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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. 301
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod B., Yes there are social activist scientists–both on the right and on the left. Science on the other hand is politically neutral, because the differing politics of the individuals tends to cancel out. Moreover, the surest way to diminish your influence as a scientist is to be perceived to have “an agenda”. It doesn’t matter whether that agenda is a political philosophy, a commercial interest, nepotism or a pet theory. “Well, we know he has an agenda,” is one of the quickest ways to dismiss a rival’s argument, and if there is a grain of truth to it, you’re dead as a scientist. It’s fine to have a political perspective in your private life, but if it creeps into your scientific perspective, it is a liability.
    My observation is that the leftward bias in climate discussions arises not from any bias of the scientists or the science, but rather from the fact that conservatives have been absent from discussions about how to handle the issue. In general, those of a conservative bent have wasted a lot of time and energy attacking solid science that they often do not understand rather than trying to come up with solutions that won’t knock the economy off the rails. This has worked out very well for Al Gore, but it probably isn’t the best use of their talents, or the best way to guard their interests.

  2. 302

    Peter Barber —

    I don’t want to see contraction, steady or otherwise! There’s no reason we can’t maintain GDP, and employment, but produce less carbon dioxide along with it; e.g. by a switch from goods to services. It might well be that many Americans could get by with lower income, but selling that kind of thing to them would take a major change in the culture, and is just not in the cards for the time scale we’re dealing with. And no one wants their income reduced by being laid off, and that’s what has happened for the past 200 years when economies contracted.

  3. 303
    David B. Benson says:

    SecularAnimist (295) — Precisely so.

    I will add that the U.S.A. is blessed with the potential for ample solar and wind power. Other countries will need to use largely bioenergy solutions. This is thought to be possible and in such a way that everyone can have enough energy, but none to waste.

  4. 304
    Rod B says:

    Ray (301), I agree (and you said it better than I). One clarification: I certaintly don’t have any problem with scientists who are making scientific arguments in the political/societal arena also having other beliefs or political leanings, and espousing those; so long as they don’t mix up the two.

  5. 305
    Ray Ladbury says:

    I think that we are seeing new talking points from the great denialist mothership: Concede that the climate might be changing, but assert that nothing can be done about it, and that even trying will bring about massive economic contraction. I think this is an act of desperation that will fail–Americans are technophiles at heart. Indeed, the advance of technology that will be needed to achieve meaningful reductions in CO2 could actually be a positive boon to the global economy. We can win America over by promising cool new toys.

  6. 306
    mg says:

    280. A cost of BAU can be defined in terms of the number of nuclear reactors submerged by the rising sea level. The cost to the Chernobyl economy of the Cernobyl disaster was 100% of the Chernobyl economy. The cost of BAU is probably 100% of the world economy … well before 2100. Those who are sceptical of the necessity of emergency mitigation should give a clear explanation of how they propose to deal with burial-at-sea of the nuclear industry and the reduction in habitability of the planet. Mitigation makes sense to me!

  7. 307

    Barton,

    The expansion of the world and the US economies is based on increasing use of cheap fossil fuels. Even if we froze CO2 production at today’s levels we would have a recession. Of course there are other sources of energy but they are far too small to make up for the growth in fossil fuel combustion.

    There are a set of videos here which explains the problem of growth. (Click on “This video is a response to …” to see the following episodes.) It is mainly addressing the problem of Peak Oil but it is relevant to what will happen if we stop consuming oil before Peak Oil is reached, which controlling global warming implies.

    It is dishonest to claim that the economic growth that has happened since the Industrial Revolution can be maintained without the continued destruction of the world’s store of fossil fuels.

    Cheers, Alastair.

  8. 308
    JCH says:

    Ray, I think the opposite could end up being true. The belief and reliance upon new toys could be an achilles heel. Reading the posts on RC is sort of like reading Popular Mechanics in the 1950s. Lots of technology fairy tales are perhaps being told.

    All I know, every field I ever farmed was once farmed with animal and human power, and the yields, once you factor in the type of seeds they used and the absence of modern fertilizers and pesticides, were not that much less. They produced astonishing surpluses, and exported food all over the world – and burned not one drop of gasoline or diesel. And that is no fairy tale. We already know how to live without burning huge amounts of fossil fuel. The companies that are now ExxonMobil were global energy companies before use of the automobile became prevalent. They shipped their products all over the world in oil tankers that were powered by sails, and their executives and managers grew filthy rich.

