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What if you held a conference, and no (real) scientists came?

Filed under: — group @ 30 January 2008

Over the past days, many of us have received invitations to a conference called “The 2008 International Conference on Climate Change” in New York. At first sight this may look like a scientific conference – especially to those who are not familiar with the activities of the Heartland Institute, a front group for the fossil fuel industry that is sponsoring the conference. You may remember them. They were the promoters of the Avery and Singer “Unstoppable” tour and purveyors of disinformation about numerous topics such as the demise of Kilimanjaro’s ice cap.

A number of things reveal that this is no ordinary scientific meeting:

  • Normal scientific conferences have the goal of discussing ideas and data in order to advance scientific understanding. Not this one. The organisers are suprisingly open about this in their invitation letter to prospective speakers, which states:

    “The purpose of the conference is to generate international media attention to the fact that many scientists believe forecasts of rapid warming and catastrophic events are not supported by sound science, and that expensive campaigns to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are not necessary or cost-effective.”

    So this conference is not aimed at understanding, it is a PR event aimed at generating media reports. (The “official” conference goals presented to the general public on their website sound rather different, though – evidently these are already part of the PR campaign.)

  • At the regular scientific conferences we attend in our field, like the AGU conferences or many smaller ones, we do not get any honorarium for speaking – if we are lucky, we get some travel expenses paid or the conference fee waived, but often not even this. We attend such conferences not for personal financial gains but because we like to discuss science with other scientists. The Heartland Institute must have realized that this is not what drives the kind of people they are trying to attract as speakers: they are offering $1,000 to those willing to give a talk. This reminds us of the American Enterprise Institute last year offering a honorarium of $10,000 for articles by scientists disputing anthropogenic climate change. So this appear to be the current market prices for calling global warming into question: $1000 for a lecture and $10,000 for a written paper.
  • At regular scientific conferences, an independent scientific committee selects the talks. Here, the financial sponsors get to select their favorite speakers. The Heartland website is seeking sponsors and in return for the cash promises “input into the program regarding speakers and panel topics”. Easier than predicting future climate is therefore to predict who some of those speakers will be. We will be surprised if they do not include the many of the usual suspects e.g. Fred Singer, Pat Michaels, Richard Lindzen, Roy Spencer, and other such luminaries. (For those interested in scientists’ links to industry sponsors, use the search function on sites like or
  • Heartland promises a free weekend at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan, including travel costs, to all elected officials wanting to attend.

This is very nice hotel indeed. Our recommendation to those elected officials tempted by the offer: enjoy a great weekend in Manhattan at Heartland’s expense and don’t waste your time on tobacco-science lectures – you are highly unlikely to hear any real science there.

452 Responses to “What if you held a conference, and no (real) scientists came?”

  1. 201
    Phil. Felton says:

    The top !0% of earners earn over 40% of the total family income, it doesn’t sound quite so bad when put that way does it? Similarly the top 1% of earners earn ~15% of the total family income.

  2. 202
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Raven, So, which chromosome is it that encodes our inate need to consume fossil fuels? It must have been a mutation that occurred some time during the last 200 years or so. What an astoundingly myopic view! Do you really think that there are no possible alternative energy sources that could satisfy demand? Not solar, wind, nuclear, biofuels, tidal, geothermal, hydroelectric…all together? Yes, these are daunting challenges, but if they are not met, it will be because of the type of complacency you advocate, not due to lack of human innovation.
    As to a carbon tax, there is no reason why it could not be a long-term boon for the economy. If proceeds went toward subsidizing nonfossil fuel energy sources and development of new technologies for saving and generating energy. Then over time, as economies of scale and new technologies reduce prices, subsidies and R&D efforts can be reduced. Not only does this reduce greenhouse emissions, such an effort will be essential as oil reserves are depleted in any case.

    On the other hand, it is by no means clear whether “adaptation” will even be possible in a world of 9 billion people given the likely effects on agriculture, environmental quality and extreme weather events.

  3. 203
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #187 [Matt] “Actually, most skeptics I know and read indeed believe the free market will handle this fine. The problem is on the other side of the fence there are those that continue to warn that the free market CANNOT handle this and that the government must intervene. And that’s when skeptics usually get scared.”

    Exactly: they just can’t stomach this inconvenient truth!

    Also, Matt, although I don’t have the exact figures, I think you’ll find the “top 10% of earners” in the USA have greatly increased their share of income between 1979 and today, and the increase in wealth inequality has been even greater. Stop pretending the US is in danger of galloping social ism!

    Re #189. [Martin Vermeer] Well said, Martin! Also worth asking why, if ExxonMobil’s funding of climate denialism is too small to have an effect, they continue to do it? You’d think they might have noticed by now that this funding is attracting a certain amount of negative publicity. Normally, corporations do not want to get involved in politically-tinged controversy – bad for business, old boy.

  4. 204
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Raven @ 185: “The net result is a reduction in disposable income as people are forced to spend a larger % of their income on energy.”

