Nobel Laureates Speak Out

On Wednesday, 17 Nobel laureates who gathered in Stockholm have published a remarkable memorandum, asking for “fundamental transformation and innovation in all spheres and at all scales in order to stop and reverse global environmental change”. The Stockholm Memorandum concludes that we have entered a new geological era: the Anthropocene, where humanity has become the main driver of global change. The document states:

Science makes clear that we are transgressing planetary boundaries that have kept civilization safe for the past 10,000 years. [...]

We can no longer exclude the possibility that our collective actions will trigger tipping points, risking abrupt and irreversible consequences for human communities and ecological systems.

We cannot continue on our current path. The time for procrastination is over. We cannot afford the luxury of denial.

Mario Molina

Mario Molina (Nobel prize in chemistry 1995) signs the Stockholm Memorandum

The memorandum results from a 3-day symposium (attended also by the king of Sweden) on the intertwined problems of poverty, development, ecosystem deterioration and the climate crisis. In the memorandum, the Nobel laureates call for immediate emergency measures as well as long-term structural solutions, and they give specific recommendations in eight key priority areas. For example in climate policy, they recommend to:

Keep global warming below 2ºC, implying a peak in global CO2 emissions no later than 2015 and recognise that even a warming of 2ºC carries a very high risk of serious impacts and the need for major adaptation efforts.

The memorandum was handed over to the members of the UN high-level panel on global sustainability, who traveled to Stockholm in order to discuss it with the Nobel laureates and experts at the symposium.

p.s. As a little reminder of the ongoing work of the merchants of doubt, a small band of five or six “climate sceptic” protesters were gathered outside the symposium, some of whom flown in from Berlin. Their pamphlet identified them as part of the longstanding anti-climate-science campaign of US billionaire Lyndon Larouche and claimed that climate change is “a hoax” and an “insane theory”, the global temperature measurements are “mere lies”, the Nobel laureates meeting “a conspiracy” and the Stockholm Memorandum a “Fascist Manifesto”. I approached one of the protesters who carried a banner “against Green fascism” and asked him whether he seriously believes what his pamphlet says, namely that our meeting is a “symposium for global genocide”. He nodded emphatically and replied: “Yes, of course!”

157 comments on this post.
  1. Magnus W:

    At this site you can listen to what a few of them have to say. The site is in Swedish but most of the interviews is in English.

    http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=3345&artikel=4511265

    Just click on the gray area with a speaker and a name.

  2. EoR:

    the Stockholm Memorandum a “Fascist Manifesto”

    What! I thought we were supporting the Great Global Warming Scam® to get a communist world government!

    I really wish the reptilian overlords running this Greatest Scientific Fraud in History ® would get their act together…

  3. John Mason:

    That spells it out pretty plain and simple.

    Mankind is at a T-junction in the road ahead. In the one direction, rational judgment based on science. In the other, emotive kneejerk responses based on a political worldview. The one way leads to the future. The other is the road to hell.

    Cheers – John

  4. Adam R.:

    It is difficult to see how this memorandum will change anything in the USA. Al Gore and Barack Obama won Nobels, so as far as the American right is concerned, a message from 17 other winners is just a note from the enemy camp.

    It’s enough to make you tear your hair. Things have reached a point here where the most ominous warnings of eminent scientists have literally no impact on Congress or, apparently, even the President, who is busily working to get new oil wells drilled as fast as possible.

    There is a lot of introspection and finger pointing going on lately over the failure of scientists to get the climate message across. For me, it is hard to see how science ever stood a chance in a public opinion war against well financed propagandists to whom truth, integrity and accountability are of no concern.

  5. JK:

    The concept of the Anthropocene is interesting and valid. The rest strikes me as banal, poorly specified or wrong.

    To take one example:

    ‘Unequal distribution of the benefits of economic development are at the root of poverty. Despite efforts to address poverty, more than a third of the world’s population still live on less than $2 per day.’

    It seems to me that unequal distribution is only part of the problem. In fact, I would describe the ‘root’ of the problem as lack of sufficient production of wealth. True, more production will not solve poverty without the correct distribution. But I would argue that lack of sufficient wealth in the world is closer to the root.

    Of course others might disagree, and I won’t call you a fascist if you want to argue. But is it sensible to cast anyone who raises questions about this as a ‘merchant of doubt’? Is it sensible to put to people the following choice: accept that the problem of poverty is one of redistribution or else reject climate science?

    I have enough scientific background to understand that the physical basis of climate science is basically sound, but many of the skeptics I know have come to their position not through study of science but because they feel they have been presented with such a choice. Posts like this one make that seem fair enough.

    To take another example:

    ‘Current food production systems are often unsustainable, inefficient and wasteful, and increasingly threatened by dwindling oil and phosphorus resources, financial speculation, and climate impacts. This is already causing widespread hunger and malnutrition today.’

    This seems to me unclear, and probably wrong. Looking at the long term global trend people are better fed than ever. The argument that the factors mentioned are leading to a turning point seems very dubious. The worst concentration of hunger in recent decades has been in Congo, due to war which has little or nothing directly to do with the factors mentioned. Is there good evidence that dwindling phosphorous, or even oil, ‘is already causing widespread hunger and malnutrition today’?

    The UN world food programme states that ‘Iodine deficiency is the greatest single cause of mental retardation and brain damage, affecting 1.9 billion people worldwide.’ Iodised salt is a straight forward innovation that can drastically reduce malnutrition. Yet here the problem is that naturally available salt – is this what is meant by an ecosystem service or natural capital? – is not good enough. It requires anthropic impact to produce better salt. The barriers to doing so seem to me social and economic, nothing to do with climate or peak oil.

    Maybe I was just put off at the way that a document proclaiming equality and reason promoted itself using an endorsement from the King of Sweden. But then the last symposium in the series was held at St James’ Palace. Perhaps we could get a Realclimate review of Prince Charles’ book Harmony? I’m sure it would start an interesting discussion on helping solve malnutrition using Golden Rice (according to the UN WFP ‘iron deficiency is the most prevalent form of malnutrition worldwide’) or making biofuels using genetically engineered algae.

    ‘Science makes clear that we are transgressing planetary boundaries that have kept civilization safe for the past 10,000 years.’ I do not agree. ‘Safe’ is not a scientifically defined term. It is cultural and moral. I have tried to explain above a couple of examples of why I think these questions are not yet ‘clear’. Everyone is entitled to their political and moral views. Unlike many climate skeptics I have no problem with scientists participating in public debate. We need more public intellectuals. But crude scientism, presenting political conclusions as proven by science is a big problem.

    So far as I can see it is also a the main source of popular climate skepticism – far bigger than LaRouche.

  6. wili:

    The Pentagon now seems to be acknowledging and strategizing around GW.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/may/20/climate-change-climate-change-scepticism

    This should help to counter the lie that it is a “liberal hoax.” At what point does someone become prosecutable for spreading lies that put peoples lives in danger, not to mention entire ecosystems?

    I applaud this group of scholars, but such bodies really have to start calling for specific measures, however drastic they may seem to the unaware. Measures like an immediate moratorium on tar sands oil production and a rapid reduction in coal mining globally. As J. Hansen points out, if we burn all the coal and unconventional oil, we are toast. And if we mine it, we will burn it.

    We have to stop UN-sequestering massive quantities of safely sequestered carbon before considering any high-tech carbon sequestration programs.

  7. David Stern:

    Lyndon LaRouche is a billionaire?

  8. JiminMpls:

    This will undoubtedly become the new meme for the fossilist conspirators:

    “First they called it global warming, but when they found out the climate was actually cooling, they changed to climate change. Then when they realized that the climate wasn’t changing, they started calling it environmental change.”

  9. Susan Anderson:

    “scientific illiterati” turned up in this week’s New Yorker article about meat production.

    Good phrase.

    We were tackled by the LaRouche people at a huge conference at MIT with all the new Obama people (was it 2009?). I could weep when I think back to the optimism that this huge movement embodied at the time. Obama doesn’t seem to be worried about Sasha and Malia, and he should be. (Heck, he’s young enough to be worried about himself the way things are going.)

  10. Snapple:

    Is there a list of the participants and their affiliations? I always like to read what the individual experts say.

    The Vatican also promoted the term Anthropocene in their recent report. Nobel-winner Paul Crutzen coined that term, and he was one of the leaders of the recent Vatican workshop.
    http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/2011/05/vaticans-pontifical-academy-reports.html

  11. Snapple:

    Both the Pentagon and the CIA are studying climate change. This is not new.

  12. Snapple:

    Some arrogant person who claimed that he works for the Pentagon called our Catholic high school and tried to boss us. He told us that he didn’t want our students to be taught about climate change in science. He said he worked for the Pentagon to make himself seem like an authority. I don’t know if this was a trick or just some ignorant busybody.

    The Pentagon says there is climate change, but the denialists are always trying to confuse and intimidate people by seeming to have official experts.

    Science is the search for truth, and our Catholic school is on-board with that. The Vatican also is teaching us about climate change.

    These denialists falsely appropriate the authority of scientific organizations, religion, the Pentagon, and the CIA to make it appear that these respected institutions do not accept climate change.

  13. Die Zauberflotist:

    I am ashamed of the recent shunning of Al Gore by the activists in the global climate disruption community. He fits, as much or more, the passion and achievement of the 17 NLs who were in Stockholm. Need I mention that he has also won the most coveted American prize, the Oscar. We distance ourselves from this man at our peril. He has done more to motivate the skulls-full-of-mush youth of this country toward fighting for reductions of CO2 than 5 Mario Molinas (and toss in 3 Nadine Gordimers).

    If we continue to give Mr. Gore the cold shoulder, we risk a warmer planet.

  14. ccpo:

    There comes a time when voices such as those of JK above become so out of touch with fact and reason and so obviously more propaganda than legitimate conversation that they simply cannot be give even the slightest sense of legitimacy. There are numerous examples.

    We don’t take seriously anyone who thinks the Earth is flat, who thinks dinosaurs lived 5k years ago, anyone who thinks witches should be burned at the stake, anyone who believes straw can be spun into gold, etc.

    To continue to give voice to opinions that have no scientific backing whatsoever is a danger to us all. A few years ago, most of you thought that a hyperbolic statement. Persons such as myself, for whatever reason able to parse the information and make rather accurate guesses about the future, have continued to warn that the climate was shifting faster than most assumed and that action was critical – and that continuing to allow the false equivalence, and in many cases knowingly and intentionally false statements, of the denialist industry was severely impacting our ability to survive. It wasn’t hyperbole then, and isn’t now.

    I recognize many of the foot soldiers in climate denial are simply deluded, brainwashed, overcome by their ideology, etc., but we also know the people leading this are largely liars. However, even if we assume they are not, we still cannot continue to treat them as equals in a debate in which their arguments have no standing.

    I believe Annie Leonard was correct when she said in a talk at Bioneers that it is time to simply move on without these people. We need to walk past them like you would an End Times prophesier or obviously well-fed person begging you for a quarter because he’s starving. These aren’t legitimate conversations to be having and neither is any conversation denying the impact of GHGs or supporting the continued use of fossil fuels.

    We have no legitimate reason to allow such conversations to continue to dominate policy discussions and prevent legitimate action in the face of a legitimate emergency.

    I continue to believe it will require a full frontal assault on both climate changes and on denial to address these issues in anything like a timely manner. Peak by 2015? We will be darned lucky if that is soon enough, yet we are so far from such a peak as to be on Mars trying to blow out birthday candles at a birthday party on Earth.

    We have no choice but to call denial by it’s name, take legal action against it when and where appropriate (such as the lawsuits already filed) and to simply stop allowing the conversation to be hijacked. Denial has no legitimacy. We must stop giving it any. We know neither straw nor lead can’t be turned into gold.

  15. Susan Anderson:

    snapple, this may not completely respond to your query but perhaps at the site you can find more:

    http://globalsymposium2011.org/participants

  16. Susan Anderson:

    snapple, this may not completely respond to your query but perhaps at the site you can find more:

    http://globalsymposium2011.org/participants

    DotEarth played the controversy a bit, like usual but there was more balance in the comments than usual. Perhaps I should stomp off in dudgeon (and recollect my obvious need for humility) more often.

  17. ccpo:

    To take another example:

    ‘Current food production systems are often unsustainable, inefficient and wasteful, and increasingly threatened by dwindling oil and phosphorus resources, financial speculation, and climate impacts. This is already causing widespread hunger and malnutrition today.’

    This seems to me unclear, and probably wrong.

    So the new denialist meme emerges: climate is changing but, 1. Gosh, do you really have to call us deniers? That is so hurtful!; 2. None of the changes you talk about are really climate changes and certainly aren’t dangerous and; 3. you certainly aren’t being very scientific!

    And then you end with the very unscientific “unclear” and “probably wrong” about comments that are exceptionally clear and completely accurate. Perfect propaganda. Congratulations, JK. But let us address your comments more directly.

    Current food production systems are often unsustainable

    Actually, they were understating the issue here. The vast majority of commercial food production, and virtually all industrial food production, is unsustainable. If you remove the fossil fuel-derived fertilizers and herbicides from those fields they would be producing little more than dirt in a very few years because the soil dead, burned out by years of mono-cropping and use of chemicals. The biota carbon in that soil is virtually non-existent. Since fossil fuels are unsustainable, such production is, QED.

    There is nothing unclear or even remotely wrong about this.

    inefficient and wasteful

    Food is moved very long distances. It requires ten calories of energy to produce one of food, in large part due to the energy required for transport. Our use and distribution of food in the USA, e.g., lead to 1/3 of all food going to waste.

    There is nothing unclear or even remotely wrong about this.

    and increasingly threatened by dwindling oil and phosphorus resources

    Both absolutely and unequivocally true. Being finite resources that are not restored on human time scales and that are being depleted at a very rapid rate, Fossil Fuels are, in fact, dwindling. Light crude oil production peaked some years ago and all oil production has been on a plateau for six years despite record high prices.

    Phosphorus, because it is not retained in our soils (which is excruciatingly easy to do), runs off into our water system and pollutes it. We are estimated to run out by the end of this century, at which time “modern” farming will cease to produce much more than dirt.

    There is nothing unclear or even remotely wrong about this.

    financial speculation, and climate impacts. This is already causing widespread hunger and malnutrition today

    I would quibble with the financial “speculation” as speculation is a zero sum game, but investment in food as a commodity rather than being treated as a staple and base need of society is indeed helping cause record high prices.

    A recent paper estimated a 3% loss in global production due to higher temperatures and, in case you hadn’t noticed, some nations have even limited exports of food due to (un)natural disasters.

    There is nothing unclear or even remotely wrong about this.

    ‘Science makes clear that we are transgressing planetary boundaries that have kept civilization safe for the past 10,000 years.’ I do not agree. ‘Safe’ is not a scientifically defined term. It is cultural and moral.

    Ah! Well! You disagree! That settles it, then! Blindingly good science! Glad to see you’re not using cultural and moral phrases like, “I disagree” to make your points and are supporting your disagreement with reams of scientific data.

    There is no ambiguity. The changes already are massive. The increasing frequency of damaging weather events is unequivocal, e.g., as are the changes in the timing of the seasons, the warming of the oceans and air, the melting of ice globally. If you disagree, what are we to think of your powers of observation, familiarity with science and, frankly, your veracity? You offer no evidence, only “cultural” and “moral” opinions.

    You don’t raise a single legitimate point, and in fact use the old propaganda technique of providing examples that have nothing to do with the point you are critiquing. You highlight a comment about hunger then go off on a tangent about iodine and mental deficiencies as proof there is no impact on hunger. Brilliant! Unethical, though.

    To paraphrase an old phrase found in a church somewhere long ago, I dream of a day when I will hear a child say, “RC, must we put up with denial?”

  18. Snapple:

    Thanks for the list. Several of those scientists were also at the Pontifical Academy workshop. Werner Arber, who was at the meeting in Sweden, is the head of the Pontifical Academy.
    http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/2011/02/pontifical-academy-of-sciences.html

    The Pope just called the NASA space station and talked to Congreswoman Gabby Gifford’s husband, the astronaut Mark Kelly. The Pope asked a question and the astronauts talked about how people fight for energy, the delicate atmosphere, and solar power.

    It was on Fox News:

    “I know that Mark Kelly’s wife was a victim of an attack and I hope her health continues to improve,” [the Pope] said. “When you are contemplating the Earth from up there, do you ever wonder about the way nations and people live together down here and about how science can contribute to the cause of peace?”

    “Thank you the kind words, your holiness, and thank you for mentioning my wife Gabby,” Kelly replied. “It’s a very good question. We fly over most of the world and you don’t see borders. But at the same time, we realize that people fight with each other and there’s a lot of violence in this world and it is really an unfortunate thing.”

    “On Earth, often people fight for energy. In space, we use solar power and we have fuel cells on the space shuttle, but on the space station, it’s the science and technology that we put in to the space station to develop a solar power capability [that] gives us pretty much unlimited amount of energy. And if those technologies could be adapted more on Earth, we could possibly reduce some of that violence,” Kelly said.

    The Pope also asked the astronauts if they saw “signs of phenomena” that we need to be more attentive to protecting the Earth’s environment.

    “On the one hand, we can see how indescribably beautiful the planet that we have been is, but on the other hand, we can really, clearly see how fragile it is,” replied Ron Garan, a NASA astronaut serving as a flight engineer on the space station. [Amazing space photos by astronaut Ron Garan]

    “The atmosphere for instance,” he continued. “The atmosphere when viewed from space is paper thin, and to think that this paper thin layer is all that separates every living thing from the vacuum of space and all that protects us is really a sobering thought.”

    http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/05/21/pope-benedict-xvi-makes-1st-heavenly-astronauts-space/

  19. Snapple:

    I guess some people should have considered the Pope before they attacked great scientists like Dr. Michael Mann!

    The Pope’s discussion with the NASA astronauts is reported on Vatican Radio. The Pope asked questions, but he let the astronauts answer. He closed with these words:

    “Final greeting:
    Dear astronauts,
    I thank you warmly for this wonderful opportunity to meet and dialogue with you. You have helped me and many other people to reflect together on important issues that regard the future of humanity. I wish you the very best for your work and for the success of your great mission at the service of science, international collaboration, authentic progress, and for peace in the world. I will continue to follow you in my thoughts and prayers and I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing…”

    http://www.oecumene.radiovaticana.org/en1/Articolo.asp?c=489185

    The Pope supports what the scientists and NASA are doing to learn about how to protect our planet, and students in Catholic school learn about climate change from these same scientists who are in our science books.

  20. Sphaerica (Bob):

    I hate to be nasty, but it’s not only about time, but it’s too little (although not too late, I hope).

    A problem, I think, with modern society is that the intelligentsia fail to lead. We hear far more about and from Hollywood stars and starlets and singers (and woefully ill-equipped politicians) than we do from the greatest minds the human race has alive today. I refuse to believe that the bulk of those minds are not capable of untangling the rampant falsehoods that buttress denialism, or recognizing the gravity of the problem, and as such I have a problem with them living in silence at such a critical juncture in modern civilization.

    So kudos to those who have, and shame on those who haven’t. I’d like to see the Stockholm Memorandum become a living document, to which more and more names (great names) are added daily, making it the reality-versus-fantasy opposite document of the bizzaro-world’s Oregon Petition.

  21. Ron R.:

    Here’s what Peter Raven, former president of AAAS said in the Forward of the AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment:

    Where do we stand in our efforts to achieve a sustainable world? Clearly, the past half century has been a traumatic one, as the collective impact of human numbers, affluence (consumption per individual) and our choices of technology continue to exploit rapidly an increasing proportion of the world’s resources at an unsustainable rate…. during a remarkably short period of time, we have lost a quarter of the world’s topsoil and a fifth of its agricultural land, altered the composition of the atmosphere profoundly, and destroyed a major proportion of our forests and other natural habitats without replacing them. Worst of all, we have driven the rate of biological extinction, the permanent loss of species, up several hundred times beyond its historical levels, and are threatened with the loss of a majority of all species by the end of the 21st century.

