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A day when Hell was frozen

Filed under: — rasmus @ 7 February 2008

“Hell train station” I was honoured to be invited to the annual regional conference for Norwegian journalists, taking place annually in a small town called ‘Hell’ (Try Earth Google ‘Hell, Norway’). During this conference, I was asked to participate in a panel debate about the theme: ‘Climate – how should we [the media] deal with world’s most pressing issue?’ (my translation from Norwegian; by the way ‘Gods expedition’ means ‘Cargo shipment’ in ‘old’ Norwegian dialect).

This is the first time that I have been invited to such a gathering, and probably the first time that a Norwegian journalists’ conference invited a group of people to discuss the climate issue. My impression was that the journalists more or less now were convinced by the message of the IPCC assessment reports. This can also be seen in daily press news reports where contrarians figure less now than ~5 years ago. But the public seemed to think that the scientists cannot agree on the reality or cause of climate change.

I find that the revelation of a perception of the climate problem within the climate research community that doesn’t match that of the general public problematic. What I learned is that this also seems to be true for the journalists: it was stated that their perception of climate change and its causes were different to the general public too.

The panel in which I participated consisted of a social/political scientist who had investigated how media deals with the issue of climate change and the public perception thereof, a science journalist, an AGW-skeptic, and myself. Despite the name of the place, the debate was fairly civil and well-behaved (although the AGW-skeptic compared climate scientists to mosquitoes, and brought up some ad hominem attacks on Dr. Pachauri).

The science journalist in the panel advocated the practice of reporting on issues that are based on publications from peer reviewed scientific literature. I whole-heartedly concur. I would also advice journalists to do some extensive search on the publication record of the individuals, and consider their affiliations – are they from a reputable place? Also, it’s recommended that they consider which journal in which the article is published – an article on climate published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons is less likely to receive a review of competent experts (peers) than if it were published in a mainstream geophysics journal. Finally, my advice is to try to trace the argument back to its source – does it come from some of those think tanks? But I didn’t get the chance to say this, as the debate was conducted by a moderator whose agenda was more focused on other questions.

Short of telling the journalists to start to read physics in order to understand the issues at hand, I recommended the reading of Spencer Weart’s ‘The Discovery of Global Warming’. The book is an easy read and gives a good background about the climate sciences. It also reveals that a number of arguments still forwarded by AGW-skeptics are quite old and have been answered over time. The book gives the impression of a déjà vu regarding the counter arguments, the worries, politics, and the perceived urgency of the problem. I would also strongly recommend the book for the AGW-skeptics.

One reservation I had regarding the discussion is being cut off when I get into the science and the details. I had the feeling of taking part in a football match where the referee and all the spectators were blind and then tried to convince them that I scored a goal. The problem is that people without scientific training often find it hard to judge who’s right and who’s wrong. It seems that communication skills are more important for convincing the general public that scientific skills. Scientists are usually not renowned for their ability to explain complicated and technical matters, but rather tend to shy off.

I’d suggest that journalists should try to attend the annual conferences such as the European (EMS) and American (AMS) meteorological societies. For learning what’s happening within the research, mingling with scientists/meteorologists, and because these conferences have lot to offer media (e.g. media sessions). Just as journalists go to the Olympics, would it not be natural for journalists to attend these conferences? – but I missed the opportunity to make this suggestion.

Hell seems to be fairly dead on a Sunday afternoon. I almost caught a cold from the freezing wait for the train – although the temperature was barely -3C. This January ranked as the third warmest in Oslo, and I have started to acclimatise myself to all these mild winters (the mountain regions, however, have received an unusually large amount of snow). Our minister of finance was due to attend the meeting to talk about getting grief, but she didn’t make it to Hell due to a snow storm and chaos at the air port (heavy amount of wet snow due to mild winter conditions).


366 Responses to “A day when Hell was frozen”

  1. 201

    Re #189 Russell:

    We’re not talking proving the Fermat Theorem here… we’re talking policy making under uncertainty — the usual case — for real, living people. You do that based on the best knowledge you have, warts and all; anything else is irresponsible.

    I can only imagine you in the military, in a position of command, and it’s not pretty: “No, we’re not sending any troops there before we have compelling evidence of imminent attack” :-(

  2. 202
    Abbe Mac says:

    Jim Eager,

    I suggest you take a look at a globe and note the position of Svalbard in relation to Scandinavia, and then look at the position of Mauna Loa, and the South Pole. Now consider, of those three sites which is likely to have measurements of CO2 that fluctuate widely as different air masses from Scandanavia pass through.

    BTW Scandanavia is not just the region around Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm. It also includes Finland and Lappland.

    mpare that w.

  3. 203
    Nick Gotts says:

    RE #179 [Ray Ladbury] “Nick,
    I do think that markets can play a role in the solution. They are not THE solution, but part of it.”

    I agree. But the “libertarian” right don’t: they KNOW markets are the solution to all problems, so any information that suggests otherwise MUST be false.

    “The flaw in most market approaches has been their failure to include environmental costs in the price of goods…

    I would also point out that markets have a much better track record than does social engineering.”

    This touches on a key point: almost all modern markets are to a considerable extent products of social engineering – that is, they have not simply grown “from below”, but depend on complex physical and institutional structures to operate (consider banking regulation, exchange rates, intellectual property…) These structures can be and are maintained, undermined, and changed by deliberate actions of individual or collective human agents (often with unintended side-effects, of course). Particular changes will benefit and disbenefit particular interest groups. Much of the right, either out of ideological conviction (the libertarians) or self-interest (big business) claims that markets are “natural”, and minimal regulation will give the best results. This is quite clearly false even without bringing in environmental considerations, but they do make its falsity particularly clear. So does the “market” solution of tradeable emissions permits: such markets are completely artificial, exist only because laws have been passed to establish them, and rely on the fact that governments have, in the last resort, the armed power to enforce their will. Supply is controlled by fiat. However, once the right concedes that markets can be set up and modified by political choice in this case, it becomes much harder to avoid it in others.

    “I don’t view this as an opportunity to remake humanity.”

    Humanity has been remaking itself constantly for at least 50,000 years.

    “This is a problem to be solved, and in the end, human beings will still be as lousy as they’ve always been.”