    Yep, as they should. The free ride is over. When the cost of the environmental impact of “cheap” fossil carbon-based energy is added into the purchase price people will realize it never was “cheap.”

  5. 205
    Garth M. Greenan says:

    Matt says:

    [[Today, the top 10% of earners are shouldering 69% of non-corporate income tax bill versus about 47% in 1979.]]

    This is the problem with trying to discuss both economic and AGW in unscientific forums. You can throw out a few random, but accurate, statistics that support your point of view without putting them in perspective. The statistic is accurate, but adding in the fact that the average tax rate of the top 10 percent has decreased from 23.49% to 18.84% from 1980 to 2005 puts a different spin on it.

  6. 206
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Matt says: “Assuming XOM made $2T over these 10 years, this is on par with a school teacher making $50,000/year donating $0.20 to a cause over 10 years. And you hammering them for it.”

    Actually, the issue is not the amount, but that the tax is target toward LYING. Money spent telling people what they already want to hear can be quite effective.

    You claim that so-called skeptics believe that the free market can handle climate change. OK, so where are their proposals other than claiming it isn’t happening? I would welcome free market alternatives, but I’ve heard none that are actually viable–other than cap-and-trade, which comes closest to a free-market solution.

    The problem I see in the entire discussion is that those of an economic bent seem to want physics to solve the problem (either by repealing the law of conservation of energy or by geoengineering), while those who understand the science seem to insist that the solution has to come by changes to the economy. Now there are good reasons for economists and businessmen to distrust economic solutions–economic models frankly aren’t all that accurate, and social engineering has a pretty piss poor track record. On the other hand, they look at climate models and see lots of uncertainties and it LOOKS like there’s wiggle room. Unfortunately, the uncertainties don’t have to do with the effects of greenhouse gasses, and the uncertainties aren’t likely to cancel out the effects of CO2 in the long run. It is a virtual certainty that adding CO2 will make things warmer long term. What the uncertainties do is make it unlikely that we can successfully model the unintended consequences of geoengineering solutions other than decreasing CO2 production. On the other hand, the economic models are sufficient to tell us a few fundamentals about the economy, but they will not tell us about the unintended consequences of a switch away from fossil fuels. Of course without such reliable forecasts, such uncertainty is bound to give pause to any responsible economist.
    So we have the unfortunate situation of economists questioning science they don’t understand and scientists proposing solutions whose economic implications they have not comprehended. At some point, the economists have to accept that there is something to the science and that there are considerable risks to future economic stability. Likewise scientists have to accept that there are reasons why markets tend to work efficiently and that futzing with them too much destroys that efficiency. Maybe then we can make progress, and given the potential instabilities in the system, we need to make progress soon.

    A tax indexed to 3 year moving averages is a tax on weather. Indexing it to the daily forcast would be just as effective. The market measures have to reflect the realities of the physics–and it’s the physics of climate, not weather.

  7. 207
    Hank Roberts says:

    Yeah, and the bottom 90 percent of earners are shouldering the rich. Who do they _think_ they’re being held up by?

  8. 208
    Rod B says:

    Lawrence Coleman (160) says, “….So yes I do think the task is possible…but not without total comittment by every government and council on this planet. …the only way to get CO2 under control in say another 100 years..(yep that’s how long it takes) is by every earthy citizen working together..that’s the only way!!”

    Noble thought. You say it’s possible; then impose requirements that are impossible, or at least ain’t going to happen, ever.

  9. 209
    Pierre Gosselin says:

    If you want to shut someone up, have them put their OWN money behind their words.

  10. 210
    pete best says:

    Arctic sea ice is not disappearing:

    How hard can it be for jounalists to understand thet only summer sea ice is set to shrink significantly from AGW until it gets really wan (>3c);jsessionid=NTHKSV0RM0U2DQFIQMFCFFWAVCBQYIV0?xml=/news/2008/02/03/nbook103.xml

    The message is still not getting through to the public enough and the situation is far worse in the USA I would imagine as it has a very well organised right wing.

  11. 211
    Walt Bennett says:

    Re: The multiple posts regarding carbon tax and emissions reduction:

    Welcome to the real discussion. I would like to encourage you to continue this debate at my new blog,, where I wish to gather all those who believe they have a stake in the outcome of the political decisions which will be made to offset AGW.

    My two thoughts, just sticking to basics:

    1. There will be no year-to-year emissions reductions in the next decade, and perhaps twice that long. Where will we be in relation to major tipping points by then? If a Plan B is needed at that point, we will need to be working on it from now til then, in order to be prepared for any eventuality.

    2. Carbon taxes will cause major social upheaval. Even if we found a way to keep basic energy costs within reach of all, the scheme for doing so has yet to be described; tax credits for low income people is a sham, because low income people do not pay income taxes now. So, they would need an actual government handout. In other words, the artificial increase in the cost of fuel will turn large numbers of people into wards of the state.

