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If You See Something, Say Something

Filed under: — mike @ 17 January 2014

Gavin provided a thoughtful commentary about the role of scientists as advocates in his RealClimate piece a few weeks ago.

I have weighed in with my own views on the matter in my op-ed today in this Sunday’s New York Times. And, as with Gavin, my own views have been greatly influenced and shaped by our sadly departed friend and colleague, Stephen Schneider. Those who were familiar with Steve will recognize his spirit and legacy in my commentary. A few excerpts are provided below:

THE overwhelming consensus among climate scientists is that human-caused climate change is happening. Yet a fringe minority of our populace clings to an irrational rejection of well-established science. This virulent strain of anti-science infects the halls of Congress, the pages of leading newspapers and what we see on TV, leading to the appearance of a debate where none should exist.

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My colleague Stephen Schneider of Stanford University, who died in 2010, used to say that being a scientist-advocate is not an oxymoron. Just because we are scientists does not mean that we should check our citizenship at the door of a public meeting, he would explain. The New Republic once called him a “scientific pugilist” for advocating a forceful approach to global warming. But fighting for scientific truth and an informed debate is nothing to apologize for.

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Our Department of Homeland Security has urged citizens to report anything dangerous they witness: “If you see something, say something.” We scientists are citizens, too, and, in climate change, we see a clear and present danger. The public is beginning to see the danger, too — Midwestern farmers struggling with drought, more damaging wildfires out West, and withering, record, summer heat across the country, while wondering about possible linkages between rapid Arctic warming and strange weather patterns, like the recent outbreak of Arctic air across much of the United States.

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The piece ends on this note:

How will history judge us if we watch the threat unfold before our eyes, but fail to communicate the urgency of acting to avert potential disaster? How would I explain to the future children of my 8-year-old daughter that their grandfather saw the threat, but didn’t speak up in time?

Those are the stakes.

I would encourage interested readers to read the commentary in full at the New York Times website.

Constructive contributions are welcome in the comment section below :-)


606 Responses to “If You See Something, Say Something”

  1. 151

    Mike

    Why do scientists need to be apologetic about informed advocacy, when advocacy is a core value of those opposing the mainstream – to the extent that their advocacy will embrace any argument even when they contradict themselves?

    Somehow, being an advocate when you are almost certainly right is unacceptable whereas being an advocate when you are almost certainly wrong is just fine.

    People like Richard Lindzen are no strangers to the op-ed pages, and the people who took you on in the faux hockey stick controversy did not restrict their commentary to scientific publication – I wouldn’t call subjecting someone to multiple levels of inquisition rather than publishing scientific rebuttals standard scientific etiquette.

    The gloves have been off for a long time, and the people who threw the Queensberry rules out of the window are on the anti-science side.

    It’s time we started saying this loud and clear, and stopped letting them get away with the myth that the mainstream has somehow perverted science to a political and rather doubtfully-constructed economic agenda, when it is clearly the case that the denial camp is guilty of all the above (except the economic case is crystal clear).

    More on this at my blog.

  2. 152
    Chuck Hughes says:

    I still say that the case needs to be articulated by professional media types. We have access to these folks and they are listening and will help but an we have to make an urgent appeal. I mentioned people like Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, Leonardo DeCaprio and many others who have already had success in addressing environmental problems utilizing their cenematic skills. Robert Redford is on the Board of Directors of the NRDC. We need a massive PR campaign by people who know how to use a camera. The scientific message as presented by scientists has absolutely no “sex appeal” and will not get the attention it deserves. Bill Nye is great but it’s not enough. You’re going to have to employ people with the media skills if you want your message to be heard. I think most of the people I mentioned would gladly volunteer their time and efforts. Again, it’s going to take a MASSIVE PR campagin from people who have the skill and ability to do it. It’s not an impossible task.

  3. 153
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Dwight Mac Kerron@134
    You say you have a problem with the science being carried out by human beings with an agenda. OK, can you introduce me to a person with an IQ above room temperature who doesn’t have an agenda? Do you have similar concerns about scientists doing research in evolution? Wouldn’t scientists doing orbital mechanics have a vested interest in the heliocentric solar system hypothesis? Do you realize that the theory of anthropogenic global warming is older than quantum mechanics and relativity, far older than the discovery of DNA and just a bit younger than the theories of Darwin and Mendel from which descended modern biology?

    With all due respect, does it occur to you that maybe you are asking the wrong question? Maybe the question you should be asking is: “How is it that science can be so successful as to completely revolutionize the way humans live and look at the world in 4 short centuries when it is practiced by fallible humans who all have an agenda?”

    THAT is a question that gives you an opportunity to come to a deeper understanding of how science works. To start understanding that question, you have to begin with the understanding that what motivates scientists is an insatiable curiosity to understand how their object of study works. That, above all else, defines their agenda. If they fudge data or selectively interpret results, they retard that goal and they squander the opportunity to be the one to revolutionize their field.

    A second key to understanding how science works is that not all hypotheses are equally well established. We regard evolution as a fact, because it is so central to understanding biology that the field would be altered completely without it. Likewise, that humans are warming the planet is predicated on the powerful greenhouse nature of CO2–a fact so firmly established that we couldn’t even explain why there is liquid water on Earth without it. Likewise, the fact that the planet is warming is so firmly established that even when a scientists starts with an agenda to disprove anthropogenic warming (Richard Muller), he winds up producing trends that agree with all the other temperature products available.

    So, I hope you will do 2 things, Dwight. First, take the opportunity to better understand how science works. This will help you navigate the abysmal scientific reporting that exists in news media today (and is responsible for the silly-assed and contradictory headlines). Second, got off the cigarettes. A couple of years ago, I lost a good friend to lung cancer way too young. Maybe look into E-cigarettes if you can’t quit–hopefully easier on the lungs.

  4. 154

    Dave, nice response at #143.

  5. 155

    Jim, re your in-line response in 120, I think the difference in certainty regarding the causal chain between smoking and lung cancer vs GHG and climate change are not so wildly different as you make them out to be, though it depends very much on how it’s being expressed.

    [Response: Agreed on that last phrase Bart–and I was trying to respond to Alastair’s specific question. The difference between the two issues is the certainty, and severity, of the likely final effect, given the proximate effect. In tobacco-related oncology the proximate effect for a random individual (getting cancer or not), is quite uncertain, but the certainty of the final effect (death), given the proximate effect arising, is strong. In climate change, you could argue it’s the opposite: the certainty of the proximate effect (climate change) is relatively high, whereas the certainty of the final effects thereof on human health/welfare is very low. Relatedly, the pathways by which harmful effects can occur are much different in the two situations, and because of this, the certainty with with ultimate causes can be inferred, in cancer vs climate change effects, is vastly different. Having said that, both situations, if we think of them as dose/response studies, are heavily dependent on the dose administered. But note also that he phrased it in terms of certainty of sudden climate changes, specifically–Jim]

    Indeed, the possibility for double blind experiments means that in toxicology a much higher standard of proof can be achieved than in earth system science.

