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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 sourcewatch.org or exxonsecrets.org.)
  • 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. 251
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Lawrence Coleman,
    By all means there’s a lot more to understand about climate. But we’re talking here about changes on the right side of the decimal point, not the left side. The most important contributors are pretty well nailed down.

  2. 252
    Walt Bennett says:

    Re: #246, 249

    Bi, thanks for joining me at engineeringclimate.blogspot.com. I hope others will, also.

    Of course my concern for the many millions who struggle to survive (including me) is honest. It is not their fault that industry and runaway expansion led us here. If they had been offered better choices (or ANY choicea) they would have gladly seized them. Certainly those with access to fossil fuel energy are better off than those without.

    We cannot simply ignore the insane burden a further increase in those costs would engender.

    As for your comment, SA, that market forces are driving the increase in costs, yes they are. My concern is that the AGW movement intends to make that situation much worse by taxing carbon in some way so as to make alternatives more cost-competitive. This is of course market interference, and will do nothing to improve the lives of the millions of poor to which we are all referring.

    My premise is that CO2 will continue to rise for 10-20 or more years, no matter what policies are enacted. So, we will still be looking for real solutions at that time, except that the situation will by then be incredibly urgent. Meanwhile, the standard of living for who knows how many, but certainly millions and perhaps hundreds of millions, will plunge.

    Why aren’t we working on THAT? And if we are, somebody please point me to where that is being done.

  3. 253
    Pierre Gosselin says:

    The models are so uncertain that they call what might happen
    in the future: “scenarios”. There’s a reason why they use the word “scenario”, and not forecast.

    Look at the last 500 milion years. 90% of this time the temperature and CO2 were much higher than today. We live in a low-temp and low-carb time that is abnormal for the Earth.

  4. 254
    Aaron Lewis says:

    Re 184
    I expect a schoolteacher on a limited budget to donate to causes that do good. It is not the amount; it is the intent of the work supported.

    Big oil puts a good deal of money into good science, not all of which is published. That they would put any money, what-so-ever into any activity that was not transparent, and not intellectually honest is a stain on their virtue.

    Ultimately, every organization needs a reputation for honesty. Ultimately, every stain speaks volumes at the wrong time.

  5. 255
    David B. Benson says:

    Walt Bennet (244) — Exploring

    http://biopact.com/

    will enable you to discover that billions are currently being invested in bioenergy, most of it in such a way that the world’s poorest will tend to benefit in the availablity of clean, inexpensive biofuels.

  6. 256
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #253 Pierre Gosselin “Look at the last 500 milion years. 90% of this time the temperature and CO2 were much higher than today. We live in a low-temp and low-carb time that is abnormal for the Earth.”

    And your point is? Current organisms and their global distributions are adapted to recent temperatures and concentrations. So are human cultures and economies. Both biological and cultural processes can potentially track climatic change, but the speed at which they can do so is limited, while the potential rate of change over the next few decades is very high.

  7. 257
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Pierre Gosselin @ 253: “Look at the last 500 milion years. 90% of this time the temperature and CO2 were much higher than today. We live in a low-temp and low-carb time that is abnormal for the Earth.”

    But it is entirely “normal” for our own physiology, and for that of the agricultural and animal species that we depend on, not to mention the fact that everything we call civilization developed and was constructed in the current “abnormal” period, as you put it.

    So your point is what, exactly?

  8. 258
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Pierre, did you even bother to read a summary of what the IPCC did? The uncertainty enters mainly from inability to predict future anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

    And your weak squib of: “Look at the last 500 milion years. 90% of this time the temperature and CO2 were much higher than today. We live in a low-temp and low-carb time that is abnormal for the Earth,” might be a comfort to any dinosaurs hiding away on a remote island somewhere, but one might point out that a complicated civilization supporting ~6-9 billion people was not around 500 million years ago. Or did you think “The Flintstones” was a historical documentary?

  9. 259
    Walt Bennett says:

    Re: #255

    David,

    Thanks for the link. I will have a look. My concern with anything called “Bio-” is that it leads to such things as we have now, with the skyrocketing cost of corn becoming an immediate burden to people in places such as Mexico, where corn meal is a staple. By extrapolation, either the product or the farmland become more expensive as they are bought up by the biofuel industry. Since mankind’s energy needs will only grow, and since land is finite, this is also not a long term solution, and in the short term can wreak havoc on subsistence level humans.