    Now that may be alright with you; after all, it’s for the greater good, salvation of humanity and all that. However, you ought to consider the lives which will be affected by these policies. These are people such as you and me. You or I might find ourselves unable to pay for basic energy. Certainly many people all over the world will suffer this fate. And since all alternatives are even more expensive than fossil fuels, there will be no way out of the trap.

    I have said that we must seriously analyze ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere. This would obviously be a home run, and would negate the above two issues. I also believe that our actual ability to avoid catastrophic warming hinges on our ability to remove CO2 once it is already in the climate system. I see very little chance that we will change course soon enough to get there with emissions reductions.

    Think it through: without viable, affordable alternatives, what we are talking about is slowing down economies. Even if some nations agree to do so, others will not. Those who do will suffer the consequences, which will result in lower standards of living and hellishly expensive energy. Yum, what a recipe.

    Climate science must get busy looking for ways out of this situation which do not require mankind to take a giant leap backward, which is almost certainly an impossibility (especially for planning purposes).

    We have the capacity to take on this science and engineering challenge, and in my view we must make the effort.

    Please join me, and let’s take this discussion forward toward real solutions. I believe it matters greatly to us all, and deserves to be grounded in complete reality.

  12. 212
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    Matt, jus out of curiosity, how much of the wealth do those 10% hold? Could it be anything more than 69%? If it is , I’m going to have a hard time having any sympathy.

  13. 213
    Tony Welsh says:

    Thanks for the heads up. I came across this conference today while looking for the WIPEC conference in Washington the same week. I won’t go, and will blog about it myself on

  14. 214
    Justin says:

    Re: 181

    Are you surprised?


    Gavan and co.

    this is what I think you should do. Go to the conference, but think of it as entertainment of sorts. Perhaps you could pick up a few of James Taylor’s tricks and present something entirely bogus but entirely funny (to certain laid back people) — like the infamous cowsmic ray hypothesis.

    You might just make it worthwhile.

  15. 215
    Eli Rabett says:

    If Nigel Williams (#189) wants to find out why a carbon tax will work, or even better Eli Rabett’s simple plan to save the world, he should read about how Ireland combined taxes and social pressure to wipe out plastic bags

  16. 216
    John Mashey says:

    re: #190 If we’re off into economics, I recommend reading the Hirsch Report

    Note also that:
    a) Shell Oil CEO thinks peak (for conventional oil) is near.

    and even the WSJ says (as of this weekend):

    b) ExxonMobil made more money last year, but on lower total shipments of oil+gas.

    c) Chevron reduced its production estimates for 2008 by 5%.

    It is completely unclear to me that real GDP can continue growing over the next 50-100 years, especially in the US, although Canada should be OK longer. Regardless of the numbers, many goods are non-substitutable: cheap iPods won’t help much when one needs to move earth for dikes or build steel-and-concrete seawalls, after petroleum gets really expensive.

    Personally, I think Ayres&Warr, or Charles Hall & co have a much better handle on this than many mainstream economics.
    See: about EROI.
    Especially study the bubble chart on slide 22, which ought to make anyone who worries about the climate effects of unsequestered coal very, very nervous.

  17. 217
    Greg says:

    Re 188 (Martin Vemeer): Please don’t ever try to compare oil companies to tobacco ones. If asked to decide between a nicotine buzz or lung cancer, I know what I’d choose. If asked to choose between some warming in the climate, or the cheap abundant energy that fuels the whole of Western civilization then… the question is a little more complex. Those nasty oil executives, trying to trick you into having living a comfortable, wealthy life…

  18. 218
    Phillip Duncan says:

    A bit off topic, but…

    I still have a couple of friends that sometimes get distracted by the smoke and mirrors of arguments made to promote inaction on climate change. I always struggle to come up with concise statements for reasonably smart people that do not have scientific backgrounds. It can seem hard to counter the “well what about so and so that said this about…” followed by some reference to supposed science that I know they really don’t understand enough to have any credible opinion about it’s validity. Here is my attempt at coming up with my own personal case for why we need to take action. Can some of the people more knowledgeable with the real science tell me if I’m making any scientifically false arguments here or leaving myself open for refutation? Perhaps someone knows of or could propose a better summary argument? Again, I’m looking for a way of making the case to intelligent, yet non-scientific people.

    – The poles of the earth are showing unmistakable signs of warming. This is a measurable fact. Glaciers and polar ice are melting faster than ever seen.

    – CO2 does reflect infrared radiation. This is a fact which can be demonstrated in a lab very easily. It is not a theory or hypothesis. More CO2 in the atmosphere, all else being equal, would cause heat to be trapped due to this IR reflection. No one credible would argue this.

    – Unfortunately, all else will never be equal. For instance, warmer temperatures cause more water evaporation, which causes more clouds, which reflects sunlight countering to some extent the heat trapping.