    How lousy have they always been? When I look at history I see plenty of lousiness, but also human solidarity, courage, compassion and curiosity, and a lot of just getting on with life as you find it.
    And how do you know the mean level of lousiness is a constant?

  4. 204
    Mike Donald says:

    #190
    #103 Mike – did I say I had any impartial sources? No, I didn’t.

    Now that I believe.

  5. 205

    Russell writes:

    [[Show me a statistical correlation that proves your point.]]

    The theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) does not depend on statistical correlations. It depends on radiation physics. I advise you to purchase a copy of John T. Houghton’s “The Physics of Atmospheres” (3rd ed. 2002) or Grant W. Petty’s “A First Course in Atmospheric Radiation” (2006), and to read through and work all the problems.

  6. 206
    Rod B says:

    Martin, there is a subtle but distinct difference between a critic and a skeptic. I should not have easily lumped them together. I think my assertion does apply to skeptics, but, as you say, a bona fide critic probably should have greater credentials. It’s one thing to say, “You’re wrong.” Quite another to say “I dont think I agree with you.”

    I haven’t done a full body count but I do not believe “so many” skeptics lie about their credentials. Maybe a couple exaggerate; and others have honest credentials that AGW protagonists just don’t like or accept. But that isn’t lying.

  7. 207
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Abbe Mac @ 203: “then look at the position of Mauna Loa, and the South Pole. Now consider, of those three sites which is likely to have measurements of CO2 that fluctuate widely as different air masses from Scandanavia pass through.”

    Point taken.

    “BTW Scandanavia is not just the region around Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm. It also includes Finland and Lappland.”

    Gee, you don’t say.

  8. 208
    dhogaza says:

    Occam’s razor cuts to the simplest argument; if global temperature, over a period of nearly 600 million years, correlates well to our position in our galaxy (as related to the spiral arms), and correlates well over that time to gcr (proxied by carbon-14), gcr can be reasonably seen as the driver of dramatic swings between hothouse and snowball earths.

    Occam’s razor would tend to point to the conclusion that if IR absorption by CO2 has been proven in the lab, and has nailed down to a high degree of accuracy, then CO2 in the atmosphere will act the same way. I know of nothing in physics that would argue that CO2 out of the lab (or outside a CO2 laser) works differently than CO2 in the atmosphere.

    Meanwhile, you’re suggesting we throw overboard known physics in favor of a GCR hypothesis for which there’s no known evidence. This is a hell of a lot closer to Gish’s “godditit” explanation of biology than it is to scientific reasoning.

  9. 209
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Greg Goodknight, First, regarding your point about groupthink–it is a phenomenon that tends to occur when communities are isolated. Yet climate studies are inherently interdisciplinary. And the science has been reviewed thoroughly by outside groups ranging from the National Academy of Sciences to the American Chemical Society. Not one single professional society dissents from the consensus position–and that includes the American Association of Petroleum Geologists! Not one. So much for groupthink.

    Your point about Michelson-Morley and the aether completely misses the mark. Until Michelson-Morley there was no reason to doubt the existence of the aether. The evidence preceded the theoretical development–as it usually does. Since all the evidence favors anthropogenic greenhouse warming, why should we assume the science will change.

    You also miss the point about GCR. There is no well worked out physical mechanism that turns a tiny change in a base rate of 5 particles per square cm per second into a significant forcer for climate. The theory consists of waving your hand until you levitate. Shaviv and others who contend that GCR have increased are very selective in which measures they use. The vast majority of measurements show no increase since at least the ’50s. Read
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/10/cosmic-rays-don%e2%80%99t-die-so-easily/langswitch_lang/wp

    and

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/05/fun-with-correlations/langswitch_lang/wp

    and

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/03/cosmoclimatology-tired-old-arguments-in-new-clothes/langswitch_lang/wp

    Finally, the biggest problem with your argument is that merely finding that another mechanism is important does not invalidate the known physics of greenhouse gasses. This is not a Chinese menu, where you take one from column A, one from column B, etc. until you make up the warming. The forcings are constrained independently of the warming, and CO2 is one of the most tightly constrained. If cosmic rays were somehow shown to have an effect, it would most likely affect less well constrained forcers like aerosols or other aspects of clouds. Indeed, given that clouds both cool and warm, it might well be a wash–or can you figure our how to get your mechanism to affect only the daylight side of Earth?

  10. 210
    Rod B says:

    Nick (204) says, “…markets can be set up and modified by political choice in this case…” Pure nonsense. If someone, for whatever reason, will pay me $150-$200 to plant a tree, what makes you think a government fiat is required to get the ball rolling? Markets have almost always done a better job of equitably distributing resources than governments have, and minimal (a somewhat slippery term) regulation is, in fact, optimal. But you are sniffing around a truth: NO regulation is worse. Plus it does take government hands to account for things in a “free” market that markets do not inherently account for — because they can’t, not because they are mean and nasty. The environmental cost of production is one good example. There is no way that an enterprise on its own could figure out what that cost is to them and fold that cost into its business case and the cost of producing and distributing widgets. If none-the-less it should be done, only government in its wisdom (hopefully) can decide what that cost should be and distribute it equitably across all relevant enterprises by law.

  11. 211
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Nick #204, The thing that we have to realize is that neither right nor left will dictate solutions to climate change. There will have to be compromise. Compromise is most likely to prevail–and most likely to be practical when the extremists on both sides cancel eachother out and the pragmatists can push progress forward. Right now, I fear that there are more social engineers at the bargaining table than libertarian marketeers. Since I distrust both, I look to the one to cancel out the other.

    “Humanity has been remaking itself constantly for at least 50,000 years.”

    Well, yes…and they’re still as greedy, still as cowardly, still as stupid and still as myopic as they have been since prehistory, if our legends and myths give us any indication. Now the wonderful thing about humans is that they can transcend all these traits–as individuals. However, we must deal with the vast majority–including people whose moral compass always points toward themselves. I am reminded of the story of Adlai Stevenson, perpetual loser of the presidency in the 50s, who was told by a woman, “You have the vote of every intelligent, right-thinking person in America.” “That’s very nice,” Stevenson replied. “Unfortunately, I need a majority.”

  12. 212
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod B., certainly you do not think that the opinion of a first-year graduate student should be given equal weight to someone who has been publishing actively in a field for 30 years, do you? How about someone who is an expert in the field in question vs. someone who is an expert in a somewhat related field? How about someone with a strong reputation for objectivity vs. someone who is bright but known to have an agenda? These are all questions that go into the establishment of consensus.

