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Free speech and academic freedom

Filed under: — rasmus @ 12 February 2012

Update: Some related concerns from deepclimate.org, if these claims can be verified.

In a recent interview for a Norwegian magazine (Teknisk Ukeblad, 0412), the IPCC chair Rajendra Kumar Pachauri told the journalist that he had received death threats in connection with his role as a head for the IPCC. There have also been recent reports of threats and harassment of climate scientists for their stance on climate change (Kerry Emanuel. Katharine Hayhoe, Australian climate scientists, Phil Jones, Barton campaign, and Inhofe’s black list).

These incidents appear as an unpleasant deja vu from my past, smacking of attempts to suppress the freedom of speech. They remind me of the days when I did my national service as a border patrol at the Soviet-Norwegian border in 1988-1989 (Norway and Russia – then Soviet – share a 196 km long common border in the high north), where we stood up for our freedom and democracy. Freedom of speech was tacitly implied as one of the ingredients of an open democracy, which in our minds was the West. There was an understanding that the other side of the iron curtain represented an oppressive regime.

If the people who threat and harass climate scientists were to have their way, I fear we would be heading for a world resembling the other side of the iron curtain of 1989. The absence of oppression and harassment is a prerequisite for sound and functioning science. Oppressive regimes are not known for producing good science, and blind ideology have often been unsustainable. Therefore, threats and such dishonorable campaigns represent a concern.

Me at the Soviet-Norwegian border in the spring of 1989, where I served as a border patrol. The border was halfway between the yellow Norwegian and green/red Soviet borderposts seen in the photo, and the iron curtain involved a militarised zone on the Soviet side guarded by the KGB.

Another unpleasant aspect of the direction taken by the public discource is the character of the rhetoric, which too exhibit similarities to that of the cold war. I still remember some of the propaganda that could be heard on the radio – translated to Norwegian. Too often these days, the debate is far from being informative but has turned into something like a beauty contest and he-said-she-said affair.

So it is important to keep in mind: Don’t shoot the messenger who is only doing her/his job. It would really be a disservice to the society. Any open and free democracy has to be based on true information and knowledge. When big and powerful media corporations start to look like past state-run propaganda machines, where slogans have replaced common sense and expert knowledge, then we’re heading in the wrong direction.

In Norway, the there were calls for enhanced openness and respect (by our prime minister) after the terrible July 22 (2011) terrorist attacks (the terrorist also disrespected climate science). In this sense, the openness also means exposing all levels and all aspects of matters being disputed. As in sciences, it is important to elucidate the situation, and see if the arguments stand up to being critically scrutinized. This also means that all relevant information must be included – not just those which support one stand.

Flower response, more democracy, and more openness in Oslo after July 22, 2011.

I think that the science community needs a louder voice in the society, and there is a need for bringing some of the science-related debates closer to true science. We need to explain the virtues of the scientific method, such as transparency, replication of past results, testing and evaluating the methods and conclusions. These virtues lead to the most credible answers.

For example, we need to focus on question like the following: Is the strategy adopted objective? Does it give robust results? Or do the result depend on the context in which the analysis was carried out? In other words, we need to question whether the conclusions are generally valid.

Focusing on the real questions and doing science means being free, critical and sceptical – and not a climate of fear.


739 Responses to “Free speech and academic freedom”

  1. 551
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    http://www.livescience.com/18624-collapse-mayan-civilization-climate-change.html

    The scientists found that rainfall in the region decreased episodically for periods as long as a decade at a time.

    “Our results show rather modest rainfall reductions between times when the Classic Maya civilization flourished and its collapse between 800 to 950,” said researcher Eelco Rohling, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Southampton in England. “These reductions amount to only 25 to 40 percent in annual rainfall, but they were large enough for evaporation to become dominant over rainfall, and open water availability was rapidly reduced. The data suggest that the main cause was a decrease in summer storm activity.”

    It appeared to Rohling that the ancient Maya had become reliant on continuous rainfall supplies, and had stretched the capacity of their farmlands to a fine limit based on normal levels of rain.

  2. 552
    Utahn says:

    Ray, I have to agree slightly with Richard C. here. I think it feels good in some way to call people in denial of climate change and it’s consequences dishonest.

    In truth, I think it’s much more prevalent for delusion to be the source of error than dishonesty. In some ways it actually feels better for me to believe its delusion, or self deception, because I feel like it allows for forgiveness and possibly a way foreward more easily than dishonesty does. And I do think it’s accurate.

    I do agree that ideology, especially when one is very certain or absolute in belief of it, drives the delusion, be it climate change delusion, delusions about the necessity to suppress free speech or academic freedom in the USSR, or whatever.

  3. 553
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Utahn,
    The difference between deluded and dishonest is that one who is deluded lies to oneself as well as others. I do not buy that this makes them appreciably more honest–particularly when the cure for their delusion is readily available and their rationalization for not partaking of it is political or ideological.

  4. 554
    dbostrom says:

    SA on MichaelW: As far as I can tell, you are here to repeat bogus denialist talking points (which you call “ideas”), aggressively ignore information that shows them to be wrong, and insult and denigrate other commenters who have patiently and politely tried to help you “learn”.

    Not picking on MichaelW personally but rather considering him as an archetype, a matter of interest is the anachronistic and stale nature of his remarks. Michael’s thoughts and opinions are generally redundant with those being expressed here by self-avowed skeptics many years ago. Despite the state of our understanding of climate moving forward, few if any of those choosing to disagree with this research ever seem to have anything new to offer.

    By itself this is an interesting phenomenon to think about (and less boring and frustrating) if we leave aside the subject of dispute and instead consider just the odd nature of these attempts at communication. We hear stale arguments being rebutted with ever more fresh and useful information only for those tired misunderstandings to be repeated yet again, as though nothing had changed. It’s as if the conversation were taking place across a gulf of time, with one end static, frozen and dead and the other alive and moving steadily into the future.

    “Can you hear me now?” “No, not as well as I could a year ago.”