    We need to keep on thinking; we need much better ideas, and we need them as soon as possible.

  10. 260
    Pierre Gosselin says:

    @Nick
    The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.
    You can take over governments, organisations and corporations, but you will never take over Nature. Limiting CO2 emissions will not amount to a hill of beans in the grand scheme of things.

    We’ve always adapted to change, and this time we are technically equipped like never before to adapt far more rapidly and easily. The oceans will rise some day again, and the only thing we will be able to do will be to step back to higher ground. Limiting CO2, changing light bulbs and replacing the rainforests with bio-crop fields will not appease the climate gods. Eventually, the oceans will retreat, and we’ll have the opportunity to take back the beaches.
    Structures should not be built on the shores if we know oceans are rising. That’s their own (the owners’) fault.
    As for existing buildings, we have plenty of time to leave them.
    The oceans will not rise like Al Gore has prophesized. They’ll be plenty of time to step back.

  11. 261
    Pierre Gosselin says:

    @Biofuel fans
    http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=41066

    [Response: PS. A fair few of your comments are being rejected. Please keep your comments constructive and leave the rhetorical excesses at home. - gavin]

  12. 262
    David B. Benson says:

    Walt Bennett (259) — You are welcome. Another site is

    http://www.icis.com/blogs/biofuels/

    which is less enthusiastic about bioenergy prospects than BioPact.
    However, the matter of land, etc., availability for growing enough food, animal feed and also biomass for bioenergy has been studied. The prospects are very good that there is enough, with about half of all energy needs coming from biomass (in about 50 years), the other half from wind, solar, etc. Getting there appears to be messier than some had hoped for…

  13. 263
    JCH says:

    “The oceans will not rise like Al Gore has prophesized. …”

    Please quote Gore’s exact words. Not what you think you heard, but what he actually said. Tell us the exact date Al Gore said the sea level would rise by 6 meters.

  14. 264
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Pierre Gosselin @ 260: “We’ve always adapted to change, and this time we are technically equipped like never before to adapt far more rapidly and easily.”

    Pierre starts out begging for bets that sea level won’t rise at a rate pulled out of his hat, then tries to invoke 500 million years of paleoclimate to claim that the current warming is just an anomalous blip, and then hints that human activity can have no appreciable effect on climate either way, and finally, even if it’s getting warmer and sea level does rise we can adapt.

    Typical bafflegab from the denialsphere. Nothing new to see here, folks, let’s move along.

  15. 265
    jd says:

    You rarely get an Honorarium for giving a talk, then you aren’t very good. Having your travel and lodging costs is normal also. People do attend “real” conferences for gain, politial and financial. They go so that they get know and can get better positions at better universities. Now this conference is still a load of crap, but your “reasons” are for calling it that just as bad.

    [Response: It depends very much on the field. Expenses are normal, honoraria happen mainly for out-of-field presentations, or private functions. No one gets honoraria for going to AGU/EGU/AMS meetings. And frankly, speaking at out-of-field conferences is not relevant for career progression. - gavin]

  16. 266

    About what Prof. Delgado Domingos said in Portugal about climate change I wrote the following post in my blog:
    http://futureatrisk.blogspot.com/2008/01/prof-delgado-domingos-desvaloriza.html

    I think it is possible for ordinary citizens like me (I am not a scientist) trough some research effort to distinguish between a serious analysis and what is not serious

  17. 267

    Pierre Gosselin writes:

    [[ 90% of this time the temperature and CO2 were much higher than today. We live in a low-temp and low-carb time that is abnormal for the Earth.]]

    So what? We’re adapted for THIS climate, as is our agriculture and our economy. Who gives a damn what climate the dinosaurs enjoyed, unless you’re a palaeontologist? A warmer Earth might be nice, but the transition from here to there might involve death and property destruction on a grand scale. That’s usually considered a bad thing.

  18. 268

    Pierre Gosselin writes:

    [[Limiting CO2 emissions will not amount to a hill of beans in the grand scheme of things. ]]

    And you know this how?

  19. 269
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Re: #237 Pierre G:

    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”.

    You have the load of the evidence backwards. We are walking across a bridge that nobody has declared safe, and many believe on good grounds to be unsafe. Your principle (known as the prudence principle, and in medicine attributed to Hippocrates) should be applied to causing climate change, not to mitigating it.

  20. 270
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Martin Vermeer @ 269: “You have the load of the evidence backwards. We are walking across a bridge that nobody has declared safe, and many believe on good grounds to be unsafe.”

