Palin on Global Warming

One can moreover doubt even Palin’s commitment to dealing with the consequences of climate change. Surely, that would include doing something to save the polar bears,yet the State of Alaska (against the advice of its own wildlife biologists) is suing the Interior department over its decision to list the polar bear as “threatened” — and this despite the fact that the Bush administration put so many qualifications on the listing as to make it essentially toothless. What’s even more telling is that the brief submitted to Interior drew heavily on a list of climate skeptics (including the Marshall Institute’s Willie Soon) that could easily have been culled from the infamous Inhofe 400. (see this article). Palin’s role in bringing this case has not been peripheral; she has been very much at the center of the effort, and has consistently questioned the causal link between CO2 and global warming in making the case. As early as Dec. 2006, she wrote to Secretary Kempthorne: “”When a species’ habitat (in this case, sea ice) is declining due to climate change, but there are no discrete human activities that can be regulated or modified to effect change, what do you do?” Further information about Palin’s long fight against the listing, and her view of the scientific issues involved, can be found here.

We will take this occasion to note also that Biden used the debate to reaffirm Obama’s long standing position in favor of “clean coal.” Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on the extent to which the candidates understand what should really be meant by this term. From the point of view of global warming, the only “clean” coal would be coal burned with 100% carbon capture and sequestration — certainly worthy of research and pilot implementation, but not by any means a technology that can be counted on at present to solve the problem. (And of course, the term “clean” is even then relative, since what mountain top removal mining does to the West Virginia hills and rivers is anything but “clean”).

So there you are. We report, you decide.

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290 comments on this post.
  1. markr:

    RE: #35 “What do you base 640 million on?

    First of all, the unprecedented spike in human population well matches the use of fossil fuels in all their various guises, including the production of artificial nitrogen fertilizer. So, if one simply subtracts the enormous volume of humanity which has come to survive on the planet because of all of the free energy, including the upsurge in the artificial and therefore “unnatural” food production (see David R Montgomery, SOIL, Kenneth Deffeyes Beyond Oil, et al), one ends up with a rather lower peak population and a much more modest population J-curve. Second, I made a rough guess of the percentage drop in civilization populations when they crashed due to environmental overreach, based on generalized information. I don’t recall the percentage, but of course it was high. Since there are about 6.5 billion humans on the planet now, reducing the population by a factor of 10 makes a good starting point. This is all before considering the tremendously negative impact of ecosystem degradation compounded by the accelerant of AGW. The effect must be great, as it already obviously is. So reducing the surviving human population by another factor of ten is not unrealistic, and probably still too optimistic. The ultimate question is whether the human species will traverse its self-created extinction boundary. I rather doubt it, but if so only a few will do so, especially compared to today’s population. We cannot return to hunting and gathering; there will be nothing to hunt except other human beings. Gathering will be a difficult prospect rather than a cornucopia. The degree of severity of human population collapse depends on climatic feedback loops, in part.

  2. Bob Ward:

    In her defence, Sarah Palin is not alone amongst politicians who seek or achieve high office whilst holding a laughable view of the science of climate change. Let me name and shame a couple of prominent candidates here (other than Messrs Bush and Cheney), and highlight their recent pronouncements:

    Sammy Wilson, Northern Ireland’s Environment Minister (really!):

    Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic:

    Unfortunately, a grasp of the science of climate change is not, in itself, a sign of fitness for high office:

  3. Lawrence Brown:

    Palin said:
    “But there are real changes going on in our climate. And I don’t want to argue about the causes. What I want to argue about is, how are we going to get there to positively affect the impacts?”

    Isn’t this a little like a Dr. telling a patient that she’s sick,and he’s going to operate to lessen the impacts on her, without really knowing what’s causing the illness?

  4. Chris Colose:

    #33 Alastair

    It is not the place of a VP debate to discuss the complexities of the arctic climate. If you wanted to you could get into ideas about how anthropogenic factors are affecting “natural” factors like the AO. There is a lot to be said about albedo feedbacks and ocean and wind patterns, etc, but I doubt anyone wants to hear about that from Biden.

    Not all of the arctic variability is anthropogenic, but the “global warming” over the last half a century is mostly caused by us…I’m not too sure which he’s referring to when he says “it” is due to us. I don’t know if it was greatly worded, but it was clear.

    I don’t have a problem with Palin’s statement that “I’m not one to attribute every change to human activity” but I have a problem with her ability to dodge the topic, be unclear, and use statements which are meant to “make everyone happy.” What does “pollution” mean? How do we stop something that we aren’t causing? What exactly needs to be done to tackle the problem (does she think there is a problem)?

  5. David:

    There is really little point examining what the presidential candidates have to say, particularly in televised debates. It’s all just a show, and any connection to whatever the candidates actually believe is purely incidental.
    That the republicans choose to put on this particular show is pretty depressing though.

  6. Hank Roberts:

    Dave, I dunno what Mark meant by “typical Alaskan” — a Google search suggests other people think they exist.

  7. Dave Werth:

    Re: #35

    suppose that the earth could temporarily support a maximum human population of 640 million with a wood-based agricultural economy

    Where did you base this estimate on?

    I believe that was the approximate population of the earth at the end of the “wood-based agricultural economy” and the beginning of the industrial age (1700’s). Using fossil fuels allowed greater population to develop or maybe increasing population forced us to innovate and start using fossil fuels. Going back to that pre-industrial world would drastically reduce the population we could support.