    It’s actually quite a bizarrely fascinating situation, like talking to a corpse, or to a whole population with serious derangement of the hippocampus.

    Presumably this frozen moment of time quality is down to the extreme disconnect between steady scientific progress as exemplified by climate research versus fundamentally primitive and dogmatic talking points adopted long ago by contrarians, which by their nature are impossible to update. Denying a slew of established physical principle in a selective way to apply only to certain outcomes is arbitrary in a way that is not friendly to improvements.

  5. 555
    Richard Simons says:

    Michael W @497:

    despite the problems of ‘dropping soil moisture content, fire, drought, food, and other factors’ during the time the earth has warmed in the last half century, crop yields have increased. Why do you assume the reasons we overcome these negative factors won’t continue into the future?

    There are several reasons for the increase in crop yields since the 1950s. One is the vast increase in the use of fertilizers. It is unlikely that there will be much additional increase in yields from this source, especially given the rising cost of oil. BTW, the much-touted use of genetic engineering to enable wheat, for example, to fix nitrogen ignores the fact that fixing N requires a lot of energy that would otherwise go into producing grain (IIRC, about 30%).
    Pesticide use also increased from virtually zero, but many pests are developing resistance and it’s questionable how much scope there is for further increases.
    Irrigation has also increased, but many water sources are already over-taxed even before considering the effect of shifts in climate zones.
    The plant breeding that resulted in the Green Revolution was essentially a once-only event. There was little or no change in total plant productivity, but a shift from about 40% grain, 60% stem, leaf, etc to about 60% grain, 40% the rest. In part, the shorter stature allowed heavier heads of grain to be carried without the plants falling over with massive fertilizer applications. However, it relied on good (usually chemical) weed control as the plants are less competitive against weeds.
    AFAIK, there are no similar technologies on the horizon that could provide an equivalent boost to yields. On the other hand, heat stress causing poor pollination, and hence fewer grains, and early senescence in crops such as corn, rice and wheat has been reported and is likely to become worse. There is also the polewards shift of climate zones (reflected in the recent USDA update of plant hardiness zones) into areas that have neither the soils nor the infrastructure for crop growing.

    Michael W @506

    I am going to cast my ballot in November for someone with global warming action at the bottom of their priority list. I will be mislabeled anti-science and anti-environment not because I am, but because of peoples intolerance of differing viewpoints.

    The crucial point is not that people have a different viewpoint, but that they are unable to justify it and maintain it in the face of the evidence.

  6. 556
    flxible says:

    dbostrom – I believe your observations relate to the “joys” of the internet – the recurrent iterations of stale contrarian talking points here have to be seen as the slow uptake by individuals previously oblivious to the real science, having been “finally” goaded by continuous media mentions to think a bit – there are only a few [obvious but unnamed] here that have stubbornly persisted in hand waving for extended periods, most are just drive bys that clutter the threads for a few days and disappear, they may have learned something?
    CAPTCHA: reduce irate :)

  7. 557
    Utahn says:

    Ray, “I do not buy that this makes them appreciably more honest…”
    I think you’re right objectively speaking, they’re not being honest with themselves, so it’s still dishonesty.

    But if I think of someone as “deluded” I want to help them, if i think of them as “dishonest”, I get angry with them. Probably because when I call someone dishonest, I’m thinking they are deliberately, connivingly trying to pull the wool over my eyes. I think that does occur, but much more rarely than delusion.

  8. 558
    Craig Nazor says:

    Here is an interesting take on what I believe is the significant point of the Heartland exposé:

    http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/23/behind-the-controversy-an-effort-to-rewrite-curriculum-on-climate-change/

    Being a teacher, I have woked very hard to try and make sure that what I teach students is both relevant and truthful. Any organization which works against these goals, something that Heartland is clearly doing, is incredibly offensive to me. I am glad to know about it, who is funding it, and to what extent they are able to get away with it.

    Peter Gleick may well have hurt his standing as a scientist. But there is another battle going on that must be won, also, if we are to avoid calamity, and a part of that battle hinges on good teaching. In the end, the second battle may prove itself to be more determinant of the future of this planet than the first.

  9. 559
    Michael W says:

    #534, 535 Kevin thanks for the comments I agree that it’s a quality document put together by competent people, I just don’t know how useful it is.

    What are your thoughts on the section on ocean acidification? They state there is a medium confidence on the negative aspects. Do you think they are being reticent of a clear and present danger? It almost looks like a new and developing area of research.

  10. 560
    Michael W says:

    #555 Richard, I think you’re missing a big part of your analysis: you could say a big part of the increased agricultural productivity is due to automation. Considering much of worldwide agriculture uses minimal amount of technology, I would say we have a lot of area for expansion.

    As to your last point, these are complex and nuanced problems we’re talking about. There are countless ways to use the data, and countless perspectives and approaches. The claim that there is only one correct viewpoint is false.

  11. 561
    Michael W says:

    #525, 542 Ray, the SPM is one sided because it looks at all of these crises from a climate mitigation/adaptation point of view. Which is fine – it’s useful. But read through them and tell me why most of them are not better viewed from a resource management perspective. Over the last century we have had to deal with resource scarcity, agricultural booms and busts, droughts, floods, dust bowls, wildlife management issues, etc. These are not new problems, and we know how to deal with them. And up to this point none of the solutions have been climate mitigation.

    I agree with you the reality of 10 billion people scares the pants off of me. But back in the mid 70′s when I was born, I would have been just as scared to know we would go from 4 to 7 billion in my lifetime (assuming I was a very world conscious baby of course). There are reasons to think we will cope.

  12. 562
    Richard Simons says:

    Michael W @ 560

    Richard, I think you’re missing a big part of your analysis: you could say a big part of the increased agricultural productivity is due to automation.

