliable weather forecasts can be).

    And has anyone noticed that the models have been improving greatly over time, as more computer power becomes available and hard-working scientists keep making improvements, adding factors and (I suppose) more complicated equations, and tweaking them, using evidence from the real world as it becomes available.

    I’m even flabbergasted by the weather models, and those 3D dopplers of hurricane cells, etc. It seems weather prediction has also been improving over time.

  24. 74
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    To add to my above comment, I vaguely remember from high school physics some 45 years ago a chapter, “The Nature of Gas” (I think), and something about molecules in Brownian (unpredictable, erratic) motion, but that at a collective macro level the gas was predictable.

    I guess it’s not such an extreme distinction, but weather is much less predictable, and climate (which is the collective, macrolevel of weather) is much more predictable. So if we can take measures to mitigate problems from weather (like boarding up our homes and sand-bagging, because weathermen say we’re within the hurricane path), then we should all the more take seriously what climatologists are warning about climate change.

    A crude model is better than no model.

  25. 75

    Re: #12,#17, Robert: the reason why David didn’t want to answer your question (to which answers are readily found with a little digging on this site and others, hint: they are pretty good nowadays) is, that it would be enabling and legitimizing a criminally irresponsible risk management philosophy: “Let’s not do anything until we’re absolutely certain”. Imagine your physician to act like that.

  26. 76

    It sounds like the WSJ editorial pages, have gone from it aint happening, to OK it’s getting warmer but it’s not man made, to,hey! warming aint so bad, after all- anything to avoid putting the blame where it belongs, namely on the burning of coal,oil and gas. Once you admit that there’s a problem, then you need to take action to mitigate the damage, but anything that threatens the fossil fuel industry is anathema to the far right.

  27. 77
    Mike Tabony says:

    Aaron, #63, has written a mouthful (pun intended). There is a lot of denial running rampant in our society today. What, other than denial, would allow us to see people watering their lawns in Atlanta when there is less than 3 months of drinking water left in the reservoirs supplying the city?

    The people at the WSJ have seemingly never gone beyond the supermarket or deli to determine just what it takes to get the food they take for granted to their table. However, when the environment begins to change faster than the farmer can adapt they will learn. The present drought in the Southeast US may be the harbinger of the future as farmers sell off their herds because they lack the water to keep them alive.

  28. 78
    Aaron Lewis says:

    Re 17
    Models are tools. A good deal of fine science has been done with what we could call “crude tools.” What counts, is not the tools that you use, but the results you produce.

  29. 79

    Re: #61, there’s a difference between weather and climate. A fundamental difference. Even if the physics in the models were perfect, the weather prediction would go solidly random in a few weeks max, while the climate projection, describing a state of equilibrium, would reflect only the uncertainties in our knowledge of the relevant forcings… and it makes no real difference if the projection is for today, next year, 2100, the middle ages or the last ice age. It’s not a prediction you see.

  30. 80
    John Mashey says:

    re: #59 Eli

    So, far, I haven’t been able to see any discernable difference, but only time will tell. The Murdoch signal has yet to emerge from natural variation. :-) Certainly the speculations during the negotiations were fascinating, even to the amusing point of “Will WSJ editorial become less right-wing with Murdoch?” (given that Murdoch has actually recognized GW’s existence.) As I understand it, the deal maintained supposedly maintained Editorial independence. If Murdoch seriously starts messing with the objectivity of reporting, that will be The End, and I hope he’s smarter than that. I don’t think I’m the only person who is a WSJ subscriber solely for the reporting quality, not the editorial.

  31. 81
    Craig Jones says:

    As a geologist, I find the use of the longer term records a bit misleading (in both directions, though more frequently from the anti-GW side). The history of global change over the past 50 years of research has evolved dramatically from thinking everything was gradual, to maybe 1000s of years, to some events (Younger Dryas, for instance) being within a human lifetime. This is entirely because the geologic record tends to smear signals out, and with identification of better and better records (pelagic sediments, ice cores), climate has been found to have, at least at times, shockingly rapid changes. So I would hesitate to say that there certainly has not been warming as rapid as we might be experiencing in the past 2.5 Ma, and would very definitely not rule out the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum as having experienced pulses as rapid as now.

    Occasionally less serious advocates of GW as Armageddon act as though the Earth has never been warmer than now, contending that the planet will become a desert with some small pockets of life at the pole. This is utter poppycock, as climate in the Mesozoic and much of the early Tertiary (say, 35-200 million years ago) was considerably warmer than today and probably warmer than any possible human-induced climate change.