    As to groupthink, as I pointed out above, climate studies are an inherently multi-disciplinary field AND they have been reviewed by every major science organization in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Not one single organization of professional scientists disputes the consensus theory. By contrast, the dissenters are isolated cells overwhelmingly from outside the climate community and with no publication record in climate science.

    The publication record is especially important. Rod, you know from your own efforts that many of the points in the physics are somewhat subtle. All the more reason experts should not be dismissed lightly. And as to publication record, if you have good theories and ideas, that will naturally lead to publications. If you don’t publish, that is often a good indication that your way of thinking is moribund and will not lead to advancing the science.

  13. 213
    Russell says:

    Re #192 #202 #206

    I was using the term “second of arc” to mean a nautical mile. The grid would be tenths of a nautical mile, which would allow resolution great enough to model individual cloud formation and dissipation.

    I have worked for both the military and defense contractors, although I am not currently working in that area. I have taken the “normal” 3 semesters of physics, so I don’t claim to have the in depth knowledge, of the scientist on this board in that area. But I have worked in the radio spectrum and IR emission area, and I understand the basics of how energy is transferred. I also have studied weather, and meteorology.
    So I should be the perfect candidate for grasping this stuff, on a general level.
    I am not disputing the work, on the physics of the environment, that has been done, so far. I agree with you guys that there is a potential problem. But I have not seen a compelling argument, that shows the AGW fingerprint, on the current environment, distinct from natural variation.
    What I am also disputing is the predictive power of the work that has been done so far, when applied to the choatic environment. There is a lot to account for, and if you guys think you got it all covered, then I hope you are right.
    I am here looking for the “smoking gun”, that I was unaware of, that would help me get over the threshold of certainty. I have been following this subject for a couple of decades, and I haven’t seen it, yet. It may be that my requirements are too stringent. I am risk adverse, due to “Murphy’s Law”, taking a bite out of my ass, several times in the past.
    So for now, I am still taking a “wait and see” approach. I think you guys are on the right track. I am just not comfortable predicting the future of a choatic system with models, that are “not quite there, yet”. I know all the “nuts and bolts” of what they do, and how they do it. That is my area of expertise, and when the resolution level, and the physics are correct, they are very accurate. Until then, all I can say is, watch your step, when you get into the political system, advocating change. It is a messy business, and it has more in common with “love and war”, than it has in common with science.

  14. 214

    I am exasperated by the inhumane way that the ignorant political right in the USA are downplaying the need for watching the changes that are being foisted on the worlds environment by the human race who are eating at our planet like maggots eat a rotting apple.

    I am a right wing minded thinker myself and am fully aware of the future of our globe being infected by religious doctrines of extremism which could prove more fatal in a much more rapid momentum than any ‘greenhouse effect’ but for the sake of mankind let us not get tied up in political doctrine when humankind is putting its survival at stake.

    It should be honestly said that we are at war with the extreme of Islam who use the name of the very being that would most abhor the destruction of his own creation. Likewise we are at war with our planet but it will surely be our generation of grandchildren who will never thank us for what we have done.

    Religion is a gift from the almighty, we should cherish it, never fight over it and never abuse it.

    Why cannot mankind forget its differences and remember its sames?

    For more of the same please read my book . . .

    ‘Download’
    An alternative story of Noah and his Ark.
    A sensational story of man’s inhumanity to man and his environment.
    by
    Howard J Peters OD
    available on http://www.amazonbooks.com
    For more info – please visit my website: http://www.howardjpeters.com

  15. 215
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #207 [Rod B.] “I do not believe “so many” skeptics lie about their credentials. Maybe a couple exaggerate; and others have honest credentials that AGW protagonists just don’t like or accept.”

    Could you provide some examples of the latter?

    Re #211 [Rod B] “Nick (204) says, “…markets can be set up and modified by political choice in this case…” Pure nonsense. If someone, for whatever reason, will pay me $150-$200 to plant a tree, what makes you think a government fiat is required to get the ball rolling?”

    Rod, I did not say all markets have to be set up by political choice: I said they can be. However, all important modern markets, with the partial exception of black markets, function within an entirely artificial, and politically contested, legal framework: labour law, intellectual property, accounting standards, etc.: my main point is that markets are things we create and modify, not natural growths. That someone will pay you “dollars” is enough to show this: those bits of paper, or binary codes in a machine, are only worth anything because of the government power maintaining the financial system.

    “Markets have almost always done a better job of equitably distributing resources than governments have, and minimal (a somewhat slippery term) regulation is, in fact, optimal”

    Total tosh, at least if your meaning of “equitably” is anything like mine. Markets have an inherent tendency to channel resources to the already wealthy, but political action can increase or decrease this. Over the past few decades we have seen a large-scale deregulation within most countries, leading to very considerable wealth concentration. You may find this “equitable”; I don’t.

    “There is no way that an enterprise on its own could figure out what that cost is to them and fold that cost into its business case and the cost of producing and distributing widgets.”

    This is unclear: what is the reference of “what that cost is to them”? The cost of what to whom?

  16. 216

    Russell, weather is chaotic. Climate is deterministic. Do you understand the difference?

    [Response: Actually chaos is deterministic. What you mean to say is that climate is to a large extent a boundary value problem with relatively stable statistics, while any particular weather prediction is an initial value problem and suffers from sensitive dependence on initial conditions. – gavin]

  17. 217
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Russell, it is precisely because weather is chaotic that we must look at climate–long-term avaraging over weather. The dynamics of chaotic systems are predictable if you look at averages. They depend mainly on the conserved quantities–energy, momentum, angular momentum, etc. So we know with mathematical certainty, that if we add energy to the system average temperature will rise. We also know that the system will exhibit less predictable behavior–more extremes. So, what part of that do you not understand? Do you dispute that CO2 is a greenhouse gas that will decrease the probability of IR photons escaping? Do you think that its greenhouse properties magically stop at the pre-industrial value of at 280 ppmv?
    Quite frankly, the only way to convince yourself of the correctness of the theory is to do the work and learn it yourself. Realclimate is a phenomenal resource for doing so. It has helped me considerably in my understanding. Many of us have gone before you and can help. The smoking gun is there–you just need to understand enoughof the physics to see it.
    And as to the “politics,” that’s not really what this site is about. In terms of solutions, posters here span the spectrum from do-nothing advocates through gradualists to those advocating radical change. Some favor nuclear power, some renewables, some both. All I would caution in this regard is that by rejecting cogent science, all you do is leave your seat at the negotiating table empty as we decide what to do about it.

