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Unforced variations: May 2012

Filed under: — group @ 1 May 2012

401 Responses to “Unforced variations: May 2012”

  1. 351
    dbostrom says:

    Heartland Institute on life support, asks for donations…

    Send canned food. We’ve got some extra beans here; Heartland is lacking in moral fiber so beans will be perfect.

  2. 352
    Radge Havers says:

    Hank @ 350

    DK and sleep deprivation. You can monitor your acuity somewhat, for instance, by working a daily puzzle during an early portion of your morning routine.

    Something else to consider, we sometimes loose a little mental flexibility as we get older and the arteries harden. Me, I’m at the point where I’m cranky with or without my nap. I’ve also discovered that commenting while drunk leads to predictably sorry results.

  3. 353

    Scott Denning has a fantastic piece at Yale CMF:

    It’s thought provoking for the climate concerned, to actually engage with skeptics.

    And it’s thought provoking for the political right, to actually propose solutions to the energy and climate challenge.

    The comments section is also well worth reading. Denning tries to reach the reachable middle of the Six Americas, while also appealing to -while at the same time challenging- the political right.

    He is merciless in distinghuishing science from politics.

    We need more people like him.

  4. 354
    SecularAnimist says:

    Bart Verheggen wrote: “And it’s thought provoking for the political right, to actually propose solutions to the energy and climate challenge.”

    The so-called “political right” has long since been bought out by the fossil fuel corporations, and as such has no interest in “solutions to the energy and climate challenge”, but only in advancing the narrow financial interests of the fossil fuel corporations at the expense of everyone else.

    Which pretty much requires denial that any “energy and climate challenge” exists.

    Which is why we see the utter absurdity of global warming denial and opposition to renewable energy being proclaimed as core “ideological” issues for the so-called “right”.

    The Heartland Institute’s so-called “libertarianism” is as bogus as its pseudo-scientific denialist malarkey.

  5. 355
    Susan Anderson says:

    Thanks for the Denning link @~353BartVerheggen – still reading. On the whole, I believe it’s time to face the music, but how to do so eludes us, doesn’t it?

    and dbostrom@~351: and providing lots of gas (giggle, should behave myself)

  6. 356
    J Bowers says:

    Bart — “He is merciless in distinghuishing science from politics.
    We need more people like him.”

    We sure do. Put your coffee down…

    State Legislature Gets Into Act

    So impressed with the ability of NC-20 to put an end to sea-level rise single-handedly, the North Carolina Senate decided to go one step further and legislate it away….

    [Response:I put my coffee down first as you suggested. Good thing too! Here’s some more text from that article:
    “In late April a revised version of a bill from the state House surfaced in the Senate that would enshrine NC-20’s view. This new bill would:
    *limit sea-level rise to historical rates circa 1900,
    *specify that sea-level rise may be extrapolated linearly to estimate future rates of rise, and
    *disallow consideration of scenarios with accelerated rates of sea-level rise.

  7. 357
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Bert, while I applaud Denning’s willingness to engage, I have to say that I don’t see the merit in awarding a “Good boy” to denialists who have deigned to accept the basic physics of the greenhouse effect while rejecting all of paleoclimatology, geology, and the rest of the evidence for anthropogenic climate change.

    Science either works or it doesn’t. If you accept a scientific conclusion valid with 90% confidence in physics, you cannot turn around and reject a conclusion validated with equal or greater confidence in geology or biology.

    Ultimately, the science has to be decided by the scientists–the ones who play the game. It is not sufficient to simply gish gallop from issue to issue, highlighting the uncertainties (which will always be there) while ignoring the explanatory and predictive power of the theory. You have to present a theory with equal or greater explanatory and predictive power.

    I agree with Denning that the place for debate is in the response to climate change, but the responses have to be based on a common stock of accepted science. Otherwise we will get nowhere.

  8. 358
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Science either works or it doesn’t

    but, Ray, we only know which in hindsight. Like evolutionary fitness, scientific ideas succeed to the extent they produce ‘grandchildren’
    (cited by later interesting work).

    Nobody’s smart enough to know it all.
    Any of us will cherish some wrong ideas we never tested since we learned them.

    This year — the scientists can either do science and focus on the work to be considered by the next IPCC, or engage actively with the denier crowd.