    As George Schaller, the noted conservationist, has put it, “We cannot afford another century like this one” (i.e., the 20th century).
    http://atlas.aaas.org/

    The Stockholm statement also reminds me of the World Scientist’s Warning to Humanity. http://www.ucsusa.org/about/1992-world-scientists.html

    My fear is that like so many warnings before this will be a blip on the radar screen then drop off like all the others. And of course the merchants of doubt (Liars for Hire) will, as usual, do all they can to trivialize, pick this apart and debate, debate, debate the fine points. It’s all about delay.

    ———————-

    “Doubt is our product,” a cigarette executive once observed, “since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.”
    http://www.amazon.com/Doubt-Their-Product-Industrys-Threatens/dp/019530067X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1306003041&sr=1-1
    http://www.amazon.com/Merchants-Doubt-Handful-Scientists-Obscured/dp/1596916109/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1306003041&sr=1-2

  22. JK:

    What I find most interesting about ccpo’s response to my comment is this:

    ‘Ah! Well! You disagree! That settles it, then! Blindingly good science! Glad to see you’re not using cultural and moral phrases like, “I disagree” to make your points and are supporting your disagreement with reams of scientific data.’

    Leaving aside my specific examples, my point was that these questions cannot be settled with by scientific data alone, however many reams it comes in.

    Can science, alone, objectively, with no input from moral, cultural or political values settle what is ‘dangerous’? We sometimes take risks in order to gain something valuable. That depends on how much we value the thing we are gaining and how much we fear the risk. I don’t think these evaluations should be make without moral phrases. (In fact I think there is a problem here with the pretense that definitions such as ‘efficiency’ and ‘rational’ in economics have pretended that they are value free.)

    I think that we should aim to keep greenhouse gases from going over double preindustrial levels. (If that makes me a ‘denialist’ I really don’t care. If you want to argue with someone who said ‘Gosh, do you really have to call us deniers? That is so hurtful!’ I’m afraid I’ll have to look elsewhere.)

    I believe that China, India and Africa need space to develop, and that means burning some coal. I believe that in the West rolling out renewables much more quickly is too expensive, that coercive behaviour modification by government is immoral and that cheap transport is worth preserving. We can decarbonise, but I think the trade offs of trying to get much below 560ppm are presently too high.

    I won’t say I have no factual disagreements with ccpo. For example, I don’t think that if the US ‘wasted’ less food then world hunger would automatically improve much if at all. I don’t think that localising food production will bring efficiency improvements.

    But will say I think our primary disagreements are moral. Is it possible to live a good life in poverty, without consumption? How much should we value cheap transport? Is it worth risking unlikely climate surprises (e.g. the collapse of the gulf stream) to gain other goods? What is the moral relationship between present and future generations?

    These questions can no more be answered by science alone than can questions such as whether the risk of nuclear power is worth the benefits. I believe nuclear is. Science informs that opinion – in terms of understanding risks of cancer, the risks of other forms of energy generation and what can be done with the energy generated. But to make a decision about nuclear energy involves how much we dread cancer, what we think of waste left to future generations, and what positive good we believe we can do with energy and many other things, such as the threat of a terrorist attack on a nuclear power station.

    You say these conversations have no legitimacy – because everything has been settled by science. That is your right. You want to take legal action against people who raise questions. That is a step too far. I will repeat, attitudes like that have done more to create climate skeptics than Lyndon Larouche ever did.

  23. Snapple:

    Here is the NASA audio and video of the astronauts’ audience with the Pope.

    http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/videogallery/index.html?collection_id=14554&media_id=89720291

  24. Georgi Marinov:

    Snapple says:
    21 May 2011 at 10:35 AM

    ….

    Science is the search for truth, and our Catholic school is on-board with that

    So when is your Catholic school going to tell you that there is absolutely no evidence for the existence of God?

    Yes, science is the search for truth but if you add the condition “As long as it is compatible with the Bible and it keeps God in the picture”, then you are not searching for any truth.

    The reason I am saying this is not because I want to start another internet “there’s no God” – “Yes, there is” war, the reason is that it is very very relevant to the question why we aren’t and are not ever going to do anything about climate change and the whole of our sustainability crisis of which climate change is only one component. And it’s very relevant because on a fundamental level, facing the crisis, understanding its root causes and doing something about it involves a complete doing away with most of the cultural, religious baggage that we have inherited and fundamentally rethinking what it means to be a human and what our place in the universe is. Religion, its dogmatic insistence that the world is there for us because we were made in God’s image, and its corrupting influence on people’s rational thinking ability, is one of the greatest impediments to this ever happening.

    Evidence for how fundamental this issue is is the fact that really nobody ever dares to come out and state it openly – most people never think about it, the few that do are too scared to say it.

  25. Stephen Missal:

    Re: ccpo (16);

    Bravo! I was going to try a point by point rebuttal of JK’s tomfoolery, but you did a much better job!

    JK’s writing reminds me of some art critiques I used to read in professional art journals…they sounded so impressive, complex…nuanced, like reading some doctoral thesis or a legal judgement rife with arcane language or sidebars aplenty….only to look at the actual art and realize it was c**p. Whoever is writing behind the initials ‘JK’ should take up art criticism. There they would be harmless, blinking through their tortoise shell glasses and raising an arched eyebrow while they sipped a martini. In this venue (climate) their sophistry does harm, real harm, to me and mine.

    There is plenty of data available to render all of JK’s: ‘oh piffle to your hysteria’ comments moot. As someone else said above, perhaps it is time to move beyond these folk and play hardball.

  26. Thomas:

    Georgi@23.
    Is the pope even concerned about the lack of proof of god? True believers tell me it is about faith. How could it be faith, if there was proof? I don’t think a lot of religious people have a problem with that (accepting faith without proof).

  27. Adam R.:

    @JK: I think the trade offs of trying to get much below 560ppm are presently too high.

    By this you infer that you have a good idea of the results of allowing CO2 to exceed 560ppm, and you are content they will not be too serious to bear.

    Wonderfully prescient of you, I must say. I am relieved by your assurance that anoxic oceans or massive clathrate releases cannot happen at 560ppm, and are therefore nothing to worry about. Whew! I can go back to reading the Wall Street Journal with an easy mind.

  28. JK:

    @Adam R.: I never said that disasters cannot happen at 560ppm. I said at present I think the trade offs of risks vs. benefits are such that 560ppm is a reasonable target.

    If there were new evidence that a catastrophe was not just likely, but much more probable at 560ppm I would revise my target. But basing decisions on what is possible rather than what is probable is not wise (cf the WSJ and others’ justification for war against Iraq on the grounds that no one can show Saddam certainly did not have WMD).

    I would also be happy with a lower target if there was a bigger than expected break through in, say, cheap solar.

  29. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company:

    50 experts gathered and published a memorandum. 17 of these are Nobel Laureates.

    Reading the report would get the larger impression that the 50 were interested in improving the world in various ways. Emphasis was given to making the world socially equitable, creating better governance, and implementing this with a ‘contract between science and society’. Key problems revolved around the lack of sustainability of present world activities.

    The introductory words call on innovation as the path to solutions, but the endorsed ‘innovations’ show there is little competence in the group to make such judgments.

    However, there seemed to be some solid scientific representation.

    Perhaps ‘science’ needs to note its limitations when it comes to innovation. We then might see the broader objectives addressed more effectively.

  30. Georgi Marinov:

    Thomas says:
    21 May 2011 at 3:18 PM
    Georgi@23.
    Is the pope even concerned about the lack of proof of god? True believers tell me it is about faith. How could it be faith, if there was proof? I don’t think a lot of religious people have a problem with that (accepting faith without proof).

    Yes, that’s all correct, religious see faith as a virtue and rarely even think about whether there is proof for God or not. The current Pope is supposed to be a very sophisticated theologian so he should have asked himself this question very often and thought about it hard, but that doesn’t really matter for the general argument.

    What I was aiming at in the previous post is that the Pope and the Church may proclaim that we need to protect the planet as much and as loudly as they want. It does not matter at all, because:

    1. We should not be protecting the planet because the planet needs protection, we should be “protecting the planet” to save ourselves
    2. Any meaningful response to the situation involves a drastic scaling down of the the human enterprise (in terms of both population and per capita consumption) because we are in very serious ecological overshoot at this point (and climate change is only one component of it)
    3. The Church will absolutely never be in favor of that because it goes directly against the core doctrine of humans being made in the image of God and the rest of nature being subordinated to them.
    4. The Church talking about “protecting the planet” is a manifestation of that same self-destructive attitude. Take particular notice of the transitivity of the statement “humans protecting the planet”. In that view humans are separate and above nature, not a subordinate part of it that depends on the health of the planet’s ecosystems for their own survival.

    The Vatican is not helping even when it may seems so on the surface.

  31. JK:

    As for a detailed response to the food stuff, I’m not sure if it’s worth pursuing point by point, but here goes on a few of the things raised:

    ‘Current food production systems are often unsustainable, inefficient and wasteful, and increasingly threatened by dwindling oil and phosphorus resources, financial speculation, and climate impacts. This is already causing widespread hunger and malnutrition today.’

    ccpo defended the proposition that ‘Current food production systems are often unsustainable’ on the grounds that ‘Since fossil fuels are unsustainable, such production is, QED.’

    Well I find the term ‘sustainable’ unclear, and it is not one I find particularly useful. By your definition any use of fossil fuels is unstainable. Has fossil fuel use always been unsustainable? Does that mean that we should never have started using oil or coal? Or did it become unsustainable at a particular point?

    I also find unclear is which of the factors is ‘already causing widespread hunger and malnutrition today’?

    ccpo says phosphorous is ‘estimated to run out by the end of this century’. Does that mean that phosphorous scarcity ‘already causing widespread hunger and malnutrition today’?

    As for the paper showing a ’3% loss in global production’ does this refer to the Science paper showing losses since 1980 in wheat and corn but not rice or soy? Sorry to ask, but ccpo wasn’t … clear.

    What I find even less clear is that given we have the technology and land to grow food for all – even in the present climate which is a little warmer than in 1980 – why we hold the small increase in temperature since then responsible for ‘widespread hunger and malnutrition today’?

    Food per capita including wheat and corn has increased since 1980. That is due to the socio-economic development that has taken place. Could we say that the failure to mobilise the human and investment resources sufficiently since 1980 is responsible for ‘widespread hunger and malnutrition today’?

    I claim that if there had been no wars in Africa and economic growth had been faster with associated reduction in disease then ‘widespread hunger and malnutrition today’ would be lower than if climate had been fixed at its 1980 level but development otherwise remained relatively poor. In fact, with 30 years of peace and development I believe Africa could abolish hunger.

    I claim that climate change has not been the major barrier to development in Africa from 1980 to today, and therefore is not ‘widespread hunger and malnutrition today’.

    I am sorry if all this comes across as professional art criticism. I genuninely think that careful, logical methodological discussions are too often missing. I accept there may be senses in which we can say climate ’causes’ social problems but we need to be far more careful in throwing around this sort of attribution.

  32. CJ:

    This thread and the seed for it succinctly summarize the dilemma of our age. The planet and mankind is at a crossroad with man crippled by his greatest achievement, his evolutionary toolkit. The tools that have allowed us to dominate our environment and survive outside of it will most likely ensure our ultimate failure. Our incredible mental abilities have developed to serve our emotions.

    We may appear rational and logical, but, that is only upon reflection. Our primary response to virtually everything is emotional. Reason is employed to defend and protect our feelings, we use it to explain what we know. Frequently the smarter a person is, the harder it is to persuade them to change their mind. When challenged or questioned their intellect is immediately engaged in their defense, as in a fight for survival. Inserting emotional attacks, such as ridicule or name calling, in an argument only stiffens their self defense.

    Much of the resistance that must be overcome is derived from people defending their life. Often it is impossible to separate lifestyle or beliefs from ones identity. The crisis at hand requires us to abandon the hopes and dreams of generations with ideas that are not yet fully formed and are due to apocalyptic fears that only occur on geological time scales.

    Perhaps this is the human dilemma re-imagined.

  33. Ben S:

    Well I find the term ‘sustainable’ unclear

    “of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged”

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sustainable?show=0&t=1306015680

    Being disingenuous is a poor mode for advancing an argument. Also, it would be more persuasive if you included some sort of citations for your claims.

  34. Patrick 027:

    Re JK – Technically, I think some of your points are good. But some negative reaction to them is understandable because it seems a bit aloof and unnecessary. I would expect that the scientists involved in making recommendations of policy and statements of danger and safety are quite aware that they are not using or motivated by scientific knowledge alone. I would guess they might not specify the moral calculus because they assume they are going by values that most others share.

    With food – if what ccpo says is true about the EROEI of food being something like 0.1, well, that sounds inefficient, but, with the partial exception of livestock being fed crops grown on land also suitable for crops that could feed people (partial because meat and dairy and eggs are nutritionally and gustatorally different from grains, fruits and vegetables, beans and nuts (PS coffee and chocolate would be beans, right? so they are good sources of protein? :)), it’s not necessarily terrible – because food is a completely different kind of energy whose value is different than the energy used in, for example, transport. However, if that is unsustainable, then we have to change it or it will change for us. But if our energy sources were different, or if we changed our diets (ie less animal products), we might not need to change the EROEI of our food (where EI is non-food and non-feed, thus taking plants fed to animals out of the EROEI equation).

    I have heard that we do have enough food to go around and hunger is generally caused by distributional problems (but that may have changed since I’ve heard it?). However, if it is because food prices are too high for some to afford it (as opposed to war), that does imply that either it is poverty or it is something in the supply of food or some combination.

    I remember hearing that Rush Limbaugh said (some time ago) that we could take all the starving people in Ethiopa and feed them here (in the U.S.). Well maybe we could have, but did we?

    On the other hand, the needs of the future are shaped in part by population, and high food prices now could actually make sustainability easier by reducing future population. But one would hope that occurs simply by choosing to have fewer children, which sadly doesn’t seem to be a choice that a number of people make or consider (reasons may vary from negative sum games (competition to have a larger portion of the next generation as benefactors for your retirement), to competition for social status, to male macho attitudes (‘look at how fertile I am! He-yaw!’), to religious stuff and tradition, to lack of education and poverty itself, and maybe other things).

    Of course no system can be perfect all the time and there will be waste. If biofuel technology develops in the ‘right’ way (where the defininition of ‘right’ is given by the context provided by the following statements, and not intended to be inherently a moral judgement), then even some of the waste that does occur can be treated not as waste but resource (failed/damaged/spoiled crops or necessity to switch from food/feed crops to non-food/feed crops due to weather, crops with some contamination rendering them unsuitable for food/feed but still suitable for other purposes if handled correctly, and then there’s things like banana peels, used coffee grounds, the crumbs that stick to muffin-tin liners (if paper, through those in too, along with napkins, tissues, toilet paper, sewage, sawdust, grass clipplings and other yard waste (but don’t take too much away from the yard because it’s also fertilizer – for that matter, some food residues will make compost – PS compost gives off heat so maybe composting could be done in winter in greenhouses with piping carrying heat inside – where practical, otherwise do something else)), etc.), peanut shells, and of course, the stuff you accidentally left out or burned or left in the refrigerator too long or dropped on the floor, etc.)

    But here, JK, is one place where you really go off the rails: I believe that China, India and Africa need space to develop, and that means burning some coal. I believe that in the West rolling out renewables much more quickly is too expensive, that coercive behaviour modification by government is immoral and that cheap transport is worth preserving. We can decarbonise, but I think the trade offs of trying to get much below 560ppm are presently too high.

    1. Why does development have to mean burning some coal? Okay, maybe they need to burn ‘some coal’ because of remaining issues with trasmission/storage and lack of nuclear, etc, but what if we had the proper climate-pollutant regulations in place and it turned out that coal’s competitive advantage was limited to a rather small and dwindling market size? (PS lack of grid in some places actually makes solar an attractive option right now).

    2. Too expensive? Consider the expense of not doing it? Yes, value-laden judgements, but that’s what makes it important!

    3. Immoral coercion? JEEZ! Where do you draw the line? Do I have the right to toss dog doodoo in my neighbors yard? What if somebody wants to wave a loaded gun around and shoot at random? Pollution’s effects can be a lot less immediate and it’s easier to cause it without being aware of what you’re doing, but it can still do harm and, in so doing, infringe on other’s rights. Plus, if you’re concerned about wealth, yes, there is very good logic that market economies should (at least when externalities are corrected with government actions/policies) tend to optimize total wealth, but there are weaknesses and sometimes some types of public policies and plans and actions may have greater benifit than cost. Of course you have a right to your opinions but I have a right to say they’re a bit nuts.

  35. Adam R.:

    JK: But basing decisions on what is possible rather than what is probable is not wise.

    By that argument, the insurance industry collapses.

    Accepting a risk that would mean the end of civilization (a by no means negligible risk given what we know of the effect of sudden, large CO2 excursions on paleoclimate) is something that seems “wise” to you?

    You seem to be a garden variety delayer: “Let’s wait until we’re sure we’re screwed before we decide to do something.” The problem is, if we delay, we will be irretrievably screwed long before we are sure of it.

  36. Adam R.:

    @CJ: Much of the resistance that must be overcome is derived from people defending their life. Often it is impossible to separate lifestyle or beliefs from ones identity. The crisis at hand requires us to abandon the hopes and dreams of generations with ideas that are not yet fully formed and are due to apocalyptic fears that only occur until now only occurred on geological time scales.

    FTFY

  37. Ron R.:

    Snapple says at 11:55 AM

    Some nice quotes, thanks. Here are more. Well worth a read. Think of all the science it took for us to finally be able to utter these profound realizations.

    http://www.solarviews.com/eng/earthsp.htm
    http://www.spacequotations.com/earth.html
    http://homepages.wmich.edu/~korista/astronauts.html

    Maybe we should send deniers into space and see if that perhaps changes their money based tunnel vision at all. I highly doubt it though.

    I agree with others re: the Pope (although I’m agnostic not atheist). On the other hand we need any help we can get.

    No matter our individual hopes and dreams, loves and hates, successes and failures we should all, every one of us on this planet be environmentalists/conservationists. Anything thing else pathos.

  38. john parsons:

    JK–you talk about risk reward–think for a moment about the risk–it is potentially the greatest risk ever taken by humanity by many orders of magnitude–now what is the reward that you are balancing that against? jp

  39. Eli Rabett:

    The magic flute had it right. Those of us who understand climate change have abandoned Al Gore when we should have supported him.

    There is a group of people, ranging from Darryl Inhofe and his troll Marc Morano, to Roger Pielke Jr. who saw that Gore was effective and therefore vilified him. We have seen this tactic before with Nicholas Stern, and with Joe Romm, where any small mote was blown up into a huge controversy and we too easily folded in face of the onslaught.

    It is become increasingly clear that there is no hiding and the opponents of necessary action on climate change have to be met head on and we have to stop abandoning our allies.

  40. Thomas:

    Georgi @29.

    I think we have the same opinion about religion -that it is an unneccesary and dangerour delusion. But it is a delusion I don’t expect to see abnadoned (except by a few) during my lifetime. I see this pope as a potential ally. And with several hundred million catholics, (plus many other non-catholic Christians who are interesting in his proclamations), he could be a critical and powerful ally. You rare ally (or make peace with) someone with whom you are in 100 percent agreement with, but with someone with whom you share an important goal with. So we should embrace and support him in this effort.