  8. llewelly:

    #9: Rod B:

    As an aside, what’s the cause for you (all) to speculate that McCain would turn energy policy over to Palin?

    McCain has referred to Palin as an energy expert several times. It’s not speculation – it’s taking McCain at his word.

  9. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    Any solutions posed here or elsewhere which do not admit of the need for massive population reduction–which is in reality the only solution which can be forced upon us humans to resolve this matter–is shortsighted, naive, and intellectually dishonest.

    I disagree. I believe that humans, with their opposable thumbs, large brains, upright stance and nearly 90% grasp of the relevant mathematical and physical fundamentals, could very well just evacuate the planet in the future.

    It depends on what you want that future to be, and what you are willing to do to make that future a reality.

    We’re too deep in the hole now, there is only one way forward, and that’s up. I hope to meet you all up there.

    Captcha : opposition yielded

  10. Ricki (Australia):

    This is such a political post!!!

    The same thing recently happened here in Australia. The conservative government refused to countenance AGW and lost the election. The new government has yet to seriously change our emissions output, but is working on introducing a carbon cap and trade system by 2010. They are having lots of trouble with the vested interests and debate is hot about what reduction targets to set for 2020.

    The key is that you have to USE the run-up to the election to convince BOTH sides that climate change is being caused by our GHGs. This is the time to put on the pressure and get soem commitments. The best way is to write letters, make appointments to see your representatives, go public and state your views, etc.

    It is too important an issue to leave the simple actions undone. If all concerned voters wrote one letter, things would change.

  11. James Killen:

    Rather than a garbled attempt to reiterate what she said in the Newsmax interview, I think Palin was clearly trying to put here the position that she was not one “to attribute EVERY change in the climate to the activity of man” and that it was because she was equivocating (in relation to that previous statement) that she garbled. Moreover she then went on proudly to spell out the various emission reduction strategies she was supporting, a position which makes no sense for an out-and-out denialist.

    On this topic Palin is in the invidious position of representing both a constituency which is denialist and a presidential candidate who is not. As an Alaskan it might also be uncomfortable to have the deal with the fact that the exploitation of the potential energy wealth off their coast might come at a very high cost to Alaska itself.

    Though I was surprised by how frank and unequivocal his answer was I think this was one of Biden’s weaker moments. Instead of addressing the ambiguity of her response, he did what she more usually resorted to in the debate – give a pre-written speechlet instead of engaging with what the opponent said. Given her lack of clarity here, I hardly think he was entitled to call an understanding of the anthropogenic nature of current climate change “the biggest fundamental difference.”

  12. RichardC:

    On population culling: Dr. Lovelock estimates 90 +- 10% of the population will die, so markr’s 640 million survivors has a scientific sponsor. War is efficient when a population is under climate stress. Leningrad’s WW2 circle of life was rats eat humans eat rats. Soylent Rodent. What happens when the world is awash in cheap guns and food is scarce? Oops, kind of like today, only more so!

    Reagan would have made a fine figurehead king, but by re-election time he was toast. Instead of retiring him, Republicans realized that a brain-dead president would suit their needs perfectly, so Ronnie was re-elected and became the first Alzheimer’s president. Bush 2 continued on with the new tradition. This allowed specific groups to grab many billions of borrowed bucks from the federal coffers. Why pay a soldier $23k a year when a mercenary is available for a mere $250k? Add in profit and it’s probably $500k.

    Palin will continue the fine Republican tradition of using weak-minded souls as figureheads to enable the rape of the treasury. The agenda assigned to her is clear: increase the government tremendously while further concentrating it into the single legitimate governmental task: profitable warfare. She’s to decrease taxes on unearned income (capital gains), preferably to zero (only those who actually work should pay taxes), increase fossil fuel production, and continue Bush 2’s concentration of power into the Executive branch. The Constitution has been scanned and the phrase “president of the senate” found. Presidents set agendas, do they not? Decide on what is debated and for how long perhaps?

    Cap and trade can be set at any number and it wouldn’t do to have it less than the reasonable increases scheduled for the next 8 years, right? Those spewing vouchers will be valuable. More free money for Big Oil and Coal. What happens when the arctic ice implodes? With all that borrowed capital invested in shiny new pipelines and wells and other toys, reducing GHGs certainly won’t be on the agenda. Fortunately, it’s much easier to borrow some artillery from the military and pay Haliburton many billions to start brimstoning the atmosphere. So what if the oceans die? Real men eat beef (and moose).

    Oh, and she did wonderfully well in the debate. So chipper and friendly and gosh darn cute. Who cares about substance? McCain doesn’t have to die. A little stroke or heart attack. Lots of ways to become unfit for office, and Barbie Doll President will be unleashed.

  13. Mark:

    Dave #57: why is that the maximum population of the earth under those conditions?

    We have learned things about agriculture since then. Not to mention how to save lives at childbirth and keep people healthy over their lives. And removed some of the biggest killers of humans that aren’t bigger than us.

  14. Oleo:

    Consider the various chemical gases emitted daily from the volcanoes and their gaseous inversion layers causing greenhouse conditions. Information from the USGS shows daily emmission measurments of 1500 to 30000 tons of CO2 and same size emmissions of hydrogen sufide into the atmosphere from each of the orange and the 5 yellow alert volcanoes within American territories and states.

    Even the green condition volcanic areas emit dangerous gases on an intermittent basis. Yellowstone had gas emmissions that killed 5 bison in 2004.