    Yeah, well, constructing logical analogies isn’t exactly one of these guys’ strong points, Martin.

  21. 271

    Question about CO2 levels: is there an authoritative source? Like a scoreboard.
    Somehow I hear it is 384 ppm – but I cannot find a single page that declares that and maintains data as it changes.

    Somebody needs to build a scoreboard.

    [Response:Try http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/ - gavin]

  22. 272
    bi says:

    Walt Bennett:

    “My concern is that the AGW movement intends to make that situation much worse by taxing carbon in some way so as to make alternatives more cost-competitive. This is of course market interference, and will do nothing to improve the lives of the millions of poor to which we are all referring.”

    Oh great. Any action at the government policy level is obviously “market interference”, and is therefore axiomatically bad. That’s what you want, isn’t it? The only “alternative plans” you’ll accept are those which involve doing nothing at the policy level?

  23. 273
    Mark A. York says:

    Duly noted #238! Hey who can tell me who the scientist was who wrote that east Antarctic ice growth paper the sceptics cited as well you know. Iowa State? I can’t find him in any search I’ve concocted. Rutgers? Thanks!

  24. 274
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re # 263 JCH’s request to Pierre G.: “Please quote Gore’s exact words.”
    If I might answer for Pierre G., Gore actually said (as Gavin pointed out in # 247), “If Greenland melted or broke up and slipped into the sea – or if half of Greenland and half of Antarctica melted or broke up and slipped into the sea, sea levels worldwide would increase by between 18 and 20 feet.”

    Pierre G.: Note that he said “If…”, and no time frame was mentioned. What is misleading or false about Gore’s statement?

  25. 275
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Re: #211 Walt Bennett:

    I have said that we must seriously analyze ways to remove carbon from
    the atmosphere.

    Let’s start with removing the stuff from smokestack exhaust gases. The atmosphere is the next step. Learn to walk before learning to run.

    As I earlier argued, none of this geo-engineering stuff is on the critical path, and they either require technologies that would have to be developed anyway in connection with mitigation, or science that we are developing anyway in connection with merely even understanding the climate system. After that, actual execution would be trivial by comparison.

    So, you have an interesting hobby, but not very relevant to the theme of this forum :-) I suppose I should commend you for taking that discussion elsewhere.

  26. 276
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    It’s becomming more and more obvious Pierre’s understanding is half baked or less. As jumped on by many readers..human’s weren’t around 500mil years ago..we have evolved gradually to live happily (for most of us) in this period..this ‘abnormal’ period! One other thing..climate change is happening faster than nearly every mammel can adapt to..we humans have evolved large brains especially the frontal cortex..to do with cognitive thinking, so we probaby will somehow adapt by hook or by crook to more extremes of weather that IS happening as we speak Pierre..but at what cost! Quality of living for one. 6 bil people jostling for a foothold on a shrinking land mass, food crops being climatically destroyed..etc..etc. You indicate that science will save us “we are technically equipped etc”)..er..techology wont be our knight in shining armour..rather techology will be a good courier boy!!! Our lifestyle will be what determines our survival! We have to learn to live sustainably on earth..we all have. Our biosphere is no thicker than a single coat of varnish on a basket ball..it is the thinnest film you can imagine..it does not take that much anthropenic abuse to change it forever. If our abuse of our atmosphere causes down the track conditions like you mention 500mil years ago..humanity would be all but wiped out..you can bet your bottom dollar/euro on that !!

  27. 277
    Walt Bennett says:

    Re: #272

    Bi,

    You consistently avoid dealing directly with my concerns.

    Why is that?

  28. 278
    Walt Bennett says:

    Re: #275

    Martin,

    I have spoken with people who have deep knowledge of the coal industry. They say that there are myriad, expensive and as yet unresolved aspects to CCS. Your post did not indicate that you are aware of any of those; are you? If so, how did you decide that you were comfortable that those issues can be resolved? What made you so sure that these can be dealt with in a cost effective way in time to make a difference vis a vis critical tipping points?

    What made you satisfied that this path alone is sufficient?

  29. 279
    JCH says:

    Did anybody watch the history on PBS of Grand Central Station? Sick of steam trains in the city, they set a deadline for electric trains. It was electric trains or no trains. Suddenly, there were electric trains. Were they a lot costlier than steam trains? I would bet they were a whole bunch more costly than steam trains. I think you will find that New Yorkers and people who worked in New York were more than willing to pay extra to get rid of the nastiness of steam locomotives.