  18. 218
    SecularAnimist says:

    Steve Reynolds wrote: “It’s hard to see how self-righteous behavior arising from ignorance, that keeps billions of people in poverty, could be a “moral approach” to anything.”

    As you know, the talking point that action to mitigate anthropogenic global warming by reducing carbon emissions will “keep billions of people in poverty” is bogus, baseless and has repeatedly been refuted on this very site.

    In fact, the exact opposite is true: every organization in the world that works to address poverty in the developing world has stated that unmitigated global warming will thwart all of their efforts and condemn billions to abject poverty and worse, and that mitigating global warming is an absolute necessity if we are to have any hope of addressing poverty in the developing world.

    And your talking point is just plain ludicrous when offered in response to calls for the richest and most powerful countries in the world, such as the USA to take the lead in mitigating global warming by reducing their own emissions.

    Your comment gives rise to this image in my mind: a wealthy American, urged to drive a Prius instead of an SUV, screaming that the very request is “self righteous” and that replacing his SUV with a Prius will “keep billions of people in poverty”.

    It is quite comical really. In a sad way.

  19. 219
    dhogaza says:

    But I have not seen a compelling argument, that shows the AGW fingerprint, on the current environment, distinct from natural variation.

    What unknown input to the system could be driving that natural variation, then? Surely you’re not a “god’s doing it to test our faith” kinda guy, right? Surely you think that there’s something driving warming that we can measure, right? So, what is it, and what data confirms your guess?

    After all, you say this:

    I am not disputing the work, on the physics of the environment, that has been done, so far.

    While the reality is that any alternative hypothesis, if true, must lead to the overturning of that physics.

    What I am also disputing is the predictive power of the work that has been done so far, when applied to the choatic environment.

    Climate’s not chaotic in the sense that weather is. If you increase the amount of IR trapped by the atmosphere, long term, it WILL heat up. That energy’s gotta do something. What’s your alternative prediction?

  20. 220
    Rod B says:

    re Ray (213): “….Rod B., certainly you do not think that the opinion of a first-year graduate student should be given equal weight to someone who has been publishing actively in a field for 30 years, do you?”

    No, and it is not what I said. I said they have a credible right to be skeptical, but I would not expect their skepticism would have “equal weight” within the science.

    “…climate studies are an inherently multi-disciplinary field AND they have been reviewed by every major science organization in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Not one single organization of professional scientists disputes the consensus theory….”

    Well, that sounds correct and the consensus may be right. BUT it none-the-less still has all of the required characteristics of group-think. You say the whole group agrees, bar none!

  21. 221
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Re #207

    I do not believe “so many” skeptics lie about their credentials.

    Rod, learn to dig… google is an art form :-)

    I will readily admit to preferring the word ‘lie’ where others would use ‘spin’, ‘exaggerate’, ‘misrepresent’ etc. Calling a spade a spade and all that.

    About earning the right to state a (critical, skeptical) opinion, it depends on the forum. Here on RC it is quite okay to be an interested amateur. As I see it this is a learning resource, and surely debate can be an effective educational instrument on a forum where the rules of debate are those of science. But out in the big bad world it is different, and there needs to be a recognised way to shut up the spam.

  22. 222
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod B.,
    Uh, no. Groupthink occurs when a community is isolated group reinforces its own beliefs. In this case, there is no isolation. First, there are oceanographers, atmospheric scientists, paleoclimate experts… They all interact with their own communities as well as the climate community. Second, the incentives are wrong. You don’t get famous or rewarded in science by going with the herd, but by proposing something nes. Finally, the science has been reviewed by panels of experts from completely outside the field–physicists have said the physics is sound; chemists have endorsed the chemists, and so on. Sometimes when all the experts agree, it’s because the science is right!

  23. 223
    Holly Stick says:

    #196 by Rod B.: Holly (165,6), I agree, install a Fascist regime, then close all gas stations overnight (under military assurance..) and people will either change or die. This is not a myth. But I thought the focus of the discussion was getting masses to willingly change their attitudes…

    How very dishonest of you to so characterize what I wrote. I was talking about the ability of humans to change their behaviour in changed circumstances, not advocating a fascist regime. I was addressing the flawed arguments which seemed to suggest that gas-guzzling is an inherent part of human nature.

    If the democratically elected government of city decides to ban cars from driving downtown in order to prevent pollution killing some of the people, would you consider it a fascist regime?

    [Response: Discussion of fascism is rarely constructive in a scientific forum. I’m letting you reply, but please let this drop. – gavin]

  24. 224
    d. beck says:

    Russel #189 – You need to see the video “Dimming the Sun”. It’s free on-line and is one of the most interesting documentaries I’ve seen. It very clearly explains the cooling your asking about.

    The comments is not allowing the URL to be posted, so I’ll try again in a few minutes to figure out why, and post it soon I hope, or you can google the title.

  25. 225
    Greg Goodknight says:

    Ray Ladbury #223 is wrong; researchers who start down paths contrary to the groupthink here have received not very subtle hints to shut up; witness Svensmark being demonized by the head of the IPCC when his first tentative results were published in the mid ’90’s. The pressure to conform is palpable. You have a culprit besides CO2? “No soup for you!”

    Yes, the consensus in the group is that it’s CO2 *only*. With my license to BS in Physics, I can’t help but notice no one has taken on the elephant in the room, Shaviv & Veizer ’03, or the coincidence of the Permian-Triassic event 251 million years ago with the 600 million year gcr flux minima (as indicated by C-14) or even Harrison & Stephenson ’06 that I cited in opposition to a statement by Gavin in #113

    Note I do not dispute that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. What I do dispute is the cavalier latching onto any reason why the contribution of cloud cover (which at this point *has* been shown to be affected by cosmic rays, modulated by solar activity) be excluded from climate simulations. Shaviv estimates 1/3 CO2, 2/3 GCR (+/- 1/3) for the past century, with a rising CO2 contribution over the next century. It seems reasonable to me.