    Mt. St. Helens daily emitted 1500 tons of CO2 for years until 1983 with measurment levels dropped to 1000 ton daily emmissions. There are monitors in place today meausring the gas emmissions.

    There are other type gas emmissions from these that are not easily calculated but have a large contribution to the greenhouse condition. This tonnage of smog or vog into the atmosphere is uncontrollable.

    The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 was said to have emitted millions of tons of gases and at least 10 times the power of 1980 Mt. St. Helens. The Ozone hole over the Antarctica was the largest reported in 1992 and 1993.

    The emmissions under American jurisdictions is no comparisons to other jurisdictions and the U.S. is a small contributing fraction compared to other countries. This country does not have the smoke stack industries that puts out high levels of pollutants routinely into the global atmosphere. These are now in China and other third world countries that do not have the atmospheric care or concerns of U.S.

    Industrialized American corporations utilize scrubbers, holding tanks, transformers, precipretators and catalytics to burn or bind pollutants before they are released into the atmosphere in the production of 1970s. But transferred and exported these industrialize operations (jobs) to third world countries that did not have or will to follow these protective practices.

    Basic in stewardship of resources is understanding carrying capacity of an organism or enviornment. There are some that state this earth cleanses itself. Which is generally true but will take hundreds of years for these pollutants to disapate.

    Man does contribute to this effect but the U.S. is not the main reason and one should consider the U.S. leads in restricting the airborne release of pollutants. The point to consider is that we may be able to slow the global warning by bringing back industries from countries that refuse to practice pollution control of air and water. If we bring back those industries we may provide better security within our borders, and better food sources, and better air. Because we are one of the largest consumer of goods, maybe if these industries return back we may slow down this atmospheric green house effect because our industries will practice safe enviornmental controls and this could shut down the smoke stacks and uncontrolled pollution in other countries.

  15. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Edward Greish says, once again:

    Nuclear power is the safest source of electricity, bar none.

    Tell it to the Ukrainians.

  16. markr:

    RE #57

    Oddly, though, I came up with the figure of 640 million before I knew what the pre-fossil fuel global population was, by the civilization collapse estimate–coincidental? M

  17. Barton Paul Levenson:

    markr writes:

    Since there are about 6.5 billion humans on the planet now, reducing the population by a factor of 10 makes a good starting point.

    How do you propose to do that? Gas chambers? Plagues? Nuclear weapons?

    And again, do you volunteer to be one of those reduced?

    CAPTCHA words: “worthless subject”

  18. Paul Biggs:


    Pielke Jr has a nice summary of ‘science as politics at real climate,’ here:

  19. Anne van der Bom:


    You seem seem to think that Sarah Palin is an ordinary hockey mom, but she is an intelligent and educated woman playing the role of one. Call it politics, call it ‘connecting to the voters’, call it campaigning. She understands very well that science is saying that there is a 90% certainty that climate change is anthropogenic. And then she turns around and tells her electorate there is a lot of uncertainty and we should therefore choose adaptation over mitigation. That is what I would call dishonest. But all is fair in love and war. And politics. Especially when there’s an election coming up.

  20. Anne van der Bom:

    #28, #51, markr, #57 Dave Werth,

    markr, you come to your 650 million by dividing 6.5 billion by 10. How you got to this number, you explain as follows: “I made a rough guess of the percentage drop in civilization populations when they crashed due to environmental overreach, based on generalized information. I don’t recall the percentage…” If find that rather disappointing after ending your first post with the sentence: “Any solutions posed here or elsewhere which do not admit of the need for massive population reduction–which is in reality the only solution which can be forced upon us humans to resolve this matter–is shortsighted, naive, and intellectually dishonest.” I had expected a more robust base for your estimates.

    The other way of estimating the population that this planet can support without fossils-based fertilizers by looking at the population around 1700, is not accurate either. The first question you must ask is how much of the earth’s argricultural potential was being used at that time? The second thing you both overlook is that agriculture has not stood still in the past 300 years. Much of that knowledge and progress can be applied to biological farming. When I simply look at the prices of biological vegetables in my local supermarket, their price does not differ that much from ordinary vegetables. That is an indication we probably don’t need 10x as much land to grow the same crop. And then of course there is the meat issue. A lot of the agricultural land is dedicated to the production of meat. By simply eating less meat, we can feed a lot more people.

    The population reduction will take place, but not for the reason you think. It will be voluntary. In many western countries the fertility rate is dropping below 2.1, the replacement rate for industrialized countries.

  21. markr:

