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Unforced Variations: Nov 2013

Filed under: — group @ 2 November 2013

This month’s open thread…

289 Responses to “Unforced Variations: Nov 2013”

  1. 1
    Yoram Bauman says:

    Hello all: Just an invitation to review the latest draft of my Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change, due out in mid-2014 from Island Press. Details and downloads at, and thanks in advance for any feedback and suggestions! (And if anybody wants to get updates on future drafts &c, just email me at

    Yoram Bauman PhD (environmental economist / “stand-up economist”)

  2. 2
    Russell says:

    As Sandy’s anniversary rolls round, let us not forget what was said about the storm elsewhere.

  3. 3
    Dan H. says:

    Remember also that is was the European model that forecast a turn to the northwest and convergence with the approaching low-pressure system. The American model predicted a movement to the northeast, out to sea, with but a glancing blow to the NY area. This was more the “perfect storm” scenario, where the tropical cyclone supplies the energy to the terrestrial low.

  4. 4
    wili says:

    Let’s not add too many additional clicks to suwt for them to boast about how popular their site is, shall we? If you think it important for us to know what is going on at the site, quote notable text or summarize for us, please.

  5. 5
    Shizel says:

    Some humans will survive in a hi-tech hell. Earth? No.
    – China plans to build 500 nuclear reactors before 2050.
    – China is building 1 new coal power plant per week.
    – China now imports more oil than the U.S.!
    – Half of all species may disappear before 2040.
    – 200 species per day are going extinct right now.
    – Land Animal populations down 28% since 1970.
    – Marine Bird populations down 30% since 1995.
    – Big Ocean Fish populations down 90% since 1950.
    – Fresh Water Fish populations down 50% since 1987,
    – All Marine Animal populations down 28% since 1970.
    – Plankton populations down 40% since 1950.
    – Bumblebee populations down 70% since 1970.
    – Human sperm counts down 50% since 1950.
    – Human population up to 9 billion by 2050.
    – Ocean acidification to double by 2050.
    – World temperature rise may triple by 2050.
    An ECOLOGICAL TIPPING POINT may be by 2025.
    Nobody knows when we will pass this tipping point except in retrospect. Once passed, mass extinction becomes unstoppable and irreversible. Cascading extinction collapse is forever.
    The acidity of the oceans will more than double in the next 40 years. This rate is 10 times faster than 65 million years ago when when a mass extinction of marine life occurred. It is also faster than during 4 of earth’s biggest mass extinction events during the last 300 hundred million years — faster than even the great Permian mass extinction event where 95% of life on earth vanished 250 million years ago. The oceans are now 30% more acidic than in pre-industrial times.
    When ice ages come and go the planet can change temperature 5°C in as little as 5,000 years. 50 times slower than what we are doing to earth now. In the past, a 5°C change normally takes 20,000 years, we are going to do 5°C in 50-100 years, 200 times faster than historical norms.
    Climate change is happening 100 times faster than in the past.
    Only 1% of methane needs to be released to cause total disaster.
    Peter Wadhams interview
    Natalia Shakhova interview:
    Overstatement Overdrive

  6. 6
    Hank Roberts says:

    … many people claim not to be convinced by this so-called climate change evidence. That is because they are shortsighted sociopathic morons who don’t want to lose any money.

    But anyone who can look even a little bit into the 21st century
    has got to be highly interested …

    “Viridian Design” By Bruce Sterling, October 14, 1998

  7. 7
    Hank Roberts says:

    Wili, Russell’s pointing to “ve vee attsup” not “dubya attsup”

  8. 8
    Sean says:

    Hi, this is a request for information and URL links. My hobby interest is communication of the science to the general public. I am seeking good quality Videos that do one of two things: 1) explain the complexities of aspects of the science in a straight forward ways, and 2) that expose the individual pseudo controversies and fraudulent claims made by the anti-science activists, and 3) that highlight currently proven impacts of Climate Change in specific ways (loss of fish stocks) and places (as Arctic Ice has been presented).