    That said, so what? None of the glacial to interglacial warmings started from a climate as warm as our present interglacial, so in fact current biota as a system have no experience with going higher than today’s temperatures at a rapid rate. Add in fragmentation of habitat from human use and it is likely many species presently protected in parks and refuges will be unable to migrate in response to climate changes. Furthermore, as is pointed out here, civilization has not experienced any climate change of comparable magnitude, having arrived since the end of the last glacial period. Food crops are not the result of millennia of exposure to natural changes but are instead the product of artificial selection within a near constant climate. The ability of natural systems to weather glacial/interglacial climate change borders on irrelevant to whether human civilization can weather an artificial change. Same for the old hot climates; I am confident life will survive but unsure of civilization (and it is the transition far more than the end result that will be ugly). It would seem best to avoid arguing over irrelevant aspects of the geologic record and focus on the parts that really matter.

    There are two things from the geologic record that ought to give anti-GW folks pause. One is the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) which is one of the few cases of rapid (1000s year scale at present resolution, probably in pulses) warming from an unglaciated state. First is that the most likely mechanism is the release of methane ices from the shallow seafloor, though the initial trigger remains unknown (volcanism in North Atlantic, gradual warming of the ocean, etc. are out there). Such ices are well known from the modern seabed and are every bit as vulnerable to ocean warming. Second is the timescale of this event: it appears it took something like 80,000 years to put the organic carbon back into the solid earth. This tells you that if we do kick all this carbon out there, it isn’t going to go away without a lot of help anytime soon. And my understanding is that the IPCC projections do not include either permafrost methane or marine methane ices in their calculations. If these are set loose, IPCC projections are probably way low on future temperatures.

    Second thing from the geologic record is that it appears that modern climate models cannot reproduce so-called hothouse climates very well; they appear to overestimate temperatures in the tropics and underestimate them in the polar regions. [There is debate about the accuracy of the geologic proxies in addition to the usual particulars of the models being used; I think Ruddiman’s textboook has a description of this]. The global models used are themselves generally physics-based but with a lot of tuned factors to account for things that are too hard to directly incorporate; these fudge factors are tuned for climates today. Observationally, the suggestion from the geology side has been that we should see a lot more warming in the polar regions than is predicted and somewhat less in the tropics (I’ve been pointing out this suggestion for about 5 years in an intro geology class). The rather sudden reevaluation of polar warming in the past couple of years might be a reflection of this geologic observation; if so, it could be very hard to hold on to polar ice.

  32. 82
    dean_1230 says:

    Re: 70

    Except that the Antarctic is experiencing no such melting. In fact, they’ve just experienced the coldest winter in generations.

    The arctic is melting, but the antarctic is growing. Did the climate models predict this?

  33. 83
    David B. Benson says:

    Mega-mammal extinctions in the late Pleistocene: These occurred as early as 50,000 years ago in Africa and South Asia. Regarding those in North America, note that the extinct species were native to North America while all the immigrants from Asia survived. (Of course, immigration was only possible due to sea stand changes and then sufficient ice melt.)

    This suggests that not only predation by humans and the comet impact were at work, but climate change caused vegetative changes and possibly the immigrants brought deseases. Here is a quick review, written before knowledge about the comet impact in North America was known:

    An older book, which I am currently unable to locate, states that the average duration of mammalian species as been one million years. If correct, in the past 2.5 million years many species have gone extinct.

  34. 84
    Hank Roberts says:

    Try looking up what you think you believe.

    You’re being misled.

    If you read even the stories _about_ the science you’ll know better.
    ——- excerpt follows — click link for original —–

    Correction to This Article
    A March 3 article incorrectly identified a Web site sponsored by Exxon Mobil and other corporations opposed to mandatory limits on greenhouse gases linked to climate change. The site is TCSDaily, not TSCDaily.

    Antarctic Ice Sheet Is Melting Rapidly
    New Study Warns Of Rising Sea Levels

    By Juliet Eilperin
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Friday, March 3, 2006; Page A01

    The Antarctic ice sheet is losing as much as 36 cubic miles of ice a year in a trend that scientists link to global warming, according to a new paper that provides the first evidence that the sheet’s total mass is shrinking significantly.

    The new findings, which are being published today in the journal Science, suggest that global sea level could rise substantially over the next several centuries….

    … a major international scientific panel predicted five years ago that the Antarctic ice sheet would gain mass this century as higher temperatures led to increased snowfall.

    “It looks like the ice sheets are ahead of schedule” in terms of melting, Alley said. “That’s a wake-up call. We better figure out what’s going on.”

    End of excerpt

  35. 85
    Hank Roberts says:

    And, to Beverly Bonner — same message.

    No matter how strongly you believe what you think is true, if you will post an actual citation to a science paper, it’s more useful to the rest of us readers.