    RE #70 et al, Simple tilling agriculture is destructive to soil through wind and water erosion. The best soils (loess) have been blown away a long time ago, or washed onto floodplains where agriculture then moves from the loess hilltops. With increased populations due to the abundance of food (and notice here, that people do not choose to voluntarily limit their population but rather see excess food production as further incentive to reproduce, modern contraception notwithstanding), hillsides are then tilled which rapidly erode far beyond the natural rate. Modern examples are North Korea’s foolish slopeside cultivation of corn, Honduras in Hurricane Mitch?, and Northern China’s Yellow River. 50% of fertile topsoil has been blown off the top of Iowa in a century of European agriculture, and the remaining non-mineral soil biology is distorted by perverse amounts of artificial nitrogen application. A map of soil depletion and exhaustion is worldwide, on all continents. Again, see SOIL by Montgomery.
    My estimate of peak human population without the influence of fossil fuels is, again, based roughly on an agriculture/wood based economy. There are only so many forests and so much tillable soil, far less than the sum landmass on the planet. By looking at the matter from several angles one roughly comes near the same population peak. I cannot be any more accurate than that since this is not my field of expertise. This 640 million is not, by the way, a sustainable population, either, but rather the point at which a non-fossil fuel human population would reach a similar ecological crisis point. Add to that the current problems of ecosystem annihilation and the accelerant of AGW, and you must force that peak population downwards–and I argue severely so.
    It’s true that the human fertility rate is dropping, but the timeline for it to fall to a truly sustainable level extends beyond the crisis point for AGW and ecosystem destruction. Further, there is no end–NONE AT ALL–to dire ecosystem destruction; it continues unabated and is accelerating. Technology only allows us to do more damage faster. This fact cannot be ignored in favor of rosy scenarios, which again, are bailing the ocean with a teaspoon.
    RE: #67 gas chambers, plagues, nuclear weapons? I am not suggesting any of these so-called solutions. They are ghastly and barbaric, and it is insulting to suppose that I am advocating any such thing. Rather, circumstance will force population reduction upon the human race, as always, when we bump up hard against the limits of our ultimate niche, the sum of all other life on this planet. Further, I wouldn’t rule out that some zealots somewhere wouldn’t advocate or pursue such tactics, but mass starvation will be tragic enough without these horsemen. M

  22. Chris Dudley:

    It is worth saying over and over again that clean coal is a dirty lie.

    Both Rosa Clemente and Matt Gonzalez who are running for VP oppose further use of coal. Clemente urges support of Al Gore’s call for civil disobedience while Gonzalez calls clean coal a myth.

  23. Ray Ladbury:

    Cassidy says (#50): “I am begging the scientific community to speak up before it is too late…. Please, someone say something to the voters!!!”

    [edit] What do you think scientists have been doing for the past 20 years if not warning of these threats?!? Exactly, how would you suggest we get our message across–comandeer the Faux News studios? I don’t know how to break this to you, Cassidy, but we live in a nation where more people vote in American Idol competitions than in Presidential elections…where it took 40 years to convince people that smoking was actually dangerous…where more people believe in Angels than in evolution (and no I don’t think they’re exclusive). So, I’m open to suggestions, Cassidy, how exactly do we communicate the gravity of a threat that won’t manifest in earnest for a century to a bunch of ignorant food tubes who can’t think beyond tonight’s television schedule.

  24. Walt Bennett:

    Re: #69

    Somebody please explain to me how we “know that 90% of climate change is anthropogenic”?

    What can such a statement even mean?

    And can we rule out the positive phase of PDO as contributing anything at all to the warming of the last 30 years? Or the relative paucity of volcanic eruptions? Or two very strong el ninos?

    Are we really that certain that .54*C of the .6*C warming since 1978 is anthropogenic?

    And for decision-making purposes, isn’t it enough to acknowledge that man’s activities have played a role, and will continue to play an even larger role?

    Biden’s “We know the cause; we know it’s man” was crude and simplistic, and as such anti-intellectual and irresponsible. If that’s his true view, then he may have drunk too much Kool Aid.

    We are in the business these days of stating with certainty that about which we should be merely “confident.” We are, as I have stated previously, in the process of stapling hypotheses to a theory and declaring the lot of it “proved”.

    Again: Of the two responses, I found Palin’s the more accurate.

  25. SecularAnimist:

    markr wrote: “Since there are about 6.5 billion humans on the planet now, reducing the population by a factor of 10 makes a good starting point.”

    Barton Paul Levenson wrote: “How do you propose to do that? Gas chambers? Plagues? Nuclear weapons? And again, do you volunteer to be one of those reduced?”

    None of those are needed. It is pretty much guaranteed that all 6.5 billion humans alive today will be dead within a century. Therefore, all that is required to reduce the human population to near zero by the end of this century is for humans to stop reproducing. I “volunteered” for that effort about 15 years ago when I chose to have a vasectomy. I encourage all other males to make the same choice.

  26. Rando:

    One might think that the issue of AGW, pronounced by many influential members of the global scientific and higher knowledge communities as the greatest threat the world has ever faced, would at least warrant a somewhat thoughtful response from either candidate. Palin’s answer was mostly illogical nonsense, and Biden was simply playing homage to the popular consensus. Neither candidate seemed genuinely informed and certainly didn’t seem personally concerned

  27. Jim Galasyn:

    From Pielke (68):

    Well the IPCC says that at least 50% of the global temperature increase since 1950 can be attributed to human causes. Presumably that leaves as much as 50% of the increase due to non-human causes. So it probably is fair to say that there is a mix of human and non-human sources for change.

    Fair to say? This sounds like a total misrepresentation of the IPCC position to me.

    [Response: Yes. It is a misrepresentation. As far as we can tell the natural forces for climate change are actually towards cooling (solar and volcanic) over this period. The role of internal variability is more uncertain and feeds into the inability to define a) exactly how much of the warming is a climate change (as opposed to weather noise) or b) the exact correspondence between the models used for attribution and the data. See figure 9.5 for instance in the AR4 report – human-related effects explain more than 100% of the warming in recent decades in the mean. – gavin]

  28. JCH:

    Meat eaters would probably eat the people who threatened them with such a thing.

  29. J.S. McIntyre:

    Rod B.: “As an aside, what’s the cause for you (all) to speculate that McCain would turn energy policy over to Palin?”

    Hi Rod.