    You betcha, the exact mechanisms for GCR climate influences have not been quantified and proven, but I would be willing to bet they will be before long before there are three toed horses revealed to the creationists (another groupthink) which would only force them to demand science to produce another missing transitional form. We’d be farther along had funding for the SKY and CLOUD experiments not been stymied.

    There’s been a nice little cooling that seems to have been missed by *all* of the IPCC models, solar cycle 23 sunspots still occur on occasion, and the solar disk remains unblemished today.

    http://www.solarcycle24.com/solarimage.htm

    [Response: There are hundreds of researchers working on aerosol formation, ionization, solar effects on climate etc. Ask yourself why Svensmark is singled out. Clue. It is not because of what he is working on. – gavin]

  26. 226
    Russell says:

    Re: #217

    Thank you gavin, for that accurate description of the difference between between weather and climate, and the challenges to model either one. You are on your toes today, which is good thing, because that makes it harder for someone to step on them.

    Re: #220

    This is the big question, and like most risk averse EEs, I like to hedge my bet, instead of sticking my neck out. I am not going to promote a certain scenerio, since many have been voiced before, and I have nothing new to add. If gavin started twisting my arm, and forced a confession out of me, it would involve CO2s diminishing ability to thicken the walls of the IR greenhouse. But I can argue this or several other scenerios, or a combination of scenerios, as possible, and not find the facts so compelling, that the rebuttal is destroyed. The obvious question is not what is possible, but what is likely, and how likely is it, and how much do I want to risk, promoting a likely scenerio, as the correct one.

  27. 227
    David B. Benson says:

    Russell (227) — If you are a risk averse EE then you will assume that the IPCC scenarios are understated: we already have some evidence of this is Greenland (and elsewhere) land ice melt, but especially last summer’s big Arctic sea ice disappearance.

    Being risk adverse, you will then work to help mitigate further carbon dioxide increases and maybe even help figure out ways to efficiently sequester the excess carbon dioxide.

  28. 228
    Rod B says:

    Nick (216): “…Could you provide some examples of the latter?”

    Shirley you jest. There’s near hundreds of names, some referenced in this thread, all of whom get the reaction 1) they’re lying, or 2) they are now crazy wrong, meaning they are not liked or accepted.

    re markets: I absolutely agree that non-governments create markets, but governments can and do to some extent. I also agree that governments are necessary to bound the activities of free private enterprise, like with some of the examples you give. This is why “minimal” works, but “no” does not. But to say that this bounding is artificial and solely the whim of a bunch of fruit cakes is nothing but an irrational rant — though surely one can find examples here and there (Hillary’s glomming onto Exxon’s profit, e.g).

    “Equitably” means a reasonable distribution that’s not equal but is in the ball park of providing the most average good for everyone involved. It is not perfect, by a far piece. Nor is it defined by any one person’s concepts or any one government (in detail) for that matter. But you are correct that totally free private enterprise tends to concentrate the wealth way beyond a reasonable definition of equitably, Adam Smith not withstanding. That’s why you must have government set up bounds and rules. And “minimally” works best on the whole. “No” doesn’t work at all because, as you say, wealth then will get concentrated with a very sharp skew, and that concentration then becomes the de facto government — an oligarchy, because the government of record isn’t doing anything anyway, and pretty soon 0.1% of the people now legally have 99.9% of the wealth. Bad.

    How much should an individual gas station add to the price of gasoline to cover the global environmental/AGW damage its gasoline is creating? And where should it send the money? There is no gas station on earth that can come anywhere near to determining that. Then, if they could, and did, they’d be out of business within the month.

  29. 229
    Rod B says:

    SecularAnimist, Oh! Please! Your refute one talking point with another talking point? Or is “talking points” those things that only the other guy uses??

  30. 230
    Rod B says:

    Martin (222) says, “…About earning the right to state a (critical, skeptical) opinion, it depends on the forum.”

    That’s probably true and appropriate. Though I’d like a little finer discrimination than 1) here on RC, and 2) every place else. Plus as I corrected myself, criticism and skeptism probably have different ground rules.

  31. 231
    Rod B says:

    Ray, well we just disagree with the definition of groupthink (223), though your’s works also. What I’m talking of is ~ “the herd of independent minds” where in fact disparate individuals working independently (??) on the same thing eerily all come up with the same results — sometimes.

  32. 232
    Rod B says:

    Holly (224), No, I was only saying that take all the gasoline away overnight and you are correct, the people will change or die. But that this wasn’t the focus of the question. Fascism was simply a (probably unfortunate) side example of how to accomplish it. I did not think that was your suggestion.

  33. 233
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Greg Goodknight says “researchers who start down paths contrary to the groupthink here have received not very subtle hints to shut up; witness Svensmark being demonized by the head of the IPCC when his first tentative results were published in the mid ’90’s. The pressure to conform is palpable. You have a culprit besides CO2? “No soup for you!””

    It’s always so sad when the paranoia kicks in. Greg, do you even know any scientists. Do you realize that the “group” you are talking about is essentially the entire scientific community except for a few hundred kooks and contrarians. You are accusing the National Academies, the Royal Society, AAAS, AGU, APS, ACS–hell, even the American Association of Petroleum Geologists!

    Not only do you not have a mechanism–you don’t even have an increasing GCR flux. Oh, but wait, it’s because all those scientists are against you, isn’t it?

  34. 234
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Russell–isn’t it funny that you are only considering the risks as going one way. You aren’t considering the fact that climate change could render much of our agriculture infertile, that it could increase the incidence of extreme weather events, that it could cause ongoing droughts and flooding. I could go on, but you really only care about justifying your complacency. Ignorance is a good tool for that.

  35. 235
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #229 [Rod B.]

    “Shirley you jest”, in response to my earlier request for specific examples of skeptics who “have honest credentials that AGW protagonists just don’t like or accept.”

    No, I did not jest, and I repeat my request for specific examples, with evidence of AGW protagonists disliking or rejecting honest credentials. If you do not give any, I think the inevitable conclusion is that there are none.