  9. 309

    Re my #307

    The link I meant to include was http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-QA2rkpBSY&feature=related

    As JCH implies, we are going to have to go back to farming with horse and human power, because there will be no oil left. But worse, the yields will drop. In the 1960 there was a Green Revolution when it was found that fertilisers from oil and irrigation powered by oil could double the yield. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Revolution Without that oil, Asian countries such as India, will find that their production of food is halved and famine will return.

    Of course without oil to produce fertilisers and power irrigation food prices in the US will also soar. But it will not just be rural society that will be disrupted. Urban society is based on cheap oil, with large hypermarkets supplied by oil fueled trucks. The shoppers all travel many miles in their autos to reach the hypermarkets. When oil is not available they will have to walk from their homes to those shops across large empty parking lots. And the same problem will apply to their to their jobs where, rather than travel on the freeways, a new system of public transit will have to be created. The homes people have now will have to be moved, the supermarkets broken up into small evenly spread shops, and the offices and factories relocated.

    This applies whether we are reducing the oil counsumption, because we want to kick the habit to which we have become addicted, or because we wish to avoid the dangers of global warming, or because we have just plain run out of oil. Whichever it is, we really have to face up to the fact that we have spent our inheritance of fossil fuels, and we and our children are doomed to poverty :-(

    Cheers, Alastair.

  10. 310
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Alastair and JCH, It is simply a fallacy to state that because prosperity in the past century relied on cheap fossil fuels, that prosperity will end if we do not. Economies change, and the engine of change is human ingenuity, not raw materials. Who would have guessed that one of the most important revolutions of the latter half of the 20th century (electronics) would be derived from sand…or that one of the next century’s would rely on soot (source of carbon nanotubes). The key to success is admitting the problem exists, quantifying and bounding the risks and getting the smart poeple working to solve it.
    Does this mean I think we’re in the clear. No. I think we are in the soup, not because human ingenuity is up to the task, but rather because human stupidity and complacency are dedicating themselves to thwarting ingenuity.

  11. 311
    Abbe Mac says:

    Ray,

    You wrote ” I think we are in the soup, not because human ingenuity is [not] up to the task, but rather because human stupidity and complacency are dedicating themselves to thwarting ingenuity.”

    Whether you are right or I am right the result is the same :-(

    Cheers, Alastair.

  12. 312
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Alastair, Although the end result might be the same, presumably human stupidity and complacency might be remediable, and since this should be a constant struggle in any case, we lose nothing by trying. Likewise, increasing reliance on green energy technologies, increasing conservation–and yes JCH increased reliance on human power–are all things we should be doing anyway to improve our environment and national security. They also buy time for human ingenuity to develop solutions. We have no guarantee of success. Success is never guaranteed in any endeavor that is worthwhile. But to abandon civilization as a lost cause buys us nothing.

  13. 313
    SecularAnimist says:

    Ray Ladbury wrote: “… and yes JCH increased reliance on human power …”

    And you know, it’s not like getting more exercise is a bad thing.

  14. 314
    Albatross says:

    Re 239 CobblyW-

    Thanks for the data. you are at liberty to send a precis to the long suffering editors of the magazine where Michael’s metric to English exaggeration appeared- editor@spectator.org

  15. 315
  16. 316
    Hank Roberts says:

    This is what’s behind Heartland’s flurry of vaguely worded press releases — all with language associating desmogblog with ‘money laundering’ and a “20 year sentence” — carefully not mentioning that Heartland opposed the language in the law for years, or that it was slipped into an unrelated conference committee markup last October, or that it’s being used to arrest citizens of other countries for businesses legal in the rest of the world.

    I can’t tell you what it’s about, the spam filter won’t allow discussion of this issue at all.

    http://www.desmogblog.com/globe-condemns-arrest-of-desmogblog-benefactor

  17. 317
    Rod B says:

    Hank (315), you validate Heartland’s vile political bias and prejudice by referencing another politically biased and prejudiced organization’s opinion??

  18. 318
    Hank Roberts says:

    Rod, dear, did you even read the editorial? Is it the Globe and Mail you consider prejudiced? Or the libertarian notion that you should be able to do [not allowed to be typed] if you want to in the US?