    I believe the answer is rather obvious. Regardless of whether anyone believes Palin assumes the role Cheny did in terms of directing energy policy from the early days of the Bush administration, as was widely reported at the time and since, the discussion is relevant simply because she will be one heartbeat away from the Presidency, to coin the overused cliche.

    In short, she could be directing energy policy.

    But even beyond that, McCain’s choice of Ms. Palin underscores the fact that HE seems to have no problem with her take on energy issues, and as such, it is valid to take a good look at what she has done, and what positions she has taken.

  30. Mark:

    Walt #76:

    “We are in the business these days of stating with certainty that about which we should be merely “confident.” We are, as I have stated previously, in the process of stapling hypotheses to a theory and declaring the lot of it “proved”.”

    You seem certain of that. Maybe you should rewrite it as “confident.


    (PS the sun will come up tomorrow. Stated as FACT. When we know several ways it is not true).

  31. J.S. McIntyre:

    re: 17 – “Sarah Palin works with energy companies which means she has a lot of contact with geologists. Gee, where do you think she gets the idea that AGW might not be man made.”

    You are engaging in a fallacy here re exclusion of unfavorable items: While she “worked with” energy companies, her primary contacts appear to revolve around her time as the “public” member of the three member Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC). While this appointment may have put her in contact with people with backgrounds in geology, and even people actively practising in the field, the suggestion is her contacts were more likely with the upper levels of the corporate structures of the gas and oil companies.

    It is also worth pointing out that this was not something she wanted – she was after a vacant senate seat and rebuffed, ending up with this position as more of a consolation prize, at least from her perspective. And while she did work to get up to speed re energy issues, it by no means follows that her exposure to the industry made her knowledgeable of the science behind AGW. Again, given her statements regarding science (re Creationism and Evolution should be taught along side one another, for example) and her track record on the environment, there is nothing to suggest she will “see” what she doesn’t want to see.

  32. Mark:


    How does:
    “Palin’s answer was mostly illogical nonsense, and Biden was simply playing homage to the popular consensus.”

    come to this conclusion:

    “Neither candidate seemed genuinely informed and certainly didn’t seem personally concerned”


    There’s no need to inform yourself to spout nonsense. But if you are to spout the consensus, you must at least have informed yourself of what the consensus was.

    I suspect what is happening here is you’d like to agree with Palin. However, she put up such a terrible performance (maybe she should have whipped the tweeds off) that you can’t. So rather than have to face the Other Candidate, you rubbish them both.

    Meaning that you can with clear conscience and asserting “logical decision”, vote as you wanted to in the first place.

  33. Jim Eager:

    Re Oleo @64: “Information from the USGS shows daily emmission measurments of 1500 to 30000 tons of CO2…”

    The USGS will also tell you that world-wide each year volcanoes emit less than 1% as much CO2 as the burning of fossil fuels does.

  34. Paul Biggs:

    #77. Misrepresentation is a term that could be applied to the IPCC, given the failure to adequately recognise a number of issues in the literature, including unresolved issues with the surface temperature record, and the paleoclimate record. The LOSU of solar factors is rated as low/very low. The attempt to link hurricanes and global warming looks even sillier now than when Chris Landsea resigned, given recent publications.

    That said, the science is becoming almost irrelevant, given that:

    Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and cement manufacturing are rising faster than the worst-case scenario drawn up by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). According to the latest worldwide carbon budget, released by the Global Carbon Project, CO2 levels rose by 3.5% a year between 2000 and 2007, compared with 2.7% as calculated by the IPCC. During the 1990s, emissions rose at 0.9% a year. “For a decade we’ve been using the [IPCC] middle-ground scenario, while we’re actually in a different realm of emissions,” says Pep Canadell, the project’s executive director. China is now the biggest emitter of CO2 and responsible for 21% of the world’s emissions — up from 14% in 2002. This knocks the United States into second place, contributing 19% of global emissions. India is fourth, but looks set to take third place from Russia this year. Currently, more than half of the global emissions come from less developed countries.

    Despite the quite dramatic increase in CO2 emissions, we have ‘global non-warming’ since about 2002.

    So really the IPCC/Real Climate policy is one of increasing emissions from developing countries in excess of any reductions achieved by developed countries. The mock ‘battle’ to reduce CO2 emissions is already lost – so the UN agenda is exposed as wealth redistribution rather than climate:

    Reframing the climate change challenge in light of post-2000 emission trends’ by Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows.

    The Abstract states:

    The 2007 Bali conference heard repeated calls for reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions of 50 per cent by 2050 to avoid exceeding the 28C threshold. While such endpoint targets dominate the policy agenda, they do not, in isolation, have a scientific basis and are likely to lead to dangerously misguided policies. To be scientifically credible, policy must be informed by an understanding of cumulative emissions and associated emission pathways. This analysis considers the implications of the 28C threshold and a range of post-peak emission reduction rates for global emission pathways and cumulative emission budgets. The paper examines whether empirical estimates of greenhouse gas emissions between 2000 and 2008, a period typically modelled within scenario studies, combined with short-term extrapolations of current emissions trends, significantly constrains the 2000–2100 emission pathways. The paper concludes that it is increasingly unlikely any global agreement will deliver the radical reversal in emission trends required for stabilization at 450 ppmv carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Similarly, the current framing of climate change cannot be reconciled with the rates of mitigation necessary to stabilize at 550 ppmv CO2e and even an optimistic interpretation suggests stabilization much below 650 ppmv CO2e is improbable.