    It’s probably not as great as you think. Automation tends to be associated with extensive agriculture and reduced input of human labour, but I am far from convinced that it contributes much to increased yields per unit area of land. Can you give a documented example? The more productive systems of agriculture use intercropping that is difficult to automate. In a system in which, for example, corn is intercropped with watermelons (harvested before the corn) and the weeds are harvested for ‘spinach’, how would you implement automation and increase yields?

    There are countless ways to use the data, and countless perspectives and approaches.

    This is the same argument used by creationists when the evidence does not support them. Can you give even one example of data that can be used to support two contrasting perspectives, unless by ignoring relevant information? By ‘ignoring relevant information’, I include claims such as a glacier increasing in length providing evidence for colder conditions, while ignoring the increased snowfall that has resulted from warmer, moister air.

  13. 563
    SecularAnimist says:

    Michael W wrote: “These are not new problems, and we know how to deal with them.”

    Given that the “old problems” you list continue to cause large-scale human suffering, and in many cases continue to worsen, it is far from evident that we “know how to deal with them” — except by suffering the consequences.

    Anthropogenic global warming and consequent climate change IS a new problem, and in terms of adaptation, we do NOT know how to deal with it. (In terms of mitigation, we do, of course, know how to deal with it — easily, and at low cost, with numerous positive “side effects” for human well-being.)

    Your argument is that global warming is not a problem that we need to deal with, so our inability to adapt to it is not a problem.

    In support of this assertion, you offer repetitions of the assertion, and a complete absence of substantive response to the several commenters who have patiently explained to you why you are wrong.

  14. 564
    Michael W says:

    #562 Richard, here’s a quick example of the type of automation I’m referring to:
    http://www.igovernment.in/site/india-needs-farm-automation-pep-yield-38496
    It also looks like India has a lot of agriculture losses from poor infrastructure and lack of organized retail. Regardless, at least in India’s case, it’s not hard to see room for improvement, automation-wise, or otherwise. But I think we’re getting too far down the rabbit hole with this topic.

    “give even one example of data that can be used to support two contrasting perspectives, unless by ignoring relevant information?”
    We have data that the climate is warming, and we play a role. I think the following can both be responsible positions:

    1. Urgent action is needed. Continue pressure to limit emissions worldwide to a predefined limit (say 450ppm). But within guidelines that protect economies.

    2. More aggressive action is needed. Shut down all coal plants ASAP, switch utilities over to renewables, convert to EV’s and rail, drastically reduce air travel. Economic sacrifice is warranted.

    I can think of countless positions depending what importance you place on climate change. Regardless of what the data is, can we agree that our personal values determine our perspective?

  15. 565
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Michael W.: “Over the last century we have had to deal with resource scarcity, agricultural booms and busts, droughts, floods, dust bowls, wildlife management issues, etc.”

    Certainly, but NOT ON A GLOBAL SCALE. The key to dealing with crop failures has been the ability to transport in food from elsewhere or to accommodate refugees. What we are seeing with climate change is decreased productivity in precisely those lands we have most counted on for agricultural surplus. On the US Great Plains, for instance, agricultural productivity has been maintained by massive application of petrochemical fertilizers and water from the Ogalala aquifer. These are both finite resources that are running out (and in the case of an aquifer, once dry, it will never flow again). The same is happening in the Punjab.

    Resource management assumes one has resources to manage and ability and leisure to transport them. That is precisely what climate change threatens. Michael, the IPCC draws on a wide range of expertise. They will not reject a good idea for mitigation or adaptation if it comes their way. Such ideas are scarce when dealing with such a global degradation. Even Bjorn Lomborg now says we need to address these threats.

  16. 566
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Utahn,
    Or as Napoleon said, “Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity.”

    The thing is that stupidity can explain anything–which means it really explains nothing. What we need to understand is the reason behind the stupidity.

  17. 567
    Michael W says:

    #563 SA, your comments tend to be a bit abrasive, and I tend to pass over your them. Just so you know I can’t prove to you my ideas aren’t just a list of talking points.

    “Your argument is that global warming is not a problem that we need to deal with, so our inability to adapt to it is not a problem.”

    I don’t have the info to make the argument that “a warmer planet with more co2 is not preferable” because all I have is a pessimistic list of alarmist what-ifs. The climate situation may in fact be dire, but until I can do an honest analysis that includes the positives, I can’t make this argument to myself or other people. Did you know about the study by Liu Liu & Liu?

  18. 568
    deconvoluter says:

    #409

    A better metaphor …

    Not entirely. The accounting involved with the carbon cycle is similar to the standard situation in transport theory. In the latter case, thermodynamic equilibrium consists of a huge but balanced two way flow of particles and or energy, in the former you can still have a medium term steady state in the reservoirs. The dynamics are caused by a relatively small imbalance leading to a net flow and a change with time in the reservoirs.

    Heartland were apparently encouraging Wojick to tell the children about one of the large flows, while pretending that it is not cancelled by the equal and opposite one. If that happened in the real world there would be a catastrophic imbalance involving a huge rise in atmospheric CO2 brought to an end by the complete depletion of the carbon stores in the ground.

    Re #413.

    It would be interesting if Heartland claimed that the document from which I quoted is yet another fake. Would they use the opportunity to renounce the use of such accountancy tricks?

  19. 569
    RichardC says:

    550 SA talked about incorporating renewables into the grid.

    Actually, you said, “So it is “technically feasible” for wind and solar to reduce carbon emissions from electricity generation by 25% to 45% in five years — without “extensive additional infrastructure”. That’s huge.

    I would add that distributed, end-user solar photovoltaics can have an even greater impact than this type of analysis suggests. Why? Because there is no need for the utility to “integrate” them, as there is with utility scale solar. As far as the utility is concerned, distributed solar simply looks like a reduction in peak demand.”

    I did NOT contend that 25% renewables could not be incorporated in 5 years. That’s a mere 5% more than the 20% do-nothing estimate that has been around. The “to 45%” I disagree with, but let’s just talk about your lesser claim. Your comment was that we could actually build it, not that such a percentage could be integrated. You said the 25-45% was TOO LOW since distributed solar “magically” doesn’t affect grid stability. Go ahead, tell us how distributed solar is in any way different than industrial solar with regards to grid integration. I’m waiting.

