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The Economist does not disappoint

Filed under: — eric @ 13 April 2010

The March 20th -26th cover story of The Economist, “Spin, science and climate change,” deftly bypasses the politics surrounding ‘climategate’, to tackle the more important issue: whether any of this has any bearing on climate change science and policy. This is a refreshing bit of journalism that everyone should read.

It is no secret that we have been unimpressed by the quality of reporting of climate science or late. From the insinuation that data were manipulated (for which there remains no evidence, primae facie or otherwise), to the suggestion that “climate skeptics” had somehow been kept from publishing in peer reviewed literature (how, we wonder, does Lindzen keep getting published?), to the blind repetition of false claims of major errors in the IPCC (when only a couple of actual errors – and none of them in the primary (Working Group 1) report – have been found), to the falsehood that climate data have not been readily available (yes, they have), the reporting has been more akin to the populist fearmongering of the McCarthy era than to the celebrated investigative journalism of Watergate. That’s too bad, and not just because sensationalistic journalism may have done lasting damage to some institutions and individual scientists. More importantly, it has done damage to public understanding, quite the opposite of the rightful role of the free press in a democratic society.

In this context, we were delighted to read the article, and “leader” in the March 20th-26th edition of The Economist. And our delight with the The Economist’s take on the story is not that they share our opinion on the politics surrounding climate science. Indeed, they appear to take at face value that the stolen CRU emails reveal ‘shameful mistakes’ by scientists, and the dubious claim that IPCC errors (such as they are) have ‘tended to exaggerate the extent of climate change’. They also repeat a few other contrarian memes – such as the idea that the various “Hockey Stick” climate reconstructions killed off the Medieval Warm Period (they didn’t) – without sufficient criticism, to our taste. Yet this is actually the strength of the The Economist’s articles: rather than engaging in ultimately rather trivial bickerings, they provide a refreshingly accurate and up to date assessment of much of recent climate science.

For example, The Economist emphasizes the obvious yet frequently overlooked point that that even if the most outrageous claims about the land temperature data were true, there would still be the temperature data from the oceans and the satellites to contend with. And they articulate very well the more subtle understanding that the possibility of errors in the instrumental data doesn’t actually have a lot of bearing on our understanding of climate. It is often assumed, they write,

“that data are simple, graspable and trustworthy, whereas theory is complex recondite and slippery…. In the case of climate change, as in much of science, the reverse is at least as fair a picture. Data are vexatious, theory is quite straightforward.”

Those who do not appreciate this point can easily be misled by the cavillous arguments of others who have become adept at focusing on this or that that specific bit of data and using it to convince people that they have uncovered some fundamental flaw in the theory. Yet The Economist doesn’t simply dismiss these criticisms out of hand; they are, for example, exceedingly fair to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Dick Lindzen, who views the possible role of clouds as a strong negative feedback as a reason to believe the climate sensitivity is lower than all the other evidence indicates. (At they same time, they get Linzden to admit that he agrees that the mainstream views on the magnitude of the water vapor feedback -– roughly doubling the direct radiative impact of CO2 — is probably correct).

Our only technical criticism of the The Economist’s main article is that it states that the IPCC ‘expects the temperature to have increased by 1.1o to 6.4 oC by 2100’, without pointing out that this combines the uncertainty in climate sensitivity with the uncertainty in policy. This could easily be taken to suggest that we could keep the global mean temperature to within 1.1oC above 19th century values, without any reduction in fossil fuel use, a virtually impossible result. But this doesn’t detract from the larger point that The Economist is making here – that the uncertainty is itself a reason for action, not a reason to delay action. As they succinctly put it: “The fact that the uncertainties allow you to construct a relatively benign future does not allow you to ignore futures in which climate change is large”.

In sum, The Economist appears to understand what balanced reporting actually means: accurate reporting of science can be done while neither stifling debate nor accepting the criticisms of so-called ‘skeptics’ at face value. The self-described goal of The Economist is to engage vigorously in the “contest between intelligence and timid ignorance,” and they are doing a rather good job of it. Whether this will prove sufficient to win the contest against aggressive ignorance is, of course, another matter.

92 Responses to “The Economist does not disappoint”

  1. 51

    PS to 37

    Martin, I found a different poll from roughly a year later. Rather than asking whether “How concerned are you about global warming?” (or its presumed translation into their languages) it asked more or less, “Would you personally be willing to make sacrifices including paying higher taxes to address climate change?”