    If the only choice is for a US presidential team that thinks that the science attempting to link humans and ‘big warming’ is settled, or it can predictably control or influence the climate/weather by attempting to manipulate atmospheric CO2, then I wouldn’t bother voting.

    [Response: You are so wrong on so many levels it bewilders me. Emissions of CO2 greater than predicted make mitigation less of a priority? The solution to political problems is not to vote? Science is irrelevant? And you appear to think that IPCC and RealClimate are in some kind of conspiracy to redistribute wealth? Nice one – I’m sure my check is in the mail. Get real. – gavin]

  35. Walt Bennett:

    Re: #80

    Care to address the actual point? Or is your only intent to be “clever”? (And you’re not going to get paid much for that skill, I’d advise…)

  36. Mark:

    85: The actual point is that unless both sides KNOW what you mean when you use mealey words (like possible) else one side will come to one of two conclusions

    a) you’re weaselling out of it
    b) you’re making it up

    When someone asks you how tall you are, you don’t explain that you are taller early in the morning when you’ve just got out of bed and shorter at the end of the day when you get into bed. Because someone will think you a smartarse.

    But instead you say “Five foot ten”. It’s even wrong. You’re really a smidgin over 5′ 10″. But getting accurate is also not wanted.

    As to the sun: here’s how it can be false that it comes up tomorrow:

    I’ll die. No tomorrow as far as my universe is concerned.
    It *could* die during the night.
    An asteroid big enough to smack the earth about could hit.
    Tomorrow never comes. Well before sunrise, Tomorrow is now the day after.
    You’re on the summer pole.
    When ***IS*** sunrise?

    But in the interests of not spending all day saying how the sun will maybe rise, we use “The sun will rise in the morning”. Stating AS FACT something that for many people will be wrong for any number of reasons. And needn’t be true at all for all of us in some VERY unlikely scenarios.


  37. Jim Galasyn:

    @ Gavin (77):

    Thanks for the backup. I thought it was a very peculiar way to justify Palin’s claim.

  38. Roger Pielke Jr.:

    Gavin (#77)-

    The IPCC suggests as much as a 10% chance that all of the observed increase could be due solely to natural factors:

    “Attribution studies show that it is very likely that these natural forcing factors alone cannot account for the observed warming.”

    p. 60 of the TS (quantification of uncertainty terms found on p. 23):

    On that same page the IPCC also says that there is a >90% [“very likely”]chance that >50% [“most”]of the observed increase is due to greenhouse gases:

    “It is very likely that anthropogenic greenhouse
    gas increases caused most of the observed increase
    in global average temperatures since the mid-20th

    So the IPCC says that there is

    *as much as a 10% chance of natural forcing alone causing 100% of the temperature increase

    *more than 90% chance of GHGs causing >50% of the temperature increase

    Although the IPCC unfortunately did not chose to express its uncertainty for the role of internal variability (what you call “noise”) it leave an explicit role for it:

    “There is also increased confidence that natural internal
    variability cannot account for the observed changes”

    Presumably then internal variability accounts for whatever is unexplained by GHGs + other human + natural forcing.

    But lets be clear, the IPCC leaves open the possibility of a 100% non-human cause in the forcing to explain the temperature increase, at the

    [Response: (don’t use < signs without the html &lt; ). However, I’m going to respond to what I think you meant to say, presumably that there is a tiny chance that there might be a non-human related cause for the warming. Sure, nothing is ever known about the real world to 100%. So what? That is a long way from claiming that the IPCC are suggesting that 50% of the warming is natural. PS. I see that once again you have abandoned professional courtesy in your blog postings about us. I kindly request that you return to a more adult level of conversation if you really want to engage. Or is a simple request a ‘bullying tendency’ too? If you prefer to simply insult people from the sidelines, please continue to do whatever you like – elsewhere. – gavin]

  39. Roger Pielke. Jr.:


    Those greater than/less than signs were actually meant to be greater than and less than signs, not HTML. Here is the rest of my post that was not posted:

    But lets be clear, the IPCC leaves open the possibility of a 100% non-human cause in the forcing to explain the temperature increase, at the less than 10% level. It also leaves open the possibility that internal variability plays a role in some part of the observed global temperature increase.

    We also know post-AR4 that engine intakes on ships also play a role, but I digress;-)

    Anyway, this is not skepticism, it is simply reporting what the IPCC actually says. Uncertainty is OK, we can live with it. There is no need to pretend that it does not exist.

    It is not a “misrepresentation” to say that there is plenty of room for asserting that there is some combination of natural and human roles in observed climate changes. You can call 10% “tiny” — Statisticians would use other words. I am surprised that the IPCC allows such a high percentage — a lot of people would be surprised to learn that the IPCC thinks that there is perhaps a 1 in 10 chance that the warming trend is 100% natural.

    The IPCC fairly obviously appears to leave open the possibility than the GHG role in trends since midcentury is 50% or more, leaving a large balance to be explained by natural forcings or variability. You may read the IPCC differently, though I am not sure how.

    PS. If you indeed would like me not to comment here, simply say the word and I won’t.

  40. Walt Bennett:

    Re: #85

    (as long as the gatekeepers continue to humor us)



    The AGW community, among whom I will include scientists who either blog or contribute to them, students with some training who have made a dedicated hobby of following specific aspects of AGW, and common laypeople who believe this is a major issue which they should not ignore: this group, in general, has shifted in tone in the last two years.

    The tone at one time was: “The science is persuasive, and if true, indicates that we are running out of time to make the necessary changes to the radiative balance of the planet.”