    But for sake of argument, let’s assume that the certainty in the causal chains mentioned above is 99.9% vs 99%. That means a factor of 10 difference in chance of it being incorrect (0.1 vs 1%). But barely a 1% difference in the (in both cases very large) chance of it being correct. For public and political relevance, both is about as certain as it could possibly be.

  6. 156
    Horatio Algeranon says:

    “The Climate Debating Game”
    — by Horatio Algeranon

    We’ll argue till the day we die
    And children will ask “Why? Oh why?”
    We didn’t do a single thing
    And we’ll just say “We had our fling,
    And now it’s your turn for a time
    Don’t think about the future clime”

  7. 157
    Hank Roberts says:

    <a href="http://www.who.int/tobacco/health_priority/en/&quot;

    Why tobacco is a public health priority

    Tobacco use kills more than 5 million people per year. It is responsible for 1 in 10 adult deaths. Among the five greatest risk factors for mortality, it is the single most preventable cause of death. …
    … The economic costs of tobacco use are equally devastating….
    … Tobacco use and poverty are inextricably linked…. in the poorest households in some low- and middle-income countries, more than 10% of total household expenditure is on tobacco.

    Sounds a lot like coal and diesel fuel.

  8. 158
    Dwight Mac Kerron says:

    I appreciate the generally civil and informed responses. I would ask that people note that I did say that scientists WERE responsible for much of our progress, so I was not trying to trash all science, but merely pointing out that there are a number of short term over-assertions, dead ends, and/or findings which get taken by others to sell a product, pass a law etc.
    I made an earlier post which went poof, which added my local context of weather (not climate) where I am currently burning wood in two stoves 24/7 as New England gets another extended patch of polar air. Hell, I will grant that because the cold air is here, it is not elsewhere, there possibly being a zero-sum, and allegedly overall decreasing pool of cold air, but we certainly have no shortage thereof right now in Massachusetts.
    I also would not dispute that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and has some warming effect. What I do not accept is that there is a tipping point in the near future at which point all the polar ice will be gone and Massachusetts will be Florida. Yes, there are a variety of unknowns from volcanoes to large meteor strikes to earth wobbles to the Rumsfeldian unknowns that you don’t even know that you don’t know…. which can be game-changers and kill us all off, but…so it goes.
    I also make a judgment about myself and a majority of my fellow human beings that we want/need our nice cheap stuff, which includes warm houses in the winter, cooled houses in the summer. I won’t even mention what the developing world needs/wants. To me the tipping point will be when the expense of petro fuel, because of scarcity, not regulation, reaches par with the alternatives, which as far as I can tell, despite a few assertions to the contrary here, has not happened.
    I acknowledge that it is valid to bring up the ways in which our government subsidizes the petro industry and how that balances out with how they tax it.
    Given my varied interests, I could make the case that I already spend to much time puttering and occasionally posting on climate sites, so, short of a Road to Damascus experience, I am not likely to get too deep into all the science, but I will listen to you folks kick it around and sometimes follow links.
    (I did make a short post comparing JR to Robespierre and sympathizing with you for the fire you take from those long on emotion and short on process.) Is there some secret to typing out the anti-spam Decaptcha words, the first one I often find nearly impossible to decipher.

  9. 159
    Hank Roberts says:

    What I do not accept is that there is a tipping point in the near future at which point all the polar ice will be gone and Massachusetts will be Florida.

    - See more at: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2014/01/if-you-see-something-say-something/comment-page-4/#comment-452484

    Citation needed, if you claim anyone, anywhere, said that.
    If you just made that claim up, for rhetoric, please stop.

    You’re illustrating the problem. Shifting baselines underlies incredulity about long-term changes in the world that science detects, while individual people can’t see them happening.

    world.http://www.qc.edu/biology/Waldman/Images/Goliath_Grouper.png
    from Loren McClenachan’s already classic 2009 ‘shifting baselines’ paper on changes in sizes of fish landed at a Florida dock between 1956 and 1979

  10. 160
    Dave123 says:

    Dwight- What I don’t understand is where you get “What I do not accept is that there is a tipping point in the near future at which point all the polar ice will be gone and Massachusetts will be Florida. ” I don’t know **anyone** who says that kind of thing except people with a definite agenda to dismiss what we know about the earth’s climate and our future. The same people who want to say “catastrophic AGW”, or who say that people have changed the name from global warming to climate change (or is it the other way around).

    I don’t know about you, but Near Future means to me what it means to most people in the business world: the next 3 years. (I just got out of a client meeting discussing exactly that about their business plans…long term is 5-10 years). The best estimates of polar ice disappearing in the summmer are around 2030. Again the spin and propaganda on this stuff is just awful: Al Gore gives a speech in which he says that scientists have made a range predictions with the extreme low end being 2016+/- 3 years, and others 20-30 years later. This gets twisted into “Al Gore predicted that sea ice would be gone in 2013…ha ha he got it wrong”, by people with problematic morals. (The whole reason this came up was that the models had been saying about 2100 for this, and they’re pretty clearly wrong on that point….far wronger than they might (and I mean might) be about current matches with Global Mean Surface Temperature.

    I learned sailing from my late New Englander father-in-law, and one of the points was the bigger the boat the earlier you had to react to avoid colliding the with iceberg ahead. Climate is on helluva big boat. In order to have a chance of lessening the affects 50-100 years out we need to start now…and the sooner we start the less draconian we have to be about it. The whole point IS to avoid giving up the air conditioners and living in 40 degree houses (I spent some time in winter in Nanjing a few years back where people kept warm indoors with personal hot water bottles and lots of hot tea….far cheaper than heating the University buildings).

    Lastly, there is no country on earth where there are “natural” fuel prices…every place either taxes or subsidizes fuel costs…sometimes both. Only at the wholesale level do you see anything like a free-market in energy.

    If you look at the modern western world as a whole we have a lot of what I’ll call discretionary spending power. One thing we can do is have the discretion to focus that on replacing high CO2 emitting energy generation with other alternatives. It’s kind of like the choice of fixing the leaking roof on the house or buying the 60″ TV on a personal level. It’s a choice we can make and still have our basic life style. You can live with the 40″ display.

  11. 161
    Alastair McDonald says:

    Jim,

    You wrote to Bart (#155)”the certainty of the final effects thereof on human health/welfare is very low. … he phrased it in terms of certainty of sudden climate changes, specifically–Jim]

    Perhaps it would have been more apt if I had cited this book: Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises (2002), also a NAP publication.