    The editorial begins:

    “The U.S. crackdown on [something], a crusade that seems to involve arresting law-abiding citizens of other countries and threatening them with long prison terms, continues to claim new victims. The latest are Stephen Lawrence and John Lefebvre, two Canadian businessmen …”

    Did you get as far as that and think about what the actual law is and the actual offense is and why Heartland isn’t telling you what happened here?

    Or why Heartland changed from being opposed to this for years, to supporting it, now that it’s been used to arrest someone whose politics they want suppressed?

  19. 319

    Re #6

    The tip of the iceberg on the legal arguments:

    As reported on CNN
    February 8, 2008

    LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Bolivia’s foreign minister says the world has an obligation to send aid to flood-ravaged areas of Bolivia, linking a disaster that has killed 49 people to global climate change.

    “The international community has the obligation to help to Bolivia because these are the consequences” of global warming, he told media Thursday.

    Bolivian President Evo Morales last year vowed to seek legal remedies if rich countries do not agree to pay for the environmental damage they have wreaked on the developing world.

  20. 320
    jon says:

    I don’t suppose when the IPCC conferences get together there is so much as a whisper that maybe we are all being led leming-like to the ocean.

  21. 321
    Rod B says:

    Hank, I was referring to the site, politicalfriendster, not the article. Sorry if I missed your point.

  22. 322
    Cobblyworlds says:

    #314 Albatross,

    I wouldn’t jump on Patrick Micheal’s Km/miles confusion (I was brief and may have appeared terse), it’s an easy mistake to make. Indeed in restrospect the graph I expressed doubts about at Cryosphere Today is OK – I was posting quickly at lunch.

    I occasionally amuse myself answering the questions I can here and by doing “drive-bys” elsewhere. But my position now on the whole is to leave the ongoing physical process to answer the doubters. I’ve wasted enough of my life on so-called sceptics.

    Regards

    Cobbly.

  23. 323

    Alastair writes:

    [[The expansion of the world and the US economies is based on increasing use of cheap fossil fuels. Even if we froze CO2 production at today’s levels we would have a recession.]]

    Sorry, I don’t agree. We can switch power sources. There’s no reason economic growth can’t continue using renewable resources. In the long run I would like to see employment decoupled from economic growth, or growth decoupled from physical production. I think the latter is probably much easier to achieve.

  24. 324

    Secular writes:

    [[And you know, it’s not like getting more exercise is a bad thing.]]

    In case you’ve never done it, farm labor on a non-tractor farm is a backbreaking, dawn-to-dusk effort which shortens lifespans and stops farm laborers from having much of a life. We don’t need to see a return to that.

    Try weeding or planting a garden for one hour. Then imagine doing it for fourteen hours, but walking longer distances, and carrying heavy packs of seeds, fertilizer, or tools.

  25. 325
    Hank Roberts says:

    Rod, did you read the quote from the Globe and Mail editorial? (The quote I linked to is the only free source I know online now.)

    Heartland is blatting out “money laundering” while carefully never citing the law used, their own arguments against such laws in the past, and the fact that the US has already lost international arbitration over the law in the WTO. Not to mention omitting all libertarian arguments made against the law.

    Seriously, even if you agree with the software text filter here that [that which cannot be typed] is wrong in the USA, while respectable and legal in the rest of the world, the way Heartland is spinning this is shameful.

    Here’s the principle Heartland offends, even assuming Heartland considers the guy’s a scoundrel for funding DeSmogBlog with his money and likes having him locked up for 20 years for violating this law against [cannot be typed here]:

    “The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.” – H L Mencken

  26. 326
    JCH says:

    “In case you’ve never done it, farm labor on a non-tractor farm is a backbreaking, dawn-to-dusk effort which shortens lifespans and stops farm laborers from having much of a life. We don’t need to see a return to that. …”

    My Great Grandfathers never walked behind a plow. They had modern farm equipment that was pulled by their prized mule teams, and most of their machinery had seats. One died at 96 and the other at 89.

    I think what you are saying is very incorrect. I doubt the Amish are brow beaten by their personal trainers about getting off their couches to do some exercises, and I rather doubt their life expectancy, outside of genetic diseases that are a function of their unique population characteristics, is much different than the average American.

