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The Guardian’s Editorial

Filed under: — eric @ 8 December 2009

The following editorial was published today by 56 newspapers around the world in 20 languages including Chinese, Arabic and Russian. The text was drafted by a Guardian team during more than a month of consultations with editors from more than 20 of the papers involved. Like The Guardian most of the newspapers have taken the unusual step of featuring the editorial on their front page. The Guardian, the editorial is free to reproduce under Creative Commons.

RealClimate takes no formal position on the statements made in the editorial.


Copenhagen climate change conference: Fourteen days to seal history’s judgment on this generation

Today 56 newspapers in 45 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency.

Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year’s inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world’s response has been feeble and half-hearted.

Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between east and west. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone.

The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years. A bigger rise of 3-4C — the smallest increase we can prudently expect to follow inaction — would parch continents, turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct, untold millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea. The controversy over emails by British researchers that suggest they tried to suppress inconvenient data has muddied the waters but failed to dent the mass of evidence on which these predictions are based.

Few believe that Copenhagen can any longer produce a fully polished treaty; real progress towards one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the White House and the reversal of years of US obstructionism. Even now the world finds itself at the mercy of American domestic politics, for the president cannot fully commit to the action required until the US Congress has done so.

But the politicians in Copenhagen can and must agree the essential elements of a fair and effective deal and, crucially, a firm timetable for turning it into a treaty. Next June’s UN climate meeting in Bonn should be their deadline. As one negotiator put it: “We can go into extra time but we can’t afford a replay.”

At the deal’s heart must be a settlement between the rich world and the developing world covering how the burden of fighting climate change will be divided — and how we will share a newly precious resource: the trillion or so tonnes of carbon that we can emit before the mercury rises to dangerous levels.

Rich nations like to point to the arithmetic truth that there can be no solution until developing giants such as China take more radical steps than they have so far. But the rich world is responsible for most of the accumulated carbon in the atmosphere – three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emitted since 1850. It must now take a lead, and every developed country must commit to deep cuts which will reduce their emissions within a decade to very substantially less than their 1990 level.

Developing countries can point out they did not cause the bulk of the problem, and also that the poorest regions of the world will be hardest hit. But they will increasingly contribute to warming, and must thus pledge meaningful and quantifiable action of their own. Though both fell short of what some had hoped for, the recent commitments to emissions targets by the world’s biggest polluters, the United States and China, were important steps in the right direction.

Social justice demands that the industrialised world digs deep into its pockets and pledges cash to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, and clean technologies to enable them to grow economically without growing their emissions. The architecture of a future treaty must also be pinned down – with rigorous multilateral monitoring, fair rewards for protecting forests, and the credible assessment of “exported emissions” so that the burden can eventually be more equitably shared between those who produce polluting products and those who consume them. And fairness requires that the burden placed on individual developed countries should take into account their ability to bear it; for instance newer EU members, often much poorer than “old Europe”, must not suffer more than their richer partners.

The transformation will be costly, but many times less than the bill for bailing out global finance — and far less costly than the consequences of doing nothing.

Many of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it.

But the shift to a low-carbon society holds out the prospect of more opportunity than sacrifice. Already some countries have recognized that embracing the transformation can bring growth, jobs and better quality lives. The flow of capital tells its own story: last year for the first time more was invested in renewable forms of energy than producing electricity from fossil fuels.

Kicking our carbon habit within a few short decades will require a feat of engineering and innovation to match anything in our history. But whereas putting a man on the moon or splitting the atom were born of conflict and competition, the coming carbon race must be driven by a collaborative effort to achieve collective salvation.

Overcoming climate change will take a triumph of optimism over pessimism, of vision over short-sightedness, of what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature”.

It is in that spirit that 56 newspapers from around the world have united behind this editorial. If we, with such different national and political perspectives, can agree on what must be done then surely our leaders can too.

The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history’s judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right choice.


663 Responses to “The Guardian’s Editorial”

  1. 51
    J says:

    >>>>”In other words you will not believe climatologists until climate models start predicting the weather.”

    No, until a model is proven to correctly predict climate, it’s insane to take draconian measures based on its climate predictions.

    [Response: Translation: Unless there is a model that can predict exactly my injuries that will be sustained if I jump this red light, it’s insane to consider slowing down as I approach the junction. – gavin

  2. 52
    John Mason says:

    Had science been all-powerful from the outset (something some of our more paranoid commentators like to think is the case) then we would already be 20 years or more into our transition into a low-carbon economy and starting to enjoy its benefits, including all sorts of new business opportunities and very many more jobs created in relocalised production of things like food.