    But even if abrupt climate change is not inevitable, disastrous consequences will follow if we do not persuade the public to curb the burning of fossil fuels. The reason is simple. If we fail to convince them, then CO2 will increase until there is a major catastrophe, or conditions become unbearable. Moreover, when that happens then the climate will continue to warm because of what is called commitment. The AR5 Headlines end:
    “Cumulative emissions of CO2 largely determine global mean surface warming by the late 21st century and beyond. Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 are stopped. This represents a substantial multi-century climate change commitment created by past, present and future emissions of CO2.”

    For instance, I had noticed that when temperatures rise above 40C wild fires become more dangerous. If CO2 continues to rise and temperatures continue to rise then there will be more cases of temperatures above 40C. That means more dangerous wild fires.

    AISI, the public don’t believe that catastrophes happen, but they do. No-one thought when the first World war began that 37 million people would die. No-one thinks that if we do not stop pumping CO2 into the atmosphere that billions could die. But if the climate becomes unsuitable for agriculture that is what could happen!

    [Response: I think about all I can say is (1) of all potential impacts, concern for those to agricultural systems should indeed be #1 on the list, and (2) that fire behavior and danger depends on much more than ambient temperature (and in fact, temperature is typically a relatively minor consideration)–Jim]

  12. 162
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Dwight Mac Kerron,
    The question of “tipping points” is one that is actively being researched. There are several candidates, including Arctic methane, complete loss of Arctic ice during Summer months and even the question of how much warming is in the pipeline. So, do you remember how I said that there are varying degrees of how confident we are in a result? These come under the rubric of moderate confidence but high impact. If any of them materializes, then we are well and truly screwed.

  13. 163
    Jim Eager says:

    Dwight, you might want to ponder this:

    From the ice core record we know that CO2 has never been higher than ~300 ppm over the last 800,000 years covered by the ice core record. Other evidence indicates that the last time CO2 stood at the current level of just under 400 ppm was around 2.5 million years ago during the Pliocene, when evidence also shows that global mean temperature was 2-3C (3.5-5.5F) warmer, and sea level around 25m (81ft) higher than today. Assuming we make no progress on reducing our output of CO2 from burning fossil carbon any time soon, that is the world we are heading for. It will take several hundred years to get there, probably over 1000 years, as there is a lot of ocean to warm and a lot of ice that has to melt to get there, but the past shows us were we are heading because Earth has been there before. It’s in the geologic record. It is a known known.

    I would urge you to learn more about the science. I recommend Spencer Weart’s The Discovery of Global Warming. It’s available to read for free on-line at http://www.aip.org/history/climate/index.htm

  14. 164
    Dave123 says:

    I see that two of Michael Wallace’s posts got boreholed, which leaves me wondering if he’s followed the discussion since. But since I don’t have any other way of communicating with him here goes in two parts:

    Michael claims we’ve discarded 80 years of data. The problem is that the pH meter with glass electrodes was invented in 1936, and certainly didn’t come into wide use until the 1940s. So if we say that modern collection w/o glass electrodes started in 1993, that means Michael is talking about data collected long prior to 1936….and that means titration using color changing indicators. Those are even less accurate than pH meters with glass electrodes. Titrations are such fussy business. Now maybe I’ve misunderstood Michael, and he’s trying to count backwards from 2010, in which case you get to the 1930s. But he will have to be sure of the method used, and its accuracy and precision.

    Part two is this that I’ve been strongly influenced by Tamino, who regularly generates synthetic data to show what we can and can’t figure out from the real data (because the real data is always an estimate while there’s no dispute about the synthetic data).

    I think Michael could save himself a lot of time and grief if he either did the following himself or got a statistician to help him with it.

    1. Generate two sets of artificial data. One assuming that the 0.002 unit acidification has been going on from 1930, with an arbitrary pH base of say 8.3. The second one would take the model data he doesn’t like- that will be non-linear, and treat the smoothed curve as synthetic data.

    2. Using a properly large synthetic data set, then apply our RealClimate consensus accuracy of 0.03 pH units (for two standard deviations) to generate a random normal error around the synthetic trends in each case.

    3. Then round the resulting numbers to the number of significant figures for the pH meters used (almost certainly two significant figures. Eg 8.22

    4. Now do various regression and curve fitting analyses on the synthetic data with an imposed random error. Can 40, 50 years worth of data pick up signal for the linear synthetic data? (about 0.1 pH units). What about the curve for the model output with random error imposed. I suspect you might be able to do the former, but probably not the later.

    For Tamino (or equivalent) this would probably be a few hours worth of work. You’d have a sanity check on the whole argument. Why spend a zillion hours validating however many pH measurements were made if you can show that they can’t generate a statistically significant result from synthetic data?

  15. 165
    Kevin Hood says:

    Regarding “Massachusetts becoming Florida”:

    On January 22, 2014 the high temperature of Sitka, Alaska was 56 degrees F. The high temperature of Jacksonville, Florida was 45 degrees F. Just sayin’….

    [And I know weather does not equal climate. Still, it is freakishly warm up here….]

  16. 166
    Dwight Mac Kerron says:

    On the recommendation of Jim at #163, I just read Spencer Weart’s section on aerosols. It is a wonderful compilation of a lot of stuff, and generally re-enforces my view that there are lot of unknowns in the mix and that each (well, every so often) new study can trigger a whole new bunch of dramatic concerns about the planet. It’s the “here’s why my study is important” or “here’s why you should pay attention to this story” syndrome, a very human thing.
    It also leads me to respond to Jim’s point about CO2 levels in the ice cores, that there are also most likely a lot of other variables at play. I can understand the point of view that all other things being equal, higher CO2 means higher temperatures. But, obviously, other things are never always equal and it has seemed to me for some time that higher temperatures would force there to me more water vapor in the atmosphere and that rain would have to fall somewhere and we would work with that.
    It also still seems more likely to me that we will do things like put more sulphur back into the air to intentionally create cooling, detonate some massive bombs, and/or create massive infrastructure canals or tunnels to move water from flood to drought… than we are to stop using petro fuel.

    #165 And there was a high temp in the teens at my house in Mass.

  17. 167
    John McCormick says:

    Congratulations, Dr. Mann.

    January 23, 2014

    A judge for the D.C. Superior Court on Thursday refused to let libertarian think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and conservative news site National Review off the hook from a defamation lawsuit brought by climatologist Michael Mann, saying the sites’ musings about the accuracy of Mann’s research may not be protected by the First Amendment.

  18. 168
    Mal Adapted says:

    Dwight Mac Kerron:

    but this CO2 stuff seems so close to questioning/challenging the very EXISTENCE of who we are and how we live, that one needs a religious experience to embrace the new order.

    Please clarify something for us. By “the very EXISTENCE of who we are and how we live” do you mean the material prosperity created by 300 years of fossil-fuel-powered economic development? If that’s what you’re saying needs a religious experience to question/challenge, then I think I understand your problem with accepting the urgency of AGW. Am I on the right track?