    Suggesting hard work shortens life spans is preposterous. Sedentary lifestyles are another matter.

  27. 327
    Ray Ladbury says:

    JCH,
    Relying on animal power may not be a viable solution. One of the few facts Rush Limbaugh has ever gotten right is that cattle and other livestock do produce a lot of greenhouse gasses.

  28. 328
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #327 [Ray Ladbury] “One of the few facts Rush Limbaugh has ever gotten right is that cattle and other livestock do produce a lot of greenhouse gasses.”

    Ruminants only! No problem with horses, donkeys, mules, or elephants I believe. Nor with pigs – very intelligent animals, pigs – I wonder if they’re trainable?

  29. 329
    David B. Benson says:

    Ray Ladbury (327) — But not horses, donkeys, burros and mules, AFAIK. Different digestive tract.

  30. 330
    JCH says:

    Ray – cattle produce methane and burp it – whole big plumes of the stuff. It’s a unique aspect of their digestive process. Horses and mules have a very different digestive system, and produce materially less.

    Do you believe mules (by far he most versatile draft animals), in numbers sufficient to do the same work, would produce more GHGs than the roughly 3.5 billion gallons of diesel fuel that runs through America’s tractors and other field machinery each year? You would also have to add up the GHGs expended to create the raw materials and manufacture those tractors. Side with Rush if you want, my bet is with the Missouri mule – they’re only half an ass whereas Rush is 100% pure.

  31. 331
    Brett says:

    The loss of oil wouldn’t be the end of the world, even if you couldn’t compensate to keep your cars. If necessary, we can simply run agriculture the way it was run back in the late 19th century in the Midwest, and ship the produce and grain via railroads like back then (I’m not holding out hope for the Great Plains after watching “Six Degrees”). There will be less grain and produce, but then, we have a lot of potential slack if necessary – just stop feeding so much of it to the livestock industry.

    As for the main post, this is definitely starting to ape what is happening with the creationists. Parallel faux-conferences are especially a strong warning sign.

  32. 332
    JCH says:

    Just to be historically correct, it’s beyond the 19th Century. Animal power remained an important aspect of agricultural production right up until the end of WW2. The President of the United States was a proficient teamster. So were a lot of the farm boys who became B-29 pilots.

  33. 333
  34. 334
    Rod B says:

    Hank, again, I was criticizing a site I thought you were referencing; I was not criticizing any article nor was I sticking up for Heartland, with which I, a skeptic, am distinctly unimpressed with.

  35. 335
    Ray Ladbury says:

    JCH,
    In general, mules and horses don’t do well in the tropics. Most agricultural work is done by cattle or related beasts, if it is not done by human hands. This is true in rural China, too. I remember when I was in the Peace Corps in Africa, the idea of using draft animals was still considered innovative in West Africa. All I’m saying is, that’s a lot of methane, especially if we’re talking about feeding 9 billion people + their draft animals.

  36. 336
    John Mashey says:

    Animal power is still an important aspect for many farmers, given that most farmers are not developed-world farmers.
    http://www.fao.org/AG/magazine/0009sp1.htm

    Even in the US, Old Amish still do without tractors. However, I think it takes approximately an acre of pasture to feed a horse, so horses are not likely easy replacements in big mid-West farms for 400HP combines.

    Worldwide, a lot of poor farmers will *never* have diesel tractors… although I have hopes for electric tractors, once the volumes get up, and they ought to be a lot easier to support and maintain at the ends of long supply chains.

  37. 337
    Hank Roberts says:

    Aside — on biofuels and the publications that hype them — don’t miss this snark from The Register:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/02/13/science_biofuel_reports/

    —-excerpt—-
    The news tosses a good deal of water on the biofuel fire. Unfortunately, the reports are subscription only and while there were a number of pirated copies flowing in email due to the electronic publication of the news last week, the perfectly awful figures still deserve some reporting. For example, the New York Times story on the reports ignored ugly figures like the percentage losses in feed crops contrasted with increases in emission, perhaps figuring correctly that the average reader is too stupid and easily bored to tolerate them. Since the Times has been a cheerleader for miracle alternative energy solutions, the reports were surely hard for it to swallow. One could imagine the nervous gulping in the paper’s second sentence. It noted that ethanol mania, therein called the “benefits of biofuels,” had come under attack and that the articles in the magazine would “add to the controversy.”
    —end—-

    Yeah. Report “the controversy” – that’s the spin. We still got those ADM ads scheduled?