    – The argument that there is nothing to worry about counts on mitigating feedbacks such as this, which are the less understood processes, to counteract the better understood process… CO2 traps heat. All the major efforts to model these processes predict that the sum total will be warming.

    – Yes, climate models do not yet perfectly predict the changes that are being observed. The models predict warming significant enough to cause serious problems to human wellbeing and economic stability. The fact that the changes have been happening even more quickly than the models predict certainly would seem to strengthen the argument that any mitigating feedbacks are not likely to solve the problem.

    – The overwhelming majority of scientists that study fields directly related to climate agree that the magnitude of the dangers faced and the likelihood that human GHG emissions will cause these outcomes is sufficient that significant efforts should be devoted to reducing emissions.

    – Credible scientists are now warning that sea levels could potentially rise several feet by the middle of the century. Not all scientists yet agree this is the most likely outcome. However, just as the military plans for potential threats that have yet to completely materialize, the magnitude of the damage that this outcome would produce demands that plans be made to deal with the possibility… either remove the risk or plan for the consequences.

  19. 219
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Phillip Duncan @ 218: “- The poles of the earth are showing unmistakable signs of warming. This is a measurable fact. Glaciers and polar ice are melting faster than ever seen.”

    True. In fact, both he predicted and measured rate of warming is even *faster* at the poles than the rest of the planet.

    “- CO2 does reflect infrared radiation.”

    Nope. CO2 (and H2O) *absorbs* and is excited by infrared energy. It later relaxes from this excited state, either through collision with another gas molecule, thereby raising the temperature of the atmosphere, or by emitting infrared energy in any direction. The IR energy can then 1) be absorbed by another CO2 (or H2O) molecule, keeping it in “play” within the atmosphere, 2) reach the surface and warm it, or 3) escape the atmosphere to space, thus cooling the atmosphere. Note that the first two actions lead to warming. In reality, there can be a long chain of the first two actions before the third occurs, thus leading to a net warming of the atmosphere.

    I suggest you read the “The Carbon Dioxide Greenhouse Effect” section of Spencer Weart’s “The Discovery of Global Warming” @
    (Second link under the Science Links in the right-hand column of the RealClimate home page)

    “- Unfortunately, all else will never be equal. For instance, warmer temperatures cause more water evaporation, which causes more clouds, which reflects sunlight countering to some extent the heat trapping.”

    Clouds have both a cooling effect (reflective of incoming solar energy) and warming effect (they trap sensible heat and absorb outgoing infrared energy). The question is do these opposed effects largely cancel each other, or is there a net positive (warming) or negative (cooling) forcing, and by how much.

    “- Yes, climate models do not yet perfectly predict the changes that are being observed. ”

    True. If anything they have been too conservative in that some already observed effects were not predicted to occur this early.

  20. 220
    Jim Eager says:

    To those bemoaning the fact that a carbon tax or cap would raise the cost of energy for the masses, exactly who do you think should pay for developing alternatives to fossil carbon fuels?

    “Not me,” said the duck.

    “Not me,” said the dog.

    “Not me,” said the cat.

    Reality check:
    In the end, all taxes and all profits come from one place.

    The end consumer.

  21. 221
    Don Worley says:

    Why not go and refute their claims. Show them your stuff. This article sounds like a cop out.

  22. 222
    Gareth says:

    If you take the Danish web page linked by Karsten at #193 and use the Danish – English web page translator at you can get a better translation than my rudimentary Danish can provide.

    Worth reading. Might affect the sea ice odds a little… ;-)

  23. 223
    Hank Roberts says:

    Reality Check for Jim — it depends. Sometimes the costs are paid by the rich of the country, or civilization, who stand to lose the most if the country, or civilization, falls. Sometimes the costs are charged to the war effort and paid by sorting it out afterward. Sometimes the costs are extracted from Nature’s hide.

    There’s a lot more to civilization than capitalism.
    There’s a lot more to life than civilization.
    There’s a lot more to ecosystems than life.

  24. 224
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re # 221 “Why not go and refute their claims.”

    Maybe because it would be a waste of their (RC moderators and other climatologists) precious time – the skeptics’ claims have been refuted time and time again in the scientific literature and popular press; nothing will change their minds, so why bother trying to do so at one of their conferences, where they (skeptics) control the agenda?

  25. 225
    Walt Bennett says:

    Re: #220

    Posts such as Jim’s which gloss over the very real issues of inadequacy and hardship, represent a very troubling tendency of some within the AGW movement to behave as though they have all the answers, so we can just skip the analysis.

    Although it is true that mankind has shown a historical tendency to stick its head in the sand, it strikes me that many people in this discussion believe they are rising above that tendency, when they are in fact perpetuating it.

    Pretending that emissions reduction are a certifiable solution to AGW is every bit as fanciful as pretending that there is no problem in the first place.