  19. 169
    Mal Adapted says:

    Without waiting for Dwight Mac Kerron’s reply to my previous post, I’ll draw his attention to An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming. Prominent signers include Roy W. Spencer and a few other scientific “skeptics”. The signers affirm their belief that AGW can’t be a serious problem because their god wouldn’t allow it. A religious experience may indeed be required before they can accept the evidence considered overwhelming by the vast majority of Spencer’s professional colleagues.

    [Response: OK, I don’t like what you’re implying here, at all. There are also Christians and other religious people who are very concerned with climate change. This is clearly an ad-hominem attack. No more!–Jim]

  20. 170
    Susan Anderson says:

    fwiw, it has indeed been freakishly warm in most of Alaska all winter. As far as that goes, the only thing I’d note is not to get too local about weather.

    Speaking of which, in the interests of precision various periods are posited for how long denotes a trend, 17 years, 30 years, but regardless of that, it might be useful to remember that regardless of the interval, one should put whatever interval into the context of all the temperature record we have. Those dips and peaks do not occur in isolation. It is only cherrypickers who wish to leave out the rest of the record, and that is plain stupid.

    (ps. Ray Ladbury, for your work here and elsewhere, thanks. Lotta sense there.)

  21. 171
    Dwight Mac Kerron says:

    #168 asked “Please clarify something for us. By “the very EXISTENCE of who we are and how we live” do you mean the material prosperity created by 300 years of fossil-fuel-powered economic development?” Yes.

  22. 172
    SecularAnimist says:

    Dwight Mac Kerron wrote (#134): “this CO2 stuff seems so close to questioning/challenging the very EXISTENCE of who we are and how we live, that one needs a religious experience to embrace the new order.”

    To quote Tonto, what do you mean “we”, kemosabe?

    A very small number of human beings, during a very short period of human history, are responsible for burning most of the fossil fuels, and emitting most of the CO2, so far.

    In no way is the “existence” of human beings, or the “existence” of a technologically advanced, prosperous human civilization, “challenged” by phasing out fossil fuels. We certainly don’t need them for energy — the energy available from sunlight and wind every year is greater than all the energy contained in all the fossil fuels on Earth.

    On the contrary, it is the continued use of fossil fuels that constitutes a grave threat to humanity.

    Even the mildest consequences of continued GHG emissions at anything like today’s levels — let alone the scientifically plausible worst outcomes — will be devastating to humanity.

    What is, of course, “challenged” by the urgent necessity of ending GHG emissions is the trillions of dollars in profit that the fossil fuel corporations expect to rake in from business-usual consumption of their products until the last drop of oil and the last crumb of coal have been dug up and burned.

    And “religious experience” has nothing to do with any of this. Common concern for our own well-being and that of our children and grandchildren is more than sufficient reason for urgent action.

  23. 173
    nigelmj says:

    Regarding the comment by Mal Adapted at 169, stating briefly “Roy W. Spencer and a few other scientific “skeptics”. The signers affirm their belief that AGW can’t be a serious problem because their god wouldn’t allow it.” The site moderator responded and thinks this is a personal attack

    Totally disagree. Its a fact, and a fact cant be a personal attack. Peoples beliefs are relevant to the discussion, religious or otherwise. How many sceptics are influenced by ideology? This is important to know, its not all about “the content of the argument.” There is an element of simple credibility.

    However obviously not all christians fall into the same beliefs about climate change, but thats not the point.

    [Response: Wrong on all counts. No more on this.–Jim]

  24. 174
    Mal Adapted says:

    Jim:

    [OK, I don’t like what you’re implying here, at all. There are also Christians and other religious people who are very concerned with climate change. This is clearly an ad-hominem attack. No more!–Jim]

    Jim, I’m not implying that simply being religious prevents anyone from accepting the evidence for AGW. I’m well aware that there are many people of faith who are deeply concerned about climate change and other grave environmental problems (I once spent a fascinating morning riding around Portland with Peter Illyn). They aren’t among the signers of the declaration, which seems pretty unambiguous to me:

    We believe Earth and its ecosystems —created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence— are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception. Recent global warming is one of many natural cycles of warming and cooling in geologic history.

    We deny that Earth and its ecosystems are the fragile and unstable products of chance, and particularly that Earth’s climate system is vulnerable to dangerous alteration because of minuscule changes in atmospheric chemistry. Recent warming was neither abnormally large nor abnormally rapid. There is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming.

    Jim, do you honestly think that Spencer, having affirmed those statements, is entitled to claim that his “skepticism” about AGW arises from scientific objectivity?

    [Response: Look, if you have a problem with Spencer’s scientific views, then stick strictly to those points. You were the one who brought him into this out of the blue in the first place, and not even in the open thread either. There’s no need to bring his religious views into it, you just muddy the waters with that stuff–Jim]

  25. 175
    Hank Roberts says:

    > material prosperity

    … a baseline is an important reference point for measuring the health of ecosystems. It provides information against which to evaluate change. It’s how things used to be. It is the tall grass prairies filled with buffalo, the swamps of Florida teeming with bird life and the rivers of the Northwest packed with salmon. In an ideal world, the baseline for any given habitat would be what was there before humans had much impact.

    If we know the baseline for a degraded ecosystem, we can work to restore it. But if the baseline shifted before we really had a chance to chart it, then we can end up accepting a degraded state as normal — or even as an improvement.

    The number of salmon in the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia River today is twice what it was in the 1930s. That sounds great — if the 1930s are your baseline. But salmon in the Columbia River in the 1930s were only 10% of what they were in the 1800s. The 1930s numbers reflect a baseline that had already shifted.

    This is what most environmental groups are now struggling with. They are trying to decide: What do we want nature to look like in the future? And more important: What did nature look like in the past?

    http://www.shiftingbaselines.org/op_ed/index.html

    300 years ago, the world was ‘too cheap to meter’ — free to take.

    Our “material prosperity” couldn’t come close to buying us a planet in that condition now.

    You can’t afford it. What’s it worth?

    Where’s your prosperity, once you’ve degraded the source?

    Yum, that goose was tasty.
    Why are there no more golden eggs?

  26. 176
    Jim says:

    No more comments on religion or religious views please. Any such will be trashed. Thanks in advance for cooperating.
    Jim

  27. 177
    Mal Adapted says:

    Jim, it’s your blog, and I won’t appeal your choice to trash my last comment. I will say, however, that I thought the topic of this post was “If you see something, say something.” I saw something, and I said something about it.

  28. 178
    Ron R. says:

    I think the crux of the issue of scientific advocacy in the two RC posts about it is summed up in these comments by John Benton and Gavin:

    http://www.realclimate.org/?comments_popup=16540#comment-438139

    JB: “All scientists who become advocates, irrespective of who they are, cannot be trusted to produce unbiased scientific output.”