    Now, if you’re actually saying that the 20% potential integration is a wee bit low for the current grid but actually doing it is impossible in five years, then sure, you’ve added nothing and your comment confused the issue (and insulted me for no reason), but OK. Next time, you should say that we could do 25% instead of 20% in five years, yet even that is impossible due to other factors.

    So really, what was your point, other than to say that something that is impossible is possible except for reality?

  20. 570
    Utahn says:

    Ray, I agree. The reason behind the delusion is usually being wedded to an ideology, fixing that no picnic.

  21. 571
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Michael W., you seem to presume that no one has ever thought of just “looking on the bright side” of climate change. Don’t you think that if there were significant advantages, somebody would have published them–or at the very least, placed themselves to profit from them? Do you really think that the ability to get a PhD is anti-correlated to optimism?

    Consider: All of the infrastructure of human civilization dates from the last 8000 years–the Holocene climate optimum, a period of abnormal climatic stability. It is adapted to–indeed, often entirely dependent–on that environment. Introducing rapid, chaotic change is most likely to adversely affect such highly adapted infrastructure. THAT is why the assessments of effects are predominantly negative. You may as well tell us to look on the bright side of Ebola virus.

  22. 572
    Lotharsson says:

    Michael W., this page has listed some (and been open to suggestions of more) peer-reviewed positive (and negative) impacts of global warming for the last two years.

  23. 573
    Lotharsson says:

    (reCAPTCHA problems – may be duplicate comment.)

    Michael W., this page has listed some (and been open to suggestions of more) peer-reviewed positive (and negative) impacts of global warming for the last two years.

  24. 574
    David Miller says:

    Mike W says:

    I don’t have the info to make the argument that “a warmer planet with more co2 is not preferable” because all I have is a pessimistic list of alarmist what-ifs. The climate situation may in fact be dire, but until I can do an honest analysis that includes the positives, I can’t make this argument to myself or other people.

    So you sum up every peer reviewed study you’ve been referred to in this thread as, and I quote “a pessimistic list of alarmist what-ifs”. You then proceed to say that you need to know all the so-called ‘positives’ before you can make an honest analysis.

    So, Mike, where are the positives? Point us to some peer-reviewed studies that haven’t been completely refuted by other scientists.

    Now, you may choose not to ever spend time looking for those, and that’s your perogative. Expecting the rest of us to wear the same blinders is, shall we say, unrealistic. And telling the people here who *have* studied it that they’re wrong – when you haven’t studied it yourself yet, is arrogant, insulting, and childish.

    Did you know about the study by Liu Liu & Liu?

    No, do tell. See, if you want people to take you seriously you need to provide some links – as so many others have to you in this thread. Maybe “the study by liu liu & liu’ would be enough for google to find unambiguously. I’m not going to waste my time looking for something that generic.

  25. 575
    Brian Dodge says:

    “during the time the earth has warmed in the last half century, crop yields have increased. Why do you assume the reasons we overcome these negative factors won’t continue into the future?” Michael W — 23 Feb 2012 @ 1:51 PM

    “Yet, if we look at the growth of irrigation in another way – as total area per thousand people on the earth – irrigated land leveled off sharply beginning in about 1962 and has even begun declining in recent years. World population keeps increasing at a frightening rate. Most of the major rivers that can be dammed have been dammed. So much water from rivers is being diverted that rivers like the Colorado, the Ganges, the Indus, the Nile and the Yellow and Fen rivers in China are running dry. Lakes are shrinking, like the Owens in California, the Galilee and Dead Sea in the Middle East, the Aral in Kazakhstan and Lake Chad in Aftrica. Underground water tables are dropping and irrigation pumps are being turned off in the U.S., Mexico, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Israel, India and China. ” http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe50s/water_02.html

    Maybe Balazs would like to comment on whether he thinks, as an expert hydrologist, that continuing increases over the current ~60% irrigated cereals with concomitant yield increases is likely?

    In August 2001 International Food Policy Research Institute looked forward to 2020, and projected these prices – but the actual prices paint a less optimistic future.
    Crop……1997……proj 2020……observed Dec 2011
    (US$/metric ton)
    Wheat……133……..123……………..268
    Maize……103…….102……………..278
    Rice…….285…….250……………..580

    GLOBAL FOOD PROJECTIONS TO 2020 EMERGING TRENDS AND ALTERNATIVE FUTURES http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/books/gfp/gfp.pdf

    Kevin McKinney — 23 Feb 2012 @ 11:31 PM quoting AR4 – “Finally, the TAR concluded that the economic, trade and technological assumptions used in many of the integrated assessment models to project food security under climate change were poorly tested against observed data.” Naaaiiiiled it!

  26. 576
    Balazs says:

    I can’t count the number of comments regarding the 25-45% renewable energy that could be installed in the next five or more years. I think, these are misleading calculations. The solution to climate change (that I don’t dispute as a serious problem, but I don’t necessary see it as the most urgent) is completely phasing out fossil fuels, therefore the question is not whether we can replace a tiny or not so tiny fraction of our current fossil usage, but if we can replace all. Going from minuscule to tiny (in other words raising the renewable’s contribution form a few percent to 10 or more is trivial, going all the way to the 100% is challenging. When I do the calculations, as I demonstrated in my earlier posts, renewables just fall short by all means if our goal is to allow civilized life not only for the developed few but the poor majority.

    I actually calculated and published paper on hydropower potential, which was overestimated in the past. All previous estimates (some of them published in Nature) estimated a total of 7-10TW potential hydropower capacity globally. This calculation is fairly easy to make and it was surprising for me that nobody did it before. Evidently, the potential hydropower is equal to the potential energy of the runoff, which could be calculated easily if one calculates the product of the global continental freshwater fluxes to oceans (~40 000km3/yr), the runoff weighted average elevation (275), density of water and gravitational acceleration. The end result is about 3TW. The disagreement with previous estimates probably comes from the likely simplification that previous estimates applied by taking the average elevation (which is about 550m) instead of the runoff weighted elevation.