    People talk on and on about costs. A great deal of it is illusionary.

  30. 280
    Walt Bennett says:

    Re: #279

    JCH says “People talk on and on about costs. A great deal of it is illusionary”

    JCH,

    Have you seen the numbers? I have seen no cost analysis. I have read that we will be needing something like 40% reductions of CO2 emissions by 2050. How do we get there without significant cost and disruption?

    Comparing that effort to electrifying rail lines is somewhat simplistic, although your point that people are willing to absorb some cost is true. I imagine there were combinations of taxes to pay for infrastructure and ticket increases to pay for equipment.

    Still I say, that is not a comparison to what is being proposed, where the cost of basic energy will be artificially inflated.

    I want to see numbers.

  31. 281
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #278 [Walt Bennett] “I have spoken with people who have deep knowledge of the coal industry. They say that there are myriad, expensive and as yet unresolved aspects to CCS… What made you satisfied that this path alone is sufficient?”

    Walt, Martin didn’t say CCS alone would be sufficient – he just pointed out that if you want to remove CO2, it’s going to be a lot easier to remove it where it’s in high concentrations (e.g. power station emissions) than in low (the atmosphere). If we can’t get CCS working, the chances of any geoengineering approaches to removing CO2 from the atmosphere becoming effective are close to nil.

  32. 282
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Walt, the thing about geoengineering is that there are no viable strategies at present. We may be able to develop them…but they will take time. In the mean time, we are faced with a system with positive feedbacks that could at any point render all our efforts moot. So, the only way to buy the time we need to develop strategies of coping and mitigation is to conserve now.

    It is important to understand that not only do new techniques need to be developed, they need to be validated. At present, the only way to do that would be with modeling, and the models are not sufficiently mature that I would bet the farm on much of anything other than reducing ghgs.

  33. 283
    SecularAnimist says:

    Walt Bennett wrote: “They say that there are myriad, expensive and as yet unresolved aspects to CCS.”

    There are also myriad, expensive and even more unresolved aspects to “geoengineering” — not only the scientific understanding that we don’t have, to even know how to do it effectively and safely; and not only the technological capabilities that we may not have, to implement any geoengineering scheme that science might eventually identify as possibly effective and safe; but also the political problems of getting “the world” to agree to going forward with any such scheme. Yet you seem to think that geoengineering is likely to be more successful than CSS (and other more readily available mitigation solutions including efficiency and rapidly growing alternative energy sources like solar and wind). That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

    Walt Bennett wrote: “Have you seen the numbers? I have seen no cost analysis. I have read that we will be needing something like 40% reductions of CO2 emissions by 2050. How do we get there without significant cost and disruption?”

    According to the Associated Press, a January 2008 United Nations report suggests that “global investments of $15 trillion to $20 trillion over the next 20 to 25 years may be required ‘to place the world on a markedly different and sustainable energy trajectory.’”

    That is no more than the $1 trillion per year that the world’s governments currently spend on the military.

    The money that goes into developing and deploying efficiency and clean renewable energy technologies is not just a “cost”. It’s an investment in the New Industrial Revolution. And there will be those who prosper from it, just as individuals and corporations have prospered from fossil fuels, or software, or aerospace. For example, China is poised to become a world leader in the manufacture of photovoltaics, a market that is growing exponentially all over the world.

    The barriers to AGW mitigation and a clean, sustainable energy future are not technical or scientific. They are institutional and political. Those who are profiting enormously from the status quo — and their allies in government — don’t want transformative technologies to shift wealth from their industries (fossil fuels, conventional gasoline automobiles, etc) to the emerging, post-carbon new industrial sectors (eg. wind turbines, photovoltaics, biofuels, ultra-high efficiency and zero-net-energy buildings, electric cars, etc).

  34. 284
    David B. Benson says:

    Walt Bennett (280) — Actually, just now the cost of energy is artifically deflated by treating the atmosphere and the oceans as carbon dioxide cess pools; externalities.

    Reasonable proposals include using biomass to produce charcoal via pyrolysis or biocoal for hydrothermal carbonization. In either case sequester the result in abandoned mines or carbon landfills. One study suggests a cost of about US $70–80 per tonne. This cost ought to be met by a fossil carbon tax on those burning fossil carbon, in an ideal world.