    And yes agree, about your other points. Those are going to be a really hard sell. I don’t think many humans are ready to give up the idea of expnentially improving quality (and quantity) of life just yet.

  41. Patrick 027:

    Re my last comment re JK:

    I want to elaborate on:

    Plus, if you’re concerned about wealth, yes, there is very good logic that market economies should (at least when externalities are corrected with government actions/policies) tend to optimize total wealth, but there are weaknesses and sometimes some types of public policies and plans and actions may have greater benifit than cost.

    First, a market works by price signals communicating information about value and cost. (A market (like anything else) is a (the most accurate possible) computer model of itself. It is an equation solver. It is a learning algorithm.) Costs are incurred to get benifits. The value of a good or service is communicated in demand for it (note that, setting aside inequalities** in initial conditions and luck along the way, a person may work harder to get more income (or get into a position of negotiating power) if s/he wants (values) something s/he wants to buy more (setting aside limited or quantized options for working harder or increasing income or obtaining power**). The good or service goes to where it is most demanded and thus of greatest value, because of the profit motive of the supplier. Demand shifts among similar goods/services toward the cheapest supplier, so that the least costs are incurred in producing that good/service (note that a worker/manager may accept less monetary income/profit if s/he simply enjoys his/her job, and thus would be getting benifit out of the work in addition to whatever comes through money). Note that people who want to earn income demand jobs which are supplied by employers (the same person in the case of self-employment), and laborers supply labor to an employer. Demand and supply all-the-way around. Now the learning part: if demand and consumed quantity shifts from goods/services from one chain of supply to another, such as due to a change in the price signal, perhaps from a pollution tax, or any other change (natural, legal, cultural, technological, whatever), then 1. the price asked by the first chain of supply could go down as suppliers try to cut losses (setting aside mass market advantage), while the price of the second could up as greater demand allows a greater profit margin. 2. the effect of 1. tends to counteract the change in quantities consumed. 3. the greater profit in the second chain and reduced profit in the first drives greater investment (education and job-training, technology R&D, others) in the second and reduced investment in the first. 4. the effect of 3 increases the supply of the second chain and reduces the supply of the first, doing the opposite of 1 and 2. Note that 3 and 4 can happen just in anticipation of 1 and 2 and/or whatever the root cause is (investment in clean energy would go up now if it was thought that a cap-and-trade bill would be passed next year, or if a law passed now would only start taxing CO2eq emissions 2 years from now). Thus, more of what more people want more, and/or more of what is less-taxed or more-subsidized, and/or more of what can be made more of for the same or less cost, is produced. More net wealth (ideally it is optimized, within the limits of the market’s ‘computing’ errors). Consumers and producers profit by giving/losing less for more.

    At least ideally.

    A cost for an economic action which is not paid for by the actor or, via the chains of supply and demand, the benificiaries of that action (perhaps tending to be in proportion to benifit) (PS it’s not generally a bad thing when additional costs in production are at least in part passed along to the consumer – that’s generally how it’s supposed to work), is realized by the public (now or at a later timer). Such externalities tend to reduce market efficiency and thus tend to reduce total wealth; they are also generally unfair (not that the market is fair – it certainly IS NOT fair, but there is a level of fairness to it which is degraded by externalities and would be lost going to a communist system, which is ironic since fairness is supposed to be part of the appeal of a communist system – for more irony, a case from Communist China comes to mind…).

    Externalities may often be thought of as tragedies of the commons (although some externalities can be positive – still would be a potential cause of market innefficiency, though). There are a few ways to solve externalities:

    1. Privatize. In some cases this could make perfect sense, but in some other cases this can be innefficient or costly itself (see below) or too impractical (depending on available technology).

    2. A lawsuit. For particular non-systematic events this may make sense. For systematic events this might still make sense on a class-action level. For externalities distributed over a long time, it may be tricky; the future needs a representative in the present to go to court, etc…

    3a. public planning/mandates/organization. Makes sense for eyesores. Your property value is protected going into the future if, for the forseable future, a law is in place preventing your neighbors from doing _____. If the law is in place then the neighbors can’t move in and then complain about the law because they chose to move there – unless there is something nonsensical about the law (or it’s enforcement) itself.

    3b. public management/tax/cap – makes sense for systematic externalities. Where their are nonlinearities or complex relationships that determine the optimum trajectory of things, then some level of top-down plannning may be used (see 3a.) – if the market response to a pollution tax is somewhat predictable than a tax may be used even if the cost is nonlinearly proportional to the amount of pollution; otherwise there could be (auctionable) caps – this would be a form of planning, see 3a. This can also makes sense where there is too much uncertainty for the courts to handle – ie there is still legal justification rooted in protection of rights because doing something that could cause some level of harm can be irresponsible and negligent, but it the attribution of harm done is imprecise, then we have to go with a best estimate of externality value (but I guess that’s what would happen in the courts, too. The bigger issue may be systematic externality vs isolated individual cases). Note that revenue from taxes/auctioned caps would ideally go to the injured parties – in some cases we may only know that some people have been injured but not specifically who, and so the revenue would go into a pool that pays for all such injuries or would simply be distributed based on probabilities (eg domestically, climate change damages related to natural disasters would go into FEMA – ideally much of the rest would be paid for by taxes assessed the same way insurance prices are assessed (to avoid creating too much of an externality), for those things not otherwise insured (PS you’d want to pay out in such a way as to encourage, not discourage, adaptive measures – for example, pay for the reduction in property value caused by climate change to make moving easier or so that some changes would be made to restore property value; don’t subsidize continuing to do things the same way when it no longer works.)

    3c. public ownership – implied by 3b, actually.

    As I mentioned corrections to externalities earlier in the original (italicized) statement, the public policies/plans/actions(and ownership) refered to later go beyond that, or in the first example below, actually go directly against it.

    Examples:
    (to be continued)…

  42. Patrick 027:

    … (pardon the length; I didn’t know it would get this long but now that I’ve typed it it seems wasteful not to post):

    1. “Fair Use”: limits to the protection of intellectual property rights.
    It makes sense to protect intellectual property so that intellectual work can be rewarded according to it’s value to the market, thus encouraging such work the appropriate amount. However, it stifles the human mind to live in a world where all unpaid/unlicensed use of other’s ideas is tresspassing. Consider that it is legal to tape a song on the radio or download a CD onto a computer. It is legal to photocopy a few pages in a book. You can quote something – of course, you’re supposed to acknowledge it as a quotation and, in formal work, give a reference (informally if you don’t remember where you heard it you can still say it and note you heard it somewhere; of course in casual conversations you have to be forgiven for forgeting that it wasn’t your idea sometimes…). So long as you don’t do it on too large a scale and/or try to sell it (without permission or royalties). Arguably this limitation to intellectual property rights is a great public good and improves overall well-being – a positive externality which possibly improves market efficiency.

    2. negative sum games. need I say more.

    3. negotiating/buying power and nonlinearities in the market (perhaps a rationale for progressive taxation?

    (PS not really part of this topic, but the most sensible taxation scheme may be unconstitutional. Government services – roads, etc, – provide economic benifit and so it makes sense to pay taxes, ideally in proportion to the service provided (for roads, perhaps a tire tax would make more sense than a gas tax, although as long as we don’t have a CO2 tax, I’m okay with keeping a gas tax). One thing the government does is protect property, and this occurs on the federal level as well. So a national property tax really makes sense, in addition to other taxes.or by a tire tax, in proportion to the durability of the tire relative to the wear-and-tear the car will do to the road over the tire lifetime )

    - of course, setting inequalities in luck and initial conditions aside, people may work to earn power. In doing so, they may gain the experience and wisdom to use that power to make things bette. A large powerful entity may function like government in helping to organize various economic actions to improve overall performance and wealth (see below – public planning/organization). However, power may be used outside a range of expertise, or simply abused. Is the effort to win power proportional to the benifit, or is there a nonlinearity, and would such a nonlinearity decrease market efficiency? I’m not sure; I think it’s interesting to consider.

    On related points: are coal miners and some soldiers paid less so that they don’t have the resources to invest in themselves so as to have other options – ie are they and their children to some extent trapped and thus cheap labor? Can a company create a source of cheap labor? Are Walmart employees paid a small enough amount that they are more likely to buy cheap such as at Walmart? (The anti-Henry Ford’s pay workers enough so that they can buy your goods/services).

    It’s funny that some pro-free market people oppose unions. Are unions government actions? Of course a union could be too-powerful (not likely lately, though).

    Does poverty of some reduce the wealth of others (to make a point about the value of fairness, would total wealth tend to increase if it were distributed more evenly. Well in one sense, for the case of decreasing returns, yes – a millionaire’s $1000 may be worth more to a person with less – although there is also increasing returns – a person may need a minimum amount of money to do something…). PS aside from breeding of diseases and absence of markets for goods or supply of skilled labor, there is the effect on health care costs from innefficient care of the uninsured, but that’s almost a whole seperate topic tying other aspects of economics and government and morals and customs together.

    (Of course, there’s also that one’s wellbeing may increase with awareness of other’s wellbeing).

    4a. bubbles (maybe this goes under negative sum games). What if people start investing in things not for the inherent value of those things but because of the value of things as investment options (which exists because people are investing in those things) (to be fair, though, the inherent value of a thing, even to the person who has it, may still depend on other things and thus not really be inherent). In other words, what happens when you start using tulips, or houses, as stocks or bonds. And what happens when one day, somebody decides that doesn’t make sense.

    It might be argued that on average, we benifit from policies that tend to moderate boom-bust cycles and increase predictability/transparency (a different issue, actually) because it is easier (greater benifit, less cost) to adapt (psychologically and economically) to a predictable and/or constant or slowly-changing state (or when one has more information).

    4b. People are not completely rational. Of course this cuts both ways – voters are people, government officials are people. But the systems of government and the private sector might control or release the consequences of that irrationality in different ways, so there might be some things the government can still do well (see 5a). Of course, if you have an actual policy or public action proposal, it shouldn’t be argued against just based on the tendency for people to be irrational – people should actually consider the proposal, because it might turn out to be rational. Or maybe the more rational people, or people who happen to have rational moments when at work in goverment, might win out and make it rational. Deliberation should allow for rational choices to tend to win – if only we had an enlightenned (and not apathetic) electorate (a 2/3 majority would do) (as well as transparency in government).

    5. Public planning – the value of something generally depends on where it is placed in the system. You likely reduce the value of your vitamin C if you take a week’s worth and have it all in one day. You reduce the value of your French toast and your pizza if you try to have them in the same meal or especially as one item (unless that’s your thing – beauty in the eye of the beholder, of course) – if you know there is a future meal you might not chose your most favorite meal this time around, because you like your second favorite, too. Etc. On a larger scale the PPC (production possibilities curve, a plot of the different combinations of amounts of things that could be produced) could have concavities (when plotted on a value-proportional graph) that can trap the economy in a maxima that is not ‘global’ (analogous to fitness landscapes in genetic or phenotypic space and evolution trapped on lower hills in the fitness landscape – of course the fitness landscape may also evolve over time, and the economy doesn’t have a fitness, it has a profit). Of course the instantaneous PPC may evolve; a PPC could be defined for different time scales. If the cost of crossing a valley in the PPC is too great, even knowing a higher PPC value maximum exists may not drive the necessary investment – in this case that maximum doesn’t actually exist because it’s not a possibility. However, a larger entity might be able to bridge the valley; an entity with greater time perspective may find peaks in the longer-time scale PPC; it may be able to wait longer for long-term investments to pay off.

    5a. drive on the right side of the road. Letting people decide which side of the road to drive on – even if they know they should drive on the same side that others drive – may not achieve the same safety. Of course, this is a rather obvious case because there is not much downside (at least if starting with a clean slate) to one choice or the other – there isn’t much possibility of government innefficiency here.

    5b. zoning, etc, urban planning (tending to be more local scale, although consider planning which parts of the desert to use for solar power while trying to protect species and ecosystems, and where HVDC lines might be built).

    5c. nonlinear externalities, other?

    5d. the future: if it was thought that civilization would collapse tomorrow, people might not bother to invest in tomorrow, thereby bringing about the collapse of civilization (or at least some problems) (perhaps a higher discount rate or lower discount rate may be self-justifying to some extent). Optimizing over time requires knowing what will happen. This can’t, and shouldn’t, be done to precision at all levels (as that would be totalitarian), but for some things there perhaps should be some future planning. More distant planning may require larger scales; the uncertainty at the individual level may make larger entities better at such planning. Should ownership of the future be distributed as in a democratic process or a plutocratic one? Perhaps leaning more towards the former with increasing time scale (at some point, individuals die, and at some other point, their great great grandchildren don’t know much about them)?

    5e. related to the future but different – mass market advantage and learning curves. Government R&D. The later can lay foundations for future growth that companies generally, to some extent, couldn’t afford to try to forsee and effect at present. The former refers to possible concavities in the PPC (increasing returns); where the public interest is at stake (clean energy and CO2eq efficiency) , it may make sense to boost a fledgling industry (solar of various types, wind, perhaps new nuclear (?) (provided it has potential) as a sort of investment in future economic performance; subsidies should be reduced/ended either when a new industry fails to live up to it’s promise (subject to considering external events whose effects may not last, like a temporary shortage of parts), or when it is no longer needed.

    5f. Economic activities might fall into habitual ruts which are hard to come out of when adapting to new laws or conditions – if this is only because of slow learning or a tendency to wait until others make changes that would help enable the changes (if the path ahead is unclear only because people can’t decide), then some government actions could help smooth the way.

    6 – public ownership/management may increase value or reduce costs

    6a – roads – depending on toll technology, private ownership of roads at various levels (highway vs residential) can be inefficient; public ownership can be of benifit.

    6b – public space – it may stifle the human psyche to always be on or using something owned by someone.

    6c – public parks, wilderness, nature – nature has aesthetic (even beyond that which may be paid for by medicinal plant researchers, book writers and film producers, and park fees) and scientific value which would be lost if something were not natural (because then it wouldn’t be natural). Would you enjoy the sunset as much if it was owned by somebody (and how would the toll be taken? Also how would you pay for watching a flock of geese, and what would that do to the experience?). What if you only knew it was owned, even if the service were offered for free? It would be disconcerting. Now what if somebody owns and manages – controls – nature? It’s not natural anymore.

    Of course, preserving nature has costs, and so we don’t preserve all of it. We preserve samples – some functioning ecosystems, some scenery and landscapes, some samples of things from nature. There is also a weird aspect to the value of nature – we are of nature, and so everything we do to nature is technically natural – global warming is in this perspective natural (a delayed biological feedback from something) (but it would also be natural to mitigate global warming!). Also, on long time scales, fully preserving nature would mean allowing natural change to occur, from the next ice age (perhaps 20,000 to 100,000 years from now, depending) to an asteroid impact. Perhaps we should see ourselves on such long time scales as more a part of nature. But for the time being, we can value wilderness and rock formations, etc, as they are.

    7. Even if all the right policies were in place, we can’t change the past, and on an individual level, luck plays a role*. In the interest of morality, perhaps there should be some public safety nets. The trick is to avoid or mitigate encouraging or growing the need.

    *One thing I’ve found out, second-hand, about the business world is that sometimes when testing to see if someone is management material, they pose philosophical questions. One question may be about luck, and from what I heard and as best I recall, the ‘correct’ answer is we make our own luck. A kind interpretation of that is that we can try to be prepared for when an opportunity comes, so that we may take advantage of it. But only half of that is luck, and it’s the part we didn’t do! A logical person is not management material. Actually, though, a logical person can learn what the ‘right’ answers are and pass the test next time around. Basically like a secret handshake. Which I just gave away – sorry guys!

    But in addition to all of that, just to be clear, freedom has value, as does having a legal (as well as social) margin of error. I didn’t fail to recognize that. I basically like markets. I would generally be for regulating them efficiently and effectively, not for dumping them (except that I like public schools and then there’s the whole healt care issue and on that I’m not sure exactly what is best, although I know not to trust what at least one political party says about it).

  43. danny bloom:

    A very important step. Now, 5 years since I began my Polar Cities PR campaign, are any of you here now more understanding of what I am trying to do?
    Link with NYTimes item: http://pcillu101.blogspot.com

  44. Patrick 027:

    PS re JK – to be clear, by trying to summarize how an ideal free market works to achieve efficiency, I wasn’t trying to imply that you don’t know that. I was recently offended when someone seemed to be lecturing me on stuff I already know, so I just wanted to be clear about this.

  45. Patrick 027:

    Re 30 JK – I haven’t checked out yet the actual statement by the Nobel laureates, so I’m not sure about they’re specific claims. But just to point out, for what it’s worth:

    the changes so far are small relative to what may be in store

    there have recently been droughts and floods at a rate and scale such that, not individually at 100 %, but as a whole, some fraction of it might be attributable to climate change; and this (along with oil prices, I’d guess) has played a role in food prices, which has (maybe along with, at least initially, Wikileaks? – not sure) played a role in recent civil unrest and revolution (so far with perhaps potentially positive results in the long term (setting aside the pain of revolution itself, quite intense in one country in particular right now), ironically, though we’ll have to see how it all turns out.

  46. Edward Greisch:

    On ethics, morality and science, here is a repeat of something I wrote several years ago some time after having advised The Brights to focus their ethics search on sociobiology:

    “In the 1960s, I saw a science fiction book entitled “Ethical Equations.” SciFi becomes real. We don’t have it down to mathematics yet, but we are getting there.

    Reference: Sam Harris’ latest book “The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values”

    “The Science of Good & Evil” by Michael Shermer

    The entire new science called Sociobiology. The origin of the universe, Earth, life, humans and moral instincts are now solidly in the jurisdiction of Science, but religionists still dispute the change of jurisdiction.

    Moral and ethical instincts: See Sociobiology or ScioBio. The Library of Congress had more than 340 books, etc on the subject of Sociobiology. Books include:

    “The genetics of altruism” by Scott A. Boorman, Paul R. Levitt.
    “Genes, mind and culture” by Edward O. Wilson

    The Library of Congress
    URL: http://www.loc.gov/

    The Brights project on ethics and morality without god. http://the-brights.net/

    Yes, ethics and morality are now solidly within the jurisdiction of science. That means that ethics and morality are no longer in the jurisdictions of religion and philosophy. Ethical Engineering will soon be a mathematical branch of engineering with ethical equations.”

  47. Patrick 027:

    Re 29 Georgi Marinov
    “The Vatican is not helping even when it may seems so on the surface.”
    I don’t know – a Vatican behind some portion of sensible climate policy is better than a Vatican which doesn’t support any sensible climate policy.

    Regarding humans above nature: There are different interpretations of that (Dominion). James Inhofe goes one way. I don’t remember which way Catholicism goes – quite possibly different directions(?) I had thought one way to read it is that God entrusted humans with care for creation; it’s not permission to destroy it without consequences. Still it implies humans are in charge. But consider the word which appears in the first paragraph of the blog post: Anthropocene. We are, in a sense, the drivers of the planet. (No, we can’t change the physics of the car’s engine or take potholes out of the road, but we ended up in the driver’s seat so we better sober up quick.) And humans do seem to have an inteligence and inteligence-directed power previously unmatched in geologic history (cyanobacteria were of course very powerful but unlike us, they never had the ability to give pause to what they were doing to the planet by putting out all that oxygen pollution. … Of course, they might not have been able to do it without the methanogens… (search “Biogenic Methane and the Irreverable Oxidation of the Earth” might not be the exact title but it’s close – idea being, as best I recall, that the oxygen could have reacted with organic C (and H) and organic matter burial might/was not be sufficient(?) to provide all the free O2 necessary (note there was also ferrous Fe to oxidize before O2 could actually accumulate in the atmosphere and oceans) – but CH4 build up (possible with sufficient lack of atmospheric O2) would have boosted H escape to space, so that some portion of the O2 freed from water had no H to combine with).)