    My preference is for *little known* quality Videos (lost in cybersapce) that include genuine active climate scientists in their specialty field. ie not by Prof Flannery, Al Gore, nor other ‘talking heads’ no matter how well intended they may be.
    Examples of the type of Videos I seek are: the recent RC “Climate Change on Film” post; ; ; and this amateur effort which exposes the intentional doctoring of Graphs used by Monckton et al – see @ 7:50 mins. Another example would be Attenbrough’s 7th episode of Frozen Planet “On Thin Ice” – Any tips are gratefully accepted. Thanks Sean

  9. 9
    Sean says:

    Shizel #4 – Thanks for sharing, noted and saved.

  10. 10
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Sean — 2 Nov 2013 @ 7:32 PM

    If you haven’t checked out-


    you really should. Potholer has as especially juicy series of videos on Monckton.


  11. 11
    wili says:

    Thanks, Hank. Apologies to Russell. May I blame aging eyes?

  12. 12
    Sean says:

    Another request for info: A while ago I saw a statement indicating there were approx 27,000+/- individuals (climate scientists and others) currently working in the Climate Science related fields. Is this accurate today? If so does anyone have a ref to some substantive credible “authoritative” material (or single site) that might confirm this, as well as articulate some kind of breakdown of the different fields and the numbers involved in them? Thanks Sean

  13. 13
    bigcitylib says:

    So, reading this:

    …and the work coming after it, couldn’t Mike’s hypothesis be subject to experiment? Grow some trees under controlled conditions over here; grow some over there under identical controlled conditions, and then simulate the weather-effects of a volcanic eruption on one set of trees. See if ring growth is suppressed in that set of trees. Hey presto.

    Or is it more complicated than that?

  14. 14
  15. 15
    pete best says:

    Regarding Kevin Anderson: Tyndell Centre

    Dear participants

    Is he right ?

    It well worth a watch as he states that economic assumptions (related to the UK but can easily be translated to the USA) regarding the stern report etc and way off the mark.

  16. 16
    Tony Weddle says:

    James Hansen, in his book, believes it is possible (or was possible then) to take actions which reduced the atmospheric concentration of CO2 to 350ppm (a level he considers the maximum to have a chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change). I couldn’t spot how that was to be achieved. Does anyone know?

  17. 17
    Sean says:

    #15 I too would like an experts opinion about the “factual content basis” in this other presentation I recently found Kevin Anderson ‘Rhetoric to Reality’ May 2012. It’s an impressive clear talk with excellent slides, which on the surface makes sense based on my own *understanding*. But what would a genuine Climate Scientist / Expert say about the accuracy? Is he right? thanks Sean

  18. 18
    Sean says:

    #10 Steve, thank you, I had Pothole in hand, but not Greenman. perfect!

  19. 19
    Icarus says:

    @Tony Weddle, #16:

    “Humanity could defuse a continuous release of 5 GtC/year, thus avoiding hyperthermal warming, by capturing and sequestering the carbon. The American Physical Society estimates the cost of capture and sequestration as ~ $2 trillion per GtC. Given that the United States is responsible for 26% of the fossil fuel CO2 in the air today, the U.S. cost share for removing 5 GtC/year would be ~$2.6 trillion each year. Technology development might be able to lower that cost, but fundamental energy constraints imply that cost reduction at most will be a factor of a few.”

    I don’t know anywhere that Hansen goes into technical details, but presumably you could follow this up at the APS website…

  20. 20
    Edward Greisch says:

    8 Sean: The bad news is that just telling them the truth doesn’t work. Demonstrating experiments doesn’t work.

    In a University of Melbourne climate science course,
    each student evaluated the final papers of 3 other students. The 3 students whose papers I evaluated thought that Global Warming [GW] is a liberal cause. GW is clearly NOT a political cause of any kind. This course has failed utterly and should be abandoned as worthless. The humanities and fine arts students still have no idea what science is and they still have no idea what the word “truth” means.

    If our leaders don’t know what truth is, don’t know that GW can easily cause our extinction and don’t know how to solve GW, we have very little hope of surviving as a species. Solving this problem requires huge changes to our educational system. Giving college non-science majors one course in math-free science clearly does not work.

    In a technological society, all citizens need to know a great deal of science. All high school students should be required to take 4 years of physics, 4 years of chemistry, 4 years of biology and 8 years [double classes] of math.

    Probability and statistics should be included starting in the third grade. Elementary school must also include for everybody some “cub scout” projects in building simple machines and disassembling discarded machines to see how they work.