  38. 338
    JCH says:

    “Even in the US, Old Amish still do without tractors. However, I think it takes approximately an acre of pasture to feed a horse, so horses are not likely easy replacements in big mid-West farms for 400HP combines. …”

    Every single field in my home state was/could have been worked by horse or mule teams. There are few new fields. Through trial and error, the early settlers quickly determined what land was good for crops and what land was more suitable for pasture. Minnesota, as a for instance, is not bigger than it was when it was settled. That I know of, it has few new acres. The entire state is more than capable of maintaining draft animals sufficient to raise statewide crops and to deliver them to the railroads. We know this because they already did it – in the 20th Century.

  39. 339
    John Mashey says:

    Draught animals [yes, of course; I grew up on a farm, and I have detailed records from 1850-1900, so I have a pretty good idea what they were doing.]

    In 1900, 40% of the US population were farmers, compared to ~2% now. Farmers have traditionally had large families to get the work done. Amish have large average family size (~7 kids).

    JCH: assuming nothing but animal power, what’s your model for the percentage of the US population that needs to return to farming? Do you have a model in mind for resizing the farms to match animal-only sizes? [In MN, average size in 1900 was about 170 acres, now it's 340, about the same as Iowa. Kansas is 700+ acres, Nebraska is over 900 acres.]

  40. 340
    David B. Benson says:

    In today’s TNYT (The New York Times), on page A20 is a quarter-page advert sponsored by the Heartland Institute announcing their forthcoming ‘conference’. The adevert states “Can 19,000 scientists be wrong about global warming? 19,000 scientists have signed a petition saying global warming is probably natural and not a crisis.”

    The advert contains some of the names: many list no degree, several are M.D.’s, not scientists (Disclosure: two of my children are practicing medicine); I vetted the first on the list, a Robert K. Adair. It appears he is a retired professor of physics (from Yale), who did particle physics. On the web he seems most well-known for the physics of baseball.

    So yes, Heartland Institute, 19,000 ‘scientists’ can be wrong. Seriously wrong; possibly deadly wrong for their grandchildren.

  41. 341
    Ray Ladbury says:

    David Benson, Gee, if MDs can start calling themselves scientists, can I start practicing medicine?
    Any physicist who has ever taught premeds learned to dread that class. Don’t give a damn about what they learn, only the grade. I’ve had doctors actually look at my profession and say, “Physics, huh? Boy I never could get the hang of that…” On the other hand, there are doctors–usually among the best–who have a good feel for the scientific method. It is safe to assume those on the Heartland’s list are not among them. One of the first things you learn in science is don’t take a strong position on a subject you don’t understand.

  42. 342
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #339 John Mashey “Do you have a model in mind for resizing the farms to match animal-only sizes?”

    Interestingly, Cuba has done exactly this since the collapse of the USSR led to drastic oil shortages: broken up a lot of the big state farms, and usufructed the land to families and cooperatives (i.e., they don’t pay rent and I think have reasonable security of tenure, but don’t legally own and so can’t sell the land). Much of the fruit and veg is grown on small, previously waste plots in cities and suburbs. Very little synthetic fertiliser or pesticide is used. The number of farmers has risen sharply, and farming is now among the best-paid occupations (better than medicine for example). They use oxen for most of the work formerly done by tractors. (Why not horses or mules? I don’t know.)

  43. 343
    Rod B says:

    Reminds me of the clever saw: What’s the difference between God and a doctor? For one, God doesn’t think he’s a doctor! [rim shot please.]

    Though, Ray, you do seem to pigeon-hole them terribly and negatively.

  44. 344
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod, you’ll notice that I did in fact say that most good doctors have a good understanding of the scientific method. The majority do not.
    Another joke: What do you call the med student who graduates at the bottom of his class? Doctor.