    The denier crowd lost their forum at Heartland by self-immolation.

    They want an audience and a forum.

    Wouldn’t this be a really _good_ time to take a break from drawing lines in and fighting over them?

    Think in a historical perspective.
    This is all old past history to our grandchildren.

    How does it look from that point of view?

    Who’s important? None of us.
    What’s important? What we do, and what they get.

  9. 359
    Hank Roberts says:

    Denning’s piece is pathbreaking work.
    Thanks Bart for the pointer.


    “… a lot of pleasant, decent people are predisposed to doubt the science. They’re not evil. They care deeply about their children’s and grand children’s’ futures, and genuinely want to do what’s right. These people are reachable, there are thousands of times more of them than there are climate scientists, and a lot of them vote. Not surprisingly, they often find unpersuasive an arrogant attitude that dismisses them as anti-intellectual fools.
    … “Scientists are necessary, but not sufficient to solve the climate problem.”

    Focus on this:
    “… an arrogant attitude that dismisses them …”

    That’s a diagnostic trait.

    Am I feeling arrogant?
    Am I surrounded by people who just don’t get it?
    Am I the smartest person in the room?

    Uh … oh … D-K buzzer just went off.

    –> Hardest damn thing to do <—
    is to pause at that point and wonder
    is it just possible I'm not entirely
    in the right here?

    Megalomania — it's fun while it lasts.
    But not for the people around us.

  10. 360
    Hank Roberts says:

    (Reminder — Denning is not Dunning; similar names, and in some ways similar points made about how we think and how our thinking isn’t reliably correct)


    Often missed — we’re all ignorant, outside our areas of expertise.
    At best we have habits that protect us from overconfidence, sometimes.

  11. 361
    dbostrom says:

    The emergence of HB819 into the NC Senate means that it’s not one of those quaint, amusing fizzles stillborn without emerging even from a committee. Rather, careful reading of the bill’s language suggests it’s a fully-funded creature of commercial interests, bought and paid for and presumably carrying a financial obligation to be passed.

    There’s some excellently crafted double-talk in HB819:

    (d) The General Assembly does not intend to mandate the development of sea-level rise policy or rates of sea-level rise. If, however, the Coastal Resources Commission decides to develop rates of sea-level rise, the Commission may do so, but only by instructing the Division of Coastal Management to calculate the rates.

    (e) The Division of Coastal Management shall be the only State agency authorized to develop rates of sea-level rise and shall do so only at the request of the Commission. These rates shall only be determined using historical data, and these data shall be limited to the time period following the year 1900. Rates of sea-level rise may be extrapolated linearly to estimate future rates of rise but shall not include scenarios of accelerated rates of sea-level rise.

    The GA doesn’t mandate the policy but does mandate that the policy shall be blind to reality. North Carolina citizens are having mud stuffed into their metaphorical eyes, are being willfully blinded for the benefit of developers.

    It’s sad that the outcome of this fiasco will hinge on a struggle between physics and truth versus romantic fiction sold to gullible NC lawmakers, as proxied in a fight between developers and the insurance industry. Assuming the bill goes through the NC Senate, NC citizens will end up paying indefinitely for the developer’s grab-and-go approach, as will federal taxpayers. More money is going to paid from somewhere for insurance fees and loss restoration but that won’t bother long-vanished carpetbaggers.

  12. 362
    Hank Roberts says:

    And D-K isn’t the last word, it’s an important paper because it has engendered many subsequent interesting publications. Don’t treat it as the one simple explanation for how people think (or don’t).
    turns up gems on the subject.
    Males appear more subject to the problem (gasp!)

    “Narcissism, not actual competence, predicts self-estimated ability”

    “Dunning, Kruger and their collaborators argued that the unskilled lack the metacognitive ability to realize their incompetence. We propose that the alleged unskilled-and-unaware problem – rather than being one of biased judgements – is a signal extraction problem that differs for the skilled and the unskilled. Specifically, the unskilled face a tougher inference problem than the skilled.”

    All this to point out it’s not simple.
    You can’t draw lines in the sand and fight over them.

    Denning’s right. Thoughtful presentation to individuals works.
    Confrontation fails. Namecalling fails. Impatience … fails.

    When you most want to fight — that’s the time to think instead.