    Please see:

    Most people say they are ready to make personal sacrifices – including paying more for their energy – to help address climate change, according to a new BBC World Service poll of 22,000 people in 21 countries.

    Most Would Pay Higher Energy Bills to Address
    Climate Change Says Global Poll
    Monday 5 November 2007
    http://www.globescan.com/news_archives/bbc_climate2/

    The results are considerably different. Urban Chinese demonstrate considerably more concern as do Germans. Brits and Australians show considerable willingness to make personal sacrifices. French? Roughly evenly divided.

    Please see:

    Urban Chinese have the largest majority (85%) who would support raising taxes on the fuels that contribute most to climate change.

    The proportion of Chinese favouring higher energy taxes is 24 points greater than the next largest majorities in Australia and Chile (61% in both). This is followed by Germans (59%), Canadians (57%), Indonesians (56%), Britons (54%) and Nigerians (52%). Publics lean toward this measure in Mexico (50% to 46%) and are divided in Kenya (50% to 48%), Spain (49% to 47%), France (47% to 48%), Turkey (42% to 43%) and India (38% to 36%).

    Majorities in Italy (62%), South Korea (59%), the Philippines (58%), Brazil (55%), Egypt (52%) and the United States (51%) are initially opposed to higher energy taxes.

    Judging from the differences I believe we can safely conclude from a given poll that a particular set of people responded a particular way in response to a particular set of questions when asked at a particular time. Then again, a cold snap can mean a drop of 10% in the US who believe global warming is happening — and a heavy snowstorm in winter is a smashing good time for a denialist propaganda blitz, no doubt.

    I hope that helps but somehow I think not.

  2. 52
    Nick Dearth says:

    Good post from Giles Slade today.

  3. 53
    Doug Bostrom says:

    HotRod says: 14 April 2010 at 9:50 AM

    The human mind is a wonderful thing. We can ignore what’s in black and white and instead read “between the lines”, drawing our necessary comfort from our fertile imaginations.

    I’m happy that you’re happy, HotRod.

  4. 54
    Russell Seitz says:

    Donald asks :
    “Their reporting on science is extremely good for a general readership magazine. I believe part of that comes from their requirement (as noted in the magazine from time to time) that their science/technology section be authored by scientists who can write well, rather than journalists who are interested in science.

    Who?…. Is the author’s identity a secret?”

    Hardly- though I gather articles may be written collaboratively, the masthead links inform us that The Economist’s environment editor is ‘Eating the Sun ‘ author Oliver Morton, formerly of Nature

  5. 55
    Tom S says:

    Being a skeptic, I would say this article was the best example of a balanced report I have read to date. We all know how rare this is. 99% of reporting is us vs. them.

  6. 56
    Paul Harris says:

    Here’s am example of misreporting by ‘reputable’ British newspapers.

    “The recent furore around ‘Climategate’ faked scientific claims has hardened the views of Tory MPs, many of whom were already unconvinced by the scientific consensus…” Anushka Asthana of the Observer newsapaper,in an article carried in the Guardian Weekly,m 12 February 2010.

    “Faked scientific claims”? Excuse me…That is simply untrue.

  7. 57
    RaymondT says:

    I also found the economist article interesting.

    I disagree with the following sentence on page 3: “This pattern of warming down below and cooling at the top is expected from greenhouse warming, BUT WOULD NOT BE EXPECTED IF SOMETHING OTHER THAN THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT was warming the world, a hotter sun would heat the stratosphere more, not less. From what I read, Mojib Latif is estimating that the warming from the oceans due to internal decadal oscillations could account for 10% to 50% of the warming during the 90’s. If this is true, that means that the increase in temperature due to the internal decadal oscillation would also contribute to an increase in the water vapour content which would also increase the greenhouse effect and would then also cool the lower stratosphere.

    I found the reporting on the effect of the aerosols quite objective. On page 4, the authors wrote: “Taking aerosols into account, climate models do a pretty good job of EMULATING the climate TRENDS of the 20th century. THIS SEEMS ODD, SINCE THE MODELS HAVE DIFFERENT SENSITIVITIES. In practice, it appears that the way the aerosols are dealt with in the models and the sensitivity of those models tend to go hand in hand; SENSITIVE MODELS ALSO HAVE STRONG COOLING EFFECT”

    In other words the climate models with various sensitivities are tuned to history match the temperatures using the aerosol forcing. There is no rational reason why sensitive models should also have strong cooling effects due to aerosols.