    “I also agree that governments are necessary to bound the activities of free private enterprise, like with some of the examples you give. This is why “minimal” works, but “no” does not. But to say that this bounding is artificial and solely the whim of a bunch of fruit cakes is nothing but an irrational rant”

    Well, it might have been if I had said that, but I didn’t. What I did say was:
    “all important modern markets, with the partial exception of black markets, function within an entirely artificial, and politically contested, legal framework:”

    I’m at a loss to know where you got “solely the whim of a bunch of fruit cakes” from. I don’t use “artificial” as an insult, just as a description: something people have made, at least in part through their intentional actions. And that the legal framework of markets is politically contested is simply observation.

    We clearly disagree on how far markets should be subject to socio-political control, but it is only against what I would term dogmatic “free-market” or “right-libertarian” belief systems, that I consider the need to mitigate AGW a knock-down argument; your agreement that markets require some control in the interests of equity places your position outside that group.

  36. 236
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #212 [Ray Ladbury]

    “The thing that we have to realize is that neither right nor left will dictate solutions to climate change. There will have to be compromise.”

    I agree. However, it is abundantly clear that AGW poses a fundamental political threat to the right, because even the most market-oriented approaches draw attention to the artificiality of markets, and the possibilities of reshaping and controlling them for the common good. This has unfortunately led to an outbreak of denialism which we can ill afford (explaining why such denialists are so overwhelmingly from the right), but I don’t think you will get round that by denying that this issue plays to their disadvantage when they can see for themselves that it does.

    ““Humanity has been remaking itself constantly for at least 50,000 years.”

    Well, yes…and they’re still as greedy, still as cowardly, still as stupid and still as myopic as they have been since prehistory, if our legends and myths give us any indication.”

    You are very fond of evidence-free pronouncements of this sort, usually backed (as in this case) by a witty quotation from some luminary. You would never accept this sort of thing as serious argument in the physical sciences – why are your standards so much lower when it comes to the social sciences and humanities? If you consider levels of characteristics such as greed and cowardice to be historically and cross-culturally comparable, then their historical trajectories are clearly questions (very difficult ones) for empirical and theoretical investigation. If you don’t, your pronouncements are just empty rhetorical flourishes.

  37. 237
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Well, Rod, if your definition of “groupthink” encompasses a situation where essentially ALL the experts who publish regularly in a field agree that the evidence supports a theory AND independent audits of the science by scientists in related fields agree that the science is correct AND independent assessments of the science by every professional society of scientists agrees the science is cogent AND even the professional societies that originally dissented have been forced to backtrack,…well, it’s hard to see what sort of evidenc would be required to convince you. You will never have 100% buy-in on any theory, but anthropogenic causation is about as close as you can get. The dissenters simply are not credible, and as I’ve said repeatedly, the main indicator of that is their lack of publications. That right there indicates that their ideas are infertile. Just as with Intelligent Design, their ideas generate nothing new.

  38. 238
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Nick, I find it interesting that you think markets are artificial. Yet, everywhere I’ve gone in the world–and I have travelled a lot–I find that markets spring up spontaneously. Wherever people gather, they trade. It may be barter, or it may be derivatives, but markets seem to be a part of our nature. Regulation of markets also seems to rise spontaneously: If a vendor is found to be a cheat, he is often run out of the market. I’ve seen this happen in venues from informal swaps to refugee camps.

    What evidence would you have me provide of human stupidity, greed, etc? I would think it was self-evident, but all right. In Saudi Arabia, they are still trying and executing witches. In America, we have an oubliette called Guantanamo and our Enron. More people in America believe in angels than in the theory of evolution. My point, Nick, is not that people are nasty creatures–hell, we’re just like our ape cousins (except for the bonobos). My point is that in trying to deal with climate change and human behavior, we will not succeed by appealing to what is best in the human spirit, because quite frankly, most people don’t posess what is best in the human spirit.

    There is a very good reason why humans are the way they are. The environment favors it. We are no smarter than we are because intelligence beyond the norm carries little evolutionary advantage. We are no more altruistic than we are because there is no evolutionary advantage to it. Society and governments can change human behavior by coercion, but it is merely a thin veneer–a tuxedo on the ape. We may like to think we are above all that, but the only reason we are less red of tooth and claw is because we’ve developed more effective weapons. If we are to succeed in this, we must appeal to human nature as it it, not as we’d like it to be.

    And as to empirical and theoretical investigation, all I know to do is turn to history. I see no improvement in the species in all of recorded history–roughly 5000 years or so. Going back further, we are in the realm of myth–yet the motivations of humans in Greek Mythology, in the Bible, in the Ramayana and Mahabharata do not seem foreign to us. That takes us back probably 8000 years. Yes, civilization can change behavior, but as we found during Katrina, that’s just a veneer. Do you know of anything that indicates otherwise?

  39. 239
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #239 “Nick, I find it interesting that you think markets are artificial. Yet, everywhere I’ve gone in the world–and I have travelled a lot–I find that markets spring up spontaneously. Wherever people gather, they trade.”

    Ray, trade is a human universal; markets in anything like the modern sense are not. I call markets “artificial” in the same sense I do physical technology: human constructions which we can redesign or even supercede.

    “What evidence would you have me provide of human stupidity, greed, etc?” What you were claiming was that these characteristics were unvarying, without making any attempt to provide evidence. You still haven’t.

    “There is a very good reason why humans are the way they are. The environment favors it. We are no smarter than we are because intelligence beyond the norm carries little evolutionary advantage. We are no more altruistic than we are because there is no evolutionary advantage to it. Society and governments can change human behavior by coercion, but it is merely a thin veneer–a tuxedo on the ape.”

    This is all just ’70s sociobiology, which wrongly assumes that natural selection can produce perfect adaptation, and that “intelligence” and “altruism” are fixed quantities inherent in individuals.

    “Yes, civilization can change behavior, but as we found during Katrina, that’s just a veneer. Do you know of anything that indicates otherwise?”

    Actually, most of the stories about how badly people behaved during Katrina were just that – stories. I think you need rather stronger evidence than that. The metaphor of a “veneer” is a very poor one: a non-acculturated human being is a non-functional one, it is part of our nature to be acculturated. The enormous differences even between modern societies – in levels of violence (for small-scale societies, compare the Yanomamo with the inhabitants of Ladakh), inequality, and nepotism, for example – showed clearly enough that different kinds of acculturation can make an enormous difference.

  40. 240
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Nick, I fear we may be drifting too far adrift for a discussion on realclimate. I would be happy to continue this offline.