    The tone today is more like: “Why are we still talking? The denialists are all insane, add nothing, repeat the same endless repudiated crap, and delay action! Their clear motive is to make it impossible to do anything, because they prefer the status quo. Oh and by the way, AR4 nailed the coffin shut. AGW is now proved, and the most urgent and disruptive actions must be undertaken with as little delay as possible.”

    I sit here and I ask, how did we get here in two short years? I thank Roger Pielke Jr. for pulling out of AR4 their own words of uncertainty.

    One aspect of this to which I pay particular attention is the definition of the word “theory.” I’ve mentioned recently that I’ve gotten some good think points from the skeptosphere, and here is one: somebody asked me recently, when did all of this become a scientific theory? Who decided that the hypotheses were strong enough and well enough developed to be considered “theory”?

    After all, aren’t we always defending AGW Theory from the charge that “it’s just a theory” with the reply “Ahem. In science, ‘theory’ means ‘high confidence that this is the way it is. There is no higher standard in science. After all, gravity is still a ‘theory.”

    We’ve all made that point. Well, then let’s turn it on its head. What part of AGW rises to the level of ‘theory’? I can think of one: CO2 is a greenhouse gas; as such, its increased presence in the atmosphere will cause a radiative imbalance, causing the planet system as a whole to warm.”

    Does anybody want to tell me where that warming will be stored? How much? How soon? Which feedbacks will quicken or slow the change?

    In other words, all of these things we discuss on a regular basis. We know there’s been a great deal of study on these questions. Some have been modeled, some have been observed over thirty years or so, some have been analyzed geologically. We’re out there. We’re researching. We’re collecting good, solid data.

    Now, what does that leave us with? Here’s where we haven’t been near careful enough, and why skeptics will always be useful and necessary.

    Raise your hand if you have attached any conclusion based on that research to AGW theory itself. If your hand is not in the air, you are either highly disciplined or a liar. And judging by the general tone of this group, 90% of you should have your hands in the air.

    I talk about insularity. It’s real. There is a lot of cross-support going on. I think it’s unhealthy. I think it increases the chance that we miss something important.

    If I was president, I’d want somebody like Sarah Palin asking certain questions, just to make sure somebody asked them. If my staff was filled only with people who looked at an issue – any issue – the same way, I would be fairly sure we’d end up missing something.

    Some of you will no doubt waste little time responding: HOW MUXH MORE EVIDENCE DO YOU NEED? COME ON MAN!”

    I get it. You go ahead and feel that way. I’m going to feel this way for at least a while longer.

  41. Walt Bennett:

    Re: #84

    I’d like to quote from this excellent post:

    The paper concludes that it is increasingly unlikely any global agreement will deliver the radical reversal in emission trends required for stabilization at 450 ppmv carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Similarly, the current framing of climate change cannot be reconciled with the rates of mitigation necessary to stabilize at 550 ppmv CO2e and even an optimistic interpretation suggests stabilization much below 650 ppmv CO2e is improbable.

    If the only choice is for a US presidential team that thinks that the science attempting to link humans and ‘big warming’ is settled, or it can predictably control or influence the climate/weather by attempting to manipulate atmospheric CO2, then I wouldn’t bother voting.

    I was disappointed in Gavin’s response, which I suppose is an indication that I still harbor the dream that scientists are striving to remain impartial.

    Everything about this post is relevant to any rational person’s consideration of where we are as a planet and what we need to do. Any consideration of the economic effects of the AGW solutions business without consideration of the political conditions and effects, would be bizarre to say the least.

    And any consideration of either effect without consideration of the science of the whole thing, would be simply insane.

    Are we insane?

    If not, please read that post. Gavin, that includes you. If I’m not wrong, you gave it the most perfunctory glance the first time.

    [Response: But what is your point? We have never advocated a target for stabilisation, and we rarely (if ever) discuss policy options. We aren’t policymakers nor policy wonks, but climate scientists. If you want to know what difference 650 ppmv will make compared to 450 ppmv (or even 350 ppmv) we can give you a reasonable estimate. But I can’t tell you how best to achieve it or if such a target is feasible. – gavin]

  42. Ray Ladbury:

    Roger (#88), your interpretation borders on the perverse. The conclusions given are merely what the evidence allows–not the best estimate. To quote directly:

    “It is extremely unlikely (

  43. RichardC:

    68 Paul says, “Pielke Jr has a nice summary of ’science as politics at real climate,’ ” Paul, “nice” is an erroneous label for that attack piece:

    Junior started with a low blow about blog policy. Truly a shameful juvenile attack.

    Pielke, re-read the question. ” What is true and what is false about what we have heard, read, discussed, and debated about the causes of climate change?” The sun is blank of sunspots and has been dropping in output for 51 years. The 65N summer insolation is very slowly dropping as well. Biden’s, “It is definitely manmade.” refers to the systemic problem, and “Definitely” expresses certainty in a human fashion, not a mathematical one. Will the sun rise tomorrow? “Definitely.” Pielke’s substitution of “definitely” with “100%” is a serious error, especially since he then links “Biden’s 100%” to Alaska! Biden talked global, not Alaska.

    Pielke then wanders off on a wild goose/weather chase, noting that the IPCC allowed for natural variations in weather to be a portion of the warming. Translation of the IPCC: Here’s the amount of warming, and we think it is all human-caused, but there are error-bars in any scientific answer. The signal is overlaid with weather and decadal oscillations, so our estimate could be double or could be half the actual human-caused climate change. We know of no other source for climate change acting today.