    We now have a very short window within which to get this right. The “burn everything and sod the consequences” brigade have been so dominant on this issue that, regardless of climate change, we are fast approaching a time when oil-based fuels will become increasingly expensive and, further down the line, scarce. If you don’t understand this point, then Google “Peak Oil” and do a little research. Let’s get right behind this, before the naysayers have chance to wreak any more long-term economic chaos. Their recklessness has already hit many of us deep in the purse and it demonstrates that they are not fit to be trusted with either the economy or the environment. Let us conserve and use our remaining fossil fuels far more wisely, with a view (for once) to the future, as opposed to the next gathering of boy-racers!

    Cheers – John

  3. 53
    CM says:

    Mark Gibb (#11), what’s “sickening” is clinging to a wasteful lifestyle of living beyond our means at the expense of our grandchildren. More “sickening” yet are the people who elevate this to some sort of high principle: pigging out in the name of liberty. It is those who support business as usual that “can only imagine massively centralized government solutions to any problem” — and react by denying the problem exists, instead of coming up with innovative, enterprising solutions. There’s going to be a technological revolution, transforming our lifestyles by making efficient use of clean energy, for a change. Boy, are you missing out.

    Lee A. Arnold (#5), I think you misunderstood that paragraph. The past “competition” they talk about was that between nations / superpowers; they are not speaking against using market mechanisms. (After all, their examples — the Manhattan and Apollo projects — were not exactly market-driven.)

  4. 54

    Eric, time to close shop on this thread? S/N not impressive by now. Who let Beavis & Butthead out of their cage?

  5. 55
    GlenFergus says:

    Sandra Kay at #36

    The usual suspects and the usual denials. So what?

    “We the undersigned, being qualified in climate-related scientific disciplines…”

    1. “…Head of Space Research”
    2. “…Professor of Organic Chemistry”
    3. “…Professor of Physics”

    Huh!?

  6. 56
    Neil Taylor says:

    I wish to add to those that question why RealClimate has published this Editorial. If RealClimate has no formal position on the Editorial, why has it chosen to post it? The Editorial makes multiple strong statements about the consequences of AGW.

    RealClimate is meant to be placing science at the centre of the AGW debate – but it claims to have no formal position on this Editorial. That is ridiculous.

    If an editorial had appeared in the Wall Street Journal making a series of claims downplaying the risks and future scenarios I can definitely see RealClimate rigourously critiquing it.

    Tom Wigley is quoted as saying:

    “This is a complex issue and your misrepresentation of it does you a dis-service. To someone like me, who knows the science, it is apparent that you are presenting a personal view, not an informed balanced scientific assessment. …

    Your approach of trying to gain scientific credibility for your personal views by asking people to endorse your letter is reprehensible. No scientist who wishes to maintain respect in the community should ever endorse any statement unless they have examined the issue fully themselves. You are asking people to prostitute themselves by doing just this! I fear that some will endorse your letter, in the mistaken belief that you are making a balanced and knowledgeable assessment of the science — when, in fact, you are presenting a flawed view that neither accords with IPCC nor with the bulk of the scientific and economic literature on the subject.”

    I genuinely question how balanced the Editorial is, and would have hoped RealClimate to assess its claims. Non-scientific alarmism is no way to direct a political debate.

    The political message RealClimate is sending by posting this editorial does not remove the scientific requirement to examine its claims no matter how hard RealClimate attempts to say it has no formal position on its content. That to me is a shameful dereliction of RealClimate’s purpose to be a centre of excellence providing an evidence based approach to the AGW debate.

    Does the Editorial stand up scientifically and to the published mainstream? Or is it more politics than peer-review? I come to RealClimate to find answers to exactly these types of questions and find it incredible during the current “Climategate” shennanigans that RealClimate can leave it to the comments section to examine the credibility of this Editorial.

    Please put up some posts at least pointing to the scientific literature debating the claims the Editorial is making. I am reasonably certain it is a highly contested area of the science and so having RealClimate review it would be helpful.

  7. 57
    Alan of Oz says:

    I note that at least one comment here compares AGW to Y2K.
    Many people belive Y2K was a hoax because no calamity occured. However as a computer scientist and software engineer for the last 2 decades I can say with certainty that the truth of the matter is no calamity occured because timely large scale action was taken. The AGW problem is many orders of magintude greater than the Y2K problem. If (and that’s a big if) we avoid the worst effects of AGW don’t expect any thanks from those who currently think AGW is a hoax.

    On a more personal note it is being reported here in Oz that the FBI are investigating death threats to “two prominent scientists” named in the CRU email beat-up. It’s not hard to read between the lines as to who they are. I’ve long admired your intellectual courage and now it seem you have the physical courage to match, take care.

  8. 58
    Ville Koskinen says:

    @Kamal (comment #7): So… did you read the recent Copenhagen Diagnosis (http://copenhagendiagnosis.com)? The report reviews studies from the past two years (since IPCC AR4). The conclusion is that the IPCC predictions were correct for the most part: empirical observations follow closely the models. The predictions were wrong in some cases, such as ocean level rising. In those cases, the IPCC predictions underestimated the effects, as much as 80%!