    I intend to make similar calculation hopefully in the not too distant future about the potential hydro-storage capacity (either for some region or for the whole globe) that could balance the intermittency of the renewable power generation. I am not sure, if there will be enough potential sites to allow complete balancing between energy demand and availability. By all means, what I see is that renewables at scale that is needed are not pretty. Somebody argued in earlier post for decentralized PV installation. As I pointed out before James Hansen already did that and burned over $150K on his and his daughter’s house with disappointing results. I tried my own experiment at a much smaller scale, by installing a 9 sq.ft solar panel to run a garden fountain. So far, this experiment failed at the coast of $200 and I could not make this thing run water fountain in a little garden pond for more than five minutes. Recent PNAS paper assessed the hurricane damage to off shore wind turbines if they were built along the east coast. I did not fully digest the paper, but the claim was that all of them would be hit by hurricane at some time in the next 50 years.

    I am all for actions to combat climate change that are realistic. I would support full heartedly an open letter to presidential candidates to urge them to promote nuclear energy, which seems to be the only viable solution and educate people that they have a choice of either adopting life style of the Pennsylvania Amishes or accept the risks of nuclear power (that are similar with respect to alternative energy sources to the risk of flying commercial airlines vs. driving).

  27. 577

    #559–Michael, I’m flattered that you think I’m worth asking about ocean acidification; I do the best I can to get as much of this straight as possible.

    But my doctorate is in music–composition, to be precise. I’m a smart guy, I take trouble, and I know something about how scholarship in general is supposed to work–professional literature, peer review, yadda yadda. But my background is grossly deficient, particularly compared with the ‘competent people’ who put together the SPM. So it’s really strange to be asked to critique it. As Hank likes to say, “I’m just a guy on a blog.”

    Perhaps I can give a reaction, however, as I did for the general case. So–

    There’s just a sentence in the SPM, so referring to the AR, I find this:

    Surface ocean pH has decreased by 0.1 unit due to absorption of anthropogenic CO2 emissions (equivalent to a 30% increase in hydrogen ion concentration) and is predicted to decrease by up to a further 0.3-0.4 units by 2100 (Caldeira and Wickett, 2003). This may impact a wide range of organisms and ecosystems (e.g., coral reefs, Box 4.4, reviewed by Raven et al., 2005), including juvenile planktonic, as well as adult, forms of benthic calcifying organisms (e.g., echinoderms, gastropods and shellfish), and will affect their recruitment (reviewed by Turley et al., 2006). Polar and sub-polar surface waters and the Southern Ocean will be aragonite under-saturated by 2100 (Orr et al., 2005) and Arctic waters will be similarly threatened (Haugan et al., 2006). Organisms using aragonite to make their shells (e.g., pteropods) will be at risk and this will threaten ecosystems such as the Southern and Arctic Oceans in which they play a dominant role in the food web and carbon cycling (Orr et al., 2005; Haugan et al., 2006).

    To me, that seems straightforward. The implications are alarming, but the language is “flat.” I have no idea, speaking first-hand, whether those facts are correct, but they are consistent with results I’ve read elsewhere; I have no reason to doubt them. I don’t feel that the authors are either ‘ducking’ (was that your word?) the dangers, nor overstressing them. It’s just a bald statement of probably consequences.

    Past reading makes me feel that the ocean acidification issue is relatively new science. I could (and should–but it’s late!) check that by reviewing the publication data of the supporting papers in the chapter bibliography. But, FWIW, this guy on a blog expects we will see much more research on the acidification question. For example, there was a paper fairly recently about getting a much more precise ‘map’ of the pH levels, which can differ quite a bit. That paper, and others no doubt, will likely make an appearance in the forthcoming AR5. It’ll be interesting to compare, to be sure. Maybe alarming, too–but we’ll see.

  28. 578

    #575–Brian, did you correct the dollar amounts for inflation? I’m hoping not, because it wouldn’t be quite so discouraging then… $133 in 1997 dollars is roughly $180 in 2010 dollars, so if no correction has been applied already, the picture’s about a third ‘less bad’ than would first appear.

    Of course, when the sign of the projection is wrong, the magnitude of the projection can only offer so much consolation–that is to say, not much at all.

  29. 579
    Balazs says:

    575: Maybe Balazs would like to comment on whether he thinks, as an expert hydrologist, that continuing increases over the current ~60% irrigated cereals with concomitant yield increases is likely?

    I don’t have much to comment besides that these are exactly my reasons for objecting biofuels. The limited amount of arable lands are too prestigious to grow energy crops. There are talks about the next generation cellulosic biofuels, which could be produced from lower quality biomasses. While that sounds great at first glance, but those lower quality biomasses are the last refuges that we left more or less intact for natural ecosystems.

    Considering that the United States already burns 40-50% of the corn as biofuel and the fact the half the food produced are thrown out, I would argue that we can grow enough food to feed the world’s population. I was raised to regard throwing out food as a sin. While population went through a rapid growth in the last hundred years (doubling roughly every 40 years) the rapid growth has stopped about the time Paul Ehrlich published his famous “Population Time Bomb”.

    It is indeed an irony that the first sign of sub-reproduction fertility rate (less then two child per woman) was first reported exactly at the same time in Sweden, when Paul Ehrlich published his book. Demographers did not want to believe their eyes and assumed that this is only a hiccup due to life style changes longer time to complete education, improved family planning, etc. It wasn’t. Instead, other developed nations followed (Germany at 1.6, Italy at 1.4 child per woman). Developed nations are facing the problem of declining and aging population.

    The latest UN population projections for 2050 is 9billion and 10billion for 2100. Only 18% of the population maintains high fertility rates (3+ children per woman) and the two child is the norm even in developing countries. Everybody on this list should watch Hans Rosling on http://www.ted.com, who was one of the panel member at the AAAS conference in Vancouver, Canada that I referred before. Incidentally, that 18% is the remaining poorest part of the population.