    You are right. I have not provided any hard, scientific evidence for my contention, but then I know of none that rises to that level on either side of the argument. Moreover, I said nothing about individuals. Any individual can rise above his or her limitations. However, picking a particular individual and betting he will do so, is a fraught proposition. Yes, socialization can make a difference. I never said it did not. What I think you need to keep in mind is that while society can assist exceptional individuals in overcoming their limitations, we are not talking about exceptional individuals. We are talking about the vast majority–the great unwashed–down probably at least to the 5% level on the bell curve if we’re really going to make a difference. A recipe for reducing CO2 emissions that starts with “First, we remake society…” is not going to work.

    As to the veneer of civilization in humans, I think it serves pretty well. Like it or not, Nick, humans are apes. We have a rather larger brain, but MOST people only use it to rationalize their emotional decisions. I do not understand why some people insist that human psychology should differ dramatically from those animals that most closely share our ancestry.

  41. 241
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #241 “I do not understand why some people insist that human psychology should differ dramatically from those animals that most closely share our ancestry.”

    Language.

  42. 242
    David B. Benson says:

    Ray Ladbury (241) & Nick Gotts (242) — Maybe you can find another forum for this discussion? Seems fairly remote from climatology

  43. 243
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Ray L.: Re #241 “I do not understand why some people insist that human psychology should differ dramatically from those animals that most closely share our ancestry.”

    Nick G.: Language.

    Well, that development certainly increased our facility for subterfuge and rationalization. I do not see that it substantially benefitted our morals or civility.

    Nick, both chimps and gorillas have some linguistic capability. They use tools. They even pass on knowledge. It does not stop them from being apes. One other difference: apes are usually not wantonly cruel. In my opinion, it only makes sense to acknowledge our tendencies toward agression, complacency, greed, etc. How else are we to control them? And I also contend that the vast majority are not only incapable controlling these impulses except under duress. Most don’t even see the point of wanting to.

    If you try to change human behavior on a mass scale, you will run into the same problem as religions. Namely: How do you take a system of thought developed by a genius and adapt it so it can regulate the behavior of idiots?

  44. 244
    David B. Benson says:

    Here is how the current La Nina is playing out in central Chile:

    http://www.patagoniatimes.cl/content/view/395/1/

    Drought.

  45. 245
    Rod B says:

    Nick (236), Geeeze. O.K. With my eyes closed I’ll just throw in Singer and Lindzen to start the ball.

    Artificial is defined as contrived, stilted and unreal — like something developed on a whim by fruitcakes. But if you didn’t mean it as that, I apologize if I missed it. Though I’m not sure how you would define it — so I don’t know if I agree or disagree.

    We may understand and kinda agree on the last point. I think government’s hand ought to be much less than you imply; but no government involvement, I guess like libertarian freedom, is a disaster waiting to happen.

  46. 246
    Rod B says:

    Ray (238), you say, “…Well, Rod, if your definition of “group think” encompasses a situation where essentially ALL the experts who publish regularly in a field agree that the evidence supports a theory AND independent audits of the science by scientists in related fields agree that the science is correct AND independent assessments of the science by every professional society of scientists agrees the science is cogent AND even the professional societies that originally dissented have been forced to backtrack,……”

    So you’re saying it walks like, talks like, sounds like a duck, but it ain’t, really?? You just described the classic observations of group think. We probably just have a semantic difference that in the long run may not be critical. But you’re still ignoring the aspect of group think that is not an internecine cabal, nor nefarious, conspiratorial, or even conscious. On the other hand I would have to agree that, even given these characteristics, it is possible to have a virtual 100% consensus without “group think” actually playing a part. But one has to get around the strong pervasive indications that it does (including the self-assured ostracizing of all aginers — the subject of another little setto in this thread). Maybe AGW climatology is not; but it sure reeks. Who knows?

  47. 247
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #244 [Ray Ladbury]

    “#Nick G.: Language.

    Well, that development certainly increased our facility for subterfuge and rationalization. I do not see that it substantially benefitted our morals or civility.”

    Well, I raised it in response to your query as to why human psychology should be markedly different from that of other apes. Humans can tell each other stories, plan for contingencies that are many years distant, modify their own motivations (e.g. giving up smoking), debate and vote, etc. etc. etc. It makes an enormous difference, or rather, a whole series of enormous differences. Among other things, it makes morals possible. The evolutionary roots of morality were certainly present in our common ancestors with other apes, and probably much further back (recent experiments indicate that some monkeys – I can’t recall the species offhand – have something resembling a sense of fairness). However, they cannot formulate moral rules, or recognise moral dilemmas, or vow to do better in future.

    “Nick, both chimps and gorillas have some linguistic capability. They use tools. They even pass on knowledge.”

    I am well aware of those things – indeed I suspect, though I could be wrong, that I know more about them than you do, as they are much closer to my areas of professional expertise than to yours, and I have read about them fairly extensively. To say they “have some linguistic capacity”, however, may be misleading. They can be taught to “use sign language”, but they have very limited capacity to deal with syntax, and seldom use signing for anything other than obtaining an immediate non-linguistic reward – people, on the other hand, find conversation intrinsically rewarding. Many of the claims made for ape language skills are controversial – there is always the danger of over-interpretation, the “clever Hans” phenomenon.

    “It does not stop them from being apes. One other difference: apes are usually not wantonly cruel.”

    It’s obviously some time since you read Jane Goodall’s accounts of goings-on among the chimpanzees at Gombe.

    “In my opinion, it only makes sense to acknowledge our tendencies toward agression, complacency, greed, etc. How else are we to control them?”

    Of course we must acknowledge these tendencies. But also, our tendencies to solidarity, compassion, rationality, etc. The key then is to devise modifications to our current institutional systems that discourage the bad, and encourage the good tendencies.

    “And I also contend that the vast majority are not only incapable controlling these impulses except under duress. Most don’t even see the point of wanting to.”

    You contend it, but you do not demonstrate it. There is relevant and recent empirical evidence to the contrary that you ignore, from the fields of social psychology, anthropology, experimental economics, neuroeconomics and others. I’ve cited some of it on this site before. Try Google Scholar on the names Bowles, Gintis, Fehr, Gaechter, Boehm for a start. (The same bodies of work, as I’ve noted before, are among those that refute the assumptions of neoclassical economics.)