  13. 363
    Susan Anderson says:

    On Denning, realized Yale subsequently posted the superb Margaret Thatcher (Un speech 1989) et al. mashup:

    as well as Abraham’s skilled piece, both of which update the issues:

    Denning’s link to Monckton severely diminished the usefulness of the argument; commenters decided to deprive it of oxygen – good idea.

  14. 364
    SecularAnimist says:

    Hank Roberts quoted: “… a lot of pleasant, decent people are predisposed to doubt the science. …”

    Which did not come about by accident.

    That “predisposition” is the direct result of a generation-long, massively funded, carefully crafted, well-coordinated, far-reaching campaign of deceit, denial, obfuscation, conspiracy-theorizing, and increasingly aggressive and hateful slandering of climate scientists — all designed precisely to turn “pleasant, decent people” into the (dare I say it) arrogant “anti-intellectual fools” who flood blog comment pages everywhere with the scripted denialist talking points that are spoon-fed to them.

  15. 365
    Hank Roberts says:

    Sea level rise is changing where the 3-mile and 200-mile limits fall, by exactly the same _horizontal_ amount, isn’t it?

    In for example North Carolina, with an almost flat coastal plain — and the Outer Banks marking the current national shoreline — losing the Outer Banks and having the tidal marshes become open ocean, way inland, is going to move the protected fishing and drilling area limit inland by quite a few miles.


  16. 366
    Hank Roberts says:

    SA, seriously, you’re right AND wrong about that.

    This ain’t new. This is human nature, up against the walls of our little island planet for the first time. Old problem, new constraint.

    Cassandra wasn’t cursed by
    the fossil fuel industry,
    or by capitalism,
    or by commie-nism,
    or by massively funded coordinated obfuscation conspir …

    …. excuse me, got to wipe the splatter off the screen here

    The problem isn’t someone else.
    The problem is _how_we_think_.
    We. People. Like us.
    It’s very hard to believe what’s not comfortable.
    It’s only recently we haven’t been able to pick up
    and move somewhere fresh and new when we ruined
    the place we lived for a few years or a few generations.

    Us. All of us.
    Each of us has some area we’re blind in.

    MOST of the people you have trouble convincing are good decent ordinary human beings, without a background in science, but with some common sense.

    Yes it gets buried — whether by a Greek god’s curse or PR and propaganda.

    Two bits from a wise man I keep handy for reference:

    I don’t consider myself a pessimist. I think of a pessimist as someone who is waiting for it to rain. And I feel soaked to the skin.


    “… this hero that you’re trying to maintain as the central figure in the drama of your life— this hero is not enjoying the life of a hero.

    You’re exerting a tremendous maintenance to keep this heroic stance available to you, and the hero is suffering defeat after defeat.

    And they’re not heroic defeats; they’re ignoble defeats.

    Finally, one day you say, ‘Let him die— I can’t invest any more in this heroic position.’

    From there, you just live your life as if it’s real— as if you have to make decisions even though you have absolutely no guarantee of any of the consequences of your decisions.”


    (Leonard Cohen)

  17. 367
    Hank Roberts says:

    > flood the blogs

    That’s an important point. Much of blogging is fighting with tar babies set up to attract you, grab you, get you riled up and angry and — caught.

    The real people you need to talk to aren’t on the blogs.

    I suspect a lot of the AlbertA-to-ZuzuZ accounts are bots anyhow.
    Somebody’s going to get a great PhD thesis out of tracking that crap down.

    Be wary what you choose to fight — often it’s set up to capture you online.


  18. 368
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Hank, when I say that science either works or it doesn’t, I mean the scientific method. I would contend that there’s pretty strong evidence that it works. The firmest denialist affirms faith that it works every time he uses a wonder of modern technology (a computer attached to the intertubes) to proclaim that the scientists don’t know what they’re talking about.

    When I encounter denialists–of either the climate or evolution flavor–they usually take one of 3 tactics:
    1)that the scientists don’t know what they’re talking about (anti-science nutjobs)
    2)that Climate science is somehow different in methodology from the rest of science (conspiracy nutjobs)
    3)That the “real scientists” support their point of view (the reality-has-a-liberal-bias nutjobs)

    All three are demonstrably false if you can get them to actually look at evidence. The lukewarmers tend to span 2 and 3, and in some ways they are the worst of all, since their arguments tent to rely on a hefty dose of brown organic matter that is the product of bovine metabolism and so is difficult to pin down sufficeintly to pith.