  26. 226
    Albatross says:

    Is there a glaciologist in the house?
    Pat Michaels is stirring the ice over at

  27. 227
    Paul Inglis says:

    Re 174 (Adam)

    Here is a paper that refers to the current “Solar Grand Maximum”, although let Christopher Monckton know that the current one has now been going for 80 years, not 70 (at least according to this paper):

    What is being referred to is Solar Activity as measured by sunspot numbers. No doubt Monckton thinks there is a correlation between sunspot numbers and global temperature since 1650. The problem for those who want to link warming to solar activity is that there is no plausible explanation as to how sunspot numbers could actually be linked to planetary warming. The current “Grand Maximum” has not been associated with an increase in solar irradiance, particularly in the last 30 years.

  28. 228
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Re #217 Greg: but you are being lied to… and you believe the lies. “The matter is a little more complex”, yeah sure. That’s precisely the meme they are trying to plant. Fear, uncertainty, doubt.

    You’re being told lies, on a matter of consequence (one way or the other) if not to you, then to your children and grandchildren. Doesn’t that make you mad?

    …and when your anger wears off, let’s talk about the science issues, which are indeed “a little more complex”. And for which we have the chance of a snowflake in hell of ever sorting them out if not within the peer review, replication based culture of science.

    Why do you think EM et al. do not resort to that approach here, while they most certainly do so when they have a material interest in the correct outcome, like when prospecting for oil and gas? You tell me.

  29. 229

    #226, I would add a question to the Antarctica Sea ice expert as well. Was there ever any multi-year sea ice which survived the summer? Familiar with where I live, multi-year ice in the Arctic is disappearing fast. Judging GW by winter ice extent is not advisable. It will take a far greater increase in temperature world wide before the wide area around the North Pole will be ice free during darkness.

  30. 230
    Martin Vermeer says:

    #203 Nick”

    ” – bad for business, old boy”.

    Wasn’t that “old chap”? :-)

    Anyway, all those folks that argue — like Jared Diamond BTW, very recognisable claim :-) — that we cannot give up our fossil fuel based lifestyle: have you actually read the IPCC WG3 report, or even its summary for policy makers? It’s at, real easy. Quote, for a moderately aggressive mitigation scenario:

    “In 2030 macro-economic costs for multi-gas mitigation,
    consistent with emissions trajectories towards
    stabilization between 445 and 710 ppm CO2-eq, are
    estimated at between a 3% decrease of global GDP and
    a small increase, compared to the baseline (see Table
    SPM.4). However, regional costs may differ significantly
    from global averages (high agreement, medium evidence)
    (see Box SPM.3 for the methodologies and assumptions
    of these results).”

    The “small increase” is related to so-called “low hanging fruit”, things we just should bother to properly organize but won’t actually cost us anything — except some of our illusions.

    The 3% is interesting. 3% is less than what most countries of the world expend on military defence, on a promise of “security” that is often at least as uncertain and speculative as is climatic security. Decision making under uncertainty is the normal state of human affairs; welcome to life in the big city. And no country has yet gone bankrupt over 3% GDP defence spending.

    3% is also the annual growth rate of many countries’ economies. So, we’d still be getting wealthier year over year — only, one year later than would otherwise be the case. Cry me a river.

  31. 231

    Walt Bennett posts:

    [[And since all alternatives are even more expensive than fossil fuels]]

    Wind isn’t, and conservation certainly isn’t.

  32. 232

    Greg posts:

    [[If asked to choose between some warming in the climate, or the cheap abundant energy that fuels the whole of Western civilization then… the question is a little more complex. Those nasty oil executives, trying to trick you into having living a comfortable, wealthy life…]]

    Global warming will cause massive disruption of our agriculture and economy. “Some warming in the climate” doesn’t begin to describe it. Continuing business as usual will NOT allow you to “liv[e] a comfortable, wealthy life.” It will mean a sudden crash followed by mass poverty and death. Please read the IPCC AR4 report.

  33. 233
    Hank Roberts says:

    Matt, yes, there’s almost no difference between the upper and lower fifths of the population.

    You’re starting to get it, if you look at it clearly.

    Take 3-1/2 minutes. Watch this.

    It’s for people who don’t get big numbers about money, don’t understand exponents, to illustrate who has actual leverage, where the money is.

    Yes, you’re right, the top 20 percent and the bottom 20 percent are almost the same.

    Now focus. This is where the money is. 3-1/2 minutes.

    This is why you hear people say “they bought it, they broke it, they can fix it.”

    I don’t agree with that notion. But — understand the power of financial leverage.

    The ‘top 20 percent’ has as you point out almost no more than the ‘bottom 20 percent’ — the money’s not spread out like that.

    Notice who sponsored the Presidential primary debates.

    Got 3-1/2 minutes? Watched the movie?

  34. 234

    Paul Inglis writes:

    [[there is no plausible explanation as to how sunspot numbers could actually be linked to planetary warming.]]

    Actually, due to the especially bright “faculae” surrounding sunspots, the sun really is a bit brighter in periods with lots of sunspots. But, as you note, there hasn’t been any trend in solar output for a long time, so it can’t account for the recent sharp upturn in global warming.