    Gavin: “So according to this theory … is it that the only scientists who are pure and objective and without any preferences can do ‘real’ science?”

    I would put the question differently: Would you trust a scientist that has “no opinion” or “no position” on other very important environmental or social issues besides climate science, say like: the psychological effects of genocide on children in certain countries? The annual slaughter of hundreds of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary? The fact that the multiple meltdowns in Japan is apparently unstoppable and that hundreds of tons of extremely radioactive water is pouring into the Pacific every day? What about Deforestation, mountaintop mining and removal, the effects of toxic waste dumping, the destruction of the ozone layer, etc. etc.?

    Would you trust a scientist that doesn’t care enough to take a position? Isn’t human enough to speak out? I would think that those are precisely the people one should doubt.

    It the extreme view of objectivity that has led to the idea of scientists as being cold and impersonal Mengeles.

    Keep in mind that when a scientist takes a position, he is placing his reputation on the line; if he is wrong he will be exposed and likely ridiculed. It is in his interest, then, to be a accurate as he can.

    Certainly, one needs to find out if the advocate has a large financial stake in the position he is taking. Thus, all scientific advocates, on whatever side, should probably reveal their sources of income, perhaps it should even be required that they do, a minor inconvenience if simply in the interests of the furtherance of science. Trust is the stepping-stone to acceptance and then action.

    One small suggestion. It would be helpful to place the captcha next to the “Say It!” button so that one doesn’t forget to write it in.

  29. 179
    Dwight Mac Kerron says:

    Possibly Mal Adapted is free-associating somewhat ponderously to all things religious. My point was that it takes a Road to Damascus type experience to put on the hair shirt of giving up “petro in any manner approaching cold turkey. Not being particularly religious now, (after a very religious childhood many moons ago,) I am not coming down the aisle to declare my commitment to the Lord of CO2 renunciation. But amelioration? …. quite possibly. And there’s always hope. Didn’t Pat Robertson declare himself to be a believer in Global Warming after a particularly hot summer several years ago?
    But there’s another obvious rub; with CO2 buildup and any related warming being a gradual and intermittent thing in the experience of living humans, statements emanating from a geological time scale cut both ways. They show that bad things will happen, but also that a lot of scary things have already happened. That is where climate can seem like “God’s will,” whether the divine power carries a thunderbolt, stone tablets, or just an inherent inclination to tip the earth’s axis, ever so slightly, every so often. Attempts to dramatize the coming apocalypse put believers in the camp with other evangelists and in the double-bind of needing to get the attention, but becoming less trusted when they do.

  30. 180
    Radge Havers says:

    Ideally this discussion about advocacy wouldn’t be necessary. But since we live in a world where the hard work of scientsts in the public arena is effectively being flushed down the toilet, we’re stuck with the painful process of figuring out how best to move around the situation.

    Clearly there are no easy, palatable answers, so it’s no use hiding from unpleasant and sensitive realities. For instance one doesn’t have to intrude on religious freedom to balk at superstition intruding on science, though creationists and their cranky fellow travelers argue otherwise. Such crude and pernicious arguments should be scorned by all principled, thinking people.

    Good science is what we’re advocating for, so all open avenues and constraints regarding advocacy should be tied to specific arguments that favor promoting good science. So obvious it’s easy to forget.

  31. 181
    Chuck Hughes says:

    Robert Redford was on CNN this morning talking about Climate Change. This isn’t the exact clip because I couldn’t locate it directly but this explains what he’s trying to do: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/robert-redford-to-obama-time-to-act-on-climate-change/

    This is where the Scientific community needs to engage professional media types like Redford, combine forces and come up with a clear and powerful message utilizing the plethora of dramatic footage from the various Climate Catastrophes we’ve been experiencing the last several years. Put that with a sound scientific narrative. It could be the next BIG Reality TV Show. (Snark)

    In other words, bring ALL sides together, i.e. religious, non religious, whatever, and start pounding away at getting the message out until we drown out the denialists with solid, visible PROOF and a variety of voices from all corners. Even the Pope if necessary.

    The problem is getting the message out. Al Gore tried and did well but being a Democratic politician he became a prime target. We can’t allow the other side to “kill the messenger.” Not that they won’t try but that’s why you need professional, media savvy help. If you’re standing in water and need a plumber, you don’t call an electrician to fix the problem. There’s a powerful story here that needs to be told.

  32. 182
    Jim Eager says:

    Dwight wrote:

    “I can understand the point of view that all other things being equal, higher CO2 means higher temperatures.”

    That’s not a point of view, Dwight, it is a scientific fact. It is a physical reality.

    “there are also most likely a lot of other variables at play.”

    Of course there are. The mid-Pliocene is not a perfect analogue because the straight between North and South America closed at about the same time, completely altering global ocean circulation, giving rise to the Gulf Stream that now brings warmth to the north Atlantic. And although the Milankovich orbital cycles have governed the ebb and flow of the glacials and interglacials of the last million years, the pattern has not been entirely uniform over that time span.

    “But, obviously, other things are never always equal and it has seemed to me for some time that higher temperatures would force there to me more water vapor in the atmosphere and that rain would have to fall somewhere”

    Yes, higher atmospheric temperature does mean that the atmosphere can hold more moisture, aproximately 7% more per degree C rise. That’s the primary amplifying feedback of the greenhouse effect because water vapour is itself a powerful greenhouse gas. You are also spot-on that more water vapour means more precipitation when it does rain or snow. But that greater precipitation also means increased risk of flooding. Sound familiar in view of the past decade?

    “seems more likely to me that we will do things like put more sulphur back into the air to intentionally create cooling, detonate some massive bombs, and/or create massive infrastructure canals or tunnels to move water from flood to drought”

    Once you start to intentionally put blocking aerosols in the atmosphere you will have to keep doing so in perpetuity because they don’t stay there for very long and because the forcing from rising CO2 will only be masked, not halted. Were you to stop it would come roaring back higher than before in a very short time. It also does not address the problem of ocean acidification at all, while it raises the contradiction that if you think we don’t fully understand the climate system as it is, what makes you think we understand it well enough to start deliberately reengineering it?

    As for creating massive infrastructure canals or tunnels to move water from flood to drought, you must not have noticed that the industrialized world is having trouble paying for maintenance and replacement of the infrastructure it already has, never mind funding massive new schemes of the sort you imagine.

    Why seek out costly, unproven and downright risky ways to manage with the symptom instead of the best, most cost effective solutions to the root problem itself?

  33. 183
    SecularAnimist says:

    Dwight Mac Kerron wrote: “I also make a judgment about myself and a majority of my fellow human beings that we want/need our nice cheap stuff, which includes warm houses in the winter, cooled houses in the summer.”

    Having warm houses in the winter and cooled houses in the summer does not require fossil fuels.