    Denning’s approach only works when all participants are interested in ascertaining the truth.

  19. 369
    Hank Roberts says:

    > when all participants are interested in ascertaining the truth

    Politics would be impossible if you insist on those perfect conditions.

    Few of our friends and neighbors are as pure as we’d wish, and neither are we, in fact, on our own blind spots.

    Regrettably, politics isn’t as effective as science is at reaching truth.
    That’s because scientists don’t have to stay friends to do science.

    Neighbors have to stay neighbors to do politics, at the local level.

    >> Science is so powerful that it drags us kicking and screaming
    >> towards the truth despite our best efforts to avoid it. And it
    >> does that at least partly fueled by our pettiness and our rivalries.
    >> Science is alchemy: it turns shit into gold. — Peter Watts

    No answer here. Just sayin’, I’m humbled every time I come up against this stuff. I’m soooooo sure of myself, then I realize, oops, that’s a red flag.


    Which direction were we headed?

  20. 370
    SecularAnimist says:

    Hank Roberts wrote: “This is human nature …”

    It’s certainly true that the fossil fuel industry’s deceive-deny-delay-obstruct propaganda campaign has exploited every possible weakness and vulnerability of “human nature”. That’s why it has been so successful.

    And that’s to be expected, given that it’s the product of the most insidious and manipulative minds of Madison Avenue, using the most effective propaganda and brainwashing techniques ever devised, and the most powerful and far-reaching technologies of mass communication ever invented.

    But, look — the idea that the IPCC is part of a global conspiracy to destroy capitalism, the idea that thousands of scientists from every nation on Earth are perpetrating a vast “hoax” as part of that conspiracy, the idea that climate scientists are money-grubbing frauds, and all the various pseudo-scientific and pseudo-ideological malarkey recited verbatim by “pleasant, decent people” for no better reason than that they heard it on Fox News or Rush Limbaugh — NONE of that just spontaneously arose out of “human nature”.

    The reason that those “pleasant, decent people” are busily denying the science and slandering climate scientists instead of demanding action to solve the problem is not because of “human nature” and not because of the supposed “arrogance” of scientists.

    It is because they have been DECEIVED — deliberately, aggressively, systematically and elaborately DECEIVED — by those with trillions of dollars in wealth depending on inaction.

  21. 371
    dbostrom says:

    Hank: The real people you need to talk to aren’t on the blogs.

    Quite right; try instead such as ALEC. The ridiculous history of climate science and public policy is fundamentally about putting a better gloss on P&L statements, has nothing to do with political principles or genuine discomfiture with science. Contrarians on blogs with their pastiche jackalope theories of climate and libertarian naifs dreaming of a fantasy frontier lifestyle are volunteer chumps, important friction but not the hand on the brake handle.

    Does anybody really believe the aforementioned NC HB819 is fundamentally about politics or science? Enablers on blogs create the atmosphere necessary for ignorant legislators to feel comfortably supported as they ignore facts but the impetus for their mistakes is at root financially driven.

    The example of Heartland’s supporters– who dropped away like pallid creatures clinging to the bottom of a rock turned upward to the light– is highly instructive. Look at history and see how transparency solves the problem of the invisible hand.

  22. 372
    David B. Benson says:

    Hank Roberts @365 — With SLR inter wave action will push the outer banks further east, along with the other barrier islands further north.

  23. 373
    Ray Ladbury says:

    SA, Hank and dbostrum,
    If the public has been deceived, it is because they have chosen to believe lies over science–and feeble lies at that. I see nothing honorable about their position, so I am not surprised when they act dishonorably as well. They do not even have faith in free enterprise, since they seem to feel it must be defended by lies against the truth.

  24. 374
    Hank Roberts says:

    New from Peter Watts

    “BLAMING THE VICTIM: Why It’s Our Fault That Science Sucks

    except it doesn’t really work because we’re not actually being victimized, except maybe by one scientist who (according to Neal Stephenson) attributes a perceived dearth of scientific innovation to a lack of sufficiently inspirational SF. (I myself might be more inclined to attribute that to the fact that science is increasingly funded by corporate interests rather than public ones, but whatever.) So the actual title they went with — Is SF Still the “Big Idea” Genre? — probably makes more sense, even if it isn’t quite so inflammatory.