    I think, I said this before in my earlier posts, that wealth appears to be an efficient contraceptive, or to put it more bluntly, man with remote control make fewer babies. I tend to believe that we are lucky that the world did not listen to scientists in the last twenty years and the developing world chose economic growth, which elevated billions out of poverty. It also allowed the steady reduction of their fertility rate, which does not have immediate impact because population is still growing fast primarily due to continued increase in life expectancy, but ultimately people will start to die and the population will level out. The rapid growth allowed a leveling at 10billion (according to the latest estimates) as opposed to 12-14billion that was predicted in the past, that is significantly fewer people to feed down the road. I realize that I would be naive to say that the renewable subsidies would have been better spent to expedite the economic growth of the poor, so the population would have peaked at 8-9billion.

    The developing world seems to be on the right path in a number of ways. Many countries with significantly lower GDP or energy use than the US achieved comparable life expectancy and child mortality to countries in the developed world. They seem to follow a much more dampened environmental Kuznets curve (roughly speaking environmental pressures increase until nations reach certain level of GDP, when they can start to afford to invest in preventing environmental degradation). In other words, they do less damage before they start to care about their environment.

  30. 580
    dbostrom says:

    Upthread: Peter Gleick may well have hurt his standing as a scientist.

    Some part of Dr. Gleick’s conscience appears to have summed up a risk assessment of the grand multi-body problem of colliding facts, ideology, policy and animal appetites we’re now facing and concluded that despite other compunctions the time has passed to play like a perfect gentleman. Faced by dirty fighters who are neither inclined nor compelled to fight according to Marquis of Queensbury rules, what are we to do, after all?

    Any given person’s anxiety will eventually succumb to their apprehension of growing risk willfully imposed by others. Individual responses will vary; some will head for the hills like cowards, some will fight against that risk by various ways and means frequently chosen by the opposition itself.

    Dr. Gleick’s highly informed perceptions of the specific risk we’re facing from climate change makes his transition from calm discussant into a more active role quite notable. We’ve had it repeatedly explained to us in painful detail that our behavior with regard to carbon dioxide emissions will certainly impose a cost measured in acute human misery along the full spectrum from death through to impoverishment. We can’t see into Gleick’s mind, but it seems as though fear for the future overrode his inhibitions against fighting, even as the option of flight proved lacking.

    Despite what we know of the risky behaviors being actively and perniciously promoted by such as the Heartland Institute, we hear from numerous and otherwise unlikely quarters gasping complaints that Dr. Gleick has somehow transgressed beyond the pale, has suffered a serious lapse of comportment. Indeed, only today the Washington Post described professional ethicists experiencing the vapors and decrying Gleick’s actions, even as they’re oddly silent on the far worse costs being imposed on us all by the Heartland Institute and its ilk. Meanwhile others with much more practical involvement in the disputes arising from being forced to live on the planet with greedy liars are also finding their apparently dainty feelings offended by Gleick’s action; many in the scientific community are being quite quick to tut-tut Gleick, faster even than they are at thinking. The lopsided viewpoints on display here are simply flabbergasting. Where are the squeals of outrage against the continuous, steady stream of lying fossil fuel lobbyists slithering between the Senate and the House and molding scientific funding and public policy into fiction purely for personal gain? Which ethicists have gone on record condemning AEI’s perversion of truth and the law in pursuing climate scientists via spurious litigation?

    Presumably we’re supposed to understand that Gleick’s scientific work is somehow going to suffer from faulty compartmentalization, that his willingness to use trickery in exposing Heartland’s heartless activities infects his work. Does it? How about Richard Feynman, then? Feynman was celebrated for his prowess with cracking safes, but in point of fact a little deception was involved in that work. Here is gratuitous untruth employed by a scientist with a stellar career, deception practiced only for the purpose of mystifying and impressing an audience; is Feynman’s reputation and more importantly his body of professional work sullied because he was sometimes economical with the truth in his private life?

    So what of the moral and ethical calculus needed to transgress boundaries of acceptable behavior, the hubris of concluding that rules cannot apply in certain situations? Again, let’s look to Feynman, who performed his safecracking feats while busily working on a weapon of mass destruction he was certainly intelligent enough to understand would not confine its horrific effects to willing combatants. Feynman performed some equations in his head that lead him to believe this behavior to be acceptable even as his compunctions told him he was doing wrong. In Gleick’s case, his action seems to be directed to an outcome arguably at least as positive as that which caused Feynman to ignore certain signals from his own conscience; is Feynman morally and ethically the better or the inferior compared to Gleick?

    I frankly don’t understand why Gleick is being pilloried for following to its logical and arguably ethical conclusion his full understanding of both the risks we’re facing and the asymmetric nature of the struggle for and against CO2 mitigation. The world of facts tells us that a huge toll of human suffering is virtually certain without forceful mitigation action even as the same facts say that the opposition to dealing with this problem is perfectly okay employing lies and deceit in pursuit of their objective. Yet despite this we’re supposed to get our shorts in a twist over Gleick’s minor trickery in shedding some light on the Heartland Institute? Come again?

    It would be ever so nice if “thinktanks” such as Heartland were compelled to tell the truth, if they were made to be more transparent, if many trillions of dollars per year had not been found to have a vast, previously hidden cost, if the people controlling that money were reasonable, if the world were much more perfect. It’s not a perfect world; the fossil fuels revenue at stake here has thoroughly corrupted the people in charge of it and attempts to reason with them or treat them with the same ethical and moral compunction we apply to nuns and orphans is about as effective as suggesting another meal to a hungry crocodile staring you in the eye. Pretending and behaving otherwise is simply to be a meal. Run or fight, but don’t imagine that playing nice is going to work.