    Also, perhaps this is the wrong impression but I used to think that a lot of Catholics didn’t really care so much about (or maybe cared and disagreed with) what the hierarchy thinks – especially when it comes to the wacky stuff. Pertains to the prospects for family planning. (PS I once met a priest who said he though women should be allowed to become priests. (I was Catholic growing up; kinda’ agnostic now.))

  48. Patrick 027:

    … also, it may help so that you can see, hey, even the Vatican supports this, what’s up with you?

  49. Stephen Missal:

    JK…FYI: there are too many people on earth. They are: a) going to suffer, and b) have to learn to live with less. Complaints about immoral this and whatever that…please. Quibbling about getting below ‘pre-industrial’ co2 levels, etc etc….who are you?
    In general, physics and the harshness of reality will sweep over your handwaving like a tsunami. We are way past the hair-splitting stage.

  50. Edward Greisch:

    The Stockholm Memorandum is all very nice, and that is the problem. It sounds like a call to action, but it is too vague, and we have been down that road before. What the Green Revolution got us was more people. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and in the opposite direction lies the road to hell, paved by the denialists.

    Immoral coercion is being accomplished with money. That much we understand. So far, we lack the political genius required to do anything about it. This week I found out that I can’t circulate a petition to get into a primary election for Congress until September, but in Illinois there is no fee for filing such a petition. I can join my county political “Central Committee” for $10. Start small. This is a hint.

  51. Georgi Marinov:

    Re 47 Patrick 027:

    Humans are indeed the driver of change right now and in a way “in charge”, but what I was pointing out is that when things are framed in such manner, especially when religion comes into play, the way many people understand it is that nature is something we have to care for for some vaguely defined moral reason, i.e. just because nature has the “right” to exist and it’s out duty to steward it. Which is a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation – we need nature in order to survive, not the other way around.

    That’s why environmentalism fails to get its message across – because when you tell people “We gotta save the polar bears”, “We gotta save the rainforests”, etc., people frame this into a “How is the extinction of polar bears going to affect me” question, to which they answer “I won’t be affected”; they can’t see the whole picture. And it gets hopeless from this point on to do any convincing. When climate change is talked about, global temperature rises, species extinctions, sea level rise, heat waves, etc. are usually what’s being talked about; and all those things are important, but the fundamental reason why we have to deal with climate change, which is that it will cause global civilizational collapse, is rarely discussed and people aren’t really aware of it. And it’s rarely discussed because the very thought of it is scary to many people and because it involves a complicated chain/network of cause-effect relationships, something that you need a lot of time, typically unavailable in the media to comprehensively explain, etc. But those are precisely the reasons it has to be talked about all the time, so that it can get into people’s heads. That’s not the case unfortunately.

    And again, this is something that goes so directly against core theological doctrines that you will never get the Church to get on board.

  52. Georgi Marinov:

    Edward Greisch says:
    22 May 2011 at 12:27 AM
    The Stockholm Memorandum is all very nice, and that is the problem. It sounds like a call to action, but it is too vague, and we have been down that road before. What the Green Revolution got us was more people. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and in the opposite direction lies the road to hell, paved by the denialists.

    What’s frustrating to me is that the Memorandum gets somewhat close to the core of the problem, but never really gets there. Which is very tragic because if such a group of people can not agree on saying it as it is without any sugarcoating (or does not have the intellectual courage to do so), then there is very little hope for society in general.

    Yes, there is a mention of the inadequacy of GDP as a progress indicator, yes, consumerism is mentioned, and other such steps in the right direction. But the core issues are not stated explicitly, and this is very unfortunate. There isn’t a word about the need to end and reverse growth (of the population and of the economy) there, it is once again the usual “economic development”, “earth stewardship”, etc.

  53. PeterM:

    Jim Hansen has said 450ppm C02 and a 2 degree rise C in global temperatures are a ‘guarantee fof disaster’. He also has said that 1.5 degrees rise C is too high.

    At 560ppm CO2 a rise of 3 degrees seems probable if not higher. That amount of C02 over time will make the economies of he world predicated on climate mitigation, not consumption. 560ppm also realizes an outcome over time of an ice free planet, but also runaway global warming.

  54. Snapple:

    Well, I just wanted to point out that several of these famous Nobel scientists were also leading the recent workshop of the Pontifical Academy.

    It would be helpful if some commenters here, who do not have Nobel Prizes and who did not attend either scientific meeting, would spread the word that the Catholic Church is also concerned about climate change instead of confusing people by repeating denialist canards that religious people are anti-scientific and don’t believe that climate change is happening.

    I am an expert on Soviet-era religious persecution, so the whole science versus religion meme rings a bit hollow with me.

    Gregor Johann Mendel, the father of modern genetics, was a Catholic monk.

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

    You may not believe in God, but you haven’t been paying attention if you don’t believe in religion.

    The denialists are already setting up fake religious organizations such as Real Catholic TV and the Cornwall Alliance in order to subvert churches. They are already calling up Catholic schools and complaining because we teach about climate change. They are already denigrating religious people who accept climate change as unscientific pagans and cultists. This is right out of the Bolshevik playbook.

    The Denialist Party recognizes that churches are not really in their corner. In this instance, the denialist seem to be better observers of reality than some people who claim to be scientific.

    One of the Nobel winners who organized the recent Pontifical Academy workshop is Paul Crutzen who named the Anthropocene. James Hansen wrote in Time (10-17-07) about Dr. Crutzen’s achievements. Another is V. Ramanathan, who writes about Asia’s Brown cloud. A third Nobel winner is Werner Arber, who is the President of the Pontifical Academy. He is Protestant. I am sorry if I didn’t name all the Nobel winners who attended both the meeting in Sweden and the workshop at the Vatican.

    The Pope also asked the astronauts questions as he sat in the Vatican Library. He didn’t give answers. He made a big point that this is a dialogue.

    The Catholic Church has to know what the best science says to formulate its social justice policies. Here is a list of their Academicians, who are all very famous and too smart to trash religion.

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_academies/acdscien/own/documents/pasacademicians.html

    The Vatican has had a body of science advisers since the Renaissance.

  55. Snapple:

    I see the picture of the Nobel-winning scientist Mario Molina on this post.
    He is a member of the Pontifical Academy, too. He shared a Nobel with P. Crutzen and F. Sherwood Roland.

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_academies/acdscien/own/documents/molinanew.html

    http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/1995/molina-autobio.html

  56. Alex:

    Being picky, the Memorandum talks about the Anthropocene (with humankind as one major global driver, including a climate driver), correctly, as a geological *epoch* , i.e. following the Holocene, but so far still in the same geological *era* and period.

  57. Ariel T:

    The Haudenosaunee (aka Iroquois) Confederation had a Great Law of Life for several centuries before Europeans started raping America. One of their guiding principles was that no law could be adopted unless it was shown that it would not harm people for at least SEVEN GENERATIONS.

    I wish modern denialists of all science (not just climate) could go back to that principle. But no, they can’t think beyond the next election, or the next corporate quarterly report, or their irrational revealed preconceptions.

    Peace

  58. Patrick 027:

    Re 46 Edward Greisch – Science has very thankfully enhanced the performance of our moral efforts. In order to act with awareness and care of the consequences of your actions you need to know something about those consequences (cause and effect). Causal networks stream through the abiotic and biotic, right through neural connections and thus affecting the mind. Of course a person who does not know is not evil – and may be very good, but knowing more has given us greater access to better choices, so we don’t need to walk around in the dark – and a person with the resources to be able to invest in his/her ability to make better decisions is making a moral decision when they do so (of course there are always costs and benifits – time taken to do one thing is time away from something else, generally, but anyway…).

    However, is the result of science’s investigation of morality itself an actual understanding of what moral value is – the way things should be, the underlying, most fundamental values with which the consequences of actions are rated (not to be confused with moral values which are themselves given value by more fundamental values)? Or is it more an explanation of why people have the values that they do? Which – don’t get me wrong – certainly may help in advising moral decisions, but it is not the same as saying what values should be. On the most fundamental level, moral value depends on philosophy.

    Re 51 Georgi Marinov – I’m not sure that the Vatican doesn’t get that people depend on the environment – I kinda’ thought they did. It may be hard to get people to accept that their lives are materially and otherwise enhanced by biodiversity, etc, but it should get more obvious with floods and droughts and sea level rise (although there you may have to explain how a meter or 2 (if focussing only on the next century – such focus itself an issue) of sea level rise is actually such a disaster).

    Now the issue of family planning is certainly another matter…

    Re Snapple – some religions, or some of their factions, do have some rather wacky stuff, some of which may be antiscience, and some of which offends the moral instincts of others – the later certainly occurs in the Catholic Church, but not to single it out – however, I remember feeling quite free to think what I wanted to when I was there.

  59. Michael Tobis:

    http://initforthegold.blogspot.com/2011/05/thoughts-on-avoiding-doom.html

  60. Patrick 027:

    “On the most fundamental level, moral value depends on philosophy.” I should say, the investigation of moral value depends on philosophy.

  61. john byatt:

    Australian Climate commission release today

    The Federal Government’s Climate Commission has warned the window for limiting future and costly climate change is rapidly closing.

    In its first report, titled The Critical Decade, the commission says the evidence that the planet is warming is now even stronger.

    It warns global warming could cause global sea levels to rise up to one metre by the end of the century, higher than previously thought.

    Chief commissioner Tim Flannery says humanity is almost surely the primary cause of global warming.

    “There’s agreement that there’s a temperature increase, there’s an agreement that it’s human-caused,” he said.

    But climate scientist and commissioner Professor Will Steffen is concerned the science is being muddied in the media by many with no credentials.

    “I don’t think we have the luxury anymore of climate denialism. We need to get beyond this fruitless phoney debate in the media,” he said.

    Professor Steffen says the decisions made between now and 2020 will determine the level of severity of global warming.

    “We’ve got to make some very important policy decisions,” he said.

  62. seamus:

    Sad that some have allowed JK to successfully draw out a (series of) sidetrack argument(s). At first I thought ccpo had learned something and decided to just walk past.

    On these threads, one can easily spot the BS posts: the really long ones. Just skip over them and they won’t bother you! :-)

    Apologies for the meta-comment, but there’s nothing much to be said about the climate “controversy”.

  63. Paul Pentony:

    I think it is a bit dangerous to say that 17 Nobel Laureates published the statement. A better description would be “A group consisting mainly of distinguished scientists and including 17 Nobel Laureates published …” This is not to detract from the value of what they are saying but to avoid providing an opportunity for skeptics to nitpick. Personally when it comes to appeals to authority I find the Royal Society’s policy paper more useful – particularly as it includes more background to the science.

  64. Edward Greisch:

    57 Patrick 027: NO. You have it all wrong. Philosophy is now irrelevant. Of course values come from evolution in 2 different ways.

    The first way is that evolution created the morals that we have in the first place. They are instinctive for most people, other than psychopaths. Sexual morality is female instinct because of the fact that power comes out of a uterus. Male instinct is quite different.

    The second way is that we use evolutionary theory to reconstruct the reasoning behind human instinct. Morals and ethics are ADAPTIVE. That is, morals are beneficial to the moral person, genetically, on the average. Morals evolved over the last 400 Million years. Our instincts are the same as the instincts of chimpanzees.

    The first Sciobio book I know of is “The Genetics of Altruism” by Lumsden and Wilson. Altruism is favored by evolution [is selected in favor of] in certain circumstances and is disfavored [selected against] in other circumstances. Why and when is beyond the scope of this comment.

    I notice that certain philosophers have too many altruism genes. They try to save unsaveable people, and they don’t realize that it is the NUMBER of people that is too large. They also guess wrong as to who needs saving and who does not. In so doing, they would wind up killing more people and bringing the doom here.

    It is necessary to have enough altruism genes to avoid being a psychopath, but it is also necessary to not have so many altruism genes as to become irrational. The psychopath doesn’t care about anything, much less GW. The super-altruistic person kills with kindness. How is beyond the scope of this comment.

    There is no such thing as a fundamental value more basic than preservation of your own species. That is the beginning of all value. Notice that species self-preservation does NOT mean preserving every member of the species. In fact, the minimum number we have to preserve to preserve our species is, in principle, one pregnant teenager.

    In other words, there is a time when it is moral to shoot illegal immigrants on sight. That is when there is very little food and they want food that we need. There is such a thing as a just war, but the Iraq and Viet Nam wars weren’t. If it is kill or be killed, you must kill. Otherwise, don’t.

    [Response: No more on any of this. You're firing off more or less incendiary statements that will just drag this discussion further off topic than it already is. I understand (some of) your arguments, but could also raise a whole boatload of counter-arguments to them. Stick to the topic please.--Jim]

  65. Steven:

    Here is a video clip with the demonstration that these pro-LaRouche climate skeptics held outside the Royal Academy in Sweden. They actually also confront some of the participants there:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srYHFbom4Rc

  66. Dr.V.N.Sharma:

    I am posting below conclusion of my presentation linking Climate Change with Availability of Water on this Planet.

    “If the world bodies and the Nations in dominant role in
    Climate Summits do not show seriousness, in letter and
    spirit, to Environment damage control measures the
    Human race is destined to get into difficulty in coming
    years that may not be very far.

    “By the turn of the century academic curricula and
    Granny’s fiction stories may include “once upon a time
    water used to be available for free in open wells, tanks,
    ponds and rivers flowing near each and every village
    and city with no private ownership, no control by the
    governments or their appointed private agents, no water
    bottling plants and no price to be paid for its use in
    whatever manner”.

    I staqnd by the aforeasaid statement and I unequivocally support the Noble Loreates Stockholm Declaration. I also suggest that the Merchanys of Death be tamed sooner than later.

  67. ccpo:

    I will leave you all with a few thoughts as it is late, there is much in this thread to respond to and i likely will not have the opportunity before it is defunct.

    The only sane nation on the planet:
    http://boliviarising.blogspot.com/2011/04/law-of-mother-earth-behind-bolivias.html

    It’s about risk assessment, as some have pointed out, and even action has a very small chance of working things out according to at least one fellow (Not to say do nothing, but that even doing a lot may be insanely inadequate, so doing nothing cannot be but sui-genocidal):

    http://www.earth-syst-dynam-discuss.net/2/315/2011/esdd-2-315-2011.html

    I was drawn to permaculture because it is systems thinking. I see the world as one system, and it is a system that is wobbling badly (spinning top analogy) and is likely well into a series of bifurcations that may well be irreversible, and certainly are on anything like decadal time scales. However, there is hope. If we have not passed tipping points that will result in the ice sheets melting and, say, more than a couple percent of the frozen methane melting, then we can still reverse this.

    Here’s one of the answers, and it requires nothing more than essentially mulching, co-planting and capturing and storing water: http://www.ifoam.org/growing_organic/1_arguments_for_oa/environmental_benefits/pdfs/Rodale_Research_Paper_Regenerative_Agriculture.pdf

    But people like JK? Time to do what we do with any other opinions based on nothing at all: ignore them. Where they lie, slander or libel, prosecute them. I’m sure subpoenas for their e-mail and phone records would quickly sort out who is just deluded and who is doing the deluding. What was it, 1995 that the mother of all Memos was released, and these people *still* have credibility?

    Sui-genocidal, I tell ya.

  68. Peter Beck:

    Lyndon LaRouche is not a billionaire… millionaire, maybe. This is a guy who served a number of years in prison for mail fraud.

  69. CM:

    Greisch #64: disturbingly brownish off-topic travesty of science. Uh… moderators? Before this gets any weirder?

  70. SecularAnimist:

    ccpo wrote: “I believe Annie Leonard was correct when she said in a talk at Bioneers that it is time to simply move on without these people.”

    Be sure to tell the US Senators and Representatives who “those people” have bought and paid for, that it is time to simply “move on” without the millions of dollars in bribes, excuse me, “campaign contributions” from the fossil fuel corporations. I’m sure they will get right on it.

  71. Ron R.:

    Rant Alert.

    What we are up against is a deeply ingrained imperative, one could call it a natural law: ensure survival of the species by growing and maximizing our numbers. It’s the same imperative every other species follows as well. And there is nothing inherently wrong in it either since nature’s checks and balances have always functioned to keep populations at the right amounts, like the way water always finds level. Thus we have no genetic counter imperative against growth because we evolved to a planet where, until very recently, our numbers were non-”optimized”. We still had lots of room for expansion, a maximization that was never meant to occur.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Population_curve.svg

    As long as resources are available our instinct, again, as is the instinct of other species, is to expand so as to maximize their usage for our benefit, even if at the potential cost of the existence of other species. As Hopfenberg and Pimental say Human carrying capacity is determined by food availability

    http://www.springerlink.com/index/X871830H574L8T70.pdf
    http://www.springerlink.com/index/u4x1r416w5671127.pdf

    In the past non-human species extinction caused by our growth was not a big issue because there was plenty of land and resources to go around. IOW, other species, dislocated by human growth, could move. And though this disturbance caused some hardship the great majority adapted and survived.

    Somewhere along the way though we got smart and learned how to grow and husband food, treat our medical ills and protect ourselves in enclosed group structures like towns. We learned how to outwit nature’s usual methods of species containment.

    As a result, ten thousand years later, our numbers, our fences and freeways (which impede migrations) the sheer size of our cities and the related habitat destruction, the pollution from our manufacturing processes etc. is placing real hardship on the 99.9999% of earth’s other species, which also have a perfect right to exist. Which, in fact, as a part of the web of life, we NEED in order to survive ourselves!

    The good news is that people, given education and the basics of life (though some say it’s “wealth” and I’d quibble with that), even with an abundant food supply, as there is in first world countries, can and often do consciously decide to reduce their numbers for the benefit of their personal lives and the health of the environment.

    So we are now at a crossroads, a point where unless we as a species consciously, and as a whole, decide to stop making so many of us, and to in fact reduce our numbers (humanely of course) and to place care of the environment, this one and only planet we have, much higher in our consciousness overshoot to the point of self-annihilation via eco-cide is guaranteed. It’s happened before for our species on small scales. It will again globally unless we consciously decide to stop it. To use the very intelligence that brought us to this dire point to say “Whoa!”

    That’s where we stand.

  72. GFW:

    At least a couple of people above criticized the published statement as too vague and wished it proposed concrete action. If we want that (and we should) then we ordinary people are going to have to destroy a common meme in developed nations. The meme that must be destroyed is “Scientists can tell everyone their findings, but can’t advocate policy. Policy is for politicians.” You see it all the time – as soon as a scientist like Hansen makes policy statements derived from scientific understanding, he gets called an “advocate” and “no longer a scientist”. I repeat, this meme must be destroyed. When someone’s scientific research unveils a grave threat to the public at large, they should not only be allowed to advocate action, it should be seen as the most natural reaction.

  73. Ron R.:

    In a nutshell, can we use our intelligence to overcome our drives?

    Grow and expand to survive needs to be replaced with shrink and decrease to survive.

    Once people know that it should be easy. Everyone wants to survive.

  74. SecularAnimist:

    GFW wrote: “The meme that must be destroyed is ‘Scientists can tell everyone their findings, but can’t advocate policy. Policy is for politicians’… as soon as a scientist like Hansen makes policy statements derived from scientific understanding, he gets called an ‘advocate’ and ‘no longer a scientist’ …”

    The problem is that Hansen is a climate scientist, but he is making policy recommendations regarding energy technologies, a field where he has no special “scientific understanding”.

    In my view, for example, Hansen is unfortunately misinformed about the alternatives to fossil fueled electricity generation, which leads him to underestimate the potential of renewable energy to rapidly replace coal, and to advocate investing resources in “fourth generation nuclear”.