    Anyhow, my answer’s in there along with those of Alexis Latner, Allen Steele, Charlie Stross, Daniel Abraham, Maurizio Manzieri, and Alastair Reynolds. Have fun.

    Now I have to go and hunt a poltergeist in the basement litter box. It only shows up in infrared.”

  25. 375
  26. 376
    dbostrom says:

    Ray: If the public has been deceived, it is because they have chosen to believe lies over science…

    How are they to choose? Here in the United States– at the epicenter of climate-related public policy dementia– we’ve got a problem with education that makes “choosing” a matter of throwing darts over the shoulders for many. The very fact we must invent the acronym STEM to describe what used to be routine and unremarkable while we continue to enthusiastically gut out our educational system tells us we’re in trouble when it comes to useful public participation in science-related policy.

    Eloi are eaten by Morlocks far too late to have any say in the matter.

  27. 377

    296MalcolmT said on 14 May 2012 at 11:16 PM
    “Timothy Curtin re #287: Thanks for dropping in and explaining the null result. I visited your ‘cyber-home’ but I’m afraid it didn’t resolve my doubts. Can you tell us something of your qualifications in climate science? And the ‘peer review’ process at TSWJ?”

    Thanks, Malcolm, my website details my academic and professional career, showing that I am an economist who has published quite widely on a range of topics, including latterly on climate change (e.g. Climate Change and Food Production, and “Nature’s New Theory of Climate Change”, both in E&E 2009). Nature absurdly adopted the Meinshausen claim that temperature change is the result of cumulative emissions, not the current atmospheric concentration, which has risen by about 40% since 1900 as a result of only 44% of those emissions remaining aloft (see Knorr 2009).

    [Response: Oh dear. Two things wrong here – first, just because Nature publishes something doesn’t mean that they ‘adopt’ it. As far as I know they have no ‘official’ line on papers they publish, though the editors have opinions (published as editorials). Second, the Meinsahausen et al result is neither absurd nor wrong. Given the rate at which CO2 is sequestered and the time scales for ‘long term’ climate change, it is a pretty good rule of thumb that the equilibrium temperature is more a function of total emissions than the path it takes to get there. – gavin]

    [edit – please stick to the point]

    BTW, what are Grant Foster’s science credentials? He is of course a very clever statistician, but even he makes mistakes, as in his latest attack on me, where in fact the D-W statistic he cited from my ACE2011 paper’s Table 1 is below the actual lower limit of that test (I admit I wrongly stated that it was enough to be below 2, when in fact at 1.31 for n=52 it is below the lower D-W of 1.5 so does show the autocorrelation I claimed).

    As for TSWJ, I was told my paper had had FOUR anonymous peer reviewers. But why not check out its Atmospheric Sciences Editorial Board? – it includes people like
    Cheng-Nan Chang, Princeton University, USA
    Fei Chen, The National Center for Atmospheric Research, USA
    L.-W. Antony Chen, Desert Research Institute, USA
    Hai Cheng, Xi’an Jiaotong University (China) and University of Minnesota (US), China
    Petr Chylek, Los Alamos National Laboratory, USA
    Mikka Dal Maso, University of Helsinki, Finland
    John Dodson, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Australia

    [Response: Note that editorial boards do not assess each paper that is published (in fact most of the time they don’t do anything), and attempting to raise the profile of a paper using the reflected glory of the editorial board is a little weak. – gavin]

    For all your research into my credentials you keep your own under wraps, is that fair?

    Kind regards

  28. 378
    J Bowers says:

    Eric — “put my coffee down first as you suggested.”

    If you go to the NC-20 website, to the left you can download the Oregon Petition, and Nicola Scafetta has his very own special button (H/T to a_ray_in_dilbert_space).

  29. 379
    Hank Roberts says:

    Ray, people believe all sorts of amazing stuff, when you get to know them. Some of it pretty strange indeed. But I think you’d like the Pilkey book.

  30. 380
    Hank Roberts says:

    PS, this may be encouraging:
    ——–excerpt follows———

    “We wanted to understand Iowa farmers’ perspectives on this issue.”