    In college, Everybody, regardless of major, should be required to take the Engineering and Science Core Curriculum [E&SCC] plus a laboratory probability and statistics course plus more physics lab courses plus one course in computer programming.

    E&SCC = 2 years of calculus at the college level, 2 years of physics and 1 year of chemistry. All engineering and science students are required to take the E&SCC in their freshman and sophomore years.

    Getting correct answers requires doing math.

    Most people, including people with college degrees in subjects other than science and engineering, use their emotions [emote] when they should be doing math. Nor do they know how to think rather than emote [have emotional reactions]. “To think” means “to do math.”

  21. 21
    MARodger says:

    NASA GISS September temperatures out at last showing a bit of a leap up to equal 10th hottest month on record. The year-to-date temperature is above the 1998 annual temp with only 2005 & 2010 hotter. (This third place is also held by NCDC’s year-to-date). And that without a sniff of an El Nino!

  22. 22
    Radge Havers says:


    Well there’s scientific ignorance, but there’s also political stupidity: like when you have people who don’t know how the world works outside their own tiny silos stridently espousing half-baked views and juvenile remedies.

    AGW certainly has political ramifications, but calling it politically rooted should be easy for any adult to recognize as an obvious classification error. That so many don’t would seem to point to problems extending beyond the education system. The deliberate antics and obfuscations of politicians and the profit driven panderings of media, for instance, would seem to be very efficient at undoing critical thinking.

  23. 23
    Hank Roberts says:


    Further Information from Bristol University
    Powerpoint presentation [PDF, 1.6 MB]
    Transcript [PDF, 125.8 KB]
    Responses from attendees [PDF, 270 KB]
    Bristol University Cabot Institute Annual Lecture 2012 – Real clothes for the Emperor: Facing the challenges of climate change

  24. 24
    Hank Roberts says:

    > “Observer” … Kahan

    That paper has been widely misrepresented. Make sure you’re reading about it on a science site, and watch out for spin.

    the study supports no inferences about the reasoning of scientific experts in climate change.

    I’d recommend

    “In effect,” Kahan said, “ordinary members of the public credit or dismiss scientific information on disputed issues based on whether the information strengthens or weakens their ties to others who share their values. At least among ordinary members of the public, individuals with higher science comprehension are even better at fitting the evidence to their group commitments.”

    Kahan said that the study supports no inferences about the reasoning of scientific experts in climate change.

    Researcher Ellen Peters of Ohio State University said …. “What this study shows is that people with high science and math comprehension can think their way to conclusions that are better for them as individuals but are not necessarily better for society.”

    “More information can help solve the climate change conflict,” Kahan said, “but that information has to do more than communicate the scientific evidence. It also has to create a climate of deliberations in which no group perceives that accepting any piece of evidence is akin to betrayal of their cultural group.”

  25. 25
  26. 26

    #20–Ed, please stop banging the drum on this. It’s a radical misdiagnosis of the problem, since developing rational skills–including mathematical ones–leaves cognitive/emotional biases untouched. (See ‘Lubos Motl’ for example.) Emotional issues must be addressed on an emotional level–as humanities scholars tend to know on various levels. (Some can even offer practical strategies for dealing with them.)

  27. 27
    Jon says:

    @MARodger/#21 Are you quite certain of your math? As far as I can see you got the tied for 10th highest GISTemp anomaly part right (I assume you have the Land-Ocean Temperature Index in mind, not the land only numbers) but my spreadsheet disagrees with your claim that the average anomaly for 2013 to date would put it in 3rd place – I get 9th. Not to say I couldn’t have messed up somewhere in my spreadsheet but I can check mine and see everything appears to be correct whereas I can’t examine your calculations.

  28. 28

    My #26–

    >developing rational skills–including mathematical ones–leaves cognitive/emotional biases untouched.

    See also Hank’s quote in #24.

  29. 29
    Edward Greisch says:

    26 Kevin McKinney: So sorry, but I disagree with you completely, based on my own experience. Education changed me radically. Especially probability & statistics laboratory left me a different person. Laboratory does revolutionary things to cognitive/emotional biases, like blasting them to smithereens.

    So what is your diagnosis and what is your cure? How exactly do you address Emotional issues on an emotional level? Emotionalism is the problem, not the cure.