  31. 581
    Edward Greisch says:

    558 Craig Nazor: Thank you.

    564 Michael W: Personal values: I value the lives of my descendants.

  32. 582
    Rayg says:

    I took my lead on this issue from this very website. Anything less than 50 years and you are looking at weather patterns NOT climate change. The short term thinking and vested interests of those with power, and those with hidden agendas, point to the weather patterns and say “this is your evidence?” Because of democracy, freedom of speech, and a change in government every 5 years, there can be no long-term planning. By long term I mean several generations. That will take a big paradigm shift for something like the United Nations to take a “world” lead on behalf of the all nations who will be impacted if nothing is done.

  33. 583
    SecularAnimist says:

    RichardC wrote:

    “… let’s just talk about your lesser claim … Your comment was … You said … if you’re actually saying … your comment confused the issue … you should say that … what was your point, other than to say that something that is impossible is possible except for reality?”

    With all due respect, you are going on and on and on about “MY” claims, and what “I” said — and you are ignoring the fact that everything that “I” wrote was a direct quote from a National Renewable Energy Laboratory study, which your replies have conspicuously failed to acknowledge. None of it was “MY” claims.

    I have linked to that study repeatedly. I encourage you to read it. If you then wish to make a case that the NREL’s analysis of the potential for reducing GHG emissions by integrating more wind and solar into grid over five years is out of touch with “reality” and “impossible”, please do so.

  34. 584
    SecularAnimist says:

    RichardC wrote: “tell us how distributed solar is in any way different than industrial solar with regards to grid integration”

    Because in the distributed applications that I am referring to, the solar-generated electricity is used on-site, and never enters the grid, so there is no need to “integrate” it.

    As far as the grid is concerned, it’s simply a reduction in demand. And moreover, it’s a reduction in demand that is very predictable, and that generally occurs during times of peak demand (e.g. hot sunny days when air conditioning use is high).

  35. 585
    Hank Roberts says:

    free speech; academic freedom; advocacy science; freedom of the press.

    Free speech may be lies and deception — no problem, it’s protected (US law), including very loud speech by corporations drowning out meat people.

    Academic speech can be free but if deceptive, or even if left uncorrected once evidence is available, problems arise.

    Advocacy science can be deceptive, and can be left uncorrected despite the availability of evidence, it’s high paying work, nobody does it for free.

    The press is free to print, and to dig for, whatever it can discover.

    These are not all the same thing.

    It’s which hat you’re wearing that determines the rules you’re playing under.

    Now — can Glieck claim the privileges of a journalist?
    Can Heartland claim Glieck is an advocacy scientist?
    Can Heartland claim free speech so they can make up anything they like, and no fault no foul?

  36. 586
    Hank Roberts says:

    Oho. Payola is the word for it, in journalism:

    “… he conceded that he had in fact received an honorarium of $1,000 from the Heartland Institute, and that it had also paid his airfare and hotel bill.

    So why did he not declare these interests when he wrote his glowing article about the Heartland Institute’s conference?

    He replied: “How the hell can you accuse me of having undisclosed interests when I haven’t hidden a thing?”

    I pointed out that Private Eye takes a rather different attitude.

    “I don’t believe that you’re writing this,” he replied. “The amount of money was so unimportant. It all vanished in a week. Like many other people in this world, I am under no obligation to declare an interest when it is not strictly relevant to the matter in hand.”

    “But this was strictly relevant to the matter in hand,” I said.

    At this point, with characteristic understatement, he started comparing me to the Gestapo and the Stasi. Perhaps he now sees the magazine he founded in the same light.

    But this is not quite the end of the matter. …”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2012/feb/24/christopher-booker-heartland-climate

  37. 587
    Richard Simons says:

    Michael W @564

    here’s a quick example of the type of automation I’m referring to:
    http://www.igovernment.in/site/india-needs-farm-automation-pep-yield-38496
    It also looks like India has a lot of agriculture losses from poor infrastructure and lack of organized retail. Regardless, at least in India’s case, it’s not hard to see room for improvement, automation-wise, or otherwise.

    The link was to a puff piece that made no specific mention of just how automation could increase yields. If it’s not hard to see how automation could improve yields, please give a specific example (yes, I know minor improvements are possible, but you have been implying improvements on the scale of those during the second half of the last century).

    I can think of countless positions depending what importance you place on climate change.

    Ah! So you are referring to the possible responses to a critical situation. I thought you were arguing that, depending on how you viewed the situation, the situation could seem trivial.

    Michael W @567

    The climate situation may in fact be dire, but until I can do an honest analysis that includes the positives, I can’t make this argument to myself or other people.

    Why do you assume there is a vast array of positive effects that people here are keeping secret?

  38. 588
    dbostrom says:

    I tried my own experiment at a much smaller scale, by installing a 9 sq.ft solar panel to run a garden fountain. So far, this experiment failed at the coast of $200 and I could not make this thing run water fountain in a little garden pond for more than five minutes.

    The technical term for the failure is “embarrassing localized incompetence.” “Couldn’t run for more than 5 minutes” reveals you had no clue about sizing the various components of your system, didn’t really think out your objectives. The funny part of the experiment is your conclusion that your own ignorance is descriptive of the rest of the world.

    Crusty, pragmatic ranchers and farmers have long been using PV pumps to raise water for stock. Maybe you should look at some ag journals for help and then have another stab at it?

  39. 589
    Phil Mattheis says:

    Ray Ladbury quoted Napoleon:
    [“Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity.” The thing is that stupidity can explain anything–which means it really explains nothing. What we need to understand is the reason behind the stupidity.]

    As a developmental pediatrician, I’m leery of guessing too quickly about cognitive ability when folks do or say things that seem … misguided. My preferred definition for ‘Stupidity’ is: “the trouble people make when they really do know better”. Motive is key, as in Ray’s “need to understand the reason behind the stupidity”.

    In this sense, malice may well be one of the reasons, along with self interest, self promotion, attention-seeking, intimidation, peer pressure, etc. People with mild brain injury, who may “know better”, often end up with a lot of trouble, usually through poor impulse control fed by peer pressure – but there may be less blame when physiology is part of the answer.