    I think that is tragically wrong-headed. You may agree with him. But my point is, that Hansen’s views on the matter are no more authoritative than yours or mine, because he has no particular expertise in that area.

    What climate scientists can do is tell us about climate: they can make the nature and urgency of the global warming problem clear and compelling to the public.

    And they certainly can and should advocate climate science-based “policy” in regard to goals that we need to achieve in order to address the problem, e.g. from the Nobel laureates’ statement, “a peak in global CO2 emissions no later than 2015″ will be needed if we hope to avoid 2C warming. That is a crucially important message, and climate scientists are the best messengers to deliver it.

    But when it comes to recommending specific policy approaches to achieve that goal, climate scientists are not particularly qualified to opine on whether a carbon tax is better than cap-and-trade, whether wind and solar are more efficacious investments than nuclear power, etc. They are certainly welcome to express their views — just as you and I are — but their views don’t necessarily have any more authority than yours or mine.

    That doesn’t mean I want to “leave it to the politicians”. It means I want to “leave it” to Amory Lovins and Lester Brown.

  75. Didactylos:

    Ron R: As nations achieve economic success and adequate healthcare, their populations stabilise (and often have a slightly negative growth rate). I would argue that this isn’t because of some selfless motivation on the part of humanity, it is for more practical reasons, such as the high cost of bringing up children, and the massively increased chance of surviving childhood reducing the need for many children to provide social security in old age.

    This change in family size always happens. It is happening (and has already happened) even in countries which you may classify as “third world”. But the developing world is developing, and rapidly.

    As you know, the answer is simple. Healthcare, a chance of economic success – this is all it takes, and the two go hand in hand.

    I don’t know if you have seen Hans Rosling talking about world development at TED – but if you haven’t, you absolutely must! Watch the whole thing, it’s incredibly illuminating.

  76. Patrick 027:

    Re my 41 and 42 – first, sorry for going overboard there; initially I had a short follow-up in mind and then perhaps I got carried away with it; anyway, not to add a lot on but just a clarification: Deliberation should allow for rational choices to tend to win – obviously that happens in both private and public sectors, and I could go on about that but don’t worry, I won’t. Second, that was a work of philosophy/attempted insight on my part and not based on rigorous study but rather accumulated results of some thinking and some accumulated experience/knowledge, although on one point (not always being rational), I am aware of actual research that has been done. But enough of that.

  77. Ron R.:

    Didactylos at 2:22 PM

    As nations achieve economic success and adequate healthcare, their populations stabilise (and often have a slightly negative growth rate). I would argue that this isn’t because of some selfless motivation on the part of humanity, it is for more practical reasons, such as the high cost of bringing up children, and the massively increased chance of surviving childhood reducing the need for many children to provide social security in old age.

    Good point on that last statement, however the high cost of bringing up children is not lessened by poverty. It’s increased. The costs may not be measured in dollars and cents but they are there nonetheless. Also just because a family may have children does not automatically mean that those children will be able to provide for those parents when they get old, so I’m not totally convinced that that is a valid reason.

    Keep in mind also that living in a prosperous country, having adequate food and healthcare is not a guarantee of low birth rate. There are plenty of large families in the western world. In fact most of the explosive increase in first world countries came after the onset of industrialization and wealth increase. Baby boomers are another example. So the wealth/population connection is not as easy as some would make it, though of course I agree that to have the “luxury” of time to care about the environment people first need to have their basic needs met.

    About education, don’t underestimate the power of the meme. People in first world countries are much more aware of the overpopulation issue, even if at just the subconscious level and, I think, are acting on it. This is not altruism, it’s enlightened self-interest. A world depleted of resources is not in the best interests of either themselves or their children. Also, family planning education is an aid in lowering population.

    Some people, particularly Libertarians and Capitalists, emphasize the need to bring developing nations up to first world standards. Problem is, not only is wealth maximization unnecessary for people to care and act on that, as we all know, the biosphere simply can’t handle it. Better would be lessen the population to the point that everyone can have enough to live comfortably (which doesn’t mean in excess).

  78. Patrick 027:

    It’s quite possible for population to grow with the fertility rate at 2.1 or lower, if the life expectancy is increasing. One can keep population from growing (for awhile) even with fertility at the replacement rate or somewhat above and with increasing life expectancy if the average age of mother at birth is increasing sufficiently – tending to temporarily reduce the birth rate from what it would otherwise be. Mathematically obvious but worth noting explicitly.

  79. Dan H.:

    Ron,
    How would you propose lessening the population?
    Also, I would agree with Didactylos (wow, twice in one week) regarding wealth and birth rate. History has shown a rather significant inverse relationship between wealth and birth rate. Your baby boomer example was a result of WW2 artificially suppressing the birth rate. The birth rate was declining prior to that, and has resumed its decline. More recently, Brazil has seen its birth rate fall from 5.3 children / woman in 1970 to 1.8 today. The best way to reduce births is to increase wealth, although maximizing wealth may not be necessary.

  80. SecularAnimist:

    Global warming is going to reduce the human population before any measures to slow population growth can have any impact on reducing global warming.

  81. Leland Palmer:

    I read a frankly terrifying scientific paper recently, about indirect atmospheric effects of large methane releases:

    Strong Atmospheric Chemistry Feedback to Climate Warming from Arctic Methane Emissions

    Strong atmospheric chemistry feedback to climate warming from Arctic methane emissions
    Ivar S. A. Isaksen, 1,2
    Michael Gauss, 1,3
    Gunnar Myhre, 1,2
    Katey M. Walter Anthony, 4
    and Carolyn Ruppel 5
    Received 13 April 2010; revised 4 November 2010; accepted 4 February 2011; published 20 April 2011.
    [1] The magnitude and feedbacks of future methane release from the Arctic region are unknown. Despite limited documentation of potential future releases associated with thawing permafrost and degassing methane hydrates, the large potential for future methane releases calls for improved understanding of the interaction of a changing climate with processes in the Arctic and chemical feedbacks in the atmosphere. Here we apply a “state of the art” atmospheric chemistry transport model to show that large emissions of CH4 would likely have an unexpectedly large impact on the chemical composition of the atmosphere and on radiative forcing (RF). The indirect contribution to RF of additional methane emission is particularly important. It is shown that if global methane emissions were to increase by factors of 2.5 and 5.2 above current emissions, the indirect contributions to RF would be about 250% and 400%, respectively, of the RF that can be attributed to directly emitted methane alone. Assuming several hypothetical scenarios of CH4 release associated with permafrost thaw, shallow marine hydrate degassing, and submarine landslides, we find a strong positive feedback on RF through atmospheric chemistry. In particular, the impact of CH4 is enhanced through increase of its lifetime, and of atmospheric abundances of ozone, stratospheric water vapor, and CO2 as a result of atmospheric chemical processes. Despite uncertainties in emission scenarios, our results provide a better understanding of the feedbacks in the atmospheric chemistry that would amplify climate warming.

    The authors calculate a positive feedback factor (eta) of 1.5 to 2.9, for large sustained increases in methane release rates.

    What does this mean?

    Is this a mechanism that could tip the whole climate system into true runaway heating?

    Is this the positive feedback mechanism which allowed past probable runaway greenhouse events such as the End Permian and the PETM to go out of control?

    Do we want to find out?

  82. Ron R.:

    Apologies for the length.

    Dan H. at 8:54 AM

    Dan, perhaps you are right about the baby boomers being the result of artificially reduced birth rate during WWII. But I wonder, why was there not a similar boom after WWI? Could it be because after WWII the country was rolling in money due to oil production and economic expansion?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:U.S.BirthRate.1909.2003.png
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-war_economic_boom

    How to control population? I’ve found that usually soon as anyone proposes reducing the birthrate a lot of people get defensive and claim that draconian methods would be employed. My choice, as I said above, is education. Right now no head of state in a first world country that I know of is advocating population control, let alone even mentioning it. That’s because they will be attacked by the growthers, those whose economic system is dependent on perpetual growth.

    Population growth is, or should be, at the top of the list of issues addressed that are negatively impacting our planet. Every country should be making talking about. Heads of state need to talk about it. Schools need to talk about it. Overpopulation is at root the cause of most of our other environmental issues. Think of almost any other environmental issue, were our numbers much less that issue would probably not exist. Climate change, overfishing, dirty energy extraction, deforestation and habitat destruction, species extinction, air, water and land pollution etc. all are amplified, all have become much more dire due to the cumulative effect of human numbers and our needs. If our numbers were say a tenth (just a figure) of what they are today none of these would be major issues. Yet we are destined to grow even more and have been recently at the rate of a billion a decade!

    Thing is, every new person born is just as deserving of the same “stuff” as anyone in any first world country. They should not be made to feel guilty about that. We are all equal. It’s simply that the earth can’t handle it.

    What we need is a worldwide environmental ethic. Something glaringly missing today. Every child taught from birth to love and respect our home planet. Every school should have mandatory environmental ethics classes. True the rightwingers and capitalists would attack it, but they are on the wrong side of so many other issues anyway their arguments should be “officially” addressed then ignored the same way we ignore flat earthers. Were we to make people understand the impact we are having on the planet right now, the “Anthropocene”, and what that will mean for our future if we fail to address it I think that birth rates would begin to respond.

    What would it take to have a negative population growth? Simple. If every couple that wanted one had one child. Two becomes one. If the next generation does the same thing the population can be halved again. Do we make this mandatory? No. Again I believe that concerted education would go a long way. Someone may point out that population in the US has been declining in recent decades and thus we don’t need to do anything about it. First, it may be declining in large part because people have become AWARE of the issue. When a recent television program came on highlighting one family’s choice to have something like twenty children I was surprised at the overwhelmingly negative reaction in comments from people mentioning overpopulation. Second though the rate of growth may be declining the US is still growing, and rapidly.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Population_of_the_United_States,_1790-2000.png

    People talk about the population “bottoming out” in mid century but right now that’s just speculation. Right now it’s up, up, up. When we consider Hopfenberg and Pimental’s study that Human carrying capacity is determined by food availability and put that against real examples of people literally devouring their environment until there was nothing left such as Easter Island, we can project that unless we consciously tackle the problem as a whole we will be left with a barren planet before a hundred years are out, maybe half a hundred.

  83. Septic Matthew:

    11, Snapple: Both the Pentagon and the CIA are studying climate change. This is not new.

    Paraphrasing the security officer in The Firm, it is their job to worry when there is nothing to worry about. They also study UFOs, Communists in Nicaragua, and the Chinese combat aircraft. They are boosters bot of jet fuel from camellina and increased production of liquid fuel from coal.

    The Stockhom Memorandum as quoted is too vaguely worded to stimulate reasoned action on anything. I also would like to see the wealth of Africa improved, and I donate to organizations who have that as their goal. But US and EU CO2 policies won’t affect African wealth development by any known mechanism. Most current investment in Africa is from China, it is somewhat exploitative, and it supports corrupt dictators. I doubt that the Chinese give a hoot what those Nobel Prize winners say. I am an admirer of modern China, but let’s face the facts: Chinese have far more interest in surpluses of energy and food for themselves than they have for any European ideas of clean, sustainable, or equitable development.

  84. Septic Matthew:

    oops: change “bot” to “both”

  85. SecularAnimist:

    Septic Matthew wrote: “Chinese have far more interest in surpluses of energy and food for themselves than they have for any European ideas of clean, sustainable, or equitable development.”

    Yes, and the Chinese are acutely aware that unmitigated global warming will cause economic collapse and famine in their own country. They can see the effects already. Not to mention the devastating effects on public health caused by toxic air pollution from burning coal.

    Which is why the Chinese have their own ideas about clean and sustainable development — which include dominating the wind and solar energy industries, which will be the cornerstones of the New Industrial Revolution of the 21st century. They are certainly being aided in that effort by the death-grip of the fossil fuel corporations on US energy policy.

    Septic Matthew wrote: “it is their job to worry when there is nothing to worry about”

    The Pentagon and the CIA are well aware that global warming and climate change are already giving us plenty of things to worry about, and that it’s going to get much worse.

  86. Septic Matthew:

    85, SecularAnimist: They are certainly being aided in that effort by the death-grip of the fossil fuel corporations on US energy policy.

    China is the dominant importer of oil from Africa and Saudi Arabia, and the dominant importer of coal from Australia and Canada. If present trends continue, they will eventually be the dominant producer of oil from the Caribbean and the dominant importer of coal from the U.S. (though both trends will have to continue for a while.) It will be decades before Chinese production of CO2 peaks.

  87. Kevin McKinney:

    #83–”But US and EU CO2 policies won’t affect African wealth development by any known mechanism.”

    Really? I’d have thought that REDD could very well do is doing just that.

  88. Chris Colose:

    Leland,

    With respect to feedback factors, it looks like the authors are referring to the effect of increase CH4 and how that feedbacks onto its own lifetime (additional methane suppresses the hydroxyl radical, which in turn means CH4 can last a bit longer in the air). Methane lifetime (and concentration) increases non-linearly with progressive depletion of OH. This can be an important chemical feedback, and the influence of methane release on the carbon cycle is certainly important, probably so for a few episodes in the geologic past.

    A lot of scares about methane shotguns and catastrophes however, even in the literature, have been predicated upon misunderstandings about how effective methane is as a greenhouse gas. The popular notions concerning how “methane is 20x stronger a greenhouse gas than CO2″ only hold in the limit of a relatively high CO2-low CH4 atmosphere, as is typical of current Earthlike conditions. This is just a molecule-by-molecule argument, since methane is starting from a lower background concentration and the efficiency of a greenhouse gas on the radiative budget is typically something like a square root or a logarithmic dependence.

    Also, as I talked about in the feedback post here at RC, Earth is not in a situation where it can experience a runaway greenhouse anytime soon, so you don’t need to worry about that.

  89. Georgi Marinov:

    Ron R. says:
    24 May 2011 at 12:01 PM

    ……..

    What would it take to have a negative population growth? Simple. If every couple that wanted one had one child. Two becomes one. If the next generation does the same thing the population can be halved again. Do we make this mandatory? No. Again I believe that concerted education would go a long way. Someone may point out that population in the US has been declining in recent decades and thus we don’t need to do anything about it. First, it may be declining in large part because people have become AWARE of the issue

    Unfortunately we don’t have the time even for that. Had we started with the one child per couple policy immediately after WWII, it may have worked. Now it’s way too late. Due to the demographic structure of the population and the life expectancy, even a draconian one child per couple policy would not do much difference. Look at China – 30 years later, they still added 300 million people. We’re talking about some 150-200 years before the population gets to where it should be NOW.

    Of course, no such thing will ever even be attempted on a global scale so the above discussion is pretty much pointless, but it has to always be remembered that there is a very serious mismatch between the likely timescale of civilizational collapse and the timescale that any of the proposed measures for solving the overpopulation problem (usually involving the same old mantra about women education and making people wealthy) could work.

  90. Thomas:

    Chris Colose@88:
    A very good comment, and well stated. How solid is the case for no runaway process. I think you are talking about the water vapour feedback. Taken in isolation water vapour feedback can’t htrow us into a runaway situation. But, what if we add feedbacks for other greenhouse gasses as well as water vapour? The methane concern, is that higher temps increase temps which release more methane and water vapour (at least until sources are used up), so if we have two or more chemical species involved in a feedback, the threshold is lower than with either species working in isolation.

  91. Ron R.:

    Georgi Marinov at 6:48 PM

    You may be right. Just as others like Lovelock may be right that it is already too late to do anything about CC. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. I believe there is time.

    I guess I don’t like defeatism.

  92. Edward Greisch:

    “The Great Disruption” by Paul Gilding has another way to say it and a great description of the situation starting at the bottom of page 45. “Suppose ……”
    Parsing it: You have a pile of money invested in a savings account. Every January first, the interest from the previous year is deposited into your checking account. Anything left over in your checking account on December 31 goes back into your savings account.

    Starting in 1989, your checking account ran out of money before the end of the year, so you replenish your checking account with money from your savings account. The next year, you have less interest, so you take money out of your savings account a little sooner and you have to take a little more. Everything is fine until your savings account balance is zero. Your savings account is the Earth.

    Paul Gilding used to run Greenpeace. In the old days, he told people about polar bears and whales etc. to get contributions. That doesn’t work so good to get businesspeople to change what they do at work. So he changed to the story above. Paul Gilding says we now need 1.4 Earths, but we have only one.

  93. Vendicar Decarian:

    “The magic flute had it right. Those of us who understand climate change have abandoned Al Gore when we should have supported him.” – 39

    Correct. I stated exactly that point 4 years ago, but it was considered too political and was deleted by the censors here.

    Al Gore, like it or not is a focal point. The enemy attacks Gore because they know that by discrediting him, they discredit the science and policies that he promotes.

    For the supporters of those policies, the counter is also true. If you wish to support the same science and policies as Gore then Gore must be defended on that science and policies.

    Ignoring Gore. Allowing him to be pummeled without defense, implies to the lay person that the ideas that he supports have no basis in science, and hence that his views on Global Warming have no basis in science.

    If you want victory. Recognize leadership when you see it.

    Gore offers that leadership.

  94. Chris Colose:

    Thomas, a few points:

    When I talk about a “runaway greenhouse threshold,” I’m thinking primarily of a threshold on the planetary outgoing radiation for a water-enriched atmosphere– i.e., a maximum radiative cooling loss rate, which for Earth is about ~310 W/m2. This is comfortably over the incoming absorbed shortwave radiation term (~240 W/m2), which needs to be greater than the outgoing limit in order to sustain the runaway. The only way Earth could have had runaway greenhouse events in the past are in the very early stages of its formation when the energy gained from accretion and impact events made up for the deficit, but this would have only been a transient phenomenon.

    The key points to your question though are two parts 1) that the outgoing radiation threshold is not very sensitive to other gases (see e.g., Kasting 1988 and Kasting and Ackerman a couple years before that). Even with several tens of bars of CO2 in the atmosphere the runaway threshold is not appreciably changed. Methane vapor is even more transparent than water vapor, so it is not obvious that it is even capable of really contributing much at all. As I suggested in my last comment, when you start to compare CO2 side by side with methane (e.g., 100 ppm of methane vs. 100 ppm of CO2), rather than just comparing incremental increases against much different background concentrations in the present atmosphere, methane is even worse of a greenhouse gas. Another thing to note is that when the methane concentration approaches the CO2 concentration, you can start to form a thick haze layer (e.g., Haqq-Misra et al., 2008, Astrobiology) which raises the planetary albedo and makes it harder for methane to keep it hot.

    The second part of the answer to your question is that we’re not envisioning a very high methane atmosphere, since you can’t really accomplish this once you have high oxygen amounts in the air, as Earth does. High methane greenhouses come into play in some early Earth ideas. The reason water vapor goes up with temperature in our atmosphere is a consequence of basic thermodynamics, while for methane it’s a much more complicated carbon cycle problem involving hydrate and permafrost stability, and there’s chemical constraints on the CH4 buildup.

    Hope that is useful

  95. Vendicar Decarian:

    “Here is a video clip with the demonstration that these pro-LaRouche climate skeptics held outside the Royal Academy in Sweden.” – 65

    They aren’t using any other methods than are used by any other protest group.

    The proper course is to look them in the eye. Tell them that they are ignorant and deluded, that their ideology will lead to death and destruction and that the delegate has no interest in allowing that to happen to either humanity or nature.

    “I appreciate your concern, but your time is over. It is now time for action.”

    Then you return their flyer and move on.

  96. Vendicar Decarian:

    “How would you propose lessening the population?” – 79

    Through the adoption of a one child per family policy.

    Do you have another proposal?

  97. JiminMpls:

    #87 Septic – China isn’t drilling for oil in the Caribbean. Cuba is beginning exploratory drilling in the Gulf of Mexico this summer, but China doesn’t hold any of the leases. The exploratory contracts have gone to companies in India, Canada, Spain, Malaysia and Norway.