    To put these costs in perspective, South African coal spot prices are currently running US $ 100–120 per tonne. Looks to me that there is a definite market for biocoal…

  35. 285
  36. 286
    JCH says:

    I don’t know about that. Manhattan is an island; so is the earth.

    Define disruption. We’re having a bit of disruption right now. Why is one disruption, the one we know is coming, any different than the one you fear is coming?

    The point is, the arbitrariness of the electric train ultimatum allowed the market to adjust quickly to a new cost structure, as it usually does when it has a reliable environment. If old New York had Mayor GW insisting the switch to electric trains be voluntary, the unpredictable cost structure would have left them with no reliable environment in which to make rational infrastructure investment decisions.

    People are critical of ExxMob. ExxMob actually went quite green during the last energy crisis. The government pulled the rug out from under those investments, and ExxMob lost a huge amount of money. One reason why that happened was market regulation did not, and still does not, force the cost of energy to be reflected in its price. Not much rational can result from that: like huge houses in faraway suburbs, gas guzzlers, hot tubs, illegal immigration, etc. So I do not agree it is an artificial inflation. What we’ve been experiencing is a decades long, artificial deflation.

    If CO2 mitigation is law, then the market will have a reliable environment in which it can adjust costs smoothly. Arbitrary CO2 mitigation will force something that currently has an irrationally high cost, an illusion, to adjust downward. My favorite candidate is land and real estate, for which I think current prices are absolutely nuts. So the poor you are worried about will have to conserve energy, and I can think of no moral reason they should not (in Houston a doctor was on the news yesterday complaining about his 915 dollar natural gas bill – he’s pledging to conserve now), and they will also likely enjoy something which will suddenly be a little cheaper – maybe basic housing or soda pop or bottled water. They may also enjoy the benefit of new work in low skill, entry-level jobs that produce or rely upon alternative energy, or reduce fossil fuel usage – like picking cotton and gathering other forms of cellulose, or hoeing.

    No market leaves money on the table. Because energy has been irrationally cheap for decades, others have moved in to absorb that cost savings into the prices of their products. I think you will find it hiding in real estate. If not there, it’s somewhere. And the market, if given a reliable way to make the adjustment, will drive it out. That is why the disruption will be far less than you fear. It will be a recession, and we are going have those no matter what. When it’s chewed through the rotten meat, there will be growth – as there always is.

    CO2 mitigation will basically for the price of energy to reflect its cost. That’s actually good for the free market as it’s the rational price, and it will spawn rational economic decisions. Something the energy market hasn’t had since the days immediately after WW2.

  37. 287
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Walt and David,
    Also, what do you expect would happen to the price of oil if there weren’t an entire navy devoted to keeping the sea lanes open, as well as army and marines enforcing a degree of stability in energy producing areas. American military expenditures are effectively a subsidy that keeps fossil fuel prices artificially low.

  38. 288
    Walt Bennett says:

    Re: #281

    Nick,

    CCS is a boondoggle which may never work. It is an assumption to say “it’s going to be a lot easier to remove it where it’s in high concentrations”. It may turn out to be easier and simpler to do it another way. What way is that? I don’t know. My point is, the effort may well turn out to be necessary, and any cautious approach to AGW solutions should consider that.

    Re: #282

    Ray,

    You make my point, in a way. You concur that CCS is immature, and you sense as I do that we may pass tipping points while waiting for it to become viable. You then express the view that “the only way to buy the time we need to develop strategies of coping and mitigation is to conserve now.”

    And my question is, what if THAT strategy fails, as it is likely to?

    And then we get into the pain and suffering we pass on to those who are least able to absorb the artificially increased cost.

    Which brings us back around to, we need better ideas and we need them soon. I agree that this will take time, which is why it is so important to get busy. We probably have a decade or less to make a serious start in the direction of removing CO2 from the atmosphere, one way or another. I don’t believe we have as long as Dr. Hansen has said. What we know so far is that models lag nature when it comes to some positive feedbacks; not a reassuring sign for “how far off” the tipping points are.

    Re: #283

    SA wrote “There are also myriad, expensive and even more unresolved aspects to “geoengineering”” and “you seem to think that geoengineering is likely to be more successful than CSS (and other more readily available mitigation solutions including efficiency and rapidly growing alternative energy sources like solar and wind). That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”

    I agree that there are many more unknowns than knowns about geoengineering at this point. I continue to state that we MUST learn how to engineer the climate; we are already affecting climate and we must do it better. I know where you stand on that. We simply disagree.