    The theory is falsifiable by making thorough observations for the next two decades, and comparing the observations to the theoretical predictions. So far the observations match the predictions, or, worse, underline the fact that the theories underestimate the effects and the speed of change.

    The problem is that if the predictions are correct, we don’t have an extra two decades to verify them.

  9. 59
    Alan of Oz says:

    Re# 7: “Give me a 10 year prediction”.

    The next decade will be warmer than the last.

  10. 60
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Man, they must be desperate for good news. China promised to mildly reduce its “carbon intensity” (meaning the amount of carbon dioxide it emits compared to its gdp growth), which is largely useless; if they grow 9% a year but emissions “only” grow by 8%, then they’ve reduced their carbon intensity.”

    So buy less stuff from China.

    If they sell less stuff they have to do REAL reductions. Buy more stuff from them and you’re the cause of real increases.

    THEIR reductions are in YOUR hands.

  11. 61
    Asun Friere says:

    Re #11 Mark Gibbs

    And the kicker, and the point of all this:

    “Many of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it.”

    Translation: we will reduce your standard of living by empowering hordes of bureaucrats to control almost every aspect of the economy, for your own good. Sickening.

    Mark,

    Despite the swagger, I can see you heart’s in the right place. Basically you love liberty. Like you, I don’t want to be governed by hordes of bureaucrats and that’s why market based solutions, such as the cap and trade systems or carbon taxes must be the systems chosen, if they will be, to ease our transition to a new energy economy. I don’t know whether have you considered, say the climatologists are correct, that a regulatory approach becomes ever more likely the longer we wait to act? Let’s not mince words, ‘regulation’ actually means using the criminal law in place of the market.

    What if you’re wrong about it being a slow process? Maybe you could imagine how the effect of sharply falling agricultural production simply swamps our current economic woes. How do you usually manage the risk of your being wrong? And if you are wrong, I wonder do you think it less or more likely that people will seek “protection” from the totalitarian ideology de jour?

    I’m sorry if you achieve the opposite of what you set out to.

  12. 62

    Kamal: If there are some falsifiable predictions then by all means bring them to my attention.

    BPL: You can falsify AGW by doing any of the following:

    1. Show that CO2 isn’t a greenhouse gas.
    2. Show that CO2 isn’t rising.
    3. Show that the new CO2 isn’t mainly from burning fossil fuels.

  13. 63

    Mark Gibb: “would parch continents, turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct, untold millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea” This is a slow process, and people can and will adapt.

    BPL: In 1970, 12% of Earth’s land surface was “severely dry” by the Palmer Drought Severity Index. By 2002 that figure was 30%. How far do you think it can get before human agriculture collapses completely? If the growth continues at the same rate, by 2034 75% of Earth’s land surface will be “severely dry.” Good luck dropping into a fast food place then.

  14. 64
    Matt says:

    So this is a valiant effort. But it will simply fall apart. No one has ever effectively been able to manage what nations do and don’t do. We can’t even keep nuclear weapons under wraps, let alone carbon.

    Global Warming is gonna happen, and it looks like there is nothing we can do about it. We’re asking huge sacrifices of billions of people for a rather abstract concept of doom…that is too easily swatted away. This prospect of an overarching committee, determining who can do what is a recipe for massive corruption.

    The concept of prevention is a gonner and foolish. We need to start thinking about building dams around NYC and parts of Florida. Or relocation of cities.

    A policy based on the willing restraint and good faith of man…is bound to fail. We need to find a system of negative feedback, like a cheap form of energy that absorbs harmful gasses. Going green is with in reach, but it has to be done on a largely voluntary basis.

  15. 65

    Kaosium: Calling someone a ‘denier’ in this debate is tantamount to revealing you’re an arrogant twit who thinks anyone who disagrees with you is both stupid and evil.

    BPL: Not at all! I would say, more accurately, that anyone who disagrees with AGW theory is either ignorant, evil, or both–not necessarily stupid. Ignorance, at least, is morally neutral, although refusing to learn makes it morally culpable.

  16. 66
    P. Lewis says:

    Minor pedantic point, David Alan, it’s not an op-ed piece, it’s an editorial. An op-ed is written by someone other than the editorial staff (usually).

    And courtesy of the same Wikipedia entry (which I’ve been waiting ages to find a place to publicise), Herbert Bayard Swope of The New York Evening World “when he took over as editor in 1920, … is quoted as writing:”

    It occurred to me that nothing is more interesting than opinion when opinion is interesting, so I devised a method of cleaning off the page opposite the editorial, which became the most important in America … and thereon I decided to print opinions, ignoring facts.