  30. 30
    SecularAnimist says:

    Edward Greisch wrote: “I disagree with you completely, based on my own experience”

    Right. That’s what’s known as a cognitive/emotional bias.

    Everyone has them. Those who think they don’t have them are at their mercy.

  31. 31
  32. 32
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Edward Greisch,
    No, merely presenting the facts is not enough, but that is not a reason to stop presenting the facts. Ultimately, I believe that the biggest problems denialists face stem from a failure of nerve–they cannot face the threat of climate change unless they think there is some solution, and we cannot at present lay all of that out. At the same time, that makes it all the more important that those of us who do have the nerve to feel our way in the dark not to lose nerve. We must keep pushing the right way on all fronts–and that includes a continual, calm and cogent recital of the facts as best we know them at the time.

  33. 33
    Radge Havers says:

    I think there’s something to what Greisch is saying. Not sure what the best load across a whole educational span is. I do think that extra emphasis should be placed throughout on getting across to students the working environment of science: including the what, how, and why of peer review, checks and balances, etc. (methodologic hygiene if you will); and also on the values of science — everything from rigor and integrity to valuing the best, real insights above, you know, just “winning” for the sake of winning (by whatever means). There should probably be reforms in the way that civics and business are taught as well.

  34. 34
    Dan H. says:

    I think I have to side with Kevin on this. People who become emotional regarding an issue, tend to accept anything which reinforces that belief, and disregard that which does not. Scientific evidence or logic gets lost in the process. While I would like to see more people make rational decisions based on sound evidence, that is, sadly, not the case with many people.

  35. 35
    Tony Weddle says:


    Thanks for the response. I’d read that but it didn’t seem to be a strong endorsement for the method and I didn’t get the feeling that Hansen thought it was likely. Skimming the reference he gave, it doesn’t even seem like the cost estimate includes storage of CO2.

    Maybe I missed it in his book, so I’m rereading it. I also dropped Hansen an email, though I have no strong expectations of an answer.

  36. 36
    Dan Bloom says:

    Has anyone here heard of the new literary term CLI FI for climate fiction novels? Or not heard of the term yet? Google NPR or the New Yorker mag and the term CLI FI to see news. Just surfaced bigtime this year. More to come soon. See Mary Woodbury in Canada webzine titled CLIFIBOOKS dot COM in which she is archiving and listing all past and current CLI FI books.


  37. 37
    MARodger says:

    Jon @27.
    Thank you for the spotting and checking of my error @20. I’ve been using a too-clever-by-half spreadsheet for ad hoc analayses, once too often apparently. And apologies for your trouble; and to all. GISS year-to-date would be but 9th among the annual temp list, and NCDC would be but 6th.

  38. 38
    Sean says:

    @various# fyi quoting: “My question to you as a media and communications practitioner is why has this explaining of the basic of the science been so poor over the last 15 years. Why no good series of newspaper articles, why no TV documentary, why are so few of our politicians able to explain anything to us. Further who should be doing the teaching: Governments, the media, academics, (or Climate scientists/IPCC)?” was a comment regarding: “This decade has been called the “critical decade” for action on climate change. But communicating the urgency of climate change has proved problematic, for two reasons.” by Senior Lecturer, Communications and Media Studies
    And What is climate change scepticism?
    And Exploring the Psychology of Wealth, ‘Pernicious’ Effects of Economic Inequality

  39. 39
    Sean says:

    UK Study 2011: *Scepticism and uncertainty about climate change: Dimensions, determinants and change over time* Highlights – 1) Scepticism is strongly determined by environmental and political values rather than by education or knowledge. 2) Public uncertainty about climate change has remained remarkably constant since 2003, although belief that claims about the issue are exaggerated has doubled. 3) The paper describes a novel and highly reliable measure of public scepticism about climate change, the Scepticism Scale.
    UK Study 2012 Uncertainty & attitudes towards climate change Key words: scepticism, biased assimilation, attitude polarisation. “In both groups, attitudes towards climate change became significantly MORE Sceptical after reading the editorials, but we observed no evidence of attitude polarisation – that is, the attitudes of these two groups did not diverge.”

  40. 40
    SecularAnimist says:

    Radge Havers wrote: “I think there’s something to what Greisch is saying.”