    Google Scholar can help, more than Google does.

    As Coby Beck reminds us quite correctly, there is no “Wisdom” button at Google — read and think and quote.

    [See long list of related links at bottom of the page — there is a special issue of the magazine on this topic, all worth reading — your library Reference Desk can find the actual magazine for you.]

    Science 16 March 2007:
    Vol. 315. no. 5818, pp. 1529 – 1532
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1136776

    Review: Recent Sea-Level Contributions of the Antarctic and Greenland Ice Sheets
    Andrew Shepherd and Duncan Wingham
    … the past decade of satellite measurements has painted an altogether new picture …. data show that Antarctica and Greenland are each losing mass overall. Our best estimate of their combined imbalance is about 125 gigatons per year of ice ….
    … much of the loss from Antarctica and Greenland is the result of the flow of ice to the ocean from ice streams and glaciers, which has accelerated over the past decade. In both continents, there are suspected triggers for the accelerated ice discharge—surface and ocean warming, respectively—and, over the course of the 21st century, these processes could rapidly counteract the snowfall gains predicted by present coupled climate models.”
    ——end of excerpt——-

  36. 86
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE the WSJ subscribers here. One thing you could do is write the editor in chief or managing editor, Marcus W. Brauchli, write “personal” on the envelope, and let him know you’ve subscribed for ___ years, and that you are very upset with the anti-global warming editorials. I’ve written to a few editors-in-chief of other journals that way, with good results.

  37. 87
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #82, I think the answer is “yes, the models did predict that,” and I believe I read it on RC some time back. But I’m a bit hazy — was it the Antarctic would warm slower than the Arctic, or get colder (at least for the time being).

  38. 88
    Richard Ordway says:

    Re. 82 Dean wrote: “Except that the Antarctic is experiencing no such melting.”

    Dean, your statement is utterly bizzare. Why don’t you research it first before making blanket statements?

    Antarctica is gaining mass in some places in the middle and losing some mass on the edges where it meets the warming oceans, …to around an 80%-90% confidence level . This is from a recent Science Journal article (A world-wide juried science journal,”-Science, 30 August 2002.)

    “Recent advances in the determination of the mass balance of polar ice sheets show that the Greenland Ice Sheet is losing mass by near-coastal thinning, and that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, with thickening in the west and thinning in the north, is probably thinning overall…”

  39. 89
    Dave Rado says:

    Re. #12:

    Botkin also writes “The climate modelers who developed the computer programs that are being used to forecast climate change used to readily admit that the models were crude and not very realistic…”

    Would you characterize today’s models as crude?

    “Used to” is the key phrase here. For an excellent history of the development of GCMs, see here.

  40. 90
    Dave Rado says:

    Re. #87 (Lynn Vincentnathan), as Hank pointed out in #85, the overall ice mass balance of the Antarctic is actually decreasing quite rapidly, not increasing, although the discovery that this is so is fairly recent. And yes, the models do predict that the Antarctic will lose ice much more slowly than the Arctic.

  41. 91
    catman306 says:

    catman306 (56), while it’s been up and down a couple of times, it turns out that corporations do have rights, though just a bit less than people. The Supreme Court ruled that gov’t can’t take corporate property without due process, e.g. This idea to appropriate corporations (and I assume you all would include partnerships and entrepreneurships, including farms (like those that don’t grow enough switchgrass, I suppose)) is right up the alley of criminally indicting and imprisoning any person who disagrees with the thrust. Fascism is such an efficient process.

    Comment by Rod B

    You are right, as of about 1880 corporations were given ‘human’ status by the Supreme Court. Since they were legal persons, it has progressed that they also have rights. This is a legal decision and could be changed. Mr. Reich explains in his book that if the corporations loose their ‘legal person’ status, they would also lose their obligation to pay taxes. (Of course, their management and employees would continue to pay taxes.) It might be the kind of trade off that many corporations would support. I doubt that there’s any fascism involved. Just a bit of a check on the powers of multinational giants that often have 1/4 to 1/4 profit motives when the world needs decade to decade environmental improvement reports. It’s for your great grandchildren, you know.

  42. 92
    michaelatnip says:

    The truth be told it looks as though things will get alot worse alot sooner than whats being talked about. As I understand it, unless there is a global effort sooner rather than later our planet is in for one hell of a ride. And I don’t beleive there will be any real global effort until its way to late for the vast majority of the world population. The real question should be if you know things are going to get bad what’s the best way to maintain power and control?

  43. 93

    It sounded like American Scientist got undeserved short shrift in the lead article to this post.