    As to the rest of your comment, I’ll let others opine if they wish. But you might like to hit the Start Here “button” at the top and spend a week or two digesting that info. You may find some of the answers you are seeking.

  17. 67

    EL: The current solution, in a basic nutshell, is for the poor to be cut off from energy consumption.

    BPL: Crap! Energy is not the same as fossil fuels. There are other sources of energy.

  18. 68

    Lyle: its not going to be the end of the world. The black death killed between 30 and 60% of europes population and society survived there. (In fact for a while everyone was richer since the physical store of goods was still there).

    BPL: I’m sending a Time Lord with a TARDIS over to your address with instructions to drop you in Genoa in 1347.

  19. 69
    EL says:

    7. “Let me first say that I’m an honest person with a degree from MIT. I have no interest in anything but the truth, but so far I have not seen convincing evidence that AGW is going to increase global temp over 2 degrees celsius.”

    The science behind global warming is incontrovertible.

  20. 70
    jhm says:

    I’m fairly ambivalent about its message, but the Boston Globe came out anti the editorial:

    A group editorial is just as likely to foster accusations of groupthink as it is to push the world toward decisive action on climate change. At a time when the climate debate is still plagued by the false notion that global warming is a myth perpetuated by an international conspiracy of liberal elites, a range of voices offering their own reasoning and routes to the same goal would have delivered a more potent message than a unified chorus.

  21. 71
    Gareth Evans says:

    Scientists must stick to the facts and must not be afraid of publishing fluctuations and reversals of shorter term trends (this is the nature of “weather”). Most of all they must not be dragged into dog fights with global warming deniers. Without the Greenhouse Gas effect the temperature of the earth would be so cold that life, as we know it, would never have existed. This is fact, and increasing the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere increases temperatures. There are going to be temporal and spatial fluctuations. The effects will not be the same the whole world over and will vary with time depending on factors such as natural climate cycles, the sun’s output etc. This is common sense and this is what the general public need to understand.

    Gareth Evans

  22. 72

    Gilles (#45) can you not see that, given your concluding sentence–”as I can judge, our “prosperity” will disappear ANYWAY with the depletion of fossiles, and THAT will be a real problem, much more real that the fractions of degrees you are fighting for”–the preceding parts of your post make no sense?

    If we are going to have to kick fossil fuels anyway, and if the overwhelming preponderance of climatologists tell us that AGW is a clear and present danger, is there one good reason to delay the transition away from fossil fuel dependence? I think not.

    (Oh, and it’s not “fractions of degrees”–the goal is to avoid warming greater than 2C if at all possible.)

  23. 73
    Mark Gibb says:

    Jimmy Nightingale @ 35: You seem to think that the only way to be “proactive” is to have centralized government solutions. Any government program that massive, that powerful, and that distended will be riddled with incompetence, rent-seeking, and waste. It will become “reactive” to whatever political whims are flowing through the minds of the political elite at the moment (including well-connected corporations).

    I believe much better results come from millions of people thinking, experimenting, and trying to make money by offering green products. That creative process will be dampened and eventually stamped out by centralized, one-size-fits-all government solutions.

    And, Vendicar Decarian @ 38:

    Since you have proven yourself unable to rationally control your consumption, your consumption will now be controlled.

    It’s ironic that while accusing me of being irrational, you have shown by the above statement that it is you who are irrational. Nothing in my post @ 11 contained any information about my “consumption” let alone “proved” anything about it. Here’s a point of actual data for you: I pay a bit extra for my electricity so that I can get all of it from wind generation. And, amazingly, I did it without anyone in government commanding me to do it.

    Also, the last half of your statement shows how casually attracted to tyranny many on your side are. It seems like you relish the idea of “controlling” me. No thanks.

  24. 74
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Mark Gibb says, “I believe much better results come from millions of people thinking, experimenting, and trying to make money by offering green products. That creative process will be dampened and eventually stamped out by centralized, one-size-fits-all government solutions.”

    OK, Mark, now that’s what I’m talking about. So, let’s get specific:

    What initiatives do you see coming from the private sector that will make a significant dent in climate change?

    How do we get the idjits who refuse to look at the evidence to buy into these solutions?

    How do we convince people who don’t understand how science works to support policy based on science?

    It would appear that you at least have some real faith in capitalism. Now, how do you convince your fellow free marketeers that the future of capitalism depends on how well it accepts the very real challenges posed by climate change and becomes part of the solution to these challenges?

  25. 75
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Matt says, “No one has ever effectively been able to manage what nations do and don’t do.”

    And that is why England still pays privateers to hijack Spanish ships and why all nations now have huge stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and why commercial airline navigation is impossible because everyone in air traffic control towers speaks different languages…

    Oh, wait. Hmm. None of those things is true. Gosh, Matt, maybe international agreements can work when they are in the interests of all parties. Naaah!