    Yes, there is “something” to it.

    And that “something” consists of nothing more than completely unsupported assertions that people with a background in the arts and humanities cannot understand the problem of global warming because they are driven by “emotion” and unable “to think”.

    In my experience, musicians, artists and writers are among the strongest and most motivated activists for dealing with global warming.

    Whereas the most common educational and professional backgrounds that I see being claimed by aggressive and vociferous purveyors of denial are engineering and geology.

  41. 41
    Radge Havers says:


    I won’t attempt to speak for Greisch. Speaking for myself, I think this has been covered in bits and pieces on other threads, but just to be clear, your characterization does not reflect my position. At all. My comment @33 follows my comment @22, and basically is a suggestion to get around the tendency to treat scientists as the faceless other and to fill in the blanks with something more realistic and hopefully beneficial. It was not intended as a panacea or quick fix for the political mess we find ourselves in.

  42. 42
    numerobis says:

    In political news, Cuccinelli apparently won’t become the next governor of Virginia. This will undoubtedly leave him more time, but less resources, to go after climate researchers.

  43. 43
    Sean says:

    @40 SecAlarm. re: “..aggressive and vociferous purveyors of denial are engineering and geology.” My anecdotal experiences would like to add to that illustrious pairing Physicists, Accountants and Economics/Financial Journalists. Plus a healthy dose of 50%+ of the academic degree holding Politicians world wide (esp in Oz & the US). There should be an “investigation” about this! :)

  44. 44
    owl905 says:

    Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II lost the Virginia Governor election today. How about everyone chip in and send him a hockey stick as a sympathy prize?
    (The NY Times even mentioned his attempt to discredit ‘a climate scientist’).

  45. 45
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Dan H. says: 4 Nov 2013 at 7:34 PM [the Vulcan “rationality” position on, well, everything].

    Dan H.’s promoting a notion unrelated to Kahan’s study; Kahan did not compare rational to emotional approaches (nor anything to that effect — Dan H. appears to suggest concern (about climate change) is emotional rather than rational. There’s no support for that in Kahan, as Kahan makes clear.

    (Yes, there are emotional wackos out on all spokes of the political wheel, no question, but there’s good sense among those willing to engage in politics at all.)

    Kahan’s study found that people for whom individualism and personal freedom are always the answer see climate change as less risky.

    It’s the social group membership he’s studying.

    And yes, for any single individual, purely personal freedom is likely an effective way of minimizing the risk of climate change or any other change. Keep the bunker taped up, the basement well stocked and the solar panels and battery bank and sump pump in good shape, come hell or high water, you’ll be fine.

    Kahan says,

    The question under investigation in our study was what explains climate change conflict–differences in science comprehension or differences in cultural outlooks? One shouldn’t really have to know statistics to see the answer in a figure like this


  46. 46
    Chris Dudley says:

    Given the rather heated response to a letter by Caldeira, Emmanuel, Hansen and Wigley, I wonder if the blanket policy against using the N-word here has perhaps held back understanding of the issue in a climate context. Might this situation have been avoided if, for example, Lovins work had been digested here?

    I realize that endless discussions of drawing board projects is tedious, but there are climate implications in the economics of power generation.

  47. 47
    Sean says:

    ex-PM John Howard’s opinion @ UKs Global Warming Policy Foundation? “One Religion is Enough” He predicted that shale oil and gas had opened up a “tantalising prospect” of an energy independent US, which would dominate energy policy in that country and would “dwarf” consideration of a carbon trading scheme.

    “Increasingly offensive language is used. The most egregious example has been the term “denier”. We are all aware of the particular meaning that word has acquired in contemporary parlance. It has been employed in this debate with some malice aforethought. […] An overriding feature of the debate is the constant attempt to intimidate policy makers, in some cases successfully, with the mantras of “follow the science” and “the science is truly settled”.”
    This issue, imho, is truly heating up globally, and I don’t mean surface temperatures!!! There has a steady uptick in anti-science rhetoric by previously silent more high profile advocates and supporters of the current “system”. It is my view that if the Climate Scientists as a whole do not start cutting through to the general public now and have an immediate impact upon Public Opinion across the board, you may as well all go find a job cleaning Shopping Malls for the good your science work will have on anything or anyone. imho, from connecting the dots over the years what is going on now in the ‘public domain’ is a concerted and globally coordinated effort. A last ditch effort to undermine all Climate Science consensus and future activity. No I am not a conspiracy theorist. Quite happy to consider and connect overt conspiracy facts though. Best to all.