  35. 235
    Juola (Joe) A. Haga says:

    #227 Your comment, Matt, has quite driven me off-thread and likely into getting expelled as a troll. But it seems you have fallen for a late chief magistrate’s fantasy about welfare queens riding around in Cadillacs because of your sad pick in dorm buddies. You leave out of your account of the inpecunious living off the grand amassments of the hard-working wealthy the many, many down-at-the-heels teachers and lab-rats who, for the love of discovering some new thing and relaying it to our youngsters, have worked hundred hour weeks for much of their lives. I don’t know what Columbia pays top scientists (indeed I am prejudiced agin it, ’cause it’s one of two sheepskin tanneries which tosseed my old man out of its graduate school), but I’ll bet the sum won’t come near the forebearance of one of the principals of this blog.

    I’m sorry I popped off. But with such hard times on the way and every resolution,–miles of walking for a gimpy oldster–providing pain it should be apparent we are all under strain and have somehow to keep conversations temperate.. Carbon tax, in my opinion should be punitive
    so that some grandchildren may survive. True, I’m prejudiced, in that I have four. Statistically, as far as I can tell, no one will have an edge except those who are already gardening enough to get themselves through the temperate zone winter,–anmd my grandkids ain’t.

    Please! We have to work our ways murkily through. We will bump into each other. So? I’m sorry I got angry, Matt. It is likely a punitive carbon tax will cause pain. In my opinion it will not cause as much pain as loading the atmosphere ever more.

    [Response: This thread is getting out of hand. I’ve deleted some out-of-line posts and responses, so please no more. – gavin]

  36. 236
    Pierre Gosselin says:

    I’d like to know just how much confidence you RC folks have in your own science. Are ready to put your own money where your mouth is?
    I’m willing to bet you $100K (proceeds to go to charity) that sea levels will not even rise 10 cm in the next 10 years. Mr. Gore prophesizes 6 meters – and soooooooon. Heck, I’m cutting that number by 60! No takers? At which sea level rise would you be willing to bet? 5cm? 3cm? 5mm?
    My guess is that even the most hard-core alarmists among you wouldn’t touch this bet even with a 10-foot pole.

    Here in Germany I have yet to find a single alarmist (and there are many here) who is willing to jump on this bet. Not Greenpeace, not GermanWatch. Not even Mr. Ramstorf.
    “No one really knows what the climate / sea level will do.”, is the reply I often get. So much for faith and confidence in scientific models!

    [Response: Maybe you’d like to actually check what IPCC or Gore actually said before you set up a bet. Your numbers are far in excess of any projected change in the next 10 years (current rates are ~3-4 cm in 10 years). Any bet depends on what your hypothesis is – do you think sea level rise will be zero, or are you assuming a continuation of current rates? If the former, then you should be offering a bet if SLR goes above 2 cm/dec. If the latter, you have to find someone who has projected short term rates significant higher than current trends. I’m not aware of anyone who has. – gavin]

  37. 237
    Dodo says:

    Re Gavin in #56: “Though I haven’t looked in detail, the warming signal almost certainly overwhelms any potential increased deposition of snow signal.”

    Could you give us a numerical, IPCC-like probability estimate for “almost certainly”? Would it be more than extremely likely (95 %) or rather less than “about as likely as not” (33-66% probability). If you have to vote to find out the group’s average opinion, take your time.

  38. 238
    ReesHarris says:

    re #1 “lefty scientists” You should point out that The UK Hadley Centre Scientists are all employees of UK Ministry of Defence…AKA the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force – the ones helping out the US in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that Hadley Centre was established by Mrs Margaret Thatcher…even the most diehard neocon would struggle to brand her as a lefty!!.
    Funnily enough in the UK the Hadley Centre is occasionally critiscised as being right wing and global warming science was an excuse to shut down coal mines and break the power of the leftie trade unions.

    Attacked from both sides.

  39. 239
    Cobblyworlds says:

    #226 Albatross

    Pat Micheals at the American Spectator: I’m not a professional scientist, but I’ll have a go…

    The anomaly graph he uses to assert “almost exactly two million square miles above where it is historically supposed to be at this time of year.” is here:

    Firstly, it’s kilometres, not miles.

    Look at the red anomaly line on the current plot:
    That’s nowhere near 2 million km^2, which makes me wonder about the anomaly graph’s accuracy (have Cryosphere Today got more gremlins?) If you refer to the areal plot: you’ll see an unremarkable devitation, which tallies with what I’ve read, that the scientists working on the Antarctic don’t see the Antarctic ice trends as significant.