  26. 76
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Sandra Kay links to the “copenhagen climate challenge,” which purports to be a petition by “skeptical scientists”–to which I respond:

    Where have all the experts gone, long time passing…

    Everybody!!

    Thanks folks, I’m here all week.

  27. 77
    Louise in California says:

    The “ClimateGate” files document that the world’s average temperature from 1998 to 2008 has NOT risen, so why the rush to impose some massive reduction in CO2? Why not take a little time to determine if CRU’s “raw” data is still available somewhere, compare the “raw” data to the modified data that CRU used, and figure out if CRU has been producing “results” that are not based on real data. Also make all of CRU’s data and their computer climate program available for analysis by scientists not involved with the CRU scientists,[edit]

    [Response: Done. - gavin]

  28. 78

    Mark Gibb,

    In your first comment (11) you expressed your dismay at this editorial calling for a change in our lifestyles. You interpret this as having to reduce your standard of living. Of course there are many other possible interpretations, e.g. better insulation adds to your convenience and is good for the climate, and some critical introspection whether a weekend in another continent really adds much to your happiness could also be in order.

    Apart from that however, I think there is a trade-off between the costs of mitigation and the degree of changes needed in our lifestyles. E.g. if we manage to produce all our energy carbon-free, you could continue looking at your 54 inch TV screen no problem. Sustainable energy however is (currently) more expensive than fossil based energy (partly because some costs are externalized). So if you want to continue using as much energy as you do now, it will cost you. Or you can chose to use less energy. Even then you have many choices. I don’t think any of those evil scientists are in a ploy to force you to throw away your evil television.

  29. 79
    Jim Prall says:

    Re: Neil Taylor, #56
    I don’t understand why Neil Taylor quotes Dr. Wigley’s 1997 email as some kind of critique of this 2009 editorial. Here is that old email:

    [Is the East Anglia Emails dot com site automatically flagged as spam?]
    The rest of the URL of the 1997 email there is:
    emails.php?eid=40&filename=880476729.txt

    Apparently, a group of eleven European scientists tried to promote a declaration prior to the Kyoto talks, one which Wigley found overstated. I searched for any trace of that statement having been published, but it does not appear online today, at least not any page mentioning the first three authors, prior to the posting of the stolen emails:
    e.g., search Google for “Jan Goudriaan Hartmut Grassl Klaus Hasselmann statement -Wigley” (without the quotes)

  30. 80
    Jim Prall says:

    more Re: Neil Taylor, #56

    Neil: rather than trying to turn Dr. Wigley’s 1997 critique of an unknown and apparently never-issued “alarmist” statement into a rejection of all climate activism, why not give him credit for being discerning on the question of “alarmism” versus legitimate calls for action?

    [message segmented while I struggle against the spam filter]

  31. 81
    Jim Prall says:

    I note that Dr. Wigley has endorsed at least one strong message directly to politicians on the need for a response to the real problems demostrated by what scientists do indeed know. It was the 2003 letter to Congress entitled “The State of Climate Science”:

    http://www.gcrio.org/OnLnDoc/pdf/THE_STATE_OF_CLIMATE_SCIENCE.pdf

    That’s on top of the IPCC reports themselves, which make a point of not giving policy pre=scrip=tions, but which clearly show that a response is required, and show why, in very stark terms.

  32. 82
    wjl says:

    Sorry that this question is off topic. Can anyone suggest where I can read about the analysis process for temperature data homogenization? I have access to peer-reviewed journals. I’m primarily interested in getting a climate scientist’s opinion on what was written here: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/08/the-smoking-gun-at-darwin-zero/ so if you have direct comments on this material it would also be useful. Thanks.

    [Response: See here. - gavin]

  33. 83
    Jim Prall says:

    [Sorry for the multiple posts - I had the phrase 'policy presc rip tions' in the last paragraph which set off the spam filters - argh.]

    The URLs I didn’t need to leave out were:

    Wigley’s 1997 email critiquing one activist letter he found overstated:
    http://www.eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=40&filename=880476729.txt

    Google search for any sign of that letter online, which finds none before this leaked email:
    http://www.google.ca/search?hl=en&q=Jan+Goudriaan+Hartmut+Grassl+Klaus+Hasselmann+statement+-wigley&btnG=Search&meta=&aq=f&oq=

    I’ll stop comment-stacking now.