    The high-end estimate of Cuba’s oil reserves are 5-9 billion barrels. In contrast, the estimated reserves in the US GoM are over 45 billlion barrels and the estimate for Mexico GoM is close to 30 bbl.

    Sinopec has a contract to develop a very small onshore play near Havana.

  98. adelady:

    georgi – the only ‘quick’ solution possible is a radical shift in age of first time mothers. There are many countries where the average age at first birth is below 20.

    Education – and worthwhile job opportunities – are the obvious policy bases for such a shift. If we could get such countries moving rapidly from an average of, say, 18 at first birth to 25+ at first birth there would be a huge, immediate impact. This of course is merely an effect on the demand for food and cooking fuel.

    If we want to reduce CO2 then it’s the developed economies which have to make the moves. Their birthrates and age at first birth are already well under control. It’s consumption, extravagance and waste that are the target issues here.

  99. colin Aldridge:

    The secret of success is achieveable goals. There is no possible plan in geopolitical terms to achieve a CO2 max in 2015 so there is no point in asking for it. Nobel prize winners may be genius but pragamatic.. sadly not. So this call to emergency action will be ignored. Of course a massive meteor strike which wiped out 90% of the population would reduce CO2 emissions … and cause global cooling as well…

  100. Georgi Marinov:

    Vendicar Decarian says:
    25 May 2011 at 12:32 AM
    “How would you propose lessening the population?” – 79

    Through the adoption of a one child per family policy.

    Do you have another proposal?

    Yes, 0.1 child per family (and that’s serious)

  101. SecularAnimist:

    colin Aldridge wrote: “There is no possible plan in geopolitical terms to achieve a CO2 max in 2015 so there is no point in asking for it.”

    Then we must accept the absence of a future for human civilization.

  102. David Miller:

    In #88 Chris says:

    Also, as I talked about in the feedback post here at RC, Earth is not in a situation where it can experience a runaway greenhouse anytime soon, so you don’t need to worry about that.

    True but irrelevant. I think 10+C is more than scary enough even if it doesn’t turn the Earth into a new Venus.

    There’s plenty of very real problems to worry about; I’ll agree a runaway isn’t one of them:)

  103. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Chris (# 88 and # 93)

    When I talk about a “runaway greenhouse threshold,” I’m thinking primarily of a threshold on the planetary outgoing radiation for a water-enriched atmosphere– i.e., a maximum radiative cooling loss rate, which for Earth is about ~310 W/m2. This is comfortably over the incoming absorbed shortwave radiation term (~240 W/m2), which needs to be greater than the outgoing limit in order to sustain the runaway.

    Thanks for the discussion.

    I’d be less worried if the fossil record contained fewer mass extinctions, several of them plausibly due to a runaway greenhouse event. Carbon isotope ratio data supports the hypothesis that several trillion tons of C13 depleted carbon entered the system during those events. One of those candidate events, the End Permian, made extinct on the order of 90% of species then existing.

    It seems to me that these new atmospheric chemistry results, if they hold up, add credence to the clathrate gun hypothesis, because less methane would be needed to achieve the observed warming. Stronger positive feedback between initial and subsequent emissions would seem to make such a runaway event more likely, and more serious.

    The number of positive feedbacks available also has me worried. Possible contributors to heating include the water vapor feedback, the methane from melted permafrost feedback, the combustion of standing biomass feedback, the CO2 evolving from the oceans feedback, the ice/albedo feedback, the decline of hydroxyl radical feedback, and the shallow and terrestrial methane hydrates feedback, that I can think of. Now, added to all of those positive feedbacks, we have a new one- the atmospheric chemistry feedback, in which indirect greenhouse effects of increased ozone, stratospheric water vapor, stratospheric hydroxyl radical, tropospheric ozone and CO2 are several times the greenhouse effect of the methane itself.

    Oh, and according the standard model of stellar evolution, the sun is likely a couple of percent brighter now than it was during the End Permian.

    Even a partial runaway could be catastrophic- it took life tens of millions of years to regain its former diversity, after the End Permian.

    On the side of stability, there is the logarithmic nature of greenhouse gas absorption of radiation, the Stefan-Boltzmann dependence of total radiation on temperature, the existence of methanotrophs in the oceans, and the endothermic nature of hydrate dissociation.

    I’d also be less worried if Venus was not the apparent result of a runaway global warming process.

    You’ve stimulated me to do one thing- do the math myself.

    Anyway, thanks for the discussion. :)

  104. Didactylos:

    Ron R: I’m not quite sure why you are trying to contradict me, given we agree on the fundamentals here. The counterexamples you mention are interesting, but they don’t change the averages I’m discussing, since they are already accounted for in the average.

    You specifically mention education, which I glossed over. The reason for that is education is tied so closely to healthcare and wealth that it is inextricable, and I wanted to focus on the other two (more easily quantified) factors. Education is, as you rightly point out, key to lifting these other metrics.

    I may be missing the point here, but I gather the main thrust of your argument is that under the right circumstances, health and smaller families can result simply from education without any increase in prosperity and consumerism. That’s an interesting concept, but it has no real-world counterpart. Generally, attempts to bring about this sort of utopia have just failed completely.

    But don’t be too downhearted. Going down the route of consumerism need not lead to the ludicrously wasteful lifestyle of the US. Many European countries have a much better balance. Sustainable need not mean reduced.

    Nothing you have said implies that you have watched the video – birth rates and family sizes have already fallen as countries have developed. I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but your view of the world is 20, 30 years out of date. The world has changed.

    Global population may peak as early as 20 years from now.

  105. Thomas:

    Chris @93, Lelan @100.
    I think we are talking about two different planetary runaway events. The water vapor driven planetary runaway that requires roughly 310watts/meter squared is safely out of range. I’ll refer to this as a strongform runaway. The strongform runaway raises the surface temperature by hundreds of degrees C, and is essentially the end of the biosphere. I, and a few of the other commenters, are concerned about a more limited weakforn runaway, where ice-albedo, hydrate-methane, and maybe temperature-CO2 feedbacks are additive to temperature-water vapor. If the sum of these feedback coefficients surpases the value 1, then a runaway can operate until one (or several) of these other feedbacks are weaked by saturation or run out of source material, and the system stabilizes about a new quasi-eqilibrium state. This is just a classic bifurcation (tipping point), and the endpoint could be several degrees C warmer -not hundreds.

  106. Thomas:

    Chris @93, Lelan @100.

    I think we are talking about two different planetary runaway events. The water vapor driven planetary runaway that requires roughly 310watts/meter squared is safely out of range. I’ll refer to this as a strongform runaway. The strongform runaway raises the surface temperature by hundreds of degrees C, and is essentially the end of the biosphere. I, and a few of the other commenters, are concerned about a more limited weakforn runaway, where ice-albedo, hydrate-methane, and maybe temperature-CO2 feedbacks are additive to temperature-water vapor. If the sum of these feedback coefficients surpases the value 1, then a runaway can operate until one (or several) of these other feedbacks are weaked by saturation or run out of source material, and the system stabilizes about a new quasi-eqilibrium state. This is just a classic bifurcation (tipping point), and the endpoint could be several degrees C warmer -not hundreds.

  107. Ron R.:

    Didactylos @ 4:42 PM.

    This has the feel of another gratuitous ‘argument for argument’s sake’. A waste of time which I’m not really interested in pursuing. However…

    First, I’m not trying to disagree with you just stating the facts as I see them.

    You said: I may be missing the point here, but I gather the main thrust of your argument is that under the right circumstances, health and smaller families can result simply from education without any increase in prosperity and consumerism. Bold mine.

    No, that’s not what I said. I said, more than once, that to have the “luxury” of time to care about the environment people first need to have their basic needs met (in a Maslowian sense). Such people “can and often do consciously decide to reduce their numbers for the benefit of their personal lives and the health of the environment”.

    You seem to be arguing that all people need to be given a consumerist style of living comparable to that in the West in order to care about the environment. You also say Sustainable need not mean reduced.

    Wrong. If you’ve been paying attention to science at all you’d know that we are having a bit of a resource depletion issue on the planet. You’d know that the western world is using up a disproportionate amount of the world’s resources. You’d be familiar with the warning that if “third world” countries are given a first world standard of living there’s not going to be much left. This knowledge is so ubiquitous that I’m not going to bother posting any links to it. But a good place to start would be to understand the concept of “carrying capacity”. Now, if you mean that we can continue our present standard of living by recycling 100% or close to it of everything we throw away, that would be a much more sensible proposal.

    I also said: Some people, particularly Libertarians and Capitalists, emphasize the need to bring developing nations up to first world standards. Problem is, not only is wealth maximization unnecessary for people to care and act on that, as we all know, the biosphere simply can’t handle it. Better would be lessen the population to the point that everyone can have enough to live comfortably (which doesn’t mean in excess).

    If there were much less people on the planet the resources we do have would be available for all. However perpetual growth on a finite planet is an impossibility. Each nation should disabuse themselves of that crazy notion and instead learn and live in accord with it’s carrying capacity (and that has to include the right for all other species to live freely as well on the same land).

    Again, about population peaking on it’s own in the near future, you need to familiarize yourself with the Hopfenberg and Pimental studies and their implications. But even if it does peak (most say it would at about 9 or 10 billion between 2035 and 2050) that is still WAAAAY to large a population for this planet to sustain. We could prolong our growth by simply deciding to appropriate all the wild lands left for our use but that would be both temporary and immoral.

    You said: That’s an interesting concept, but it has no real-world counterpart

    I’ll give you one. Bhutan. It is listed by the UN as one of the 50 poorest countries in the world.

    http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0908763.html

    Per capita the standard of living is very low compared to the west (I read around $1,000 or a bit more per year, however they have a high regard for their environment and social issues (including health care). While not rich their basic needs are being met. In fact they are considered one of the happiest countries on earth. Not only that, they have managed to keep their population low. Recently (2007) they are coming into more money due to the commissioning of the Tala Hydroelectricity Project.

    http://wikitravel.org/en/Bhutan
    http://countrystudies.us/bhutan/18.htm

    About the youtube video. Your right, I did not see it, that’s because, as I mentioned before my computer is very old and slow and subject to crashes so it takes a very long time to download even a few minute video.

  108. Didactylos:

    Ron R.: You missed my point as spectacularly as you claim I missed yours. Which could have been avoided if you had actually checked my source.

    I’m just pointing out what the statistics show. Nothing I have said is controversial, unless you go out of your way to misinterpret it.

    Do you hate me so much you have to make a huge thing out of misunderstanding everything I say?

    Oh, and Bhutan is *tiny*. I live in a city with a larger population than that. So, it’s nice you can find a counter-example for everything, but it’s spectacularly missing the point. The economy of Bhutan has expanded massively over the period during which they reduced their high infant mortality. Even the idea of happiness is mistaken – Bhutan defined their own “happiness”, so it’s easy for them to say they top their list of one. And all this is just more evidence that you are more interested in oneupmanship than reasoned discussion.

  109. Ron R.:

    Costa Rica is an example of a country that while not perfect is striving to do the right thing. They have also been named a very happy country. Here’s a book that explains things better than I can. You can find more examples there.

    Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

    http://www.amazon.com/Collapse-Societies-Choose-Fail-Succeed/dp/0670033375

    Notice the word “choose” there. That’s all I’m saying.

    BTW, Bhutan’s recent economic growth is just that, recent. But years ago they made a conscious decision to give more importance to things like justice and the environment and it’s worked for them. It’s sad that western business feels the driving need spoil that and try to induce greed in people.

    I’ve often remarked to myself how the American Indians managed to preserve the Americas, it’s beauty and biodiversity even though they had been here for many thousands of years, between 14,000 and some say 40,000 years. By the time the white man go here the population numbered only in the tens of millions. The whites were amazed at this land.

    Here’s what French explorer Pierre Esprit Radisson c1652 in the description of his journey (of what would later become the United States).
    From Sourcewatch
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=The_Sixth_Great_Extinction

    “The further we sojourned the delightfuller the land was to us. I can say that in my lifetime I never saw a more incomparable country….The country was so pleasant, so beautiful and fruitful that it grieved me to see the world could not discover such enticing countries to live in. This I say because the europeans fight for a rock in the sea against each other, or for a sterile and horrid country. Contrariwise, these kingdoms are so delicious and under so temperate a climate, plentiful of all things, the earth bringing forth its fruit twice a year, the people live long and lusty and wise in their way.”

    On the other hand, It only took whites 400 years, counting from the Mayflower to ruin it. True, as with other people, one can always find examples of excess and other bad things with their societies, but still on the whole they passed on a country from generation to generation which was happy. A society need not be consumer and perpetually growth based to be happy and successful.

    Sorry to offend. Not intended. Maybe we can agree to disagree.

  110. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Thomas ( # 105)

    I think what I’m worried about is that the weak runaway could merge with and become the strong runaway.

    A weak runaway could really screw things up. Very complicated things could start to happen. Combustion of standing biomass could add carbon particulates to the atmosphere. Photochemical smog could be produced, changing the albedo of the atmosphere. Oxygen levels could start to decline, as happened in the End Permian, during which they fell to something like two fifths of their previous value. If oxygen levels decrease, tropospheric hydroxyl radical could also perhaps decrease, increasing methane lifetime still further.

    I’m frankly skeptical of anyone’s ability to predict what could happen in such a screwed up situation.

    I hope that the 310 W/m2 is safely out of range. I haven’t done the math myself, and what I need to do is write a spreadsheet, and play with various “what if” scenarios to satisfy myself.

    I hope that there are physical laws which make a strong runaway impossible at this time.

    But, the End Permian came very close to tipping the whole system over, some commentators have said.

    And the sun is brighter, now, according to the standard model of stellar evolution.

  111. Septic Matthew:

    Here is another update on the investment in oil by China:

    http://www.energy-daily.com/reports/China_gets_massive_deep-water_rig_999.html

    Some day their investments in alternative energies will be greater than their investments in fossil fuels, in terms of invested money and harvested energy, but for the time being their investments in fossil fuels swamp their investments in alternatives. Investments in alternatives are growing at a higher rate, but starting from (and still remaining at) a much lower base.

    87, Kevin McKinney: Really? I’d have thought that REDD could very well do is doing just that.

    Maybe, but I think it is too soon to tell. Perhaps I am too pessimistic, but lots of money transfers from the US and EU to Africa have ended up in the bank accounts of a small clique of leaders and arms dealers. REDD money is small compared to Chinese direct investment.

  112. CM:

    Leland #110,

    > I hope that the 310 W/m2 is safely out of range. I haven’t done the math

    Currently we’re getting some 239 W/m2. Relax.

  113. Thomas:

    Leland. Global albedo is roughly 30% it would have to drop to 10% to reach the 310W/M**2 threshold. Thats just no it the cards.

  114. Chris Colose:

    Leland,

    I appreciate that you’re trying to learn and are willing to sort through the problems yourself. There are still some very interesting problems with respect to the runaway greenhouse and the climatic limits on habitability, which has mostly been done so far with 1-D modeling and with virtually nothing known about cloud feedbacks in the very moist atmosphere regime.

    To bring the discussion back home, I can agree that there is the possibility of enough positive feedback in the system to cause very disruptive changes to human welfare and society. Projecting out a few hundred years, temperature changes on the order of 5-10 C and substantial sea level rise cannot be ruled out. I’m a bit more skeptical of Permian or PETM-type catastrophes, but we’re already whiping out species beyond the background extinction rate, and there’s no good reason why another big extinction can’t happen. The deep-sea methane feedback is hard to sustain given the timescales that anthropogenic global warming is likely to be a huge issue, since the magnitude of the methane source depends upon how rapidly warmth can be communicated to the deep ocean. Another possibility is that warming persists for enough time to cause substantial loss to the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets.

    The best resource to date on this longer-term view is probably the recent Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations and Impacts over Decades to Millennia NAS (2010) report.

    The important thing here is the timescale over which CO2 concentrations remain elevated above a threshold value to which these long-term feedbacks are sensitive to. CO2 has a relatively long residence time, and a tail end that persists for many thousands of years. But you can still peak, at say, 450 ppm without incurring risk of triggering some of these long-term feedbacks (even if they have a sensitivity of triggering at 450 ppm) if emissions cease and CO2 concentrations gradually reduce over the next few centuries. Of course, that becomes less likely if we continue to wait to near-2100 and beyond to take some action.

    Back to the planetary climate view, the runaway greenhouse is certainly not anything that has been sustained on Earth (in the traditional scientific usage of the word). We’d need to wait another billion years or so of solar evolution to start making hydrogen loss significant (by making the stratosphere wet enough), and even several more billion years to kick in a true “runaway greenhouse.” It’s even possible that the threshold to start triggering a runaway is well over ~310 W/m2, if clouds have a tendency to substantially raise the planetary albedo well above today’s value, although it might be safe to consider Venus as an empirical limit. (There are actually two forms of the runaway greenhouse in the literature: one applies to a limit on the OLR through a radiative-equilibrium stratosphere that is saturated at its base, and one to a convective, water-saturated troposphere)

    If Venus succumbed to a runaway greenhouse, say, 2 billion years ago (solar radiation was ~85% today’s value) then the solar flux at Venus’ orbit was then equal to what it is today at a distance of 0.72 AU*(1/0.85)^0.5=0.78 AU. Assuming modern-day albedo, that corresponds to 1370*(1-0.3)/(4*0.78^2)=394 W/m2. If Venus hit a runaway in the first billion years, then the threshold should at least be 350 W/m2. Even the lower end of these numbers is well above today’s absorbed solar radiation, so the planet is free to equilibriate radiatively with the incoming solar energy and prevent a runaway scenario. Methane cannot really do anything to change that argument (if you are interested enough, some papers to check out on this are Ingersoll, 1969, J. Atmos Sci; Kasting 1988, Icarus; Nakajima et al 1992, J. Atmos Sci; Ishiwatari et al 2002, J Atmos Sci. Another handy reference is Ray Pierrehumbert’s textbook on Planetary Climate)

  115. Kevin McKinney:

    #111–Right, REDD is still essentially at a pilot stage–big enough to have some regional impact, but not anything really noticeable on a global scale. And yes, there has certainly been a dispiriting history of corruption in Africa and elsewhere involving well-intentioned aid, so we can’t take results for granted.

    But REDD certainly counts in terms of an existence theorem–First World CO2 policy can indeed be meaningfully linked to development in the Third World.

    As to China, there’s every reason to think that China will make much better progress on emissions than the US. There is deep political support for the issue, and clearly the intent is to make renewables technology a strong export category.

    “Looking to the future, the government’s current draft plan calls for 300 GW of hydropower, 150 GW of wind power, 30 GW of biomass power, and 20 GW of solar PV, for a total of 500 GW of renewable power capacity by 2020. This would be almost one-third of China’s expected total power capacity of 1600 GW by 2020.

    These targets are not yet official. . . However, 500 GW of renewable power capacity by 2020 is also implied by existing renewable energy portfolio standards [which] require utilities to achieve 8% of capacity and 3% of power generation from non-hydro renewables by 2020.”

    http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2010/07/renewable-energy-policy-update-for-china

  116. Edward Greisch:

    114 Chris Colose: See the book: “Deep Future” by Curt Stager. He says our warming will affect the next 100,000 to 1 Million years, depending whether we stop now or keep burning fossil fuel.

  117. JiminMpls:

    #111 Septic – The estimated oil reserve in the South China Sea is 28 billion barrels – less than half that in the Gulf of Mexico. That is divided between several countries.

    China is NOT drilling in the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean (as you claimed in a previous post.)

    China is developing ALL of their energy resources – renewables, nuclear, AND fossil fuels. Their per capita carbon emissions are still 1/4 that of the USA. What is impressive about the Chinese, is that they are taking a balanced approach in a time of rapid economic expansion.