    That’s all in sharp contrast to what’s happening in the Arctic, areal plot: and anomaly:
    The Arctic could actually end up with a greater area of ice this winter maxima than last year. However that’s to be expected. The key thing will be next year’s minima, when we’ll see the effect of loss if perrenial ice in the Arctic

    Micheal’s finishes by saying:
    “Midway through the Post’s page-long article comes a statement that “these new findings come as the Arctic is losing ice at a dramatic rate.” Wouldn’t that have been an appropriate place to note that, despite a small recent loss of ice from the Antarctic landmass, the ice field surrounding Antarctica is now larger than ever measured?”
    Perhaps in passing one might, but actually it’s not directly relevant and certainly not absolutely needed. Micheal’s has already noted that models suggest an increase of mass in Antartica because of it’s situation, which differs substantially from the Arctic, I made a few points about this here: Micheals seems to me to imply we should expect the same changes at both poles – we should not.

    Back to another point Micheal’s raises:
    “We see the same problem with hurricanes and global warming. Their strength and numbers vary considerably from year to year. 2005 was the most active year ever measured in the Atlantic Basin, while 2007 was one of the weakest in history. How do you find the fingerprint of global warming amidst such variation?”
    The problem with that statement is that nobody with an understanding expects the GW signal to dominate year to year changes. GW is not the only factor influencing weather, although it’s become dominant on a decadal scale. Finding such signals amongst noise is what I use maths for in digital signal processing, the climate scientists use maths to a similar end in their field.

  40. 240
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    Re: 208 Rod B. You’re a logical guy, make your own conclusion to what I said. The path I was on was this. This is a defining challenge for ALL of humanity, if we chose to embrace this challenge we have a fighting chance of gradually getting on top of the problem but this will be an pan-generational task. The groundwork has to be started..the infrastructure, the engine for change must be built in our lifetime and carried through to our kids and their kids. We cannot take our eye off the big picture (the sustainabilty of planet earth) for a moment and let our egos or vested interests once again take the upper hand. Personally I do not think we are up to the challenge, we dont appear to be mature enough (and don’t rattle off all the great environmetal innovations which the USA has created) America only produces 25% of emissions. It’s the rest of the world that has to come to party big time. There should be free interchange of ideas, inventions and intellectual property between countries!. BUT..the IPCC has to get real..and produce computer modelling that accurately shows whats happening NOW so Govs know what time frame to work with(allocation of federal funding etc).. with 18 of the leadng IPCC computer models still being way too conservative, this obviously is no good at all for it’s credibility at all levels.

  41. 241
    Steve says:

    Matt, I have an AS in Chem Engineering Technology, a BS and MS in Chemistry, and a BA in Anthropology and Sociology. I’ve worked part or full time during three of those degrees. I’ve worked with low income minorities as a dishwasher,and I’ve worked for Fortune 500 executives. They were all human beings and all had human frailties. And within about a minute I found this NYTimes article on line suggesting that the income gap really is widening. Just a matter of picking your statistics I guess. I’ve seen and lived with both ends of the economic spectrum man, and your characterization of the poor may be comforting to you, but it mischaracterizes a lot of your fellow human beings. And the thing about wind, tides, solar, and improved use of energy use is that when some idiot screws up, as they inevitably will, and circumvents some safety feature of one of the non-nuclear solutions mentioned here…. when someone screws up a non-nuclear system, they aren’t as likely to contaminate huge swaths of living space or agricultural land as happens with major nuclear mishaps. Just saying. And regarding your characterization of non-nuclear dreams as fairy tales…there are plenty of strange beliefs in the nuclear community as well. I’ve seen evidence there and elsewhere of the belief in a supernatural ability of certain people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps without a stable platform to pull from, without many developmental steps along the way and without any human interactions. Astounding.

  42. 242

    Enough of bogus conferences. Here’s the documentary for SIX DEGREES, based on Mark Lynas’s book, and also featuring James Hansen. Hope the folks here see it and give us their expert analysis.

    It’s on National Geographic Channel this Sunday, Feb 10 at 8 or 9 pm. See:

  43. 243
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    Re: Pierre Gosselin, I dont know how you plucked 10cms in 10 years out of thin air – although based upon observable sea level rise it will be probably be higher than the IPCC predicted based on the dubious nature of the models they are using but not 10cms. It depends on the rate of melt of Greenland, Antartica, Ellesmere and the Baffin islands, Canada and the european and tropical glaciers, whether they will melt at a linear rate or reach a tipping point and disintegrate almost before our eyes. It depends where you take the sea level reading from as well, the equatorial regions will record a higher reading than the artic and temeperate regions due to the obliqueness of the earth due to it’s rotational speed. In fact more and more pacific islands are being swamped right at this moment.

  44. 244
    Walt Bennett says:

    Re: #215

    All due respect to a man I really dig, but for Eli to compare changing from using plastic bags to cloth bags, to making the world’s poorest people pay even more for basic energy than they already do (and making it impossible to provide any energy at all to many more), is a bad combination of smug, trite and tone deaf.

    Let’s have a real conversation about the good and bad of the AGW movement’s pet plan, and let’s compare that plan to other alternatives.

    I think that’s a fair use of our time.