    I believe that CCS (not CSS) and emissions reductions are equally immature and nowhere close to having been proved feasible as policy responses to AGW. I advocate hedging our bets by looking at actual ways to remove atmospheric CO2. I strongly believe it will come down to either we find a way to do it, or we simply waltz past the tipping points.

    Re: #284

    David,

    I have severe concerns regarding biomass as a replacement for fossil fuels, which I have already expressed. Perhaps in combination with other sources, it can be useful, and perhaps it can even be a “geoengineering” solution for actually removing CO2 from the atmosphere. I know that Dr. Hansen has touched on this.

    This part of the discussion is worthy of further pursuit. Such ideas as this might be “win-win” if managed correctly. Lots of concerns about supply and demand, though, affecting other sectors.

  39. 289
    bi says:

    “Oh great. Any action at the government policy level is obviously `market interference’, and is therefore axiomatically bad. That’s what you want, isn’t it? The only `alternative plans’ you’ll accept are those which involve doing nothing at the policy level?” — me

    “You consistently avoid dealing directly with my concerns.” — Walt Bennett

    Hahahahahaha. Is this supposed to be a parody?

  40. 290
    David B. Benson says:

    Walt Bennett (288) said I have severe concerns regarding biomass as a replacement for fossil fuels, which I have already expressed.

    These do not seem to be very imformed. Follow

    http://biopact.com/

    and also

    http://www.icis.com/blogs/biofuels/

    for awhile to obtain a sense of the (large) potential available and currently being developed. (Everybody except the USG recognizes that ethanol-from-corn is a bad idea.)

    Nobody is expecting that all energy needs are going to be met just from bioenergy (although in principle this could be done).
    About half, I suppose.

  41. 291
    John Mashey says:

    re: #285
    As far as I can tell, the US Government generally funds *research* (in the normal sense of the word), and the answers come out the way they come out in the peer-reviewed literature, assuming they don’t get hacked by politcal hacks. At least, that’s the impression I’ve gotten from the many scientists I’ve talked to over the years. :-)

    EM does fund research [as in Stanford's GCEP], but it is unclear that funding denialist thinktanks is actually funding *research* in any normal sense of the word.

  42. 292
    Nick Gotts says:

    RE #288 [Walt Bennett] “Nick,

    CCS is a boondoggle which may never work”

    Walt, don’t argue it with me, argue it with the authors of the 2005 IPCC Special Report on Carbon Capture and Storage. I take it you’ve read this, and have a critique you can point me to, or summarise here?

  43. 293
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Walt, when you say “We need to get busy,” what is it specifically that you think needs to be done that we aren’t doing. People are looking at more energy efficient products and strategies. People are investigating carbon capture. People are trying to develop alternative energy technologies. People are trying to improve climate models so they can maybe validate any geoengineering ideas the are developed. What else would you suggest?

  44. 294

    #15 cosmo: “If wonder if Borat could be encouraged to give a talk …”

    A tad obvious. Maybe his distant relative Tarhub should give it a go …

    On a different note, I got into an email exchange with one of the denial crew and it ended up with his view that he was suspicious of “socially motivated scientists” who move into politics. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. If your professional opinion is that there is evidence for concerted mitigation, you are “socially motivated” or “political” if you try to do something about it. If you sit back and do nothing, it’s your fault when disaster befalls. (I’m curious as to how the “leave it to the free market” crew aren’t “socially motivated” and “moving into politics”, but never mind.)

    So I’d say carry on as before and don’t worry too much about them.

  45. 295
    SecularAnimist says:

    David Benson wrote: “Nobody is expecting that all energy needs are going to be met just from bioenergy (although in principle this could be done).”

    Humanity can obtain ample energy to sustain a prosperous and comfortable, technologically advanced, and optimally energy-efficient civilization indefinitely, from clean, renewable energy sources: solar, wind, geothermal, and sustainably produced agricultural biofuels.

    For example, the January 2008 issue of Scientific American has an article entitled “A Solar Grand Plan”, whose authors argue that “a massive switch from coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power plants to solar power plants could supply 69 percent of the US’s electricity and 35 percent of its total energy by 2050 … If wind, biomass and geothermal sources were also developed, renewable energy could provide 100 percent of the nation’s electricity and 90 percent of its energy by 2100.”

    At the same time we can draw down the already dangerous levels of anthropogenic excess CO2 in the atmosphere through large-scale reforestation and organic agriculture.