    On page 5, the authors write: “Using the IPCC’s assessment of probabilities, the sensitivity to a doubling of carbon dioxide of less that 1.5 C in such a scenario has perhaps one chance in ten of being correct”. It is misleading to think in terms of probabilities since the different simulation runs cannot be thought of as experiments. Since we are dealing with the simulation runs of temperature the calculation of a probability is a mathematical construction. The approach used in calculating this probability has not been verified since we are dealing with a unique event.

  8. 58
    Mike says:

    I think the next move for the deniers will be to undermine concerns that warming will cause serious problems. They already do this, but I think it will become their focus. Where is real-climate-environment?

  9. 59
    Hunt Janin says:

    Is it possible to find a short, accurate explanation of what motivates the deniers?

  10. 60
    Completely Fed Up says:

    ““Faked scientific claims”? Excuse me…That is simply untrue.”

    Put your weaselglasses on and reread.

    There ARE faked scientific claims. The ones promoting climategate were making them. Just leave out the participant and put another sentence containing the IPCC scientists next to it and let people draw the wrong conclusion.

    ‘course investigative journalists know this and should be asking the questions “who made what fraudulent scientific claims?”. Blogs have to do it now.

  11. 61
    Russell Seitz says:

    re 29
    Compared to Fred’s latest effusion:

    http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/04/climategate_whitewash.html

    The Pelagian Heresy guy seems comparatively lucid.

  12. 62

    #57–

    Point 1: Notice that you still invoked the greenhouse effect?

    Point 2: Your conclusion appears to be a non sequitur; there is nothing in the premise requiring the “tuning” you claim.

    Point 3: The grammatical subject of this sentence is “assessment,” not “calculation.” The IPCC is upfront that “big picture” statements such as this one involve expert judgement. Such judgements are part of the IPCC brief, and cannot be avoided completely in situations such as the today’s, in which knowledge is still rapidly advancing.

    Your objection is itself “misleading,” IMO, in that it seems to create a false dichotomy between “completely known” and “completely unknown.” I must say that this is a tactic that is not unfamiliar–sadly.

  13. 63
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Is it possible to find a short, accurate explanation of what motivates the deniers?”

    There are many deniers.

    About the only common cause is fear and hate. And not really a huge amount of hate except that stirred up by their fears.

    Then again, the motivation behind almost all of the pro-science side is fear that we’re gonna be boned in the future if we don’t do something now.

    As an earlier poster put it: you don’t stop your child playing on the road because they *have* been run over, you do it because they *might*.

    Fear.

    *What* they fear is the multitudinous Cthonic beast. A small sample:

    New World Order
    Communism
    Elites (e.g. people who know things you don’t and are rude enough to point out that you don’t know)
    Communists
    The Other Guy
    Foreigners
    Environmentalists
    The Gravy Train Changing Rolling Stock
    Admitting You’re Wrong
    Admitting Someone Else Is Right
    My Money, You Can’t Have It
    I’ve Been Told I Should Be Scared

  14. 64
    RandyL says:

    I am sure most of you have not seen today’s (Thursday, 4/15/10) Houston Chronicle editorial. Down here in the center of OIL country what the editorial said is generating quite a stir. Here is the final comments from the editorial. Enjoy….

    “…..As writer Elizabeth Kolbert points out in the current issue of the New Yorker, ‘The message from scientists at this point couldn’t be clearer: the world’s emissions trajectory is extremely dangerous. Goofball weathermen, Climategate, conspiracy theories — these are all a distraction from what’s really happening.’…. For those of us living in hurricane-vulnerable areas, keep in mind this ominous measurement: Sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic main development area for tropical storms last month were the warmest ever recorded for March, already reaching levels typical of late June. The conjunction of several climate patterns combined with ongoing overall warming of the world’s oceans is thought to be the cause. Despite all the spinning and hot air, the science is solid and global warming is a real, deadly serious concern. It’s time to deal with it.”

    So, as we sometimes say here in Texas.. “nuff said”

  15. 65
    o says:

    The Economist’s take in the CRU investigation
    “The scientists in “climategate” did not fudge the data, a report finds”

    http://www.economist.com/research/articlesBySubject/displayStory.cfm?story_id=15905891&subjectID=348924&fsrc=nwl

  16. 66
    Hank Roberts says:

    Ken Caldeira is on my local radio station right now, in a program on geoengineering: http://www.kqed.org/epArchive/R201004160900

    It will be up as an audio file at some later point.