    Dwight Mac Kerron wrote: “I won’t even mention what the developing world needs/wants.”

    The things that people in the developing world need and want don’t require fossil fuels, and in fact cannot be provided by fossil fuels. Moreover those things are gravely threatened by global warming.

    Dwight Mac Kerron wrote: “To me the tipping point will be when the expense of petro fuel, because of scarcity, not regulation, reaches par with the alternatives, which as far as I can tell, despite a few assertions to the contrary here, has not happened.”

    First, if we continue burning fossil fuels until they actually become “scarce”, then we ensure a global catastrophe that will utterly destroy everything you just said that you value. If we are to have any hope of avoiding the worst outcomes of global warming, most of the fossil fuels remaining in the ground need to stay there.

    Second, there is every reason, and We The People have every RIGHT, to demand “regulation” of fossil fuels. To begin with we must demand that the cost of carbon pollution be internalized in the cost of fossil fuels, through some mechanism such as a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade market. Allowing those costs to be dumped on the general public amounts to a huge public subsidy to the fossil fuel producers and makes fossil fuels artificially cheap. And carbon pollution is not the only reason to regulate fossil fuels: the toxic pollution from burning coal and gasoline inflicts a massive toll of illness and death on the public.

    Third, in addition to the huge subsidy to fossil fuels represented by not putting a price on carbon pollution, there have been massive direct subsidies to the fossil fuel industry for over a century, which are ongoing today, and which utterly dwarf the meager support that has only very recently been offered to the renewable energy industries. If you want a “level playing field”, that will require ending all subsidies for fossil fuels immediately and extending billions of dollars in subsidies to renewable energy for decades to come until they catch up with what has already been lavished on coal, oil and gas.

    And last, you are misinformed about the relative cost of fossil fuels and alternatives. In fact, electricity from wind and solar is already cheaper than fossil fueled electricity in many places, even without subsidies, and even without putting a price on carbon pollution. In fact, it costs less to run an electric car than to run a gasoline-fueled car, and electric cars are far less expensive to maintain.

    In short, your belief that the lifestyle you value is threatened by a rapid transition from an energy economy based on fossil fuels to one based on renewable energy is mistaken. In fact, the opposite is true: continued reliance on fossil fuels is what threatens your values.

  34. 184
    Dwight Mac Kerron says:

    Secular Animist at #183; I don’t know whether to respond that I would not want YOU making financial decisions for a business of mine, or instead take a whopping leap of faith and hire you immediately as a financial advisor, because if you happen to be correct that the non-petro ways really are cheaper, there are billions and billions of dollars to be made by simply making a couple good investments in wind or solar.
    Alas, both you and I know that neither one is close to being cheaper at this time unless you cherry pick a few places that can push power back out into the grid some of the time. Even proponents of our off-shore Cape Wind project here in Mass. have been forced to admit that it will RAISE, not lower the electrical rates for Cape Cod.
    I belabor the obvious, but petro gives you unmatched ability to generate massive amounts of power on demand at any time, to run your “economical” electric cars… and power the rest of the country, rather than relying on an as yet uninvented huge storage capacity. Obviously, nuclear could give you immediate generation capacity, but certainly not wind and solar.
    I don’t worship the market, but I believe in it enough to “know” that if wind and solar were more efficient, they would drive out petro. Solyndra or companies like it would have taken off, not crashed and burned.
    Your system has to rely on an abstract computation of the “true” cost of petro, which you would then abitrarily add to its price as a sin tax and invest that money in the “safer” wind and solar… and batteries the size of one or many aircraft carriers. Some day, we may have that system, or one would hope, some breakthrough ways to store huge amounts of energy. When those inventions are made, they will market themselves.

  35. 185
    Jon Kirwan says:

    Just to recall some events surrounding Christy and Spencer and keeping in mind Jim’s wise advice about ad-hominem:

    In April of 2005, Christy and Spencer stopped their regular monthly updates of their MSU T2LT data. Shortly afterward, a new version (5.2) data suddenly appeared on their web site and showed a substantial correction. But without explanation. The next day, the data was pulled off the site again. In early August, they provided version 5.2 again as a rework of their earlier MSU T2LT data. The data included the missing summer months of 2005 plus a rework of the older data. They wrote:

    “An artifact of the diurnal correction applied to LT has been discovered by Carl Mears and Frank Wentz (Remote Sensing Systems). This artifact contributed an error term in certain types of diurnal cycles, most notably in the tropics. We have applied a new diurnal correction based on 3 AMSU instruments and call the dataset v5.2. This artifact does not appear in MT or LS. The new global trend from Dec 1978 to July 2005 is +0.123 C/decade, or +0.035 C/decade warmer than v5.1. This particular error is within the published margin of error for LT of +/- 0.05 C/decade (Christy et al. 2003). We thank Carl and Frank for digging into our procedure and discovering this error. All radiosonde comparisons have been rerun and the agreement is still exceptionally good. There was virtually no impact of this error outside of the tropics.”

    (For that one day it was on the web, the correction yielded a new higher trend than before at something like 0.193 C/decade for Dec 1978 to July 2005. When it returned, that had been adjusted to 0.123C/decade. But perhaps they removed it quickly and took a breather because they recognized another unfortunate mistake slipping out.)

    John Christy posted their data after months of delay. Intersestingly, that posting took place on the very same day that GW Bush signed the then new energy bill. (And only after the conference committee dumped the Senate’s recommendations regarding GHG emissions.) The early release that lasted only one day was at an _inauspicious_ time, regarding the politics taking place. The immediate removal the following day and the re-posting instantly after political issues were made moot does make me wonder a little.

    Regardless, their correction at the time fit brought the slope of their results within the range of the IPCC TAR (the AR4 wouldn’t be out for a couple of years, yet) and removed the distracting use of their MSU T2LT trending as a point of instrumental record dispute.

    I don’t recall the details, but I know that Christy and Spencer were asked repeatedly by various groups and individuals, over a period of several years, to consider reviewing their methodology, tools, etc., with an idea to helping resolve their dataset’s singular conflict (and it’s abuse by groups with an interest in fostering confusion in the public) regarding the trend in global warming. So far as I’m aware, that didn’t publicly happen and it appears that it was left to Mears and Wentz to perform the singularly unrewarding act of attempting to duplicate results and make them public.

    I believe there remains a trend difference between RSS and UAH datasets for the MSU T2LT. I then gather there also remains some disagreement about how to process the raw data for climate use. It seems a shame that two groups continue to feel it necessary to process the raw MSU T2LT data.

    But there it is.

  36. 186
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Solyndra
    They had a better product — more efficient — but more expensive, at a time when Chinese panels were dropping in price. (Those are now starting to fail, cheap sometimes is actually cheap, but ymmv.)

    If they’d sold the backlog of material at the bankruptcy sale, a whole lot of people would have been happy to buy them, at discount prices. It’d have been an ideal chance for many of us to get going.