    Solutions are at hand. The obstacles are not scientific or technical, or for that matter economic — in fact the solutions will be the drivers of the New Industrial Revolution and sustainable, equitable economic growth in the 21st century. The obstacles are institutional and political. The primary obstacle is the entrenched wealth and power of the old dinosaur technologies who want to delay their inevitable demise, and keep the trillions of dollars in profits flowing, until the last barrel of oil and the last lump of coal has been burned.

  46. 296
    Rod B says:

    re Peter Thompson (285), just for the record, the referenced article is referring to corporate income taxes only. If you look at all taxes, incl. sales, property, excise, etc, ExMob paid over $100B in 2006. And no escrow for Hillary’s plan to “get those profits” through some sort of added tax, I presume.

  47. 297
    Rod B says:

    Philip Machanick (294), a detail nit clarification that might reflect a big difference. I, too, am nervous about “socially motivated scientists” that get into the political arena. But the big word there is “socially” which implies that the scientist has other cultural agendas hiding in his/her science. I, even as a skeptic, have no nervousness in the least, and have suggested, with “science motivated scientists”, to coin a phrase, getting politically involved because they are doing what they must to get some scientific-based action, stemming from their research — even if I disagree with some of it.

    I don’t know if your correspondent was making this distinction. If not, you’re probably right in your assessment.

  48. 298
    Citizen J says:

    Re the conference…

    This conference is already getting a fair amount of play on discussion groups where AGW/CC is debated (we may be laymen, but we know how to sweep the web, both sides, for the cherry-picks), and I think it’s safe to assume that the press is on to it as well. The global warming is a cat fight supreme, and the press loves to cover that sort of thing.

    So make that day a cat fight. Be there. That’s what advocates do. You climate scientists might not want to be advocates, but the times, and this debate in particular, call for it, nothing to be done about it but participate, or make sure someone representing your viewpoint is there participating. Be preemptive, call press conferences, print handouts, canvas. Make sure it’s written about in the papers, get on TV. Have some fun with it, but make sure the very serious message of climate rationality is heard. I understand the “I won’t ratify that with a response” perspective, but you must be advocates, and a vigorous advocate is an opportunist. This conference is an opportunity. Please, debunk the debunkers.

    Suggested talking point: one problem with this whole AGW/CC debate is that only members of the human species get to take part in it. Talk to the OTHER animals on the planet! I’ve been very impressed by some of the Parmesan stuff on habitat shift, wildlife species’ response to observed climate change, etc., and I’m sure there’s other solid studies supporting the AGW premise. People need to see this stuff and be informed as to it’s connection to observed change, and how nothing else explains it all so well – Occum’s Razor! – as anthropogenic global warming and climate change.

  49. 299
    walter says:

    Did someone forward the invitation to the Yes Men? Would be a shame if the weren’t there.

  50. 300
    Peter Barber says:

    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.

    Emissions reductions may or may not be sufficient, but are you arguing that it is not necessary? And environmental engineering approaches (apart from CCS) are strictly theoretical; what encourages you to think their development of will not be subject to the same political inertia that has hampered R&D in renewable energy?

    Skipping back:

    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.

    There is a big difference between “slowing down economies” and “lower standards of living”. To use a crude example, both the fine for running an oil tanker aground and causing a large slick, and the payments to salvage and remediation companies to sort it out, both contribute to GDP, because the money to pay both has got to come from somewhere and that cost is eventually passed to the consumer. Meanwhile an unemployed parent is doing a fantastic job raising his children and maybe helps look after others’ children on an informal basis, performing an useful service to the community. Yet the first makes the economy grow; the second doesn’t.

    Similarly, the large commercial farmer making use of cheap synthetic fertilisers, with his big contract with the supermarket, boosts the economy; a bunch of keen allotment growers using permaculture techniques, swapping or bartering their produce, does not. But the first causes eutrophication of local watercourses as a result of phosphate run-off, and his topsoil is eroding fast because little organic matter is going back into it. The latter, on the other hand, get exercise, fresh air, and the pleasure of growing your own and making a load of friends.

    OK, it’s a bit simplistic, but really, economic growth is far from everything. I’d prefer controlled, steady economic contraction now as we work out less resource-intensive, more localised ways of living to the prospect of an economic (and political) implosion when a combination of environmental stresses and resource depletion suddenly comes to a head, paralysing our long food and energy distribution chains in a matter of weeks.


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