    He makes many good points — one being this:

    The estimated cost of converting to renewable energy is about 2 percent of global annual income.

    If our economy were now based on renewables, and someone told us we could increase the world’s wealth by 2 percent by switching to fossil fuel, although it would mean acidifying the ocean and changing the climate, that would be absurd.

    Amazing the difference in perspective isn’t it?

  17. 67
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Hank, the difference is that change changes things.

    For those with power NOW, this change *could* lose them money. Being accountant-led, they act like accountants and consider this a terrible thing to be avoided.

    cf the copyright cartels’ expensive attacks on a distribution method that would cut their costs astromomically and grow the pie of money in creative works massively BUT would lead to more bit players being able to play.

    It doesn’t matter that they may lose out BUT STILL BE HUGELY WEALTHY. After a billion, the money is meaningless, it can’t be spent quick enough. So money is power, and your power can be thwarted by someone with more. So it’s no longer “can I live comfortably” but “Can I exercise my will freely”.

    And losing money means losing the freedom to act however you want.

    THAT is the perspective change.

    It’s not “will I live well after the change”, but “I probably will be worse off after the change”.

    And as far as Rand is concerned, the rich’s ability to do as they will is deserved morally and any attempt to reduce that ability (even if it results in a rising tide lifting all boats: that means more people able to do as THEY will and THEY may want to stop you getting what you want) is morally Evil.

  18. 68
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Hank Roberts says: 16 April 2010 at 11:55 AM

    If our economy were now based on renewables, and someone told us we could increase the world’s wealth by 2 percent by switching to fossil fuel, although it would mean acidifying the ocean and changing the climate, that would be absurd.

    That will bear up to frequent repetition, nice!

    We also spend some 6% of global GDP purchasing insurance, money spent buying us lots of psychological comfort and a little protection against bad things that are necessarily improbable. But we can’t spend less on reducing risk from climate change with higher probability while simultaneously buying our future energy supply? Absurd.

  19. 69
    Gilles says:

    “The estimated cost of converting to renewable energy is about 2 percent of global annual income.”
    This has never been validated, and is totally silly : why not use 2% more energy with a vanishing cost ? or 4% more energy to produce + 2% GDP ? Energy is not a cost, it is a source of income. Its “cost” is no more than the money you spend to drive to your job : it is just a small amount of expense necessary to get much more money.
    If renewables were only 2% less productive than fossil fuels, it is very unlikely that this would be the case exactly everywhere, because every country are not equal , neither in the availability of renewables , nor in that of fossil fuels; so there would be some countries where renewables should be more interesting than fossil fuels. In fact there are , but only in one case : electricity generation, with hydropower (or in rare cases geothermal power). And it is indeed fully or almost fully used in this case (in Norway, Quebec, Iceland). But not for all the other uses , including of course transportation, metallurgy, carbochemistry, and so on. So speaking of “converting to renewable energy” is a full lie. This is only possible for energy generation, with hydropower, in rare countries.

  20. 70
    Ray Ladbury says:

    vboring@8 says, “From an economic perspective, the right thing to do would be to develop risk-weighted cost scenarios. From this perspective, a 50% chance of an expensive result is very different from a 90% chance. They would justify different levels of action.”

    This is definitely the course of action to take. But, there’s one big problem–the first step in any probabilistic risk assessment is to bound the adverse consequeces due to a threat. Since we cannot at this point rule out a)that climate sensitivity could be 4.5 degrees per doubling or even higher, or b)that even at 3 degrees per doubling some threats could result in a collapse of human civilization, bounding risk is not possible at this point. Under those conditions, probabilistic risk assessment says that the only appropriate course of action is risk avoidance–even as you work to better bound risk. So, The Economist is quite correct, even from an economic perspective, in its consclusion.

  21. 71
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Hank Roberts says: 16 April 2010 at 11:55 AM

    NOTE the bit I posted is a paraphrase written listening to Stephen Schneider on our local radio station. Look for the transcript to get it right and attribute it.