    Eli and anybody else who would like to focus on that aspect of the discussion at a common meeting place, are welcome to join me at my new blog,

    I am fully invested in this aspect of the AGW issue. I believe that, very soon, this will be the dominant area of discussion. My major concern is that we do not rush into commitments which may make thing s worse.

    Believe it or not, Bush’s stance regarding Kyoto has begun, to me, to seem prudent.

  45. 245
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Pierre Gosselin seemingly pulls the figure of 6 meters in a decade seemingly out of thin air, but 6 meters is actually quite a common figure chosen as alarmist in the rarified (and evidently oxygen poor) environment of the denialosphere. However, even here I couldn’t find anybody who accused Al of predicting such a rise in a decade. No matter. Being a denialist means never having to check your facts.

  46. 246
    bi says:

    Walt Bennett:

    Getting poor people to pay more for “basic energy”(*) is a problem, but flooding their lands with rising sea levels is perfectly OK?

    And which “other alternatives” to “the AGW movement’s pet plan” do you want to discuss? The only “other alternative” you’d like to discuss is the plan to do nothing, isn’t it?

    (*) what’s so “basic” about it anyway…

  47. 247
    Pierre Gosselin says:

    Mr Ladbury,
    It was quite clear what Gore intended by showing a 6m rise.
    In any case, at what SLR are you willing to put your money down?
    The point of this exercise is to ascertain the level of confidence in your own science. Good science demands high levels of confidence.
    A good bridge engineer will have no qualms about being the first to walk across the bridge he himself designs and deems as “secure”.

    Frankly, I am sure the sea level rises you have in mind are a long long way from being “catastrophic”.

    [Response: Indeed it was. Gore’s statement was that if either Greenland or WAIS melted completely, sea levels would rise 6m. This is completely true. It is also relevant – the last time that the planet was as warm as many of the scenarios put us in 2100, sea level was 4 to 6m higher (125,000 years ago). The uncertainty is not the eventual rise but how fast it gets there – a few centuries or less is likely to be catastrophic, a millennia or more – not so much. Your idea about what constitutes good science is also wrong. Good science demands that you be able to specify your confidence – not what the level is. SLR estimates in the near term are more uncertain than temperature rises but that uncertainty is mostly on the up-side. – gavin]

  48. 248
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Pierre Gosselin, First, these are CLIMATE studies, and climate doesn’t really manifest on scales much less than 20-30 years. Bets on timescales less than that might as well be on tomorrow’s weather forecast. Second, are you a fricking mind reader? Because Al Gore never said anything about decadal scales.
    Third, I would love to be there as you explain to people whose homes have been swamped by a record tidal surge that the sea level rise wasn’t catastrophic. Pierre, the sea level rises are already having effects on low-lying areas. That’s reality. Why don’t the two of you take some time to get acquainted.

  49. 249
    SecularAnimist says:

    Greg wrote: “If asked to choose between some warming in the climate, or the cheap abundant energy that fuels the whole of Western civilization …”

    Walt Bennett wrote: “… making the world’s poorest people pay even more for basic energy than they already do …”

    The era of cheap, abundant fossil fuels is coming to an end for the simple reason that they are being depleted. To the extent that we continue burning fossil fuels, we are going to have to transition to lower quality fossil fuels, which are more difficult, expensive and environmentally destructive to extract and yield less net energy.

    The dichotomy that you present — a costly transition to non-fossil fuel energy sources vs. endlessly burning cheap abundant fossil fuels — does not exist. It is false for two reasons: efficiency and clean renewable energy technologies are not as expensive as you suggest, and endlessly burning cheap fossil fuels is not an option.

    As fossil fuels inevitably become more expensive, and then scarce, we will have to transition to other sources of energy anyway. Global warming is another reason to make this transition. The sooner we do so the better it will be for everyone.

    The alternative is decades of “resource wars” to control the dwindling supplies of high quality cheap fossil fuels (e.g. Middle Eastern oil) against the backdrop of AGW-driven global ecosystem collapse and climate chaos.

  50. 250
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    Re: 247 Ok! granted Pierre might be a bit naive and the fact that he cant seem to see the wood for the trees but I also believe that the understanding of the science of climatology has a long way to go..even the use of dedicated supercomputers crunching trillions of bits/sec..they are only as good as the algorythms you feed them. There are still many many geologic/meterological/climatic variables out there that we still dont know or appreciate the relative weighting of..and it seems many of these variables are very important indeed. I bet Gavin would agree that considerably more federal funding and grants be allocated to the climate sciences and for more tertiary positions to be availiable. More data collections units in more places in the sea, in the artic, high in the atmosphere..all over the place so you know whats going on with the weather moment by moment. So Pierre is simply saying put your money where your mouth is. The higher the quality and quantity of data collected the better..then it’s up to the likes of Gavin et-al to reverse engineer and find out how the beast ticks. Shame about the figures Pierre carelessly bandies about and the standpoint which he takes but with regard to accuracy of forcasting and is vital we improve it.