  118. Septic Matthew:

    115, Kevin McKinney: “Looking to the future, the government’s current draft plan calls for 300 GW of hydropower, 150 GW of wind power, 30 GW of biomass power, and 20 GW of solar PV, for a total of 500 GW of renewable power capacity by 2020. This would be almost one-third of China’s expected total power capacity of 1600 GW by 2020.

    117, JiminMpls: China is developing ALL of their energy resources – renewables, nuclear, AND fossil fuels.

    That does not contradict what I wrote: starting from a smaller base but expanding at a higher rate, non-fossil-fuels will be a minority of total energy supplies in China for decades. For decades more, fossil fuel consumption, hence CO2 production, will continue to increase. Per capita fossil fuel consumption is increasing faster in China than in the US and EU, again starting from a smaller base, and will soon be 1/2 of what it is now.

    Recall that this thread is about a document written by Nobel laureates in Sweden. I think it’s safe to say that the document will have no effect on the Chinese energy developments.

  119. Septic Matthew:

    Here is an item on Chinese oil business in the Caribbean:

    http://pennyforyourthoughts2.blogspot.com/2010/01/china-eyes-caribbean-fuel-oil-market.html

    It’s just one of many such items.

    As noted, the Chinese NOW pump little oil in the region. If they sustain their rate of expansion, they will soon be pumping a lot.

  120. Kevin McKinney:

    #118–”That does not contradict what I wrote: starting from a smaller base but expanding at a higher rate, non-fossil-fuels will be a minority of total energy supplies in China for decades.”

    SM, I could quibble about the ‘decades,’ but let’s let that pass. The point here is that China, far from being self-indulgently ‘dirty’ in terms of energy economy, is taking aggressive and effective steps to move in the right direction. The US federal government, on the other hand, appears to be deep in denial (Congress particularly) and is “procrastinating” (to use the word from the Declaration) for all it’s worth. (Phrase chosen quite intentionally.)

    Using China as an excuse to continue this behavior is not only morally bankrupt–since “but all the other kids do it” has long been debunked as moral justification for anything–but factually wrong and even hypocritical.

    I’m not saying that that’s what you were setting out to do when you wrote:

    Chinese have far more interest in surpluses of energy and food for themselves than they have for any European ideas of clean, sustainable, or equitable development.

    (BTW, what is the justification for calling these ideas “European?” Neither science nor policy debate is limited to Europe.)

    However, there is no shortage of folks out there who have been pushing this meretricious line of BS. Candidly, I’ve little patience left for the argument, as I suppose is quite evident.

    SM, you also wrote that you “doubt China gives a hoot about” the Declaration. Well, maybe. I doubt any such paper, by itself, is very likely to change any national policy anywhere–and the list of grave declarations by intellectual heavy-weights attesting to the seriousness of climate change has become rather long, hasn’t it? But let me pose another question.

    Do you really believe that the Chinese policies to decrease emissions intensity have *nothing* to do with the intellectual, social and political pressure that has been brought to bear around the world over the last couple of decades?

    I sure don’t–which is why this Declaration, like the many others before it, has utility and merit. Particularly since America needs to get on board, and China, as you rightly point out, still needs to do more.

  121. flxible:

    Kevin says:

    Do you really believe that the Chinese policies to decrease emissions intensity have *nothing* to do with the intellectual, social and political pressure that has been brought to bear around the world over the last couple of decades?

    Yes, or at least very, very little. Their policies are to increase energy supplies as much as possible in the context of their lack of oil resources, and slow the air pollution caused by their reliance on coal. They’ve been doing that by pandering to the consumptive lifestyle of the west in general and the US in particular, NOT a useful road to travel.

    The Chinese are primarly focused on policies to increase the well-being of their huge population of “dis-enfranchised”, and clean up their highly polluted environment. If eating massively less broccoli and beans would fix the air quality, they’d outlaw broccoli and beans and start sending anyone found with them to prison camps to dig coal, regardless of what the rest of the world thought – the same as their responses to world pressure on human rights.

    While I agree the “all the other kids do it” meme is a very American defense mechanism, China simply doesn’t have/hasn’t had the resources that the US was ‘blessed’ with to allow them to be western style over-consumers, they’re doing their best to make up for that with any form of energy they can, and the resources of the rest of the world.

  122. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Chris (# 114)

    Thank you so much for your time, and for the references. :)

    I’ll say one more thing before I read the references, and do the math myself- then I’ll shut up. If it wasn’t such an important subject, I would have shut up by now, of course. Risk is commonly assessed, I think, by multiplying the probability of an event by the consequences of an event. In this case, since the consequences of being wrong are so huge, the probability of a runaway would have to be essentially nonexistent to justify business as usual.

    Looking visually at graphs such as this one, it appears what matters most is water vapor, especially stratospheric water vapor, and ozone.

    Graph of greenhouse gases and transmission/absorption bands

    What scares me most about the following paper is that the authors are talking about a 700% increase in stratospheric water vapor as an indirect consequence of a increase in methane emissions rates to 13X current levels. They are also talking about tropospheric ozone increases of about 100%, and stratospheric hydroxyl radical increases of up to 250%. The overall increase in radiative forcing they are talking about equals several times that of the methane alone.

    Isaksen- Strong atmospheric chemistry feedback to climate warming from Arctic methane emissions

    This is a new result, and I wonder how the calculations of the duration and intensity of elevated warming is affected by these results.

    Looking at the graph, it does not seem impossible to me that transmission of IR through the atmosphere could decrease from our current 15-30% down to 10%. Unlikely, perhaps, but not necessarily impossible.

    I hope you are right, and that transmission decreases from our present 15-30% down to 10% are next to impossible. But if we get enough stratospheric water vapor increase as an indirect consequence of methane emissions, maybe not.

  123. Septic Matthew:

    120, Kevin McKinney: (BTW, what is the justification for calling these ideas “European?” Neither science nor policy debate is limited to Europe.)

    The topic of the thread is a document written in Stockholm.

    Everyone denies something, it seems. Here there is considerable denial that China will continue to increase its fossil fuel consumption and CO2 generation for decades to come. According to a post above, alternatives will supply 1/3 of energy by 2020; or in other words, fossil fuel development dominates Chinese energy development seemingly less than it dominates US energy development. But it depends how you look at things: in the US, new electricity from alternatives exceeds new electricity from coal (SecularAnimist has supplied links), but that is not so in China; new energy from alternatives in China exceeds new energy from alternatives in the US, but China’s growth exceeds America’s growth in almost everything.

    Exactly what use we make of the fact that China will increase fossil fuel use for decades as they see fit, we should not gloss over the fact that China will increase fossil fuel use for decades as they see fit.

  124. John McCormick:

    Third attempt to post this comment

    RE # 51

    Georgi Marinov, you summed up beautifully what I have been struggling to put into words:

    “That’s why environmentalism fails to get its message across – because when you tell people “We gotta save the polar bears”, “We gotta save the rainforests”, etc., people frame this into a “How is the extinction of polar bears going to affect me” question, to which they answer “I won’t be affected”; they can’t see the whole picture. And it gets hopeless from this point on to do any convincing. When climate change is talked about, global temperature rises, species extinctions, sea level rise, heat waves, etc. are usually what’s being talked about; and all those things are important, but the fundamental reason why we have to deal with climate change, which is that it will cause global civilizational collapse, is rarely discussed and people aren’t really aware of it. And it’s rarely discussed because the very thought of it is scary to many people and because it involves a complicated chain/network of cause-effect relationships, something that you need a lot of time, typically unavailable in the media to comprehensively explain, etc. But those are precisely the reasons it has to be talked about all the time, so that it can get into people’s heads. That’s not the case unfortunately.”

    Georgi,as you know, climate change impacts are all around us. Some are observed; measured global temperature increase in the past fifty years. Some are assumed via measurement; glacial melt back and sea level rise. But, connecting the dots between saving polar bears and preventing Arctic ice melt back has yet to clearly enter the discussion.

    “How is the extinction of polar bears going to affect me” begs the obvious….why are polar bears on the verge of extinction? Melting Arctic sea ice is why they are going extinct.

    “How is the melting of Arctic sea ice gong to affect me?” Well, the erratic jet stream these past eight months and severe winter weather in NE North America is affecting me. And, that late arrival of winter ice in the Chukchi Sea is eroding Shishmaref Island at the top of Alaska and about 120 miles west of Barrows. 560 Inuit (seal and polar bear hunters) inhabitants will lose their ancestral homeland (about 4000 years of habitation) in about a decade according to the Corp of Army Engineers.

    Furthermore, Arctic ice melt back is being studied to determine how it might be impacting Asian monsoon timing and intensity. More than a billion people survive on the benefits of that monsoon rain.

    As the planet’s and Arctic’s temperature rises, Shishmaref will be lost, polar bears become extinct and the world will be caught up in the massive movements of hungry, scared South Asian populations. The US Defense Department and CIA understand this.

    But, as you say: “the fundamental reason why we have to deal with climate change, which is that it will cause global civilizational collapse, is rarely discussed and people aren’t really aware of it”

    Yes. The messaging does get more complex but life is complex.

    Scientists connect the dots to advance their research. Now, they have to help us connect the dots.

    We have to be told we have our own survival invested in saving polar bears because it is all about albedo…just to add a hint of complexity to the enviro message.

    As commentator, Paul Harvey used to say “And now, to the rest of the story”.

    John McCormick

  125. Septic Matthew:

    120, Kevin McKinney: Do you really believe that the Chinese policies to decrease emissions intensity have *nothing* to do with the intellectual, social and political pressure that has been brought to bear around the world over the last couple of decades?

    I think that we have beaten this horse about to death, but basically my answer is “Yes”, or “Yes, mostly.” Chinese energy development has mostly to do with the limits of fossil fuel resources in China, and their need for energy to fuel their industrial growth. Alternatives to fossil fuels will begin to dominate their energy industries when the energy produced is cheaper, overall, than the energy from fossil fuels.

    The year 2020 might be a good time to revisit this question. By then we’ll know if China gets 1/3 of its energy from alternatives, and we’ll know if my anticipation that the US will double production of solar energy, wind energy, and biofuels each 5 times has been confirmed.

  126. Kevin McKinney:

    #123–

    “The topic of the thread is a document written in Stockholm.”

    Yes, by a *highly* international group–conference participants included people from literally every continent, including Australia, and three from the Indian subcontinent. Many participants hail from the Americas, and one participant from China–albeit that special enclave, Hong Kong.

    “European ideas” is a fail. I wouldn’t fuss over it, but it seems to me a gratuitous, and gratuitously incorrect, way to minimize the significance of the Memorandum. (Don’t know why I kept calling it a “Declaration” earlier.)

    Septic, we’re getting into territory where we’re starting to agree vociferously. For example, did my previous comment deny “that China will continue to increase its fossil fuel consumption and CO2 generation for decades to come”? No. Yet your last comment suggests that my emphasis on the positives in China’s energy policies seemed to you a form of disagreement about continued Chinese FF emissions.

    (Though I do think the suggestion conveyed by ‘decades to come’ is too pessimistic. I think most people will guess you mean something like 5-8 decades; I think it’s more likely that the reality will be close to 2 decades–which would still grammatically merit “decades.”)

    On the other side, I struggle to grasp what your insistence on the issue is meant to convey to me. Why is this point important for me to understand? Or, in your terms, what “use” am I to make of this fact? Knowing as I do that Chinese FF emissions will continue to increase for a time, should this knowledge affect my behavior in some way? My understanding of the issue? I’ve got the fact–what conclusions do you think I should draw?

    On my side, I’m insisting on the positives for the reason I already identified: I wish to discourage people from using Chinese emissions–and especially a misperception of their current and future trajectory–as an excuse to duck their own moral obligations. (I’ve encountered a fair number of such folks.) It’s ethically irrelevant to us whether China behaves well or poorly–but it’s demonstrably not true that they are indifferent on the issue. So the “China inactivist” argument fails doubly.

    To begin to put it another way, let me take note of your tagline:

    China will increase fossil fuel use for decades as they see fit.

    No doubt that is true. So will the US, and so will Canada, among others.

    But it looks to me as if China may well “see fit” to continue to make more strenuous efforts to reduce emissions than the North American nations do–plagued as the latter are by entrenched ideologies standing in the way of facing the situation honestly.

  127. Septic Matthew:

    126, Kevin McKinney: Though I do think the suggestion conveyed by ‘decades to come’ is too pessimistic. I think most people will guess you mean something like 5-8 decades;

    I think 4-5 decades. From quotes that I think I posted months ago, or maybe as long ago as the Copenhagen conference, I think that China’s CO2 emissions will start to decline around 2050.

    I just looked at the CAISO web page, and I noted that California is getting about 20% of current electrical supply from wind (measured on the grid) and roof-mounted solar (which does not flow through the parts of the grid that are metered, ie, that is locally generated and locally used.) This is an aside, obviously. I think that a review of 2011 alternative energy supplies sometime in early 2012 will show that we are not, in the US, very far behind China.

  128. Snapple:

    Georgi Marinov writes:

    “Yes, science is the search for truth but if you add the condition “As long as it is compatible with the Bible and it keeps God in the picture”, then you are not searching for any truth.”

    Don’t put words in my mouth. I just said science is the search for truth. Period. Catholics read science books in science class, not the Bible. They build hospitals and universities.

    The Pontifical Academy is non-sectarian. Some of scientists who headed up/attended the recent Vatican workshop also attended the Stockholm meeting.

    Why don’t you read what the Pontifical Academy said about climate change. It’s what all scientists are saying. They even started on glaciers. Maybe this was a way of defending the basic accuracy of the IPCC report, which had some mistake about that.

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_academies/acdscien/2011/PAS_Glacier_110511_final.pdf

    Well-educated, wealthy business people, not poorly-educated religious people, are promoting denialism. People who are confused and taken-in by fake “religious” arguments against climate change that are spread by denialists need to know the position of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy. They don’t need to hear how dumb and ignorant their values are.

    The denialists are even calling religious people who accept climate change science unscientific “cultists.” These prejudiced comments sound just like what the so-called “scientific” communists used to say about “backward” believers.

    Scientists should not be attacking churches–that is what the denialists are doing. Remember how Monckton disparaged Dr. John Abraham’s Catholic University by calling St. Johns a “Bible college”? But Dr. Abraham is there to teach the students science, not the Bible.

    Religious people need to know that many churches support the science of climate change and that they do not have to choose between science and religion.

    The ruined hospital in Joplin, the town hit by the tornado, was called St. John’s Hospital. I am sure the Catholics will rebuild St. John’s so they can help people.

  129. Septic Matthew:

    126, Kevin McKinney: Though I do think the suggestion conveyed by ‘decades to come’ is too pessimistic. I think most people will guess you mean something like 5-8 decades;

    I mean 4 decades; I wrote something like that around the time of the Copenhagen conference.

    But it looks to me as if China may well “see fit” to continue to make more strenuous efforts to reduce emissions than the North American nations do–

    They “may”. At present they do not.

  130. Georgi Marinov:

    Re: Snapple @ 127:

    I don’t think you read carefully what I wrote above, and I don’t think you did because it is evident that you didn’t get any of it.

    When I said that the Church is not in search of any truth and therefore not science-friendly, this had nothing to do with climate change, it is a general observation. And I already explained why the Church is not helping the cause even when it is making seemingly the right kind of statements. It is doing a lot of damage with its very existence and its core theological doctrines, I will not repeat what I already posted.

    I will just try to state it as clearly as possible: the Church will be on board with science when it officially announces that:

    1. Science and faith are epistemologically incompatible
    2. There is no scientific evidence for the existence of any God and a lot of scientific evidence against a number of the factual claims in the Bible

    And with respect to sustainability

    1. Thou shall never exceed the carrying capacity of the environment.

    Are they telling these things to students in Catholic schools?

  131. Kevin McKinney:

    #127, Septic–

    I agree that this horse is currently having a near-death experience, and we should let it be.

    Let’s hope we’re *both* too pessimistic!

  132. Snapple:

    I am not talking about religion. I am talking about Nobel scientists who attended both the meeting at the Vatican and the meeting in Stockholm. The Vatican can educate people about climate science. It can also confront denialists who are trying to co-opt religion.

    “The Pontifical Academy of Sciences seeks to pay honour to pure science, wherever it is found, to assure its freedom and to promote its research. The Academy was founded in Rome in 1603…
    http://www.vaticanstate.va/EN/Other_Institutions/Pontifical_Academy_of_Sciences.htm

    Catholics teach science, so they obviously teach that science and religion are compatible.

    Catholics don’t take everything in the Bible literally.

    These Nobel scientists believe in God and explain why. It is very interesting. Evidently, not all Nobel scientists share your certainty that science contradicts the belief in a creator. I thought their views were very interesting.

    One scientist wrote:

    “The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.”

    http://nobelists.net/

    The Vatican does does agree with you that there is “no scientific evidence for the existence of any God.”

    The Vatican says that science can neither affirm nor deny God’s existence.

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/audiences/alpha/data/aud19850710en.html

  133. Vendicar Decarian:

    “Yes, 0.1 child per family (and that’s serious)” – 100

    With such a low replacement rate, how do you intend to keep the population level high enough to provide care for the elderly while still keeping enough workers around so that the economy is producing goods and services like food and housing etc.?

  134. Georgi Marinov:

    Vendicar Decarian says:
    29 May 2011 at 3:54 PM
    “Yes, 0.1 child per family (and that’s serious)” – 100

    With such a low replacement rate, how do you intend to keep the population level high enough to provide care for the elderly while still keeping enough workers around so that the economy is producing goods and services like food and housing etc.?

    The elderly will not retire, simple as that. It should be obvious that saving the species is more important than providing retirement to the elderly, which is a very recent invention anyway; 150 years ago almost nobody retired. When the population gets to where it should be, birth rates are allowed to increase and then there will be retirement, but during the transition period some sacrifices have to made.

    Remember, nobody owes us the existence of pretty, comfortable for everyone, solutions to all problems.

  135. Georgi Marinov:

    132
    Snapple says:
    29 May 2011 at 3:44 PM

    …….

    One scientist wrote:

    “The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.”

    ……….

    If that was true, the more distinguished group of scientists we select, the more religious we would expect them to be, right? Then why is the data showing exactly the opposite?

  136. Snapple:

    Climate scientist Michael Mann and the Denialist Party’s Pat Michaels are both quoted in a Fox News story about the Pontifical Academy’s recent workshop on glaciers.

    Fox is being a bit snide, but Pat Michaels has shown his true colors.

    http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/05/11/green-smoke-mirrors-vatican-weighs-climate-change/

    Michael Mann observes that the Pontifical Academy’s position on climate change is an auspicious development, but Pat Michaels complains that he doesn’t know why parishioners’ money was used for the workshop. He complains that churches are “inserting themselves” (where they don’t belong) into the “global warming thing.”

    The “scientific” Denialist Party expects the Catholic Church to “butt out” and remain silent about this slow-motion genocide. Only Libertarian think tanks can talk about the “hoax” of climate change, not America’s traditional institutions–scholars and churches.

    The Denialist Party is afraid that people will listen to the Vatican. That’s why the “scientific” Denialist Party apparatchiks are depicting climate change some radical cult and are telling parishioners not to give money to their churches.

    The Denialist Party is not satisfied with undermining America’s national security and technological leadership; their political operatives are now undermining our churches—private organizations in a capitalist democracy—by saying that they should not “insert themselves” where they don’t belong by spending money so that they can learn how to protect mankind from the ravages of climate change.

    First the Denialist Party went after our EPA and our scientists, but now the denialists are attacking our churches because the people are wanting to hear the best scientific opinions about climate change.