    The best application of the term here is for the folks who come prepped with contrarian talking points, and despite efforts to provide multiple sources of corrected information, choose to stick with their initial beliefs. Even there we can give some slack, if they go off to WUWT and leave us alone.
    But, there is that core few, who stay to lurk, waiting for chances to leap out with their same tired and discredited propaganda, who should not be surprised or offended to find their motives questioned, since they are so clearly choosing to be stupid.

  40. 590

    #589 Phil Mattheis

    Yes, it is hard to fathom the reason one would ignore information that is to ones benefit. Especially after repeated exposures to higher reason and stronger evidence. Thus the term denialist is applicable in such circumstance.

    [edit - less name calling please]

  41. 591
    John Mashey says:

    re: 585 Hank
    Heartland is accorded the privilege of tax-exempt operation and its donors the privilege of getting charity deductions … and there are rules. See Fake science, …, section 0.4 which quotes some of them, especially IRS-1E – IRS-4E.

  42. 592
    Hank Roberts says:

    > I took my lead on this issue from this very website.
    > Anything less than 50 years and you are looking at
    > weather patterns NOT climate change.

    Bzzzt! cite needed.
    What “this very website” info are you referring to?
    Where do you get “50 years”?
    Where do you get “weather patterns NOT climate”
    It’s not like there’s a simple change at 50 years for everything.

  43. 593
  44. 594
    Dan H. says:

    John, Ray, Kevin, and dhogaza,
    Since we all claim the APS statement supports our viewpoint on AGW, it is time to compare just what these viewpoints are. While I cannot say that the entire statements support my views, I agree with the following:
    “While there are factors driving the natural variability of climate (e.g., volcanoes, solar variability, oceanic oscillations), no known natural mechanisms have been proposed that explain all of the observed warming in the past century.” The key word in this sentence is ‘all.’ I have never claimed that ‘all’ the warming was natural, but that a significant portion was.
    “The uncertainty in the estimates from various climate models for doubling CO2-equivalent concentration is in the range of 1°C to 3°C.” Interestingly, when I present research showing climate sensitivity is in the middle of this range, I am labeled a ‘denier.’
    “it is increasingly difficult to rule out that non-negligible increases in global temperature are a consequence of rising anthropogenic CO2.” Not exactly a hearty endorsement, but I have no issues with this.
    “an enhanced effort is needed to understand both anthropogenic processes and the natural cycles that affect the Earth’s climate.” Most definitely! But why do so many claim that natural cycles are irrelevant or figments of someone’s imagination.
    “more extensive and more accurate scientific measurements are needed to test the validity of climate models to increase confidence in their projections.” Agreed! Especially since the climate models have predicted higher temperatures than observed.
    I ask you, do you agree?

  45. 595
    Michael W says:

    #587 Richard, let’s take rice as an example. According to Wikipedia, a lot of rice is harvested by hand and would benefit from mechanical harvesting (automation).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rice
    “In most Asian countries, where rice is almost entirely the product of smallholder agriculture, harvesting is carried out manually, although there is a growing interest in mechanical harvesting”

    According to the FAO,
    http://www.fao.org/docrep/T0522E/T0522E05.htm

    “…80 to 160 man-hours per hectare are calculated as the average time required for manual harvesting of rice.”

    vs

    “…work capacity of these machines…about 2.7-4.5 hours per hectare…”

    So at least speaking in terms of productivity there is definitely room for growth. This doesn’t necessarily convert directly to an increase total output, but I would put my money on more output as much of the worlds agriculture gets mechanized. This seams elementary, and not hard to imagine, and I would not like to spend any more time on this subject.

  46. 596
    Michael W says:

    #571 Ray, I would argue that the climate is not as stable as you portray. It is better characterized as chaotic, episodic, and nonlinear (eg Pete’s example at 551). Especially at the local and regional level. I imagine your next point would be that climate is more stable and on longer time frames, and at the global level. But in terms of stress to most ecosystems, the local and short term effects(maybe time frames of 2-10 years) matter more.

  47. 597
    Michael W says:

    #571 Ray,
    ” you seem to presume that no one has ever thought of just “looking on the bright side” of climate change. Don’t you think that if there were significant advantages, somebody would have published them–or at the very least, placed themselves to profit from them?”

    From what I see, there are actual studies that show positives. You just won’t get wind of them from people pushing for climate action.

  48. 598
    Richard Simons says:

    Michael: the example you gave was of increasing output per hour of labour. I have yet to see an example of automation that could make a non-trivial impact on yield per unit area in the third world. The one possible benefit I see is in ground preparation before planting. Remember, in most of these countries there is plenty of labour around, while automation leads to the transfer of wealth from areas of subsistence farming to industrialized and oil-producing areas. I see the idea that automation will result in a useful improvement in crop yields as being a widespread, well-promoted fallacy. Hoping there will be gains from automation seems a very tenuous reason for assuming that yields will continue to increase, especially when other factors (e.g. soil erosion, failing water supplies, increasing fuels and fertilizer costs) are also taken into account.

  49. 599
    Hank Roberts says:

    > chaotic, episodic, and nonlinear

    Citation unlikely.

    An ecology text will describe natural variation, from the paleo record on what lived where under what conditions over a very long time span, and how fast changes occur.

  50. 600
    Hank Roberts says:

    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/02/06/1116619109.short
    February 13, 2012
    doi: 10.1073/pnas.1116619109
    PNAS February 13, 2012

    Global climate evolution during the last deglaciation

    “… Here we summarize a major effort by the paleoclimate research community to characterize these changes through the development of well-dated, high-resolution records of the deep and intermediate ocean as well as surface climate. Our synthesis indicates that the superposition of two modes explains much of the variability in regional and global climate during the last deglaciation, with a strong association between the first mode and variations in greenhouse gases, and between the second mode and variations in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation. “


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