  48. 48

    #29–Ed, I respect your experience. But remember, that’s a sample of one! Not everyone will respond as you did.

    I certainly agree that scientific literacy and numeracy are (or at least can be) very helpful in making accurate assessments. I myself have spent many, many hours researching and writing online articles seeking to disseminate correct information on the topic of climate change–a behavioral demonstration of how much I do in fact agree that science education is very important.

    But I’m a musician, not a scientist, and I assure you that had I been forced to take the kind of program you advocated upthread, I would not have been able to study the core disciplines I needed to pursue my avocation. (That’s because the music curriculum is already ‘over-crowded’; most college music schools are forced to cram in necessary technical foundations by subterfuges such as half-credit but required courses which, in reality, take ten hours of actual work weekly for an ‘average’ student.)

    And I would have been resentful as hell. Quite possibly, I would have been ‘turned off’ enough to have prevented me learning (informally) what I have managed to learn about climate change in recent years.

    And I’ve got good scientific and mathematical aptitude (though the latter remains pretty undeveloped to this day,) and a lifelong interest in science. Imagine how a more typical ‘subject’ of this thought experiment would feel!

    As to your question about addressing the issue on emotional grounds, whole books could (and have) been written on this; some have been linked here in the past. And there are many aspects to that question.

    Two interest me in particular. First is to communicate entertainingly on the topic. I don’t mean entertain as in ‘use cheap tricks’, but I do mean such things as to write vividly, as simply as possible given the requirements of the audience and subject matter, to write concretely, and to write in ways that invite imaginative, human participation in the subject. For example, I have a series on the development of GW science, starting with William Charles Wells, who, in researching and explaining the phenomenon of dew, also made the first set of more-or-less systematic observations of what we would now term ‘downwelling infrared.’ The story is here:

    You’ll note that I tell his whole life story, though it’s not, for the most part, directly relevant to the science per se. That’s intentional: my calculation is that that will interest people and engage them on an emotional level. The result will be greater interest in, and acceptance of, the science. It also combats the tendency of some to dehumanize researchers–a strategy Dr. Mann adopted in his memoir, and which I tried my best to further when I summarized his book:

    Those aspects are just examples of using emotionality–NOT ’emotionalism!’–in what I consider appropriate ways.

    The second aspect I want to bring up is that of respecting emotions and points of view. While I’ve used sarcasm, mockery, and snark at times, I do think that in general it’s best to assume that there is some reason for people feeling the way they do on particular issues. Those reasons generally have both emotional and rational bases, and, most of the time, appreciating the former can shed light on the latter.

    In cases where there is a modicum of openness–not the case for any hard-core denier, to be sure, but the case for some commenters online–framing issues in ways that respect the emotional validity of a particular point of view will facilitate communication. It will allow you to address points in a way that is more direct, preventing the ‘talking past’ syndrome from developing. It will make for a more civil conversation for third-party readers to learn from. And once in a while you may even convince someone that way.

    Unfortunately, that’s a fairly abstract statement on the topic, and I don’t have a good concrete example at hand. But this comment is already over-long anyway.

    Hope that helps clarify where I’m coming from on these questions.

  49. 49
    Dan H. says:

    While people certainly may have both emotional and rational reasons, logic will only apply to the rational area. One need not be a scientist to acknowledge logical reasoning. Emotional reasons are acquired separately. Since these were not acquired logically, logic will not sway these beliefs. No amount of scientific evidence and reasoning can penetrate a stubborn emotional stance. Only through competing emotions can these opinions be changed. I am sure that you have had conversations with people who are either rationally or emotionally vocal on gw. Listen to the difference in their arguments.

  50. 50
    SecularAnimist says:

    Hank Roberts wrote: “there are emotional wackos out on all spokes of the political wheel”

    Anyone who truly understands the implications of unmitigated anthropogenic global warming and does NOT become “emotional” about it is arguably a “wacko” of the sociopathic variety.