    One wonders why the judge had them destroyed instead of preserved for sale. One wonders, sometimes. http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2012/01/19/bankrupt-solyndra-caught-destroying-brand-new-parts/

  37. 187
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Dwight Mac Kerron,
    Given how many good men and women we have lost in the Middle East, and the billions in treasure we’ve expended there, I don’t see how you can call petroleum cheap. Were it not for the demand for petroleum, do you think we would have spent nearly as much in that region–a region with no other important resources of note?

    The earliest cars were battery powered. Who is to say that this technology would not be a lot more advanced had we not gone down the petroleum route?

    And coal? Have you been to Appalachia? If fossil fuels had to pay their own way, I would like the odds on renewables quite a lot better. However, I would expect fossil fuel interests to be just as dishonest and ruthless in defending their subsidies as they have been in suppressing the truth about climate change.

    I’d love to see the free market work, if you’d just point me to where one exists.

  38. 188
    Walter says:

    #173 The Moderator says: [Response: Wrong on all counts. No more on this.–Jim]

    Mr. Moderator, what you have said is extremely unlear. Please clarify exactly what you were referring to when you said “wrong on all counts”

    Was this wrong: The site moderator responded and thinks this is a personal attack …?

    Was this wrong: Its a fact, and a fact cant be a personal attack. …?

    Was this wrong: Peoples beliefs are relevant to the discussion, religious or otherwise. … ?

    Was this wrong: sceptics are influenced by ideology ….?

    Was this wrong: This is important to know, its not all about “the content of the argument.” There is an element of simple credibility. …?

    Was this wrong: obviously not all christians fall into the same beliefs about climate change …. ?

    was this wrong: but that’s not the point. …. ?

    Using objective reason and logic, please show the readers what was “Wrong on all Counts”.

    Also re #176
    Jim says: 25 Jan 2014 at 7:51 PM
    No more comments on religion or religious views please. Any such will be trashed. Thanks in advance for cooperating. Jim
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2014/01/if-you-see-something-say-something/comment-page-4/#comment-452946

    Jim, now using consistent values based on reason and logic, please explain to the readers the basis for moderating out the following posts to the Bore Hole.

    (1) http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/the-bore-hole/comment-page-30/#comment-452966

    Nothing was mentioned about anyone’s religious views, the word religion was not used at all. eg “In normal discourse, pointing out logical flaws in another’s argument is fair game. The fallacy of an appeal to authority is a valid issue to bring into question, as it highlights another’s lack of basic reasoning ability. It is a question of basic credibility.”

    Exactly what is wrong with that post and precisely how does it not meet the stated standards for acceptable posts to RC?

    Is it simply a matter that the Moderator cannot deal with a valid argument that shows, quoting “Jim’s judgement is in error here.” ? That is an opinion, it is not Ad Hominem, it is not an attack, it is a discussion point and a moderators judgment. That too should be fair game, and the moderators must be able to support their own thinking in the public domain, or they should not be acting as Moderators at all.

    NEXT: Mal Adapted says: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/the-bore-hole/comment-page-30/#comment-452945

    eg Jim:
    Look, if you have a problem with Spencer’s scientific views, then stick strictly to those points.

    “OK. I have a problem with this scientific view of Spencer’s:”

    Mr Moderator, please explain to the readers precisely why MalAdapted’s post was relegated to the BoreHole besides the fact that he is challenging your perosnal bias and opinion and judgment on this matter?

    He is NOT being rude, not being personally abusive, not cursing anyone, not using adhominem, but simply and clearly challenging you to back up your our judgment and actions here.

    That is what all scientists do to each every day of the week. Challenge other scientists thinking processes as well as checking for unconscious BIAS in their work and their judgments.

    Please explain yours.

    Or why it is you believe you can be excluded from such reasonable everyday inquiry?

    Walter

  39. 189
    Russell says:

    Recruiting Redford’s cohort to lend Oscar-strength gravitas to CO2 policy pronouncements recalls the moment of high comedy on PBS when Steve Gould produced Joe Di Maggio to endorse nuclear winter on prime time.

    At least he didn’t overact.

  40. 190
    Devil's Advocate says:

    Is it really that big of a deal?

    Lets accept science’s best guess scenarios as to future climate changes. Take the perspective of a middle class American. Is life really going to be that much different in 100 years due to climate change?

    Sure, maybe there are a few more hurricanes; maybe New Orleans will have to have some neighborhoods permantly abandoned and New York may build flood walls. People can move. Maybe there will be droughts and crop failures, so food gets more expensive. That may be famines in India and Africa, but middle classes in rich nations can afford it. Its not like ALL the crops are going to fail, so there will still be things for people who can pay the price. (Since when has the average American cared much about the problems of poor dark-skinned people in far-away lands?) Maybe the extinction rate goes up, but its been high for decades and it hasn’t made any difference to anyone. We can still see the cute polar bears at the zoo.

    So what is it that middle class Americans are supposed to be up in arms about?

  41. 191
    Chuck Hughes says:

    For what it’s worth… and I don’t know if this is OT or not but I’m kinda going with the flow here…

    We bought a Chevy Volt last Fall 2013. When we bought it they mentioned a $7500 tax credit. We’re in the process of filing our 2013 tax returns and it’s looking like this is going to be a $7500 tax REBATE. Along with all our other usual deductions this is a really big deal financially for us. For our income bracket we’re now at the Zero line.

    First off the car set on the lot for almost 3 years. By the time we got around to looking at it the dealer was ready to get rid of it. The sticker price was $44,000. They knocked $12,000 off of that with a trade in and threw in the kitchen sink. This car has all the bells and whistles because it was fully loaded. Bottom line, we’re getting a nice rebate and NO GAS BILL as long as we drive it local. In the warm months the battery gets up to 45 miles on one charge and our electric bill has been steadly going down.

    It’s a great car and it will soon pay for itself. So yes, at least for us, Green Tech is way cheaper. When you break or coast the battery is charging back up. The new Chevy Volts have already come way down in price and you’re still eligible for the tax rebate until X-number of cars are sold. I don’t remember the number but they still have a long way to go yet. Even my Republican relatives are impressed! This is the same Chevy Volt that was trashed by Rush Limbaugh and company when it came out.

    It also has plenty of power and acceleration and gets lots of attention whenever we drive it. The technology in this thing is amazing! So there’s some good news for those looking to cut their CO2 emissions. Embrace the technology.

  42. 192

    #185–“I believe there remains a trend difference between RSS and UAH datasets for the MSU T2LT. I then gather there also remains some disagreement about how to process the raw data for climate use. It seems a shame that two groups continue to feel it necessary to process the raw MSU T2LT data.”

    Yes–RSS now shows the least warming of any of the Big Five datasets, for reasons as yet undetermined (AFAIK.)