    “If you try to change human behavior on a mass scale, you will run into the same problem as religions. Namely: How do you take a system of thought developed by a genius and adapt it so it can regulate the behavior of idiots?”

    Why do you assume mass behaviour change has to be attempted by imposing a quasi-religion designed by an individual?
    Human behaviour has been changing fast, on a mass scale, for several centuries. Governments, corporations and pressure groups routinely attempt to direct that change. I want these attempts at direction done, so far as possible, democratically, and scientifically – that is, in determining goals, all should as far as possible have an equal voice; but in assessing the feasibility of goals, and how to reach them, relevant experts in both the natural and the social sciences should be consulted. Of course, I realise that the people may democratically decide to make their decisions unscientifically – but I don’t think the current system of global partially-elective oligarchy has served us any too well in that respect, despite recent signs of improvement.

    It occurs to me that modern science, which you rightly respect greatly, is in itself a clear refutation of your view that human behaviour is fundamentally unchanging, reflecting our biological nature. Science is an artificial system, an institutional technology, which both constrains and enables crucial aspects of scientists’ behaviour: it is far more rational in its decision-making processes than individual scientists, because it is designed to be so, in two ways: to reward rationality (among other things) in individual scientists’ professional work, and to detect and counter their remaining irrationalities. It is clearly compatible with our psychobiology, but it works to encourage some of our good tendencies, and discourage some of the bad (lying, self-deception, carelessness etc.) It is, indeed, one of the largest social engineering projects ever – and crucially, it has important participatory and democratic elements. Why is it so implausible that an economic system that is considerably better than capitalism at encouraging the better tendencies of human beings could be possible, and could be reached by incremental steps from where we are now? I don’t, as you suggested earlier, say that to tackle AGW, we must first change human nature, or even revolutionise social arrangements. I do believe that social change and in particular institutional innovation are an essential part of the solution, along with technological ingenuity. Although the human sciences can rarely boast the degree of certainty available in the physical scientists, there are bodies of work showing how far human behaviour is ontogenetically and contextually flexible, how altruism can maintain itself in populations, and to some degree, how we can design institutions to encourage cooperative solutions to social dilemmas. So far as I can tell (do tell me if I’m wrong, and you have actually read some of the sources I’ve referred to on this site), you prefer to retain your dogmatic pessimism about people rather than consulting these bodies of work. I wonder why.

  48. 248

    Ray Ladbury writes:

    [[Like it or not, Nick, humans are apes.]]

    So say the cladists, but there are good reasons for thinking they’re wrong. There are a number of non-trivial differences between humans and apes, a couple of the most obvious ones being that humans are three times as encephalized as apes, make fire, and have complex vocal languages.

    We are related to apes. We are not apes.

    [Response: Comparative physiology is OT. – gavin]

  49. 249
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod, did it ever occur to you that the reason why all the experts–indeed, nearly everybody who understands the science at all–agree is that the evidence supports anthropogenic causation? Do you know of any evidence that poses serious challenges to the theory? If not, then how does this situation answer to the definition of groupthink? And then there is the fact that anthropogenic causation happens to be the only mechanism backed up by a well established body of physics. I’m kind of partial to conservation of energy, Rod.
    As to rejection of the “skeptics,” exactly how have they been ostracized. Christy and Spencer, who still play by the rules of science, publish, etc. still get research funds, still get papers accepted, still attend conferences. You will notice that when they have been criticized here it has been for what they have done (e.g. trying to do science by press in editorials for conservative rags) or on the basis of the science. Lindzen stopped being a scientist when he stopped caring whether what he said was true or not. This was brought home to me when he stooped to the level of trying to claim that warming was occurring on Mars, Neptune and Jupiter, so the cause couldn’t be anthropogenic. He is too smart not to know the falsity of this argument. Monckton is a joke. As to the other usual suspects, their arguments demonstrate that they simply haven’t taken the time to understand the physics in any detail. Quality control is not censorship.

    So if believing in the scientific method is your idea of groupthink, then fine, mea culpa. But it’s not a definition that even Mike Huckabee would probably agree with.

  50. 250
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Nick Gotts says: “So far as I can tell (do tell me if I’m wrong, and you have actually read some of the sources I’ve referred to on this site), you prefer to retain your dogmatic pessimism about people rather than consulting these bodies of work. I wonder why.”

    Well, I would have thought that a quick perusal of the newspapers would be sufficient to reinforce a negative image of humanity as a whole. And when I find my misanthropy starting to give way to a sunny optimism, I find that a quick drive on Washington, DC’s beltway is sufficient to restore it. Nick, I have read some of the references you cited, and I wanted to read more. These days, though, I have little time to read anything that isn’t related to radiation or statistics. The thing is that for every study that draws optimistic conclusions about human nature, others reach the opposite conclusion.

    Also, I think you misunderstand my position. I do not dispute that human behavior can be modified for the better. I do not dispute that scientific thinking can foster rational tendencies. I do not deny that some social systems will be better than others for fostering good behavior. What I dispute is
    1)that the majority of people even want to behave decently or think rationally
    2)that we can impose institutional changes from above in a timely fashion without creating a backlash
    3)that institutional changes can filter up from below soon enough to make a difference (or that there are enough people who want such changes to have any effect)
    4)that we can anticipate and mitigate unintended consequences of social engineering on a global scale
    5)that we will be able to effectively counter the propaganda and disinformation from entrenched interests telling people what they want to hear anyway

    and so on.

    It just seems to me that we have a much better chance of success if we accept human nature as it is now, and use it, including its faults, to try to effect change. For good or ill, religion has been the most effective agent of social change not because it appeals to “the better angels of our nature”, but because it relies on people’s inherent gullibility and fear. Governments, academics and philosophers have a piss poor track record. Their efforts have always failed, at least since Rousseau, and they have often had disastrous consequences (Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot). Even when the architects of change were decent men (Gandhi, Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere…) the results usually came to naught in terms of lasting change. Even science–as successful as it has been at materially bettering our lives–has hardly penetrated the way most people think. It has left our society a bit like our brains–a thin veneer of rational cerebral cortex, hiding the brain of an ape.

    So, Nick, I am optimistic about some people, as individuals, while being a pessimist about the species as a whole, and if you look around, it’s hard to see how the news of the day says I’m wrong.


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