    When bad things like terrorism and tornadoes happen in America, our government and our churches save us, not the Libertarians.

  137. Snapple:

    The Denialist Party’s Pat Michaels thinks that the Catholics should not spend money learning about climate change, but he appears on the Kremlin-financed, English-language satellite channel Russia Today and trashes the UN because they made a few mistakes in a huge document. He appeared in March 2010, before Russia burned down.

    Pat Michaels complains—on this Kremlin-financed propaganda channel—that the UN is not independent and is trying to “order people around.”

    http://rt.com/news/un-climate-new-panel/

  138. SecularAnimist:

    Snapple and Georgi Marinov, may I humbly suggest that in the absence of an agreed-upon objective definition of exactly what is meant by the term “God”, that discussions about whether Nobel Laureates or the Catholic Church believe in “God” or whether science can address the existence of “God”, are basically noise.

  139. ccpo:

    ccpo wrote: “I believe Annie Leonard was correct when she said in a talk at Bioneers that it is time to simply move on without these people.”

    Be sure to tell the US Senators and Representatives who “those people” have bought and paid for, that it is time to simply “move on” without the millions of dollars in bribes, excuse me, “campaign contributions” from the fossil fuel corporations. I’m sure they will get right on it.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 23 May 2011 @ 11:03 AM

    Defeatist. I do not believe the solutions we need will come from the top down, nor can they. All the solutions are local, and by becoming local we create the solution. You need no governmental intervention to:

    * grow your own food
    * not go to a movie theater
    * set up a tool library in your neighborhood
    * set up a time bank in your neighborhood
    * set up a food co-op
    * build a solar air heater with bottles or cans
    * compost
    * vermiculture
    * go outside and talk with your neighbors about the important issues of the day
    * set up a neighborhood council
    * set up a time bank in your neighborhood
    * learn to grow food sustainably
    * plant edible forest gardens to draw down carbon and feed your neighborhood
    * advocate for a steady-state economy (read Steve Keen and Nicole Foss)
    * start a grassroots movement to send a Mr. Smith to Washington
    * start a community garden

    Etc.

    Ultimately, we will change how we do government. Before that, government will follow our lead eventually. If we wait for government to change enough to solve these problems, we are saying we trust the extremely wealthy and influential to do what is best for the poorest among us. Good luck with that.

  140. Joseph Sobry:

    What is God doing at the bottom of the glass? I thought he was every where. And why is he waiting? He is almighty and does not have to wait … ever.
    One thing is right. Science can not prove or disprove the existence of God and neither can the Catholic church. The only difference is that Science is not interested.

  141. Septic Matthew:

    Here’s a way for green money to enrich North Africa and the Middle East:

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

    If it works the same as oil and other mineral wealth in the same areas, then the benefits will be restricted to the members of a few families.

  142. Snapple:

    I do not agree with the view that the Catholic Church is hurts scientific progress as the (young?) Georgi M. claims. This is the view of people who haven’t yet studied history or theology.

    The Catholic Church does not believe in using science to prove God. That would be the Creationists. The Catholic Church does not believe in using science to prove there is no God. That would be the Communists.

    The Pope says that science does not prove or disprove God.

    I learned some information about the Pontifical Academy from the NASA site.
    NASA seems to respect the Pontifical Academy and visa-versa.

    Listen to the facinating and thoughtful interview with NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) Director Carl Pilcher and Vatican Observatory astronomer and Jesuit brother Guy Consolmagno.

    http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/2011/05/pontifical-academy-of-sciences-study.html

    Science keeps religion from stagnating into superstition, but religion keeps scientists from thinking that they have all the answers.

    The people who vote are in the churches. It is not very politic to tell them that science shows their beliefs are stupid.

  143. Edward Greisch:

    RE: “The Great Disruption” by Paul Gilding. The “One Degree War” must be waged by the government, per Gilding. I find this book much more relevant than 17 Nobel laureates who gathered in Stockholm. The 17 just repeated what we already know. Gilding gives new insight on what to do and what to expect. He says we must continue doing our thing, and expect the sudden change to come when it comes. I am on page 164.

  144. Georgi Marinov:

    Snapple @ 142:

    This is what I posted @ 130:

    I will just try to state it as clearly as possible: the Church will be on board with science when it officially announces that:

    1. Science and faith are epistemologically incompatible
    2. There is no scientific evidence for the existence of any God and a lot of scientific evidence against a number of the factual claims in the Bible

    And with respect to sustainability

    1. Thou shall never exceed the carrying capacity of the environment.

    Are they telling these things to students in Catholic schools?

    Your post above addresses none of that, it is full of completely irrelevant red herrings.

    The epistemological incompatibility and what follows from it is the really big thing. You will never see a religious person or the Church address that when raised for the simple reason that they can’t; instead they try to avoid discussing it at all costs which is what you’re doing here.

    The Pope says that science does not prove or disprove God.

    Interesting what does the Church preach if science can neither prove or disprove God? It follows that it has to be agnosticism, right? Why is that not the case?

  145. CM:

    Georgi, Snapple,

    Georgi, you would champion science against faith. Odd, then, that Snapple cites empirical examples of religion and science cohabiting, whereas all we hear from you are evidence-free dogmatic assertions, such as:

    > Science and faith are epistemologically incompatible…
    > You will never see a religious person or the Church address that…
    > for the simple reason that they can’t…

    (They can’t? For starters, Aquinas apparently could, and he got to wear a halo. Falsified.)

    Anyway, this is off-topic and going nowhere fast. Personally, I find Snapple’s occasional reports here about the Catholic Church and climate change interesting as a window on one segment of public opinion and one target group for communicating the science. But polemics pro and con religion have nothing to do here.

  146. Edward Greisch:

    142 Snapple: Religion is just irrelevant to GW.

  147. Kevin McKinney:

    #146–

    No, it’s not. Whether you like it or not, or agree with it or not, religion is a vital force shaping the worldviews and behavior of billions of our fellow humans–and those billions get a say on GW.

    Sure, science is crucial to diagnose what the reality is. But moral perspectives and policy decisions are by definition extra-scientific. They are not, however, purely extra-religious; spiritual leaders of all stripes will weigh in.

    There’s no sense antagonizing, dismissing, or condescending to, those on the side of human responsibility WRT emissions.

  148. Georgi Marinov:

    CM says:
    1 Jun 2011 at 2:33 PM
    Georgi, Snapple,

    Georgi, you would champion science against faith. Odd, then, that Snapple cites empirical examples of religion and science cohabiting, whereas all we hear from you are evidence-free dogmatic assertions, such as:

    > Science and faith are epistemologically incompatible…
    > You will never see a religious person or the Church address that…
    > for the simple reason that they can’t…

    Dogmatic assertions???? Which part of “Faith is absolutely incompatible with the scientific method” is dogmatic? You realize that using faith in science is called scientific misconduct for which people get fired. I can cite more than a few occasions when someone fabricated results not because of any malicious intent but because he was so certain that he was right that collecting the necessary evidence in support of his position didn’t matter.

    Remove the 2000 years of cultural dominance from the claims of virgin births, resurrections from the dead, Noah Arks, etc., and present them to any scientist who had never been subject to that cultural influence (which is admittedly an empty set, but this is a thought experiment) and you will be laughed out of the room. And for a good reason

    Not only is faith incompatible with science but religion actually makes this incompatibility a virtue – you are a better believer if you believe in things without evidence. What do you think the Doubting Thomas story is for?

    (They can’t? For starters, Aquinas apparently could, and he got to wear a halo. Falsified.)

    And once again, I didn’t see this issue addressed at all in what you linked to, neither is it in Aquinas’ writings. Loudly proclaiming the virtues of faith and revelation is not the same as actually demonstrating that you believing things on faith constitutes proper reasoning.

    Anyway, this is off-topic and going nowhere fast. Personally, I find Snapple’s occasional reports here about the Catholic Church and climate change interesting as a window on one segment of public opinion and one target group for communicating the science. But polemics pro and con religion have nothing to do here.

    It is not at all off-topic, it started with my posts @ 24 and @ 30, which you may have missed. I don’t think many people have the ability to rise above their deeply ingrained prejudices to actually get the point I am making there as it happens to be such a sensitive and emotionally charged issue, but at least give it a try.

  149. Patrick 027:

    Re 142 Snapple

    - I don’t really doubt your description of the official Catholic stance on the limits of science and region and it is sophisticated relative to some other attitudes that exist. On the other hand, there’s Galileo … The Vatican did accept the science of evolution (at what time?) but I’m not sure exactly to what extent… (PS I once visited an Abby/Monastary (not sure which – they’re in a scenic place and have a nice garden, and I think they make mustard(?) and maybe some other stuff – anyway, found a book called something-like ‘Did Adam and Eve have bellybuttons’ – well, the answer to ‘what is God’ is rather sophisticated and reminded me of something Michael Shermer wrote in his book about evolution vs creationism/ID. Which is quite an interesting parallel to draw, isn’t it. On the other hand, I found the book lacking in it’s answer about evolution. But it’s just one book… But I’m aware that religious people have certainly done well in science, including of course Mendel. Meanwhile, sometimes religious scientists do well in science and not so well in religion (I think I saw on a PBS show that Isaac Newton found in the Bible that the world would end in 2060. Well maybe he’ll be right afterall?).)

    However: but religion keeps scientists from thinking that they have all the answers.

    Science and the universe do that. No religion necessary. In fact I could imagine that sometimes religion does the opposite – in particular when religion offers something that’s proven false.

    And religions generally can come up with some rather wacky stuff – either scientifically or morally. (But it is worth pointing out – as with the issue of family planning and related things in Catholicism (Italy’s fertility rate exhibit A), that the wacky from the top sometimes doesn’t reach all the down. On the other hand, sometimes the wacky comes in from the bottom or side (your examples of AGW denialists, for example) and persists there while the top (so far as I know) has no part in it. You can’t always judge people by their religions – and vice-versa).

    The people who vote are in the churches. It is not very politic to tell them that science shows their beliefs are stupid. But sometimes those beliefs (whether they come from the top or out of left/right field) are stupid, or at least unsubstantiated or illogical or falsified or dangerous – either scientifically or philosophically or even morally – consider that argument that sea level rise can’t happen because God promised he would never flood the world again, or that God controls the weather so humans can’t affect it.

    Re 148 Georgi Marinov

    - I agree that science and religion – specifically faith – are incompatable in the sense that they work differently, they are not simply ‘two ways of knowing’ and science can’t (dis)prove God (PS quantum uncertainty works backwards in time too, so God could be in a state of quantum superposition between existing and not existing. Not that science could actually test that…) – although science can certainly disprove versions of God or specific ideas about God via what God is supposed to do in this world – science may disprove some of the things a religion could say.

    However, the same person may be religious and a scientist, and religion and science can exist together – they just can’t do each other’s homework. A sophisticated person with faith may appreciate that their faith cannot be supported by science (unless they have faith in atoms) – and they may choose not to believe things that science has falsified. (PS what ultimately led me away from a belief in God was not science, but philosphy (although science came first in any conflict – PS I was never a literalist so I had no problem coming up with ideas for how Genesis could in some way be true (really it’s not hard at all)- not that it was important to me; aside from that idea, I particular like the idea that it is intended as allegory rather than history (and I think I found that idea in a book written by a Rabii (Kushner?)) … , although perhaps my interest in science helped inform my phisophical thought processes.)

    Anyway, more to the point – religions can offer moral guidance. Sometimes this is a problem or a danger. However (some of the following is actually aimed at another commentor), at the most fundamental level any belief in morality is just that. You can say that science tells a doctor how to save a person’s life, but it doesn’t tell a doctor that s/he should save a person’s life (or if it does, it’s only because it is in order to achieve something else. Science offers guidance based on desired outcomes – to get A, do B. At some point there’s an A which, at least in part, has no other purpose (it may have some other purpose but would also be sought even without that other purpose) – and this is (as a category) where all purpose originates from. Etc. for economic and moral value. Science could explain why we believe what we do about morality but it doesn’t prescribe it (though there may be some logical support for the idea that the correct morality, as applied in the situations of a species/population or it’s evolutionary or cultural history, tends to be similar to believed morality to some extent – and of course, a person’s moral beliefs are part of the situation in which a moral decision must be made and that may be an input variable in the morality function) . Earlier I stated philosophy was necessary – maybe it is – certainly logic is, although that’s part of science as well – but all valid arguments have conclusions that logically follow from their premises – at some point you have premises that are not the conclusions of other arguments. Now, you could take pairs of such fundamental premises like A and not A and then try to cover the entire possibility space, but… (PS and of course, the correct moral system doesn’t prescribe the same behavior all the time, because different situations have different people (with different needs, wants, and capabilities), different possible actions, different possible consequences, etc. I say the correct moral system because that’s what morality is – if it’s subjective or subject to overwright – even by God – it’s not morality.) – PS don’t worry, I won’t say anymore about this here.

    - but religions can and do evolve. Look at their liberal wings in particular. I’m not sure but you might find family planning advocacy there. I’m sure you’ll find the idea that we should save the Earth so as to save ourselves/our children/etc, and better our/their lives. I’m not saying we need religion to guide our actions, but it’s not always the case that they’ll lead us astray.

  150. Patrick 027:

    Re 149 Patrick 027 Re 142 Snapple/ my 149 – of course I realize the Church apologized for the Galileo fiasco (not timely but it happened).

    PS off on a tangent that is actually more on-topic: next time a denier/’skeptic’ points out Galileo and Einstein overturned accepted thinking (setting aside Galileo wasn’t overturning science and Einstein’s contribution still recognizes that the prior physics is adequate for explaining a lot…) – try: Sir, I can’t say that I knew Galileo, but I’ve learned about him. Sir, you (or whoever’s being referenced) are no Galileo! :)

  151. fhsiv:

    Your introduction states: “The Stockholm Memorandum concludes that we have entered a new geological era: the Anthropocene”

    If they are going to use geological nomenclature, they might as well try to use it correctly. I believe the use of the word ‘era’ in this context is incorrect.

    Eras are the great subdivisions of geologic time (pre-Cambrian, Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic) defined by profound changes in the organisms preserved as fossils. The eras are subdivided into periods, the fundamental units of geologic time (i.e. Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, etc) on the basis of somewhat less profound changes in fossil assemblages. Periods may be further sudivided into epochs on the basis of their fossil assemblages. The last four of these epochs are the Miocene, Pliocene, Pleistocene and the Holocene. Each of these epochs is represented in the geologic record by distinct time-stratigraphic units (series). The youngest (Holocene) series is generally considered to include only the most recent deposits that are post-glacial in origin.

    So, unless they are saying that the perceived modern day changes to the earth are of the same magnitude as the begining of life on earth or the development of a new phylum of animals, then the use of the term ‘era’ is wrong. And, since the Holocene is defined on a ‘post-glacial’ basis, it may be a little premature to arbitrarily break out another epoch until the beginning of the next ice age!

    That said, in my work I deal with anthropogenic deposits (man made fills) almost everyday, but as of today I haven’t felt compelled to assign them to a new epoch on the basis of the trace fossils of just one of many Pleistocene mammalian species!

    [Response: Hold up there. The boundary at the Paleocene/Eocene boundary is marked by a dramatic 13C spike, a significant warming and extensive ecosystem disturbances. All of those things are occurring right now, so I would not be at all surprised that the geologists in 55 million years time will have no difficulty declaring a new stage at this point. Might as well do it now as well. - gavin]

  152. CM:

    Georgi #148,

    You misunderstood me. What I referred to as a dogmatic assertion was not the proposition that faith and science are epistemologically incompatible (as far as I’m concerned, that’s true by definition). I referred to the claim you repeated at #144 that religious people were incapable of addressing that proposition. As a counter-example I pointed you to an argument (set out more clearly here) by one religious thinker, Aquinas, in support of the very same proposition about epistemological incompatibility. Or as he put it, that “those things that are of faith” cannot “be objects of science.” (“Science” did not mean the same to Aquinas as to us, but I think his argument would apply all the more strongly to our empirical sciences.) That’s all.

    This proposition does not, however, imply that having faith is incompatible with also doing or understanding science. Whether there’s a (negative) correlation is an empirical question, but this is not the place to explore it.

    Yes, I saw that you argued at #24 that religion is topical here because the climate crisis calls for a fundamental rethinking of everything, and at #30 that the Catholic Church is theologically incapable of accepting philosophical tenets you claim are vital to any meaningful response. Apart from the population issue, I found the argument very broad and a priori, and the theological understanding rather narrow. In any case, this is a blog about climate science, not a seminary, and even if we need to rethink everything, this does not make this the right place to discuss everything.

  153. Ray Ladbury:

    The problem with blind faith is not that it is faith, but that it is blind. One can be a good scientist and a man of faith. Science, though, has to remain atheist–in the sense that it does not look for answers in the supernatural. It can say nothing about whether deities exist; it doesn’t seem to leave much for said deities to do.

  154. SecularAnimist:

    Following up on my earlier comment to the effect that discussions centering around the completely undefined term “God” are little more than noise as long as there is no agreed-upon, objective definition for that term, I’d like to point out two related things:

    1. The word “faith” is also being used without definition. To some people, “faith” means absolute belief in assertions which are, in principle, not possible to test empirically. However, that’s not what “faith” means to everyone who uses the term. In Buddhism, for example, “faith” simply means “confidence” and most certainly is subject to empirical verification. Does everyone discussing “faith” in this thread agree on what they mean by the word, or not?

    2. The word “religion” is also being used without definition, in a context that seems to assume that “religion” is equivalent to “Middle Eastern monotheistic traditions” or even specifically “Christianity”. There are other, quite different, religions in the world, some of which have entirely different phenomenological, ontological and epistemological ideas. The Dalai Lama, for example, has stated that if empirical science were to prove any Buddhist teaching about the nature of reality to be wrong, then Buddhism would have to change.

    Undefined terms and unstated assumptions combined with often strong feelings about such matters, tend not to contribute clarity to discussions.

  155. Patrick 027:

    Re 153 SecularAnimist – excellent points!

  156. Radge Havers:

    Here are a couple of definitions picked up from cruising the net that seem handy enough to me:
    Faith is acceptance of the trustworthiness of an idea that has not been, or can not be reasonably proven.
    Beliefs are conclusions about reality.

    Elsewhere possible characteristics discernible in the mish-mash of human transcendent impulses that might help distinguish myths from philosophies from religions are: instructive stories that aren’t to be taken literally, thinking about things but trying to use reason, and systems of thought involving literal history that emphasize culture over scientific practice. So in this sense you can have religious sensibilities but also be atheist.

    Paraphrasing Ray, dearly held preconceived ideas (ideologies, superstitions, and delusions) all eventually break down and are not conducive to advancing science. Emotional sensations of transcendence may make good background music to scientific practice, but they should not be allowed to interfere with rigorous thought and perception. To which I’d add that faith may sometimes have its strong points, but ultimately science puts drains around the swamp of grandiose blather that makes up so much of our “faith-based” world.

  157. fhsiv:

    Gavin,

    Thank you for making my point!

    You said “…so I would not be at all surprised that the geologists in 55 million years time will have no difficulty declaring a new stage at this point. Might as well do it now as well. – gavin”

    Agreed! the provisional establishment of a new stage (as a subdivision of an epoch made on the basis of unique traceable differences within a single bed of one formation) may be justified, but declaring a new era is way over the top. All I’m asking for is that they choose their words a little more carefully. Hyperbole doesn’t help with anything. We just need a bit of geologic time to provide the perspective that will help answer this question.

    However, as far as anyone, geologist or not, doing anything 55 million years down the road, I don’t think that’s in the cards. By that time, good old mother earth will have long since healed up any of the indignities forced upon her by our species. After all, the average mammalian species lives for only about two million years, and the clock has already been running on us for a good part of that!