    Yes, there are differences in processing algorithm.

    Why is it a shame to have two versions? Independent (or at least quasi-independent) checks and all that. (And actually, it’s three groups and four datasets, since there’s a group at U Washington which further processes both RSS and UAH satellite data.)

  43. 193
    Rachel F says:

    Hello, I’m new to this blog.
    I want to say firstly that I’m immensely grateful for the work done by the worldwide climate science community. I understand that the subject is inherently highly complex, and findings are met with mass misunderstanding, indifference or hostility.
    I have been working on the demand side (energy efficiency, conservation) for many years, which I believe is as important as the fight for renewables. But really, we need both.
    I wanted to comment on the religious aspect. The current belief in an ever growing economy powered by instant fossil fuels seems to be a belief system akin to a religion. It’s irrational and devoid of evidence. It can only perpetuate when scientific evidence is ignored. It gives no value to diversity of life and the natural world (i.e. non-believers). And of course it’s irrational because it could lead to our own demise eventually.

    So religion is important, if only that the religion of non-stop growth must be exposed for the lie that it is.

  44. 194
    DIOGENES says:

    Dwight #184,

    “unless you cherry pick a few places that can push power back out into the grid some of the time”.

    ‘Cherry-picking’ is the modus operandi of the ‘foot soldiers’ of the climate advocacy movement. Rather than accept reality, they invent their own reality. For example, in Rolling Stone articles over the last couple of years, McKibben has stated that the 2 C temperature ceiling target for the interim is a politically-based number, not a scientifically based number. He has quoted leading scientists who say that approximately 1 C should be the target. Yet, in his ‘terrifying new math’ paper and other forums, he has used the 2 C target to set the remaining carbon budget (>500GT). Further, he has stated “But, in fact, computer models calculate that even if we stopped increasing CO2 now, the temperature would likely still rise another 0.8 degrees, as previously released carbon continues to overheat the atmosphere. That means we’re already three-quarters of the way to the two-degree target.” In fact, if the scientific target is about 1 C, as Hansen and many other leading climate scientists have stated, we have already exceeded it by 50% because of our past commitments, with no end in sight.

    Over the last few years, Anderson has made the same statement as McKibben on the political nature of the 2 C ceiling. He also emphasizes that the leading climate scientists believe the 1 C target is far more appropriate, for the reasons Hansen states. Yet, he uses the 2 C ceiling as the basis for his computations, and the recommendations he makes for emissions reductions.

    CO2 emissions and concentrations have been growing steadily for decades, with no end in sight. Long-term energy use projections by all credible organizations show continued growth for fossil fuel use for decades. For the near-term growth, McKibben had a useful quote: “By the time Obama leaves office, the U.S. will pass Saudi Arabia as the planet’s biggest oil producer and Russia as the world’s biggest producer of oil and gas combined. In the same years, even as we’ve begun to burn less coal at home, our coal exports have climbed to record highs. We are, despite slight declines in our domestic emissions, a global-warming machine: At the moment when physics tell us we should be jamming on the carbon brakes, America is revving the engine.” Australia, Canada, Russia et al are not letting up as well, doing everything possible to satisfy the insatiable demand from China, India, and other developing nations. Right now, most of that energy demand requires fossil.

    Rather than face the reality that we are 1) out of carbon budget (and 50% in carbon debt according to the above), that we are 2) out of any options that will increase emissions in the interim, and face the real problem head-on, our resident ‘foot-soldiers’ invent even further realities. In this imaginary world, since the 1 C targets are not to their liking, well, then we declare that targets are un-necessary, targets don’t matter. These words are like a Koch brothers wet dream!

    We are carbon bankrupt. When people who are financially bankrupt sit down to negotiate, they are not promised ‘prosperity’ et al by the negotiator. They are forced to adhere to a minimal budget necessary for survival, in order that they can continue working and pay off as many creddditors as possible. That’s the kind of reality we need for carbon bankruptcy. Minimal expenditures for decades, with associated reductions in the economy, until we have gotten back on our feet from a carbon perspective.

  45. 195
    Jim Eager says:

    Devils advocate, are you sure that there will be an American middle class in 100 years?

  46. 196
    Edward Greisch says:

    188 Walter: To take on only one subject per web site. There are lots of other places for other subject comments. Don’t try to fight as many wars as possible at one time. Fight one war, then consolidate your gains. You can’t win against too many at once.

    Other places:

    http://www.atheist-experience.com/
    http://www.livingwithoutreligion.org/
    http://www.richarddawkins.net
    http://ffrf.org
    http://americanhumanist.org
    http://the-brights.net
    http://www.centerforinquiry.net

    and many more.

  47. 197
    wili says:

    DA @190–Well, you are certainly trying to live up to your name. May I suggest reading Mark Lynas’s “Six Degrees,” consider that that level of temperature rise (C) is well within possibilities, then get back to us on your cheery notions? Alternatively, you could just look at today’s CA. A few more months of the current drought and there just won’t be anything available for farming and living. There will be mass migration and worse. That is possible NOW. That kind of thing will become the norm SOON. Let’s not mention spread of tropical diseases to mid and northern climes, sea level rise–possibly abrupt–disrupting your happy family’s life if the live or get water from anywhere near the coast, crashing of food availability, beyond-biblical flooding, ever-more-intense super-storms, extremes weather of all sorts, unsurvivable ‘wetbulb’ temperatures… But don’t take my word for it–read the book, or just read anything reliable on consequences of the juggernaut we have unleashed.

  48. 198
    wili says:

    Nicely put, Diogenes. Any idea what an adjustment of Anderson’s proposal would mean if we adopted the 1 degree target rather than the 2? Would that require a 20% annual reduction in industrial emissions? More? Less?

  49. 199
    SecularAnimist says:

    Diogenes wrote: “In this imaginary world, since the 1 C targets are not to their liking, well, then we declare that targets are un-necessary, targets don’t matter.”

    Setting CO2 or temperature targets is indeed absolutely pointless while we continue moving, and in fact accelerating, in the wrong direction, and when we know that the current anthropogenically-elevated CO2 levels and temperatures are already well into the danger zone.

    The only relevant “target” is to reverse direction as quickly as possible, and move in the right direction as rapidly as possible.

    Interestingly, your response to every single proposal put forward here for reversing direction has been (1) to denigrate and disparage it with entirely unsupported, contrafactual claims that it will make matters worse; (2) to misrepresent it as a proposal to continue business-as-usual; and (3) to incessantly hand-wave at scary-sounding, unspecified, Lomborgian “severe” economic consequences that you insist must result from rapidly phasing out fossil fuels, claims which are, again, blatantly contrary to fact.

  50. 200
    SecularAnimist says:

    Devil’s Advocate wrote: “Its not like ALL the crops are going to fail”

    Don’t be so sure.


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