    The 2011 poll measured beliefs about whether climate change is occurring, possible causes, potential impacts and appropriate responses from the private and public sectors. Farmers also were asked to rate their level of trust or distrust toward specific agencies, organizations or groups as sources of information on climate change. Arbuckle said 1,276 farmers participated in the poll.

    On average, the participating farmers were 65 years old, and 51 percent earned more than half of their income from farming.

    Beliefs and concerns about climate change. Overall, 68 percent of farmers indicated that they believe climate change is occurring …. Of those, 35 percent believed that climate change is caused by both natural variations in the environment and human activities. About a quarter of farmers attributed climate change to natural changes in the environment, and 10 percent believed that it is caused mostly by human activities.

    … Twenty-eight percent indicated that there is insufficient evidence to determine with certainty whether climate change is occurring or not. Five percent did not believe that climate change is occurring ….

    Farmers also were asked to rate a list of agencies, organizations and individuals regarding how much they did or did not trust them as sources of information about climate change and its potential impacts. “Of the groups listed, only university extension was trusted by a majority of farmers. At 54 percent, extension was a more trusted source of climate change information than any other individual or entity” ….

    The mainstream news media and radio talk show hosts were the least trusted groups: less than 10 percent of farmers trust them as sources of information about climate change, while about 60 percent distrust them ….

  31. 381
    Radge Havers says:

    About moving conversation and the audience forward on climate change, just a thought. Maybe I’m missing something, but I’m not seeing serious, coherent messaging on the consequences of inaction on AGW. For instance, could somebody point me to a site comparable to Skeptical Science that catalogues arguments about consequences?

    I would think a key element on the journey from science to policy would be an understanding of the price for inaction. And now, when the conversation is stagnating, might be a good time to be proactive and start shifting the focus out from under the deniers.

    Just thinking out loud here…

  32. 382
    dbostrom says:

    Rabett Run highlights some breathtakingly nasty speech on Judith Curry’s site.

    [edit – anyone interested can discuss this elsewhere]

  33. 383
    SecularAnimist says:

    From the International Energy Agency:

    Global carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil-fuel combustion reached a record high of 31.6 gigatonnes (Gt) in 2011, according to preliminary estimates from the International Energy Agency (IEA). This represents an increase of 1.0 Gt on 2010, or 3.2%. Coal accounted for 45% of total energy-related CO2 emissions in 2011, followed by oil (35%) and natural gas (20%) …

    “The new data provide further evidence that the door to a 2°C trajectory is about to close,” said IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol.

    Reuters adds:

    “When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius (by 2050), which would have devastating consequences for the planet,” Fatih Birol, IEA’s chief economist told Reuters.

  34. 384
    Ray Ladbury says:

    dbostrom: “How are they to choose?”

    Well, I guess they could listen to the freakin’ experts–the ones who actually investigate climate science for a living? The issue is less that fossil fuel companies have flooded the media with falsehoods, but rather that the dienialists are telling the lies public want to believe. It is rather like the overweight person being told to diet by his doctor and instead deciding to buy a cream that promises weight loss on a commercial. If the American people have reached a collective level of stupidity that precludes their discerning the truth or realizing the value of expertise, then the country is finished. We’ll be Haiti with nukes in 10 years.

  35. 385
    dbostrom says:

    Ray:Well, I guess they could listen to the freakin’ experts–the ones who actually investigate climate science for a living?

    Yes, they could listen to Richard Lindzen; he fits the specification exactly.

    I attended a talk by Richard Alley a couple nights ago. He’s a terrific communicator, did a great job of entertaining an audience that already knew everything he presented.

    During Q&A there was a bit of back-and-forth about Richard Lindzen. The curious thing is that nobody would actually utter Lindzen’s name. Alley’s audience of experts was so scrupulous about avoiding hurt feelings or perhaps shy about being too far in front of the issue that the Lindzen problem was treated only elliptically, without reference to a proper name. A neophyte would never learn the identity of the person in question, listening to this pantomime.

    Choose Lindzen. Who’s to tell the difference, or say the difference?

  36. 386
    SecularAnimist says:

    Ray Ladbury wrote: “The issue is less that fossil fuel companies have flooded the media with falsehoods, but rather that the denialists are telling the lies public want to believe.”