  34. 84
    Lyle says:

    The problem is that the scientists get conflated with the lunatic fringe on this issue. People say the only way to solve the issue is to reduce population and make life brutish unpleasant and short, fine then lets eat drink, do drugs and be merry. Instead of all the apocalyptic historic Start with the best estimates show that mitigation will cost 2% of world gdp by 2050. Now assuming a 2% annual growth rate world wide, this implies a gdp 2.23 times as large as now versus 2.25 without it. This is a premium on an insurance policy to prevent the bad things, would you buy the insurance. Insurance admits the possibilty that an event will not happen, and in many cases the event insured against is not a desirable one (house burns down…). The decision is then one that people are at least somewhat used to making. Insurance also admits a possiblity that an event may not happen (or that it wont happen on till later than expected, life insurance for example) Then you can put the issue there is a x percent chance that the predictions will come true Imho (80 to 95) which is effectivly included in the insurance. This is designed to counter the question of what is the downside if we do something but nothing is needed. We do know the answer to the other apparent poor policy choice what if we do nothing and the predictions come true.

  35. 85

    Jim Prall, #79–well, I’ve never seen a denialist argument yet that appeared to have a “sell by” date.

    In their universe, the test for data quality is not how it’s produced, how it’s validated, or how recent it is. The only test is, does it make a good talking point to create yet more delay?

    (See, for example, the opus of Herr Beck.)

  36. 86
    caerbannog says:

    A bit off-topic here (but not too much).

    I really took one for the team yesterday. I listened to several hours of right-wing talk-radio.

    On the way into work, I tuned into 760 KFMB and listened to our local wingnut radio host Rick (spelled with a silent ‘P’) Roberts. He was all over the supposed “climategate” scandal. Accusing climate scientists of “cooking the books”, etc, etc.

    When I got to work, continued my KFMB listen-a-thon. At 9:00, it was Glenn Beck’s turn at bat. I got another big helping of data-cooking climate-scientists, fat Al Gore getting rich from global warming, the UN, higher taxes, etc. After Beck, it was Sean Hannity’s turn. More “climategate”, Al Gore, the UN, higher taxes, etc. At that point, I couldn’t take it any more and turned it off.

    On the way home, it was the Michael Savage show. More corrupt climate scientists, Al Gore getting rich, the UN, higher taxes, etc.

    Basically, yesterday on talk radio, it was non-stop looniness from before sunrise to long after sunset. And there are millions of people who listen to this stuff all day, day in and day out.

  37. 87
    Tom Adams says:

    “The politics of the AGW side is collectivist and tyrannical in its outlook. It can only imagine massively centralized government solutions to any problem. It has no awareness that human society is a dynamic, churning cauldron of individuals that have the capacity to solve problems through voluntary exchange with one another.”

    Which side is collectivist? Is it the side that wants to use the atmosphere a commune for dumping greenhouse gases, or is it the side that want the greenhouse gas holding capacity of the atmosphere to become private property that voluntarily exchanged like any other private property.

    But I guess if you are a collectivist, then it does not seem voluntary when capitalist political force takes your commune that turns it into private property? Get over it, collectivism has caused an emergency.

    And you are right that private property and capitalism involves a massive centralized government effort: deeds, property laws, courts, law enforcement. Only a collectivist would complain about this.

  38. 88
    Mark Gibb says:

    Ray Ladbury @ 74 asks some good questions:

    What initiatives do you see coming from the private sector that will make a significant dent in climate change?

    I wish I had more time to do more thinking and researching on this, but I can think of three areas where I see improvements that will make a dent (my “make a dent” claim is informed speculation):

    1) I mentioned above that all of my electricity is generated from wind power. Every electric bill I get says something to the effect of “you have prevented x tons of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere.” I see evidence of wind power generation growing. Also, there are other alternatives like solar and various hydrodynamic schemes. We have to be patient and let these develop.

    2) Various good things are happening with respect to car gas mileage. It may be true that some of the improvement has come from government mandates, but I believe the improvements would have come about regardless. And in this, we should not fear rising petroleum prices. Rising prices are the best indicator of scarcity, and will cause wonderful things to happen as people are motivated to think of ways to solve the problem.

    3) Aluminum building materials – I see houses being built with aluminum framing instead of 2x4s. I even watched a 5-story hotel being built in my area, and the whole thing (at least all of the framing) seemed to be made of aluminum. All of this aluminum could be recycled and used again. Also, this seems to fit in with information I have read that showed that North America is being RE-forested; the acres of forest is now growing.

    The next two questions seemed the same to me:

    How do we get the idjits who refuse to look at the evidence to buy into these solutions? How do we convince people who don’t understand how science works to support policy based on science?

    I think there’s nothing we can “do” about the idjits. Any attempt to force them to behave in the way you want them to behave will backfire, in my opinion. In the back of their minds, even idjits want a clean and healthy place to live. The market will respond and satisfy that want, if we are patient and let it happen.

  39. 89
    dhogaza says:

    Aluminum building materials – I see houses being built with aluminum framing instead of 2×4s. I even watched a 5-story hotel being built in my area, and the whole thing (at least all of the framing) seemed to be made of aluminum.