    Only the causes of climate change were to be discussed, so please stay on topic! Pielke, tell us of another climate change issue besides mankind that is acting in a warming fashion, or refute that there is any significant climate change going on. Try to not make the sophomoric error of mixing periodic oscillations and weather with climate.

    All in all, your post was mean, erroneous, unclear, and deviated badly from the subject matter. You’d flunk a freshman exam with that post.

    Paul asked, “can we rule out the positive phase of PDO as contributing anything at all to the warming of the last 30 years? Or the relative paucity of volcanic eruptions? Or two very strong el ninos?” Your question is phrased badly. Everyone agrees that weather exists. Your question implies that some folks don’t believe in weather.

    Paul asked, “Are we really that certain that .54*C of the .6*C warming since 1978 is anthropogenic?” You’re mixing probabilities with fractions. 90% refers to a chance of something being true, and that 90% figure was erroneously reverse-engineered as well. “very likely” means 90-94.9%.

  44. Ray Ladbury:

    Paul Biggs says: “If the only choice is for a US presidential team that thinks that the science attempting to link humans and ‘big warming’ is settled, or it can predictably control or influence the climate/weather by attempting to manipulate atmospheric CO2, then I wouldn’t bother voting.”

    Well, given that both Presidential candidates are on record as accepting the science and saying something needs to be done, can we count on you to stay home Nov. 4 and thereby increase the average intelligence of the electorate?

  45. Ray Ladbury:

    Try this again–more simply: Roger, Let’s say you were playing a betting game in which you drew balls from an urn and bet on whether they’d be white or black. You observe that the first 22 balls drawn are all white. All we can say with 90% confidence is that no more than 10% of the balls are black. Would you then bet on black even if I gave you 10:1 odds? Feel Lucky?

  46. Roger Pielke. Jr.:

    Richard C. (#90)-

    You might rethink this statement:

    “Try to not make the sophomoric error of mixing periodic oscillations and weather with climate.”

    Even political scientists know that ENSO, PDO, NAO, AMM, AMO and other modes of variability are **climate** phenomena.

    While you are at it you might review the IPCC definition of “climate change” which includes human and natural causes of change:

    “Climate change refers to a change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g., by using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. Climate change may be due to natural internal processes or external forcings, or to persistent anthropogenic changes in the composition of the atmosphere or in land use.”

    There is plenty of variability on time scales of decades or longer, and some of that variability manifests itself as periodic oscillations. But really, your time is probably much better spent arguing with a political scientist about policy rather than basics of climate science.

  47. Dave Werth:

    Re the comments to my #57:

    My guess is the planet could comfortably support 1-2 billion people on a sustainable moderate standard of living with the knowledge & technology we have, maybe 3B if we’re careful about it. If (when?) the ecosystems that support us collapse the population will be reduced whether we like it or not. I may be by a reduced birthrate, starvation, disease, war or something else. Probably a combination of the above. I expect there will be some large wars over resources this century.

  48. Roger Pielke. Jr.:

    Ray (#93)-

    If there are 10% black balls in your urn, then the odds of drawing 22 in a row that are white are about 10% (9.85% to be exact, using a binomial distribution).

    So if you gave me 10:1 odds, that would be just about a fair bet.

  49. Hank Roberts:

    > 22 in a row that are white

    In Ray’s example, note that it’s the _first_22_ that have been drawn —
    all of which are white, and nobody knows what’s in the urn.

    Still confident making a 10:1 bet that the 23rd, when drawn, will prove to be a black one?

  50. Walt Bennett:

    Re: #91 inline


    Thanks for asking, because I really want to answer that question, and since you are the one who asked it, perhaps some will pay attention to the answer who otherwise might not.

    What is the point?

    The point is that we are being lied to. You don’t lie. Let’s say in a perfect world everything you say is completely accurate.

    Then your PR office issues a statement describing the implications of your work. Those are their words, not yours.

    Then the press gets the release and writes a story based on it. “More Evidence Of AGW” is the likely headline, with the story selecting the quotes which best illustrate the point.

    AGW has become a juggernaut. It has morphed from a theory into an industry. The lay public is worse off than ever, trying to discern what’s true from what’s possible from what’s wrong, as well as trying to unravel various motives.

    I’ve said this before. When there are two vociferous and dedicated sides to an issue, it’s almost for certain that neither side is completely right or completely wrong.

    And if ever there was an issue where “right” and “wrong” are subjective, this is it.

    The reason I quoted the passage that I did was because it is so illustrative of the doubt which has crept into this process, and why that doubt is necessary.

    550? 650? Dr. Hansen says that anything over 350 is armageddon. Rates are rising higher than the BAU scenario of AR4.

    In other words, it looks as though mitigation is dead before it starts. You ask “so that means we should do nothing?”

    No, it means we should be honest about the situation so we can allocate our resources the best way possible. We probably only get one chance to get this right.

    If there is literally no way to avoid even the most generous tipping point, then adaptation must become a higher priority than it is today.

    The point is that we must be honest and transparent and restrained. Why? Because when people believe they aren’t getting the straight story, they wonder why.

    And then they don’t know what to believe. And if they don’t know what to believe, then they don’t know what to do.

    Anyway, that’s the view from here. You most likely see it differently, but I thank you for sharing your forum with me, and for asking the question.

    I am still a “warmer”. :-)