    Those are not two separate issues. They are in fact the same issue.

    A great deal of research goes into developing, crafting and scripting lies that the public in general will tend to believe, as well as lies that particular targeted segments of the public will tend to believe, before the media is flooded with those falsehoods.

    Some audiences are targeted with Rush Limbaugh bellowing about “liberals” and “hoaxes” and “eco-Nazis” — because research has shown that that’s an effective way of manipulating that audience.

    Other audiences are targeted with a “mainstream” news report that presents the views of Richard Lindzen as having validity and scientific acceptance equal to those of Gavin Schmidt, or that simply omits any mention of global warming in connection with extreme weather events of exactly the kind that climate models have long predicted would result from global warming — because research has shown that that’s an effective way of manipulating that audience.

    The people doing this stuff are not dummies. Many of them are, in fact, geniuses — the most insidiously brilliant minds that the advertising industry has ever produced, with access to the most in-depth and comprehensive scientific research on how to effectively manipulate and shape people’s views about AGW, with a deep understanding of powerful propaganda techniques and access to the most far-reaching tools of mass communication ever devised.

  37. 387
    wili says:

    RH at 381–Mark Lynas’s book “Six Degrees” does a nice job of spelling out the consequences of each degree increase. You are right, though, that more people need to have a clear idea of just how devastating each added degree is likely to be for civilization, for our children, and for most life on the planet.

    SA at 383–Having just mentioned “Six Degrees,” I, too, found this prediction by Birol quite striking. He has a better perch to judge just how much CO2 is likely to be produced from burning fossil fuels as anyone on the planet.

    Does anyone know of other prominent figures predicting such an extreme increase in such a short period?

    That book was intended mostly as a warning about what to avoid. It is looking more and more like a prediction of what will come and description of what is already underway.

    On another note, in his recent oped in the NYT, James Hansen said:

    “Over the next several decades, the Western United States and the semi-arid region from North Dakota to Texas will develop semi-permanent drought, with rain, when it does come, occurring in extreme events with heavy flooding. Economic losses would be incalculable. More and more of the Midwest would be a dust bowl. California’s Central Valley could no longer be irrigated. Food prices would rise to unprecedented levels.”

    It looks to me as though we don’t have to wait ‘decades’ for these developments–they are happening right before our eyes.

    Check out the most recent Drought Monitor map of the US:

    Drying conditions and drought areas are now connected from coast to coast and from the Canadian to the Mexican border. It’s become easier to describe where drought/drying ISN’T than where it is.

    Perhaps this summer will see essentially non-stop rains all across the lower 48 that will eliminate all traces of yellow, orange and red from this map.

    But short of that kind of miracle, it looks to me as though that decades-away prediction is upon us now.

  38. 388
    Hank Roberts says:

    “The mainstream news media and radio talk show hosts were the least trusted groups: less than 10 percent of farmers trust them as sources of information about climate change, while about 60 percent distrust them ….”

  39. 389
    Radge Havers says:

    My two cents. People are first one thing then they’re another: good, bad, lazy, energetic, etc.,…

    Moving people en masse is a harder task for constructive purposes than it is for pissant deliquents who can exhaust people by stampeding them like wildebeast or scattering them like cats. Thats not to say that pissant deliquents can’t be smart or coordinated, just that their brilliance shouldn’t be exaggerated any more than it should be underestimated.

    They have the numbers, the organization and the easy tool of raw destructive power. But they also have ideology, which is both a crutch for their laziness and a blind spot when it comes to accurately assessing the situation. You however, have the edge on smarts and discipline if you’ve got the fortitude to use it. And you also have an ever fluctuating pool of good will if you can manage to tap into it and strengthen it. That’s how I see it.

  40. 390
    Ray Ladbury says:

    In Albert Camus’ “The Plague,” the residents of the plague infested city all initially struggle in different directions but finally come together to triumph over adversity-albeit at great cost. It was Camus’ most mature statement of his philosophy, and reflected his ideas on the nature of man.

    Unfortunately, not all threats well present such obvious early warning signs (e.g. rats dying), nor will they be so forgving of delay and denial. At some point humans will have to learn to face reality or they will die out. We may as well start with this crisis and hope we are not too late.