    I’m sure it’s steel, not aluminum. Regarding steel framing of commercial buildings like the five-story hotel you mention, this is mandated in many jurisdictions in the fire code. Government-driven, in other words.

    All of this aluminum could be recycled and used again. Also, this seems to fit in with information I have read that showed that North America is being RE-forested; the acres of forest is now growing.

    The timber industry actively fought mandatory replanting legislation in the 1970s. Now they tout the fact that they replant (in fairness, Weyerhauser replanted its lands before the law required it, but many did not and they lobbied hard to leave those forests bare after clear-cutting).

  40. 90
    dhogaza says:

    I mentioned above that all of my electricity is generated from wind power.

    Generous government subsidies have helped kick-start this industry …

    Various good things are happening with respect to car gas mileage. It may be true that some of the improvement has come from government mandates, but I believe the improvements would have come about regardless.

    Average fleet mileage in the US dropped in this decade (stretching back into the 1990s I think). Thus the administration’s recent action to force an increase in efficiency.

    On the other hand … Toyota gets kudos for recognizing that there’d be a large market for high-efficiency hybrids and devoting a decade of engineering investment into the design and production of the first Prius, ensuring not only high city gas mileage but also a durable and reliable car.

    Of course the market for that car has been boosted via government subsidy in the form of tax credits …

  41. 91
    ccpo says:

    Re: copied editorial posted by jhm:

    Great. Let’s go with, “People are stupid. Better not to say anything.”

    Sheesh…

  42. 92
    Rod B says:

    CM (53), unfortunately you are aiding some aginer’s cause here. The ones who whine that AGW is not about climate change as much as whacking the despised people who have more riches than you.

  43. 93
    Rod B says:

    Neil Taylor (56), Though I am a skeptic and member (kinda) of the loyal opposition, I wish to come to Gavin and company’s defense (though they are surely better at this than I). You ask and expect too much. The editorial, while founded on the science, was only remotely connected to or about the science. It was about what the politicos of the world ought to be doing. RC doesn’t play in that arena any more than necessary; but I assume they felt (correctly) that it would none-the-less be of timely interest to the posters here.

  44. 94
    Jiminmpls says:

    #87 Mark,

    The federal government passed fuel efficiency standards in 1975. The average fuel efficiency of vehicles sold in the US more than doubled in ten years.

    With no further mandates after 1985, average fuel efficiency actually got worse over the next 20 years.

  45. 95
    ghost says:

    Mark Gibb,

    To add to Asun Friere’s response, pick your poison–have a collective move toward a solution now, or have whatever government governs you now force you to submit to adaptations that could have been avoided. I think it is misguided to imagine that fully-engaged AGW will not involve massive government mobilization/intervention and will not affect “liberty.” No place will escape the effects, so your (maybe not “your” personally, depending on your age) municipal-county-state/provincial-federal government will TRY to react to changes. It might be a string of minor actions, such as rebuilding or resourcing the local water supply; it might be intermediate, such as a futile attempt to build seawalls; or it might be major, such as engaging in armed conflict. In order to argue in favor of only market solutions and against government intervention, at least three prerequisites are that (i) one accepts the AGW consensus (otherwise, why do anything?); (ii) no market-based activity is happening now (which is incorrect); and (iii) there is time for market solutions to work to avert the full impact (there isn’t). As the Pentagon is, and has been, modeling security/war implications of AGW, do you really believe that the world will escape massive government involvement in the climate change context? (The Bush Pentagon’s interest/activity RE: AGW seems curiously contrary to the no-warming crowd, many of which seem pretty friendly to the DOD.)

    You appear to dislike ‘central government,’ but government is a bit player compared to the global climate. Would you rather have large government preventive intervention now, or as much or greater government palliative intervention later, along with an overall hostile climate that cannot be affected by and that does not respond to money, votes, 30-second sound bites, or military force? Diplomacy (always involving government) is preferable to war (also always involving government), yet the do-nothing-now faction is doing the climate equivalent of war mongering, pressed on and financed by the carbon industry. I’m curious whether your market ideas involve massive additional subsidy to the government-less borderless carbon industry (or to Wall/High Street, for that matter, which the sort of cap-and-trade that would be imposed probably would end up doing). Those players have such a grip on addicted society that little non-governmental (or governmental, for that matter) progress away from fossil fuels is possible without placating those players somehow. (Would Inhoffe be as hysterical if he didn’t represent a carbon-producing state/the fossil fuel industry? Someone else representing the same constituency would water-carry in his stead, no doubt.) Maybe we could trade the massive military protection and pollution remediation subsidies for compliance on non-CO2 solutions, but that also would involve large government intervention and a timeline mismatch. (Hint: there’s no such thing as a truly free market, at least among modern humans.) Your wind energy source required government intervention to make it available and deliverable, decades after it was a good idea to do so. Because of the delivery grid system, wind-power delivery often requires central government decisionmaking, as does provision for nuclear fission power plants. Market-only solutions probably would have been a good idea 20 years ago when James Burke told the story that is unfolding now, but the scientific and observational data tell us that a market-only process at this stage is the equivalent of telling a late-stage 4 lung cancer patient to quit smoking, and do little else. It might work, but the odds are unfavorable.

