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Nobel Laureates Speak Out

Filed under: — stefan @ 21 May 2011

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 Responses to “Nobel Laureates Speak Out”

  1. 101
    SecularAnimist says:

    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.

  2. 102
    David Miller says:

    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:)

  3. 103
    Leland Palmer says:

    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. :)

  4. 104
    Didactylos says:

    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.

  5. 105
    Thomas says:

    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.

  6. 106
    Thomas says:

    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.

  7. 107
    Ron R. says:

    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.

  8. 108
    Didactylos says:

    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.

  9. 109
    Ron R. says:

    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.

  10. 110
    Leland Palmer says:

    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.

  11. 111
    Septic Matthew says:

    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.

  12. 112
    CM says:

    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.

  13. 113
    Thomas says:

    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.

  14. 114
    Chris Colose says:

    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)

  15. 115

    #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

  16. 116
    Edward Greisch says:

    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.

  17. 117
    JiminMpls says:

    #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.

  18. 118
    Septic Matthew says:

    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.

  19. 119
    Septic Matthew says:

    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.

  20. 120

    #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.

  21. 121
    flxible says:

    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.

  22. 122
    Leland Palmer says:

    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.

  23. 123
    Septic Matthew says:

    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.

  24. 124
    John McCormick says:

    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

  25. 125
    Septic Matthew says:

    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.

  26. 126

    #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.

  27. 127
    Septic Matthew says:

    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.

  28. 128
    Snapple says:

    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.

  29. 129
    Septic Matthew says:

    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.

  30. 130
    Georgi Marinov says:

    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?

  31. 131

    #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!

  32. 132
    Snapple says:

    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

  33. 133
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    “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.?

  34. 134
    Georgi Marinov says:

    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.

  35. 135
    Georgi Marinov says:

    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?

  36. 136
    Snapple says:

    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.

  37. 137
    Snapple says:

    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/

  38. 138
    SecularAnimist says:

    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.

  39. 139
    ccpo says:

    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.

  40. 140
    Joseph Sobry says:

    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.

  41. 141
    Septic Matthew says:

    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.

  42. 142
    Snapple says:

    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.

  43. 143
    Edward Greisch says:

    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.

  44. 144
    Georgi Marinov says:

    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?

  45. 145
    CM says:

    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.

  46. 146
    Edward Greisch says:

    142 Snapple: Religion is just irrelevant to GW.

  47. 147

    #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.

  48. 148
    Georgi Marinov says:

    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.

  49. 149
    Patrick 027 says:

    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.

  50. 150
    Patrick 027 says:

    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! :)


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