  41. 391
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    @ 387 >Drying conditions and drought areas are now connected from coast to coast and from the Canadian to the Mexican border. It’s become easier to describe where drought/drying ISN’T than where it is.

    News flash: it doesn’t stop at the border. Mexico has a serious drought problem.

  42. 392
    Radge Havers says:


    I agree. And as you say, humans will have to face reality or face the music (pay the piper?) so to speak. I just think it’s partly a matter of who does the prodding and how it’s done. Even so there are no guarantees, and nothing is certain about the outcome. All the more reason to stay focused and push hard is all.

  43. 393
    Hank Roberts says:

    Apropos recognizing reality — another side thought. One issue that science (and scientists) deal with all the time is how well reality is recognized. We know we’re flawed as humans. Mistakes were and are made. Sometimes corrections are acknowledged, sometimes people just age out uncorrected.

    There’s decent science being done on this whole area of how we fool ourselves on the individual level — no doubt also on the group level.

    This is a recent newspaper article, about some of the research on how common the behavior is and how it happens: Why We Lie — and it’s behavior on a continuum — shades-of-gray — not right-or-wrong, black-or-white, pure-or-corrupt.

    Retraction Watch — Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process” — gives a new ongoing look at how the sciences handle error correction. It’s a welcome site because most retractions are paywalled.

    Regrettably even most _corrections_ are paywalled. For example the AGU’s Geophysical Abstracts, one of the few sources available inexpensively to the rest of us, mentions when a paper is corrected, but doesn’t provide a corrected abstract.

    Can we assume a correction didn’t change anything important in a paper’s conclusion, when no change to the published abstract occurs?

    I’ve appreciated how the scientists writing here have pointed out and corrected mistakes, and recognized how carefully that needs to be done to make sure the record is better rather than muddied.

    I’ve also mused a lot on how risky publicising one’s own errors and self-correction are — given that exposes the writer to the tactics of debate and of politics in general, which use assertions of mistake not to improve the record but to cloud it.

    This stuff ain’t easy. Thank you all.

  44. 394
    Hank Roberts says:

    Light reading for the (US) Memorial Day weekend:

    “The Aerospace Corporation has been conducting environmental and climate-related research using internal funds. Efforts so far have established Aerospace as a clearinghouse for information on climate trends and impacts, specifically with regard to future military and national security space requirements.

    Some of these research initiatives are detailed in the Summer 2011 issue of the corporation’s biannual magazine of advances in aerospace technology, Crosslink. To access this issue, devoted entirely to climate science, click”

  45. 395
    sidd says:

    Re:observations of arctic methane release

    Lotsa more CH4 coming outta arctic land and sea than previously thought. No concommittant increase in atmospheric CH4 measurement implies methane is being efficiently oxidized. So we expect to see drawdown of OH ion concentrations. Is this visible or too small to be seen ?


  46. 396
    Hank Roberts says:

    Promising idea (hat tip to David Brin):

    “… members of the Mars family (yes, the candy makers) who have developed processes to take sewage from farms and cities, combine it from CO2 from factories, mix it under copious free sunlight, and put out oxygen and” harvest algae: Heliae

    Why algae? I’d guess this is a way to get omega-3 fatty acids that are so badly lacking in procesed foods, removing the commercial pressure to wipe out the last ten percent of the big fish. With collateral benefits. Damn good home page, too.

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  48. 398
    wili says:

    The fire in NM is now the largest in that state’s history, some 170,000 acres so far, beating the record set just last year.

    And it’s expected to burn till July. Humidity in the area this afternoon will be 4% with winds gusting to 35 mph. This will get much larger, in spite of the 1200+ firefighters’ best efforts. It’s been so dry for so long, any spark is guaranteed to ignite the tinder.

    This is what global warming looks like. And is part of the feedback putting more and more carbon into the atmosphere.

    Since this area is predicted to get much drier than it already is with GW, it is unlikely that these forests, and those burnt in last year’s record burns in NM and AZ, will ever grow back to their former level.

  49. 399
    John E. Pearson says:

    Live chat geoengineering at the science web site tomorrow at 3 p.m. EDT (on Thursday, 31 May).

  50. 400
    Anna Haynes says:

    We’re approaching the deadline for reviewing & submitting comments on the K-12 Next Generation Science Standards (link) (deadline sometime June 1, likely either 12:01 am or 11:59pm)