    Neil Taylor #56: A very good reason to post the editorial is to show an example of how the general media are communicating/commenting on/handling the AGW issue (not very well, much of the time).

    caerbannog # 85: You have a seriously strong stomach. The radio/tv propagandists appear not to realize that they in effect are defending, through maintaining the status quo, the support of oil-producing regimes that they otherwise deride as “terrorists” or “communists.” Strange bedfellows indeed!

  46. 96

    Currenly CO2 concentration is 387 parts per million. 200 years ago, at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, it was 280 ppm. It hasn’t been at 387 ppm in 15 million years.

    Yes, it’s too bad only 56 newspapers joined in on this editorial. But what an important statement it is.

  47. 97
    SecularAnimist says:

    Mark Gibb wrote in comment #11: “The politics of the AGW side is collectivist and tyrannical in its outlook. It can only imagine massively centralized government solutions to any problem.”

    So, is your “politics” incapable of imagining any other solutions to the problem, rather than denying the problem exists because you don’t like the solutions that others propose?

    “Conservatives” and “libertarians” have only themselves to blame if they don’t like the solutions that are being proposed and that may be implemented. When you devote your energies to denying reality, you shut yourself out of the dialog about how to deal with reality. Nobody else has shut you out of that dialog — you have refused to participate in it, and have chosen instead to deny reality, of your own free will.

    And by the way, the specific proposals being put forward in the USA, by the administration and in the Congress, are in fact the antithesis of “massively centralized government solutions”. They are overwhelmingly focused on setting up mechanisms to force markets to internalize the actual cost of carbon emissions (e.g. cap-and-trade), and creating incentives for investment in alternatives (e.g. tax breaks for wind and solar, feed-in tariffs, etc.), and then allowing markets and private sector innovation to do their thing. Your notion of “massively centralized government solutions” has no relationship to what is actually being proposed, and is a product of the fossil fuel industry’s dishonest propaganda, by which you have been led to believe that “ExxonMobil’s profits” equals “liberty”. In short, my friend, you’ve been had.

  48. 98
    SecularAnimist says:

    The editorial states: “The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C …”

    Is it not the case that the temperature rise that has already occurred is already causing having dangerous effects on the Earth’s atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere and biosphere?

    Is it not the case that what the world really needs to do is to limit temperature rise to what has already occurred, and indeed, to “take steps” to reduce atmospheric CO2 to pre-industrial levels to reverse that increase?

    The ice is already melting, folks. The deserts are already spreading. The forests are already dying. The crops are already failing. We are not going to stop, let alone reverse, these ongoing catastrophes by “limiting” temperature rise to more than twice what we have already caused.

    [Response: A case can be made for your suggestion, but it is impossible to go backwards at the point; the 2 degree number is a combination of science and what is realistic (though still really challenging.--eric]

  49. 99
    Forlornehope says:

    Unfortunately here in the UK the Green enthusiasts have been doing their best to hijack the climate change issue to promote their “simple life” agenda. Left wing journalists like George Monbiot make a direct link from climate change to the need for collectivist policies. To meet their requirements we would need the kind of rationing and controls that the UK operated in the second world war. There is a real problem with people agressively promoting authoritarian and collectivist solutions. IMHO these are at least as much of an obstacle to an intelligent response as the “denialists”.

    Prof David MacKay makes the point very clearly in “Sustainable Energy – without the Hot Air”. We can fix this without all living on communes on a diet of turnips and potatoes. However, if you don’t want windmills spoiling the view, you don’t want tidal power upsetting the mudflats, you don’t want to import solar electricity because that “exploits” the Africans and you don’t like nuclear, well you’re pretty well stuffed. That is the position of the UK greens in a nutshell.

    I’m an engineer not a climate scientist and my main interest in the subject is how we can fix it. It is fundamentally an engineering problem, how do we rebuild our energy infrastructure based on a sustainable level of carbon emissions. It is quite achievable without any fundamentally new technology. We do need to get on with it though and with rather more of a sense of urgency than shown up until now.

  50. 100
    Bill K says:

    The era of airfare is coming to an end?

    You know what?

    Sign me up for the geoengineering team.

    Editorials like this are exactly what’s wrong with the global warming movement – they roll over and die on our way of life without even considering that there are better solutions.


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