    Sigma Xi, the organization that publishes AmericanScientist, is an honor society for scientists and engineers and has many substantial scientists and engineers as members. They have in fact,been asked by the UN to convene an international panel of scientists to write a report recommending procedures for mitigating and adapting to climate change. It can be found at:

    Pejorative remarks should more deservedly be directed at the WSJ’s editorial page.

  44. 94
    S. Molnar says:

    Re #68: I assume the “no precedent in the past 2.5 million years for so much warming so fast” implicitly means global warming. As I understand it, the Younger Dryas is generally (with some small uncertainty) considered to be a regional phenomenon, so it isn’t a counterexample, at least not obviously so.

    [Response: The deglaciation for example was a larger temperature change than global warming is forecast to be, but global warming reaches a warmer temperature than has happened before. David]

  45. 95
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re # 48 “The fact that writers in all of the other sections of the paper don’t even hesitate to cite GW as real and happening and now, but yet the editorial page consistently writes about it not.”

    I used to read the WSJ regularly, and would sometimes see an op-ed article attempting to debunk evolution (some of those were absolute howlers) while in the same issue there was a news story about new findings in genetics that were of great interest to pharmaceutical companies and could only be explained by evolution. The editorial staff and the news staff at the WSJ live in different worlds.

  46. 96
    Hank Roberts says:

    The article referred to is a discussion piece, here.

    “… The fact that the loss of ice on Mount Kilimanjaro cannot be used as proof of global warming does not mean that the Earth is not warming. There is ample and conclusive evidence that Earth’s average temperature has increased in the past 100 years, and the decline of mid- and high-latitude glaciers is a major piece of evidence. But the special conditions on Kilimanjaro make it unlike the higher-latitude mountains, whose glaciers are shrinking because of rising atmospheric temperatures. Mass- and energy-balance considerations and the shapes of features all point in the same direction, suggesting an insignificant role for atmospheric temperature in the fluctuations of Kilimanjaro’s ice.

    “It is possible, though, that there is an indirect connection between the accumulation of greenhouse gases and Kilimanjaro’s disappearing ice: There is strong evidence of an association over the past 200 years or so between Indian Ocean surface temperatures and the atmospheric circulation and precipitation patterns that either feed or starve the ice on Kilimanjaro. … Any contribution of rising greenhouse gases to this circulation pattern necessarily emerged only in the last few decades…”

    Among the references are these two papers by Kaser, one of the two authors of the American Scientist piece:

    # Kaser, G. 1999: A review of modern fluctuations of tropical glaciers. Global and Planetary Change 22 (1-4):93-103.
    # Kaser, G., D. R. Hardy, T. Mölg, R. S. Bradley and T. M. Hyera. 2004. Modern glacier retreat on Kilimanjaro as evidence of climate change: observations and facts. International Journal of Climatology 24:329-339. doi: 10.1002/joc.1008

  47. 97
    John Mashey says:

    3-part split personality:
    WSJ Editorial regularly mocks California & sometimes Scharzenegger, and alternate fuels, etc, etc.
    WSJ News writes straight stories
    Dow Jones, which owns the WSJ

    Hence I see with some amusement:

    Wall Street Journal to Host First Annual Environmental Capital Conference
    Executive ECO:nomics Conference to Focus on the Fast-Growing World of Green Business
    Arnold Schwarzenegger Added to the List of Confirmed Speakers

    and coming soon, Oct 23-24, Dow Jones VentureWire Alternative Energy Innovations, which looks pretty good, with a very interesting cast of speakers:

  48. 98
    Svet says:

    Off topic but can anyone point me to well thought out reactions to the paper
    Spencer, R.W., Braswell, W.D., Christy, J.R., Hnilo, J., 2007. Cloud and radiation budget changes associated with tropical intraseasonal oscillations? It appears to resurrect the Iris Hypothesis.

  49. 99
    dean says:

    Here’s where i read that the antarctic ice cap isn’t melting… but growing.

    and then there’s this link that throws caution into reading too much into current Antarctic weather trends:

    now please explain to me how both a warming antarctica (as some here claim is happening) and a cooling antarctica (as some reports are showing) are both indicators of man-made global warming?

    Sound to me like a “heads I win, tails you loose” proposition. Both cannot be true. Either AWG causes the polar ice caps to to warm and melt or they cause them to cool and grow. They can’t cause both.

  50. 100
    mike says:

    I would assume that co2 concentrations are not uniform throughout the world. Since the northern hemisphere releases much more c02 into the atmosphere, is it possible that the arctic is experiencing a higher warming trend than the antarctic because there are more ppm c02 there ?

    [Response: There are differences as you surmise, but they are only a few ppm, and not really large enough to have a noticeable effect. – gavin]