    Here’s the website, now with a link to the audio file:
    http://www.kqed.org/epArchive/R201004160900
    http://www.kqed.org/.stream/anon/radio/forum/2010/04/2010-04-16a-forum.mp3

    (What I posted, the paraphrase:
    — If our economy were now based on renewables, and someone told us we could increase the world’s wealth by 2 percent by switching to fossil fuel, although it would mean acidifying the ocean and changing the climate, that would be absurd.–

    Gilles — that figure is the “cost of converting” ….

    Oh, why bother ….

  22. 72
    Hank Roberts says:

    rrrrgh, let me correct myself. That KQED interview is with
    * Ken Caldeira, climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University

  23. 73

    Gilles, (#69) by your analogy likening energy costs to the cost of driving to work, one would be forced to conclude that no-one would ever pay for seatbelts or airbags.

    Instead, auto companies actually advertise these desireable features–though there was a time when seatbeltss were not considered so desireable.

    Something to do with accuate appreciation of certain dangers, perhaps?

  24. 74
    Gilles says:

    “Gilles, (#69) by your analogy likening energy costs to the cost of driving to work, one would be forced to conclude that no-one would ever pay for seatbelts or airbags.”

    Why ? seatbelts or airbags are like an insurance, but an insurance is not the main driver for the wealth , neither for individuals.
    Stern’s calculations are totally bogus, with all due respect. If you could spare say 40 % of fossil fuels at a cost of 2% of the economy, whereas employing them would produce externalities of 20 %, the best choice wouldn’t be neither the first solution, nor the second, but a third one : do the improvements that spare 40 % of fossil fuels, and multiply the economy by 1/0,6 = 1,66 , accepting the 20 % of externalities : this would still produce 1,66 * 0,98 – 0,2 = 1,43 so 43 % MORE wealth that the second solution ! which has always been the chosen solution actually : improve the use of fossil fuels, and produce the maximum of wealth you can with them.

  25. 75
    Rod B says:

    Kevin, then why were seatbelts and airbags both mandated by legislation?

  26. 76

    Gilles (69): Energy is not a cost, it is a source of income.

    BPL: So why do you have to pay for it?

  27. 77
    Endre Varga says:

    After the Eyjafjallajökull erupted on Iceland, there is a chance for the volcano Katla to follow. Now that could cause temporarily a local “climate change” in Europe.

    I wonder if that would change people’s stance towards global climate change.

  28. 78
    Hank Roberts says:

    > produce the maximum of wealth you can

    Best answer I’ve seen to that philosophy,
    and best reminder that’s not the only point of view,
    after several mine disasters and a widespread airport closure,
    and best statement of where it fails (after several mine disasters)
    and where it works (during widespread airport closure for safety reasons)
    and what to fix, is from:

    http://www.ginandtacos.com/2008/08/31/atheistsfoxholes-libertariansairplanes/

    —excerpt follows—-

    I am thrilled that the government regulates the living shit out of every aspect of my present endeavor, from mandating certified training for the mechanics to capping the number of hours pilots can fly in a day to putting the aircraft through regular safety inspections to regulating the process of air traffic control to resisting calls to privatize airport security. None of this is “free market.” It is the result of government meddling.

    The good libertarian relies on the free market to solve problems on its own. Take a couple of hamburger chains, for instance. The one that makes bad food will go out of business. Customers won’t eat there! Thus the market, left alone, will punish those who fail to provide what people want. How cute. Let’s leave the airline industry alone – bust the unions, abandon all regulation, let the market set whatever wage it will, let the pilots be on for 36 hours at a crack – and let the same process go to work. Markets will force airlines to keep their planes safe, otherwise no one will pay to fly with them!

    In order for the market to punish the backsliders, consumers must be made aware that Airline X is unsafe. Since we don’t have regulations and inspections, how will we know? Well, look up. We will know which airlines shirk on maintenance and safety when we see their planes plunging out of the sky. Here’s where my Mises Institute friends come in.

    As market acolytes, I believe that they should volunteer to be on the plane(s) that serve the purpose of communicating this essential information to all of us. In the airline industry, the market’s way of telling us who is inferior involves a lot of people dying. The system works really well – let airlines be, see who fails, and punish them with one’s wallet – for everyone except the people on the plane.