  45. 345
    Lawrence Brown says:

    Today’s NY Times has a quarter page ad (pg. A18) for the 2008 International Conference On Climate Change on March 2-4 in NYC, by the Heartland Institute, which blares “Can 19,000 scientists be wrong about global warming?” Bet your arse they can! Especially if there are a vast majority who are not climate scientists, which I strongly suspect.
    The ad includes the statement that ‘The world’s largest gathering of global warming “skeptics” will take place in New York City ……’. Well it might be that, but how many of these skeptics will know what in blazes they’re talking about? Many of them may just as well have gotten their science degree from K-Mart as far as climate science is concerned. Expect a lot of smoke and mirrors talk with a number Orwellian phrases such as ‘sound science’ sprinkled in.

  46. 346
    Chuck Booth says:

    The latest issue of the Proceedings of the (U.S.) National Academies of Sciences has an interesting article about how people respond to a collective risk when personal sacrifice is required:

    The collective-risk social dilemma and the prevention of simulated dangerous climate change.
    Milinski,M. et al, PNAS February 19, 2008, vol. 105, no. 7, 2291-2294

    Abstract:
    Will a group of people reach a collective target through individual contributions when everyone suffers individually if the target is missed? This “collective-risk social dilemma” exists in various social scenarios, the globally most challenging one being the prevention of dangerous climate change. Reaching the collective target requires individual sacrifice, with benefits to all but no guarantee that others will also contribute. It even seems tempting to contribute less and save money to induce others to contribute more, hence the dilemma and the risk of failure. Here, we introduce the collective-risk social dilemma and simulate it in a controlled experiment: Will a group of people reach a fixed target sum through successive monetary contributions, when they know they will lose all their remaining money with a certain probability if they fail to reach the target sum? We find that, under high risk of simulated dangerous climate change, half of the groups succeed in reaching the target sum, whereas the others only marginally fail. When the risk of loss is only as high as the necessary average investment or even lower, the groups generally fail to reach the target sum. We conclude that one possible strategy to relieve the collective-risk dilemma in high-risk situations is to convince people that failure to invest enough is very likely to cause grave financial loss to the individual. Our analysis describes the social window humankind has to prevent dangerous climate change.

    The full article is available for free at: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/105/7/2291

  47. 347
    SteveL says:

    The WSJ pillories RealClimate in
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120390556121489679.html
    while honoring B. Lomborg, P. Michaels and W. Soon.
    “The authors of the blog Real Climate don’t engage the issues raised by the conference but instead attack it as stuffed with shills. When Heartland experts tried to respond to those charges, they were blacklisted from the comments section of the Real Climate Web site.”

    http://www.heartland.org/NewYork08/newyork08.cfm includes a goal to “make genuine contributions to the global debate over climate change”. Will any of these contributions be published in respected climate science journals?

    Will a group of climate scientists do a technical analysis of the conference and publish the review? Perhaps such a review should be followed with a book written in simpler language that voters and policy makers can understand.

    [Response: Standard WSJ opinion page fare. Taylor responded to the piece and his response was replied to. He made one further comment which was personally directed at me and which I declined to post. No other comment was ever received and no blacklisting was done. I agree with your premise though, the evidence of 'genuine contributions' will likely be thin on the ground. - gavin]

    [Response: John Fund is a scoundrel and a knowing purveyor of disinformation. Nice to see that we've gotten under his skin enough that he had to call us out by name. I guess we're doing something right! -mike]

  48. 348
    Ron Taylor says:

    It is interesting that Richard Lindzen is not listed as one of the speakers in the ad in today’s NY Times. Anyone know why he is not participating?

  49. 349
    David B. Benson says:

    Today’s TNYT, on page A11, has an almost-full page ad by The Heartland Institute for their get-together next week. It is now subtitled “Global Warming: Truth or Swindle”, making it a little hard to understand why Dr. Yuri A. Izrael is willing to be a speaker.

    Oh well, just thought this big advert ought to be mentioned here.

  50. 350
    Lawrence Brown says:

    The ad referred to above in today’s(2/27) NYTimes includes a statement in bold “This event proves there is no scientific consensus on the causes or likely consequences of global warming.”
    No it doesn’t. Holding an event on any hypothesis doesn’t constitute proof of it’s truthfulness. The only thing it proves is that those who wrote and or approved of this wording have no understanding of what constitutes a scientific proof, or(heaven forbid) are wilfully distorting what does.
    It’s surprising that those in attendance who are sincere among skeptics, tolerate this kind of nonsense.


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