    Inasmuch as I do not think that uncontrolled flight into terrain at 500 mph is a worthy sacrifice for the glories and benefits of unchained race-to-the-bottom capitalism, I am a liberal. Inasmuch as I don’t want to eat the BSE- and e.coli-laced hamburger that tells us which meat processor is shirking, I’m a liberal. Inasmuch as I don’t want to be the person working in a garment factory for 75 cents per hour when wages devolve to “what the market will bear,” I’m liberal. Inasmuch as I don’t want my dad to be the guy in the coal mine that the defunded Mine Safety & Health Administration hasn’t inspected in 6 years, I’m a liberal. Inasmuch as I care more about you not getting injured at work than about the effect of workplace safety on your boss’s bottom line, I’m a liberal. Inasmuch as I don’t want a terrorist bomb to explode underneath my seat right now because Milton Friedman says the TSA’s should be auctioned off to some politically-connected mall security guard outfit, I’m a liberal.

    In short, to the extent that I care more about what happens to people – real people, here in the real world – than I care about patting myself on the back for being 100% true to pure free market principles, I’m liberal. Regarding the term’s use as an insult – when you are ready to volunteer for a flight on Market Self-Correction Airways or have your kid to eat the Mad Cow meat and die on a ventilator with blood hemorrhaging out of his eyes, then we’ll talk. Until then, politely lean forward and blow it directly out your ass. There is no insult I can take seriously from people who are so fanatically devoted to free-market idolatry that they would rather see lives lost and ruined than controvert its sacred principles. People who care more about free market ideology than human life prove themselves remarkably undeserving of either.

    That, I suppose, is the simplest statement of my political philosophy.

  29. 79
    RWilsker says:

    While the article was very good and provided a more nuanced view in understanding the complexities of theory and measurement in the context of climate science, what depressed me were the many deniers comments made to the article. Clearly, no amount of logic, peer reviewed work, or evaluations from blue ribbon panels will shake these folks from their belief that this is all nonsense generated by a conspiratorial horde of scientists.

    While time is against us, we probably have more hope in educating the next generation than in converting the current one. But we need to be as sophisticated and as good at reaching a wide audience as our opposition (as difficult as that can be when you don’t have the freedom – as they do – to simply make up information to support your case). We can’t just talk to each other.

    Someone earlier wrote about how Science should speak for itself. In an ideal world, that lofty sentiment might work, but in down and dirty reality, the policy that scientific fact should drive will only occur when public opinion and political will are strong enough to drive it, whether because we have succeeded in educating a wide enough audience in the facts and the dangers they imply, or, sadly, after a significant number of disasters have struck so forcefully that even the deniers have to question their positions. And given the nature of humans to rationalize events and the pace of climate change, who knows how long that will take.

  30. 80
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Hunt Janin #59,

    Perhaps not short, but I found it lucid:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denial

  31. 81
    Rod B says:

    Hank Roberts (78), if you’re comparing “liberalism” with the extremely fringe laissez faire libertarians, then you’re correct. Though if you are hoping to imply a comparison with today’s conservatism, then you are all wet. Today’s conservatism is not defined by your simplistic words, to wit: liberals good, conservatives bad; it’s really a bit more complex than that. There is no way that 100% pure free markets (complete laissez faire) work successfully in the long term. Someone has to set the rules that 1) protect the populace from egregious harm, and 2) maintain fair, in addition to free, markets to the greatest extent feasible. Most, if not all, of your examples fall into that category, and mainstream conservatives would concur. So you have not drawn any distinction between today’s conservatives and liberals.

    IMO today’s liberalism goes far beyond the basic societal things into personal individual things. They desire a system that doesn’t just protect individuals from egregious harm, but directs their personal lives to 1) protect them from themselves, and 2) assure day to day living in compliance with the regime’s dictates. They don’t just want to protect me from poisonous meat racked with e.coli, they want to dictate which meat I can eat, when I can eat it, how it’s cooked, and how much I can eat.

    I think the breakdown between conservatives and liberals into AGW protagonists and antagonists is mostly, though not all, coincidental. Where it is not, IMO, is where those in both camps know or even care little about the science, but the reaction and mitigation appeals to their bent — either keeping government more at bay, or controlling others’ lives respectively. Neither are helpful to the cause, though too often IMO the AGWers strongly support the idiot protagonists. (What the hell! A vote is a vote…)

    [Response: The difference between AGW ‘protagonists’ and ‘antagonists’ is that the latter much more often happen to have the science on their side, for the most part. Consequently, while they may exaggerate (making Katrina = ‘global warming’ for example), they don’t have to make things up. That’s why we often appear at RC to be on the ‘side’ of the ‘liberals’, or to be less critical of them. But the reality is that whenever conservatives say things that are scientifically valid, we will be on their ‘side’. Hence our support of The Economist — generally considered a conservative (or at least not liberal) publication.–eric]

  32. 82

    Hank (78),

    Bravo! Very nicely put.

  33. 83
    Frank Giger says:

    ” Consequently, while they may exaggerate (making Katrina = ‘global warming’ for example), they don’t have to make things up.”

    I disagree.

    “Exaggerating” AGW effects when the proponents know darned well it is false is lying. As in making stuff up.

    The science isn’t on their side!

    Indeed, when scientists take it easy (are less critical) of lies told by protagonists they hurt their own credibility far more than any denialist could.

    [Response: You keep implying that we give the NGOs and media a pass, but it is simply not true. There are plenty of examples on this site of us calling out sensationalist claims that are not supported by the science. Making stuff up is equally wrong whoever does it. – gavin]

  34. 84
    Jacob Mack says:

    I knew there was a reason I posted a link to that Economist article among others.

  35. 85
    Comletely Fed Up says:

    Wow, eric [#81]. Do you think that this idea of “thinking about the idea someone’s saying rather than concentrating on whether you like them or their ideas or not” will *ever* take on?

    It doesn’t seem to be vogue at the moment, mind.

  36. 86
    Nick Gotts says:

    They [liberals] don’t just want to protect me from poisonous meat racked with e.coli, they want to dictate which meat I can eat, when I can eat it, how it’s cooked, and how much I can eat. – Rod B.

    Do you have any actual evidence for this silly claim? Like, for example, a liberal proposing a law limiting how much meat you can eat?

    *crickets*

  37. 87
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “IMO today’s liberalism goes far beyond the basic societal things into personal individual things.”

    Funnily enough, the right are far more guilty of this than anyone else.

    Copyright enforcement that entails investigation into personal information. Wiretapping and surveillance “for your own good”, etc. The right only want government out of BUSINESS “private” activities. They’re 1,000% behind government interference in INDIVIDUALS (as long as they’re too poor to have power).

    Then again, it’s that old canard of projection going on.

    PS Nick, Rod’s problem is that he’s being told that something is bad and he doesn’t like that interference in the business’ information. How DARE someone tell him that the food from *Mart is bad! If the meat is bad, let the Free Market sort it out!

  38. 88
    Anonymous Coward says:

    Eric (#81),
    The Economist is a liberal publication. It’s not conservative.
    You may be trying to fit this British publication in the yankee political spectrum but it won’t work. Yankees have reshaped the meaning of the word “liberal” between WWI and WWII at a time when their political scene was particularly weird.

  39. 89
    Kevin Stanley says:

    Rod B:”IMO today’s liberalism goes far beyond the basic societal things into personal individual things. They desire a system that…assure[sic] day to day living in compliance with the regime’s dictates.”

    I lurk here a lot, usually without posting. Enough to get a sense the personas of many of the frequent posters. Rod B, you usually seem to do a better job of appearing levelheaded than this. Echoing Nick Gotts, do you have anything to back this type of talk up? You’re not the first person I’ve encountered who seemed convinced that US liberals want to “control other people’s lives,” but maybe you’ll be the first to coherently explain why you think such a thing…

  40. 90
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “The Economist is a liberal publication. It’s not conservative.”

    The liberal economist is more libertarian, which is a US-style-Conservative viewpoint.

    I.e. smaller government (when it comes to interfering with business or rich people).

  41. 91
    Rod B says:

    Nick (85), Oh, given a couple of minutes I could probably recall a few hundred. But in a few seconds I’ll quickly cite NYC’s recent outlawing of trans fats in restaurants, and the ever growing push to kill McDonalds, and the recent outcry over KFC putting too much chicken in their new sandwich. Then a while back there was Califano wanting to outlaw butter in the movie popcorn. Then…

  42. 92
    Rod B says:

    Kevin (88), I did answer Nick. I should also point out (just very slightly agreeing with a tiny part of CFU’s post — against my better judgement ;-) ) this predominately comes from liberals, but not exclusively. The liberals want to force everyone’s medical records and info readily available. The right want everyone’s DNA profile stored and accessible. [Yeah, yeah, yeah! I know they both aver that it will never be misused.]

    [Response: Err umm, this discussion is interesting, but is now 100% politics, 0% climate science. Looks like a good time to turn off the comments thread.–eric]